Posts Tagged ‘testimony’

I was out on a long prayer walk this morning and had a few thoughts that I thought I would share. If I look like I am extremely sweaty, it’s because I was extremely sweaty, but I felt like I had to get it recorded right away. I pray it blesses you.

We see the stories everywhere. Stories that aggravate us, hurt our hearts, paint us Christians with a broad brush. But what can we do? Well this kind of thing is not going to be changed by Christians acting badly. Most of the things we are tempted in response to do will just exacerbate the problem. What this culture needs is what we have always needed, Revival. We need to reconnect with Jesus.

The best way to combat a negative story is with a positive story. It all comes back to the Gospel. We Christians have got to be about the business of sharing the Gospel and speaking God’s truth in love. Creatives, the Gospel story is a better story and we have been given the abilities to share it. It is time for us to work together to get this story out in a way that speaks truth in love. Write the story. Write the song. Make the art. Make the film. Put on the show. Post the video. Team up. Pair up. Work with people with different gifts. Be the creative body of Christ. Find the venue. Put it our there. Tell the story.

Your testimony is powerful. The Gospel is powerful. It’s STILL “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” Share it.

I used to hate it in Math class. The teacher would make us show out work. They wanted to make sure we understood the process, and so seeing how we arrived at our conclusions was vital. Seeing our errors helped them to remediate our misunderstandings.

Now as an artist/minister, I’ve noticed that while people will largely appreciate a finished piece, what they really seem to love is seeing me create the piece, live, before their eyes. I could do a much nicer piece in my studio, taking my time, and the perfectionist in me sometimes wishes I could still do that, but I get much more impact by creating something in a few minutes, while the people can see the work. They are more engaged and more ready to hear the message if they have seen the work firsthand.

I got to thinking maybe that’s why one of the most effective types of ministry is the testimony. Oh people expect we who speak to know our Bible. They even expect that we will communicate well, but that can communicate a sort of veneer over our lives. They may look at us and see us as someone who has already arrived, or someone who has always been a believer. They might see us as genuinely holy or, at worst, “holier than thou.” The testimony breaks through all that. The testimony shows the work—the work Christ has done in your life. All of the sudden the person sees what has been done in your life and begins to think, “If God can do all that in Him, I wonder what He can do in me.”

We who are privileged to speak God’s truth to people would be wise to remember that were it not for God’s work in our lives, none of us would be doing very well. Showing the work—God’s work—gives Him the glory. You don’t have to give a testimony every time, but be sure the people in your care know where the power in you comes from. Show the work.

A few weeks ago, someone liked one of my posts on one of my sites from a web site that publishes stories of no more than 100 words. I thought that sounded like an intriguing challenge, so I tried and submitted. Unfortunately, my submission was not what they were looking for. That’s their prerogative, I limit things on here for content as well. Nonetheless, I thought I would share it here. I see it as a 100 word testimony of sorts. I really liked this challenge. It helps to learn to be concise. Not everyone will want to sit and listen to your 15 minute testimony. Can you express it in five?

The End
Bowing at the altar, I came to the end of myself. I tried everything to fix my mess. Nothing worked. Depressed, defeated, I reached for something that would make it alright—that would make me alright. I was not enough to fix what was broken. I gave up. I wasn’t sure why I was there. A strange force was drawing me in. Part of me wanted to resist, but that force kept beckoning. I fell to my knees as if this was the end. I cried out, “God help me!” and in that moment, I knew.
It would be alright.

One of the things that I love to do is really simple. Yes I’m a pastor, yes I speak in churches and other venues all over the country, yes I study and plan and write and design and create and prepare, but there is one story that hits home with people every time I deliver it and the truth is, It is either the story that took the least amount of preparation, or the greatest depending on your perspective. On one hand, this story took 52 years to develop on the other hand very little work was necessary to get it ready to present.

It’s fascinating. As a Christian, I have been entrusted with a story, and so have you. It’s called the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It’s the story of Jesus—the story of His birth, life, death and resurrection and while it’s the greatest story ever told, many people are intimidated to share it. They say things like, “I don’t know enough.” or “What if someone asks me a question I can’t answer?” Well the second question is easy enough to answer. If you don’t know the answer to a question, “I don’t know.” is a valid response. It may not be totally fulfilling to the “asker,” but it’s a lot better than making something up, especially in matters of faith. A better answer is, “I don’t know, but I’ll try to find out.”

That being said, there is one story about Jesus for which, not only do you know enough, but you are the world’s foremost expert on this story. NO ONE knows it better than you. It’s your story, the story of what Jesus has done in your life. That is a story that will probably help a lot of people. No one can tell your story like you can, so tell your story.

It works for me. I first saw this in my first “public” message. I was a youth leader at the time. My group had been asked to minister at a coffee house. We decided that I would bring the message. I had something worked out and I worked hard on it, but the closer it got, the less comfortable I became with what I had worked on. When it came time to speak, I felt strongly led to share my story from the heart. When I finished, I looked around the room. There was almost not a dry eye in the house. It was at that moment that I understood the incredible power in sharing what Jesus has done for you. It connects with people, especially those who are looking for hope and help. I’ve ministered in a lot of places since then and I’ve spoken to congregations large and small on many, many topics and God has blessed a lot but the story that connects the most, is the one that only I can tell. My story.

The thing is, there is a story only you can tell, too. Everyone who knows Jesus has one. Tell it and trust God to work through it. He will.

Tell Your Story!

So often people are really hesitant to share their faith. One of the reasons for this is because we feel we don’t know enough. Now you may not be a theologian. You may not know hermaneutics or exegesis, which has occasionally been renamed “exit Jesus” but I digress, but there is a story you know, a story about Jesus that you know better than anyone, even those with half the alphabet behind his or her name. It’s the story of what Jesus has done for you.

Truthfully, this is usually the most convincing story, when it comes to sharing our faith. Maybe that’s because it’s the one you’re most passionate about, the one you have actually experienced. Whatever the reason, it’s the story you’re most prepared to share and the one that usually hits home, especially when you take into account the fact that God orchestrates our encounters.

So what’s your story? Write it down. Get to know it and be prepared to share it at every opportunity. You will be amazed at what God can do through it. Oh and by the way, even if you grew up in the church, came to Jesus at an early age and lived a pretty upright life, you still have a story. It’s the story of a God who blessed you immensely.

1 Peter 3:15 says, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…” How will you share your story?

This is one of those regrettable truths of life. Our testimonies are built upon the times where we have seen God come through, the times where He has shown His power, the times where He has come to our rescue. In order for most of these things to happen we usually have to face a test or a trial after all, it’s kind of hard to be rescued if we don’t have something from which to be rescued.

I don’t call this regrettable because I don’t want to see the power of God. I call it regrettable because seeing God’s power often comes with the pain of an ordeal. Here’s what’s not regrettable. God is always good and always comes through. We’ve been spared the ultimate pain because Jesus endured immense pain coming to our ultimate rescue. Some of the pain in life is unavoidable, the consequences of living in a perfect world that we broke with our sin. The best we can do is clean up our acts so the pain we face is not self-inflicted.

Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart I have overcome the world.” Trust God with your tests. God can and will turn our tests into testimonies, and sharing those stories makes the pain make sense and brings ultimate good out of a bad situation.

How can God be glorified in the situation you are in right now? If you don’t know, rest assured, God does.

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coverbandWow I know that sounds closed minded, but it’s not exactly what I mean. I love to hear the stories of other people, I can listen to them for hours. I also really love storytellers like Andy Andrews who tell us the great stories of people from history with vital lessons for our lives today. Of course I also love the stories of Jesus and the people from the Word of God, mixed with a good and biblical application for my day-to-day life. Having heard all this, you might be asking what it is I don’t want to hear and what is the point of this post.

Well I’ll tell you. Todd Henry from The Accidental Creative always signs off his podcast by saying, “Cover bands don’t change the world.” Now I’ve heard some great cover bands over the years. They are proficient, talented and can play the songs note for note, but no matter how good they are, something is missing. The one who wrote the song is the one who experienced the passion and the pain it took to create the song. Others can sing the song, but they have lived it. That’s what I want to hear. I want to hear the song writer, the one who paid his dues and paid the price. I want to hear the story and the passion and the pain behind it. I want you to tell me your story. I want to hear the joy, the revelation and the struggle, the triumph and the victory. Show me why it didn’t kill you and how it made you stronger. Tell me about what you’ve lived and make me feel it.

Nowhere is this more important than in sharing your faith. So many people are hesitant to share their faith. They often feel they don’t know enough or won’t have the right words and both of those things may be true. There is, however, one subject on which you are the world’s foremost expert. There is one thing you know better than anyone else, it’s your story and the story of Jesus in you. The story of what He has done in your life. Start there, tell your story, give your testimony. Honor God. Speak the truth and speak it in love.

Tell us your story. Chances are there is someone who really needs to hear it!

Oh and one last thing, if you think your story is boring, work to live a better one!

A friend wrote me about some struggles he was facing with art and faith. I felt led to share my story with him. As I was writing it, I realized there may be many on this blog that have never heard it and I think it’s important (it’s my calling to share this story.)

I’ve been an artist practically since I’ve been breathing, My mom has a piece I did when I was probably 3 and it’s decent definitely beyond what most three year olds do. I don’t say that to brag just that the gift has always been with me. When I was little I used to love to do all kids of creative stuff. I loved to put on shows for the littler kids in my family, did puppets, ventriloquism, the whole thing, and figured I’d be an artist and an entertainer of some kind but then something happened. I went to school and suddenly became a human target. Everyone loved to pick on me. Now all of the sudden the last thing I wanted to do was stand out from the crowd. Doing that just attracted the bullies so I withdrew into art. By the time I was in middle school I was terrified to speak in public a fear that would carry through the next 20 years.

When I graduated from High School, I wanted to go to art school. My parent’s response was “no son of ours is going to starve in an attic somewhere.” So I ended up going to school to be an electronics engineer. It was a stupid decision but I was young and frustrated and the rep from the school I went to said their graduates finished in three years and started at as much as $80,000 a year. Well that worked for me, because as the kid who always got picked on, I was going to show them all. Unfortunately I had no aptitude for electronics and flunked out in a year. I had to move back home. I ended up working in a factory which just added to the depression. The depression and the need to fit in drew me into alcohol and between the ages of 19 and 22 are a blur. I was in deep, sometimes suicidal. It was a mess. My sister decided to help me out by introducing me to a girl. She neglected to tell me that the girl didn’t drink and her dad was a pastor, both would have been deal breakers for me but I found out too late so we went out and I had a great time.

The girl started inviting me to church and I went because I liked her. That was the beginning of the end for my drinking days. Long story short, Jesus got a hold of me, I came to Christ, married the girl and joined the church. I was still terrified to speak in public, but God brought me through a really cool chain of events. The pastor asked me to paint a backdrop for Vacation Bible School, which led to being in the VBS skits, which led to other drama things, which led to teaching (more on this in a moment). In the mean time, I was also hustling to try to make a living as an artist and there’s where I got into trouble. I was working an unfulfilling full time production artist job and freelancing at night, sometimes working 20 hour days for weeks at a time. I was freelancing for a licensee of the Ninja Turtles and I thought he was going to make me rich and famous, because remember, I was the kid who always got picked on and on some level, I still needed to “show them all.” Art became an idol and it was pushing everything else out (marriage, family, God). I hit rock bottom and knew I had to quit art. When I gave it up, I said I would never pick up a brush again unless I was doing it for God. That may have been the hardest thing I have ever done, but when I did it, God called me to ministry.

It made no sense, I was still pretty sure I’d never be a speaker, but God worked on that too. I started leading the youth at my church, I started looking for a way to make my teaching stick with the students, and I felt led to try using art with them. It worked. I’ve tried to start an art group several times and they always fell through so I started sharing my teaching ideas on the web to help others who were trying to minister with art and I started doing art ministry workshops (that was the birth of AMOKArts). Meanwhile I was getting some ministry training. Eventually I got ordained and planted the church I have pastored for the last ten years. It was a wonderful time of learning and developing and preparation. Now at the end of this year, that church will close and I am feeling led to go out into the world and into the church and help people (especially creatives) to find their God-given gifts and show them how to use them to serve others and the Lord. One night after doing my presentation, A Night AMOK, Pix of JC, I had a revelation. I thought about the little kid, making pictures, telling stories and putting on shows and I realized, at 48 years old, I had finally come full circle. I am finally becoming who I was created to be.

I guess what I would say to you is this. I don’t have an art degree, but neither have I starved. When I trusted God with my gift and dropped my idolatry, God proved He will provide. It hasn’t been easy, but it has been good. Take that creative gift of yours and place it on the altar. Give it to God and ask Him to guide it. You don’t have to do Christian art, you just have to do what God is leading you to do and honor him with your life. For example, for years I have done commercial art work, totally unglamorous stuff, for a living, but here’s the thing, part of that world is you have to do everything pretty fast. There have been times where I have hated it, I won’t lie, but it prepared me for doing what I do most now in my ministry, which is speed painting. God has always been faithful. Trust Him and follow His lead.

My son Chris was in the musical Children of Eden. It’s my all time favorite show and yes I know I’ve told posted about this before but please don’t tune me out. Because today I want to talk about the story we tell. As artists in Christ we have an opportunity and the skills and abilities to create better stories and the best story we can tell a lot of times besides the story of Christ is our own story, when we tell the story of Christ in our lives we can make a radical difference in the lives of others. So today using the lyrics of the closing song of the show, I want to tell a part of my story. It’s probably not what you think. My story is the story of a good God coming into the life of a not so good guy and changing it completely.

The lyrics of this song share some really wonderful truths. Consider them for your own life.

“Our hands can choose to drop the knife
Our hearts can choose to stop the hating
For ev’ry moment of our life
Is the beginning…”

Most of life is about a choice. We may not be able to choose what happens to us, but we do all choose our response. The good news is that the old saying is true, today really is the first day of the rest of your life. There is very little you can do about yesterday, make amends if you can and otherwise more on. Make this day a new beginning.

This leads to the line that almost always brings a tear to my eye because I know it to be true.

“There is no journey gone so far
So far we cannot stop and change direction
No doom is written in the stars
It’s in our hands…

You can never go so far that you can’t turn around and go the other way, a better way the right way, we just need to choose it. If you feel like you’ve gone too far in the wrong direction maybe it’s time to turn around and come home to your Father. Jesus told the story of the prodigal son for a reason. He may not be pleased with our journey to this point but he is right there waiting to receive you with open arms and walk you through this life.

You don’t have to be a theologian to tell your story, you just need to know what it’s like to be changed by Jesus.

I think it’s time we all told a better story. Use what you have at your disposal and tell it.

My son’s group didn’t videotape the song but here is another production.

Bible Reading Guide
An important part of following God is knowing what He wants and a great way to know what He wants is to read His Word. Follow this plan and you will finish reading the Bible in a year.
Judges 3,4; Ruth 2
You can also download your own chart here.