Posts Tagged ‘Testimony’

Reading Genesis 3 this morning and noticed something interesting.

Genesis 3:17-19New King James Version (NKJV)

Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’:

“Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it All the days of your life.  Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, And you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread Till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are, And to dust you shall return.”

God did not curse Adam and Eve because of their sin. God continue to show love for them. God continued to provide for their needs. God continued to have a Divine relationship with Adam and Eve.

God did not curse their work. Indeed, God’s calling on Adam and Eve never changed. Their work was still a scared and Divine calling to care for creation and populate the Earth.

There were still consequences for their sin. Because of Adam and Eve’s sin, God cursed the ground.

God’s love for Adam and Eve never changed. God’s provision for Adam and Eve never changed. God’s calling for Adam and Eve never changed. Yet, the consequences of sin changed their environment. When their environment changed, life became more difficult.

The rest of the story is Adam and Eve never outlived the consequences of their sin. They also never outlived the love of God, the provision of God nor the calling of God. Even after their relationship with God was restored, the living environmental consequences of sin remained.

Even in forgiveness, sin changes our environment. Yet, the love, provision, and call of God never changes. Restoring the relationship changes us within the environment.

Advertisements

I believe every word in Scripture has a purpose.  I also find it interesting that when we look at a verse and break it down to its component words, the meaning sometimes comes even more alive.  So, today let’s break down one of my favorite promises in Scripture.

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

  • “And…” – It is a connecting word.  The promise of verse 28 is connected to something in verse 27, the reason this promise is true. (Romans 8:27 – “Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.”) – Jesus, Himself is praying for us.  Therefore…
  • “…we…” – You, me, all of us.
  • “…know…” – Absolute truth, we can rely upon.
  • “…that all…” – Any and every.
  • “…things…” – Events, occurrences, situations.
  • “…work…” – Specific action of God.
  • “…together…” – Everything is part of God’s plan for you.
  • “…for good…” – God desires the absolute best for you. May I remind you of Jeremiah 29:11?
  • “…to those…” – This is a specific promise with specific recipients.
  • “…who love…” – Our primary responsibility.
  • “…God…” – The One, the Only, the Creator.
  • “… , …” – Just like that connecting word at the beginning.
  • “…to those…” – Reminder, this is a specific promise with specific recipients.
  • “…who are the called…” – The specific recipients.
  • “…according to…” – The specific recipients are those who are following after…
  • “…His purpose.” – Our purpose belongs to God.

So, what do we have? We have a promise from God, Himself, secured by our perfect intercessor, Jesus Christ, that guarantees every event, occurrence and situation in our life is part of God’s plan for us and for our good in fulfilling His purpose for us.

No event, no occurrence, no situation in our individual lives distracts God from His purposeful calling for us, nor from His desire to provide His absolutely best for us.  We may not always feel this is the case.  It is best for us to remember, our perspective on our circumstances is different than God’s.

God defines “for good” from the perspective of our eternity.  Our perspective is often limited to the present moment.

It is all things working together for our good that refines our calling according to His purpose.  It is our calling according to His purpose that defines all things working together for our good.  There is the paradox of the promise.

This month, my wife and I are celebrating our twenty-third wedding anniversary.  In the nearly twenty-four years since I first asked Susan to marry me, I have from time to time voiced the same simple and profoundly challenging question.

“Will you marry me?”

Regardless of what life is throwing at us at the moment, her answer is always the same: “Yes.”

All these years later, we have a clearer picture of just what that question and answer really mean.  Yet, we are still learning.  We have learned that after the initial “Will you marry me?” a whole lot of effort goes into making a successful marriage.  We have learned our marriage is worth the effort.  We have also learned there are some amazing benefits to my continuing to RE-ask and Susan continuing to RE-answer that same question.

RE-asking and RE-answering:

  1. Reminds me to keep our relationship center focused.
  2. Reassures her I’m fully invested in her.
  3. Rekindles the excitement of the first time she answered.
  4. Reconciles us as one, TOGETHER.
  5. Reanchors us during life’s storms.
  6. Refreshes our memories of God’s faithfulness in our marriage.
  7. Refocuses our priorities within our relationship.
  8. Reconfirms our commitment to and with each other.
  9. Resets our focus on the best for our marriage.
  10. Reclarifies the value of our relationship.

What’s the most amazing and exciting thing after twenty-three years of marriage?

That’s easy…

She still says: “YES!!

In my quiet time one recent morning, praying for the children with which God blessed Susan and me. Remembering some of the fateful, sometimes difficult prayers God has led me to pray for them during this time in mornings past.

The harsh and difficult time when God told me to never again pray He would heal Rebecca’s hand. The anger I felt, as her dad, when God told me to instead pray that He will use this for His glory. I remember Susan and me holding each other as we cried, knowing what we had to do. Then watching in amazement a few days later, as our little girl, toddles over to another child at Children’s Hospital Orthopedics, sits down, shows the scars on her hand and tells her new friend: “they have very good doctors here and they will take good care of you.”  We watched the fear, like we had felt during our first visit there with Rebecca, melt away from this child’s parents.   Praying God’s prayer for our daughter is not always easy, but that morning we began to realize His purpose is greater than we can imagine.  Today, I see a young lady with a compassion for people and an impassioned desire to help others.

I remember the morning, when Susan was about six months pregnant with our son. We already had a name chosen and were confident we knew what our new son would be called. Early that morning God impressed on me, his name is Michael Andrew (neither names we had chosen). As I told Susan, she asked why. Michael means “one who is like the Host.” Andrew means “one who represents God.” Since that morning, I have continued to pray that Michael will live in the fullness of his name. Today, I see a young man with a passion for people, a passion for Christ and a desire to live a life that makes a difference.

We did not know then, what those prayers would mean. Today, Susan and I see how God has blessed us with two terrific teenagers. Both love Christ with all their heart. Both have a love for people. Both have a desire to honor God with all they do. As teenagers, they are far beyond anything I ever imagined when I was praying for them in the womb.

I will be honest. Having a daily time alone with God is not always easy.  It is not always fun. It is many times painful and uncomfortable. But, when I look back at how God has used that time to guide our family and I am reminded of things like the stories above, I would not change a thing. I would not trade this time for the extra hour sleep.

Why do I have a daily quiet time?  I NEED IT.  I cannot be an effective husband, father and leader without God’s help. Everything I have learned about love, compassion, parenting and leadership has been found, strengthened and confirmed during these times. All because God is faithful to keep His promises when we seek His will, early in the morning. (Psalm 63)

In his Gospel, John, in chapter 19 records the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Writing in Greek, John records the words Jesus spoke as He is on the cross. John, standing as close as possible to the cross, meticulously captures each phrase, each word, as though it were forever etched in his mind. Then, one word stands alone in the passage. One word so specific, it sears its way into the readers consciousness. One word specifically defined the business of Christ and the cross. One word boldly proclaims, TETELESTAI.

TETELESTAI – On the cross, Jesus used a business term to signify everything had been completed, according to prophesy.

The word TETELESTAI (in Greek: τετέλεσται)was written on business documents or receipts in New Testament times to show indication that a bill had been paid in full.

What is unique is the way Jesus used the word. Whenever TETELESTAI was written on a business document, receipt or loan note by a debtor or the one to whom the debt was paid, it was almost always written in an abbreviated form, TETE (Greek: τετέ), meaning “this debt is paid.”

However, when a third party (redeemer or kinsman redeemer) would step in and pay a debt for someone else TETELESTAI was always written in full, by the one paying the debt. When written in full TETELESTAI has a very specific meaning and delivers a specific message to the one to whom a debt was owed. Written in full, TETELESTAI meant “I have paid the debt and you no longer have a claim.”

The Greeks, to which John was writing (John 19) understood the difference in the phrasing.

In one word, Jesus served notice to death, hell, the grave and Satan: “I HAVE FULLY PAID THE DEBT AND YOU NO LONGER HAVE A CLAIM!!!

TETELESTAI – My debt has been paid! Satan has no claim.

τετέλεσται

Today (April 3, 2014) is the 18,262nd day of my life on this Earth. When you consider I have completed my first half century, it seems like a long time. The Bible equates a full life to 70 years. That is approximately 25,567 days. That means I have something slightly over 7,000 days remaining to fulfill the mission God has given me.  Anything beyond that time is simply His grace and favor.

As I sit here this morning, I am filled with the memory of my quiet time journey, a decade ago, during my 40th year.  See, at 40, I was perfectly willing to accept that I had crossed over into “middle age.”  So, the every day of my 40th year, was highlighted by a common theme during my morning quiet time.  That theme:  “God:  How do You want the last half of my life to look?”

During that year, my life focus began to shift… from practice to purpose… from success to significance… from life to legacy… from generalities to generations.

There are many great lessons and memories from those morning devotionals.  One that probably stands out above most was the morning I came to Psalm 90.  The thoughts of that day impacted me in such a way that this has become a recurring theme each year on my birthday.  Psalm 90 is a Psalm of Moses.  As we approach verse 12, Moses voices this prayer to God:

“Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (NIV)

At first, it appears that Moses is asking God to let him know the number of days he has to live so he knows how long he has to learn. As I meditated on this passage, I began to realize that Moses was not asking God to show him how to count the number of his days.  Instead, he was asking God to show him how to make the number of his days count.  In making the number of his days count, he will gain a heart of wisdom and leave a legacy for future generations.

As Believers we are challenged to live our lives is such a way that when the number of our days is complete, the numbered days count. We are given many examples of people who have done just that.

Noah was over 100 years old when God called him to build the Ark to save the human race from extinction.

Abraham was 99 when he realized God’s promise to make him the father of many nations, through the birth of Isaac.

Daniel and his three friends were young teenagers when they entered Babylon captivity and stood up to King Nebuchadnezzar.

Joshua and Caleb were in their eighties, and the last of their generation, when they fought in the final battle of Jericho.

Esther was a young lady when she married the king and saved Israel.

Moses lived 40 years in Egypt and another 40 years in Midian before God called him to free Israel from Pharaoh. It was another 80 years before he wrote what we know as Psalm 90.

Each of these examples teaches us we are never too old or too young to fulfill God’s call.  Regardless of their age, these people knew that fulfilling God’s call to leave a legacy required diligence and purpose.

There are countless other examples, even in modern history, of people who have made a major impact on the world.  All because, they had a vision beyond their own lifetime. They choose to leave a legacy bigger than themselves.

Our family recently had the opportunity to visit Spain.  In Barcelona, there is a basilica, La Sagrada Familia (The Holy Family).  The church was designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi (1852–1926).  Construction began on this church in 1882 and continues to this day.  The stark contrast of the massive ancient design and the modern construction equipment and processes is interesting to behold.  Project leaders now hope to complete this construction by 2026, the 100th anniversary of Gaudi’s death.  How great of a visionary did Gaudi have to be to envision something so massive that it could never be completed during his lifetime?  In fact, many of the tools currently used in the construction of the project were not even conceived at the time of the building’s design.  Gaudi certainly had a vision and desire to impact a world beyond his own life.

Image

La Sagrada Familia

In my life, I have wasted too much time on things that won’t last.  I have no idea how many days I have remaining, only God knows.  Today, as I enter my second half century, my prayer is the same, just more fervently, as Moses taught:

Lord, I trust you to count the number of my days. Please teach me to make the number of my days count.

At 40, I prayed I would be a role model for my children.  I prayed that God would specifically call and equip each with everything each needed to fulfill the purpose He has set before them.

Now, at 50, I am amazed to see how God is using and equipping each of my children individually.  I am thankful for and affirm the calling God has placed on their individual lives. My prayer is that I will be the coach and councilor each needs to continue to grow in His likeness and fulfill His purpose.

When life is over two dates will define the number of one’s days, the date born and the date died. The dash in between will measure the number of days. Whether the number of those days counts for anything more than a dash on a tombstone will be determined by the legacy one leaves.

I want the legacy God allows me to leave to far outweigh the dash on my grave. I can only do that if I allow Him to give me a heart of wisdom, a vision of His kingdom and a love for His people.

As long as God continues to give me days to number, I want to make the numbered days to count.

Let’s go make this numbered day count for something bigger than ourselves.

S C A R

Posted: November 21, 2013 in Christian
Tags: , , ,

Recently, during my quiet time, God has had me studying my scars.  Yes, my scars.

Scars are interesting things.  Every scar marks us.  Every scar tells a story.  Every scar has a cause.  And, every scar reminds us of two things.

The first thing a scar reminds us is, we have been hurt.

Sometimes, these reminders are unpleasant.  They are reminders that we have been injured because of our own disobedience.  I have a scar on the back of my head that is just such a reminder.  One weekend, many years ago, my parents and I were going on a camping trip in Stone Mountain Park.  As we pulled into our campsite and were setting up, I was jumping around and playing as many children of my age would do.  As I started to jump a span between a picnic table and the back of our truck, my Dad told me not to jump.  But, in a moment of disobedience, I jumped anyway.  Lost my footing and fell backwards, hitting my head on the corner of the concrete picnic table.  We spent the rest of that night in an emergency room, getting my head shaved and stitched back together.  Today, that scar remains as a reminder that my disobedience hurts.

Sometimes, these reminders are not so unpleasant.  They are reminders that we were injured as a result of filling a nobler purpose.  On my left arm and hand are a few small burn scars.  This injury occurred in 1994 during a tour of one of the historic Victorian homes in Talladega.  In a freak incident, a fire started in an upstairs bedroom of the house, while nearly 100 people were touring inside the house.  My friend, David Williams, and I worked to remove the burning material and extinguish the flame, keeping the house and guests from greater injury.  In doing this, some of the burning material dripped on my arm and hand, causing some injury and ultimately leaving a few scars.  The injury, while painful at the time, has never been a painful memory because my injury was insignificant compared to the damage and injury to others that would have been had we not acted.  Today, the scars remain as a reminder that doing the right thing is not always painless.

Other times, these reminders are comforting.  They are reminders that we have been injured, intentionally for our own benefit.  On the side of my neck is a small, thin, straight scar.  This injury occurred, intentionally, at the hands of a skillful surgeon.  The purpose of the injury was to remove a diseased portion of my lymph gland that if left untreated would have severely damaged my health.  Today, that scar is a reminder that it is best to remove harmful things, even when they leave a mark.

The second thing that a scar reminds us is, we have been healed.

A scar shows where an injury was, not where an injury is.  A scar is a testimony to the healing that has taken place.  A scar is there to remind us that pain is not permanent.

Just as we have scars in our physical life, we can have scars in our Spiritual Life.  We often have the mistaken idea that the Spirit-filled life is easy and painless.  In fact, nothing could be farther from the truth.  Living a Spirit-filled life is messy, difficult and often painful.

The truth is our Spiritual Lives have scars.  Those Spiritual scars share the same types of causes and provide the same type of reminders that our physical scars do.  Paul gives us some great examples of these in his own life.

Acts 22:3-5 – “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. I studied under Gamaliel and was thoroughly trained in the law of our ancestors. I was just as zealous for God as any of you are today.  I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison, as the high priest and all the Council can themselves testify. I even obtained letters from them to their associates in Damascus, and went there to bring these people as prisoners to Jerusalem to be punished.”

Paul never forgot that in his zealousness for God, he disobeyed God in persecuting, arresting and killing followers of Christ.  Paul never ignored the Spiritual scar caused by this disobedience.  Instead of letting this scar on his Spiritual life debilitate him, Paul used the healing of forgiveness to encourage him further in the ministry.  Paul recognized that God could use his Spiritual healing from disobedience to spread the love of Christ across the Roman Empire and the world.  The consequences of Paul’s sin remained (Stephen and others were still dead), but the scars of healing gave him a renewed mission.

This story of Paul reminds us that our past is never too bad for God to overcome.  God’s grace and forgiveness qualifies us Spiritually, regardless of the physical consequences of our past sins.  In fact, Paul’s past life, as Saul, gave him access to many people that he otherwise would not have been able to speak to.  Many of these became believers because of the change they witnessed in Paul.  Often the painful experiences of our past give us access to minister to people we could otherwise be unable to reach.  Forgiveness is the Spiritual scar testifying of our healing from our sin.

Secondly, Paul recognized that in many instances his Spiritual scars served a greater purpose.  There is no doubt that Paul’s repeated trials and imprisonment caused both physical and Spiritual scars for him.

2 Corinthians 11:24-28 – “Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one.  Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers.  I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.  Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.”

Paul recognized though the trials were difficult, they served a greater purpose.  Paul used these times of physical and Spiritual healing to write and encourage the many churches.  Since his writings compose two-thirds of what we know as the New Testament, his “injury” was for our greater good as well.

Paul’s experience teaches us that ministry is not always painless.  Often we must put ourselves in a position to be hurt, in order to help another in Spiritual need.

Finally, Paul recognized that some of his Spiritual scars were surgical in nature.

Philippians 3:4-9 – “If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so:  circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee;  concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.  But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ.   Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;”

Paul tells us these things, in themselves, may not be wrong.  But, placing his faith in these was harmful to his Spiritual wellbeing.  Paul is basically saying:  God has surgically removed these things from me, because they would be detrimental to my Spiritual health.  The scar that remains is a reminder for my good and God’s glory.

Just as in our physical body, our Spiritual scars are reminders that we have been healed.  The scar is there for a testimony of our healing.  It is there for a testimony of God’s grace.  It is there to remind us of God’s greater purpose.  It is there to strengthen us in our Spiritual walk.  It is there to be used for God’s glory.

Why did I go through this long writing?  Because, over the past few days God has caused me to take a different look at my scars.  That is the lesson I want to share.

Now, I see a scar I am reminded… Sanctification’s corrections advance righteousness.

S – Sanctification’s

C—Corrections

A – Advance

R – Righteousness

Every scar in our Spiritual life has a purpose.  Don’t hide the scars.  Embrace them.  Use them for the purpose God intended for His glory.

Living a Spirit-filled life means growing in His likeness.  It means living according to His purpose.  It means following in His service.  It can be messy.  It can be difficult.  And, yes, it can be painful.  All in all, it is for my good and His glory.

How have your scars changed your life?