Tag Archives: Testimony

Job 18-20; Psalm 141; Revelation 15

Empty offers. Canceled plans. Things unspoken, withheld, erased. You aren’t worth it. You don’t matter. These are the words I’ve heard over the years from family and friends, spoken through their tone and by their actions. These are the words an enemy said to me over and over. They became the filter I used to look at my place in life and in relationships, and I hardly knew it. That belief took me to dark places: From I feel lonely to I am alone; from I feel overlooked to I am invisible. I see it in Job, his own thoughts change from a once confidence in God to:

“How long will you torture me?
    How long will you try to crush me with your words?
You have already insulted me ten times.
    You should be ashamed of treating me so badly.
Even if I have sinned,
    that is my concern, not yours.
You think you’re better than I am,
    using my humiliation as evidence of my sin.
But it is God who has wronged me,
    capturing me in his net.

“I cry out, ‘Help!’ but no one answers me.
    I protest, but there is no justice.
God has blocked my way so I cannot move.
    He has plunged my path into darkness.
He has stripped me of my honor
    and removed the crown from my head.
10 He has demolished me on every side, and I am finished.
    He has uprooted my hope like a fallen tree (Job 19:2-10, NLT, emphasis added).

Hey, Job, maybe you didn’t know this, but in the beginning of your story: God thought a lot of  you.

He put a hedge of protection around you, but you didn’t know it. All the crazy and loss and pain going on around you made it hard to see. But maybe when you look back, you’ll see you were held.

He thought you could withstand this. And I wonder, if you had known … if you had told yourself those things instead, what would your testimony be?

When I read Job, I don’t always know what to think, but it certainly has me thinking this time around: What are others telling me? What am I telling myself? What is the truth?

Lord, I need to be grounded in YOUR truth to know the truth. I want eyes to see, ears to hear, and a humbled heart to accept what is. I want to tell myself the truth. And when life doesn’t look the way I thought it should or hoped it would, I want to look to You and ask with expectation, “So, what do You have planned instead?” I’m so thankful that anything that happens is under your notice and watch–crazy, loss and pain can have new meaning and purpose.

Courtney (66books365)

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Filed under 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, Job, Old Testament, Uncategorized

Numbers 19-21; Colossians 4

She was a mom of three. She devoted herself to home tasks, which later left her feeling helpless after his trespass and abandonment. The home, a prison. Her children, shackles. Outside her window, a perceived freedom of women climbing corporate ladders–she faced having the electricity shut off; broke and broken. It was too much. She felt hopeless.

***

Another woman was recovering during a time that felt like a life sentence. The nurses were wardens and the rules were constricting, restricting punishments. She felt all freedoms had been stripped away. Every day was punctuated by offense, oppression, complaint. The days ticked past. She praised the Lord for what he’d done in the past, but she was unable to praise him in the present for the meal, the care, the provision. She felt trapped, like she was in prison.

***

I was tasked with duties without warning. A lifelong obligation. A tethering, and sometimes too heavy–the bombardment of negativity, of opposition, of uncertainty. I fought against my own complaint, but sometimes, and sometimes often, I still complained. I fought against bitterness, and when I felt its squeeze, I cried out–oh, not this heart, Lord.  I remembered Paul. I thought of his chains.

Remember my chains. (Colossians 4:18b, NLT)

If he could find understanding and purpose in the worst of circumstances, could I find them in mine?

If I let him, could God use my circumstance to speak the Gospel? Could he use this circumstance to demonstrate his glory and goodness and sovereignty? What the enemy uses to break and beat down, could my God use to build upon and make new? Where an enemy declares an end, could God pronounce a beginning?

Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart. Pray for us, too, that God will give us many opportunities to speak about his mysterious plan concerning Christ. That is why I am here in chains. Pray that I will proclaim this message as clearly as I should.

Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone. (Colossians 4:2-6, NLT)

Nothing is a surprise to my God, however it may surprise me. These things he knew before time. Tasks prepared in advance. Yes. Don’t let me miss it–that sometimes ministry is in the middle of mess and misery. For Paul, he was literally a prisoner in a prison, but for others, it’s circumstance that feels hopeless, punitive, imprisoning, endless.

17 And say to Archippus, “Be sure to carry out the ministry the Lord gave you.” (Colossians 4:17, NLT)

Archippus, did you? Did you carry out the ministry the Lord gave you?

Lord Jesus, you have been with me every step of this journey, and you know how hard it’s been. You know how desperately I begged to quit from the pressure. And whether the job was heaped upon, handed over, appointed–you knew. And you intend(ed) it for my good and your glory. May it be so. Fixing my eyes on you, author and perfecter of faith. You can bring beauty from ashes.

May God’s grace be with you.

Courtney (66books365)

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2 Samuel 16; 2 Corinthians 9; Ezekiel 23; Psalm 70, 71

I’m not too sure about wisdom coming with age. Sure, I feel I have a few things to say or to offer the ‘younger generation.’ Yet, I’m well aware that they generally like to just figure this all out by themselves. I definitely am not saying that I want others to look up to me as the example of Christian perfection; the days of hubris have long passed. Life experiences for the most part though, have taught me to say, “All is well with my soul,” even in the midst of hell on earth. Still, when I hear myself complaining of indigestion, this aching pain in my left hip, or the increasing wrinkles on my forehead and loose skin on the underside of my arms, I admit that I am being remiss as a servant of God. For how will focusing on me teach others to glorify God? Smooth sailing through calm waters may not lift the eye to seek God, but a mentor captivates with steady faith.

I think King David felt this, too. The “man after God’s own heart,” submitted to the ups and downs of life, the consequences of sin repented. David accepted with faith whatever landed in his lap (even rocks hurled by his enemy). He admonished others by saying, “So let him curse, because the Lord has said to him, ‘Curse David.’ Who then shall say, ‘Why have you done so?’ “It may be that the Lord will repay me with good for his cursing this day,” (2 Samuel 16:10, 12). Can you hear David’s faith in the only One who knew him from his first cry as a babe to his last breath of life?

I, too, am sure of my salvation and of God’s presence in my  life (hence, all is well with my soul), but I long for the day that my puny efforts in serving Him here in this earthen vessel, will be shattered and left in the dirt while I fly to meet my Lord Christ in the sky. Saying this may sound like the proverbial ‘pie in the sky’ way of life. It’s just that I am well aware that I have a duty to obedience while here on earth, even though my heart is set on the joy to come. This wanting to be with Jesus does not allow me to shirk my responsibilities that continue with age. In fact, as one of the ‘older generation,’ I will be held responsible for the tasks God has given me. So being present is the most meaningful way I can touch others for Christ. Without a doubt, I need MORE of Him, and now!

Psalm 71:9, 18 “Do not cast me off in the time of old age; Do not forsake me when my strength fails…” “No also when I am old and grayheaded, O God, do not forsake me, Until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to everyone who is to come.”

Thank You, Lord Jesus for opportunities of testimony and service yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Let the last wink of my eyelids declare Your glory as I gaze upwards to You. I pray to work alongside You until You come or You take me home. Maranatha! Come, O Lord!

2 Corinthians 9:12-14 “For the administration of this service not only supplies the needs of the saints, but also is abounding through many thanksgivings to God, while, through the proof of this ministry, they glorify God for the obedience of your confession to the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal sharing with them and all men, and by their prayer for you, who long for you because of the exceeding grace of God in you.”

Janet (jansuwilkinson) All Scripture and commentary quotes from: The Nelson Study Bible, New King James Version, Trinity Fellowship Church 25th Anniversary Commemorative Edition, 2002.

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Filed under 2 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, 2 Samuel, 66 Books, Ezekiel, M'Cheyne Bible reading plan, New Testament, Old Testament, Psalms, Uncategorized

Judges 18; Acts 22; Jeremiah 32; Psalm 1, 2

In a few days I will be on an airplane heading to Kigali, Rwanda. We will be staying at a Youth for Christ facility that is so alive with the presence of Jesus.  This is my third time travelling to this country and I know I go back to visit the piece of my heart I left the first time I went.  There is a group of women at YFC who have called themselves the Blessed Ones–they feel blessed because God has provided for them and their families.  They are widows and women with HIV/AIDS who had no way to support themselves but the Director of this facility gathered them out of the slums and they have learned to support themselves and their families by sewing and jewelry.  They have bible studies together and have learned about Jesus.  Most have accepted Him as Savior, though some have not, but we love on them all.  Being around them fills me with joy.  We really have so much in common—we are all broken women healed by Jesus.  Our time together is filled with fun and laughter, hugs and tears, shared activities, and hearts filled with love for God and each other.

This time I’ve been asked to stand before them and give my testimony. There will be a translator there to tell them what I’ve said because my Kinyarwanda is not very good.  In Acts 22, Paul had no such hindrance as he spoke to the gathered Jews in their own language.

“Brothers and fathers, listen now to my defense.”When they heard him speak to them in Aramaic, they became very quiet.

Paul begins to give his testimony. The crowd is silent as they listen to him share his encounter with Jesus and how he changed Paul’s life.

Then Paul said: “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.

“About noon as I came near Damascus, suddenly a bright light from heaven flashed around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice say to me, ‘Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute me?’

“‘Who are you, Lord?’ I asked.

“ ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied. My companions saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of him who was speaking to me.

10 “‘What shall I do, Lord?’ I asked.

“ ‘Get up,’ the Lord said, ‘and go into Damascus. There you will be told all that you have been assigned to do.’ 11 My companions led me by the hand into Damascus, because the brilliance of the light had blinded me.

12 “A man named Ananias came to see me. He was a devout observer of the law and highly respected by all the Jews living there. 13 He stood beside me and said, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight!’ And at that very moment I was able to see him.

14 “Then he said: ‘The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth. 15 You will be his witness to all people of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.’

17 “When I returned to Jerusalem and was praying at the temple, I fell into a trance 18 and saw the Lord speaking to me. ‘Quick!’ he said. ‘Leave Jerusalem immediately, because the people here will not accept your testimony about me.’

19 “‘Lord,’ I replied, ‘these people know that I went from one synagogue to another to imprison and beat those who believe in you. 20 And when the blood of your martyr[a] Stephen was shed, I stood there giving my approval and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him.’

21 “Then the Lord said to me, ‘Go; I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’”

I know when I give my testimony it will not be met with the same reaction that Paul faced from the angry crowd.  People react to Jesus. They either love him or want to kill him.  Because we associate with him, we can get a similar reaction from people.

We are blessed here in the United States. We are not treated brutally for sharing about Jesus but that is not so in all countries.  We read about all the times Paul was beaten and put into jail for going from city to city proclaiming Jesus and all that he did.  We think that only happens in the bible, but Christians are persecuted today for their belief in Jesus—even more so as the end times draw near.

My encounter with Jesus was not anything as dramatic as Paul’s, but it was just as transforming. In his first speech to the Jews in the synagogue, Jesus told them he came to bring good news to the poor, bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for prisoners, comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair (taken from Isaiah 61:1-3).  When I tell them my story, that is what I intend to share—the impact of those words on my life.  I could make a checklist of those promises:  did He bring me good news?  Check.  Did He bind up my broken heart?  Check.  Did he clothe me with a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair?  Check.  Did he bestow on me a crown of beauty instead of ashes?  Check.  Check.

To the outward eye, these women may look different than me. But in our inner person, we are sisters in Christ.  We have been through trials and overcome them by the love of Jesus.  His presence in our lives has given us value beyond what the world says.  The last time we went, I got to hear some of their stories of how He changed their lives.  I can’t wait to tell them mine.

Lord, I thank you for changed lives. I thank you that I can go halfway around the world and have something in common with other women.  You have given us a connection through Jesus.  May we sing His praises in whatever language we speak.  It all sounds like a choir to You!  In His name, Amen

Cindy (gardnlady)

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Genesis 12; Matt. 11; Nehemiah 1; Acts 11

Merry Christmas; Happy New Year; Glad Tidings; Joy to the world – songs and cards and greetings for a season. Many of us wistfully desire to keep holiday smiles, generosity, and sentimentality the whole year through. Life interrupts. We’re pulled up short. Then we wonder, “Where did my joy go?”

Commercialized industry urges us to pack up our Christmas joy, stuff it in the attic for next year, and wait obediently for the next brief holiday to hit the shelves. I have to admit that I keep my Christmas decorations up long after the New Year’s party is over, perhaps fearing I will box away joy leaving home and heart as void as my depleted checkbook. I was asked the other day if I am someone who sees the glass half empty or half full, and I could only stutter something unintelligible about relativity. So I prayed, “God, teach me where to find Your joy.” I think He took great pleasure in answering right away.

In Genesis 12:2, God promises Abraham that all the families of the earth will be blessed through him, “I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing.” Joy can be found in God’s smile and in the warmth of His pleasure. Even before Abraham left his countrymen to follow God’s plan, God was happy with him. I, too, can enjoy the blessings of an intimate relationship with God.

But fear and anxiety can steal joy. Over the last six months, the grandson of a good friend has been undergoing cancer treatment at St. Jude’s. I marvel to read his testimony of courage and strength, penned by his Christian mother. She points to the blessings spoken by Jesus Christ in Matthew 11:29. “Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Joy can be found in that invitation, for fear and anxiety melt away when burdens are laid at the feet of Jesus.

Joy also comes from knowing that God looks and listens when we pray. Nehemiah 1:5 records the confidence in Nehemiah’s prayers. “I pray, Lord God of heaven, O great and awesome God, You who keep Your covenant and mercy with those who love You and observe Your commandments; please let Your ear be attentive and Your eyes open, that You may hear the prayer of Your servant which I pray before You now, day and night…” Day or night, in triumph or tragedy, even in the midst of confession there is joy in that the God of the universe sees and hears me and, most of all, answers prayers!

So when I look for joy, I need not venture far. I can see the grace of God in me, in my friends, in the church, and in the salvation of each new Christian. I want to be like Barnabas, the New Testament missionary, when he responded to Gentiles receiving the gospel message. Acts 11:22-24 says, “When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord.” Joy does not end with the passing of a season or the storage of the Baby in a manger. Nor is my cup half empty or half full. For my  cup is overflowing with joy from the daily blessings of a good Father, divine rest from heavy burdens, and unending grace in the presence of Christ Jesus. Wouldn’t you like to drink this cup of joy?

Cheers to us all!

Janet (jansuwilkinson) All Scripture quoted from The Nelson Study Bible, New King James Version, Trinity Fellowship Church 25th Anniversary Commemorative Edition. (2002)

After writing, today, I listened to this sermon delivered by the son-in-law of my good friend. What a delight to hear a similar message (much better delivered, too!) about joy.

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Ezra 5-6; Psalm 95; 3 John

13So, Tattenai, the governor west of the Euphrates, Shethar-Bozenai and the others obeyed. They carried out King Darius’ order quickly and carefully. 14So the Jewish elders continued to build. And they were successful because of the preaching of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah son of Iddo. They finished building the Temple as the God of Israel had said. It was also done to obey the kings Cyrus, Darius and Artaxerxes of Persia. 15The Temple was finished on the third day of the month Adar. It was the sixth year that Darius was king. Ezra 6:13-15 (ICB)

Many years had gone by since King Cyrus had given a special order for the Temple to be rebuilt in Jerusalem. At the urging of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah, Zerubbabel and Jeshua picked up the work again to complete the project so that God’s people could worship Him in the Temple once again.

But the governors of the land were not pleased. They approached the men demanding to know who had authorized their project; and sent a letter to King Darius to confirm that the men were telling the truth.

They were (of course) and King Darius not only enforced King Cyrus’ ruling, but raised the stakes, issuing a decree saying that anyone who hindered the progress of the temple construction would be severely punished. The temple was completed in record time with the help and finances of the king.

So many years before God set the rebuilding of the temple in motion, even before the Israelite returned to Jerusalem, and put protection in place so that no one would be persecuted for following God’s instructions.

This story makes me wonder about how many different ways God sets up and provides for my own journey and the successes I find well before I am even near those moments.

I am reminded of an instance a few short month after I was married. I found that I needed to leave India unexpectedly due to a change in visa laws. When looking at my pre-purchased plane ticket, I realized that the departure date was three days later than when I needed to be out of the country.

In a whirlwind, I was forced to cancel my ticket and book a flight on the only airline that had seat available in that short notice. I was frustrated because the flight would take me through the middle east and that made me nervous.

Throughout the trip God provided “angels” in the form of flight attendants and seat mates who made the journey much easier than it could have been.

The following day after I arrived stateside, I learned that all of the flights from my original airline had been grounded because of the volcanic ash plume in the atmosphere coming from Iceland. Because the middle eastern flight took a much lower flight pattern, my plane was not delayed at all, and therefore I was still able to honor the visa stipulations.

1Come, let’s sing for joy to the Lord.
Let’s shout praises to the Rock who saves us.
2Let’s come to him with thanksgiving.
Let’s sing songs to him.
3The Lord is the great God.
He is the great King over all gods.
4The deepest places on earth are his.
And the highest mountains belong to him.
5The sea is his because he made it.
He created the land with his own hands.
6Come, let’s bow down and worship him.
Let’s kneel before the Lord who made us.
7He is our God.
And we are the people he takes care of
and the sheep that he tends. Psalm 95:1-7a (ICB)
Often times, this kind of provision and protection is recognized only in hindsight.In the remembering, I’m able to give God His due praise and my faith is strengthened in the difficult times, understanding that He is there for me and will never leave me nor forsake me.
Yesappa, Thank You for having a plan for my life. Thank You for looking toward the future with provision and protection in mind. Thank You for caring for me as your own sheep. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Blessings, Julie
(juliet2912)

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Ruth 3-4, Psalm 37, Acts 4

“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished and they recognized that they had been with Jesus. But seeing the man who was healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. But when they had commanded them to leave the council, they conferred with one another, saying, “What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is evident to all inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it.” Acts 4:12-16

 

Two Wednesdays ago I finally stood on a stage and gave my testimony. It was two and a half years in the making. It wasn’t my testimony of coming to faith but of what the Lord had done in my life. I knew the day would come. I knew the Lord was calling me to speak up but there was something holding me back. This past September I had written my name down on a list putting my offer out there to share but I still didn’t write anything down. In January of this year, I received the call to take me up on my offer. The voice on the other line gave me the details: 8-10 minutes on March 30th. I even thought to myself, “Wow, Lord! I have another two months to get this written down. What a blessing.”

On March 20th, I finally sat down to write my story. Why was I putting it off so much? Why couldn’t I sit down and put to paper the story God had given me? I knew he had been calling me to do this for months but I was hesitant, disobedient, fearful.

Would I do the story justice?

Would I communicate in a way that people would clearly see this was God’s story?

Would I remember all the important details of His story?

Would he give me the words to say?

Would people see Jesus in my story?

Would they believe it?

When the story is so big there are often doubters. Nay-sayers who chalk your experience up to coincidence. They hear and don’t believe. I have heard it in the past, “Oh, you were so lucky.” Or “Wow the doctors really put you back together.” Each time I hear those words I long for them to clearly see the truth! I was hesitant to write and share my story because of the reaction I may or may not receive. But I am not responsible for the reaction, I am responsible to respond in obedience when he calls.

So on March 20th, I prayed for help and began putting to paper the story God had been writing. As I typed, the words flowed freely and the story came together. I knew the Lord was writing the words on the page when I looked down and saw 10,000 words in just a couple of hours!

I shared my story at my weekly bible study meeting with about 250 people.  I was prepared, excited and nervous but as I stepped onto the stage my jitters were gone. I had peace and confidence, and a boldness in my voice and in my heart I knew wasn’t of me. I was reminded that when the Holy Spirit moves, none can deny it. It is up to Him to change hearts and open eyes and ears. I will continue to write and share as long as the Lord gives me opportunities.

 

Sweet Lord, thank you for the opportunity to share what you have done in my life. Holy Spirit, thank you for the power and the boldness to speak clearly without fear. And now, Lord, grant your servant to continue to speak your work with all boldness through the name of your Holy Servant, Jesus.

Side Note: Psalm 37 was texted to me on the morning of one of my follow up appointments at shock trauma. I love how the Lord weaves His story and plans our steps.

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