Personal Testimonies written by PurposeCity Members

Guilty

User Submission: Forgiving the Guilty

The following is a submission from a user like you. Emily shared her incredible story so that it might touch the hearts and lives of our readers. If you would like to share your own story, you can do so here

For as long as I can remember I have always found healing in writing. It’s how I process emotions and a whirlwind of overwhelming situations – situations that seems to weigh so heavy on one’s heart that it shakes their faith to the core.

Because I had many stories with situations like that to share, I began writing my book last September. I had been brainstorming for three years before I actually sat down to write it. More than anything, I wanted to be as honest and as open as I possibly could. It truly was a healing process for me as I reached back into the recesses of my mind to share very personal stories about my life – stories that would glorify my King, Jesus, and point others straight to Him and the miraculous transforming power of salvation, healing, and deliverance.

Although I openly discuss many things that the Lord helped me overcome, mostly sexual sin and rebellion, there is a particular occurrence that strengthened my faith more than anything I could have ever imagined. I find myself needing to talk about it today, knowing deep down in my soul that no matter how dark, tragic, or extremely sad it may be, Jesus has turned beauty from these ashes and will receive glory from it because what the devil meant for evil, the Lord has and will continue to turn around for good!

Last week, I found out that the man who murdered my father five and a half years ago was given a guilty sentence. He will serve up to 45 years in prison as a punishment for his actions.  And while most people are shouting: “That man should burn in hell!” I am preaching, “You MUST forgive!”  because I know the severity of holding onto the wrongs that others have done to us. My friends, it is simply not worth it.

“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:14 (NIV)

Although I made a CHOICE to forgive the man who took my dad’s life right after it happened, I wrestled with so many emotions and thoughts after reading the articles describing the horrendous acts of murder that turned my world upside down in November of 2008. Seeing the photo of this man, as he was escorted by two police officers out of the courtroom, his stone cold eyes looking straight back at me, made my stomach churn. My heart was pierced and so many different emotions rose up in me.

Avoiding traumatic thoughts and emotions was the main reason I chose not to follow the murder case as the years went on. Immediately, I chose to forgive and move on with both my life with Christ and my now husband. I did not want to live in the trauma. It wasn’t that I didn’t love or miss my dad terribly.  It was because dwelling on all of this wicked and demonically influenced tragedy would never bring my dad back.  I knew that justice belonged ONLY in the hands of the Lord.  Most of all, I longed for that man to repent of what he did and find a life-changing relationship with my Jesus like I had found. I still pray for that to this day.

I can’t say that I have found the strength to pray a prayer like this from soley within myself. My strength does come from within though, but it is the power and might of the Holy Spirit who has given it to me. My life verse from the Bible will forever hold true, and I will never stop standing upon the promise of Philippians 4:13: “I can do ALL THINGS through CHRIST who strengthens me.” I’m so thankful for that promise.

Jesus will never abandon me. Although, my earthly father is gone, I have a Heavenly Father who loves me more than anyone could. I cling to Him when the storms of life try to overtake me, for He is my anchor of hope. I cling to and stand upon His Word that is full of promises – promises of His love, mercy, and grace, for He is my Rock and firm foundation. I cling to my Jesus and the voice of His Holy Spirit, for He is the One who gives me strength and courage to endure every trial I could ever face. No matter how dark life may get, know that when you trust in Jesus, and you hide your life in Him, you have a Light within you that shines so brightly it will overtake all of the darkness.

Die To Yourself

What Does It Mean To Die To Yourself?

“And He was saying to them all, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.’” – Luke 9:23

What does it mean to die to yourself? There is something startlingly subjective about this edict Jesus gives to His disciples upon their final realization that He is the Messiah.  While it’s more common for Jesus to speak in universal terms regarding belief and behavior, the above verse speaks directly to the individual would-be-follower.  Jesus is saying to each individual subject, “If you want to follow Me, then you must take up your cross and follow.”  This leads me to believe that while the principles for following Jesus are mostly universal to all and commonly applicable, the ways each of us will have to daily pick up our individual crosses and follow will differ person to person and situation to situation.

There is no one way to pick up your cross, and when Paul tells the Corinthian church in 1 Corinthians 9:22, “I have become all things to all men so that by all means I might save some” the practicality of what it means to deny yourself daily becomes clearer.

While I could provide what I think Jesus meant by calling His disciples to deny themselves daily and what Paul meant by attesting to his willingness to accommodate anyone for the cause of the gospel, in actuality I can only provide a testimony of what this has meant for me. When I hear my Jesus telling me to pick up my cross daily, only I can know what that cross is.  My hope, in sharing what I deny myself in order to follow Jesus, is that it would be an encouragement for you to explore your cross and the ways He is calling you to do the same.

For me, in my life, I must die to my desire to be right all of the time.  I have seen in my behavior, and in my ministry experience, a fatal unwillingness to be wrong, whether within Christian contexts or outside of them.  As Christians I think we feel a certain sense of intellectual superiority because of our access to Jesus who Himself claimed to be the embodiment of Truth itself (John 14:6), however our relationship to Jesus (who is Truth) does not guarantee our absolute rightness; in fact, that relationship more calls our wisdom foolishness and our intellect inferior (1 Corinthians 1:27).  God is omniscient (all knowing) and I am not.  To deny myself the need to be right has meant for me a level of compassion and understanding for people from all walks of life for whom God has called me to be all things in order that they might possibly be saved by Him.

What is your cross?  What is Jesus calling you to deny daily in order to follow Him more closely?  Please share your testimony below in order that we all might benefit from our shared openness about the radically different way Jesus has called us to be His disciples in this world.

Moses

Moses and the Burning Bush: Paying Attention to God

Before I began full time ministry, my wife and I were working in eastern Tennessee.  We were newly married, just out of college, no money, living on a college campus (which was part of my job), and we were praying about what God wanted to do with us.  Partly out of dissatisfaction over our current situation, but mostly out of a desire to be used by God in more and deeper ways, we starting asking Him in earnest where He would have us go and what He would have us do.  Within the span of about three weeks, both my wife and I were offered full-time jobs (mine my first full time ministry appointment as a Worship Director), packed up our few belongings, got a cheap apartment in the Chicago suburbs and moved.  It was a whirlwind month, but neither of us will forget what God did to make that transition possible.

Fast forward four years.

We had been living near Chicago and doing ministry there for awhile.  I was nearing the end of my first Masters Degree and again Katie and I began wondering if God might be calling us to take another step.  We started paying attention, listening for His direction, this time a little more experienced at knowing what His voice sounds like.  Often, we had come to discover that whatever the strangest possibility offered to us, God could be in it.  Though we loved where we were, what we were doing, the friends we had made, the ministry possibilities knocking on our door (not to mention having just bought and renovated our first house), this strange opportunity called.

Months prior, as Katie and I were praying for God’s direction, part of those prayers included asking Him to give us more opportunities to share our faith with non-Christian friends.  We wanted to see God use us to bring people into relationship with Him.  This strange opportunity was partly an answer to our prayers for direction, and partly an answer to prayers for greater evangelistic activity.  A Lutheran church in Peoria, IL (somewhere we had never heard of) called looking for someone to train and program their congregation for evangelism.  Neither Katie nor myself had set foot inside a Lutheran church before (not because we were opposed to the idea; simply because we both came from non-denominational backgrounds) and it would mean completely giving up on everything we had worked for years to build near Chicago, starting once again from scratch.

This was one of those strange, exciting, dangerous, unknown leaps of faith we had grown accustom to God calling us to do.

So we did it.  God has richly blessed us in this new endeavor, and each time we take these steps following God, we get a little better at paying attention to what He’s doing around us.

Awhile ago I was reading in the book of Exodus for the umpteenth time and read a phrase I hadn’t caught before.  Moses was wandering around Horeb and saw something strange, exciting, dangerous, and unknown: a bush ablaze but not consumed.  Exodus 3:3 picks up the story,

“So Moses said, ‘I must turn aside now and see this marvelous sight, why the bush is not burned up,’ When the Lord saw that he turned aside to look, God called him from the midst of the bush and said, ‘Moses, Moses!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’”

Did you catch that?  Only when Moses took the time to investigate the curiosity before Him, and only when God saw that Moses was paying attention, did He call him over.

That moment, that moment of investigation and paying attention, changed Moses’s life and the fate of the nation of Israel forever.

So what burning bushes in your life should you be paying more attention to?  Is God doing something near you that is strange, exciting, dangerous, or unknown?  Look into it and talk to Him about it.  It may be the moment God uses to start something amazing in your life.

Jesus

A Love Affair With Jesus

As Christians, I believe we need a new love affair with Jesus. Often times, the longer we have been labeled as a Christian, perhaps maybe even like those of us who have been married a long time, the more our extraordinary love becomes comfortable. In fact, just look at a young person falling in love, they constantly are posting about their significant other in status updates online and not a day goes by where that person isn’t mentioned, thought about, or discussed with others. Why? Because love is contagious and love is all consuming. However, our love relationship with God might be lacking this all-important fervor. Sure, we sing about it in Church and deep down we know it to be true, but we fail to allow the power of our words, our unique story, to reach others.

Recall with me for a moment, when was the last time you told someone about Christ? Perhaps it was yesterday at the grocery store or a month ago at the gym…or maybe it’s been much much longer. Now, notice, I didn’t ask when was the last time someone received Christ, I simply asked about a conversation between you and another person where Christ was introduced as the object of your affection.

Our testimony (words, experiences, stories) are the gateway to the power that we possess in Christ. No one can argue with what God has done for you. People can question theology and who God is on a surface level, but when you share something personal, it can take root in their heart and leave them tasting a bit of the character of God. Revelation 12:11 says,

“They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony…”

The enemy doesn’t want this truth to be recognized because people can fall in love with Jesus and the enemy can be defeated by these two things:

1. The power of the revelation of Jesus death’ and their need for salvation through it.

2. The power of your story.

In Acts 22, Paul, the Father of ‘How to Share Your Testimony,’ gives us a great example that we can use when speaking with others. Here’s a little background information: Paul was taken into custody by Roman soldiers because many people were upset that he was sharing his faith with the Gentiles (Gentiles were people that the Jews did not believe could receive the one true God). Yet, as a Roman citizen, Paul, by the grace of God, is able to secure permission from the commander to address the people. As Paul motions to the crowd, a hush falls, and he begins speaking to them in the holy language, that is, Hebrew. Paul has the awesome moment to take the stage and share his love affair with Jesus. The very thing the apostle Paul has been longing for, is being granted. He gets the opportunity to share his testimony in the very heart of Jerusalem.  He could have used many ‘strategies’ to ‘win people over,’ but he used his story because he knew the power of a testimony.

Let’s listen to Paul amazing speech:

“My dear brothers and fathers, listen carefully to what I have to say before you jump to conclusions about me.” When they heard him speaking Hebrew, they grew even quieter. No one wanted to miss a word of this.  He continued, “I am a good Jew, born in Tarsus in the province of Cilicia, but educated here in Jerusalem under the exacting eye of Rabbi Gamaliel, thoroughly instructed in our religious traditions. And I’ve always been passionately on God’s side, just as you are right now.I went after anyone connected with this ‘Way,’ went at them hammer and tongs, ready to kill for God. I rounded up men and women right and left and had them thrown in prison. You can ask the Chief Priest or anyone in the High Council to verify this; they all knew me well. Then I went off to our brothers in Damascus, armed with official documents authorizing me to hunt down the followers of Jesus there, arrest them, and bring them back to Jerusalem for sentencing. As I arrived on the outskirts of Damascus about noon, a blinding light blazed out of the skies and I fell to the ground, dazed. I heard a voice: ‘Saul, Saul, why are you out to get me?’

 “‘Who are you, Master?’ I asked.

“He said, ‘I am Jesus the Nazarene, the One you’re hunting down.’ My companions saw the light, but they didn’t hear the conversation.

 “Then I said, ‘What do I do now, Master?’

“He said, ‘Get to your feet and enter Damascus. There you’ll be told everything that’s been set out for you to do.’

Now, fortunately, this seems like everything is going well. Paul has given his background information about who he is, where he is from, and has proceeded to tell about his encounter with God. Yet, the Scriptures go on to tell us that Paul was hated for what he was saying to the people and even tortured for the outrage that broke out. This is not exactly the response he was going for, I’m sure! Yet, so much can be learned by Paul’s testimony here and I encourage you to read all of Acts chapter 22. Here are some truths I found interesting:

Paul’s approach: Paul addresses the people as ‘brethren’ and ‘fathers.’ Additionally, he spoke to them in their native tongue, thus capturing their attention.

What we can learn: When we share our faith, look for the common ground. This is the perfect way to build trust and establish our own humanity, instead of trying to act superior to the person in which we are speaking to.

Paul’s approach: Paul wasn’t afraid to be vulnerable by sharing his pains and sins. In verses 4-5, he explains, “I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and putting both men and women into prisons…”

What we can learn: Our life doesn’t need to appear perfect….ever! Both before and after Christ, we are still living the same life – we have to let the  good, bad and ugly be seen. When we speak to others we can be open with them about the areas we struggle in and the pain we have experienced.

Paul’s approach: Paul painted a vivid picture of how he met Christ. He didn’t ramble on forever, and he didn’t spend hours boring the people, but he did get to all the important facts of his journey in a concise yet powerful way.

What we can learn: Often times we skip over important moments leading up to our decision to follow Christ. Paul did not. People need to ‘feel’ not just ‘hear’ the emotion of how Jesus captured you. It would be like trying to explain a rainbow to a blind person. Details are important.

Paul’s approach: Discipleship is key to becoming a mature Christian. Paul didn’t forget to mention how people influenced his walk with God. Paul speaks of the disciple Ananias coming to him with a message from the Lord. The apostle says that Ananias was, “a man who was devout by the standard of the Law, and well-spoken of by all the Jews who lived there.”

What we can learn: Discipleship is how people go from hearing, to actively doing God’s work on earth. Don’t forget to share with others the people in your life whom have helped you along the way because most of us fell in love with God through the example we first saw in someone else.

Paul’s approach: Paul was not afraid to speak out. Much like a person madly in love, his words were passionate. He held nothing back because he knew everything was at stake.

What we can learn: Not everyone (just like Paul’s experience) will be happy with what you have to say but be bold in the truth you know. Don’t be condescending or judgmental, but use your journey to light the way for someone who is searching.

Lastly, please remember that you cannot share without prayer. Why? Because it is not your own strength that will ultimately pursue the person, but God. An active sharer of the Gospel once said, “Talk to God about people before you talk to people about God.” Paul tells us in the Bible many times that he was a huge prayer warrior and the way in which he could stand before those who wanted him dead and share his faith was because he had prepared with prayer in advance! Ask the Lord who he might be leading you to through prayer every day. He knows your story and He knows who needs to hear it.  So, share your story with others by: finding common ground, sharing your pains, painting a vivid picture, and including others who discipled you along the way. There is power in your testimony.

 

Turning It Over To God

Personal Testimony: Turning It Over To God

From time to time at PurposeCity.com we share testimonies as an opportunity to see God at work in the lives of His people. I’d like to share with you a testimony from someone that recently wrote in. It’s a great example of what it looks like to surrender your life, turning it over to God’s control:

I am nineteen years old and currently a freshman at Albright College. Originally my plan was to attend Liberty University, so that I could be surrounded by bunch of Godly people and stick within my comfortable Christian surroundings. However, one night, I remember praying to God saying, “Father, do with me what You will. Whether that means you want me to attend Liberty University, or even if it means to move to the other side of the world, I am willing. Help me to bless others, Lord, and ultimately bring glory to your name.”

With that being said, God had other plans for me. I declined my opportunity to go to Liberty and accepted an offer from Albright College. I felt that God was calling me here, but I was not sure why and, honestly, my flesh did not want to go because this was not MY plan. I’ve since learned, as God continues to show me each and every day, that I can have plans from A-Z, but never will my plan be better than His.  I am going on my fifth week here and I in all honesty, it has been some of the hardest times of my life. Attending a secular college is a challenge in and of itself for me – however, pairing that with losing my best friend to suicide the second week I was here has made the whole college experience less than exciting. However, what is exiting is how God holds it all together. You see, I have been able to minister to many friends, students, and faculty about God and what it means to have a relationship with Him. I didn’t have to do anything special; I just shared my personal testimony as I am today.

My purpose in this testimony is not to brag or boast about my experience here at Albright. I am writing to tell you all about my experience because it has led me to want more. I believe wholeheartedly that when God is working through you, He gives you that passion to pursue Him deeper. He has given me the story that He has because He wants me to share it with others and show all God has brought me through. He wants me to show people that there is a better way to live than in the darkness. He wants me to show people that there is still hope.

 While I won’t use her name, she offers us the opportunity to see not only what it looks like to surrender your own will over to God, but she gives us an incredible example of how He transforms you as He uses you to transform others. It takes a lot of courage to do what this young girl did – my prayer is that we might all be so willing to be used and we all might be open to God transforming us in the process.

If you’d like to share a testimony like this one, you can do so by clicking here.

 

Soul Anchor

An Anchor For Your Soul

A couple of years ago, I had the pleasure of spending a week in Aruba for my honeymoon. I was able to enjoy one of the most breathtaking environments imaginable from a small boutique resort right on the Caribbean ocean, with perfect weather, warm water, and of course my beautiful wife. Life was good. In fact, it had never been better. But just a month later, the honeymoon was over, both literally and figuratively. In that short period of time, my life went from an incredible high to an unexpected low.

My wife and I, just weeks after getting married, were planning to move across the country – coast to coast – from Nova Scotia to British Columbia. For those of you not familiar with the Canadian landscape, that’s a trek of over 6,000 kilometres (or almost 4,000 miles, for you Americans still enslaved to the imperial system, haha). But my wife and I viewed it as our first great adventure as a married couple, so we packed up the car and hit the road.

Seven days and 2,500 miles later, we turned around and came back.

While I won’t go into the details, God brought an event into our lives that was personally heartbreaking, financially crippling, and spiritually challenging. The primary reason we were relocating to British Columbia was so I could attend Bible College, as I felt called by God into full-time ministry. So when I was faced with the reality that we would have to turn around and go home to Nova Scotia, I felt lost. I didn’t know what my next step would be. But I knew one thing was for certain: God isn’t just there in the good times, He’s there in the bad times as well.

I’m reminded of this story because this past Sunday I introduced a new song called “Anchor” by Ben Fielding to my church in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where I’m the Worship Pastor. The song is based on a passage in Hebrews 6 that states:

 “Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls.”

We’re all going to face challenging times in our lives, whether it’s struggling with the loss of a loved one, being hurt by something that someone has said or done to us, or by reaching a crossroads in our lives and wondering what our next step will be, as I was in my story. But through all of those circumstances, God has promised to be our refuge. He’s our anchor.

On the last day that my wife and I were in Aruba, we took a boat tour of the island. During that two hour or so cruise, I learned two things: 1) Aruba is a truly beautiful place where I’d love to retire someday, and 2) I get seasick. While I thoroughly enjoyed sitting on the deck of the boat, taking in the coastal scenery, I was falling victim to the movement of the sea around me. I was never as thrilled as when that boat dropped anchor and I was back on solid ground again. Miraculously, my lunch made it back to shore with me as well.

The picture of a boat dropping anchor is how the author of Hebrews is describing God in our lives. When a boat drops its anchor, it secures itself to a place from which it will not move. Whether in the midst of a storm when a boat requires stabilizing from the elements of the sea, or in a calm harbor when it simply needs to remain secure so it won’t go adrift, the well-being of the boat – and its occupants – is entrusted to the anchor. The same is true of God in our lives. No matter what the circumstance, God will keep us secure in Him. Just as a boat that is not firmly anchored is at the mercy of the sea, if we are not firmly anchored in Christ then we will find ourselves adrift and at the mercy of the circumstances of life.

As Christians, it’s easy to rejoice in the greatness of God when things are going well in our lives. But it’s how we respond in the tough times that truly reflect our relationship with the Father. As John Piper has said, “God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in Him, in the midst of loss – not prosperity.” That kind of response is only possible if God is our anchor.

So no matter the circumstances you find yourself in, whether you’re going through the storms of life or you’re in a calm time, remember that in every circumstance you have an anchor for your soul.