Testimony

Bridge-Burning, Bridge-Building, and Wall-Building

A boy once lived through a river crossing. The waters receded and the ground became dry and the people crossed. But a few people stayed in the middle, stranded on high places in the river. They lived on islands in the middle of a grand, wide river.

As the boy grew up, he noticed the people in the middle. When he became a man, he longed to cross the stream again to bring more people across. He dreamed of just the right bridges and how to reach those on the other side and those on the islands.

He lived at the edge of the river and build a few walls for his home and then began planning to reach those on the islands and those on the other side. He watched their habits. He waved at people on the islands and on the other side, and he one day noticed that if he stepped into the stream a little and asked for help, he could reach the islands nearby. He would visit the people and talk to them. Sometimes people received him, sometimes they didn’t.

The budding bridge-builder would bring food and the fruit of the land to those on the islands. He gave them things to read to pass their time with joy. A few crossed over and left their islands, and joy filled his heart. All of his friends and family received the newly landed people and he was happy.

Gradually, he invited others to help him build bridges to those further out on the islands. He would look for the best place to land the bridge and visited with gifts of peace. On occasion he found islands where people had built walls all around the islands like fortresses and who refused to cross over or even to greet him. He pressed on and went to the islands that were accessible.

Sometimes he would build a bridge to an islander and the person attacked him. When this happened, he put up a gate on the island bridge to protect himself and the other incorporated citizens. Then, he moved on to build more bridges.

On rare occasion, he found islanders who would receive him freely at first, but later would burn all the bridges to their island. While he never understood why people would stay on the islands, he refused to muddle in the river weeping forever over the bridges that could have been and would venture out to new islands.

He kept finding new islands. Occasionally, he would even call out to those on the other side and would send a boat to retrieve those who wanted to cross. Yes, there is danger in bringing people safely to land. Yes, it is a life prone to long hours alone reaching islands and reaching out to the other side, but every time someone rejoined the people of the land and the rejoicing went up, the labor was worth it.

So will you build bridges or burn them? Build brick walls with graffiti smiley faces or put in doors and windows, ready to open the gates when the time is right.

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My Father’s Love: Assurance of No Abandonment.

I have been thinking about how my father showed love for me.

One dramatic demonstration of love was when he ran after me when I tried to run away. For whatever reason, I was cranky and wanted to live in the forest. Dad knew I wouldn’t last long out there, but, as if to underscore how much his love yearned to have me at home, he ran wholeheartedly after me and caught me and pulled me kicking & screaming and brought me home and gave a whooping. Then, in that place, tears streaming down my face, I felt loved. My father would run after me and get me if I ever got lost. Every child needs a father who will do that for them. The Lord disciplines those He loves, and I am thankful that our father disciplined us.

Another time I experienced my father’s love was when we went on the journey of a lifetime. We called it our East-West-and-Crazy trip, visiting most of the states west of the Mississippi and many of the national parks in the contiguous Western USA. Many significant memories were formed on that journey. It was a family forging journey, like the Israelites wandering in the wilderness. Anybody who has had to zip through the west with a minivan full of a bunch of kids with no air conditioning and seeing the wonders God has performed in shaping the earth will know how suffering creates healthy, if traumatized children. We were on the journey together and experienced first hand vistas that many only see in the movies or on TV or photo books.

Years later, I fell ill. It was not fun. I was in the process of maturing from childhood to adulthood. Though I had been voted most likely to succeed in my graduating class, I suddenly felt like the biggest failure. At the worst of it, I was having seizures and could not even go to church. I was weak, tired, exhausted, nervous, anxious, scared, alone in my heart, all rolled up in one big bundle of trouble. I probably didn’t look that sick to a passerby, unless I was out walking around the neighborhood trying to get exercise by swinging a baseball bat and wearing a blanket like a kilt. I so craved to be normal again: going to school, reading regular non-children’s books, feeling alive again, feeling human again. I remember that during this season of my life there were times when I lost whole days of memory and cried when asked about things I couldn’t remember. I wanted to carry on a normal conversation and could hardly get a sentence out of my mouth. I sought medical help, but doctors only seemed to make things worse, most of the time, I sought pastoral counsel, but they didn’t know what to make of me since I couldn’t even talk and appeared to have no infectious diseases and had no apparent sin.

In the middle of that worst season of my life, I one time tried going to church, but fell into petit mal seizures once again. My dad prayed with me. Sat with me. and waited. My mom spent as much time as she could then went to her meeting. My dad lingered, then, I remember him getting up and saying, “I’m going to have to leave you, but I’m not going to abandon you. I’ll be back.” Then he went off to the prayer meeting.

However, I kept mulling over what he said. He had left with a smile, and I managed to smile back, however faintly. Most likely, the church continued to pray for me as they had since I had first developed the seizures following a medical error. I had no profound epiphany, but I felt loved. I needed a dad who would love me even when I could do nothing for him or with him or ever expect to repay him.

It was also in this season, the deepest season of depression and agony that I have ever been in, that I encountered what it means for God to pour out His Spirit of adoption again on one of His children, on one who is poor in spirit. If there ever was someone afflicted, it was me. I had seizures in church. NOT FUN. Suddenly I couldn’t talk, my muscles stiffened, I was a dead weight. It happened right after going to the single’s class at church and my last words were, “I guess I’m in the right class.” I was single, yes, but God wanted me to go home.

That day, the pastor and some elders prayed for me. They continued to pray for the weeks following. It was also that season, when I had a profound turn around. I had tried everything I knew to get better. I had even complained to God. He seemed silent. One day though, almost as if I had no place else to turn, I sat one evening in the Laz-E-Boy recliner that has since been incinerated. I would spend long hours there while I was sick. That evening though, I was alone in my thoughts until I turned my thoughts once more to the Lord.

I handed over my life to God again, “I may be an invalid the rest of my life, Lord. But I’m going to be the best invalid You ever had.” Then I got up and went to bed, ready to sleep a long time.

The next morning, I awoke. For the first time in a long time, my heart was at peace. My Mom, who had chosen to take a break from work while I recovered, greeted me in the kitchen. She said, “Mert, you look different, what happened?” I answered, “I feel different. I feel like God is my Father and He is holding me in His arms.”

Everyone needs time to come home to the Lord, when He will embrace you and receive you just as you are, with all your pain and loneliness and anger and agony and fear and rage, and He will simply embrace you. No mere human can fully mediate that grace. My Dad is the best dad a young person could ask for, but he could only be with me so much. At that moment, I needed my Father in Heaven to smile on me and embrace me as His son, well loved, accepted and approved.

If you ever feel ill and like your life is wasting away, I dare you to pray like I did, “Lord, I may be an invalid the rest of my life, but I will be the best invalid You ever had.” God will hear your prayer and prove to you that in His eyes, you are very valid and most precious, accepted in the Beloved..

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My Darkest Night: A Confession

My darkest night and day, inside was pain, my soul bound up in chains.

I looked confounded, looked uncertain, certainly looked confused.
I tried rejection, I tried inspection, and I tried just to refuse.
My soul was heavy, my mind a mess, my heart got torn in shreds.
I was left alone, adrift, and nearly left for dead.
This is what I almost, nearly, and completely would have done.

Looking out, looking up, looking all around.
Feeling lost, feeling forward, feeling like I might be found.
I hear a cry, I cry for help, I cannot help but cry.
I wonder how, I wonder where, I mostly wonder whom and why?
What could I, should I, would I do?

I look away, I look inside, yet I seem to only stare.
My hands hang limp, brain disconnected, yet I truly care.
I am not wise, I’m at a loss, I am not self-improved.
I want to hide, I want to run, yet inside I am moved.
What can I, shall I, will I do?

I look behind, I look within, and then look far beyond.
I have no power, no potion, and no magic wand.
A little truth, a little prayer, and lots of simple mercy:
For my family, for my friends, and for my foes quite early.
This is what I could have, should have, and will have done.

For, Yes! Redemption came, my mind was changed, and I rose up not the same.

Categories: Good News, Peer support, Poem, Suffering, Testimony | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

From Work to Witness to Wandering to Worship

Yesterday, was a wonderful day. Along with getting my day to day tasks done, I had an abundance of opportunities to share my faith with others: at least six heard the message of the Honor of Jesus in some seed like fashion in not-too-long conversations while going from place to place. It was a refreshing day when I got a nice brisk walk in with a friend as well as the chance to reach out to a bunch of folk and talk briefly with a couple of older acquaintances.

Then the Sabbath came, I did a little reading on the Sabbath, in fact I finished the book by Rich Robinson on the Sabbath that was published by Moody Press. Supper was a scrumptious meal prepared by my wife, I learned that there was a flood in the basement which will need to be dealt with, and then off to bed after a little further reading, mainly on Aaron.

As I dozed, I eventually came to a vivid dream in which I was on a plan which was going somewhere and then suddenly had been rerouted to Arabia, namely Mecca. Only the flight was not just during any time, but during the Hajj. Suddenly I was in the midst of a large number of Hajjis going to and from Mecca and as they passed me, I could feel the jabs of their looks and even more the jabs of knives as they sought to physically attack me for violating their space. Though I had not intended to land in Mecca at all, it was just the plane landed there. Then I woke up. After a brief, but intense, prayer calling out to Jesus and interceding for Muslims, I returned to bed.

Again, I entered REM sleep a few times, then I found myself wandering and calling folks and ended up in a place near my home in a small Methodist church and a Christian pastor was making announcements and the church was praying for missionaries. The church was obviously alert to the reality of the Spirit and the call to make disciples of all nations. I offered the pastor an opportunity to play a DVD that I have that includes a worship song by Robin Mark (Revive Us from Revival in Belfast). When the DVD was played, the music was played, the words were different and more pastoral in nature, but more intense … suddenly everyone in the church was doing a choreographed worship song honoring the Lord who is sovereign over all creation. I was caught up in intercession and then joined in the worship and was refreshed.

My mind turned to the great need for more laborers who will make Christ known among the nations, here and abroad as I awoke. Are you one of those? Are you one of those who desires to see gardens in the desert? Are you one who will cultivate the spiritual soil of the earth until the barren places bloom again?

If you would like to receive a copy of the DVD with the song that was in my heart at the end of the final dream last night, please leave a comment with an address where you would like the NTSC DVD sent. I will mail you by US post the DVD and information about how you can pray for the heart of the Muslim world as you pray for the deserts to bloom again.

And you can start by today praying for those who are in war zones in Libya, Syria, and Yemen and the refugees of those countries. But also, join that prayer by singing a favorite worship song.

If you would like to help with the costs of this ministry, you can contribute by clicking on this link: http://joytotheworldfoundation.org/index.php?option=com_crowdfunding&view=details&id=1117-if4es&catid=8-operating-projects&Itemid=105

(Bonus … the link also includes the video Revive Us by Robin Mark that I talked about. Enjoy!)

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Offering your Life and your Best

Today, after receiving a vision and waking, I sought the meaning of the vision from the Word of God. I had received a call to read 7:30-37 …? What? I searched and ended up reading the next section of Scripture from the Old Testament that my wife were in: Leviticus … 7:30-37. Of course, the blood is the Lord’s. This passage also highlights that the fat belongs to the Lord, but the priests received the breast and the thigh. As we read and prayed, it seemed the Lord was indicating that if we give God our life (blood) and our best (fat), he will supply and strengthen us for our service. This was a prayer I prayed about 1.5 years ago and have recently seen some circumstances indicating that this is happening. The supply is from the Lord. The strength is the strength that God supplies. We must simply give him all our life and our very best.

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Loving Isn’t Love until You Love Those who Hate You

I used to think that I was a good guy.

I got all A’s in school.

I was healthy.

I was voted most likely to succeed.

I excelled in all that I set my hands to.

Then, there came a point at which I really got to know Jesus.

Now I know what a wretched sinner I am!

Oh, I had already called on the Lord and was saved, but this was different. I committed to follow Jesus by identifying with his death, burial, and resurrection. He who knew no sin, became sin for us so that we might become the integrity & virtue of God.

I do not follow the traditional teaching of the church on this verse. The traditional teaching of the church is that Jesus became a sin offering, thus inserting the word offering. I go behind the traditional teaching to look at Jesus Himself. He did not come to offer sin. He offered His Holiness. The Father came close in Christ.

Let us take this at face value though. What is this verse actually saying:

1. Jesus knew no sin.

2. Jesus became sin for us.

3. 1 & 2 are so that we might become the righteousness of God.

Jesus became what he did not know so we could become what we are not. Jesus allowed himself to be humiliated so that we might become honored. Jesus was shamed so that we would be saved.

Jesus was indeed a sin offering. But that is not necessarily what this says explicitly. It says he became sin.

Ask any Muslim what the greatest sin is and they will say it is “Shirk.” to ascribe partners to God. I.e. to identify Jesus as divine.

Jesus was sinless. All are agreed on that except for a few people who claim that there is no absolute morality, which is self contradictory, so we will kindly ignore those proud souls for now who exalt themselves over God in their own mind (particularly since their own morality often is less than that of Jesus.)

Jesus also asserted that he is God. When he claimed to be the Son of Man, he was claiming not merely to be human, but to be made in the exact image of God and to be exalted as the one like a Son of Man who reigns in glory before the Ancient of Days as described in Daniel.

For a man who appeared to have been born of an illicit union, though he was not, to have claimed what appeared impossible, that he is God, resulted in the predictable condemnation at the courts of the Jewish leaders and the Roman authorities. This was indeed a most preposterous claim for mere flesh to make.

But Jesus was no mere mortal. He was also immortal. He laid down His life freely (that is, he chose to make that claim, when he could have kept it to himself). He also took up his life again (that is, he happily and triumphantly rose from the grave and left the grave clothes behind. He was victorious over death. He submitted to what appeared to be the defilement of the grave that he might sanctify the grave yard as a rest area for the saints, a mere passing through place which leads to a much better place.) Jesus is fully alive and well today.

So what? What difference if Jesus rose? I haven’t seen him, the atheist will say.

Ah, but Jesus is alive and active in His Body. Wherever 2 or more gather in the name of Jesus, submitting to His authority as Lord, they experience and communicate the presence of Jesus. It is not merely in this ritual or ceremony. It is a moment by moment reality.

And so it comes to pass, that when the doubter, the bitter soul, the slanderer, the evil doer, or any other person with any bad intentions comes against a church (that is, such a gathering of saints who are submitted to Jesus) the presence of Jesus is assaulted. But so also, the power of the Messiah’s resurrection is present in His people. He comes back again and again to present the truth claims of God on man. Because Jesus demonstrated what it is to be 100% submitted to God, he can claim to be fully God without any duplicity. Not even the angels can claim to be God without lying. But Jesus not only claimed this power, he demonstrates it over and over again every time His people demonstrate patience with the wicked. Everytime the church witnesses to the truth in a world of falsehood. Everytime a believer confesses the deity of Jesus the Messiah to a Muslim or Jew or Hindu or Buddhist or atheist or tribal practitioner, he experiences the righteousness of God.

You say, then how come witnesses seem so care-free, so unworried of what the world says about them? Why is it that missionaries go about their mission as though ignorant of the plans and purposes of the world to destroy them and to undermine them?

We can laugh at adversity, not because adversity is inherently fun, but we know the One (the Father, the Son, and the Spirit), the Lord who is greater than all our troubles.

We know the provider. Even if we starve and are indebted, we know the One who will feed us daily bread and who will forgive all our debts. Even if we are slaughtered, as the Islamic State is trying to do in Mosul, we know the One who Saves from the grave through the power of the resurrection.

Jesus is Lord.

No government can stop Him.

No army can harm Him.

No bank can buy Him.

No store can sell Him.

No religion can restrain Him.

No human can exhume Him.

No hand can hurt Him.

No sickness can weaken Him.

No failure can flunk Him.

Jesus reigns supreme!

He took ALL our shame.

He took ALL our sin.

With His Holy Claim.

And He rose once again.

Categories: Good News, Suffering, Testimony, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

From Angry Drunk to Sober and Silly

This week, I would like to share a Guest column by J.S. A friend who wanted to share the following story.

I was lying across the design table. I was one of a team of four doing a full-scale drawing of a new Corvette. As part of a job shop, we were seeing if the engine would fit in the engine compartment.
We had to lie on the table to do the drawings, because we were each doing a different part of the car. While there, I was actually daydreaming about going out afterwards and having that first drink, knowing that it would not be the only drink.

I always had alcohol in the car wherever I went. I would have a pint that was open under the driver’s seat and an unopened pint under the passenger’s seat. I also had a fifth in the trunk so I didn’t run out. I was loaded.

I should have been stopped by the police and given a ticket or been taken to jail, but I wasn’t. I deserved to be though. By the grace of God, I never had an accident, not even any close calls. It is a miracle that I was never even stopped for suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol. Eventually I was fired from that job for being drunk on the job.

My drinking, of course, was exacerbated by the fact that I was bipolar and had gone undiagnosed for years. It had gotten so bad that I was growling at people. It wasn’t funny. If only I could go back and erase that or make it right, but of course that is not possible.

Another job I had was as a technical illustrator, and I had a bad morning, so I went down to the bar and had two quintuples (10 shots of alcohol) and then topped it off with a double. Afterwards, I went back to work, but of course I was useless the rest of the day.

I was married at the time, and it was a loveless marriage. I loved her but she did not reciprocate. She said the only reason she married me was to get away from home. When I got angry, I would take one of my World War II daggers and hack the walls, making an awful mess of it.

I had another job working in the Ford Motor Company on the technical illustration team. Scientists and engineers would produce rough sketches, and we had to turn them into professional drawings and lettering. I often worked overtime on the part-time job. When we worked overtime, the company would pay for us to eat out. I would drink my dinner. I would have liked to have been hired there, but I know that my drinking stopped me.

I have had so many jobs that I cannot remember all of them. I was always fired from the jobs or quit over the way I was treated. It wasn’t that I was treated badly, I just couldn’t get along with anybody and was drunk all the time. I even went to sleep with a bottle of liquor in hand.
My drinking started when I was 22 years old and had continued for years. I remember having the thought, “I’m 22 now, I guess I should start drinking and smoking.” That was a dumb decision.

Earlier when I was a teenager, I had been involved somewhat in church and had enjoyed participating in First Baptist Church in Ypsilanti, Michigan. I had played the part of the tribune in a play called the Robe and even made my own costume.

Years later when I was living with my mother, I decided to check the church out again. It was a different pastor, but he spent a lot of time with me. I put him through the wringer because I was still drinking, though not as heavily as before … and he always forgave me. He would come and see me and I would be sloshed. The pastor would talk me through it, and I would stop drinking for a while until there was another crisis of some sort. But eventually something happened.

In 1974, one night in late October, It suddenly dawned on me that I had not had a drink in weeks. Not only had I not had a drink, but I didn’t want one even though the house was full of booze. I stopped smoking cigars at about the same time.

I even had had incidents at the house. I would be misbehaving somehow and the police would come and take me to the nearby psychiatric hospital, because basically I was crazy. This one night, when it dawned on me that I hadn’t had a drink, I couldn’t get over the fact that I didn’t even want a drink. I took every bottle of hooch that was in the house and poured it down the drain. That was a lot of alcohol going down the drain. In those days, the liquor would have been worth about $100, quite a bit for that time.

I maintain that I didn’t quit: the Lord took it away from me. It had controlled me.

On a hot day in summer, I would sometimes have 1 bottle of beer usually just part of the bottle and not the whole bottle. The rest would be left on the table. It was not like when I was drinking the hard stuff. I am no longer compelled like I used to be, by the grace of God, I was saved from myself.
I’ve been sober since 1988. I know He took out insurance for me, because now if I ever get a whiff of hard alcohol, I gag.

Sometime later, after I had been seeing a Dr. Longacre for depression for a long time, I mentioned to her what I was dealing with, and she diagnosed me as having bipolar disorder. After the diagnosis, I began being medicated to counter the disorder. The Lord worked through the psychiatrist at community mental health to keep me stable and restore my emotions. It took about 7 years to maintain an effective balance. I take the medicine regularly so that I do not return to being looney.

My mother is now dead, but I wish she could see that I am now sober and sane. While I have hurt many people over the years and wish I could undo all the damage, I cannot. As I was reminded recently by my pastor, I cannot go back, but I can go forward and make a difference in the days ahead for the glory of God, though I am one of the least of His subjects.

…and here is a glimpse of God’s mysterious ways of protecting us:
I was getting off work one Monday, and had the impulse to go to a music shop in town. I didn’t know why since I had been there just two days before. As I was pulling into the parking lot, a tie rod broke, making it so I could not steer the car. If I had not been just creeping along pulling into the parking lot, I would have been driving 70 miles an hour down the freeway. The car had to be hauled away by a tow truck and the manager of the store was so helpful that he drove me home a significant distance. Surely that was divine intervention as I remember wondering, “Why am I going to the store, I was just there two days ago.” Then this happened. God was watching out for me.

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