My Testimony

A little while back, we were visiting my parent’s house. During our time there, my parents asked me to sort through some of my old stuff and decide if there was anything I wanted to keep or whether stuff could be chucked. Apparently when you’re 28, married, have two kids and haven’t really lived at home full time for about 10 years, your parents decide it’s probably time for you to finally take your stuff away. As I sifted through various folders containing bank details and GCSE certificates, I came across two handwritten pieces of A4 lined paper with the heading “My Testimony”. I had written this about 11 years ago, shortly after I became a Christian. I think Jon March had probably told me I should write it down before I forgot. Well I did, but it had sat forgotten for over a decade. Needless to say it had some sentimental value and I wanted to hold onto it. Now finally I’ve typed it up and put it onto my computer and as we’re in a week of interviews and testimonies at All Saints this week, I thought why not share mine. I’ve copied it below and it’s all as written by 17 year old me, with no changes, even if I would’ve liked to have tidied it up a bit.

My Testimony

I was at Soul Survivor B 2003. I was enjoying the experience, especially the worship as that was the only time I felt I was really connecting with God. Even then, I had doubts about whether or not it was actually the music I enjoyed or the praise. I have now come to the conclusion that it was a mixture of both and the reason I liked the music was because the Lord had given me a real passion for it. Despite feeling connected to God during the musical worship, I was saddened that I didn’t feel anything when I was being prayed for.

The main tent at Soul Survivor

I had had prayer on about two occasions, with people placing their hands on me and praying for various things, including healing. The prayer for healing went unanswered and I felt upset and angry with God as I was truly asking him to come into my heart. I also was sad about it because it was evident that people around me were getting healed and some very quickly. I began to think that the only way the Lord would really give me some sort of sign was when people laid their hands on me and prayed for me. I felt that my prayer wasn’t good enough to warrant an answer.

On the third night of Soul Survivor, Mike Pilavachi did not ask people who wanted particular prayer to stand up and for people to pray for them by laying hands on them. Instead, he asked everyone to stand and to pray in whatever way we wanted for the Lord, the Holy Spirit to come down upon us. I heard people screaming in what I thought was tongues and Mike was saying that he knew some of us had anger rising up in us and that we could let it out. I was feeling nothing at that point and felt fine, apart from being worried that God didn’t want me. I was also scared at all the noise going on around me and Mike said not to be scared but I still was. I prayed to God , telling him I was scared and asking him to make it right. I asked the Lord to fill me with the Holy Spirit and for Jesus to come into my heart.

I began to tremble in my legs, which I had felt in previous prayer sessions before. However, I was always dubious of this in case it was my body just shaking because I was cold or that I might be somehow faking it. As I went on in praying I began to shake violently. I remembered Mike saying that if we can’t cry here, with God, where can we cry and so I said to God something along the lines of “Lord I’m not afraid to cry in front of these people, so if you’re there please give me some sign.” Almost instantly I began to fill up and I burst into tears. Sam, Oli, Jon and Anthony prayed for me whilst I just let it come down.

It was the most emotional experience I have ever had. I cried for all the bad things that had happened to me, such as the lack of healing and other life problems and it hurt emotionally and I remember thinking maybe I was doing something wrong, as surely I shouldn’t feel this upset. I was crying because I knew I had made mistakes. But whilst I cried, I felt that the tears were tears of awe because I knew that it was true, all true and I was going to heaven and I was going live forever in heaven and I could never doubt again. And as I went on praying, there were moment that the tears subsided and I thought the Lord had almost finished saying what he wanted to me but then the tears came again and this time I was crying for the things I had done in my life which had not glorified the Lord and I was saying, “Sorry Lord, I’m so sorry, it’s all true.”

When these tears passed, I felt myself laughing because I just felt so happy but I was so happy that I couldn’t smile or laugh enough to express my happiness so I just had to cry again. Then my tears subsided and I fell to my knees and bowed my head, partly in exhaustion because I had done a lot of crying, and partly because I felt bad for all the wrong things I had done and I cried again.

Eventually, it all passed and I was left tearful but absolutely beaming because I was so happy. How could I doubt now?

Despite thinking, “how can I doubt now?” and the fact this this occurred only a few days before I wrote this, the further the event got away, the more I began to analyse and think about what happened, the more I began to think, “maybe I was just letting out pent up emotion” or “I got caught up in the mood.” I don’t believe that this is because I don’t believe in the Lord, but that it is because it is human nature to doubt. I know he’s there because I felt it to be true so strongly and if it was just me, I would have had some doubts even at the time but I had none. I felt God so intimately but still I doubt as is my nature but even as I write this my faith is reaffirmed as I remember something I think J. John said. “When we pray, coincidences happen. When we don’t, they don’t,” and as I write my testimony of how I felt the Lord, songs are playing on the radio praising Jesus and never before, until now, have I heard music praising the Lord on Radio 2! Now that’s what I call a coincidence. Amen.


Trinity? Or Speed Dating at the Pantheon?

This is a repost of a post I read over on which appears to already be a repost though I couldn’t see where from. Nevertheless, know that none of this is my work. I think it makes some really helpful points though.

“I’m always coming across it.  Do you ever hear this kind of statement?

– It’s important to be Christ-centred, but let’s not forget about God.

Now this could mean one of a number of things.

It could mean “I need to hear about the Father and His Spirit of Adoption”

Or it could mean “We need to give equal prominence to the one god of philosophy.”

In either case, the answer is to give the person more Jesus!  The first person needs to know the Father and the Spirit in Christ (and in Christ alone) and the second person needs to replace their theological method with Christ (and with Christ alone).

Because if someone says “We need to focus less on Jesus and give more time to “God” or “the Father” or “the Spirit”… where does that leave the mediation of Christ ?  Do we really believe in Christ as Mediator?

Or do we think it’s about balancing our respect for the Persons?  As though ‘being trinitarian’ means standing before a loose association of deities and ensuring equal devotion.  That sounds more like speed-dating at the Pantheon.  Do we really imagine ourselves to be outside the Three, making sure we spend equal time at the feet of Each?  Have we forgotten that we are in the Son?  And nowhere else!  Have we forgotten that the Father and the Spirit are in the Son?  And nowhere else!

Or is that only an incidental point?  Is that only half true?  Or only sometimes true?  Because if it’s just true – true true – then there’s no way to be Patro-centric or Pneuma-centric except by being resolutely Christo-centric.

I know the Father as ‘Him Who makes the Son Son.’  I know the Spirit as ‘Him Who makes the Christ, Christ.’  And I don’t know them otherwise.

But a theologian making a plea for equal time for the Persons… once they turn their gaze from the Son, how exactly are they going to view the Father?  They’re not.  So this one to whom they turn when they look away from Jesus, who is that guy?

And what’s he doing?  Clearly he hasn’t committed all things into his Son’s hands.  He’s got a venture or two on the side that requires supplemental enquiries!

And where do they imagine themselves to be as they circulate around the trinity?  Do they think of themselves as a fourth individual at the heart of the Holy Huddle.  Well the Shack might put me there and some Christian art might put me there, and that might be an improvement on unitarianism. But that’s not really where I am.  I’m IN Jesus participating in His Sonship and Anointing.  This is my only access to the life of the trinity.  Jesus is not just One of the Three, He is The Way.

I don’t have a relationship with the Father and the Spirit except the relationship that Christ has with them.  I know the trinity not from some objective fourth perspective, but only from Christ’s perspective.  Only in Him, and all that He is and does for me, do I know His Father and Spirit.

So, absolutely, don’t forget the Father or Spirit.  Get to know the Persons in all their distinct glory and grace. But they are not outside of the Christ, the Son of God. And neither are you! “

Just Another Guide Or A Father In Christ?

During my quiet time this morning I was reading 1 Corinthians 3-4:7 and I was struck by one verse in verse, 1 Cor 4:15:

“For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers.”

The Corinthian church is probably the most unruly church we read about in the Bible. It’s full of division, quarrelling, factions and pride, and so Paul doesn’t hold back in putting them in their place. But this verse really struck me for what it says about guides and fathers. There was no shortage of people in the church wanting to lead others but very few of them took on a fatherly role in their leadership, which probably goes some way to explaining why the church was in such disarray.

So this got me thinking, “what does it mean to be a father to people in my ministry?” Helpfully, I think Paul shows us at least 5 things in the passage surrounding this verse. Here it is in  it’s wider context:

“14 I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. 15 For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. 16 I urge you, then, be imitators of me. 17 That is why I sent  you Timothy,my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ,  as I teach them everywhere in every church. 18 Some are arrogant, as though I were not coming to you. 19 But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I will find out not the talk of these arrogant people but their power. 20 For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power. 21 What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?”

This guy might have some interesting facts, but he doesn't love you!

Firstly, a father loves his children. In verse 14, Paul refers to the Corinthians as his ‘beloved children.’ These people, despite the mess they’ve made of their church and their very obvious sinfulness, are people who Paul loves dearly, as if they were his own children. This is in stark contrast to a guide. I might hire a guide to lead me up a mountain or take me on a tour of the Tower of London, but that guide has no love for me. He’s simply doing his job, detached from any real feeling for me. A father on the other hand, loves his children dearly, no matter what they might do to disappoint him. This love should be a mark of any ministry we are involved in.

Secondly, a father leads by example. Paul urges the Corinthians to imitate him, just as he imitates Christ (v16-17).Fathers realise that their children imitate them and are distressed when they see their child picking up their bad habits. As Christian leaders we need to realise that people see what we do and imitate us. If we really love the people under our care, then we’ll strive to be as Christlike as possible in our actions, leading people to imitate that.

Father's want to impart the right knowledge to their children

Thirdly, a father teaches their child. In v18, Paul stresses that he has been teaching everywhere in every church. Teaching is such an important role of the Christian leader. Not long ago, I met some young people who went to church every week, attended their midweek bible study every week, went on summer camps and did every Christian festival going. Their exposure to Christianity was seemingly huge. But not one of them had any real grasp of the gospel which got me thinking, “if not the gospel, what are people actually teaching these kids week in, week out?!” My suspicion is that there were a lot of guides but very few Fathers around these people.

The teaching aspect brings me to the fourth thing a Christian leader does as a father. It’s not only that the leader must be a teacher, but he must teach the right thing. Paul says when he comes to Corinth he’ll come not to hear people’s talk but to find out their power (v19), “For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power” (v20). So what’s this power that Paul is referring to? Well helpfully he’s talked about this at length in chapter 1:

” For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” – 1 Corinthians 1:18

The power Paul talks about is the message of Christ crucified. That’s the message that seems foolish to the world but is actually the power of God. When Paul gets to Corinth he wants to see whether people are preaching the cross of Christ, because that is where the power of the Kingdom of God comes from. If the gospel message is not being taught in our churches, our youth cell groups, or camps, then our message is drained of power. But someone who is a real father to those in his care will preach the gospel.

A father loves his children and wants to spend time with them.

Finally, a father spends time with his children. Paul tells the Corinthians he is coming to them soon (v19). The guide arrives at youth group at 7:30pm and checks out at 9:00pm, job done until next week. The father desires real relationship with his children and so spends time with them face to face, sharing his life with them. Facebook, twitter and texting are all great but they can’t compare to meeting face to face and that’s a real challenge to us in our increasingly isolated communities.

This verse challenges me to be a father to my young people. I hope it’ll challenge you too.