The Power of a Testimony

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“I have proclaimed glad tidings of righteousness in the great congregation; behold, I will not restrain my lips, O LORD, You know. I have not hidden Your righteousness within my heart; I have spoken of Your faithfulness and Your salvation; I have not concealed Your lovingkindness and Your truth from the great congregation.” Psalm 40:9-10

A couple of weeks ago, my pastor asked me to give a testimony in both the traditional and contemporary services in our church. Gulp! 

Years ago, I was set free from a lifetime of fear (you can read about that here), and I told the Lord then that I would give a testimony anytime the opportunity presented itself. After all, doesn’t scripture say in 1 Peter, “Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence”?

To say that speaking in front of both congregations was taking me outside of my comfort zone is an understatement. I prefer writing my testimonies on a keyboard than voicing them, but how could I not share what He had done for me? This is the testimony I gave, though I am providing more details than I shared in church because of the allotted time I had.

“I will proclaim Your name to my brothers; In the midst of the assembly I will praise You.” Psalm 22:22

Our family, like many others, experienced Covid first-hand during the recent holidays. The symptoms were relatively minor, but it left a few of us with lingering issues. Two of my adult children sometimes had difficulty breathing, getting winded easily with the slightest physical exertion. For me, it was daily headaches, ranging from mild to migraine, and nothing relieved the pain.

A couple of weeks ago, the prayer team assembled at the front of the church after the service as usual, but I did not go forward. The thought just didn’t cross my mind. 

Parishioners began leaving, and it surprised me when one of the prayer team members approached me and said the Lord had nudged him to ask me how he could pray for me. The Lord had nudged him? For me? I contemplated his words, and then asked for prayer for my two children with Covid issues, not thinking about my headaches. As this servant of God began praying, the Lord prompted me to mention my headaches. When I did, he called another prayer team member over and they placed their hands on me and prayed for my family and me. I thanked them and left.

The following day, for the first time in over a month, I awoke without a headache, and I have had no headaches since that time. Praise God! 

“Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praises. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him.” James 5:14-15

God is so good, isn’t He? Pray. Pray often. Pray for your family, your friends, your community… but don’t forget to pray for yourself!

“And these signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it shall not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” Mark 16:17-18

“Bless the LORD, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name. Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget none of His benefits; Who pardons all your iniquities; Who heals all your diseases; Who redeems your life from the pit; Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion; Who satisfies your years with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle.” Psalm 103:1-5

“One generation shall praise Your works to another, and shall declare Your mighty acts.” Psalm 145:4

He is Enough

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How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of Your wings.  Psalm 36:7

I so long for the simpler, easier days.  I long for the days when my house didn’t need repairing.  I long for the days when the floors were easier to keep clean (though we love them all, we had fewer pets).  I long for the days before my youngest son went to live with his father in another country.  I long for the days when I was debt-free.

Those days were good.  After the emotional roller coaster of divorce and the slow but steady re-building of our lives, it was good…peaceful…and as I clung to the Lord, our relationship grew deeper and sweeter.

I look around me now, still in the midst of a house renovation that seems to be taking forever, missing my son more than I ever thought possible, and I have to wonder…what happened to my peace, and my joy, and my contentment?  When did they leave, and how had I not noticed their absence before?

Pondering this, I cry out to the Lord, “When did You stop being enough?”

The answer comes swiftly.  It was when my focus shifted from Him to my circumstances.

Ouch.

Peter said to Him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” Matthew 14:28-31

Peter went from walking on the water…walking on the water…to looking at his surroundings.  He saw Jesus, Yeshua, walking on the water, and he did the same…until he looked away, and his eyes told him that what he was doing wasn’t possible under those conditions.

Did you catch what happened next?  When Peter took his eyes off of Jesus, he began sinking, and when he called out for help, Jesus immediately reached out for him.  Immediately.

Isn’t that so reassuring?  What He did for Peter, He will surely do for us.

Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence. Psalm 42:5

The Lord fills our lives with good things.  Family, friends, pets, jobs, and homes are good.  We enjoy these gifts, and thank Him for them. If we’re not careful, though, we can allow them to become idols without even realizing it.

You don’t think that can happen?  I didn’t, either, until the word divorce came up and I was suddenly faced with the possibility of separation from my youngest child.  The Lord was so gracious to me.  He showed me my heart, and it wasn’t pretty, even though it already belonged to Him.  I had to give my son completely to the Lord, even if it meant separation from him.  It wasn’t easy, and I cried many tears, but I felt such freedom afterwards, and peace like I had never known before.  In His mercy and kindness, the Lord allowed my son to live with me for the next five years.

When we allow anything to take the place of our Savior, when we hold on to anything tighter than we hold on to Him, we err.

The Lord allows it, too.  He allows us to fret and fuss and become miserable until one day we reach the end of ourselves and know we cannot continue down this path any longer.  And so we repent.  We return to the lover of our souls, no matter what we have to let go of in the process.  His peace, joy, and contentment then return.

For thus the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, has said, “In repentance and rest you will be saved, in quietness and trust is your strength.”  Isaiah 30:15

Surely I have composed and quieted my soul; like a weaned child rests against his mother, my soul is like a weaned child within me. Psalm 131:2

Is there anything you’re holding onto tighter than you should?  Is your focus on your surroundings or someone other than the Lord?  May I encourage you to let it go, and readjust your focus?

Jesus, Yeshua, is enough.  He is more than enough.  He is truly all we need, and in the end, our relationship with Him is what will matter.  Truly.  Call out to Him, and He will come, immediately, and stretch out His hand to you and rescue you.

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2

Lord, thank You for Your patience with us.  Please keep a tight grip on us so that we won’t wander, but when we do, thank You for bringing us back and reminding us how deeply loved we are, and how freely You forgive us when we ask.  Help us to let go of the things that hinder us, or keep us from fully following You.  Help us to keep our eyes firmly fixed on You, for You are more than enough.

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30

Whatever He Says, Do It

I will instruct you and show you the way to go; with My eye on you, I will give counsel. Psalm 32:8

I was recently given the opportunity to write something in which I mentioned some of the ways that we can hear God speaking. Some of the ways we can hear Him include Bible verses, songs on the radio, a still small voice within, conversations with friends, a stirring in your spirit when you read or hear something, and dreams and visions. The Lord will give confirmations as well when they are needed.

Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know.  Jeremiah 33:3

Another way the Lord speaks is that an idea will come to mind, and it will be the very last thing you would ever choose for yourself, because it is costly.  Not necessarily monetarily, although that is certainly a possibility, but costly with regards to our lifestyles and comfort levels.

One biblical example is the prophet Hosea.  Hosea was a righteous man, and he was commanded by the Lord to marry a promiscuous woman.  The Lord used that marriage to illustrate His love for Israel.  Though Israel wandered and would get entangled in the pagan worship around her, God loved her and continually sought to bring her back to Him. As I read the story of Hosea and Gomer, I find it interesting that nowhere does it say that Hosea questioned God, questioned His motives, or had second thoughts about obeying.  He obeyed, and the Lord was able to use that obedience to both warn Israel and give her hope.

Jesus replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”  Luke 11:28

It reminds me of a time when I was asked to take in a young woman who was going through a difficult time finding a place to live.  The person making the request knew her well, and spoke very highly of her, mentioning that the young woman, like me, was a follower of Yeshua (Jesus).

I said that I didn’t think so, but that I would pray about it.  I didn’t pray about it very much, though, not like I should have.  See, I had already experienced a roommate situation years before that began well but ended badly, and the last thing I wanted was to repeat the experience.

In addition to this, between family members and all of the pets, we already had a full house, and this full house needed repairs. So yes, I prayed, but only halfheartedly, and I really wasn’t listening for God’s answer.

One night, a few weeks later, I was getting ready to feed our pets, and realized that we were completely out of cat food.  It had been a long, busy day, and I was tired.  For this reason, my daughter and I drove to a higher priced store just a few blocks from our home instead of driving to the less expensive store farther away where we normally purchased pet food.

My daughter offered to go inside and purchase the cat food while I stayed in the car.  I gratefully accepted her offer, and within minutes, she returned to the car, with a bag of cat food in hand.

As we pulled out of the parking space, we saw something dark moving on the ground several yards ahead of us, moving between the parked vehicles at the end of the parking lot.  As we got closer, we saw that it was a kitten limping on three legs.  The fourth leg was missing.  Our hearts melted.

My daughter scooped some of the cat food into her hand and headed toward the kitten.  As she put the food down on the ground, several other kittens came running toward the food.

As I watched this, the Lord clearly spoke to my heart.

“You’re concerned about the kitten, and that’s a good thing.  How much more should you be concerned about My child?”

Ouch, that hurt!  Teary eyed, I drove home knowing that we were soon going to be sharing our home with this young woman.

I wish I could say that by now I have learned that what the Lord does in my life is always for my good, and that I bend obediently to His will, but there are times when I still question what He could possibly be thinking.  During those times, He calls me – calls us – to walk by faith and not by sight.  Obedience always brings blessings.  It may not be immediate, or even apparent until years later, but this is a truth clearly stated in the Word of God.  In this case, it was immediate, and the blessing far exceeded my “sacrifice.”

When Jesus had finished speaking, He said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” Simon answered and said, “Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets.” When they had done this, they enclosed a great quantity of fish, and their nets began to break; so they signaled to their partners in the other boat for them to come and help them. And they came and filled both of the boats, so that they began to sink.  Luke 5:4-7

I am now facing another challenge, which I will write about another time.  It is another “opportunity to excel,” as a previous supervisor of mine was fond of saying whenever someone in the office was faced with a difficult task.

Have you experienced something similar?  Have you been feeling like the Lord has been leading you (okay, sometimes it feels more like pushing) into a place where you don’t feel comfortable, and don’t particularly want to go?  Trust God.  Seek Him.  Ask Him for confirmation.  Then, whatever He says, do it.

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; and both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does that have to do with us? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.” Now there were six stone water pots set there for the Jewish custom of purification, containing twenty or thirty gallons each. Jesus said to them, “Fill the water pots with water.” So they filled them up to the brim. And He said to them, “Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.” So they took it to him. When the headwaiter tasted the water which had become wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter called the bridegroom, and said to him, “Every man serves the good wine first, and when the people have drunk freely, then he serves the poorer wine; but you have kept the good wine until now.” This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him. John 2:1-11