Category Archives: Witnessing

My Pre-Salvation Testimony

Testimonies

I’m a Christian. So, when I talk about my testimony, I’m talking about my personal story, not what’s given from the witness stand.

You see, we Christians, particularly we church-going folk, like to talk about what God has done in our lives. We like telling others about where the Lord has brought us from, how he’s changed us, and what He’s currently doing in our lives. We like to “testify.”

But as I say that, it seems to me that more Christians than not are pretty silent about what God has done to transform them. To be honest, it’s been a long, long time since I’ve been to a “testimony service” where there’s no preaching, just people telling their stories – their testimonies.

The “Great” Testimonies

But maybe it’s because so often what gets the most press, so to speak, are the testimonies that wow the audience, the “great” testimonies of how God delivered a horrible sinner and turned him into a saint. …Yeah, I know, that’s what salvation is, but work with me for a moment

What people really want to hear are the salacious details of debauchery and crime, the drugs and alcohol, the millions blown on a life of sin … you know, sort of like Kanye … and THEN how God miraculously saved them from all the excitement.  You don’t draw a crowd with a boring testimony like, “I was saved as a small child and lived a relatively God-honoring life the last 40 years.”

Why would the average Christian want to stand up in front of people and watch them yawn? For the most part, a lot of people who are born again by faith in Jesus Christ think their story isn’t worth telling, at least not worth making a big deal.

That’s why I want to share, for the very first time, my pre-salvation testimony… to encourage the average believer who’s never been a murderer, a drug dealer, a dope addict, a wifebeater, a famous musician, or a politician.

My Story

I’ve written before about my life after God saved my soul, but I’ve never written about what I was like before I gave my heart to Jesus. I didn’t want to give the devil too much credit or make my past life look attractive to those who might be tempted by the depravity to which I was bound.

Honestly, some people talk about their lives before Christ like salvation was only something they resigned to. It’s like: “I had everything money could buy – women, drugs, fast cars, airplanes, houses on the beach, and a modeling contract – but then I got saved, and now I go to church.

But not me… I was a true sinner, lost and on my way to hell, and I’m glad Jesus saved me!

Before I got saved, I was an immature, unpredictable, maladjusted mess. For a few years, I was in such a world of my own that nobody could understand me; my vocabulary was horrible, worse than a sailor’s. My language was so bad I’d even make up words to express the neediness inside.

For at least a year I drank all the time. Rarely ate a bite of food.

I never cared about my own well-being, but lived every day without any thought of life or death. I took every risk, broke every rule, and in trouble with authority on a regular, sometimes daily basis.

Before Jesus saved me, I was self-centered, self-serving, and entitled; I felt everything should be done for me, that I shouldn’t have to do anything for myself. For a couple of years, I didn’t even try.

I was like the homeless in San Fransisco; I’d defecate anywhere and anytime I wanted. Once, while attending a party at my parent’s house, I literally walked into the middle of the living room where the church people were sitting, and urinated into an ashtray on the coffee table!

The face of an unrepentant sinner full of unholy potential.

I took advantage of everyone who loved me, especially my mother. Fortunately, I had good parents who loved me through those unredeemed years, even though it seemed like every paycheck of theirs was meant to keep me alive.

That is why I could never thank God enough for what He did when He saved me on September 26, 1973… when I was only six years old!

God spared the world from what I could have become.

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Filed under Christian Living, Christianity, Church, Humor, self-worth, Witnessing, worship

It’s What’s In the Bottle that Matters Most

Ole Doc Bell

Last month, as you may remember, I went to a Civil War reenactment nearby (you can read about that in this previous post, if you’d like). But the part where the soldiers get together and shoot at each other is only a small part of the experience.

Just like back in the old days, the soldiers (reenactors) usually camp out somewhere not too far from where the mock battles will take place. It’s there where you will find period reenactors living life like they did back in the 1860’s, and that includes people like Ole Doc Bell (I don’t know his real name, or if he is really a doctor).

The bottles in the above picture were meant to hold your choice of beverage. I thought is was a pretty cool idea. You’d get free refills in the bottle you purchased, and when it was all said and done – or drank – the keepsake would be a lot prettier than a plastic cup.

Regardless, whatever the bottle looked like, and regardless what the label said, it was all Doc Bell’s products on the inside: root beer, birch beer, lemonade, or cream soda.

Ole Kanye

That being said, I just want to make a loose connection to the bottles and say a quick word about Kanye West and his profession of faith.

I don’t know Kanye’s heart, only God does. However, his actions of late have boldly proclaimed the name of Jesus Christ to the world, while I know others who claim to be Christians that haven’t shared their faith in 20 years.

I listened to his album Jesus Is King. I was impressed with the lyrics, especially the ones in “Hands On.” There’s room to take issue with his lament over other believers making him feel unloved by doubting him – I mean, it was just a short while ago he claimed divinity for himself. Yet, when he said what he really needed right now was “hands on,” as in people praying for him, I totally agreed.

Kanye West is a different bottle all together. But what really matters is what’s inside. If that is the legitimate product, he could make a huge and lasting impact on many, many people.

And therein lies the danger: he’s a threat if he’s legit. Ask Paul.

All I can say is “hands on,” everybody. Hand’s on.

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Filed under Christian Unity, Christianity, current events, Faith, salvation, Witnessing

Don’t Be Skeerd

OK, so if you don’t get it, “skeerd” is “scared” spelled that way we say it sometimes in the South.

My Nightmare 

A while back I was woken up by a dream – a bad one. In reality, I can’t tell you for sure if it was really even a dream – it might have been real. I was walking down a hallway (I don’t know where) when a deep voice spoke to me, almost speaking through me, getting my attention.

The hallway down which I was walking was lit where I was, but towards the end it was dark. I was walking toward the darkness. When the voice spoke, it said something like, “I’m here, too,” or “You’re not alone”… I just can’t remember. I looked to my left and there was a 3D shadow…a walking dark shadow of a body…walking beside me as I was walking, and it looked at me.

The next thing that happened was I fell to the ground and started saying, barely able to voice the words, “Help me, Jesus!”

Immediately I woke up.

Honestly, I was rattled. That scared me. My heart was racing.

Then I got mad. I hated being scared. I knew that “greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world!”

So I tried to go back to sleep so I could get back into that dream. This wasn’t over.

But the dream never came back.

Don’t Let These Skeer You

The dream I had reminded me of a post I wrote several years ago. In it, I made a list of things of which Christian should not be afraid. Below is an edited version, including an addition.

8 things of which a Christian should not be afraid:

Dracula, or any other vampire that stalks you through your window.

Just show them your cross. If that doesn’t work anymore, then quote Scripture. Of course, if you are a girl, then you’d be better off to just call 911, or better yet, shoot the idiot trying to act like a character from Twilight.

Disclaimer – DO be afraid of Vampire Bats. They have rabies. You may be alright when they bite you, but then again, you may be wishing your church family had something else to pray for…(I ended with a preposition, see?).

Atheists

If they prove that there is no God, no reason for faith, and no reason for the forgiveness of sin, then you have nothing to worry about. They can’t prove there is no God, you know, but if they ever did, then you are free to whack them in the head with the biggest hardcover KJV you can find. If there’s no God, then there’s no absolutes or basis for morality outside of what makes you feel good. Make yourself feel better when they take away your hope by knocking the grin off their face…they should understand.

Crazy worship styles and screens on walls.

No reason to fear these things, people. As long as the worship is from the heart and it IS true worship, not self-satisfying, self-glorifying entertainment, then God will be pleased. On the other hand, if church attendance continues to decline in this country, you won’t be able to afford the electricity needed to run the projectors and fancy sound equipment used by many praise bands. Where two or three are gathered together, there the non-electric bluegrass will be in the midst of them.

Disclaimer – For the record, I love bluegrass gospel. Sorry. Wait, I’m not sorry. Scratch that. I love bluegrass and want to see the words projected on screens in church for all to sing along….with.

Stray dogs that wander in through an open door and listen to the church service.

Had it happen. Didn’t mind. At least when the dog fell asleep he didn’t snore.

Week-long revival meetings.

Where have these things gone? All we see anymore are the 3-day kind, if not the weekend ones that include Sunday, but not Friday.

Just think, if we went back to longer revival meetings, then……wait…..does anybody have revival meetings anymore? We must be too skeerd of having to get dressed up each night; miss some TV we could easily DVR for later; miss a ball game or party, or hear something from God that might convict us. THAT should scare our socks off.

Visitation

What is there to be scared of? Why do we hate knocking on doors, prayer-walking streets, etc.? As long as we’re not trying to sell anything, then most people are happy to meet someone who cares about them. Sure, there are the few vampires that don’t want you coming around, but most folks are at least cordial, at least here in the South. Folks don’t like being banged over the head with your Bible, but they do appreciate being greeted kindly and invited to someplace nice. Just invite them to the King’s house for a meet-and-greet (with a little sweet tea and love, they might just figure we’re not out to take their money).

Change

Some things remain the same, and they have stones above their heads. Now, when those things come back from the dead, you DO have something to be skeerd….of (one more preposition misplacement). Of course, it all depends on Who raises the dead, too. Are they being raised to “walk in newness of life,” or to eat the flesh of screaming movie-goers? Either way, just invite them to a homecoming dinner on the ground and they’ll be alright.

Bad Dreams

Yeah, nightmares are not fun. Heck, dealing with anything demonic is not fun, either. However, God is still God, even in your dreams. He is Sovereign, even over the thoughts and intents of the heart. Therefore, don’t be afraid to go to sleep, particularly if you know that the God who created sleep is ALSO with you in the dark.

The next time you encounter a walking shadow or monster of any kind, call out to Jesus for help – no joke. YOU decide how the dream is going to turn out by inviting Jesus – the Name above all names – to take over.

Darkness will flee and He will deliver thee.

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Filed under Christian Living, Christian Maturity, Culture Wars, General Observations, legalism, Witnessing, worship

Pre-Salvation Counseling?

Pre-Marital Counseling

Have you ever given pre-marital advice? Have you ever sat down with a young couple, stars in their eyes, and tried to break them up? No? Then maybe you don’t know what real marriage counseling is all about.

OK, no, I don’t go into a counselling session with the intent on making them run out of the room crying and screaming at each other. But what I do try to do is bring to the surface issues that might cause problems down the road which will ultimately lead to major problems, even divorce.

Believe me, a lot of people could have been spared a lot pain and heartache had they been asked some serious questions before they tied the knot.

Salvation Counseling 

But much like the syrupy-sweet lovers who want to jump into marriage without even considering what comes after the honeymoon, many are led into believing that becoming a Christian is the answer to all their problems.

Because of many one-stop Vegas-like “wedding chapels” we call “worship centers,” scores of people have been drawn into a relationship with Jesus – but without the “pre-marital” counseling.

Reality check: Following Jesus will not be easy. As a matter of fact, it might even result in a life of pain and suffering, of hunger and want. This relationship may even cost you your life.

And when [Jesus] had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, “Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” – Mark 8:34

Oh, make no mistake about it, entering into an eternity-long relationship with Jesus is totally worth it!

Just make sure you know what you’re getting into.

 

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Filed under Defending Traditional Marriage, Defining Marriage, Divorce, Life Lessons, Movie review, salvation, Witnessing

The Vampire Ring

The First Question

It was this past Friday, the last day of school, and I was standing in the bus, facing the rear, with my right knee in the driver’s seat and my right arm resting on the barrier between the seat back and the first passenger seat behind me.

The students were loading (all Kindergarten thru 4th graders), and I was watching the chaos when a young African-American boy, no more than 3rd grade, asked a question…

“Why you wear’n a vampire ring?”

Now, there are some questions that immediately make sense, and then there are others that make one stop wonder if he really heard what he thought he heard…

“What vampire ring?” 

All I wanted was clarification, but I never expected the conversation that would follow.

“You ever watched a vampire movie?”

“Yeah,” I answered with a tilt of my head.

“They hold dat up to da vampires. Why you got dat on yo’r ring?” the boy asked.

“That’s a cross,” I replied. “It’s not a ‘vampire’ ring!”

“Yeah,” said the boy, “and so why you got dat on yo’r ring?” 

The Open Door

As most of you know, it’s a big NO-NO for a Christian to openly share his faith on a public school bus. Well, it’s at least a big NO-NO for the bus driver to do it.

But what do you say when some kid asks the meaning for the cross on your ring? Do you let it go, or go for it?

I went for it!

After all, it was the last day of school! What are they gonna do, fire me? …Maybe.

I said:

“This is the ring I got for graduating from seminary. I’m a Christian, and this cross on my ring symbolizes the cross on which my Savior, Jesus Christ, died for the sins of the world. It has nothing to do with vampires!” 

All I got in response was an “Oh.” Then the boy proceeded to pick on the kid next to him and forgot that I was even there.

The Second Question

So, the first question eventually led me to ask myself the second, saddest, most troubling question of the whole day…

“How can a child grow up in America and only associate the Cross of Christ with vampire movies and know nothing of the true meaning?” 

Evidently, very easily. And it breaks my heart. 

Ironically, when’s the last time you ever saw a vampire movie, a modern one, in which the Cross had any value at all? The last one I remember was Fright Night back in the 1980’s. So, not only did this kid not know the true significance of what was on my ring, if anything he probably thought it was nothing more than a joke.


But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; – 1 Corinthians 1:23

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. – Galatians 2:20

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Filed under America, General Observations, Witnessing

“I Ain’t Got No Man In My Life”

Context is everything

Just suppose you heard a beautiful and talented 27-year-old female bemoan, “I ain’t got no man in my life.” Now, consider that the woman saying these words was a bride-to-be on the television show Married at First Sight.

Would you feel sorry for her? Or, would you do as I have done and raise your voice to the screen of your television and say, “You’re only 27!”

For the record, my wife (and a couple of men I know) watch Married at First Sight, but I can’t stand that show.

But what if it were little boys who said, “I ain’t got no man in my life”?

Friday Conversation

On Friday, as I was transporting a bus load of children to their homes, I happened to ask the kids behind me, “Do you know what today is?”

“It’s Friday!” answered a young boy to my right.

“And what does that mean?” I asked.

“That means you ain’t got a job tomorrow, or the next day. . . You don’t get to work till Monday.”

“Well,” I responded, “that’s not exactly true. I have weddings to do tomorrow, and then on Sunday I preach at church, so I will be working every day.”

“Preaching ain’t work!” one boy replied. “Yeah,” said another, “preaching ain’t a job!”

“Well, they pay me to be their pastor at the church where I preach,” I said.

“Then if you get paid, I guess it’s a job,” replied one of the boys.

It is illegal for me to take pictures of children on the school bus, but there’s nothing illegal about me submitting an accurate and detailed artistic rendering, is there?

Who’s Your Daddy?

One of the boys behind me then said, “My pastor is my daddy,” to which I replied, “That’s cool!”

“Well, I mean, he ain’t really my daddy,” the 3rd grader said, “but my mamma told me I could call him Daddy.”

I nodded my head, looked in the student mirror above me, and replied, “OK, I guess that’s a good thing.”

That’s when this young boy said, “I ain’t got no man in my life.”

To which the two boys to my right and behind me said with a matter-of-fact tone, “I ain’t got no man in my life, either,” and “I ain’t got no daddy.”

My heart broke.

I held up my right hand and put my thumb and forefinger almost together and said, “Well, then, maybe I can be your ‘mini’ daddy on the bus.”

The little boy behind me then exclaimed, “Yeah! You could be my bus driver daddy!”

Making Application

As soon as the boy behind me told me I could be his “bus driver daddy,” the following words immediately – I mean immediately – came to mind . . . “A father to the fatherless.”

Now, when I began to think of the verse from which those words came, I had in my mind James 1:27, which described what “true religion” is:

Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, [and] to keep himself unspotted from the world.

“To visit the fatherless” wasn’t exactly what I had in mind, but it was close. I took the extra step to dig into the word “visit” and there I found that it means (my paraphrase): “to look at something with the intention of doing something.”

But then I found the source verse which takes the whole thought to a higher level. There, in Psalm 68:5, the Psalmist refers to God as . . . you guessed it . . . a “father to the fatherless.”

Therefore, when we allow God to use us, He can place us where our faith – our religion – can be “worked out” for the benefit of those in need. Pure religion, the real thing, is not simply a formulaic system of do’s and don’t’s that make us look holy; it’s an outworking of the character of God through us to those who need to know the love of God, their Abba Father.

HE’s the man they really need in their lives!

Remember this: For the Christian, there are are no “secular” jobs; every job is holy . . . every job is an opportunity for ministry. 

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“What Must I Do…?”

The Philippian jailer (Acts 16:30) asked Paul and Silas a question that is still asked today, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” In response that question, I have written the following, simple post and included it in a permanent page, Eternal Life. Please, take the time to read it, then consider what you read. This is what I believe, and I’ve staked my eternity on it.

“Now is our chance to choose the right side. God is holding back to give us that chance. It won’t last forever. We must take it or leave it.” – C. S. Lewis

My Story

Circa 1973-75

One day, when I was a boy, I took the chance. I placed all my eggs in one basket (and we’re not talking Easter eggs). The fate of my eternal soul, as much as I could grasp the idea, was placed in the control of a Man I had never seen in person, nor heard with my ear, but one I believed loved me and died for me.

Now that I’m older, I can use words I never knew back then, such as justification, atonement, and propitiation. But the simple truth that led me to surrender my heart and soul to this Man can still be explained with simple words…words written thousands of years ago… “For God so love the world, that He gave…

What did God give?

Do you know what a gift is? Sure you do. It is something you give to another when you care. It is something you give with no expectation of payment in return. It is best when it is something that required some sacrifice, but it was a joy to purchase. It means even more when you know the gift was something needed, but unexpected.

A gift is something that is received. I have a friend that has no more family, so for Christmas he goes out and buys things for his self, wraps them, and places them under a Christmas tree. On Christmas morning, all alone, he opens them. How sad is that? Those are not real gifts – he bought them!

According to God, as written in His Word, the Bible, eternal life is a gift. That’s right, a gift. In the letter to the Romans we read that the “gift of God is eternal life…” (Romans 6:23). God is offering it to you for the taking. He is offering it to you for free! But it wasn’t cheep. It cost Him a whole lot – it cost him his Son.

God loved the world so much, that He gave his only begotten Son…” (John 3:16). Why did God give his Son? Well, so that you and I could be rescued from the eternal penalty we owe for our sins – our breaking of God’s laws. Our lies, our lusts, our broken promises, you name it: all of these things are sins. Each one deserved separation from a holy God. But God “so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son (Jesus), that whosoever [puts his whole faith] in Him, would not perish (be separated from God), but have eternal life.

Why did He give?

All men and women have broken God’s laws. And even though you may have not actually committed murder, or robbed a bank, or abused a child, James 2:10 (RSV) says, “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it.” So, you see, we need a Savior. We need the Gift that God is offering. Won’t you accept it?

The whole verse in Romans (6:23) goes like this: “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” This is why C.S. Lewis said those words above. Eternal life is a gift, but it will not be offered indefinitely. You see, all of us will die, one day. Hebrews 9:27 says that it “is appointed unto man once to die; but after this, the judgment.” One day we must either give an account for our lawbreaking, or rest in the fact that our account has already been settled by putting our faith in Jesus.

“From death to life”

Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life” (John 5:24 NIV).

Jesus also said, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him” (John 3:36 NIV). And to those that put their faith in Jesus, he said, “I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any [man] pluck them out of my hand” (John 10:28 NIV).

The Apostle John wrote, “And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:11-12 NIV).

The Invitation

What can I say about the greatest gift ever, especially in a thousand words or less? I can’t cover all the bases, answer every question, or defend every point – but I can offer you Jesus.

Have you been searching for meaning, for hope, for unconditional love, for eternal life? Give your heart to Jesus. Make Him the Boss of your life. Confess your sins to Him, repent of the things that caused Him to have to die so that you could have life, and cross over “from death to life.” For “whosoever shall call upon the name [Jesus] of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13).

You could even pray a prayer, in your own words, similar to this: “Dear Jesus, I believe you are God’s Son, and that you died for me, and rose again, that I might have eternal life. I know I have sinned, and I confess. I also confess that I cannot earn heaven on my own. I need You! Please take my life. I give freely give it to you. Be my Lord, and my God. Amen.

If you prayed this prayer, honestly, and from your heart, then I would love to hear about it! I am sure many others would love to hear about it, too! If you accepted God’s gift of eternal life, let the world know in the comment section below.

If you would like to talk with someone, there is a phone line open 24 hours a day. Call 1-800-NEED-HIM (1-800-633-3446). Someone will be happy to show you how to be sure you have eternal life. Don’t wait.

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