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Nebuchadnezzar’s Testimony

February 4, 2012 3 comments

I recently share the story about how I became a Christian. If you have not read it yet…click here.

Earlier this week I had the privilege of meeting for a few minutes with a pastor that I have immense respect for. We talked about different things going on in my life and what I wanted to focus on this year to take my walk with God to a deeper level. As we conversed and prayed they would stop to speak life and encouragement to places that have been longing for hope. It can’t remember ever having a conversation like it and I feel extremely blessed to have someone like this pastor to walk beside me.

One of the things that came out of this meeting was the conclusion that it would be helpful if I did a 21 day “Daniel Fast” to seek God’s will concerning a decision I need to make. If you have never heard of a “Daniel Fast” or are not sure what it is let me take a minute to explain. In chapters 1 and 10 of the book of Daniel, it speaks of two separate occasions where he chose not to eat meats and other things, each for a different reason and a different amount of time. In Christian circles it traditionally means to abstain from meats and sweets for three weeks but liberty is given to each person to fast from different things depending on how God directs them.

I started a traditional, no meats or sweets, fast the other day and began reading through the book of Daniel at the same time. I read through Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in chapter two and then the well known story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego (which were actually their slave names not their real names). Each of those stories ends with Nebuchadnezzar giving praise to the One True God that Daniel, Hananiah (Shadrach), Mishael (Meshach) and Azariah (Abednego) believed in because of the miracles he witnessed on their behalf.

It took a few times for King Nebuchadnezzar to understand that “no other god can save in this way” (3:29) but it finally sunk in. Chapter 4 made me smile as I read it because in it he is telling the world about his conversion story.

King Nebuchadnezzar was a powerful man and not a very nice one either. Think back to the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. He wanted to be worshiped as a god and became furious when those three men refused to do so and threw them into a fire to burn alive. And that is just one of the stories about him. I think upon further study, one could find some similarities in the conversion stories of Nebuchadnezzar and Paul.

Chapter four starts by his addressing all the people in the world and he says:
“It is my pleasure to tell you about the miraculous signs and wonders that the Most High God has performed for me.

How great are his signs, how mighty his wonders!
His kingdom is an eternal kingdom; his dominion endures from generation to generation.”

He then goes on to tell a story…

“I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at home in my palace, contented and prosperous. I had a dream that made me afraid. As I was lying in my bed, the images and visions that passed through my mind terrified me.”

Only Daniel was able to interpret those dreams which were not all favorable toward Nebuchadnezzar and prophesied that he would be separated from his kingdom but ultimately restored to it once he renounced his sin and acknowledged loyalty to God.
It turns out that about 1 year later the separation Daniel told him about happened. After he was sufficiently humbled, he explains, “At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever.”

My favorite part of the story comes in the last few verses.

“At the same time that my sanity was restored, my honor and splendor were returned to me for the glory of my kingdom. My advisers and nobles sought me out, and I was restored to my throne and became even greater than before.
Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble.”

What an amazing testimony of the power of God’s love for us. Nebuchadnezzar had no real desire for God but He desired a relationship with Nebuchadnezzar. After trying to get his attention in other ways, He took from him what seemed to be the most important thing, his power and kingdom. This was not done out of spite or hate but out of love. Once relationship had been established, He restored all that was removed from Nebuchadnezzar and more.

I know I can relate to this story. In the months leading up to my surrender to God I too lost many things I looked to as my source of significance, identity, provision and security. I did not think I needed God but I have come to understand otherwise.

I echo Nebuchadnezzar’s praise and exaltation of the King of heaven because not only has God saved me from my sins, He has restored to me things I lost, or perhaps never really had, because I now know that He is really the source of my significance, identity, provision and security.

As a side note to the story, I think this is a great example of how Christians should share their testimony. It is a simple story format that explains how they were before they knew Jesus, what happened to bring them to a relationship with Him and then how that relationship has changed their life. Such a story would give glory and honor to God while helping those who hear it see and understand the merits of living life as a Christian that is submitted to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. If you have never shared your conversion story with someone, give this a try. Everyone loves a good story.

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This is My Story, This is My Song

January 18, 2012 11 comments

While sitting at my desk this morning I looked at my calendar and realized that today is my 3rd Birthday. January 18, 2009 was the day I became a Christian and more specifically, the day I stopped running from God and gave Him control of my life.

In a previous post, I wrote about the need to have a definitive salvation experience. I don’t believe it is necessary to remember the date, time and where you where when it happened but I do think everyone should be able to say without a doubt that they have received the gift of grace Jesus offers you and be able to articulate the ways in which it has changed your life. Sharing such a story is what Christians call a testimony. A testimony is not so much a statement of beliefs but rather a declaration of God’s faithfulness, how we came to accept Jesus as Lord and the tangible results exhibited in our lives as a result of forgiveness and grace given by Him. This is my testimony.

I was born and raised in an LDS home and Mormonism was the only religious system I would really experience for the first nineteen years of my life when I would spend 2 years on a LDS mission in Spain which is predominantly Catholic. As a result of this, I grew up really only knowing what Mormonism teaches, and even then I only knew what LDS leaders wanted me to know. The works-based aspect of the religion makes life as a Mormon not easy by any stretch of the imagination. To some, this is a badge of honor but to others like me, it is more like wearing weights around our ankles…it makes it hard to run the good race and fight the good fight. When you are leaden down with a littanany of “to-do’s” it is hard to find time and energy to work on a true relationship of Jesus.

There is so much I could say about my 30 years as a Mormon but let me fast-forward to 2007. It was in this year that my exhaustion got to the point where I basically gave up on the Mormon system. No matter what I did, it was never good enough and at no point did I feel close to God. In fact, it was just the opposite, God felt more distant every day. It was not until just a few months ago that I realized this was due to pride. Every work performed as a Latter-day Saint was done in an attempt to earn my own salvation, which is presumptuous to say the least. James 4:6 says “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” I was distancing myself from God because of this attitude of pride that had been imbedded in me from birth. I perceived the space between Him and me to be so big that I began to doubt His very existence.

Needless to say, I was tired, distant, lost and miserable. It was in that state of mind that my LDS Bishop approached me. In no uncertain terms, he made it very clear that unless I got my act together and started to tow the company line, I would not be able to baptize my daughter that following year when she turned 8. This got me to look back at my life as a Mormon and ask the serious question of, “if I had to do it all over again, would I?” The answer was a resounding “NO!” If that was the case for me, why on earth would I put my daughter into that same position?

In December of 2007 I walked out of the local LDS church building and never went back.

I would be lying if I said that decision made things better. In truth, it made things worse. I became Agnostic in my beliefs on God and I searched in just about every place I could think of for peace and truth. It was a very hard year. I must say here that if it were not for some outspoken Christian friends, neighbors and acquaintances that God put in my life, I would have continued down that path.

One of these people sent me a video called The Bible vs. The Book of Mormon which opened my eyes to not only the validity and trustworthiness of the Bible but also a side of Mormonism I had not seen before or at least did not dare question. It was pivotal in both my desire to read and learn more about the Bible and Christianity as well as my quest to learn everything I could about Mormonism, good and bad.

For the next 6 months I ate, slept and breathed Mormonism. I read everything I could get my hands on supporting and disagreeing with doctrine and history. My mind was blown away. I could not believe so many teachings and historical facts were withheld from me. I felt hurt, angry, sad and vengeful. I had come to understand that for 30 years I had been lied to directly and indirectly. I had not been entrusted with facts that were questionable because no one respected me enough to present information and let me make my own informed decision. As a result of the hurt, I lashed out. I’m not proud of that but none the less, it happened. I created a blog (not this one) where I posted all of the disparaging or “non faith promoting” things I found. I was abrasive and at times purposefully antagonistic which in turn hurt a lot of people and burned some bridges I would love to re-build today.

Why do I bother writing about this? Because I firmly believe that it is an integral part of my story. I look back at some of those old blog posts and at my heart in this period of time and can see how spiteful I was.

Let me move on to January 18, 2009. By this time I had been going to church with Amy who was amazingly supportive in this difficult stage. After visiting a few churches for a number of months, we had settled in at Gateway Church where we are still to this day. I woke up that Sunday morning with this pulling in my heart. I don’t know how else to say it but I felt compelled to go to church even though we had already gone Saturday. I woke Amy and told her I needed to go to church and went alone. I arrived just before the 10:45 service and sat in the back row. Worship started and God stated to work on my heart as well. I had been running from Him for a few months now but He met me right where I was. The second song that day was “Beautiful” sung by Kari Jobe. The words could not have been more perfect for my situation. Having spent years in pride and self-reliance I broke as I sang and confessed these words to God.

Here, before Your altar, I am letting go of all I am
Of every motive, every burden
Everything that’s of myself
And I just wanna wait on You, my God
I just wanna dwell on who You are

Beautiful, beautiful, O, I am lost for more to say
Beautiful, beautiful, O, Lord, You’re beautiful to me

Here, in Your presence
I am not afraid of brokenness
To wash Your feet with humble tears
O, I would be poured out ‘til nothing’s left
And I just wanna wait on You, my God
I just wanna dwell on who You are

Holy, holy, holy, You are

I remember this day so vividly that even as I write this I can see, feel and sense it all over again. While singing, it was as if God stood right before me, put His hands on my shoulders and spoke clearly into my heart. “If you will lay down your life, your pride and your reliance on your own works, I will take care of you. I want to be your source. I want to be who you come to first. I know all the junk in your past and I still love you and want you to be my son. I have great plans for you if you will follow Me.” Without hesitation, I said YES! Who could resist such a promise from such a great God. I did just what the song said and laid all my baggage at the altar and in brokenness cried till I had nothing left. I gave my life to Jesus.

To this day I am still surprised at how much joy I felt. What a weight lifted off my shoulders when I realized that Jesus took everything I gave him and in return gave me peace and assurance of my right standing before God. Because of that moment, I no longer have to question my eternal destiny. I know that I will be with God because when He looks at me, He sees that I have been washed clean by the blood of Jesus.

It has been 3 years and the Christian journey is a wild one. I have had trials and I have had great successes. Through it all, I have had peace and joy. No matter the circumstance I know that God is for me. That He is faithful to fulfill His promise to me despite my failures.

As I have walked in this new life filled with grace and the Holy Spirit, the Bible has come alive. I have new eyes and ears to hear His voice more clearly. What a difference that has made.

My heart used to be calloused and hard as a rock. Now I am filled with compassion, forgiveness and empathy toward others. I see this manifested as I read through my old blog about Mormonism in comparison to this one. I no longer feel bitter or angry toward the LDS church or those who follow that religious system. Instead, my heart breaks for them. Many are in the same situation I found myself in with no real hope.

God has redeemed my time in the LDS church and I now spend as much of my time as possible educating others about the teachings of Mormonism from a Christian point of view. It is my hope that other Christians will feel equipped enough to reach out to their LDS friends and family around them just as someone did for me.

You Are God’s Temple

July 28, 2011 Leave a comment

Every Thursday morning a group of men meet at 5:30 in the morning to spend an hour in deep prayer for our church. It is a powerful hour where God never fails to demonstrate his goodness and power. Last week He gave me a word that I feel I need to write about.

While blessing the LORD for who he is a passage of scripture came to mind. It was Exodus 34:5-7

Then the LORD came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the LORD. 6 And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, 7 maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.”

This is God’s self declaration so this is something we should pay attention to. These are not just attributes associated with God but they are who he is. Each one is co-existing with the others in unison and never at a point of contradiction.

So here is the point. If we believe that we are now the temple of God and his Spirit lives in us (1 Corinthians 3:16) than the declaration God gave about himself should now reflect who we are. These attributes should manifest themselves through us in our homes, church, workplace and community.

If God dwells in us and from the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks, we should be overflowing with compassion and grace.

Our anger should be righteous but as slow in coming as flowing molasses.

Loyalty and faithfulness should be at the core of who we are. We should stand firm in God and with family and fiends when times are good or bad. We should be dependable and trustworthy.

Love for others should never be lacking but we should have such a wealth of love that giving it away is more a pleasure than a burden.

And when wickedness, rebellion and sin come against us, Forgiveness should reign.
Forgive because you have been forgiven.

The idea of being the temple, the very place in which Heaven and Earth meet, is an amazing truth. It puts us as believers in The Way in a position to partner with God so that his glory, power and love can be shown to the world…one person at a time.

You are God’s temple. He lives in you but He wants you to open the windows so everyone else can see Him through you.

Categories: God, Grace, Testimony

The Power of Collective Faith

June 24, 2011 1 comment

I was mowing the lawn yesterday and thinking about a story found in Matthew 9 (also in Luke 5) about a man who was paralyzed. His friends, 4 of them according to the Mark 2 account, physically carry him on a stretcher to a house where Jesus is teaching. When they arrived, it was evident that they could not get him through the crowd so they climbed on the roof, hoisted the man up, then tore a hole in the roof and proceeded to lower him in front of Jesus. The story goes on to say that Jesus noticed their faith and then forgave the man’s sin, healing him physically moments later.

What kept rolling around in my head was that all three accounts of this story specifically mention that it was the collective faith that Jesus saw. It was not just that of the paralytic, it was “their” faith, that of the men carrying the stretcher, which Jesus took into account.

I could almost see these men, clutching each corner of the bed, sharing stories about how Jesus can heal. As they walked, who knows how far they had to go, they were praying for him and quoting prophecy about the coming of the Messiah. Ever increasing their collective faith and the anticipation of the miraculous.

The principle of multiplication is powerful and has the ability to bring about transformation.

Who around you needs your portion of faith?

Who can you be praying for so their eyes may be opened to the power of Jesus to heal both spiritual and physical sickness?

Who do you know that may be in a place spiritually to where they need to be carried with words of encouragement or stories of what God has done in your life, until they can see Jesus for themselves?

Are you willing to walk with them until they do?

Do you have some people around you that are willing and able to do the same for you?

These Stones Are To Be A Memorial

July 10, 2010 2 comments

Psalm 78: 1-4

“O my people, listen to my instructions.  Open your ears to what I am saying, for I will speak to you in a parable.  I will teach you hidden lessons from our past—stories we have heard and known, stories our ancestors handed down to us.  We will not hide these truths from our children; we will tell the next generation about the glorious deeds of the Lord, about his power and his mighty wonders.”

I have been thinking a lot about my daughter and what I am doing as a father to help her develop her own personal relationship with God.  What message am I conveying in my everyday interactions?  Are my actions a reflection of my relationship with God and do they match what I say?  Just as important, how well does she know the story of what God has done in my life?

When the Israelites were ready to take possession of the Promised Land they had to cross the Jordan River.  As a demonstration of God’s strength and favor, He parted the waters before them for the second time and allowed them to cross over into the place he had prepared for them.  To make sure future generations remembered this miraculous event, he had them take stones from the middle of the river and stack them on the edge of the bank.

Joshua 4:5-7

“Go over before the ark of the LORD your God into the middle of the Jordan.  Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?  tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.”

We tend to be a lot like the Israelites…forgetful.  It only took days for them to revert to old ways of thinking and disregard the miracles they had just witnessed.  This was a pattern they repeated over and over again.

I can’t even begin to count the number of times God did something for me or spoke to me in a powerful way that I thought I would never forget.  Now, many of those experiences are only a distant, vague memory.  How unfortunate that I did not pass on that experience or write it down before it slid to the back of my mind.

What God does in our lives is vital to the faith of our children and future generations.  What are we sharing with them?  What miracles of salvation, providence, healing, restoration, deliverance and understanding do we need to tell them before they are washed away by life?

What “Stones” do you carry that testify of God?  Take some time this week to begin to write them down so your children, grandchildren and those around you can be strengthened by your declaration of God’s faithfulness.