Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Testimony Time

Well, not much has happened in the last few days. Yesterday I didn't go on my bike ride due to some unseemly weather and a dash of laziness, so I knocked out three sets of push-ups in my front room and remained in my pj's for the rest of the day. Well, that's not entirely true, last night was the opening night of the summer Bible study I'm leading with some friends from school, but that was uneventful. Well, now that I opened that book, I guess I have to read from it.

I facilitate a small group bible study at UNC through the Navigators, and I absolutely love it! Leading the study has helped me grow, and learn how to teach the Word, and it's been a blast. Over the past two years I have learned that summer time can be the worst when it comes to spiritual backsliding, so I was determined to not let that happen. It just so happened that I had a few friends also living in my general area, and we decided to start up a small group! So last night we met for the first time and read over Colossians (the book we're studying) and prayed about it. The rest of the time was spent catching up and having a good time.

Side note, for all you b-study leaders/facilitators out there, thank you! It takes lots of effort and planning to put on a successful study, and it takes the help of a good mentor ALWAYS, so I appreciate you! You are helping others to grow in the knowledge of God and that is such a beautiful work that we need more of. Thank you.

Well, since there's not much to write about for now, I'll share my testimony with you. Just in case there's anyone reading who doesn't know what a testimony is, it's a story of someone's journey. Testimonies do not have to be religious, but when you hear the word "testimony" you typically think of a believer telling some awesome redemption story, am I right? Also, if you plan on writing or preparing your testimony, I strongly encourage it! For a believer this is our story, our reason for loving Jesus. A testimony can change a heart, or simply soften one. Well, here's my testimony, from the top!

My freshman year of college was an experience, to say the least. I drifted from my childhood roots as a Christian and experienced some of the, shall I say, darker things in life. As a young boy I was forced to go to church, always with good intentions, by my parents. Church for me was nothing more than a quick sermon and a trip to McD's for a double cheeseburger, no pickles and a coke! My religion was Christian, but I never really lived by it.

In my teens I was an avid member of the youth group, volunteering every week and even playing music with the band occasionally. I was being mentored by a pastor and was growing in my faith. Well, as the universe would have it, my mentor felt a call on his life to leave our campus and go to another church who was in search of a trustworthy youth pastor. Apparently they had been between pastors for some time, and the kids were getting discouraged. So he left to pursue God's call, and left me without a mentor.

The lead youth pastor had some different views on youth ministry, cutting out all musical worship from the services. Now as you have read before, I am a music man. I love it. So having a church service with no music was killer. So I gradually stopped going to the youth group, having lost a connection, and never pursued something more. My first year of college approached, and I couldn't have been more excited! I had not entire fallen away from my faith, always believing in Jesus and God, but never having a true relationship with Him. My girlfriend and I had promised each other that we would get into bible studies asap and grow in our faith, and she was stoked about it. I was going through the motions at this point, and it didn't mean much.

Even though I was not extremely excited to start church looking, my girlfriend and I sought out church after church, youth group after youth group, and came up with nothing. The enemy had a huge hold on my life, and was holding me back from enjoying anything the Lord had to show me. Now this was my fault too, because I went into the buildings with a mentality of "this is gonna suck", and that didn't help at all. I never stuck with a group and neither did my girlfriend, and my life began to spiral downwards. I never got into drinking or drugs like a lot of cliche college students. For me the struggle was purity, and self hatred.

Every day for me was a battle. I woke up every morning hating myself for my body, my face, my grades, my attitude, my actions toward my girlfriend, and anything else I could think of. You see, I knew in my heart that impurity would kill me in the end, and I hated it; but I was too weak to fight it, and part of me didn't even want to. My girlfriend and I continued to explore each other physically, avoiding sex, but not much else, and there was no outward concern. My friends, my life got to the point where I would be screaming and fighting with her one moment and the next I would be lying prostrate on the ground sobbing and asking for forgiveness. My life was in shambles, and I believe it was all because of a lack of a Lord in my life.

I remember one Thursday night my girlfriend told me that she wanted to check out the Navigators group on campus. We had already visited them and I had found some reason to not like them, so I was reluctant to go. But she poked and prodded and basically dragged me there. Something happened that night, something powerful and unexplainable, but my life was changed. I can't remember who was speaking, what they were speaking about, or who I was sitting next to, but the Lord opened my eyes to Him that night. I felt this unshakable sense of togetherness and love in that place. I felt accepted and even desired; it was strange. In my heart, I knew it was right. I knew that God was what I was missing.

After that night I joined a bible study and began my new journey toward Christ. Since then my life has been up and down. A common misconception with a believer of Christ is that we don't experience any sort of pain or hardship. LIES! I can tell you right now, my life has not been any cake walk, and I'm only 21! I know that my 40+ readers out there are laughing to themselves at the thought of a 21 year-old even thinking their life has been hard! What life? I'm too young to know! But the point remains that Christians are not exempt from the hardships of life.

But what is true of us, and I know I can speak for all of us, is that we are set free. Set free from sin. My life, at least my freshman semester of college, was consumed in lust, greed, self hatred, laziness and all sorts of unhealthy habits. These things controlled my life, and they ran me into the ground. The truth is, since my life has been rededicated to Christ I still experience these things, I'm still human. But the beauty is that Christ has set me free from my sin! Romans 6:23 says "for the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord." Sin had taken over my life and was steering me down a wide open path toward destruction, but Jesus took my sin, destroyed it and carried me home to Him!

After my re dedication to Christ, one verse has helped me life freely. Romans 8:28 says "for we know that all things work for the good of those who love God, who are called according to His purpose." Whenever I come across a situation such as my brother facing major jail time, or losing a job, or a girlfriend or a best friend, I ask why. Every time. I know I'm not alone. I know that's the first question on everyone's mind! Why? Why does this happen? What good comes of this? What the heck am I learning? Well here's my answer: It's all gonna work for good, and the good is YOU becoming like Jesus! (Romans 8:29)

Last year I did really poorly in school and lost my job as an RA. For the longest time I couldn't figure out why it happened. I thought that I had stepped in the way of God's plan and messed it all up. I didn't think there could possibly be an all for that one. Well, I moved into an apartment, learned how to budget, focused on school and got my job back! Was that an all? I think so!

My point is, for every situation, and every testimony you will find an all=all. The Lord works all for the good of His people, so trust in him. If there is any golden point to my testimony it's this: God is good, all the time. He never leaves us, He always has a plan, and it's always for good.

Thanks for reading!

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