Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Life SINCE Encountering Jesus

Photo by Pam Williams


Romans 10: 14-15 tell us that in order for others to become Christians we need to tell them about Jesus. Sharing what Jesus did for us gives others hope that He will do the same for them.

Friends and family are interested in how God became real for us. They may resist finger-pointing, guilt-instilling lectures, but they want to know what makes us tick—and God is a huge factor in that.

Each episode of God working in our lives is like a scene from a play. When they are all put together they become a complete story—our testimony. Our testimony helps us and others understand how much God loves us and how He is working to bring us into a right relationship with Him. God can then use that story to minister to others.

In the third part of our testimony we focus on how our encounter with Jesus has affected our lives, whether we became Christians at a young age and can’t remember a time when we didn’t believe in Jesus or we put our trust in him after we were grown. Like the difference between a caterpillar and a butterfly, those changes affect how we approach life and how we react to what life throws at us.

These questions might help us reflect on life SINCE encountering Jesus: Why am I a Christian? How does knowing Jesus now compare to my previous (childhood, adolescent) faith?

How did/does knowing Jesus address the longings, desires, and restlessness that I identified in my life before encountering Jesus? Am I just beginning to deal with these matters, or have they been completely transformed?

What changes have I seen God make in my attitudes and actions? These could be subtle or obvious changes. How long did it take before I noticed any changes?

Our testimonies are very individual and personal. No two are alike. Some testimonies will have a longer “before’ section, while others will write more at length about their life “since” encountering Jesus. One person’s story may be complex and intricate; another person’s story will be simple and brief. There is no right or wrong style, length or vocabulary to a testimony. That’s what is so amazing! God reaches out to each of us wherever we are, connecting us with those He knows we can relate to, using the approach He knows will be most effective for us.

Sharing our experiences with God is undeniably the best way of reaching others with His message of love and forgiveness. Never underestimate the power of your story. Give your best to putting it together. And then share it often. One person telling another person how Jesus has changed their life is the best tool we have for evangelism.

Note: This is part five in my posts on sharing our faith story. Stop back Sunday for the final chapter in the series.

Many blessings!

Pam

©2015 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Our ENCOUNTER with Jesus


The most important day of our lives as Christians is the day we realized we could trust Jesus for forgiveness from our sins and put our lives into his hands. For those who became Christians as a child, their stories will probably also describe a series of events that culminates in their assurance as an adult that yes, they truly want to follow Jesus. We can best relate those events by including physical, spiritual and emotional details:

Physical: Where was I? When did this happen? What age was I? What was happening at the time? What people or problems influenced my decision? Who shared God’s plan of salvation with me?

Spiritual: Why did I make the decision to trust Christ? What thought process did I go through to reach that decision? How was I convicted of my sin? How was I convinced that Jesus died on the cross for me? How did I come to realize God’s love and grace? How did God begin to work to draw me to Him? Were there any verses from my childhood that stuck in my mind?

Emotional: Many people’s actions spring out of their emotional dissatisfactions—lack of peace, fear of death or hell, no meaning to life, loneliness, lack of security, a void in their lives, lack of purpose, longing to be loved and unconditionally accepted, alcohol or chemical dependencies, guilt, hopelessness, boredom with religion, need of healing, a hunger to know God better.

What motivated me? How was I impacted? What did I feel? What did I commit to? What was my conversation with God?

In this portion, we also want include the basics of God's plan of salvation as they applied to us: 1) What circumstances brought me to admit that I sinned? 2) When and how did I realize that the punishment for my sin is eternal separation from God? 3) What led to my belief that God loved me so much that Jesus took the punishment for my sin by dying on the cross? 4) Who did I tell about my salvation experience?

By applying these Biblical concepts to ourselves rather than using them to point a finger at others, our hearers will be more inclined to keep an open mind. After all, our testimony may be the first opportunity for someone to learn how to become a Christian. I would love to hear all about your encounter with Jesus! :)

Blessings!

Pam

©2015 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Life Before Encountering Jesus



My husband is passionate about witnessing. In every sermon, he enthusiastically reminds listeners that we all need to be in a relationship with Jesus as Savior, Lord, and Friend. He encourages us to help others get to know Him.

People get more excited when we are passionate about what we are sharing. Passion involves strong feelings and intense emotions. When we share our testimony, God wants us to be passionate about what we have to say so that our stories stir the depths of emotion in our readers.

The goal of dedicated, skilled artists is to strongly and favorably stir the emotions of every person who sees their paintings. God would have us become like a masterful artist at sharing our testimony. He wants us to paint the best picture we can in the minds of our listeners, using words as our "brush strokes". Why? Because our testimonies are the most important and exciting stories we have to share and are the most effective witnessing tool at our disposal.

When we ask, God will teach us how to share our testimonies in such a way that they will pierce the soul of every person who reads them. The task can seem daunting, even impossible. The challenge is to pour the stories from our hearts onto the paper, mixing details with passionate emotion.

Often getting started is the biggest challenge. How should our testimony begin? Where does the story of my encounter with Jesus start? The first step is to share a bit about life before becoming a Christian. Some areas to cover within this section include the following:

Spiritual life: What was the spiritual environment I was raised in? How was my family involved in the life of the church? What did I think about God when I was growing up? How did my spiritual beliefs affect my everyday life? What questions did I have about God?

Challenges: How did I feel about myself? What struggles did I face? How did my family life impact me? What challenges felt beyond my control? What habits was I involved with that were unfulfilling or even enslaving?

Priorities: What brought me satisfaction? Where did God rank in importance? What was most important to me? What was my outlook on life? What were my goals?

Prayerfully pondering these areas of our lives can starkly reveal God’s hand on us even before we fully knew Him.

For me, before I encountered Jesus, God was a distant being with a big calculator who watched what we did and kept a running tab--if I did good things, He added to my tab; if I messed up, He subtracted. Things like going to church, helping others, being kind, etc were added to my column in God's ledger; selfishness, hatred, rudeness, etc deducted from my total. I believed that at the end of my life, whether I went to Heaven or Hell depended on if I had been "good enough". How very wrong I was!

What was your "before Jesus" image of God?

Stop back Sunday for Part Four: Sharing How We Encountered Jesus!

Blessings!
Pam

©2015 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

What IS a Faith Story?

Photo from wjof.com

I love hearing a person's testimony! For many years Dick and I have taught Confirmation and Membership classes at our churches. We are about halfway through the classes with this year’s confirmation group. As part of the process for joining the church, we ask that each participant share how they came to know Jesus as their Savior. The accounts of their unique encounters with Jesus always warm my heart and thrill my soul. We serve an awesome God who loves us beyond measure and will go to any lengths to bring us into a right relationship with Him. Those testimonies truly have taken top billing in our ministry.

Each person who has encountered Jesus as Savior has a story of their faith journey. Our story is uniquely our own; no two are alike.  And as long as our testimony points to Jesus, the Holy Spirit can use it to bring others into a right relationship with God.

God's Word gives us many reasons for sharing our testimony:

First, God commands us to share our testimony. Read Matthew 28:19. Jesus said to go and make disciples.

Second, we are to remember what God has done in our lives. Read Psalms 103:2. Sharing what God has done in our lives is the best way for us to remember.

Third, so our faith will be renewed. Read Hebrews 10:32-37. Every time we share what God has done in our lives, our faith is strengthened.

Fourth, when we share our testimony, it encourages others to believe in God and also receive His promises. Read Romans 10:13-14. Sharing our faith gives others the opportunity to hear about salvation through Jesus.

Fifth, sharing what God has done gives us the opportunity to explain the hope we have. Read 1 Peter 3:15. Many people feel hopeless and are interested in why we have hope despite difficult circumstances.

Waypoint Community Church in Davis, California offers excellent guidelines for what constitutes a testimony:

1. A testimony can be sharing a memorable time when certain spiritual truths became particularly relevant—when concepts moved from head knowledge to heartfelt belief.

2. A testimony can be sharing an unforgettable occasion of rededication or renewed commitment to Jesus.

3. A testimony can be sharing an instance of how God helped me turn away from a particular sin after being made aware of it—addictions, wrong attitudes, misplaced beliefs, sinful lifestyles, etc.

4. A testimony can be sharing circumstances that revealed God’s love and grace and have deepened my appreciation for the cross.

5. A testimony can be sharing how my relationship to God changed—who Jesus is to me and how his Lordship in my life became evident to others.

6. A testimony can be sharing ways in which I developed a “spiritual hunger” to know more about God, to read and study the Bible, to experience true fellowship and conversation with God, or to become involved in missions.

7. A testimony can be sharing how my basic outlook on life was changed by an encounter with God—differences in goals and values regarding money, marriage, pleasures, career, success, security, 
etc.

The key to sharing our faith is that it must be in our "hearts," not just our "heads." Our faith must penetrate every corner of our lives. We must know the truth, it must be real to us, and it must permeate our daily lives in order to impact someone else.

When was the last time you told someone about your journey with Jesus? Click HERE to read mine. This post is part one in a series. Over the next few weeks stop back on Wednesdays and Fridays to learn more tips on sharing your faith story.

Blessings!
Pam

©2015 Pamela D. Williams