Share your “God-Story” – It’s Powerful!

We love to hear the stories (the “testimonies”) of fellow “pilgrims” in the “faith-walk” we call the Christian life!  They inspire and encourage us!  We find ourselves uplifted, reinvigorated, instructed, and experiencing confident hope as we hear what God has done in and through the crises of their lives.  This coming Sunday is Father’s day and I remember my dad, Ewalt W. Bartel, telling the story of how my mother almost died during the childbirth of one of my brothers and how my Dad “prayed through” and experienced the supernatural peace only Jesus can give.  God miraculously spared her life! 

Stories of God’s faithfulness… Stories of God’s steadfast love… Stories of His power… Stories of His provision… Stories of His protection… Stories of deliverance… Stories of His guidance and leadership… Stories!  Stories!!  Stories!!!  The Bible is filled with great (and true) stories – but hang around some Christ followers awhile and you’ll hear some more stories that reinforce and expand on the ones in the Bible.  Stories of God active in the lives and experiences of people TODAY!

Today during “coffee with the Lord” I read a Psalm jam-packed with stories like that!  Psalm 107 – I call it the “testimony service” of the Old Testament!  (It used to be, we’d have entire portions of church services dedicated to the stories of what God had done and was doing in our lives – we called them “Testimony services” – not a bad idea!)  Although I don’t know the exact circumstances of all the stories in Psalm 107, while reading it over today, in my imagination it told the story…

  • of a homeless person who finally found a place he or she could call “home”;
  • of a rebellious youth whose bad choices almost destroyed their lives but they turned to the Lord and found deliverance;
  • of a drug addict that experienced freedom from bondage
  • of a sailor who almost perished in a storm but was miraculously rescued

The Psalmist opens the “testimony service” with these words…

 “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!  Let the redeemed of the Lord say so…”

Then each of the stories is told… each of the situations and stories I’ve referred to above.  Oh how I love the repeated refrains… over and over the following words are repeated (four time – four different situations)…

“Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress! … Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man!”

Then the finale…

Let them extol Him in the congregation of the people, and praise Him in the assembly of the elders… Whoever is wise, let him attend to these things; let them consider the steadfast love of the Lord!” (From Psalm 107 ESV)

The Pain of Exclusion! … But Not By God!

You’ve seen it… A young child standing over at the edge of the playground, eyes wet with tears, weeping because they were not chosen to be on someone’s team.  A picture of the deep human need to be included and accepted by “significant others” – and the deep emotional pain that comes with exclusion and rejection!

There’s good news though… GOD CHOOSES THE EXCLUDED, THE REJECTED, THE MARGINALIZED, AND THE FORGOTTEN AS HIS VERY OWN PEOPLE!  I read about this morning in the Bible during my time of “coffee with the Lord” …

Apostle Paul spoke about “THE MYSTERY OF CHRIST” and said, “This mystery is that ‘the Gentiles’ are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel!  Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of His power…to proclaim to ‘the Gentiles’ the unsearchable riches of Christ!” (from Ephesians 3:6-8)

In another place he declared: “Consider your calling!  Not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many of noble birth.  But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise!  God chose what is weak to shame the strong!  God chose what is low and despised in the world, even that that are not, to bring to nothing things that are so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.  And because of Him you are in Christ Jesus… So let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord!” (From I Corinthians 1:26-31)

Oh, and one more came to mind… “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light!  Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people!  Once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy!” (I Peter 2:9-10)

INCLUDED!  ACCEPTED!!  ON GOD’S TEAM… THE WINNING TEAM!  Dry your eyes!  The little kid’s worship song that I sang as a child comes to mind… “Jesus included me!  Yes, He included me!  When the Lord said, ‘whosoever’ [re. John 3:16] He included me!”

“Love Melts Ice!”

Today’s post is going to help someone in the area of personal relationships!

First, a personal story….

As a pastor I was faced with an issue that I had to deal with! I knew that it could be misunderstood and painful… but I had to deal with it! I prayerfully sought the Lord for guidance. Sure enough, regardless of how I tried to minimize the impact and pain and sought to communicate my concern and care, it was going to be misunderstood! The next time I saw the offending party… sure enough, an “ice-cube!”

What to do? I sought the Lord for a way to resolve and heal the relationship… Here’s what He dropped in my heart…
“LOVE MELTS ICE!”

So every time I saw the person, regardless of the frigid feelings I would encounter I would communicate warm and caring love. In fact, I would go out of my way to seek them out and share warmth and acceptance. I’d never miss a birthday, anniversary, special occasion or any other opportunity to let them know they were loved and appreciated.

Over time it worked! I am happy to report they laid aside their defenses, became a dear friend, and even returned warmth, appreciation, and love!

You do know that this secret – this principle – is found in the Bible, don’t you? It’s found in several places – Here’s one…

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them… Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all… Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God…. So if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drunk; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not overcome by evil but overcome evil with good!” (From Romans 12:14-21 ESV)

One more time here’s the “secret” God dropped in my heart: “LOVE MELTS ICE!”

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