1 John 4: 9-16
When I was in seminary, I once attended a midweek worship service at St. Luke community UMC in Dallas. (That's the one in Texas). It was primarily an African-American congregation, and I had gone because I was curious about what church was like with my preaching professor as the minister.
I didn’t get that objective checked off. He wasn’t there that night, this service was run by a fellow seminarian. But I learned a lot more.
It was a testimony service. There would be a song or two, then the mike would get passed around from person to person, and anyone who had cause to speak of God’s working in their life that week spoke. Then there would be some more music, and another testimony. On and on it went, until the service ended with one last song.
There was no other purpose to the service than for fellow Christians to witness about God’s latest work on earth, and it happened to them! It was a great reminder that God isn’t retired, and that God isn’t behind the scenes.
This kind of worship of God in Jesus Christ has a long and healthy history. Scholars and historians think that there was an element of testimony in the earliest worship of the church, down in the catacombs. Methodist services in the early days made use of an exhorter, or a person that was not theologically trained, as the wandering Elder was, but led most services in the local church, weekly, as the Elder only would come around once every 3 months or so. The evolution of the exhorter brought us to the jobs that Carolyn and Jeff hold for us at Center Moreland, and Bob holds at Dymond Hollow. They would organize the service, lead the service, and parcel out the scripture readings, songs and testimonies. It was up to them to encourage the class meeting, or the congregation, which is what exhortation means.
As the church has evolved, it has become the preachers’ role to do a lot of this stuff, as they have become pastors of single churches or charges of just two, three or four churches. But I think something might have been lost when the opportunity to speak to each other about God’s working in our lives was made less common.
John writes to his community that “God is love”, and that “no one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us”.
Today, you are the carriers of the message of God’s love to each other. God isn’t retired. He was worked in the lives of people who are here today. What stories can you tell?
This story is from Sheryl Phillips, of the Center Moreland church.
YESTERDAY, TODAY, & TOMORROW
When Pastor Drew asked me to speak today, I thought, OH DEAR! This is out of my comfort zone, way out. Then he said just 3 to 5 minutes. That means I will be talking real slow. He asked me what is going on in my life, how is God working in my life? A testimony!
It is always a privilege to speak about our Lord and how & what He is doing in ones life, although I never did it this way. My comfort zone is with my Jr. High Sunday School class. But, I can do this because it tells me in His Word, "I can do ALL things through Him who gives me strength." Phil. 4:13. So here goes.
Like Carolyn (Patton), who last gave a testimony, I had to look up the word testimony. I used our "big" World Book dictionary. It said; Testimony: a statement used for EVIDENCE or PROOF. Also, an open declaration of faith or profession of one's faith. A key word is "evidence." What evidence do I have to testify of my faith? I think back of when Bob and I had to "testify" in a court of law, which I pray I will never have to do again esp. now that it is getting harder to remember just what happened yesterday let alone months or years ago. That experience was a question and answer thing. Today with my testimony, my evidence, there is no one asking questions, just me giving a testimony, or evidence. You folks are the jury I guess and the Lord is my judge.
I consider my testimony a walk, my life travels through time, down the road of life with all its highs, its lows, the mountain top experiences and the valleys.
YESTERDAY, TODAY & TOMORROW are very important in my walk. I will start with the yesterday.
My family was not what you would call church goers on a regular basis. We went, we were Easter and Christmas people, at the special times we would go. I remember being picked up to go as a child & youth by Richard & Marion Brunges and sometimes Verna Weaver. Sunday School teachers were "Aunt" Gerry Blizzard, Genevieve Besteder, Elaine Dymond, Verna Weaver to name a few. They were planting seeds in my walk. I pray that I am doing that with my Sunday School class now, planting seeds.
One of my first encounters, recollections with Jesus, was on a cross in a very small church in Falls located across the street from the Falls UMC. The church is not there now. Every Sunday night my grandma would visit a friend and she would take her to church. In the church was a big cross and on it was the words, "JESUS SAVES." Many times a night the pastor would ask, "are you saved?" Sometimes he would be a bit loud. As I look back of that learning that "Jesus Saves," I can put that on my testimony resume.
In the early 70's a group from our church and others attended a bible study. We would never miss. Through this study and the Lord using a faithful servant, Glenna Rozelle, I accepted the Lord as my personel Savior and all the seeds that had been planted began to grow into my walk, and lead to my testimony of today.
Where am I today on that Testimony Road? My passion in serving the Lord now is through mission. Getting His Word out, wether it is collecting food, supporting our missionaries in KY who are feeding His Word there, the Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes, sending Bibles around the world, Souper Bowl of Caring and so many other mission needs that the Lord sends to us. We can not do it all but we can make a difference.
I thought I was a giver but lately I have had to be a receiver. That I must say is hard both being a giver and a receiver. I had to learn to turn over ALL that I have to the Lord. All the hurt & pains that the world brings to us. We ALL have them. When you think all is well, boom! What does one do? You PRESS ON and ask to receive His peace, comfort and strength with His love and grace to see you through. That brings me to another today.
In my "older" age, I should say our "older" age, Bob too, a new ministry has come along. We do a music ministry at funerals. I consider that a special gift to be able to do it and do it with Bob. NEVER in my right mind would I think we would be doing that in this time of our life, playing and singing at funerals of dear friends & family. Someone asked me,"how can you do that?" We can't, but God can! Remember Phil. 4:13; "I can do ALL things through Him who gives me strength." I consider this evidence, a testimony to my faith.
My tomorrow: We don't know what tomorrow will be. I tell my Sunday School class that just about every week. I myself can testify to this when we received the unexpeted phone call about Georgia on Jan. 4th of this year. That night is now a past, a yesterday. The today, we are still coping with the situation and have come a long way with many answered prayers and some unanswered as of yet, with much love and support from our church family. That is your testimony. The tomorrow is our faith and trust in the unknown. Our tomorrow is to PRESS ON in the today for the tomorrow.
Phil. 3:12-14; Not that I have already obtained ALL this or have already been made perfect, but I PRESS ON to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I PRESS ON toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
I would like to close wth the words of one of my favorite songs by Selah, PRESS ON.
When the Valley is Deep, When the Mountain is Steep,
When the Body is Weary, When we Stumble and Fall
When the Choices are Hard, When we're Battered and Scarred,
When we've Spent our Resources, When we've Given our All,
In Jesus Name, We Press On, In Jesus Name, We Press On;
Dear Lord, With the Prize, Clear Before our Eyes,
We Find the Strength to Press On.