Pastor George started in John 4 and talked about how Jesus met the Samaritan woman where she was at....and when we have an "encounter" with Jesus we change. We simply invite others to "come and see." He wove through the gospel of John showing over and over how a response to meeting Jesus personally is change and a passion to invite others to "come and see" Jesus and the change He has made in our lives. He called this our testimony.
This is my heart. We've been about introducing others to Jesus. Living authentically with the "sheep" in our care so they can see Jesus in our good and bad days. Our heart is to be part of introducing the nation of Japan to Jesus - inviting them to come and see the difference He's made in our lives. Yet, this may not happen.
I listened as Pastor George read the honest question of my heart in John 9. Why, God? Why was this man born blind? Why does Michael have Parkinsonism/Parkinson right as we are set to move into missions? Seriously, God? I am known for quarantining sick children and I'm going to be a care-giver? Why? The answer - to bring glory to God. The Holy Spirit took me to a private tutoring session. We've always wanted to bring glory to God. We want to accurately show Jesus in our lives so others are drawn to Him. Our heart is to introduce others to the Love of their lives.
"I am going to glorify myself in this situation. I am giving you a testimony and you will be able to invite others to come and see me at work in this situation. "
As Pastor George spoke, I wrestled.
"I don't want THIS testimony."
What do you do with that? You surrender.
I realized anew God loves me dearly. He KNOWS my heart's desire is to accurately portray Him, to invite others to come and see Him at work...He is working in our lives...He loves us too much to short-circuit the work He will do through this phase of our lives because I'm diligently praying for something different. He seems to be saying no - but it is because He's saying a bigger, "Yes."
Pastor George asked those to stand who wanted to encounter God in a new way, those committed to invite others to come and see Jesus. I couldn't stand. I was trying not to make a blubbering fool of myself (though maybe church is the best place to be a fool?).
We have not heard a definitive NO from God. We may still be able to invite others to know Jesus in Japan - but if not - it is our joy to live for Him in such a way that those we encounter will come and see the change Jesus has made in our lives. It's all very organic - once again I see hospitality, authentic community - just come along and see the work God is doing in my life - and fall in love with Him yourself.
I was missing familiar worship songs when the worship team moved into this old song from my childhood...it was like God was saying, "Don't put me in a box....I can speak to you from the 70's." I was undone.
Because He lives I can face tomorrow
Because He lives all fear is gone
Because I know, I know, He holds the future
and life is worth the living just because He lives.
This church got it right - the focus is Jesus. We were blessed and refreshed as we travel back to CA to discover what this diagnosis will mean for our retirement plans, our ministry plans and our family life.