This is the text of the testimony that I delivered to the congregation at Redland Church of the Nazarene during the morning and evening services. My actual delivery varied slightly from this "prepared" text -- people who've both read this and listened to the recording of the morning service at http://www.redlandnazarene.net/content.cfm?id=213&download_id=72 tell me the audio version is much more "powerful".
Pastor Trevor Pound began with a short homily about Christ forgiving and healing the paralyzed man as recounted in Mark 2:1-12*:
1 A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. 2 They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. 3 Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. 4 Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
6 Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, 7 “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
8 Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? 9 Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? 10 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the man, 11 “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 12 He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”
Good morning, family. Will you join me in prayer, please?
Father God, Great and Gracious and Holy, abide with us.
In this testimony and witness, please, precious Lord, use these words and thoughts to your greater Glory.
In Jesus’ name – Amen
The short form of my witness to God’s works in my life is this:
God is good – All the time.
The story of my life, especially the last six months, is a story of God’s faithfulness, God’s compassion, God’s grace.
At one point last year, I was like the paralytic man in Mark, unable to move or take care of myself, utterly dependent on the kindness and the efforts of others.
Mark doesn’t tell us much about the paralytic man or those that carried him, because the story’s really about Christ demonstrating His power to forgive, to heal and to save, and my testimony is about the Lord’s forgiveness and His healing and His saving grace.
But, we do know they believed, we do know they wouldn’t give up, and do we know their faith and their persistence were justified and rewarded.
I am so grateful for all of you and the hundreds of other brothers and sisters in Christ who lifted me up in prayer, and carried me to the Lord in their thoughts and Prayers.
I am sure that you would have physically carried me to Him and broke down walls or thru rooves or whatever, if it had been possible or necessary.
But , It was enough that we believed, and our faith has saved me, and set me to walking on a new path -- to God’s greater Glory.
I want my whole life to be about that – God’s greater Glory – but I’m still falling short; I’m still struggling with physical weakness and depression and my selfishness and self-centeredness.
But He continues to forgive, He continues to save, He continues to Love, and that’s Glorious.
Ric Ward calls me “Lazarus”, but I kind of identify not only with the paralyzed man, but with another Bible figure that had to be carried into the presence of his Lord.
He was the sole survivor of King Saul’s family, Jonathan’s Son, Mephibosheth. You can read his story in the Ninth chapter of second Samuel, but here’s the highlights.
Mephibosheth was lame, crippled in both feet, after being dropped when he was a small child. He was Saul’s grandson -- and Saul had tried to kill David for years.
But, after Saul and Jonathan’s death in battle with the Philistines and David’s ascension to the throne, he searched out Mephibosheth and had him carried to the King’s table, and Mephibosheth dined there for the rest of his life, just like one of the King’s sons.
There’s a contemporary Christian song, “Carried to the Table”, inspired by that story, Here’s part of the lyrics:
Wounded and forsaken, I was shattered by the fall.
Summoned by the King Into the Master's courts,
Lifted by the Savior and cradled in His arms,
I was carried to the table,
Seated where I don't belong,
Carried to the table,
Swept away by His love.
Samuel tells us that when this broken man was carried into the presence of the King, he asked:
“What is your servant -- that you should notice a dead dog like me?”
I often wonder the same kind of thing when I think of what God’s done for me.
Because, before the first of my revivals, I was a dog of a man; broken; fallen; lamed by sin and corruption, but He sought me out , and He had me carried to His table.
I was carried into His presence by His grace and the prayers of other brothers and sisters in Christ.
At the corners of my pallet were: Walking Witnesses; and Testimony; and Scripture; and preaching and teaching.
And once I was there, HE cradled me in his arms and made me as one of His sons.
Now – He’s revived me again!
Some time ago -- only God knows when -- I developed an aneurysm – a bulging weak-spot in my ascending aorta – the major artery coming out of the top of my heart.
A little after five on a Friday evening – the fifth of September – I was leaving work at the military Headquarters of the U.S. Southern Command – when the bulge tore open and I began to “bleed-out” internally.
There’s a well known scripture that’s right for the situation:
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death -- I will fear no evil -- for you are with me -- your rod and your staff -- they comfort me. -- Psalm 23:4
The first divine intervention – my bosses’ words – involved my boss and a bag of recycling; He’d left ahead of me, and I gathered up my trash and recycling, secured our office door (most of our doors have a combination lock like a safe) and took my stuff to the collection points in the break room.
There, my “blow-out” happened; struck with pain and weakness, I grabbed a counter, trying not to fall.
Now, my boss, Bob Appin, had gotten all the way to the building’s exit before realizing he still had his recycling bag in his hand. So, he returned to our break room -- passing two others along the way – to find me.
So he was there as I fell to the floor in the corridor.
For security reasons, we can’t carry cell-phones in the Headquarters, so Bob rushed down our hallway looking for an open office so that he could call nine-one-one, without having to open the combination lock.
Remember, it was late on a Friday afternoon; there was only one open office in the hall -- the Command Chaplin’s office.
He made the call and a Navy Chief Petty Officer Chaplin’s Assistant, who I’ve known for almost two decades, came out and held my head in her lap and carried me to the Lord in prayer while we waited for the E-M-Ts, and my friends on the security force ignored a few rules and (probably) broke a few othersto guide the ambulance past security screening and close to where I lay, dying.
“Dying” is not an exaggeration; after they got me to the E-R I got sicker and sicker for several hours. I had no detectable pulse on the left side of my body and had started vomiting and passing blood as my digestive system and intestines shut down and started falling apart.
I’ve been told about that time but I don’t remember it.
Pastor tells me I looked up at him and said -- “God is Good – all the time” and that when he asked Evelyn what she wanted him to pray for -- she said “God’s will”. Pastor was impressed, but I think it just shows that being close to death REALLY helps you to focus on the important stuff.
Anyway, around Midnight, they split my chest open. Ten or eleven hours later, they closed me up, having repaired the tear and replaced a valve in my heart.
They also plugged all kinds of tubes and wires in me; Paul Underwood says I looked like a computer; because by the time they’d finished patching my heart, it was about the only part of me that was still working; my other “guts” had quit because of blood loss.
For the next three weeks or so, they kept me knocked out, breathing thru a tube in my throat; being fed thru a tube in my stomach; getting dialysis; unable to move; totally incontinent.
Evelyn says I had the easy part: sleeping, while others worried and prayed over me. And, I was resting in the arms of my Lord.
But, externally, I was in bad shape. Machines were keeping me alive; machines -- and God’s Grace.
I finally figured out just how bad it was after some of my guts started working again and I got out of the ICU and all those that came to see me would say some version the same thing:
“Oh! You look so much better!”
Now, by that time; I’d seen a mirror, so, I knew that I looked like death warmed over; so I must have looked REALLY bad before that.
After they woke me up, and after they stopped giving me heavy-duty drugs that caused me to be paranoid and hallucinating and out touch with the reality of the Love and the Grace of God; after that stupid and crazy time, I began to contemplate what had happened and I began to testify, to just about everybody, about what God had done for me.
I’d tell them: God just kicked my feet out from under me, but then He caught me as I fell.
It was wonderful to be cradled in His arms, and it changed me from the man I was before, and I think that was the point.
As my mind began to clear, a scripture started running thru my head, over and over.
It’s in the ninth chapter of Matthew, starting at verse 10:
“10While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with Him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples: “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
12 On hearing this, Jesus said: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy -- not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
After some prayer and meditation, I think got the part about the sick people.
I think the Lord was trying to tell me that I had begun to think I was “healthy”. I had become “Righteous”, thinking that morning and evening prayer; meditation; Bible study; faithful Church attendance; all my “religious” practices, had somehow made me “well”.
But really, I was lamed by my self-righteousness.
And the other part; well, it was fairly obvious to me that I was more like the Pharisees than the people at the table with Jesus.
So, I went to the writing of Hosea as my Lord had commanded and read the scripture he’d quoted, and I began to understand.
The whole of Hosea 6:6 is:
“For I desire mercy, not sacrifice and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.”
It’s not that these things that I do and intend keep doing are wrong things, not at all.
But there’s nothing in my renewed life – my resurrected life -- there’s nothing more important than telling everyone about the Love and the forgiveness and the grace of my God.
There’s nothing more important than Glorifying Him.
I have a seat at His table, and I must remember that I couldn’t get there by my own.
I was carried there, like Mephibosheth, like the paralyzed man, and I must remember that; and sometimes, I must testify how He let me come back, kind of like Lazarus, so that I can Give God the Glory.
Thank you for letting me do that with you – and May God Bless You.
*All scripture quotations taken from New International Version (NIV)