I started this entry a month ago but never finished it. Anyway, I recently came across the testimonies of some people I know online and I was tremendously encouraged. I dunno, testimonies always encourage me. Dunno whose idea this was but I loved how Testimony had their testimonies on their web page. It was one of the best things they ever did.

Uh, is it OK to post this? I think so, since it’s public. Anyway, yeah, not sure why but I really liked Keith’s testimony. Good stuff.

So I was thinking about it, and I have a demand of everyone that reads this page. OK, maybe not a demand, just a strong request. What I want is for everyone to write their testimony. It can be however you want, any kind of testimony, but I want you to write a fresh testimony (not an old one you might have) and either post it if you have a web page or e-mail it to me. Will this catch on? Probably not. Dave kind of wrote a why he believes thing that no one followed up with. But whatever, that’s my request.

I’ll start. I was thinking about it and I decided not to take too much of an apologetics angle. I think I’ll save why I believe what I do later. Suffice it to say, there’s reason for what I believe. And, I dunno, are testimonies supposed to necessarily be evangelistic? Not sure if this one is like that. We’ll see how it goes.

I don’t have one of those dramatic before and after stories of becoming a follower of Christ. I went to church all my life. I would say I became a follower of Christ one day when I was around 8 or 9. My dad asked me if I wanted to be a Christian. And I said yes, and we talked and prayed, and that was it.

Kind of boring, but kind of significant, also. Just, it revealed some truths to me very early. Like the fact that going to church doesn’t automatically make me a follower of Christ. That being one is a matter of the heart, not habit. That to really be a follower of Christ, I need to truly believe that what Jesus said was true, and not just do what churches tell me. Good lessons to learn at an early age.

But yeah, my story is more one of letting Jesus become Lord of my life than a radical life change, since I was saved so early. I heard a phrase from someone once that I liked. Just, he was saying that he accepted Jesus as his Savior, but it took him a while to accept him as his Lord. I dunno, it’s a similar thing with me. I became a follower of Christ very early, but it’s been a long process of learning to let him be Lord of my life, giving up things to him.

Actually, I just want to write about one particular breakthrough I had in my life. In a sense it’s one of my life influences, I guess.

So, when I was in high school, I thought I was pretty spiritually mature. I look back on it now and it’s just ridiculous. But I really thought I knew a whole lot about the Bible. And that I was really strong and whatever. In reality, I didn’t have the slightest clue about anything. What I realize now is that I wasn’t particularly spiritually mature; I was just good at being judgmental.

So coming into college, I was really good at form over substance. I don’t know, I could go on and on about how terrible I actually was. But yeah, I was misguided in a lot of ways, I think. I never drank, never smoked (even still), didn’t listen to secular music, didn’t go clubbing, partying, or whatever. I never went to prom because I objected on moral grounds. I was that kind of person. And again, in retrospect I think it was less about purity of heart and more about self-righteousness.

When I got to Stanford, I was a little surprised – there were few Christians like me. Almost none in fact. Everyone listened to secular music, went dancing, partying, whatever. These were Christians, mind you. Everyone in IV went to house formals and screw your whatevers and all those things. And proto-FiCS (before it existed) was worse. Only the old-school people know this now but yeah, almost everyone in it was hard-core into the Asian partying thing. Hard core. Which was super alienating. It’s not that the Christains there weren’t good. They didn’t really get drunk or go crazy in other ways. It’s just they weren’t as hard core as I was about stuff like that. And it made me feel completely lost in the Christian culture at Stanford.

Maybe that’s overstating it. I wasn’t lost, just, I felt like there was no one like me. I remember one experience. IV small group was great because compared to the heathens in the dorm, they were a lot more like me. But one of the early meetings, I remember a few of our members couldn’t come, but they stopped by to let us know. It was a guy and 2 girls, all dressed up, going to their dorm event. My first thought was, whoa, who is this stud. But my second thought was, what the heck are Christians doing dressing up like that and drinking (it was a dorm wine and cheese social)? I dunno, it’s not that I was sheltered, it’s just that I was legalistic and judgmental.

There was another event that totally affected me. Early frosh year IV held its Fall conference and I decide to go. SN. I literally did everything Christian my frosh year. At one point spring quarter, I was going to IV small group Mondays, FiCS Tuesdays, FiCS brothers Wednesdays, IV large group Thursdays, an IV Philippians manuscript study on Fridays, KCPC worship team on Saturdays, and KCPC on Sundays. It was insane.

But anyway, fall conference. I was really discouraged when I left. Just, what I was going through then was bitterness that I was the only one keeping his hands pure if you will, while everyone else was having fun. And the only consolation for me really was that I had eternal life.

And that consolation was destroyed at the conference. The speaker (actually a great guy) was a Stanford grad and he became a follower of Christ during college. The thing was, he kept sharing stories of the crazy things he did as an undergrad before becoming a Christian. The thing was, it wasn’t said with regret or remorse. It was said with fondness and nostalgia. All these great stories of these crazy fun things he used to do before he was Christian. That qualifier is important, because it was all stuff that would be fairly inappropriate for a Christian.

So I was bitter. Just, how was it fair that some people got to do whatever they wanted, and have all this great “fun” and whatever, and in the end, get salvation also? It just didn’t seem right. And I was trapped because it wasn’t like I could do those “fun” things then – it wouldn’t be right for me to do those types of things. So basically, I just felt like I missed out on something by being a follower of Christ from an early age, from having fun, and it made me bitter. It’s not like I could reject Christianity, because I believed it was true. It just didn’t seem like it was any fun. Add to that my perception that no one else seemed to be as committed as I was (in regards to secular music, dancing and whatever). I was just bitter that I was trapped having to be a Christian.

Then came a breakthrough. It was during a Bible study with Pastor Dave. Back in the old days, we didn’t really have small groups for FiCS because FiCS essentially was a small group. So FiCS was just a weekly Bible study with Pastor Dave. And they were incredible. I feel bad for Dave, because he had Testimony practice, and Eddie was just a flake so he never came on Tuesdays, but they missed out. It’s amazing how many of those studies impacted me.

The breakthrough Bible study was on Asaph, a study of Psalm 73. I don’t know. The Bible’s funny like that, because sometimes you come across something and it perfectly describes you. This study was like that. It was amazing, because I identified with every single line in the Psalm. I couldn’t believe it. Here’s the Psalm:

 Psalm 73  Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;  I had nearly lost my foothold.  For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.   They have no struggles;  their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from the burdens common to man;  they are not plagued by human ills.  Therefore pride is their necklace;  they clothe themselves with violence.  From their callous hearts comes iniquity; the evil conceits of their minds know no limits.  They scoff, and speak with malice;  in their arrogance they threaten oppression.  Their mouths lay claim to heaven,  and their tongues take possession of the earth.  Therefore their people turn to them  and drink up waters in abundance. They say, "How can God know?  Does the Most High have knowledge?"   This is what the wicked are like-  always carefree, they increase in wealth.   Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure;  in vain have I washed my hands in innocence.  All day long I have been plagued;  I have been punished every morning.   If I had said, "I will speak thus,"  I would have betrayed your children.  When I tried to understand all this,  it was oppressive to me  till I entered the sanctuary of God;  then I understood their final destiny.   Surely you place them on slippery ground;  you cast them down to ruin.  How suddenly are they destroyed,  completely swept away by terrors!  As a dream when one awakes,  so when you arise, O Lord,  you will despise them as fantasies.   When my heart was grieved  and my spirit embittered,  I was senseless and ignorant;  I was a brute beast before you.   Yet I am always with you;  you hold me by my right hand.  You guide me with your counsel,  and afterward you will take me into glory.  Whom have I in heaven but you?  And earth has nothing I desire besides you.  My flesh and my heart may fail,  but God is the strength of my heart  and my portion forever.   Those who are far from you will perish;  you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.  But as for me, it is good to be near God.  I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge;  I will tell of all your deeds.

Dunno how much sense this Psalm makes to you, but it completely resonated with me and what I was feeling at the time. Every single line. There could not have been a more relevant study for me.

And what it helped me realize was that the whole way I was approaching my faith was flawed. To me, Christianity was a bunch of rules of what we should and should not (mostly should not) do, in pursuit of some abstract notion of holiness. Not that this isn’t somewhat true. It’s just that I was missing something – that there is joy in the Lord. Like the Psalm says, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.”

Somehow, with this study and other things, I started to find this to be true. Just, there are a lot of things I can pursue to make myself happy. A lot of the things the world pursues. But I can only find true joy in Christ. I can’t exactly explain intellectually how I came to see this. I don’t even know if that’s possible. All I know is that this study changed my thinking.

And it was incredibly freeing. I wasn’t bitter at all anymore. I realized all those things I felt I was missing out on, I wasn’t missing out on at all. Because true lasting joy only comes from Christ. I’d been close all along. And it just gave me a lot of peace, almost like I’d discovered a secret, the secret of knowing where true joy comes from.

And it made me a lot less self-righteous, I think. I’m not big on the whole don’t do this, don’t do that thing anymore. My take is, if you think it makes you happy, go ahead and do it. What I believe though is that everything is ultimately unsatisfying besides Christ. So I’m into letting people find this out on their own, just let them pursue whatever, and see how it leaves them fundamentally empty. Unless it’s going to cause inordinate pain. But yeah, I don’t need to not let people do stuff to make myself feel better anymore.

I’m not nearly as legalistic as I used to be either. I’m down with secular music, drinking (within reason), and a bunch of other things. Freedom in Christ. Just, with all these things, I have a realization that anything else besides Christ isn’t really satisfying, and I don’t need to it. But with that realization, I’m perfectly fine with it.

So yeah, this breakthrough was really big for me. It just gave me a lot of freedom, a lot of peace, and a lot of joy, and it’s held me through quite a lot.

So I’m big on the fact that there is joy in the Lord. Not that this is the most important part of Christianity, just that it is a part of it. And that understanding this is a source of strength. Just, it helps me realize that God is both all I could ever want and need. Which is why I love the last part of Nehemiah 8:10 – “The joy of the Lord is your strength.”

Anyway, this is a big reason why I sing “There Is Joy In The Lord” so much when I lead praise at KCPC. I think I average singing it every other time I lead. It’s just a message that means a lot to me. And, dunno who from KCPC reads this but this was sorta the heart behind the quotes and songs from last Sunday.

So that’s my “testimony”, I guess. Not really how I came to be a follower of Christ, just, how God made a breakthrough in my life and helped me realize that there is joy in Christ alone, and that he is all I could ever want and need. And how that’s given me a lot of lasting freedom and peace. I dunno, was it “encouraging”? Hope so.

So yeah, no pressure or anything, but I’d really like to hear other peoples’ testimonies. Just if you want.

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