How Should I Give a Testimony?


Let’s say you are called upon to share with a small group or a large congregation the recent happenings at Vacation Bible School, a missions trip, or some other event at school, church, or elsewhere. How will you do it? What priorities will inform your 60 seconds or 6 minutes?

In college, Campus Crusade for Christ (Cru) taught me three (maybe four) “rules” for giving a testimony. I share them here for anyone who may be called to give a testimony, plus a couple others. For the sake of memory, they follow the first six letters of the alphabet.

Six “Rules” For Giving a Testimony

A – Be Audible

You can’t bear witness to God’s goodness, if you can’t be heard. Therefore, be sure to speak clearly. Of course, this may mean making sure the microphone is on, but more importantly, it means knowing what you will say before you say it.

Often times poor delivery comes from a lack of confidence in what we will say. Therefore, know what you are going to say. Pray for God to help you say it. Say it. And give thanks to God for helping you speak with boldness, clarity, and volume. Continue reading

God’s Marketing Strategy: Christ-Like Churches

marketingFor a whole year [Paul and Barnabas] met with the church and taught a great many people.
And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians
Acts 11:26 —

Marketing is a big business. From 2000–2006, Coca-Cola spent 15.5 billion dollars to advertise their products to the global market.[1] In 2009, Apple Computers spent half a billion dollars on their advertising, which is a third of what Microsoft paid out in 2009 (1.4 Billion).[2] These leading companies invest incredible capital into these self-promotion schemes for the purpose of cashing in on the customers they solicit.

Genuine Converts are God’s Marketing Strategy

But what about the church? Will advertising help achieve Great Commission success? What is God’s marketing strategy? Surely as the Lord of all creation (Ps 24:1), he has ample resources to fund such a project; as Maker of the Milky Way, he has the creative intuition to impress audiences. Yet, Jesus’ ministry is not marked by such promotion. In the Gospels and Acts, we find something more personal, if not even more hidden. Continue reading

Five Questions on Discipleship: (3) Who Makes Disciples?

Yesterday we considered what a disciple is, today we answer the question: Who Makes Disciples?  And I would suggest that there are two ways to answer that question.  First, churches make disciples; second, mature believers make disciples.  Let’s consider.

Churches Make Disciples

At the institutional level, God has created the church to be a disciple-making community.  This is not to say that parachurches, camps, publishing houses, or Christian radio cannot be involved in the process, but in his wisdom, the church is the ordained means of defending the gospel, proclaiming salvation, and making disciples (Eph 3).

Accordingly, churches would be served by asking: If Jesus came today and evaluated our church, on what would he evaluate?  What are his expectations?  I think the answer and expectation is simple.  Jesus would inquire “What are you doing to make disciples?”  I don’t think he is very impressed with all sorts of activities, fellowships, and programs that make us busy but fail to make disciples.  He has not called us to be active, but to be active in making disciples.  Since Christ is in the business of making disciples, that is what he expects of us.

God’s word on this is clear.  As the body of Christ, we are to be the hands, feet, mouthpieces of our Lord.  Accordingly, if God is going to make disciples in this age, it is through the church, by his Spirit.  If his greatest passion is to see the lost converted into disciples, then he expects that his body would be about the same work.  The Great Commission is the explicit statement of this truth. “Go into all the world and make disciples.”   Churches that excel in ministry but do not excel in making gospel-centered, word-saturated disciples who are able to reproduce themselves are not excelling as much as their numbers might indicate.

Big or small, churches are called to make disciples.  That is the first level.

Mature Believers

At the individual level, it is mature believers that make disciples. As in life, mature adults have babies, so adult Christians “give birth” (or rather, serve as attending nurses to the birth from above) to new Christians.  While young Christians, infants in the Lord, can and do witness with great zeal and effectiveness, it is mature believers who are in a position to “disciple” newborn Christians.

The Great Commission includes a call to teach all that the Lord has instructed.  New believers rarely know all there is in Scripture, or how to apply it.  This is why Scripture repeatedly demonstrates older believers mentoring or discipling younger believers (think of Paul with Timothy, Titus, and Silas, or Barnabas with Paul or John Mark).  Titus 2 gives clear instruction that older women are to teach younger women, and older men are to be models for younger men.

Thus, all disciples should strive for maturity such that they can disciple others.  This is not an optional calling, this is part and parcel of being a growing disciple.  Sadly, as Hebrews 5 laments, many who should be teachers are in need of learning the elementary truths again.

As a way of evaluation, we can say that mature believers are those who exhibit Christlike character and who are able and actually discipling younger believers.  Discipling others shows Christian love, an understanding of God’s purposes in the world, and a self-sacrificing, others-centeredness that behooves a mature believer.  By contrast, maturity should not be measured by the number of years a person has gone to church or even by how many studies they have led, how many committees they have chaired, or even by the number of Bible certificates or degrees they hold. Maturity is measured by ones personal Christlikeness and their reproduction.

May God continue to raise up disciple-makers in this generation, that more and more disciples would be born, raised, and sent out.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

Jeremy Lin’s Faith: Keeping Our Heads in the Midst of Linsanity

“Gods come pretty cheap these days.  You can make one by putting a leather ball through an iron hoop.”

Those classic words, spoken by Barbara Hershey in the movie Hoosiers embody what has taken place in the life of Jeremy Lin in the last 72-hours.  In less than half a week, he has gone from being a skilled bench warmer to an NBA superstar who just schooled one of the league’s best basketball players, Kobe Bryant.

However, it seems that Lin would want nothing less than to make him into an idol.  Instead of using basketball as a means of promoting himself, it seems that his greatest aim is to make much of Jesus as he plays basketball.  Give a listen.

It is doubtful that Lin, at the time of this interview, could have anticipated what took place in Market Square Garden last night.  Just a few days ago, Kobe Bryant had never heard of Jeremy Linn–and neither had the rest of us.  Today, Kobe and the basketball watching world knows all too well about the sensational point guard who came out of nowhere to outscore Kobe and to send the Los Angeles Lakers back to the West Coast with a defeat.  Here are the highlights.

As I watched the highlights, I was–and still am–amazed.  In four games, Lin has become a household name, scoring and 25, 28, 23 and 38 points–not to mention averaging over eight assists in those games. Because I have a fondness for basketball and underdogs, the Jeremy Lin story is great. Unrecruited out of high school and undrafted out of college, Linn’s success is even more amazing than the Heisman-winning, two-time national champion  Tim Tebow.

But there is more.  Not only is Lin a great ball player.  He rightly sees basketball as a gift from God, and he desires to use it as a platform for ministry.  To get a sense of this, read Timothy Dalrymple‘s eye-opening interview with Lin when he was still a college player (March 3, 2010).  In it Dalrymple asks Lin about how his Christian faith and basketball intersect. His interview, is called “The Faith and Fate of Jeremy Linn” (Part 1, Part 2).


Now in all the media hype of today, fittingly entitled, “Linsanity,” let me offer a few sobering reflections.  As with Tim Tebow and other outspoken athletes, politicians, and public figures–especially underdogs whose rise is meteoric–it is wise to not hang our hopes on them.  Consider the case of Josh Hamilton, another Christian-athlete who recently admitted to breaking his vow to never drink again.  See Evan Lenow’s helpful post “When Heroes Fail,” as he issues a similar caution.

Trust in the Gospel, not media giants. While we ought to give thanks for the way God raises up modern-day Joseph’s (and Esther’s), we should be slow to trust in man (Ps 20:7-9; 118:8-9).  Often times, Christians get more excited about the craze of attention public Christians get, thinking “this is how we are going to make a difference in the world.”  And to be sure, God uses public figures with large platforms to advance the message of the gospel.  But ought we to think that these extraordinary means are what we need for Christian impact to take place?  I think not.

God uses great and small alike.  God usually uses slower, more mundare means of sending his message–like mothers and fathers imparting the gospel into their children’s lives as they pray bedside for years.  No one sees it.  Many surely wonder of if something more spectacular is needed, and yet by the slow process of gospel witness and example, children are brought to faith. Don’t miss it.  In the interview, Lin gives attention to the impact that his parents had on him in that regard.

Let the outspoken faith of public figures spur you on, not slow you down.  While Christians have every reason to cheer on this brother in Christ, we must be careful not to make people like him and Tim Tebow our evangelistic replacements.  Every member of the body of Christ is called to evangelize, not to fall prey to the idea that God has raised up big names to do our work for us.  In comparison with Lin, it is tempting to distrust our own ability to influence others for Christ.  The temptation arises: If only I had a greater testimony, than I could be useful.  But such is not the case.  The power of the gospel has never been in the vessels who herald the message, the power is always in the word itself.

Rejoice in Lin’s heavenly status more than his earthly stats. At the same time, we should remember that Lin’s superstar career is four-games old.  He has shot into the NBA like a comet.  It is possible that his career and impact will be just as brief as a shooting star.  Or it may be God’s good pleasure to make Lin a perennial all-star.  Whatever the case may be, might we give thanks to God that his name is written in heaven on the testimony of his faith, more than the fact that a good, moral brother has his name written in lights.

Pray. Last, pray for Jeremy Lin, for Tim Tebow, and others who are under enormous pressure to perform, constant scrutiny, and for all their fame are in grave danger of isolation and narcissism.  May God protect their purity, their biblical fidelty, and their hearts from pride.  Pray for their families and their churches to reach out to them and to draw be a safe environment for these Christians to understand better what God demands and promises, instead of being bombarded for another autograph.

In the end, I find the Jeremy Lin story compelling.  It has my attention. I look forward to seeing how the rest of the story goes.  But as I watch I will be praying that God will make the light of Jesus in his life outshine his own newfound fame.


For more on Lin’s life and faith, see Michael Luo’s “Lin’s Appeal: Faith, Pride, and Points” (HT: Jim Hamilton)

For a rap video on Lin’s approach to the game of basketball and some thoughtful reflections on Lin’s potential to impact Asians for Christ, see my friend Owen Strachan’s post “Linsanity! Ex-Ruff Ryders Rapping & Asian-American Christianity.”

Another post on this story is also Owen Strachan, who fills in as a sports writer for by The Gospel Coalition.  His latest is called, “The Basketball Star No Body Wanted: Jeremy Lin’s Unlikely Triump.”

David Mathis and Tony Reinke provide a nice quote from Jeremy Lin, where he talks about what God has taught him from Philippians 3 about basketball and the greater prize that is found in Christ — All Spheres of Life — Even Pro Basketball

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

(HT: Justin Taylor)

Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs: In the Huddle with Tim Tebow

Matthew 12:34 says that out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.  Sadly, when professional athletes are mic’d it usually shows that their hearts are full of selfishness, pride, and anger.  Tim Tebow shows something else.  How many times have you heard an explicative when some broadcast listens in on the sidelines!

Not so with Tim Tebow. One more reason why my respect for Tebow continues to increase is listening to this 10 minute recording of his words on the field against the Chicago Bears.

Whatever you might say about his skills, his prospect as an NFL athlete, or the way he uses his platform to proclaim Christ, it seems evident that what comes out of his heart in the heat of battle is the heart of a Spirit-filled Christian, one who prays without ceasing and whose heart and mouth are filled with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.

Pray for this grid iron warrior to keep contending for the faith, as he presses for the end zone and uses his influence to tell others about Christ.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

True Confession: When “I’m Sorry, I Messed Up” Isn’t Enough

How often have you heard or said, “Yeah, I know I messed up. I’m sorry.  I don’t know how it happened. I’ve got issues.”

This language is typical in our day, when as a culture we have abdicated responsibility, absorbed psychology as a means of explaining sin issues, and abandoned God’s perspective on guilt and forgiveness. Sadly, this kind of thinking is just as rampant in the church as in the world.

Confession, which is an integral part of the Christian life, has become less of a transaction of offense confessed and offense forgiven.  It has instead become, or it at least it appears often, as an excuse-laiden, cross-less, appeal for acceptance.  But is this new?  Not really.  In Exodus 32, we find in Aaron the age old problem of a false confession.

Exodus 32:22-24

After the golden calf is destroyed, Moses turns his attention to Aaron and the people. Like a lawyer before the judge, Moses questions the accused. In v. 21, “What did this people do to you that you have brought such a great sin upon them?” Aaron’s answer echoes that of Adam and Eve in the Garden.

Verse 22.  Aaron blames Israel for their evil. Which is true.  But it seems that he uses their wickedness as a shield from his own law-breaking.

Verse 23.  Then he recites the demands of the Israelites.  Further adding to their guilt.  Now, notice for a moment who is saying this—it isn’t a commoner in Israel; it is the priest.  The one who is supposed to remove guilt, not add to it.  Moreover, one wonders if Aaron uses the people’s words about Moses absence from camp to insinuate his own guilt in the episode.  For, if Moses had been there, none of this would happened.

Verse 24. Then finally he gets to his part. Instead of admitting the active role he had in “making” the calf, he shows surprise in how this beast was fashioned.  Paraphrased, it sounds like this “I threw the gold into the fire, and out popped this calf.”

It is easy to point at Aaron, or even to laugh at the ridiculousness of his excuse, but we should be quick to notice how similar we are to Aaron.  Paul says we are to learn from the counter-example of Israel (1 Cor 10:1-11), and thus God uses Aaron’s ridiculous confession to show us what confession is not.

Five Attributes of False Confession and True Confession

(1) Confession does not name others first; it takes the first step to admit wrong. There is no place in confession for pointing to the faults of others as contributing factors.  It is satisfied to single our self, and to deal with the Lord and others, without pulling others into the mix.  Though Scripture models corporate confessions–one thinks of Nehemiah or Daniel–personal confession has no business finding comfort in the sins of others.

(2) Confession does not blame-shift; pointing out the sins of others.  It points to self. It is not looking for a scape-goat or an external reason for the moral failure or relational offense.  There is no need to load our sins on anyone else, because for Christians, Christ has already taken that sin on the cross.  Thus confession gives us another reason to rejoice in sin pardoned.

(3) Confession does not simply claim that wrong was done; it is admitting your part. Unlike Aaron, who passively recounts the events of the golden calf, true confession steps up and says, “I am the man. Forgive me.”

(4) Confession does not aim to save face; it is looking to see the face of Christ again. With Christ and his cross in view, it always sees the penalty of sin as a bloody cross; but it also remembers that the greatest sin has been covered by the greater grace of God in Christ (Rom 5:20).  Thus, it frees us to confess even the most miserable and atrocious sins, because in Christ they have been fully forgiven.

(5) Confession is not a lame ‘yeah, I’m sorry,’ It demands a spirit of contrition & brokenness, and willingness to do anything to bring about reconciliation. It abandons personal rights, and is willing to suffer hardship to make-peace.

(6) Confession does not simply retell the shame, it agrees with God that the act, thought, speech, motive, pattern, etc was a sin, and then it boldly claims the blood of Christ as the once for all atonement for that hell-deserving sin.  

Confession that is true reiterates our belief that we are more sinful than we ever knew, and that Christ as our mediating high priest is more sufficient than we ever imagined. It is prompted by the Spirit and leads to forgiveness and cleansing (1 John 1:9).  It comes from a heart that has seen sin the way God sees sin; it cannot be manufactured, it is a gift from God.

In short, it is part and parcel of the Christian life, one that is illumined by God’s word and directed by the convicting work of the Holy Spirit.  For truly born again Christians, it should not be an irregular activity or something initiated by a pastoral reminder.  It should be a daily, even moment-by-moment offering to the Lord.

Still, with all that said, I wonder how many Christians do confession much like Aaron. I am concerned that many “Christians” play church–that confession, repentance, and reconciliation are not part of their daily lives.  And thus, their professed Christianity is nothing like the real thing.  Instead of a genuine relationship with Jesus, programs and platitudes have sufficed.

Ask yourself: How often do I make confession to the Lord, and to others?  Is it a regular practice of my life, one stimulated by the Spirit?

Jesus is clear. Those who are forgiven will forgive; and those who are convicted will confess. This is not optional; this is the normal Christian life.  God’s love confronts us and calls us to regularly confess sin and seek restoration with God and others, and Aaron’s errant confession teaches us that “I’m sorry, I’ve got issues,” just doesn’t cut it.

Lord pour out a Spirit of grace and pleas for mercy on your church and on me.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss


What is a Christian?

In his Commentary on Galatians, Martin Luther has a number of choice statements about the gospel, faith, and conversion.  Commenting on Galatians 2:16, hear how this Reformer defines a ‘genuine Christian’:

(For those not familiar with King James English, please forgive the hath’s and saith’s)

We therefore make this definition of a Christian: a Christian is not he who hath no sin, but he to whom God imputeth not his sin, through faith in Christ.  That is why we so often repeat and beat into your minds, the forgiveness of sins and imputation of righteousness for Christ’s sake.  Therefore when the law accuseth him and sin terrifieth him, he looketh up to Christ, and when he hath apprehended Him by faith, he hath present with him the conqueror of the law, sin, death, and the devil: and Christ reigneth and ruleth over them, so that they cannot hurt the Christian.  So that he hath indeed a great and inestimable treasure, or as St. Paul saith: ‘the unspeakable gift’ (2 Cor 6:15), which cannot be magnified enough, for it maketh us the children and heirs of God.  This gift may be said to be greater than heaven and earth, because Christ, who is this greater gift, is greater (Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians, trans. Erasmus Middleton [Reprint: Grand Rapids: Kregel Classics, 1979], 72).

It bears repeating, “a Christian is not one who has no sin,” but one who has advocate with God the Father, Jesus Christ our mediator.  In him do erring sinners find pardon and relief when they come to him in faith.

Since our natural tendency is to work for our salvation and to trust our own religious accomplishments, we must, as Luther says, “often repeat and beat into [our] minds, the forgiveness of sins and imputation of righteousness” comes from faith in Jesus Christ alone and not through our own works.

Hallelujah!  What a Savior!