At long last, on this, his 30th birthday — we present Josh’s testimony, the latest in our testimony series.
Of all the things for which I have to be thankful in this life, there is one unparalleled: the faith of my parents. What would prove to be the very foundation of my own life, my earliest understanding of God, that He is and who He is, was rooted not in the fact that my parents told me about Him (although they certainly did that), but in that they live their lives as though He is an absolute certainty.
Not that I never doubted. I distinctly remember when I was about four years old, wondering if the whole thing was a conspiracy. Those books in the back of the pew could be made up, and my parents could be in on it. Even my childish mind soon came to the conclusion that the thought that God does not exist is far more preposterous than the thought that He does.
Not that I fully understood. I was told that church was God\’s house, but I wasn\’t sure where He was, since I\’d been all over that building and never once run into Him. I finally figured He must spend most of His time in my mother\’s office, the one room I wasn\’t allowed to enter. I passed by the door with great reverence.
But I knew that God could make His dwelling in my heart, if I accepted the gift of His Son. And so, as a little boy, I said the sinner\’s prayer, and that little boy received salvation.
Of course, that little boy isn\’t here anymore. He\’s been gone for some time now.
I was 16 the first time I realized that I took my faith for granted, that the God of salvation accepted by a young boy would have to be accepted by a young man. As my understanding increased, as my person matured, as my life changed altogether, I would have to decide anew for whom that life was going to be lived.
The Lord continued to place people in my life to give me the love, encouragement, and instruction I needed to point me to Him, to keep growing, to keep surrendering. The fellowship of believers has reflected Him to me, and I am privileged to be a part of that fellowship, to reflect Him to others.
And so I seek after the Lord, and I find Him faithful. I seek His will, and He directs me, He sustains me, He supplies my needs. I stumble, and He restores me. I walk with Him today, and by His grace I will walk with Him tomorrow.
I am a reader. This is appropriate, since I am also a literature major. Through books, I relate to the world. I take the commonality of the human condition as a given ”” we are all essentially the same; we all want essentially the same things in life. So when other humans have painstakingly distilled their own lives and beliefs into a finely crafted text, I think it only right that I take a sip.
And so I have tried to taste widely and conscientiously. At times I have spit out bitter mouthfuls of bad philosophy, or set down lukewarm cups of tepid thought. But occasionally I find a refreshing glass of clear, lucid wisdom.
I have often wondered whether it would be intellectually reasonable of me to assume the mantle of Christianity as so many others have, adhering to it unquestioningly, merely out of tradition. And then I found that G.K. Chesterton had already thought of this. “Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about.” If we truly are all the same, why couldn\’t the answer that Pascal or Aquinas or Luther or any other of the millions of thinkers throughout Christian history had found be the same one to satisfy my own yearning?
But what about those who hadn\’t accepted this explanation? One of the most condemning objections to Christianity from its inception has been the “problem of pain,” as C.S. Lewis described it. We\’ve all asked these questions. If there is a God, why is there so much suffering in the world? How could a truly good God allow such horrendous things to happen?
Lewis contends that for God to create a world in which there is both freedom and the absence of suffering would be inherently contradictory. “It remains true that all things are possible with God: the intrinsic impossibilities are not things but nonentities. It is no more possible for God than for the weakest of His creatures to carry out both of two mutually exclusive alternatives; not because His power meets with an obstacle, but because nonsense remains nonsense even when we talk it about God.”
Feodor Dostoevsky explored this theme in The Brothers Karamazov. One character, Ivan, imagines Jesus returning to earth in Spain during the Inquisition. There, the Grand Inquisitor accuses Christ of allowing suffering by refusing to dominate humans. He refused to cajole belief by enticing followers with stones turned to bread. He refused to force belief by throwing himself off of the temple. He refused to demand belief by assuming control of the kingdoms of the world through bowing down. “Instead of taking possession of men’s freedom, Thou didst increase it, and burdened the spiritual kingdom of mankind with its sufferings forever. Thou didst desire man’s free love, that he should follow Thee freely, enticed and taken captive by Thee. In place of the rigid ancient law, man must hereafter with free heart decide for himself what is good and what is evil, having only Thy image before him as his guide.”
Do you know what these works tasted like? They retained the flavor of another book I had read, one that had told me that behind all these words, there was the Word. There is little that has become more true to me than that I must work out my own salvation with fear and trembling. I want to understand what I believe, that I may indeed always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks me, a reason for the hope that I have.
This and following weekends, we will share the brief salvation testimony of each Bweinh!tributor. Read the previous seven right here.
There was a time in my life when I was living with a woman who was not my wife. I spent half my day crying and screaming in fits of inconsolable rage, drinking between 2 and 3 bottles a day — and then I turned two and moved onto solid foods.
This was how Houghton College’s Dr. Doug Gaerte began his chapel testimony, before a shocked, then hushed, then suddenly relieved student body, as he was one of the most gentle and Christlike professors on campus. He went on to explain that he had avoided giving his testimony before then because he felt, as do I, that his testimony was simply just not interesting enough. Like me, he was born into a Christian family and had been through the blitz of Sunday School and VBS to such a degree that the exact sea change of his soul was hard to pinpoint. And like me, he had to agree that that is a great testimony in and of itself.
But the fact remains that while a Christian heritage breeds a certain lifestyle that can be blessedly cyclical, the giving of one’s soul to Christ is not something that can be done for you. While I had a firm understanding of Jesus, and of grace even, at a tender age, it would take years to wrap my mind around my own salvation. My testimony doesn’t climax with my first altar experience at a camp in Northern Maine when I was 14, or at my baptism, or on a missions trip to Mexico when I was 16. These usual suspects were all pivotal, but they are, by no means, the true meat of my salvation.
As most people who know me somewhat intimately will tell you, I rarely exhibit Christ in any classic manner. I’m argumentative, counter-cultural, judgmental and oftentimes appallingly solo in my use of time, money and talents. I must strike many fellow believers as a builder who laid a real humdinger of a foundation, but seems content to live in a ramshackle lean-to atop it.
My struggles with other Christians and the constructed institution of Christianity is such an oozing scab that some might think a testimony from me — the clay that is apparently still drying — is a bit previous. But when I testify my faith, I feel no need to tell my story, so decidedly unfinished, unglamorous and incongruous. I’d just rather tell the story, as I glow with joy, of Christ’s death and resurrection — and no matter how I grapple with theology and fellowship, I do BELIEVE in it! I believe in the Jesus of the gospels and am never shy or ashamed of that.
For all of my faults, and the clumsy manner in which this testimony continues to grow and fester, I know I have a love for Jesus that will always rally. This hardest of hearts will always rise to the occasion, from no doing of my own but from a deeply seeded faith, as relentless and compulsive as gravity itself. This is Christ in me. This is my story. His story is my story, and I am plotless without Him.
This and following weekends, we will share the brief salvation testimony of each Bweinh!tributor. Read the previous six right here.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about crisis theology, and what I believe or do not believe about it. My testimony isn’t really one of dates and bright lights shining down from a cloud, but I tried to write it as a series of events, periods of time that sort of explain my coming to faith, and struggles within it.
One — It is a sticky June evening in 1996 and I am reading one of those ‘Keys for Kids’ devotionals that come in the mail for free from Northern Christian Radio. I can’t stand my mother’s Twila Paris music (and I never will), but there’s something in this little devotional story, long forgotten, that makes me look in the back at the ABCs of Salvation, and pray it, piece by piece.
Two — It is a chilly February evening, a Wednesday, during my middle school years. My Bible Bowl team is laughing over a commercial, somehow tying it into what we are studying. We debate personal standards about alcohol, and how God will treat us in heaven. We don’t even close in prayer, but I know God is pleased that we’ve been working out with quite a bit of fear and trembling.
Three — It is rally time in 2001 and I am at Whispering Pines camp in Manton, Michigan. Jeremy Kingsley is speaking in his funny Southern dialect, a down-to-earth retelling of how Jesus drove out Legion. I think, God, this is how your Word is supposed to come alive! That camp is where my first emotional experiences with God were: before I learned to trust or distrust emotion.
Four — I think to myself, some time near New Year’s in my sophomore year of high school, that I should probably be reading the Bible daily. I fall asleep in the middle of a chapter of 1 Corinthians that night, and wake up in the middle of the night to turn my bedside lamp off and take my contacts out.
Five — We have been at Dayton Center Wesleyan for four years, and I am graduating. My application for Houghton has been sent in with my personal testimony on it, but it is appropriately, honestly unfocused.
Six — I am talking to Chloe on the phone on a summer evening after our first year of college together. We get off the phone and I am kneeling by my bed, face buried in the too-soft comforter, asking, Why don’t I know what to do with my life? I hear a word, and perhaps it really was audible. Wait.
Seven — I don’t know whether or not I want to stay at this tiny church in Belfast. The people are wonderful and well-meaning, their faiths sincere, but is it the kind of Christianity that I profess? Am I just tying into a place for security? All of this goes through my head as I play the piano for worship that October morning — but in the middle of the second song, I think the Spirit witnesses to mine and I know I am where I should be.
Eight — I am sitting at my computer on a cold, rainy December day, thinking of how to turn a lifestyle into words. The songwriter’s version of Abraham’s story is pinned up on my bulletin board, and I think his summary is where I will leave my testimony. It may not be a doubtless faith, or a 700 Club-worthy one, but it is who I am.
So take me to the mountain
I will follow where You lead
There I’ll lay the body of the boy You gave to me
And even though You take him
Still I ever will obey
But Maker of this mountain, please —
Make another way.
Holy is the Lord, Holy is the Lord
And the Lord I will obey.
Lord, help me,
I don’t know the way.
Unlike a number of my fellow Bweinh!tributors, I did not grow up in a household where baptism, regular prayer or even church attendance were presupposed. I was encouraged largely to ‘do my own thing'; if I wanted to do any of those things, that was fine, but if I wanted to stay home and read or sleep on Sundays, that was fine as well.
I still went to church most weeks anyway; they had the best food (at least the best that was available to me on Sunday mornings), and it was an excuse to talk to people and make friends. I also got involved in a number of church activities like camps, summits, retreats and conferences. The summer before my senior year of high school I was invited to go to the Presbyterian Youth Triennium, the biggest event that the Presbyterian Church throws for its young people. People come from all over the world to spend a week in Purdue University for fellowship, prayer, miraculous experiences, etc.
I was fairly blown away by the whole experience; I had been disinterested in getting too involved in my home church because they were so sleepy. There was little seriousness of purpose about spreading their mission or bringing in new people to hear the good news. The business of the church lasted for an hour on Sundays (two if there was a general meeting afterward) and that was it. Nothing particularly remarkable. At the Triennium, however, I realized that God doesn’t have to be boring and that He’s rarely found without specifically looking for Him. On the first day of the Triennium, I asked God into my heart and my life.
There is a huge amount of finality to asking God into your heart; once you do, you can’t be eternally lost ever again regardless of how temporally lost you may get. In other words, your position and relationship with God have been permanently sanctified. On the other hand, there is also a progressive element to sanctification; allowing God into your heart is a process that a person has to recommit to every day. God may continue to watch over someone who strays from His ways, but trying to get His Spirit to fall when there’s something getting in the way of one’s life with Him is another story entirely.
A salvation testimony is a great story of the triumph of God over man’s weaknesses and over evil, but it is only by examining every day since the commitment of a new heart to Him that an observer could fully understand why I or anyone else believes.
“Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.”
There’s an old self-actualization exercise professors use in just about every field of coursework — writing your own obituary. It’s supposed to help you focus your studies onto long-term goals and help get you there quicker.
I was reflecting on that verse Friday, thinking that of all the verses in the Bible that I want to be true in my life, that’s one of them. And when all is said and done, I earnestly hope to God that is my verse.
As much as a three-year-old can understand sin, damnation, repentance, and eternal life, when threatened by my older brother with eternal hellfire, I made my first — and last — tearful bedside conversion. But the problem with being second of six siblings is that I quickly got fed up with the crowd. My “rebellion” was not simply agreeing to whatever I was told. I wanted to explore it first, tear it apart, chew it, and discover it was as true for me as the Bible said it was.
Early one summer Dad told us, matter-of-factly, that his sons were all to be baptized. No discussion, no debate — just a cool statement of fact. But unlike my ovine brothers, I wasn’t letting my father — or anyone else — make my decision for me. So baptism day came and went with a sopping wet Stephen, a sopping wet Thomas, and a remarkably dry Jeremiah. Once I had made up my mind, I was baptized the next summer.
My teenage years were spent learning about spiritual leadership from our pastor and leading a youth small group. Once I left home for Oswego State University, I helped re-grow the BASIC college ministry from a sparsely-populated club to one of the largest organizations on campus.
But a testimony is more that a recollection of facts — it’s how we overcame and how we overcome. I’ve seen healings, I’ve seen miracles, I’ve seen lives changed. And I will see more.
Here lies Jeremiah ‘Djere’ Maxon (1983 – 2023)
Beloved Prophet, Pastor, Missionary, Itinerant Worker of Miracles — all around hep cat.
Looking back I can see God’s hand on my life all throughout. But our family moved a lot (I went to six second grades between Texas and New York), most of the time to avoid landlords. My dad died in my junior year, forcing us to move to yet another school for my senior year. But I discovered I could actually finish high school in just six weeks with a summer English class. Pointing out my perfect PSAT scores and difficult family situation, my guidance counselor encouraged me to go to community college that fall — it would help with finances and give me a better future. And it did.
College is where I met my husband David. He and his family attended church every Sunday; I had gone off and on, but never for very long. They were the very definition of stability, something I was very drawn to. One Sunday, after a few years of dating, Dave and I were in the family pew, playing our usual game of Dots on the bulletin, when I looked up at Pastor Polly. She had hesitated during her sermon, and I wondered why. As I looked up, she was gazing directly at me, with the saddest look on her face. Busted. I put the game down, and we started paying attention.
I didn’t think about it again until I was alone, on my way back the next Sunday, replaying the incident in my mind. I realized how sad she had looked and wondered what caused that deep emotion. I guess she believes in what she is saying and doing, I thought. Immediately, I felt a question form in my mind — “Do you believe in Me?”
I instantly realized I was not just having a flashback — God was asking me that question. Then I heard Him distinctly ask me to make a choice right then — and after a slight hesitation, I said “Yes!”
As soon as I did, He filled me with a joy and love that was nearly indescribable. It was fall and the leaves were changing, and I saw it all like my first time wearing glasses. The sky was bluer, the leaves were amazing. I went to pick Dave up, but he was sick, so I got to go to church alone! YES! I was a different parishioner that week, let me tell you. I’m a loud singer anyway, but that day all the songs made sense — even the Doxology! Everyone looked at me funny, but I didn’t care. The GOD of the UNIVERSE had talked to me that day, and I think my face was glowing!
A few weeks later, my husband rededicated his life to the Lord. Within a year my mom, two brothers, sister, and sister-in-law all got saved and started attending our new church. 30 years later, we all worship together whenever we can. Joshua 24:15 is our promise: “…as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
In our home we’ve raised six children. You’ve read two of their testimonies already. Two are worship leaders, and one of those is also a prophet. One was called to be like Nicodemus — a man of knowledge among the learned. The two girls have the call of missions on their lives; one also has worship leading in her future. My youngest is called to be a pastor.
And it all started by simply saying “Yes” — 29 years ago next Sunday.
This and following weekends, we will share the brief salvation testimony of each Bweinh!tributor. Next in line is Tom.
I was recently behind the wheel, in the middle of a two-hour drive, thinking about what I would write for my testimony. I’ve attended a church for as long as I can remember, and have prayed the prayer of salvation a number of times, each in earnest, but I couldn’t for the life of me remember a specific time that could be boiled down into 750 pithy, life-affirming words. I was in a great mood despite it being a rather dreary day weatherwise, but I couldn’t come up with a memory to share that I felt conveyed the importance of having all of my sins forgiven at once. Then, the thought hit – why not this one?
A number of years ago, a fellow giving an altar call at a meeting I attended asked anyone in attendance who had not asked Jesus to forgive their sins and come into their hearts to pray a simple prayer of salvation with him. He then went on to ask anyone who had done so already to pray the same prayer anyway. He told us he took every opportunity to pray that prayer, and if you look at it closely it becomes apparent why. The typical prayer for salvation you see outlined goes something like this:
1. Acknowledge in your heart that Jesus is Lord.
2. Confess that you are a sinner in need of grace.
3. Believe that Jesus died for your sins and was raised three days later.
4. Repent of your sins, and ask for His forgiveness.
Each and every point of this simple prayer is as true for me today as the first time I prayed it. Jesus is still Lord. I am still a sinner in need of grace, even if that grace has been extended to me. I still believe that he died, and was raised again. And I still willingly commit sins for which I need to be forgiven. My salvation isn’t a single event, although it does begin that way. I took that opportunity in my car to pray that prayer, and I believe it as important to my life as any I’ve ever prayed.
A life is a lot like a trip, one that takes a lot longer than two hours, and can sometimes be a lot less pleasant than a rainy, 45 degree day. As we take that walk, it’s important not only to remember the steps that got you where you are today, but to consider and take those steps that will keep you on the path on which you’ve started.
This and following weekends, we will share the brief salvation testimony of each Bweinh!tributor. Next in line is Steve.
I became a Christian at age 5, having discovered the appendix to my Billy Graham-sponsored children’s Bible, wherein the good pastor laid out the plan of salvation in what must have been a simple yet compelling way. I prayed the prayer he suggested, and then followed its further instruction to go tell my parents. I think Mom was cleaning the kitchen or taking care of baby Thomas at the time, but she was more than happy to go through everything with me again to make sure I understood.
But being intellectually more mature than I was spiritually, my early childhood was plagued by doubt. Was my experience real? Did the name I called my brother, even when he deserved it, place me back in danger of the fires of hell? I don’t know how many times I re-committed my life with a furtive midnight prayer, but it may top 100. I remember reading a devotion that said salvation was so much more than escaping hell; to me, it still seemed the most compelling and effective reason.
Soon I was old enough to deal with other concerns, the rocks that so frequently ruin the soil. For several years, Christian summer camp provided more persecution than edification. There and elsewhere, I closely observed hypocrisy, how man often rewards the godly appearance of evil hearts. So many things people said and did in church were lies, meant to gain praise or attention. People I respected abandoned their families, slipped into debauchery and drugs. What was left to trust?
Intellectually, I knew the answer, and I knew deep inside that man’s fall does not diminish God’s power.
And so I carried on. I found myself adrift after college, with no idea what to do next, flagging confidence that I was in His will, and decreasing faith of any type. One desperate night, I actually wrote a letter, to God, to myself, explaining my doubts, my concerns about the vagueness of prophecy, the insufficiency of personal experience, how most Christians rely on other men to hear and explain the voice of God.
Yet even at this lowest point, I held onto unshakable belief, in divine Creation and the Resurrection. I cannot look at this world and its intricacies, and believe it was the result of mere chance. I cannot consider the history of the early church and the power of Jesus’ teaching, and conclude that so many would forfeit everything for what they knew to be a lie.
I had no instant, miraculous response. I went to sleep and woke up the next day with the same thoughts on my mind. Since then, I have again come to feel much closer to God, but even if I hadn’t, He would be no less true.
We must know that faith is so much more than how we feel; we must be able to explain what we believe, why we believe, in terms more substantive than “I just know it’s right.” In a world with so many competing beliefs and religions, how Jesus makes us feel is not what makes us — or Him — unique.
It’s what He did, and even more, what He’s still doing.
This and following weekends, we will share the brief salvation testimony of each Bweinh!tributor. First in line is David.
As a typical bad kid growing up in Watertown, NY in the 1970’s, I found my way into alcohol and drugs at an early age, which led to petty crime to buy cigarettes, pot, beer and wine. Dad was Catholic and gone most of the time, and Mom was Baptist, working hard to raise 4 kids by herself. She sent us to the Baptist church for a while, but that stopped when she found out we were going to the bus station and spending the offering money in the vending machines on the way to church.
When I was 17, I found myself in jail (the city lockup) for the fourth time that summer. During that night, God spoke to me for the first time in my life, saying, “You’ve seen what the world has to offer — now watch what I can do for you.” Two weeks later while I was home alone, God showed up again and said, “He (the devil) has had you for your entire life, but if you want to, you can give your heart to me and belong to me.”
The rest of the conversation went like this:
“Who are you?”
“Send my sister to pray with me, because I don’t know who you are or what you want.”
“No, when you stand before Me to be judged, there will be no one else there but you and Me. This is your decision.”
“Come into my heart and be my personal Lord and savior.” (a prayer Dave Maxon had told me about)
Instantly I went from being a skinny, long-haired punk who was lost and going to hell, to being a skinny, long-haired punk who was saved and going to Heaven. I’m still headed for Heaven, because of what Jesus did in dying for my sins on the Cross, and revealing Himself to me that day.