Remember the things I have done in the past. For I alone am God! I am God, and there is none like me. Isaiah 46:9
I very often cannot remember what appointments I had the day before or what I even had for lunch. I have a hard time remembering names of people I just met or even names of people I’ve known for years! But I do remember those events in my life that have an emotional trigger associated with them. I remember every detail about each birth of each of my children. I remember Sally’s heart rate going down in the delivery room at the Loma Linda University Hospital and the doctor pulling her through the birth canal with forceps. I remember Kelsey being born at Bethesda Naval Hospital having been predicted to be a boy by ultrasound. And I remember the the joy of having another girl. I remember Eric Junior’s birth at Bethesda Naval Hospital that was chaotic because of its rapidity. I remember each labor and delivery room. I remember so many details that I will stop now before writing a book about them!
So when God tells us to remember what He has done in the past, it’s personal. He knows we remember things best that are relationally connected and thus have an emotional aspect. God created our memories to be stored in the limbic system of the brain where our emotions reside. God interacts with us personally. So when He tells us to remember what He has done in the past, He is talking about what He has done with you! This is not merely a set of facts or teachings, but rather personal experiences with God that reveal new insights and understandings in who we are and who we can become.
But even though I remember everything about the birth of each one of my children, I can go for months without thinking about those experiences. In this way I can forget them. God is telling us in Isaiah 46:9 to actively recall and think about our experiences with Him. Recall your own new birth experience. Remember what He has done for you throughout the days, weeks, months, and years since that time. Recall His embrace in hard times, His counsel in confusing times, His whisper in quiet times, and His loud cry in dangerous times. You may even want to journal during these times if not every day. Such an activity will not only preserve your thoughts to help you recall God’s personal touch in your life, but it can bring new thoughts and insights to the experience as you write it down.
As we go through life with God, let’s never forget that above all else, IT’S PERSONAL!
As a kid growing up in the midwest it was considered rude and self-centered to talk about yourself. I could talk about the successes of my friends, but not my own. Because of this unspoken rule, not only did I avoid talking about anything that might be seen as a personal achievement, I avoided talking about anything that might be too personal. And so I learned to never share what I really believed… about anything. This included my belief in God as my Creator and Jesus as my Savior.
So how could I accept a call from God to be a pastor when I was a senior in high school? Well, the answer is easy. I saw the command of Jesus in Matthew 28 to go and make disciples as a command to DO, not a command to SHARE. With this mindset, I saw evangelism as an event you attend, not a life you live. It would include such things as a series of sermons to tell you about Jesus and His plan of salvation. It would include teaching you what the Bible says about the end of the world. You see, as a kid I could talk about our family trip to Florida and all the things I saw and the places we went. Similarly, as a pastor I could talk about God by quoting verse upon verse to prove a point without talking about what God had done for me. After all, that would require disclosure of personal information about myself. The very habits I had cultivated to avoid sharing my successes I was using to avoid revealing my failures. After all, a spiritual success has its roots in a moral failure.
Perhaps this is one reason I did not go into pastoral ministry after college, but rather went to medical school. I could preach a good sermon about God, but I was not comfortable truly sharing my faith. However, as I journeyed through a career in medicine, I learned the value of accountability, transparency, and openness. It was while being a part of “Quality Assurance” committees in various hospitals that I learned the importance of openly sharing my successes and failures. The more accountable we were to one another as physicians, the better quality of care we provided to our patients. It became apparent that improved patient outcomes were dependent upon the willingness of physicians to share openly with one another. This included sharing what worked (successes) and what didn’t work (failures). And so I began to see that the unspoken rule I had learned as a kid requiring me to remain silent about my successes was not only a bad rule, but a potentially self-destructive one.
As a pastor, I have discovered that evangelism is not about preaching, but about living. It’s not about telling, but about listening. It’s not about a public event where I can teach, but about a private event which I can share. Evangelism is a lifestyle resulting from a transformational experience with Jesus. It’s about my faith. It’s about His grace. It’s not about me who no longer lives, but about Jesus who lives in me. Sharing my faith means sharing the life I now live by faith in Jesus. Such faith can only be shared as it is lived.
In the words of Francis of Assisi, let us “preach the gospel and when necessary use words.”