The man opened our church service with a quick prayer followed by a touching testimony.
Baring his heart, he shared how, when he was a young boy, his family moved from England to the city of Philadelphia.
He had it rough fitting in at his school, he said, where he was the white kid with the funny accent.
But even though things were tough there, an abusive father who had a taste for alcohol made him even more afraid to go home.
Unfortunately as the man grew, he followed in his father’s footsteps to the bars and nurtured a hardened heart.
In his testimony, the man said that even during all of those difficult years his heavenly father was somehow still with him. And when he mentioned the path of destruction he should still be on, he gave us two little words that he said made all the difference in the world:
My friend John has a similar testimony, only his involves a deep addiction to drugs and an uncanny knack for selling them and staying alive. He liked fast cars, even faster women and he dabbled dangerously in the occult.
John should have been dead long ago – the first in line maybe to a hot pit of burning sulfur.
Again, the same two words come to mind when I think of John’s life now.
You see, the first man giving the testimony is now a deacon candidate at our church and John, a loving father of nine children, is a gifted novelist of the “Cadillac Dave” book series that shares his story.
But God. Those two small words with just a syllable each have made monumental changes in countless lives throughout history. Lives that the devil must have felt he had a firm grip on were loosed and set free because God intervened.
It’s also amazing to see that the words are also woven through the Bible.
The “Moments with the Book” blog says this: “When reading the Scriptures, one cannot help but notice the oft-repeated expression "But God…" These two words signal a change, a contrast, or a clarification is coming next. "But God." What follows this significant transition is intended to challenge our faith and change our life. When He is brought into the picture, God makes all the difference.”
Let’s take a peek at some “but God” moments in the lives of some folks in the Bible:
Hannah, labeled childless and mocked for it, could have lived her life a barren woman. But God saw her pain and answered her heart’s desire with a son who went on to be one of the greatest men in all of Israel.
Lazarus wrapped in stinking grave clothes lay still in a tomb meant for the dead. His sisters could be heard weeping outside. His life could have been cut short by the grave but God raised him up and returned him to his family.
Peter lied three times during Jesus’ most desperate hour. Denying his Lord could have caused the man to wallow in the pit of self-hate and condemnation his whole life but God forgave him and used him to start his church.
It’s easy to see how God intervened in the lives of Hannah, Lazarus and Peter isn’t it? I mean their life here on earth is over, right? They’ve already got their answers. But maybe it’s a little harder when we think about our own lives.
We all have steep mountains we face, dry and dusty desert paths we walk on, days when the wind whips us so hard we feel like we’ve been slapped.
Sometimes those seasons last a few days and sometimes they seem to go on forever. For our deacon candidate it was forty years before God turned him around. For my friend, John it was thirty-two.
Has it been a long time for you? Are you on a path that points to everything besides God? Or maybe you know him, but your just waiting for a breakthrough.
You know you’re not alone right? If we’re honest, we all are probably waiting for a “but God” moment or two.
And sometimes they happen when we least expect it.
Yesterday, I came across an emotional YouTube video of a “But God” testimony from T.D. Jakes, bishop and pastor of the 30,000-member megachurch, The Potter’s House.
In the video, Pastor Jakes recounts a time when he was supposed to attend an early morning meeting and God impressed on him to cancel it. So instead of being in his dressing room at 6:30a.m. to prepare for the meeting, he was still somewhere else in the house.
At exactly 6:30a.m. Jake’s dressing room exploded. The roof caved in, the windows were blown out and cinder blocks were found 100 feet into his backyard.
Jakes was told that had he been in the room at the time his body would have been blown to pieces.
“But God,” he says.
Has God done something to turn the events in your life around? Or, has he turned you around?
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Psalm 73:26 King James Version
My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.
1 Corinthians 1:26-27 English Standard Version
For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;