We live in a pluralistic society with a continuous battle that wages even within Christianity regarding what doctrine is true and whose interpretation of Scripture is correct. While working on my Doctorate at Howard University’s School of Divinity, I clearly remember the discussions and viewpoints brought forth by my peers that, in some cases, were contrary to my understanding and comprehension of Scripture. We could debate and argue all day, yet after our class, I often disagreed with what was presented as I saw it as being contradictory to my knowledge and understanding of Scripture.
We may argue about doctrine and stand resolute on what ‘Thus saith God,” regardless of what others say, never budging an inch. We can discuss and defend our interpretation of Scripture until we are blue, finding that we can still not sway or convince others of what we believe is correct. However, God has given us one powerful tool that does not require years of Biblical study nor an academic degree in Religion to profess the truth of God’s Holy Word, which is our testimony.
We can see in Scripture how Jesus and His disciples used miracle testimonies to confirm their words were true. Concretely, the Word of God and the Holy Spirit transform our lives and make us new creatures in Christ. However, the Bible’s writers demonstrate that personal testimonies reaffirm the promises, blessings, and Word of God as hearers and seekers easily relate to stories and often cannot deny the truth of the testimony that stands before them.
I have more miraculous testimonies of God’s love, provisions, healings, and graciousness than there is time to write about here. In my role as a pastor and District Superintendent for the Assemblies of the Lord Jesus Christ, I have witnessed the miraculous work of Christ in the lives of many others with awe and gratitude and celebrate the truths that are written in the Word of God and celebrate who my Savior is.
Over the past week, I have been inundated with emails, texts, and IMs regarding the claims surrounding the testimony of a mighty man of God, Rev. Lee Stoneking. My name has been drawn into the center of a debate that does not question whether or not such an incredible testimony given by this man of God at the United Nations is true, but instead to the various claims surrounding his testimony. I am taking the time to address this issue for two purposes: To prayerfully end the bombardment of requests regarding affirmations and questions of my speech and the purpose of my appearance at the United Nations and to bring forth a teaching moment to each of us.
I was invited to speak at a special convening at the United Nations in 2008. This meeting was held to address, reaffirm, and celebrate the 60th anniversary of the passing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights presented by the then-First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt (http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/). I was introduced to and by Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury, the then-undersecretary general and high representative of the United Nations. I did not speak before the UN General Assembly or in the General Assembly Room. As a point of clarification, the General Assembly Sessions are typically held annually during September. As publicly advertised, the 2015 Session of the UN General Assembly begins on September 15th and is scheduled to run through the 22nd. (http://sd.iisd.org/events/70th-session-of-the-un-general-assembly-unga-70/ ) My limited understanding of meeting operations and locations within the UN is that there can be specially called ‘high-level’ meetings with a specific purpose held in the General Assembly Room, as was the case for Rev. Stoneking.
My experience regarding my presentation at the UN has me first reflecting upon my honor in representing the apostolic movement and the opportunity to speak in a UN assembly full of leaders and dignitaries meeting to address Human Rights for all of humanity. My speech reaffirmed this declaration and addressed the
MDGs (Millennium Development Goals) set by the UN. In my summation, affirming my faith as an apostolic minister, I told this audience that all the programs and projects that were underway and new ones being formulated within this building would never be met until the leadership of the UN made God the foundation and placed Him in the center of all they planned and did. I concluded my message with II Chronicles 7:14, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” I will never forget that a dignitary walked up to me at the end of the meeting, stretched forth his hand, took his finger, jabbed it hard against my chest, and said, “I want what you have!” I could share my testimony and what God had in store for him with this individual. This is my God-given testimony that I am humbled to share in brief with you here, and it is one I have expounded upon with many worldwide.
So, this is MY testimony that God gave me regarding this specific event, just as the Rev. Stoneking has his testimony from his experience at the UN. This leads me to my second point, the teachable moment. God does not need our help! When we stick our nose in His business, we will ALWAYS mess it up! It is excellent when a door is opened to a significant opportunity and experience. Rev. Stoneking’s testimony is powerful and truly demonstrates how great Jesus is. In our enthusiasm and excitement, we must be careful not to embellish the significance of the testimony. When I recently reviewed the UN video of Rev. Stoneking, I noticed he had over 2.9 million views!!! That in and of itself is another powerful testimony, and to God be the glory. This lets me know that we have people who are hungry and seeking the miraculous, and it has me frustrated with what such distractions are doing, turning people away from the redemptive message of Jesus Christ.
I first paid little attention to the calls regarding the following statement, “This morning Rev. Lee Stoneking was the first apostolic in history to address the United Nations General Assembly in NYC,” until this enthusiastically promoted title was aggressively challenged. As the banter has been heating up, tweets are being blocked. As others are fact-checking and, in turn, through such research generating even more questions about the credibility surrounding the testimony are still being brought forth, I began to think about the un-churched. Could this hoopla redirect from what God wants to do through this powerful testimony and turn many away from Him? Purposeful, unwittingly careless, or exaggerated statements can turn many away from the testimony and have them focus on the lack of credibility surrounding the testimony. As a result, will the un-churched think the testimony itself to be untrue? When we celebrate the power of the testimony, our words must be unimpeachable. God does not need our help; we need to let go and let God – for it is His Spirit in the testimony that does all the work! It does not matter ‘who’ spoke ‘first’ at the UN. We do not allow our excitement, naivety, or personal agendas to interfere with God’s purpose and tarnish the testimony. The truth remains valid and will always stand on its own. We are called to build HIS Kingdom, not our own – therefore, let us focus on the fact that Rev. Lee Stoneking was raised from the dead!! He is our modern-day Lazarus, and having personally seen what my God can do, I know Stoneking is not and will not be the only one. Rev. Stoneking’s testimony increases my faith and tells me that my God can do so much more, so I will make sure I stay out of the way and let God do His thing!