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This is the transcript of Graeme's testimony at church on Palm Sunday 2006:

Well Good Morning. Thank you for giving me this chance as well to come up and share a little bit about how I became a Christian, but I think more importantly what I want to share this morning, is what God’s doing in my life at the minute and over the last year or so as well. For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Graham, I’m married to Jenny who’s sitting over there at the back and we live locally although I work out at what feels like the Outback, way out at the edge of the Cotswolds in a town called Witney where I teach in a school. I was born in Tanzania where my parents were missionaries. I was brought up in a Christian family and I think in some ways my testimony of how I became a Christian is quite typical for a lot of people raised in a Christian family. I think it was very much as a result of my parent praying for me; as a result of my parents showing me loving guidance in my early years, and I think most importantly, as well, my parents teaching me from the Bible about who God was that made me begin to question some of the bigger things in life and in particular, made me realise that there was a creator God out there who loved me and who loved me so much that He died for me and I needed respond to that. And then about the age of nine that’s when I came to make sort of a big commitment and a big decision for Jesus. There were some missionaries, some other missionaries, passing through the town where we lived, and they showed the Jesus film. It was always remarkable in this version to see how well Jesus spoke Swahili in the version I saw in Tanzania. But seeing the life of Jesus up on the screen and just seeing His whole story, particularly seeing everything He had done in His life left me with the question that I needed to respond to, even at the age of nine. I knew that I either had to accept that this was true and therefore make a decision about it, or I had to reject it as just some sort of fancy story. And thankfully I did respond in a positive way; I did believe that Jesus had been a real person, that Jesus was the Son of God, that Jesus had died for me, and more importantly, that I am to acknowledge that I was wrong before Him. And that’s a decision I can tell you that I have never regretted. It’s a decision as well that’s reaffirmed to me every time I read the Bible as well and read the truths about God and understand what He has done for me. I suppose whilst the manner of how I became a Christian isn’t particularly remarkable, what has been exciting is to see the way that God hasn’t just left me as that nine year old in my simple faith but has been working in me and moulding me and teaching me throughout my life. There have been some great moments of exhilaration: there have also been some moments as well where I have sinned profoundly and turned away from God. In whatever situation it has been I really felt that God has taught me something new about Himself and has been working to try and mould me and transform me: sometimes painfully, it has been; but certainly I am learning things all the time. And two things I think I that I’ve learned recently I’d like to share with you from the last year or so. And neither of them are profound truths, necessarily, but they are things that I have to continuously remind myself about as I think about who God is.

The first thing that I’ve been learning recently is the need for me to look outwardly more instead of being self-centred. Loving Jesus first and then loving people second but loving them more than myself. Those of you who know me might think I’m quite a nice person: I thought I was a nice person; I work with children after all. I like small furry animals and I thought I was really nice until something happened about a year and a half ago when I got married.

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And then suddenly I realised that this lovely nice person actually wasn’t so lovely any more, and I turned into some really selfish individual. And the key thing I realised was that I wasn’t actually always a nice person. I hadn’t changed into a selfish person; I had always been selfish but suddenly living in a close relationship with somebody and having to put their needs before mine made me realise just how self-centred I was. I asked Jenny and she said it’s fine so I don’t mind admitting this in front of you. In our first year of marriage we have had some pretty rocky and some pretty volatile situations. Jenny’s paid to argue for a living as a lawyer; I’m paid to nag children for a living, so it’s a pretty volatile fiery combination you’ve got there. And there have been some very difficult times and some times when we have been very horrible to each other but I’m thankful in some ways for those experiences as well because God‘s really taught me that that’s who I am: a very selfish person and if I just rely or if we just rely on our individual strengths to get through life then we are always going to come up against the wall. And it’s knowing that God is there to help us and knowing that God is there to try and transform us and to turn us from these selfish people who want our own ways into people who want to put each other first not just in our marriage but in life as well, has been something that I have really learnt, I’ve felt a real privilege about, recently. Ephesians chapter five, verse two says “Be imitators of God therefore as dearly loved children and live a life of love just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us for a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” And the second short thing I want to share about what God has been teaching me recently again is nothing new at all; it’s not something new I have learnt recently; it’s something that all my life I have had to look back to and something all my life I have had to continually focus on. And that is to give control to God every single area of my life. It’s a bit of a cliché, but a true one which says that if Jesus cannot be Lord of all, then He cannot be Lord at all. And there have been so many times in my life where I have been wanting to have control over so many aspects of my life. We all have different weaknesses, some people it’s money, some people it’s status, or whatever else. I know where my weakness lies and perhaps it’s one you might find unusual but that is in my job. I absolutely love what I do, I think I have the most satisfying career in the world; I get to spend all day performing in front of people who have no choice but to sit and listen to me in the class. Equally I get to spend time, it’s a real privilege, I get to spend time with the most wonderful youngsters that I’ve come across, they really encourage me just by the people they are. But it’s a very flattering job as well and it’s also a place where I find it very easy to get so absorbed in my job that that becomes in some way some form of idol for me. And it’s really important, I’ve learnt, that I’ve got to just make sure that God is in control of everything in my life. In the job as well it’s not just relying on my own strengths and abilities but it’s acknowledging the one who has given me those strengths and abilities that’s been really important. And so it’s something that I do constantly come back to; it’s something we’re going to sing about in our next song in a minute which is where we actually do find our hope. For me it shouldn’t be in my status in the community where I work or in my job or in the human flattery I perhaps get off people in the school where I work; it’s got to be found in Christ alone. And I guess that‘s why I’m a Christian; it’s because I know I’m a selfish person, I know I can’t change that but I do know that there’s somebody who can and that’s somebody who I have hope in completely, and I really hope that you do too.

Graeme Riddell

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