Visit to Woodland Hills Church

It’s been a whirlwind, incredible weekend! Thank you so much for every prayer. My trip to St. Paul was surreal, uplifting, and all-too-quick!

I had the privilege of meeting with several Woodland Hills Church leaders, staff, and members.  It was amazing how instantly I felt loved and welcome. These Christ-following folks served as role-models of warm, genuine, and selfless hospitality.

You can download the message I shared with them, Triumph by Testimony, or watch below.  It emphasizes the importance of our picture of God in the midst of suffering.

I pray it blesses you.


P.S. – I’m thankful to my friend, Erich Salzmann, who has translated this message into Russian and German.

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  • Katharina Haynes Bethea

    Thank you does not seem fitting for you sharing your testimony with Woodland Hills on Sunday. My husband and I had not been to church in a few months and found ourselves drawn to Woodland Hills this past weekend again. Hearing your testimony moved me on so many levels. Having recently lost my grandmother to Parkinson’s and struggling with some life-changing decisions recently, your testimony comforted me and brought my life into much-needed perspective. I know I was at Woodland Hills on Sunday not by accident, but rather to hear your testimony and use it as a step in my own healing and further my walk. It’s not enough, but thank you.

    • Wow, what a precious word. Thank you, Katharina. It was my privilege to visit and share with WHC. I look forward to visiting again. You folks are such a blessing! Prayers for your continued healing and clear future direction.

  • Sherry Reese

    You will never know my joy at getting to hear your sweet voice speaking the beautiful message God has placed on your heart to share your testimony and your picture of God. I wish that you could come to Charlotte and share your message with our church, Forest Hill. I am truly thankful that God placed you in my life. I have also wrestled with the common blueprint worldview although I am thankful that my pastor, David Chadwick, does not subscribe to it. I admit that doubtful thoughts have crossed my mind at times, but after hearing Henry’s story, there is not a doubt in my mind that heaven exists and that Henry saw it in his final moments on this earth. You are right that God didn’t plan or orchestrate the illness that caused him so much pain, but God did allow us to glimpse heaven through Henry’s innocent eyes. I get chills when I think of Henry’s “conversations” with Jesus. Just amazing!

    • Thank you for all the kind encouragement, sweet Sherry. I truly thank God for you 🙂 Love you, friend!

  • I just listened to your testimony and I am so thankful for your sharing of your faith and Henry’s story. Your faith and trust in God’s heart just shines through and I am so inspired by it.

    • Thank you so much for listening and for taking the time to encourage me! God bless you, Natashajk!

  • Mike Jones

    Beautiful word, Jessica.

    I too am a ‘podrishoner’ (I have the t-shirt to prove it!), who started listening to Greg and his sermons from WH just about the same period of time you did. I forget exactly how I stumbled upon WH, but listening to his teaching began to change my perspective on everything. Since then I’ve read God of the Possible, Letters from a Skeptic, and I’m working through Is God to Blame and The Myth of a Christian Religion. But the one work that completely changed my life was the Myth of a Christian Nation, which laid out so beautifully, at least to me, the love that you spoke of displayed on Calvary.

    Changed. My. Life.

    My dad died last year. I know it’s not the same as losing a child, but it is a loss, and I found, much as you did, that the God I NOW know much better was with me through it all; grieving with me, comforting me, and even celebrating with me when my heart finally began to recover and move forward.

    I applaud your courage to share, and your conviction to help change lives, sister.

    On a more earthly note: excellent job with your presentation, too! You are a gifted communicator, as Greg said.

    • Thank you, Mike, for taking a moment to share your feedback. Your encouragement is greatly appreciated – I just love hearing from folks impacted by this beautiful message of a beautiful God! Thank you also for inspiring me with the image of Christ grieving with you, comforting you, and rejoicing in your healing process. God bless you, brother 🙂

  • Chris Akande

    Hello Jess, thank you so much for sharing your testimony at Wooland Hill on Sunday, my wife and I are ‘podrishoners’ and just got to watch the video of your testimony. We cried, we laughed, we cried some more, and we praised Jesus for you and your story. We pray that as you continue to share your story with the world, more and more people will get to hear and see that God is like Jesus, and that His heart for us all is Love beyond measure. Thanks again for sharing; my wife and I totally agree with Greg, you really are an excellent communicator.

    • Oh Chris, thank you to you and your wife for watching and for sending this incredible, uplifting encouragement. I couldn’t be more in agreement with your prayers for more and more folks to hear about this Jesus-looking God. I’m tremendously touched, humbled, and thankful to continue to “meet” fellow podrishioners who share this passion. God bless you guys!

  • Janet Solle

    All the past writings have come into action in my heart and mind, as well as the time before Henry jumped into Jesus’ lap. Two of my childhood friends suddenly lost their son in a boating accident, Joshua Griffin, 28, in Florida. Jeff and Dani, are VERY strong Christians, and are surrounded with friends and love, and know it is NOT their loving God that took their son. My neighbor’s son, died after just a few days illness, they had a 2 hour visitation. There were friends from work and the church (he was 32, lived at home, really nice kid),. If you get a chance, see if you can find that memorial page for Joshua Griffin. It is truly beautiful. Much like the testimony you and Ian brought us, Dani and Jeff are giving through Joshua’s death. I love the title of your talk, It sums up what you are doing, as well as Jeff (Dani, short for Danielle, is holding on I hear, bless her) TRIUMPH BY TESTIMONY! ONLY, by the grace of God, have you remained so faithful to us, Jess, sharing what you have learned, in a way that penetrates deep enough to be able to understand a different perspective on pain and suffering, even death. Sorry to be so verbose, but with two deaths in one week, it was invaluable to have been armed, and I needed to thank you.

    • My heart breaks for your losses and I’m thankful you would turn here to share. I take comfort in your knowledge of His great love and desire to bring life, healing, and hope. My prayers surround you, your childhood friends, and your neighbors tonight…

  • shari Pilaria

    Thank you Jessica – I am a Podrishiner for Woodland Hills in Kauai. Loved your testimony from the front lines of the battlefield. I hope you are encouraged to share more in the future, in the beautiful way that you do it. You are truely annointed by God.

    • Thank you for that kind encouragement, Shari! I feel a special bond to other podritioners 🙂 I will continue to share as the Lord prompts and am so deeply thankful for folks like you who are journeying with me!

  • Godblessthenewfamily

    Hi Jessica-My small group told me about your beautiful sermon you have last Sunday. I have gone to Woodland Hills for about 8 years now. I have to say recently I have been doing more podcasts due to living further from the church location. I watched your sermon today online and was so moved by your story and inspiration. I currently have a 3 and a 1/2 year old and she tests me every minute of everyday. Many times I pray in my head “Lord give me strength!” Your message brought my mind back to that of enjoy the little challenges she gives me and be thankful for everyday good or bad. Also, being a parent in this world today I feel so driven to attempt to control her world and keep her safe and happy. Even though your imagery of letting Henry go with Jesus up the escalator to heaven is a more immediate and painful goodbye, I learned that I need to let him help guide my daughter through her path here on earth and trust in him and not feel like I HAVE to control her world to protect her. Because he is the ultimate protector and guide.

    • Thank you for sharing this. Realizing how finite my control actually is has been oddly freeing and revitalizing to my parenting style with my 3-year-old daughter. I’m thankful you were touched by the message and so grateful you took a moment to encourage me. God bless you!

  • Mel Rochelle

    Thank you for sharing your story through Woodland Hills. My husband and I are also podrishioners of WH, living in Spain, and we were really touched and encouraged by your testimony. We have also struggled these last years through the same transition from the “blueprint” worldview to a Christ-centered one, and it has affected every aspect of our lives.

    A few years before I moved here my younger brother was in a nearly fatal car crash and despite the fact that he survived, the experience nearly destroyed my faith because I had been raised with that blueprint picture and I blamed God. You talk in your message about how life’s trials can be “compounded” if we have the wrong view of God – and how true that was for me! I fell completely away from God and before I knew it I had totally destroyed my whole life. Praise God that he never gave up on me though. He pursued me and rescued me from my twisted view of him and gave me a second chance at life with Him.

    It was around this time of my reconciliation to God that we found Greg’s ministry online by “chance” and WH (and The Meeting House as well) has been a huge spiritual support for us, helping us explore our faith and grow into a deeper understanding of how to know God through Jesus Christ and the testimony of his ENTIRE life, not just his words.

    Your story really encouraged me and I hope that you will keep telling it because the church desperately needs to see the pure undefiled light of God’s love as shone through Jesus. It is the only thing that can purge the spiritual cancer and lies that are such an epidemic right now, which prevent people from seeing God’s true and loving nature, prevent them from trusting him, and from coming to him.

    What you went through breaks my heart, and I want you to know that our prayers are with you and your family. Thank you for your courage in standing up and sharing your story. I pray that God will bless you and strengthen you and use you to share his light and love with many, many others! God Bless!

    • I could not agree more with everything you wrote! Thank you so much for taking the time to write and share your story. It’s an honor to hear from you and I’m deeply encouraged by your feedback and prayers. Blessings Mel!

  • Stephen Cardoza

    God bless you. 🙂 Our hope is hidden in Jesus 😀

    • God bless you, Stephen. I’m so thankful you can smile and take in all of God’s love now!

  • Sherry Holland

    Hi Jess- You do not know me, but so many in our church, including myself, have been lifting and continue to lift you and your family up in prayer. Our hearts have been broken as we have ‘watched’ you endure. Just this morning I thought of you as I was listening to Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss. Her guest speaker today was Joni Earckson Tada. I am sure you are familiar with her. She is no stranger to suffering to be sure. I’d like to share it with you. Her topic, as you can imagine, was ‘suffering’ and our future joy. It was such an encouragement to me and I pray it might encourage you today as well.

    In Christ-

    • Hi Sherry! Yes, I know of you through Heather and it’s
      so wonderful to hear from you! Thanks for taking the time to reach out and encourage me. It’s always so amazing to hear that I’m still
      being prayed for. Those prayers are always welcome!

      I listened to the link you provided and was so touched by multiple things. Joni Eareckson Tada was one of my childhood heroes
      and continues to be a woman I greatly admire. When she described herself, a quadriplegic with breast cancer, singing through tears in the back of a van about the indescribable beauty of heaven, I was
      so broken and inspired. In the same way, when she described a soul’s exodus from the body to meet our Creator, I was
      swept up in her anticipated joy. She paints an incredible picture of the supernatural realm and her images are a treasure.

      Yet while I am thankful for much that she has to offer, I ultimately embrace a different view on God’s role in suffering. She describes her paralysis and cancer as “fiery trials” given by God to help her mature spiritually. She explains that her gracious response to
      these trials is what expands God’s glory. I won’t question Joni’s perception of the ultimate source of her specific health impairments (though I likely would have drawn different conclusions), but I will say that at the very least, this explanation can’t be applied universally. For instance, in Henry’s case, he could not spiritually mature from his brain cancer, as he lost his life so young. I suppose some would say I should accept this as a fiery trial for my own spiritual maturity, yet wouldn’t that mean that God cares more about my spiritual growth (or expanding his glory by my gracious response) than the life of a child? With this view, how could I ever trust God or be passionate about him?

      Also, Joni seems to equate God’s sovereignty with the belief that God maintains meticulous control over everything. Yet if we look at the mightiest kings in history, sovereign over their kingdoms, we see that they don’t have meticulous control of every detail that transpires. Meticulous control is not necessary for effective leadership. Meticulous control does not require wisdom, only power.

      I think that the most biblically accurate view of God’s sovereignty, his ruling authority, is his power being manifested through creative, wise, and Calvary-like love. God is reconciling all things to himself as he battles against a very real adversary and battles consequences of free choices made by free agents. This view of sovereignty is more in-line with the Jesus of the gospels, who we know was the direct manifestation of God’s own essence. We never see Jesus refusing to heal the sick because God was sovereign over their disabilities. Jesus instead rebuked those illnesses just as he rebuked demons, and he brought healing. He battled against disease; he didn’t inflict it for his glory.

      These thoughts are offered in love and I’m sincerely grateful you shared the above link with me. In full agreement, Joni, I look forward to the day when there will be no more suffering, no more tears, and an unimaginably joyful eternity!

      Thank you again for the prayers, the encouragement, and your kindness. I hope you “visit” often! 🙂

      • Sherry Holland

        Thanks, Jess- I will pray and ponder over what you have shared with me. There is NOTHING easy when it comes to suffering. Nothing. It is not easily understood or endured.

        ‘Suffering” plays over and over and over in my mind often these days. Not just because I feel like it is likely coming hard and fast for the American Church or because I am constantly reading about the suffering of our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world (which is often so horrific that I can barely stand to read), but because I also recall and continue to process my mother’s suffering as well. She passed of colon cancer seven years ago. She was ill on and off for nearly five years and endured much. I was honored to care for her personally during this time. Her passing was somewhat traumatic (the actual passing) and while I was prepared for her to go home I was not fully prepared for what I saw. Yet, I can say that I do know my Lord more deeply because of it. Thankfully, she grew ever close to Him as well. He refined us both to be sure. (Another thing we endured? Those Christians who would insist that our loved ones would have lived if we had had more faith! THAT was difficult to tolerate.)

        I cannot imagine the road you have traveled. We expect to lose our parents. We do not expect to lose our children. We have watched your progress from afar and will continue to pray for all of you especially as the holidays draw near. Henry was a beautiful child and I just get goosebumps when you describe how most assuredly Christ was with him along the way!? WOW! Surely his ‘holidays’ will be far more spectacular than ours! 🙂

        Much Love, S

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