My husband and I had been married for four years. Up until this point, our marriage was by no stretch of the imagination happy, pleasant, good, solid, or thriving. We had recently had our second child in hopes that this bundle of joy would rekindle the love that was missing. Little did we know what awaited us in the days to come.
I was saved at the age of seven, but had definitely not lived my life in accordance with the will of God. There were many times I strayed from the path He set before me, thinking my way was better than His. Like the prodigal son, I ended up in the middle of the muck, mire, and filth of a life guided by its own selfish desires.
During all of this my husband and I met. Our relationship was not one founded on God's love, but rather on a desire to fill a need that had left both of our souls empty and longing for more. After dating for a year, we married and within our first year of marriage we welcomed our first daughter into our home. This baby girl was definitely God's gift to us because she was the glue that held our marriage together for years.
As time passed by, we grew further and further apart. He filed for divorce. I wasn't up to fighting the issue any longer. It was over. Per direction of the Christian attorney who drew up our divorce papers, we sought out Christian counseling to give our marriage one last shot. We went. It helped, but only for a season.
Two thousand and two would end up being a milestone year for us. We got pregnant with our second child, Will. He was born October of that year. In November my mother-in-law invited me to a women's conference at her church. During all my years of walking away from God, I was desperate for something and so I agreed to go. As the conference leader spoke, the hardness surrounding my heart began softening as I heard the voice of God calling out to me. I felt His presence that weekend for the first time in a very, very long time. It was as if I could see my Savior standing before me with His arms wide open, calling me to come home. In tears, I made a beeline straight to the throne of grace. My Jehovah-Rapha, the God who heals, began healing my wounded heart and promised me that night He WAS going to heal my marriage.
I began fervently praying for the Lord to change my heart, for my husband's salvation, and for our marriage to be restored. I prayed and I waited for God to work. A few weeks went by and I began witnessing miracle after miracle. My husband agreed to start going to church with me. Miracle number 1. We sat together under the teaching of the lady who lead the conference I attended. Miracle number 2. God used this women in our lives in so many ways. Because I had joined this particular church, I was invited to attend the new members class and hubs again agreed to go with me. Miracle number 3. The day we were to right out our testimonies, hubs was unable to do this because he had no personal relationship with the Lord. After church that day, I talked with the associate pastor who was leading the new members class. He had seen that hubs was unable to right out his testimony. This was my shot, so I invited he and his wife over for dinner. They could come the next day or wait until after the first of the year. The next day was great for me; I knew God was working and couldn't' wait any longer. Miracle number 4.
Hubs, knowing the "preacher" was coming to dinner, prepared all day the questions he would ask. We enjoyed a nice dinner, although it was a little tense because hubs had his defenses up. After dinner and bedtime for the kiddos came the much anticipated conversation. For hours those two men went back and forth. Hubs would ask, pastor would answer. Around midnight, pastor finally said, "What else ya got? What's stopping you from letting go and following the Lord?" We all sat there in silence for what seemed like an eternity waiting for hubs to respond, not to pastor, but to the Lord. Finally, hubs held his head up, looked straight into my eyes, and said, "Nothing is stopping me. I've done all I can and nothing has worked. I need God in my life." Miracle number 5. Tears flowed from our eyes as we knelt down beside our kitchen table on December 16, 2002, hubs praying for God to save his soul and heal our marriage. Miracle number 6.
A few weeks later we were baptized together, me having re-dedicated my life to the Lord, hubs having received Christ as his personal Lord and Savior. Miracle number 7. My husband told our pastor before the baptism that this had been the best Christmas in his life. And, I would agree.
Christmas 2002 was the best Christmas of my life. The baby Jesus who had been born so many years ago, the man Jesus who climbed Mt. Calvary and hung upon the cross for all my many sins, the man Jesus who was laid in a tomb that would be unable to quench the power of God Almighty- this man, this Jesus, resurrected two souls that were dead, He resurrected a marriage that was dead, He breathed new life into our very beings, and He filled our hearts full of love for God and for each other. Christmas 2002 will forever be a memorial in the life of our family. To God be the glory, for the things He has done!
To read more favorite holiday memories, visit Alicia at Confessions of a Snowflake.
What a beautiful picture of what Christmas is truly about- giving to others.
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son, that whosoever
believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
Psalm 23, continued
“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;”
Psalm 23:5a, NKJV
The summer mountain ranges or tables were often difficult to reach because they were remote flat lands atop large mountains. The shepherd who wanted the best grazing land for his precious flock let nothing get in the way of his trek up the mountain; whether it was a large boulder or a jagged rock, the shepherd would press on through to those lands that would be best suited for his sheep.
While the snow still covered the land, the shepherd would make his way up the mountain surveying the land, prepping it for his flock. He would carefully examine the land, getting rid of any poisonous plants that might be growing there. He would also survey the watering holes, making sure they were free of debris that would hinder his sheep from having an adequate water supply. The shepherd was preparing the tablelands for his flock so that they could enjoy the richness of the food that grew there.
Even as he lead his flock up the mountain to the tablelands, the shepherd kept careful watch for poisonous weeds that might have made their way back up through the lush grasses or wild animals that might be lurking close by in hopes of pouncing on one of his wandering sheep. It is only the compassionate, vigilant care of the shepherd that would keep his sheep out of harm’s way.
The Good Shepherd has prepared a table for His flock full of the richness of the blessings of God. For us to reach that table though, it will require a trek up the mountain. There will be weeds along the way; things, people, maybe even other paths that will divert our attention away from the Shepherd who is leading us. But friends, our Shepherd has already trekked up the mountain before us; He knows what is waiting there and has already provided us a way out. He has experienced everything we will ever go through. Because Christ left His home is the heavenlies and became fully man, He has experienced sufferings; He has endured great struggles and felt great loss; He knows what it is to be tempted and taunted by the enemy. And, because of this knowledge of man, He understands and identifies with completely. The Good Shepherd has a kind of care and compassion for those belonging to His flock that you and I can never fully come to comprehend. When we struggle, we are not alone; when we experience loss, He grieves with us; when we are tempted, He will provide for us a way out.
We can be sure that He has prepared the way before us in the presence of the one who desires to defeat us. How can we be sure of this? Read what Jesus said Himself in John 10:10, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” He goes on to say, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. But a hireling, he who is not a shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep. I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep (John 10:11-16, NKJV).” We can be sure He has prepared the way before us because He laid down His own life in our stead.
Dear ones, the Good Shepherd trekked up the Mount of Calvary in order to prepare a way for you and me. He hung on the cross on top of that mountain in the very presence of His enemies in your place and in mine. After He had suffered beyond anything our feeble minds can grasp, the Good Shepherd breathed His last breath. He was buried in the borrowed tomb of a wealthy man named Joseph. But, the grave could not hold Him in. On that glorious third day He arose defeating death and the grave.
Christ made a way. He prepared the way for you and me to enjoy intimate fellowship with God Almighty atop the mountain of His holy hill. Not only has the Good Shepherd prepared the way for us in the here and now, but He is right now, preparing for us eternal blessings that are to come.
“In my Father's house are many rooms;if it were not so, I would have told you.I am going there to prepare a place for you.And if I go and prepare a place for you,I will come back and take you to be with me that
you also may be where I am.”John 14:2-3, NIV
“Then the King will say to those on his right,'Come, you who are blessed by my Father;take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you
since the creation of the world.”Matthew 25:34, NIV
“Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamedto be called their God,for he has prepared a city for them.”Hebrews 11:16, NIV
I would so love to hear how the Lord has spoken to you through this Psalm. I'm not smart enough yet to figure out My. Linky, so please leave me a comment letting me know how the Good Shepherd has worked in heart in regards to Psalm 23. If you would like to, we would love for you to post on your blog Psalm 23. I love you all so much! You are a joy to my heart!
“Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”
Psalm 23:4b, NKJV
The rod and the staff are two very important instruments for the shepherd. One will be used to defend the shepherd and his sheep; it will be a symbol of the shepherd’s strength, power, and authority; and extension of his own person. The other will be a picture of the shepherds’ concern and compassion for his sheep; this will be the shepherd’s instrument of comfort.
In order to defend his flock of sheep, a shepherd would crave from a piece of wood a club or a rod. This rod would be whittled down until it fit the exact size of the shepherd himself. The rod would be a an extension of the shepherd’s right arm. It symbolized his strength, power, and authority. A shepherd would use his rod in a dangerous situation to protect himself and his flock. Not only was the rod an instrument of defense, it was also an instrument of correction and discipline for the wandering sheep.
For us, the human sheep, our Shepherd’s rod is the spoken Word of God recorded in the pages of Scripture. God’s Word is an extension of His strength, power, and authority. In our day and age there are many outlandish philosophies being taught which leads to total confusion and chaos in the minds and hearts of people. There is great comfort for the child of God in turning to the Word of God and seeing plainly the Shepherd’s hand of authority. There is much comfort in having the authoritative Word of God to go to for direction and instruction; and that is what the Psalmist David meant when he said, “Your rod…comfort(s) me.” It the midst of a world turned upside down in turmoil and chaos, found within the rod of the Good Shepherd, there is comfort.
Not only does the rod, God’s Word, comfort the flock, it also disciplines. It is God’s Word that comes quickly to the heart of the believer when he has gone astray, bringing correction and reproof. It is God’s Word that disciplines, brings under control, and sets the wayward sheep on the right path. It is by God’s Word, through God’s Word, and because of God’s Word that we are kept under control by Jesus Christ who desires for us to walk in His paths of righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
A shepherd’s staff is his identification to the fact that he is a shepherd. There is no other profession that carries with it the shepherd’s staff. This staff is designed especially to meet the needs of the sheep. A shepherd’s staff represents his care, concern, and compassion for his sheep.
The Shepherd’s rod represents the Word of God, while the Shepherd’s staff represents to us the Spirit of God. In Christ’s dealing with his flock, there is a sense of the gentleness, the comfort and solace, and the tender correction brought about by the gracious work of the Holy Spirit.
Just as the staff is pivotal in directing a flock, so too, is the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers. The Holy Spirit comforts believers by bringing us together to experience personal fellowship and encouragement with one another. In our walk with the Lord, it is the Holy Spirit whom Christ sent to guide us and to lead us into all truth (John 16:13). The Holy Spirit takes the Word of God and gives us understanding to its meaning for our lives. It is the Holy Spirit who leads us to walk in the way of righteousness and holiness. It is the Holy Spirit who makes Christ real within the life of the believer.
Friends, the Christian life is not about religion. The Christian life is about experiencing, firsthand the touch of the Good Shepherd. It is about sensing His Spirit rest upon your weary, troubled soul. The Christian life is an intimate relationship with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. For the flock belonging to the Good Shepherd, there is a calm, quiet rest in knowing He is there to direct every minute of one’s life. It is His rod and His staff that bring comfort to the hearts, minds, and souls and His sheep.
Precious Father, show me the path that You would have me to walk in this day. Lead me in Your way so that You are glorified by my actions today. Guide my hands, my feet, my speech, and my heart. May everything I do and say honor You. I want to experiecnce Your joy today.
"1 It is good to praise the LORD and make music to
your name, O Most High,"
Psalm 92:1, NIV
I've been in desperate need lately of God's wisdom and understanding. There have been a number of decisions to be made in regards to my family and God's calling on my life. There have also been those life challenges that arise every day that have lead me to seek more earnestly and with great purpose after God's wisdom and knowledge. There is absolutely NO better place to receive His wisdom and knowledge than by digging into the Word. I have sought counsel from godly mentors, but my ultimate source of understanding of God's will for my life and guidance in decisions that have needed to be made has come solely from His Word.
Today in my time with the Lord, He lead me to a beautiful passage in Colossians chapter 1 that reiterated to me the importance of His knowledge, wisdom, and understanding.
"9) For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do
not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge
of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; 10) that you may walk
worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and
increasing in the knowledge of God;"Colossians 1:9-10, NKJV
Knowledge is the Greek word epignosis which means recognition, full discernment, acknowledgement. This is not a knowing like you would know of something or someone, rather it is a knowing that carries with it much depth and results only when one invests much time and effort into the relationship. It is a deep, intimate, personal knowledge. With God, it is a knowledge that only results from much time and energy spent delving into His Word. A purposeful pursuit of God's knowledge will lead to both "wisdom" (the ability to gather and organize principles from His Word) and "understanding" (application of the principles found in God's Word into of daily lives).
Why is it important for us to pursue the knowledge of God which leads to wisdom and understanding? We are to pursue this knowledge of God so that we are able to walk worthy of the Lord and so that we are being fruitful in every good work to which we have been called to. The spiritual fruit we produce is a by-product of a life lived according to the righteousness of Christ Himself. Spiritual fruit is produced in many different shapes, sizes, and flavors: leading others to Christ (1 Corinthians 16:15), praising God (Hebrew 13:15), living a godly life (Hebrews 12:11), and displaying a Godly attitude (Galatians 5:22-23), just to name a few.
Spiritual fruit is produced because one has experienced spiritual growth. But, spiritual growth will not occur apart from the increasing knowledge of God. Just as there are evidences of spiritual fruit, there are also evidences of spiritual growth: a deeper love and appreciation for God's Word (Psalm 119:97), a more immediate and complete obedience to His commands (1 John 2:3-5), a strong doctrinal foundation based upon God's Word (1 John 2:12-14), a growing and active faith (2 Thessalonians 1:3), and a deeper love for others (Philippians 1:9).
I so much want His knowledge and understanding. I want to make wise decisions in regards to how to be the best helpmate for my husband and how to raise godly children who love the Lord with all their hearts. I want to understand God's perfect plan for my life. I want to know Him in ways I've never known Him before. None of my desires will be met if I am not spending time delving into His Word. I've had to readjust my schedule lately to make sure that I am giving God my best time and not my leftovers. Friends, we MUST make time to dig into His Word if we are to walk worthy of the Lord.
"I am Your sevant; give me understanding, that I may know
Your testimonies."Psalm 119: 125, NKJV
Psalm 23, continued
* Pray. Ask God to give you an open heart and mind to learn new truths from His Word. Read Psalm 23 through three times. Record any thoughts or questions you have in your journal. If a verse stands out to you, write it on an index card and begin committing it to memory.
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.”
Psalm 23:4a, NKJV
During the summer a shepherd will begin driving his flock to the “summer range”, by way of the valley. It here that they will spend the next few months steadily climbing to the tops of hills and mountains so that they are able to enjoy the rich pastures found on the mountaintops. The valleys the flock will travel through can be dark and dangerous, but in order to receive the prize of the lush, sweet grass the shepherd must drive his flock through these valleys.
So it is in the life of the believer. We all want to enjoy those mountaintops experiences with God, we all want to go to that next level in our relationship with the Lord, we all want that very deep and intimate relationship with Him, but in order to get there, there will be valleys that we must cross through. Our valleys may be cold, dark, and extremely difficult to get through, but my friends, going through those valleys deepens are relationship with the Lord and prepares us for the ministries He has called us to.
My marriage went through a horrible valley of dishonesty, anger, bitterness, lack of trust, hate and malice. For several years my husband and I pitched our tents in this valley. Our marriage was knocking on the door of death, but our God drove us beyond that valley so that we could experience His victory and will for our lives. Because we chose to continue walking, today we are able to share with others our victory over the valley of death.
My friends, it was at the top of the mountain where Yahweh provided a ram for Abraham to sacrifice in place of his beloved son (Genesis 4); it was at the top of the mountain that Moses encountered the Lord (Exodus 3); it is at the top of the mountain where the LORD’S house will be established (Micah 4:1); and it was on the top of Mt. Calvary where our Savior was crucified for our sins (Luke 23:33). None of these individuals reached the top of their mountains except by way of the valley. Yes, the valley may hold the shadow of death, but we are not to fear, nor are we to lie down and die. We are to walk on through into the Promised Land that He has waiting for us on the top of the mountain.
Maybe you are in a valley today; sweet one, know that your valley experience will lead you to His throne of grace. Keep walking through.
This is the day the Lord has made;we will rejoice and be glad in it.Psalm 118:24, NKJV
Whether or not the candidate you voted for to become the 44th president of the United States of America won or lost last night, as believers in Jesus Christ, we ALL can rejoice in this new day. Why? Because our God is the same God today that He was yesterday and He will be the same God tomorrow, and then the next day and then the next. Not only is He still God, He is God over ALL things and has ALL things in His hands.
"Oh clap your hands, all you peoples!Shout to God with the voice of triumph!For the LORD Most High is awesome;He is a great King over all the earth.For God is the King of all the earth;Sing praises with understanding."Psalm 47:1,2, & 7, NKJV
As I sat last night with my eyes fixated on the news realizing what the outcome of the election was going to be I couldn't help but ask myself this question: what are we as Christians going to do now? Are we going to continue to hold prayer vigils in our churches and neighborhoods? Are we going to encourage the people of our churches to continue fasting and praying for our nation? Are we going to set aside certain days when we come together in corporate prayer for our nation and its leaders? I've been excited to see, hear of and be apart of these prayer events leading up to the election, but are they going to continue? Are we, as evangelical Christians, going to continue to stand in support of the issues we've held to in this election process? Are we going to hold firmly to our convictions and trust that God is in control?
My friends, WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO NOW?
I firmly believe we have just been issued a wake up call. It's time for us to flesh out what has been said from the pulpits, prayer vigils, Sunday School classes, support rallies and the like over the past several months. The church, my friends, must move outside the fours walls of it's meeting place and engage its community for Christ.
It's time for us take off our judgemental classes that too often look down on the homosexual couple and see to the heart of a person who is in desperate need of Jesus. It's time for us to literally embrace the person and love them with the love of Jesus.
It's time for us to not just say we are Pro Life, but to prove it. How can we do this? First, we need to be doing a better job instilling in our young girls and young men that their self worth isn't found in any form of sexual activity but rather their worth is found in the work Christ did on the cross for them. Don't just tell your kids to love God and serve Him; show them how. Our kids must see us fleshing out our relationship with Christ. You and I have huge responsibilities as parents and as leaders in our churches to influence the next generation for Christ.
For those young girls and young men who do find themselves in a situation they believe can only be taken care of by choosing abortion, we need to love them, first, and then offer to them options other than abortion- that option being opening up our homes to provide their babies a family who will love them and care for them their entire lives. We also need to provide Godly counsel for these young girls and young men because they are making decisions that will affect them for the rest of their lives. Let's show the world that we are pro-life by being pro-home and opening up our homes to the little ones who are in need.
It's time for us to use our own personal resources to help those who are in desperate need of the basic necessities of life. Within miles of my home there is a lady who lives with her 15 year old son in a house that is in horrible condition. The house is full of mold; they have no heat; in the bathroom there is a flashlight mounted above the mirror to provide a little light while they shower. There is one bed for them both to sleep in and little food for them to eat. This is just one family out of many who are in desperate need of help financially, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. We claim to love Jesus. Are we going to show our love for Him by serving others and meeting their needs?
Friends, what are we going to do? My prayer is that we would fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, stand firm on the Rock of all ages, place our hope in Him, and boldly proclaim the Good News of the Cross that saves.
May God bless the United States of America and my God bless those whom He has called to take forth His light.
I received my ballot from another very nice voter helper and waited in line for my turn to cast my vote. I asked if I could take a few pictures to share, but they would not let me take any pictures inside the building. Sorry! :( I colored in the little bubbles for the candidates I was voting for, put my ballot in the vote counting machine, got my "I Voted" sticker and was on my way. The whole process took only about twenty minutes. Thank You Jesus!
Today is a monumental day in the life of the United States of America. No matter what the outcome, I'm sure this election will be recorded in history books for several different reasons. There are MANY opinions about who should be the next president and we won't know that answer for hours. BUT, my friends, God already knows. We may elect government leaders today who will sit in the many offices that make up our democracy, but it is ultimately Yahweh, God Almighty, who is in control and holds all things in His hands. May we place all our hope in God and in Him alone.
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