Today, a year ago, I accepted Jesus as my savior. It was the most freeing experience and I have been blessed in so many ways since that day. Life hasn’t been easier, though. In fact, I’d dare say it’s been harder than I can ever remember it being.
There was the extensive confession time I had with God (so many years of some pretty horrible sins), the decline in relationships, the emotional turmoil of trying to do what is right but not quite getting it, the growth of stronger morals that clash with society, the changes in goals, the criticism from others, and list could go on.
However, it has also been the most peaceful year I have known, despite the hardships. I know, that every time I go to prayer when I am struggling, I am given comfort and a place to rest. I have a safe place to go to. I can also find joy through Christ in the midst of pain and struggles.
I want to share a bit about my morning a year ago. It was my 3rd or 4th time going back to the church that I had found just doing a search for “churches in my area” on google about 4 or 5 weeks prior to this particular Sunday morning. My husband had to work that day so it was just the kids and I. At that point it was just the 4 kids…our 5th was born 3 weeks later. So, extremely pregnant lady, 4 kids aged 7-1.5, and packing my tissues because every other week I had bawled my eyes out, so I had learned to come prepared at least! I wasn’t expecting anything new to happen. I just knew I really enjoyed the music, the kind people and the messages the pastor had to share.
It came time for the pastor to present his message and the passage. That Sunday it was Acts 16:16-32, and as he was expounding on the message and lesson in this passage I found myself thinking of one of my dear sister-in-laws. The message in these verses spoke of Paul and Silas, thrown in prison (yet again), stripped, whipped and facing, what they thought, was imminent death. As they sat there, chained in a filthy prison, dealing with the thought of death, they began to sing praises to God. I mean…who does that?! Someone who can see the good in God, no matter what their circumstances. This is when the thought of my sister in law came to me. She has always shown such love and meekness through everything. Her faith and her love in Christ is inescapable! I used to get annoyed by it. (The old me) I used to think, “how can she be so dang sweet and kind ALL the time?!”
As the pastor spoke more I felt myself realizing, THAT’s what I want! I want what she has! I want what Paul and Silas had! I’m so tired of trying to do life on my own and feeling like I have no hope. That I am beyond saving. I’ve done too much and have walked too far away from my walk with God for him to EVER accept me back. But, OH how I wish I could have that! So, I did exactly what the prison guard asked Paul. I went forward, fell on my face before God, I wept, I poured out everything in my heart at the altar and I asked, “what must I do to be saved?”
I felt a kind hand on my shoulder as I sat there weeping and the kind woman, who has now become one of my dearest and closest friends, asking me if I wanted to go talk. A piece of me wanted to shrug it off and feel embarrassed for showing so much in front of so many people, but again I felt my sister in law and the Spirit guiding me to accept the invitation. So we talked and she dispelled so many fears and lies that I had forced myself to believe. She showed me the written truth, that I AM forgiven and that the price for all of my sins had been paid…I only had to accept the gift of Jesus’ sacrifice. It sounded like a “it’s too good to be true” discussion. Like a, “ok….that sounds easy enough, but what’s the catch?? Where’s the fine print?” No fine print, no catch, no trap, no hidden membership fees. It had already been done….can’t change that fact. All I had to do was believe and accept him into my heart.
I grew up in church. I believed in God. I believed He made the heavens and the Earth. I didn’t believe we evolved out of some fish or monkey. I believed that Jesus was the son of God and that he died on a cross and rose again. I believed the stories. I mean, I believe that we went to the moon. I believe that the Aztecs once lived. I believe people built the pyramids. So why not believe this story? I just saw it as a piece of history. What I didn’t believe/accept, was the immensity of what happened and why it happened. It’s one thing to hear something and accept it as fact, it’s a whole other thing to take it in and have it live within you. To have it shake the very foundation of your soul and for it to change who you are.
I don’t remember what I prayed that day. I don’t remember everything that was said or exactly what my friend shared with me from the bible. I DO remember the feeling of being able to breath at last! The feeling of a huge weight being lifted off of my chest! Like literally….it was a real feeling of weight being gone and my lungs grew twice their size. It was amazing! I also remember the excitement and complete joy! I couldn’t wait to get home and to call my sister in law so I could share it with her! For my husband to get home that night so I could share the news, because I didn’t want to do it over the phone with him. (Talk about a long wait!) I had found JOY in the worst of times and I just wanted to praise God and his greatness. The goodness that He had placed in my sister in law so she could be a testament to his redeeming love. For God placing me in a family who prayed for me endlessly, that I may one day join in this wondrous gift of Christ’s love. The goodness that he had shown me for so long and still wanted me to be with him despite me turning my back on him all those years. The goodness that He led me back to church, to THIS church and the people there who helped me feel welcome and cared for, despite knowing so little about me or my family. The simple fact that God was, is and will forever be GOOD!
Tags: Beleive, Chains, Christ, Earthquake, Faithful, Family, forgiveness, Foundation, freedom, Glory, God, History, Jesus, Love, new, Old, peace, Praise, Prison, Salvation, saved, Singing, Thankful, Truth
And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying: The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation. And this did she many days, But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour.
And when her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone, they caught Paul and Silas, and drew them into the marketplace unto the rulers, And brought them to the magistrates, saying, These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city, And teach customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans. And the multitude rose up together against them: and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them. And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailer to keep them safely. Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks.
And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed. And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled. But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here.
Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house.
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