I think I start every Testimony Tuesday post with “You are in for a treat today!” It’s really true, as all of the testimonies shared have been a display of the work of God in one’s life in such an amazing way.
Today, you are, again, in for a treat from God’s hand!
We met Anthony & Kelly (& Sean & Kyle) a few years back when they started attending the church we were attending. We were instantly friends. They are so much fun to be around! We met Sheldon also while we were at that church because he lived at the Children’s Home across from the church. We had the privilege of seeing the transformation of their family first-hand and prayed time and time again for their walk with Christ through this adventure.
I will never forget when The Incardona family came to prayer walk with us in Countryside. It was right after we moved here and they came to visit. Sheldon prayed as we walked and we were all moved. He thanked God for the chance to be where he was in life because he grew up in a setting like Countryside. To see him now praying for a community like the one he came from was a true blessing from God.
I hope you enjoy the story of the Incardona family and see the awesome work He has done to transform their family. I can’t wait to see what else He has in store for them because it is gonna be great!
The Word Of God Speaks
tes·ti·mo·ny:(noun) A declaration by a witness under oath…
He calls me His ambassador and minister for His ministry…. (2Cor5:17-20)
He reminds me that my worth was proclaimed long before I was… (Ps139:13-16)
And even though I am a creature of many faults, He is the Creator of perfect restoration… (Ps23:3)
Humbled in Christ, He summons me to boldly approach His throne… (Heb4:16)
I struggled for some time in finding God’s leading on how to share a word of testimony in a setting such as this. The invitation to share an entry came several weeks ago, and while I was excited with the idea of publicly praising God for all He has done, I had no immediate clue as to what I was to write. How hard could it be, I thought? How hard could it be to tell everyone about my Saviour? About what my King has done for me? When I consider the many times He has acted on my behalf and blessed me with grace? But as my scheduled postdate drew near, I found myself further and further away from connecting with God’s leading. And Then…. It happened… God “is” faithful.
While I know the word “was” would be more appropriate when narrating a story of past tense, the word “is” is more accurate when recounting a story of my amazing God. Because He just “is”. Just as He proclaims Himself as “I AM THAT I AM” (Ex3:14); and declares that there is no one else besides Him (Duet4:39); and that He is the first and the last and the only True God (Isa44:6).
He is a constant, not an intermittent, or an occasional, but a constant… a constant force of love and faithfulness!
Now while God “is” always faithful, I am often not. For my sin nature and flesh continually trips me up and clouds my eyes like wearing a welder’s mask in a dark room, or looking through a cluster of cataracts. This is not to diminish the beautiful truth that my sin debt has been completely wiped clean by the Precious Blood of Christ (1John1:7),(Rev1:5), (Eph2:13), and forever removed to be remembered no more (Ps103:12). Nor is it meant to minimize what my Saviour did for me on the Cross (1Tim2:5-6),(Eph5:1-2),(1Cor15:55-57). It is merely to acknowledge that just because there are times when I may not think that God “is” faithful; it is not because He is not. Just because my line of sight to Him may sometimes become obscured, His great love never is. I believe that there are times when His pause or delayed timing in providing us revelation allows us to more fully appreciate and comprehend His glory once it is revealed.
And so God has led me to share with you one of the most intimate moments that He has ever blessed me with. A time when He literally spoke to me… and when I say “to me” I really mean “in me”… in me out loud. A moment when He hushed all the wailings of my doubt and flooded my inner most parts with His beautiful presence and comfort. Like a warm chill, He suddenly overtook all that overwhelmed me from the inside out… minimizing all the fears and anxieties that seemed to hold me captive… He reduced them to a powerless pile of broken chain links that could no longer bind. Paralyzing concerns and doubts were immediately transformed into a puny afterthought that was no longer worthy of mention.
The only physical experience that I can equate to feeling like being in “God’s presence” to is this…
It’s like that feeling you had as a small child when taking a long drive with your family, lying in the back seat in a crumpled ball. No worries, no concerns, all was well, rolled up in your blanket with Mom and Dad well within arm’s reach. And then right at that moment of conscious twilight, the precursor to slipping away into a deep, deep sleep; it happens. The car moving at a cruising speed, suddenly but at the same time gradually rises and then drops as you float over a dip in the road. And as quickly as the mini-rollercoaster-like sensation calmly shakes you with exhilaration, it is passed. As a child I remember wanting to figure out how I could recreate that feeling of unexpected joy that seemed impossible to put in a box or summon to entertain me at will.
Somehow in a funny way, experiencing the powerful joy of the passing presence of God Almighty Himself feels just like those childhood memories of being tucked away safely in the back seat of my tiny little universe. At times they may seem too brief or far apart in occurrence, but they are more than sufficient to overthrow the darkest shadows of doubt or storms of discontent. And though there are times when this world may seem to relentlessly wage war against the strongholds of my peace, these simple glimpses of Grace snap the enemy’s arrows while still in flight.
I know that was probably the oddest way to describe what it is to experience God’s presence, but you see it is simply indescribable. I have no adequate reference point to describe how it feels to be near Him. He is completely and overwhelmingly powerful but at the same time peaceful, without either attributes diminishing the fullness of the other. When someone says “I can’t describe it”, it’s simply because you can’t. All the words known to man, in all the languages spoken throughout the all world, collectively, and in their totality, cannot compose a description containing the complete fullness of who He is or what it is to experience His manifestation. Yet at the same time, incredibly, His fullness can be described by one simple word, “LOVE” (1 John 4:16).
And so here is my feeble attempt to share with you one of those powerful moments when God spoke into my heart to transform my world and reshape destiny to submit to His will…
Some years ago, the Lord began molding my family in ways I could have never dreamed possible. It all seemed to start at the beginning of 2010, when the Lord had led us to a new Church to serve and worship Him. We had loved our prior Church, and truly felt that God had blessed us there with learning what it meant to be part of a Church Family. Leaving was hard, but we knew He was leading us “to” something and not away from something. I had come to know the Lord Jesus Christ as my Savior some years earlier, and God grew me to minister in my home and share my love for the Gospel with my family. The Lord taught me to be patient and to wait on His timing as all this was new for us. Not that the idea of Church was new, but the idea of loving God with all our heart and all our soul and all our strength was new (Matt22:37). I was so excited back then, but at the same time I proved to be a bit much for my poor wife to take it all in at once. I was on fire for the Lord and at times it overwhelmed her as this new man seemed more like a preacher than a husband to her. But the Lord was good and quenched the stress that was building between us. He brought about a peace in our home and slowly but surely He matched our cadence to walk together with Jesus. His marching orders for me were clear; I was to love my wife as I had never loved her before. Now that I knew what true love was, as He had displayed it on the Cross, I was to love my wife with that same sense of selflessness and grace (Eph5:25).
And then it happened, on Feb25, 2010, at 6:25PM on a Thursday evening; I received the best phone call of my life. My wife, Kelly had gone to meet with our soon to be new Pastor. Her voice was filled with the sounds of tears as she crackled through receiver, “I just want you to know, that I gave my heart to Jesus Christ tonight”. My prayers were answered, as the Lord captured Kelly’s heart and transformed my marriage to be centered in Christ. After that long awaited night, things just seemed to happen so fast. Three months later on May 30, 2010; my youngest son Sean responded to the Gospel and accepted Christ as his Lord and Saviour. One week after that on June 6th, Kyle asked us to go to pray with him at the alter where he asked Jesus to be his Lord and Saviour.
Glory to God!
Saved by grace, through faith in Christ, led by the Holy Spirit and convicted by God’s Word, my family was saved!
Our eternities were forever altered and our course was now charted in a new direction as Christ fully reigned in our home. Just as God had led us to Nazareth Community Church as our new place of worship, he had also begun to lead us to have a heart of compassion for the Children’s Home that was right across the street from it. It was there that God would introduce us to a long haired, droopy pants, troubled teen, with a troubled past. In God’s orchestrated wisdom, He was setting the stage for the next incredible transformation to our home. It all started with a phone call from one of the case managers who had an application we had filled out a few months earlier to be able to serve in a function with some of the kids. At the time there were enough volunteers for the event so our application was never processed, but somehow months later it landed on this man’s desk. He told us about a “Visiting Resource” program and asked if we would be interested in meeting one of the boys. So we did, not really knowing what God had planned but trusting in His leading, the relationship began. I still remember how awkward it felt the first time we met Sheldon, and how none of us knew what to say. Yeah it was weird!
As things progressed, short visits on campus became longer visits off campus. Off campus visits turn into full day visits. Days turned into over nights, which were getting ready to turn into weekend stay overs. We never really set an agenda or limit on where this was going. We just trusted God to steer the ship. We were often asked by staff, as to what our intentions were and we would tell them that we would see where God would lead us. Many of them didn’t understand.
As those first few months progressed, my wife and I poured out our hearts to God in prayer for guidance and direction. You see, although God had blessed us with an opportunity to serve Him as a family and we did not know what to do. We were nervous because as with any big decision involving our kids there would always be the concern for their safety and angst for getting things right. And as with anytime I step out in faith to serve my Savior, there is the question of if my motives are centered to truly glorify Him or place myself on a pedestal for praise. So often though, I find that when answers for guidance are needed most, I am doing most of the talking during prayer time (as if He can’t fully understand my needs without my help).
The praise in all this is that through times of anxiousness, our God demonstrates His great love and might by drawing us nearer to Him for council. It is here where our relationship is strengthened and we are given a glimpse of His perfect will for those who know Him. His answers always seem to come just in time, because even though I would have liked it quicker the patience of the Lord proves best (as His timing always is). In this case I was struggling over a “should I…” and a “is this truly God’s will for us” question. When knowing that my family is at the center of the decision making, the choices made are always difficult. The main fears that haunted me back then were the looming questions of:
“Will my boys be safe?”… “What if blahh blahh blahhh happens?”… or, How will I handle x,y,z???
The fear of moving forward was overwhelming though when I thought of all the “What ifs?”, and neatly cataloged all the worst possible outcomes in order to sort through them on a daily basis. Not really knowing much about Sheldon’s past or the full scope of his background made it hard to not think about the “What ifs?”. My prayers would often end in tears as I would play out all the horrible scenarios that could possibly unfold. How could I ever ask my child to forgive me if I failed to keep them safe in their own home? You see God was calling us to open our home and our hearts to someone new, to someone we really did not know. He was calling to learn to love in a way that we never knew we could. I remember calling out to God one morning with tears in my eye, as I had done for weeks now pleading: “Please Lord, keep my boys safe.” “Let me know if this is truly Your will.” “Keep my boys safe.”… And then The Lord spoke:
“Remember who you are serving”
In 5 simple words, God answered all the questions that I had hurled at Him over and over again. That little voice that sounded faint and far off silenced all the noise and calmed all the fears as it echoed:
“I am here”… “You are mine”…
“I am God, the maker of heaven and earth”.
What an awesome God He is! Now God did not tell me that everything would be perfect, nor guarantee me that no one would ever get hurt. He did not sit me down and show me the master plan or explain how it would all work out. He simply reminded me of Who I was serving. God. The Maker of heaven and earth. God!
And just as Jesus said “Be Still” and the waves obeyed; God’s voice calmed the storm of all my doubts and fears before He even finished His sentence. The amazing thing is how those 5 simple little words strung together by the voice of God could be so powerful. Maybe even more amazing though is how a year later, God would lead me to a verse in His Holy Word that I had never read before, that would reaffirm His Will for our family:
“For there stood by me this night an angel of the God whose I am, whom also I serve“ (Act 27:23)
The words of Paul boldly proclaimed on a storm battered ship, one faithful night long, long ago seemed to leap off the page and pierce my skin to collide with the memories reverberating in my soul from that faithful morning not so long ago. You see… God speaks to us today exact the same way that He spoke to the Apostles over 2000 years ago.
For He is the same today, as He was then, as He will be tomorrow (Heb13:8)
And lastly, maybe even more amazing than all of this, is how nearly 2 years after the first pleading of “God, Keep my boys safe”, He truly answered my prayers by making sure ALL my boys would be eternally “SAFE”. You see, on July 22, 2012 our son Sheldon came to the foot of the Cross and accepted Christ as his Lord and Saviour, and was born again and forever transformed into a new creation to walk in newness of life.(Rom6:4)
Glory to God!
“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2Cor5:17)