Monthly Archives: February 2012

I’m re-reading “Forgotten God” by Francis Chan and I’m stuck in the introduction:

“From my perspective, the Holy Spirit is tragically neglected and, for all practical purposes, forgotten. While no evangelical would deny His existence, I’m willing to bet there are millions of churchgoers across America who cannot confidently say they have experienced His presence or action in their lives over the past year. And many of them do not believe they can.”

What’s the difference between a pregnant woman and a light bulb?

At the risk of gaining your attention at the expense of your respect, can I explain myself before I give the punchline? The bible teaches us to avoid foolish talk and coarse joking and I believe that we should. It also teaches us to “have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.” I have a ton of context to give you as we unpack the matters at hand today, among them, my own past, experiences, and most importantly the truth that stops me and should stop us all dead in our tracks as we journey down these paths.

Nicholas Cage describes a powerful toxin to one of his CIA superiors in the movie “The Rock”: “…it’s very terrible, Sir. It’s something we wish we could disinvent.” So, here’s your punchline: You can’t unscrew a light bulb. There are things in this life, like hitting “publish” on this blog post, like inventing a super-poison, like crossing over the line of virginity and into “sexually active (or, activated)” that just cannot be undone. No matter how hard I scrub, there’s nothing but time, the blood of Christ, and the renewing of my mind (Romans 12.2) that can erase the many pornographic images that were etched on the canvas of my imagination from the time I was first exposed to it at age 8 or 9.

I cannot “unsleep” with the dozens of lovers I’ve had in my life any more than

Here’s some background in case you’ve not been paying attention:
I grew up in a small enough town that just about everyone knew everyone else’s business. Yet, I was taught to be sexually experimental by two other boys in my neighborhood before I was even in my teens. This led to a prolonged period of sexual promiscuity, a decades long addiction to pornography, and sexual identity issues up to the threshold of my thirties.

Monday Morning Momentum Minute

“…do not say to yourself, ‘The Lord has brought me here to take possession of this land because of my righteousness.’ No, it is on account of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is going to drive them out before you. It is not because of your righteousness or your integrity… but on account of the wickedness of these nations… Understand, then, that it is not because of your righteousness that the Lord your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stiff necked people. (Deut. 9.4-6 NIV)”

Ouch! That Doesn’t Just Hurt My Neck.

     “Stiff necked?” That doesn’t sound very “Jesus with long, flowing hair, holding a little lamb and playing with children” warm and fuzzy… I thought God was love and He loved me enough to send Jesus to die for me. Now, He’s calling His chosen people “stiff necked”?

     It means “stubborn” and, yes, Israel was being stubborn. You and I are often stubborn. Often, we take more credit for things that God does through us than we ought to. God makes it very clear not only in the Old Testament, but also in the New, that He has a plan and is set out on reconciling the lost to Him, wiping out wickedness not because of the righteousness of those He is pursuing, but because of His own righteousness. God… is… Holy. Without Christ’s substitutionary death (and resurrection), we’re not. Not holy. Ouch, is right. (Read on, this isn’t a permanent stiff neck…)

     Even after we become Christians (justification & salvation), we’re still not perfect. We have a new identity in Christ, but we’re not fully mature and glorified. Be encouraged. Despite our best efforts, God will accomplish what He has planned. The wicked will be punished eternally through separation from God. We who are considered “righteous by faith” will even forfeit some eternal rewards for our own wickedness. God is still sovereign. You are adopted into His family not by your own merit, but by His righteousness (see also, Eph. 2.8)

“So then, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence, but now even more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose. (Phil 2.12-13, HCSB)”

Let’s Loosen That Neck
       God is on track, pursuing an oft stubborn, off track and proud traitor race. This is not a license to do whatever we want – it is freedom from the condemnation the enemy of God would crush us with when we do falter. The great news is – God is sovereign regardless of our shortcomings and He is at work in us, giving us both the strength and the desire to do His work (see previous verse). 

Benediction:

     Today, may you keep a healthy perspective that you and I are not the reason why things work out well when they do. Yet, you and I are not hopeless when things don’t work out. You and I are not the solution to every problem, no matter how talented or in the zone we are. God Himself is the only one worthy of the name “I Am”, making us worthy of the name “I am not” (HT: Louie Giglio). I would only add “I Am Not, and That’s Okay” to the name-tag.

     May the great “I Am” strengthen you in confidence when you are in doubt, not because you are all-that-and-a-bag-of-chips, but because He is already and always on track with His perfect plan. May He encourage you throughout your day when the Accuser comes calling to tell you that you’re stiff necked and that’s all you’ll ever be. May you be in your circumstances, but not defined by your circumstances.

in Christ,

AP

Monday Morning Momentum Minute

Never got into drugs when I was younger and “could have”. While I never purposely got high, I did catch a “contact high” a couple of times from snorting contact lenses. I mean, from walking into the wrong room at a party.

Which brings us to today’s question:
If you can get “contact high” from getting too close to people smoking weed, is it possible to get “contact stupid” from getting to close to people who do foolish things? You know you’ve thought it… The bible teaches “bad company corrupts good character” and “he who walks with the wise grows wise, but the companion of fools suffers harm”. As another friend of mine once summarized – “you become the average of the 5 people you hang around most”. Anyone want to move to another state all of a sudden?

Walking in Your Footsteps?

My son, Jezreel, walking in my sneakers.
Who’s walking in your footsteps? Watch
your step…

     This week, Jesse Whitfield is opening a discussion for men who dare show up at ONETH1NG, about “Battle Scars”. As these unique men carry on the next installment of a discussion series called “The War Within”, light has been shined on the fact that this is a weak point in a man’s armor and he dare not let his guard down in that area. As guys have opened up, many of us have come to grips with the ugly truth about porn – most guys have a past, a past they’d like to see stay exactly there. More sobering, regardless of the fact that we are new creations in Christ, as the Metallica song goes “the memory remains”.

     Many of the men have walked away from these discussions wildly encouraged by the power realized in them through the Holy Spirit and deeply edified by the knowledge that not only has “no temptation seized [them] but that which is common to man”, but also that God provides a “way out” and “battle buddies” who can help them to win every skirmish and ambush they face. Great news – this week, Jesse will talk about what to do with the pernicious memories that remain and maintaining moral purity at the core of a pornified culture that baits us to the edge. But, is this the end or just a means to an end?

     Wives’ note: you want your husband to be here. You need him to be here for the sake of his victory in this battle, your marriage’s longevity, and your sacred honor. Shy of that, you’re wise to
encourage him to stay in close, regular contact with guys who can lock arms with him and watch his back and blind spot.

     “Practical life application” is a major buzzword among churches and Christians who strive to be “relevant”. This discussion has been, by that definition, very relevant. But, one of the dangers that necessarily creeps in when that brand of Christianity stays “in the zone” for too long is an overemphasis on personal performance, rather than a focus on the sufficiency of Christ. That is, too much time spent on what the Christian does at the expense of what the Christ has done. Worse, when it stops at “my behavior” instead of “testimony of God’s work in my life to and for others” it falls far short of the reason Christ suffered and died for us all.

     As the setup goes for this week’s ONETH1NG: “What is at stake when we allow our past to creep into our present/future?” Further – who’s future is at stake? What is the impact of porn being so “normalized” in our culture on the next generation? Who is God discipling through your obedience?

     I hope you get a chance to join our discussion or join in at ONE TH1NG or with Seasons of Life as we walk with men and women just like you to “realign lives with the Way, the Truth, and the Life of Jesus Christ.”

in Him,

AP

Monday Morning Momentum Minute

Why?
     Every week, I hope God squeezes some truth out of my fingertips and onto our blog that may encourage you. Often, He has given me the dubious honor of telling you about landmines in the road by pointing to the limbs I’ve blown off as a living mine-sweeper. Here’s a lesson that cost me an arm and a leg in a very figurative sense. I hope you don’t step in the same spot now.
 -AP


The End of Superman
     Last year, I believe God Himself brought me to a low point. Through a season of conflict in our home, confusion in our marriage, near-crisis in ministry, and crushing exhaustion, He made me keenly aware of my own weaknesses and limitations. I looked at my wife one afternoon, actual tears streaming down my face as I grieved the loss of a favorite illusion.
     “What’s wrong?” she asked.
     I pushed four, feeble words out of my mouth: “I’m not Superman anymore…”
     I fought God for years, on this, but had finally begun the process of submitting to Him “one last stronghold” in my life – busyness. I’d heard the Mary/Martha parable for years and reacted the same way every time – “that’s a great story, Jesus.” and walked away from it each time thinking “but, that’s a story for women. It’s not about me.” I’d even preached it to other men… Ironic, isn’t it?
     Oops. Only last year did I realize how narrow was the gap between “busy” and “burnout”.
Desperate for a Word
     Only in that low, exhausted, “feeling like butter that’s been spread over too much bread” time could I become so starkly aware of the fact that I was running on my own steam, my own agenda, and allowing the noisy world to drown out the clear and present voice of my Lord. I recall crying out to him for relief many times over a period of weeks only to run into the same wall again only days later with what seemed like no reply from the Spirit. “I’ve gotta hear from you, Lord.” became the preamble to my every prayer.
    Early one November morning, reading through Psalm 33:16-22 (roll over for reference HT: reftagger) came a reply from the Word and, I believe, a Word from the Lord.
   For some reason I paused at this like a flashing red light – looking both ways to see what was coming – and I swear, I heard the Lord say a bunch of thingsanswering question’s I’d laid out in prayer for the preceding weeks, capped off by three words: “Respond. Rely. Rest”
  1. Are you in a season where you’re so busy doing so many things, putting out so many fires, that the majority of what you do falls in the bucket of “react”? “Respond” carries a far more calculated and prudent meaning with it than “react”, wouldn’t you agree? Are you, somewhere, trying to save yourself by a large army or great strength, when a more calculated, wisdom-based approach could yield smarter, compounded results?
  2. My friend Steve’s favorite question to ask headstrong, overachieving men is: “who ya’ depending on?”  So, “who are you relying on, right now?” If your answer now, like mine then, is anything other than an immediate, resounding “God”, God is your co-pilot, when He’s offered to be your pilot. Switch seats. Rely. Really.
  3. Watching the movie “Grace Card” the other night, I was dumb-struck by a scene where a doctor tells a father he can’t donate his kidney to save his son’s life because he has hypertension. I thought of how badly I’ve treated my own body with lack of rest and a “sleep when you’re dead” mentality, not considering how heart-broken I’d be if a doctor told me I was ineligible to save my own son’s life because I’d abused my own body into some one of those self-inflicted “old people” diseases. Are you stuck in the performance track with no discernible periods of regular rest? Who is standing in your shadow right now that would be impacted by your demise, even if you were “merely sidelined temporarily”?
Be Encouraged:
     You’re not the first idiot to fall into the undesirable place you may be at. You’re not even the first smart, seasoned person to fall for it, either. God’s eye is on you, but you’ve got to fear Him, depend on His faithful love, and position yourself for delivery by waiting on Him, not relying on you, your strength, or false hope in your horse or large army. None of this is based on how long you’ve been following Jesus or how convoluted and confusing your current circumstance. It’s all based on the simplicity of hope in God.
Exhale.

Jeremy Lin, Platform Shoes, and Seeing as God Sees

It’s Gotta Be the Shoes!
     While Tim Tebow prays for a better “next year” for the Denver Broncos, it would appear that God has passed the off-season torch to someone else in the world of professional sports: Jeremy Lin. Lin is a rising star on the New York Knicks’ basketball roster and a household word on ESPN. However, hearing his name mentioned on John Piper’s blog yesterday made me think – “maybe we’ll get cable again and start watching the Knicks”. Of course, immediately after, a better idea buzzed into my brain – “No, we’ll just keep doing what God has called us to do and not be distracted.” (Plus, I’m a Celtics fan, and legally prohibited for cheering for any NY team or player. Note to my dear Jersey-raised wife: I love you, dear, but please!!!)

Know Your Platform…

     It’s great to see men of great intellect (that kid’s wicked smaaht, he went ta Haavid…) and powerful athletic ability (136 pts in his first 5 games. What.) living life on God’s purpose and for God’s glory. It’s especially great when they understand the value of their platform. This is also true for you and I… No, not the Harvard thing or the more points than Shaq part. The “platform” part.

     So, lemme ask you a question – do you even know your platform? Platform, defined, is “a horizontal surface or structure with a horizontal surface raised above the level of the surrounding area.” Extended to the Christian life, it means the place that God has elevated you or I to, which allows others to see His work in our life and realize His glory. It’s the place that you work,
play, or have any kind of influence that allows you the visibility and opportunity to point to Jesus. Tebow understands football is his platform to share the gospel and point the glory back to God. Lin, apparently sees basketball as his platform.

 

According to Piper
     Yesterday, Desiring God posted about Lin-sanity and how Jeremy recently quoted one of Piper’s books “Don’t Waste Your Life”:

“God created us to live with a single passion to joyfully display his supreme excellence in all the spheres of life.” John Piper – via Jeremy Lin 

Lin later goes on to say that the happiness he gets from basketball is only temporary – his treasure is truly in Christ and in Heaven. Basketball isn’t his everything, it’s just a platform to point to his Everything.
 
     Cardinals ball player Albert Pujols writes on his foundation’s website:

“Baseball is simply my platform to elevate Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior. I would also rather be known as a great husband and father than an All-Star baseball player. Perhaps one day I could be honored with an invitation into Baseball’s Hall of Fame. That would certainly be a boyhood dream of mine come true, but it is a far greater honor that one day I will be in heaven with God to enjoy Him forever.” (HT: Jesse Whitfield)

     So, what? So, these guys are famous and they’re pointing to Jesus, what does that have to do with me? I’m glad I mockingly made you ask that. You and I are famous. No, really. Somewhere in some circle, whether it’s Facebook, our neighborhood, the 2nd floor of the admin building we work in, or just the five cubes in the corner of our office, somebody knows our name. And, they either know Jesus or they don’t. God has given us a platform – a place where we can be seen either to point at ourselves or at Jesus. The question is, where are we pointing and for what reason?
 
See Ephesians 6.11-17 for
“the armor of God”
Your Shoes, Not Theirs.
     It’s easy to get caught up in the comparison game: “well, he’s a famous ball player…” “she’s a great musician” or “I’m just an H/R guy” etc. But, if we’re going to be great at the fundamental blocking and tackling of the Christian life, we’ve got to start with the top and the bottom – the helmet of salvation and the gospel sandals of peace. What other people do, have, and where they’re placed does not need to be a distraction to us doing what we’re supposed to do in the place God has called and placed us.

     In one famous “armor of God” section of Ephesians (Eph. 6:11-17), is a phrase sometimes rendered as “feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace…” When we (Cristine and I) pray this portion of scripture we often pray it in such a way that sounds like “God, help us to have the courage to speak up (witness to others) when the opportunity pops up”. In other words, “help us use the platform You have given us for Your glory in Your timing“. 

 
For Those About to Rock…
     Many of us would exchange anything to be a Pujols, a Tebow, or a Lin. But, regardless of our station in life, we’re called to embrace what God has given us. There’s a big difference between “wearing” something and “rocking” it. Wearing something is a have to. Rocking it implies an attitude of “holy cockiness”, that is boasting in Christ. It honors God when we pray – “help me wear and walk in my ‘platform’ shoes, with an attitude of thankfulness that I’ve got shoes at all.”
 
Get in the Game:
     Have you identified your platform? Are you using it for God’s glory? Will you stay miles away from the comparison game by letting Jeremy Lin be Jeremy Lin, Tim Tebow be Tim Tebow, and you be you – uniquely created and placed where you are by God to bring the gospel to believer and unbeliever alike as God directs?

     Put your platform shoes on. Don’t just wear them, rock ’em like you just sank a 3 pointer with .5 seconds left in the game for Team Jesus. And, as a special reminder, put on your Love Glasses – so you can see people as God sees them! (HT: Beckah Shae)

Monday Morning Momentum Minute

“Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. (1 Pet. 5.7)”

     Yeah, right.

     Ever think that? Ever been in one of those moments where the hammer is about to drop on your life, your job, your deal, your carefully orchestrated plans and all you can think of is how “this is just not going my way”, or better, a four letter word or ten cross your mind or lips? When I’m in the middle of an anxious moment – everything’s falling apart, the deal is unraveling because the CFO’s got a buddy who’ll do it cheaper, the finance company’s moved from phone calls to foreclosure/repossession – I’ve had friends email me or text me or even tell me “cast your anxiety on Him…”

     Being in the moment, the hardest thing to think of is anything other than the moment. Last week, in discussion with a group of men the question was raised “How can a man take his own kids into his home, whack them in the neck with a hatchet, fire off an email, and then burn down the house, killing himself and everyone in it?” I thought about the story of Josh Powell and immediately could only think of another, nearly unrelated story that happened 5 years ago – when my younger brother pointed a .380 at his own chest and pulled the trigger on a Monday morning in January.

     The answer to the question came swiftly “That guy would have to believe that this was his best or only exit from the situation he was in.” In conversation with my brother even a week or two after he tried to take his own life it was clear that he was weighed down by the anxiety that comes from believing a lot of lies (over a long period of time) about what’s possible, what’s probable, and what the most “viable” outcome of his situation (pre-gunshot) would be. Josh Powell had to believe that his best option was murdering his own kids and taking himself out in the process. But, both my brother and Powell were at the far end of a very dark tunnel that neither of them had to go to.

     Today, consider this – if you are “in Christ”, you have a very large target on your back, just like me. You have an enemy who comes to steal, kill, and destroy. He will lie to you every chance he gets and he has no friends, only “servants”. He will plant seeds of deception in your life and do everything he can to keep your focus on what’s now, what’s not possible, and a very limited menu of viable outcomes. However, you also have an ally: the living Christ, whose Spirit lives in you to confirm truth and comfort you in your fears.

     It’s trite to say “this too, shall pass”. Though it be banal, its cliche cannot take away its truth. Time will pass, this situation may leave marks and scars. But, it cannot last forever. Jesus never wanted us to ignore our troubles or trials, rather to grieve our losses, seek His comfort, and “let endurance have its perfect result so that [we] may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” As my friend Greg Ford says – “I wrote it on the inside windshield of my truck – trials are necessary.”

     My prayer for you this morning is that if you’re in a “limited menu” moment, you will heed any or all of what scripture says regarding anxiety. Don’t minimize the moment or the fear, rather press in to God with your concerns and pray He helps you unravel the lies before they begin to grow like kudzu, strangling your hope.

    “If you hold to my teachings, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. (John 8.32).”

I bid you peace, but peace in freedom.

in Christ,

AP

Mine’s Bigger!

Size Matters:
Tim Challies, we won’t hold Canada against him.
Make his blog a regular read.

     I really enjoyed reading Tim Challies’ post today (actually, yesterday, 02.09.2012, but I’m post-dating this post so I can get ahead of schedule on our blog) about the silly questions pastors ask each other at conferences. They’re not at all unlike the questions we “church folk” ask each othser when we get together. Let me start by asking you the question he centers in on in his post:

“How many people go to your church?”

    Now, before you get all huffy I want you to know I, too, ask it and I, too, understand the good motive that is (sometimes) behind it. It goes something like this: “if they know a lot of people go to our church, surely they’ll want to come and see what all the buzz is about and surely that will help attendance go up and surely if God has greater numbers to work with He can do greater things for His
kingdom.” Simply stated – if it’s a “who’s got a bigger church” game, and our church comes out as the bigger, it’s better for God’s kingdom, because God really needs our church’s help in building His kingdom. WHAT?!

     Have you ever found yourself walking down that road of “Kingdom-minded reasoning”? I have. I ain’t too proud to admit it. But, Challies helps us put a finer point on where we need to be going in these conversations. First, cut it out. Second, (and I’m not only paraphrasing, but adding my own spin to it) the farther away we get from including an actual number in our answer, the closer we are to letting God speak for Himself through the work He is doing in and through the people in our church. As Mark Driscoll phrases it “it’s less like a biography and more like a testimony”.

     Take a look at Tim’s post at http://www.challies.com/articles/asking-better-questions#more. Consider the ideas he includes in his “asking better questions” section toward the end. Aren’t these far better questions to ask anybody, regardless of where the conversation was going before the “who’s got a bigger church” question came out? In discipleship, we’ve always tried to stick to the basic three questions – “What’s God showing you in His word this week? Where has God been undeniably showing up in your life? and What are you struggling with/how can I pray for you?”

You Got Some Better Questions, Blogboy?
    These are the kinds of questions that can move people forward in their faith. These are the kinds of questions that keep a man (in particular, but women can get stuck here, too) from hiding out in “news-sports-weather”. Here are a few of Challies’ suggestions modified for your next discipleship/small group/date night conversation:

  • How have you seen the Lord working in the lives of the people in our church/in your care?
  • What evidences of the Lord’s grace are you currently experiencing?
  • What are you excited about in your/our church right now?
  • Who are you excited about in your/our church/small group/family right now?
  • What has the Lord been teaching you?
  • Who have you been discipling recently?
Trick Question:

     As I read Revelation 2, the Lord issues several scathing rebukes to the 7 churches of the 1st century. He also gives some praises and promises great rewards to those who overcome. Read it and ask yourself – “are any of these churches praised for their great numbers or rebuked for not having enough people in them?” Okay, you didn’t even have to read the chapter to answer that, right?

     Anyone can fill a building with people who like hip music, drop their jaws at clever use of technology, and want their ears tickled by whatever makes them feel good. (see 2 Tim. 4.3) But, it takes a special “nobody” to stand out of God’s way and point others to the testimony of what God is doing in His church rather than to fall for the old hook in the cheek that pulls us into the limelight of prideful biography. It takes a special “nobody” to ask the penetrating questions in small group and one on one settings to force those like me who are ever susceptible to complacency to “examine themselves”, confront their own sin, repent and receive from Jesus. PRAY that we can be that kind of nobody. Pray that more people are raised up in that anointing.

     Should we really be impressed by mere numbers? If not, why do we so easily gravitate to that line of conversation and how quickly can we get away from it? What can we do, as individual members of the body of Christ and as churches to reach beyond quantity and into quality? What will you do?

AP

More from Cristine

     This past year, the Lord met us in (or directed us into) some dark places. The term “dark night of the soul” became not only a phrase we understood more empirically, but an everyday, household word that brought our own, human weakness into the foreground and had us on our knees regularly in upward reverence. One thing became clear – God was supreme author of this season. A byproduct of this time we spent in the crucible is that His exposition of the pain in our past would clearly be used to minister to others on the other side of the night.

     Cristine asked me to look this story over before sharing it on the blog, but I don’t have much to add or subtract. I hope if you have experienced pain, loss, abortion, grief, or other similar tribulation, that His story of how He loves us and the grace He can and does pour out on us meets you, comforts you, and lifts you up to know more than just a shadow of the Almighty who calls us to be His own. – AP

Cristine’s story (or, more of it than you had before):
      As some of you know, I had an abortion when I was 22-yrs-old.  I was not a believer in Christ, so my decisions were based on my fleshly fear & selfish self will.  Years later, I believe the Lord showed me that this baby was a boy. I also felt impressed by the Lord to name him (posthumously) “Jack”. (I also highly recommend seeking the Lord to name your aborted child in order to bring greater completeness to the grieving process).

     I often pray to God that He will open the Heavens every now & then to allow Jack to see me so that I can tell him how much I love him. As I write this, I do believe I have received full forgiveness from Jack as well as the Lord from this grave sin against both of them as well as myself and the many others who would have been impacted by Jack’s life here on earth. Now I just want Jack to know that I love him, that I think of him often & that I can’t wait to see him when I get to Heaven.

     Over two years ago, I became pregnant with our twins. As only one with multiples can imagine, my mind was blown in the natural about the fact that I was carrying two babies. But, in the
supernatural, it was also blown because I couldn’t imagine that my Heavenly Father would double my blessings in that way after having this abortion back in 2000.  And really… it was a triple blessing since He had already gave to me Presleigh 8 yrs after having the abortion! 

Coincidence? Probably not.
    Aarron and I have always put great thought and prayer into naming our children. It took us going through the 5,000 Baby Names book, the 10,000 Baby Names book, and an even bigger one before we came up with (and agreed on) a name for Presleigh. We had already agreed on a name for our daughter “Jovi”, which means “joy”, but hadn’t come up with a boy name. One day in November, we were driving to our counselor’s office the day after already finding out they would be boy/girl twins, when the Lord downloaded to me the name “Jezreel”.  So, I was thinking… “I wonder what the meaning of ‘Jezreel’ means.” Both within 15 minutes and before I could tell Aarron, he turned to me & said “I wonder what the name ‘Jezreel’ means?”

     WOW! Say what you want about coincidence, but that’s not a very common name. It’s also not one that either of us had read about recently in our devotional time.  Wow. I mean, I hadn’t yet had a chance to tell my husband what name just popped into my head the moment before… & here Aarron got the same confirmation from the Lord at the same time! We were amazed, to say the least- as well as VERY anxious to find out what that name meant.

What’s in a Name?
   Now, it just happened to be that our counselor had a Biblical name book at her office. So, once we arrived & told her what happened while on the way to her office, she immediately grabbed that book in order for us to find out! The meaning showed up in Matthew 13 where the Bible says “the Son of Man sows seed”, and “Jezreel” comes from the Hebrew meaning “the Lord sows/plants”.  Now, there is another place in Hosea 1:11

“The people of Judah and the people of Israel will be reunited, and they will appoint one leader and will come up out of the land, for great will be the day of Jezreel.”

     In that verse it is believed to be that the “scattered seed- known as the people of Israel- would then be gathered by the Lord”, so great is the day of ‘Jezreel’ (or rather ‘the gathering up of what was once the scattered seed.’)  And, of course, we know that we Christians are referred to as the ingrafted branch of Israel, so applying that Scripture to me meant “that I was once lost but now I am found (and gathered up by the Lord), as well” -very fitting, wouldn’t you say? I mean, the fact that this son that the Lord now blessed me with was to be THE very representation of what My Heavenly Father has done for me in my life was too awesome!

When Does the Other Shoe Fall?
     You also may remember there was a little hiccup during that pregnancy. The perinatal doc was concerned that “Baby A”- aka “Jez” could very likely have a brain problem from some ventricle showing up as congenital abnormality (according to the ultrasound).  I thought… “Yep, here it comes… my punishment for my aborted son Jack.”  I had so much guilt, worry & concern that I brought about this ailment- that my transgressions were now falling upon my unborn child.  So, we prayed, I confessed, repented, wept… we gathered the troops (fellow brothers & sisters in Christ) to pray and PRAY HARD along with us!  (Thank you to those of you who were part of that, btw!)  And we waited & hoped & trusted in God’s Word.  For He says in Psalm 103:12 “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”

     Fast forward to months later we see that during the time of delivery, both babies were not only allowed to be born naturally, but were healthy & whole- Praise God! Abba Father has also allowed Jovi to be the physical proof of the joy the Lord returned to me WHILE ALSO showing me how she was meant to come into this world alongside of her brother Jezreel (“Sower of seeds). He brought me evidence of this in Psalm 126:5-6 “those who SOW in tears will reap with songs of JOY. He who goes out weeping, carrying SEED TO SOW, will return with SONGS OF JOY…” !!!  Jezreel AND Jovi- united in Christ (who is “the Word made flesh”).
     Now, as most of you know, I have the best husband ever. [He’s blushing while he proofreads this…]  While were just dating I made him fully aware of the abortion, so now upon my request of wanting to honor Baby Jack in some way, we both agreed that Jezreel’s middle name would be “Jaxton”.  This is the name Jack whose Hebrew origin is John meaning “The Lord is gracious”.  As Aarron so eloquently puts it: “The name Jack, with an ‘x’ [a cross to symbolize the work of Christ] in the middle and a ‘ton’ [a suffix meaning “town” or “from the town of”] conveys the meaning ‘from the town of John’ or more poetically- “from a place where God’s grace makes His home”.

The Living, Active Word:
     Ok, so with ALL of that said… today my Master Creator showed me something else that showered me with even more revelation of His unfailing love, compassion and kindness to me.

     Sometimes I like to be refreshed & reminded of Jesus’ love, so I was reading in Hosea 2:6-7 about how God had once upon a time blocked my path, walled me in, allowed me chase after other lovers (literally) but not find them (not find the love I needed in them) to then call me back unto Himself; to find my true Love & Husband in My King & My God.  So, there I was falling even more in love with the One who loves me & saved me when BAM! My eyes were yet again enlightened by what I was reading!

     Hosea 2:22 says when we (in that book referring to the people of Israel) return to the Lord God He will cause the earth to respond with “grain, new wine, new oil and they will respond to ‘Jezreel’.”  So, I go to Biblos.com for further understanding on what this may mean.  The first part of that passage is referred to as: to nourish and strengthen; like “wine” to comfort, cheer, and revive; and like “oil” to heal and soften, as well as make glad”.  (Do you see how “Jovi” for “joy” is in this passage yet again?!?!?) Ok… I am seeing this all come together now.  Then the Lord ties it in a beautiful bow for me when I ask?  “So, what about ‘will respond to Jezreel’?”

     Well, the commentary goes on to say: “And they shall hear Jezreel; or ‘answer’; that is, these trees and fruits shall answer to the requests and desires of Jezreel who shall be abundantly blessed with them.” Jezreel is not used here as the name of a place as it is in other verses of Scripture. No, here it seems to mean “the people of Israel just as I wrote about above from the verse in Hosea 1– unworthy in themselves yet shown such favor through the riches of God’s grace He still chose to bestow upon them.” The commentary also translates it as “The great rejoicing with which they shall receive God’s gracious returns towards them”. The end of this chapter goes  on to tell us that “God will show His love… we will be called His people… and there will be no denying the One we call Our God.” (Hosea 2:23 paraphrased by Cristine.)

How Great is Our God?
    “Wow” just doesn’t seem to suffice.  Even after all I have done to You, Father God, mixed with the hurt I have inflicted upon others as well as myself by committing the sin of murder in aborting Jack along with innumerable others wicked deeds- Your grace still allowed me to live, Christ’s blood still covered my sins AND Jesus still calls me friend!  Where can I go from there but forward?  I mean, to know that I will someday see the fulness of my family when I see Jack in Heaven is exactly that hope the Bible speaks of in Romans 5: 5  “hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” And by faith I pray that this testimony continues to defeat the enemy in my life as well as help those reading overcome the accuser just as it says in: Revelation 12:11 “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony”.

-Cristine