Category Archives: encouragement

The Magic Question That Saved My Life

“Carry each others’ burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ…  Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. (Gal. 6:2, 9-10)”

The Mile Long To-Do List:
     Two weeks ago, I had an insurmountable task list in front of me. Major headings included: “Move your entire family of 6 and their belongings from Gainesville house to new rental in Cumming”, “Finish basement in Cumming house”, “work”, and “be husband and father”.

     I neglected to keep “sleep” on the list and allowed my quiet time to run shallow. On top of that, I had one friend I had factored in as a vital helper to make it all come together that suddenly found himself covered up in new leads, quotes, and more work than he’d had in two quarters this year. Opening up drywall at the new basement exposed far more severe water damage than I’d first imagined and added at least two more solid days to my already endless list of things to do before we could really make the “move”.

HALT?
    Remember Charles Stanley’s acronym “HALT – never get too Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired”? Last weekend I’d already put in 60 hours toward the move/remodel and was hungry, angry, lonely, tired, and still had a page and a half of “incompletes”. But, Sunday, we packed all the toddlers in the Man-van and headed off to church anyway.

The Magic Question or “I Said What?
     We ran into a new couple friend of ours on the way back to the van after service. His wife asked mine how we were doing. Cristine replied “great, Godwilling, if we can get through with this move.” She looked at us and said “Can we be of any help?”

     In reality it was only a 2 second pause. But, in my mind, it seemed like all of the boxes and furniture and childrens’ toys and papers and office equipment were swirling around us in a slow-motion whirlwind as I prepared a humble “No, thank you, though.”

     I spoke.

     I pushed those carefully prepared words out of my mouth with what little energy I had left. But, something odd happened. I heard a voice, identical to my own, blurt out a desperate “YES!!!” Where did my “No, thank you” go?! Did I just say “yes”?!

The Result

Before – concrete floor littered with water-
warped wood paneling. New insulation being added.

     God, who is much smarter than me, had cut me off at the pass. Before I really understood the one word answer that had mysteriously jail-broken from my mouth, her husband was hopping out of their Suburban, (which was loaded with over half a dozen kids), and walking back to our van to help us with the move.

     This morning, because of his help and the unexpected help of two others along the week, I am writing this post from the new Seasons of Life Ministries Worldwide Headquarters, a room in a previously water damaged basement which now has been scrubbed for mold, re-insulated, drywalled, and has brand new carpet in it.

After: Drywall, electrical cut-in, with pad and carpet laid.

     Despite my own pride, the question God keeps asking me to preach to others in discipleship made a near miracle happen in our own home: “How can I help?” The Ryan family had that question heavy on their hearts. Shouldn’t we all? In light of what Christ has done for us – saving us from the law of sin and death, freeing us from slavery to those things we do that always bring us regret, forgiving us every time we call on His name – shouldn’t we all just “carry each others’ burdens”? Shouldn’t we all be on the lookout for burden-carrying opportunities?

Benediction
     May you and I, as disciples of Christ, follow the Master’s lead as He nudges the “magic question” out of our lips. May the Lord give us eyes to see and ears to hear those who are heavily laden with burdens and the opportunities where we can help. May we, in this practice, fulfill the law of Christ.

in Christ,

AP

Image of Christ Appears! (Video link included)

Playing “Where’s Waldo” with Jesus…
     But, first, a little teaser… No, this isn’t about a picture of Jesus appearing on a wall in South America or in someone’s latte. Just trust me on this for a moment and read on.

     “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.”
Ephesians 2:6-7, NIV

     Some people get really geeked out on the Old Testament prophecies that foretold the coming of the Messiah. Even more get wide-eyed about the prophetic scriptures that foretell the Apocalypse. Today, I want to talk about a different kind of prophecy – one that will encourage you today, where you are, in which Jesus “appears” in the Old Testament. Understanding this old story gives us an encouraging picture of our current standing “in Christ”.

     Saul, chosen by God as first king over Israel, rebelled against God in disobedience and God rejected him as king. God then chose David (outside Saul’s family) to succeed him. Saul’s son, Jonathan became great friends with David and entered into covenant with him. Then, when Saul and Jonathan died in battle against the Philistines on Mount Gilboa, the nurse who cared for Jonathan’s infant son, Mephibosheth, dropped the infant as she fled for her life, crippling the child. Years later, when David became king:

“David asked, ‘Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?'” (2 Samuel 9:1)


     Subsequent to that request, Mephibosheth, crippled since infancy, had all his grandfather’s lands restored to him and ate at the King’s table daily.

     Whoopee, right?

     Wrong.

     This is one of the coolest images of Christ in the entire Old Testament!!!

Here, in history, we have a picture (or, “type”) of Saul, depicting Satan:

  1. Chosen by God to lead (worship in Satan’s case, Israel in Saul’s)
  2. Rebelling against the Creator
  3. Rejected by the Creator
  4. Replaced by another (David)
  5. His position and possessions passed on to another (Mephibosheth)


Additionally, we have a picture of man in Mephibosheth:

  1. Broken and literally “fallen”
  2. He did nothing to receive the “curse” of being crippled, practically “born that way”.
  3. Unable to “walk with God”, both literally and figuratively, without the help of another.
  4. Descended from the rebel whose fall brought about his own. 
  5. “Raised up and seated with the King…”


We also have a picture of Christ in David (from whose line the Messiah must come):

  1. King and agent of God
  2. Cutting a covenant (by blood) with the son of disobedience.
  3. Powerful enough to track down the descendents of the deposed/defeated king and kill them, yet showing restraint in not doing so.
  4. Showing mercy and kindness where he could have shown judgment
  5. Essentially “adopting” the broken and crippled (sitting at one’s table regularly was a big deal in that time and culture, even more so when it is the table of the king)
  6. Giving man regular and free access to the King.


Find Jesus, Find Grace
     If you’re reading this and you get chills – you understand grace. If you get really geeked out by Ephesians 2:6-7, you understand grace. If you suddenly begin practicing how to say “Mephibosheth” so you can thank God for this story, you understand grace. 

     May you understand what you’ve lost through the fall. May you understand who God is despite the fall. May you grasp the truth about grace: regardless of how you were born and in spite of who you’ve descended from, Christ came to give grace to you. May you eat at the King’s table daily and know you are restored by the King to the place Satan was initially appointed: to lead worship of God forever!

in Christ,

AP

How to Calm the Seas Like Jesus – Cristine’s Story

Are You in This Kind of Storm?

“Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before. (Jonah 1:13, NIV)”


     Jesus calmed the seas by merely speaking to them. Did you know that you and I at times have the power to do the same? Perhaps not by speaking to the storm, but by actions consistent with God’s mission for our lives.

     Even since we were courting, Cristine approached the thought motherhood with great trepidation and insecurity. I’ve always known her capability to be an outstanding mom. But, I’m her husband, it’s hard for her to take my word for it when the soundtrack of doubt in her head is so loud, vivid and familiar. So, between work, projects, and a wide variety of other ventures, she’s done her best to hold the calling of motherhood at arm’s length, even borrowing a few arms to lengthen the distance.

     I’ve tried pretty successfully to remain an objective observer as she’s wrestled with God over His call for her to not only be a mom, but a stay at home and (gasp!) homeschooling mom. As she comments below – “I’m not the academic in the family! You’re [Aarron] always correcting my grammar, punctuation, and spelling and I HATE math! And, God wants me to unleash that on our children?” 

     I’d just shake my head, remind her that if we ever need to put them on a bus and send them to public school, I’ll be there with her to wave and take pictures of their first day(s), and I’ll support her decision. “Don’t drag me into a fight between you and God. If you’re wrestling with Him on this, I’m not getting in the middle of the brawl. I’d rather not have a busted hip like Jacob… mmkay?”

     As she’s played Jonah [I’ve privately nicknamed her “Jonette”] running from God’s call, He has done many things to encourage her forward, trap her in the belly of a fish, and teach her how beautiful and precious she is to Him and how vital her calling to motherhood and homeschooling is. Of all the ways men try to “fix” their wives, God has kept me from forcing His hand and His will and He’s turned out to be far better at “being God” with her in this area. Glory to Him.


     Below, are a few realizations she’s come to with a touch of my own commentary along the way. She’s had great opportunity as God has changed her perspective, to watch others fall and fail at the tasks of motherhood but knows He is leading them, and her, to win at the calling of motherhood. Through these observations and much self reflection and prayer, here’s where she’s landed for now on encouraging those who’ve struggled likewise in their calling, their work, and storms they’ve brought on themselves.

Cristine’s Point of View:
     If we excel at everything under the sun from reaching our educational goals to going after those great careers to mastering sports to exercising until we reach that awesome fit body, etc, etc- but neglect our most important roles as Godly wives & mothers, we lose in this thing called life. It is my belief that if wife and mother do not come first, we will not reach all God has for us here on earth because we have rejected the very gifts He gave us to care for in the first place as HIS number one priority. We become Jonah sleeping through the storm – comfortable, oblivious, and disengaged from fulfilling our calling.

     Can we have it all? Possibly… in time. Is this a salvation thing, an issue of top theological importance? No. Will we still receive reward in Heaven for what we did do for the Lord while here on earth. But, that’s not what this is about. Paul prays for the Ephesian church that they may “become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” While others may think becoming mature in their walk with the Lord means taking classes to learn more about the Bible or attending conferences to learn life application or going to retreats to learn your identity in Christ, etc, (And yes, while all of those things are important & have there place) I contend that the maturation process really doesn’t take off in those places. They’re catalysts, but not the meat and potatoes of the faith walk.

My Boat to Tarshish
     For me, it’s happened in the home. It has happened in suffering, in failing daily & in being put in situations where, had the Lord Himself not shown up, I would not have been able to go on that day. This is where muscles of faith are shredded to grow stronger, where intimacy with Jesus is front & center, where prayer is not a pretty rendition of some memorized Bible passage – rather more of a screaming out to God in anger or just barely being able to whisper the Name Jesus because of mere exhaustion. 
 
     I ran from this type of growth. “One way to Tarshish, please… Below third class with a pillow.”

     I tried to go back out & “work in the ministry full time”, get a part-time job, spend a lot of time out with my girlfriends, the list goes on- ALL in order to be away, (to “run away” is more like it). I was trying to outrun the very thing my Divine Creator designed me for in life! My husband even renamed me “Jonette” after Jonah in the Bible! I was too afraid of letting my husband down, letting my children down & most of all- letting God down! Ever been there?

     Through a series of circumstances that continued to bring me to broken places, humble me & soften my heart toward God & my relationships with others- my Heavenly Father grew me up in Him tremendously. He showed me (& continues to show me) how it’s impossible to “let Him down” if I have accepted His Son Jesus because “He will never leave us nor forsake us”. Then the Spirit did His work in me so I would have the God-confidence to walk out my calling in the first place. 

     So here I am. Pleading with the other “Jonettes” out there… 

     Scripture urges us to “to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God (Titus 2:4-5).” If something you are involved in causes you to 

  • not be an available “helpmeet” to your husband 
  • neglect your children in the areas of nurturing & training them up in the Lord and/or 
  • run from what God called you to 
  • or live counter to Titus 2:4-5

     … then, stop. Pray. Reprioritize. And finally, set on the True North course the Spirit is leading you towards! 

     Nothing the men on deck did could calm the storm God had ordained in Jonah chapter 1. Because on that boat was a man running from God’s call on His life (or at least, a direct order for that specific season of his life!) No amount of good education, time spent with others outside your family, time serving in church/in service projects, etc will EVER replace the important role of protecting our husband’s hearts & shepherding our children in this world! 

     Listen, as a woman who has done it all backwards once upon a time, trust me: there are consequences to not doing things God’s way & in God’s timing. Jonah’s disobedience impacted the sailors, their families’ livelihood, and the economy of the city where that ship was bound. You can lose those very ones the Lord entrusted to your care and make a far reaching negative impact! Been there. Done that. 

    BUT… I have also been given an opportunity now (many an opportunities, actually) through Christ’s redeeming power & in God’s loving kindness to follow the way that is best for me because it’s my Abba Father’s way. His plan will 

  1. ALWAYS work out for our good & 
  2. ALWAYS turn out for His Glory! 

Cristine’s Prayer:
     Ladies, Daughters of the Most High God, Women after God’s own ♥: 
“Let us be good stewards over the souls with which we’ve been entrusted before any other activity or duty beckons our time, strength & giftings. Almighty God, this is Your master plan for us as wives & mothers. Scripture makes it clear. Experiences vouch for that as well. But more than those two things, Daddy, You have shown me and others how to respond in love & thankfulness of heart & obedience because of Your amazing love given to us through Jesus. Bless us and keep us in Your perfect will.

     Father, if all we do is supposed to point back to Your glory, then why do we so easily allow, or even run after distractions that take us away from the very thing that will do just that? Let us then receive the most high calling a woman can be given in this life as wife & mother with the joy that Jesus died to give us, by trusting in the Holy Spirit for the instruction needed for the mission & embracing God’s love for us so we can then shower our husbands & children with that same love!!!”

Amen!

     So, when the seas are raging – don’t apply half measures, alternate routes, and God’s-will-lite to your course of action. Return to what you know God has called you to in the first place, eliminating all other distractions. Calm seas are sure to follow. At least for a time.

God bless and Monday Morning Momentum to you all.

AP

Choosing the Right Road Under Pressure

Ever Felt the Pressure of a Deadline?
     I speak pretty good Spanish… and have forgotten more French than most people know… But, I have a great accent in both languages. The curse in this is that people often approach me and say “say something in Spanish!!!” What you may not know is the pressure that crushes someone put in that position: “Produce greatness at a moment’s notice!!!”

     Sometimes, I feel crushed by that same pressure on a Thursday or Friday while preparing for my Monday post… More often, it’s an even heavier pressure… on… Monday morning. Don’t you just love how the pressure of a deadline forces you to flourish or fold? Can you feel it on your shoulders, in your head, or in the pit of your gut?

Are You A “Muster” or a “Truster”?
     In any situation, we find this fork in the road – Muster Street or Truster Trail… When we muster results – which often… we must… The solution is based on hard work and ultimately comes down to one word: me. Mustering results is about “force”. When we force things, the outcome depends more on strength and wisdom but under pressure creates excess tension & stress. Victory rings hollow because we’ve fought and won… the wrong battle.
     God always desires us to trust in Him and not lean on our own understanding. To be a “truster” overall depends on one word: He.  Trusting God with outcome is about “flow”. Outcomes, which always depend on God anyway, remove great pressure from us.

Back to Jonah, “That Guy”, and You

      Often, I’ll sit across the table from a guy who’s struggling in his marriage/significant relationship. We’ll talk more and a few other issues will become evident – sometimes family of origin, maybe related to habitual sin, often another issue about work/business troubles… And, “oh, my quiet time is a little spotty.” 

     We’ve blogged this before, right? If he could rub his bible three times and make one of those problems go away with a wish, he most often picks the work troubles or the marital/relationship issues. If he had a second wish he’d ask God to clean and polish up his life with a little “Porn-B-Gon”… But, rarely if ever does he start with “just pray that God helps me abide in Him and know him better…” Funny, right? The one solution that could solve all of the other problems (or at least make them bearable) is the last one to come to the table…

     Solve the right problem or you’re boasting in your strength… Boasting in your wisdom… Looking through Jonah’s eyes and fighting, sometimes winning, the wrong battles.

     When we lean on wisdom and strength… specifically, our own, we’re trying to solve the wrong problem. This is most often because we’re seeing the problem through our own eyes. Jonah needed to see the problem through God’s eyes – there were over 100,000 children in that Assyrian city who did not know the Lord… Jonah was more concerned with his own comfort… 

How’s That Working for Ya?
     Ever played Jonah? Ever gone on a long journey to find what you’re looking for only to find it wasn’t what you were looking for? No one knows if Jonah ever found his full satisfaction in the Lord… We just know that God rebuked him for being more concerned about a plant that brought him temporary comfort from a permanent problem.

     Some of the problems that face us are not problems that can be solved in a Genesis 3 world. Those problems require perseverance that only comes from God. Those are the times when instead of God calming the storm on His child’s behalf, He lets the storm rage and calms His child. This is a place of peace under pressure. This is our witness to a lost and dying world.


Be Encouraged

     I can’t think of many other reasons God would put this verse in the scriptures for us, but to encourage us through the times when we mistakenly take the wheel and veer toward “Muster”…

“This is what the Lord says:
“Let not the wise boast of their wisdom
    or the strong boast of their strength    or the rich boast of their riches,24 but let the one who boasts boast about this:    that they have the understanding to know me,that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness,    justice and righteousness on earth,    for in these I delight,”

declares the Lord. (Jer. 9:23-24)”


Benediction

     May you win many battles… because you’ve fought the right ones. May you boast in the Lord and not your own strength. May you boast that you know Him not just know about Him. Therefore, may the outcomes He delivers to you come from Him, letting the stress and strife of the storm pass you by unscathed.

in Christ,

AP