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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

I’m Not Here to be an “I Told You So”

     Perhaps one of the most difficult lessons in this life is learning that people are going to do what they want to do despite godly counsel. Then again, I’m a father of four, so it’s bound to happen sooner or later, right? This month, I want to focus in on the importance of discipleship before it’s required and the implications it has on the turn of season from single to married. Bottom line(s), like my pilot friends will tell you “it’s better to be on the ground (single) wishing you were in the air (married) than to be in the air wishing you were on the ground”; and discipleship matters, especially when obedience is the result.

Watch Out for the Brick!!!
     My wife has such an interesting mix of spiritual gifts – a heart for pastoring, but a gift for exhorting. Not only is she street smart, but she’d got a direct line to the Father, who sometimes gives her inside information. Some might call it “word of knowledge”. Some would call it “prophetic”. I sometimes have to call it “spooky”. It’s especially spooky when she’s dead right about it.

     This week, I got to catch up with a guy that asked us for wisdom and counsel in a relationship he was pursuing. I was kind yet firm. I offered very little opinion and much scripture. Cristine… When she spoke, I thought I saw a brick come out of her mouth and hit the guy in the head. It wasn’t entirely gentle. Blunt, clear, and true, but ouch. I could see the guy squirm in his seat. I could also see, by the look on his face that my wife was right about what she told him.

Fast Forward

     Months went by and here I am sitting down with him again – heartbroken. What Cristine had shared with him was utterly accurate and painfully real. He and his wife were now struggling through deal-breaker after deal-breaker in their marriage and it looked like this could have been prevented if he’d taken the advice my brick-throwing bride had given him months earlier. This isn’t an article about how we’re so great and others need to bow down to our massive Hans & Franz sized biblical biceps. It’s about how great this week’s conversation went.

     See, this guy had married a wounded woman. I personally believe that when it comes to woundedness, “the tide goes out of the harbor as soon as you say ‘I do’.” Meaning that if you have junk in your harbor from past shipwrecks, it will become most visible after the altar, not before. Well, it’s low tide and their harbor is loaded with flotsam and jetsam: hurts, pains, fears, wrongs, unspoken expectations, minimized weaknesses… Since the wedding, wounds in her life had begun to consume her, him, and their marriage. Yet “Tom” was so steadfast. I absolutely, beyond a shadow of a doubt, love the attitude of Christ this guy was wearing – he knew in the middle of fights, blow-ups, and tit-for-tat’s that he could not leave this woman even if she asked him to. This guy had studied the scripture and taken the time to think out loud with other guys in his life.

The Point?

   The point of the story is to update you on some of the great things God is doing in the lives of men and women willing to “seek [Him] with all of [their] heart(s) (Jer. 29.13)”. It’s also to provoke you to action.

Action Items:
1. Will you pray for “Tom” and his marriage? You don’t need to know his real name, God will get who you’re praying for, because He’s… well… omniscient.

2. Pass this article on to a friend of yours who’s in a great unmarried relationship. Pass it on to another friend who’s in a terrible unmarried relationship. Then, purposely don’t tell each friend which one you think they are.

3. If you’re engaged or in a serious relationship, contact your local church about their ministry to the engaged – don’t walk through the engagement process on your own – we didn’t and we’re thoroughly grateful for it. Don’t consider meeting with other couples who have been married for many years – do it. We did that, and still meet with them from time to time. It has been a vital part of our marriage growth curve. “He who walks with the wise grows wise, but the companion of fools suffers harm. (Prov. 13.20)”

Pray.

One of the most awesome things about the Gospel is that through Christ we have access to God – to boldly approach the throne with freedom and confidence. [Ephesians 3.12] For ages, the wall was up and there was a curtain separating mankind from the Holy of Holies. But, with the crucifixion of Christ, the veil was torn.

Wouldn’t you expect us to pray more often? If we really knew how great and awesome God really is, especially as we read the Psalms and epistles, if we really knew how depraved and filthy we are without Christ, especially in light of Romans and Leviticus, wouldn’t we be lying face down before God for hours honestly and desperately praising Him and thanking Him for His mercy and grace?

Somehow, we get tied up in the mundane, the urgent, the noise and the dirt of the world. Can I just mention something to us who call ourselves followers of Christ? The gospel is for us, too. We need it everyday. Every hour.

This week, I got to meet with a guy who’s going through a challenging season and learning to pastor his wife’s heart while she begins to uncover many of the curses and judgments that have fallen on her through her family of origin and first marriage. She’s been lied to, cheated, and confused about her real worth. Her true identity has been warped and she hears the voice of her earthly father and ex-husband playing over and over in her mind. She’s constantly reminded of who she’s not and what she’s incapable of.

We all need earthly advocates that will approach the throne on our behalf. It is an echo of what Christ is already praying and is a bold, powerful harmony that accompanies the song of heaven.

I didn’t want to give him any “advice”. I just prayed as he spoke and listened for what the Holy Spirit might have for him. I pray that the words that came out of my mouth were from God and God alone – “Mike, as ‘high priest and pastor of the family’, she needs you to pray her through this. Pray with her and on her behalf.” She needs to know the gospel every moment of her day to shield her and defend her against the accuser who daily batters her esteem. “You are worth my one and only Son.”

It strikes me at this time – how many of us are actively praying for the people in our life who already know Jesus, but don’t experience Him every day? How many of us know people who are carrying the weight of false accusations about their identity, their “impossible” situation, their hope and future? We’re going to start doing something about it.

The first step is this – let’s admit that we all need Jesus all the time. Next comes “ask the Lord to reveal to us who He wants us to pray for”. Consequently, let’s gather together and corporately pray for those who need it. We have three enemies at us – the world, the flesh, and Satan. The latter comes to “steal, kill, and destroy”. Prayer is our battle cry – are we in the fight or distracted by life’s “worries, riches, and pleasures” (Luke 8.14)?

Starting in the next couple of weeks, we’re opening our (rental) home for “Pizza and Prayer”. Bring your broken heart, your tales of brokenness, and a desire to storm the gates of Hell and we’ll provide the pizza and time and space to pray. We’ll most likely start on Sunday, Feb. 6th, sometime mid-afternoon and will end by 6, but email us at prayer@seasonsoflifeministries.org to RSVP.

Scotty Smith – TGC

For now, I’d love to pass on a post from Gospel Coalition about a great prayer. We could all use a lot of great prayers, couldn’t we?
(HT: Matt Erickson)

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/scottysmith/2011/01/26/a-prayer-for-friends-weighed-down-with-various-burdens/