Tag Archives: encouragement
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”.
Anyone who knows me knows when I’m talking sports, I’m way above my pay grade. So, it seems a bit ironic to me that God would have me posting on encouragement and with a sports analogy the morning after my team lost the Super Bowl. (Even moreso when this was hoped to be their vindication for the last loss to the Giants…) But, hey, everyone’s got their team and every team has wins and losses, right?
While it’s hard to watch Gronkowski and Hernandez drop the Hail Mary passes in the final moments of the game, I often have a harder time watching the nation of Israel drop the ball when God sets up perfect pass after perfect pass. God, the one, true, living God, who is Creator of the universe, looks down at Abraham and for no other reason than His mercy, says “I will make a nation of you. You will be my chosen people.” No other “team” hitherto had been given this distinction. “God’s team.” you could call them. God favored them more than the Broncos and they didn’t even Tebow to Him very often.
Frankly, I ache every time I read Judges, when Israel forsakes the God who delivered them from Egypt, the Red Sea, the Dessert, the Jordan River, the
New York Middle East Giants, the Canaanites, etc. Instead, I’m doing what I tried to do last night after the 2 minute warning – watch something else. I’m reading 1 Samuel. Should have left the Bowl on. Here they are, a nation who’s learned the “turn back to God” lesson 7 times over the course of 400 years and their spiritual condition as a nation is so low that when things get tough on the battle field, the elders – the coaching staff of the nation, who should have known better – call the worst play in history:
“There’s no time for fasting and prayer – let’s force God’s hand to act on our behalf! God can fit in a box and do our bidding when we tell him to. GO GET THE ARK!!!” (See 1 Sam. 4.3)
“NOOOOooooooOOOO!!!” I’m up on my feet, screaming at Tom Brady – uh, I mean, my bible… “Don’t do it!!!” Israel follows a pattern that gave this play its’ name: the essence of the “Hail Mary pass” is “throw first, pray while the ball is in the air”, isn’t it? Isn’t this the illustration of what the nation of Israel does at that very moment?! Let’s get on the hook with them… How often do you and I throw first, pray later? If you can’t say “amen”, you’d better say “ouch”.
In Christ, there is no other team that God is rooting for. There is no other team that has His favor. There is no team other than those who are “in Christ” who have Christ “in them”. At any given moment today, you have the greatest power ever unleashed on the planet at your disposal, but you cannot wield it to your means or ends. The power of the Holy Spirit (the same Holy Spirit that empowered Israel from without) within you is not to be used for your team, but for God’s team. So…
Pray first, listen, and consider your next move. Jesus did it… often. He told the disciples is was better for Him to leave and the Holy Spirit to come and power to come upon them (Acts 1.8). “Is this decision [to stay with the girl, to close this deal, to make this next phone call, to hit “send”] for my glory or God’s glory?” Be encouraged, I’ll say it again: “there is no other team God is rooting for other than His Kingdom.” Take solace in the fact that if plans fail God’s not surprised. (If you lose, grieve the loss and don’t let well meaning people tell you to “get back on the horse” too early. Again, God is not surprised. An omniscient God has nothing to learn.)
The Good News of the gospel is not that everything is going to go your way, my way, the Pats’ way, or even Tim Tebow’s way (quad erat deomonstratum). It’s that it’s all going God’s way. Get in the flow of His plan, listen for His next audible, and don’t snap that pass until He says “throw”. Oh, and pray the Pats are vindicated next year. Oh, brother.
This morning, we heard great words of wisdom from Andy Stanley about Love, Sex, and Dating – great advice even for those who are married (remember to date your wife and work on your marriage – the “Right Person Myth” has destroyed more marriages than I care to imagine). LOOK FOR THIS MESSAGE on North Point’s website this week (video messages are usually up by Tuesday or Wednesday) at www.northpoint.org/messages.
Tonight, my cousin, Nicole, passed on an article she was reading from Andy’s Dad, Dr. Charles Stanley. Entirely different subject – but it relates to how we conduct all of our relationships and is incredibly apropos in our discipleship relationships. Men, as you disciple your sons; leaders, as you grow your staff and speak into their lives; women, as you go about your business(es) – consider what scripture has to say about “The Words of Our Mouth“.
HT: Nicole Lewis
Pass it on!!!
We had a great time this morning at ONE TH1NG, with Ron Dunn. Around 6:30 this morning, over 50 guys gathered at a local restaurant to think out loud about issues of substance from a biblical standpoint. Currently, we’re talking about “IMAX Moments” from the bible – floating ax heads, outmanned armies overcoming nations, walls falling at the sound of trumpets, etc. This time, we talked about something that seems so small compared to the other more miraculous events, yet has a miraculous impact on you and I every (hopefully) day: encouragement.
Barnabas was a great encourager of the first century church. In fact, his name means “son of rest” or “son of encouragement”. In examining some of the guiding verses this morning, the guys at my table all concluded that encouragement is both an event and a process. In the battle against a dead man who seems to be tied to us like a rotting corpse, and against a world that lies to us constantly, and
against an enemy who came to steal, kill, and destroy, encouragement is the breath of fresh air that we need often and fully. It is the rest we desperately need in times of weariness, so it’s not a one time need or a long term fix. It’s not Jesus, but a reflection of His love.
|Thanks, to Ron Dunn for the quote.|
Now, try this:
Say the word “encourager” and who are the first 3 people who come into your mind? Who, in your life, speaks life into you on a regular basis?
Next question – and ponder this one carefully – everyone has a short list of encouragers in their life. Whose list are you on? Are you first on other peoples’ lists?
The danger here is that we can easily get lost in the comparison game. Remember, God made you unique and just because encouragement is not your primary spiritual gift doesn’t make you lesser in His eyes. But, encouragement shows up about 35 or more times in the new testament, often as a command. So, we are both not to ignore opportunities to encourage nor are we to stand condemned if we’re not naturally great at it. One thing is certain: we are to encourage. Discipleship is often little more than a Barnabas spurring on a young John Mark, a middle manager encouraging an up and comer, a husband loving his wife as Christ loved the church. [This is in italics because I know that once I’ve written it, there’s a good chance I’ll need to remember it when I see my wife in a couple of hours.]
So, how can we pray wisely about this? What if we were to ask the Lord to give us specific insight into the life of someone He wants us to encourage? What if we were clean in our heart and listened to His prompting about He would have us say or do to encourage this person? Yesterday, we had a couple on our couch who just lost a 23 year old daughter. I [Aarron] recently lost my Dad, so I understand what it means to lose someone. But, I had no clue how to look at a 60 year old guy and truly empathize with him losing his daughter – Praise God, I’ve never lost one.
The beautiful thing is – God knows that guy better than I ever will and when I asked Him to help me “be available”, He delivered. When they left our house, they looked like they had lost 35 lbs each. Still sad, yet noticeably encouraged. This is not because I’m anything special nor a master encourager. Rather, it’s a testament to the God of all good gifts, who knows this couple and their greatest need in any moment, and how He would bring them joy in the darkest season they’ve known in a long time.
So, be encouraged. Can you trust today that God is with you always? Can you trust that He knows your need before you even can think it? Will you give Him your greatest care and burden and listen for His word – through audible voice, through His word, or even through His church, the body of Christ? But, also, be a son of encouragement. Know that around you are thirsty and weary soldiers in the making. These are your brothers and sisters in Christ, whom God loves dearly. These are your soon to be brothers and sisters who are stuck in sin, bonded to death, who will soon know Jesus and will need to know the comfort, encouragement, and leadership of their Lord. Will you be available to Him as you spur them on to love and good deeds?
in it with you,
P.S. We’re grateful for the opportunities we’ve recently had to encourage others – if you’d like to help us keep it up, go to our new page “Speak Life“.