10-Point Check-Up for Your Relationship, Part 2

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Last time, we looked at five check-points from I Corinthians 13 to help us evaluate if we are loving our spouse, significant other, and other loved ones well. Today, let’s round out the list with five more points. Can we truthfully fill our names in the blank? More than likely, we all have some areas needing God’s refining work.

#6: I ______ am not self-seeking.

Do you take an interest in what interests your spouse? One of the best ways to show your SO that you care is to actively engage with his interests instead of demanding your preferences. For example, James enjoys watching cross-country biking. I honestly didn’t know that was a “thing” before we met, but guess who now knows the top racers by name? Yep, I do. Go ‘Merica and Kate Courtney!

When we seek others’ interests above our own, we cultivate the mind of Christ. In Philippians 2:3-4, Paul wrote these words:

Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others (NKJV).

Although Paul was referring to unity in the church body here, I think the mindset of humility has far-reaching applications for our relationships. We can love well when we put others’ well being  and preferences above our own.

#7: I ______ am not easily angered.

There is never a reason to raise our voice to someone we care about unless perhaps his personal safety is in danger. “Watch out for that falling tree!” Yes, that would merit screaming. However, our common speech should “always be with grace” (Colossians 4:6 NKJV).

Realistically, the people we love will anger us at times. We live in a fallen world, and anger is an emotion we experience. However, how we respond to that anger is up to us. If your SO makes you angry, express that you’re feeling angry and ask to talk after you’ve been able to work through your emotions. Responding in the heat of the moment will only hurt, not help, the problem.

#8: I ______ do not keep records of wrongs.

I once heard the story of a newly-wed asking for guidance from an older woman. The young bride complained, “My husband makes me so angry sometimes. How many times do I have to forgive him?”

The older woman said, “I decided my husband could do ten hurtful things, and after that, I would have a right to be angry.”

“What was on your list?” The young woman asked eagerly.

“I never wrote them down,” the wise woman replied. “But whenever he did something hurtful, I told myself that was one of the things on the list I needed to forgive.”

Such wise advice! Relationships aren’t sparring matches. Don’t try to count your love’s faults. Prayerfully examine your own. (See Matthew 7:3.)

#9: I ______ do not delight in evil but rejoice with the truth.

A relationship that delights in evil is headed to the gutter. That seems like a no-brainer, but how do we rejoice with the truth?

When we face discouragement in our relationships (and we will), we should tune our thinking as Philippians 4:8 instructs.

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things (NKJV).

Let’s rejoice in the beautiful parts of our relationships and entrust the areas that need work to God in prayer.

#10: I ______ always protect, trust, hope, and persevere.

When James and I took our marriage vows, we pledged to have and to hold, for better and for worse. Daily, we must guard our marriage by making it a priority. We must trust, hope, and persevere even when rain clouds darken the sky.

I admit that we’re still in the newly-wed stage. However,  the other day James reminded me that we will always get to choose our attitudes toward our marriage. Our marriage will be what we make it. By God’s grace, I’m trusting for a beautiful, though imperfect, story.

Love Never Fails

You may have noticed I left off verse 12 from out checklist, the verse that begins, “Love never fails.” There is only one Love that never fails, and that Love is Jesus Christ Himself. He is our Model and our Example.

In our earthly relationships, we are going to fail, but that doesn’t mean we should stop striving to love well. As a runner, I’ve always appreciated Paul’s metaphor of life as a race. I think it applies to relationships as well.

Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:13-14 NKJV).

Regardless of any past mistakes, let’s press forward and love well the people God has placed in our lives.

Free Download

I hope this check-up list is helpful to you! Maybe you can use it as a dialogue starter between you and your SO. If so, click on the image to download the PDF of the full checklist.

May we all keep short accounts with those we love so we can be quick to root out and keep out any stumbling blocks to our relationships (1 John 2:10).

~ Kristen

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10-Point Check-Up for Your Relationship, Part 1

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This month, James and I will celebrate our five-month anniversary! Each month, we’ve started the habit of doing a check-up on our relationship. It’s nothing formal, just a moment to pause and ask each other if we’re driving the other crazy yet. I’m glad to report that we haven’t!

In all seriousness, though, I appreciate this check-up, because it invites honesty, transparency, and a chance to make misunderstandings right early before something becomes a larger issue.

Did you know that I Corinthians 13 provides a check-up list of its own? If you replace the word “love” with your name, you have a basic check list of the behaviors you need to practice in order to love well.

Right, that’s easier said than done. But let’s give it a try and see how we do.

#1: I ______ am patient and kind.

Fill your name in the blank. I’ll go first. I, Kristen, am patient and kind.

Well, I typically am kind, but patient, not so much. Perhaps that’s why I’m thankful patience is one of James’ strengths. He helps bring my anxious heart back to center and reminds me that sometimes, God just asks us to wait. And that’s okay.

There’s an interesting connection between both these virtues and our relationship with the Lord. Consider these verses:

  • “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him” (Psalm 37:7 NKJV, emphasis added).
  • “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32 NKJV, emphasis added)

When we are resting in the Lord and keeping Him as our center, we can be more patient with our spouse or in any other circumstance. Moreover, when we live in the light of God’s ultimate kindness and forgiveness, we more often remember to extend grace to those around us.

#2: I ______ do not envy.

Ouch. This one is hard for most relationships. If you don’t have a relationship, you might envy your friends who do. If you’re in a relationship, you might envy someone else’s. After all, according to social media, they’re perfect and have life all together.

The truth is, they probably don’t, and we don’t either. So let’s remind ourselves not to waste our energy envying. A synonym for envy is covetousness, and the Apostle Paul warns against this sin for one fundamental reason.

Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.'” (Hebrews 13:5 NKJV)

We can be satisfied with our current relationship or situation, because when we have God’s presence in our lives, we have what we truly need.

#3: I ______ do not boast.

Do you often find yourself bragging about your accomplishments to your SO? If so, boasting might be a problem.

Although there’s nothing wrong in taking ownership for a job well done, Scripture only commends “boasting” when we redirect the glory back to God. For example, Paul “boasts” in his weakness so that Christ’s strength can be magnified in his life (2 Corinthians 12:9). In that same letter to the Corinthians, he also provides the guidelines for when boasting is appropriate:

 But “he who glories, let him glory in the Lord.”  For not he who commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends. (2 Corinthians 10:17-18 NKJV)

When we find ourselves craving affirmation, we need to be careful. God’s approval should be our primary concern (Galatians 1:10).

#4: I ______ am not proud.

The opposite of pride is humility, and both are attitudes expressed through our actions. Even if you don’t think this sin is your problem, ask yourself: How was my attitude about going the extra mile when my spouse forgot to do something? Did I mumble about giving more than my share in the relationship? Remember, pride looks out for “I,” but humility looks out for “U.”

Marriage has definitely revealed to me areas in my life where selfishness is present. Usually, pride rears its ugly head in “pressure-cooker” moments, such as when I’m tired, not feeling 100%, or had a tough day at work.

However, making excuses is not the solution. God’s grace is.

“God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6b NKJV)

That verse tells me God is more interested in my character than my comfort, but He won’t abandon me when I choose attitudes that please Him. He’ll give more grace as He prunes my pride.

#5: I ______ do not dishonor others.

Word to the wise: Never ever embarrass or belittle your SO in front of others. However, dishonor can also be a private matter as well. Do your words build up or tear down?

Our tongues hold such potential and also such danger. The Apostle James warns that the tongue is “an unruly evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:8 NKJV). Eek! “Deadly poison” should not describe how we talk to anyone, let alone the people we love.

Next week, we’ll look at five more check-ups for our relationships, based on this passage. Plus, I’ll offer a download that puts them all in one place, a great resource to share with the one(s) we love and start a conversation about how we’re doing.

Till next time, love well!

~ Kristen

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Why Your Dreams Require Band-Aids

You have a dream, right? So do I. We probably have more than one, maybe even dozens. If your dream isn’t brand new and you’ve started taking steps to pursue it, you’ve likely discovered that the path to fulfillment is something like the field of poppies that Dorothy had to cross to reach the Emerald City in The Wizard of Oz.

Those poppies sure look pretty, but [spoiler], the wicked witch has poisoned them to keep Dorothy from reaching her goal. Hopefully none of us are picking our way through a field of poison poppies today, but if you’re like me, you might be buying some Band-Aids.

Case in point

My husband and I both love the outdoors, but the primary difference between us is that he was born with natural ability and I have to work for every ounce of strength and skill I have. One sport he introduced me to is surfing, and last year, I shared my preliminary experience with you. Since then, I’ve improved … a little.

Understand that my goal with this sport is not lofty. I don’t want to metal in a sporting event or even qualify to participate in one. I simply want to get upright long enough to enjoy the wave and then get off without injuring myself.

The size of our goal doesn’t matter as much as how willing we are to stick with it. In that regard, surfing and dreams in general have a few common qualities.

To succeed, you will fall.

Falling off a surfboard provides a physical sensation that equates well to the pain of failure. You don’t just fall off a surfboard and land gently in the water. Your board might nose dive, catapulting you over it. You might get sucked under the water and feel like you’re drowning.

However, the more you fall, the wiser you become. As you practice, you will keep falling, but experience will teach you that even when you feel like you’re going to drown, you should wait a few moments before surfacing, or your board might land on your head. Yes, ouch.

Pursuing dreams is similar. You might get rejected, turned down, booed, told “that’s impossible,” or any number of scenarios. If you don’t quit the first time, the second time, or the hundredth time you fall, you will eventually meet success or at least approach your goal more intelligently.

To succeed, you will scrape your knee.

Be prepared. Pride and self-interests often take a back seat when pursuing goals.

The last time we walked to the beach with surf boards in tow, I had one wish: Please, please let me not get hurt today. You see, last year, I took a hefty chunk of skin off my left knee that required a bigger Band-Aid than even the lifeguard could provide.

For the first hour, I was getting the hang of things. I welcomed smaller waves and kept getting up on the board for some decent rides. The only problem was that since my waves weren’t deep, I was riding them into much more shallow waters. All it took was one wrong fall, and I scraped the skin off my other knee.

So now they match. Kind of. I jokingly tell James that thanks to this sport, I will have prematurely ugly knees.

The bigger the dream, the bigger the fight

Yes, our dreams sometimes leave us feeling scraped up.  As Pete Wilson shares in his book What Keeps You Up at Night, “The bigger the dream, the bigger the fight you’ll face. In fact, the people throughout history who have been the most directly in the center of God’s will for their lives are the same people who have gone through the toughest trials.”

Wilson gives the example of Joseph, one of my favorite Bible characters. Talk about someone whose dream presented obstacles! He went from daddy’s favorite to a slave and a prisoner before God elevated him to Pharaoh’s right hand man. His life experience left more than scraped knees. But through all the setbacks and disappointments in his life, Joseph sought to honor God through his circumstances, and God remained with him.

Several times in Scripture, we find this idea of God being present with Joseph through every low point in his life (emphasis added below).

  • The Lord was with Joseph, and he was a successful man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian.” (Genesis 39:2 NKJV)
  • “But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him mercy, and He gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.” (Genesis 39:21 NKJV)
  • “The keeper of the prison did not look into anything that was under Joseph’s authority, because the Lord was with him; and whatever he did, the Lord made it prosper.” (Genesis 39:23 NKJV)
  • “And the patriarchs, becoming envious, sold Joseph into Egypt. But God was with him and delivered him out of all his troubles, and gave him favor and wisdom in the presence of Pharaoh, king of Egypt; and he made him governor over Egypt and all his house.” (Acts 7:9-10 NKJV)

You know what these verses tell me? When we seek to honor God through our dreams, God is with us, too.

Surfing is but a picture.

Surfing is a personal dare I have yet to master, but it paints such a good picture for the obstacles we often face when going for the dreams God has placed on our hearts.

The bottom line is that we can’t give up on them, because God doesn’t give up on us. We have to keep buying the Band-Aids. One day, when we do succeed, all those falls will have been worthwhile as we feel God’s pleasure. Well done!

~ Kristen

I’m grateful this post first appeared on DailyPS.com.

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Uncommon Adventures: An Interview with Author Jessica Lippe

Please welcome author Jessica Lippe to the blog today! I’ve had the privilege of contributing to Jessica’s Christian e-zine for teenage girls, Girlz 4 Christ, and when she shared that she’d written a travel book for Christians, I wanted to learn more! As she told me, age doesn’t matter in travel, so whether you’re a young adult or young at heart, you can be encouraged by this book. Enjoy this interview and check out Uncommon Adventures, now available.

What prompted you to write this book, and why do you think it’s timely for Christians today?

Jessica: I’ve met other Christian travelers, but they seem to be few and far between. When Jesus told us to “go into all the world,” he certainly meant for at least some of us to take that literally. I think it can be hard for us to take on this commission due to lack resources to make it happen as well as lack of Christian community on the road. Uncommon Adventures isn’t the end-all solution to this, but I wanted to encourage more Christians to explore and point travelers to resources that can help fulfill their physical and spiritual needs.

What sets this guidebook apart for Christians?

Jessica: A lot of Christians struggle with their relationship with God during their vacation and other travels. While quick prayers for traveling mercies are common, being out of our element and busy with new things for some reason causes us to forget about the One who made this beautiful world to explore. I felt it was important to start out each chapter with a devotional piece.

My hope is that these devos create reminders and show that every element of travel is indeed spiritual. While we save up for a trip, we can remember that our treasure is where our heart also is. Each new restaurant or picnic we enjoy can be a reminder of the Last Supper. Whether we travel by train, plane, or automobile, we can be thankful that it was better than Balaam’s mode of transportation!

Share a little about your personal travel experience and how it inspired you to write this book.

Travel, writing, and my life with Christ have always been clumped together. Growing up, most of my travel was day and camping trips with my family and my church. As a teenager, I got involved with traveling around the Northwest with my church’s youth choir, and went on my first international mission trip with that same youth group. My first job was at a Christian camp I went to as a kid. Although I don’t keep an everyday diary, I started journaling daily on trips like these. Those journals turned out to be a great references when I started writing for devotionals and magazines at age 17.

After spending a few years working at Christian camps across the United States, I wanted to expand my passion for travel. Starting with a goal to spend three months exploring Europe, I’ve learned ways to travel effectively. After returning from my first trip to Europe and Asia and wanting to learn how to travel more, some of what I learned ended up being written down into a book!

Do you think travel can help grow your relationship with God? If so, how?

Absolutely! In reality, ALL of our life experiences can help grow our relationship with God. But I think travel is a particularly unique way to deepen this relationship. Of course, the exact outcome depends on the specifics of your trip as well as the ways God wants to work in you at this time. I worked full-time in camp ministry for several years, and still help regularly. Christian camps are a worldwide travel opportunity because they foster an environment to worship and hear from God. But I’ve also heard from God while staring at Niagara Falls on a solo trip. Meeting new people and experiencing new cultures broadens your understanding of what God has created. If you’re open to it, even a walk around your neighborhood is a form of travel that can help bring you closer to God.

What is one piece of advice you’d offer a reader who wants to travel but doesn’t think he can?

When someone tells me they can’t travel, I immediately ask why not. Oftentimes, they tell me excuses that amount to the fact that they’re afraid. One chapter from Uncommon Adventures specifically addresses the common fears people have about travel, and other fears and excuses are busted throughout the book.

A big excuse to not travel is money. This one makes me snicker because it’s often said by people who earn multiple times my salary. I’ve worked in ministry outside of church throughout my adult life, a career field famous for being well underpaid. Saving for travel is difficult, but because it’s a priority in my life, I’m willing to make the sacrifices to get there. For example, my home may only be 300 square feet, but that’s not important since I get to travel in Ireland, the United Kingdom, The Bahamas, and the United States this year. It’s not all sacrifices, though. Sometimes it just takes creativity. Two chapters of Uncommon Adventures focus on saving, and I post tons of budget ideas on my website, JessicaLippe.com.

About Jessica:

Jessica Lippe is a writer and adventurer. Her wanderlust has resulted with her living across the United States, including Oregon, Nebraska, and Ohio. She has journeyed through twenty-eight states, eleven countries, and four continents. Jessica’s favorite accomplished travel goal was backpacking across Europe. Visit her website at JessicaLippe.com

 

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Box Jumps in the Writing Life

This is a traditional box jump, and this is not me. The box jump at my gym is a platform design, and I’ve yet to conquer level 4. One day!

When my husband and I joined a gym together, he introduced me to the box jump. In theory, it’s simple, a metal platform that you jump on with both feet at the same time. You can move to higher levels as you advance in ability. At least, that’s how it’s supposed to work.

In theory, publishing is simple too. You have a great idea. You write it down on paper. You publish it, and it becomes a New York Times’ best seller.

And you laugh. Of course, publishing doesn’t work that way. Mastering the box jump isn’t so easy either. In fact, it has many parallels with the writing life.

Mental Hurdle: Fear

When I first step up to the box jump, all I can envision is catching my foot on the bottom and losing my front teeth. So, I stretch, procrastinate, and then finally step toward it. Deep breath. Swing arms. Grit teeth. And … freeze.

James gently reminds me, “It’s all in your head, you know.”

Mostly, he’s right. There are my physical limitations, but what’s really holding me back is my fear of getting hurt.

We writers have our share of fears, don’t we? Sometimes, we call them “writer’s block” where try as we might, we can’t find the next word of our project. We stress that we’ll never be able to finish, and our paralysis freezes up the wheels of our imaginations.

Other times, we face the fear of rejection from agents and editors. Although refusals are a realistic part of the writer’s life, that doesn’t mean they sting any less. Perhaps even more unnerving is the day we do publish something, and we fear no one will read it or like it.

However, as Scripture reminds us, fear is not supposed to be our focus. 2 Timothy 1:7 states:

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind (NKJV).

Although this truth doesn’t discount our very real fears, it does redirect our attention to think on what is true and what we can do through the power of Christ.

To read the full post, visit The Write Conversation. I’m grateful to Edie Melson for sharing this two-part series on her award-winning blog for writers. 

Even if you’re not a writer, you can probably relate. What are some personal “box jumps” you’ve had to overcome?

~ Kristen

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How Can You Hear God’s Voice? Lessons from the Lake

How many of you want to hear God’s voice? That’s not a trick question. Any believer would give a wholehearted yes! By “hear,” I’m not referring to an audible voice but perhaps peace or clarity in a situation where we feel unsure or fearful. Maybe we’re struggling to see God’s hand or wanting to simply find the reassurance of His presence.

However, before we can hear God’s voice, we must first be prepared to listen. This first step is one we often forget and maybe why we often fail or become frustrated in our conversations with God. We’re too busy doing all the talking or perhaps just plain too busy for God to get a word in.

This summer, my family and I traveled to our family cabin in New Hampshire. One evening while we were kayaking Lake Winona, I broke away from the others who were fishing. There was a restlessness in my soul, and I wanted to talk to God about it. Through that solo kayak trip, I rediscovered some basic prerequisites for hearing God’s voice.

Be still.

As I paddled across the lake, I panted the prayer: Lord, I want to hear from you. Though emotionally I wanted to listen, I physically wasn’t still enough to do so.  My arms moved back and forth, pumping blood through my veins so hard I could barely concentrate on my own thoughts.

Of course, God could hear me. I just couldn’t hear Him. This experience showed me that my constant movement interfered with my ability to listen.

Be still, and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10a NKJV)

Scripture makes clear that stillness is one condition for knowing God. Yet how often do we forget this simple truth?

By nature, I’m a busy person. My husband has even commented that I’m “always moving.” Although in many ways, this ability to hustle is a blessing, I need to take time away from the busy back and forth of life.

I finally glided to a stop on the lake and was content to simply be there. That’s when I could soak in the sunset’s reflection on the water, relish the fresh mountain air around me, and take time to quiet my own thoughts. With my body stilled, I was getting ready to listen.

Unplug.

Next to stillness, we also need a quiet place to prepare our hearts to listen.

Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still. (Psalm 4:4b NKJV)

On the lake, I could easily find that undisturbed serenity. However, on a day-to-day basis, we deal with constant “chatter” that makes it hard to meditate on God’s Word and take time for personal reflection.

Back in my parent’s childhood, the only items they had to unplug were things like toasters and power cords. Today, we have to unplug ourselves.

If we actually documented how much time we’re on our Smart Phones, I think the results would shock us. A survey from 2017 documented that millennials spend 223 minutes per day or approximately 3.7 hours on their mobile devices. Based on the upward-trending data from the previous years, that number has probably increased.

Not only are we dealing with a potential time-waster, we’re also dealing with all the distractions and drama that come along with our generation’s need for connectivity.

Yes, smart phones and social media have a purpose. As a writer, I’m keenly aware of the potential and grateful for the way I can connect with readers across time and space. However, the social online sphere can produce so much noise that it drowns out any chance for silence.

Take time to unplug, and don’t make apologies for doing so. A missed text won’t be the end of the world. It will still be there waiting for you to answer later.

Make room.

Clearing the schedule might be easy to do when you’re on vacation, but what about in real life? After all, real life can be messy and disruptive. We can’t predict the emergencies in our lives, and for some people, daily life feels like one crisis after the next.

Jesus was no stranger to crisis. Almost constantly, people were begging him for healing or for their needs to be met. When he wasn’t teaching or performing miracles, he was dealing with the Pharisees’ questions and their accusations.

Matthew 9 records one such busy day. On his way to heal a ruler’s daughter, he made time to heal an ill woman and then met a crowd full of expectations at the ruler’s house. They told him he was too late, and the girl was dead. I love Jesus’ response.

He said to them, “Make room, for the girl is not dead, but sleeping.” And they ridiculed Him. But when the crowd was put outside, He went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose.

Did you catch what he told them? “Make room.” The mourners were pressing in from every side and He couldn’t even reach the ruler’s daughter. He had to disperse the crowd first, and then He healed her.

True, you may not have to deal with physical crowds, but you may deal with an overflowing inbox, social media notifications, and text strings longer than the Great Wall. Put those “crowds” outside so you can be alone with Jesus. You then make room to hear Him and watch Him work.

What distractions are pulling at you today, and how can you make room to listen for God’s voice in spite of them?

~ Kristen

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2 Name Changes that will Transform Your Life

What’s worthwhile often isn’t easy. In an earlier interview, my friend and marriage mentor Tami Myer reminded me of this truth about relationships when she said, “Marriage is not easy, but the best things in life never are.”

While marriage is certainly one of the best things in my life, I didn’t realize that changing my  name would be one of the “not easy” parts.  Although the Knot cites that keeping one’s maiden name is a growing trend, I’m an old-fashioned girl. I opted to change my name, but I had no idea how painful the process would be. (The Knot also provides a helpful checklist for the majority of brides who do still choose to adopt their husband’s name.)

Did you know there is no way to make an appointment at the social security office to start the ball rolling with this process? Well, there isn’t. You sit there and hope a few dozen other people didn’t decide to change their name the same day you did. For that matter, you can’t make an appointment with the DMV either, so go prepared with a good book.

Also, if you happen to buy a plane ticket in your maiden name and then update your driver’s license before the trip, be prepared for extra inconvenience and possible embarrassment, courtesy of TSA. Enough said.

Whether you’re single or married, you’re getting your name changed one day. That is, if you’re God’s child. The good news is that no social security office or TSA agent will be involved.

However, for many of God’s children, the process wasn’t pain-free but marked a defining moment in that character’s life. Our spiritual journey may have its share of trials too, but the transformation is oh so worthwhile. Take it from these guys.

Jacob: A New Name and a Wrestling Match

The name Jacob means “Supplanter,” because the character Jacob in the Bible deprived his brother Esau of his birthrights, not once but twice. Sorry to all the Jacobs out there! However, his story doesn’t end with a stigma. Instead, God blessed him in spite of his deception.

We find his story in Genesis 32. Here’s the context: Jacob had traveled with his entire family and possessions to reunite with his brother Esau. Right, that’s the same one he cheated of his birthrights! Naturally, Jacob had good reason to be nervous about this reunion.

As a result, he sent a peace offering ahead of him by the hand of his servants. After seeing his family also safely across the ford of Jabbok, Jacob stayed behind (Genesis 32:13-24).

Scripture doesn’t say why Jacob decided to spend the night alone. Maybe he knew he needed time with God. Maybe he was just being a coward and trying to delay the inevitable. Regardless, God confronted him that night. Scripture says that “a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day” (Genesis 32:24 NKJV). Most scholars agree that this was a theophany or a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ. This post is too short to explain the significance of theophanies, but you can read an excellent article about them through Answers in Genesis.

The bottom line is that Jacob wrestled with God, and in the process, begged a blessing from Him. Perhaps he requested this out of pure fear or desperation. Though none of us has literally wrestled with God, most of us can relate to wrestling with God through prayer over our struggles and fears.

The result? God did bless him. He changed his name to Israel.

And He said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.” (Genesis 32:28)

Yes, that’s the same Israel who would become the father of the nation of Israel. However, God also gave him a permanent limp, perhaps so he wouldn’t forget the source of his blessings. Despite all of Jacob’s mistakes and wrongs, God gave him a new name and a fresh start. What an encouragement that can be to us today!

Saul: A New Name and a Radical Conversion

The name Saul means “asked for, prayed for,” and for the first part of his life, Saul probably viewed himself as just that: a man specially chosen to eradicate the stubborn sect of Christianity. All that changed one day on the Damascus Road when God intervened in the life of this murdering Pharisee.

As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” (Acts 9:3-4)

In that dramatic moment, God changed Paul’s heart. He went from persecuting believers to spearheading the spread of Christianity.

“He who formerly persecuted us now preaches the faith which he once tried to destroy.” (Galatians 1:24)

Okay, but when did God change Saul’s name? Other than his dramatic conversion, there’s no wrestling scene here. In fact, the change seems to be a more subtle one. Galatians 1 tells us that Paul spent three years before meeting Peter at Jerusalem. More than likely, these were years of preparation for Paul. Perhaps these were also humbling years where God brought Paul to a place where He could use him.

When and how God changed his name specifically, we don’t know. However, in Acts 13:9, we read that Saul is now also “called Paul.” And what does the name Paul mean? It means “small or humble.” The man once proud of his name and position relinquished control of his life to God’s purpose for him.

We’re Next: A New Name after Overcoming

Jacob’s new name cost him a permanent limp. Saul’s new name cost him so much suffering for Christ that he records a laundry list of trials in 2 Corinthians 11, not so he can boast in himself, but in his “infirmity” for Christ’s sake (2 Corinthians 11:30).  The truth is, we’re not promised smooth sailing in this Christian life either.

Paul tells us that we have both the privilege of sharing in “the power of His resurrection” and also “the fellowship of His sufferings” (Philippians 3:10 NKJV). No doubt he learned this truth from personal experience. Both aspects are part of knowing Christ, even though the idea of suffering usually makes us squirm.

However, through the trials and challenges of life, we can be overcomers through Christ. Ultimately, the reward is a new name written down in glory.

He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name. (Revelation 3:12 NKJV)

I don’t pretend to understand what that’s going to look like, but Revelation 2:17 does provide some clarification. It says that the new name God gives to us is sacred and special, so special that only the one who receives it will know it. Wow!

Changing my name here on earth may have involved a hassle and a half, but oh, what a privilege it is to be James’ wife! However, this privilege is but a picture of the wonderful change we as God’s children will experience when God gives us new names one day.

How can this thought be an encouragement to you today?  Please comment and share.

Kristen

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