20 Verses When You Need Encouragement

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Hello, friends. Has anyone else felt like she can’t catch a break? The last month has had its share of challenges for me, and I know I’m not alone. Today, I want to share some of my go-to Scriptures that speak encouragement to my heart. I hope these verses will be balm on any other soul that is feeling discouraged or dry.

The promises are in no particular order. I encourage you to look them up in your own Bible (I used the New King James version), and consider the rich contexts as well.

#1: Perfect Peace – Isaiah 26:3

You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You.

#2: Hope in God – Psalm 42:11

Why are you cast down, O my soul?
And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God;
For I shall yet praise Him,
The help of my countenance and my God.

#3: A Very Present Help – Psalm 46:1

God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.

#4: I Will Lift Up My Eyes – Psalm 121:1-2

I will lift up my eyes to the hills—
From whence comes my help?
My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.

#5: I Shall Not Want – Psalm 23:1

The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.

#6: Take Refuge – Psalm 91:4

He shall cover you with His feathers,
And under His wings you shall take refuge;
His truth shall be your shield and buckler.

#7: The Lifter of My Head – Psalm 3:3

But You, O Lord, are a shield for me,
My glory and the One who lifts up my head.

#8: A Spirit of Power – 2 Timothy 1:7

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

#9: Is There Anything Too Hard? – Jeremiah 32:27

“Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me?”

#10: Mount Up with Wings as Eagles – Isaiah 40:31

But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.

#11: He Heard Me – Psalm 34:4

I sought the Lord, and He heard me,
And delivered me from all my fears.

#12: Power to the Weak – Isaiah 40:29

He gives power to the weak,
And to those who have no might He increases strength.

#13: Come to Me – Matthew 11:28-30

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

#14: Hope and a Future – Jeremiah 29:11

 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.

#15 – His Compassions Fail Not – Lamentations 3:22-24

Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I hope in Him!”

#16 – Be of Good Cheer – John 16:33

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

#17 – The Peace of God – Philippians 4:6-7

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

#18 – Grace to Help – Hebrews 4:15-16

For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

#19 – He Cares for You – I Peter 5:7

… casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.

#20 – The Love of God – Romans 8:38-39

For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Dear Lord, thank you for your promises which are new every morning. Thank you for your faithful love for us. Even when we can’t see the purpose in the circumstances, we can look to You, knowing You control all things and supremely care for us.

~ Kristen

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Ruth: Overcoming Others’ Expectations

Yesterday, I had the privilege of talking with the ladies of Connersville Baptist Temple during their women’s ministry event. We unpacked the topic of expectations, dealing with our own and the ones that other people place on us. Whew, letting go of unhealthy expectations and learning to embrace God’s is so refreshing and liberating!

One of the Bible characters we examined was a woman named Ruth in the Old Testament. She was able to overcome the negativity surrounding her heritage and bloom into the woman God designed for her to be.

Ruth’s Backstory

Ruth was a Moabitess woman, and the Moabites did not have a G-rated history. In fact, there were some good reasons the descendants of Abraham viewed the people of Moab with scorn. You see, Moab was the incestuous son of Lot by one of his daughters. It probably didn’t help that at one point, the king of Moab also tried to pay a soothsayer named Balaam to curse Israel (Numbers 22). However, God prevented Balaam from pronouncing a curse and instead gave him words of blessing for the Israelites. Still, these people clearly had grounds to resent and disdain the Moabites.

So you can only imagine how they must have viewed Ruth the Moabitess when she came with her mother-in-law Naomi to Bethlehem. Despite the odds stacked against her, Ruth was able to break free from the expectations of other people.

Naomi’s Expectation: Go home to the people of Moab and remarry. That’s where you belong.

Naomi’s husband Elimelech had moved his family into Moab because of a famine in the land of Judah. Moab may have seemed like a land of plenty at the time, but Elimelech and his two sons died there (cause of death unspecified). As a result, his widow Naomi and her two Moabitess daughters-in-law are left alone.

Naomi expects both women to return to their fathers’ houses until they remarry, but Ruth does something unexpected. She clings to her mother-in-law, vowing that Naomi’s people will be her people, and Naomi’s God, her God (Ruth 1:16-17). Although her sister-in-law Orpah returns home, Ruth stays with Naomi and travels with her to Bethlehem.

The Jews’ Expectation: Your past defines who you are.

Ruth had to be a patient woman. Even I get tired of reading the number of times she is called “the Moabitess” in the short four-chapter book that bears her name.

When the people of Bethlehem asked about her, the response left no doubt of her history.

  • 5 times she’s referred to as a Moabitess
  • 1 time she’s called a Moabitish damsel
  • The country of Moab is mentioned 11 times in the book

As I read Ruth’s story, I can almost hear the emphasis on the word Moab. It’s as if the gossips of Bethlehem were telling her, “We know your past, and it will define your future.”

Human Nature’s Expectation: Treat people the way you’ve been treated.

If you’re a Disney fan, you’re probably excited about the trend to create live action versions of our favorite childhood animated movies. One of mine is the live action Cinderella, and I particularly enjoy its theme of kindness – even to those who are unkind. When the prince finally rescues Cinderella from her attic prison, she turns and tells her cruel stepmother, “I forgive you.”

This intentional forgiveness flies in the face of human nature, which would have us treat others the way they treat us. But Cinderella doesn’t do what comes naturally, because she doesn’t dwell on the past or treat her stepmother the way she was treated. Instead, she forgives and moves on.

I think Ruth may be something of an Old Testament Cinderella. She doesn’t focus on the stigma of her heritage or treat others with the disdain they may have shown her. Her ambition is to care for her grieving mother-in-law, so she works hard. She gleans the leftovers in a near kinsman’s field from dawn until sundown.

And her reputation is acknowledged by Boaz, the man who ultimately redeems and (spoiler) marries her.

“And Boaz answered and said to her, “It has been fully reported to me, all that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband, and how you have left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and have come to a people whom you did not know before” (Ruth 2:11, NKJV).

Ruth even receives recognition from the gossips of Bethlehem, the same women who likely whispered “Moabitess” until it seemed like a stigma that would forever define her. When Ruth and Boaz have a son, they tell Naomi, “…for your daughter-in-law, who loves you, who is better to you than seven sons, has borne him” (Ruth 4:15b, NKJV).

God’s Expectation: You belong to me, and I have good plans for you.

Ruth had the courage to break through the expectations that seemed to bind her to the cursed country of Moab, and as a result, she became the great grandmother of King David (Ruth 4:17-22).

Don’t ever believe the world’s lie that your past defines you, that you’ll never “belong” or “fit in.” If you’re God’s child, you’re an heir of promise (Ephesians 3:6).

Heir of promise. That’s God’s expectation that I want to define me. How about you?

~ Kristen

 

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Book Trailer for The Reactionary

Cue dramatic music! The book trailer for the finale to The Rogues dystopian trilogy is here.

The driving beat reminds me of the purpose behind this book and the motivations that propel the characters themselves. That driving force is hope.

  • Hope for justice
  • Hope for personal liberty
  • Hope for family restoration
  • Hope for love
  • Hope for national reunification
  • Hope for meaning and identity outside of circumstances
  • Hope for truth that transcends the individual
  • Hope for eternal assurance and salvation

Dystopians aren’t known for hope, but this one is. Enjoy the official trailer for The Reactionary, available on Amazon.

 

 

Revolutionary Love

Love perseveres in spite of obstacles. Love gives without any guarantee of receiving. Love sacrifices until it hurts and then sacrifices some more.

If I told you those themes are part of my latest novel, you might guess I’m a romance writer, right? Well, they are, but guess again. The Revolutionary is a dystopia.

Wait. Dystopia? You mean one of those futuristic novels so dark they make the problems of our own world look like a walk in the park? Yes and no. Though dystopian novels have certain bleak characteristics, I think that setting paints the perfect contrast to the hope characters are fighting (and sometimes dying) to gain.

How can a dystopia present an accurate view of love? I’m glad you asked.

#1 – Love perseveres in spite of obstacles.

Obstacles are everywhere in dystopian novels, and The Revolutionary is no exception. The first chapter in this sequel to The Revisionary opens with my heroine Portia in a satellite slave camp where prisoners die like rabbits, and no one cares—no one but Portia’s protector Gath. Whether he’s trying to shield her from the freezing wind or take a lash for her, he selflessly destroys his own health to preserve hers.

As a result, Portia struggles with guilt. Surely, he has already done enough for her. How can she ever repay him? But then, there are those horrible rumors about Gath. Does he feel he owes her a debt because the accusations are true?

But that’s the thing. Love doesn’t keep score. Whether or not Gath is as guilty as people say, Portia resolves to rescue him and the other prisoners.

#2 – Love gives without any guarantee of receiving.

When a spy ringmaster helps her escape the satellite, Portia could try to run and get her life back. But the reality is that without her new role as a plant inside the capital of Crystal, her brother and friends won’t have any chance of learning why the ruling Dome wants to execute prisoners in mass.

Plus, unless she takes this job, she’ll never learn if her long-time friend Luther is on her side and cares about her the way she does for him. But when she sees him again for the first time in months, her blood curdles. He keeps company with the ruling echelons, the very people who want her dead.

They seem stuck on two different ends of a pendulum, never knowing when their paths will cross and if they have the same motives. Yet they desire the other’s good, even when they don’t know what that will mean for them.

#3 – Love sacrifices until it hurts and then sacrifices some more.

When God reaches into someone’s life, He can transform even the cruelest person into a new creation. In Acts 9, the Bible tells the true story of the transformation of persecutor Saul into the Apostle Paul.

Gath’s character arc in some ways parallels that of Paul. His faith enables him to love others—even his tormentors—in a way few people understand.

And though he’s merely a shell of his old self, he volunteers for a one-way mission, even when he finally has a chance at his own happy ending.

True love is sacrificial, not thinking of its own interests but of “the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4 ESV).

Closing thought

Whew, heavy stuff, right? I didn’t say dystopias are all sunshine and roses, but even they can present a beautiful, though battered, representation of what true love looks like.

Maybe you’re thinking, “That’s all well and good for make-believe, but that’s not real life.” If fiction doesn’t mirror real life, then there’s no point in reading it.

Besides, real life offers its own examples. Just look through the Bible for story after story of sacrificial love in action.

  • Jonathan willingly gave up his right to the throne for his friend David.
  • Ruth turned her back on her own people to care for her mother-in-law.
  • Esther faced the king on behalf of her people at the risk of her own life.
  • The Apostle Paul endured unspeakable torture for the gospel’s sake.
  • Then, there is the ultimate example, Jesus, who died on the cross for thankless sinners.

Sure, there are many failures in Scripture as well, but I find those examples encouraging, too. (And trust me, my characters make their fair share of mistakes.) However, through mistakes, we can discover second chances. In spite of past hurts, we can learn to love well.

Now that’s a revolutionary view of love.

~ Kristen

I’m grateful that this post first appeared on Christi Perry’s blog Not Born Fearless, which offers an honest, transparent look at dealing with fear and uncertainty in everyday life. 

 

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AOA Teacher Authors Message of Hope

The following article was featured in my school’s company newsletter, and the editor who conducted the interview graciously gave me permission to share it here with you. I’m so blessed to work at a place that supports my writing! 

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The genre of dystopian young adult fiction has become highly popularized in recent years with blockbuster novels like The Hunger Games, Divergent, and The Giver; however, Alpha Omega Academy teacher Kristen Hogrefe knew she wanted the genre to offer more than just entertainment.

“I wanted to offer hope,” the first-year AOA teacher said in a phone interview from her home in Spring Hill, Florida. “Dystopian novels are oftentimes so bleak. Maybe the heroine survives, but the cost is so severe that it hardly seems worth it.”

Published on June 6, 2017, The Revisionary is Hogrefe’s fourth novel and the first of a new Rogues trilogy with Write Integrity Press. The novel’s protagonist is Portia Abernathy, a 19-year-old girl who must overcome a physical handicap to rebuild her unraveling world.

“She’s on a quest for truth, and she’s trying to rescue her brother from exile in a prison camp,” Hogrefe summarized, “but she discovers that what’s going on in her world is actually a lot more complicated than she thinks. She realizes it’s not just about her world.”

Hogrefe estimated that she wrote The Revisionary over approximately eight months. She anticipates that the second book will be released in early 2018 with the final book out at the end of 2018 or early 2019.

“I’m excited to keep working on things,” she said. “It’s a rigorous timeline, but I’m a planner. I know where I want the plot to go, but at the same time, I can’t be too rigid with my outline because as characters develop, sometimes things have to change.”

Although meeting her writing deadlines while teaching has made for some busy days, Hogrefe said she has greatly enjoyed her first year at Alpha Omega Academy.

“It’s been great,” said Hogrefe. “There’s a lot to learn at any new job, but everyone has been so helpful, and the students are wonderfully polite, at least most of the time. I really enjoy the one-on-one teaching at AOA. It’s less like teaching and more like tutoring.”

The Revisionary is available in paperbook for $14.99 through Amazon. The novel is also available on Kindle. Hogrefe said most retailers should also be able to request the novel even if it’s not on a store’s shelves.

In the end though, Hogrefe knows the impact of her writing goes beyond how many copies her books sell.

“The publishing world is a competitive market,” she said. “I try to look at each sale as an opportunity to touch a life. I have received some feedback from readers, and I know I am touching someone’s life. Whether it’s through enjoyment or challenging a reader to think more deeply, it’s a privilege to have that part in somebody’s life.”

– Article by Glynlyon Editor, Reproduced with Permission

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Heritage in American History: Jefferson Memorial

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of chaperoning Alpha Omega Academy’s first field trip to Washington, D.C. Students from the states and abroad converged at Dulles and Reagan airports to start a week-long tour of our nation’s capital.

Never having been to D.C., I soaked up the history and culture like a sponge. Day after day, I witnessed landmarks that revealed our country’s faith-based heritage and the wisdom of our early leaders.

Blessed. That’s how this trip made me feel. Not only was I thrilled to explore “history” with an amazing group of students and chaperones, but I also felt as though God had given me a gift, an affirmation for my new trilogy.

One theme in my new release The Revisionary is rediscovering heritage to find hope for the future. Over the next few posts, I’d like to share first-hand glimpses into that heritage from our nation’s capital.

The Jefferson Memorial

Thomas Jefferson was the primary author of our Declaration of Independence and a man known for his eloquent pen.

The rotunda of the Jefferson Memorial bears inscriptions, excerpts from documents he wrote.

Consider this piece from one of his writings, engraved in the rotunda. The first line expresses his acknowledgment of and respect toward God as the Creator of life and liberty.

Were our early leaders perfect? Of course not. Did they make mistakes? Yes, they did. Many people think Jefferson himself was a Deist or heavily influenced by those beliefs, but regardless, he recognized God’s hand in America’s destiny.

Parting thought: Jefferson believed that God was the giver of life and liberty. What other “gifts” has God given you? Are you thankful for them? Count your blessings today.

~ Kristen

 

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