Revive Our Hearts Podcast

A Massive Gospel Opportunity

Leslie Basham: Christie Erwin is sounding an alarm. We need more believers in Christ to step up and join her as foster parents.

Christie Erwin: I have a job to do, and I have a responsibility. And there are kids that are counting on me, and they’re counting on you, and they’re counting on the Body of Christ. Their lives—literally and figuratively—depend on what we do and what we say. If we’re not willing to step up, some of them are going to lose their lives.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of The Quiet Place, for Friday, December 28, 2018.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: As we near the end of 2018, I hope you’re taking some time to reflect on what God’s done in your life this year. I love doing that, thanking Him for all He’s done before rushing into the year ahead.

I’m so grateful for all the ministry the Lord has allowed Revive Our Hearts to participate in over these past twelve months. Today we’ll hear just a few highlights from this year's programming. You know, being on the program each weekday is a humbling opportunity, and I’m so grateful for every listener who prays and who gives to make it possible. You encourage me to keep going through your support. Which leads us to another highlight of the year. Let’s listen to a portion of the series, “Encouraging One Another.”

Nancy [from "Encouraging One Another"]: If we don’t have this mutual encouragement thing in place, we will sin, we will fall into unbelief, we will get discouraged, we will backslide.

I don’t care—you can be the leader of this ministry or some other ministry—if I don’t have that kind of encouragement in my life, I will backslide. I will be deceived by sin. I will fall into unbelief . . . and the same is true of you.

That’s why we need to be giving and receiving this kind of encouragement constantly. If we don’t encourage and exhort each other daily, what does this passage say? It says our hearts will become hardened. People get hardened when they’re discouraged.

When they’re in need of encouragement, our hearts become soft. Encouragement is like watering the soil. I looked at some pots last night at our house, and I said, “Honey, I don’t think these watering things in these pots are working. These pots are bone-dry!”

So something—some encouragement—wasn’t working. The water wasn’t making it to those pots. But encouragement is like water coming into those pots. It softens the soil; it makes a fertile place for those flowers to grow.

If we don’t encourage and exhort each other daily, our hearts become hardened. We become deceived according to Hebrews chapter 3. The deception of sin . . . we become vulnerable to sin. Encouragement! Keep pressing on; keep obeying God. Encouragement protects us from sin.

If we don’t encourage and exhort each other daily, our hearts can so easily turn away from the living God. We are responsible for each other. We are our brother’s and our sister’s keeper. We need each other; we need to encourage each other!

This is a theme that continues in the book of Hebrews. Hebrews chapter 10, verse 19 says,

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places [the holy place where the presence of God is; we have confidence to enter] by the blood of Jesus. . . let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience (vv. 19, 22).

Two steps here. The writer is saying first in these verses to the Hebrews, “Draw near to God. You have confidence through the blood of Christ. You can come right up into the very holy presence of God because of Jesus. Keep drawing near!” Don’t just draw near once when you get saved and then go live your own life apart from Christ. Keep drawing near to Christ with a true heart in full assurance of faith.

But then, don’t just draw near to God. He goes on to say in verse 23 that we’re to draw near to each other, huddled together as those men were in that mine. This is the means of preventing falling away from the faith and promoting faithfulness and perseverance.

Let me read Hebrews 10, beginning in verse 23:

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another [“spur one another on,” one translation says] to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together (vv. 23–25).

Don’t get spread out! Don’t forget to come together and meet with each other “as is the habit of some.” Some have neglected to meet together. They’ve said, “I can do this Christian-life thing on my own. Who needs the church?!” That’s the view of a lot of people who call themselves Jesus-followers today.

We need each other! He says, “. . . not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another [exhorting one another, comforting one another, coming alongside one another], and all the more as you see the Day [what’s the Day (capital D)?—the return of Jesus!] drawing near” (v. 25).

There are evil times, and the times are going to get worse and worse. That’s why we need each other. We need to come together for comfort, for encouragement, and to strengthen us so we can go out and be light and salt in this world that so desperately needs Jesus!

Let me just say, there is no substitute for having other believers in your life. There’s no substitute for the local church. Here at Revive Our Hearts we get emails from women who are in desperate circumstances and situations. But so many times they don’t have a church; they’re not in a church body. They want us to try from a distance—somebody we’ve never met, we don’t know—to encourage and help them.

We can send them a little bit of encouragement, and we do what we can. But one of the things we so often say is, “What’s your church? Where’s your church family; where’s your church body?”

I’ve heard all the stories about, “My church doesn’t do this; my church doesn’t do that. Nobody cares for me there.” And I get that. The church is an imperfect church. It doesn’t function—no church does, yours or mine or any church—entirely as it ought to. But you still cannot afford to move away.

Think of those nine men tied together to each other in that mine. They were afraid that if one went off he’d get pulled away in that torrent of millions of gallons of rushing water. You peel off from the body of Christ, and you are going to try and do it by yourself, you are not going to make it.

I read statistics that suggest that only a very tiny percentage of the millennial generation—of those who call themselves Christians—is going to be in church. There’s something wrong with the picture. That is dangerous! That is not safe.

And as we get closer to the return of Christ it’s all the more important. As there’s greater persecution, there will be great temptation to fall away. We need to hold each other up.

Who are the kinds of people we need to encourage to hold fast to Christ? We say we all need to be encouraged, we all need to be encouragers. So who do we need to encourage? Well, it could be a very, very long list, but let me just give you some ideas to prompt your thinking.

Let’s start with our own families—they need encouragement—and sadly, we often fall into the habit of encouraging people outside our own homes more than we do those within the four walls of our houses. (I see some heads nodding.)

You know what I’m talking about? I know what I’m talking about. We start to take each other for granted, and if somebody comes to us or calls us or texts us from outside—we’re going to take all the time in the world to be patient and interested and listen. But somebody in our own household wants to talk to us and we’re bothered or we’re distracted or we’ve got something else to do. We need to encourage those in our own homes: parents, siblings, mates.

Remember the 30-Day Husband Encouragement Challenge that Revive Our Hearts has given for years and years? If you’ve never done that—or if it’s been awhile—go to ReviveOurHearts.com and sign up for the 30-Day Husband Encouragement Challenge. You need that periodically in your marriage until it becomes a way of life, a habit.

Encouraging your children, and others’ children as well. It’s so easy to discourage one another in our own homes. I’m thankful to the Lord for a dad who was a sweet encourager in our family. Now, that doesn’t mean he never corrected; it doesn’t mean he didn’t deal with things; it doesn’t mean he didn’t ever lose his patience—he did. But he, by-and-large, was an encourager of his wife and his children.

Nancy: We’ve been listening to part of the series “Encouraging One Another” and you can hear the whole thing at ReviveOurHearts.com.

We’re reviewing some of the highlights from 2018 on Revive Our Hearts. One highlight showed us the need and the opportunity in the foster care system. Christie Erwin gave us a practical, powerful way we can encourage some of the most vulnerable people in our communities. Let’s listen.

Christie: When people learn that you’re a foster parent, invariably the first thing they say is, “Oh I could never do that! I’d get too attached.”

And so after a time, that really started to grate on my nerves. I thought, Well, what do you think?! What do you think we’re doing? Then the Lord just kind of whispered to me that my response to them needed to be a little deeper, and that was: “Yes, we do get attached, but that’s exactly what these children need.”

They need a parent who’s going to throw open their arms, throw caution to the wind, and love with abandon in a way that is unexpected. They don’t need a babysitter. They’ve experienced loss. Even if they’re coming straight from the womb, they have lost their mother’s voice.

Everything that they have experienced since conception, they’ve lost. Kids who are in foster care definitely have been through been trauma and neglect and abuse. They have experienced loss. The last thing they need is to come into my home and be babysat so that I can protect myself and my own emotions.

Nancy: So you were all in.

Christie: All in!

Nancy: So you had this first baby, Christopher, for ten days. Talk about what the attachment was like and what the letting go was like.

Christie: The attachment was just . . . it was remarkable! It showed me how it easy it is. You do not have to birth a child . . . I’m just sayin’!

Nancy: And you knew what that was like.

Christie: Oh, I knew what that was like. You immediately have this protection, this nurture, this deep unconditional love, this desire for this baby to live their life the way God intended, whatever that looks like.

Nancy: So you had to hand this baby you’d had for ten days into the hands of this couple who were going to be his forever family.

Christie: Yes . . . forever family . . . absolutely!

Nancy: And what was that like for you?

Christie: I wasn’t ready. Looking back now, after where I’ve come, it seems almost silly in a way, because he was going to this amazing Christian home, this beautiful home. Yet I, selfishly, was grieving the loss of this little one that I had loved so well for ten days.

It just seems funny to say that now, but it was so true. It was where I was. And so we took him home that night—getting ready for the next day—the last bath, the last all of that, even just after ten days.

We got back to the placement ceremony, and it was just a beautiful example of God’s provision and just His power and His ability to specifically and with great purpose and intent, set kids in families. It was just amazing! But I left there grief stricken.

One of the things, I think, that was so difficult for me was to get back in my car with that empty car seat. Because obviously, you’ve got to bring them there in a car seat, and then you’re not going home with them.

Jeff made it his mission that if we would meet there over the years—the next eleven years—he would bolt out to the car and grab the car seat and put it in his car. If we went together, he would run out the door, grab the car seat, and put it in my trunk so that I was not driving home with that empty car seat.

And I began to realize, almost immediately after Christopher went to his family, that this call on my heart was not going to be fun and games. There was going to be cost, and there was going to be a sacrifice.

You know, there’s a passage of Scripture that talks about King David and a man named Ornan who offered David everything to make a sacrifice: the land, the animal, whatever.

Nancy: And said, “I’m not going to charge you for it. Just take it!”

Christie: Absolutely, “Just take it!” Because David was king, and he wanted to help out. And David says to him, “I’m not going to offer to the Lord something that costs me nothing!” (see 1 Chron. 21:24) That has been ringing in my ears ever since!

The cost to love with abandon comes in many ways: It can be sleepless nights. It can be financial. It can be time, but for me, I think the majority of it has been grief, has been the loss.

Nancy: Loving and then losing.

Christie: Loving and losing and absolutely, it’s . . .

Nancy: . . . attaching and then having to give that child over.

Christie: That is so true, and it’s unexplainable. I talk to a lot of foster moms who, there’s just comfort in knowing someone understands that, because foster care is not supposed to be!

I mean, families are supposed to be healthy and thrive, and kids are supposed to live within their families of birth and families of origin and be healthy and happy.

Nancy: So the fact that we have foster care is an indication that something’s gone wrong.

Christie: Yes, something’s gone wrong. It doesn’t make sense. It’s like a death without a death. Nobody comes, nobody visits, but it’s a death of a relationship that will never be again.

And so, learning some of those foundational truths did not make the grief any easier, but it helped me to understand that part of my calling was offering to the Lord something that cost me.

Nancy: And that God’s calling involved a grieving process, but that didn’t mean God wasn’t calling you to it. That was part of the calling.

Christie: Yes. I think that’s a word of encouragement to people who feel called and who proceed with fostering or adopting and then . . .

Nancy: . . . run into some of the hard things.

Christie: Yes, and then decide, “I’m going to quit; it’s too hard!” You need to fall back, and you need to go back to that stone [that calling from God] and say, “He did call me, and so He’s continuing to call me, so let me push through that with His grace and mercy.”

There’s a Scripture that hit me one time. (It was in my old teenage Bible.) It’s in Proverbs; it just says, “God sees the crisis in your soul!” (Ps. 31:7 LTB). I can’t tell you how many times there’s been a crisis in my soul!

Sometimes that crisis was easy to move through, and He guided me right out of it. Other times it was a faith crisis that took months of seeking Him and honestly questioning, “Are You there? Are you hearing? Why didn’t you rescue?” That kind of thing.

And yet He continues to just whisper: “I’m here. You can trust me. You don’t have to trust the situation.”

Nancy: That’s Christie Erwin, from the series, “Opening Your Home to a Child” here on Revive Our Hearts. To hear that whole conversation, look up the series at ReviveOurHearts.com.

As we review highlights from 2018, let’s continue with this theme of opening our homes to others. Rosaria Butterfield joined us to talk about the value of hospitality.

Nancy [from "The Gospel Comes with a House Key"]: Your life, your being in Christ . . . You were, as you talk about in another book, an unlikely convert. God used hospitality to reach out to you, to bridge to Christ. This is something you had the joy of being a part of in relation to your own mother. You call it “deathbed hospitality.”

I know there are points of crisis and points where you have had a family member or someone you are close to that for years and years they seem that they are the most unlikely possibility of becoming a convert.

But God moved in an extraordinary way. Robert and I were hearing this story as it was unfolding. You shared it in this book. Can you give us a nutshell version of what God did there?

Rosaria: After Kent and I got married, we moved to North Carolina (we had been married for quite some time, actually, at that point), my mom moved with us, and she lived with us for sixteen months.

During that time she mocked our faith, she challenged Kent when he would try to do family devotions. I mean, it was really awful! She would tell our children that this was wrong, that intelligent people don’t believe in these supernatural things.

Nancy: She was highly resistant.

Rosaria: Oh, it was really rough. That was probably the biggest faith crisis of my life, because the hardest people to witness to are your family because they know your sin better than you do. There’s no faking it. They’ve been sinned against by you. Well, in God’s providence, I was able to spend the last ten days of my mother’s life with her in hospice. Kent took care of everything so that I literally just sat at her bedside the whole time.

Dying is very rough. It is a vile process! You watch someone die, even in hospice with plenty of morphine, and you know that death is a curse. I just prayed. I’m a singer. I sang through the psalter, I sang the psalms. At a certain point my mother just sat up and she looked at me, and she said, “Well, I guess I’m weak like you, now. Why don’t you tell me about this gospel? But I don’t believe. Why don’t I believe? If I’m weak like you, why don’t I believe?”

And I said, “Well, Mom, I don’t think it’s the gospel that you don’t know; I think it’s the Shepherd you don’t know. You seem to have the big strokes, but it’s the Person that you don’t know.” And my mother, in her very practical way said, “Fine. Okay. I’m dying. Tell me about this; tell me about Him.”

That began a fascinating time in my relationship with my mom. It only lasted for two days, because she died very quickly after that. But Kent and I started to read every Bible passage we knew of that told us about Jesus the Shepherd, and Jesus shepherding.

And my mother had this immediate and totally opposite response, where she couldn’t hear enough of it. She’d say, “Read me more; tell me more!” And then at a certain point she sat up in bed. You know, it’s funny, people who are dying, they can’t move their mouth, but all of a sudden they’re looking like they’re going to walk out of the room!

She sat up in bed, she said, “Well, but wait a second! What am I going to do about my sin? I don’t want to talk to a priest. What am I going to do with my sin?”

And I said, “Well, you have to talk to the Priest—the Priest, Jesus. You need to confess your sin and have confidence that He will forgive you.

She said, “But I don’t have to talk to you about it?”

“Nope! I’m not your priest!”

“Great! Good!”

Two days before she died, I had the amazing privilege of seeing her commit her life to Jesus!

We had had a rough go together, my mom and I. I couldn’t be all the things she wanted me to be. It was very hard; we had a very hard relationship.

But when she died in the Lord, it was as though all of the things that had been wounding to me in our relationship prior to that, it was like the Lord just filled them out. His blood just filled out those crevices of bad patterns. It was with no regrets that we buried my mother. That was the moment that I realized that God is merciful, and He hears your prayers.

Nancy: And, as you said in your book, it changed her future, but it changed your past as well.

Rosaria: It changed her future and our past. I don’t have any of those regrets. I don’t have any of those “what-ifs”—those childhood losses. Because in the forward motion of salvation, that resolves the backward glance of history.

Jesus rewrites history! The gospel changes individuals, but it also changes community. It changes the Body. That was one of the most powerful Christian lessons of my life!

Nancy: That’s Rosaria Butterfield showing us how God can use our homes to spread the gospel of Christ. We’ve been listening to the series “The Gospel Comes with a House Key,” and I hope you’ll listen to the whole series by visiting ReviveOurHearts.com.

I’ve so enjoyed reviewing some of the most meaningful moments on Revive Our Hearts here in 2018. Each of those series was possible because listeners got involved and supported Revive Our Hearts through prayer and through financial support.

We’ve been sharing a significant financial need with you all this month. Typically, more than 40% of all the donations we count on for the whole year arrive in December. And not only that, but a good part of those donations arrive in the final days of the month. So we are in crunch time, praying and excited to see how God will provide.

Would you be part of meeting this year end need? Visit ReviveOurHearts.com to make your donation. You may be thinking, I can't give much, so that won't be of much help. Let me just encourage you to give whatever God puts on your heart, and to that even small amounts add up to make a big difference if everyone gets involved. Again, the web address is ReviveOurHearts.com, or call 1–800–569–5959. Thanks so much for your part of helping Revive Our Hearts call women to freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness in Christ!

Leslie: We can all know one thing for sure: 2019 is bound to have some ups and some downs. But it will also be full of opportunity to grow. Nancy will talk about that Monday. Please be back, for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wishes you a blessed new year. It's an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

 

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