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Feasting or Striving…

Feasting or Striving - blog 3-2020

Photo by Rebecca on Unsplash

If you have a dog, then you know how sensitive their hearing is when it comes to anything that might possibly be related to food!

We have a little 8-pound Maltese/poodle/mutt rescue dog who just turned 10 years old. And not slowing down anytime soon. He lounges around the house sleeping away most of the day, but open any kind of package or clank around the mixing bowls, and he goes into a dead run, straight for the kitchen.

I was making a double batch of chili the other day for a meeting that was happening at our house, and there was a lot of food prep. I had just put fresh water and food in his bowls for our little Max, but that soon proved to not be good enough.

As I opened up cans of beans (no shame…I’ve got other things to do that soak four different kinds of beans overnight, etc. etc.), cooking the ground turkey, onions, and celery and portioning out the spices. Oh yeah, the kitchen was smelling fantastic! And Max was right there for all the action!

God is so good in giving me insight into my relationship with Him through everyday tasks, and today was no different. 

I watched Max scurry around the kitchen furiously searching for scraps or random bits of food that had fallen on the floor. I heard the Holy Spirit whisper to my heart, “You do the same thing sometimes.” What? Was the Lord really comparing me to my dog?! Then I heard Him say,

“I have provided all the nourishment you need yet you still scurry around looking for scraps that will never satisfy you.”

Whoa! He was right of course!

Let’s see if anything of these things resonate with you too…

When I get my feelings hurt (yes, even after 50 that still happens friends!) many times my first reaction is to complain about it to whoever will listen. I’ll call a friend, text someone else, or verbal vomit to my husband. I’m not looking for them to fix the problem, I just “want to be heard.” I want my side of the story to matter the most.

Honestly, I’m not looking for a solution to my heart issues, I’m searching for vindication in my quest to be upset. After all, don’t I have the right to be upset after being hurt?

Philippians 2:3-4 AMP,Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit [through factional motives, or strife], but with [an attitude of] humility [being neither arrogant nor self-righteous], regard others as more important than yourselves. Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

Hmmm…looks like I don’t have that “right” after all.

This is what I mean by ‘striving for scraps’: we will feel sad, hurt, frustrated, annoyed, mad, etc., but we do not have the right to stay that way. 

God has given us the most amazing gift of the Holy Spirit, and each time we choose our emotions over giving our hurts to the Lord, we are striving for scraps.

I Peter 5:6-8 gives us the perfect solution to whatever is causing us offense:

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God [set aside self-righteous pride], so that He may exalt you [to a place of honor in His service] at the appropriate time, casting all your cares [all your anxieties, all your worries, and all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares about you [with deepest affection, and watches over you very carefully]. Be sober [well balanced and self-disciplined], be alert and cautious at all times. That enemy of yours, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion [fiercely hungry], seeking someone to devour.

The Lord does not want us to come to Him some of the time, or most of the time to give Him our concerns. He wants us to come to Him ALL the time with ALL the things!

Years ago, after something happened with a friend, I felt offended and upset. I was venting to one of my daughters and she said, “Mom, you just need to give this to the Lord. It’s not doing you any good to be upset.”

I don’t know about you, but being parented by your adult children is not my favorite ~ especially when they are right!

I was immediately upset with her and unceremoniously replied, “Oh yes it does! I have a right to be mad, and I’m going to be mad for a while. Don’t tell me that I can’t be mad.”

Seriously, who’s the adult and who’s the child in this scenario?

Anyway, she was of course, right!

The Lord doesn’t want us to walk around mad, upset, or angry. It does not accomplish anything good! It is not beneficial to our life. And it can create more problems than you started with.

Instead of feasting on “the right to be mad”, what would have been better is to feast on God’s Word. Everything we need is right there. We don’t need to scurry around grasping for justification for our actions. We have to stop running around attempting to be filled by what the world says will work for our situation.

Turning to the Lord to answer us in various circumstances shows maturity. It means that we know our hearts will truly be filled only in His truth. By trusting what the Lord has taught us in scripture and by quieting ourselves to listen to the instruction of the Holy Spirit, we will not be tempted to scurry about like a dog looking for scraps.

Hebrews 5:13-14, 13 For everyone who lives on milk is [doctrinally inexperienced and] unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a spiritual infant. 14 But solid food is for the [spiritually] mature, whose senses are trained by practice to distinguish between what is morally good and what is evil.

We are mature when we eat the solid food of God’s Word. 

When we feast, we are taking our time to enjoy the company of our host. 

When we strive, we are completely ignoring the bounty set before us. 

If you were invited to a dinner party, you wouldn’t bring your own food or scurry about the kitchen attempting to make something “better” than what had been prepared. You would arrive, ready to be treated to scrumptious food and delightful companionship.

That is how it is with the Lord. He’s provided everything you need to rest and relax in Him.

Sit down and feast! 

So my friend, when you feel like you deserve to be mad, or right, or sense that life is spinning out of control; take a step back and really look at the situation. When you keep telling people about the same problems over and over again, but still refuse to take anyone’s advice; when you walk around feeling like you deserve to act the way that you are because you got your feelings hurt; these are moments the Holy Spirit is waving a big red spiritual flag in your face!

STOP!

Stop the striving. Stop the scurrying. Stop the selfishness.

Trust in the good words of scripture and feast on His truths ~ the Lord will never lead you astray!

Blessings,

René

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Alive and Rested…

girl sitting by water - REST - for 2-12-20 blog

Photo by léa b on Unsplash

Recently, I heard a fantastic word on festooning scripture. You may have read my previous blog (And then it was a New Year…) on this subject. So, I thought I today, I would share with you the reflections I experienced while using Psalm 23 to practice.

Pastor Christine Suh, Pastor of Spiritual Formation at Fellowship Monrovia, was the guest speaker at the Fellowship Moms Bible Study.

Festooning basically means “to decorate”. Pastor Christine then shared that she would teach us how to festoon scripture into our soul. That definitely caused me to pause. She also explained the beautiful benefits of time spent personalizing scripture to our current life circumstances.

I’ll also add, that God’s Word is not a merely a story book. It’s not a place where we can see how scripture fits into our life, or how God fits into our life. Quite the opposite. Spending time in God’s Word shows us how we are to live with God as the center of our life and how we can live so as to honor Him and glorify Him through all that we do. 

To festoon is to personalize. And because God’s word is alive, He can personalize it to us every time we decide to spend time with Him. That’s the heart of the good Father. He knows His children and what make each one of us respond to His voice.

As Pastor Christine continued with her teaching, she also showed how most passages have three parts:

  • Orientation
  • Disorientation
  • Reorientation

I love this so much because these three qualities speak of how He works in our life to show us our path and purpose. God is the God of order and not chaos, so in no way do I want to confuse you at all. Let me be clear ~ God is ALWAYS oriented perfectly! We as humans are the ones who get disoriented and confused. This is why scripture is written the way it is:

  • God gives us perfect direction ~ every time.
  • When we get disoriented, God is there to keep us stabilized with the truth of His Word.
  • Finally, God is there to refocus us and remind us Who is He, what He can do, and what our path is.

With that, I welcome you to join me in this exercise of festooning scripture! Go ahead and first read through Psalm 23 (printed at the bottom of this blog using the Amplified Bible version). After each verse, these are my first initial thoughts and feelings as I personalized this scripture.

Here we go ~

(Orientation)

Vs.1 “The LORD is my Shepherd [to feed, to guide and to shield me], I shall not want.

~ Thank you, Jesus, that You are always faithful to lead me on the path You have set forth for me to travel. In that path, there is no fear of being lost, in danger, or abandoned. No matter what, You will always provide for me all that I need. It may not be what I think I want, but it will be exactly what you have planned to satisfy my needs.

Vs.2 He lets me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still and quiet waters.

~ I’m grateful that You take me by the hand and gently lead me to places where I can find rest from my weariness; to places where I am able to rest in a peaceful state, and my mind is given rest from the distractions around me. I am thankful that there are opportunities that You provide for rest, and when my eyes are on You, I am able to see those times for what they are.

Vs.3 He refreshes and restores my soul (life); He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.

~ You are gracious Lord to bring refreshment to my soul through your Living Word, through prayer, all with the opportunity to bring You glory & praise. I’m so thankful that by pausing in my day to read scripture, pray, and apply it to my life, that I can be refreshed even through the storms when they arise.

(Disorientation)

Vs.4 Even though I walk through the [sunless] valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod [to protect] and Your staff [to guide], they comfort and console me.

~ You know there will be times where I will allow my thoughts to wander away from Your truths & promises, causing confusion, disorientation, doubt, and fear. BUT ~ Your loving discipline will bring me back & Holy Spirit will wash my heart & mind clean with God’s truth over & for my life. I am grateful for Your gift of a comforter in the Holy Spirit.

(Reorientation)

Vs.5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You have anointed and refreshed my head with oil; My cup overflows.

~ I’m humbled Lord by how You want to celebrate me; how You intend to gather me to Your presence to bless me beyond measure with all Your love and protection, guidance and rejoicing. With You there is nothing that I lack. When I’m filled with You, the overflow of my life will be unmistakably filled with You.

Vs.6 Surely goodness and mercy and unfailing love shall follow me all the days of my life, And I shall dwell forever [throughout all my days] in the house and in the presence of the LORD.”

~ You have called me by name, You have reconciled me to Your heart, You have come to save my soul and not condemn me. With You there is safety and joy, and that whatever trials and events come my way to cause disorientation, You will cover them and bring me to a place of peace. Forever!!

Whoa ~ such refreshment! Praise God!

I would love to encourage you to choose a scripture, maybe start with your favorite Psalm, and give it a try. When we truly meditate on God’s word and what He has to say to us, our soul cannot help but feel refreshed and renewed! Our soul and spirit long to be with the Father and what a beautiful privilege and blessing we have to openly read scripture and share with others what the Lord has done in our life.

Let your soul be festooned with the everlasting and perfect Word of God!

Blessings,

René

(Psalm 23 AMP) The Lord, the Psalmist’s Shepherd.

A Psalm of David.

23 The Lord is my Shepherd [to feed, to guide and to shield me],
I shall not want.

2 He lets me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still and quiet waters.

3 He refreshes and restores my soul (life);
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
for His name’s sake.

4 Even though I walk through the [sunless] [a]valley of the shadow of death,

I fear no evil, for You are with me;
Your rod [to protect] and Your staff [to guide], they comfort and console me.

5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You have anointed and refreshed my head with [b]oil;
My cup overflows.

6 Surely goodness and mercy and unfailing love shall follow me all the days of my life,
And I shall dwell forever [throughout all my days] in the house and in the presence of the Lord.

 

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Seeds and Fruit…

plant the seeds - blog 2-10-20

Photo by Noah Buscher on Unsplash

My daughter Sierra recently said to me, “Well, you can’t eat fruit from a seed.” I challenged her because you absolutely can. She pointed out that if she handed me a seed and said, “Take a bite.”, it wouldn’t really be taking a bite of the fruit. It’s not ready yet. Um, hello? What is that phrase…’out of the mouths of babes!’  Okay, I mean, she’s 20 years old but still! Preachin’ to her mama!

This comment was made after I shared with her my epiphany that I was trying to get something off the ground too fast. I knew what I needed to do and I knew that God has definitely called me to begin a new ministry, but I was rushing it. That’s not so bad, but I have known that I was rushing it for a while now. And what’s worse, is that because I haven’t wanted to give voice to what I knew the Holy Spirit was telling me, I’ve also brought along the group of women who’ve said they want to join me in launching this ministry, and have made them wait unnecessarily.

Hello, my name is Rene’, and I’m stubborn.

When this ministry started bubbling in my heart more than a year ago, I was so excited! I wrote down all my thoughts and what the Lord was whispering to my heart. I talked to my husband and my kids and they were all super supportive. I prayed over a list of friends to join me in this endeavor. I sent emails. I made phone calls. I hired a web designer. My daughter created logos for me. I’ve planned conference, retreats, day events, fundraising dinners, bible studies, small groups, prayer groups, etc., more than I can count.

I’ve got this.

And I launched the ministry this past Fall to great excitement and support from family, friends, and social media friends. My friend Gus even helped me create a fantastic fundraising video for GoFundMe and it’s up and running! It was all coming together.

There have been plenty of moments in the past 5 months that I’ve been tempted to doubt that God really called me to this, but I battled those negative thoughts and won. The Lord and I are in this together. I have full support from my husband and phenomenal friends from across the US who feel the same.

But I’ll admit, all the new things I’ve seen pop up ~ ministries, day and weekend retreats, websites, books, bible studies ~ all the things have made me doubt there’s room for this new ministry.

So this has been a process for me of constantly going before the Lord and giving it back to Him. He has called me to it and I know He will “launch” all the things when the time is right. The mere fact that He has given me so many ideas is proof that this ministry WILL have it’s time and it’s more than okay that all the things don’t happen all at the beginning!

Remember what I told you at the beginning of this blog of what my daughter said to me?
“You can’t eat fruit from the seed.”

Dang! It’s true!

I mean, the fruit will come from the seed, but you can’t open the seed expecting to find fruit that is ready for consumption. And if you try to, you’re actually killing the seed before it even has the opportunity to produce the good fruit.

So now, I’ve come to this conclusion that some of the plans I was moving forward to make happen need to wait a year or so (or whatever God’s timing has to say about it); now the hardest part is to tell my awesome team members.

I don’t even have a “live” website yet (btw…it’s coming in early March 2020) and there is not the platform that is needed to gather the people for events yet. It takes time. It takes commitment and hustle to get the word out and garner a following. Just because I think this new ministry is something that is needed and something I know is from the heart of God for me to do, doesn’t mean it’s going to happen overnight.

Through all of this I have learned (well, more accurately, still learning) to take a deeper pause when I feel that I’m rushing. When I feel like I’m pushing something to be created faster than possible, that’s a pretty good indicator that I’m running ahead of God. Putting in the hard work of creating a website, an email list of interested parties, partnering with businesses who share my heart, and honestly, finding the people who want more of God in their life. There’s so much more that I must DO before the “end game” fruit is ready to eat!

There will come a day when the email list is in the thousands, when the day retreats will happen, when the weekend retreats happen, even when the merchandise happens…but until then, I must be patient and not rush the fruit of what God intends to grow. After all, it’s His ministry and He will guide it where it should go.

Oh, I don’t want to forget to tell you what I heard from my team members, my friends, after I let them know that I need to pull back and have a bit of a re-start.

Let’s just say I’ve got two words for ya ~ 

TOTAL CONFIRMATION!

I’ve heard from just about everyone now (at the point I’m writing this blog) and they are all so supportive. A couple of them are actually relieved! They were feeling a halting in their spirit and weren’t sure they could continue moving forward with the way I had been planning. Boy, if that isn’t spiritual confirmation! Even my friend who is our web designer was feeling the same way and was completely relieved to hear that I was initiating this pause and time of re-direction and foundation building.

This is why I need and want a team with me!! We are on our way to creating a great foundation in 2020, reaping the fruit as growth provides it when ready.

I’m already so excited for how God is going to move in the hearts of young women to find this new ministry, Awake & Arise: A Gathering for Women! We do have our Instagram and facebook pages, but the activity will really step up in late February/early March! Be sure to check it out!

And as I’m on the analogy of fruit, the following verses of course came to mind and I’d love to share them with you.

John‬ ‭15:5‬ ‭AMP, “I am the Vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him bears much fruit, for [otherwise] apart from Me [that is, cut off from vital union with Me] you can do nothing.”

‭‭ John‬ ‭15:14-17‬ ‭AMP, “You are my friends if you keep on doing what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you [My] friends, because I have revealed to you everything that I have heard from My Father. You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you and I have appointed and placed and purposefully planted you, so that you would go and bear fruit and keep on bearing, and that your fruit will remain and be lasting, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name [as My representative] He may give to you. This [is what] I command you: that you love and unselfishly seek the best for one another.”

If you’ve got something stirring in your heart, always be sure to carry it loosely so the Lord can grow it how He intends. His timing is always best. The fruit of any endeavor He has laid on your heart will grow in the best way, in the best time, and will provide the best return for your obedience!

Let the seeds God is planted, or already has planted, settle into the deep soil of your heart being watered by the Holy Spirit. It’ll be a joy when that seed blooms to its full potential!

And hey, I’d love to hear all about it! Let me know what God is putting on your heart! You know, if He called you to it, He will equip you to do it!!

Blessings,

René

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Don’t Be Like Edmund…

Dont Eat the Turkish Delight blog - plain pic

Photo by Salih Akyürek on Unsplash

The first time I ever heard of Turkish delight was when I read The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe in The Chronicles of Narnia set of books by C.S. Lewis. Edmund, one of the children in the story, was offered some of this supposedly tasty treat by the White Witch, who was disguising herself as the Queen of Narnia. Anyway, it sounded completely disgusting to me, even though I knew it was supposed to be some kind of candy. But eight-year-old me thought, ‘no thanks’! And why would you take candy from a stranger anyway???

Then, I tried some last year! Ha!

My husband and I had the opportunity to have an overnight layover in Istanbul on the way to a work event for him. The tour guide who met us at the airport had a lovely tour of the heart of the city planned for us. One of the spots we went to was a local street market that made fresh Turkish delight and the owners insisted we try as many flavors as we wanted.

All I could think of was Edmund in the story, how he stuffed his face with this stuff. He was never satisfied and was left by the Queen wanting more. He blindly promised the Queen whatever she wished because he was blinded by the desire to have more of her Turkish delight.

But it was so good! We tried their traditional pistachio flavor, then chocolate rolled in pistachio, then some other nut flavors, and some other fruit flavors. Oh man! So sweet and delicious! And it did leave me wanting more.

As we know, eat the yummy stuff, but in moderation. Don’t obsess about it or put it above every other thing in our life.

This reminder of Edmund character and his clear obsession with Turkish delight made me think about myself.

What is my ‘turkish delight’? What do I give more thought to than I ought? What distracts me from operating from a place of obedience to God?

We all have those things in our life that we put too much focus on. And when we do this, we lose track of what the good things are that the Lord desires us to seek.

I’ll be honest with you. My biggest distraction each week is that thing that my Granmarie lovingly referred to as the “boob tube”. This was coined by the adult generation of the 1950’s when TV first came out. They were concerned that kids were spending too much time watching TV and allowing it to “dumb them down.” And that’s when there was like 5 channels to watch! Today there are over 50 networks and more than 1000 channels to choose from. You could scroll through all the channels every day and never be satisfied.

And then there’s social media ~ same thing…scroll for hours and days…and never be satisfied.

There’s only one source that can fully satisfy the heart, mind, and soul of every person on the planet ~ it is the Lord.

And He gives us the CHOICE to follow Him or not. 

We don’t have to wait for Him to open up Facebook Messenger to read our note to Him. We don’t have to wait for Him to accept our ‘follow’ request on Instagram. We don’t have to wait for Him to return our call. We don’t have to wait for an email reply.

He is present.

He is available.

He is waiting.

He is patient.

He is kind.

He truly is just one step away ~ no matter how far we have strayed, it just takes one step turning around toward Him, to reach Him again.

I think one of the best parts of my relationship with Jesus is that He is completely and always trustworthy. He never betrays my confidences. He never lies to me. He always encourages me even in the midst of discipline. His love has no ulterior motives. His plans are always for my good even when I don’t understand them. He never offers me something good in order to trick me into doing something wrong. He always builds me up. He always cares for my heart when I am sad. He will always be my protector. He will always be my defender. He will go into battle on my behalf. He is the giver of true peace.

And oh, so much more!

The truly best part ~ He is my salvation. He has saved me certain spiritual death. I will never be separated from Him and will in fact see Him face to face one day.

He is so very good! {and that’s putting it quite mildly!!}

So, what in your life has the enemy made you think is better than a relationship with Jesus?

What’s your ‘turkish delight’?

Whatever it is, give it to the Lord. Even if its minute by minute, or day by day, come to the Lord with your hands open and ask Him to fill it with what is important to Him. Jesus will absolutely show you what is important to Him and how His plans for you are good.

Savor these few verses today my friend ~ turn around and you’ll find Jesus right there ready to gather you up in His arms!

Luke 9:23-24 says,  23 “And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to follow Me [as My disciple], he must deny himself [set aside selfish interests], and take up his cross daily [expressing a willingness to endure whatever may come] and follow Me [believing in Me, conforming to My example in living and, if need be, suffering or perhaps dying because of faith in Me]. 24 For whoever wishes to save his life [in this world] will [eventually] lose it [through death], but whoever loses his life [in this world] for My sake, he is the one who will save it [from the consequences of sin and separation from God].”

John 3:16-18 promises us, 16 “For God so [greatly] loved and dearly prized the world, that He [even] gave His [One and] [a]only begotten Son, so that whoever believes and trusts in Him [as Savior] shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge and condemn the world [that is, to initiate the final judgment of the world], but that the world might be saved through Him. 18 Whoever believes and has decided to trust in Him [as personal Savior and Lord] is not judged [for this one, there is no judgment, no rejection, no condemnation]; but the one who does not believe [and has decided to reject Him as personal Savior and Lord] is judged already [that one has been convicted and sentenced], because [b]he has not believed and trusted in the name of the [One and] only begotten Son of God [the One who is truly unique, the only One of His kind, the One who alone can save him].

You are dearly loved ~ Jesus, through salvation, has literally loved the hell OUT of you! Hang on, read that one more time a little more slowly. Because of the gracious gift of salvation, we have everlasting life with the Lord. We are saved from the penalty of sin which is an eternal death separated from Him in hell. 

Again, whatever ‘turkish delight’ you think you are enjoying, or think you need to live a full life ~ it ain’t got nothing on a truly free life in Jesus. I’m praying that you hear my heart for you today ~ praying for you to come to a real place with the Lord and receive His grace for your life.

Jesus is better than anything this earthly world has to offer. I promise!

Blessings,

René

 

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Clean your sword…

Clean Your Sword blog - Battle Ready text

Photo by Ricardo Cruz on Unsplash

Have you ever heard this phrase? It’s usually referenced in terms of battle field protocol. After the battle was over, the soldiers were required to clean their sword before putting it away. This is practical and necessary. Not only would it be super gross to put away a dirty sword, the soldier would not be able to use that sword in the next battle. They would not be able to draw their swords quickly because they’d be stuck in their holders. The swords would not be able to do the job the soldier needed them to do because the blades would be dull and corroded. All the debris from battle would have gotten crusty and probably would’ve smelled awful too. Sorry for the imagery here, but it’s true.

I mean, you have to clean all your knives after you cook so that the utensils will be put away clean and ready to prep all you’re cooking the next time you’re getting dinner ready.

This past week at church, I sat in on a really fun class at church that is beginning to go through The Chronicles of Narnia and the spiritual connections between that series and the Bible. There was part of the story in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, where Aslan tells Edmund to clean his sword. It was such a pivotal moment in the book for Edmund and the brief conversation we had in class about this has definitely lingered in my brain this week.

It immediately had my mind racing with biblical imagery of battle. In God’s wisdom, and when the people were following Him with obedient hearts, the battle was always victorious! So many battles that the people prepared to fight in didn’t even have to raise their swords at all. In these battles of the Old Testament, the Lord was showing His people the true reality of wars in the spiritual realms. But there were also times that the people didn’t listen, taking matters into their own ‘capable’ hands and those battles were usually always lost.

If you are familiar with the book of Ephesians in the Bible, then you know there is a whole section dedicated to equipping the Christian for spiritual warfare. Before I go there, the Bible references swords a little over 400 times. All to do with battle of course.

Hebrews 4:12 says, For the word of God is living and active and full of power [making it operative, energizing, and effective]. It is sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating as far as the division of the soul and spirit [the completeness of a person], and of both joints and marrow [the deepest parts of our nature], exposing and judging the very thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Why does a sword need to be double-edged you may wonder? Well, when a soldier is adept at using their sword, they are able to wield it with such power that whether they hit from the left or the right, the sword will find its target every time and win. This is why the author of Hebrews uses this visual, comparing the Bible to a double-edged sword.

But how are we as warriors in the spiritual realm wield the Bible properly as a “two-edged sword”? In short, very carefully.

There are plenty out there who unfortunately use God’s Word to bring shame, disgrace, and defeat to those they deem inferior. Oh friend, if you have ever had someone use God’s Word to make you feel less than, please accept my apology on their behalf. Please believe and know that every scripture in the Bible is meant to draw us closer to the One who created each of us. Are there verses that deal with hard things like sin, obedience, disobedience, purity, and ways to live our life? Absolutely! But they are not there to make you feel like a worm.

The Bible is God’s love letter to you to let you know how truly LOVED you are by Him!

In Ephesians 6:10-17, we read a beautiful portion of scripture called The Armor of God:

The Armor of God

10 “In conclusion, be strong in the Lord [draw your strength from Him and be empowered through your union with Him] and in the power of His [boundless] might. 11 Put on the full armor of God [for His precepts are like the splendid armor of a heavily-armed soldier], so that you may be able to [successfully] stand up against all the schemes and the strategies and the deceits of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood [contending only with physical opponents], but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this [present] darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) places.

13 Therefore, put on the complete armor of God, so that you will be able to [successfully] resist and stand your ground in the evil day [of danger], and having done everything [that the crisis demands], to stand firm [in your place, fully prepared, immovable, victorious]. 14 So stand firm and hold your ground, having[b]tightened the wide band of truth (personal integrity, moral courage) around your waist and having put on the breastplate of righteousness (an upright heart), 15 and having [c]strapped on your feet the gospel of peace in preparation [to face the enemy with firm-footed stability and the readiness produced by the good news]. 16 Above all, lift up the [protective] [d]shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.”

In these short 8 verses, we see the perfect and complete description of what we need to do in our life today to be fully prepared to do battle. Whether that battle is in a hard conversation you have to have with someone, in disciplining one of your children, in decision-making times in your life, and of course in the spiritual realm.

God doesn’t say anywhere in the above scriptures, “Hey, if you’re tired or just feeling out of it, you can just pick the piece of armor you want to put on for the day and you’ll be good.” NO WAY!

Can you imagine actually going into a physical battle and deciding, “I’m just too tired to get ready. I’m having a great hair day and the helmet is totally gonna mess that up. Oh, and that shield is really heavy so I’ll give myself a rest today and grab it tomorrow.”

That would be ludicrous ~ and it would bring certain death!

So why do we as Believers do that to ourselves all the time?!?!?!

God tells us to be completely dressed in His armor so that we can successfully win the battle against us! These six pieces of God’s armor are all needed:

  • The belt of Truth
  • The breastplate of Righteousness
  • The ‘shoes’ of Peace
  • The shield of Faith
  • The helmet of Salvation
  • The sword of the Spirit

When we secure the truth of scripture around us, choosing to live rightly before God, walk in a way that brings peace to all situations, protecting our hearts with a deep faith in what God says about us and about who He is, keeping our minds clear and focused on the One who saved us from spiritual death, and properly utilizing God’s Word; then and only then are we truly prepared for battle.

It means that every day before we go to sleep, we must take care of our armor so that it’s ready for us to put on the next day. If we have battled, we must go before the Lord and have Him help us clean away the debris of the day. As the visual God gives us that the sword of the Spirit is the Word of God, how do we ‘clean’ that sword? This kind of stumped me for a minute and I asked God to show me what that means.

The Lord gave me a picture of a beautiful bible sitting on a coffee table, but that’s the extent of its use. It was simply decorative. The owner loved the bible enough to show all who entered that they had one but they had no idea what was inside.

We keep the ‘sword of the Spirit’ clean when we open it and do not let it collect dust or be on show for others to see. What’s important is the love letter that is inside for us to read and allow to permeate our heart, mind, and soul.

So, when you have those days, because we all do, where it seems like nothing is going right and everyone is against us…take a quick look at what you are ‘wearing’.

Did you try to go into battle on your own? Did we pick and choose what part of God’s armor to wear that day? Or worse yet, did we run out of the house spiritually naked? Yikes! Trust me, this is as much for me as it is for you that are reading this.

God does not waste words because His words bring life. 

Today, I would like to encourage you to allow God’s good Word to breathe life back into your soul today. Whatever battle you have been fighting, STOP! Take a pause to get dressed for battle and if you are weary, ask the Lord to help you put on His armor. The Lord’s armor is not too heavy ~ it is for your protection.

And remember, when the battle is done, clean your sword, shake off the dust of war, and trust that your Commander-in-Chief will take the night-watch for you!

Blessings,

René

 

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And then it was a New Year…

 

New Year blog - Refiner text - 1-16-20

For the past few years, I have prayed and asked the Lord to give me a word or scripture that would be an anchor of sorts for me in the new year.

I used to think it was kind of a silly Christian trend; especially with how popular and influential social media has become over the last five years.

Until the day in March of 2015 when I was sitting at a day retreat at our church and right before the speaker began, I clearly heard the Lord whisper to my heart, “I have set you a part.” At first I thought it was my own thoughts because I was literally the only one sitting in the front row. I hadn’t planned on it, and just as the enemy was tempting me to feel sorry for myself that I was sitting alone, that is when God whispered His promised to my heart. Then, as He is a good Father, He said it to me again but with a bit more clarity, “I have called you to be set a part.”

Immediately I knew that the Lord had given me a word for the year. He was going to be leading me down a path that would be new for me but I knew I could trust Him. That was the year I began to believe I was a woman with a mission. A woman who wanted to seek after the Lord and truly be called a friend of God.

I have received a ‘word of the year’ every year since then. It is still both a bit nerve-wracking and exhilarating at the same time.

Before I share what my word is for 2020, I wanted to share what I heard at a bible study I attended in December 2019.

Pastor Christine Suh, Pastor of Spiritual Formation at Fellowship Monrovia, was the guest speaker at the Fellowship Moms Bible Study. The title of what she shared was “Festooning”. I have not heard that word in a very long time and by the quizzical looks on the faces of most of the women in the room, I wasn’t alone.

Festooning basically means “to decorate”. She then shared that she would be teaching us how to festoon scripture into our soul. That definitely caused me to pause. If you know me, you know that I am a woman who loves to decorate!  I’ve got the décor boxes (for just about every holiday) in my garage to prove that point. I had never thought about decorating my soul with God’s Word.

Before we started, she had us ask the Lord what He needs from me personally. Then Pastor Christine asked us to take a few minutes of contemplative prayer. In those holy quiet moments that filled the room of over 100 women, there was an incredible peace that washed over me. I felt the Lord say, “You need to get fully awake. You are not awake enough yet! Do not be afraid to be fully set on fire for Me.”

WHOA!!!!!

My eyes flew open because there was a part of me that expected to see someone saying those words out loud to me. It was not a quiet whisper of the Holy Spirit, it was a directive from the Father.

This word meant so much more to me since my 2019 words were ‘Awake and Arise’. At the beginning of last year, when I prayed for a word, the Lord said, “I need you to wake up so I can rise you up.” 2019 was definitely a year that I woke up to A LOT of spiritual reality regarding where the Lord was taking me. My word in 2018 was ‘Rise Up’ ~ and that was a year of rebuilding and refocus for me. There was a lot of introspective challenges the Lord brought me through.

Jude 20-21 says, 20 But you, beloved, build yourselves up on [the foundation of] your most holy faith [continually progress, rise like an edifice higher and higher], pray in the Holy Spirit, 21 and keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously and looking forward to the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ [which will bring you] to eternal life.”

The bible studies, personal reading, contemplating on scripture was that foundation that the Lord was using to rise up the Holy Spirit within me. There were several significant moments in 2018 that the Lord used to clearly speak to my heart as to what seed had been planted.

Now, back to the present, I realized that all of those ‘words of the year’ prayers were way more impactful than I understood in the moment. As I prayed that day at Fellowship Mom’s, I had one of those “aha” moments!

This is what festooning the scripture on our heart means ~ to allow God’s living word to drape across our soul in order to bring delight, clarity, joy, celebration, and purpose to our life.

To festoon is to personalize. And because God’s word is alive, He can personalize it to us every time we decide to spend time with Him. That’s the heart of the good Father. He knows His children and what make each one of us respond to His voice.

As Pastor Christine continued with her teaching, she helped us go through a festooning of Psalm 23 ~ time spent personalizing this scripture to our current life circumstances. It was a beautiful thing to then sit and hear form the other 8 women at my table and see how these same verses were personalized totally different for each of us. God was in the midst of us, speaking to us uniquely and purposefully.

So, my word for 2020? Well, is currently mid-January and I just recently prayed for a word. It stunned me and it humbled me. Remember what the last few words were of what I felt God say to me in that contemplative prayer?

~ “…to be fully set on fire for Me!” ~

My words for 2020 are: Fire and Refiner

At first I wasn’t sure I heard the Lord correctly. But of course I did. I would not have come up with those words by myself. My first thoughts were honestly ones of trepidation, “Oh Lord…what are you going to burn away from me this year? What do I need to die to and give up? Where and when is this refining going to take place.”

Then I was reminded what I heard in that prayer and I felt such a peace come over me.

This will be a year where the things I do not need to hold on to in my life, will be cast away. Admittedly a bit of control freak, this is not going to be easy. But I so trust the Lord with what His plan and path for me in 2020 is. When I researched the word ‘fire’ in scripture, most of the time it’s in regard to God burning things and throwing things in the fire due to His wrath. But there is another side of fire scripture speaks about:

  • As a visible form of guidance for the Israelites in the wilderness ~ Exodus 13:21-22, 21 The [presence of the] Lord was going before them by day in a pillar (column) of cloud to lead them along the way, and in a pillar of fire by night to give them light, so that they could travel by day and by night. 22 He did not withdraw the pillar of cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from going before the people.
  • As a showing of God’s power & protection for those who trust in Him ~ Daniel 3:25-26, “ 25 He answered, “Look! I see four men untied, walking around in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt! And the appearance of the fourth is like [d]a son of the gods!” 26 Then Nebuchadnezzar approached the door of the blazing furnace and said, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, servants of the Most High God, come out [of there]! Come here!” Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego came out of the midst of the fire.
  • As a sign of God’s covenant with the Believer’s ~ Acts 2:2-4, and suddenly a sound came from heaven like a rushing violent wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. There appeared to them tongues resembling fire, which were being distributed [among them], and they rested on each one of them [as each person received the Holy Spirit]. And they were all filled [that is, diffused throughout their being] with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues (different languages), as the Spirit was giving them the ability to speak out [clearly and appropriately].
  • As a reminder of God’s power within us ~ 2 Timothy 1:6, “That is why I remind you to fan into flame the gracious gift of God, [that inner fire—the special endowment] which is in you through the laying on of my hands [with those of the elders at your ordination].”
  •  As a reminder that our words can speak life or death ~ James 3:6, “And the tongue is [in a sense] a fire, the very world of injustice and unrighteousness; the tongue is set among our members as that which contaminates the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life [the cycle of man’s existence], and is itself set on fire by hell (Gehenna).”
  • And as a reward ~ 1 Peter, 1:6-9, In this you rejoice greatly, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, which is much more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested and purified by fire, may be found to result in [your] praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and though you do not even see Him now, you believe and trust in Him and you greatly rejoice and delight with inexpressible and glorious joy, receiving as the result [the outcome, the consummation] of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

As for the word ‘refiner’, for the first few days I didn’t look too deeply into that word because I felt that it naturally went with the word fire. But over the past week, through more prayer and contemplation, I’ve come to realize that not only will the Lord continue to refine me as I seek after Him, but He is going to put in me in situations where He will use me to refine those around me. That is a daunting and humbling task. That is partly why James 3:6 is so pertinent to my thought processes.

In my 51 years on this earth so far (yeah, I said it…) I have walked through enough joys and trials to be able to speak with authority in a refining manner. I’m still learning, but I’ve also learned a lot! Sharing my story will hopefully help those who come behind me to learn from my mistakes. But more so to learn that God is a very loving and patient Father!

Before I go, I’ll share a link to a great song called “Refiner” by Maverick City Music. Trust me that I listened quite a bit more intently to this song in the last few weeks!

{https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UGFCbmvk0vo}

Blessings,

René

{Photo by Joshua Newton on Unsplash}

 

 

Christian Communicators, Christian Mentors, College age women, Mentors, Millenials, Moms, Parents, Public Speaking, Stay at Home Moms, Students, Teachers, Uncategorized, women, Women in Ministry, Women's Ministries, Writers

Closer than you think…

Closer than you think - blog with text

The promises of God are closer than we think.

More often than not, we have to fully give our dreams and hopes back to God and trust that He will sustain us and bring them to fruition in His perfect timing.

Reading through the book of Ruth, it could seem at first glance that life for Ruth and her mother-in-law Naomi was destined for brokenness. But when you dig deeper and really look at all they went through, you see the perfect picture of redemption, healing, and promises fulfilled.

Check out these verses with me in Ruth 4:4-6, 12, 17, and 22 {AMP}

“So I thought to let you hear of it, saying, ‘Buy it in the presence of those sitting here, and before the elders of my people. If you will redeem it, redeem it; but if not, then tell me, so that I may know; for there is no one besides you to redeem it, and I am [next of kin] after you.’ “And he said, “I will redeem it.” Then Boaz said, “The day that you buy the filed from Naomi, you must also acquire Ruth the Moabitess, the widow of the deceased, to restore the name of the deceased to his inheritance.” The closest relative (redeemer) said, “I cannot redeem it for myself, because [by marrying a Moabitess] I would jeopardize my own inheritance. Take my right of redemption (purchase) yourself, because I cannot redeem it.”

Further, may hour house be like the house of Perez whom Tamar bore to Judah, because of the offspring which the LORD will give you by this young woman.”

The neighbor women gave him a name, saying, “A son (grandson) has been born to Naomi.” They named him Obed (worshiper). He is the father of Jesse, the father of David [the ancestor of Jesus Christ].

Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David [the king of Israel and the ancestor of Jesus Christ].”

If you aren’t familiar with the book of Ruth, I would definitely recommend you taking a few moments to read it the four chapters. The significance of these verses above are a culmination of Ruth and Naomi (both widows) being provided for and taken care of; essentially being saved from a life of poverty and despair.

In the midst of Naomi’s sadness, she knew the only thing left to do was to go back to her people. Even with this plan, she had zero confidence that the town would accept her back into the community.

As someone who has moved 14 times since getting married in 1990, it’s never easy. It’s a strange mixture of excitement and pure terror! Dealing with all the new things ~ neighbors, grocery store, restaurants, different ways to get to church, work, or the kids’ schools. All the things!

But Naomi made sure that everyone knew that she knew, her life had changed. And not for the better. She tells everyone in Ruth 1:20,

“She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi (sweetness); call me Mara (bitter), for the Almighty has caused me great grief and bitterness.”

Thankfully I’ve never moved with that kind of greeting to new neighbors!”

Even though Naomi was beyond distressed, she obeyed the whisper in her heart and moved back to her people. That first step of obedience brought her to the next one and the next one and the one after that. Good things began happening for her and Ruth.

In the passage I shared at the beginning of this blog tells a brief story of how Ruth came to be able to marry Boaz. Prior to this gathering of town folks, it is clear in scripture that Boaz was enamored with Ruth. There is an age gap, and he was a man of great authority in the community, so this meant that he had to remain above reproach. There were enough signs of his affection to encourage Naomi to tell Ruth how to let Boaz know she would return his affection. Even so, there were still hurdles.

Naomi and Ruth could’ve chosen to fall full force into despair and doubt, but they remembered that they served a mighty God.

Can you imagine the tension though at that town meeting? Boaz and Ruth wanted to be together but they had to go through the proper channels. Too long to go into {so yeah…go read Ruth!} but these two decided to trust the Lord that there would be a good plan for them.

And indeed, there was! This next step of obedience on all the parts of Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz brought the world one step closer to the celebration of Jesus being born.

The birth of the Savior of the world was closer than they knew.

It would take seven more generations before Jesus was born, but His lineage was written by God since before time. {In all, from Abraham to David was 14 generations.*}

What is that thing you are waiting for? Anticipating? Dreading?

The Christmas and New Years’ seasons are full of so many different emotions for so many of us. As you read this, I’m sure there is a lot going on in your life and in the lives of those around you.

Waiting is hard.

Moving is not comfortable.

Change is not always what we want.

But God…

He will not let you fall.

He will not abandon you.

He simply calls you to take the next obedient step. Then the next one and the one after that. The answer to what you are questioning is most likely closer than you think. It also will most likely not come when you want it to come, but it will unfold at just the right time for you.

Especially as we have a new decade beginning ~ 2020 ~ it’s a perfect season to seek God and find out what He has for you. Spend time in prayer, reading the Word, and reflecting on what He says, and you will not be disappointed.

Be patient, defeat the temptation to become bitter, invest your heart in trusting God’s goodness for your life.

My prayer for you today and always is to remember that Jesus is closer to your heart than you might think. Trust Him.

Blessings,

René

 

 

 

 

‭‭Ruth‬ ‭4:4-6, 12, 17, 22‬ ‭AMP‬‬

https://www.bible.com/1588/rut.4.4-6,12,17,22.amp

“So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen; from David to the Babylonian deportation (exile), fourteen generations; and from the Babylonian deportation to the Messiah, fourteen generations.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭1:17‬ ‭AMP‬‬

https://www.bible.com/1588/mat.1.17.amp