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

Sharing God’s Truth without Compromise…Part 3

Hey there ~ welcome to Part 3 of sharing God’s Truth without compromise. I’m transitioning into what it looks like to dig into God’s Word in the church. Just because we are within the church, doesn’t mean we all are in agreement about the Word of God. And that is truly a sad state for the Christian church. We have become too busy deciding what “our truth” is that so many have thrown out the idea that God’s Word is absolutely WITHOUT ERROR.

John Piper wrote this, “My feelings are not God. God is God. My feelings do not define truth. God’s Word defines truth. My feelings are echoes and responses to what my mind perceives. And sometimes – many times – my feelings are out of sync with the truth. When that happens – and it happens every day in some measure – I try not to bend the truth to justify my imperfect feelings, but rather, I plead with God: Purify my perceptions of your truth and transform my feelings so that they are in sync with the truth.”

Read that first sentence again…
“My feelings are not God.”

Feelings and emotions are given to us by God by they were never meant to determine or decide what is true or not regarding the biblical truths set by God from the before the beginning of time.

The dictionary defines feelings as, “the general state of consciousness considered independently of particular sensations, thoughts, etc; FEELING is a general term for a subjective point of view as well as for specific sensations: to be guided by feeling rather than by facts”

And emotions as, “an affective state of consciousness in which joy, sorrow, fear, hate, or the like, is experienced, as distinguished from cognitive and volitional states of consciousness. EMOTION is applied to an intensified feeling.”

This is why we cannot view the Bible and interpret what God’s laws and precepts look like against our own personal intellect.

Everyone who just sat in the main morning service, hearing the same message, has most likely “heard” something a bit different from everyone else. This is because we are taking in the words that have been taught and have sifted the words through how they are feeling this morning.

There are so many distractions from being tired, upset with a family member or friend, how “so and so” should be hearing this message, being too hot or too cold, and a whole host of other feelings an emotions that affect how we discern the message of what the Pastor, speaker, or worship leader intended for the message to be.

But here’s the difference, the interpretations of a message on a Sunday morning between congregants is all coming from a human standpoint.

The message of God’s Word is His Word…the inerrant word of God…the Living Word of God cannot be changed. There are definitely feelings and emotions that are woven through every single word of scripture…but they are God’s feelings and emotions. Yes, He has a lot of them…He created us to have them too.

But ours can be fallible, His never will be.

Because He is God, He knew we would struggle with this and so He left us a map of how to navigate our feelings and emotions.

I think most of us are familiar with Proverbs 3:5-6, but let’s read a few more verses that surround those two verses, beginning with verse 1 – 8:  The Rewards of Wisdom

Proverbs 3:1-8
“1 My son, do not forget my [a]teaching, But let your heart keep my commandments; 2 For length of days and years of life [worth living] And tranquility and prosperity [the wholeness of life’s blessings] they will add to you. 3 Do not let mercy and kindness and truth leave you [instead let these qualities define you]; Bind them [securely] around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart. 4 So find favor and high esteem in the sight of God and man. 5 Trust in and rely confidently on the LORD with all your heart And do not rely on your own insight or understanding. 6 In all your ways know and acknowledge and recognize Him, And He will make your paths straight and smooth [removing obstacles that block your way]. 7 Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD [with reverent awe and obedience] and turn [entirely] away from evil. 8 It will be health to your body [your marrow, your nerves, your sinews, your muscles—all your inner parts] and refreshment (physical well-being) to your bones. There is absolutely nothing negative about believing in, trusting in, holding tight to, the obedience to the commandments of the Lord. We will always be in the “winning” side; we will always walk in victory when we cling to the Truth and goodness of the Lord.”

Enter in all the denominations and beliefs that are in full swing around the world.

According to calculations found via Google by: Paohow Popchavei, in August 27 2018 says: “Today there are some 4,300 religions of the world’s, this is according to adherent, an independent, non-religiously, affiliated organization that monitors the number and size of the world religions. Side stepping the issue of what constitutes a religious adherent divides religions into Churches, Denominations, Congregation, Religion bodies, Faith group, Tribes, Cultures, and movements.”

Here are some 20 largest religions and their number of believers.

1: Christianity (2.2 billion)
2: Islam (1.5 billion)
3: Nonreligious ( Secular/Agnostic/Atheist) (1.2 billion)
4: Hinduism (1.1 billion )
5: Buddhism ( 535 million)
6: Chinese tradition religion ( 394 million)
7: Primal indigenous (300 million)
8: African tradition & diaspora (100 million)
9: Sikhism (30 million)
10: Juche (19 million)
11: Spiritism (15 million)
12: Judaism (14 million)
13: Bahai (7 million)
14: Jainism (4.2 million)
15: Shirito (4 million)
16: Cao Dai (4 million)
17: Zoraostrianism (2.6 million)
18: Tenrikyo (2 million)
19: Neo paganism (1 million)
20: Unitarian universalism ( 800,000)

All those religions are man makes, tomorrow there will be 5,000 religions or maybe more, so whichever people belief all are similar ideology, because humanity are one root and one destiny.
(https://www.quora.com/How-many-different-religions-are-there-in-the-world)

Now, within Christianity, there are at least a good 20, various denominations that splinter off from a main foundation of Christianity.

We cannot take out the parts of the Bible that we are uncomfortable with or that is not socially popular.

God’s commandments were not really comfortable or popular for that matter when He first breathed them into reality. Jesus said that we would be persecuted because of our belief in Him. And we are. Constantly.

I’m not saying that being a part of a certain denomination with the true Christian church is bad; the sticky part comes in as to why that denomination is formed to begin with. This is where the battle of being non-compromising within the Christian church comes from.

Whatever the denomination, whatever the church, whatever community you are connected with, there are ways to figure out if they are Bible-believing and God-fearing people.

*******************************************************************************

God’s Word is True.

God’s Word is without error.

It’s really that simple.

 

Blessings,

René

 

Christian Mentors, Moms, Parents, Public Speaking, Stay at Home Moms, Teachers, Uncategorized, Women's Ministries, Writers

Authentic Joy…

What come to your mind when you hear the word ‘joy’?

Candy ~ Almond joy?

Songs ~ Joyful Joyful We Adore Thee

Or different variations of the word JOY ~ happiness? Delight? Pleasure? Enjoyment? Bliss?

Or maybe on a more serious note, you’re wondering when the last time it was that you actually felt joyful?

So much of the idea of success in the world today is based on individualized aspects…What makes you happy? What lights you up? What moves you? What’s your passion? What drives you? Do those things!

But what happens on the mornings when you wake up and the answer to those questions are a big fat nothing? Then what do you do?

John 15:11 says “I have told you these things so that My joy and delight may be in you, and that your joy may be made full and complete and overflowing.”

So this is what I want to focus on the blog today ~ how to have joy everyday no matter what the circumstances.

Joy is defined as, “the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; keen pleasure; elation; a source or cause of keen pleasure or delight; something or someone greatly valued or appreciated; the expression or display of glad feeling; festive gaiety.”

There are over 300 references to ‘joy’ in the Bible, so I’m going to throw it out there, this is something that is important to the Lord…something that He wants us to understand and embrace for our benefit. As opposed to the word ‘happiness’ which is only mentioned a mere eight times. Joy and Happiness are totally different…even though the definition of Joy contains the word happiness.

Happiness is fleeting and is usually attached to an event or how a person makes us feel.

Joy on the other hand, is a state of being. It is a way we can feel no matter what circumstances we are experiencing.

Oh…but there’s one more word I want to touch on before I share a story with you ~ FEELING.

The most important thing I can tell you about feelings is that many times, okay, most times, they aren’t to be trusted as the absolute in how we respond to a situation. Feelings are temporary. I love the quote, “Never make permanent decisions based on temporary feelings.”

Let me tell you a little story ~

In January 1999, we were six months in to living in our dream home in Pasadena…white picket fence and all. My husband had a great job in the entertainment industry, money wasn’t an issue, we had two healthy daughters and decided to try for a third. Life was fantastic. I was so happy because I had everything I wanted. Did ya catch how many “I’s” were in that last sentence??

And then God decided to change the course of our life. It wasn’t horrible, but it was hard!

My husband came home one evening and said, “I’ve been praying a lot lately and I really feel that God wants me to quit my job and open my own company. I know this will mean that we will have to trade in our cars for less expensive ones and figure out if we can keep the kids in private school, oh yeah, and we’ll have to sell the house.”

Well, he told me how he felt, so I was gonna tell him how I felt…

I can still picture the scene in my mind; he was standing by the staircase and I was one stair up so we were just about eye to eye. I non-to-politely (honestly, I was downright rude about it), told him that he couldn’t possibly be hearing from God and I didn’t care what he felt because he was wrong. It was definitely NOT one of my proudest moments as a supportive Christian wife. But my husband truly loves me like Jesus does and he was so patient with me.

He just smiled, asked me to pray about it, and said that when I was ready to talk about it, to let him know.

That made me FEEL so mad!

Had I allowed my feelings to continue to prevail, I would have missed out on experiencing what true Joy can be.

It took the next 9 months to deal with all the things that I was feeling. How my heart ached at the thought of selling our dream home and moving again. How sad I was to be losing a very comfortable salary. Then I started realizing that all the things that were making me sad, were just things. I would still have my family and how could I walk away from doing what the Lord had asked us to do.

To step out in faith requires that we operate in the Fruit of the Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23a says, “But the fruit of the Spirit [the result of His presence within us] is love [unselfish concern for others], joy, [inner] peace, patience [not the ability to wait, but how we act while waiting], kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

I love how the Amplified version of the Bible describes peace as being something “inner” ~ and what is on the inside of us is what ends up coming to fruition on the outside of us. Through this passage we can see that authentic joy has nothing to do with our happiness; it has everything to do with where our identity comes from.

The worst thing my husband said to me that night was that we would have to sell our house. It was MY house. I had big plans (literally…we had just finished paying for an architect to draw up remodeling plans a few weeks prior). I had already imagined our future Christmases, our girls coming down the staircase for prom & taking pictures in front of the Batchehelder fireplace, how incredible our back yard would look as we hosted friends and family for their weddings amidst fragrant bouquets of flowers and covered in a canopy of fairy lights.

I felt cheated. I felt mad. I felt slighted. I felt my dreams weren’t important.

And for what….a house?

The last day of work for my husband at his original job, was November 19, 2000. For the next decade, I learned quite intimately how I must trust the Lord to be my strength, my hope, my delight, my joy.

Proverbs 10:28 is quite thought-provoking, “The hope of the righteous [those of honorable character and integrity] is joy, But the expectation of the wicked [those who oppose God and ignore His wisdom] comes to nothing.”

Yeah, the Holy Spirit doesn’t mince words here.

And I battled between spiritual integrity and selfish expectations for a long time. It was not pretty.

On the outside, I would plaster on that happy face. But deep down, and many days it bubbled barely beneath the surface, I was angry. And I’m sure you know this…but you cannot be both angry and joyful at the same time. It’s like expecting to bite into a luscious donut and all you get is tofu…they don’t go together…like at all…ever!

Why did we have to struggle so much? Paying our bills, the mortgage, keeping food in the fridge, and gas in the car….seriously? Didn’t GOD tell my husband to quit a perfectly good job and create a new one? Wasn’t it GOD that whispered to the heart of my husband to do his work for Him?  How can GOD direct us to start a Christian company and not bless it?  I mean, really. I was even dyeing & cutting my own hair (oh yeah…it was not a good look…) and stopped getting manicures.

I knew it was petty. I knew that God was in charge. I knew that we would receive blessings from God that would be nothing less than miraculous. I knew all of that in my head, but my heart was in complete denial & filled with frustration pretty much every day.

Proverbs 17:22 summed up my life, “A happy heart is good medicine and a joyful mind causes healing, But a broken spirit dries up the bones.”

Well, the second half of that verse sums up my life for far too long.

We moved ~ God graced us with a beautiful new home.

We tried for a third child and had a healthy daughter.

Our cars were different but they were great ~ and paid for!

Our girls were able to remain at their private school ~ total miracle.

We had the support of our church community.

And I still loved my husband.

Things were looking up.

Then the ceiling in our kitchen started to fall down…because of a burst water pipe…from the upstairs bathroom…

Really?

Happiness disappeared like a vapor and Joy…inner peace…that wasn’t even part of the plan anymore. I moved into survival mode.

For the next 18 months, the Lord took us down a road that I still look back on in amazement. Within the first few weeks, I realized that I needed to change my perspective real quick or I was going to implode.

Actually, I didn’t realize it on my own…thankfully I have wonderful mentors and friends who spoke hard truth to my deaf ears and hardened heart. God wasn’t punishing me, my husband, or our family. He was using this time to prune out of my heart what didn’t need to be there in order for His purposes to be completed within me and throughout my life as a witness for Him.

I was broken but knew deep down I was still blessed. I had to pray often for my joy to be renewed. Very often in the beginning!

Psalm 16:11 promises this, “You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forevermore.”

Where is my joy? It’s in His presence.

Where are the pleasures of life? In His right hand.

Hello! Life changer right there!

We lived in a local hotel for 6 months then moved to a furnished apartment for one year while our house/kitchen went through insurance denials, mold abatement, insurance stalemates, lots of waiting, finally remodeling, then suing the insurance company and moving back home.

I had to learn how to have joy ~ a joy that didn’t come from anything around me or from anything I could produce. I had to rely on the Lord to move within my heart, mind, and soul to create His perfect joy.

I had to ask Him for it…and He gladly answered that prayer!

Part of my responsibility as a wife was to be a support to my husband however I could…happy wife happy life…but not just happy…joyful. As a Mom, my daughters needed as much stability in their lives as possible. At 2, 6, and 8, none of it made sense.  And sleeping together in a pull-out sofa lost its charm pretty quick!

What’s a momma to do…pray!

So I found things I could be joyful about…

Living in a hotel meant I had room/cleaning service…every day!

Apartment laundry rooms meant I could get 15 loads of laundry done in about 3 hours instead of 12…yeah…Every.Week!

Apartment living meant it only took 45 minutes to clean house instead of all day at home.

In both locations, I brought in photos from home and hung them on the wall with those fabulous 3m hooks. I brightened up the beige walls of the apartment entry way with big colorful maps of the USA and one of the world that I found at Costco. I restored part of my sanity by donning a mask & going to our house and getting my sewing machine so I could be creative. I mean, I had all that “free time” that I didn’t have to spend doing laundry or cleaning, right!?!

One of the best ways that the Lord humbled me to learn how to receive His joy was to receive help from others. I didn’t want to be a charity case. But a very wise friend reminded me of how I felt when I was able to bless others with a home-cooked meal, or free babysitting, or a paid-for date night…people wanted to do that for our family now. It’s hard to be on the receiving end, but it’s so worth it.

My attitude began to change and I began to see our reality through the lens of authentic joy. A joy that is not borne out of circumstances, but out of following Christ and choosing to be obedient to what He calls me to walk through.

Once we were able to move back into our house, our life didn’t suddenly become easy.  The money struggles were still there but my husband and I would pray, “Okay Lord, you love to show off to Your children how well you can provide…let’s see what You’re going to do this time!” And we really meant it! And He would always come through. There isn’t enough time to recount the miracles of how God provided for our family during that decade, but it was phenomenal!

Just one quick story, that is still a bit emotional for me to think about, was how we literally had no food in the fridge. We finished up the last of the cereal, eggs, and milk, and used up the rest of what we had to make three little lunches for our girls to take to school. My husband and I prayed before I left to take the girls to school, that God would provide a miracle for us to be able to feed our family. I won’t lie, we were nervous but we trusted God.

As I exited car line and went down a side street, I pulled over and cried and knew I needed to discard my pride and call my parents to help us…and now that I have grown children, there really isn’t an age where that momma heart doesn’t kick in to want to help out your kiddos.

As I held the phone in my hands praying for God to give me the courage to call, it rang…it was my husband…he said, “Everything is great and I’m fine, but you need to come to the office before you go home.” I told him I was about to call my mom about the grocery dilemma and he told me to “wait. Come to the office.” Fine!

I pulled in and walked slowly to his office. He sat there with tears streaming down his face holding a card in his hands. He held it out to my and said, “Just open it.” It was a beautiful floral design, “Thinking of You” kind of card. Inside it read, “Dear Bancroft Family, You are always in my thoughts. Love, Jesus”. Then my husband handed me another little envelope that had been inside the card.

It was a $300 gift card to Ralphs grocery store, written on it with a black sharpie, “To the Bancroft’s ~ Love, Jesus”.

He provided more than enough.

And I still have the card as a reminder that Jesus sees our needs. And that He shops at Ralphs!

Romans 12:11-13, “never lagging behind in diligence; aglow in the Spirit, enthusiastically serving the Lord; constantly rejoicing in hope [because of our confidence in Christ], steadfast and patient in distress, devoted to prayer [continually seeking wisdom, guidance, and strength], contributing to the needs of God’s people, pursuing [the practice of] hospitality.”

I learned that there is no “last minute” with God ~ it might feel like MY last minute, but it’s His perfect timing! God has shown up for us every single time.

We have known plenty and we have known want.

But most importantly, we have always known that our joy rests in Him and not in our circumstances.

That is true authentic joy.

To trust the Lord with EVERYTHING! You don’t have to be happy when you go through difficult times, but it is possible to be joyfully content in the midst of the struggle.

Blessings,

René

Christian Mentors, Moms, Parents, Public Speaking, Stay at Home Moms, Teachers, Women's Ministries, Writers

Your View: Windshield or Rear-View…

Are You Looking Out the Windshield or the Rear-View Mirror?

I got the idea for this discussion topic from a sermon I heard the other day on the radio.There’s a reason why the windshield on a car is so large and the rear-view mirror is so small.

We need to have a wide view of what is out in front of us so that we can see where we are going. The point of driving somewhere is to move forward to get where we intend to end up. We don’t drive backwards to get to our destination. Right?

I know these concepts are not mind-blowing or something new…but I think it’s a good reminder every now and then to take notice of where our attention lies.

Rear-view mirrors, and side-view mirrors for that matter, aren’t bad though…they are completely necessary.

When we look up to check the rear-view or side-view mirrors, that’s just it…it’s just to take a quick look to make sure we are not in danger of being in an accident or causing an accident as we move about the road. We are not to allow our focus to linger because if we do, we are bound to run into the car in front of us.

Our past is like those smaller mirrors.

There’s a warning bell that sounds in your heart or your head, when you’re about to veer off course.  It’s the alarm that alerts us to check ourselves. Are we about to make the same mistake for the millionth time? Are we about to say the wrong thing to someone…again…knowing it won’t work? Did we forget what happened the last time? And if the mirror checks don’t work, then when we drive over those little bumpy-things (I’m sure they gave a name!) that’s a physical AND audible alert that we need to correct our path or we’ll soon be in trouble!

When we look into the side mirror, we can see that car speeding up really fast to our left and make that quick decision to WAIT to move over.

When we look into our rear-view mirror, we can see that car speeding up behind us or flashing their lights at us, and decide we need to move over and let that person go on their merry way albeit too fast and not get involved in their crazy. We can also see the red lights of a fire truck or police car, alerting us to move over because there’s trohbke ahead!

So how does that this translate into our spiritual life?

What side glances get you off track?

What kinds of things do you think you should be focusing on in your “front windshield”?

Let’s look at some scripture that talks about looking forward or behind.

Proverbs 4:25-26 (AMP) “Let your eyes look directly ahead [toward the path of moral courage] And let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you [toward the path of integrity]. Consider well and watch carefully the path of your feet, And all your ways will be steadfast and sure.”

 Right there in scripture ~ “…look directly ahead…”  When we direct our gaze straight ahead, like through a large windshield, we will see the path that clearly leads to integrity!

Hebrews 11: 23-29 (AMP) “By faith Moses, after his birth, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful and divinely favored child; and they were not afraid of the king’s (Pharaoh’s) decree. By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, because he preferred to endure the hardship of the people of God rather than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of the Christ [that is, the rebuke he would suffer for his faithful obedience to God] to be greater wealth than all the treasures of Egypt; for he looked ahead to the reward [promised by God]. By faith he left Egypt, being unafraid of the wrath of the king; for he endured [steadfastly], as seeing Him who is unseen. By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of the blood [on the doorposts], so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch them (the firstborn of Israel). By faith the people [of Israel] crossed the Red Sea as though they were passing through dry land; but when the Egyptians attempted it they were drowned.”

 I love that these verses in Hebrews remind us that it is not simply looking ahead & fixing our gaze on the Lord; it is through FAITH that we can accomplish this daily task.

 We are also instructed in God’s Word to take His direction for our life very seriously. When He tells us not to look behind us {dwelling on past sin; obsessing over something you think you’ve missed out on; staying stuck in a cycle of unforgiveness; etc.} then He means it!! 

Genesis 19:26 (AMP) “But Lot’s wife, from behind him, [foolishly, longingly] looked [back toward Sodom in an act of disobedience], and she became a pillar of salt.”

God also shows us through scripture how He provides the way out of a situation. One that is getting a bit frightening or unsettling. In Genesis 22:13 (AMP) we see just that…“Then Abraham looked up and glanced around, and behold, behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up for a burnt offering (ascending sacrifice) instead of his son.”

 Let go of the past and start moving forward! Maybe it’s an actual physical move out of the environment you’re in (work, neighborhood, state…). Maybe it’s a shift in your heart ~ an attitude you’re having is causing disruption in your spiritual life. 

Luke 9:61-62 (AMP) “Another also said, “I will follow You, Lord [as Your disciple]; but first let me say goodbye to those at my home.” But Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back [to the things left behind] is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Don’t linger on looking into the smaller windows. Look through the bigger lens of God’s Word…through His windshield!

Blessings,

René

 

Christian Mentors, Moms, Parents, Stay at Home Moms, Uncategorized, Women's Ministries

Grieving With Hope

There have many things I’ve seen & heard about in the last week that have centered around moments brought on by grief. Friends who are mourning the loss of a family member, the extreme tragedy in Paris due to the terrorist bombings, loss of life in various middle Eastern countries, friends who have loved ones dealing with cancer, and others who have lost jobs. There are a variety of ways we experience loss and just as many ways we grieve those losses.

Like you, I’ve experienced various losses in my life and haven’t always handled the process very well.  My first brother died of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) at 3 months old ~ I was 23 months old and I remember that day vividly.  I realize now that the way I processed my “2 year old grief” was to become the little momma…everyone’s caretaker to make sure everyone was happy.  I was blessed with several great grandparents and great aunts & uncles, and a great multitude of cousins ~ which meant by the time I was 18, I had attended about 10-12 funerals.  I remember when I was about 31, I attended my first funeral service where the person was not a Christian.  I almost came unglued during the service when this woman’s children looked up toward the ceiling of the church and said, “Well Mom, wherever you are, I hope you are happy and maybe I’ll see you again sometime.” I cried all the way home.  Deeply saddened for this family who was not only dealing with the loss of their sweet mom, but adding to that grief was the knowledge that they didn’t have the hope and security in Christ’s salvation.  I also cried with relief knowing that my daughters would never have to wonder where I was after my time here on earth is done.

This can be a very touchy subject for some, and I do not mean to offend.  What I want to offer you is Hope.  In Christ, through His salvation, we have a hope that is full of grace and mercy; and frankly, totally incomprehensible.

John 3:16-21 beautifully illustrates God’s promise, For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.”

The latter half of these verses readily bring to mind the Paris tragedies that happened this past Friday.  The people who organized these heinous acts are evil. Pure and simple…they. are. evil.  Because sin came into this world (Genesis 3), satan became the ruler of this world.  Satan’s goal is to wreak havoc over the entire earth; to make every good thing God created into something twisted; to turn God’s Word around to make it sound legalistic and unattainable.

My friend ~ look to the truth of God’s Word here in Ephesians 6:12, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

In the book of John, chapter 14, the truth that is celebrated on these pages of scripture fills me with great hope and great joy.  Verses 1-7, Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.”Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”” 

In verses 15-17 of chapter 14, John writes, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” 

But I think my favorite part of John 14 is in verse 27,Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” 

Let me just say…the entire book of John is an amazing account of the life and teaching of Jesus Christ & I recommend that you take a moment and read the whole book.  It holds a brilliant light up to a dark world, proving that Jesus IS who He says He is.  He WILL do what He has promised to do.  We do have salvation through Him and we will be with Him again someday.

But sometimes you have seasons of doubt, usually as a result of some kind of grief you experience.  This is not a concept that is readily spoken about in the Christian church today, and I personally think this is part of the reason why so many Christians become disillusioned with the Word of God and His promises.  No one wants to take the time to walk that dark road of doubt with someone, encouraging them to persevere and make it out back to the light of truth.  God knew we would deal with this emotion of doubt.

One answer comes in Romans 3:3-4a, What then? If some did not believe, will their unbelief cancel God’s faithfulness? Absolutely not! God must be true, even if everyone is a liar,” Just because I may at times doubt in God’s plan for my life or for this world; just because I may at times have a hard time believing that God’s goodness will overcome ~ those human feelings do not in any way nullify the purity and surety that is God.

The NIV Bible version mentions the word “grief”, 32 times in scripture; the word “grieve” or “grieved”, 30 times; and “grieving”, 3 times.   Collectively, that is 65 mentions of grief.  But just like God, He wants to show us His heart and remind us what is true.  Guess how many times the word JOY is used in scripture?  50? 100? 150?  Nope….over 240 times!!!  And the word HOPE is written about 180 times! Mathematically, that’s EIGHT TIMES the amount of God calling us to focus on what is good and truthful, joyful and hopeful…..instead of focusing on the pain of grief.

Psalm 30:11-12 King David joyously declares, You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!”

 

For this blog post, I turned to my friends on Facebook and asked them, “What does the statement, ‘grieve with hope’, mean to you?”  Here are some snipits of what they had to say:

“The grief of Christians is very different from the grief of non believers because we have hope that all pain will pass away.” 

“I grieve with hope everyday knowing that my mom is with Jesus and I will see her again. Our view of heaven is very different when someone we love so much is there.”

“The hope that I have in Christ, brings me joy and I know that because of Jesus being my hope.”

“My hope is in that which I do not see … Which is a future with no more tears, no more pain. It’s literally too good to be true – and yet, miraculously, it is true, and there lies my hope.”

There are times and seasons when prayers go unanswered – and we have no idea why! When there are doors we so desperately want to have opened wide and God, in His Wisdom, keeps them closed – or slams them shut!! If we remain in Him, if we persist in prayer and stay in the Word – when our soul is anchored in the Lord, we will soon see His purpose and His reasons.”

“In life, it means to me that broken relationships grieve our hearts, but in the Lord there is hope for healing. In death, it means that when we lose another fellow believer we have hope of being reunited in heaven.”

 

Lamentations 3 verse 24

I am so thankful for the input of these dear friends who shared their heart.  My prayer is that through their words, and through the truth of God’s scripture, that you will begin a new journey of turning your uncertainty to surety, your sorrow to joy, and your grief to hope.  There is HOPE!

Blessings,

René

Christian Mentors, Moms, Parents, Stay at Home Moms, Women's Ministries

Good News from a Far Country

It is always so wonderful to me when I hear good news “from a far country.”  Sometimes, the distance really isn’t that far, but just far enough.  If you ask some of the people we know, asking them to travel to the Pasadena area from their homes seems like we are asking them to travel to a far country!  LOL!!  Really….20 minutes?  In SoCal, that’s a quick trip! If you aren’t from this area, I’m sure I will bewilder you when I tell you that in order to visit my sweet niece, her husband, and their three beautiful daughters, it takes an hour AND 7 freeways to get there…yes, I said SEVEN!  But it’s always worth it!

We have friends & family from all over the country…great places to visit…Montana, Tennessee, Washington, Kentucky, Virginia, Florida, Texas…just to name a few.  At this point in time, the most “far country” person in my life is our middle daughter who lives in Kona, HI.  And soon she will be ministering with YWAM in an area in Southeast Asia…that’s REALLY REALLY FAR!  I’m so beyond thankful for technology that allows us to keep in contact so easily.  Our oldest daughter used to live in Seattle and many times that seemed like a far away country.  And with our youngest still at home, I think she sometimes feels like high school is a foreign country!  🙂

When I was in the 6th grade, my teacher was a darling little woman from the Philippines.  We learned very quickly, however, not to underestimate her authority in the classroom.  Small but mighty is a great description for her!  At that time in the L.A. area, the public school systems were beginning to severely decline in their organization.  These poor teachers wouldn’t find out what grade they were teaching for the year until practically the day before school began.  Surprise surprise that the first 4-6 weeks of school, we didn’t have the books or curriculum that we needed.  But with Mrs. Hidalgo in charge, our little class did not suffer from “nothing to do” syndrome.  We were learning about foreign countries, and she taught us how to write our first research paper.  I remember I was given the country of Venezuela and I think I still have that report somewhere ~ I was quite proud of it!  After we were done with that, we all received our new pen pal (through a national service that matched 6th graders with other students the same age in foreign countries).  Christl from Belgium became my new pen pal friend ~ and although it’s not 1-2 letters a week that we would send/receive from each other back in the day, we still exchange Christmas cards all these years later!  I even had the privilege of meeting her in person about seventeen years ago.  It was so amazing to hang out in Ghent with her and see where she lived.

So how do these stories play into the theme for today?  Here’s the verse that I read in Proverbs 25:25“Like cold water to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country.”  I don’t know about you but on a hot day, or a day that I haven’t had enough water, drinking a nice cool glass of water has a remarkable affect on me.  The taste of it on your tongue immediately begins to quench that thirst, then the flow of the water just hits you as swallow and you can feel it going down, refreshing all parts of your body.  Now, I am not a doctor, but I do know that the water doesn’t actually travel into all parts of your body like it’s filling up a water balloon.  But the EFFECTS of that cool water nourishes your entire system from the top of your head to the tip of your toes!!  Okay, I’ll wait…go get a glass of water and then come back!

Proverbs 25 verse 25

I am continually amazed by the healing properties of water ~ so of course the Lord would use water in so many analogies and parables throughout His ministry.  Water into wine (John 2), the Woman at the Well, (John 4), the commandment of the water’s power (Luke 8), and being baptized by John the Baptist as He began His ministry on earth (Matthew 3),  just to name a few.

Water is remarkable ~ it brings life, it nourishes, it refreshes, it cleanses, it is powerful, it is gentle, it is perfect and cannot be duplicated.  Sound like Someone else I know ~ Jesus has all of these attributes and more.  And more importantly, Jesus cannot be duplicated.  I would like to challenge you to look at areas of your life where you are seeking to fill your life with things (or people) that cannot truly fill you.

John 7:37-38 provides a beautiful picture of how truly simple it is to receive the Lord and the blessings He intends to give us ~ “On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”  Isaiah 12:3 prophesied with these words, “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.”

And the promises that will be fulfilled in God’s perfect timing, found in Revelation, are some of the most beautiful words in all of scripture to me ~

Revelation 7:17“For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

Revelation 21:6“And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.”

Revelation 22:1-2, “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree werefor the healing of the nations.”

Revelation 22:17“The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.”

Throughout my life as I have served the Lord, as I have had seasons of drought, seasons of plenty, times of doubt and thankfully more times of trust, the promises of the Lord my God have remained true and steady.  Praise the Lord that my faithLESSness doesn’t weaken His faithFULLness!  *I know I spelled that wrong…but wanted to highlight the best part of God’s fullness in my life!*  He showed how faithful He is to give me what I need just last night on the eve of my birthday.  (Yep!  Today is the big day….and I am proud to say that I am 47 now!).  The enemy was working over-time, trying to make me feel inadequate because I had (again!) not accomplished all that I had thought I would in this past year since my last birthday.  I was beginning to go down that dark road of doubt and sadness…I could literally feel the joy of the day being choked out of my heart.  Had I done ANYTHING worth it in this past year?  Yes!  By God’s grace…YES!  Had I failed at some things and not come close to completion on a few others, you bet.  But did that make me less deserving of God’s grace and unconditional love?  No way!!  God has given me a most amazing husband who is such a tower of strength and encouragement ~ he doesn’t let the self-pity thing go very far, reminding me that he loves me no matter what.  And more importantly, reminds me that God loves me despite my failures.  It is in those times of failure and disillusionment that I need to not just turn to the Lord, I need to break out full speed ahead and RUN to my Savior!

Jeremiah 31:12, “They shall come and sing aloud on the height of Zion, and they shall be radiant over the goodness of the Lord, over the grain, the wine, and the oil, and over the young of the flock and the herd; their life shall be like a watered garden, and they shall languish no more.”

I want to be like a well watered garden and no longer languish through life!  I want to flourish with joy and contentment in all areas of my life, trusting that God has good things planned for me!  And I want that for YOU too!!

My first “Happy Birthday” message came from my Kona girl at 1:18am.  I woke to the sweet sounds of my husband and two girls at home singing “Happy Birthday” to me. I have received more texts and and humbly abundance of well-wishes and blessings from friends and family near and far.  I have had “Good News” from far-away places.  And I live in a place today knowing that the Living Water from my Lord sustains me like no other.  I am a Daughter of the King and He is radiant over me with His goodness.  I can function from a mind-set where I know that I have salvation that I cannot earn or purchase, but an eternal life that I have been given through the price Christ paid on the Cross.  I can declare the truths and promises about me and for me, that the Lord has set forth ~ I do not have to walk on that dark path of doubt.  God has a plan and path for me ~ and for YOU ~ and guess what….Satan cannot walk on that path with us.  He can’t!  He’s not allowed.  He can only stand on the sidelines and try to lure us away, tripping us up with his lies and deceit.  He cannot dwell in the same place as the Lord.  Because you are HIS, you are safe.  I am in His strong and mighty hands.

Isaiah 46 verse 4

These sweet words in Isaiah are like water to my soul and joy to my heart ~ I have a long way to go until I have reached “old age” but I have the fantastic knowledge that God will be there with me each step of the way.  He will guide me, carry me, bear my burdens with me, and save me for Himself.

My birthday wish to you ~ that you allow the Lord to bring you His good news of salvation and grace.  He’s waiting right there for you and will never turn away from you.  Trust me ~ I know that I wouldn’t have made it to my 47th birthday without the strength I have received over and over and over again from the Lord.  HE is my greatest gift and I know my Father loves me.  He loves you like crazy too!!

Blessings,

René

 

Bonus note ~ just as I was writing this blog, I received some “Good news from a far country” ~ Savannah called to say “Happy Birthday!”  What a joy!  Oh, and these photos (with the scripture on them) are from the gorgeous drives I was blessed to take with my friend Jenn in Montana last week.

 

**All scripture references can be easily found on http://www.biblegateway.com

 

Christian Mentors, Moms, Parents, Stay at Home Moms, Women's Ministries

But God?!

“But Mom!  That’s not fair!”, “But Dad!  Mom said I could!”, “But why?  I don’t deserve this!”  Sound familiar?  How about, “But God?  Why did this happen? Why did I lose my job?  Why did my friend have to die?  Why can’t I have a lot of money?  Why do I have to go through this trial?”  And so on and so on.  We’ve all been there….at least, I’m pretty sure we have.  If you have never ~ like, ever! ~ found yourself questioning God on any aspect of your life that didn’t seem fair, please tell me how you do it.

In recent bible studies and scripture reading, I have come across a phrase that I’ve probably seen a bunch of times before, but it is hit me freshly in the past few months.  I know I’ve said it before (and I did in my bible study group this morning!), I absolutely and thoroughly LOVE that God will shine a light on a passage of His Word in a new and impactful way because of what He wants to teach me in that specific moment.  God’s Word never changes, but we do and when we get closer to Him and are careful enough to study His Word, we can see things in a brand new way that we never did before.  God’s Word is alive and well people!  It ain’t going anywhere!!

So, what’s the phrase?

But God…

These two words are used congruently in the Bible about 35 times. And I made sure to read all of them so that I would be beyond certain of what I share with you today.

In each of these circumstances, God was either giving a promise, giving a warning, or giving a way out.  But God.  The word ‘but’ is a conjunction, but can be used as a preposition, an adverb, a noun, or an idiom. The definition found in dictionary.com says: on the contrary; yet; except; save; unless; if not; except that (followed by a clause, often with that expressed); without the circumstance that; otherwise than; who not; that not.

So these verses can be described by saying: yet God, except God, save God, unless God, if not God, who not than God.  God’s Word never wastes a letter, even a three letter word, ‘but,’ can describe a wealth of emotion in the circumstance.

2 Chronicles 20:15 and he said, “Listen carefully, all Judah and you inhabitants of Jerusalem, and King Jehoshaphat. This is what the Lord says: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast number, for the battle is not yours, but God’s.” 

Job 28:23 “But God understands the way to wisdom, and He knows its location.”

Psalm 73:26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart, my portion forever.”

Ephesians 2:4 “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us,”

These verses bring joy to my heart in knowing that God is for me!  I do not have to be afraid of the world and what is in it, but I do need to be aware of what is in the world and what is going on in the spiritual realm so that I can be protected.  As you just read in Job 28:38, God knows where His wisdom is kept and He knows how to impart that wisdom to us.  God always provides a way out of a difficult situation.  But what happens when we feel God isn’t being fair?

One of the things I’ve said to my girls in the past (that they don’t particularly enjoy) is when I hear them say, “But that’s not fair!”  I respond with “Fair?  Fair is a place where you can ride a Ferris wheel and eat funnel cake.”  I laugh…they usually do not.  For the most part, it stops the complaint from going farther.  One of the hardest parts of having my three lovely girls, is when they feel one sister is getting something that they aren’t.  How many times have I had the conversation with one of them about how the big sister gets to have this certain privilege and you don’t…because you are 9 and they are 15.  Six years doesn’t seem to be a huge age gap, but it is.  And it doesn’t seem fair.  When the 15 year-old was 9, they had the same rules, but the current 9 year-old doesn’t remember that because said 9 year-old was THREE!  I guess in a way, we were riding a Ferris wheel!

So when we feel life isn’t being fair, where to we go?  We can run to the everlasting arms of Jesus and He will absolutely comfort us.  We can have strength from the Lord as only He can give and learn to be satisfied with what is going on in our life.  It is definitely a learning process to be content and satisfied.  If we could come by contentedness easily, we wouldn’t need the Lord.  We wouldn’t need to rely on anyone but ourselves.  Then we ultimately wouldn’t need a Savior.  How sad is that thought.

There is nothing that we can summon up within ourselves, all by ourselves, that will truly amount to anything.  The gifts and talents we have, have been given to us by the Lord.  We have a choice what we are going to do with them, but unless we submit those choices to the Lord, disappointment will be around every corner.  Again…and cautiously I say…submitting our will to the Lord and being obedient to the call He has on our life, does not guarantee a blissful life free of problems.  I know I’ve written on this idea before, but I think it bears repeating simply because it’s something we deal with often.  Sometimes we deal with it on a daily basis.  Well, I do at least…and I bet I’m not alone here.  I get caught up in running off down a path that I’m sure will be pleasing to the Lord ~ I’ve prayed about it, I’ve received counsel from others that I trust, all the pieces seem to be coming together ~ and then I ask God to join me on my journey.  Did you catch that?  “My journey.”  This is completely backwards.  I truly may be taking correct steps forward, but unless I submit that desire and choice to the Lord, I’ll end walking on the edge of the path God has for me, instead of right smack down the center of the path where He is leading me.  I need to join God on His journey that He has planned for me.

There are also several occasions in scripture where we see that God has had to discipline His people because they have walked off the proverbial path.

Romans 11:22 Therefore, consider God’s kindness and severity: severity toward those who have fallen but God’s kindness toward you—if you remain in His kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off.”

This verbiage may surprise you…that God can be described as kind and as severe in the same sentence.  But He is.  His kindness went so far as to create a plan where Jesus His Son, would come to earth and through His death and resurrection, create a most beautiful free gift of salvation ~ a reconciliation and a restoration of our life back to our Heavenly Father.  How many of us have a pure heart of kindness that we would die for someone in order to save them?  (!! I do not believe that we can die and save someone to eternity, by the way…just wanted to make that clear!!)  But really, our hearts, due to their base sin nature would never be able to do that for anyone.

Only God.  Except for God. If not for God.  ~  We would be lost.

Before we start thinking we are doing so well in terms of how we serve the Lord, how we honor Him with our praise and thanksgiving, we must remember that even in those activities we can become full of ourselves instead of full of the Holy Spirit.  God does not abide in the self-elevation we are guilty of.  Just because we “aren’t’ as bad as that guy over there,” doesn’t mean we are free from being disciplined due to sin in our life.  Luke 16:15 says, “And He told them: “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the sight of others, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly admired by people is revolting in God’s sight.”

It amazes me sometimes that I can forget that God knows my heart and my mind.  I cannot hide anything from Him, so why in the heck do I think I can get away with unconfessed sin.  Afterall, I’m not being hunted by law enforcement, I haven’t killed anyone, I haven’t robbed anyone, so I’m a really good person.  But sin…is sin!  I know I am being pursued by the Holy Spirit to live a righteous life.  I know I need to be truthful in love so as not to destroy a dream that a loved one has shared with me.  I know I need to speak encouragement into the lives of those around me so that I do not destroy the tender heart who shares vulnerably with me about their life.

But God….

I am so very glad, beyond thrilled really, that God has intervened to bring me back to Him; that He wants to pursue me back to relationship with Him.  And He loves me enough to show me in His Word that He has a plan; a perfect plan.  I am thankful for His mercy and grace in my life.  Let me encourage you to trust the Lord, believe that our Heavenly Father has the best life for you.  Turn to Him in the darkest moments and ask Him for strength, as much as you honor Him with praise and thanksgiving in the best of life’s moments.  If you do not know the Lord today as your personal Savior, I would love to pray with you and for you ~ message me!  But you can start by reading the book of John in the New Testament ~ simply opening up a Bible or typing in http://www.biblegateway.com and put the word “John” into the search bar.  Holman Christian Study Bible or New International Version are the easiest to read.  Let me know if you have any questions!

Blessings,

René

Job 28 verses 23,28

*http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/but?s=t

*”but God” search:  https://www.biblegateway.com/quicksearch/quicksearch=but+God&qs_version=HCSB&limit=500

 

Christian Mentors, Moms, Parents, Stay at Home Moms, Women's Ministries

Captive OR Captivated?

Are you living a life that is held captive by something or are you living a life that is captivated by Someone?

What’s the difference you say?

BIG difference!

To be captive by someone means to be “a prisoner;slave; made or held prisoner, especially in war.”  To be captivated by someone is the opposite, to attract and hold the attention or interest of, as by beauty or excellence ~ one is negative and one is positive.

If you are familiar with the Old Testament, there were laws set in place by God that the Israelite’s were to follow.  These laws served an important purpose in their lives as God’s people were able to focus on serving Yahweh (God the Father).  There were covenants made between God and His people (all throughout the book of Genesis); the 10 Commandments given to Moses by God on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 20); a variety of Festivals honoring God (Exodus 23); sacrificial offerings for forgiveness of sin and for celebration (the book of Leviticus); and other laws that were given to the Levitical priests (the book of Numbers and Deuteronomy).

So. Many. Lists.

In the New Testament, Jesus came with the express purpose of teaching us directly about the Father and the grace & mercy He was offering.  Jesus wants to reconcile and redeem ALL of the people back to relationship with God the Father.  However, it just seemed “too incomprehensible” to the Jewish leaders of the day to believe that everything they had been doing for centuries, were no longer needed.  Jesus wanted to shed light on the fact that the Jewish people were living as captives to an old set of laws that didn’t need to be practiced anymore.  Why?

Jesus coming to earth as a man AND at the SAME TIME as part of the Trinity, and eventually fulfilling prophecy of being crucified and risen again, we mind-blowing!  By each miracle, by each teaching, by each healing ~ and ultimately by His Resurrection, Jesus made the absolute and FINAL sacrifice for us.  With that fulfillment of Old Testament promised prophecy, the old laws that governed the Jewish people (and all people for that matter) were finished.

The gap was forever bridged by the cross.  

The throne room of grace was opened for everyone to enter into and sit at the feet of the Father.  The Holy Spirit was made available to live in us and be our Intercessor.

But habits can be hard to break.

There are so many amazing truths that have come to fruition by the coming, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ that we can move from being captive to the old laws, to being captivated by the beauty, grace, and mercy of the Lord.  HIS ways are meant to be attractive to us, to hold our attention so that we can live a full and complete life.  Hear me when I also say that these promises of the Lord do not mean we will be exempt from troubles.   If I could sit across from you at one of my favorite coffee shops, I would listen to you as you poured out your heart and hope to encourage you not to lose hope…to not lose faith in God’s goodness.

At bible study today, one of the women in my group shared a powerful image with us.  We were talking about having faith and peace in our lives, the kind that only can come from strength in the Lord.  She held her coffee cup up and squeezed it just a bit.  She likened that motion as to what we do when we are holding “the cup” (whatever circumstance we find ourselves in) that God has given us but then we start gripping it, squeezing it as we try to take back that situation and bring it under our own control.  We have to learn to be content in the place we are at…easy or difficult…it is a place of God’s design.

No need to just take my word for it ~ read the promise from God in His Living Word in Romans 6:14“For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.”  I think I hear a Hallelujah from somebody out there!

My encouragement to you today as you read this, is that you make that full transition to become CAPTIVATED by the immense peace and beauty of our Lord Jesus.  When we allow our entire mental, emotional, and spiritual attention to be focused on Him, we will be able to be confident on the road ahead.  We can have faith that as we follow Him, He will not disappoint.

Romans 7 verse 6Blessings,

René

*http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/captive?s=t

*http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/captivate?s=t

*All verses found at: https://www.biblegateway.com