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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}

 

 

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Plans Fulfilled in Faithfulness…

It is one of the biggest blessings in my life to have people I can count on to encourage me and to challenge me. The Lord has placed a small but mighty group of women in my life who do just that! They each bring out something different in me because of the gifts and talents God has given them, but the common denominator…they always point me to Jesus!

And that’s what we are supposed to do as friends and confidantes! Right!!??!!

I’m in a season of hearing the Lord speak clearer than ever as to what my “yeses” are and what my “no’s” are. And they don’t necessarily make sense to other people, but that’s because God doesn’t always call us to the same things. I mean, we are basically all called to seek the Lord, to preach the Gospel, and to point others to the saving knowledge of Jesus. But the way in which we do that will look different from others.

And it’s supposed to be that way!

We are created uniquely and have opportunities to be in front of certain people that others wouldn’t. I mean, I’m not gonna be sitting down and having a chat with Kanye any time soon ~ although, it would be fascinating to hear his story of transformation! ~ but I am confident that there are people who obviously had that opportunity and they are a part of his story of salvation.  That’s so cool!

But it doesn’t have to be a famous person that we interact with.

That’s where God’s plans fall perfectly in place.

He is the one who puts in places to influence and minister to those in our circle…our neighborhood…our community at church…where our kids go to school…where we work out…and so many more places.

You are exactly where YOU need to be because it’s exactly where GOD put you!

I remember years ago we toured a beautiful estate in the Nashville, TN area ~ in the summer! I just love the architecture, the stories of the people who lived there, the photos of grand balls and afternoons of High Tea!  My husband teased me that I would’ve loved to have been a Southern Belle “back in the day”. To which I quickly replied, “Yes, I would’ve but God knew this girl can’t handle a house without air conditioning!” Although living a grand life as a Southern Belle would’ve been fun, I honestly think I may have died young from heat stroke. Or I would’ve been the outcast in the female circles because I’d be constantly trying to figure out how to where something cooler!

But seriously, we are all right where we are supposed to be.

You may not like where you are, but you are there. 

Let me encourage you to call out to the Lord, whether it be in desperation, frustration, anger, or apathy…call out because He will hear you! If you don’t understand why you are in the situation you are currently in, take a moment to be still and listen to His answer. There WILL be an answer.

I began this blog taking about friends who help keep us accountable, and this is where they come in. After prayer, reach out to a friend who you know will absolutely go before the throne and pray for you. And if you are that friend, ask the Lord for a word of encouragement to share ~ that means so much!

I recently had a day where I needed to be encouraged and after reaching out for prayer, I received this verse from my friend Christine,

“Such is the confidence and steadfast reliance and absolute trust that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficiently qualified in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency and qualifications come from God. He has qualified us [making us sufficient] as ministers of a new covenant [of salvation through Christ], not of the letter [of a written code] but of the Spirit; for the letter [of the Law] kills [by revealing sin and demanding obedience], but the Spirit gives life.” ~ 2 Cor. ‭3:4-6‬ ‭AMP‬‬

It was like water to my thirsty soul! And as soon as I read it, the Lord reminded me about the ‘verse of the day’ that I had read that morning and how the two went together,

“O LORD, You are my God; I will exalt You, I will praise and give thanks to Your name; For You have done miraculous things, Plans formed long, long ago, [fulfilled] with perfect faithfulness.” ~ Isaiah ‭25:1‬ ‭AMP‬‬

This is one of those glorious moments to me that reminds me that God’s Word is truly ALIVE!!  It is not a dead text that was written thousands of years ago. It is the Living Word of the amazing Living God that I serve with my whole heart.

The plans that God has for me have been formed FOR ME before I was formed in my mother’s womb. And the same goes for you.

Let that sink in for a bit!

God thought of YOU before you were formed. You were real to Him before you were held by your mother or father. You were loved by Him before anyone else.

You were planned for!  You are planned for even know!

Even when we don’t feel like we matter or that we could possibly make a difference in this world, the fact is that you do matter and you can and are making a difference!

My friends, this is where we must stand firm. For as much as God plans for us to shine for His glory, the enemy (Satan) wants us to fail and fail hard!

God qualifies ~ Satan wants to disqualify

God raises us up ~ Satan wants to diminish us

God sees you ~ Satan wants you to feel invisible

God knows you intimately ~ Satan wants you to feel unworthy

God loves you for being you ~ Satan wants you to feel unlovable

But guess what…in case you didn’t know…

GOD HAS THE VICTORY OVER EVERY PART OF OUR LIFE!! 

Satan loses…and he loses every time!

Oh, just in case you need a bit more convincing, here’s one more promise for you from Philippians 1:6 AMP,

“I am convinced and confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will [continue to] perfect and complete it until the day of Christ Jesus [the time of His return].”

The Lord will not let you down. In every moment, easy or challenging, He is there right by your side. Worthy of praise and desirous of being in relationship with us!

My prayer for you today is that you can stand firm in the truth of God’s Word; to know that you are qualified through the Lord to do what He has called you to do. The Holy Spirit will give you sufficient grace and direction to follow the plans the Lord has for you, you just need to listen! God will bring about His plans for you in His timing as we are faithful to be obedient to Him. 

And those plans will be perfectly fulfilled by His faithfulness!

Blessings,

René

Plans Fulfilled in Faithfulness

Photo by Bethany Cirlincione on Unsplash

 

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…And at the Right Time…

For most things we get in life, they are preceded by a time of waiting. It can be as simple as waiting for a tray of chocolate cookies to bake to gooey perfection, or as difficult as waiting for a health diagnosis to come in. And so many experiences in between.

I remember when we were getting ready to have our first child, we immediately were trying to figure out when the baby would be born. We were off a little bit according to the doctor, but we had our due date! I was beyond excited ~ not to be pregnant all summer long, but that faded in the dreams of that little one arriving. At our check-up the following month, I was devastated to find out the due date had changed. I was now told I’d not be delivering for another ten days. I cried all the way home, which completely baffled my husband.

He lovingly reminded me that just as God had allowed me to become pregnant, He also knew the exact day and time of her birth. It wasn’t in my control. It was all in His perfect timing! Thankfully I listened and changed my attitude…because that baby girl arrived TEN days after my due date! And it was of course, in the Lord’s perfect timing.

It’s so great to know that we can learn from the best when it comes to waiting for the right time!

1 Timothy 2:5-6 AMP gives us the example about Jesus. He was God and man for his whole life. Yet, Jesus paid attention the Father as to when it was the right time to reveal Himself as our Savior that had come to rule and reign. Because Jesus was so in tune with the Father, He was ready for the time when it came for Him to complete His task on the earth and become the ultimate sacrifice for our sins.  These verses read:

“For there is [only] one God, and [only] one Mediator between God and mankind, the Man Christ Jesus,” who gave Himself as a ransom [a substitutionary sacrifice to atone] for all, the testimony given at the right and proper time.”

It wasn’t just the right time. It was the proper time. There was not a minute that came too early or moment that lasted too long. It was perfect.

You might be thinking, well of course it was perfect…it’s Jesus…there’s no way I can get to that level.  And guess what, you’re right! But that’s part of the reason Jesus sacrificed Himself on the cross. Yes, it was to bring us into a reconciled relationship with Jesus but it was also to send us the gift of the Comforter ~ the Holy Spirit.

Romans 8:26-28 tells us this:

“In the same way the Spirit [comes to us and] helps us in our weakness. We do not know what prayer to offer or how to offer it as we should, but the Spirit Himself [knows our need and at the right time] intercedes on our behalf with sighs and groanings too deep for words. And He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because the Spirit intercedes [before God] on behalf of God’s people in accordance with God’s will. And we know [with great confidence] that God [who is deeply concerned about us] causes all things to work together [as a plan] for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to His plan and purpose.”

There are so many beautiful nuggets of truth and promise in these verses…go ahead and read them again. What do you feel the Lord is whispering to your heart right now? What prayers are lingering there? What plans are you fretting over? Are you dealing with a situation that no one else knows about? Oh, my friend, especially that last one ~ Satan wants you to feel that you are all alone but that is a LIE! As a believer in Jesus, the Holy Spirit has made His home in your heart and soul and mind. He is with you ~ you are NEVER alone! Yes!  The same God that spoke the universe into reality, is the same God who gives you the power and strength to make it through the most difficult of circumstances.

When you don’t even know what to pray, the Holy Spirit is there on your behalf. I can recall a few times in my life where the pain in my heart was so deep, I thought I’d never recover. The sobbing was so intense and unending that I couldn’t even form the words to pray and ask God to help me. That is right when, at the perfect timing, the Holy Spirit comes in to minister to us and go before God with the groanings of our spirit. When those tearful experiences were over, what was left was a peace that I could not explain except to know that the Lord had truly taken care of my heart at that moment.

So, whatever you have going on in your life right now, and as hard at may seem in the moment, trust that God sees you. He hears you. And He will answer you in just the right and proper time.

And if you are coming to Jesus for the first time today, welcome! Praise the Lord that you have chosen to allow the Lord to reign in your heart. I’d love to encourage you too to find someone in your local community to walk alongside you in this new adventure of following Jesus! God bless you!!

Blessings,

René

At just the right time - blog post

Photo by Stefanos Kogkas on Unsplash 

 

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It’s all about Perspective…

I recently joined my husband on one of his business trips to Sicily and it was incredible. I’m very grateful that I’m able to accompany him and have these opportunities to explore various countries that otherwise would be short of impossible. But it didn’t start out that way.

When we checked into our hotel, we noticed that the covering over the large sliding glass doors were actually metal. We found that a bit odd, but there were little holes throughout that let sunlight in. However, we then noticed we could hear people talking and saw their shoes quite close to our shutters. The ground was wet and we could see the legs of what appeared to be pool lounge chairs.

My first thought was, “Oh great, we are in a room that is directly in contact with the pool area. We won’t be able to open up this shutter at all on this trip!” After a disgruntled sigh, I reminded myself that we were in Sicily for goodness sake, and didn’t have to pay a dime to get there.

No matter what, we would have a great time!

We broke the cardinal rule of international travel and promptly took a nap. Later in the afternoon, we freshened up and went out for a lovely walk along the waterfront and had a wonderful dinner. We didn’t remember anything about our “horrible view” until the next morning.

We listened and didn’t hear anyone by the ‘pool’ yet, so we decided to open up the shutters. We’d since found the electric button that began to slowly reveal something far better than we had imagined. As we pulled all the curtains back and opened the sliding glass door, we were greeted by a large private patio with a balcony…complete with a chaise lounge, a table with two chairs and an L-shaped couch! And the view ~ WOW! We had a view of the ocean and the lovely city that we were in! What a difference it made to open those shutters!

My husband and I laughed (and I repented a bit again for my discontented attitude of the previous day) as we walked out on to the balcony, breathing in the fresh ocean air, thankful that we discovered the true reality of what a gift we had received in this trip. I swallowed hard as tears welled up in my eyes as I felt the Holy Spirit whisper to my heart, “What you see isn’t all that God wants to reveal to you. Open your eyes to His revelation and you will experience more joy and contentment that you can ever imagine.”

So many times we see what we want to see, not what we need to see.

Sometimes the Lord places us in situations where we have no choice but to trust in Him, that His plans are intended for our good. Not that we will run about rejoicing when hardship crosses our path, but keeping close to our heart the knowledge and truth that God is always good.

I thought of the verse, Jeremiah 29:11, that everyone quotes with abandon. It’s on t-shirts, mugs, blankets, and those darling wooden painted signs at your local Hobby Lobby:

“ – ‘For I know the plans and thoughts that I have for you,’ says the LORD, ‘plans for peace and well-being and not for disaster to give you a future and a hope.”

My friends, let’s not miss the importance of this verse in context. This is in no way a statement from the Lord that our lives will be always filled with earthly goodness and easy paths. We must remember to look at scripture in context to receive the full knowledge of the truths God intends to teach us.

The verses surrounding Jeremiah 29:11 are a reminder to the Israelites who had been exiled for so long in Babylon. The Lord had allowed them to become captives of the Babylonian Kingdom due to their disobedience to Him. He allowed hardship to be heaped upon their lives. It’s difficult to understand how He could do this, but the Lord is “the same yesterday, today, and forever”{Hebrews 13:8}. When we choose to go in the wrong direction, the Lord has to retrain our steps to go according to His will. How many times do we, and ridiculously so, think that our will and our way is better than His? That is a battle we will never win ~ and trust me, you don’t want to win that one!

Jeremiah 29:10 says, “For thus says the LORD, ‘When seventy years [of exile] have been completed for Babylon, I will visit (inspect) you and keep My good promise to you, to bring you back to this place.”

The Lord was reminding the people of His punishment.

And also the fact that His promise’s will come to fruition.

The story/lesson continues in verses 12-14, “~’Then you will call on Me and you will come and pray to Me, and I will hear [your voice] and I will listen to you. ~ ‘Then [with a deep longing] you will seek Me and require Me [as a vital necessity] and [you will] find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. ~ ‘I will be found by you,’ says the LORD, ‘and I will restore your fortunes and I will [free you and] gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you,’ says the LORD, ‘and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile.’”

Isn’t that beautifully reassuring? Wherever it states in the Bible that God will or will not do a certain thing, it is a promise that we can count on.

When we call out to the Lord, He will hear us.

When we have a deep longing to seek His will for our life, the Holy Spirit will fill us with the truth and understanding we need.

When we come back to the Lord after a period of disobedience, He will welcome us with open arms and restore us to full relationship with Him.

But think about this for a moment, there cannot be reconciliation without some kind of exile.

Whether we are separated from God for a moment in our day, or for a longer period of time, we cannot hear the wisdom the Holy Spirit desires to share with us for our life. When I allowed dissatisfaction to enter my heart about what I thought the view from our hotel room windows would offer us, I shut out God. It was as if that big metal shutter had come down over my spirit, squelching the light of God’s truth.

What if I had never pushed that button to raise up the shutter? We would have been ‘exiled’ in a sense to the confines of our room. I would’ve missed out on part of the generosity of our hosts. Part of their gift to us of having a private patio that overlooked the oceanside of Sicily would have been lost on us. How very sad that would have been!!

When I choose to trust God in the little things {like opening up a shutter on a window} it’s easier to handle the bigger things in life.

When my eyes are on Him, seeking His will, searching His heart, then the view of the world He has placed me in will always be one of contentment. Not because this earthly life is always good, but because my God is always good and He always has a good plan for my life!

Blessings,

René
perspective

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Sharing God’s Truth without Compromise…Part 4

Hello there!  Welcome back to this first blog series I’ve posted…day 4! If you haven’t read the first three, I’d love to encourage you to go back and read them too.

Today is the wrap-up of what I believe the Lord gave me to share about having the tenacity, wrapped in love for Him, to share God’s Word – His Living Truth – with the church communities we interact with on a daily basis.

I believe in every single part of the Bible and that it is God-breathed ~ it is truly the Living Word of God. I cannot divide it up by what makes me comfortable and what seems unfair. My feelings do not determine the validity of what the Bible says ~ because my feelings are just that…feelings…not always truth.

I also believe that God is good and what He wants to give us is good. Like any good parent, there are rules to follow and consequences are given when that doesn’t happen.

Bottomline though ~ God is a gracious Father and wants the best for His children!

So, let’s get to the final portion of Part 4…

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

Just as the Lord put in scripture to assist us in knowing how to lean on Him and trust His Word, He has given us multiple scriptures to keep in mind how to determine true teachings of the Bible and those that are not.

I John 4 is a great chapter to read on this, and I wanted to highlight the first 6 verses with you here today:

Testing the Spirits ~ I John 4:1-6

 1Beloved, do not believe every spirit [speaking through a self-proclaimed prophet]; instead test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets and teachers have gone out into the world.  By this you know and recognize the Spirit of God: every spirit that acknowledges and confesses [the fact] that Jesus Christ has [actually] come in the flesh [as a man] is from God [God is its source];  and every spirit that does not confess Jesus [acknowledging that He has come in the flesh, but would deny any of the Son’s true nature] is not of God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming, and is now already in the world.  Little children (believers, dear ones), you are of God and you belong to Him and have [already] overcome them [the agents of the antichrist]; because He who is in you is greater than he (Satan) who is in the world [of sinful mankind].  They [who teach twisted doctrine] are of the world and belong to it; therefore they speak from the [viewpoint of the] world [with its immoral freedom and baseless theories—demanding compliance with their opinions and ridiculing the values of the upright], and the [gullible one of the] world listens closely and pays attention to them.  We [who teach God’s word] are from God [energized by the Holy Spirit], and whoever knows God [through personal experience] listens to us [and has a deeper understanding of Him]. Whoever is not of God does not listen to us. By this we know [without any doubt] the spirit of truth [motivated by God] and the spirit of error [motivated by Satan].

{bolded phrases: my emphasis}

If we are truly Christians – honestly seeking to honor the Lord by how we live our lives according to the precepts and commandments He has given us – then we are within the proper scope of teaching the Truth of God’s word.

Read again verse 5 “They [who teach twisted doctrine] are of the world and belong to it; therefore they speak from the [viewpoint of the] world [with its immoral freedom and baseless theories—demanding compliance with their opinions and ridiculing the values of the upright], and the [gullible one of the] world listens closely and pays attention to them.”

Does this sound familiar in the world we live in? And it’s not just the basic world view vs. Biblical view of living. The following statement flows equally between the two and it kinda goes like this:

“You must be tolerant of all beliefs and opinions. Here’s my truth and you are welcome to it. You have to be tolerant because this is my truth. And if you disagree with me, you are then intolerant because you don’t agree with me. And even though I don’t agree with you, I am not being intolerant because my truth tells me that what you believe in is ludicrous.” This is basically the world’s reaction to everyone who doesn’t agree with “their truth”.     {by René A. Bancroft}

Bottom line, we are back to the basics of what we talked about last week in that no one wants to admit they are sinners, have a sin-nature, need saving from their sin, etc., in order to be saved from eternal separation from God.

God Is Light: John 1:5-10

This is the message [of God’s promised revelation] which we have heard from Him and now announce to you, that God is Light [He is holy, His message is truthful, He is perfect in righteousness], and in Him there is no darkness at all [no sin, no wickedness, no imperfection]. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness [of sin], we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we [really] walk in the Light [that is, live each and every day in conformity with the precepts of God], as He Himself is in the Light, we have [true, unbroken] fellowship with one another [He with us, and we with Him], and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin [by erasing the stain of sin, keeping us cleansed from sin in all its forms and manifestations].8 If we say we have no sin [refusing to admit that we are sinners], we delude ourselves and the truth is not in us. [His word does not live in our hearts.] 9 If we [freely] admit that we have sinned and confess our sins, He is faithful and just [true to His own nature and promises], and will forgive our sins and cleanse us continually from all unrighteousness [our wrongdoing, everything not in conformity with His will and purpose]. 10 If we say that we have not sinned [refusing to admit acts of sin], we make Him [out to be] a liar [by contradicting Him] and His word is not in us.

{bolded phrases: my emphasis}

In doing some of the research for this series, I came across so much information about Christianity, written by people who were NOT Christians. It was heartbreaking as I read one post by someone who said that the way to know someone was a “real Christian” was to find out what people groups or activities they hated. It wouldn’t be as devastating of a statement if there weren’t some truth to it. We have certainly not loved as Jesus in many occasions. But it’s not too late to change!!

That same person went on, in his own estimation, to disprove every one of God’s commandments on what was sin. His “truth” was that as long as you followed the “only two” of God’s laws that “really counted” you were good enough. What laws did he choose for his truth?  “Love your neighbor as yourself.” And to follow the Golden Rule (a worldly term), or as stated in Matthew 7:12, “So then, in everything treat others the same way you want them to treat you, for this is [the essence of] the Law and the [writings of the] Prophets.

But even as this guy let you in on his secret as to tell who a real Christian was, there are those within the church who do the same thing. When disagreements come up between people, they decide, many times based on how they feel about various scripture, that the other person is right or wrong. Usually wrong if they are in disagreement with them and their opinions. That’s how denominations were and are created and that is what causes people to leave one church and join another.

Even in this train of thought, there’s a verse for that…

Psalm 118:8 “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.”  ~ If being hurt by the church community, or even just one person within the church, causes you to lose faith in God, then your faith was actually in people and not in God.

The main goal of satan is to distract us and cause confusion and chaos. Why be surprised that the church in America is dying. When we are fighting over what scripture means, if it was meant for people only 2000 years ago, if it applies to us today, and the list goes on and on; then the enemy wins. Remember that we are not fighting a battle against flesh and blood but of spirits and principalities of this world.

God is a God of order and direction.

It is absolutely possible to share the truth of God’s Living Word within the church. The best advice I can give you to help you do that.

Open the Bible.

Read the Bible.

This is the best and ONLY way to not be deceived by the world and be swayed into believing in the “popular opinion” of the day. We are ridiculed daily because the belief we have in the Truth of God’s Word ~ stop being surprised by that! But react to it in love.

As followers of Christ, we are to live in a way that points people to Jesus. We cannot save anyone. We cannot give away the free gift of salvation. Only Jesus can do that.

But we have the beautiful privilege to be present when someone opens their heart to the knocking of the Holy Spirit.

Pray to the Lord and ask Him to reveal the Truth of His Word to your heart and mind.  And He will do it.

Blessings,

René

 

 

 

 

 

Women's Ministries

Free Refills….

Our family went out for a special celebration dinner the other night, and our server was on top of the refills!  Our water glasses never completely emptied, and the lemonade our daughter sipped on was refilled several times.  When the server asked to refill it for the fourth time, my daughter politely declined, “Oh my no…but thank you. It was delicious though but I’ve had enough.”

Have you ever wished that your favorite macchiato or cappuccino would have free refills too? Oh yeah! Especially on those days when I decide to hole up in a local coffee shop and focus on my writing…a free refill would come in handy for sure!! But I’ll take the free cups of water you can get…probably better for me anyway!

So what fills you up? 

Is it the job you strive at day after day and feel you are getting nowhere?

Is it the daily responsibilities of being a mom? a wife?

Is it the accolades of the community you’re a part of?

Is it the message preached on Sunday morning at your church?

Is it how many “likes” you receive on your latest social media post?

What fills up your heart? your soul? your life?

I’ve gone round and round with ALL of the above questions and ALL of them cup up empty for me in the long run. Don’t get me wrong…I absolutely LOVE being a wife, mother, mentor, teacher, speaker, and yeah, I get sucked in to the social media game more than I’d like to admit. So what do I do?

Simple answer ~ God’s Word!

Simple solution ~ READ God’s Word and spend time in prayer with Him!

Reality ~ I don’t always make the time for it like I should!

And here’s the real secret….

JESUS OFFERS FREE REFILLS!!!

John 7:38 declares, “He who believes in Me [who adheres to, trusts in, and relies on Me], as the Scripture has said, ‘From his innermost being will flow continually rivers of living water.’””

Will you sit with me here for a moment and soak in this verse? Read it again and picture it? What do you see?

I see a beautiful meadow with a gentle river winding its way around the area, no beginning and no end. But it is continually moving! Which means there is a source from which water flows INTO it and there is a destination where it’s going to pour into. Jesus is the only person who can do this for us. I’ve struggled enough over the almost 50 years of my life to know that I cannot ever, like EVER, be my own source of a fruitful life! I just end up being poured out with nothing to fill me back up. When that happens, it’s like I’ve said to Jesus, “Oh…spend time with You in Your Word…not right now, but thank you. Those verses I read the other day were really great but I’ve had enough for a while. I’m good!”

Can you imagine that? ~ But we do it all the time!

Even for the most spiritual person that I know, I know they are not doing it alone. They rely on the Lord to fill them up with what they need for the moments they serve and pour themselves out to bless others.

I cannot be a healthy and happy wife, mother, mentor, friend, servant, teacher, or community member if I’m only relying on myself to do all of that.

I’m sure that whomever you are reading this, we are probably in different seasons of life. But there is a common strategy to keep you filled up…

…read the Bible and pray!

Here’s another secret…

There is no where (like…NO WHERE) in the Bible that says in order to be a real Christian, or to get a good spot in heaven, that we have to sit and read the Bible all day long!  So in the name of Jesus ~ be released from a prison of thinking you are under a time constraint!

He just simply longs to spend time with you! And that is going to look different for everyone in all the various seasons of life! 

Some days as a young mom, I’d run the shower to get ready in the morning and read a few verses ~ and then I’d pray them for the rest of the morning. Some days I would finally find some alone time after I got my girls to bed.  I love having the ease of devotional and bible apps that we have in today’s world and weave them into my daily routine. Now that my husband and I are basically empty-nesters (we just dropped off our youngest at college yesterday to begin her Sophomore year!) I do have more time. So I can take on that “Read the Bible in 90 Days” challenge. Which has been amazing to have started on that journey, using a journaling Bible for the first time has been so much fun!

But whether it was a few quick verses, a devotional book or app, or several hours reading a hard copy of God’s Word, there has been ONE consistent addition and that is prayer.

Prayer can happen all. day. long!

You’re simply having a conversation…but a conversation with the God of the Universe! The Creator of all things including YOU! He knows you intimately. He wants to hear how your day is going. He wants to hear what is challenging you and what is causing your worry. He wants to celebrate the big and little accomplishments with you.

If you’re having a hard time connecting with that, think about the conversations you have with your people…

You pick up your kids from school and your first question bound to be, “How was your day today?” or “What did you do at school today?”Really? Nothing? It’s so much more fun when they actually answer you instead of saying, “Fine.”, “Nothing.” Seriously!

When you talk with Jesus…TALK to Him! Share your joys and sorrows, your hopes and fears, your accomplishments and concerns, your wants and needs ~ He really does want to hear them all! And with any good conversation, there has to be a lot of LISTENTING too! Don’t talk AT Jesus…but WITH Him. Try this, before you begin to pray to the Lord, ask Him first to give you a heart and ears to listen to what He wants to share with you. As you pray, more often than not, He will begin to reveal answers and solutions to you about the problem you are bringing to Him.

John 4:10, 13-14 is the most beautiful picture of the living water the Lord gives {as He spoke with the Samaritan woman at the well},  “Jesus answered her, “If you knew [about] God’s gift [of eternal life], and who it is who says, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him [instead], and He would have given you living water (eternal life).” Jesus answered her, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again. But whoever drinks the water that I give him will never be thirsty again. But the water that I give him will become in him a spring of water [satisfying his thirst for God] welling up [continually flowing, bubbling within him] to eternal life.””

Doesn’t that just make you take a deep breath and slowly let the truth of God’s words here rush over your heart? Go ahead…close your eyes, breathe in deep and let it out slowly…thank the Lord for His living water. The life of His words in scripture. Jesus wants to give you refills of His love and direction EVERY DAY! Your first “cup” was the day you received Him as your Lord and Savior, and it was free! Through your free gift of salvation, like a glass of refreshing water on a warm day, we can be refilled every time we seek Him out.

Whether through scripture or prayer, you are receiving your free refill every time!

It doesn’t mean that you will live a trouble free life. This I know for certain. But my life is much better lived within the continual flow of His salvation and in the bubbling in my spirit of His words, than when I try to use other things to fill up the space and void in my life. Not one thing can ever replace or refill what the Lord can give me. Nothing I strive for or earn, no fame, no pats on the back, no “free drink reward”, can ever truly fill me up.

Give yourself the freedom in Christ today to receive fulfillment from Him ~ it’s free!

The only thing it will cost you is your pride and stubborn resolve to “do it on your own”, but how’s that been workin’ for ya? How about giving that a rest, so that you can have true rest in the soul refreshment that Jesus can give!

Drink in the free refills from Jesus ~ and you’ll have all the living water you need!

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