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Are you in Good Hands…

You’re in your living room, half watching a TV show, when a certain insurance commercial comes on. You know the one, the guy with the super deep voice that just draws you in. The kind of voice that is talking about something that you now know you need even though you weren’t looking for it 5 minutes ago. And then he says, “Now that you know the truth, are you in good hands?”

Well, are you?

When I was a child, one of the most safe places I could find was walking side by side with my father while he held my hand. My father seemed bigger than life to me. I mean, he was a fireman…how cool was that! He ran into burning buildings when people were scrambling to get out. In his hands, he directed his team on how to best fight the fire. In his hands, he could guide the tremendous force of water coming through a fire hose to douse a blaze. In his hands, he could analyze the aftermath of a fire and figure out why and how (and who!) the fire started. But his strength didn’t just lie in the power of his job.

In his hands, he held a colicky baby (yeah…that’d be me) while he read the paper, patiently waiting for sleep to arrive. In his hands, he buried his first born son from SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). In his hands, he comforted other families who had lost children the same way. In his hands, he carried severely burned people out of fiery buildings. In his hands, he carried small children who didn’t make it out of a fire. In his hands, he taught a timid 17 year old how to drive. In his hands, he spent all year growing a cottony-soft white beard all so that he could play Santa to my daughters (which the two year old truly thought he was the real deal and was dumbfounded when “Santa” showed up at her front door on Christmas morning.) In his hands, he cared for our family and for his parents as they aged, with a quiet humility.

In his hands, I was never afraid.

I’m beyond grateful that I have a picture here on earth of how a father loves his child. It’s just a glimpse, because in all truthfulness, for as much as I love my father, he wasn’t perfect. He’d never claim to be. But he’s always been there when I need him. Or when I needed him to teach my children algebra, because math and I have never been friends. I have several friends who did not have a great relationship with their earthly father and in some ways it has made it more difficult to cultivate a deep relationship with Father God. But there is always room for improvement.

Because in God’s Hands, we know the truth and we can know the depth of love and care like we’ve never experienced.

I’m just gonna let the living words of the Psalms speak for themselves here ~

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

*Psalm 18:35 “You have also given me the shield of Your salvation, And Your right hand upholds and sustains me; Your gentleness [Your gracious response when I pray] makes me great.”

*Psalm 31:5 “Into Your hand I commit my spirit; You have redeemed me, O Lord, the God of truth and faithfulness.”

*Psalm 63:8 “My soul [my life, my very self] clings to You; Your right hand upholds me.”

*Psalm 92:4 “For You, O Lord, have made me glad by Your works; At the works of Your hands I joyfully sing.”

*Psalm 139:5 “You have enclosed me behind and before, And [You have] placed Your hand upon me.”

 

In His hands, I have been created. In His hands, I am secure. In His hands, there is a good path set before me. In His hands, I am made joyful. In His hands, I am protected. In His hands, I am saved. In His hands, I am redeemed. In His hands, I am loved. In His hands, I can choose to love Him back. In His hands, I can show others the truth of His words. In His Hands, I am redeemed. In His Hands, I am qualified. In His hands, I can be a good mother and wife. In His hands, I can be the woman He designed me to be.

In His hands, I have my life.

We are absolutely in good hands. We are in the best hands when we are firmly in the grasp of His Hands.

Now, I want you to picture yourself with the Lord. Hear the booming comfort of His voice. Let Him ask you, “Now that you know the truth, are you in good hands?”

Blessings,

René

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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 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…

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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

 

 

 

 

 

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 2

Welcome back to part 2 of sharing God’s truth without compromise. One of the ways we do that is by sharing our testimony with others.

Our testimony to the outside world simply looks like how we live our daily life.

I heard a song on the radio the other day that said there are ‘millions of doorways that when opened, shine the light of Jesus and that doorway is you.’

At first I thought it was pretty cheesy and was about to change the radio station, but I decided to listen to the whole song. It still felt a bit on the cheesy side but the truth of the song is what hit me.

We are supposed to be that ‘doorway’ where when we open our life and share with other people what Christ has done for us and what God does for us every day, it is so exciting and enticing to a non-believer, that they can’t help but want to walk through and follow Jesus!

We have the Truth, capital T, and we should be walking around so obviously filled with joy that comes from God’s Truth, that it makes people around us so curious as to why we have joy… Why we have peace… Why we are able to be so kind and gracious and merciful. Our love for Jesus should be so obvious that people are drawn to us and to the light of the Holy Spirit, kind of like a moth to a flame.

But why is it so hard to share the truth of the Bible without compromise? Fear? Embarrassment? Not wanting to be judge mental? Not wanting to be misunderstood? Not wanting to be ostracized? Not wanting someone to think we are “that kind of Christian”. It is definitely not easy to share the principles of Christianity with people who have absolutely no desire to hear them nor follow them. There is so much “tolerance”, and I use that word very loosely, being touted in our society today but what today’s standard of tolerance really means is, “Here is my opinion and my beliefs and you are welcome to believe it. And if you don’t then you’re an intolerant hater.”

Isn’t it interesting that everyone in the world wants to be sensitive and tolerant to the religions of the world except for Christianity? Why do you think that is?

The one viewpoint that has plagued every decade is the fact that people want to be considered either good or bad. Why do good things happen to bad people…why do bad things happen to good people?

The fact is that quite honestly, none of us are good.

If we were all “good enough”, then Christ would have never needed to come and save us and reconcile us back to Him. I realize this is a rather bold statement, but none of us are good enough. No one in this world is good enough. In scripture it says that very thing, we are not good enough on our own. We are not saved to then go about our business and work our way into heaven or work our way into better parts of heaven or have better hierarchy in heaven.

We are born within us a sin nature; with the attitude that we have it all under control. The sin nature that we are born with tells us from a very early age that we should not have to be controlled by another person. That we are in various ways, better than the person next to us.

The thieves on the cross prove that is an inerrant concept because the difference is that one thief recognized his sin and the other did not. They both KNEW they were not good but pride and arrogance robbed the one from an eternity in Paradise. That one did not think he needed anyone to save him. And that is what it comes down to with people who choose Jesus and people who do not choose Him.

People who believe that they are good enough, do not want to look deep into their own heart and admit that they are indeed sinners.

No one likes to have that kind of introspection because it’s not comfortable. It’s not easy. It can be embarrassing and it can feel like a big failure. But what it really is, is the arrogance of sin to believe that we are “good enough” to go to heaven.

There is not one verse in scripture that says anything remotely like that. It actually says the exact opposite.

Ephesians 2:1-10 is crystal clear about this:

“And you [He made alive when you] were [spiritually] dead and separated from Him because of your transgressions and sins, in which you once walked. You were following the ways of this world [influenced by this present age], in accordance with the prince of the power of the air (Satan), the spirit who is now at work in the disobedient [the unbelieving, who fight against the purposes of God]. Among these [unbelievers] we all once lived in the passions of our flesh [our behavior governed by the sinful self], indulging the desires of [a]human nature [without the Holy Spirit] and [the impulses] of the [sinful] mind. We were, by nature, children [under the sentence] of [God’s] wrath, just like the rest [of mankind]. But God, being [so very] rich in mercy, because of His great and wonderful love with which He loved us, even when we were [spiritually] dead and separated from Him because of our sins, He made us [spiritually] alive together with Christ (for by His grace—His undeserved favor and mercy—you have been saved from God’s judgment). And He raised us up together with Him [when we believed], and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, [because we are] in Christ Jesus, [and He did this] so that in the ages to come He might [clearly] show the immeasurable and unsurpassed riches of His grace in [His] kindness toward us in Christ Jesus [by providing for our redemption]. For it is by grace [God’s remarkable compassion and favor drawing you to Christ] that you have been saved [actually delivered from judgment and given eternal life] through faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [not through your own effort], but it is the [undeserved, gracious] gift of God; not as a result of [your] works [nor your attempts to keep the Law], so that no one will [be able to] boast or take credit in any way [for his salvation]. 10 For we are His workmanship [His own master work, a work of art], created in Christ Jesus [reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, ready to be used] for good works, which God prepared [for us] beforehand [taking paths which He set], so that we would walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us].”

The best way to preach the gospel to those who do not believe in Jesus yet…besides trying to live a life that is honoring to the Lord in how we conduct ourselves on a daily basis…is to encourage that person to open the pages of scripture and read for themselves.

The Bible is the Truth and the Holy Spirit is incredibly adept in whispering to the soul of the unsaved and ushering them into a place where they can hear the knocking on the door of their heart from Jesus.

I have heard so many stories where people have come to salvation as they have a read through The New Testament and experience through the Living Word of God what it means to truly be saved and become a follower of Christ. Because there is power in the spoken Word, the written Word, and the shared Word of God.

We can testify about our love for the Lord, we can plant seeds of encouragement, but we cannot save anyone with our words.

God’s Word is without error; without compromise. He does not need us to defend His Word…just to share it with love, grace, and mercy.

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Blessings,

René

 

 

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 1

I recently taught in our adult Sunday school class at church and wanted to now share it with you all!

I’ve been gripped lately on what it means to share the truth of God’s Word ~ WITHOUT COMPROMISE!  And not just with the world around us, but within the Christian communities we are a part of. And yes, there’s plenty of compromise that goes on within the church communities regarding the Word of God. But we’ll get to that…

So here goes Part 1 of 4 ~ hope you join me and let me know how you share God’s Truth without compromise.

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J.J. Packer once said, “There is a difference between knowing God and knowing about God. When you truly know God, you have energy to serve Him, boldness to share Him, and contentment in Him.”

This can be one of those topics that is both simple and difficult at the same time. It is simple because we simply need to look and see what God’s Word says about life and this world and live accordingly. But it is difficult because there are so many in our world today who view Christianity through an incredibly negative lens.

The reason why that is the case, is because we have not as a community of Christians, of believers, of people who are supposed to be Christ minded, have not set a good example. So many people walk around with the idea that, “What do I need to be saved from?” “Don’t tell me I’m a sinner.”, and my favorite, “Well I’m not as bad as that person.” I know I have been guilty of that mindset more often than I care to admit.

In Part 1, I would like to talk about how we share the truth of the Good News with people who have not come to know who Jesus really. People who we work with, neighbors, people in our family. There are so many different ways that we can share the Good News of God’s Word without compromise and without coming across as ultra-judgmental either.

Even though the fact is that we are all sinners with a need for the reconciliating power of salvation – and so many in the world do not want to admit this – it is better to have this realization in your life while you are here on this earth and deal with it here instead of waiting until the ultimate day of judgment after you have left this earth and stand before Jesus.

A very difficult concept to wrap around our mind is the idea of people that we know who die without being saved and the fact that we will not see them again in heaven. I think of the depth of sadness that my father experienced at the death of his father, knowing that he would never see him again after his death. As a parent, and as someone who has attended just a few funerals for non-Christian people, it is absolutely heartbreaking to me when I see the children of that person look up to the ceiling with comments like, “Well Mom, wherever you are I hope you’re doing well.”

Honestly, it was not until I was 31 years old that I attended such a funeral. I was completely heartbroken for these young 20-something children that they had nothing to give them hope of ever seeing their mother again. The entire family was not saved so it was not something that they had ever really talked about, but it was heartbreaking nonetheless.

I am beyond grateful that my children and my future grandchildren will never have to say that about me.

So how do we share Jesus with people who don’t know Him? One thing that has been encouraging to me is watching the way that my daughter Savannah shares the gospel. Very, very rarely {if at all} these days does she ever start a conversation with, “I’m a Christian so let me tell you about Christ.” Because the term “Christians”really puts people on edge.

What she has found is when she simply talks about Jesus, most of the time it completely changes the course that the conversation will take. She will say things like, “Well you asked me what the difference is in my life and I can honestly tell you the difference is that I really love Jesus. Have you heard about Jesus?”

In Philippians 2:9-11 Amplified Bible (AMP) It talks about how powerful the name of Jesus is: “For this reason also [because He obeyed and so completely humbled Himself], God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus [a]EVERY KNEE SHALL BOW [in submission], of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess and openly acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord (sovereign God), to the glory of God the Father.”

There is power every time we say His name. The mighty Name of Jesus.

There is power because of not only who He is but what He has done to save us and reconcile us back into relationship with Him. When you tell people that you love Jesus and then why, it is usually incredibly compelling. People don’t want to have verses and laws and rules quoted at them. They want to hear about experiences and feelings and a life altering moment.

This does not mean you have to have some crazy, sensational kind of testimony, it simply means you have a story to tell about who you are because of who Jesus is.

A few years ago I heard a speaker say, “If the testimony you share is the same one you’ve been sharing for the past 10 years, what does your relationship with Jesus really look like?”

They went on to say that our testimony should continually be changed and updated as we live our life for and with Christ. Our testimony is somethings that is supposed to be new and fresh all the time. The only way for that to be a reality is if we are in a relationship with Jesus where we are actively in conversation with Him and available to the Holy Spirit who can work in and through us, every day.

The Bible is filled with encouragement as to how to share God’s Truth. One verse I love is 1 Corinthians 16:13-14‬ ‭{AMP‬‬} “Be on guard; stand firm in your faith [in God, respecting His precepts and keeping your doctrine sound]. Act like [mature] men and be courageous; be strong. Let everything you do be done in love [motivated and inspired by God’s love for us].”‬‬
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That last sentence is key in being without compromise as we share the truths of God’s Word with others. Everything, not just the easy stuff, but everything we do must be done in love “motivated and inspired by God’s love for us.”

We have the absolute best gift in the world and we don’t share it! I know I have shrunk back at times, from being vocal about my belief in the Lord and how He has worked in my life. For what? Fear that people will think I’m a crazy Jesus freak? A conservative Christian who’s clueless about things “really” work in this world?

So lame of me! Jesus’ death and resurrection will always trump any possible embarrassment I may feel on this earth. If I’m sharing HIM with others, it’s not up to me how they receive HIM…it’s up to me to share.

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Be on the lookout for part 2!  It’s coming soon!!

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, Uncategorized, Women's Ministries, Writers

The Coffee Grinder of Life…

With all three of our children involved in coffee/food services, especially the two that work at coffee shops, we really have become coffee snobs. Only now when we are desperate for a cup of coffee (or receive a gift card) do we even step foot in the land of the little green mermaid…local shops are the place to be and a fresh brewed cup at home is even better! So pretty much every morning, we open our bag of organic, sustainable, fair trade coffee and pour those glorious beans into the coffee grinder for just what we need for the day.

And one day, I felt like I was those beans. I was feeling a bit “ground up” to tell you the truth. I’m thankful it doesn’t happen often, and I’m grateful the Lord helps me to recognize when I’m starting to go to down a particularly dark path in my mind. But that day, I resonated with coffee in a totally different way.

So hang with me here in my little revelation about the similarities between that awesome cup of coffee and the paths of our life…

A loving gardener tills the soil of his farm and prepares a beautiful space for the seeds of a coffee plant to grow. He waters the seeds and the plant begins to burst forth from the ground, first just a little sprout and then into a lovely fruitful plant. The tiny fruit that comes from the plant is what the coffee farmer has been waiting for. At just the right moment, when the coffee berries are ripe, they are plucked off the branches. Even though they are ripe, they must go through an extensive period where they are processed, and then dried. The dull green of the coffee bean is not super appetizing to look at, but it has all it needs to eventually become a fantastic cup of coffee.

Before that can happen though, those beans have to be poured out into a roasting machine. They are in there with a bunch of other beans, being pushed around by a rotating metal arm to make sure that each bean is perfectly roasted without being burned by the heat. They slowly gain a shiny, almost bronze-like, appearance and the aroma is delightful!!

But they still aren’t done! You can’t just pour some coffee beans into your favorite mug, pour hot water over them and expect to have great coffee!

Nope ~ those beautiful beans have to be ground up because that is when their true flavor and vitality can be experienced. Once they are ground up to perfection, they must now endure the slow process of near-boiling water cascading over and through the grounds. Then and only then, will you produce a spectacular nectar of rich, warm, coffee to begin your day with.

Whew! Okay…hang on…I gotta go pour myself another cup of coffee!

Guess what…we are that dull green coffee bean.

Sometimes I think that just because I’ve seen growth in my life that has transformed an area of my life from a seed into a tangible fruit, that should be enough. I don’t want any more transformation. It’s hard to work for an actual seed to push its way through the top soil, just like it’s hard for us to push ourselves towards those new goals God puts in our heart ~ but the growth is not the end. How God uses the fruit that He produces in our life is what our goal needs to be. He is the consummate Gardener of our life ~ He knows us from the inside out!

I know that I’m not the only one who has those days where you feel like you’ve been through an emotional grinder. One minute your shiny and whole, and the next your soul feels crushed to dust. When I’ve been at that point, there is usually always something that the Lord needs to sift me from. It could be forgiving someone, it could be asking forgiveness from someone, it could be repenting from sin that keeps repeating itself, it could be removing yourself from an unhealthy relationship or activity….so many things!

That’s the part I think most resembles the “hot water pour over” if you will. The slow yet intentional working of the Holy Spirit to work through us in order to produce the best parts of us. The fresh new perspective we need to do the work that He has called us to do. The aroma that HE wants us to have that will be pleasing to those in our circles of influence. That “coffee ring mark” that He wants us to leave on the hearts of those we minister to and share the gospel with.

So the next time you have your coffee, maybe you’ll think of what kind of coffee you are…

Are you “instant coffee” out of a jar that has lost its flavor and vitality but still tries to pass itself off as acceptable?

Or are you the shiny little bean that is perfectly ground in order to produce the most genuine and delightful cup of coffee?

You get to pick everyday! So choose well! Now go get a cup of coffee and take Jesus with you!!

Blessings,

René

 

Colossians 1:9-11, For this reason, since the day we heard about it, we have not stopped praying for you, asking [specifically] that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom [with insight into His purposes], and in understanding [of spiritual things], so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord [displaying admirable character, moral courage, and personal integrity], to [fully] please Him in all things, bearing fruit in every good work and steadily growing in the knowledge of God [with deeper faith, clearer insight and fervent love for His precepts]; [we pray that you may be] strengthened and invigorated with all power, according to His glorious might, to attain every kind of endurance and patience with joy;”

Colossians 1 verse 10

 

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

Careful, your mask is slipping…

I was recently watching a show that I had recorded on TV, called Kingdom of Heaven, taking place in the 12th century during the Crusades, set in Jerusalem. {http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0320661/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1}

It was very fascinating to me that the king of Jerusalem at the time was not a well man, he had leprosy. But that did not stop him from ruling the country. His birthright deemed it so and he did his job to the best of his ability. It was interesting how he wore a metal face mask to hide the ravages of leprosy that had attacked his face. For every day tasks he had a plain mask, where the only thing you could see was his eyes. It was a little unsettling to be able to hear him speak but not see his mouth or his lips moving. The mask was solid in the area all around his face except for his eyes. What I found very interesting was that when he knew he needed to go to war with the enemy, with all of his frailties and disfigurement, he knew as the king he had to be the one to lead his people, his army into battle.

He did not dress down for the battle either. He put on his full armor.

It was so astonishing to see him enter the battlefield dressed in his finest linen edged with intricate gold stitching and amazingly intricate patterns of other gold fabric that had been woven into the garment. But what was even more fascinating was his mask. The mask he wore was absolutely stunning. It had been carved with beautiful flowers and vines that intersected all over the whole thing. When he met his enemy in the middle of the battlefield he spoke with strength and determination and was able to settle their proposed battle without any bloodshed.

Upon his death he wore another mask that was darker in color to reflect the somber situation. The last words he spoke to his sister were, “Please remember me for who I am and what I used to look like in my youth.” You see, she had not seen him in his disfigurement.

He had servant’s that took care of him and his decaying body…and were sworn to secrecy. And I don’t believe it was from embarrassment, I think it was from a place of honor and respect. But after this king had breathed his last, the sister removed mask ~ his beautiful & perfect mask ~ to reveal a face that was hideously disfigured by the leprosy.

She was of course shocked, but you could tell the sadness in her eyes was simply because her brother was now gone. Not because of what he looked like.

So how many masks do we wear throughout our life, our day?

When we are feeling disfigured spiritually by the sin in our life, we put on a mask, and use beautiful garments to hide what is really going on underneath. We have different masks that we wear depending on who we are with. A mask with our family when we are out in public. A mask when we are with our family behind closed doors. A mask that we wear when we are volunteering at our kids school. The mask we wear at work every day. Maybe even the mask we wear with our spouse?

Most of the time I think that mask we tend to put on is just a regular, simple and fairly ambiguous mask. The one that says, “Life is great!” when it really isn’t.

The more beautiful the mask, the more disfigured the soul. The harder we try to distract from the ache of our soul, the deeper the lines are at carved into our mask. We don’t want to let anyone know about what is really going on…

  • Anxiety
  • Financial problems
  • Eating Disorder
  • An abusive relationship
  • Difficult children that are getting out of control
  • Addiction problem
  • And the list goes on and on.

So what happens when that mask slips? When our frustrations and fears get the better of us and we begin acting out of control?

Luke 12:2-3 says, “There is nothing covered that won’t be uncovered, nothing hidden that won’t be made known. Therefore, whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in an ear in private rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops. (HSCB)

How much of our life stays covered and hidden from the Lord?  NONE of it! The masks that we have so cleverly and carefully fashioned over the years, will fall away in the instant that we come before the Lord, humble ourselves, and ask Him to make the beautiful the disfigurement of sin.

I John 5:12-15 reminds us, “The one who has the Son has life. The one who doesn’t have the Son of God does not have life. I have written these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life. Now this is the confidence we have before Him: Whenever we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.  And if we know that He hears whatever we ask, we know that we have what we have asked Him for. (HCSB) {emphasis mine}

The Lord came to earth for YOU…to bring you back from the depths of sin and eternal death.  He does not want you to experience the death of sin, so He has given us the gift of His salvation.  There is nothing we can do to earn it.  There is no need to wear a mask of perfection for Him…because He can already see beneath the mask.

From personal experience, I know what happens when you remove the masks you where in your life. Freedom happens. But it isn’t easy. God expects us and wants us to be a part of the recovery. We have to be determined to operate within the power and strength of HIS might…not our own.  When we try to do it on our own, the mask will pop right back on!  Don’t save the mask, no matter how beautiful you think it is!  THROW IT OUT!

You find true freedom in walking the path as the person God created you to be, flaws and all. You will bring honor to the Lord when others see that you struggle in life, but more importantly, you put your faith and hope in the power of the Lord.  When the mask comes off, we are proclaiming that we are not perfect, but we are perfectly LOVED by the Creator of the Universe.

And if you have any doubts as to where “the mask” fits into the spiritual battle armor (Ephesians 6)  we are called to wear?

It doesn’t.

There is NO mask.

When the mask comes off, our countenance will tell the story of God’s redemption and His love.

Matthew 5:16 declares, “In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” {emphasis mine}
Take off your mask today ~ choose to live in the freedom of eternal life ~ and share with others the great glory of God’s salvation!
Blessings,
 René
Luke 12 verses 2-3