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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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It only takes 15 minutes…..

When you think about it, there are so many things in our life that we don’t want to do, yet really only take about 15 minutes to accomplish.

Unloading and reloading the dishwasher, reading one more story to your child, collecting all the trash around the house and taking it outside the night before trash day, writing a handwritten note to a friend, praying for your family, doing a job search online…

So many things only takes 15 minutes.

Most days, we act like the thing in front of us is some huge mountain that will take away more of our time and energy than in reality of what it will actually take.

It’s so nice to wake up in the morning to an empty kitchen sink.

It’s a precious thing to sit with our kids for one more story or just watching them follow sleep, because those days don’t last forever. In all honesty, I totally tried to skip pages while I read those stories!

I can still remember that time period, being so exhausted and didn’t feel like I could be needed by one more person for one more thing, and all I wanted to do was to get my children settled in their bed and asleep so that I could, do what? Really important things like veg out on the couch with a bowl of ice cream! I would give all that ice cream, all those TV shows, and all of “my“ time back, to be more patients with my kids.

Especially at bedtime.

That is the time of day that would be the time my kids would open up the most about what was going on in their life. Usually, when they had been having an extremely rough attitude day, it would all spill out after we would finish prayers, about how they had had their feelings hurt by a friend for found out they didn’t do it well on the test or an essay they thought they did. I would finally connect the dots and realize why they had been having a difficult afternoon. It didn’t really have anything to do with it them wanting to be rude or disobedient to me, they were trying to figure out how to deal with their emotions.

For goodness sake, we are the adults don’t handle our emotions properly some of the time.

But we expect our young children and teenagers to handle every emotional so perfectly. When I’d slow down, I could take myself and my own emotions out of the equation and ask questions of my kids then we could more easily and much quicker, and get to the bottom of why they were there acting up.

If we want our children to be able to know how to deal appropriately with their emotions, then we have to do the hard work while they are living in our home. We cannot leave it up to teachers at school or church, or the latest podcast, or self-help book.

Teaching our kids to deal with their emotions is as important as how we teach them to use the toilet, brush their teeth, and put their dirty clothes where they belong. They will not “get it right“ on the first try or the second or the 10th time. But if we do not give up on teaching our kids how to have healthy habits at home, we need to be that much more vigilant in sticking with teaching them how to do the hard things of life.

We are created in God’s image and we know through scripture that the Lord has all of the emotions and all of the feelings, but He knows how to deal with ALL of them. We have this opportunity to live a life full of emotion, securely gleaning from God’s Word how to live our best life in the midst of all of those areas of emotions. Dealing with our emotions on our own is absolutely exhausting and it’s not how the Lord intended for us to live. We are called into community with each other, and the first community that our children become familiar with is the one within the four walls of our home.

There will be days where everything goes haywire but then you wake up the next day and as Scripture says, His mercies are new every morning {Lamentations 3:23}.

Start your day with prayer, not simply between you and the Lord but with all of your children too. Especially when morning’s are hectic, pray on the way to school. You can designate a certain point in your drive to school where the conversation stop, the radio turns off, and prayer begins. If you have never done this before, you can start by being the one to pray over your children, but as time goes by, what a beautiful safe space to teach your children how to pray out loud for each other as well as for the people in their circle.

Those are the parts of the morning drive to school that I miss the most. The older my daughters grew, the more meaningful and specific their prayers became. It’s a beautifully humbling thing to learn how to love and serve the Lord better by listening to how your kids pray. I still smile at the memory of praying one morning as we were careening into carline to get the girls to class on time, another parent suddenly stopped in the middle of car line to let their child out and I immediately complained and chastised that parent for “doing car line wrong.” In unison, my three girls said, “MOM! Stop it. Weren’t you just praying that God would give you patience today and a heart to see others they way He does.” Bam!  Right between the eyes!  Yikes….they were right!!

The Lord gave me a perfect opportunity to show my girls the power of confession and asking forgiveness…me to them, not the other way around. It was also then that I took a moment to look at the kid who’d jumped out of his mom’s car, head down and clearly frustrated. After I dropped my girls off, I knew God was giving me an assignment to pray for that family. I never knew who it was, and that wasn’t the important thing. What was vital for me was to see that family the way God did ~ people He loved, cared for, and wanted to see reconciliation with.

No matter what happens between those morning prayers and getting into bed for the night, prayer is the key to unlocking peace. In the evening, praying over your children at the end of the day is an amazing way to help prayer be the last things they hear before falling asleep. Sometimes you will feel drawn to going into your child’s room well after they’ve been asleep and pray for them again. God is calling you to battle for your kiddos ~ don’t miss it!!

Remember, it usually does not take very long.  And even if it takes an extra 15 minutes {or more!}, it will be the best spent minutes of your day!

Blessings,

René

It's just 15 minutes

 

 

 

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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

Are you in Good Hands - pic for blog.png

 

 

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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…

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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

 

 

 

 

 

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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