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Are we really Sheep after all…

My husband and I recently hosted a family dinner with friends of ours. We hadn’t seen either of the couples in about 20 years, and it was the first time we’d met their children, but it felt like no time had passed at all. The color of our hair, the reading glasses, and the wrinkles on our faces say otherwise. But it was spectacular! We used to meet with four other couples, including these two, when we first were married every month and it was fantastic! Sharing meals, playing board games, celebrating holidays and special occasions. Then life took us all in different directions ~ but thank goodness for Christmas cards and social media!  Am I right??

At any rate, one of our friends have now been sheep farmers in Wyoming for the past 9 years and they love it! We heard all kinds of new terms like, “Oh yeah, we like to lamb in the summer.  It’s way too cold for us and for the lambs to be born in 10-degree weather.” Jesse and Michelle have over 400 sheep at any given time, but lambing season is definitely a highlight. By the way…I’m totally planning some time in my schedule to go next summer and experience Fowler Farms for myself!

When I asked what the best/hardest part of being a modern-day shepherd was, they said that both aspects kinda went hand in hand. Taking care of hundreds of sheep is a major full time 24/7 job!

Then my friends’ husband said, “The hardest part is where the romance ends, and the work really begins.” Isn’t it always so enticing to think about having pets or adding animals into your home equation…until they actually arrive! And with a slight chuckle, they said that after all the years they have been raising sheep, they totally understand why the Lord compares us to sheep in the Bible! LOL!

My friend Michelle recalled a particularly difficult birthing experience. It was on Mother’s Day and she had to unexpectedly go out to help her husband help a struggling mama ewe. At first it made her so mad because after all, we momma’s look forward to Mother’s Day. But then, she and Jesse were able to save the babies and the mama. “The experience of that incredible birthing moment was in fact quite spiritual. And then you step back and thank God for letting you be a part of His great work!”

I did a little research via the old world-wide web too and found a great site that gave the basics about sheep and it was amazing to me to see the correlations between us and sheep and how the Lord shepherds both.

There are four areas where the shepherd must pay attention:

  • Flock Welfare
  • Protecting from Predators
  • Protecting Health
  • Shearing the Flock

Just as Christ came to be our salvation, the first thing a shepherd must be aware of is the safety of his flock. “The shepherd will graze the animals, herding them to areas of good forage, and keeping a watchful eye out for poisonous plants. Shepherds often live in trailers or other mobile quarters. As the sheep eat all the forage in an area, the shepherd will move both the sheep and his living quarters to fresh range. In most cases, the shepherd and his dogs will move the sheep out to fresh grazing each day and bring them back to bed down in the same area each night.” *

This is what Christ does for us every day. But the difference between us and the sheep, is that we activate more of a conscious choice about how and when we will listen to the voice of the shepherd. Each day, as we read God’s word, we are grazing in fresh areas of truth. Even if it’s a passage that we’ve read multiple times, when we are attuned to the voice of the Lord, we can experience the verse anew. When our focus in on the Lord and are following Him, we do a better job of avoiding sinful temptations in our life.

In terms of protection, “…a shepherd may use guard dogs or other guard animals.” * The Lord gave us the Holy Spirit for this same purpose. Read here in John 14 and 16,

John 14:26 “But the Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener, Standby), the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name [in My place, to represent Me and act on My behalf], He will teach you all things. And He will help you remember everything that I have told you.”

John 16:7 “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener, Standby) will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him (the Holy Spirit) to you [to be in close fellowship with you].”

When my daughters were younger and new in their faith, I used to explain the ministry of the Holy Spirit to them very simply. I would tell them, “When you have that ‘uh oh’ feeling in your tummy, that was the Holy Spirit giving them a warning that maybe what they were about to do or so was not something honoring to the Lord.” Hey, I still think that’s a good way to recognize the direction the Holy Spirit gives us. It’s not about emotionalism…it’s about learning to discern the warnings and guidance the Lord intends to give us through His Holy Spirit every day.

The same way that spending time in scripture helps us to learn more about who God is and what His plans for us are, it is always how we stay healthy: spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. Modern day shepherds must be vigilant in protecting the health of their flock and monitor their animals at all times and especially during the lambing season. The sheep, “…may also be bothered by insects, some of which carry disease. During lambing season, the shepherd will make frequent checks on the ewes at all hours of the day and night and may assist the ewe if birthing problems occur. Shepherds may also dock, or cut off, the tails of young lambs.” *

Hebrews 12:11 says it perfectly, “For the time being no discipline brings joy, but seems sad and painful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness [right standing with God and a lifestyle and attitude that seeks conformity to God’s will and purpose].”

As believers in Christ, we belong to the Lord. He is with us always, so He is keenly aware when we need help going through trials, when there is disease {sin} creeping in to take over our heart and mind, or when we simply need to know that He sees us. Just as a ewe cries out alerting her shepherd that she needs help, we can cry out to the Lord and He hears us. We may not always get the answer we want, but He will always answer us.

Just last week I was having a terrible attitude going into church. I had allowed myself to fall prey to the temptation of irritation with others and self-doubt and spiraled from there. We got to church late, had to walk through to the middle of the row, and usually I love singing but I could barely get the words out, so I just stood there. But I was fighting a battle…a big spiritual one and I needed help. I asked the Lord to help me get out of this ridiculous funk because I wanted to sing, and I wanted to hear what our pastor had to share in his sermon.

I began to feel the sadness leave my mind as we sat down in our seats. In that moment, a sweet older lady that was sitting behind me, reached forward to hug me and give me a kiss on the cheek. Then she whispered in my ear, “Hello sweetheart! I’m so glad you here.” WHAT IN THE WORLD!!!!  I knew in that moment; Jesus was whispering those same words to my heavy heart. My sinful attitude didn’t deserve such a kindness, but in my quiet plea to the Lord, I knew He had heard me and wanted to gift to me tangible proof to show me so.

He is a good good Shepherd!

The last piece of being a good Shepherd is to know when and how to shear the sheep. The article* I read says this, “Unlike other animals that shed their hair in the spring, many breeds of sheep must be shorn – have their fleece cut off with shears or clippers. This task may be assigned to sheepshearers, whose primary occupation is shearing, or it may be the responsibility of the shepherd. Sheep may be sheared in the open or in holding pens. ”

If I’d not seen it myself, I’m not sure I could’ve truly understood the complete trust a sheep has in the shepherd. A few years ago, I was able to go with my husband on a business trip to New Zealand. One of the producers he was working with, asked if I’d be up for his wife to take me on a few adventures while we were there ~ you betcha!! Almost apologetically she said, “It’s kind of touristy, but would you want to go to Sheep World?” Um…yeah, I want to go to sheep world!  And it was absolutely amazing!! {here’s the website if you’re ever in NZ ~ http://www.sheepworldfarm.co.nz/}

Part of the show was to educate people on the nature of sheep and to raise them. It was fascinating to watch the sheep being called in by the shepherd…partly using his sheep dog to corral the sheep up on the hill and partly his own set of voice commands that the sheep recognized. Then he brought in a few sheep who needed shearing. He showed our small audience how to do it properly ~ how to hold these massive animals in such a way as to cause them to be calm while being sheared. It was remarkable. The sheep made no sound and didn’t struggle to get away. It was clear though, when the shearing was over they wanted to get back to the flock as quickly as possible.

And guess what…this shepherd gave folks an opportunity to do some shearing…and my new friend started pointing at me. I almost turned down the chance but figured I probably wouldn’t get that opportunity again! So, I sheared a bit of wool off this lovely creature and then a bit later I was able to hold a sweet newborn lamb and feed it with a bottle! I was in heaven!!

{Side note: there are many stories out there perpetuated by well-meaning pastors and speakers that state the idea that shepherds will break a leg of a lamb when they stray too many times, in order to teach it to stay with the flock. Not being able to interview someone who lived during the days of Jesus, and seeing a few articles about ancient shepherding, this possibly was done but not as an everyday measure. I’ve spent hours researching this concept on the website and asked my friends who’ve been running a sheep farm ~ all point to the fact that this hasn’t been a reality for a very very very long time! A good shepherd would not intentionally cause harm to a member of his flock. In the same way, Jesus our Good Shepherd, does not intentionally “break” us when we have strayed. He stays nearby, calling our name until we are able to recognize His voice again and in a spiritual sense (and maybe even a physical sense) rejoin the flock and follow the path He has for us.

If you have ever heard this other version and thus made the decision to leave Christ out of your life for fear that He will cause harm to come to you, please know that I’m praying for you to understand who Jesus really is. He is the One who came to save us from our sinful life that, without Him, leads to eternal separation from Him. He will give us lessons in order to have the opportunity to turn away from sin and follow Him. When we ask for forgiveness it is immediate and it is not brought up again. Jesus does not need to “break our leg” in order for us to follow Him. The Lord will always have His arms outstretched to gather us to Himself; when we are wounded by this world, He is there to carry us. He does not do the wounding.}

So, are we sheep after all? Yeah…I think we are.

  • We don’t always see well and tend to wander around with the rest of the flock.
  • We must learn to hear the true voice of our Shepherd to keep us from falling over a cliff or to know when danger is present and to run the other way.,
  • We need someone to watch over us; to pick off the diseased parts in our soul and to shear off the weight of coverings that we no longer need.

And most of all, we need a gentle Shepherd to lead us home to Himself.

Blessings,

René

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Photo by Tanner Yould on Unsplash

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

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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Do we understand blessings…

What does it really mean to be blessed by God? I’ve been thinking about this a lot since one of our church members taught in our class on Sunday. She had us shout out what we were thankful for…what we felt was a blessing in our life.

You guessed it…no one shouted out any hardships!  So easily we see hardships as an inconvenience, an interruption, something done to us instead of for us, something that is flat out hard to deal with! But there really are blessings in all of that!

I was struck by the Amplified Bible version of the Beattitudes in Matthew 5. I simply love the verbiage of this translation. As I study, it helps me to put new perspective, particularly verses I’ve read many many many times before. Each time the word ‘blessed’ is used, the amplified version describes that blessing in a unique way. I think it’s quite impactful and hope you do too!

So thank you for letting me share my heart with you today through these verses in Matthew 5:3-12…

“Blessed [spiritually prosperous, happy, to be admired] are the poor in spirit [those devoid of spiritual arrogance, those who regard themselves as insignificant], for theirs is the kingdom of heaven [both now and forever].

  • When I focus on the Lord, leaning on Him for knowledge and guidance, I will more clearly see the path He has created for us to join in Him in heaven one day.

“Blessed [forgiven, refreshed by God’s grace] are those who mourn [over their sins and repent], for they will be comforted [when the burden of sin is lifted].

  • Not that I will live a sinless life, but when I admit my sins and ask the Father for forgiveness, He is so good to do that and to blot out any record of it! Even though I’ve known the Lord as my Savior for over 40 years now, this gift still amazes me!

“Blessed [inwardly peaceful, spiritually secure, worthy of respect] are the gentle [the kind-hearted, the sweet-spirited, the self-controlled], for they will inherit the earth.

  • Beginning each day with a soft heart toward the things of God, with a clear mind to receive instructions from His Word ~ this is what makes it easier day by day to walk in peace with myself, with the Lord, and with the people around me.

“Blessed [joyful, nourished by God’s goodness] are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness [those who actively seek right standing with God], for they will be [completely] satisfied.

  • Yes!! I want to live fully satisfied with all God allows in my life ~ the happy times and the struggles….they all happen for a reason. Oh to be “nourished by God’s goodness” ~ who doesn’t want that!  Truth is the best way to satiate the soul!!

“Blessed [content, sheltered by God’s promises] are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

  • Those moments when I am tempted to withhold grace and mercy from someone, the Holy Spirit is tender to remind me that I wake up with renewed grace and mercy from the Father in Heaven…the God of all Creation. Since He gives me those gifts so freely, how can I not extend the same gifts to others!

“Blessed [anticipating God’s presence, spiritually mature] are the pure in heart [those with integrity, moral courage, and godly character], for they will see God.

  • Are you experiencing a time in your life that you don’t feel close to God? You aren’t hearing Him like you used to? The devil will tempt us to believe that God has turned His back on us…oh friend…fight that lie! When we feel distance with the Lord, we are the ones who have walked away. Return to a desire to live with godly character and seek spiritual guidance and you will dwell in a rush of the Father’s love for you…because it never went away!

“Blessed [spiritually calm with life-joy in God’s favor] are the makers and maintainers of peace, for they will [express His character and] be called the sons of God.

  • Whoa!  Yes!! “Spiritually calm with life-joy” ~ oh a 1000x yes!! When we rest in God’s goodness and have an unshakeable faith that our day, our month, our life for that matter will turn out good for us, that is when we are settled into peace and will be able to exude the character of Christ through our life.

10 “Blessed [comforted by inner peace and God’s love] are those who are persecuted for doing that which is morally right, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven [both now and forever].

  • Standing firm in your biblical and spiritually sound beliefs against the attitude of the world, is never going to be easy. Being mocked by others because you believe what the Bible says is true, is painful but it serves a purpose. Knowing how to share the truth of God’s Word without compromise, but also with love from God, is a treasure. Those who are truly searching will seek out the spiritual treasure you hold in your heart; those who believe the lies that they are “good enough” won’t.

11 “Blessed [morally courageous and spiritually alive with life-joy in God’s goodness] are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil things against you because of [your association with] Me.

  • These are qualities I desire to have in my life ~ to be morally courageous and spiritually alive! Having those two attributes in my life {and when I remember I have them!} will make the flaming arrows of lies and persecution easier to deal with. It doesn’t mean that the arrows and barbs won’t hit us, or penetrate the flesh of our heart. It means that those wounds won’t last and they won’t determine our identity!  Amen!! The devil absolutely hates our battle scars, but we are fighting already FROM a place of victory because of Jesus!!  Remember that!!

12 Be glad and exceedingly joyful, for your reward in heaven is great [absolutely inexhaustible]; for in this same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

One of the beautiful reminders I received from reading through this translation is that a blessing from the Lord rarely, if ever, refers to something earthly ~ there is nothing temporal or financial referred to here in these verses.

The so-called ‘prosperity gospel’ does not exist. You will never find proof of that in God’s Word and I’m fully convinced of that. Our rewards are in heaven. Our worst day here on earth, as followers of Christ, will not follow us to our Heavenly home. This is why we cannot be jealous or strive after earthly riches like those who do not serve the Lord. Sadly, by choosing to live their life here on earth without Jesus as their Savior, they will live their eternal life separated from Him as well. This concept is harsh to many, but think of what Christ did for us dying on the cross and all that He suffered in the days leading up to His crucifixion. We will never be “good enough” to enter into Heaven on our own…if we were, then the death and resurrection of Christ was for nothing…and I believe in ALL that He did to bring us back into reconciliation with Him!

Being on the receiving end of God’s blessings is all about how we live for Him; how we are growing into His image; how we can bless others with sharing the gospel; and how we can emanate the glory of God and the impact of the Living Word to those around us in our sphere of influence.

Be blessed today ~ filled with all the life-joy that God’s goodness brings!

Blessings,

René

Let the Blessings flow!

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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

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