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

Sharing God’s Truth without Compromise…Part 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But ours can be fallible, His never will be.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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God’s Word is True.

God’s Word is without error.

It’s really that simple.

 

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

 

 

 

 

Women's Ministries

Free Refills….

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

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

So what fills you up? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Simple answer ~ God’s Word!

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

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

And here’s the real secret….

JESUS OFFERS FREE REFILLS!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…read the Bible and pray!

Here’s another secret…

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

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

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

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

Prayer can happen all. day. long!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blessings,

René

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

Authentic Joy…

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

Candy ~ Almond joy?

Songs ~ Joyful Joyful We Adore Thee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let me tell you a little story ~

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

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

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

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

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

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

That made me FEEL so mad!

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

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

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

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

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

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

And for what….a house?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We had the support of our church community.

And I still loved my husband.

Things were looking up.

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

Really?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hello! Life changer right there!

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

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

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

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

What’s a momma to do…pray!

So I found things I could be joyful about…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He provided more than enough.

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

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

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

We have known plenty and we have known want.

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

That is true authentic joy.

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

Blessings,

René

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

Coming Home to a Clean House…

If you’ve ever gone on vacation or even an overnight somewhere and you get to stay in a nice hotel…well, picture that…

You walk in to an immaculately clean room, a crisply made bed, towels that are perfectly placed in the bathroom, a desk that has been meticulously laid out with items you may need….awwww…so relaxing!  Oh, and even better than this is the fact that every day you are there, you can return to a room that is all cleaned up for you!!

{And after getting into our room, my husband will run the water in the bathroom sink as hot as it’ll go, soak one of the washcloths and walk around the room cleaning off the remote, the light switches, the door knobs, etc. because of watching one of those news programs on hotel germs. lol!}

But…There’s nothing like coming HOME after time away, to a clean house!

My husband and kids still think it’s kind of a silly thing…but I’m gonna keep doing it! What is “it”?  IT is the process of cleaning house before we go out of town. I mean, if it’s only gonna be a couple days or an overnight, I don’t go as far as I usually do, but still…that toilet better be clean and all the dishes are at least out of the sink into the dishwasher! {Can I get an Amen for the dishwasher!}

A few days prior to leaving, I do the big stuff…dust, vacuum, mop, and start the laundry.  The night before (or morning of…depending on how early we have to leave) I make everyone strip their beds and put clean sheets on {and of course, make their beds up before we leave!}, and I also switch out all the bath towels for new ones. Then when we come home from our trip, we can walk in to a clean house. We don’t have to waste time cleaning up before we unpack. And if we arrive home late at night, we can easily slip under the covers into fresh, clean sheets!

As I prepare for the leaving…I also prepare for the return.

Colossians 3:15-17 is a beautiful picture of the fact that we are God’s dwelling place…Let the peace of Christ [the inner calm of one who walks daily with Him] be the controlling factor in your hearts [deciding and settling questions that arise]. To this peace indeed you were called as members in one body [of believers]. And be thankful [to God always]. Let the [spoken] word of Christ have its home within you [dwelling in your heart and mind—permeating every aspect of your being] as you teach [spiritual things] and admonish and train one another with all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do [no matter what it is] in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus [and in dependence on Him], giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”

Every day we are here on this earth, we are preparing to do two things:

  1. We spend time with the Lord each day to prepare us for the day when we will finally meet Him face to face.
  2. We go out each day as a light to the world to show them Jesus.

In each aspect, we are preparing a clean house for the Lord to return to dwell in! Through salvation,  He is able to return to a relationship with us through His grace of reconciliation.

I mean, seriously, just read the first sentence in verse 15 above…”Let the peace of Christ [the inner calm of one who walks daily with Him] be the controlling factor in your hearts…”

Yes please! I’ll take some inner calm every day of the week!!

When I clear out the cob webs of deceit, the dust of doubt, the piles of unbelief ~ there is room for the Holy Spirit to release His calm direction in my life.

When I take care of allowing the Lord to wash away my sins with His unlimited forgiveness, there is room for the fresh blanket of His grace to be wrapped around my heart.

When I take the time to cultivate the Word into my daily life, I will be a sweet aroma not only to Him but to those around me.

But here’s the most beautiful part…

The Lord dwells within us at the exact moment we receive Him as our Savior.

The. Exact. Moment.

He doesn’t wait for housekeeping to tidy things up and remake the bed before He knocks at the door of our heart. We have the astounding privilege of opening the door of our life to Him EVEN IN THE MESS!!

When we are in a season of sweet communion with the Lord, [think…clean house…clean heart…clean mind…} our relationship with Him is right on track and it is easier to follow where He leads. Because let’s face it, a clean house means you aren’t tripping over the bag that needs to go to the donation center (yeah, totally did that this morning!) or having our senses blown away when we pass the garbage can that needs to be emptied.

But even when ~ and sometimes especially when ~ we haven’t taken good care of the dwelling place of our own heart and mind, the Lord is still there. The Holy Spirit remains in the mess. His whisper is harder to hear amidst the junk, but He still speaks to us.

What will it look like today for you to “clean house” in your heart?

Imagine what the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit will look like when He has space to freely roam. Think about how much easier it will be to hear what the Lord is saying to you when He doesn’t have to compete with the noise of the unnecessary. Picture the garden of promises that you are resting on from His Living Word instead of rusty old broken dreams.

Clean your house.

Refresh your soul.

Buy the flowers.

Drink your tea wrapped in a cozy blanket.

Invite people in.

Ephesians 2:19-22 paints a lovely image of being a part of God’s house…So then you are no longer strangers and aliens [outsiders without rights of citizenship], but you are fellow citizens with the saints (God’s people), and are [members] of God’s household,  having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the [chief] Cornerstone,  in whom the whole structure is joined together, and it continues [to increase] growing into a holy temple in the Lord [a sanctuary dedicated, set apart, and sacred to the presence of the Lord].  In Him [and in fellowship with one another] you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.”

Oh my friend…did you catch that? We are members of God’s household! He wants a place in our life and invites us to have a place with Him. What a treasure!!!

Don’t wait another day.  If you have never asked the Lord into your life, He’s ready for you right now! If you need a refresher of the Holy Spirit because you have felt distant from the Lord, just turn around and open the door of your heart because He’s standing right there!!  Jesus will always be ready to come in ~ He’s just waiting for you to invite Him to stay!!

Be in fellowship with God and with each other…both aspects will fortify your life in every way imaginable!

Blessings,

René

Ephesians 2 verse 22

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

Words ~ the power to hurt or heal…

One of the little rhymes I heard as a child that I never understood {and actually, I really hated it!} was the one that goes, “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Have you heard that one?

What a pile of rubbish!!!!

Words hurt sometimes!!! A lot!!! They cut deeper than we can imagine. Whether those words are spoken to our face, behind our back, or through the glorious glowing screens of social media platforms.

Words are powerful ~ not only do we need to be careful about what we say to others but {almost} more importantly, what we say to ourselves!

From the First5 devotional app, that I was reading today (Day 6 of Return to Refuge plan, by Kellye Schiffner Carver), she writes Habakkuk recalls God’s character and resolves to trust in Him.” This referred to Habakkuk 3:18-19, “Yet I will [choose to] rejoice in the LORD; I will [choose to] shout in exultation in the [victorious] God of my salvation! The Lord GOD is my strength [my source of courage, my invincible army]; He has made my feet [steady and sure] like hinds’ feet And makes me walk [forward with spiritual confidence] on my high places [of challenge and responsibility].”

Look at all of those positive things that Habakkuk speaks back to the Lord…characteristics that He has given us as His children…strength, courage, salvation, steady, sure, confident…not one thing uttered here is of discouragement.

How many times this month (or goodness sakes…just today!) have you said something negative over yourself? Maybe you don’t even realize you’re doing it because it’s become second nature?

Let me share a story…

For the many years of my adolescence & early adulthood, I truly believed I was ugly.  Not just slightly  unattractive or not really pretty…but really and truly ugly. I mean, I must be because people made fun of me for how I wore my hair, what clothes I wore to school, the gap in my front teeth, oh, and the fact that growing up our family didn’t eat sugar.  Like we were “that family” before eating healthy was cool.  We made our own peanut butter, my mom made cashew milk for our whole grain hot cereal, we made our own grain free granola.  Oh and the sugar free peanut butter was mostly enjoyed between TWO huge rice cakes! {Hello 1970’s when Whole Foods was only known at a few stores called Mrs. Gooch’s}!!

{all the glory that was me in the 8th grade!}

At any rate ~ the teasing was endless…the whispers were terrifyingly loud…my weirdness factor was off the charts.

It wasn’t until I was in my early 30’s that I was able to break free of the “I’m ugly” curse that I had spoken over my life. There were times in-between those years that I felt pretty, but not many…Senior Prom, Senior Pictures, my wedding day and honeymoon, and the days my three daughters were born. That’s about it.

Thanks to some super deep talks in the dark with my husband and some difficult conversations with a dear friend, they helped me walk out into the light of who God saw me as, who God called me to be, and who they saw me as. The hardest thing that my friend asked {okay…she TOLD} me to do was to say, “I’m fearfully and wonderfully made by God and I am beautiful.” But that wasn’t all of the mandate…I had to say to myself…IN THE MIRROR!

Ugh!

I had to look at myself and say it out loud…every…day! Until I could say it confidently without looking away and without disbelieving what I was saying. It took at least a month but maybe more. It was painful and I hated it. But I did it.

At first I did it because we were raising three little girls. I could see that it pained them whenever I said something demeaning about myself. My husband could see the far-reaching potential of those hateful things I said out loud about myself, and the affects they would have in our daughters’ lives. Only I had the power to change that. So I said the words. I said them until I began to see myself the way God did. The way my husband and children did. The way my true friends did.

I haven’t felt ugly since then.

Ephesians 4:29 {AMP} warns, “Do not let unwholesome [foul, profane, worthless, vulgar] words ever come out of your mouth, but only such speech as is good for building up others, according to the need and the occasion, so that it will be a blessing to those who hear [you speak].”

People!  This is not just talking about what we say to other people, whether to their face or in gossip. This verse is about how we speak to our self!

STOP SPEAKING LIES OVER YOUR LIFE!

Some of the things we say about ourselves don’t even register as a lie because we’ve said it so many times, we believe it’s true.

“I’m so overwhelmed.”

“I’m such a bad mom.”

“I’m a horrible wife.”

“I’m never gonna be like her.”

“I’m never going to amount to much.”

“I’ll never find a husband.”

Oh my friends….let me give you a great encouragement here…none of those phrases were ever said about you by our amazing Heavenly Father! NONE of them!

The first blessing God spoke over us was this from Genesis 1:26-28, 31 “Then God said, “Let us (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) make man in Our image, according to Our likeness [not physical, but a spiritual personality and moral likeness]; and let them have complete authority over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the cattle, and over the entire earth, and over everything that creeps and crawls on the earth. ” So God created man in His own image, in the image and likeness of God He created him; male and female He created them. And God blessed them [granting them certain authority] and said to them, Be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth, and subjugate it [putting it under your power]; and rule over (dominate) the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and every living thing that moves upon the earth.” God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good and He validated it completely. And there was evening and there was morning, a sixth day.”

Did you catch that last part? Does it talk about us being good enough to be made? Perfect enough to be given authority? Unflawed enough to deserve to be created in the image & spiritual likeness of the Trinity? Nope…not once!! Did we have to work hard & prove our worth? Nope, not even that! Yet He validated us COMPLETELY!!!!

And everything He saw that He’d made ~ which includes you and me ~ He thought it was good!!!

We are sealed by His words of creation, and sealed forever by the salvation through Christ, the Living Word!!

All through the New Testament, the Lord calls us His beloved, His children. He calls us precious, restored, renewed & reconciled. He provides the free gift of salvation. He calls us by name and declares us wonderful!

When you don’t have words of your own, speak Psalm 139:14 (amp) over yourself, “I will give thanks and praise to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it well.”

Here’s another one to speak over yourself from Psalm 141:3 (amp), “Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips [to keep me from speaking thoughtlessly.]”

When we speak lies over ourselves, we begin to allow the spirit of that attribute to cover us. When we speak the truth of God’s Word over our life, we allow His character to cover us.

Either way, how we live is affected by what we speak. Our heart is affected by what we speak over ourself. And our mind listens to it all.

I still have body issues that I’m dealing with, my I know that I’m not ugly. What I do know is that I’m beautiful because God made me. I’m joyful because I live for Him. I’m happy because I know how miserable I used to be. I’m grateful that the Lord (and my fantastic husband and sweet friends) wouldn’t let me stay in a miry pit of sadness and depression. I can smile and laugh because I know my life has a plan and purpose that only God has orchestrated for me to fulfill!

The power of words is important for us to understand. It is vital to speak truth over ourself, our spouse, our children, our families, those in our circle of influence, and really, to speak God’s truth over & into the lives of anyone the Lord puts in our path!!

So if you feel like you can’t say something nice…pray a Psalm out loud instead!!

Blessings,

René

{Living out a special day with family in the beauty that is Waimea, HI ~ Big Island ~ and I actually ASKED my daughters to take some photos of me!}

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

Our Battlefield is NOT a Playground…

I’ve been trying to figure out how to begin this teaching and I think the Lord gave me a great idea! But in light of all that has transpired for our family in the last week…my father in law James Lee Crismon (94) went to be with the Lord on November 29th at 7:27am and then my grandmother, Clara Marie Hentschke Shutz (96) had her Home-going on November 30th at 12:07pm…

There have been lots of tears, but oh so much joy in KNOWING where they are.  They are with the Lord and their loved ones who’ve gone before them.

As for this blog…here we go…

Let’s first think about what a playground is a what a battlefield is.

That sounds quite elementary (pun intended)…but follow me.

On a playground here’s a few things we have:

  • Safe equipment
  • A playground supervisor
  • Soft flooring in case of falls
  • Friends to play with
  • Games to invent
  • Encouraged to use our imagination

On a battlefield, it’s quite different:

  • Unsafe environment
  • A Superior to take orders from
  • Dirt, rocks, buildings laid waste, etc.
  • Fellow soldiers to fight with and against
  • Rules of engagement to follow
  • The grit of reality

 

Both my father (Robert) and my father in law (Jim) served in the US Navy. But even then, their “Battlefields” were different due to their ages and time of history they served. But both proudly served as they were needed.

My father in law was a 30+ year veteran who served in World War II, Korea, and VietNam. He was a young 19-year-old medic corp-man on the beaches at Normandy. He remembered with clarity the day Pearl Harbor was attacked. Once in Korea he thought he and his entire crew were going to be shot to death as they rounded a corner on a frozen winter day during the war; only to realize that the men who had been poised to fire upon them had literally frozen to death because of inadequate attire.

Although we have heard his stories a million times, what we wouldn’t do to hear again how he was stuck on the island of Fiji for 4 months while the Navy and Marine corp tried to figure out where all the orders and personal information had ended up for his troop. He said the best part of being there was learning to open and eat a mango. Because there weren’t any mangoes where he grew up in the early 1900’s in Pocahontas, Arkansas.

But here’s the other thing about his time in Fiji….Just because he wasn’t in the midst of fighting, didn’t mean he’d stopped training. He knew the time was coming to go back to the battlefield. He listened to his superior officer and followed instructions to the best of his ability so that he would survive the battle. As a medic, he came to the aid of his fellow soldiers and offered them as much help as he could under dire circumstances.

He knew that when he was called to serve his country, he was in it until the battle was over…no questions asked. Although he survived three wars, parts of those battles always stayed with him in the nightmares he had on a regular basis for the rest of his life.

But his final battle is over and he came out victorious!  Hallelujah!!

My father on the other hand, served during the Cold War in the Navy on a nuclear submarine. And if you don’t know what the Cold War is…I’m so sorry your history teachers didn’t tell you…it’s very important too! For many decades though, although he had proudly answered the call to serve in the midst of being employed as a Los Angeles City Fireman, he and others like him were scoffed at by older Navy veterans.  They were told that they didn’t know what it meant to be in battle because they “had it easy.” My father never really talked about his time in the Navy because he felt like it didn’t matter after all. When his naval service was complete, he went back to the fire department, met my mom and built a family…no nightmares from a war; but plenty from his days as a fireman.

Until the day he found a group of Navy Cold War vets, online, and they were going to start having a yearly reunion for those who served on the U.S. Abraham Lincoln and the U.S. Marshall. At the first reunion, there were actually men there who were now U.S. Citizens, but at the time, they had served in the Russian Navy.

There’s a special pin that the guys on the nuclear subs wore, and it was a design of two dolphins, to signify “Submarine warfare.” One of the former Russian naval captains came over to my dad, who was wearing his pin, and said, “Aha…It’s because of you. You must be one who served on the US Nuclear Subs. It’s because of you that Russia never attacked the US.  We could never find you because you were so good at staying out of our radar. You and your friends are the reason we didn’t attack the United States.”

My dad is a humble man, but when he came home and told that story, I saw a man who was proud again to have served his country and helped to keep it safe.

Now to regain my composure here.yes…I totally sit and cry when I write!

Let’s bring in the spiritual aspect of our title today…getting off the playground and into the battlefield.

Plain and simple, and I’m guilty of it all the time, we are too comfortable as Christians to make a stand in the spiritual battlefield of this world we live in.  It truly is no different from the days of the disciples of Jesus and apostles that followed.

When you stand up to the enemy, you are committing to what you believe in so much that you are prepared to give your life up.

Games on the playground of capture the flag or even dodgeball, well, you don’t have to give your life…maybe your social life, but nothing dire. Kids will do just about anything to not be picked last. On a playground you want to have fun and enjoy yourself. You want to be with the cool people and you want other people to know that you’re hanging with the “cool kids”.

So let me ask you, how do you see Christians today as if they are hanging out on the playground?

  • Modern buildings
  • Cool music
  • Hipster-dressed pastors
  • Special lighting and effects at every service

Don’t get me wrong…NONE of those things are bad or inappropriate. But if those are the things that we are drawn to and never have the opportunity to grow beyond the esthetics of a Sunday morning, that is the danger.

What about the “playground” aspect of Christianity IS definitely a deterrent to the life Christ has asked us to lead?

  • Not standing up for the truth of the Bible
  • Wanting everyone to feel accepted without responsibility. “Because after all, God is love, right?”
  • The attitude of “my sin isn’t as bad as theirs”

There are quite a few more examples of course, because we see it all over every avenue of social media, etc.

So how do we get back on the battlefield?

I’m sure the first thing we think about is the passage in Ephesians where we read the teaching of “putting on the full armor of God.”

Ephesians 6:10-13 AMP, 10 In conclusion, be strong in the Lord [draw your strength from Him and be empowered through your union with Him] and in the power of His [boundless] might. 11 Put on the full armor of God [for His precepts are like the splendid armor of a heavily-armed soldier], so that you may be able to [successfully] stand up against all the schemes and the strategies and the deceits of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood [contending only with physical opponents], but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this [present] darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) places. 13Therefore, put on the complete armor of God, so that you will be able to [successfully] resist and stand your ground in the evil day [of danger], and having done everything [that the crisis demands], to stand firm [in your place, fully prepared, immovable, victorious].”

 

And what is the spiritual armor of God?

 

Below are the verses from Ephesians 6:14- 17 from the Amplified version of the Bible. I love the descriptive language, as it helps me to visualize a bit of what the Holy Spirit wants us to see in scripture. I mean, if we are created in the image of God, and God had the infinite and incredible capacity to imagine a whole world, let’s use the gift of imagination to bring the Bible to life in front of our eyes!

Ephesians 6: 14-17 says, So stand firm and hold your ground, having tightened the wide band of truth (personal integrity, moral courage) around your waist and having put on the breastplate of righteousness (an upright heart), 15 and having strapped on your feet the gospel of peace in preparation [to face the 14 enemy with firm-footed stability and the readiness produced by the good news]. 16 Above all, lift up the [protective] shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.

We are each to be equipped like this…

Just like a soldier in a war, we are not to run out unprepared and expect to borrow someone else’s armor.  That would be unheard of in battle. If you go into battle and you are not prepared appropriately, not only will you bring harm to yourself, but to those around you who have to work harder to try and protect themselves and protect you…you are putting these fellow soldiers at undue risk.  Everyone has their part in battle. And everyone is expected to show up and fully participate.

Yes, we all have our individually gifting’s. But we are all expected by the Lord to be fully equipped for battle. And for that, we have to train. Just like the examples I shared about my dad and father in law…. they both went through the same boot camp, but then according to their gifting’s continued their training in order to be a reliable and fully functioning part of the squad.  Talk about “squad goals”.

Going further in the end of Ephesians 6, we see a glimpse of what we can do in order to be prepared and equipped to be in the battle.  Verses 18-20 are as follows, 18 “With all prayer and petition pray [with specific requests] at all times [on every occasion and in every season] in the Spirit, and with this in view, stay alert with all perseverance and petition [interceding in prayer] for all God’s people. 19 And pray for me, that words may be given to me when I open my mouth, to proclaim boldly the mystery of the good news [of salvation], 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. And pray that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly and courageously, as I should.”

One of the most important directives we received from our commander in chief Jesus is this…

We are to pray.

We are to pray to the Lord for direction and alertness in all situations.

But we are also to pray for our fellow Christians. Prayer opens wide the spiritual conduit between the earth and the throne of God. How wonderful that God created prayer in order to be able to communicate with us.

The last few verses of Ephesians chapter 6 read as this, 21 Now, so that you may know how I am and what I am doing, Tychicus, the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, will tell you everything. 22 I have sent him to you for this very purpose, so that you may know how we are, and that he may comfort and encourage and strengthen your hearts.23 Peace be to the brothers and sisters, and love joined with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 24 Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with undying and incorruptible love.”

We are not alone in this spiritual battle. Just like soldiers in war. They do not send one man to fight a battle and expect him to win.

They send a multitude of troops…as they say, there are strength in numbers.

The only man to have ever entered battle on His own was Jesus when He died on the cross. He was still part of the Trinity, but in the moment of His death, He was alone. He prayed every step of the way. And in His resurrection, He had strength in numbers to defeat the enemy once and for all.

Psalm 140:7 Amplified Bible (AMP) “O God the Lord, the strength of my salvation, You have covered my head in the day of battle.”

Psalm 18:39 Amplified Bible (AMP) “For You have encircled me with strength for the battle; You have subdued under me those who rose up against me.”

Real quick, back to the examples of the wars my dad and father in law fought in….

Sometimes, we are on the front lines.  We see the horror of battle. We have the scars to prove it. People know what battles we have fought.

Sometimes, we are fighting quietly. We are entering the depths of spiritual battle to intercede on the behalf of those we want to keep safe from the enemy. We may not be known, but nonetheless are so very important.

Whatever battle it is that God is asking you to fight ~ you have all the equipment that you need.

Find your “captain” that you can be trained by.

Find your troop that you can fight with.

Find your strength in the numbers of spiritual warriors that have gone before you…and step onto the battlefield and fight!!

Blessings,

René

Psalm 140 verse 7

 

 

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

Your View: Windshield or Rear-View…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our past is like those smaller mirrors.

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

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

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

So how does that this translate into our spiritual life?

What side glances get you off track?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blessings,

René

 

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

Soil and Roots…

On a recent visit with my in-laws, my mother-in-law was pointing out the great job that her gardener had done on the new landscaping and sprinkler system.  But we noticed that the parkway planter area that held a large beautiful tree, was quite dry.  She told us her gardener assured her, “Even though the soil doesn’t seem like it’s being watered enough from the top, the roots were getting plenty of water from the surrounding soil UNDER the ground.”  He told her what to look out for with the tree to make sure it was growing and not suffering from lack of watering.

I have not been able to get that story out of my head for weeks now.  And here I sit at a new coffee shop and I realize that the mural on the wall in front of me…it’s a painting of roots!  Okay, Lord, I get it!  I’m digging in!!

Jeremiah 17:8 say, “He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

This is exactly the verse that came to mind when my mother-in-law was telling us about her tree.

I would not say I have a green thumb…nor a black thumb…just hands that are really good at purchasing new plants when the old ones die.  Why do you think they sell plants at the grocery store?!  But I have managed to keep quite of few philodendrons alive (and mostly well) in my kitchen and living room.  Indulge me a bit while I share my “gardening” observations.

I have six plants in my kitchen and four plants in my living room.

The 6 plants in my kitchen are fabulous!

One of them I received from a friend who was moving out of state and couldn’t take it with her…my “Jenn plant” has managed to stay alive and green for the 5 years since her family moved. I think it thrives because I notice it more and water it more often…it reminds me of my friend and I pray for her and her family every time I see it.

The larger plant on a stand by the window is the one that thrives the most. I believe because it’s closest to the sunlight, it grows the best. It has the benefit of weekly watering and is daily bathed with the rays from the sun. There are two other plants on the little kitchen sink window ledge that live well with partial sun as well.

Now, the two to the left of my kitchen window, that’s another story. They are in smaller pots, which means that there is not a lot of space for their roots to spread out. But the pots are just so cute…and the shelf they sit on doesn’t really have space for a larger vessel. They are little out of my line of sight, so I know I wait too long to water them. They look quite wilted and give me little hope that they will “spring back to life” just because I water them  But every single time I take them down and give them a good watering, a few hours later I look up at them and they’ve been revived!  It’s amazing what a little water can do!

Well, then there’s the plants in the living room.  We don’t really get any sunlight in there, at least where I have the plants. Those pots are regularly the ones I have to repurchase new plants from the store. They start out full and lovely and after time, I’m watering pots of dirt with one stalk of three or four sad leaves on it. And they don’t perk up at all after the watering.

So what kind of plant are you?

Do you put yourself in a place where you are being watered and cared for?  Do you soak in the sunlight when it’s available?

Do you slowly lose your stamina until there’s almost nothing left?

Or are you the tree planted with deep roots?

When we make the decision to stand firm in our relationship with the Lord, and let Him water the roots of our life in Him, we can withstand ANY kind of storm or drought. Even when the topsoil of our life is dry and dusty, we can still grow and bear fruit of who God is in our life. We need not fear anything because we know Who we are rooted in.

Taking time each day to be rooted in God’s Word ~ that is the only way to remain standing and not sway or break with the ever-changing moments life will bring.

Think of a palm tree. I’ve lived in Florida – palm trees galore. I’ve witnessed the strength and remarkable flexibility of these trees during storms. Being born and raised in Southern California, what is more iconic than the palm tree lined streets of the city suburbs and beaches? Here, the greatest characteristic of these trees is that depending on where they are planted, they are either straight and tall, or they seem crazily slanted…but both features are simply because they desire to be in the full gaze of the sun’s light.

Palm trees are amazing to me when you see them bending like crazy-straws during a hurricane but when the storm is over, it regains its composure.  How?  They have an incredibly fibrous root system that goes down into the ground very very deep.  The palm has roots that keep growing, that continue to gain nutrients to sustain their life, and a leaf system that overlaps the branches all coming from one common trunk.

I mean, I am so excited just thinking about the similarities here between my life as a Christian and how God made palm trees.  I mean, besides how cool they are, what a life lesson they are to us ~ and I know that God does not do anything haphazardly.

Do we remain steadfast and let our roots go deep with God? Do we yearn so earnestly to be in the light of the Son, that we may look a little like a “bendy-straw” to those looking at our life? Do we look like we’re going to simply break in half during the storm of life? Do we regain our strength and stand tall when the storm is over? Do we continue to bear fruit in the midst of a drought?

I know these plants.

Sometimes I contently sit in my “little pot” waiting to be watered but slowly dying inside because I don’t go where the sunlight will strengthen me. But I want more of those times when I’m seen, watered, and cared for by Gardener. Unlike a plant in a pot, I have to be an active participant in the watering!

I know this tree.

More and more I am the palm tree. I know the value of sticking close to God’s Word and burrowing deep so that the roots of my heart and soul are planted securely within the truths of the life He has intended for me to live.

I am this tree.

I’ve been the tree in the desert, the tree with the dry topsoil, the tree that still survives because the roots are deep. It doesn’t mean I have it all figured out. I don’t have the market cornered on staying strong in the midst of the storm. I just know that trusting in the One who refreshed me with water from the spring of everlasting Life in Him.

So even when I look a bit slanted, or a bit like a crazy bendy-straw, just know that I’m in the process of reaching out to be as close to the Son as I possibly can! Come join me!

Blessings,

René

Jeremiah 17 verse 8

 

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

Expectancy…

For many years now, I’ve heard stories from friends, read countless social media posts, and heard it talked about from the pulpit…”God gave me a word for the year.” Then I would listen as each person unpacked what it meant to them that God gave them a word.  Well, why did I never receive a word from the Lord for my life? For the year ahead?  Goodness sake, for the DAY ahead!

Simple answer.

I never asked for one.

Yeah, I know…kind of a “duh” moment.  Honestly, I never asked for it before because I thought it was just the trend of the decade.  Everyone was doing it and I didn’t want to follow along with the latest “Christian thing to do.” If I’m really and truly being honest with you though, I also never asked for God to give me a word because I was afraid of what it would be and what would be required of me to live into that word He had for me. I’m guessing y’all might be feeling the same way.

So…what to do?

Pray…and ask!

I John 5:14 is quite clear about this and says, Now this is the confidence we have before Him: Whenever we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.

There is so much in the Christian arena that has it backwards about asking the Lord for something in prayer.  There is absolutely NOTHING in the Bible that tells us that all we have to do is ask and we get whatever we want.  This is making God into a wish-giving genie and that is definitely who the Lord is.  The verse above says that whatever we ask that is in line with the plan and purpose He has for our life, that is what He will give.  And when we are close to Him, when we lay down our wants and needs at the feet of His throne, then the depths of our heart, mind, and soul are completely immersed in desiring what HE wants for our life…and we in turn want that too.

In January of this year, I went trembling before the Lord and asked Him to give me a word for the year of 2017.  Immediately I heard God breathe the word “Expectancy” into my heart.  “Did I hear You correctly Lord?  Expectancy?  Oh man…what do you mean by that?  As long as you don’t mean that I’m literally going to be ‘expecting’ then I’m good with your plan.”

{I’m in no way diminishing the joy of being pregnant and bringing a child into this world…we have three daughters and they are 23, 21, and 17…our oldest is getting married in November…and I’m 48 years old…that would totally freak me out to have a baby at this stage in my life!}

So, expectancy…okay…

The only questions from above that I felt I had a clear answer about was ~ Yes!  I did indeed hear the Lord correctly.  And No! Not a literal baby would be joining our family.  Whew…okay…lets roll!

This word has lingered in my heart all year long so far and every time something wonderful was about to happen or actually happened, I would smile up at my Father and thank Him.  But I felt like I wasn’t getting the full gist of what God intended with this ‘word of the year’.  I kept feeling like something is coming but I have no idea what that is.

I’m a planner.  I like to make lists.  I like to cross off tasks from my lists.  I am known to add things to my list that I accomplished just so that I can cross it off my list!  To walk around with a sense of expectancy every day is actually kind of frustrating and a bit mentally exhausting because I find myself In a constant state of waiting.

I don’t like to wait.  I really hate waiting.  No, like, I really really hate it!

But that my friend is a HUGE part of being expectant.

The Psalms are filled with wonderful verses to encourage us in the wait…

27:24 ~ Wait for the Lord; be strong and courageous. Wait for the Lord.

33:20 ~ We wait for Yahweh; He is our help and shield.

39:7 ~ Now, Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in You.

40:1 ~ I waited patiently for the Lord, and He turned to me and heard my cry for help.

130:5 ~ I wait for Yahweh; I wait and put my hope in His word.

So much of our life is spent waiting and expecting.

You take a test in school to see if you will pass on to the next grade level or if you’ll make it into a Graduate program…and then you wait for the results…expecting the outcome you hope for.

You find out you’re going to have a baby…and you wait a long 9 months and wonder what incredible miracles are going on underneath the expanding skin of your belly…and  you wait…you are quite literally, Expecting!

You are dating and you are sure that the person you are with is “The One”…you wait for the proposal to come…expecting to have your dreams come true.

But what happens when the waiting lasts way longer than you want it to?  What happens when the outcome you expected to happen, doesn’t?  Do you feel like you’ve wasted your time, efforts, or prayer time? Especially when you feel like the thing you are waiting for, that event that you are so full of expectancy for, doesn’t come to pass…or at least not how you imagined it would?

What do we do then?  I know I have had those seasons in my life when absolutely nothing seemed to be going in my favor in that of our little family. Constant worries about finances, health, personal issues, and the future.  Would anything ever work out for us?  Would life be okay again? What kind of witness am I to unbelievers when they know I’m a Christian but it appears that God isn’t hearing me in the wait.

Look carefully and see the difference between what I just wrote above and the verses I’ve shared with you below.  What do you see?

Psalm 5:1-3, 11-12, beautifully captures the heart of the one who is waiting…

Listen to my words, Lord; consider my sighing. Pay attention to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for I pray to You. At daybreak, Lord, You hear my voice; at daybreak I plead my case to You and watch expectantly. But let all who take refuge in You rejoice;
let them shout for joy forever. May You shelter them, and may those who love Your name boast about You. For You, Lord, bless the righteous one; You surround him with favor like a shield.

The difference is the focus of my heart.

When it’s all about me, the scope of life is quite small. When I remember that my focus needs to be on the Lord, my whole world opens up to see what it is that HE wants me to be interested in, focused on, who crosses my path that needs encouragement, and so much more.  Suddenly, the wait isn’t unbearable any longer.  I can walk confidently throughout my days and have a heart of expectancy because I know that I serve a God who created the Universe and has created a plan and purpose just for me!  That’s pretty amazing people!!

We won’t always see the fruit of what we’ve been waiting for.  We don’t always get the answers we want.  But we have a secure hope in the Lord that He has the answers and He knows what is best.  We also have the gift of His written Word…the Bible…which is full of encouragement with incredible stories of those who have gone before us in the wait.

Abraham and Sarah were actually told what they could expect to happen…but they had to wait for decades to see the promise. (Genesis 12 and 21).

Moses was saved from certain death because his mother hid him, Pharaoh’s daughter found him, God called him, he came up with every excuse in the book, and then trusted God would give him the strength to accomplish the task of setting the Israelites free. Although Moses knew the promises that would happen, he was disobedient in the wait and was able to move fully into the fruit of the promise. (book of Exodus). But he remained expectant.

Saul (of the New Testament) had an encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus ~ WHILE he was still beating and torturing Christians. Immediately Saul was blinded by the glory of the Lord, soon after was healed through prayer from a man who feared him (but completely trusted Jesus), and became Paul…a man whom the Lord built His church (Acts 9).  In Acts 9:15-16 says of Paul, But the Lord said to him, “Go! For this man is My chosen instrument to take My name to Gentiles, kings, and the Israelites. I will show him how much he must suffer for My name!” This is just one story proving that God sees the whole picture and He is trustworthy in His promises, His decisions, His plans, and in what He asks us to be expectant for.  It is not an easy task to do what God has set forth for us to accomplish, but it’s not about us and it won’t be easy!  That’s why we must constantly lean into the Lord and follow His plan!

Today, be bold in the Lord and ask Him to whisper to your heart what He wants for you.  Be it a word for the year, a task He wants you to undertake, a promise He has for you in the future…whatever it is, ask Him to show you how it is you are to move forward in the time of waiting, in this season of expectancy. When you are in line with His plan, He will be oh so good in showing you HOW do wait in Him.  How to rest in Him.

He will be faithful to bring you a sense of peace and calmness while you are expectantly waiting for His promises to come to fruition.  If for no other reason that your faith in the Lord will grow by and extraordinarily large amount!!

And whatever it is, it will be well worth the wait.

Blessings,

René

~~ Psalm 37:5-7a ~~ Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him, and He will act, making your righteousness shine like the dawn, your justice like the noonday. Be silent before the Lord and wait expectantly for Him;

Psalm 37 verse 5