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Offensives Can Blur Our View-Part 3 (Guest Writer: Sheyanne Brown)

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“Moreover, if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.” Matthew 18:15

            “Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5:23-24

How can we prevent the hurt we experience from turning into the sin of offense?

When you’re hurting, you need to talk about it with the person who hurt you. Most importantly, the intent of the conversation must be reconciliation. As we see in Matthew 5, God cares more about the state of our hearts than the sacrifices we bring to the altar. He cares less about my faithful church attendance and more about what’s in my heart while I’m in the pew.

It’s not enough to do all the “Christian” things. If it were, the Pharisees and Sadducees would have been pleasing to Jesus because they literally did everything “right.” Jesus chunked a grenade in the middle of their theology when He started calling attention to the condition of their hearts.

Instead of withdrawing when we are hurt, we must go to the person who hurt us and do everything we can to reconcile. It takes a lot of humility to admit you’re hurting. Pride will keep you from “going to your brother,” and that same pride will keep you in sin and outside the presence of God.

“God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” James 4:6.

But… what happens if you go to your brother, and he refuses to reconcile with you? What if your brother does not see how he has hurt you, and instead inflicts more pain with his prideful resistance of your humble attempt to reconcile? What if you leave the attempt at reconciliation more wounded than when you came in? (Been there, done that, got the t-shirt).

            You forgive. (notice the period)

Forgiveness is a God-created concept, which means you do not have the power to do it on your own without God’s empowering grace. So, rest in knowing He doesn’t expect you to do this by yourself.

Your emotions will never desire to forgive, but that’s ok, because forgiveness doesn’t begin in your emotions anyway. Forgiveness begins with obedience. Forgiveness is required of every believer, because as we have received unmerited forgiveness from God, so we must give the same undeserved forgiveness to others.

Forgiveness does not mean that what they did wasn’t wrong. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you swing wide the doors of your heart and life to them again. Forgiveness simply means that you release someone of the debt they owe you, and you bless them even when they don’t deserve it.

            “But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you.” Luke 6:27-28

The key to forgiveness is blessing your enemy. If you find yourself on the same hamster wheel of trying to forgive but not feeling like you’re getting anywhere, begin to bless your enemy. Pray God would bless their hearts, their minds, and their bodies. Pray God would heal them and give them favor with Him and man. Pray over them what you would want someone to pray over you.

As you begin to obey the Word, you’ll find your heart will begin to release the hurt… the wounds will begin to heal… and your heart will be kept pure.

This “honeymoon” period at my new church may end and one day I might find myself knee deep in the messiness of life with people and new opportunities for hurt and offense. I’ll find out the Ark of the Covenant is not in the basement after all, and the reality that I am part of a family of imperfect believers will set in.

However, I have come to the place in my life where the most valuable thing I possess is access to the presence of God. I don’t want to go one moment without feeling Him near me and hearing Him speak.

There’s no wound or offense worth keeping compared to fellowship with the Holy Spirit.

I pray you will allow Him to begin softening your heart to His voice, and allow Him to heal the wounds you’ve been protecting. I pray in this place of healing, you’ll experience Him like you never have before.

Offensives Can Blur Our View-Part 2 (Guest Writer-Sheyanne Brown)

REFLECTION BASED ON JONAH

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. (Psalm 51:10 NIV)

Jonah had answered a call, preached the Word, and watched the glory fall. Can you imagine watching as everyone in your city falls to their knees in repentance and worship? Can you imagine watching the Holy Spirit blow through and cleanse the land, healing, restoring, and delivering right before your eyes? Jonah saw this very thing. He saw an entire people group turn wholeheartedly to the Lord.

But instead of riding the waves of glory, he found himself alone and angry outside the gates. How was it possible for him to physically be in a place where the glory of God was so overwhelming, yet not experience Him at all?

I can’t really pick on Jonah because I am Jonah. Jonah was offended at the people God had called Him to minister to, and as a result, he missed out on revival. He missed out on what God was doing in the land. He missed out on the healing, the refreshment, the growth. He missed out on the most valuable thing in the world… the tangible presence of Almighty God.

In every church service that I’ve ever attended, God has been there. Whether or not I experienced Him had nothing to do with the location, leadership, or style of worship, but had everything to do with the condition of my heart.  What I discovered through that early morning conversation with Jesus was that I have a responsibility to keep my heart pure, and I’m the only one who can do it.

When we experience wounds, our initial tendency is to withdraw. Withdraw from the people who hurt us, from people who could potentially hurt us, even withdraw from God. The pain makes our head spin, makes us question everything and everyone, causes us to retreat. At the end of the day, it’s just a survival response.

God isn’t mad at us for experiencing or acknowledging pain. Hurt is not your fault, hurt is a natural result of living in a fallen world. Good Christians are going to hurt you. People who love you are going to hurt you, even though they don’t want to. Hurt is going to happen. It’s ok to not be ok, it’s just not ok to stay that way.

If we allow our hearts to stay in a place of hurt, eventually the wound is going to turn into an offense.

            A better description of offense is bitterness or a grudge. An offended heart holds on to the hurt and refuses to heal. An offended heart finds every reason why its bitterness is justified, and doesn’t mind telling other people about it. An offended heart is heavily guarded against anyone who reminds it of the person who hurt it. An offended heart nurses and rehearses what happened and uses its pain as an excuse. An offended heart cannot grow past the place of its pain.

            When I gave Jesus permission to see into my heart, I realized that I had both hurt and offense living inside. My fresh hurts were beginning to scab over and turn into offenses because I had turned to isolation instead of intimacy. Instead of drawing near to God and his people for healing, I had turned inward into my own feelings and had been nursing my wounds on my own. And if we’re going to be honest… I didn’t want my hurt to heal because if it did then it felt the same as me saying that what “they” did was ok.

My hurts had morphed into offenses, my offenses were sin, and that sin was preventing me from experiencing the presence of God.

In my previous church, I was offended at some of the people in the room. I didn’t expect to experience God because I didn’t expect that God would move through the people I didn’t like. (Does this sound like Jonah?)

I would enter church with an impure heart, and my experience would then further justify my feelings. I wasn’t feeling God’s presence, and I thought it was because He wasn’t there.

When I came to Freedom Fellowship and began experiencing the Lord, it was because no one in the room had hurt me and I was not offended at anyone. I expected to experience God, and I did.

My heart breaks at the realization that all that time I spent not feeling or hearing God could have been prevented if I had just kept my heart pure.

I would like to propose that God desires to manifest Himself to His people. I would like to propose that God is always speaking, is never silent, and is always present where two or more are gathered in His name. I would like to propose that the lack of revival in American churches has much to do with the offended state of the hearts of the people that fill the pews. When we turn on the switch of offense, we create a block in the current of the Holy Spirit. But when we repent and forgive, we remove the block and allow the Holy Spirit to move in and through us.

As we well know, hurt is unavoidable.

There is no perfect church because there are no perfect people.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Offensives Can Blur Our View-Part 1 (Guest Writer-Sheyanne Brown)

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Proverbs 4:23

Our family recently relocated from a four year stay in the cornfields of Kansas back to our home territory of Amarillo, Texas. Moving, for me, proved to be extremely difficult. I left my beautiful dream home, dear friends who had become family, an exhausting but fulfilling job in foster care, and not to mention our home church where we had been lay pastors for three years.

Becoming pastors was never something that my husband or I had imagined for our lives. But, when the call came, we knew it was from the Lord. We jumped in with both feet and hit the ground running. To say we loved being in ministry is an understatement. We had never known such fulfillment, such purpose, such joy. And on the flip side of that coin, we had never known such pain, such sorrow, such burden.

The day we walked away, we knew we had run across the finish line absolutely sweating, having given everything to obey the short-term call God had commissioned us with. But when we crossed the finish line, it was with a limp. There were wounds inflicted (by the same call that had brought us joy) which caused us to wince every time we walked through the church doors. Wounds that were merely the result of life lived with people. We were tired, and we were hurting.

The Church at large is just… messy. Ministry is messy. Life lived from the heart is messy.

We loaded up the moving trucks and came home to Texas. We were looking forward to sitting on the back row of a church service, where no one knew us or needed anything from us, where we could just take a minute to breathe and recalculate, to receive instead of give, follow instead of lead.

We soon found ourselves weeping on the rows of Freedom Fellowship. The glory of the Lord washed over us every week. Surrounded by believers from every age group, all collectively worshipping the Lord in unison, we began to revive. We began to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit again. We woke up on Sundays and were excited to go to church. We signed up for small groups, our kids begged to go to kid’s church, and my daughter began telling me about visions she was having during worship. How much better could it get?

After such a difficult previous season, it was easy to find myself thinking that Freedom Fellowship had the secret sauce. They must have found the lost Ark of the Covenant and stashed it in the basement because the glory was thickkkk. The pastors must be the most holy people in ministry, the congregation must be extremely mature and Spirit-filled for the environment to be this wholesome.

I was reveling in the thought that we had found the hidden gem of revival when the Holy Spirit spoke to me very clearly one early morning as I was just beginning to wake up. You know the place… that early morning moment when your head is groggy and silent but your spirit is stirred and speaking. With my head out of the way, my heart began to listen to the voice of my Father.

            “I want My glory to rest in every church, on every row, in every heart. I offer Myself to every person who comes to Me. It is My joy to come into the room. As a matter of fact, whether you feel Me or not, I’m there because I promised that where two or more are gathered in My name, there I am in their midst. The reason why you’re experiencing My presence and My voice more at this new home that at the last is not because your new church is special. Your experience with me is different because you’re not offended at anyone here.”

As I began intently listening, I laid my heart bare before the One who made me, who knows me, and who loves me. He began putting salve on my fresh wounds, while at the same time pointing out the scar tissue that had developed over the older ones. The results of this conversation with the Holy Spirit had radically changed the way I view church, and I don’t think I’ll ever be the same again.

To be continued…

INSIGHT INTO THE LIFE OF THE AUTHOR: Sheyanne Brown is a work-at-home mom of three tiny people, wife to a very attractive cowboy, and a small business owner of Sparrow Budgets. She has a Bachelor’s degree from Oral Roberts University, shamelessly eats peanut butter by the spoonful, absolutely loves to mow the yard, and is passionate about marriage, family life, healthy relationships, and Jesus.

Bible Fitness: Running with Jonah-Chapter 2

 I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart. (Jeremiah 24:7)

Happy Monday night! Guess what? We are going to shake up the way we do things this week.

Instead of giving you a recap of Chapter 2 as a blog post, we would like to share the recording from tonight’s study. Most of our studies incorporate more input and insight from participants but tonight we used a couple of resources and displayed the true heart of this ministry.

Come check it out through the link below. It will simply take one hour of your time. See what you think. Is this a place for you each Monday night? We would love for you to join us in this series of discovering Major Wisdom through Minor prophets. Enjoy!

Topic: Jonah Study

Start Time : Oct 11, 2021

Meeting Recording:https://us02web.zoom.us/…/t31_9JhuH…

Access Passcode: .p=r+4SW

3 Practical Ways to Continue Growing Spiritually

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But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen. (2 Peter 3:18)

Hello! How are you friends? What fall events have you had a chance to enjoy this month? Football games, harvest festivals, pumpkin patch, homecomings, retreats, craft shows…

I had the sheer pleasure to see Priscilla Shirer this weekend in Amarillo thanks to the encouragement of a sweet friend. As you know, I am still picking up some major pieces of life that recently shattered. My first instinct was to decline because the earthly “to do” list is quite lengthy with a double graveside service to plan, a stack of bills to sort through for my dad and sister, an estate sale to advertise, vehicles and properties to maintain and clean, and oh yeah-the legal stuff to handle. You might say I had a defensive attitude because I was letting worldly distractions hinder my submission to attend. But God said, “GO-sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to what I need you to hear through the voice of Priscilla.”

One of the beautiful messages Priscilla so eloquently delivered was that of spiritual maturity. (My passion and desire for all to obtain, including myself.) She brought several things to mind and spurred me on in several ways for my personal growth and for the Refining Ministry in the days ahead.

So, today I would like to give you 3 practical ways to continually mature in your spiritual walk. They will sound so simple but putting it into action routinely can be challenging. (BTW-This is why Refining exists-to keep you and us on track.)

Are you ready?

  1. Read God’s Word. If you want a relationship that will flourish, you have to know Him. There is no better way to become familiar with His attributes than spending time in Scripture.
  2. Find a way to be encouraged by someone on a higher level of spiritual maturity. How you might ask? Get in a Bible study, find a mentor, commit to an accountability partner, read solid Christian author’s work, listen to sermons, follow artists that spur on your worship, etc. You can’t get to the next level without being exposed to what that looks like.
  3. Pray. Make time for it. Don’t really know how–just do it. God only cares about the posture you bring when praying, not some eloquent fluffy words.

Basic-Simple-Foundation! That’s it. Oh yeah, I hear you–but there is so much more!! Yes, you are right but if you overload yourself with “all the good things” which can benefit, you may paralyze yourself from doing the solid foundational things which are detrimental to your continual growth.

Set yourself up for success. Get good at the foundational so they become part of your DNA and you will not depart from them. Then remember, everything else is icing, sprinkles, yummy sauce, cherries, etc.

The Refining Ministry believes in these foundational skills so much that it is why we provide an outlet for you to grow through our weekly online studies. Our format is simple: one chapter once a week with accountability sheets to help you dissect and unpack Scripture based on the personal message God has directly for you. I would encourage you to join us on a Monday night for one hour beginning at 6:00 pm CST. For more details and/or the link, email us at refiningjourney@gmail.com.

Last but not least!!! Here is a TOPPING for you. There is a FREE Bible Journaling conference this week which actually begins in a couple of days. The conference has a multitude of speakers and lots of fun giveaways. Plus, it is from the comfort of your home or wherever you may be. You can pick and choose what to attend. I have enjoyed it over the years and I think you will be blessed as well this year.

You can register here:  free Bible Journaling conference 

Bible Fitness: Running with Jonah-Chapter 1

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But Johan ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he want aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the LORD. (Jonah 1:3 NIV)

When was the last time you had a good hardy workout strengthening your heart? God’s Scripture can provide that very thing. There are times when it delivers a warm-up or even a good yoga stretch session, but not the book of Jonah. It is a full-on run which can condition your heart to love God and love others (yes, even the unlovable!) the way the LORD instructs.

During the month of October, the Refining ministry is conducting one-hour online sessions on Monday nights to provide verse-by-verse studies over this minor prophet’s historical account. Each meeting will include a 10-minute video segment from Erin Mason along with application questions to furnish a true heart workout.

Jonah was a runner! He wore his finest athlete sandals proudly and even was in tune to the voice of the LORD. He had been trained in theology and knew the Torah. He identified himself as being on God’s team (Jonah 1:9). Yet, his heart was in poor condition and the challenges the Father instructed revealed his lack of exercising under full authority of the LORD.

Here are a few takeaways from last night’s study:

VersesGODJONAHQuestions to ask yourself
1-3Coaches Jonah in the direction to run: GO!Runs fast and furious: the opposite directionHow are you running from God currently?
4-6Sends a violent storm message to Jonah’s disobedienceJonah not only endangers those around him, but he doesn’t feel the least amount of guilt instead he sleepsAre there areas of your life where you have allowed your conscience to be like Teflon to obedience to God?
7-10God used the situation to demonstrate His ever presenceJonah claims his identity in God, yet it is the non-believers that have a clear vision of Jonah’s disobedienceAs an identified Christian, are you open to the reproof the LORD sends through a non-believer? Have you ever given this any thought?
11-12God wants Jonah to repent and run the direction He told himJonah feels it would be better to die than to go to Nineveh. He could not stand Assyrians and did not want good to come to them. However, Jonah felt it would be better for the sailors to kill him by throwing him overboard than for him to take his own lifeDo you harbor feelings or stubbornness against someone who you deem unlovable and undeserving? Are you willing to do whatever it takes to let them stay living in darkness where you feel they belong? (Running from obedience)
13-16God stands firm. He patiently waits for Jonah to submit and take responsibility for his actions. He even gains the fear of the sailors and becomes a true Lord to themJonah realized he could not outrun the Lord. Don’t be fooled though-Jonah did not repent and he still had a heart issue against Nineveh. Despite his heart condition, he was a missionary to the sailor. God used Jonah whether he liked it or notAre there times when serving God is a duty and not a delight? Have you carried out tasks to the LORD even though you didn’t want to? (running from God within)
17God’s timing and ways are always planned. 3 days & nights- sound familiar?  (Read Matthew 12: 39-41)Running from God does not bring conditioning and good health. It brings pain and frustration because the effort is fruitless.What will it take for you to run in the direction God directed? What commitment do you need to make to fully obey His calling?

Jonah really believed running away from God’s calling was the best thing for him. He thought his rebuttal was a good one—I don’t like those wicked underserving people—I am not the person for the job. He knew his heart wasn’t in shape to extend grace and mercy to Nineveh so why bother. Seriously? So, not only did he run to avoid the Father’s calling on his life, but he was willing to sacrifice his life! Why? He was determined to never step a foot onto that foreign soil. Could this be pure hatred?

Whether you are running with God’s calling or away from it-what is the condition of your heart? How deep can you really love God and love others?

“Most of us like what God says, until we are called to action.” – Eric Mason

Join us online next Monday night via Zoom for one hour starting at 6:00 pm (CST). There are so many more fitness lessons in Jonah to be discovered. Message us for the link. Feel free to email us a refiningjourney@gmail.com. You will be blessed by it!

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