Dots and Dashes by: Robin Gonzales

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Hello friends. Mine is a voice you don’t hear too often unless you join us weekly for Refining’s bible studies online.

I have recently retired from the job I had for what I like to call the second act of life. The first act was my childhood, young adult life, and motherhood. As I begin the third act, I have had a chance to sit back, relax, think, and adjust to the new normal. It is a bit strange, but also very exciting as God moves me in a new direction.

I have realized all of the things prior to now have been my training ground for things to come. . .

Have you ever identified with a Bible character? Refining recently finished the book of Amos. He was an ordinary person who loved God and wanted to share what he had learned. I really identified with him. He was an ordinary guy (farmer of fig trees and goat herder). God called him to go and speak to his people.

Amos was much like people we know: our pastor and his wife, a great prayer warrior, the spiritually gifted song leader or friend. Some of them even fortunate enough to receive specialized training; yet all of them, including you and me, are in the school of the Holy Ghost. A specialized training for God.

As we each receive our training under the Holy Spirit’s authority, He has been given several tasks to ensure our instruction. His job is to purify, consecrate, and set us apart to bring honor to Christ and empower us to witness to others.

You may be asking-so exactly how does He go about this? The Holy Spirit works within you and changes you by the dots and dashes of ordinary life-every situation, circumstance, and relationship.

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The small dots are everyday life. How you react to people and circumstances: putting the grocery cart back where it belongs, stopping when the light turns yellow instead of running it, not interrupting people when they are talking. And maybe changing the things you like to listen to, read, watch, who you hang out with, or the places you want to go.

The larger dashes are challenges in life. Maybe not enough money to pay the rent this month so you have to lean into faith that God will direct and make a way. Or it could be life has gotten really busy, you are feeling stretched, and you are having to lean into God’s peace to help you sort out, prioritize and eliminate what is not essential. Maybe you are wanting a spouse, family, new car, house, or job and God is making you sit in the waiting room because He has not released you to move forward.

Those dashes even include times when we have flat line seasons filled with suffering. You know, those times when it is hard to see more than a few inches in front of you and usually filled with loss and hardship. Death of a loved one, divorce, loss of job, or serious illness. These are the times when we seem to recognize God really showing up and even seeing ourselves grow in faith by leaps and bounds.

Yes, the dots and dashes of life. The training ground for the Holy Spirit. It is these areas in life where we learn to listen, be still, discover perseverance, and grow in relationship with the LORD. But, why does it seem as though the most growth occurs during times of struggle and hardship?

God would love for us to lean into him and grow without the hurt and pain. So, what keeps us from doing so? Maybe the problem is we become “too busy” living life when things are good. We don’t look for God or spend time in His Word. We forget to pray or thank him for all of the blessings we are enjoying. We become complacent and prideful thinking we have everything under control.  

But when God pulls away just a little, and allows us go our own way, we fall very short and things go wrong. It is then we begin to look around and realize we have forgotten our first love, the one who cares for us, and our need for him in all things. THEN…we look up and call out!

And being the good Father that he is, God steps in…

now we are back on the pathway of learning and growing in faith.

As we continue to walk with the LORD and follow God’s leading, our relationship begins to mature. We learn to be good students of a master teacher, the Holy Spirit. The Spirit works within us (and does it quite well I might add) and over time we become people the Holy Spirit can use to draw others to Christ.

When we become aligned with God’s will, we become plugged into the Holy Spirit’s mighty power to turn our dots and dashes into a glorious testimony for God’s kingdom.

Yes, we are all enrolled in the Spirit’s training when we accept Jesus Christ as our savior. There is no doubt, the Holy Spirit is working! When we tap into His power there are NO LIMITS to where God can take us and who we can reach for His kingdom. Every dot and dash along with all the gifts and abilities we have been gifted and the Holy Spirit within us, we can truly do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens us (Phil 4:13).

So, during this Pentecost season, let us remember God sent His Spirit to empower us to do even greater things than He himself did while he was in human form on the earth (John 14:12).

Just imagine the possibilities because of our dots and dashes!

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3 Major Steps in Maintaining Spiritual Growth

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Joy, peace, faith, hope — these spiritual blessings are ours if Christ lives in us. These spiritual qualities are indestructible because they have their source in Christ, who is always with us. Because we cannot lose Christ, our spiritual blessings are secure. -Ephesians 1:3

In many of Paul’s letters, such as Thessalonians, he encourages believers to strive for spiritual maturity. His words are always precisely written, and his message has a way of spurring others to embrace sanctification.

As I reflect on Apostle Paul’s writings, I find myself measuring my own pathway and process of being purified by Christ. I wonder what Paul’s message would be if he penned a letter to me. What areas would he address? What clarifications would he need to include? Where would he need to reveal reproof?

Have you ever wondered what your letter might include? What comes to mind when you think about your spiritual growth?

Transparency moment: There was once a time in my life where sanctification seemed like a long list of what to do and not to do. The process felt heavy even though I knew God was the one purifying my life.

I didn’t have a problem embracing the deliberate action on my part, but I became overwhelmed with all the to dos. It was paralyzing. (Remember, I am the queen of doing nothing when I don’t know precisely what to do or how to begin!)   

Over the years I have learned that God is more concerned about my relationship with Him and the intentionality of my heart than all those to dos and not to dos. He wants me to focus on who He truly is and direct all my efforts towards His purpose.

Let me share with you three major areas I have found essential in maintaining spiritual growth:

  1. Continually seeking a more accurate view of God. The more I get to know the LORD’s attributes and characteristics, the less I depend on myself. My view of God is so skewed by my human mind’s eye. However, as I intentionally strive to see Him more clearly and grow to understand His holiness, power, and love, I find myself surrendering more and more to Him. WHY? Because a deeper level of trust, intimacy, and worship develops. Blessed [be] the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. -1 Peter 1:3-4
  2. Allowing the Holy Spirit to lead. The LORD gave each of us a helpmate living within once we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior. However, it takes a conscience effort to listen the quiet voice and humble our steps, thoughts, actions, etc. to the discernment of the Holy Spirit. For me, this is essential in my spiritual maturity. I must daily lay down my fleshy desires and permit the Holy Spirit to guide my entire being. This is an ongoing process just like getting to know the LORD intimately.  Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh, for the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. -Galatians 5:16,17
  3. Spending time in God’s Word. The LORD gave the gift of His words. Throughout Scripture, He reveals Himself to us and provides a life manual for us. Our sanctification progress depends on our deliberate action to read, study, seek understanding, pray, and apply the Bible. …yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach. -Colossians 1:22

If you feel overwhelmed by all the “to dos”, understand God never wanted your relationship with Him to be complicated. He is a relational father who is gracious and loving. Take it minute by minute. Get to know Him. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal who the LORD really is and your role in God’s plans. Stay in His Word and let it transform your life.

If we were to receive a letter from Paul today, I think his main message would be:

Stay consistent-

know God, rely on Him, and live under His biblical authority.

Scripture Praying-Could it be the secret to a Healthy Mind?

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HELLO! It has been a hot minute since I have written. Why? March came in like a lion in many ways-family, friends, health, ministry, etc. BUT GOD! He continues to shine through regardless of the outcome. God is working, directing, pruning, and so much more.

The LORD has been prompting me for quite some time to dig deeper in my intentionality. (that sounds like a token phrase!) Let me jump right to what God has been saying-“You value my word and you know the power of it-why don’t you pray it more? If you believe My word is a lamp to your feet and a light to your path-why aren’t you learning how to truly rely on it and allow it to direct your prayers?”

Transparency Moment: When I feel reproof and the Holy Spirit nudging I will do one of two things: 1) Nothing because when I don’t know what to do or how to do it so I tend to do nothing at all, or 2) Jump Right In and give it my all! I know-the two are polar opposite, but this is how I typically respond.

So, in order for me to go forward and keep my YES posture before the LORD, I flat out asked God-WHY? Why now oh LORD when so much has flooded life recently? The only response I kept receiving was WHY NOT?

Today, I want to share with you what God revealed. As I began typing out the words flooding my mind, I thought about the Bible and prayer individually.

Scripture

The Bible is a helpmate given by the LORD. It is a significant resource and assurance of God’s promises. As you grow in scriptural knowledge and explore biblical methods for real life application, these affirmations help build a foundation for your faith and hope in the LORD.

In Isaiah 55:11, we are reminded that God’s words were sent with a purpose and should be highly valued. These assurances are to remind you of the transformational power found in Him and to guide you in building an everlasting relationship through trusting in His word.

Prayer

What a privilege to talk directly to God 24/7. Think about it…total and complete access to the creator of the universe! Not only that, but He desires to be in full conversation with you. WOW!

Then, I placed them together:

As I began to ponder praying Scripture, God said, “Imagine the joy and peace of mind you could have you if you would press into My word and allow Scripture to direct your prayer life. This is a gift, another door to open. I have designed the very words in the Bible to help you learn how to submit to My will in a way you have not intentionally done before. I want you to experience disciplined prayer. I desire for you to display your faith and confidence in Me by praying My Word. Also, I need you to use Scripture to keep your requests in alignment with My plans, not your will. Come learn how to pray Scripture my child. Let it guide your thoughts with My perspective and strengthen your reliance on Me. WHY? Because I love you and want to give your mind peace beyond your current understanding.”

And so, I am on a journey allowing the LORD to direct my focus when I pray. I am reading Scripture with a different viewpoint. As I spend time in the Bible, I am learning to let the Holy Spirit lead and allowing God’s Word to determine the subject of my prayers. I am embracing the growth mindset in the father and trying to learn a strong biblical means to deepen my personal relationship with the lover of my soul.

The peace of mind has been freeing. WHY? Because I am learning how to give up control-but that’s another story!

A Visual of going BEYOND the typography

BEYOND the typography
to letting Scripture saturate your life

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Matthew 4:4 (NIV)

Ponder this if you will…

In a moment’s notice, we can access the Bible on our phone, bookmark passages, and even magnify text if need be. We are blessed with the engagement opportunities afforded to us left and right. It is as painless as downloading an app. Free at that! WOW! Every mode luring each believer to go beyond the typography.

Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.

Joshua 1:8 (NIV)

What more could we desire? A prized prize and adored adornment can be displayed beyond a coffee table. We can showcase it on every device we own and pull up any passage regardless of our location. We can even screenshot verses of interest in the middle of a sermon and share it immediately on social media.

What a welcoming welcome. An opportunity to see past the layout we choose. A chance to experience the life-changing power the words hold. An open invitation to go beyond the charming print. An ability to interact with Scripture through exceeding levels of availability far outweighing anything previously offered. Oh, how attractive, tantalizing, and downright alluring.

Scripture Notebooking can do that for YOU!

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. 

James 4:8a (NIV)

MERRY CHRISTMAS

Painting by Jesus Lugo
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6 NIV)

Merry Christmas friends! What a glorious time to reflect on the beautiful gift of eternal life given to us through the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

I encourage you to schedule intentional reflection time within the next few days and simply thank the LORD for His glorious love. As I began my scheduling, one question kept coming to mind, “Where would I be without this gift?” That statement really humbled my heart and encouraged me to carve out a special time with our Heavenly father over the next week. I hope it inspires you as well.

Refining Leader: Robin and her husband, Edward

Count down to 2022 is upon us! What is your vision for your spiritual journey in the year ahead? Now is the perfect time to ponder the new year growth steps for you. It is so important to be purposeful and deliberate when wanting to mature in Christ. What are your aspirations? What are God’s goals for you? What are some actions and commitments that it will require in 2022?

Refining Leader: Mandi and her spouse, Lee

As you begin thinking about the next steps in your spiritual growth, we want to help you discover practical and authentic ways to deepen your relationship with God. Here are a few of our commitments to you in 2022:

  1. We will continue offering discussion study sessions over books of the Bible because we are committed to deepening the knowledge of the LORD with you.
  2. You direct our serving ministry! Thank you for your encouragement to invest in a social media format to better serve you. Your following on Facebook and this blog is appreciated.
  3. We realize everyone may not be in a season to attend our online Bible studies, and that’s ok! Therefore, we plan to offer other avenues. Just like you, we are pondering, praying, and planning for 2022.
  4. SO, let me be the first to let you in on part of our plans…(drum roll please)…Refining is thrilled to introduce a “Notable Faith” focus AND our BIG kick-off will begin with a Note Booking RETREAT!

We are inviting you to participate April 21-23 for a getaway in Glen Rose, TX. This intentional time will be extremely laid-back. I promise this is less compact than any other retreat we have held. The setting alone will be a chance to get away, enjoy nature, and carry out some growth intentionality.

If you love Bible journaling, scrapbooking, visual art, or simply want to leave an illustrated legacy of a life in relationship with GOD this is the retreat for you. Listen, you don’t have to be crafty at all! We will share very practical steps, tips, and tricks to creating an illustration of “Notable Faith” from your Scripture intake.

Be on the lookout for more information soon!!!

Refining Founder: Genna (that’s me!), husband Shawn, and son Ryan
My other twin son, Kyle, his wife Shayla, and our adorable grandchildren: Jude & Sydney

Until then-MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Much love,

The Refining Ministry

Joy found in a Savior

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Have you ever been the recipient of a random act of kindness? You know the type of thing that happens out of the ordinary for no reason. Maybe someone left you flowers, a cupcake, and a devotional on your porch which you while away. What a wonderful display of tenderness and unselfish love. We might go as far as to call it “counter cultural”.

Jesus’ life is a perfect example of someone who did the unexpected. He loved the unlovable, accepted the rejects, forgave sinners, and the list continues.

Derwin Gray refers to the Messiah as “the counter-cultural king” who brought “a holy disruption.” Jesus was our perfect example to go beyond all worldly barriers and extend hope, peace, and love and in doing so we would experience pure joy of the LORD!

Paul wanted the world to fully know the Joy found in Jesus. He spoke directly to the Philippians and clearly stated ways to adjust one’s state of mind. We find this in the reading of Philippians 4:4-9:

Rejoice in the LORD always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The LORD is near, Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me-put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Paul knew the joy that would come from living counter-culturally. He also knew the sacrifice it would take and the worldly consequences that would come. Yet, if Paul were among us today, I think he would bear witness to the extreme happiness within a believer when carrying out the father’s will.

Scripture reminds us in Romans 15:13 that we cannot produce joy that comes from God. He alone fills us with unexplainable joy-the kind of happiness that cannot be shaken by circumstances or the horrific events of this world.

In John 16:22, we read about the lasting joy given by God. Scripture promises us that no one can take away this special joy.

I have heard it said like this: “Jesus’s love brings peace even in difficult circumstances, contentment regardless of comfort, and joy in our eternal hope.” WOW! What a powerful statement very applicable to Advent.

This 3rd week of Advent, as we light the Joy candle, may we take time to reflect on the happiness from the birth of Jesus. May we remember-we don’t have to despair in our present world-WHY? – because Christ will come again. AMEN!

Heavenly Father,

This third week of Advent, let our hearts be flooded with your Joy and let us be overwhelmed with rejoicing. We are so grateful for the abundant joy you offer through the gift of Jesus, our Savior and Lord.

May we always remember our joy doesn’t come from this world and it is a gift from you-a present that first Christmas to the world to extend a counter culturally love beyond our imaginations. Help us extend Your joy to those around us.

In Your precious name we pray. Amen

May you be encouraged to focus on the Joy of the Lord and carry out Philippians 4:8:

“Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is anything praiseworthy—dwell on these things.”

Peace found in a Savior

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Has there ever been a time in life where you lacked peace?

This past week has been a whirlwind-some over the top experiences, amazing memories, stressful busyness, and one big jab to the heart. As things have settled a bit, I realized the unexpected news and what the future holds did not give me peace of mind. There is no doubt I left God’s peace out of the equation. I dare to say you might have been in my shoes a time or two yourself where your life lacked peace.

Somewhere this week I ran across a short analogy that hit home. It simply stated: “During the rush of angry weather, a bird sat on her nest with peace.” (Clearly that wasn’t me this week!) The story went on to define peace as truly having a calmness of heart amid the stressful chaos and trouble. What really caught my attention was the fact that peace was described as a state of mind, not a state of surroundings. This really went against my thinking: peace means to be in a place where there is no noise or trouble-NOT! Why would I need peace if there wasn’t a need for it?

If real peace is a state of mind, not the state of the surroundings, how can it be obtained? Listen, there was no way I could have produced the peace I needed a couple of days ago. However, my mindset was different when I settled down and called on the Holy Spirit’s power living within me. There is no doubt the peace and hope I received were a precious gift from the Father. A complete comfort washed over me when I stopped, focused, and relied on the LORD.  

In John 15:13 we read, “No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends.” What peace comes when you know someone has your back, especially God. He is always with us, even when chaos is all around.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

There is music in these words, spoken by Jesus in John 14. 

I realized this week that I must practice the peace of God. I have to condition my mind to live in the father’s peace. It is essential for me to claim God’s peace within my body and practice what I preach: getting the body into a quiet state and breathing in the peace of God and exhaling the tension. 

As you walk through the second week of Advent, I encourage you to allow the Almighty God to touch the depths of your soul with His peace. Ask Him to fully disclose the meaning of what He said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

Please know His presence alone can deliver peace over any issues in your life. May He empower you with His peace and fill you to overflowing.

Advent Study!

For unto us is born a Savior, who is Christ the KING!

As Christmas approaches, the signs of it’s coming glisten our lives from beautiful sights and scrumptious smells to the hustle and bustle throughout the town. The world comes alive and goes to tremendous lengths to expose their expectancy of Christmas. No one can deny that the holiday preparation is in the air when the eagerness of the season begins. (Sometimes as early as October!)

Adventus, the Latin word for “coming” or “arrival”, seems quite fitting when Christmas countdown launches. Trees adorned within each house, lights shining brightly outside, extra goodies stocked in the pantry, and gifts waiting to be given. The time has come once again to embrace hot chocolate, pumpkin, peppermint, holiday spirits, cookies, cranberries, and lots of enticing material items. Let the Christmas celebration begin!

For years the world anticipated the day when the promise of deliverance would come to pass. They waited anxiously for the King who would be the ultimate gift of salvation. The world looked forward to the coming of the Savior. The day when He would give up His glory, walk this earth as a man, and become the eternal sacrificial lamb. It was God’s pledge because of His great love.

The “arrival” of the Messiah was completed through the birth of baby Jesus. Each Christmas we get the opportunity to pause and reflect upon this precious offering. Yet, it is also a time to be thankful for the redemption we find through Him, and look forward with anticipation for the second coming of the LORD.

This Christmas, the Refining ministry welcomes you to experience the presence of God through an Advent study. We invite you to join us as we intentionally prepare our hearts for the season by taking a closer look to the hope, joy, peace, and above all love found in Christ Jesus.

Come join us as we declare together, “No greater gift has been given than the redemption presented through this marvelous Messiah, our Savior and King.”

Email refiningjourney@gmail.com for the details. Kickoff will begin online Monday, November 29th at 6:00 pm (CST). You don’t want to miss this one!!!

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