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Dots and Dashes by: Robin Gonzales

Photo by Jc Laurio on Pexels.com

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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His Perspective

For everything that was written in the past was written for our instruction, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures, we might have hope. Romans 15:4

We study the Bible because within it are the very words of God. God “breathed out” the Scriptures and inspired men to write His truth. It is an expansion of Himself to all mankind. As Christians, we rely on these words to complete us and equip us for every good work to bring the Father honor and glory. Can you imagine life without them?

The Father employs scripture and prayer to communicate. God is known as an intimate and relational spirit. When we speak with Him and ask for clarification of truth, God reveals wisdom and understanding. Remember, Holy Scriptures are fashioned to feed our souls with everlasting nourishment and refresh our mind. In Matthew 4:4 Christ reminds us, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”     

Not only do we have God’s Holy Word and a direct line to the Father through prayer, but we possess the Holy Spirit. He lives within us as a helpmate. As we read in 2 Peter chapter 1, verse 21 discloses the fact that interpretation of scripture is never attained through human means but from part of the divine Trinity’s promptings. (aka Holy Spirit)   Just like Jesus informed the disciples in John 14:26, the Holy Spirit is a gift to us to guide and instruct. We cannot uncover truth in scripture through the use of our human flesh and thinking. Why?  God’s ways far outweigh our own and we would be fooling ourselves to believe otherwise. “For is anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” Galatians 6:3.    

God’s word makes known His directives and assurances. They are a road map for righteous living. His perspective and outlook, along with faith-filled reliance on the Holy Spirit, empowers us to grasp His truth and live out God’s will. The bible is our source of truth, yet spiritual development and perception requires trust and dependence on the Holy Spirit AND continual interaction with the Father through prayer. Our reliance on these mutually supporting actions generates clarity and precise scripture meaning. Once clearness is obtained, we can commence to launch God’s truth into our present-day circumstances and daily living. Without God’s viewpoint and the Holy Spirit’s guidance, we are left on our own accord to determine meaning based on our evaluation. How clear of a picture do we get using this method?

Given our current crisis, I would extend the message from Sunday’s service by encouraging you to draw out God’s perspective for Psalm 91. Read it. Meditate upon it. Through prayer and the Holy Spirit’s promptings, allow God to reveal His words for you as a means to cope during a time such as this.

LOVE AND PRAYERS for our world!

BOOK REVIEW: The Will of God

Stanley, Charles F. (2019). The Will of God. Howard Books, New York:NY.

SUMMARY: In this writing, Stanley conveys the belief that God has a plan for every individual and wants each person to know it fully. The writer has developed means of discernment to assist readers in identifying their purpose and calling in God’s determined and desired will. All main points are backed by an abundance of scripture and examples from the Bible.

In the first few chapters, Stanley addresses God’s ultimate goal and His sovereignty. Readers are reminded that God wants a personal relationship more than anything else. The Father is said to communicate in an individual manner according to each person’s way of hearing. However, Stanley does recognize the barriers which block out God’s voice and the issue of free will.

The writer gently reminds believers that the key to knowing God’s will is a complete surrender of themselves. He identifies this subject as “staying on the altar” to be fully invested and remain connected to God’s will.  He also tackles the importance of Scripture and the Holy Spirit by focusing on the role each plays. Stanley pinpoints eight elements in acquiring God’s will and reason for not hearing God. The final chapter is designed to assist readers in their dedication and commitment to fulfilling God’s plan for their lives.

MY $.02: This book was recommended by a friend and they even loaned me their book. My heart honestly skipped a beat as I began reading. Each page is filled with scripture reference and encouragement to knowing and living God’s will. It perfectly aligns with Refining because it focuses on the importance of attaining God’s purpose for your life, the significance of having a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, and the need to continually rely on Scripture and the Holy Spirit.

I appreciated how Stanley shared personal experiences and biblical stories to help solidify some of his points throughout the book. The book highlights key points and uses bold print to catch the readers attention to main thoughts or steps written.  One example is “God’s desired will is that we serve Him—and that we do so wholeheartedly. Whether we do and to the extent that we do is up to us.”  

If you are struggling to hear God’s voice, know your life purpose, identify your calling, or just want a deeper walk with the Lord, I would suggest this book. For me, it is a great personal resource to reference and is a perfect support when delivering some main topics in the Refining study. I love the fact that the appendix is filled with “promise verses about God’s will”.  

Don’t just take my word for it:

https://tinyurl.com/rquf8gs

Stay in the right lane

San Diego, California

Do you have a new car? I am blessed to experience driving newer vehicles due to my job. The rental car agency has outstanding service and quite the variety of vehicles. I am always intrigued by what I might drive from week to week. Most of the vehicles have bells and whistles that my trusty, paid for ride lacks. Yes, occasionally a manual would come in handy. (Seriously, who puts the gas tank release on the door panel?)    

Recently, I have found myself in Nissans. Each one has proven to be a smooth ride with a roomy interior. The heated seats have definitely been an added plus on those chilly mornings when I leave before the rooster crows. Most have had the ability to control the speed and distance on the highway with respect to the vehicle ahead of me. But let’s talk about the lane departure assistance.

The lane departure warning does provide an alert if the vehicle leaves the traveling lane. The steering wheel vibrates, an audio alert occurs, and a visual appears at the slightest detection of crossing over your traveling lane. What a super feature when you aren’t driving in construction zones. After several hours of the feature, I truly wanted to disengage it.

This experience brought to mind Galatians 5. Paul highly encourages us to stay in the right lane when walking out our freedom. It is a battle to keep from crossing over into the sinful nature lane of life. The struggle is real for each of us. Galatians 5:24 says that those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Denying the acts of our sinful nature requires devoted, intentional living.

Galatians 5:25 reminds us that the Holy Spirit is in us guiding our lives but we have to stay in the same traveling lane as the Spirit. This is how we find life in the Spirit, a gift from God just like freedom in Christ Jesus. We have to rely on the Spirit to define our traveling lane and speed. It requires discipline and attentiveness to his alerts.  

For me personally, I cannot fulfill God’s will without living by the Spirit. I rely on the Holy Spirit to work in me and through me to exhibit pleasing fruit. It is through the mighty power of the Spirit that I have love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. When I try to live life my way and revert to my sinful nature, I find myself off track and definitely in danger of destruction.

I cannot disengage the lane departure warning the Holy Spirit gives me. I must stay in tune to the sound of his voice, “Stay in the right lane!” What about you?

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