Posted by: trbccoffeebreak | April 20, 2018

Perfecting Pearls

“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience (some translations say “endurance”). But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” James 1:2-4 (NKJV)

Feeling irritable? Or perhaps you feel like life itself is irritable. Your trials, tribulations—all the things that cause you suffering or worry—are like irritations that sometimes produce terrible emotional or physical pain. Is this pain actually worth anything? Well, according to the Bible, the testing of our faith produces things like patience, endurance, wholeness, and perfection. But how? Perhaps the answer can be found in the difficult process in which pearls are made.

First, an irritant, such as a parasite, lodges within an oyster or clam. This nuisance makes a nice, comfortable home inside its new shell—right alongside its reluctant host. Meanwhile, the oyster is aggravated by this and starts secreting something called “nacre.” Over time, the nacre builds up and creates protective layers over the parasite. Eventually, after years of layering, the parasitic irritant has a radiant, new form. Pearls are known for being precious, (ever heard of the Pearl of Great Price?), and real ones are costly. However, they can only be created when the oyster or clam is provoked by something unwanted—an intrusion into their life.

This morning, as I thought about life’s irritants—and how they cause me great suffering—I was reminded about the life of a clam. A clam is nothing special, really. In fact, it can only produce something beautiful when challenged by long-term “trials.” Did you know that it actually takes up to three years for an oyster to produce a pearl? While that seems like a long time, it may be encouraging that we can be so much like that burrowing shellfish.

I’m not sure if James had clams in mind when he wrote about endurance, but it sure seems fitting when he said the testing of our faith produces patience. Patience helps us to “be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” Trials that last for years, or even various trials over the course of many years, generate the perfect environment for creating pearls—even if we have brought those trials upon our own heads.

In 2014, a woman from Virginia Beach bought a $15 bag of clams. When she bit down on one, she discovered a rare purple pearl—one that was worth $3,000! Think about your trials and reflect on how they have changed you—God is perfecting and completing you through those irritants! The process is painful, but the results are breathtaking, and worth far more than three grand. So, according to Isaiah 61:3, trust in God to bestow upon you a crown of beauty for ashes, or, in this case: pearls for parasites.

“Dear God, help us to trust that You will be with us when we suffer in life’s trials and tribulations. Help us to believe that You are going to turn those tough times into a beautiful rendition of eternal significance in a temporal world.”

For His Glory

Ruby Sand
TRBC Women’s Life

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Posted by: trbccoffeebreak | April 19, 2018

Faith That Awakens Dead Dreams

“Then Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out!” John 11:43 (NIV)

Jesus had been on the other side of the river, going about His Father’s work, even though He knew one of His very favorite people, a man named Lazarus, had fallen deathly ill. His sisters had sent word to Him that Lazarus was very ill, but Jesus continued on with His plan, before heading back to Bethany to see His friend.

If you are anything like me, and Lazarus’ sisters, Mary and Martha, when faced with a life-and-death situation, you would expect your loved ones to gather around the afflicted one for comfort. So, when Jesus kept on His journey before heading to Bethany, I imagine people were beginning to wonder whether Jesus really loved Lazarus, to say the least.

But the story does not end here. You see, according to Jewish belief, there is a timeline for one’s spirit to leave the body after one has been declared dead. According to that belief, Jesus had three days to get His awesome self to Bethany to try and do something, in the event Lazarus did expire. And expire is exactly what Lazarus did. And a day went by; and a second day went by… and a third day also went by. Then, on the fourth day, Jesus reached Bethany from Judea.

When Jesus got to Bethany, He found mourners there crying with Mary and Martha. Though He told those there that Lazarus would rise again, they did not understand Him, because, after all, by now Lazarus’ spirit had indeed left the area. Jesus, however, walked over to the grave, prayed to the Father, and shouted to Lazarus, “Lazarus, come out!”

Friend, Lazarus, the man who had been in the grave for four days, got up and lived again. My question for you today is, “is your faith strong enough to believe and shout that your victory has come in the name of Jesus Christ, the same One who resurrected a dead Lazarus?” If you do, you will see your long-lost dreams being realized through Him; therefore, just like Jesus, pray to the Father and believe that your victory has come.

“Father, awaken our belief, Lord, so we, too, can see the dead rise again. ”

For His Glory

Luska Natali
TRBC Women’s Life

Posted by: trbccoffeebreak | April 18, 2018

Confirmation Seekers

“I sought the Lord, and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears.” Psalm 34:4 (HCSB)

Amazing how patterns of behavior filter through our lives and we don’t even recognize them. But then one day, we realize it’s the very thing getting in our way. Had one of those moments recently and I’m still reeling from the truth staring me in the face.

You see I’m a proverbial confirmation seeker. You got it. Whenever there’s a decision to make or an opportunity to accept, I’m all about praying and seeking God’s direction. And that’s exactly what we should do. We need to seek His counsel and study His word to better grasp what direction we should take. Seeking the guidance of trusted godly mentors helps us sift through and evaluate any areas we might have overlooked.

But the real problem is my default response, my go to pattern is to ask one more time – “I need a confirmation.” Despite knowing what God wants me to do and clearly hearing His direction, I continue to ask over and over again. Rather than move forward in obedience, I linger back desiring one more confirmation of what He has already shown me.

Nothing pretty about this – our reluctance to heed His answer is rooted in fear and it never serves us well. If we’re totally honest, we’ve probably landed here too many times. I know I have. Regret is a constant sidekick to those who are looking for one more revelation of the truth staring them in the face.

Fear is a powerful emotion. Perhaps that’s why God instructed us with so many “Fear nots” in His Word. Sweet reminders to not fear, because He is forever with us. Faithful promises to strengthen us and deliver us. Like a constant tweet to our souls, God encourages His children to be bold and courageous rather than cower in fear.

So sweet friend, what’s got us sitting on the edge of our seat filled with worry and doubt? Are we keeping it real by admitting our fear? Or are we hiding it under the disguise of a repeat confirmation? Conquering fear, trusting God and seizing His power to move forward always serves us well. Let’s cling to His words and leave regret behind.

“Father, empower us to be fearless women who trust You completely as we conquer doubt and worry.”

For His Glory

Janet Martin
TRBC Women’s Life

Posted by: trbccoffeebreak | April 17, 2018

When Our Hearts Need Spring Cleaning

“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct.” 1 Peter 1: 14&15 (ESV)

It’s here. No, not yet. Maybe next week. Spring. Is it just me or is spring seeming to do a peek-a-boo dance this year? My snow denial, SD for short, has kicked in a few times. Fortunately, the snow melts quickly in Virginia and I was able to get out and get food for my family. I am so ready to see temperatures that are higher than my age!

Another annual event is kicking in for me: spring cleaning. It’s that time of year when I actually look forward to cleaning, plan for what I’ll clean and stick to my plan! I have a couple of rooms where I’ll reconfigure the furniture. An outside job will require a contractor to help. I may even paint the kitchen cupboards. We’ll have to see how long spring lasts this year.

Lately, along with my spring cleaning list, I’ve been sensing a buildup of spiritual filth. Kind of like the laundry is getting a bit out of control. Oh, I excuse away this chore left unattended. Of course, Kay Arthur’s Titus study is bound to do that to a girl no doubt. The issues I’m having with others are their shortcomings, not mine. This can’t be that bad. But in truth, coming face to face with my Creator in these regards is a bit formidable.

God calls us to holiness, as He is holy. He brings areas of our lives to our attention to set us free, to become more like His son and to serve Him more fully. Out of love, He allows events to occur. He allows our hearts to break so that He might display the richness of walking in His ways. He will hold our hearts, teach us His truth and glorify Himself. If we choose.

So, may I boldly go before the Father. Allow Him to search my heart and identify those areas of my heart and life that need cleaning. Repent. Embark on a course of change. Admit that I can do this only through the Lord’s grace and surrendering to the Holy Spirit.

“Father, sometimes I look for, seek after and expect easy. But hard places come so that You can show Yourself to be a Faithful Father. May I allow the Holy Spirit to do His work in me.”

For His Glory

Kathryn Hayman
TRBC Women’s Life

Posted by: trbccoffeebreak | April 16, 2018

When Return Is the Answer

“So she (Hagar) called the LORD who spoke to her: The God Who Sees, for she said, “In this place, have I actually seen the One who sees me? Genesis 16:13 (NIV)

When God’s promises and our timing seem off it is so easy to seize control. After all God did create us to be helpers and perhaps He just needs us to push things along. Those were thoughts that may have lingered in Sarai’s mind. God’s promise of a son seemed impossible so Sarai gave Hagar (her slave) to Abram as a surrogate wife.

I’m sure you remember the story – Hagar gets pregnant something Sarai couldn’t’ accomplish and then Hagar gets a little arrogance in her step. Sarai blames Abram, and he tells Sarai do whatever you like with Hagar. Sarai asserts her authority and treats Hagar badly – Hagar flees into the wilderness. God hears Hagar’s cries and tells her to go back to Sarai. Sounds like a reality tv show.

We all know what drama women can cultivate, and I’m sure it wasn’t easy for Hagar to return to the one who mistreated her. While God definitely doesn’t want us to live in abusive situations, this was His will for Hagar to swallow her pride and return. We don’t hear any mention in scripture of what happened when Hagar showed back up, but I would guess that Hagar didn’t allow her pride to rise back up to the surface.

Return is rarely our go to response when conflict arises. Like Hagar, we simply want relief. We don’t want to face the drama escalating out of control. So what’s a girl to do when conflict shows up and she is getting the short end of the stick? Hagar’s run into the desert probably gave her some “me” time. A chance to evaluate her role and how she offended the one she had faithfully served for many years. Her response to the angel of the Lord was one of running away not a re-telling of her sob story.

Wonder what would happen if we pulled ourselves away and honestly evaluated the drama encircling us? Rather than point the finger, we would look deep inside to see how we have contributed to the issue. Instead of replaying the events over and over, we would listen for God’s voice and obey even if it means going back to what seems hopeless.

Everything that touches our lives – other’s actions and our reactions – are fully visible before the eyes of God. He knows the potential for growth found in working through conflict and is fully aware that it isn’t all about “us” but the whole picture is at stake. And in those moments when we feel invisible, God is right there beside us – the One who truly sees it all desiring reconciliation.

“Father channel us away from pride and help us to see clearly the role we have played when conflict arises. Help us to hear and obey Your voice as we pursue unity with others.”

For His Glory

Janet Martin
TRBC Women’s Life

Posted by: trbccoffeebreak | April 13, 2018

His Refining

“You know that under pressure, your  faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors.” James 1:3 (MSG)

The word diamond comes from the Greek word “Adamas”, which means indestructible. “Natural” diamonds are formed by severe temperature and extreme pressure. Invisible about 90 miles below in the Earth’s mantle under tons of different kinds of sediment where the temperature is at least 2000 degrees Fahrenheit.

After years of being hidden during the transformation from carbon to a stone under the Earth’s weight and heat it’s hard to fathom that something of so much worth and desire comes out of the ashes. Once unearthed, the hardest naturally formed substance known to man reveals itself as a diamond in the rough. At first glance the chunk of rock might not look like much from the untrained eye. However, in the hands of an expert gem cutter something wonderful develops. With precise cutting, chiseling and shaping a precious, pristine and polished diamond comes to life. What was once thought of as useless with no value has developed into a priceless work of art.

Has the Lord allowed enormous pressure and heat to invade your life? Has the transformation taken longer than you anticipated? During the refining process have you felt hidden and alone?
Perhaps on some days it was a struggle to put one foot in front of the other as you journeyed in obedience towards the expectancy of God’s promises; building dynamic faith under pressure. All the while, whispering every step of the way…I trust and believe You Lord.

God has purposefully hidden you while He has been preparing and equipping you in the furnace of life. He’s been making a diamond out of you. At God’s appointed time you will be found. When you have been discovered its evident you are not what you used to be. Your life has been in the hands of an expert gem cutter. God has precisely cut and chiseled the rugged imperfections out of our lives. He carves away undesirable features and smooths rough edges. When it’s time for unveiling a flawless, indestructible and brilliant diamond is ready to shine illuminating His glory and His namesake.

For His Glory

Kim Lacey Schock (www.KimLaceySchock.com)
TRBC Women’s Life

Posted by: trbccoffeebreak | April 12, 2018

Love Has No Expiration

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.” Proverbs 17:17 (NIV)

The two little rascals began their friendship in kindergarten, while attending a Catholic school in their birth town. One was seldom seen without the other, and they were always easy to spot, as their presence was always infused with plenty of laughter and giggles. Playground time was always a favorite, though they also enjoyed walking home together, as it would allow them more time to enjoy each other’s company and make memories.

The childhood friendship was suddenly interrupted when one of the then-teens’ families moved to a city far away, which culminated with the girls losing contact with one another. They grew up, formed their families, and became adult women who are leaders in their communities. Though they had not seen each other in 40 years, they always thought about and prayed for one another.

The reason why I am sharing this story with you today is because I was one of those little girls.
Since the day my friend Romana located me through Facebook a few months ago, we have had daily video conversations and plenty of reminiscing to catch us up on each other’s lives. The BEST part of the story for Romana and me, however, was finding out that the other was now a Christian, saved by the blood of Jesus Christ and redeemed by His sacrifice on the cross, which has pretty much promoted us to sisters in Him.

To me, being reunited with my childhood friend has placed in my heart a special love for her, who once was my sister from another mother, and is now my sister through our Lord Jesus Christ. Love has no expiration date. Our reunion has proved timely, as I am starting a new chapter in my life with a move halfway across the country, while she had prayed for the Lord to provide her with a prayer accountability partner. Grateful for our reunion, each evening we kneel together to talk to our Heavenly Father.

“Lord, thank You for warming our hearts with the gift of friendship. And thank You for sisters.”

For His Glory

Luska Natali
TRBC Women’s Life

Posted by: trbccoffeebreak | April 11, 2018

Drenched But Not Shaken

“The rain fell, the rivers rose, the winds blew and pounded that house and it collapsed. And its collapse was great!” Matthew 7:27 (HCSB)

Ever felt the sting of drenching rain? Penetrating beneath the surface one torrential down pour after another. It’s as if the sky has unloaded, emptied itself right at our feet. One problem at a time compounding already shaky ground. And then the rivers rise and overflow. The path we’d planned to take washes out and we’re forced in another direction. The journey we envisioned sinks in the flood of disappointment and disillusionment. And where are we in the midst of overwhelming? Gasping for air, struggling to survive, attempting to just breathe.

Life has a way of dumping on our happy. Smooth sailing interrupted by winds of change that toss us back and forth. Unsettled emotions as we desperately cling to self. Totally unaware that we can’t do it on our own. Easily believing the lie; we don’t need anyone telling us what to do.

Love the way Jesus never sugar coats the truth; anyone who hears His words and doesn’t act on them is building their life on sand. Trusting in self is easily blown and scattered by the winds. Convinced that standing on the solid rock of God’s wisdom is not for us, we shift our focus to loose interpretations, partial truths and tiny bits of rock to ease our conscience. And when the storms of life hit, the rain drenches, the winds and waves roar – our collapse is great.

Never caught the impact of those closing remarks before. Great collapse is guaranteed for those who hear the truth and yet chose to walk away unchanged. Note to self: Choose Jesus, stand strong and we won’t drown in a sea of regret. Trust in Him alone even when the winds of doubt and fear rise up. Hold tight to His promises, obey His commandments and when the storms come our anchor will hold.

“Father, give us ears to hear Your words and a heart yielded to Your truth.”

For His Glory

Janet Martin
TRBC Women’s Life

Posted by: trbccoffeebreak | April 10, 2018

Absolutely Fearless

“Remain alert. Keep standing firm in your faith. Keep on being courageous and strong.” 1 Corinthians 16:13 (NIV)

I have been in Indiana for the past two weeks now and sharing a home with my middle son, Andre, and his three boys. The house has a nice backyard with lots of trees, and right in the middle of it sits the biggest and tallest pine tree I have ever seen in my life – a green monster, towering way beyond the height of our house and all other trees in the yard.

When I first moved in to this house, I walked to the backyard and wondered how in the world that pine tree had gotten so tall and wide. Yet, not in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine that just two days later I would be calling out to two of my grandsons to get down from the top of that tree. I swear those boys are absolutely fearless!

Since the day my grandsons climbed to the top of the pine tree, I have pondered how I sometimes get discouraged to proceed into something that seems too large for me to tackle. Have you ever felt like that in your own life experiences? Perhaps you are fearful of endeavoring in a new venture such as pursuing a degree or perhaps you are frightened by a new job or ministry responsibility. Perhaps you are scared to try to start the family you have always dreamed of having, because the cost of having a family extends beyond what your household income would allow.

I often pray and ask the Lord to give me boldness. Yes, boldness, but not just any boldness. I ask that He grants me Holy Ghost boldness, cross-originated boldness, the type of boldness that comes from Him and that can overcome any fear that gets in my way. Child-like boldness, the kind exercised by my 7-and-8-year-old grandsons who looked at the green monster in the backyard and didn’t even waver about being able to reach its top.

Friend, I pray that whatever it is that is keeping you from conquering your fear today will fall down when you believe you can overcome that fear by the name of Jesus, the name above every name, and at Whose name all will bow down, including your fear.

“Heavenly Father, You are our source; You are our refuge, our mighty fortress, our salvation. Nothing can withstand Your command. Calm our fears, oh Lord.”

For His Glory

Luska Natali
TRBC Women’s Life

Posted by: trbccoffeebreak | April 9, 2018

When Choosing Best Doesn’t Serve Us Well

“So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan and set out toward the east.” Genesis 13:11

It appeared to be the best choice. In fact, from my view everything was lining up perfectly. Seemed like a no brainer to move in this direction, to make this choice. And since the chance to choose first was offered to me – I took it. Didn’t consider anyone else. Would have worked out great except my perceived best paled in comparison to what God desired.

We’ve all been there when what appeared best leads us in a direction we never imagined. Flip through the pages of scripture and we find one who sought best and it cost him everything.

Lot was Uncle Abram’s sidekick until their abundant possessions and quarreling servants caused them to go their separate ways. And guess who got first choice? Abram offered Lot the chance of a lifetime – chose where you want to live and I will go in the opposite direction. Perfect plan right? Lot looked across the land and it was amazing. His livestock needed plush green grass and streams. The Jordan offered a stable climate; the right environment for Lot to thrive. Or was it?

Setting out east of the Jordan, Lot pitched his tent near Sodom. Not exactly the neighborhood God had in mind. The people of Sodom sinned greatly against the Lord and it wouldn’t be long before the lure of pleasure would draw Lot and his family in. Enmeshed in the culture and lifestyle of the rich and ungodly, Lot was drawn further and further away from God. Years later, the angels of the Lord appeared and literally dragged Lot and his family out of Sodom before God destroyed the city.

Wow best never looked so bad! But let’s not be quick to judge Lot. We’ve probably all chosen what looked amazing but in the end led us down paths we would have never taken. The enemy is great at presenting sin as enjoyable, fun and well deserved. A fake reality we all entertain.

Note to self: When given the opportunity to choose, seek God’s wisdom before self. Avoid gazing where we don’t intend to go. Leaving perceived best will be hard and costly. Choosing best doesn’t’ serve us well when we leave God out of the equation.

“Father, Your amazing grace and mercy spared Lot from his destructive choices. Guard our hearts, minds and eyes from seeking what doesn’t serve us well.”

For His Glory

Janet Martin
TRBC Women’s Life

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