Saturday, September 9, 2017

ten lessons learned

Exactly a week ago, I did something crazy. Well, not that crazy. But definitely out of my comfort zone. I hiked all the way up to Lone Pine Lake, which, mind you, is 5 MILES total- 2.5 of it slightly uphill. (Still don’t know how I did it! LOL) Ever since I was a little girl, my dad has always taught us that we can learn lessons from every experience, every situation, everything. So my siblings and I grew up with A LOT of metaphors. It’s pretty natural for me by now to do the same! So without further ado, here are some things I learned from a 5-mile hike, spiritually speaking…

#1: This hike is a lot like our spiritual walk with God.
“Narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matt. 7:14)
The way to Lone Pine Lake was not an easy one, nor is it for the faint of heart. It is a very narrow path, with steps going up, and challenges every now and then. 

#2: Set your eyes on the Prize.
“I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”  (Phil. 3:14)
Whenever I started getting tired, I’d think of the majestic Lake we would very soon see. It’s the same in our walks-we must keep our eyes on the Prize-Jesus Christ Himself. One day we will see Him as He is and we will be like Him! Can’t wait! 

#3: Community is so important.
There was a good group of us that went up, some dear friends and family. It was just so encouraging to hike together and to keep moving forward. There was a span of about 5-10 minutes where a couple of my friends and I took a small break and got separated from the group. They were completely out of sight as we hiked up…it just felt so lonely. Once we caught glimpse of them waiting for us up ahead, it’s like we got a surge of energy! It’s easier to walk when you’ve got community to walk alongside you. We weren’t meant to walk all alone. Find yourself some friends who will spur you on to love and good deeds. (Hebrews 10:24)  
Which brings up my next point!

#4: Take time to be refreshed.
I don’t know if this will make sense, but I’ll say it anyway! Every now and then, we would all get together under some shade and take a break. It wasn’t a long time, but we’d get a chance to fellowship, drink water, share snacks, or just simply catch our breath. In our walk, we have the privilege of coming together with believers at church to be spiritually refreshed- worship, listen to the Word, pray, and fellowship. It’s important!
Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:25)

#5: If you stumble, GET BACK UP.
If you know me, then you also know I’m a little clumsy bhrvbdfhs. So you can bet there were a lot of times where I’d stumble over a rock, a step uphill, or even on my own two feet. Our walk with God isn’t always a smooth and perfect path. We all fail God daily. Maybe you woke up too late and missed your quiet time with the Lord. Or you lost your temper with a family member. Or _______________ (you fill in the blank). When you stumble, don’t wallow in self-pity. Get back up, stand straight, and keep marching ahead. Ask the Lord to help you and give you strength. There will be a lot of trials, but you must keep going.
“…A just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again.” (Prov. 24:16)

#6: Encouragement is a HUGE blessing.
You have no idea how encouraging it was to hear someone on the trail say “keep going!” “we’re almost there!” “just 15 minutes and we’ll reach the lake” or “it’ll be worth it!”. Don’t underestimate the power of your words to fill others with hope, strength, and perseverance. Once we reached the lake and were on our way down, I tried to make an effort to encourage the tired hikers making their way up. You should’ve seen how their countenances would change to a smile and they’d say “THANK YOU!”
“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” 1 Thess. 5:11

#7: Our Lord Jesus helps us carry our burdens.
Halfway through the hike, some of the young men volunteered to carry bags. One of my little cousins was kind enough to carry my backpack. As soon as he took it and we continued hiking, wow what a difference it made! I had never realized how it felt being tired and that burden being carried for me.
 “Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.” (Matt. 11:28-30)

#8: Don’t carry up any extra baggage.
Before we started our hike, everyone made sure that they were carrying the bare necessities. Even a water bottle could weigh one down. I can only imagine how hard it would be for someone to hike all those miles carrying a suitcase full of things they didn’t need. When we come to Christ, we need to get rid of all the baggage we can and ask Him to help us. Maybe that means forgiving someone who has hurt you, confessing hidden sins, or letting God have your past. Whatever it takes, get rid of all that spiritual baggage!
“Therefore, seeing we also are compassed about by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.”  (Hebrews 12:1)

#9: Help each other.
On the way down, one of the young men in our group hurt his ankle. It was incredible to see the teamwork done to help in the moment. Someone found some sticks to use as a splint. Another person had an extra t-shirt to tie around his foot. Someone had a safety pin to hold together. His friends were able to help him all the way down, since he couldn’t put a lot of weight on his foot.

“Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness… Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.” (Gal. 6:1-2)

#10: The view was TOTALLY worth it!
The soreness in my muscles, every pain or difficulty to get there no longer mattered the moment I saw the lake. It was so beautiful. I was towards the back of the group, so I was able to take a moment to stop and just worship the Creator. It was such a special experience. The Day that we arrive to be with the Lord…every tear will be wiped away and every difficulty we ever had will diminish in comparison to the JOY we will feel in His presence.
 “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And He that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new…
He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.”
(Revelations 21:4-5 +7)

Have a blessed week you guys! -Jas

Friday, May 12, 2017

What's happening???

Greetings to all my brothers and sisters in the faith! I give all honor and glory to my God who has sustained me to this day! I know that if it were up to just me, I would have nothing to say…but the Lord is so good and I asked Him to be the one who will speak through me in any way He wants. Because even if I were to say the most beautiful words a human can hear and speak with eloquence, and grace, but if the Lord isn’t the one speaking, it’s all in vain, and it would be nothing more than meaningless noise. (I Corinthians 13:1)
I don’t want these to be my words, but His.

A couple months ago, I was with some friends, thinking of different youth we knew who had strayed from God. Our hearts were heavy as we prayed for each one we could think of, one by one, the list getting longer & longer. I was saddened to think of so many people that have left the church, left the faith that they were brought up with…some, being youth that were, as they say, “brought up in the pews”. I had the sudden realization that it could’ve easily been me on that list too. I don’t deserve to still be standing. There’s NOTHING that I’ve done on my own to merit God’s grace and mercy. If I’m still here, it’s only because of Him.

This all got me thinking…how on earth were so many young people (and even older adults) leaving behind such a precious faith? Surely most of them had experienced that First Love. Surely some of them had even promised the Lord, like Peter, that they would always love Him, always follow Him, even unto death. (Luke 22:33) What was it that eventually made all these people careless in their walks, even to the point of not going to church…or to leaving their First Love?
It all boils down to one thing: self-control, or the lack thereof. In the original Greek, the word for self-control is: sṓphrōn . This word translates to “sound mind”: discipline, knowing how to deny your fleshly desires, thinking straight, etc.
 Let me explain…

Spiritual death usually doesn’t happen all at once & overnight, but gradually, and subtily! One compromise at a time. It happens when one gets carried away with the things of this world.
We compromise things that don’t seem like a big deal. Instead of having all areas of our lives governed by the Holy Spirit, we lose sṓphrōn, self control.
 “Small” sins start to creep in, and after a while, it’s all normal. But the scary thing is…it’s not always the big sins that separate us from God, most of the time it’s small things. Common things turned into idols. And by idols, I don’t mean little gold statues; I mean idols of the heart. Anything that takes God’s place in your life, consumes your thoughts, and you devote all your attention and energy to, can become an idol. "Little"sins.
It can be pride. It can be music that isn’t exactly “bad”, but deep inside you know it doesn’t glorify God. Or it can be that “harmless” show, that has an occasional bad word or crude joke, or inappropriate scene. The social media you spend most of your day on. It can be gossip. Or those friendships that you know are not building you up spiritually. (1 Corinthians 15:33)
It can even be “good things”. Maybe you spend so much time at work that you’re too tired for church. Or providing becomes such a priority, that money is all you can think about. Perhaps school and your future career are your MAIN focus right now, that God just gets the leftovers of your mind. Or you’re so busy serving, that you’ve forgotten Who it is you’re serving.
Maybe it’s a sports team you love. Suddenly, you can’t think of anything else. Sports take over your mind and over every conversation.

Often times, what starts out as a small lack of self-control turns into a bigger problem later on. It doesn’t matter if we think we’ve got it under control, or if we justify ourselves by saying “just one last time”. Our enemy is constantly throwing things to separate us from the Lord. He can use unforgiveness, bitterness or resentment, and gossip so you can’t experience true fellowship with your brothers and sisters in the Lord. Or he sends you thoughts that you carelessly stop filtering with God’s Word. Or he tempts you with pornography, things you know you shouldn’t be looking at. I’ve heard a saying that says something along the lines of… “even a crack is an opportunity for the enemy to come in”.
Guard your heart! (Proverbs 4:23) If you see any sign of satan trying to sneak into your heart, thoughts, or actions, God has given you the power you need to put a stop to it. (There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.
1 Corinthians 10:13) If you have been playing with fire, young man, young woman, please flee while you still can!!! The blood of the Lord Jesus Christ is stronger than any stronghold, chain, or bad habit! There can be freedom! You can once again experience intimacy with Him.
Come before His presence with genuine repentance, and confess it. It also helps to talk to an older godly person about it and ask for prayers. Then you must let the Lord renew your mind, let Him put His mind in you. (Romans 12:2) And strive to honor the Lord with all your future choices, asking Him for help to not repeat the sin. (John 8:11) And do anything you can to get rid of it. (Matthew 5:29) Keep a sound mind.

[Something that helps keep a sound mind that’s focused on God, is a resolution I made to myself. It’s not always easy, but every morning I make the effort to reach for my Bible before my phone. It helps to hear what God is speaking to me more clearly. Otherwise, I’d have a distracted mind, trying to think of my to-do list, emails/messages I need to reply to, responsibilities, etc.}

With any choice you make, any entertainment choice, social media, thoughts, and even words- you can ask yourself…’would the Lord approve? Does this glorify Him?’
If you hesitate to answer, you know your answer.

With God’s help, you can replace any bad habits with good ones:
If you’re tempted to:

-See something ungodly- Stop what you’re doing and pray for strength to overcome.
-Listen to worldly music- Put on some worship music.
-Gossip- Pray for that person instead.
-Waste time on social media- Listen to a preaching or Christian podcast.
-Think worldly things- Meditate on a Scripture.
-Complain- Write things you’re grateful for. (Psalm 103: 2)

And the list goes on and on!

“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”
Hebrews 10:25

Young people, adults, everyone! The Lord’s coming is so near, it’s not time to be messing around and only going to church when we “feel like it”.
Let’s be diligent, and be there with all our hearts, to encourage & be encouraged!
I love you all with the Love of Christ,

Sis. Jasmine Luna
1 Timothy 4:12-13

Saturday, February 13, 2016

February 14th:

To some, it is a day like any other. To others, it's a day to celebrate love with chocolate, treats, cards, and balloons. And to others, February 14th is a bittersweet day. It seems like all around us, there's people dating, getting engaged, getting married.
Our enemy is very subtle and can use this to let discontentment creep into our hearts. That's why we must careful to be guarding our hearts with all diligence. (Prov. 4:23)

Whenever I start feeling discouragement, there's a couple of things I like to do.
1. Pray. There's nothing better than having a heart-to-heart talk with Someone who understands me like no other. "Casting all your care upon him; for He careth for you." (1 Peter 5:7)
In those moments that I feel overwhelmed and discontent, I can come before the Lord's presence and cry out to Him for help. If I feel overwhelmed, it's because I might be clinging on to things that I'm not supposed to be clinging on to. Our Creator tells us to cast all our care on Him. 
Let go and unload all that worry, stress, and discouragement at the feet of the Lord.

2. Read God's Word. You are loved. You have a whole book full of love letters to prove it. GOD is enough. Only HE can fill that longing in our hearts.
Something else that helps... When the enemy starts whispering lies to me, I quickly open up God's TRUTH to attack satan and all his lies. 

3. Sing. Worship is powerful. It puts my focus on God and His sovereignty instead of me and my  problems. "Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee." (Psalms 63:3)

Be still and know.
Sometimes, just taking a moment to realize WHO God is helps. I have to be still and remember that the God who parted the Red Sea, shut the mouth of lions, fed 5,000 men & their families with just 2 fish/5 loaves of bread, and even conquered death is the SAME God I serve today. He is a mighty God that I can trust with my future and "love life". (Prov. 3:5-6)

 "Great is our Lord, and of great power: His understanding is infinite!" (Psalms 147:5)

Wait on God's timing.
I know waiting is hard. It requires a lot of faith and trust. But God has EVERYTHING in control.

"Wait on the Lord;
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the Lord!"
(Psalm 27:14)

"When God knows you're ready for the responsibility of commitment, He'll reveal the right person under the right circumstances. Wait patiently. Don't waste your time searching and wishing. Grow and be ready. Let God write your love story. One that is far better than anything you could ever dream of."

Delight yourself in the Lord, especially in this season of singleness. He has perfect timing. You can be assured of that. Spend your time encouraging others, learning to do new things, making memories, serving others, and growing closer to God. The more we prepare now, the better prepared we'll be when God does bring that special someone into our lives.


Ladies- "Don't settle for a boy who just goes to church. Wait for a man after God's heart. Because our God writes the best love stories & His choice is always blessed."
 & Gents- vice versa

"Allow God to be the matchmaker of your life because your feelings could fool you and your understanding is limited, but His is not. He knows what’s best for you and He’ll bring that man or woman along when the time is right."

 I hope that tomorrow is a day full of JOY and not at all bittersweet. Singles, turn your whining into praise and your perspective will change. ❤️

Well, that's a wrap! I apologize if I rambled and made this too long. ;) 
 [I know I'm not the most eloquent when it comes to words, but with expectation, I pray it will be a blessing for you to read.]

God bless!

Friday, January 1, 2016

The Taste and See Challenge

 *Article written by Gretchen Saffles from © 2016 Life Lived Beautifully
 It was of huge encouragement to me and with God's help, I'm going to be taking part in this challenge. I hope all you ladies will too.

The Taste and See Challenge:
January 1st can be the most intimidating day of the year. It’s the day of starting, and starting can be scary. New habits, new resolutions, and new goals both stir in us a passion for more and better and a fear that we will fail and won’t measure up. For years I’ve taken time in December to dream up my plans for the following year. What will I change? What will I do? How can the next year be different? January 1st feels like the start of a new chapter. It is a fresh canvas for God to paint His grace onto the story of our lives.
Resolutions are a beautiful thing when made for the right reasons. In looking back at resolutions I have made over the years, the common theme is a bettering of myself. Most of these resolutions aren’t kept for more than a few weeks. But the resolutions that are made for the Lord and rooted in His Word not only change my own life, but the lives of those around me. This year, instead of making a list of resolutions that revolve around myself and the temporary situations of my life, I am resolving to do the one thing that I know will change my life and the lives of others, and will also mold and shape my life to be more like Christ.

I am resolving to be in the Word of God every single day in 2016 and to hide truth in my heart. I am resolving to daily taste and see that the Lord is good.

Pick Up Your Fork
The Word of God is unlike any other book that has ever been written. Each word is divinely inspired and breathed out by God (2 Timothy 3:16-17, Hebrews 4:12). It has stood against every test and its promises hold true in every storm and trial of life. The Psalmist challenges us in Psalm 34:8 to pick up our spiritual fork and knife and to eat of the Word of God. When we fill our spiritual bellies with truth, the result is that our eyes will be opened and we will see that the Lord is good, in all things and at all times.
“Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied.” Luke 6:21
Jesus explained to the disciples in Luke 6:21 that it is good to be spiritually hungry, because spiritual hunger results in satisfaction. The meaning of the word “blessed” is happy. Happiness doesn’t come from achieving worldly success, it comes from being hungry for more of Jesus. When we daily fill up on God’s Word, bringing Him our empty cup to fill up, and eating truth with our spiritual forks and knives, Jesus promises that we will be satisfied and well-fed. The ache in your heart for more will only be satisfied by knowing Jesus through the Word. What if in 2016 we resolved to be spiritually hungry? What if we picked up our Bibles, journals, and pens, and ate the truth of the Word that never fails and answers our deepest needs? What if we taste for ourselves and open our eyes to see that God is good?

Let’s make these “what if’s” into a reality. 

"What If" To What Now?

The taste and see challenge is a call to experience God’s Word for yourself. It is a call to leave the comfort of your faith and embark on a journey with God up the hills of calvary, ascending into the valleys of daily discipleship, and walking the narrow path of a life lived for eternity to come. It is a call to be a “well-watered woman” who daily comes to the Well of God’s Word and drinks deeply of His goodness and faithfulness.
What now? How do we practically do this?

First, let's make a plan.

Below I am going to share with you my plan for 2016. You can either join me in this plan or create your own! Either way, the challenge is simply to come hungry and come daily to God's Word and taste and see for yourself that He is good. 

Bring Your Empty Cup

In 2013 I read through the Bible chronologically for the first time. Before embarking on this journey, I never could have expected how life-changing it would be! Reading though the entire Word of God opened my eyes to the entire story of redemption and it also made me comfortable to open books of the Bible I had never read before. This year I am going to read through the Bible chronologically again and would love for you to join me! I will be following this free reading plan that reads through the Bible chronologically. Another option is to do the F-260 plan that is chronological but shortened. You can find it for free here. There are other plans that you can read through the entire Bible in a year while daily reading in the Old Testament and the New Testament. Here is a reading plan that follows this set-up!
And here is the one I, Jasmine, am doing. (in 6 months)
In this commitment to reading through the Bible, I know that there will be times I will get behind. My goal is to read the Bible in 6 months, BUT if I get behind I will embrace the grace of God and slow down. The aim is not check off daily reading on our to-do list, but to read to know God more intimately. If it takes me more than 6 months to read through the Bible, I will rejoice in that! Don't be afraid to start because you are afraid you will fail. Give the Lord your best time. Seek Him with your whole heart. Embrace His grace.

eat truth for breakfast

The next part of the "taste and see" challenge is to memorize God's Word. Pick a chapter or book of the Bible to memorize this year. I will be memorizing the book of James and would love for you to join me! (find out more tips on memorizing the Bible here and purchase a memory journal to use as a tool here!) I will post a plan for this soon!

Second, let's be accountable. 

I will periodically send out encouragement emails to those of you who choose to take the taste and see challenge with me! You can sign up for these emails here! This email list is separate from the weekly encouragement emails.
Sign up using this link.
(Just scroll down to the mint blue box.)
For everyone who is joining in the "taste and see" challenge, my encouragement to you would be to find a friend or a group to hold you accountable to getting into the Word each day. Accountability sets you up to go deeper in your walk with Jesus. 

third, let's give our plan to the Lord Jesus. 

A note to the women who is reading through the Bible for the first time:

If this is the first time you are committing to open the Word of God each day, I want to encourage you not to be fearful or nervous. In Isaiah 55, the Lord calls us to “come, everyone who thirsts, come to the water, and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” He calls us to come just as we are with our nothingness to receive the abundance that can only be found in Him. In very 10-13, He promises us that as we read the Word, that it will accomplish the purpose of which He sent it and that we will go forth in joy and peace. Why would we ever forfeit these incredible promises for any lesser thing? There are so many resolutions you could make in this life, but the one that will last forever is to know Christ and to make Him known. Trust the Lord to show you His incredible ways and to teach you truth in your secret heart (Psalm 51:6). 

A note to the perfectionist and to-do list lover:

This challenge is not meant to be another item to check off. It is meant to encourage us to be disciplined, to love God's Word, and to give Him our best. If you get behind, do not give up. Set your gaze on Christ and hand Him this plan. Let's be like Mary and sit at the feet of Jesus each day, listening to His teaching, learning from His ways, and loving Him with our whole hearts.

Will you take the “taste and see” challenge with me? Let’s make a resolution that will last for all of eternity. Share your name below and what you plan on studying/memorizing! I am praying for you. January 1st is here. Lord, take the first, the last, and everyday in-between, and make us more like You! Amen.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

WOG Feature: Esther Garcia: Modesty Inside & Out

(article written by Esther Garcia; used w/ permission)

“The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man; neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are an abomination unto the LORD thy God.” Deuteronomy 22:5

I remember being a bit shocked when I first heard of this verse. Not because I didn’t know that us women should not wear men’s clothing, but I was surprised that there was a verse clear as day that commands us not to. To our God, it is an “abomination”, something “God can NOT stand.”

As I write what God puts in my heart to share with you ladies, I pray that you will not only read this but also understand and APPLY it to your own personal life. Also please know that this is not only for you; I also need to apply this to my own life every day. I too have once been through the stage where I didn’t want to be seen modest or different from all the rest of the girls out in the world. Then I came to think...was it a stage or was it because I didn’t have the mind of Christ? By God’s grace and mercy, He has set me free and made me realize how special we are to be called His daughters! We were called to be His LIGHT! “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid.” Matthew 5:14. We were called to SHINE for Him and to be a help for this world, and I think it is such an awesome privilege! Praise Be To God!

Modesty is not what most girls think it is. Yes, it does have to do with what you wear, but there is so much more to it! Modesty is part of our lives. 
“Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.” Proverbs 31:30. 
It also has to do with how we live for God, and the life style we have every single day. What’s the point of dressing modest if we don’t read God’s word or talk to Him in our daily lives? Who are we really trying to please? Lord help us not be like those that the Lord talked about in Matthew 15:8 “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me….” The main thing I want to point out to you ladies is that in our HEARTS is where modesty begins. “The fear of the Lord is the Beginning of Knowledge….” Proverbs 1:7, if we fear God, in other words, have a reverence to His presence, then everything else will
fall in its place, including modesty. Having that fear in our hearts is like planting a seed of modesty. Little by little, the Lord will start showing you what He wants for your life and He will also show you what He doesn’t want for your life.

Now you might be wondering, “Well how do I start?” We just have to read Proverbs 1:7, we start when we realize our lives haven’t been truly faithful to God, and when we begin to have a fear, a respect, then that’s when you come before His presence and ask Him to help you. Believe me, if you truly want to change, He WILL help you. “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand…” Isaiah 41:10

Now with clothing, I’ve  heard so many negative responses when it has to do with how we dress, like: ” I don’t want to look like an old lady, there’s no modest clothing in stores nowadays, dressing modest is like dressing like a nun, my body doesn’t look good in certain types of modest clothing…” and so forth. 
Now, understand that if we had a relationship with God we wouldn’t be making excuses or any negative comment like the ones I just mentioned.

As for "looking like an old lady", I’ve seen so many girls that dress modest and they look so beautiful, especially when they have a relationship with God. You can just sense it and that stands out more than how they dress. Of course you’re not going to be dressing like a homeless person or just not care how your outer appearance looks like. We don’t want to scare people away either. The Lord tells us in 1 Corinthians 6:19,”….know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own.” He is telling us that our bodies are a temple and we represent Him. This an amazing privilege that we must take seriously! 
I pray this article was of help to your life. May it also inspire you to dress and live like the daughter of God you are! God bless you young ladies!