Jeanne Ritari

Do You Trust Me?

Sheep tiffany gobert

Tiffany Gobert Art

Part 1

Jeanne here.  You might be familiar with that scene from the end of John’s gospel, where Jesus asks Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love me?”  The third time, it goes down like this:

Jesus asked a third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love me?” Peter was deeply hurt that Jesus had asked him a third time, “Do you love me?” “Lord, you know all things,” he replied. “You know I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep.” (John 21: 15-17)

I feel like I’m living through something similar these days, but instead of asking if I love him, Jesus keeps asking me if I trust him.  I keep avoiding the question because I know he’s going to tell me to feed his sheep.

I know I’m not here on this earth to have a Jesus-and-me love fest.  There is a whole flock of people that he wants someone to take care of, and that someone is me.  I don’t know all the sheep I’m supposed to feed, but Jesus does, and he loves them, and he wants me to feed them.

Jesus has been working on me for a while to get out of my comfort zone and start walking the path he had laid out for me since before I was born.  My life is supposed to be a showcase for God’s love and power.  The Lord has provided everything I need to do this, but I’m still the one who has to do the work.  And to be honest, sheep scare me.

If left to myself, I could happily spend the rest of my life sitting on my couch, reading my Bible, and sending money off to support people who are doing the real work. But the Spirit won’t let me.  As an example, God has been telling me since at least 2018 that I’m supposed to write a book.  Recently this leading came with a bunch of details about what’s supposed to be in it, and how to approach it, and who to collaborate with. It all seemed possible in the moment, while I was hearing from the Spirit.

But within a few hours, I was incapable of even imagining myself writing this book.  All the unknowns overwhelmed me. Who do I think I am? I don’t know anything about this topic!  What if I never finish it? What if people judge me? What if no one believes me?  And the dream died a quick death.

Have you ever gone through something like this? I’m pretty sure it’s a fairly universal experience… God lights your fire and the devil does his darnedest to put it out. So then it’s back to me and Jesus, on the beach, early in the morning. He’s got the coals going and the fish sizzling, and he’s saying, “Jeanne, do you trust me?”

Lord, you know everything.  You know I trust you.  It’s myself I don’t trust. I just can’t.

Part 2

Love is patient, love is kind. The next morning, Holy Spirit gets back to work on me, bringing to mind the words of our good Lord. 

“For you are My workmanship, created for good works, which I prepared beforehand for you to walk in.”

“The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”

And finally,

“My grace is sufficient for you. My power is made perfect in weakness.”

I don’t like being weak and dependent on someone else to help me.  I’m not comfortable starting something without a solid plan of how I’ll be able to finish it.  But I am learning that the place in my journey where my ability comes to a dead stop, and I’m incapable of taking another step – that’s where God shows up and does more than I could have ever asked or imagined.

A good friend told me that the book is already written in Heaven, and I just need to yield to the Spirit and let him put the words on paper in this realm, through me.  That takes the pressure off!  This whole thing is his idea, and I can trust him to make it happen. My worries and limitations don’t matter at all because it’s not up to me. 

What about you?  Who are your sheep and how does God want you to feed them? 


The Tomb

Alexander-ivanov-cave6

Today I listened to someone recite Psalm 22.  With my eyes closed, I gained a new understanding of the time in between the cross and the resurrection.  Bits and pieces of scripture came together like puzzle pieces to form a picture I’d never seen before, almost a vision.

God, my God!

Why would you abandon me now?

Why do you remain distant,

refusing to answer my tearful cries in the day

and my desperate cries for your help in the night?

I can’t stop sobbing.

Where are you, my God?

Yet I know that you are most holy.

You are God-Enthroned, the praise of Israel.

Our fathers’ faith was in you—

through the generations they trusted in you

and you came through.

Every time they cried out to you in their despair,

you were faithful to deliver them;

you didn’t disappoint them.

But I am like a worm,

crushed and bleeding crimson,

treated as less than human.

I’ve been despised and scorned by everyone!

Mocked by their jeers, despised with their sneers,

as all the people poke fun at me, spitting their insults,

saying, “Is this the one who trusted in God?

Now let’s see if Yahweh will come to your rescue!

Let’s see how much he delights in him!”

Lord, you delivered me safely from my mother’s womb.

You are the one who cared for me ever since I was a baby.

Since the day I was born, I’ve been placed in your custody.

You’ve cradled me throughout my days,

and you’ve always been my God.

So don’t leave me now, for trouble is all around me,

and there’s no one to help me.

I’m surrounded by many violent foes like bulls;

forces of evil encircle me like the strong bulls of Bashan.

Like ravenous, roaring lions tearing their prey,

they pour curses from their mouths.

Now I’m completely exhausted.

Every joint of my body has been pulled apart.

My courage has melted away.

I’m so thirsty and parched.

My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth.

And now you lay me in the dust of death.

They have pierced my hands and my feet.

Like a pack of wild dogs they tear at me,

swirling around me with their hatred.

A band of evil men surrounds me.

I can count all my bones.

Look at how they gloat over me and stare!

With a toss of the dice they divide my clothes among themselves,

gambling for my garments!

Yahweh, please don’t stay far away.

My strength, come quickly to my rescue.

Give me back my life.

Save me from this violent death.

Save my precious one and only

from the power of these dogs!

Save me from all the power of the enemy,

from this roaring lion raging against me

and the power of his dark horde.

  Psalm 22: 1-21, The Passion Translation

 

As I listened, I could see Jesus, ripped to shreds, huddled in a deep, extremely dark cave… the belly of the earth, the place of the dead.  Surrounding him are all the demons of hell, torturing him, taunting him.  HE CANNOT FEEL THE FATHER.  There is only darkness and torment.  He is cut off from all light and everything good and decent.  No angels minister to him, no friends comfort him. Hour after hour he endures unimaginable suffering as abuse is heaped on him. 

What sustains him is this psalm that he has memorized, and all the scriptures that refer to him, all the promises of great and glorious things to come:

I will declare your name before all my brothers

and praise you in the midst of the congregation. 

Those who fear Yahweh, praise him!

Let all the seed of Jacob glorify him with your praises.

Stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!

For he has not despised my cries of deep despair.

He’s my first responder to my sufferings,

and when I was in pain,

he was there all the time and heard the cries of the afflicted.

You’re the reason for my praise; it comes from you and goes to you.

I will keep my promise to praise you before all who fear you

among the congregation of your people.

Let all the poor and broken eat until satisfied.

Bring Yahweh praise and you will find him.

May your hearts overflow with life forever!

From the four corners of the earth,

the peoples of the world will remember and return to Yahweh.

Every nation will come and worship him.

For Yahweh is King of all, who takes charge of all the nations.

The wealthy of this world will feast in fellowship with him

right alongside the humble of heart,

bowing down to the dust, forsaking their own souls.

They will all come and worship this worthy King!

His seed shall serve him.

Future generations will hear from us

about the wonders of the Victorious Lord.

His generation yet to be born will glorify him.

And they will all declare, “It is finished!” 

Psalm 22:22-31, The Passion Translation

Jesus raised his eyes from his suffering to the promises he knew could not fail.  Though there was nothing at all in his surroundings to give him hope, he held onto what he knew to be true: that the scriptures testified about him, and that they declared that he must die and rise again on the third day.

Because of what Jesus accomplished, we too have the ability to cling to the promises, cling to the truth, no matter how much dark desperation surrounds us, no matter what horrible lies the enemy flings in our faces, no matter how badly we are suffering in the moment.

In the end, it is no wonder that every knee will bow and every tongue declare that Jesus is Lord!


What about Tongues?

Hello! This is Jeanne wishing blessings on your springtime, wherever you are!

A few weeks ago, someone asked me out of the blue, “Where do you get the idea of tongues?”  I could picture myself twenty years ago asking the same question.  Growing up, the only exposure I had to the “idea of tongues” was in the account of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-11).  To me, it was a one-time event that happened 2,000 years ago, and had no bearing on my life.

Since that time, I have explored the concept of tongues through Bible study and my own experience, as well as that of others. 

The gift of tongues has two different expressions.  There is a public gift, where one person speaks in tongues and another one (or the same person) interprets the tongue in the common language.  I’ve only seen that in operation once, and can’t speak to it outside of what Paul taught in 1 Corinthians 14.

On the other hand, there is praying in tongues or in the spirit, which all believers are encouraged to do.  

For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to people but to God… they utter mysteries by the Spirit… Anyone who speaks in a tongue edifies themselves… I would like every one of you to speak in tongues…If I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays… I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my understanding. When you are praising God in the Spirit, you are giving thanks well enough… I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you.  (1 Corinthians 14, selected verses)

I purposely left out the limitations Paul gives in this passage, because he was addressing a church where people were going overboard with their tongues and prophecies.  He clearly was not saying the gifts were bad, but that they weren’t helpful to the church assembly if they weren’t expressed decently and in order.  I don’t think it’s possible to privately pray in tongues too much. 

One key is in verse 14: “If I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays.”  We have talked before about how each of us is body, soul, and spirit.  The body is our physical flesh; the soul is our mind, will, and emotions; and the spirit is where we become a new creation in Christ when we believe.  Our born-again spirit is where we are the righteousness of Christ, holy, perfect, and blameless.  And when we pray in tongues (or pray in the spirit) we are uttering mysteries by the Holy Spirit. We are praying the perfect will of God, and we are building ourselves up in our most holy faith (Jude v.20).  Jesus says that God desires those who worship him in spirit and in truth.  We can pray with our flesh, reciting words without even meaning them.  We can pray with our souls, pouring out our emotions. But praying in the spirit involves yielding our tongues to the Holy Spirit, letting God choose what we say. 

Praying in the spirit involves yielding our tongues to the Holy Spirit, letting God choose what we say. 

James describes the immense power of our tongues.  If they can steer us down such a dark and evil path, imagine the incredible blessings on our lives if we turn them over to the Spirit!

If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is mature, able also to control the whole body. Now if we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we direct their whole bodies. consider ships: Though very large and driven by fierce winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So too, though the tongue is a small part of the body, it boasts great things. Consider how a small fire sets ablaze a large forest.  And the tongue is a fire. The tongue, a world of unrighteousness, is placed among our members. It stains the whole body, sets the course of life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.  (James 3:2-6)

Jesus addressed this same topic:

For out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.  The good man brings good things out of his good store of treasure, and the evil man brings evil things out of his evil store of treasure. (Matthew 12:34-35)

When Jesus speaks, the Father acts!

The words I say to you, I do not speak on My own. Instead, it is the Father dwelling in Me, performing His works. (John 14:12)

When I was first filled with the Spirit, I rarely prayed in tongues.  My first experience with it was when one of my children was in a crisis situation that I had no power to affect in the natural, and didn’t even know what to pray.  For years, the only times I prayed in tongues were when I had reached the end of my human strength.  I gradually learned that this yielding to the Spirit brought with it peace, strength, and wisdom or revelation regarding the situation.  I’ve come to realize that these are the very words of God, coming through my mouth. 

I’ve come to realize that these are the very words of God, coming through my mouth. 

Whether I feel a mighty move of the Spirit while I’m praying, or nothing at all, I know that what I’m speaking is incredibly powerful in the spiritual realm.  I am watching God do things in my life that I wouldn’t have known or dared to ask for. To God be the glory!

Please share your experiences and questions in the comments. I'm excited to hear what you have to say!


Your Book

Masterpiece plus verseArtwork by StudioJRU

Jeanne here!

Did you know that before you were breathed into existence by God, he wrote a book about your entire life?  That book is in heaven right now.  God created you with a set of absolutely unique gifts and talents and abilities and strengths.  There are things that God put inside you that he didn’t give anyone else.  And then he planned out a whole lifetime of ways for you to use those gifts to benefit the people around you and bring glory to him.  He designed you so that when you use your gifts to do the things he planned, it brings you great joy and a feeling of fulfillment. Your book is not just about you, but about the thousands of lives you will touch, all woven together.

 You are God’s masterpiece, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which he planned for us to walk in.  Ephesians 2:10

I always pictured “good works” as passing out sandwiches and socks to homeless people, but this verse isn’t necessarily talking about acts of charity.  It concerns all the things God designed you to do in your little corner of the world.  For most of my life, I didn’t know what my purpose was.  I’m really just now starting to get it.

When He created you, God had a very specific set of characteristics that he built into you so you would be equipped to accomplish your purpose.  God has big dreams for you! Sadly, a lot of us grow up and never use or even discover our God-given design.  sin and violence. I believe we can determine whether we are operating in our giftings when two things are true: One, it blesses others or brings glory to God, and two, it brings us joy. 

We begin life with the unconditional love of our heavenly Father and a world of possibility.  But in ways big and small, the enemy kills our dreams, steals our joy, and destroys our vision.

So, what if we don’t know what our gifts are?  Or what if we use them for selfish purposes?  Does God give up on us?  Not at all. When it comes to us, God is a little bit like that annoying parent who thinks their kid can do no wrong.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never fails.   1 Corinthians 13:7

You’re not a disappointment to God.  He’s still working in your life trying to line things up to go well for you.  He doesn’t ever think about or even remember the times you messed up.  He is still as crazy about you as he was the day you were born.  He sees your potential; he is looking for ways to get you into position to receive all the blessings he wants to give you.  You are tremendously valuable to God, but not in the way the world judges value.

My mother had twelve children, and once when I was a kid I asked her which one was her favorite.   She answered, “The one who needs me most right then.”  I’m pretty sure God is like that.  He wants us to realize that we need him. He wants us to come as children, trusting him and loving him and just wanting to be close.  He isn’t waiting until we have it all together or until we have accomplished what he created us to do.

Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.  Hebrews 11:16

We need to realize that God is good, and that it will be tremendously rewarding to seek him. It absolutely requires sacrifice and commitment on our part.  But God’s mercy and grace are far more than enough to pick us back up when we fall.   For the joy set before him, Jesus endured the cross.  You and I were that joy.  The Father wanted us back, and Jesus was willing to pay the ultimate price to give us the opportunity to be in full, intimate relationship with him.

The next time the devil tries to whisper that you don’t measure up, remind him (and yourself) that you are God’s masterpiece, his beloved child intricately designed, bought with a price, and that no one can snatch you out of God's hand.  I encourage you to come into the presence of your Abba Father like a child, and ask him to read to you out of your book.  Share what you hear in the comments!

 


Seated in the Heavenlies

The-throne-of-graceImage credit testimoniesofhisgoodness.wordpress.com

Jeanne here.  Last June (2021) I had a strong leading from Holy Spirit to learn what it means to be seated with Christ in the heavenly places.  Over the course of the next 7 months, the topic was brought to my mind many, many times.  But I never sat down and studied it out.

God (in his mercy) did not wait until I got around to studying it.  After work last night, I was making supper (tater tot hotdish – shout-out to my Minnesota readers!) Pandora was playing a contemporary Christian song that I’ve heard dozens of times before.  Suddenly I was struck with powerful revelation… it’s hard to put the experience into words. I stood in my kitchen weeping, and when I had pulled myself together, I grabbed the nearest piece of paper – a grocery list – and wrote down what I suddenly knew:

We are seated on the mercy seat with Jesus.  We can extend his mercy, grace, and forgiveness to our fellow humans.  We can exercise his authority over the demonic.  We can calm the storm and move the mountain.  We can heal the sick, raise the dead, cast out demons.  IT IS FINISHED.

Yesterday morning I believed all these things were true because God’s word says so. But now I know they are true in every cell of my body.  There’s nothing left to wait for.  It’s time for us, if we call ourselves followers of Jesus, do what he told us to do.  He gave us everything we need.  We are seated in the heavenly realms with Christ Jesus. As the Father sent Jesus, now Jesus sends us.  We are sent to preach the kingdom of God and to take back all the ground that the enemy has stolen. 

We are simultaneously seated in the heavenly realm with Jesus and walking this earth in physical bodies.  We must do the work of Jesus, to carry out his will and enforce his decrees, because we – believers -- are the only body he has on earth now.  We must preach the gospel.  We must comfort the brokenhearted. We must declare freedom from darkness for those bound by the chains of deception. We must bind every lying spirit of suicide, depression, anxiety, lost identity, and fear.  We must loose the Spirit of love, mercy, and forgiveness.  We have been given the ministry of reconciliation, not just a cessation of hostility, but rather bringing people back into an intimate relationship with the God who created them and has loved them from the beginning of time.

There is much talk these days of the end times.  In Matthew chapters 24 and 25 Jesus talks about the signs of his return, and also what he expects of us in the meantime.  He repeatedly warns us to be ready.  If you knew Jesus was coming next week, what would you do?  If you knew Jesus was coming in a year, what would you do?  It seems many of us, including myself, have been concerned with all sorts of things that won’t matter a bit when Jesus returns.  I am haunted by Luke 18:8: Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?

The conflict between the kingdom of God and the powers of darkness is not some spectator sport.  There is no point in sitting on the sidelines, cheering for good and decrying evil. That’s not what Jesus meant when he told us to announce the kingdom, heal the sick, raise the dead, and cast out demons.  We aren’t seated in the heavenlies with him so we can have a better view of the game!

There is a fire in me that wasn’t there yesterday, and I pray it lights you up too.  One of my former instructors says, “Don’t worry about what people will think if you don’t get it exactly right. If you’re on fire for Jesus, they’ll come watch you burn.”  I pray Holy Spirit fire falls on everyone who reads this.  I pray that wisdom, discernment, and above all the incomprehensible love of God fills your hearts and minds.

I’d love you to share in the comments what you would do differently if you knew Jesus was coming on a particular day in the near future, or what it means to you to be seated in the heavenly realms with him. May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.