Planting Comes Before Harvest

I wonder what it truly means to be blessed by God.  Is it a nice home? The ability to travel? Obedient children? Right standing in a religious organization?  A place where a group of people admire you?  Or could God’s blessings look entirely different?

What if being blessed by him doesn’t always mean comfort. What if his blessings lead you to walk over jagged rocks and down treacherous paths? What if you are lead into a dark place that forced you to deal with the idols in your heart?

I say God’s blessings can be in the form of comfortable things, but I believe there is another facet to them that will make your flesh very uncomfortable. 

Uncomfortable as your flesh may be, the dark places in which you are led Could very well teach you to leave the lusts of this world and enter into a Holy place. The place where God is. 

To obtain anything of worth it must be forged in the fire.  The fire of a trial is where the impurities are identified. The fire of a trial is where we decide if we will continue on with God, or not.

This morning I was reflecting on one of my own blessings.  This blessing has been comfortable and enjoyable…but has also been where I would surrender myself the most. 

I decided to hang in there with God when my blessing stretched me. When my blessing turned into a trial I decided not to run away. God was teaching me to trust Him.  He was allowing my roots of faith to sink deep into the soil of life.  He wanted me to meditate within his word and look deeply within.

Who was I really? What made me a “Christian”?  What made me gravitate toward physical comfort in all its forms before I allowed Christ to soothe me? Why did I need to make hasty decisions? Why couldn’t I just allow my flesh, my bank account, my love life, and my appearance before men to be on hold in order for God to accomplish His purposes and plans for me?  Why did I fight God when I was supposed to wait on him?

All of these questions were dealt with and abundantly answered as I purposed to obey Him and wait on Him in my fiery trial.  When I stopped grasping for what I could physically see and directed my whole hearts worship toward what I could NOT see is when the answers started to unfold.  Its when I started to experience true change in my inner man, and eventually more of the “comfortable” blessings started to manifest physically.

You must plant the new seeds of trust and obedience before you harvest.

I learned to go onto the jagged rocks and narrow paths that looked like they had no purpose if that’s where God was taking me in that season.  But it was there that I actually found my purpose and saw that God could really do more than I ever anticipated. 

Because I will always be in the flesh and live on this earth I will keep experiencing the trial side of blessing as long as I am alive.  But the beauty is in knowing that in Heaven, my final destination, is where all sin and trial will be no longer.

But not yet… earth is where I wait, where I press into Christ, and submit myself to Him in faith of whats to come.

The Religion of Self-Sufficiency

When I look back on my fourteen years as a believer, I see some sins that differ from the ones I used to commit when I didn’t know Christ. I used to be immersed in sex, drugs, and fleshly pleasure that dug my pit so very deep.  I am forever thankful that God decided to make good on his promise to “Make all things new!”.

However, God never stops with the obvious “nuisance sins” as he draws us out of the world.  He is ready to shine a light on our inward parts, our attitudes, our thoughts… the meditations of our heart.  When God was dealing with my idols and discontent I took out devastating student loans because I hated my current job. I kissed an atheist during my time as a single mom and struck up a relationship with a Christian man I shouldn’t have because I was serving my idol to be married. I struggled with pride as a baby Christian and alienated certain people instead of drawing them to Christ. I now shake my head as I think about some of the fruit of my belief as God was “making all things new” in my earlier years.

I came across Psalm 69 one morning and couldn’t help being drawn to King David’s reflection on his own sins. Adultery, and you know, hiring a hit-man for his mistresses’ husband. Maybe when he wrote this Psalm he was reflecting on this disaster, or maybe he was thinking about his lack of discipline with his sons which caused much chaos.  Whichever sin David was referring to in verses  5-7, his repentant heart is clearly understood.  David is not justifying or blame shifting, he is owning his failure.

There is a type of Christianity out there that I believe we have a warning against in Psalm 69.  This type of religion is as old as the Pharisees of Jesus’ day and the serpent in the garden. The danger of this religion is that those in it’s clutches many times do not know they are tangled up. Pride is this religion and its nothing new under the sun.

David reflected on these people immersed in pride in this Psalm.  His heart is broken and he knows God himself is chastening him.  I am not sure if his persecutors were professing believers but we do know in the book of Job that Job’s so-called friends were.  Its so easy to look at the speck in our brothers eye while ignoring the plank in our own. Gossip, self-justification, and tarnishing another believer is so very easy, but God will not let us get away with it. We are all accountable for this sin.  We have to be desperately careful when dealing with the sin of others because we are not God.

How do we avoid this trap?

1. Don’t be the judge of others. Some Christians in your church have been delivered of some deep darkness and have behaviors that still offend, but God could be working deep within their hearts. They will be delivered in God’s timing, not ours! Pray for the specific issues, extend kindness, and be a Godly example. See if the Holy Spirit will use you to break a chain in their life with your words or actions because you truly love the person and have left the judgement up to God. It’s easy to be a judge if you haven’t been delivered of much before coming to Christ.  But we know that the righteousness of all people is a filthy rag compared to God, so we must not compare our lives to others. Mercy always triumphs over judgement.

2. Take our own mask off. Are you always counseling others whether formally or informally? Does everyone see you as a spiritual giant?  If you like that attention, stop it right away! There is only one on a pedestal to be worshiped and that is Christ the Lord! Taking off your mask does not mean to stop helping people, it just means to always check your motives for what you do. Why do you help others? Do you get identity in the adoration of people instead of identity in Christ? Do you keep your own sins in blind spots, refusing to see them or refusing to think they are as bad as another persons folly? The sin of the Pharisee wasn’t outward sexual lust or drunkenness, it was pride.  Pride thinks, “You poor thing, you would really benefit from my helping you.” Pride says, “I told you what you should do, and now that you chose not to- God is not pleased with you!”  Pride has a controlling agenda as it deals with people and is not the selfless love of God. Pride blinds us and makes us think our darkness is really light. Only God can deliver us when we are infected with pride.

3. Do all you can to identify more with the tax collector than the Pharisee in the Luke 18 parable.  Jesus starts the parable with telling the people it is for those who trust in their own righteousness and despise others. It takes activity on our part to not be a prideful Pharisee. When we see others who are in sin, who have wronged us, or those who we flat out don’t care for, we must consider them in the eyes of God.  There is a time and a place for church discipline but let it not be biased according to our pride, our agendas, and our insecurities.  

At the end of all things, I pray that we all are not immersed in this sin of thinking God is on our side and not with other people whom we may disagree with.  If we remain humble and bless friends and enemies as the Lord instructs, we will be pleasantly surprised as we leave the judgement, and vengeance up to the Lord.  He is the keeper of those powerful swords anyway.

All My Divorces

Divorce has always been my unwanted companion even before I experienced one for myself.  My mom and dad divorced when I was four and all my grandparents were divorced from one another too.  My mom went on to have two more divorces after my dad, before I even hit my thirties.

I was pretty much puttering in line with this pattern before Jesus interrupted.

God reached down and saved me when I was twenty-two years old, or maybe that’s when I answered his call.  Regardless, by that time, I was five months pregnant and married to a physically abusive man who desired to be the neighborhood drug dealer.  Suffice it to say I was divorced before our only son became a toddler.

So there I was, a freshly divorced baby Christian.  The “divorce” label in a church community definitely felt bad enough, but I also had a beast named CONDEMNATION following me wherever I went.  I didn’t really need the the judgement of people because I was my most severe judge already.

The Holy Spirit and other believers placed in my life interrupted my tormented mind and helped me to cripple this condemnation beast.  It would literally take four more blogs to explain how this beast was crippled in my life, and one day I hope to write an entire book dedicated to the subject, but for now I will share just one incident.

I decided to go up to the mountain to pray.  Just me, my bible, and a pen to hopefully rid myself of this beast for good.  When I got to my spot I stayed in the car because it was freezing.  I sensed God’s incredible power as the wind whipped.  The mountains were so big, and I was so small. It was then that I heard that still small voice as clear as day, “Mark 3”.  I know the word pretty well but I was not sure what was in Mark 3 exactly.  I read it diligently. I admit I questioned if I heard The Lord correctly since what I was reading wasn’t making sense for my immediate need.  But than verse 28 and 29 hit me upside the head. God spoke powerfully to me that day.

28 “Assuredly, I say to you, ALL sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they may utter; 29 but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation”— 

That verse did for me what all the scriptures on divorce couldn’t.  That one verse put divorce in its place. Divorce was sin. And divorce was not even the unforgivable sin!  There are many sins in this life we can involve ourselves in but according to Mark 3:28 they ALL CAN be forgiven.  I know I did not blaspheme the Holy Spirit because I still desire God. I desire to walk with him and obey him.  I desire to love him.

I would love to say condemnation went out of my life for good at this point but that would be a lie. Satan was still telling me that I was a second rate Christian, that God tolerates me, that my second marriage was illegitimate. I still struggled with these thoughts mentally for a few years until the Lord delivered me of it for good in a prayer meeting.

I was not present at the cross to see Jesus crucified.  I believe this by faith. I did not see Noah’s ark or the world wide flood. I just have faith that it was.  I have faith that at the moment of my death I will be carried to heaven and not deposited into hell because I believe in what Christ did for me on the cross. So I must have faith that Jesus covers me like a clean white robe of righteousness. I must believe that Satan desires to keep me depressed and ineffective so I cannot tell others about the freedom in Christ… that in Jesus Christ, condemnation is a lie!

Words from a bestie: “You can’t understand why Christ has forgiven you because you don’t deserve it. But no one deserves it.  That’s why GRACE angers so many religious and pride-filled people. They can’t earn it.”

Have you struggled with this condemnation and/or divorce beast? What has helped you? Do share.

 

 

 

 

 

Condemnation, Calvinism, and Grandpas

This past weekend I debated the Bible with my 81 year-old grandfather.  He’s getting old and believes something created humanity but is not personally involved with us and praying to “it” would be as effective as praying to a coke can. He knew I was once on drugs and trashing my life and he also knows my life has drastically changed its course. But to him, I had some of his “blood” and/or genes therefor, I persevered and pulled myself out of it on my own.

Our debates were not heated. I love my grandfather so much.  He’s funny, strong, smart, and hard-working.  He has failed in certain areas, which devastated some people, but enjoyed much success in his corporate life as a younger man which benefited many as well.

When our conversation was over, I threw up my proverbial hands in my head and surrendered. I gave my best arguments. I even shared some intimate prophetic details of my existence, thinking fulfilled prophecy would convince him. Nope. To him it remains coincidence. During our debate it became painfully aware that my grandfather was smarter than I am and his debate skills were superior to mine, just like his intelligence quotient.

Ok God. This man has absolutely no concern for you nor does he feel he needs you, even though he will be crossing over in the not-too-distant future.

Psalm 14:3 All have turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.

Here’s some verses that really piss me off and God knows it. However, I surrender. I am so convinced of his existence and biblical truth that I will bow my knee to him.

Romans 9:20 Who are you, a mere human being, to argue with God? Should the thing that was created say to the one who created it, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 When a potter makes jars out of clay, doesn’t he have a right to use the same lump of clay to make one jar for decoration and another to throw garbage into? 22 In the same way, even though God has the right to show his anger and his power, he is very patient with those on whom his anger falls, who are destined for destruction. 23 He does this to make the riches of his glory shine even brighter on those to whom he shows mercy, who were prepared in advance for glory. 24 And we are among those whom he selected, both from the Jews and from the Gentiles.

You don’t hear that much in Sunday church. Why? Can God not defend himself?

I never really cared to debate Calvinism, Armenianism, and Lutheranism with people. Now I wonder if God is having me to think about these doctrines because it is shaping some issues in my life. It all started with a You Tube titled, “Can I Lose My Salvation?” By Mark Driscoll.  Mark’s answer is basically a no. He believes in the doctrine of election and while he is not a “Calvinist”, he agrees with much of Calvin’s interpretation of biblical doctrine. When your “picked” your “picked”.

My problem is condemnation. Ever since I was born again by the Holy Spirit, Satan found it amusing to tempt me to doubt my salvation. He mostly would use my divorce when I was newly saved and also uses every time I fail to get me to doubt God’s hold on me. Satan has used church people to perpetuate this lie and that was an extremely powerful tactic. However, with my knees feeble and shaking, I get back up in faith and choose to believe. God didn’t pull me out of that depraved wicked sewer for nothing. I was once lost and now I am found…it was his power, not mine and that’s why I’m convinced of biblical truth, and that’s why I love him.

For me, its powerful to believe I have a father that predestined me to be a vessel of honor (Romans 9) and his irresistible grace (Calvinism tulip point #5) drew me into my election that was made before I even married an abusive drug dealer in 1999. As I walk in the security that Satan may not tempt me into depression through a condemned mindset, joy, strength, and confidence flow out of me. I am than able to accomplish the good works the Lord prepared for me to do before I was even born (Ephesians 2:10).

Imagine your in a marriage and divorce is considered an option and maybe your spouse even threatens you with it. You are than operating out of a shaky foundation and are than tempted with giving up because, after all, there is a good chance, according to your performance, that you will end up divorced.

It seems, for the elect, there is security. But who is elect, and who is not, is not for you or I to determine based off many scriptures, but here is just one:

2 Timothy 2:25 Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth. 26 Then they will come to their senses and escape from the devil’s trap. For they have been held captive by him to do whatever he wants.

I will continue further in studying this concept…but I will say believing that the Lord is more like a loving parent, than a God who is ready to deposit me into hell according to my performance, or a spouse willing to divorce me if I mess up one to many times, is freeing. To believe that God has elected me as a vessel of honor before I was even born (Jeremiah 1:5   “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you”) disengages Satan’s condemnation weaponry within my mind.  If you want to guarantee insecurity and depression inside of a person, put their security with you on a rocky foundation.

But it is love and unconditional commitment that changes people and brings the blessing. My dear grandpa knows what I stand for. Now my duty is to love him and tryst God with the rest.

Let’s Do Life Together

When you say “i do” you really say “i do” to many things.

Courtship (best face forward)

Wedding (joy!)

Honeymoon (um, wow!)

And suddenly, a whole lotta life hits you in the face.

Marriage gets real and it demands to know what your really made of.

A flat tire is nothing compared to the soul reaching trials that marriage brings.

I have discovered that Satan hates my marriage and he hates yours too.

But, the Lord gave me a special wedding gift.

This present was one of many….

But this one was a tool to stay married.

“Julie are you willing to keep the attitude of always looking at yourself during conflict?”

“Yes, Lord!”

That was my gift.  I reopen it during every conflict. Sometimes my husband doesn’t know I am opening it but I am.  In my inner meditations I open this gift over and over.

“Lord, please help me again. I have failed. Kindness was not on my tongue.”

“I will. I love you. Speak kindly to your husband.”

“Thank you Lord.”

I desire also for my marriage to teach me to love without fear, to love like Jesus did. To love when it’s not deserved. Satan hates this kind of devotion to the gospel. He hates when we suffer for righteousness sake. He loves when we put on a little mask and pretend all is well. But my God says to confess your sins to one another so you may be healed.

He says to bring everything to the light so darkness loses it’s power.

By your grace God…I will.