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.

Advertisements

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.

Flip the Script

Sometimes my life feels like a scene from a movie.  Right now I would say that I am on the edge of something great.  But this is a literal edge, and something evil is pursuing me.  I must jump off the edge and believe flight is possible in order to get to a place that I was destined to be.  I cannot stay lazy in this moment.  I cannot stay selfish, or lose precious time sitting on the sidelines doubting.

This destiny has been spoken over me but I have to put in the hard work to make it a reality, if that makes any sense. My first daily task is to believe.  I must believe that I can accomplish greatness as I allow Christ to work through me.  I must believe that he wants to use my talents to bless others.  My belief has been sideswiped by doubt many times, the doubt that says I cannot make a huge attack on the gates of hell.  These gates are strong and the gatekeepers come against me relentlessly. They attack my health, my finances, my marriage, and the worst attacks are the ones on my mind.

But I know how powerful Jesus truly is despite my failure and weakness.  He has told me he would do this great work through me.  I have his promise so I continue to get back up through the assaults. He has shown me clearly that all the powers of hell cannot overtake me.  They are like having a nightmare…they can only scare you for a moment, but they can go no further.

God is in the business of glorifying himself.  He allowed his servant Joseph to be mocked and taken into slavery only to later be risen to royalty because God was on his side.  So many times in scripture when people exalted themselves against others, it was those “others” that God rose up.  God likes to flip the script.  

When you struggle, and hell is coming against you, and you decide to stand and not cower, walk forward and not waiver, believe and not doubt, you should be prepared because God is up to something.

*The future will be revealed to the humble and not the proud*

Control < Trusting God

Don’t you love it when God shows up? This morning he proved again to my mind of flesh that he sees what I am going through and will provide understanding so I can conquer this world. #BOOM (Yeah, I know hashtags don’t work here)

I have been having some anxiety about parenting and my past. Wondering what it will take in his life for my son to see the reality of not just sin and the coming judgement, but the immeasurable love of Christ.

Now-a-days boys have girlfriends at 13 years old (uh, huh? yeah.) Yet it’s my job to steer him toward integrity and marriage.  This is my task in a culture that switches boy/girl friends like underwear.  A culture of “do what you think is right” and pushes pornography on young minds that continues to get more degrading and violent with each passing decade. And just because a kid is in a Christian school or you are sure they attend youth group, statistically does not release them from these cancers in our society….yet as parents we hope.

Enough of my own understanding.  This morning as I woke I started praying. I was releasing my worry about the whole thing. I am pretty good at going back to trusting God after I have a little anxiety breakdown session.  He is either God or he isn’t.  Right?!    I can only teach my son truth and display it- but I cannot force him to “hunger and thirst for righteousness.” That’s between him and the Lord and I will display love to him either way.

I opened my bible and the Holy Spirit spoke “Philippians 3″ to me. I was not sure if I heard God correctly, but after some of its content was unlocked for me, I had my proof.

7 But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. 8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ 

 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

I have read this scripture two dozen times, but today it was spiritually discerned it for me…  My past is something I still conquer mentally even though I have left it physically.  Why did I have to get divorced Lord? Why wasn’t I raised in a home with Christian parents? My son wouldn’t have been fatherless (and all the crap that comes along with that!) if YOU Lord would have just…..

Then it hit me. What I have been through was not just for me, it was for others too.  I was entangled with so many people during my years I lived apart from Christ. How in the world did that glorify him? Well, that many more people saw my conversion. That many more people saw me walking away form a 7 year, all day, erry’ day habit of smoking marijuana.  That many more saw me completely change as a human being. Did most of them appreciate the change? No way! I lost all my friends, I lost my husband who was in love with drugs and the Vegas nightlife…I was laughed at and still am. I lost everything I knew and needed to rebuild my whole life. But I gained eternal life.

“the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.”

What if the “why” questions we have for God can only be understood through the lens of humility?  Humility that says, tribulation produces repentance that leads to eternal life for some. Your tribulation is not just pain for you.  It will produce conversion in your soul and will magnify the reality of Christ to others. Will you accept that answer?

And my own son. What will be of him Lord? Same thing. “if BY ANY MEANS, I may attain to the resurrection of the dead.” I don’t want to even attach that verse to my boy. My flesh says, “that’s MY boy. Satan will not take him.”  But you see, I have no power over that.  That’s between my son and his creator.

Just like any person, God has put us on this earth to experience good and evil. Without evil we cannot know what’s truly good. My job is to intercede in prayer and let Christ live through me by his spirit.  That is the only control I am allowed to have over others; anything else would set me up as a god.  And I don’t want to be God, like, for sure!

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.