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.

Your Family’s Black Sheep

I wonder if every family has a black sheep.  Definitions can clarify things so I looked up Black Sheep in the Urban Dictionary and found, “term used to describe someone who feels left out in a family. Basically, the outcast of the family because they choose to do other things than live up to their parents’ standards.”  I think this is a start to defining what a black sheep is, but when you have one in your family, that definition doesn’t even scratch the surface of all the memories you carry inside of you.

Again, I wonder if every family has one. I look across the landscape of people I know and more families have one than not. My best friend has a heroin addicted brother, my other friend’s sister is an alcoholic/career exotic dancer, and I also know of a mom who struggles with her practicing homosexual teenager. The stories are numerous and the devastation rages on.

My black sheep is my older brother.  Ah, Jeremy. What can I say about him? Jeremy and I used to interact as children, and sometimes even laugh together.  He is five years my senior so we weren’t exactly toddler buddies.  I have some sparse good time memories of him but as far as I can remember he was always rebellious.  From shoving lit cigarettes in the mouth of my Cabbage Patch Dolls, to a drawer full of porn magazines, to spitting on the carpet when the parents weren’t home, my brother would many times be the one to expose me to evil.

Jeremy seemed to give up in the earlier stages of his life by running to vices such as drinking alcohol and smoking meth.  He is now a man in his early forties and it is by God’s divine intervention he is alive today. Jeremy has been living on the streets of Las Vegas Nevada and in and out of homelessness for the better part of twenty years. But I don’t care. I love him and have chosen to forgive the things he has done to me.

unnamed (1)I snapped this picture of Jeremy and I last Christmas because I never know when he will walk into eternity. He has already overdosed, been stabbed in the lung, involved in many fights, and God only knows what else. Through these twenty years I haven’t ignored my brother. My family would sometimes visit him in the tunnel he frequented to bring him food, contacts, and just the assurance that he is still loved despite his behavior.

This has been going on for so long with my black sheep that this lifestyle has become his normal. But sometimes, I do cry out to God. I ask him to spare Jeremy’s life a little longer. I plead with the Holy Spirit to change him and crown him with salvation and righteousness.  I have to admit it can feel so hopeless. But in a series of two dreams the Lord made me aware that he was hearing my prayers! In the first dream I was facing my brother and holding his two hands.  I was trying to look in his eyes and I was telling him it was time to come out of this lifestyle and that God loved him.  At first my brother would not look in my eyes and I literally felt Satan’s presence overtaking his body and mind.  Then all of a sudden my brother Jeremy looked me directly in the eye and he was full of shame and despair. He spoke and said, “I have lived my life like this for too long now. I can’t come out of it, God can’t do anything with me.”  When I woke it was clear that Satan had him bound up in condemnation, telling him that God could not do anything with him anymore. It was too late.

In the second dream my brother was back in high school. The dream took me through all the rejection he experienced from his peers and others in his life.  I woke up in tears and realized that not only had he believed he was condemned, he also believed his human existence has always been entirely rejected.

Condemnation and rejection are faulty beliefs in peoples lives that will keep them on a path of destruction.  But what is the solution? What do we do with the black sheep in our families? Discernment, prayer, and trust.

Discernment – Discernment is our interactions with our black sheep being led by the Holy Spirit and not us. It can only be obtained by time in our prayer closets with the Word of God open before us.  Discernment will let us know when our efforts to help in the life of our black sheep is crossing over into enabling behavior on our part.  Discernment will show us healthy boundaries when the destructive behavior comes our way.  It will teach us how to truly love our black sheep with gentle words and acts of tender mercies.  When our interactions with them become spirit-led we can be confident that we are doing all we can for their good.

Prayer- Prayer is where we connect with our source of all that is. How do we expect to have any peace in our lives as a loved one is walking toward death and destruction? We shouldn’t expect any peace unless we can take our pain and requests to the very throne room of the one who created our black sheep. While we pour out our requests it is imperative that we leave our worries and worst case scenarios in our prayer closets. Prayer is our outlet where we can take our anger, fears, and multitude of tears.  If we take these emotions outside of prayer we allow these damaging things to spill out onto our relationships with others.  This will allow the behavior of our black sheep to infect more lives than it needs to. Let God carry the emotional load.  He is big enough.

Trust- Trusting God allows God to truly be God and places us in a place of humility as created beings.  Releasing our black sheep to God in certain situations could be misinterpreted by some, or even ourselves as indifference because we aren’t always doing something. But it’s really submission to what is more powerful than us.  If we do not trust God we could ignore the Holy Spirit discernment that we obtain in our prayer closets. We could control, we could enable, but worst of all we could believe that we know better than God.

I do not know the final outcome in the life of my brother. Outcomes are not up to me.  I do not know what Jeremy’s purpose on this earth is.  His purpose is not to be controlled by me.  But I do know God is purposeful in all he does. God can be trusted regardless of the outcome.  I do not have the vantage point of past, present, and future like the creator does in the lives of others. But I do believe I now have a grasp on my responsibilities and my boundaries in the life of my beloved black sheep.

Glory to God alone.

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.

Divorce Is Violence

I don’t get envious over the things people are supposed to be envious about. There are some people that have nice homes, great jobs, popularity, beautiful faces and bodies. I am happy for them. I do not wish what they had was mine. I can easily look at my own life and see where I have been blessed and I am thankful.

But there are those moments that I see certain lives and I realize envy is an emotion in my life. These lives can be on TV, an acquaintance, or maybe someone I know. In today’s American culture these lives are few and far between so to be honest, most of what I have envied I have seen on reality TV.

Family.Yes. In tact, non-divorced, multiple-sibling, multiple-generation families.

Let’s take Duck Dynasty. (I do not know them personally, and since there is sin in every person, it is safe to say they have their problems) When the patriarch of that family, Phil,  gave his life to Christ at 28 and got clean, his wife Kay rejoiced. She probably spent several years as a loving mediator between their children and their dad before his heart conversion. They did not divorce. Phil and Kay are now enjoying four boys that serve the Lord, God fearing submissive wives their boys married, and all their grandchildren. I looked at a picture of one of their grandchildren, River, and I could almost feel the love of God radiating off the face of this smiling little boy! And happy for them? Yes. Yes. I am so happy for them. Do I wish I had that too? Yes, I do.

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Phil & Kay

This family has Jesus. They are not judgmental religious people, but earnestly love the Lord. And in some interviews they expressed Duck Dynasty as a way to show a traditional family to an increasingly God-hating society. America is a ship going the wrong way and Phil sees DD as a small current nudging the beautiful ship to turn back around.

I still wish my parents were married. Or even wish my mom was still married to my step dad. I wish my parents had had more siblings. I wish my only uncle and only brother weren’t dysfunctional alcoholics. I wish I had met Jesus earlier in my life and had not been a drug addict that married an abusive addict. There Lord….there it all is. My broken world.

The pain will get so intense, but than something good happens. I have been given this something good by God and it is what makes me resilient. It protects me and tells me by divine order that I was meant to live this life I’m living. It stops me from saying, “why me?” and instead has me saying, “why not me?” This something is Faith.

Faith is just the umbrella gift I have been given but there are many gifts that shower down from heaven to help me be an over comer in this life. It may be a verse, the voice of the holy spirit, or even a rare blue cardinal flying by because the Lord knew I wanted to see one. One day a particular gift hit me like a ton of bricks. I was given some scripture that I have read dozens of times before, but that day it gripped my entire being.

Matthew 10:37-39 “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.

There were many times I could have finagled, in my own strength, the things I think I wanted to make me happy. I could have set up things in my life to crowd out the pain of me being an only child because my brother was an addict or my son being an only child and fatherless for nine years. But I got to a point that I allowed the little “mustard seed faith” to control my life. And for a long time it seemed to just be a quiet seed stuck in the dirt. And those times where I doubted, or sinned, or was betrayed by dear ones; I still believed.

I have seen God do some restoration for me in this area of a family. But as I have watched my life play out and as i read scripture I am not holding onto this dream as tightly as I once did. I’m letting it go one experience, one day at a time. I am clay in the hands of the potter. I am not supposed to tell the potter what to do with me. I release the right to tell the potter he should have made me a Christian earlier so there is a better chance I wouldn’t have had to experience divorce. I release the potter from many things I held against him…one day at a time.

Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things yet unseen! I have faith that in heaven I will be completely satisfied. This satisfaction will last forever and not be temporary, and threatened, and infected with sin.

Those families here on earth, still intact, I am so blessed by. My little family, a picture of restoration.

Little lights in a sea of darkness.

A goodness from God in a land swayed by the wicked one.

Time ticking away, quickly.