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.

Parenting & Porn

My son is fourteen and like it or not I have found that several of his friends have free access to or regularly watch pornography.  This is not the circle of friends I had hoped for my son but if we look close enough the statistics of professing Christians who look at and/or are addicted to porn are staggering.

Porn has become the elephant in the room for our generation.  Its an elephant that is not looked directly in the eye because, well, its shameful.  I always have an embarrassed feeling come over me when I need to address it with my son.

Believe it or not, the first time I needed to talk with him about it was when he was a fourth grader! Yep, my friends fifth grade son was shown smartphone porn by another child on the bus. Her son was visibly upset when he told his mom which is understandable. Watching two (or more) people act out perversion must have been shocking to a young boy being raised with God’s definition of what sex actually is. I wanted to then be sure my son was not surprised if this cancer was flashed in his face by another child.  My age-appropriate conversation went something like this, “You know how some people have phones that show pictures and videos? Well there are some bad pictures being sent on phones that have naked people touching each other.  God tells us that we should not be looking at those kind things.Please come to me if someone is trying to show you that sort of thing”  I received a verbal “ok I will” from my son.  Fourth grade, nuff’ said.

We proceeded to have conversations about the issue and with each age-appropriate situation came a little more depth. Good thing, because one particular day it came in handy. Well, more then handy, our prior convos could have been what kept him from running full steam ahead into an internet flesh party…

My son was playing video games when one of his new friends put pornographic images on a nearby computer.  The invite was given, my mommy nightmare came true.

My son had a strong foundation as to what porn actually is so while he did see the first image when he turned around, he told his friend he did not want to look at it. Amongst teens, I know that the simple act of my son refusing it was a witness this other young man will remember.  For those parents out there that have teens who do not refuse and partake, remember to stay confident in the Lord.  We are all sinful and broken in some area.  Pray unceasingly for your children who may be dabbling and/or addicted to pornography.

As my husband and I gear our son to be a man of integrity that will honor one woman in marriage, I have listed some strategies we have employed in order to give ideas to any parent who may care to employ them.

1. Be honest about sin. This is the most important piece in a Christian home.  Foster an atmosphere of honesty where the goal is to live in the light. Whatever sin is revealed, no matter how grievous, a parents love should not be withdrawn from their teen.  A teen needs to know from their earliest years that their mom and dad’s emotions will remain confident in the Lord no matter what is brought into the light.  This key element in our home has allowed our son to confess sexual matters, questions, and struggles.

2. Forgiveness must be taught, given, and practiced within a family.  Jesus was very clear about this concept and even tied it to our own salvation!  Sin however, does bring consequences and if someone breaks the law the courts will need to handle the judgement.  Forgiveness does not always delete consequences it just allows people to heal from offenses.  I never want to shame my son and not forgive him if something confessed misses the mark anymore then I want to be shamed when I confess my sins to another person.  My message to my son would be similar to Jesus catching the woman caught in adultery, “Go and sin no more” and to go further, Jesus also told another person he healed, “beware, lest a worse thing come upon you.” Sin is serious but forgiveness is in place so we do not condemn others.  Satan is the master of condemnation because it will cause people to stop trying.

3.  Live and teach the word of God. Moses instructed the Israelites to teach their children about God’s ways when they woke up, when they went to bed, when they traveled, and any other opportune time. In the realm of sexual purity, since I raised my son partly in Las Vegas, I used those sexy billboards as a discussion opportunity. I used the things of the world to teach my son the appropriate way to view and treat women.  Even though women are alluring and tempting we discussed what type of women would be a loyal wife to him.  We discussed their clothing and if the skin they reveal says anything about what is going on in their hearts.  Its all a teaching moment.

and finally….

4. Live counter to the culture.  I will never forget my son asking if he could have a girlfriend when he had just entered 8th grade.  My goodness, he wasn’t even out of puberty yet! We had a lengthy discussion and I asked him to invite her to youth group.  I told him to observe girls for the next few years. I told him he needs to understand them before he would be ready to be attached.  What does it really mean to be someone’s boyfriend anyway? Was this just a passing relationship or was he considering honoring her in marriage?  What does God desire according to his word?  You bet your sweet patoot I said all that to my 13 year old! He decided to obey my leadership in his life even though he didn’t particularly want to. I told him if he honored his father’s and mother’s wishes, that God promised to bless him.  Delayed gratification, a must for all of us! Through 8th grade my son was able to see all the 8th grade relationships start and come to a painful end.  He was able to witness the lack of loyalty and commitment immaturity without being involved in it himself.  We as parents must operate in grace but never be afraid to parent in a culture that degrades the rights of parents.

Above all I am not desiring for my son to just be a good boy.  Although it would be easy for me if he was just good… I want to be sure his goodness comes from Christ’s leadership in his life.  The parenting process is painful sometimes but we must engage in it every step of the way.  I remind my young one that when he blows out those 18 candles on his cake his decisions are all his…. but I have four more years with him until that point!

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Ahh, the Teen Years

I was ‘single-mom status’ for almost a decade of my sons life.  For the most part I navigated the infant, baby, toddler, and child stages rather well even though my son was certainly no saint.  I definitely had more than a parents fair share of red lights, extra teacher conferences, and his strong will that questioned everything.

But, we made it out of the kid stage.  And I would like to say I am proud of who my son was.  He had compassion for others, a keen sense of what was good and what was evil, and a lot of biblical knowledge. Go me!

But goodness gracious I never gave much thought to the “teen years” until they were slapping me upside the head.  My young man just turned 14 and I must start with saying I still am proud of who he is.  He still has compassion, he still understands biblical matters in more than a surface way, and he still knows the difference between right and wrong even though his frontal lobe is still under construction.

When people warned me about teen-dom I brushed it off to be quite honest.  Me and my little guy were two peas in a pod and I daydreamed that my son would be the culture changer for Christ within his sphere of influence.  Defying all the odds…son of a single mother makes it to his wedding day, pure and un-defiled.

Oh my gosh, I actually thought this. Not that I think it still can’t happen, but now I am reevaluating my goals and motives in parenting.  I am seeing that this is a human heart I am dealing with and not some poster for good behavior I am painting to hang on the walls of the Godly mom museum.

I’ve had to stop caring about what others think of my family and only concern myself with what God is doing in our lives.

I’ve had to let go of the fear that my son may entertain, or gasp… live in some kind of repugnant sin for a season because I need to trust the Holy Spirits dealings with him.

I’ve had to allow him to make some simple decisions for himself now even though they are not my decisions because in four short years the law allows him to make all of his own decisions.

I’ve had to let go of the adult life I envision for my son because I need to leave room for God to change those plans. (I will still use prayer as my secret weapon!)

As I raise my teenager with prayer, confidence, and the wisdom of the word, God is using this privilege as another means to show me that he is sovereign and I must look to him to help guide all the precious matters in my life.

I am not sure how my son’s life will turn out.  Tomorrow is not even promised to any one of us! I will however, love him each day he is under my guidance, teach him the truth, and let God be God in his life.  God is big enough for the task.

 

When We’re Wounded

A long time ago I had a friend that wounded me constantly. Not major wounds, but little verbal jabs here and there coming from his bank of insecurities. I continued to be in his life because I knew of some existing problems and I wanted to extend compassion.  I felt convicted to BE a change agent in this person’s life; that would certainly require me to lay down my rights and take some hits.

There came a time however, where I was flesh-weary.  I had gotten to the point where I was ready to write him off. I prayed in my bathroom full of anger one morning, “Lord, I cannot stand him and I never want to be around him ever again!” As soon as I prayed that I felt a noticeable shift in my spirit, or maybe the Holy Spirit rose up within me and my thoughts changed. “Lord, what about me? What have I done?” 

No sooner did I speak those words, than the Lord spoke to me, “Never lose that attitude Julie.” 

I am so thankful I was taught that lesson.  Without it I would not purposefully seek out my blind spots. Without it I would trash relationships and I would trash people. Most importantly, even if I was able to fool myself and others, I would not be fooling God.

We all have those blind spots that make us point the finger at another and refuse to think that WE could be at fault or at partial fault.  We have those spots and situations in life where we justify our sin because of the initial act of another person.  But we are not justified.  We are accountable for our REACTIONS, just as much as they are accountable for their initial sinful action.

“When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, your lives will produce these evil results:  the feeling that everyone is wrong except those in your own little group” Galatians 5:19

For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another.

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.

A Tragically Beautiful Woman

(Originally Written May of 2010)

megan-fox

While finishing up my degree at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, I took a part time job at a tanning salon. I encountered many women who were impatient and selfish with their identity all wrapped up in their sex appeal.  These women that I would encounter daily had extreme standoff-ish outer beauty that is uninviting at best.

But one afternoon a naturally beautiful woman walked in. I noticed her because her demeanor was gentle and she didn’t look all done up.  She was there to get a spray tan and had a funny request. “Do you have any trash bags? I need two of them for my legs.”  I got them for her and she engaged me in a delightful conversation.

natural-beauty-face-md-2Her heart was so loving, so soft. She revealed to me that she lost both of her legs 10 year ago in an accident. I would have never known that she had two fake legs. She was wearing skinny jeans and walked normally.  She told me she was a model and ran a non-profit organization too.  I was so blessed by her that day. 

I couldn’t help but wonder if she was not involved in her accident, if her heart would still be that beautiful….or would it be hard like so many young women today?

I grew up in southern California.  I saw my first Cosmopolitan magazine when I was 11.  Sadly, it made me obsessed with beauty.  ”Wanting to be beautiful”  held me captive for many years. Endless wishing, striving, and wanting more than God gave me, never being satisfied and content.

One day I was reading the bible and came across the story of God’s prophet Samuel.  He was supposed to go to Jesse’s house and find the next King of Isreal.  Jesse had several sons and Samuel thought Eliab would be the chosen one.  But here is what GOD said, “Do not look at his appearance or physical stature, because I have refused him! For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”  

In my own life, The Lord has used the tragic things to remind me that there is a life to come and what I currently see and can touch is quickly passing away.  I can’t help but wonder if what is stated in Matthew chapter 18, about cutting off and throwing away the part of us that can drag us into sin, is tied in with our personal tragedies of life.  Will what we suffer here echo for our own benefit into eternity? No one can know for sure until we are on the other side, but as I was emotionally struggling that day at work with my own two feet intact, a women who tragically had hers taken from her was able to warm my heart and leave me with more hope than I had.