To Everything… Turn, Turn, Turn

Ellie Spinning

This morning as I was driving into work a sermon came on from a man named Chuck Smith.  I’d never really listened to him preach before, and honestly, it wasn’t his preaching that struck me, it was the Scripture unit he used.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and  a time to refrain,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

What does the worker gain from his toil?  I have seen the burden God has laid on men.  He has made everything beautiful in its time.  He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.  I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live.  That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil – that is the gift of God.  I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it.  God does it so that men will revere him.

I think I was especially taken aback by this Scripture unit because lately I’ve been dreading the season I’m in.  The Lord is really doing a work in my heart and I’m still not quite sure what it’s all really about.  I know that there is a sifting going on; the Lord is separating the wheat from the chaff in my heart, removing that which isn’t beneficial and harvesting that which is good.  But I still am not sure what all that entails.

And I’ve also been struggling with friendships and relationships, wondering who I am and where I stand in relation to those around me.  Do I belong in this or that group?  Do I mean as much to that person in their heart as they mean to me?  Am I meant to have more of a prophets-life – one that speaks truth into people, but is really meant to wander semi-lonely most of her days?

I’ve been mourning one particular relationship for quite a while now.  There are places in my heart that have been wounded and left lonely.  I’ve not really submitted them to God and asked that He come in and heal that which is broken.  And I’ve also not said anything to the person I’m mourning over.  And there’s no healing in that.

But, as I read Ecclesiastes 3:1-14 I felt like the Lord was speaking directly into my heart.  There is a SEASON for everything.  And maybe in this season I am meant to just mourn the friendship.  To sit and ponder the loss.  There will be a season for laughter again, for embracing again, but I don’t think that season is now.

And as I’ve been processing this verse, I’m also reminded that “He has made everything beautiful in its time (v 11).”  There are seasons for everything.  I may sit here and sulk in this season, believing that it’s so difficult and I just want to be done with it, but beauty isn’t as powerful if it isn’t contrasted with pain, or struggle, or lack.

And I love that the section of Scripture ends with, “God does it so that men will revere him (v 14b).”  Our struggles, the harder times of the seasons, they are to make the softer, easier times more precious to our hearts.  God allows the struggle so that we will see his Sovereignty in it all.  When we realize that every season we go through has a purpose allowed and designed by God then we will see it as an opportunity to praise the One who purposed it.

I’m also reminded of a phrase from Beth Moore’s James Study, “Between the Rains.”  In James 5:7 it says, “Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming.  See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and .”  She talked about the fact that there are autumn and spring rains, there is a dry season in between and the dry season is necessary for crops to grow.  The farmer waits for the rains, which means that there are times of drought, and that’s normal… and it’s even good!  As dry times come, the crop sends its roots deeper into the soil to dig for the water and nutrients it needs to survive.  We need to sometimes just determine to dig deep into the Wellspring of Life, Jesus Christ, and get our roots filled with the Word of God.  The dry time is a time where searching and finding God happen.  And then the blessed rains come.  They fall and cover over us, and they flood us with peace and joy and the Presence of God.  But if the rains were always there we’d be flooded, have no root system, and we’d be scorched the minute there was any drought.

And I think that’s part of the reason for this season for me.  The Lord knows that my roots aren’t quite as deep as they need be.  There’s a dryer season coming, and if I don’t dig down deep now, I’ll be scorched and I’ll whither away.  My rain is coming, but in the drought, I need to dig deep.

One final thought from Psalm 84:4-7:

Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you.  Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.  As they pass through the Valley of Baca (weeping, dry and deserted), they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools.  They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.

As we walk through valleys that are dry, we have a chance to make them places of springs.  Our attitude can certainly change our circumstances.  And that season ahead promises to cover it with pools.  We go from strength to strength, meaning, we endure from good time to good time, there are seasons of weakness in between, but they exist so that we can become stronger.  What a beautiful promise from the Lord, that as we pass through valleys of dryness that we can be assured that there will be rains that cover over the drought with pools.

Here’s a beautiful song that encourages me, and captures my hearts cry:
http://www.releaselyrics.com/690c/justin-rizzo-tree/

I think, no I know that the Lord knows my heart and exactly what I need.  I’m blessed that He sent actual rain today.  Just a reminder that the rains do come, that Spring is on its way.  That a new season is coming, and it will be fruitful.

dancing in the rain

Wounds From A Friend

Do you ever have one of those days where you’re going about your daily tasks and the devil just smacks you upside the head with a twisted version of what someone said the day before?  You know that person’s heart, you know their love for you, you even know that they would never mean, deep down, what their words insinuated.  And yet, you receive their words as an arrow piercing your heart.  You even allow those words to define who you are.

That was my yesterday.  And this is my today.

I’m sitting at work, doing my normal tasks and all of a sudden a simple phrase stated by a friend bubbles back to the surface and the stinkin enemy spews poison all over it and I begin to doubt, once again, who I am and what I’m worth.

I am not a woman only worth what she can do.  My value does not lay in people’s perception of the tasks I can, or cannot in this case, complete.  If I’m not trusted by people with a task, it is their responsibility to bring it to my attention and give me the opportunity to change my habits.  But in this case, I hear it from a 3rd party that I’m not to be given (read “trusted with”) tasks.  The reasons why are left unsaid, but the enemy knows just how to accuse my heart in a billion directions from just one little statement.

Honestly, sometimes I wish people were just MUCH MORE BLUNT WITH ME!!!  I cannot tell you how many nights I sit on my sofa contemplating why no one calls me, or why I wasn’t invited to such-and-such event.  Why I’m not in that crowd of people.  Why I haven’t been chosen for that volunteer opportunity.  Why I feel like I’m not one that people trust or value.  And in the middle of all that wondering and worrying I just want to call those people that I’m fretting over and ask them to tell me the truth.  Answer those questions.  Am I not a good friend?  Am I not reliable?  Am I not a person who you think you’d have fun with?

Because the Bible says, “Wounds from a friend can be trusted  (Proverbs 27:6).”  If my friends would own up to their role in my life as a iron-sharpener (Proverbs 27:17) then maybe I could grow be the person I need to be.

Or maybe in this case the issue is not whether or not I’m the right person, but more that I’m concerned about what people think of me more than what God thinks of me.  Am I worrying about the praises of men too much? (Galatians 1:10).  I am trying to be someone God has not made me to be?

I guess what I’m faced with today is the balance between being confident in Christ alone, knowing He is my value-maker (He knows my failures, shortcomings, the way I’m made), and knowing that I’m also supposed to be sharpened by those around  me (ever scratched, etched, and buffed into the me I’m intended to become).

So for those of you that might happen upon reading this, do me a favor:  never hold back what you *really, truly* think of me.  I can never grow, change, improve upon my shortcomings if you just hold back what you really think of me in an effort to not hurt my feelings.  And on the converse side, tell me how you really feel about me in a positive vein; do you value my friendship?  Does the Lord use me to speak into you?  Am I a person who adds value to your life?

Moral of the story is:  be careful with your words.  (James 3:1-11)  They can seem insignificant, and yet they, as James says, can “set the course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.”  With just a tinge of anger, frustration, bitterness, our words set a flame.  And Satan knows just how to twist our words in light of our own insecurities so that we doubt, ever more, who we are and Whose we are.

Who am I?  I am a woman, placed on this earth by an intentional Creator to affect change in the world, to bear His image, and to be conformed to His image in that process.

Whose am I?  I am the daughter of The King.  I belong to my Master and He delights in me.  He put me together, intentioned ever part of my body and personality.  He knew that I would struggle with identity.  He knew that I would be concerned about the usefulness my authority figures see in me.  He knew that I would question my worth.  And I believe He did that so that I would tether myself to Him all the more.  That in my moments of doubt and confusion, I would sit back at His feet and allow Him and Him only to speak back over me what He knows of me.

I am cherished and deeply loved by God.  I have purpose and intention on this planet while I’m here.  I carry a banner of who He is wherever I go.  I have a God who goes before me, behind me, and hedges me in.  I am a daughter of the Most High God.  I am growing, changing, being polished and refined.  I’m being pruned.  And it hurts.  The branches on me that don’t bear fruit need to be pruned, and those branches are the ones that are concerned more about man’s opinion than God’s.

So tell me what you think of me.  Tell me how I can grow.  Tell me how I need to be sharpened, and then leave it up to the only ONE Who is able to do that sharpening and pruning.  And speak in grace (Proverbs 16:24).  Gracious words are “sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”  I need a lot of healing.

“Now to Him who is able to do more than we can ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us…” (Ephesians 3:14-21)

Good Gifts

grapes

I was just putting my kids to sleep when my daughter reminded me that I had promised her three grapes.  I told her to stay in her bed while I went downstairs and got three grapes for her and one for her little brother (who probably would have put up a big stink if he hadn’t received a grape as well).  When I rounded the corner to her room, grapes in hand, I noticed that she had gotten out of her bed. I heard her little feet run like mad to jump back into bed before I came up the stairs.

When I got to her bed I asked if she got out of her bed, she told me that her brother was screaming so she had to get out (not a valid reason).  I told her that because she disobeyed mommy’s directions that she could now only have one grape, to which she responded with a very large temper tantrum and fit.  I remained very calm (which isn’t like me at all in that situation) and just let it play out.  Since she started throwing a fit I told her that she couldn’t have any grapes.

And as I was sitting and patiently assisting my daughter through this ‘trial,’ I felt like the Lord was giving me a picture of myself with Him at times.  E kept saying, “But you promised me three

grapes; you need to give me three grapes,” to which I would respond, “E, since you disobeyed mommy’s directions you don’t get to have any grapes.  But if you can be thankful for one grape, you may have one.”  She totally would not take it.  Maybe it was a bribe on my part, but I really felt the Holy Spirit showing me that at times He may have promised something, and when I remind Him of His promise He is more than happy to make good on it.  But then I go and disobey a simple command, and He responds with only a portion of the fulfillment of His promise.  And instead of being thankful for just a portion, I kick and scream and get offended that I didn’t get what I was promised.

Isn’t it like us, literally as children, to not be thankful for what we receive and instead get offended and belligerent that we deserve more?  I know that my tendency is to just keep asking for more from God instead of truly having a heart of thankfulness toward Him for the things He has

entrusted to me, provided for me, and fulfilled for me.

I did give E one grape, and as she was chewing on it her countenance changed.  She was thankful for that grape, but I could tell that it was a little bit because she wanted more and not a heart of true thankfulness.  If she would have been repentant for her disobedience, apologized, and sweetly (sans whining) asked for more grapes, I probably would have rushed downstairs and grabbed the whole bag for her.  But I wanted to teach my daughter a lesson, one that I feel the Holy Spirit was teaching me at the same time:  God loves to give us good gifts, but in His Righteousness He cannot bless disobedience.  Now, I am not saying AT ALL that I am righteous, but I felt like the Lord was painting that picture for me.  He is a Righteous and Holy God and He cannot in his nature, without betraying everything He is, bless disobedience.  Because of Christ He can love us and bless us.  But He’s not going to be opening the floodgates for those who aren’t living a life of surrender and obedience toward Him.

So, my sweet little girl got a taste of heaven tonight.  When she wakes up tomorrow I’ll talk with her through what happened tonight, and bless her with a whole bowl full of grapes.  But for tonight, I’ll sit and think about the ways that I’ve been asking God for more-and-more-and-more and not having a heart of thanks for all that He has given me.

What about you?  Are you neglecting the thankful heart?  And only reminding God of the “more” He’s promised?

 

 

*Photo Credit: http://www.123rf.com/photo_15534444_hand-holding-fresh-red-bunch-of-grapes-in-the-vineyard.html

Loose

So, Thursday on my way to work, I decided to try listening to the Word, as a great friend recommended. And I’ve got to say that while I’m a person who loves to underline and take notes as I read, it was great to just have the Word spoken over me.

First I started in Psalm 139:

You have searched me, LORD, and you know me.

I’ve read that Psalm countless times. I’ve had it read over me in church growing up. There are songs that go along with that chapter. But this morning it hit me in a new way.

I’ve really been struggling with being me with the Lord. Feeling as though I need to be this perfect person, akin to the idealistic, unrealistic Christian. I know who I am in the Lord, I know who He wants me to be, but somewhere in the midst of life, and comparisons, I feel like I don’t measure up to the woman I’m supposed to be.

So, as I listened to that verse this morning, I felt like the Holy Spirit was whispering to me,

Erica, I know you. I know how I’ve made you. I know your weaknesses, and your undisciplined aspects, and I know that you strive and yearn to be like me. But don’t forget, dear daughter, that I know you. I created you with all of the quirks, and bumps and bruises that you now find about you. And I see them as beautiful marks that make you you. You are not that other person that you idealize. You are not a girl who loves getting up in the morning. You are not a girl who keeps her nose pinned to a book. You are a woman who lives life and loves it. So, don’t begin comparing yourself to someone who I’ve not called you to be.

That was so freeing for me. Just realizing that my Savior knows me, believes in me, and wants me to be confident in Him and Him alone.

Then I began listening to Luke chapter 1, an Angel comes to Zechariah and tell him that he will bare a son. Zechariah is astonished and unbelieving because in all reality it is impossible for he and his wife, Rebekah, to bear children. I don’t fault him for being skeptical, it didn’t look possible… But then he did have an angel standing before him. So, because of his doubt the angel told him he wouldn’t be able to speak until the day came that Zechariah would have a son.

Fast forward 10 months for the pregnancy, then another 8 til the baby was circumcised; the whole family went back to the temple to dedicate and circumcise the baby and when it came time to officially name him, the priests recommended a family name, and Zechariah stood up, requested a tablet, and wrote “His name shall be John.” And immediately his mouth was opened, he could speak again, and he began praising God for this miraculous blessing.

So my thought with this was, what is it in your life about which you’ve disagreed with God? Like Zechariah, maybe God has shut your mouth, or limited your communication, or even shut down some things in your life you’ve wanted to accomplish because you haven’t been doing what he’s asked you to. Because once Zechariah did agree with God and call his son the name God has given him, he was loosed. Chains were broken off his mouth, he was able to praise freely, and go about his work in the temple again.

So think and pray about that, as I am… Are there places in your life where you’ve determined that what God said wasn’t true and couldn’t be true? And now you’re walking in a season of muteness?

Agree with God. Walk in His truth, even if it seems impossible. We have a God who parted seas, made water flow from a rock, provided manna in a desert, made just a little oil and flour last for a whole drought, rose Christ from the grave after conquering death. He is more than capable to do what He’s told you He will do, and when you partner with Him in that truth He can accomplish it and loose things in you so you may be more fruitful.

Good is the Enemy of Great

Oh the Lord has been stirring in my heart… this need to be right… this need to be “good” but honestly doing it completely in the natural–not asking the Holy Spirit to inspire me, to actually cause heart-change, to create in me a desire to trust Him fully and change my character.  No, I’d rather put on my “big-girl pants” and strive my heart, soul, energy, and me out…

This morning I was reading in “My Utmost for His Highest” by Oswald Chambers.  This book has been (almost daily) a way for the Lord to pierce my heart, dividing joint and marrow, and cutting out the things in me that honestly just need to go.

The title of this morning’s reading was, “The Offense of the Natural.”  The central verse was Galatians 5:24, but I’ll add in verse 25 & 26 because they hit home to me this morning too.

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.  Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.  Let us know become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

Ouch.  I have become conceited, easily provoked, and crazy envious this week.  My natural passions and desires (my sinful nature) have become so forefront to who I am that I easily forget that I am supposed to marked by Heaven and be different.  I’m not supposed to be driven by my sinful nature, but to crucify it, to lay it down, to count it all as loss, and surrender my will to His.

I have been in this constant state of ignoring God.  I mean, I do my “Christian duties” and read my Bible, gather with my local church, even meet with an accountability partner.  But when it comes down to it, I am not surrendering my will to Him, fully.  I pray and ask Jesus to be with me and inspire my moves, but when the rubber meets the road I take the “good” route and dig my heels in and do what I think is good, not the “great” route of relying on the Holy Spirit for my sustenance.

I just have to include some thoughts from Chambers from todays reading (Dec 9th).

It is not a question of giving up sin, but of giving up my right to myself, my natural independence and self-assertiveness, and this is where the battle has to be fought.  It is the things that are right and noble and good from the natural standpoint that keep us back from God’s best.  To discern that natural virtues antagonize surrender to God, is to bring our soul into the center of its greatest battle.

I love how Chambers puts it, “natural virtues antagonize surrender to God.”  When we try and pull up our boot straps and be good and do good, we are actually living in opposition to God’s best for us.  When we do things out of our own strength it’s like we’re spitting in God’s face saying, “No, God, I can do this myself.  I don’t really need the help of the Almighty God who knows WAY better than I do what to do in a situation like this.”  How arrogant can I be?  But that is often how it goes.  Often how I respond.  Often what my first reaction is.  I may not actually think those things in my mind, or even in my heart, but that is exactly what my actions are saying at that moment–“Nope, God, I definitely know better than you and I’m just going to go with my gut here and do what I ‘know’ is best.”  Jesus, crucify that in me.  I don’t want to be an arrogant woman anymore.  I want to be one that is fully surrendered to you and lays down my agenda and feelings and ‘rights’ to be a woman who would trust and rely on You.

It is the good that hates the best, and the higher up you get in the scale of the natural virtues, the more intense is the opposition to Jesus Christ.

Did you read that?  Go back and read it again… No really…     …”It is the good that hates the best…” When we try and do good out of our own power we are really hating the best, Jesus, who knows much better than us what is right in every situation.

‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself,’ i.e., his right to himself…

“His right to himself…” I need to realize more often that when I do things in my own strength, without the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, I am taking up my cross and following myself.  I’m not denying myself my earthly passions and desires, I’m telling them that they are ultimate and that the God who created me doesn’t really know best.  I don’t have a right to myself, just like a painting doesn’t have a right to call its worth, or a statue to suddenly declare that its artist didn’t sculpt it correctly.  I am a piece of artwork, finely crafted by the Master’s hand, and my work is to do the will of Him who sent me.  Not to suddenly decide that the agenda has changed and I am now fully capable of doing whatever I’d like.

The natural life is not spiritual, and it can only be made spiritual by sacrifice.  If we do not resolutely sacrifice the natural, the supernatural can never become natural in us.  There is no royal road there; each of us has it entirely in his own hands. It is not a question of praying, but performing.

I think the quote above is the one that I need to keep reciting.  I need to sacrifice.  I need to not get easily offended when I feel like my good work is going unnoticed.  I need to not get all huffed up when I feel like I’m undervalued or passed over.  I need to surrender my pride and my agenda when I feel like things aren’t going the way I would plan them to go.  And I need to not only pray, but perform.  I can do all the praying I want, and genuinely want the Holy Spirit to move in me, but then I have to move.  I have to act.  I have to behave in the way He inspires me to.  Not just to wait and sit and see if He will do something in me.  I have to believe that He has done that thing in my heart already and He will give me the power to act in it.

Jesus, I ask for the change in my character, and my heart-set, but then I ask for a change in my behavior.  Help me to put into action all of the things I’ve learned today.  To not be a train stuck in a rut, but to believe you and gain some momentum!

 

Yet this I call to mind…

This morning I was talking with the Lord about how I’m so thankful for this new opportunity to go back to work, how it is such a blessing, and how I am astonished at how He orchestrated it all… but then my heart and mind turned and I started to get anxious about all of the logistics that I need to think through.  For example: I need to make a schedule out for the people who will be watching the kids; I need to create a good dinner plan for the week, so that whomever is home can get it started or know what’s on the menu; I need to make sure I iron all my clothes for the week; I need to do laundry so the kids have clothes for the week… I, I, I… yep, that anxiety sure can rear its head and make a mockery out of me.

But then a beautiful thing happened! His Word came to mind!  A little back-story:  I grew up in a very Bible-heavy church, meaning, a large portion of the Word was read every Sunday morning, and we all stood in reverence for the reading of the Word. And in Sunday School, we memorized verses.  And just in conversation we talked through the Word, a lot.  And I am so completely blessed by it.  There is power in the Word of God imparted to us, and I am a better woman for it.

So, this morning God’s Word popped into my mind: “Yet this I call to mind, and so I have hope.” After trying to do many google searches, with no avail, I thought through the verse one more time, “‘Yet this I call to mind…’ huh, what was the second part of that verse? YES! ‘Yet this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope.” Praise the Lord, that when we hide His Word in our heart He is faithful to bring it to mind in that moment we need it. Here’s the verse He brought to me this morning:

Yet this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, His compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.  I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion, therefore I will wait on Him.  The Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the one who seeks Him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.’
Lamentations 3:21-26

He was encouraging me that I can have hope because “The Lord is my portion, therefore I will wait on Him.”  When I make the Lord my portion, He is the one that brings hope and peace and salvation.  I don’t need to be anxious about the future because He holds my future and makes me who I am.

Hide God’s Word in your heart.  Make it a daily thing.  You can’t go into battle without armor, you certainly won’t be able to fight without a sword.  Gird yourself up, get that Word deep in you so that when the enemy comes accusing the Lord can bring that Word to mind and you can actually be effective in battle.

I am so thankful for a church that taught me how to love the Word of God!

…even more fruitful

This week has been an incredibly difficult one.  I have been struck in the face with my failures, much more than I’ve ever wanted.  And I have responded in the most un-godly way possible.  I threw a pity party, I got angry, defensive, depressed.  Honestly, when it comes down to it, the enemy was trying to take me down, and I let him. I just laid down and gave in.  I was made for so much more than this, and I’ve been given the authority to stand up and fight, but I was removing myself from the vine and saying that it wasn’t worth remaining, cause it was just so much easier to give in.  But what kind of life is it to just let the bully on the playground just beat you up?  I have got to REMAIN and stand up and fight.

So, that was my week, and this morning, the Lord was so gracious to let me be a bit bitter and grumpy about it, but then he put some great words from good friends in front of me and he told me to buck up.  One friend was blogging about Corrie Ten Boom’s biography, how in the midst of camp her sister Betsie told her that she needed to be thankful in everything. Corrie, like me, wanted to just pitch a pity party, and when we look at her circumstance, we could rightfully agree that she was stuck in a horrible situation and God’s goodness didn’t seem very evident.  But Betsie was full of wisdom and noted that God is good even if our circumstances aren’t. Corrie was especially upset at the fleas that were in their hay beds. But with Betsie’s encouragement they went ahead and thanked the Lord for those fleas, knowing that it is God’s will for us to be thankful (1 Thess 5:18).  And as it turned out, because of those stinkin fleas, the guards wouldn’t come into their room – the Lord used those fleas to bring an added protection over them. –This was my first kick in the butt.  Every circumstance that comes my way is an opportunity to thank the Lord for his faithfulness toward me, an opportunity to recognize that His goodness is not dependent on my circumstances.  This week I was so focused on my “fleas” that I wasn’t slowing down to thank the Lord for the ways that He’s using the fleas to grow and change me.

Then I was reading another friend’s Facebook post, where she talked about putting up her dukes.  That she was looking back to Egypt – like the Israelites – remembering what was familiar and not being thankful for what was ahead of them – the Promised Land!  In the middle of wandering through the wilderness we lose sight of what could be ahead of us and we want to go back to the familiar, that which is honestly OVER and done with.  We should instead be longing for the future, for what the Lord has in store for us.  He doesn’t want us to be stagnant and be the people we’ve been, He wants us to grow and be changed more into His likeness.

That’s where this idea of pruning comes in.  I think I have been in a season of intense pruning… and boy have I been bucking it.  God has been so gracious to show me over and over that my value and my worth is not in what I can do for Him, but in Jesus alone. Jesus already purchased the favor of God for me, but I keep trying to take back Jesus payment so that I can prove I’m worthy (or something twisted like that).

God has been saying to me, over and over, “You’re not remaining in me.  You’re not asking me what I think.  I may not step into this with you if I’m not invited.” And all the while, I’ve just kept going. I’ve been ignoring His still, small voice and pretending like I can do it on my own, when John 15:4 says, “No branch can bear fruit by itself.”  I am so thankful that He doesn’t just cut me off altogether and throw me into the fire, like verse 6 says.  But He’s gracious to woo my heart with the use of “fleas.”  I’ve dropped some balls, I have a messy kitchen, you can’t see any floor in my bedroom (literally) – those are my fleas this week.  And with them He’s saying, “girl, get plugged back in.  You’re not remaining and that ‘fruit’ you’re trying to produce is lifeless because you’re not plugged into the vine.”

And He’s right, as always. I’ve been boo-hoo-ing these past few weeks, stuck in a cloud of depression and a victim-mindset.  I’ve allowed the enemy to get my eyes off of what the Lord says about me and onto all the things that I cannot do without Him.  DUH – I’m going to be useless without the Lord.  If I’m not plugged into Him I can’t bear fruit.  Sometimes the enemy’s logic is dumb. “Erica, you really failed at this, you better just give up; it’s really useless, you’re not even capable of helping anyone.” And you know what, he’s right (the enemy) – I’m not capable of helping anyone in my own strength.  I am a dead branch in my own strength.  I am useless and crippled in my own strength.

But you know what’s beautiful?  I don’t walk in my own strength!  I have been infused with the strength of the God of the universe!  He chose me. “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit (John 15:16).”  He’s saying, “You now have power and authority because I chose you to move forward with my plan – just remain in Me and obey my commands so that your JOY may be complete.”

I’ve been walking in a cloud of funk this week, but right now I’m choosing to walk in the power and authority that’s been given to me by Christ to bear much fruit – to His Glory.

Here’s some other things that I know but need to get into my head and heart a bit deeper:

  1. I am deeply loved by God (1 John 4:9-10)
  2. I am completely forgiven and fully pleasing to God (Romans 5:1)
  3. I am totally accepted by God (Colossians 1:21-22)
  4. I am a new creation, complete in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17)

So, here I am – I’m going to walk in the truth that I am loved by God, I am forgiven and pleasing to Him, I have been accepted by Him, and I am COMPLETE in Him.  He will be faithful to prune me and allow harsh weather and circumstances to come my way so that I can be “mature and complete, not lacking in anything (James 1:4).” And I can hold my head high because I know that I can “Cast [my] cares on the Lord and He will sustain [me]; He will never let the righteous fall… (Psalm 55:22).”

I’m gonna fight, cause I want to bear more fruit and have my joy be complete!