In the Middle of the Process

Yesterday I did something I have never really done. I moved dirt for my husband. He was working to cave in a hole he had been digging to make it safer for him to dig farther back. I am not a manual labor kind of girl, but I enjoyed it for a while. My tools were a small shovel, and I used a pick ax a few times.

It sounds silly I know; as I was doing it, I felt a connection to my father who always operated heavy machinery and moved dirt for a living. My husband commented on my work, and I told him I am my father’s daughter. It wasn’t a lot of work, I might have filled 2 1/2 buckets of classified dirt, but I was proud of my little spot.

I asked God to show me something through the process. I never want to waste an experience. He didn’t fail. I realize I didn’t mind the work in the moment or getting dusty,. I was excited about accomplishing what I set out to do. I was happy to work alongside my husband and help him with his goal. Usually I work in the middle step, I will run his dirt through the sluice. He does the hard work, and then he pans the concentrate to pull out the fine gold.

I like the middle job, it takes less effort. I can sit comfortably (most of the time), soak in the sun, and feel like a I am accomplishing things as a I empty bucket after bucket. I don’t have to put forth the sweat and energy it takes to dig big shovels of dirt. I don’t have to do the tedious work of separating the gold from the concentrate.

I realize that in my Christian walk, I also like to operate in the middle. I often come up with some ideas that I think would be great. However, breaking ground and putting in the effort that it takes to get going, I am not always willing to put in the work. The perfectionist part of my personality doesn’t let me get started, because I don’t see all the steps I need to take.

I also realize the tedious parts of the Kingdom, I often become inpatient with. I need the goal to be reached, and often in Kingdom work, there is not something to reach, as the work will not be complete until the Lord returns. There is no task for my type A personality to complete, so I get discouraged in the process.

In the middle, I enjoy things. I can fulfill a task for someone, whether it is teaching a lesson, serving a meal, meeting a need, or cleaning up, I can see the beginning and the end. I can work in my comfort areas, or know that the uncomfortableness will eventually end. I can give myself kudos that I am doing something for the Kingdom.

There is something though I realized in the process; God has given me the ability to work outside my comfort zone. He gives me ideas for a reason. If I would just be willing to start He will meet me there, He will empower me to complete what He calls me too. He wants me to jump in and start doing what He has placed on my heart, not just wait for it to come to me so I can jump in the middle.

I admit, it’s a little overwhelming if I think about it. I have been someone who can convince someone else to start things so I can jump in the middle most of my life. It is easy to stay in the familiar. It’s safer. Yet, I feel like it’s time to quit playing it safe.

This morning the pastor touched on Esther 4:14:

“For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?””

That “such a time as this” is an appointed time, a Kingdom assignment. It is not, “make time for this”; it is “for this time you were made”. I won’t say God can’t bring the opportunity back, He can do anything. But it is an opportunity for the moment you are in, and it may not come again. I know I have probably missed some of those, I have repented and asked God to redeem the time and let His grace cover those impacted by my failure.

I don’t want to miss anymore appointed times. It is time to get out of the middle of the process and start doing what God has called me to.

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Streams in the Desert

I see this each time we take a drive down I25. A long patch of green in the middle of the desert. I recognize it as the path where the Rio Grande runs. It is not trees like I am used to, but there is vegetation close to the source of water, or where water has been in the past.

It is the same in the Christian walk, we are most fruitful when we stay connected to the source. There may be times that we feel we are going through a desert, but if our roots are deep enough we will still prosper through that time if we will stay connected to the Lord.

We can follow the fruitful path of our walk with the Lord. Those places where we have allowed His presence to flow freely. The soil in our life during those seasons and in those areas is rich with the nutrients that come from a fresh flow. The growth can be seen by all, even those who are just casual observers.

We can also see those areas where He has overflowed in our lives. Where His presence filled to capacity and ran into other areas, making a fresh path of growth.

And then there are dry areas, where growth is starting to die because we are not allowing His presence to saturate there anymore. It might be unforgiveness that is causing the flow to stop, or unconfessed sin. It might be the busyness of life that we have allowed to block His access to our lives. Regardless, the greenery is starting to fade and be replaced by dead brush, cactus, and cracked soil as the flow is completely cut off.

If we are not careful, the dryness spreads and growth becomes nonexistent. We look around and all we see is dried out weeds and desert all around. There is no sign of life, just the weight of the world bearing down on us like the hot sun in the desert sky. There is no relief to be found.

God has called us to live by the river, for rivers of living water to flow from us. He wants to overflow His blessing in our lives, as David says “my cup overflows”. He is willing to let us have streams even in the desert if we will stay connected to His presence.

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Lately I feel like every plan I make, fails. I made plans for my birthday, they fail through. My husband tried to find something else, but I had my heart set on my original plans. I rescheduled those plans, and then cancelled out other plans I had made with a friend because the availability fell on the same weekend. Then my friend and I made new plans, and those were changed by the airlines, which then caused me to cancel. It’s just been a cycle of broken plans based on my stubbornness.

It hasn’t just been big plans that I am trying to coordinate, small plans too have been falling though or not turning out as I expected. My husband and I went to one of the National Parks on Saturday, we headed to a second, and by the time we got there it was closed. On Sunday, we went to another National Park. We visited one site and hiked the 3 trails, which were short but more strenuous than my normal walking. My husband also pointed out the shoes I had on were not made for hiking, more for a casual stroll (Which is really what I thought the day would be).

Then we headed to another site close by. We started along the 2.2 mile trails, and realized we had not brought enough water to be walking out in the hot sun. So we turned around, I did not have enough water for the return trip either. I spent the last half of our walk back praying for God to help me make it back to the car (Where I had a lot of water)!

We only walked about five miles throughout the day, which is probably more than we had planned when we set out in our day. Two days later, I am so sore, getting up and down and those initial steps, I look like I belong in a nursing home. I didn’t do enough planning for the hiking we did.

There is a little quote I have heard, that really makes me feel like God is enjoying a good laugh. “If you want to hear God laugh, tell Him your plans.” The Bible has much to say about the plans of man.

Psalm 33:10The Lord nullifies the plan of nations; He frustrates the plans of peoples.

Psalm 33:11The plan of the Lord stands forever, The plans of His heart from generation to generation.

Psalm 36:4He plans wickedness on his bed; He sets himself on a path that is not good; He does not reject evil.

Psalm 81:12 So I gave them over to the stubbornness of their heart, To walk by their own plans.

Proverbs 16:1 The plans of the heart belong to a person, But the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.

Proverbs 16:3 Commit your works to the Lord, And your plans will be established.

Proverbs 16:9The mind of a person plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.

Proverbs 19:21Many plans are in a person’s heart, But the advice of the Lord will stand.

Isaiah 25:1 Lord, You are my God; I will exalt You, I will give thanks to Your name; For You have worked wonders, Plans formed long ago, with perfect faithfulness.

Jeremiah 18:12 But they will say, ‘It’s hopeless! For we are going to follow our own plans, and each of us will persist in the stubbornness of his evil heart.’

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for prosperity and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.

I admit, my plans have been frustrating to me lately. I realize some of these plans I had not taken time to involve God in, I just made up my stubborn little mind and moved forward. I have allowed Him into some plans, but not all. God wants to be part of every part of my life. He has plans for every part of my life, if I will let Him be involved. God’s plans for me are good; even when the path is difficult it will eventually end up for my good.

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Sign to Nowhere

We were driving down the road, and I saw this street sign, without a street. There was a barbed wire fence, and no access easement at all. It was just a weird thing, and there were a couple of these along the road we were traveling. Why would there be a street sign on a highway where there is no road?

As I pondered on it, I thought about how I often try to make my own “road.” I label it as the road I will take, when clearly God has not laid the path for me to take there. I think I am going to be a trailblazer, when God has clearly put barbed wire fence as a deterrent. He has not laid access or given easement for me to get to the path I plan to take. He puts up roadblocks, and yet I still put up a sign for “My path.”

If I am honest the road leads to nowhere. Even if I blaze the trail, eventually it will lead to a dead end and I will need to turn around. I will end up on someone else’s property, doing something that is outside the plans and purpose for which God has created me.

The Bible has much to say about paths.

Psalm 1:1 Blessed is the person who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!

Psalm 23:3 He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For the sake of His name.

Psalm 25:4 Make me know Your ways, Lord; Teach me Your paths.

Psalm 25:10All the paths of the Lord are faithfulness and truth To those who comply with His covenant and His testimonies.

Psalm 27:11 Teach me Your way, Lord, And lead me on a level path Because of my enemies.

Psalm 119:35 Make me walk in the path of Your commandments, For I delight in it.

Psalm 119:105 Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.

Psalm 139:3You scrutinize my path and my lying down, And are acquainted with all my ways.

Psalm 142:3 When my spirit felt weak within me, You knew my path. In the way where I walk They have hidden a trap for me.

Provers 2:8-10 Guarding the paths of justice, And He watches over the way of His godly ones. Then you will discern righteousness, justice, And integrity, and every good path. For wisdom will enter your heart, And knowledge will be delightful to your soul;

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.

Proverbs 4:14 Do not enter the path of the wicked And do not proceed in the way of evil people.

Proverbs 4:18 But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn That shines brighter and brighter until the full day.

Proverbs 4:26 Watch the path of your feet, And all your ways will be established.

Proverbs 5:21 For the ways of everyone are before the eyes of the Lord, And He observes all his paths.

Proverbs 10:17One who is on the path of life follows instruction, But one who ignores a rebuke goes astray.

Proverbs 12:28 In the way of righteousness there is life, And in its pathway there is no death.

Proverbs 15:19 The way of the lazy one is like a hedge of thorns, But the path of the upright is a highway.

Proverbs 15:24 The path of life leads upward for the wise, So that he may keep away from Sheol below.

Ecclesiastes 11:5 Just as you do not know the path of the wind, and how bones are formed in the womb of the pregnant woman, so you do not know the activity of God who makes everything.

Isaiah 26:7 The way of the righteous is smooth; O Upright One, make the path of the righteous level.

Isaiah 42:16 I will lead those who are blind by a way they have not known, In paths they have not known I will guide them. I will turn darkness into light before them And uneven land into plains. These are the things I will do, And I will not leave them undone.”

Hebrews 12:12-13 Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble,  and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is impaired may not be dislocated, but rather be healed.

Reading these passages and looking at the signs today, I realize how absurd it is that I try to put up my own signs, labeling my plans for my life. God has already written the plans for my life.

Your eyes have seen my formless substance; And in Your book were written All the days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them. Psalms 139:16

One day I will stand before Him and give account for all the times I created my own path, where I did not accomplish the things that He prepared for me to do. I don’t want to see a million signs to no where. I want to know that I am traveling on the path He prepared for me, following His plans for me.

I hope to finish my life and be able to say:

But He knows the way I take; When He has put me to the test, I will come out as gold. My foot has held on to His path; I have kept His way and not turned aside. I have not failed the command of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food. Job 23:10-12

Psalm 17:5 My steps have held to Your paths. My feet have not slipped.

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Walk in the River

I grew up around a lake, not a river. I spent most of my childhood at the lake, jumping off the cliffs or just walking straight into the water. What we are familiar with shapes our understanding of the Bible; we can not picture what we don’t know. Tonight as I was in Bible Study we are studying through the book of Joshua. Spending Saturdays at a arroyo with my spouse, I got a different picture when I read the following passage tonight.

You shall, moreover, command the priests who are carrying the ark of the covenant, saying, ‘When you come to the edge of the waters of the Jordan, you shall stand still in the Jordan.’ ”

Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth is crossing over ahead of you the Jordan. Now then, take for yourselves twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one man for each tribe. It shall come about when the soles of the feet of the priests who carry the ark of the LORD, the Lord of all the earth, rest in the waters of the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan will be cut off, and the waters which are flowing down from above will stand in one heap.” So when the people set out from their tents to cross the Jordan with the priests carrying the ark of the covenant before the people, and when those who carried the ark came into the Jordan, and the feet of the priests carrying the ark were dipped in the edge of the water (for the Jordan overflows all its banks all the days of harvest), the waters which were flowing down from above stood and rose up in one heap, a great distance away at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan; and those which were flowing down toward the sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, were completely cut off. So the people crossed opposite Jericho. And the priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood firm on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan while all Israel crossed on dry ground, until all the nation had finished crossing the Jordan.” ‭‭Joshua‬ ‭3:8, 11-17‬ ‭‬‬

When I would go to the lake, there were spots where there was a drop off after you walked in, but you still just walked directly in (Unless you were jumping off the cliffs). So when I picture the priests carrying the ark of the covenant into the Jordan River, they were just stepping in.

Even visiting the Jordan River and walking down stairs to be baptized, I still did not get a different picture in my mind, not that I was thinking of the priests at the time. Tonight, I thought about my own experience with rivers. I have been to three I guess, the Mississippi, the Elk and the Jordan (Pictures below of the Jordon River). Each one I had to walk done to even put my feet in the water. I probably took this for granted on some level, as I walked down stairs to get to the river.

What really made me gain a different perspective is this weekend I ventured down into the arroyo where my husband likes to prospect. We have been going there for months, and I have never walked down into it because I have a fear of falling down. I don’t mind the hike up, which is challenging, it is the going down part that freaks me out.

He had given me a metal detector so I walked farther along the bank than I typically have. I came across a downward path that did not seem too steep. Then I walked back down the creek bed and up to where he was and surprised him. After he was finished for the day, it became a task as he was carrying things back up to where we parked his truck, despite having a wagon.

So as I read this passage tonight I imagined four priests carried the ark of the covenant, which was almost 4 feet long on poles. It wasn’t just a step out into the water, it was likely a trek down a rocky, sandy slope, likely a slippery slope since it is recorded to be in flood stage. It wasn’t an easy task, as step of faith into water, it was probably a little dangerous and a hard maneuver of the sacred Ark of Covenant.

It makes me think about how I respond to difficult tasks. I want life tests to be like stepping into a lake. I want the step of faith to be easy, even if I eventually have to take the plunge as the land before me drops off. I know how to swim, it is the fall that scares me.

I get discouraged when it takes a hike down and a walk in the flooding river. It doesn’t matter how deep the water is, it is the slippery slope that often deters me. I am scared of falling, even when I have a Heavenly Father that is directing my steps.

Then I think about the holiness they were carrying. I know that there was a weight to the Ark’s holiness and how it was to be carried. Uzzah died after taking hold of it, but it was not being carried as God had intended. It was being transported by animal, not man.

“They placed the ark of God on a new cart that they might bring it from the house of Abinadab which was on the hill; and Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, were leading the new cart. So they brought it with the ark of God from the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill; and Ahio was walking ahead of the ark.

But when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah reached out toward the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen nearly upset it. And the anger of the LORD burned against Uzzah, and God struck him down there for his irreverence; and he died there by the ark of God.”
‭‭2 Samuel‬ ‭6:3-4, 6-7‬ ‭

I too carry the presence of God. His holiness (See Ephesian 4:24). Am I careful to present myself as He has directed? Or do I treat His presence and holiness as common? Do I really think about His presence in me? Do I let His presence work through me?

There is so much to the priests stepping out in obedience to walk in the river. It was a step of faith, but it was also not an easy task to walk down a flooded river bank carrying a holy ark of the covenant. So too is my walk with God. It is not always easy, sometimes the task may seem too difficult to accomplish or like I will fall, but with God all things are possible. I just need to remember His presence is with me, and that He chose to walk in the river with me.

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Lessons from a Prodigal and His Brother

And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living.

And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything. “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’

And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.

“Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ But he was angry and refused to go in.

His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”” Luke‬ ‭15:11-32‬ ‭ESV‬‬

The story of the prodigal son has been on my mind the past few weeks. It started with a song on the radio. Then at the weekly prayer meeting, one of the other ladies was praying and I wrote down the word “prodigal.” A few minutes later another lady started praying for the prodigals. I knew God was trying to get my attention to take a deeper look. It’s one of those stories that is so familiar that it is easy to miss some of the details. As I re-read the story there were a few things that stuck out to me:

And he divided his property between them.

Something I either failed to notice in the past, or have forgotten is that both sons received the inheritance. The prodigal squandered his inheritance. The brother didn’t recognize all that the father had was available to him. Neither, in my opinion realized the value of what they had available to them.

There are times in our walks with Christ where we waste what Christ has given us. We misuse His grace. We waste our gifts, talents, and resources on things that have no eternal purpose. At other times we take for granted the inheritance and gifts available to us in Christ, just as the brother did. We hide the gifts we have. We don’t use the authority and power that Christ has given us.

So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs.

Pigs are unclean animals. Jesus was telling this parable to the Pharisees and the scribes. Jewish people not only don’t eat pigs, they don’t raise them either. Jesus puts this detail in His parable for a reason. This prodigal son was unclean. He chose to work with pigs. Pigs are seen as sign of deception (because they look kosher, with cloven hoofs but don’t chew the cud). The father should not have accepted this son back without the ritual cleansing required when one came in contact with unclean things. Yet the father ran and embraced him.

I also can’t help but think that the prodigal’s brother was the one that was really deceived. His heart was unclean. He had stinking thinking when it came to where he was at. He very much represented the mindset of the Pharisees and scribes.

God allows us to make a choice to get into unclean situations so we can see where we are really at and remember there are other options. I also know that sometimes it takes me speaking out foolishly, like the brother did, for me to see where I have been deceived and where my heart really is.

I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’

I was listening to Matt Carter, and he pointed out something that I defiantly missed the prodigal could have said, I will go home. But he says “I will go to my father.” He was ready to return with a repentant heart, willing to accept whatever his father was willing to offer, even being a servant.

We often settle for returning to what is familiar, we are okay to say “I will just go home.” when what we need to do is, like the prodigal son, go humbly to The Father with a repentant heart. The world offers us many things that keep us in a complacent state like the brother, but we need to return to the Father, repent, and go into His open arms.

Another way we come to the Lord is with a repentant heart and a list of works that we have done to show Him we are sincere. We get this attitude that we can only come to the Lord after we have cleaned up certain areas of our life. We will never be able to come to God through anything except His grace.

“…And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; …”. Isaiah‬ ‭64:6‬ ‭‬‬

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous, so that He will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:8-10

But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him

God sees us take the step towards Him and He comes running to meet us even when we are still far from Him. He says “You are my son (or daughter).” He celebrates our return. He doesn’t count what we wasted. He doesn’t ask where we have been. He only sees that we were dead and now we are alive again. The Father embraces us as soon as we come with repentance to Him because of the cross, the finished work of Christ is applied to our life.

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

““What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” Luke‬ ‭15:4-7‬ ‭‬‬

But he (the brother) was angry and refused to go in.

Anger will always keep us from being willing to go to our Father. It is a wall that we encompass ourself in. It does not stop God, it just stops us from seeking Him. God is not afraid of our anger, He can handle it if we will stop refusing to bring it to Him. There are over 100 verses in the Bible about anger, so God certainly wants us to deal with it.

Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,” Ephesians‬ ‭4:26‬ ‭

Anger also keeps us from celebrating with others. Even if we are willing to go to the celebration, out of obligation or just plain spite, we can’t enjoy it with anger in our hearts towards the one we are celebrating.

Cease from anger and forsake wrath; Do not fret; it leads only to evildoing.” Psalms‬ ‭37:8‬

This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” James‬ ‭1:19-20‬ ‭‬‬

Do not be eager in your heart to be angry, For anger resides in the bosom of fools. Ecclesiastes‬ ‭7:9‬ ‭‬‬

His father came out and entreated him,

Even though the brother was throwing an angry little tantrum, the father went to him. The father did not want there to be anything between them, he loves both sons. He heard his son out before responding with love and a reminder of what the brother had available as well but a clear statement of his love for the prodigal too.

God does the same with us. Time and time again He places things in our life to draw us to Him. He comes to us right were we are, right as we are. He seeks us out when we miss His invitation. He longs to have a close relationship with us, and just like a shepherd goes looking for the sheep, he comes looking for us. He gives us time to speak our mind or work out what we need to, but He is there reminding us what we have in Him.

For thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out.” Ezekiel‬ ‭34:11‬ ‭‬‬

Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, Even there Your hand will lead me, And Your right hand will lay hold of me. If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, And the light around me will be night,” Even the darkness is not dark to You, And the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You.” Psalms‬ ‭139:7-12‬ ‭‬‬

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans‬ ‭8:38-39‬ ‭‬‬

The LORD your God is in your midst, A victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.”
‭‭Zephaniah‬ ‭3:17‬ ‭‬‬

But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes

The brother had not talked to the prodigal son upon his return. He asked the servants what all the fuss was. Yet he knew that his brother was devouring the property with prostitutes. The brother did nothing to help his wayward brother do what is right.

Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians‬ ‭6:1-2‬ ‭‬‬

My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” ‭‭James‬ ‭5:19-20‬ ‭‬‬

Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.” James‬ ‭4:17‬ ‭‬‬

It’s not where we go along the way, but how we end

The prodigal left entitled, but came back expecting to be a servant. He was received as a son. The brother stayed and worked as a servant even though he was a son, but felt entitled.

When a righteous man turns away from his righteousness, commits iniquity and dies because of it, for his iniquity which he has committed he will die. Again, when a wicked man turns away from his wickedness which he has committed and practices justice and righteousness, he will save his life. Because he considered and turned away from all his transgressions which he had committed, he shall surely live; he shall not die.

Cast away from you all your transgressions which you have committed and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! For why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies,” declares the Lord GOD. “Therefore, repent and live.”” Ezekiel‬ ‭18:26-28, 31-32‬ ‭‬‬

““To the angel of the church in Sardis write: He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars, says this: ‘I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God.” Revelation‬ ‭3:1-2‬ ‭‬‬

Much like the prodigal son, I did a lot of reckless living. When I found myself spent, I remembered that I had a Heavenly Father who loved me. I knew He never intended for me to live the life I was living. I had to make my own way back to Him, but as I did I was met with open arms.

It took me a long time to let go of the guilt and shame that I had for walking away from God, even after I returned. It wasn’t condemnation from God, but from the enemy. He didn’t want me to walk in my identity in Christ, so he heaped lies of guilt and shame that kept me bound.

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans‬ ‭8:1‬ ‭‬‬

For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans‬ ‭6:20-23‬ ‭‬‬

We have an inheritance, or are His inheritance

also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory. In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.” Ephesians‬ ‭1:11-14‬ ‭‬‬

As a child of God, I think I can vacillate between the father’s two sons. I realize at times I have wasted what God has given me. I am grateful that He can redeem the time and that His grace covers me, but I recognize that there are still times I am not fully using what God has placed on me. I squander it.

There are also times that I get the misguided notion that I am somehow entitled to what God has made available to me. I get into a works mentality, and start comparing what I have done to what others do. I have a wrong heart attitude in those moments. The truth is comparison will always leave me falling short, because Christ alone is the one I am suppose to be like.

Regardless of which son you relate to, the important thing to remember is they were both sons. They both had a part in the story, and the Father loved them both. If you have been born again, you are a child of God. Regardless of where your journey takes you, or your stinking thinking, the blood of Jesus covers you. We are never to far out of the Father’s reach to come to Him with a repentant heart and be restored. There is no feeling that we hold, that if we will share it with the Father, that He can not help us work through. And we are all called to help our brothers and sisters in Christ who are on a path to destruction. We have the Holy Spirit as a pledge of our inheritance to help us, empower us, and guide us.

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““Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”” Luke‬ ‭22:31-32‬ ‭

I am sitting in the desert with the only sound a random passing car from time to time, a fly buzzing around, and the sound of my husband sifting dirt for processing. I have only sifted dirt a few times, it is a lot of work by hand. I have also sifted flour for baking, and even that gets tiring especially if you are baking with a lot of flour that needs sifting.

Most people don’t sift flour anymore for baking because we have processed flour that has already been sifted. Me miss the lesson in the tedious process. I don’t even remember what recipes we used to make that needed the flour sifted, only that as the youngest I usually got to do it. My hand and bicep muscles would be sore and I would switch between hands often.

This passage came to mind as I listened to the sound of sifting dirt. My husband has dug a hole about thigh deep, sifting out the bigger rocks that he does not need to process. He usually ends up with a bit of a sun burn and exhausted from just a few hours of digging and sifting.

Sifting dirt, I use both hands and take request breaks. The purpose is to separate the big rocks from the fine dirt. My husband has different size screens depending on what dirt he is processing. sometimes he gets it to gravel size, and other times just bigger than sand. The site we are at today, has very fine gold so he can screen out a lot before running it through the sluce box.

Satan also likes to sift us. God allows it as a refining process in our faith, but Satan is hopeful that he will be able to toss us aside with the chaff to be burned up. Only we can decide if we are willing to let go of the chaff that surrounds us and allow our faith to be refined.

I know for myself, when I am being tested and tried, I usually want to process to end. Satan is relentless and comes back time and again, often bringing smaller screens to sift me through. I think about the things that God has walked me through and I can see the boulders that were removed from my life that I didn’t think I can get past. Looking back, I can see the pile of boulders, then rocks, then gravel and sand that have been sifted from my life.

As a teenager, I walked away from God. Even after I came back to Him, I still clung to the boulders that He tried to remove from my life. It took four years of sifting just for me to release those habits that only lead to destruction. Satan was persistent, but I thank God that He was there through it all. Now, I use those experiences to strengthen those God brings into my sphere of influence.

If you thought that those major life changes, were all that is needed to live the carefree Christian club, let me be the first to say, I did too. It’s a lie. The truth is, God loves us right where we are, He accepts us right where we are. However He loves us to much to leave us there.

Babies are comfortable having all their needs met, being fed, having their diaper changed, being carried. Yet any good parent knows that they can’t stay that way. As much as we love those innocent little babies, we have to teach them to grow and do things for themselves. No parent wants to be breastfeeding their 18 year old child, changing their diapers and carrying them everywhere. Even when children have disabilities, parents still try to give them the opportunity to grow and do what they can for themselves as they age.

And so the sifting continued. I was raised in church, so I had a lot of engrained information that was taught by man, but not necessarily in the Bible. I definitely had some religious strongholds that needed to be sifted off my life. In addition, I had a lot of hurts in my life that really weighed me down. My child understanding of events that took place left me feeling rejected and uncared for. I had a lot of unprocessed emotions to sift through. Having walked through addiction, divorce, being a single parent, and homelessness, in addition to just every day hurts, I had a lot of anger that needed to be sifted through.

For the next thirteen years at least, I was sifted, as God refined my faith. A lot just faded away. When it comes to memory, it feels like a movie I watched, not something I experienced. Other areas He strengthened me and showed me His hand through the situations I walked.

I thought after all that I was done with the sifting. I don’t feel like it is as constant now, just more intense when it comes. I feel like it is more refining of purpose now, as my faith has held strong. I recognize it, and don’t try to resist as I did initially. I know that God has a purpose for it, and that the process can be sped up if I stop trying to grasp hold and just let go.

Sifting takes a lot of energy from Satan, so if the enemy is going to do it, there must be something greater that God can bring out of it. When I look at the life of Peter, he went from denying Christ to 53 days later preaching a message that saved thousands. He and the other disciples turned the world upside down with the empowering of the Holy Spirit.

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Succeed or Fail, I Give Myself Permission

I was scanning my emails this morning, and saw the Five Minute Friday prompt word PERMISSION. And immediately I thought, why is it that I fail to step out where I know God has called me? He has given me permission. He equips me. He calls me.

The failure comes in that I haven’t given myself permission to succeed. I give myself permission for what I know that I can do. I want to be good at things that I do. If it comes to me, then I will do it, but I generally will not step out into something new.

I never thought about it in that context before, but as soon as I read that prompt, my spirit immediately quickened. “I have to give myself permission to step out, even if I fail. I have to risk failure to give myself permission to succeed.”

I don’t put myself out there, because I don’t want to fail. Yet, I can never succeed at what God has created me for if I don’t put myself out there. It is a destructive cycle of my own making. I want to do what He has placed in my heart, but I don’t do what I need to do.

My purpose, as is true for each of us, is bigger than myself. If I could do it though my own ability, I would not need God. I have to be willing to trust Him regardless of whether I succeed or fail. I have to trust He has a purpose in the process, whether I succeed or fail, if I will just give myself permission.

I might just find that I can enjoy the process, regardless of the outcome, if I give myself permission. Maybe God has been showing me that in other areas where I know I have less to loose. I have a deep appreciation for crafty people. I see things, and think “It would be cool to be able to do that.”

Arts and crafts by Jackie tend to look more like a child’s project than a beautiful work of art. I have tried my hand a painting, scrapbooking, cooking, baking, quilting, and refurbishing furniture. Each was enjoyable, but I can definitely say most ended in a work that only my momma would want to display. Even I have hidden my “art” away or quit the project before I was finished because my project was not a success in my view.

Recently I decided I wanted to try mosaic tile. I watched a few videos and decided to give it a try. I collect crosses, so thought I would plan a project while my grandchildren were visiting to occupy some of their time. I knew that I would want to walk through completing one before I committed to the project with them. I bought the stuff to complete a large cross. I sat at my table frustrating myself because I could not create the pattern that I wanted. My husband, knowing my tendencies said “Stop, just let it fall into place.”

I gave myself permission for it to not be what I expected it to be. I definitely would not say that I have mastered it, but I have crosses on my wall that I made and that were made by my eight and six year old grandchildren. If I look closely, I see the imperfections, but the process was fun when I gave myself permission to just let it be.

Looking back, I realize that my husband encouraged me to give myself permission to succeed, even if it didn’t look like I thought it should. I love the finished product. If I give myself permission to succeed or fail, I can learn to enjoy the process. I might just find I like the finished process of the work God wants to do in and through me too!

This post is part of the weekly Five Minute Friday link-up!

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Faith of a Mustard Seed

And He said to them, “Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.” Matthew‬ ‭17:20‬

So this scripture threw me because after underlining it, I realized that the next verse in the ESV version of the Bible is verse 22. At first I thought my eyes were deceiving me. I kept looking for where verse 20 ended and 21 started in the words I underlined. When I wasn’t able to find it, I checked several other versions and some had 21 and others don’t. I learned that early manuscripts don’t contain verse 21. Just wanted to share that fact, which has nothing to do with what I took from the passage above.

The disciples had come to Jesus asking why they could not heal the boy possessed by a demon. The father had brought the boy to them as the demon would throw him into the fire. They could not cast it out. Jesus was able to cast out the demon easily. In His answer to them, He spoke of the faith the size of a grain of mustard seed.

I imagine the impossible things that God could do if I allow Him to grow my faith. That means trusting Him with big asks. Trusting Him with requests of mountains moving, miraculous healings, or monumental asks.

God can’t grow something I won’t plant. If I don’t ask, I am not planting my mustard seed.

He won’t grow what I put in other soil. I naturally want to try to control things. I look for resources that can meet a need in the natural when God wants me to put my trust in Him. I put my trust in the natural hoping for supernatural growth. I can not obtain things of God through natural means. All plants don’t grow in every soil type, faith doesn’t either.

I have to plant my faith in Him. I have heard more than one preacher talk about how we misplace our faith. We put our faith in our faith instead of God. I know personally, when my father was diagnosed with terminal cancer, it was about the time of the faith movement. When my father died, my faith failed. I thought if my faith was where it needed to be he would not have died. My faith was in my faith, not God. It took me a long time to come back from that and to understand God’s ways are higher than mine.

I have to let God growth my faith. God takes us from faith to faith. If I don’t give Him my faith, He can’t take it to the next level. Faith is grown as we put our hope in what we can not see, and let God make it happen. In my experience it never looks like I thought it would, but my faith grows nonetheless.

For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.””
‭‭Romans‬ ‭1:17‬ ‭‬‬

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.Hebrews‬ ‭11:1‬ ‭‬‬

As I was writing this out I thought of a vision I had back in a prayer meeting in Bentonville. I had to go back and review what was spoken about it as it was April 2, 2017. I just remember that it had to do with the seeds. Seed Blower was the words that I heard. I learned it’s a machine that separates light seeds from the heavier seats as the seeds produce better crops. God wants fruit that remains from His children.

I have read commentaries about the mustard seed being small and yet growing into a large tree. I also read that mustard can been seen as a weed because it spreads rapidly. There are mustard trees and mustard bushes. I also read that mustard seeds apparently can grow with little water and can easily spread. Mustard plants are also very nutritious.

God will always take the little that we give Him and grow it if we allow Him, multiplication is His style (30, 60, 100 fold). Our faith should be contagious and spreading to others. We will not all look alike, just as mustard grows in trees and plants, and a lot of different variants God’s children are just as diverse. When our faith is strong, even if it is small, it can survive even difficult places like the wilderness we’re not getting refreshing streams of water. Our faith is not just for our benefit, it nourishes those around us when we share what God has done in our lives.

Prayer – Lord show me about faith it moves mountains. Faith it starts a small as a mustard seed. I want your faith.

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One Spirit

We live in a culture that very much prizes individuality. We want to stand out and be ourselves a unique expression; yet, as believers we are one spirit with God.

But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with Him.” ‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭6:17‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Our lives and actions, thoughts and words, if we are crucified to the flesh, should reflect Him completely. There is no room for me, if I am filled with Him. If I am one with Him, my desires should be His desires. My action should be His actions. My will should be His will.

I know I am not there in my life. I want to be there. It requires me allowing His spirit to join my spirit in every area of my life, holding nothing back from Him. He will never force me, only extend the invitation.

Prayer – Lord, I know my life is joined with you. I need to let my spirit be joined with you as one spirit, not my spirit but Yours. Help me to step out and stop holding back. It is you in me, not me alone. You are worthy of my everything. I will not surrender pieces and parts of my life, I refuse a partial surrender. You can have it all. You are the one who deserves it all.

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