Pressing Forth:

 I never thought I would still be pressing in, pressing through and just plain being pressed. It’s funny how people come up with all these comparisons of being “pressed”, “crushed” or “stretched” but do they really understand the process? Could it be in our comparisons, we may be over simplifying such a complex and painful process? I understand that it is so much easier to make light of it so as to not face the reality. Honestly, when we are in the wine press, it is not a pleasant experience. It is painful, gory and scary. I’ve been here for way too long now. I thought for sure it would be a couple of months and pow  something beautiful and transformed would emerge. It didn’t. As each day passes, I am surprised to still be here. Surprised to see that when I thought I could no longer be stretched one bit more, I found myself stretching. It’s been remarkable that I have even been able to keep sane. Many times, in the wine press the pain has been excruciating but more painful has been the silence. The deafening silence. Silence so loud, it hurts. I haven’t been able to get used to that regardless how much time passes. I am very aware that there IS something taking place deep inside of me. A change I could not reverse no matter how hard I try. A change of eternal value. A change in my character, in my mindset, in my viewing others and situations. I can clearly see I have not left any portion of this season without being transformed. Almost like a caterpillar going into the cocoon. You just see it one day all snug in there, seemingly unchanged as time passes by. All along inside this shell that appears to be motionless, there are amazing changes taking place. Radical changes are taking place but not in front of the naked eye. Then one day, a day nobody expects, this cocoon bursts open to find a beautiful butterfly emerge. The butterfly can not compare in any way to the caterpillar that it once was. It is no longer bound to walking on its legs but free to fly wherever it likes. Not only able to explore a whole new world and view it from a completely different perspective but, to showcase the beauty it obtained while in the plain, ordinary and listless cocoon. No matter how much it would like to, the butterfly can not revert back to a caterpillar. The change it has experienced is irreversible. They are two completely different things now.

I too can not go back to being who I was before this season started. It’s impossible, I do not view things the same way, I can not. I believe this was intentional on God’s part. He created a season that would produce character in me. Would produce good fruit in me. Would allow me to see things in myself I wasn’t aware were there. Good and bad things. Things to be strengthened and things to be discarded. I can’t tell you yet what kind of butterfly emerges yet as I am still in the cocoon.  It’s dry, it dark, its quiet but its transformational.

Philippians 3:7 But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.

8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,

9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:

10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;

11 If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.

12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.

13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,

14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

 

Journey Out Of Offence

For the last couple of days (after settling my emotions) I have had to come to terms with unforgiveness. I have realized I allowed this offence to seep so deep in me, it was causing me to be bitter, angry, depressed, hopeless and full of rage. Yes, there were offences, things aggressively and suddenly taken from me, and deep pain left. As I look into myself, as the Lord usually leads me to do, I see I had alot to do with it too. I have caused pain, offence and left others feeling as if I had taken from them as well. Most of the time it was done innocently, unintentionally or foolishly. God keeps calling me to forgive and until this morning, I really couldn’t or didn’t want to. But Lord, I am hurt! It is not for me to stay there in that pain and wallowing in it. It doesn’t allow ME to move forward into what God has for me in my life, my purpose. So what, am I going to continue to allow that person’s/people’s offence to continue to produce damage and death in my life? I can’t. I must not. There is too much left for me to do. Too much for me to still accomplish to just roll over in bed and curl up there.

Yesterday it was brought causally up by a friend that if you don’t let go of unforgiveness, you are literally not allowing God to move on your behalf. He can not act in your defense because you are. I realized yesterday I had been retelling the incidents too many times, to myself and to others. I became convicted. I don’t want to continue reliving these issues with the same intensity as if they happened today. I want to be healed and if I have to remember it, I don’t want to feel any pain.

This morning I heard a preacher speak of this, as if God isn’t trying to get my attention on the matter. He preached on offence and told several testimonies of people who had allowed the offence to damage their lives. Then the pivotal moment when God got my attention. The preacher spoke the exact thing my friend did yesterday. He quoted Luke 17. Jesus said it is impossible that offences would not come. Impossible.

 

17 Then He said to the disciples, “It is impossible that no offenses should come, but woe to him through whom they do come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones. Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you,[a] rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you,[b] saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him.” Luke 17 1-4 NKJV

If someone maliciously and intentionally hurts us, He would take care of it. If the person, like myself, hurts you unintentionally and comes to you for forgiveness even 7 times in a day, we should forgive them. Seven times in a day is pretty challenging but think about it. How often do we do things and don’t mean to but it hurts those around us? We do it as broken people. If that person just continues to show the character of Christ, just loving us where we are at, we have no choice but to feel the conviction to change.

I am looking into myself and found many areas where I did things to create insecurity in my relationship with these people that hurt me. I did things, said things, withheld loving kind gestures that would have affirmed the relationship. The groundwork was laid for offence to come. If you are secure and confident in a relationship, of any sort, you know the person’s ill action was unintentional and offence cannot come in, just compassion for the place where the person finds themselves.

Offence is a trap of Satan, to keep us there getting beat up. There was an illustration the preacher used about a tribe in Africa that hunts monkeys. They lay a trap with a barred cage and a banana. When the monkey reaches his hand in to grab the banana the cage drops over his hand. The tribe then come and surround the monkey beating it to death. The monkey would not let go of the banana.  I don’t know if this is true but it sure gave me a visual. If we continue to hold on to the fruit of unforgiveness, we allow the enemy and his cohorts to beat us up, even to death. Unforgiveness has been proven to contribute to many health conditions.

In Mathew 18 Jesus speaks of a parable of the unforgiving servant. He was delivered into the hands of torturers until he paid all that was owed. The price is way too high for us to hold on to it. We need to come to Him and allow Him to wash us from the hurts and pains caused by others, caused by ourselves. Allow the Holy Spirit to wash those images, those words, those imaginations and arguments out of our hearts and minds so we can walk freely. Walk without any weight pushing us down, without dragging every single negative memory or thought behind us. Let’s just let it go. I do not by any means claim to be there, but Ive started the journey.

Kick ’em when they’re down

It seems to be more likely than not that when things are tough, that there is usually a select few oportunists that come around to just add dirt to the pile. Kick up more dirt and maybe the victim is completely obscured. Imagine for a minute being the victim. Laying on the ground, panting for air and when you go to grasp for a breath, you get a mouth full of dust. No, but wait, there’s more. As you try to clear your mouth of the dust, you look up from the ground and find yourself encircled by a crowd with varied looks on their faces. The expressions range from mocking to sheer shock. Surprisingly enough those with their mouths open don’t find themselves with a bunch of dust in there as well. Of course not. The target is the victim on the floor. Squirming to get up, trying to get relief, hoping one in the crowd would have compassion and stretch out their hand.

Thoughts race so quickly back and forth. What’s going on? Why is this happening? I can’t believe this is happening! How can I get out of this? How did I get here? As the thoughts race, there is no time to even contemplate an answer because another blow comes and makes contact. It’s so exhausting. So unbelievable. Did I ever wonder in a million years this would be my life? Once upon a time, I was smart, popular, had a great disposition, always landed on my feet, looked at the cup that was going to be refilled, had faith things would always work out at the end. Yes, faith. Faith that things would always work out. Faith that bad things happened but they work out for good.

I still believe this way deep down inside. In this season, that has been the area most assaulted, my faith. Faith in mankind, faith things will work, faith in myself, faith in those closest to me and even my faith in God. I never really questioned that one. That has been imbedded in the very core of my innermost fabric ever since I have memory. I know many of you are appalled right now at the sheer fact I went there but, is it really a bad thing? Do you not think God is big enough to bear these types of questions? Is faith really true faith if it goes unchallenged?

I find myself going back and forth with many questions especially in regard to faith. My faith. What do I really believe? What am I willing to compromise? What do I consider to be a game changer? I’ve been really learning alot about people, myself and God these days. Yes, I am being kicked around even from the most unlikely of sources but I am learning some hard lessons. Mainly, I am learning that I didn’t know alot of things. I am learning that my foundation had holes in it, no matter how small, they were there. Regardless of the plans God may have for me, those holes in the foundation threatened to let the whole thing come crashing down eventually. I know now, God is able to handle my questions, my tantrums and my anger. Yet, He asks me to trust Him and more importantly He asks me to forgive them, the kickers. To forgive them completely and consider that though He didn’t send that and He doesn’t like it, He wants me to have a proper prespective.  2 Timothy 3:1 “You must realize, however, that in the last days difficult times will come. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 unfeeling, uncooperative, slanderous, degenerate, brutal, hateful of what is good, 4 traitors, reckless, conceited, and lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.”

Jesus asked His disciples in Luke 18 while speaking through a parable, “when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith in the earth?” this implies something will be happening in the last days that will try to diminish our faith. I believe that is the key for why these demonically guided kickers to do what they do. The goal is to eliminate our faith completely. Without faith, the Bible said it is impossible to please God.  It really would be a complete tragedy that after all the kickers have done, all that pain, that the real horror would emerge which would be the dwindling of my faith. Then they really win, they would have the ultimate victory if I manage to allow them to take my faith as well.

 

The Hard Questions

I find myself asking questions. My favorite fall back is Why, it’s not fair, etc.. I am really having a hard time getting out of that loop. I am doing the things I feel I am supposed to be doing yet I feel I am not getting anywhere. He keeps telling me He is the midst of this. That He is with me. I have hit one barricade after another. For days, it has been very difficult just to get up and try again.  Today as I pondered things, I realized this Christian life isn’t what they have been trying to sell us. Really read the scriptures and every single person had to endure great hardships. As I read the other day, Joseph was thrown in prison and forgotten. I bet it didn’t feel to him as if God was with him but he was perfectly in God’s will. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 4:9-13 “For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men.” It does seem sometimes as if we are forsaken, but we only can partially see. We do not know what awaits on the other side of the trial. We don’t know if as Job the few months of suffering then rendered double of everything he had lost. So it is for us. How do we know that after we have endured this light and temporary struggle that the payoff wont be well worth the pain? We don’t. We just have to submit ourselves to surrender to the process and trust that He does have a plan and it is for our ultimate good. At the end, I believe it is more about us learning to trust Him utterly and completely with everything. Can we say like Job ” though He slay me yet I will trust Him”?

Struggling For The Words

It has been a rough couple of days. Things didn’t move along as I expected. In many areas I just kept hitting walls. I felt very frustrated, angry and depressed. I felt as if many people had disappointed me yet once again. I don’t even have the words to express the depths of sadness, betrayal and disappointment I have felt. Yet, I believe God has allowed me this journey to get deeper into my soul. Face the issues I so ignorantly keep tripping over and heal me.

Psalms 146:3 NKJV ” Do not put your trust in princes, nor in a son of man, in whom there is no help” Psalms 118:8 “It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man”

Many times we see scriptures like this and we know it. We can even quote it chapter and verse but it’s not written in the tablets of our hearts yet. It’s just head knowledge. Important information like maybe we store a phone number our address or a gate code. After awhile, it’s effortless. I don’t think God wants that from His people. He doesn’t want things automatic. In my case, He has allowed me to experience disappointments when I have placed my trust in people and their promises instead of the Lord and His promises. Hence, where I am at now.  This is also, for me, very tied in with the fear of man. Why should I really care what man has to say about me when he can not even add a day to my life? Yet time and time again, when I need to do something or say something that I know is Divinely orchestrated, I struggle.  I tend to lean towards the things that seem to be tangible. It’s scary when you walk out and things are not completely laid out for you but, then again that is where faith comes in. I have to trust He is faithful. I have to trust He wont let me down or drop me, that I am completely and utterly safe in His hands. What He said He would do, He will.

The Wisdom of an Outsider

Today was an odd day. Mixed with laughter, tears, truth, relief and the reality that things need to change. Do you remember those paintings that from afar they are just a mesh of colors and shapes but when you get closer the artist hid another design inside? I used to love those paintings. I enjoyed the challenge of finding the hidden art and being the first in the group to do so. Well, that is kind of how my life has been lately. If you step back and look at everything it looks pretty messy. You can’t really make any sense of it. Step up. Take a closer look and now I see God working in my character bringing order in places that have been chaotic for way too long. He is so gentle with us that He doesn’t press the issue too hard. He shows you and then waits. You forget, He shows you again, and again until you finally have that “aha” moment and realize that thing isn’t good for you. Some of us it takes longer because like me, I didn’t think it was so bad. You know there are worse people out there with worse habits and issues. Anyway, I do so much good, well it balances out at the end. Whatever the excuse. 

If you take a good look at those things, you will see it is not innocent. It hurts you but you are hurting others too.

I had lunch today with an old good friend. We laughed, reminisced, got serious and then laughed again. We’ve been friends (according to their calculations) about 3 decades. Laughing through different stories, suddenly a comment was so innocently said within a joke, but I saw the pain. Pain I had caused in the beginning of the friendship. I never knew. This was the first I heard but, when it was said, it was said as if it happened yesterday. Boy, it was a sobering moment. The Holy Spirit brought such deep conviction that it brought tears to my eyes. How could I have been so oblivious? Easy- self-centeredness.  It was easy to justify myself because the others really were the bad guys. As in the famous words of Mr. Tony Montana “Take a look at the bad guy”. Yep look no further than the closest mirror-me.

This afternoon I had to re-evaluate things, even from way back then and listen. I then listened as an outsider so quickly summarized everything I am currently going through. Too much on my plate overwhelming myself and concerning myself with what others will be saying (fear of man). I should really only be worried about what He thinks. He is much more concerned about the condition of my heart than the condition of my bank account. He is much more concerned about my eternal state than my current one. “What is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away?” Luke 9:25

I realized during our conversation, that I do need to prioritize. Maybe step back from some things and really gather myself and start from scratch again. Construct a foundation so that it is firm and not shaky anymore. Look at things from an eternal perspective instead of a temporal. He makes ALL things beautiful-even this mess.

The Confirmation

I was hesitant about just pouring everything “out there”. I woke up this morning and opened my Bible and it landed on Isaiah 43:8. I had read it before and had some things underlined, but I felt to read it again.

Isaiah 43:8-12

Bring forth the blind people that have eyes, and the deaf that have ears.

Let all the nations be gathered together, and let the people be assembled: who among them can declare this, and shew us former things? let them bring forth their witnesses, that they may be justified: or let them hear, and say, It is truth.

10 Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me.

11 I, even I, am the Lord; and beside me there is no saviour.

12 I have declared, and have saved, and I have shewed, when there was no strange god among you: therefore ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, that I am God.

During this rough patch, I have questioned so many things. Why God? Why me? How is the mess going to get fixed? Why do I keep taking three steps back with every half step forward? It’s not fair God! and on and on I have gone. I can’t tell you the number of times I have been literally laying on the bathtub floor with the shower on crying. I couldn’t make sense of it. I was griped with fear, shame (what are people going to think/say?), anger and bitterness. For every time I got to the place of asking these questions, and many others, I would be angry and ask why. Well, here is a better question. Why not? Why not me? What if things do get worse? Why not me?

I have had to see people over and over and feel the embarrassment and shame. The countless times I have wanted desperately to run. Just go somewhere else and start fresh where nobody knows me where I don’t need to explain. Every single time I start to focus on that, I feel lead of the Lord that is not the answer. Not that I am hearing much for myself these days but, that I hear. So I stay.

Then today when I read this, I was filled with tears. As Paul said, we are living epistles. Our lives are a witness of His greatness and His glory and His insurmountable love for us. I know for a fact my life screams out His Grace. When I look back and see how many times, I shouldn’t have been here, how life did not consume me. I see His hand always stretching forth to pull me out of the slimy pit. He never allowed me to be utterly destroyed and He hid me under the shadow of His wings. Many times.

I am His witness. A witness of His incredible saving power. My life speaks it even now. Even though I am not seeing it. He says bring the blind that have eyes and the deaf that have ears. Through our lives, no matter what we are going through, that is painful and seems to be without reason, He is speaking and showing volumes to those that look at us. There is a  purpose. He has chosen you to show you off. He is pouring over you the most fragrant of oils down the top of your head that wherever you walk everyone can sense His Presence all over you. He is so confident in you that He says “let them bring their witnesses”. He has no doubt you will shine through as a witness for Him.

Lets rise up brothers, lets not give up. Encourage yourself in the Lord because your victory is assured. We are His witnesses. The witnesses that HE IS GOD (vs12). His breakthrough IS coming.

My journey out of the ashes

Sometimes life sends you some twists and turns. Things are shaken up and we are left trying to grab something to hold on to. For me, that something is God. Without Him, I am truly nothing. Here, I will try to make sense of it all. Try to find the purpose behind it all and express my ponderings. I’m always thinking. Contemplating things, creating scenarios in my mind to answer questions that I or others may have. I know, all things work together for my good but, I need to have an understanding of why things happen. I don’t want to waste any more time going in circles. I want to actively participate in what He is doing in my life and reach the intended goal.

The last few months have really stretched me. I have had to look deeply into myself, my past choices, my current choices, the reasons things have happened and see where God was during it all. Yes, I know He has always been there but, He respects our freewill. We are not robots. So, why do I do the things that I do? Humans are a complex make up of genetics, life experiences, emotional strength (or lack of it), media/society influence, our physical condition at any given time, and our level of spiritual surrender.

I am exploring that last point currently. I realize many of the foolishness has been just that. A very low level of spiritual surrender. If that bar would have been raised, I would have saved myself a lot of pain in the past. But then again, would I be the person I am now? I don’t think so. I started off a very self-centered, self-righteous person that aimlessly walked this earth. Through the rough experiences in my life, God has shown me mercy and compassion because He first showed them to me. Thank God for Grace! Thank God He did not give me what I deserved but reached out to me at every turn, even when I tried to tune Him out. So,I must then believe he fashioned me after His own purpose in my life through these rough patches as He fashions all of us.