Friday, August 20, 2010

Doing Some Weeding

Last weekend I got out somewhat early to beat the heat and pull some weeds in my flower beds. It's interesting because right after doing all the initial work and hard labor in them, I was disciplined about picking every weed the moment I saw it barely shoot up through the mulch. Everyday pretty much, when I would walk past the flower beds I would pull up two or three weeds. After some time went by, I was less disciplined in checking on the weeds. Then out of what seems like nowhere, two weeks ago I looked at the flower beds and there were these huge bushes of weeds! Some as big as my smaller flowers! What had happened? I never really noticed them growing, it seemed just as if overnight they appeared. I know that's not physically possible, but it was caused by my neglect.
The next few days whenever I would walk up to my front door I would notice the weeds, then just shake my head and keep walking. I did not feel like dealing with those weeds. They're so big, and I'm tired, and it would just take too long in the heat. I knew I needed to, I knew in all honesty it would be so irresponsible and such a waste of all the time I spent planting my flowers a couple months ago if I would let the weeds overtake. The longer I let them go, the harder it would be to get them up.
So last Saturday morning after breakfast I got up, got dressed and headed outside... lethargically... complaining... thinking of all the things I could be doing instead of pulling the weeds.... then when I was about halfway done, I realized "ok, this really isn't that bad."
Even though it wasn't exactly what I wanted to be doing, I kind of enjoyed cleaning up the flower beds. And the end result was just great!
As I was working, the Lord showed me how true this scenario is in my own life. Searching out and pulling the weeds in my heart is not fun. It's a pain, and oftentimes I wan to put off dealing with sin. Even though, deep down I know as a child of God I can't put it off for long. Everyday time in the word and prayer is crucial in our walk with God. I need to be constantly examining my heart, allowing to the Lord to point out sin in my life that needs to be put away. It's hard work, but the end result is worth it! Just to sit and meditate on the grace & mercy He shows to His children!
I was reminded of another "garden analogy", something I read a couple years ago called Pruned to Bloom by P. Bunny Wilson. She said,
"Pruning is one of the most important tasks in growing a vineyard. Every year, up to 90% of the vine is cut away. A wise gardener knows that pruning positively affects the quantity and quality of the fruit... We usually find ourselves in one of three places: We have just been pruned, we are growing back from after a pruning, or we are in full bloom."

Jesus said, "I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful." (John 15:1-2)

Is the Lord doing any weeding or pruning in your life? Rejoice that "He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." (Phil 1:6)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Haven't been myself these days...

But I think I'm back now.

Since my previous post, the Lord has really been working in my heart and life. Teaching me, drawing me, pruning me. He is so good.
You see, I didn't truly come to know Christ and His saving grace until about 5 years ago. I wasn't raised in a Christian home (although my parents did the best they knew and now, praise God, both of them and my brother are believers). I knew about God and Jesus and we on again/ off again went to church... but we weren't taught GRACE. We didn't know that we could- and should- study the Word for ourselves. We believed "no one could EVER have assurance of salvation" and if you said you knew for a fact that you would go to Heaven when you died, you were either full of pride or a heretic. Our salvation was based upon our own merit. A checklist of good works, church attendance, and "putting God first in our lives". I always would have said we did put God first, but looking back now I truly had no idea what that even meant! Today, even as His child, I continue to fall short of putting Him first in my life!!!

My flesh still has a tendency to fall back to those habits even today. That's where I've been, for a couple months I think. It's not like I just wake up and say to myself, "I'll try to earn my salvation today." Just a few weeks ago, maybe I month or more, I don't really know... I began to feel SO terribly overwhelmed, frustrated, exhausted. As if I was drowning and fighting with all my strength just to keep my head above water. Why?! Over several days time the Lord started revealing to me the source of my frustration and anxiety:
I feel more accepted by God when my house is clean. When it's messy, I feel as if He's frowning on me.
Whenever I open my Bible, it wasn't because I wanted to know Christ. I was checking it off my list of things to do to be accepted by God.
If Gabbi watched more than a certain amount of TV, I felt like a horrible mom which led to feeling less accepted by God.
If Gabbi is having a hard day obeying (which, on another note, she has had a "hard time obeying" for over 2 weeks now), it was because I failed in some way. As if it is all up to us to make her heart obedient. Therefore, feeling less accepted by God.
This all may sound so crazy to anyone else, but they truly are thoughts that I believed in my mind!
I couldn't pray, because after all, I "didn't deserve" to go before the presence of Almighty God. The prayers I did mutter were something like, "LORD, help me!" "Father what's wrong with me?" "Deliver me from whatever this is!" I didn't open my Bible because I felt like He wouldn't speak to me. Opening the Word just made me sick to my stomach. I couldn't worship. I mean, will still went to service, but I felt as if there was this wall above me and the praises I would sing would just hit the wall.

Oh but, "It is for freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery"(Gal 5:1)!

"For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing: it is a gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand..." (Eph 2:8-10, emphasis mine)
If my salvation were because of my works, then I would get the glory, not God. The good works a Christian does flows from a heart of gratitude toward God for what has already been done. We work BECAUSE OF our salvation, not FOR our salvation.

Pastor, in his message two Sundays ago on prayer, said something that convicted me so greatly of my self-righteousness. See, I would never have said that I was being self-righteous, because my problem was that I was "just not righteous at all". But Pastor talked about the person who kept falling short and falling short, and was just so torn up over their sin that when they went to pray, they would just have to stop because they "couldn't go before the Lord". "That's me!" I thought. "That's pride and going to God based on your own merit!" Pastor said.
Oooohh... wow. He gave to opposite illustration as well, which I know I've done too. Self-righteousness. I have no merit!!! I am righteous because of Christ and only because of Christ! I'm accepted IN THE BELOVED.
Of course I do not "deserve" to go before God in prayer, I never have deserved to. That's what grace is! Unmerited favor. Bestowing something upon us that we do not deserve. I go before God based on what Christ has done, and because I am Christ's and He is mine.

Being in Romans 8 the passed few weeks has also helped me so much.
"There is therefore now NO condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do." Rom 8:1-3
I am free from the law of sin, which wants me to continue to attempt to earn and work for my salvation and acceptance. I can never be good enough. But Christ was and IS.

"For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry 'Abba! Father!" Rom 8:15
An adoption can NEVER be undone. This is why I can have the full assurance that I cannot lose my salvation.
Pastor believes Romans Chapter 8 to be the greatest chapter in all the Bible. It begins with no condemnation and ends with no separation. I can't say I disagree with him yet.

On Sunday morning for the first time in, honestly, I don't even know how long, I felt free to worship. I was going before God in worship not because I deserved to praise Him but because HE deserves my praise! I left Sunday morning, anxious to return to worship and hear the Word being taught Sunday evening. I haven't been excited to go back to Church like that in the same amount of time.

The Lord is so sweet. Reminding me that it's not all about me.
My house is currently a mess, lunch leftovers still remain on the table and a basket of folded laundry is at my feet, not yet having made it to their "homes" in our bedrooms. The rug needs to be vacuumed, the dining area swept for the 3rd time today, and I still need to clean the bathroom before my parents get in tonight. But you know, this overwhelming peace surrounds me. The Lord is smiling at me, He sings over me- loudly (Zeph 3:17). There is no condemnation FOR ME.

I opened my Bible on Monday... because I wanted to sit and know Him more. Know His character, know His love for me.
I started in Ephesians 1. Who I am in Christ.
"...even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him..." (Eph 1:4)
And this was the note for that verse: God's initiative in redeeming the believer from sin and death was not an arbitrary or whimsical decision but something God had planned all along "in Christ". Since God chose his people in his love, they can take no credit for their salvation. God was determined to have them as his own.
If you are in Christ, coming to God in repentance from your sin, your self righteousness, accepting that you can no longer work to earn your salvation, not coming to Him with your list of "I did these and didn't do those" but only because of Christ's death on the cross that satisfies the wrath of God- the payment of death that YOU (and I) deserve. Trusting that God has fully accepted that sacrifice. Then you are His... and God was DETERMINED to have YOU as His own.

Can I please get a Hallelujah?