My dads yard is perfect. He has the best yard in all the neighborhoods he has ever lived in. I'm not bias because I'm his daughter, he really has the greenest grass, fullest bushes, and brightest flowers out there. People pass his yard and stop. Yes they stop and just stare. Some don't say anything and others just ask about 6 million questions on how they can attain such a yard as his. He is also the kindest man and will give advice to these people. I personally giggle when they ask for help because its my dad and his yard! You got to be Jim Bowman to have a yard like this! But these people want a good yard. They want the bright flowers, the green green grass and perfectly trimmed bushes. Its just most of them don't want to do the work to get their yard up to Jim Bowman standards.I help my dad once a year with the pruning of the bushes in his yard. Pruning sounds like nothing when you see it typed 'P-R-U-N-I-N-G' but its such hard work. My dad again is a perfectionist and when we prune these bushes we not only trim them down short we have to pick up all the leaves, sticks, and debris that has fallen from them. My dad wants his bushes to be trimmed nice and neat and for nothing to be left over on the bush or near them. My back actually aches by the end of the pruning process because of all the bending over to pick up and throw away those chopped up leaves and stems. My hands hurt as well with the sheers and the vibrating of the blade used to cut down these said bushes. Its my least favorite yard work. I will point out I also am my dads right hand woman when it comes to mulching. That is a super hard task but I would still take it over pruning.
As spring is slowly starting to surface I start thinking about all the work the yards need for the spring and into the summer. I already know my dad will be asking me soon about the pruning and the mulching. I will gladly help because its just a few hours of really hard work and breathing in the fresh air is good for my soul. But I started thinking about this whole refinement process and how very much Jesus is pruning me. Its been nearly 9 months since I started this process and He has been pruning me all this time.
The pruning Jesus is doing for me isn't a few hours of hard work. Its life long. Its painful, sometimes unbearable. It's me in this forest, a bush that's overgrown and messy. My leaves lack the bright green they need to be and my stems are growing every which way. And then there's foot steps and He's here in front of me, with His sheers and sharp blades cutting my branches one by one. Sometimes He cuts with loving care, slowly so I can mend quickly. Other times His footsteps are harder and faster coming at me running swinging and chopping at my branches with such strong force that all I can do is barely stand and just cry. and sometimes I can't even stand. Then there are other times I'm screaming in that forest for Him to show up and cut of my branches that are overgrown. I outstretch them and close my eyes tight and hope its swift and clean. Regardless of this picture I've painted for you, Jesus never has left my side this whole process. He has been cutting and swinging at my branches throughout these 9 months. To the point I say enough, I've laid bare. What more can you cut? My branches are gone, or so I think, But Jesus still sees where my worldly branches grow. Depite me trying to hide them.
You see you can't hide from Him.
There is this guy in the Bible named Balaam. He's in the old testament and he is a small part of Mose and the Israelite peoples story. He was known all around as the sorcerer of sorcerers. He was known for using sorcery and divination (divination is basically to proceed by reading signs, events, or omens, or through alleged contact with a supernatural agency.) to curse or bless people, cities, nations. Kings and princes would use him to curse or bless according to what their needs were. This was Balaam's career. As a diviner he got paid lots and lots of green to do this black magic.
Balak son of Zippor (whoever that is, doesn't matter for this blog) had all these 2 million plus Isrealite people just outside his city. He had heard all kinds of rumors about these people. The Israelite's had just battled many of the surrounding cities and won. So Balak was freaked out. He had know idea why they chose to camp right next to him but he knew with their sheer numbers and also that they had this 'God' with them, they would be impossible to conquer successfully.
So Balak sends his men with lots of cash to get Balaam so Balaam can use his black magic and curse these people.
So with Balaam being a diviner he also had some head knowledge of God. The same God the Israelite's followed. He would pray to God and communicated with God. Sounds like he is a believer of God right? At first glance, maybe even the 2nd, yes he does. He looks like he has this relationship with God. Before going to Balak he goes to God and gets God's opinion on if he should curse these people. God says no because they belong to Him and they are blessed. Balaam tells Balak that he can't curse them. He listens to God. Through quite the going back and forth between these two, Balaam is aloud to go to Balak but only to use words God has given him.
Balaam thinks because he knows this God, believes in this God, that he is overall good to go. After all he goes to God instead of just taking Balak's money and cursing those people, he totally could have done that. But no he gets to Balak and despite Balak trying to pursued him to curse these people of God, Balaam says he can't. That God won't let him and he won't resort to black magic to curse. He's obedient to God. So yes he seems like what we would today call a christian, a believer.
I really had a hard time studying Balaam. I saw the good in him but ultimately he wasn't really for God. You see when we see people, know people, heck even the way we view ourselves, we want to see the best of us. We want to remember the good things we have done, said, believed and forget the bad. Balaam did believe in God. But he also believed in sorcery which was against God. It was considered an idol and to God that was wrong. God didn't want Balaam to use his black magic or sorcery, he wanted him to go to Him for it all. God is a jealous God.
Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God. Exodus 34:14
Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God. Exodus 34:14
I'm not making that up, that verse says it all. God doesn't want Balaam's partial attention. He loved Balaam, he wanted Balaam to see that sorcery wasn't what was intended for his life. Balaam loved sinning. He loved fortune telling, sex, cursing, blessing, scheming, getting away with things. He was very much human.
God saw Balaam's heart. Ugh. Yes God sees the Heart.
The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart. 1 Samuel 16:7
He saw Balaam for who he was. His greediness, his love for money, his love for sex and the world and knew that even despite Balaam knowing He was a god, He as in God knew that Balaam saw God as a god. Not God. And that's what this process comes down to.
Before I tie in myself to Balaam I'll tell you yes he listened to God and didn't curse those people. He listened to God in those moments with Balak and only used words from God. But you see his heart again wasn't completely for God. His feet weren't firmly planted on God's foundation. He had one foot on God's side and the other the worlds. He was a diviner and was divided in his thinking. He ultimately told Balak hey since I can't curse these people there is another way. Sex. He schemes with these Moabite women (a group of people not of God) to seduce the Israelite men into sex and their gods. And it worked. Yes he did not curse them but he swayed them into a life of sexual sin and worship of different gods. Balaam was more about himself then God. If he would have been founded in God he would never have schemed to have these men get seduced.
So here is the part about me. The tie in. I related so much to Balaam. It shook me to my core. To relate to Balaam isn't a good thing I thought to myself. I see myself in him because I have my one foot founded in the world. And my other foot, yes it is on Gods side. And that foot is happy. That foot is blessed and at peace. But my worldly foot, yes worldly foot, is wild, ravenous, and irrational.
The Refinement process started because I was reading Fifty Shades of Grey. My worldly foot was actually feet. Plural. I had my feet founded in the world. My thoughts were all based on worldly thinking. Everyone was reading that sex book. It was entertaining and Mr. Grey was sexy as all get out. There was no way I was missing out on that book. But Jesus on June 25 of 2014 took some of my branches and chopped them off. I know bushes don't bleed but picture an overgrown bush with blood pouring from its branches. He saw my heart. He saw I was too wrapped up in sex and the world and said "no daughter, not anymore!" and he used a sharp blade to cut that book out of my life. That very night he cut me down I threw those books in the trash and poured ketchup over them.
Like Balaam I still want to divide my time between God and between selfish desires. About two months ago now Fifty Shades of Grey the movie hit theaters. Leading up to the weeks before I was strong. I wouldn't go near the TV or anything that showcased the movie. It was everywhere so you can imagine how Amish I became leading up to that movie. I had many amazing women praying for me during this time. Like I told them and telling you now I wanted to see the trailer. I wanted to see the movie. The sex. The hotness of Mr.Grey. But again God had my feet firmly in Him. And that movie came out and I felt the power of Jesus. I felt the blessings that came with obedience. I felt Jesus in a way that can't be typed out in a blog.
Then my worldly foot shook a bit the following week after the movie release.
15 seconds. all it took.
I was on Instagram and on the popular page there was a 15 second clip of Mr. Grey and the chick and their first kiss. In the book the first kiss in the elevator about did me in while just reading it. So seeing it visual was ground shaking. My worldly foot and my Godly foot completely crumbled and I watched that clip over and over again.
And the rest of the week despite not seeing anything else from the movie, I couldn't stop thinking about that scene. It's a hot scene. Any women would be enticed. It took me crawling to my mentor and we praying together to overcome that temptation to think about that movie, about that 15 SECOND clip, and all that comes with sexual temptation. She reminded me my ties need to be for my husband. And if I'm lusting after Mr. Grey kissing that girl in the elevator then my thoughts aren't for Kyle. She said our devotion is to our husbands. And she is right if your founded in Christ.
Like Balaam I struggle with worldly thinking and God thinking. I struggle with SELF. I want it my way. Even the way I approach God. I want to have Him on my side, like Balaam did. But also like Balaam I wanted to be apart of the world.
And simply as a christian you.can't.have.both.
love this verse
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life, your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. Romans 12:1-2(The Message)
Jesus wants my undivided attention and he uses people like Balaam to help me see that. He pruned me a lot during my study of Balaam and I'm forever thankful for it.
Are my feet both firmly on God's foundation today?
To answer that would be an hour by hour basis. But sadly most days my worldly foot stands on top of the crumbling ground that is the world and wins. But Jesus again is always cutting me down. And that is not a bad thing.
When I feel the blades slicing through me I know He is making me more like Him and He's altogether lovely. The world be damned. I might struggle with this world, but I know that my obedience to Jesus is so worth it. He is so worthy of it. Stand ladies and let him cut you up. It's so freeing.
Why does my dad prune those bushes anyways in his perfect yard?
To promote new growth.
I love this verse my mom shared with me.
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. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. John 15:2-6
Wow. Yes. Apart from Him you can do nothing.
Jesus keep cutting me back, place my feet, yes both of them, firmly rooted in you.
Because of Christ,