16 December 2013

He is Inescapable

Aegean Sea, Greece
"If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me."
Psalm 139:9-10 KJV

Verses 9 and 10 have laid heavy on my heart today. Christmas is right around the corner (NEXT WEEK, YAY!) and these verses brought me such peace and comfort!

I experienced that wonderful leading hand of God during my Missions Trip to Greece in 2011. His presence was so revealing and real to me and I was forever changed. When I was stripped of all my comforts and I only had Jesus, I learned that He was all I needed. 
Aegean Sea & Me

Even there His hand led me.

God will never leave me or forsake me. Whether I go as far as the east or the west, His hand will always be my guide. Even when I'm discouraged, or things don't go exactly as planned, He will never cease to hold me. I must place my trust in Him, not in this world and all it's inadequacies.
In verse 9, it uses two extremes: the sky and the sea. It is to show us that no matter where we go in all of His wonderful creation, He will always be present. The love and watchful eye of God is inescapable! You are never alone.

Take a few minutes today and read Psalm 139.

09 December 2013

Psalm 33:11

I came across these words the other day and they've been replaying in my head. They are simply 
a comforting reminder to just... pause. 
Pause in the beauty of His creations, in my stressful school day, in my moment of sadness, in my blessings and sorrows, in the midst of my meltdown. Pause and remind myself that He is in control and He is not yet finished with me. I am still clay in the Potter's Hands.
Let these words soak in through your plans, your emotions and your busy holidays. His Will and His Plans are perfect. They are unchangeable. They are for our good. Take a hold of the cross that shattered the clasp of sin and 
live under His peace and joy. 

Psalm 33:11 NLT
"But the Lord's plans stand firm forever; his intentions can never be shaken."

Remember, it's not over, He is still completing His Work.

12 November 2013

Waiting for Patience to Find Me

This entire month has really been a test on my patience. I feel like I'm in this "waiting phase" on every situation of my life and the Lord knows I'm not too good at waiting. I've had to force myself to just put my own "wants" behind me and focus on my Jesus and HIS timing that is ahead. Patience has not been an easy concept to grasp in my head when it comes to situations I've been waiting to see answers for. I've heard all about keeping the faith and trusting that God has it all in control (yeah, I believe that should always be the foundation). But it wasn't until I sought the verses out below, that I began to understand the patience that God can sustain. I know there are many more verses about patience but these few are what really encouraged me.

James 1:2-4 KJV
"My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing."

When I give up the thought that I can do things on my own and allow patience to "have her perfect work," my life will be filled and I will no longer have that impatient feeling overwhelming my emotions.
Ecclesiastes 7:8 KJV
"Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof: and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit."

This is what I must always remember! 
The END is better than the BEGINNING when Jesus is the CENTER!
Romans 5:3-6 KJV
"And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly."

That last line is all I need to get through my day. I think this is the first time I've actually read that line and felt joy from it. The New Living Translation of verse 6 will seriously bring a smile to your face: 
"When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners."

Utterly helpless. Without strength. Christ knew that I would have these moments. Moments I'd have to cast every ounce of my being on Him and wait patiently for His reply. Because His reply, whether a yes or no, is always for the better in my life.
Let these verses be an encouragement to you whether you're struggling with something today and something new tomorrow or you've held onto bad news for too long or even if things are just okay. You can hold onto these verses for when rough times embrace you. We were never intended to have a perfect life, just a perfect God to hold our hand and walk with us through it all.

02 November 2013

A Voice in the Wilderness

When did November sneak its way into the beautiful fall colors tumbling from the trees? 
The holidays are my favorite time of the year, Thanksgiving and Christmas. What could be better than sharing your thankfulness with family and friends and celebrating Jesus! 

The testimonies become endless when we pause and see the grace God has shown us along with His relentless blessings.

Today when reading through Scriptures, I became in awe of John and his humbleness for his ministry and through his relationship with God. He knew he couldn't make it through life's wilderness alone.

 The moment I think I got it all under control is the moment I need to pause and pray a little harder, read a little deeper and fast a little longer.

The story in John 1:19-27 KJV isn't one that will knock your socks off but it goes like this:
"And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou? And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ. And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? and he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No. Then said they unto him, Who art thou? That we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself? He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias. And they which were sent were of the Pharisees. And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither the prophet? John answered them, saying, I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not; He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose."

When the priests and Levites asked John who he was, his reply in verse 23 should be the cry of our hearts. He said, "I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord."

He made clear he was "just a voice" crying out. Voices are easy to get lost in the crowd or to fade away when nobody listens. But even in the wilderness John was a voice CRYING OUT! Not only did John stay in touch with his ministry but he wanted others to know of this wonderful, powerful, loving, merciful, almighty, counselor and redeemer, Jesus Christ.

Many times we get caught up in the wilderness with thoughts of ourselves, problems, stress, heartache or even perfect days and we forget to heed the call and be the voice to others that are hurting. We have the answer to every bad and evil thing the enemy throws at us! Why not share it?
John was humble and knew he was unworthy to even untie the sandals of our Savior. 
I have to break myself down, break my pride down and say "Wow, I am so unworthy to even experience the grace of God."

Even when you're hurting or your day has gone great, don't forget to be that voice in the wilderness. Take up your cross and follow the giver of life. Share the perfect love of God on the mountaintops and through your wilderness. 
Be that voice.

14 October 2013

Ephesians 2:10

It's a beautiful Monday in October! Have you ever thought about this verse? I love that we are called God's "masterpiece." Out of all the beauty in the ENTIRE WORLD (even the beauty in my backyard in the above image), I am considered a masterpiece of God. That's hard to wrap my mind around! Me, a sinner. I fail daily,  how can He consider me a masterpiece? But God has created us anew in Him so that we can go out and do all the good things He had planned for us before we were even born. Now that's love! As you embrace your Monday, embrace the unfathomable love of God and know that you were created for a purpose today.

09 October 2013

The Depth of Forgiveness

I love this time of year! It brings on a refreshing new season, a breath of fresh air, and chilly mornings to sit back with a cup of coffee and chat with Jesus.
What better way to start this new season off then with a story of forgiveness?
Our story begins in Luke 7:36-50 KJV. 

Jesus has been invited to the Pharisee's house and dines with him. Something interesting always happens when Jesus is in town. In verse 37 our desperation becomes real, "And behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster box of ointment." The woman was a sinner and did you catch that she was nameless? Side-note: She was known for her sins, not by her name, not by her family. She was called by her sinful actions. When the world labeled her by her shortcomings, Jesus said your sins are forgiven. How great is our God!

When she knew Jesus was in town, she came to Him. She pursued Him because she was desperate for forgiveness. Sometimes WE need to make the first move to Jesus.
Continuing in verse 38, "And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment." I never noticed that the woman stood behind Jesus to wash his feet. Not until verse 44 does Jesus actually turn to the woman. Nowhere from verse 38 until verse 44 does anyone acknowledge that she's there. 

What if fear or embarrassment would've scared her away? She would have never received her blessing, her forgiveness.

In verse 39, the Pharisee is having his moment of judgment "if He only knew what this woman has done." But funny thing, Jesus knows every single one of our thoughts! In verses 40-43 NLT Jesus speaks this parable:
"Then Jesus answered his thoughts. 'Simon,' he said to the Pharisee, 'I have something to say to you.' 'Go ahead, Teacher,' Simon replied. Then Jesus told him this story: 'A man loaned money to two people - 500 pieces of silver to one and 50 pieces to the other. But neither of them could repay him, so he kindly forgave them both, canceling their debts. Who do you suppose loved him more after that?' Simon answered, 'I suppose the one for whom he canceled the larger debt.' 'That's right,' Jesus said." In relation to the story of forgiveness, who will love the most? The one who has been forgiven of the most.
Back to verse 44-46 where Jesus turns to the woman and says to Simon, "Seest though this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. Mine head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment." He was showing Simon her desperation and love for Himself. The woman gave everything that Simon didn't, she loved much and she was forgiven! 
"Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little." Luke 7:47 KJV

What would you do to encounter the forgiveness of Jesus?

 Jesus knows all of our faults even when we don't realize them. In Psalm 19:12 it says, "How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart? Cleanse me from these hidden faults." He knows every part of our heart just as He knew the heart of the woman when the world only saw her sins. This is such a simple yet, recognizable story. When you read it do you place yourself in the steps of the woman or do you feel that God cannot forgive what you've done? 
What limits do you place on your BIG God? 
If you haven't experienced forgiveness, what are you waiting for? 

28 September 2013

The More Brains, The Less Muscle

Hello fellow readers!!
My name is Aleisha. I am a 20 something old, a wife to my best friend, a mom of the cutest little man, a lover of music, piano and singing whatever comes to mind, a youth pastor’s (my husband) side kick, a receptionist and….  A person privileged to call Katie my friend!
If this is your first time reading Refining the Wild Grapes, mark it, memorize it, come back asap! Each post speaks straight to my heart and always has me tearing up at my work desk knowing that God is speaking through her to me and to so many others!!
Katie asked me write a post of something on my heart to share with her readers. I have gone back and forth on what to share and I decided to go out on a limb and share something that I have been reading and studying myself. I am still studying this verse and learning to apply it to my life!

"If the ax is dull and its edge unsharpened, more strength is needed but skill will bring success."
Ecclesiastes 10:10 NIV

I have recently studied the book of Ecclesiastes (highly recommend reading and studying it!) and this verse stumped me. I read it over and over, I asked God to help me understand why I was so drawn to this verse, I asked my husband what he thought about it (shout out to my husband who answers all my theological questions!!). I finally sat down and started to write my thoughts, very basic thoughts on what I believe God is trying to telling me. 
A dull ax will not get you very far and it will wear you out doing the simplest of jobs. The obvious answer to a dull ax is sharpening it! But do you know how to sharpen an ax? I certainly don’t! I would have to find someone who has skill in this area and either learn from them or have them sharpen the ax for me. Once sharpened the ax would do the job more efficiently and much quicker. 
I know this seems so obvious, I told you I started with just sitting and writing what I knew and could see. But as I wrote this and read it, God opened my eyes to the lesson to be learned from this verse! 
How many times do we say we know more than God? Okay, maybe we don’t literally say these exact words but our actions speak louder than our words. We choose not to pray. We choose not to take the time to read God’s word. We choose to do things our way instead of seeking his way. 

Our actions are telling God, I know what I am doing and I don’t need you to help.

When we do these types of things we are walking through life with a dull ax. We can’t see the future and we don’t know what is best for us but God does! He is the author of our life and wants to lead us through life. I believe so many situations and circumstances in life could be avoided if we would learn the skill of listening to God and heeding to His word and His voice. We need to learn to sharpen our ax!
How do we make sure we are not going through the life with a dull ax? We take time to spend with God, praying and reading His word. It is through Him that we gain “skill” and wisdom.

26 September 2013

Staying Faithful in the Unknown

Genesis 6:5-8 KJV
"And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. And the Lord said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them. But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord."

Have you ever felt defeated when you've been trying and trying to get an answer over a situation?
I know I've had days (and what I thought were life-ending situations) where I wanted to give up. I couldn't see the reason behind why things were happening. I didn't understand why someone else was getting blessed while I felt like God was ignoring me (yeah I know, terrible right?) I questioned the all-knowing God, the only one who knows what is best for me. What do you do when your faith is shaken?

There are so many great examples of men and woman in the Bible who trusted God when they didn't know the end results, yet they had faith. Trying to find peace over my situation and feeling of distress I began to dive into the Word and came across the story of Noah. We all know the basics: humans were living in sin, God told Noah to build an Ark to save his family and 2 of every animal, flood came and wiped everything off the face of the earth, God promised never to destroy the earth like that again (hence, the rainbow). I knew Noah was a dedicated man when he was told to build the ark but there was something I felt I was missing. In 2 Peter 2:5 it says, "And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly." Noah was a preacher of righteousness but think on this:

Besides his family, in all the years that Noah preached, he never had a convert.

What would that feel like to do the work of God without seeing any results? As human as I am, I would've felt like a failure, defeated and wanting to throw in the towel. What kept Noah so faithful? Why didn't Noah question God? The Bible says in verse 22 "Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he." After all those years it would be hard to not question why. The verse below answers every stressful thought, question, fear and doubt.

 "Jesus replied, You don't understand now what I am doing, but someday you will."
John 13:7

Every time I think that God should be stepping into my problem, I read this verse. When I feel like God doesn't understand my reasons for things I think I need, I read this verse. In the moments I think I'll never get through this, I read this verse. Whenever I stumble and don't understand, I read this verse. When I feel like my life is over, I read this verse. It stops me in the middle of all those feelings and I realize.. HE IS GOD. 

In your moments of weariness, rest assured that He sees the bigger picture when we only see our troubles and hard work. "So don't worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today's trouble is enough for today" Matthew 6:34 NLT. 
I need to be faithful IN TODAY and just let God do the rest.

16 September 2013

Galatians 5:24

It's a new day. Keep that in mind as you're driving your car, just waking up, going to work or gulping down that coffee just to keep your eyes open. Start your week off knowing that all your sins, mistakes, failures and regrets are nailed to the cross where our beautiful Savior has crucified them. They are washed in His blood. Your past has no control over you! So live in today and take each step, holding onto the hand of Jesus.

12 September 2013

When Prayer becomes Consuming

Luke 18:9-14 NLT
"Then Jesus told this story to some who had great confidence in their own righteousness and scorned everyone else: 'Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: 'I thank you , God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else. For I don't cheat, I don't sin, and I don't commit adultery. I'm certainly not like that tax collector! I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.' But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, 'O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.' I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.'"

The parable that Jesus shares of the Pharisee and the Publican (tax collector) shows us prayer in two forms. Here there is a profound contrast between each of them. The Pharisee comes to the Temple and stands by himself, thanking God that he's not a sinner like everyone else. He explains, and even boasts, to God how faithful he has been in fasting and giving tithes. 

Haven't we all had those moments where we feel like we're doing enough and now we think it's God's turn to bless us? 
This is where prayer must consume every part of us.

Now the tax collector, despised and unworthy, enters the Temple, stands away from the Pharisee, and would not so much as lift up his eyes toward Heaven. When I read the second half of verse 13 tears began to roll down my cheeks. This is a reminder (for me) of how I fail God daily and yet He is still constant with His open arms of love and His mercy that He showers over me. With the tax collector beating his chest, verse 13 says, "O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner." I can depict this image in my mind of the Pharisee, standing by himself, calmly having a chat with God over his own greatness. But when I see this tax collector, it's almost night and day. I can see him crying out to God with a heart that is far from contentment exclaiming, "GOD! HAVE MERCY ON ME! I'M A SINNER... BUT GOD HAVE MERCY ON ME!" 

That type of urgency and hunger for God should be our desire! 
How many times have we become so humbled before the throne of Almighty God that we just weep in the beauty of His presence? Crying, thirsting, pleading for forgiveness?

Our prayers need to be more than just skin deep and not just about ourselves like the Pharisee in the parable. When our flesh doesn't feel like praying, pray more! God is aware of our weaknesses and when we have a daily relationship with Him and His Spirit lives in us, we have a lifeline for those moments where we feel we can't utter another word. Romans 8:26-27 says, "the Spirit itself makes intercessions for us with groanings that cannot be uttered." Isn't it uplifting to know that when you feel bound by addiction, or that best friend did you wrong, or you experience a loss, or you just simply feel defeated, God says "I will fight for you" {Exodus 14:14}. Let that be encouragement to you on your journey.

God, let my prayer be that I never water the seed to complacency or get to the point where I feel that I am doing enough for Your Kingdom. Give me a servant's heart and a humble spirit for I am a sinner and I am unworthy. I never want to place my confidence in earthly things but on things above.

Let this be the point where you stop and do some personal searching of the heart. Seek to be like the Publican in prayer, consuming prayer, and know that you are a sinner saved by grace. Grow deeper in your walk with God so when you don't know what to pray, His Spirit living inside of you can fill the gaps. Allow yourself to become vulnerable and humbled in the presence of God and see what He has in store for you!

09 September 2013

The Introduction

Isaiah 5:1-6 KJV 
"Now will I sing to my wellbeloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard. My wellbeloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill. And he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, And planted it with the choicest vine, And built a tower in the midst of it, And also made a winepress therein: And he looked that it should bring forth grapes, And it brought forth wild grapes. And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, Judge, I pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard. What could have been done more to my vineyard, That I have not done in it? Wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, Brought it forth wild grapes? And now go to, I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard: I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; And break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down: And I will lay it waste: It shall not be pruned, nor digged; But there shall come up briers and thorns: I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it."

This story was told at a conference I went to for young women who felt some type of calling in ministry. This verse changed my whole perspective and my purpose is for yours to be changed as I retell this story. The man in Isaiah watched over his vineyard day and night. He built a tower to make sure nothing harmed his vineyard. He planted it with "the choicest vine" and expected it to bring forth the tastiest grapes imaginable! Later, when he tasted one of the grapes it was bitter ("wild grapes"). That is when he began to question his motives.

What more could I have done to my vineyard that I haven't already done?

This is the question that can play out in our lives. We do the absolute best we can and we try to make the best decisions. We do everything our way. Re-read that last sentence. Our way. That is where our story takes a turn. We have expectations for our grapes to prosper but we don't realize that they've turned bitter overnight. When we've done all that we can do and when we've exhausted all of our choices, that is when we take a step back and let God take over.

But the story of the vineyard doesn't end with the bitter grapes! The man continues on with what he is going to do to fix his problem. In verse 5 and 6 he says that he will take away the hedge and break down the walls so that it can be walked upon and he will let it waste away. Sounds awful right? Why would someone who worked so hard at creating the perfect vineyard just tear it all apart? The answer is simple. He wanted it to be destroyed so that it could be made new.

At the conference it was said, "The greatest compliment to a grape is to be crushed and made into a new wine." The same goes for us. The greatest compliment to humans is for us to be crushed and then refined by the merciful hand of God. Where we see failure, God sees a place where we can be great. Where we see the heartbreak of an ending, God sees the start of a humble beginning.

This is the story behind my blog, "Refining the Wild Grapes." We all have those wild grapes in our lives whether it be loneliness, hatred, anger, envy, telling a lie, feeling hopeless, depression, impurity and the list can go on and on. The beauty of it all is that we have the opportunity to be made new, to be refined. Don't be afraid of this process but embrace it because God intended it all for good {Genesis 50:20}. When we realize that everything He takes us through is just so we can know Him better, the trials don't seem as bad. 
So, come and experience these teachable moments with me and allow God to refine your wild grapes!