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!