Monday, October 15, 2012

A Better Version

I want to start off this post by writing the words to a song I've been singing a lot lately. It has power on it for me, and so I trust that it may also stir you up.

Your Blood
Speaks a better word
Than all the empty claims
I've heard upon this earth
Speaks Righteousness for me
And stands in my defense.
Jesus, it's Your blood.

And Your blood
Testifies of grace
Tells of the Father's love
That made a way for us
Now boldly we approach
Not earthly confidence.
Jesus, it's Your blood.

To me this speaks of the transformation that only comes from being washed in the Lord's blood, but also through the mature understanding of what was accomplished for us in that act of sacrifice. In the words of a great teacher of the Word, 'we are saved, we are being saved, and we will be saved'.

It speaks of the process we all must go through, working out our salvation in Christ daily. I accepted Christ as my savior almost 15 years ago, and I can thankfully say that I am not the same person I was then. In some ways, I am still me. I still look like me, although my hair is longer and I'm a bit more adult in my dress. I still sound like me, but my word tend to have a different focus than they use to. I still laugh the same, cry the same, and enjoy some of the same things.

Yet I am utterly different at the same time. Parts of me have died in the last 15 years, and I say that with joy, because I can see now that those parts did me no good. Other parts of me have been pruned drastically, and other parts of me are flourishing supernaturally, at an exponential rate.

Some would argue then that I am not the same me of 15 years ago, but I would say, I am still me;
just a better version of me. The version of me that should have always been, but was lost in my sinfulness.

So how has this transformation taken place over the years. Did I know I was changing? It certainly happened in stages. Some changes were made quickly, like the sudden lack of foul language after my surrender to Christ. That was an obvious change. It was an easy change for me.

Others were absolutely more subtle, where as I could only see the changes in looking backwards and making a comparison with my present state. Like learning not to lie. Plenty of people probably didn't even know how many little lies I told in a day, and I don't even think I was completely aware. At that time it felt so natural to 'embellish' the truth to make it more exciting or 'embellish' an excuse to make it more acceptable. Yet somewhere along the way I learned to make fewer and fewer allowances for those little lies. The conviction of the Holy Spirit began to work upon my heart, and I wish I could tell you how the Spirit did it, but I can't.  Just one day I looked at my life and realized I told a whole lot fewer lies and could clearly remember that it had not always been that way. That was a hard change that took time and happened in small degrees along the way.

That is how it is, I think, most of the time, when we are in submission to Christ. He comes in and starts to change our hearts and minds slowly, and even as it is happening, we are not completely aware of all He is doing.  Like maybe we go to a good worship service one night and we weep and feel the Lord's love for us. Then  somehow we walk away from that service and feel different. Maybe it is because He has just accomplished a change in our hearts and we will be different in some small way because of what we agreed with in our hearts in that worship service.

Also, in looking at my own life, there was a lot of slow going in the beginning. I would have a great time at church, and then leave and go back to living in my own way. That happened for years. My church life and my regular life were not one. I was a different person at church, but I was a chameleon who changed colors drastically depending on what environment I was in. It is sad to say, but I see a lot of that in the church. Most of my friends as I was growing up in the church were like that, and so I thought it was normal to be so.

Now I can look back and nearly weep at all I missed out on because I was so two-faced. I can also see that probably in the first 10 years of my Christian life the changes being made were very small and very spread out. The Lord's hand was always working, but I was not always receptive to His plans at that time. I fought some changes flat out (like my music), and completely refused others for a season (movies). It was only through the continued commitment to love God that allowed the Lord to keep working, to keep trying to make those changes, despite me.

It was about 5 years ago now that the Lord rudely made a big change for me. He moved me out of my comfort zone completely with a move in the physical. That, I can see now, changed everything for me, for my own good. Not only was I out of my 'comfort zone', but I was in a place where the majority of those around me were radically in love with Jesus and I was provoked to want what they had in a way I had never wanted it before.

That began a season that I call the 'greenhouse' season. In fact, let me just make this into an allegorical picture of my Christian life:

I was a struggling flower, too weak to bloom; in fact, barely able to grow at all. I was in poor soil, and my root system was pathetic, hardly enough to keep me alive. The storms of life drained me, and I was half in darkness even when the sun was shining. So even the few leaves I had could barely receive enough sunshine to survive.

The Lord in His lovingkindness took pity on me and moved me. Although the transplant process was painful, He put me in the greenhouse for a season, to help me overcome my weak beginnings. He pruned off most of my branches and I looked even more pathetic for a season.

Yet in the greenhouse I was surrounded by plants that were flourishing, and it made me want to flourish too, in a way I never had before. I was also in an optimum environment for growth, and so as I acclimatized to my new little space, I started to send down more and more roots. I began to grow up and have some mature leaves for the first time ever. As new leaves and branches formed, old ones and sickly ones were cut off. Then, I even for a season began to bud and bloom.

The Lord was pleased with my progress and then decided it was time to move me back outside. So I was moved again, but not to my previous spot. He put me in a new place, a place with good soil all around me. I was transplanted this time with a much more substantial root system, but the process was still painful. All my buds and blooms were cut off, because the Lord knew it would waste my energy (time) to try to maintain them in this new, less predictable environment. 

Then in His loving kindness, He gave me a season of rest. It was a time to acclimatize to the wildness of real life. Where the storms of life raged against me and tested my new root system, and where the rains come and go less frequently than the greenhouse water; the heat of the day beats down on me in full force too. In my season of rest no one could probably see any progress in me. I was utterly quiet and a mass of pruned stubs of branches, but underneath I was growing. My root system was spreading out, and working hard to establish itself in the new soil. With the infrequent rain to water me, I was forced to send down a deep root system in search of a more substantial water supply. I knew I needed to tap into some underground water source if I was to survive.

Then, in the spring of this year (literally the spring), I heard the Lord invite me to grow again. My season of rest was about to end, so I prepared in the way I knew to. Soon I started sending out new leaves and stems. With each new leaf, my heart was energized by the sunshine (Sonshine) around me. Leaves are receivers, they take the sunlight and make it into food. I had new leaves, lots of them, receiving and as I was nourished, it made me hungrier and hungrier. 

Next came the season of blooming. If I could be completely honest, I would say I am in a season of blooming right now. All those months of establishing roots and working to tap into a sustainable water source. Then the next season of sending out new leaves, they all have have lead up to a time of blooming. Nothing makes a heart happier than blooming, because blooms lead to fruit and fruit is the goal, isn't it? 

Oh, how happy my heart is these days! I have turned over a new leaf, no pun intended, in which for the first time in my life I long to go to the place of prayer daily.  My hidden water source is the Lord Himself, and I can never get enough. He is so refreshing.  I long to read the word more in this season too, and when I do, there is revelation and meaning that flows out to me. Oh the Word, it truly is alive to me (and it has certainly not always been like that for me).

All those years of struggle lead me to a place of desperation. The answer for me personally was the greenhouse, and from there I was strong enough to start growing on my own again, and now I am here. Ready to bloom for Him! Not everyone needs the greenhouse, some hearts He digs around and fertilizes them right where they are. He knows exactly the plans and purposes He has and knows how to accomplish them too. So don't worry if you have never been 'transplanted' - this is just my own personal story I am sharing today.

As you can see, then, I am still the same little plant that I was before, I am just a better version of me now.

Therefore, be blessed because the Lord has a better version of you too, and He is prepared to start making the changes immediately, all you have to do is say 'yes'.

As an even better word of encouragement, I feel that when Revival does hits this nation, we in the Lord's house, will grow at an even more exponential rate. We will mature, bloom and bear fruit in a much shorter amount of time than it took previous generations to accomplish that much, and to that I say, amen!!!!

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