The Pruning Process of God

John 15:1-2
1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the farmer. 2 Every branch in me that doesn’t bear fruit, he takes away. Every branch that bears fruit, he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. (WEB)

I am not a farmer but I know a little bit about the pruning process. Not the pruning of a fruit tree, but the pruning of my heart. In John 15, Jesus paints a very vivid picture of the Christian life using the illustration that He is the vine, we are the branches and His Father is the gardener. It is interesting to note that it is the fruitful branches that are pruned back, not the unfruitful ones. Not being a farmer, I risk not giving an adequate explanation of the pruning process, but here goes anyway…

When a branch begins to grow, it develops leaves and smaller branches that are meant to bear fruit. But along the way, it also produces useless shoots that do nothing but distract the branch from the fruit bearing process and drain it of its energy.

To help the branch be more fruitful, these useless shoots are cut away so that all of the energy coming from the vine can go directly to where it is supposed to go. There is one thing that I have discovered about the pruning process though… IT HURTS! No doubt about it.

I have had many ‘useless shoots’ pruned from my life over the years. At the time, the loss of some of these things was very painful. But in hindsight, I am thankful to my Father who lovingly cut away all that was necessary, so that I could bear the fruit that brings glory to Him (John 15:8).

If you are going through a pruning process in your life right now, my prayer is that you will know that all things will ultimately work together for your good (Romans 8:28). Our dear friend Jack Winter used to say… “The Gardener is never closer to the branch then when He is pruning it”. May we all receive comfort in these words as we submit to the fruit bearing process in our daily lives.

John 15:1-9
1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the farmer. 2 Every branch in me that doesn’t bear fruit, he takes away. Every branch that bears fruit, he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 You are already pruned clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, and I in you. As the branch can’t bear fruit by itself, unless it remains in the vine, so neither can you, unless you remain in me. 5 I am the vine. You are the branches. He who remains in me, and I in him, the same bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If a man doesn’t remain in me, he is thrown out as a branch, and is withered; and they gather them, throw them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If you remain in me, and my words remain in you, you will ask whatever you desire, and it will be done for you. 8 “In this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit; and so you will be my disciples. 9 Even as the Father has loved me, I also have loved you. Remain in my love. (WEB)

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Justice Will Reign

Psalm 45:6 (WEB)
Your throne, God, is forever and ever.
A scepter of equity is the scepter of your kingdom.

Promise: My throne will stand forever and justice will reign in My kingdom.

While evidence of injustice is all around us in the world that we live in, justice reigns in the kingdom of our God. We have the assurance that His throne will last forever. This means that the injustice that we see and experience around us is only short term.

The Apostle Paul encourages us to fix our eyes on the unseen, not on that which is seen (2 Corinthians 4:18). He tells us that we need to keep focused on the eternal, not on the things around us that are temporary. In the midst of a fallen world, it is comforting to be reminded of the things that will truly last forever.

Our God and our Father is on the throne. He is a good God and His mercy will endure forever! May we continue to be reminded of what is eternal and be comforted in knowing that justice will reign in the kingdom of our God and Father…forever!

 

Sanctified Through Jesus Christ

1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 (WEB)
23 May the God of peace himself sanctify you completely.
May your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless
at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
24 He who calls you is faithful, who will also do it.

Promise: I will sanctify you and keep you blameless until Jesus returns.

In today’s promise, we read that it is God Himself who has sanctified us through the free gift of His Son, Jesus Christ. He initiated the beginning of our life in Christ and He will keep us blameless until the day that Jesus returns.

I believe it is important for us to understand that it is God’s faithfulness that will bring the fulfillment of this promise, not our own self-effort. It is His faithfulness that we can rely on because of His goodness towards us.

He is the One who has called us to be in His Son. In Ephesians 1:3-6 we read of our Father’s eternal plan where He chose us to be in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. He chose us and by His grace and mercy, He will keep us.

We can rest in His goodness to sanctify us and keep us blameless until Jesus returns because He is a good Father who has our best interest at the very core of His heart. My prayer today is that each and every one of us would be comforted with this truth and live a life with the assurance that He will keep us blameless until the day when we see Jesus face to face.

Thy Will Be Done

Thy Will Be Done
In the Lord’s Prayer we pray for God to reign in our lives and in our world: Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. 

What do we mean when we pray, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”? We are praying that something will come about, but which has not yet fully happened. We are praying that God will bring about his heavenly purpose on earth. We are praying that God would use us to do his will. We are making ourselves available to do the will of our heavenly Father, to fulfill his purpose. 

This was the prayer of Mary after the angel Gabriel had revealed to her the will of God in bearing the Incarnate Word, Jesus. “I am the handmaid of the Lord. Be it unto me according to thy word.” Mary prayed that God’s divine will might be done in her life, and the world was transformed because of her “yes” to God’s will. 

Even our Lord Jesus, the Incarnate Word of God, when He was in agony in Gethsemane, prayed to His Father, “Nevertheless not my will, but thine be done.” 

When we pray, “Thy will be done” we are not simply resigning ourselves to whatever happens; rather, we are praying for triumph – that is, the triumph of God’s divine will. That prayer is not an invitation to passively stand by, to acquiescence to prevailing circumstances; rather, it is a means to buttress our resolution to fight for what is right, noble and true, for whatever is pure, lovely and admirable. It is to pray for the spirit of victory, the victory of God’s will, of God’s reign, of God’s kingdom – here on earth, as it already is in heaven.

The Power Of Forgiveness

The Power Of Forgiveness

Out of the depths I cry to you, LORD — Psalm 130:1

There is a story from Spain about a father and son who had become estranged. The son ran away from home, and his father set out to find him. The father searched for months, but to no avail. As a last-ditch effort, the father took out a full-page ad in a Madrid newspaper. The ad read: “Dear Paco, meet me in front of the newspaper office at noon on Saturday. All is forgiven. I love you. Your father.” The next Saturday, 800 men named Paco showed up, all looking for love and forgiveness from their fathers!

How many people in life are walking around looking for love and forgiveness from their Father in heaven?

If you’re like the rest of us, you have probably messed up once or twice in your life. We all make mistakes! As it says in Ecclesiastes 7:20, “Not a single person on earth is always good and never sins” (NLT). However, there is also a danger in thinking that you are only a sinner. Every time we fall, there is the risk that we will be too discouraged to get back up again. The next step after sin is repentance; yet sometimes, we find it hard to move on.

In Psalm 130 King David exclaimed, “Out of the depths I call out to you . . .” The  sages explain that the “depths” David was referring to was the depths of sin. Sometimes when we sin, we feel so low and so far from God. We feel like we are deep in the gutters of life. How can we possibly climb out? How can we face our God again? We feel distant, unlovable, and unworthy.

The sages caution us, “Do not consider yourself wicked in your self-estimation!” If we give in to those feelings of unworthiness, we will never be restored to our true selves. In Psalm 130 David also reminded us that God is forgiving. He implored us to put your hope in the LORD, for with the LORD is unfailing love and with him is full redemption” (v.7).

God is waiting for us, loving us, and anticipating our return so that He can forgive us. We just need to return to Him.

Imagine that you open the newspaper today and you see an ad with your name on it: “Dear _____. Meet me in church on Sunday at noon. All is forgiven. I love you. Your Father.” Believe it — God is sending us this message every day! We just need to turn to God in repentance, and He will do the rest.

djs

The Hidden Gifts Of Adversity

The Gift Of Adversity

Most likely, you do not enjoy your areas of weakness. Most of us tend to be problem solvers; often when we identify a deficiency in our life, we stop at nothing to correct the issue.

Our drive to be the best—or, at the very least, “normal”—generally leads us headlong down the path of self-sufficiency. After all, doesn’t the Lord want us to solve the problems we encounter?

While it is true that through God, dramatic changes can occur in the lives of His children, we ourselves must not take credit for the power to change. Our own strength is weak and faulty. John 15:5 says “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” The strength of God is limitless. (See Phil. 4:13). Paul captures this image perfectly in 2 Corinthians 4:7, when he says, “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves.”

We can trust this statement because of the apostle Paul’s credentials in adversity: He had been imprisoned, beaten, shipwrecked, and persecuted. Moreover, he struggled continually with a personal ailment, which he referred to as his “thorn in the flesh” (2 Cor. 12:7).

The Lord used these things in Paul’s life to keep him centered on divine power, not his own. Pride puts us in opposition to God. What weaknesses are present in your life that the Father may be using to keep your eyes on Him? Praise God today for those things that bring you into complete dependence upon Him alone.

djs

Surrender: The First Step!

Surrender: The First Step!

When someone mentions the word “Surrender”, what does that mean to
you? We commonly mistake surrender for giving up. Unfortunately
there is a fine line between obsessive control and determination or
between surrendering and giving up.

Imagine hanging onto a small branch on the side of a cliff. You
would hold on as tightly as possible to keep from falling to the
ground wouldn’t you? You would grit your teeth with a dogged
determination vowing not to give up until help arrives. The last
thing you want to do is surrender to the inevitable fate of falling.

Now, what if I told you the danger is not real and that you are
actually only two feet from the ground? Would you loosen your grip
on the branch? Of course you would! This is Surrender. It is the
ability to relax one’s grip on life in the place of the ILLUSION of danger.

Yes. It is possible your business might fail. Your wife or husband
may divorce you. Your whole city could be wiped out by a natural
disaster or terrorist attack. This doesn’t mean you don’t do what
you can to be prepared. But you are defeating yourself when you
try to control things outside of your direct influence.

Surrender is demonstrated by the willingness to let go of the need
to control things OUTSIDE of your direct influence.

Surrender happens when you do what you can do in the moment, and
let go of the things that are outside of your control.

Here is a way to experience Control versus Surrender. Clench your
fist. Make your hand so tight that nothing can slip through into
your palm. What would you do if I wanted to put $1,000 into the
palm of your hand right now? Would you keep your fist clenched or
would you surrender your clenched hand to accept what I am
offering? Life works the same way. When your mind is clenched
you cannot open yourself to the riches you deserve.

Here is a quote from Lao Tzu – “He who grasps loses.” Remember it!

Today will bring you a new awareness, a lesson or a manifestation
that you are making progress – IF YOU LOOK FOR IT! No matter how
large or small, please record it in your Evidence Journal. It will
only take a few moments and will AUTOMATICALLY put you in the Flow.

(DJS)