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)

Advertisements

Our Heavenly Eternal Home

2 Corinthians 5:1 (WEB)
For we know that if the earthly house of our tent is dissolved,
we have a building from God, a house not made with hands,
eternal, in the heavens.

Promise : When your body fails, you have an eternal home waiting for you.

In 1 Corinthians 13:13, the Apostle Paul tells us that faith, hope and love remain. In the last few devotionals, I have been talking a lot about love and faith. Today I want to talk about hope. If we have what we hope for, we no longer need to hope for it. There are some promises that God has made to us that we have not yet seen the fulfillment of. This is one of the those promises.

It is comforting to know that one day, when our body fails, we will have an eternal house in heaven that will last forever. This is a promise that we can hold onto with all our hearts. The eternal home that is waiting for us will not be built with human hands, but will be built by God Himself…and we will be a pillar in His house.

On that day, we will no longer experience suffering or loss. Pain or disease will be gone, for we will be with God and He will be with us. May today’s promise bring great comfort to us when we think of those in the faith who have gone before us. May we also be filled with hope ourselves knowing that we have an eternal home waiting for us too!

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.

Divine Healing

Matthew 5:4 (WEB)
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they shall be comforted.

Promise: I will bless you in times of mourning with My comfort.

In Matthew 5, Jesus shares a kingdom message that we lovingly call The Beatitudes. In this section of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus reveals some of the values of His kingdom. Nine times He says that people are blessed in circumstances that would seem opposite to what the world system would see as blessed.

The Amplified Bible translates the word blessed that He uses as… (happy, to be envied, and spiritually prosperous–with life-joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of their outward conditions). (AMP)

At some point or another, we will all suffer the loss of a loved one and we will need the comfort that comes from God alone. In today’s promise, we read that when we mourn we will be blessed (from a kingdom perspective) with the comfort that comes only from God Himself. Psalm 34:18 says… Yahweh is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves those who have a crushed spirit. (WEB)

If you are going through a time of grieving right now, my prayer is that this promise would be very tangible to you. I pray that you would feel God’s closeness to you as He carries you through this season of mourning.

Through it all, may you truly feel blessed by God despite your circumstances as described by the Amplified Bible… (happy, to be envied, and spiritually prosperous–with life-joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of their outward conditions).

The Second Death

Revelation 2:11 (WEB)

We have an amazing future in store for us! We do not have to be afraid of judgment because Jesus Himself promises that those who overcome will not be hurt by the second death. When I think of this promise, I think of the verse in 1 Corinthians 15:55 that says… “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (NIV)

Praise God that death no longer has a sting over us! We don’t have to live in fear of death because our Elder Brother Jesus has conquered death and sin and the grave once and for all. Another Bible verse that comes to mind is from Hebrews 2:14-15…

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. (ESV)

Jesus has destroyed the one who once held the power of death so that we can experience true life and freedom of the fear of death! To echo again the words of 1 Corinthians 15:55… “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (NIV)

Seeking To Understand The Mind Of God

Seeking To Understand The Mind Of God
I woke up this morning to news that a bus carrying fourteen senior adults from First Baptist Church of New Braunfels collided with a pickup yesterday afternoon. Thirteen bus passengers were killed. One passenger was hospitalized in critical condition; the pickup driver was hospitalized in stable condition.

The senior adults were returning from a three-day retreat at a Baptist encampment.

So far this morning, authorities have not determined the cause of the crash. No matter who or what caused the crash, the passengers were not at fault. Yet all but one were killed.

Tragedies like this bring us to the most difficult challenge Christians face theologically. We believe that God is all-knowing, all-loving, and all-powerful. No other religion affirms these tenets about a personal God as fully as we do.

Since God is omniscient and not bound by time, he knew that the crash would happen before it did (Psalm 139:4; 1 John 3:20). Since he is love (1 John 4:8), he would seemingly not want such a tragedy to come to his children. Since he is omnipotent (Matthew 19:26), he could have prevented the crash from occurring. The Lord who stilled the storms and raised the dead could have stopped a bus and a pickup truck from colliding.

Yet he did not.

Today there are families grieving the sudden loss of their parents and grandparents. A pastor is trying to help his congregation come to terms with a tragedy their church will obviously never forget. The rest of us will watch with sorrow for those who are suffering.

Many wonder why the God these senior adults worshiped didn’t prevent their deaths. So do I.

I often note that God redeems all he forgives. I’m confident that our Father will redeem for greater good even this terrible tragedy (Romans 8:18). But future hope doesn’t explain present suffering. We grieve, and we should. We ask hard questions, and we should.

But here’s what we should not do.

We need not wonder if the Christians who died yesterday share our grief or our questions. We need not wonder if God was able to redeem their suffering. One moment after they died, they stepped into heaven. When they took their last breath here, they took their first breath there. They moved instantly from our fallen world into God’s perfect paradise. Now they are more alive than we are in a world where “death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

In the face of tragedy, we have two options.

We can decide that God is not who he says he is. We can let our questions keep us from experiencing his transforming love and sustaining grace. We can trust our doubts more than we trust our Creator.

Or we can decide to have faith in our Father even when we don’t understand him. The harder it is to trust God, the more we need to trust God.

Which option do you choose today?

From Dust To Glory

From Dust To Glory

For then the dust will return to the earth, and the spirit will return to God who gave it. — Ecclesiastes 12:7 (NLT)

Most of us would agree with the statement that we won’t live forever. But that isn’t entirely true. The issue is not if we live forever or not, but who “we” refers to.

If we think of ourselves as our body, then it’s true; we do not live forever, and knowing that should inspire us to make the most of the time we have. However, if we know the truth about who we are – that we are essentially a soul and not the body we have been given for a number of years – then it is true that we live forever, only not in physical form or on this planet, but in our spiritual form in our real home in Heaven.

As it says in the book of Ecclesiastes: “For then the dust will return to the earth, and the spirit will return to God who gave it.” This perspective should also affect the way we live as well.

If you were going on a short trip for a week or two, you would never go on a vacation that would spoil your life after the trip. You wouldn’t squander all your money on this vacation and have nothing when you returned to your house. You wouldn’t quit your job or sever important relationships. At the same time, you also wouldn’t want to waste a minute of your vacation, and you would hope that the relaxation you experience while away would follow you into your daily routine.

The sages teach that we are each a soul, given the “clothing” of a physical body so that we can be here for a limited amount of time. Knowing this is a temporary state of being, like being on a trip, we wouldn’t want to do anything that would take away our reward in the afterlife. We wouldn’t want to forget that we have a job to do – to make ourselves and the world a better place. We wouldn’t want to waste a minute of our lives and would use every moment as a chance to develop our souls.

Knowing that we do live forever makes us pause and consider what we are doing today to ensure that our “forever” is the best that it possibly can be. How can we be more generous? How can we become more loving? In what ways can we overcome our shortcomings and develop our God-given talents?

One day, our bodies will be part of the earth. But our souls never die. We simply return to where we came from and live the rest and best part of our lives. On that day, all we will take with us are our good deeds.

How might that influence the decisions we make today?

djs