Welcoming God’s Pruning Shears

It might seem counter-intuitive, but to bear more fruit we need to have our lives cut back. One might think that the larger the tree and the longer the branches, the more the fruit that can be produced. As we learned in Earth Sciences in school, the truth is just the opposite for most plants, shrubs, and trees. Jesus compared this truth to another truth regarding the fruitfulness of our lives:

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in Me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful…

Remain in Me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me.”

~ John 15:1-4

None of us enjoy being pruned, having extensions of our lives [that at one time were fruitful to some degree] cut away, leaving a void and making us feel smaller than ever. Being fruitful in a ministry is very satisfying on a personal level, even when we appropriately recognize that it’s God’s ministry and it’s not about us. But as our fruitfulness is for God, and He has our best interest and His glory at heart, we would be wise to recognize when God’s pruning seasons arrive.

He prunes us, not as a punishment, but as an investment in our lives and as an act of trust: He trusts that we will bear even more fruit and even better fruit than ever before. When God’s pruning shears enter our lives (and they might appear to us as many different things) we would do well to quite our souls and listen for the whisper of God in prayer as He handles us with great care. He is already looking forward to our life’s next harvest season for bountiful fruit!

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#PastorsTip #John15 #Pruning #Fruitfulness #Season #Harvest #Grapes

Racism vs Racism is Revenge

Racism, being prejudiced in thought or action against someone based upon their skin color, is a horrible sin. Yes, sin! Due to humanity’s broken nature, racism (along with all of the many other sins in the world) floats to the surface of the heart, even from time to time in the most godly and righteous of people. However, wrong is still wrong and evil is still evil.

It is good for a society to legislate laws against racism, but those laws do not accomplish the final step in eradicating racism. We must each bring our own heart into alignment with God’s Word and act accordingly in holy love:

“Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.”

‭‭~ 1 Peter‬ ‭3:8-9‬

A common reaction to racism is… racism. Sometimes, people of race “A” treat the people of race “B” as being much lower than race “A.” Race “B” recognizes and feels the horrible racism, so they react with their own model of racism: that their own race is better than race “A.” This too is wrong.

Both models are still racism. “Affirming” that one race is “better” or is “worse” than another is racism. Being a victim of racism does not transform a racist reaction into innocent righteousness. Fighting racism with racism is nothing short of just plain old-fashioned revenge.

So, in our country’s current racial conflicts, which race should be the first to capitulate? Which race is more right, and which race is more wrong? The roots of racism are in the hearts of individuals, and roots in the heart cannot be legislated into change. It requires each individual surrendering to the Spirit of Christ, forgiving the past, and each person deciding to be big enough and full of enough love to not react to the evils of others that are showered upon them. Only then will any group efforts in society be of any real value in the battle against society’s racism.

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#PastorsTip #1Peter3 #Racism #Victims #Jesus #Christ #Love #Forgive #Revenge

Buying Accolades Within The Church

There is a story in the early church about a married couple who tried to buy accolades, recognition, and influence from the Apostles and the church. They didn’t approach them with a clear offer of bribery, instead their corruption was in the form of giving an offering that looked bigger (more sacrificial and costly on a personal level) than it really was.

“Ananias… with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.

Then Peter said, ‘Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart… You have not lied just to human beings but to God.’ When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died…

About three hours later his wife came in… At that moment she fell down… and died.”

~ Acts 5:1-10

Their money was their’s to keep or to give away, there was nothing wrong with going in either direction. What was wrong was their jealousy-fueled attempt at deception, giving a seemingly sacrificial offering in order to gain accolades and “awards” of recognition. They had seen the way a man Joseph was treated earlier by the Apostles when he gave a sacrificial offering:

“Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.”

~ Acts‬ ‭4:36-37‬

Joseph [apparently] already had a good reputation among the Apostles, who had nicknamed him with a new name, well before he gave the sacrificial offering. But, the married couple saw his recognition by the church leaders and became very jealous, devising a plan to garner the same level of attention. It was like the “Me Too! Me Too!” jealous rampage of an immature child, only done with the deceitful strategy of mature adults.

The Holy Spirit early in the life of the newborn church put His Divine foot down. The buying of accolades, recognition, and influence within the church is corruption based upon jealousy and deceit. For Ananias and Sapphira, the wages of their sin were exacted from them immediately: death! Everyone in the church and in the city who heard about this took notice, and a godly fear gripped their hearts (Acts 5:11).

Perhaps you wonder why there are not more people dropping dead in pastors’ offices today. Has God changed His mind and changed the rules about the Ananias and Sapphira kind of sin?

No, He hasn’t. God’s silence does not mean God’s approval. God’s grace provides us an unearned delay of our final judgement so that we will have a little extra time to reconsider our sins, turning from them, and turning wholeheartedly to Christ (this is called repentance). However, the length of this grace period is not guaranteed to last another minute, much less a lifetime. Woe to the next jealous “Christian” who engages in a deceitful, sacrificial offering of money, service, or influence with the wrong intent. The Holy Spirit is still holy, and still wields the sword of life and death.

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#PastorsTip #Acts4 #Acts5 #Corruption #Recognition #Accolades #Awards #Church #Leadership #Bribery #Influence #AnaniasAndSapphira

Christ, The Solid Rock

Dangerous storms are a normal experience sprinkled throughout our lifetime. Jesus said, “in this life you will have trouble” (John 16:33). These very rough storms might come in a variety of forms such as cancer, depression, bankruptcy, broken relationships, unemployment, critical illnesses, spiritual attacks, emotional instability, and the list can go on.

How can we be sure that we can withstand these incredibly big storms of life, and not lose our sanity or our soul? Jesus taught us about how to build our lives, warning us that there is a wise plan and a foolish plan:

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.

But everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

~ Matthew 7:24-27

These “words of Mine” refer to the Word of God. The Word of God is both the Person of Jesus and the Ways of Jesus (John 1). When we build our lives upon the truth of Jesus Christ as a person and all that He represents, it won’t stop the storms from coming, but our lives will stand strong through the storms. There may be cosmetic repairs and cleanup after each storm, but the structure of our being will remain sound!

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#PastorsTip #Matthew7 #Foundation #House #Flood #Storm #Secure #Destroy #HouseRepairs

“Does Jesus Really Know You?”

You may be fighting hard everyday in a powerful ministry in the name of Christ, but… does Jesus really know you personally and intimately through a relationship?

“Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name and in Your name drive out demons and in Your name perform many miracles?’

Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from Me, you evildoers!’”

~ Matthew 7:22-23

Having correct Biblical doctrine is important; preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ is important; deliverance for the demonized in the name of Jesus is important; accomplishing miracles in the name of Jesus is important. But these activities, regardless of how many people have been ministered to, are not the key to having our name entered into the Book of Life.

It is possible to correctly know all the doctrines of scripture, being able to refute everyone else in debate; it is possible to have a systematic theology that is bullet-proof and is worthy of publishing in a best seller edition; it is possible to be an articulate, effective, and popular preacher with large audiences; it is possible to be using the Word and the Name of Jesus to bring deliverance to those who are demonized in various ways and to varying degrees; it is possible to know the mysteries of faith for working signs, wonders, and miracles in the Name of Jesus.

It is possible to be accomplishing all of these things for the sake of Christ and His gospel, and yet not be known by Him. When Jesus says, “I never knew you,” He is not denying His omniscience (the trait of knowing all things). He is instead speaking about the “knew you” that comes only through a relational experience that is personal and intimate.

Knowing about Christ is not the same as personally knowing Christ. Even the demons know about Christ: “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that, and shudder.” ‭‭(James‬ ‭2:19‬)

We cannot buy a replacement for our personal relationship with Christ by doing great exploits in ministry. Besides, who in their right mind wouldn’t want the privilege of having a personal and intimate relationship with Jesus Himself? Perhaps the answer to that question is those who are wrong-headed.

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#PastorsTip #Matthew7 #Ministry #Miracles #Preaching #Jesus #Gospel #Personal #Intimate #Relationship #RightMind #WrongHeaded