Well, I cant post that post. If I copy/paste from word for some reason this document messes up my blog. I will re-post it today sometime. If you want it, I can email it to you. But I would like it on my blog, it was so encouraging to me.
Ok, wordpress helped. I guess Word has special formatting that messes with wordpress. Wordpad has no formatting. Good to know! Anyways, here is the post..
Flourishing under the Shears-
Did you know that growers prune their vineyards more intensely as the vines grow? One horticulture bulletin I read explained why:
The vine’s ability to produce growth increases each year, but without intensive pruning the plant weakens and crop diminishes. Mature branches must be pruned hard to achieve maximum yields.
If you look at the future from a maturing plant’s point of view, there”s considerable cutting in store. But from the growers point of view, the future holds something wonderful-grapes, grapes and more grapes!
In this chapter on pruning, I want to show youwhat God is doing to take you to that fuller basket of fruit in your life. While early pruning is mostly about your outward activities and priorities, mature pruning is about your values, and personal identities. God moves in close for some really intensive pruning because by now, you are ready to really produce.
What God asks of you now may seem difficult. But the results, if you say yes to the vinedresser, would be dramatically more than you could have ever imagined.
Many Christians never get this far. When Jesus told his friends what it would cost to follow Him, many turned back. Yet the impact of those who didnt, is still shaking the world.
The Testing of your Faith
I find it helpful to think of mature pruning in terms of the Bible Phrase, ‘the testing of your faith.’ By the time they wrote their epistles, the disciples had learned to see every trial as a chance to perfect their trust in the Lord and multiply their effectiveness for Him.
Jam 1:3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.
Jam 1:4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
In mature pruning, the pruning will intensify as God’s shears cut closer to the core of who you are. God isnt trying to just take away; He is faithfully at work to make room to add strength, productivity, and spiritual power in your life. His goal is to bring you closer to the ‘perfect and complete’ image of Christ.
Tests of faith have nothing to do with the status of your salvation- thats a settled fact. Neither are these tests on the level of “Why doesnt God help me find my car keys?” Tests of faith are various trials and hardships that invite you to surrender everything of great value to God even when you have every right not to. You will feel assaulted or stretched by circumstances, but not distant from God; tried by Him but not judged or guilty. A psalmist described the refining experience… and the priceless result..
Psa 66:10 For thou, O God, hast proved us: thou hast tried us, as silver is tried.
Psa 66:12 Thou hast caused men to ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water: but thou broughtest us out into a wealthy place.
Have you ever realized that a test of faith doesnt really test anything unless it pushes you past your last test? Past what you’ve proven on a previous test? That is why pruning often lasts longer and goes farther than we think is reasonable or fair. And that’s also why if you pull back when you reach what seems like your limit, you will never grow or know how much you can really trust God.
When your faith feels pressed to the limit, remember some important pruning truths:
God doesnt apply pain when a more pleasant method would be just as well. Pruning is always the only and the best answer to our deepest desires; it is the tender gift of an all-wise and all-loving father. “Pain was the loving and legitimate voilence necessary to prosuce my liberty.” wrote Blaise Pascal.
Not every painful experience is the result of pruning. Is your heart breaking because your teenager is experimenting with drugs or sex? God did not cause your son to do these things in prder to prune you. Are you suddenly facing a future with Disbetes or Prostate Cancer?God isnt purposefully constraining your life just to see how you will react. Yet every trial you face is an opportunity for Him to work in your life for abundance. If you invite Him into your circumstance. he will keep His promise.
Rom 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
The pain of pruning comes now but the fruit comes later. Just as in the vineyard, pruning in out lives is seasonal. But the quantity and quality of the future harvest depends on our submission to the Vinedresser now. Even though the duration, depth, and breadth of pruning seasons will vary, no season lasts indefinitely.
A season is coming, I promise, when you will know that you are no longer under God’s shears. Everywhere you look you will see amazing evidence of personal transformation and expanded ministry for God. Consider the many trials Paul endured. Then consider the incredible size of Paul’s harvest. Its impossible even to measure, isnt it? Pauls branch is still yielding fruit today. Which leads me to an important question:If a supernatural harvest is what you really want, how can you tell exaclty where God is pruning you so that you can cooperate with Him?
“Tell me where it hurts”
Jesus conversation in the vineyard proves that God never intended pruning to be a mystery or confusing to us. When you were a child and you injured yourself, your mother’s first question when she saw your tears was, “Where does it hurt?” When God is pruning you, you hurt somewhere in particular. The pain comes from the point where His shears are snipping something away. If you are confused about where God is pruning you ask yourself the same question: Where does it hurt? Through pain, God gets your attention and signals His urgency. The discomfort says, “Pay attention here.”
First Samuel 25 tells the memorable story of how God used the pain test in David’s life to prepare him for a remarkable future. He had already been anointed as Israel’s next King, yet for years, God seemed to abandon him. The former Giant killer and national herowas reduced to hiding in caves to try to escape the murderous hatred of King Saul. You can read his spiritual journals of this excruciation season in Psalms 54, 57 and 63. One day out of hope and near starvation, David instructs his men to politely ask a nearby estate owner, Nabal, for food. “Who is David?” Nabal roars, and refuses the request. That humiliating rejection is a terrible hit to Davids sorest point- his pride. Not to mention his confidence, his sense of fairness, his identity.
Enraged, David sets out with his fighting men to slaughter Nabals entire household. But Nabals wife, Abagail, hears what happened and rushes out to intercept David. She brings a caravan laden with supplies. But her most important gift is an impassioned reminder to David that his real identity, and the security for his future are safe in Gods hands. In effect, Abagail pleads with David to see beyond his pain and choose instead to pass the test of faith. David recognizes her wisdom and turns back.
This crisis-coupled with terrible years in the desert-was part of the pruning season necessary to prepare David for his future as Israels greatest King. He learned how to submit to authority, to lead men, to endure, and to trust God in trying circumstances. Where does it hurt in your life today? Look for the vinedressers shears at work- shaping, directing, and strengthening you for a season of abundance that you may not be able to see right now, but that is nevertheless on the way.
Prime Points of Pruning
Mature pruning is God’s way of helping you put into practice His command to “seek first the kingdom of God.” THis is why God will always prune those things that we slavishly seek first, love most and begrudge giving up. Again, His goal isnt to plunder or harm, but to liberate us so that we can pursue our true desire-His kingdom. This kind of pruning goes beyond rearranging priorities to the heart of what defines us- the people we love, the possessions we cling to, our deep sense of personal rights. These are the very arenas God must rule if we are to bear fruit. Let me share some pruning stories from my own personal jorney as a disciple. Each story shows a key arena where, sooner or later for every mature believer. God’s shears will be at work.
Arena #1 The people you love the most..
I’ll never forget a war that raged on a pink shag rug in a little girl’s bedroom in Iowa. I was in Des Moines for a seminar, staying with friends. They had put me up in their little girls bedroom. Everything was pink and small, and my feet hung over the end of the bed. I found myself praying for a larger life. “Lord, ” I prayed outloud.. “we’ve come so far, what is next?” “Your kids.” I felt Him say. I told Him I loved my kids. God said, “Give me your kids.” I didnt have to think. “Nope.” I said. “You cant have them.” Have you ever arrived suddenly at a pruning point like that? Surrender does not seem to be an option. THe hours ticked by. I found myself kneeling on that pink battlefield, wrestling with God. Not until 3am ws I finally able to release my children and my wife into His keeping. When the transaction was done, those dearest himans in my life no longer belonged to me. I am still privelaged to love and tend to them, but ownership rights have passed from me, to God. God may be asking you to give up your right to be married, to have children, or to achieve a particular kind of success. God may be inviting you to follow Christ without the support of your closest family members- possibly even enduring their hatred and rejection because of your faith. If so, He is pruning closely to what really matters to you- not to take something good from you, but to become Lord of all you desire.
Arena #2 Your right to know why God does what He does.
We’re born with the conviction that we deserve to be in control of our lives. Yet this assumptuion is in conflict with the life od faith. Thats why very early in mature pruning, God will ask you to give up your ‘right’ to know why certain things are happening to you. When he was very young, I took our son, David, to the hospital for a shot. As the dr approached, with the needle in hand, David bolted. When I finally corralled him behind a planter and swing him up into my arms, I saw the teror in his face. How can you explain to a sick toddler that his body needs penicillin? Yet David stayed in my arms as the doctor prepared to give the injection. When the moment came, David didnt push me away. Instead, he held on more tightly and cried, “Daddy!” We go through long seasons in our faith walk when we’re unable to answer questions like Why? and How long? We only know WHo- our loving Father. And He has proven worthy of our trust. He asks us to let go of reasons, of rights, of fears and simply throw our arms around His neck. At those times we can pray, “Father, Im hanging on to you. You can do whatever you want. Just carry me through.”
Arena #3 Your love for money and posessions
For most of us, shedding the power that posessions and material comforts hold over us is a lifelong process and is one of the most difficult. I’ve found that the love of money springs up like a noxious weed. Servitude to money and posessions demands out energies, our time, and loyalties. Thats why, season after season, the Vinedresser asks us to let go of the things we still hold too tightly. Is God asking you to release something to Him, either literally or in your heart? To know where you are in this process ask yourself: How much of what’s mine has God already asked for? And have I given it to Him? If we allow this process of pruning to continue, an exuberant freedom to bless others will flourish in its place. This beautiful outcome is described by Paul in a letter to the Corinthians.
2Co 8:1 Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia;
2Co 8:2 How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality.
Arena #4 The sources of your significance
The prize at stake here, is your God given need for a sense of worth and purpose. For Abraham, it was his miracle son, Isaac. For Gideon, it was his large army. What is it for you?
For me, it was my ministry of, Walk through the Bible. I struggled for years to give back to God what I understood to be my life’s work.The final test came when I became increasingly sure that God wanted me to make an executive decision that I knew could end the ministry.
I felt like God was asking me to give Him my life’s dream. I vacillated. I postponed. Finally, the day came when I put the future of ‘Walk Through’ on the altar. I informed our team we would no longer support our ministry in this way. When I got home, I told Darlene that this chapter in our life was over. To the forced-choice question of God or my ministry, I chose God.
But Walk through the Bible did not close it’s doors. Once I chose God, He blessed the ministry in ways I never imagined. I understand now that during that period of pruning, God was bringing me to a central juncture in my life. In order to reach the next level of abundance, I would have to completely give back to Him the work that He Himself had given me, trusting only in Him for what would happen next.
The apostle Paul wasnt in the vineyard that night with Jesus, yet he became a veteran of pruning. He begun, by his own description as..
Phi 3:5 Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee;
Phi 3:6 Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.
By the end of his life, we glimpse a rare thing indeed: a man who had been pruned until there was nothing left of his self-life. Of all the things that made Paul who he was-his job, position, heritage, pride, religion- had been pruned away.
In his final leter from prison, he wrote..
Phi 3:7 But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.
Phi 3:8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,
By now, Paul didnt need to order his priorities. He had only one..
Phi 3:13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
Phi 3:14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
You may be thinking.. Sure a spiritual giant like Paul the apostle can live a life of radical pruning, but is that really what God wants for me too? For your answer.. Dont miss Pauls closing exhortation.
Phi 3:15 Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.
Here is a testimony to the goal of mature pruning; that you will finally be so surrendered to God that everything you now love dearly-will be let go into Gods sovereign keeping. What remains in your grip is one passion, one goal, one unhindered opportunity: to bear more fruit.
Lord, let me make a difference to you, that is utterly disproportionate to who I am.
Your response if Everything!
I am not inviting you to ask for pruning. Trials will come. The question is simply whether or not you will let the purposeful pruning of Goddo its work for you, or let it go to waste.
In pruning, how you respond makes all the difference. You can complain, rebel, compromise, or run away. Or you can experience the joy, the comfort, the rest that come to disciples who keep their eyes on the prize, not the pain. Listen to Peter describe how some Christians in his day were triumphingin the middle of severe testing:
1Pe 1:6 Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations:
1Pe 1:7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold thatperisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:
1Pe 1:8 Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory:
Here, at this point of believing with joy, the last secret of the vine opens to you. You are ready to experience the sweetest abundance of all: the mystery Jesus called ABIDING.