Sunday, December 20, 2009

Pruned for Greatness! Part III

On the heels of our corporate fast, there is much excitement and anticipation in the air. We except that God will do something spectacular for us individually and as the body of Christ. Some of us have already received blessings (non material) too rich to compare to anything material that God has for us. (Oh, we still want our blessings, don’t judge me… just keeping it real). Fasting and prayer changes your perspective on what really is important and what really matters.

As the fast ends, I want to close the discussion we started at the beginning of the fast…“Pruned for Greatness”. In our first talk, we said that God prunes us for our greatness and for His glory, then we chatted about the reasons God prunes us. In this final post in the series, we discuss WHAT God prunes FROM our lives. (Ouch!!) Yes, it can be very painful to lose the relationships, places, desires, habits, plans, and attitudes (After all, that’s just how he/she is… I am sure you have heard or used this excuse to justify someone’s bad behavior or someone has used it to describe you… behind your back, hmmm) in our lives that WE hold (and hold to) so dear. The truth is what we choose to hold on to may not have a place in the Kingdom and these blessing blockers keep us from living in God’s will. And so…God begins the pruning process. When God prunes one thing, His plan is to replace it with something better, something more useful to you, those you interact with, and the Kingdom.

God prunes our selfishness in exchange for generosity, anger in exchange for kindness, worry in exchange for faith, arrogance in exchange for humility, fear in exchange for Holy Ghost boldness, bitterness in exchange peace and love, and worldly friendships (relationships) in exchange for Godly friendships and relationships that support, sustain, and encourage our spiritual growth…just to name a few.

Friendships and relationships are painful to release when God starts the pruning process, but very important in terms of spiritual growth. We should choose carefully the people we allow in our circle of friends and even more selective with the inner circle. Proverbs 27:17 says “As iron sharpens iron so one man sharpens the wits of another”. (Who are you letting sharpen you and what instrument are they using?) We have to partner with people who challenge our spiritual growth and help us along in the transformation process. Some people that we have connected with have no interest in our God or our salvation. Anyone not actively involved in helping us seek God and His will for our lives, is ultimately against what is most important to us. When we consider our friendships and relationships, we must remember that quality is more important that quantity.

God will use pruning to direct our time. What are we spending our time doing and do these things matter to the Kingdom? God will redirect our time towards Kingdom building and rebuilding our lives. (Lives that I am sure where pretty much in chaos before we turned them over to Him. I’ll speak for myself).

God will also prune away our sense of self-reliance and security and replace it with dependence. God wants us to rely on Him, to do this He may even prune away our earthly positions, possessions (STUFF) and status. Many of us are doers and we like to be in control of every aspect of our lives and the lives of those around us. We find it difficult to relinquish control to a God that we cannot see. (I know what you’re thinking…How do I know that He has it all covered? Maybe He needs MY help! Ah, been there…done that! Relax!) Believe or not, He does have it ALL covered and when He needs our help, He will provide us with clear directions for our part in HIS plans. Our job is to listen THEN obey! We have to learn by faith to believe.

God prunes anything that keeps us from intimacy with Him.
God prunes anything that keeps us from Kingdom living and Kingdom building.
God prunes those attitudes, attributes, behaviors, relationships, and habits that keep us from being healthy and that destroy or compromise our testimony.
God prunes away the things that keep us from keeping God things…or first things first.

You’re probably thinking if God prunes away EVERYTHING that is important to me, what will I have left? What about MY dreams, plans, goals, and desires?

God does want to fulfill our dreams, plans, and desires. Our dreams, plans, and desires, matter to God. WE matter to Him! He loves us with a deep unwavering compassionate commitment. He promised us a future with a HOPE (Jeremiah 29:11). Jesus came so that our lives would be rich, full, and abundant. The dreams that we pursue should be the dreams that God placed deep within us and a relationship with Him causes those dreams, plans, and desires to surface AND line up with His will for our lives.

“True beauty comes from the deep and often painful pruning of OUR hopes, dreams, and desires.”

Sharing some of the pictures of the Block Party which ended the Sacred Season of Success. Serving at the Bread of Life.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Pruned for Greatness! Part II

Every spring, the landscaper prunes the overgrown landscaping, beautifies, and refreshes my yard for the new season. One year, in my busyness and frugalness, (hey…settle down there was a recession) I skipped a year and decided I would wait until the following spring. During this time, we had an incredibly rainy spring and fall season so the foliage in the front yard literally looked like...a jungle. The scenery had lost its beauty and splendor, the plants lost their shape, some of the more delicate plantings died from a lack of sunlight, and even some of the larger plantings which once were so healthy showed signs of dis-ease and death (I think you know where I going with this).
Last time we chatted, we talked about God pruning us for our greatness and for His glory. But WHY does God HAVE TO prune us? I’m glad you asked! Can we talk?!

When a gardener prunes a plant or tree pruning is necessary for many reasons. Some of the reason include…to train or direct growth, control size and shape, improve fruit quality (by increasing light penetration), remove diseased or storm damaged branches, and aesthetics or beauty.

God, the Master Gardener (and oh, what a Master He is) prunes us for many of the same reasons. God uses pruning to train and direct our growth. He is concerned about us becoming mature, complete, and lacking nothing (James 1:3-5).

One of the ways that God prunes us to control our size and shape as believers is through humility. God may prune away arrogance and pride from our lives so that humility might grow and in fact abound in its place. When we humble ourselves before the Lord, we live and learn true obedience and He promises to lift us up in due season (1 Peter 5:6).

Fruit quality…this is my favorite reason for pruning! God prunes us to improve the quality of the fruit we bear. Just as the gardener, prunes long hanging branches so the shorter hanging branches can receive more light, God prunes us to increase the Light penetration (Jesus) in our hearts, minds, and spirits so that we might bear good healthy fruit.
“Future fruit is always the result of present obedience.”
Many of us will really love this reason for pruning. God prunes us to remove the dis-ease and storm damaged remnants (past hurts) that haunt us and keep us from moving forward mentally, spiritually, physically, and emotionally. When the storms of life come (and they will come), God can take away all the pain, all the heartache, and dry our tears through the pruning process. (Hallelujah!) The key here is we have to choose to let IT go, so that God can take IT away.

Finally, beloved God prunes us so that we are beautiful to behold. Not beauty in the sense of vanity or debonair good looks (although I know you got it going on) but the beauty that comes from within, from a heart that longs for God and a heart that loves the things and the people of God. We must love what and who God loves! Pruning makes this love and this beauty possible.

When the landscaper finished pruning the landscaping, I walked outside and noticed the beauty again, almost for the first time; I noticed some of the greenery, the various shapes and sizes of the plants, and the fall colors. The same yard that I passed everyday and hardly gave a glance captured my attention and was fresh and new again. We are the same…when we allow God to prune us people look at us differently. They notice our beauty and our fresh new anointing.
In Part III we will talk about WHAT God prunes FROM our lives. Hope to see you later!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Pruned For Greatness! Part I

This week our church began our annual corporate fast. We fast each year for the three weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. During this time of fasting and prayer, we seek the face of God to build a more intimate relationship with Him and to demonstrate His power in us. God is after something from us too during this time. He wants to prune us. God prunes us for our greatness AND for His glory!

“Some of us are so wrapped up in what we want that we neglect what God wants for us.”

The process of pruning involves cutting off DEAD and living HEALTHY parts of plants or trees. So that means we ALL are pruned…no matter how healthy we are (or think we are) in our relationship with Jesus and no matter where we are on this Christian journey. Pruning is a painful process, but pruning promotes growth. Trust the process.

If we are going to be great, transformed, glorified, and living our best and blessed life on this side of eternity, God has to take us through the pruning process repeatedly at various stages and seasons of our lives. Read John 15:1-11. Jesus is the true Vine and apart from Him we can do nothing.

There is much work to do from the time that WE decide to see our lives and ourselves as God sees us…and becoming those people. (You should see the way He looks at you) Unfortunately, not everyone wants to put in the work (Yes, there is work involved) and not everyone in our inner circle is happy or can celebrate our decision to submit to God for change. Count Satan among those who is very unhappy with this decision.

Satan uses his devices and weapons as obstacles to keep us from living transformed lives in the presence of God and those we love and influence. Make no mistake about it…Satan is NOT more powerful than our God. We must decide to yield to the Lord and submit our will to His, instead of allowing Satan to run rough shot over our lives.

Transformation is costly! Ask yourself…What is a relationship with Jesus going to cost me? I contend that it will cost you everything…your very life. After you have an encounter with God, your life (as you knew it and shaped it) should cease to exist. Your life in exchange for greatness! Any takers?

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. 2 Corinthians 5:17

Are you allowing God to prune you for greatness?