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Sanctification/Pruning

JESUS SPEAKING

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” (John 15: 1 – 5)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

Jesus uses an agricultural illustration known as pruning to explain the biblical process referred to as sanctification. Pruning is the practice of cutting away dead or overgrown branches or stems to promote healthier and more fruitful plant growth. Similarly, sanctification entails removing any decaying or unproductive practices from our lives. After making an initial decision to repent and to embrace the faith, we are then grafted into Jesus Christ (the vine through which all of our spiritual nourishment is delivered.) Despite repenting from our most egregious sins (adultery, drunkenness, fornication, and idolatry, etc.) we remain a work in progress. Over the course of many weeks, months, and even years, God prunes us; trimming away the remaining segments of our existence that are unfruitful (usually the lesser sins, such as impatience, selfishness, and pride, etc.) Through this process of sanctification we become more like God; which enables us to win many souls for His glory.

This process of sanctification is remarkably similar to the purification of precious metals. Within a refinery, the raw materials are placed into a kiln and heated until they melt. The dross, or worthless impurities separate from the metal and rise to the surface; this thin layer is then skimmed off, leaving the purified metal beneath. Without this continuous process of heating, melting, and skimming, purification could never occur. As additional impurities are removed from the molten ore, a more precise reflection of the metal worker appears in the smooth, pure, surface beneath. We too are being sanctified each day; an ongoing process of purification that causes God’s reflection to become clearer in our lives, and more apparent to those around us.

When we repent and believe in Christ, our lives are immediately transformed. And yet, although we’ve been reborn, we must also undergo a process of sanctification. Over time, the thorns and dead branches that prevent us from being a precise reflection of God are removed. As the Vinedresser, the Lord is the one who accomplishes this pruning. Only He has the power to mold us into the image of His Son. May we lay down our own selfish wants and desires to be transformed by God, that we might become even more fruitful.

“Lord Heavenly Father, continue pruning us every day. Trim away the dead and unfruitful portions of our lives, that we might more efficiently spread the Gospel to others. May we relinquish control and allow You to transform our hearts and minds. Give us the courage to step out in faith and be bold; that we might produce much fruit for You. We love You Father, we praise You, and we thank You, and we ask and pray all of these things, according to Your will, in Jesus Christ’s name. Amen.” God bless all of you!

Personal Testimony

JESUS SPEAKING

‘Now as Jesus passed by he saw a man who was blind since birth […] He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva; and He anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay. And He said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam.” So he went and washed, and came back seeing. Therefore the neighbors and those who previously had seen that he was blind said, “Is not this he who sat and begged?” Some said, “This is he.” Others said, “He is like him.” He said, “I am he.” Therefore they said to him “how were your eyes opened?” He said, “A Man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to the pool of Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed, and I received my sight.'” (John 9: 6 – 12) Later, in an attempt to discredit Jesus, the Pharisees demanded that the man born blind testify before them. The Pharisees told him to “give God the glory. We know that this man is a sinner (referring to Jesus).” He answered and said, “Whether He is a sinner or not I do not know. One thing I know: that though I was blind, now I see.” (John 9: 24 – 25)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

The blind man in this scripture provides us with a simple example of how we can share our own personal testimony with others. His response to the pharisees is direct and concise; consisting of three primary components. First, what his life was like prior to meeting Jesus; second, how and where, and in what manner he interacted with Christ; and finally, how his life was transformed by this encounter. “That though I was blind, now I see.” For some, sharing their personal testimony can be difficult, intimidating, and even frightening. However, sophisticated words and eloquent speeches are often unnecessary; we don’t need a degree in theology to properly evangelize. Instead, our personal witness is sufficient; we need only explain what it was like before we met Jesus, how we received salvation, and what our lives are like now. We were all once dead in our sins, but are presently alive in Christ Jesus.

Stories of radical conversion are extremely powerful and can prompt many to put their faith in the Lord. For example, near the end of world war 2, one of Hitler’s bodyguards was a man named Kurt Wagner. He adored the crooked leader and revered him as a god. And yet as the allies moved in, Hitler committed suicide in a Berlin bunker. Kurt’s faith in the Feuhrer was shattered and he was planning to commit suicide. While going for his final cup of coffee, he picked up a discarded gospel tract and read it—first carelessly, but then with great interest. As the result of reading this Gospel tract, he sought out a Godly Pastor who led him to Christ. Kurt was immediately transformed. Upon receiving Jesus as his Lord and savior he became a new creation. This once evil and hardened man had become a peace-loving man. He eventually became the Pastor of two churches in Frankfurt, Germany. His miraculous conversion and subsequent testimony have become influential examples of the power of God’s redeeming grace.

Like Kurt, as believing Christians we also have a personal testimony to share; a witness of what God can accomplish in the lives of those who have once walked in darkness, but have seen the light. He can take broken things and make them whole; He can heal minds and transform hearts. In fact, there is no limit to what God can do when someone becomes a willing vessel. Many of us have met Christ at some point and have been transformed by Him. The record of this event and our subsequent rebirth is a powerful way to spread the gospel. When we are out in the community, may we have the tenacity to tell others what God has done for us; how our lives have been changed, and how they too can be reborn. This is our personal testimony; and it is simple and powerful.

“Lord Heavenly Father, give us the courage to share our personal testimony with others; that You might receive all of the glory and honor. May we desire to tell our fellows about how you have transformed our lives. May they see Your unending joy in us and hunger for Your salvation. Give us opportunities to witness to others, to evangelize, and to spread the gospel message. Fill us with your compassion and love; steady our minds and soften the hearts of those who might hear our words; that they being blind, may also com to see. We love you Father, we praise You, and we thank You, and we ask and pray all of these things, according to Your will, in Jesus Christ’s name. Amen.” God bless all of you!

God’s Provision

JESUS SPEAKS

When Jesus heard it, he departed from there by boat to a deserted place by Himself. But when the multitudes heard it, they followed Him on foot from the cities. And when Jesus went out He saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick. When it was evening, His disciples came to Him, saying, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is already late. Send the multitudes away, that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” But Jesus said to them, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” And they said to Him, “We have here only five loaves and two fish.” He said, “Bring them here to Me.” Then He commanded the multitudes to sit down on the grass. And He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed and broke and gave the loaves to the disciples; and the disciples gave to the multitudes. So they ate and were filled, and they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments that remained. Now those who had eaten were about five thousand men, besides women and children. (Matthew 14: 13 – 21)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

Using a small meal, Jesus created enough food to nourish more than 5000 people. This miracle exemplifies God’s ability to provide for the needs of every human being. Still, the Lord’s provision is focused primarily upon what an individual needs, rather than what they might want or desire (although on occasion what we need is what we desire.) In Matthew 6: 8, Jesus says, regarding those who engage in long ritualistic prayers, “therefore do not be like them, for your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.” The Lord’s provision is faithful and unfailing. He feeds us, clothes us, gives us water to drink and air to breath; in Him we live, we move and have our being. Unlike God, we cannot see the end from the beginning. If we were to receive the desires of our heart, our lives would tumble into chaos and we would experience great suffering.

This incongruence between God’s will and mankind’s desires is ever-present; we need only examine the book of numbers to discover a powerful example. After leading the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, God brought them into the wilderness. In the absence of human resources, the Lord provided for all of their needs. He gave them enough water to drink and caused a type of bread called ‘manna’ to condense on the desert floor; which sustained them. And yet, after some time, many grew tired of the ‘manna.’ They demanded that God give them meat to consume. Angered by their demands, God chose to give them what they wanted. A massive collection of quail abruptly appeared near the encampment. They gathered them up and began devouring them. Suddenly however, a great plague arose among the people; afflicting those who had eaten the birds with sickness and death.

As we journey through life, we must avoid the folly of those who perished in the desert; taking care to remain focused on, and revel in, whatever God has provided. He alone can fulfill our needs and protect us from our own wants and desires; which if realized, would result in harm or misfortune. Similarly, if our wants don’t align with God’s will, we must allow our expectations to change. Upon concluding our prayers, we would do well to add the words, “according Your will.” Thy will, not ours be done.

“Lord Heavenly Father, we recognize that all good things come from You. By means of Your divine power, You provide for all of our needs. Thank You for our food, for our clothing, for our jobs, and for the air we breathe and the water we drink. May we continuously revel in these simple but astonishing acts of provision. May we find time to thank You and to admire the gifts You have given us. May Your will be done in every circumstance. We love You Father, we praise You, and we thank You, and we ask and pray all of these things, according to Your will, in Jesus Christ’s name. Amen.” God bless all of you!


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