Pruning feels a lot like discipline. Pruning feels like punishment. Pruning is not pleasant. And yet, the Lord sees fit to prune our lives from time to time. Things, people, professional possessions, from time to time God sees fit to prune away from us because they are not beneficial to us. Of course, we can’t understand this at the time it occurs. To us it feels like God is punishing us. It feels like He doesn’t love us. Yet God does it anyway, and demands that we simply trust Him. He is the Master Gardener. He sees our whole life at once. He knows what will help us grow. Like a good Gardener, He prunes back the branches from time to time to help us bear more fruit. He isn’t interested is us bearing more branches, because they can cause us to fall over in the storm when we are overbalanced. He knows exactly how big we need to be, what shape we need to be, because we don’t.
“Why did God allow this to happen?” People ask. How could a loving God let such things happen? Pruning is a painful act. But it is. Loving act. Discipline is a painful act. But it is a loving one. And sometimes they are the same. Bad things happen. Do not be surprised that the world hates you. You belong to the Lord. The world hated the Lord. They will hate you too. Sometimes God uses that hatred for your pruning.
When you are overcome, overwhelmed, and in need of hope, remember that this world is not our home. We are not judged on our possessions. We are not judged by our bank account. We are not judged by which church we attend. We are judged according to our faith in Christ and the works we have done in His name. We are judged by our fruits. And God wants to give us every chance to grow them.
God, help me understand why you are so hard on me. I have heard that I will not be given more than I can handle, but it seems You have an awful lot of confidence in me right now. Father I am not strong enough. On my own I cannot do this. I need you to empower me, to draw me to you. I need you. Please Lord. Amen.
“Therefore, brothers and sisters, in view of the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your true worship.”
Romans 12:1 CSB
What is true worship? Do you try and capture it on Sunday morning as the instruments play and the bodies sway in time? Is it when the worship leader says, ”Everybody stand!” or when she says to the band, ”Let’a just song this without the music now” and we don’t acapella, with just the power of our own voices?
None of these things seem to be in view of the text. Rather it seems true worship takes place everyday in little moments. While you are working and eating, thinking and serving, worship can take place. True worship dossn’t need a name. It needs a heart devoted to God so that even in the mundane, there is God.
What would you have for worship like that? What would it be worth to make every opportunity a place of worship? Apparently the cost is also included here, make your bodies a living sacrifice. It costs you to worship Him who spent His life and blood on you. It is a more than even exchange. All of Him for all of you. What can you offer Him today?
LORD, help my everyday be the Lord’s day. Make my every waking moment be yours, for I am yours. Help me to remember throughout my busyness that this world is not my home. That greater things are coming that this, and that I can endure all these things for You give me strength. Lord help me remember today that I am not my own. In Jesus Name, help me to worship you today. Amen.
It’s Sunday. You and yours just made it to church. No breakfast. Through the hymns and the choruses, offering and message, thoughts of lunch come to mind, and finally being able to settle into your easy chair for a long afternoon nap. The words of the sermon drift over you without really making an impact, because that’s not where your mind is. We’ve taken the whole service and sermon for granted. It’s ok, you think, I can just pick it up later in the week on the app. We hear it, but it doesn’t register. It’s just noise.
That may not be the extreme to which James referred, but it is often the case in our modern church. We may demand the preacher spend all week putting together a riveting message to tickle our ears, but when the time comes it attention is elsewhere. We hear, but seldom do.
I happen to have a really good preacher that I listen to every week. He is available to listen to at betterlife.church every week. What engages me work him isn’t his scholarship, though he does come up with something interesting almost every week. He is passionate, and jas that ability to speak directly to your soul, where you are, just enough to make you uncomfortable. I feel that is the mark of a good preacher.
I would be curious if you feel the same way about you preacher. Feel free to shamelessly plug him or her in the comments below. But a preacher is only as good as his listeners. A mark of a good listen is one who puts into practice what they hear. And this is James’ point. Don’t just be a hearer. Practice what you’ve learned. Put this good message into life so that it is not lost between your ears.
Heavenku Father, help us to put into practice what we’ve heard and read. We know it’s not all on our preachers to incite us to Christian Service. That ability comes from our love and obedience to You. Help us every day to be more willing and able to serve you in our calling. Thank you Jesus for calling us out of the world into your glory. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Not sure where your life is going today? It’s Monday morning and you are back to the same ground you’ve been doing for years. Nothing has changed. Monday is a painful reminder that your life has been put on hold indefinitely. Yes. It’s a job. Your family is cared for. Your needs are met. Your marriage is good. But it’s Monday and life is dull. It’s been this way for years and you just don’t know how to get out of this rut.
May I suggest something? The excitement you at looking for will not be in a new location, job, or marriage. It doesn’t really matter when you are the same. What needs to change is you. If you keep looking at the world through your own lenses, it will only be as exciting as you can imagine. Take a look at your world through God’s vision. What do you see?
God sees relationships and work that He is blessing. God sees a great foundation for ”greater works than these.” Imagine the contrast of a family if one element of your blessed life is removed. Good job but bad marriage. Good house but unreliable work. Food on the table but one child is hooked on drugs. Imagine if one thing was knocked out of your perfectly boring world. Doesn’t seem so bad now, does it?
Yeah, but I’m still bored. I’m sorry others aren’t as blessed as me, but that doesn’t change my situation. Maybe remind you of one verse in Philippians? ”Godliness with contentment is great gain.” Both of these drivethe engine of joy. Are you godly? Are you striving to be more like God every day? Do you appreciate and thank Gid for the blessing you enjoy every day? Do you bring the needs of others before God? Do you see others as God does? If you feel you have reached a plateau in your spiritual life, that’s not God’s fault. The depths and mysteries of God cannot be fathomed. If that doesn’t at least pique your curiosity, then you seriously need to work on your faith. Read more. Listen more. Get out of your own head. You already know everything in there. Submit to God in your daily activities and see what He can do with them. It’s not all about you.
Heavenly Father, being back to Monday isn’t what I had in mind for a good time today, but You remind me that life is more about my own needs. You remind me that I was put on this earth for You and Your purposes. Show me today what I can do to grow in my faith and not be so consumed my my own little world. Help me to grow past the dull and into the light. Show me the path. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
That’s the real trick, isn’t it? Because if we can master that one, then the rest is easy. Funny how Jude tells us that the key this whole thing is keeping in the love of God. That sounds like that’s something in our power to do, as if we must be doing something in order to stay within the love of God.
Christianity is no passive effort. It is a faith that must remain active, be active, and be proactive. Note the things that Jude suggests we are to be doing: building yourselves up in faith, and pray in the Holy Spirit. Building up can be anything that involves doctrine and instruction, as well as the practical exercise of that faith, living out the principles of Jesus life and work, stepping out in faith in all areas of life. This is trusting the Lord for the outcome, putting in our best efforts as unto the Lord.
Praying in the Spirit, or even, according to the Spirit of God, means that we pray in the confidence of His work, His power and ability. But we also pray according to His will, For while His power is limitless, He determines those things He will do, not us.
Why go through all of this? As Jude offers, it is for the mercy expected from Jesus to invite us to eternal life with Him. And it will be worth it. All the suffering we endure for the Name in this world will be worth the glory and mercy we will experience then.
So let us live day to day in the love of God, seeking His will, speaking to Him, strengthening our relationship with Him so that one day we will see Him face to face. God bless you in your walk today!
As much as we hate Monday’s, this is one of those that’s not so bad. Today is Labor Day and it is a federal holiday, so anything that can be closed is closed. Which means I am on-call today instead of actually going in. Such is the life of a Chaplain.
Ironic then we have this text today. For all of Jeremiah’s pleas for salvation and safety, God’s response to Him seems odd. God tells him to go to the Kings’s gate and tell the people not to work on the Sabbath day by bringing in loads through the gate. Here, let me show you.
“This is what the LORD says: Watch yourselves; do not pick up a load and bring it in through the gates of Jerusalem on the Sabbath day.” (Jer 17:21)
Now it seems ironic to me, since this is Labor Day, that God’s warning to Jeremiah and to Judah is about labor. They wanted to work so much (and make some extra money) that they wanted to work on a day God has set apart for rest. Later on, God appeals to this desire by saying He wOuld make them a great and powerful nation if they would just honor Him on this one day is the week, and not work on the Sabbath.
Labor Day is not a Sabbath, but it can be and often is a day if rest from our usual labor. Maybe we could go the extra step today, instead of celebrating ourselves, to actually use it to honor God. For Christians, every day is the Lord’s Day, for in Him we live and move and have our being. Everywhere we go is the church, because we are the church.
So if you are off today, make some time to rest in the Lord, have some prayer, do a devotion or two, but make today holy, for He has made you holy.
Does it trouble anyone that Jesus promises love to those who obey Him in this verse? The love of the Father and the Son are both placed in the future for the one who keeps the commands of the Lord, rather than the present. The one who loves will he loved. Hmmm.
Now I have other Scriptures, like Romans 5:8 that say God loved us do much and proved that Love by sending His Son as a sacrifice for our sins. I have John 3:16, same book, where Jesus says God loved the world before He sent His Son, so I am not worried about not being loved. It’s just that this verse places obedience and our own love for Him as necessary prerequisites for His love for us. Out of context this would be troubling. In context it tells me that additional love awaits me for my obedience and love for God. A father loves all his children, but he also has extra love for those on the same page as he is, who share his interests and pursuits.
My children tell me all the things they are interested in. I can follow some of their conversation. I find myself more drawn when they are talking about things I am interested in. It’s human nature. When my children and I share a common interest, I find extra enjoyment sharing it with them.
I believe God loves all of his children equally, proof being Christ Jesus. But I believe He likes spending time with those who share His interests. Those who by their obedience to His commands and love Him in return find themselves loved by Him even more. This is something that I would not understand if I was not a father myself.
What can you and God do together today? What are the things that interest God? And would we be pleased to do the things that bring Him joy?
If you have kids, you know that one thing they like to do, when they are young, is bring you their artwork. I feel like we do that with God, because we want to feel His approval. But our artwork is satisfying what she has told us to do, so that we might present Him ourselves. We don’t do this to earn His love, but because He loves us first. He only loves us more.
Put your stock in this future love. Look for opportunities today to please your Father, and He will love you more.
God bless you today.