Pruning isn’t Pleasant

www.bible.com/72/jhn.15.2.hcsb

Just saying.

No, seriously, pruning your life is not a pleasant experience. It usually means losing something, maybe a job, a friend, even family members. It could be a marriage or a church. I hope it’s just bad habits or sinful behaviors. I hope. Because when the Lord starts pruning the former, you know He has serious work to do.

Maybe you have a fantastic job, but it keeps you from spending time doing the Lord’s work. Or you have a great friend, but they are leading you from your best Friend. Perhaps your marriage is amazing, but it isn’t holy. Pruning doesn’t explain all of these, nor would I say at the time of such trauma that that is what the Lord is doing, but He does prune, and it does hurt.

But when He prunes, it is so we will produce more fruit. He cuts away the extra growth that He doesn’t want or need. He may let it grow for a little while, your your conscious work on you for a bit, but only for a season. If you are trying to be a disciple, welcoming the pruning is a sign of maturity, of knowing that life is more that this world, but prep for the next.

This isn’t an easy one to write, because I’ve felt the pruning. And it always hurts. But sometimes God let’s me see what good comes from it. It takes faith to let Him prune, trust that He knows what to cut so that you will grow.

About two years ago, I was asked to step down from the pulpit and turn in my letter of resignation. That was hard. It still is. But God is showing me today some of the good. It has been a great challenge to my faith, but I still believe, because I trust Him.

God bless you through your trials today. Trust Him.

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Imageo Dei

www.bible.com/72/gen.1.27.hcsb

One of the more hotly contested scriptures today. Lots of opinion what this verse means. In what way are we the image of God? A lot of deep stuff has been written about this. But I think it is important to say that God does not look like us. We look like God.

I believe another important observation here is the question of gender. The image of God, whatever it is, was created and shaped into two genders. Now I know there are those that say that God’s image resides within each of each, and there is truth there. But i also have to wonder why this phrase is added so closely to the other. God made man in His image, male and female He made them. It’s almost a parallelism, that one statement builds on the other.

While God is neither male nor female, He created both genders to reflect His image, so that the wholeness of God is reflected in the union of both. God possesses both masculine and feminine aspects, but we are to call Him Father, and so we do. But we are also to “honor your father and your mother” and that this is the first commandment with a promise. “That it may go well with in the land the Lord your God is giving you” and that you would live long on the earth.

Parents who model God in the home do well. Marriages of one man and one woman model God for their children. And should you find yourself in one of these relationships, thank God you have found her or him. For we are made in the image of God.

God bless you and your family today!

Crucifying the Flesh

www.bible.com/72/gal.5.24.hcsb

I love how Paul here understands this crucifixion to be past tense. I wish that that was true for me as well.

There is something here we ought to pay attention to. For if we have become Christian, believers is the sacred Savior who cleanses is from our sins, then that means something for our behavior, doesn’t it? We are saved just as we are, without any work on our part, for Jesus note the cross for us. He gave His own perfect life as the perfect sacrifice for sin, for there is no forgiveness without the shedding if blood. Jesus became dead for us so that we could live.

Now many today see this is a great thing. It is. That means you did not need to bring any sacrifices to the altar, nor qualify for this salvation beforehand. All your sins are wiped away, your heart is cleansed, and you are pure before the Lord. Now what?

Sadly this same multitude turn right back to the filth that made them miserable in the first place. Though they experience s temporary joy in their salvation, like washed hogs they return to the mire or like dogs to vomit.

That’s because this part of their salvation wasn’t complete. There are consequences of purity, just like there are for sin. And honestly I believe most Christians struggle with this part daily. It’s hard to be holy. I think that’s why he uses the image of crucifixion to show how difficult it is. We take up our cross daily. We die to ourselves daily. We get better at it. That’s called maturity, so that one day we can look back upon our cross and see our old crucified flesh there, withered and dead. It’s not a pretty sight, because that is the sin and death and keeps us from heaven.

Make today a day you set aside the desires of the flesh for the desires of the spirit. Let the Spirit has His full work in you. God bless you and have a great weekend.

Building on the Rock

www.bible.com/72/mat.7.24.hcsb

The wise man built his house upon the rock. The foolish man built his house upon the sand. Jesus draws on some familiar language to illustrate the idea of how you build you life. Do you want to build a life that comes to ruin? Build it on shifting principles that haven’t been tried over time to be true. Build it on popular culture. Build it on the fashionable. Build your house on what’s cool today.

Fashion trends come and go, along with fads and gadgets that are popular for a season. Many companies try to build themselves on these passing trends and go under within a month. They try to chase the wind wherever it’s blowing.

Other companies are built on solid ground, stuff or services that will always be needed, and whose demand will only increase with population, like electricity, healthcare, even the internet, which is here to stay. The key, like seeing the internet for the first time, is to judge whether something that looks like a fad will actually become a necessity (like cell phones). That’s tricky, and most people don’t get it right.

So the wise man builds his house on the rock. Of course the only sure rock is Jesus. But what he is referring to here is His message. At the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus adds these words about the wise and the foolish. The one who has listened to His words is like the one who builds his house on rock, built to last and built to weather the storms. That tells me that that the truth Jesus tells here is rooted in Himself, because He is a rock in the sense that He can be relied upon, to be steady, but also as an eternal observer of human nature (let alone the Designer). When Jesus says that a certain action is the wise course, He means it. He defines wisdom here as living according to His word. Truer words could not be said.

Enough for today. God bless you all! Have a great Friday!

Animated

www.bible.com/72/jas.1.17.hcsb

I’ve always been fascinated with the ability of artists and playwrights to take a story and bring it to life, whether on stage or screen. What begins as words on a page become full-fledged reality with the hiring of actors and interpretations of characters. Yet even here, the actors are not given free reign. The are told and instructed by the Director, who is informed by the larger story to help each actor act according to their character in the story so that the story makes sense.

In turn, we find in Scripture that there is a Director guiding us and leading us on the story He has written. Much as a Director guides the lighting and the staging for a play, so The Director of All is the Father of Lights and gives gifts to us to encourage us to follow His story. When we follow the Direction of God, the story makes more sense. When we take our characters and freely interpret them to our choosing, there is chaos. When we go “off-script” it may be fun for a while, but we find that getting back is much harder. When we write our own story, we find that it is meaningless. God has a much greater story for us to be a part of.

God bless you today, and may you find your role in God’s story.

Complicated?

www.bible.com/72/mat.16.24.hcsb

So Jesus’ instructions for discipleship are actually extremely simple: deny self, take up cross, and follow Him. I have heard these three explained away on many occasions to attempt to mystify them and make them palatable for Western affluent ears. But what does Jesus want? He wants you to deny yourself. This is not some mystical psychological mix of self-love and other-love. This is Jesus saying make Him your priority. Put Jesus as the top of the list. Who is sitting here already, well usually it is self. And self needs to take a back seat.

Take up your cross. A cross is an instrument of execution. It is not pretty. It is not nice. It was the sign of Roman oppression on the Jewish state. Crosses were not Jewish, nor sanctioned by the law. Anyone who was hung (even by nails) was considered cursed. The cross is a sign of separation. You are no longer Jews. You take up the symbol of oppression big to show your dedication (willing to die) and your identification with Christ.

Follow Me. Following Jesus may be physically impossible, for His physical presence is no longer with us. But we can follow His authentic teachings in the New Testament. He is not saying to follow some mystical path to enlightenment. He intends for us to follow His lead, through the cross (baptism) into new life. He intends for us to imitate Him and know the Word. And there is no end to pool of this knowledge.

Discipleship isn’t hard to follow, but it is hard to do. But I encourage you today to take up the cross, even if it’s a literal cross, and follow the Lord Jesus.

By the way, I keep a cross around my neck for this purpose. It reminds me whose I am and Who I am for.

God bless!

Listen

www.bible.com/72/mat.11.15.hcsb

Do you have ears? Seems obvious doesn’t it? But it’s not. Having ears enables you to hear. But there is a vast gulf between hearing and listening. Sounds occur all around us, even if we are deaf. As humans, we have the ability to filter our soundscape to focus in on those things we want to focus on, whether it be someone’s voice, the sound of a door opening at night, a tv program, or the sound of breathing of a dying loved one.

Jesus’ call to ears (calling a part for the whole) is to those who have ears to hear, ears to discern the signal from the noise. His call is to minds that can filter out the junk and the useless and focus on what’s important. His call is for the gospel to find its way in you, the good news that we can stop laboring to earn our salvation, our need to “get right with God”, for God has already paid the price for sin. He both calls us and justifies us.

Bask this morning in the joy that our struggle is over. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, receive His free gift of salvation. But you need to hear it, for “faith comes by hearing”. Listen.

God bless.