Things Cut Off, Things Cut Back

‘So (you) will produce even more fruit.’ John 15:2 NLT

Jesus said the vine dresser ‘cut off every branch… that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes (cuts back) the branches that do bear fruit so they…produce even more.’ Notice two things:

1. God cuts some things off. ‘What kind of things?’ Things you’re comfortable with but that stand in the way of your progress. Things He hasn’t chosen for you. Things that will bring you trouble. Things that refuse to change. Things that have served their purpose.
2. God cuts some things back. A fruit tree that’s just been pruned certainly doesn’t look its best. And when God starts cutting back certain things in your life in order to redirect your energies, for a while you may not look so good either. Sometimes this means letting go of things you thought would always be there, or reprioritising your life, making do with less for a while, or not being able to explain to your loved ones why you’re going through the pruning process. But life-giving sap flowing into a barren branch with no potential for fruitfulness is a waste! And so is time, attention, and energy taken from first things and given to second and third things. Understand this: God knows what needs to be cut off in your life, and He knows what needs cut back. And although you may not understand what He’s doing, pray: ‘Send whoever You will and take away whoever You will. I’ll praise You when they come and I’ll praise You when they go, because Your approval is my reward and Your purpose is my reason to live.’

This is reproduced with kind permission from United Christian Broadcasters (UCB) Word for Today. Copies can be obtained from them at UCB Operations Centre, Westport Road, Stoke on Trent, ST6 4JF
They can be reached on 0845 6040401 or at http://www.ucb.co.uk

Advertisements

You Can Start Again

‘A bruised reed he will not break, and a smouldering wick he will not snuff out.’ Matthew 12:20 NIVUK

Aren’t you glad that God is a mender and not a discarder? With Him, broken lives don’t have to be the end of the story. He’s often been called the God of the ‘second chance’. How short-sighted is that? If we got only two chances we’d all be miserably, hopelessly lost. But instead He’s the God of the ‘seventy times seven’! (see Matthew 18:22.) In Greek, seven represents infinity. So He’s the God of unlimited grace. As long as you humbly acknowledge your failure and desire to start again, He will enable you. The ‘reed’ referred to in today’s verse is a shepherd’s makeshift flute that had withered, cracked, and become worthless. The smouldering ‘wick’ no longer gave light and was considered useless. Both represent people set aside as damaged good and rejected by others. But Jesus is committed to mend and heal, not break or quench those who have failed. He desires to give us a fresh start regardless of our failures. The truth is that we all fail! As Adam’s descendants, messing things up comes naturally and effortlessly to us. Abraham lied and put Sarah at risk. Jacob was a cheat and self-promoting con artist. Moses determined to do things his own way and ended up a fugitive. David was an adulterer and a conspiratorial assassin who betrayed a faithful friend. Peter turned his back on Christ. Yet God used each of them to accomplish His will. And He will use you too, because ‘where sin abounded, grace abounded much more’ (Romans 5:20 NKJV). So you can start again.

This is reproduced with kind permission from United Christian Broadcasters (UCB) Word for Today. Copies can be obtained from them at UCB Operations Centre, Westport Road, Stoke on Trent, ST6 4JF
They can be reached on 0845 6040401 or at http://www.ucb.co.uk

Shame-based Thinking

‘Let God change the way you think.’ Romans 12:2 CEV

When you’ve been abused, it undermines your self-worth. You think, ‘if someone did that to me, there must be something wrong with me.’ You feel like your soul is soiled; like you’re ‘damaged goods’. But you’re not! These two scriptures are from God’s lips to your heart: ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness, I will build you up again and you…will be rebuilt’ (Jeremiah 31:3-4 NIV). ‘Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past…I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland’ (Isaiah 43:18-19 NIV). What happened to you was bad, but you are not bad! Today God says: ‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God’. (Isaiah 43 1-3 NIV). Shame and depression go hand in hand. And while doctors can prescribe medication for depression, there’s no remedy for shame – except the medicine of God’s word. So instead of believing your thoughts and emotions, stand on God’s word regardless of how you feel. Being ashamed of who you are is like being perpetually punished – except you’re doing it to yourself. What’s the solution? ‘Let God change the way you think’.

This is reproduced with kind permission from United Christian Broadcasters (UCB) Word for Today. Copies can be obtained from them at UCB Operations Centre, Westport Road, Stoke on Trent, ST6 4JF
They can be reached on 0845 6040401 or at http://www.ucb.co.uk

Put Away the Measuring Stick

‘If you, Lord, kept a record of sins…who could stand?’ Psalm 130:3 NIV)

We live in a results-oriented society where we’re rewarded for our performance in school, in sports, and on the job. But God doesn’t think like that. His thoughts and ways are far above ours (see Isaiah 55:8-9 MSG). He’s not impressed by ‘empty rituals…He wants you to listen to him!’ (1 Samuel 14:22 MSG). Feelings and emotions are powerful, but they’re seldom objective. And when you base your worth as a Christian on your performance as a flawed human being, the enemy has a field day. Satan is called ‘the accuser of our brethern’ (Revelation 12:10 KJV); he wants you to run a checklist of your failures and mistakes. That way he can torment you by reminding you of all the times you lose your temper, criticise, fail to speak up for what’s right, or let a misconception go unchecked to make yourself look better. David said if the ‘Lord, kept a record of sin…who could stand? Even the most disciplined believer has areas where he or she struggles and fails. It’s why we need God’s grace and forgiveness 24/7. ‘He’s never surprised when, despite our best intentions, we fall short. Reimar Schultze says: ‘God doesn’t measure us by our performance, but by our love for Jesus. Indeed, in the Kingdom of God our love for Jesus is our performance. Everything else is secondary. Desire to be with Him, to abide in Him, to keep in fellowship with Him, to please Him, is what our Master longs for.’ So put away your measuring stick and be glad God’s not grading you based on your performance, but on Christ’s performance.

This is reproduced with kind permission from United Christian Broadcasters (UCB) Word for Today. Copies can be obtained from them at UCB Operations Centre, Westport Road, Stoke on Trent, ST6 4JF
They can be reached on 0845 6040401 or at http://www.ucb.co.uk

Today God is with You

‘But they were not able to recognise who he was’ Luke 24:16 MSG

When you face a crisis it’s easy to lose perspective. It happended to two of Christ’s disciples on the Emmaus Road. Discouraged about His death, they were ‘going over all these things that had happened. In the middle of their… questions, Jesus came up and walked along with them. But they were not able to recognise who he was’ (vv 14 – 16 MSG). When you take your eyes off Jesus, you start to feel helpless about your situation. Dr Michael Youssef says: ‘Facing a major crisis, I tend to be the kind of person whose vision becomes blurred. My perceptions are shot. My contemplations are one-sided. I often shut out the very people who can deliver me, just like the two disciples… Their vision was blurred about the person who was walking with them and talking to them. The one whose death they were mourning was alive… but they didn’t realise it because their focus was on the wrong thing’. But everything changed the minute they recognised Jesus. ‘Within the hour they were on their way back to Jerusalem. There… the two… told… how Jesus had appeared to them as they were walking along… and how they had recognised him as he was breaking the bread’ (vv 33-35 NLT). Note the words ‘within the hour’. In an instant they went from fear to courage, pain to joy, and despair to hope. Paul wrote, ‘I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened’ (Ephesians 1:18 NIV). When you stop focusing on the problem and fix your eyes on Jesus, you get 20/20 vision and you’re filled with hope.

This is reproduced with kind permission from United Christian Broadcasters (UCB) Word for Today. Copies can be obtained from them at UCB Operations Centre, Westport Road, Stoke on Trent, ST6 4JF
They can be reached on 0845 6040401 or at http://www.ucb.co.uk

Living in a Peaceful State of Mind

‘You will keep in perfect peace…all whose thoughts are fixed on you’ Isaiah 26:3NLT

Who are you trusting to solve your problems, God or yourself? Before you answer, read this: ‘You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you…whose thoughts are fixed on you!..for those who are righteous, the way is not steep and rough. You are a God who does what is right, and you smooth out the path ahead of them (vv 3, 7 NLT). What a great promise! If you want to maintain a peaceful state of mind, live by this principle: ‘Do your best, and trust God with the rest.’ Some of us grew up with the notion that it’s wrong to enjoy ourselves when we have problems. We’ve been conditioned to think that if we can’t do anything else – at least we can worry and be miserable. Paul addresses this: ‘Do not (for a moment) be frightened…for such (constancy and fearlessness) will be a clear sign…from God’ (Philippians 1:28 AMPC) Satan doesn’t know what to do when he can’t get you upset; you’ve taken a powerful weapon out of his hands. By trusting God completely, you’re no longer at the mercy of circumstances, other people, or your own emotions and limitations. Broadcaster Paul Harvey once quipped, ‘In times like these, it’s helpful to remember there have always been times like these!’ The question isn’t ‘Will trouble come?, it’s How will you handle it?’ The Bible says, ‘We which have believed do enter into rest’ (Hebrews 4:3 KJV). When things go wrong – don’t go wrong along with them. Follow God’s leading, stand on His word, then rest in Him and trust Him to work on your behalf.

This is reproduced with kind permission from United Christian Broadcasters (UCB) Word for Today. Copies can be obtained from them at UCB Operations Centre, Westport Road, Stoke on Trent, ST6 4JF
They can be reached on 0845 6040401 or at http://www.ucb.co.uk

It is well with my Soul

‘My peace I give to you…Do not let your hearts be troubled and… afraid’ John 14:27 NIV

The peace Jesus gives brings a sense of assurance that no matter what happens you know ‘it is well with my soul’. He says to us: ‘My peace I give you, I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and … afraid’. The peace Jesus gives doesn’t depend on conditions and circumstances. It comes from knowing you’re God’s child and that your Father controls the universe, loves you and always has your best interests at heart. That’s why people who’ve lost everything will often tell you they wouldn’t trade what they’ve learned, even if it meant recouping all their losses. Joni Erikson Tada discovered a supernatural peace when an accident confined her to a wheelchair, and Corrie Ten Boom found it in a Nazi death camp. Missionary Elisabeth Elliot found it ministering to the Indian tribe who massacred her husband. She wrote, ‘Only in acceptance lies peace…not in resignation’. There’s a big difference! Author Creath Davis points out that: ‘Resignation is surrender to fate. Acceptance is surrender to God. Resignation lies down quietly in an empty universe. Acceptance rises up to meet the God who fills that universe with purpose and destiny. Resignation says, ‘I can’t.’ Acceptance says, ‘God can’. Resignation paralyses the life process. Acceptance releases the process for its greatest creativity. Resignation says, ‘It’s all over for me.’ Acceptance says, ‘Now that I’m here, what’s next, Lord? Resignation says, ‘What a waste.’ Acceptance says, ‘In what redemptive way will you use this mess, Lord?’ Resignation says, ‘I’m alone’. Acceptance says, ‘I belong to you, Lord’.

This is reproduced with kind permission from United Christian Broadcasters (UCB) Word for Today. Copies can be obtained from them at UCB Operations Centre, Westport Road, Stoke on Trent, ST6 4JF
They can be reached on 0845 6040401 or at http://www.ucb.co.uk