Pruned for a Purpose

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Our small backyard was like a jungle. The greenery behind the pool was out of control and I didn’t dare venture into the sea of trees and bushes. I had no idea what critters were roaming in there. So, while I was away on a ministry trip this week, the landscapers came and trimmed it all back.

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When I returned, the result of the pruning was so dramatic I didn’t like it. It appeared bare; not lush like it did before. “Did they say this would fill in again?” “Absolutely,” my husband replied. “Will it be as beautiful as before?” “Yes, even more beautiful.”

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This kind of pruning is what our Divine Gardener does in our lives. In John 15:1–2, Jesus says, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit; while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”

Have you ever been pruned by God?

God has trimmed away jobs, friends, and material possessions in my life. What about you?

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At first it didn’t look pretty. It was hard, and I still miss some of the people from my past. There was a void in my life at first, but in the end this pruning took me to another place both physically and spiritually. The fruit in my life eventually multiplied.

Pruning is never easy, but it is necessary if we want to grow in our faith. Often times, without pruning, our spiritual life grows stagnant and we carry around a lot of dead branches. They are things that should have been trimmed off a long time ago, but we hold onto them because we like routine and are afraid to let go.

What needs to be pruned in your life?

Don’t be afraid to lay yourself in God’s greenhouse and ask him to remove anything that hinders your spiritual growth. It may be difficult at first. You may feel bare. But the pruning has a purpose, and in the end, you will become even more beautiful than before. (LBW)

 

We’re all Gold Miners

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My husband and I saw the movie Gold last night. It’s about a man, who, in a last ditch effort to save his mining company, sells all he has to chase a dream of finding gold in Indonesia.

While I didn’t like his over-drinking, disheveled character, there was something admirable about a person who gives up all material things and risks his life to chase his dream.

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Isn’t that what the Bible says about the kingdom of heaven? It is like a “merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it” (Matthew 13:45-46).

At one time in my life I chased a worldly dream. What about you?

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My dream was to be a television sportscaster. Nothing could stop me from the quest to reach the top of my field, and I made it. But God used a tumble from the pinnacle to transform my passion. Instead of chasing the dream to be a national sportscaster, now I pursue a dual dream of helping women overcome past dysfunction and to reach the world for Christ.

In current times, what does it look like to sell everything we have to buy the finest of pearls?

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I think it means to use our money to reach those who need to hear the Gospel message. We might support someone financially. We give at least ten percent of our income to the church.

We should loosen our grip on money because it all belongs to God anyway.

Pray about how he wants you to advance the kingdom of heaven.

In my own life, God has transformed the old materialistic Lisa into a woman who wants to use her resources for the Lord.

In the past year, we’ve downsized to a less expensive house to free up cash.

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I’ve gone back to work part-time to help a ministry near and dear to my heart, but also to finance Pearls of Promise.

God has flipped my priorities. I spend more on ministry expenses than I do on clothes or items for our home.

I’m currently planning a women’s conference for October and willing to put my own resources into it so the women who attend have the best experience possible.

I support a seminary student.

I’m giving away everything I have for the kingdom of heaven. It’s an eternal investment.

What about you?

We’re all gold miners but are you mining for spiritual gold?

The chase for material possessions pales in comparison to making a difference for the kingdom of God.

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There is incredible joy in giving rather than consuming.

What dream are you chasing? What is your gold mine?

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21).

Three Powerful Ways to Pray (Part 3)

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Donald Trump’s been criticized for his Twitter fascination but I can’t condemn the president elect because I am a regular Twitter user as well. I like the social medium because it’s a great way to connect with the world.  Take @speedprayers for example. It is one of the 2000 plus I follow on this Social Media platform and I’ve noticed them over others because they tweet or retweet prayers in 140 characters or less. It catches my attention.

While I like the speedy prayer, I don’t think it’s the way God works. Prayer is our way of communication with our Father in Heaven and he prefers that we dwell in his presence. 140 characters should be the minimum, not the maximum.

We find victory in the courts of the Lord. That’s where God does his best work in our lives. It’s where the breakthrough resides.

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Psalm 92:12-13 says, “The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon, planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God.”

The cedar of Lebanon is a slow-growing tree, living up to 1000 years. Likewise, the palm tree is one of the oldest trees around and can survive up to 700 years. The Word is saying if we plant ourselves in God’s presence for great lengths of time, rather than the hurried “speed prayers” we submit to him, we will flourish in the courts.

This is the third powerful way to pray: patiently.

We should not treat Almighty God like a tollbooth operator, throwing our prayers in as we pass through. He wants us to pull over and park for a while. He desires undivided attention.

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When we slow down and have a conversation with God, there are powerful results.

Psalm 84:10 says, “Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere.” If that’s the case, why don’t we spend more days in God’s courts?

Today, try carving out more time for your loving Father. He wants to hear how you are faring. He desires to know your concerns and he wants to help out your friends and family. We have to realize we draw power from God in his presence; in his courts.

Slow prayers are what he prefers.

Desperate

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Wildfires, senseless violence, premature deaths. Sometimes it seems like the world around us is falling apart and it triggers a sense of desperation.

There’s a feeling of helplessness.

We are overwhelmed.

The battle is larger than we can handle.

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Have you ever felt desperate?

In 2 Kings 6, a vast Aramean army surrounded the prophet Elisha and his servant, with orders to capture Elisha. Elisha’s servant felt desperation flood his soul. “Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?” the servant asked. Elisha responded, “Don’t be afraid. Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”

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Elisha prayed for God to open his servant’s eyes to witness the heavenly army stationed around them. When the servant put on his spiritual glasses, he saw horses and chariots of fire in the hills, ready to go to battle for them.

When we feel desperate, we have the same mighty warriors to call upon.

2 Corinthians 10:3 says, “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.” 1 John 4:4 reminds us “The one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”

When we feel desperate, we need to send out an SOS to God and ask him to mobilize his troops.

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Yesterday, in a cleaning frenzy, I slipped on a rug in my home and landed with a thud on my right knee. The sound of my knee hitting the hardwood floor echoed throughout the house. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to get up. Desperate, I called upon my spiritual warriors to not only lift me up but to minister to my knee. Today, I have no pain. In fact, my knee feels better than ever.

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Every day I call on the heavenly army to protect me in traffic.

I pray for the heavenly army to watch over my family.

I ask the heavenly army to secure my household.

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Spiritual weapons are at our fingertips. We don’t want them to gather dust.

The next time you watch the news or experience a trial in your life, ask God to open your eyes to see the chariots of fire around you.

You are not alone.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you will have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

 

Seven Benefits of Seeking God (Part 2)

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“Where are the Christmas boxes?”

Once Thanksgiving was over I was determined to put some of the holiday decorations up, but they were in vats in the back of the attic. In order to get to them, I had to move countless other boxes out.

It would require all the muscle I had, so I rolled up my sleeves and made my way to those red and green containers.

Heave ho! Once out, the search began.

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Where is my favorite angel?

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Where is that quirky Christmas decoration I like?

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What about the Christmas trees for the fireplace?

One-by-one, I found my treasures and placed them in their new home. Once in place, I realized it was worth all the physical labor it took.

In a similar way, when we seek God, it’s also worth the time and the effort. Think of a time you sought for one of your lost treasures and found it. How did it feel? We can capture the same feeling when we discover God’s riches. Matthew 13:44 says, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.”

So are you ready to find out more about what we find when we seek God? Today we conclude our two part series with four more benefits of our search for the Almighty.

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4. Strength. Do you ever feel weak? Are you in the midst of a battle that is attempting to take you down? Then seek God for the booster shot you need to survive.” Psalm 105:4 says, “Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always.” Be a proactive seeker. It’s important to seek God in the good times and the bad so you bolster up your strength for when the difficulties come. When the Apostle Paul shared about the “thorn in the flesh” he repeatedly asked God to remove, the Lord’s answer was: “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” God is your power source.

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5. Peace. Have you ever met someone who exudes a sense of peace? They are calm despite the fires burning around them? They have probably sought peace and found it. Psalm 34:14 encourages us to “seek peace and pursue it.” Isaiah 9:6 described Jesus as the “Prince of Peace.” I think of the wise men that sought after the Christ child for two years before they found him. What if it took that long to find Jesus now? What if we had to search for two years? Fortunately, when we are believers, Jesus is in our midst and peace is a prayer away. Psalm 29:11 promises “The Lord blesses his people with peace.”

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6. Reward. While the source of our seeking should be a desire to be closer to God, there is a fringe benefit. God says he will reward those who seek him. Hebrews 11:6 says, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Do you struggle with your sinful past? Do you think you don’t deserve any perks from a relationship with God? That is what the enemy of your soul would have you believe. But the Lord is elated when you seek him and has a gift waiting for you. You don’t want to get to Heaven and find a room full of unopened presents because you never took the time to seek God. It’s time to open an early Christmas gift. Seek him today.

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7. Love and Acceptance. Have you been rejected by people over the years? Despite a happy façade, do you feel lonely because of superficial relationships? God will never fail you. He is the real deal. When we seek his face, he is waiting with open arms and delights in our conversation with him. Jesus said in John 6:37, “All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.” That is a great promise. Can you imagine never worrying about betrayal? You can tell God anything without fear of judgment? God promises in Deuteronomy 31 that he will never leave us nor forsake us. Psalm 27:10 says, “Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me.” God’s love for us is higher, is wider and deeper than we could ever fathom, but we’ll never experience the love he has for us unless we seek him first. When we send our search party out for God, it is counterintuitive. We are the ones rescued when we find him. Won’t you seek him today?

 

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