"Every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit" (John 15:2).
I've seen my daddy prune our fruit trees many times. He cuts back a certain amount of the growth so that the tree will grow better and produce more fruit. At first after he has pruned the trees they look bare and almost ugly, but as spring comes on full force and the trees begin to blossom, all the former ugliness is hidden. Even forgotten.
Many times in the last few years I've felt God's hands as He prunes away at my life. I don't like it. It hurts. I feel like hiding away so that no one can see scars that prove how sinful I have been and how much pruning the Lord has had to do in my life. But just like spring brings the blossoms to hide the ugliness of the pruned fruit trees, so God's grace settles about me and moments of spring come to my life as my faith and trust grow in the Father who loves me enough to cause me a little pain now so that I can reap greater joys tomorrow.
This reminds me of 1 Thessalonians 5:16 & 18. "Rejoice always...in everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."
Sometimes all we can think about is the pain of God pruning away our sinfulness, and we are blinded to the big picture. God is cutting away our sin so that we can be drawn ever nearer to Him. Next time we feel the sting of God's pruning shears cutting away at our lives, lets remember the big picture and rejoice, for our God, He is good!
"That you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory"(1 Thessalonians 2:12).
Perhaps this verse stood out to me because I have been thinking a lot lately about what I do from day to day with the time that God has blessed me with. Am I walking in a way that is worthy of my Lord?
Today has been hard, I'll just out and out say it. I'm not trying to complain here, just stating the honest truth. In two weeks I will be beginning a college course that is going to take more study time then I have been used to. I have been used to taking CLEP tests, now I'm gearing up for a full-blown college course with lots of papers and interaction with other students. I know I will enjoy it, but at the same time I know it is going to require me to be more disciplined because I will have deadlines that are going to be set by people other then myself. If that makes sense. Soooooo, in light of that, my CollegePlus! coach and I have put together a more strict schedule for me to implement. One that will hopefully allow me to get all my work done, plus all of my school work turned in on time. So, today was difficult because I got my first taste of what my life will look like for the next few months. I felt like I had a drill Sargent breathing down my neck all day and that I couldn't stop pushing and accomplishing! And before you think that I'm referring to my coach as a drill Sargent, I'm not. She is super sweet. The drill Sargent it the thought of all I have to do and the pressure to not get behind.
Anyway, in planning out my days and tracking where I am spending time I have been thinking a lot about whether or not I am glorifying God in what I do from day to day. How do my priorities for me line up with His priorities for me? Am I in His will? What things can I not fail to do?
Nothing too deep, but just another average, everyday moment. :)
Day 18 of my challenge came and went and yet there was no post. The next day past, and yet nary a word appeared. A week passed, nearly two, still no word. In case you were worried I did not die, I did not even get sick, I just got extremely busy. So busy in fact, that for a whole week my time with the Lord consisted of whispered prayers as I ran out the door, whispered prayers as I drove down the highways of a big and unfamiliar city, and whispered prayers as I lay my weary head to sleep late at night. I was running on 5-6 hours of sleep each night for the entire week and knew I COULD NOT get up even thirty minutes earlier for a brief quiet time without putting myself at risk for being an inattentive driver the next day and I knew if I was to survive the big city without an accident I needed to be alert. Maybe I could have fit in 10-15 minutes sometime throughout my busy days, I blush as I say I didn't really think of that option.
I am so glad to be safely back home now and having regular times with my Father once again. I've missed Him so much! So, obviously my challenge was not completed. My plan is to start right where I left off. Let's call it Day 18 today, and I'll go from there. I would start back at zero, but I'm not sure I will have time to continue updating the blog so often after two weeks is up and I start a college course on top of my regular work. BUT, I will not stop seeking God first each morning. It is something that I have come to see great value in these last few years especially and I have no intention of giving it up!
So, all that rambling to say, "Hello everyone, I'm back!" :)
"The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles" (Psalm 34:17).
Sometimes our hearts are heavy and our minds are filled with doubts or fears. Other time life is just crazy busy and we feel a bit overwhelmed. I have been going through some of these things lately, well most of them honestly. This morning I woke up with an aching heart, "Why God, why?" I could not help but ask. I opened my Bible with a sigh and begged the Lord to lead me to a verse that would speak to my weary heart. He heard cry this morning and delivered me from my troubles to a greater extent than I honestly had hoped for (Oh, me of little faith!). Everything was not gone, there were still questions, and doubts but He gave me sweet peace. I didn't feel so overwhelmed by the busy day ahead because I knew He was with me and that He would see me through. He calmed my fears and was so near that I knew I could trust Him. That somehow everything is going to work out okay.
Then He led me to this verse that says,"Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him...Do not fret--it only causes harm" (Psalm 37:7&8). Isn't God good? Do not fret, rest in Him...
My day did not start out perfect, there have been some trying moments but He has been faithful!
God truly does care about me He has set my sinful soul free Even though I don't deserve to be He holds me close upon His knee All He asks is that I trust and believe Rest and leave And He will relieve My weary heart.
"Do not let your adornment be merely outward...rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God" (1 Peter 3:4).
I could have chosen to write out all the little nuggets of truth that I found this morning, but none seemed so important as this, and to post more might take away from the simple beauty but deep truth of what the verse says.
What is my hidden person like? Would a gentle and quiet spirit describe what is hidden deep inside my heart? I long so much for my inner self to be precious in the sight of the Lord. How much effort many of us young ladies put into our outward adornment. Maybe you do your hair, apply make up, do your nails, or maybe, like me, some days you just cannot decide what to wear! Have you ever added up the amount of time it takes for you to get ready for some event? Have you ever said, "Lord, I'm sorry I didn't spend time in prayer today, but I just didn't have time," and yet you had time to get your nails done?
If we truly desire a heart of incorruptible beauty we need to take the time and make an effort to clothe our hearts with the love and grace of the Lord through time in His Word and in prayer. What are your priorities? What do you spend time doing for your outward adornment while you are neglecting the inward adornment of you heart?
In all that I do, I do not want to do it to please men, but to please my Heavenly Father. Ephesians 6:6 says,"Not with eye service, as men-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart." Those words, "doing the will of God from the heart," made me question my heart this morning. You see, at one time I went around all day very conscious of others needs. My greatest pleasure was to find little ways to bless others. Sorting and folding laundry for my mom when she was not looking, making sure the house was picked up before my dad came home, or doing a chore that had been assigned to one of my siblings just to see them smile. But somewhere along the path of growing into adulthood I seem to have lost that.
Lately I have been noticing that instead of thinking, "How can I bless others?" I more often think, "Well, I need to do this and this so that I can..." Notice the "I"? I am more self-centered then Christ-centered or others-centered. Today, and tomorrow, and the next days my prayer is going to be that I will go to whatever height or depth needed to bless others on a daily basis. I want to put joy in their hearts and a smile on their faces and most importantly I want them to feel loved, by myself and the Lord. I want them to be encouraged to get up tomorrow and go and bless others.
"For this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps" (1 Peter 2:21). Christ left an example for us. An example of love and self-sacrifice in all things. An example of what love really looks like, a gift to give more then to receive, a treasure to be shared at every opportunity, and a hope for tomorrow. Love means we are willing to lay aside our wants and wishes to fulfill the needs of others, and sometimes even to just fulfill the wishes of others. Thankfully these are not shoes we need to fill, just footprints we are called to walk in, because if we were called to fill Jesus' shoes we would never measure up!
Are you a follower of Christ? Do you know what 1 John 2:6 says? It says,"He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked." See we are to walk as He walked. To talk as He talked. To bless as He blessed. To love as He loved.
To think that the Lord counts me as His child. The Maker of the universe! We are sons and daughters of the living God. Those words just send tingles of awe up and down my spine! It is so awesome and humbling.
"Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world" (Philippians 2:14-15).
I complain way to much, and I know it. Sometimes I think I continue to complain more out of habit then anything. Still that is not an acceptable excuse. I want to do all that God asks of me without mutter that, "But...." I want to be a blameless and harmless child of God. I want to shine as a light for Him in this generation that is truly is "crooked and perverse." So what can I do? How do I break my complaining habit? No, I'm not giving you a suggestion. I'm asking you for one. :)
My schedule was anything but normal today. I woke up at 5:30am feeling poorly. I continued to struggle with various symptoms until late into the afternoon. I did not read my Bible as I most days, or set aside a specific time for prayer. I was praying throughout the day as I did not feel up to doing much and had plenty of time to think and pray.
See, some days things don't happen as we plan for them to. I did not get to stick to my plan for getting up early and spending the first hour of my day with my Heavenly Father. I was up early, but I was feeling so poorly I could barely sit up. The thing is, God understands days like the one I had and He meets you right where you are if you ask Him to. I could have felt guilty for "missing" one of my forty days, but I don't. I met with the Lord where I was and how I was able and that is all He asks of me. He doesn't demand that I read a certain number of chapters, or pray for a certain length of time. He just asks me to seek Him diligently from right where I'm at.
I found my encouragement for the day in a letter from my dear friend Hannah and a quote she shared with me.
"I love the concept of taking joy, as if joy were a penny staring up at me from the ground, just waiting for me to pick it up and be enriched, even if only by a cent. There are a thousand joys, a countless number of instances in the day when joy is to be had for the taking, thoughts are to be had simply for the thinking, beauty is to be found, merely in seeing." ~ Sarah Clarkson
Even though I wasn't feeling well, the Lord help me to find joy in my day. I could have been all grouchy and complained about how awful I was feeling. But that would have been silly. Instead I tried my hardest to see the joy. I've come to believe that if you look hard enough you can always find something to thank the Lord for, no matter what the situation.
"And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God" (Romans 12:2).
This verse always reminds me to be more careful in what I put before my eyes. What I read, listen to, and watch. Those things which I put into my heart and head will influence me for good or evil. Just because people say things are good or okay does not mean they are. I should not choose movies, books, or music based only on the opinions of others, but also hold all things up under the shining light of the Word of God.
"He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth" (Isaiah 53:7).
"He opened not His mouth." Now I would be the first to tell you that I am not a big talker, but this doesn't mean that I don't sometimes open my mouth when it ought to just stay closed. When people do things to me or my loved ones that hurts I want to say hurtful words back. If I were to be oppressed and afflicted because of Jesus I would want to tell whomever what was what, but if I am to follow in the steps of the One who made a way for me, I need to learn to keep my mouth shut and pray for the souls of those who hate my Lord so much that they take their hatred out on me.
Lord, teach me to pray the prayer Jesus did on the cross. "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34). Give me compassion and love for those who do not know You. Even when, especially when, they are hateful.
"My brethren, count it all joy, when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of our faith produces patience (endurance or perseverance)" (James 1:2-3).
This verse reminds me of a song that says,"Count it all joy, this trial your in." How very hard this is! Guess what today's challenge is? Yes, that is right. No matter what happens, count it all joy.
"That the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 1:7).
Not only are we to count trials big and small "all joy," we are to endure all persecution as if we were gold being purified by fire. No matter how hot it gets, we are to praise the Lord giving Him all glory and honor, pressing forward until the day of His coming. I find this is something I needed to be reminded of. No complaining, but joy and praise in the process of purification by fire.
"If someone says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?" (1John 4:20).
"You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore" (Psalm 16:11).
Oh, how sweet are these words! To know that the Lord will guide us through life's pathways, and that in His presence we shall find joy in it's fullness! Sometimes I think about what life was like before I really knew the Lord. I cannot imagine how I thought that was living. The fullness of His joy makes my heart to overflow in song, my feet to feel like dancing, and my face to be marked by an ear to ear grin. Ah, but to take the time to look into His face and bask in His presence every morning!
"And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand" (John 10:28).
"Neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand." To know that I am His and He shall never let me go. What a comfort that is!
"Giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesues Christ" (Ephesians 5:20).
"Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name" (Hebrews 3:15).
Give thanks unto the Lord... How many things I ask of the Lord in pray. "Lord, please protect, help, guide, give, love..." When all is said and done, when He has been faithful, do I stop my doing long enough to and just praise Him? Thanking Him continually for His rich blessings?
"But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased" (Hebrews 3:16).
How often I "forget" to do good and to share. Especially when it comes to my time. But is it really my time? If God gave me life and if His purpose in doing so was that I might bring Him glory, then is it really my time? How can I dare to be selfish with that which wasn't even mine to begin with?
"That we have a good conscience in all things desiring to live honorably" (Hebrews 13:18).
Of one's own accord one would not desire to live honorably or have a sensitive conscience. I find myself lacking. Do you? Perhaps it is time to start praying once more for a conscience that will not be ignored and a desire to always live in a way which is honorable in the eyes of God and man.
"In honor giving preference to one another" (Romans 12:10).
I do not know about you, but I know that I am often a very selfish person. I really needed that reminder to give preference to others. To treat them with honor. The golden rule sounds so simple, but it isn't is it?
"Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5).
"The LORD is my helper; I will not fear" ( Hebrews 13:6).
Lately I've been going through a time of spiritual growth. I have been tempted to become discouraged and downhearted, even dissatisfied with where God has me in life. These verses were spring water to my parched spirit. God will never leave me or forsake me. That just shows how great His love for me is. He cares so much and He will not let me fall. I have not been forgotten. I do not need to fear or feel overwhelmed, because the Lord is my helper. He will walk with me through this time. Oh the blessed assurance!
"Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord" (Hebrews 12:14).
"Depart from evil and do good; Seek peace and pursue it" (Psalm 34:14).
"For our God is a consumig fire" (Hebrews 12:29).
"Godly fear" (Hebrews 12:28)
Is it my goal to live at peace with all people? Do I seek to live in holiness departing from all that is evil to do that which is good? Do I fear the Lord? Is He my consuming fire? Is He my consuming fire?
"No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it: (1 Corinthians 10:13).
Hallelujah, Praise the Lord for making a way out!!!! Self observation: Do I make a habit of always looking for that way out at the very first sign of temptation?
"My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, Nor detest His correction; For whom the LORD loves He corrects, Jest as a father the son in whom he delights" (Proverbs 3:11-12).
"My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; For whom the LORD loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives" (Hebrews 12:5-6).
When I have done wrong, do I grow angry and upset because the Lord sees fit to rebuke me? I hope not! I want to always remember that true love is tough love. God loves me so much that He has my future best interests in mind. That may mean pain for today, but tomorrow I shall see the fruit of righteousness blossoming more fully in my heart.
"But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy" (James 3:17).
The wisdom that comes from above is to be treasured and guarded. What sweet wisdom it is! Through the process of wrong doing, and chastening from the Father, this wisdom grows within us. and oh, what a sweet treasure it is!
"Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it" (Hebrews 12:11).
Would we not welcome the correction of our earthly father if we knew what blessings our future could hold because he has brought us up in the ways of the Lord? How much more so will we rejoice in knowing that our Heavenly Father is chastising us and bringing us into submission and to further righteousness with the promises of great rewards?
Today I was reminded to not grow weary and loose heart, to not cease to pray, but to continue steadfastly in the way the Lord has shown us through the example of His Son. Also, I was reminded that what Christ suffered, I must not expect to escape (Matthew 10:22). I once heard a speaker say, "If you are not being persecuted for Christ's sake, then you are not where you are supposed to be." Am I where I God has called me to be?
"Rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer" (Romans 12:11).
"And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we reap if we do not loose heart" (Galatians 6:9).
"For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls" (Hebrews 12:3).
"What David offered to his God was a heart that was utterly satisfied with His will. There were no private reservations, no little whispered "if"---if only I can be where I want to be and have what I want to have, then there will be gladness in my heart...he went further...It (joy) does not depend on what I have, it is more than that sort of gladness. It is a joy that is entirely independent of circumstances." ~ Amy Carmichael Edges of His Ways
I long to be utterly satisfied with the will of my Father, to have a deep gladness within that is not dependant on the circumstances of this life! Don't you? What do you think are some steps each of us can take to find such joy?
I would have to say the number one step is prayer. Studying God's Word. Then action.
Lest anyone think that I have given up so quickly, let me assure you that I have not. Due to the fact that I was without a computer for several days I am just behind on posting. I hope, within the next few days, to catch up. Until then, here are a few posts to tide you over.
This morning was a wee bit more challenging than the last few mornings. An unexpected amount of projects for work came in yesterday that needed to be taken care of in a timely manner. Because of this, I was not able to go to bed at my regular hour. Nevertheless I was determined to still get up by my normal time this morning. When morning rolled around I wanted so much to snuggle deeper into my pillow and keep on sleeping! Thankfully the Lord was with me and reminded me of what a day started without prayer, usually turns out to be. Knowing I had a lot of work to do again today I knew that prayer would have a major roll in keeping my day flowing smoothly. If the doors to Heaven aren't opened in the morning, I always find that they usually stay closed all day. Not because God will not open them. Oh no! But because I am so stressed and harried that I do not take the time to open them. Have you ever found this to be true?
We are strangers and pilgrims on this earth. This is just our temperary home. There is what I like to call a eternal perspective. This is how we view the world and all that is in it. We look at it all through the eyes of our Lord. We look at it with the thought that glorifying our Father is our number one priority, and that Heaven is our goal. So, if I am just a stranger here, if this is not my home and Heaven is, then is how I am living reflecting that?
"By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy passing pleasures of sin" (Hebrews 11:24-25).
What are we willing to endure for the Lord? Are we willing, even eager to stand with His people and to suffer with them for the sake of our Father?