November 13, 2014
Time to Prune
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 (John 15:2, NIV).
Friend to Friend
I try to avoid pain whenever possible.
Pruning sounds painful to me … cutting and tearing away and leaving behind. But I have come to realize that pruning is an important part of the growth process.
Lincoln Love was a member of the first church where my husband was the lead teaching pastor. Before he retired, Lincoln worked for the Department of Defense … or they worked for him … I’m not really sure which was the true chain of command.
Lincoln was short … but only in height. He was a brilliant man with a big heart. Sparkling blue eyes gave away the boyish charm and energizing perspective with which he lived life.
Lincoln and his wife Marion adopted Dan and me – pure and simple. God told them we needed them, and they stepped up to the plate with joy and that stubborn love only God can give.
Marion loved me and doted on our children. She saved projects for Jered to do around their home and always seemed to need Danna’s help baking cookies. It was a love relationship all the way around.
During a rough ministry stretch, Lincoln sensed the discouragement in Dan’s heart. So he did what he always did when he had a word from God for Dan. He invited him to lunch – at McDonalds.
Lincoln and Dan went through the proverbial small talk men call conversation. And then Lincoln got down to business.
Lincoln was soft spoken most of the time. But when he had a word from God, his voice took on a gravelly tone that commanded the listener’s full attention. He seemed to flip some invisible switch that said, “You need to listen up! What I am about to say is important!” Dan always listened to Lincoln because he knew Lincoln loved him and had the ear of God.
“Pastor, I know it has been a hard few weeks for you,” Lincoln began. “But I want you to listen carefully. You are headed in the right direction. The decisions you have made are solid. I also know some people don’t agree with those decisions and have left the church. And I know you and Mary have been deeply hurt. But God wants you to stand firm. Don’t be discouraged. God’s just pruning.”
Dan heard the conviction and love in Lincoln’s voice. And he knew God was speaking through Lincoln … but he needed more.
And Lincoln delivered.
“God has great plans for this church … and for you. But first, He has to cut away the dead wood. God has to strip away anything and anyone who wants to keep this church and you from becoming all He wants it to be. Pruning is painful. But it is part of His plan.”
And it was.
Over the next few years, God grew our church in amazing ways. Hundreds of people came to Christ. Believers sold out to Jesus and began following Him in radical obedience. “Whatever it takes” became the heart cry of our people. And they were willing to do whatever it took to reach the lost. Hurting and wounded people found hope, healing and restoration. It was truly a God-thing – not only in the church, but also in our lives.
Dan and I learned priceless lessons that formed a foundation for the ministry we have today. We learned how to embrace pain and make it yield a seed of victory. God taught us how to sift through the broken pieces of our lives for the beauty of treasures hidden in the darkness. We discovered the amazing promise that no matter what we face, God’s got it!
The dictionary defines pruning as the process of “cutting off or removing dead or living parts to improve shape and growth; to remove the superfluous in order to make room for new growth.” Sounds painful, doesn’t it? It is. But the pain is worth the beauty of a life fully surrendered to Him.
Father, I come to You today with a “whatever” in my heart. I want to do whatever it takes to please You. I ask You to cut away what is not of You. Let grow what is. Give me the strength to walk in obedience to Your Word.
In Jesus’ name,
Now It’s Your Turn
What area of your life needs pruning? Right now, surrender it to God and ask Him to strengthen your faith. Memorize Matthew 6:33 and record it in your journal.
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