Tag Archives: Christ

I Am the Branch

For what feels like most of my life, I have had this struggle with my hair.  My desire is for it to grow long, but in the past several years, every beautician I have seen has recommended that I cut it.  There has been so much damage and mistreatment of my hair, the best option was to chop it off and regrow it.  I resisted because I did not understand how cutting it off would help it grow longer.  I did not want to let go, so I held on to my damaged hair which still refused to grow.

I am worthyOnce I was meditating on John 15 (“The Vine and the branches”), and I realized something:  God, the vine dresser, takes away the branches that do not bear fruit.  He prunes the branches that do, so that they may bear more fruit.  My habit was to use this verse as a plea for God to prune me so that I become a branch that does bear fruit.  But the very fact that He prunes me shows that I already bear fruit and He sees the potential in me for more. What an honor it is, for the vine dresser to prune me!

Our society so easily discards things we consider insufficient.  But Our Father is not like that.  He says, “I delight in you.  I see the fruit you bear.  That’s why I prune you.  Because you were made for so much more.”  Even if He sees one pathetically tiny piece of fruit barely hanging on from that branch that I am, He still delights in me.  He sees not that I have barely produced anything.  He only sees the capacity He has in me. It is not about my faults and failures because He declares that I am already clean because of the word which has spoken to me.  It’s not about me.  The star of the vine is the Vine: Jesus.  It’s about God, the vine dresser.  His desire to grow us, use us, and have us to Himself.  Though that love involves us, it isn’t about us.  Submitting to pruning is simply an act of receiving His great love for us.

vinedresserSo a couple of weeks ago, I sat in the stylist’s chair.  A year and a half ago, I argued with her about how I did NOT want my hair cut (even though she offered to simply trim it).  I said, reluctantly, I’m ready to cut it.  I watched the dry, split ends fall to my shoulders.  A part of me was dying inside.  At the end, my hair was more beautiful than I would’ve imagined it would be short.  And it looked so healthy.  I was grateful for putting trust in her.

How much more trust should I place in my God who knows what is and isn’t good for me?  What are you holding that may need to be let go, even if only for a season?  I challenge you to be open to pruning when the time comes.  Because the result is always worth it.

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Run Beside Me

I found this poem tucked away in one of my old notebooks, like any other poem I immediately deemed useless after writing.  Years later, I realize it is so relevant to this season.  At least in my life.  For everyone else going through similar times, or just anyone who cares to read …

Run beside me
Accelerating by no limits
Beyond the measures out of breath
Keep running and keep in mind
Nothing behind us fits

Stop wishing things were like they once were
Because they’ll never be the same
And continually trying to recreate the past
Will leave us with no gain.

These times are not the movies.
With rounded story arcs and dénouement
We’re making our own stories
Unlike that tv show you saw.

Keep running until we can no longer run
And then we’ll run some more
Until our bodies are forced to collapse
Breathless, weary, and sore.

When we make it there alive
We’ll have touched our destiny …

In Hebrews 12, Paul exhorts us to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (12:1-2).  Beloved, there is a race marked out for you.  But there are things that hold you back in this life.  Watch out for the little foxes that ruin the vineyards.  It doesn’t have to mean blatant sin; it could be a broken mindset about who you are and your limitations.

This calling is not a light suggestion.  Why is that?  Because the sacrifice of Jesus was not a light event.  Do we fully understand what He achieved for us?  Do we truly know who we are in Christ to God?  “For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (12:3).

If you don’t know what to do, set your eyes on Jesus.

And run.


Broken and Poured Out

I’ve been contemplating what it means to be broken and poured out.  Broken and poured out like the Imagealabaster jar used to anoint Jesus at Bethany (Mt. 26).  What an intimate image: broken AND poured out.  It is an eternally significant one, for Jesus himself said that wherever the gospel is preached, it will be told in memory of it.

When I was praying for revelation about what that really means, I found myself saying, “God, I pour myself out because I have faith that you will fill me up.”  I had to pause and really think about that.  The disciples complained that the expensive perfume the woman poured out was wasted.  But what Jesus fills us with is so much more valuable than anything we can pour out.

We’re getting the better end of the deal.

Another story from the bible that I’ve been meditating on is the widow’s oil (2 Kings 4).  There is such a prophetic message about God pouring out oil into all of those empty jars.  The jars had to be empty first.  If I were that woman, I would be looking around my house for jars with stuff in them and start dumping it out.  So that what He had to pour out would continue to increase with the vessels I brought.  The result was enough for them to pay off their debts and live off for the rest of their lives.

Jesus was broken and poured out for us.  He broke His body.  Poured out His blood.  He is more than worthy of us to be broken and poured out before Him.  He takes it all; the good, the ugly.  He just wants us.  What does that mean for you today?

Make the exchange.

Be broken and poured out before Him.  You’ll be amazed at how willing He is to fill you.


7 Ways to Keep Your New Year’s Vision

So obviously, “New Year’s Resolutions” aren’t in the bible. But the concept of vision for a new way of life is not foreign to God’s ways. In fact, it’s the opposite. God loves to declare “Behold, I will do a new thing!” (Isa 43:29). So rather or not you ascribe to having new year’s resolutions, if you have a vision about where you wish to be, here are some biblical principles to help you maintain it.

7. Make Room for the New!

In Luke 5, Jesus speaks about not pouring new wine into old wineskins. If you want God to pour the new into your life, you have to give Him a new vessel to pour into. Some of the new things we desire for our life are not conducive with our habits. Just like if you want a life without smoking, it’s probably not a good idea to still hang out with other smokers during your usual cigarette breaks. So consider what may need changing to give room for your vision.

6. Declare It!

One of my favorite principles of faith in the bible is in Romans 4:17. It is about calling things that are not as though they are. If you declare it, you are pushing forward in faith. If you can see it, you will believe it. And if you can believe it, it will come. We all know the memorable line from Field of Dreams, “If you build it, he will come.” So consider, “If you declare it, it will come.”

5. Get help!

Know what you want, but don’t know exactly how to get it? Don’t let that stop you! First of all, God encourages us to seek him for wisdom because he’ll give it generously without looking down on us for it (James 1:5). Look at King Solomon and all his success! The one thing he asked for was wisdom. Some of that wisdom included seeking counsel from other advisers (Prov. 15:22). So I also encourage you, find someone who’s already in the place you want to be and learn from him.

4. Start Over . . . and Over Again!

I guarantee you, the death of most New Year’s resolutions begins with failure. You fail to go to the gym a couple of weeks, and you decide it’s over. Maybe next year. But His mercies are new every day (Lam 3:22-23)! We have to get out of the mentality that we have to wait 365 days to get another beginning. So if you fall short of expectation, forgive yourself and start over. No matter how many times you fall. The righteous man falls 7 times and gets back up again (Prov. 24:16). Every time.

3. Chew on It!

Meditating on your desire motivates you to keep going. When the shepherds spoke of marvelous promises about the baby Jesus, Mary stored those things in her heart and thought about it often (Lk 2:19). What will it take for you to think about it often? Sometimes it takes taping a reminder to your mirror where you’ll see it every day. Others may prefer to journal their vision and revisit it when necessary. Whatever it means for you, find a way to keep it in your mind and chew on it until you see the fruit of your vision.

2. Think High!

If you only look at your circumstances, it’s easy to get discouraged. That’s why you have to think above them. Colossians 3 instructs us to set our mind on things above. You cannot rise above your position until you can think higher than it. The greatest inventions were born out of the capacity to think outside of the current way of life. Some of those inventors were ridiculed for thinking they could come up with such things. We are seated with Christ who is at the right hand of God. Our possibilities are endless. Think in heavenly places, not on earth.

1. FAST

This principle may surprise you. Fasting is not a very popular practice, but it is a way that God’s people have responded to Him when they were desperate to see change. My favorite examples are Daniel and Esther. After Daniel completes a fast in chapter 10, God says, “From the first day you set your heart to understand, you were heard and I have come because of it.” Fasting gives you a single-mindedness and focus. Don’t do it attempt to earn favor from God. Do it to set your heart to understand Him. His character, nature, and will for your life. That is how your vision will become reality.


Return Like the Prodigal Son, Part 2

So let’s pick up where we left off. If you haven’t already, I recommend you read Part 1 of How to Return Like the Prodigal Son. We left off where the son had come to the end of himself in his “prodigal living” and realized that he’d be better off going back to his father than continuing doing life on his own. Which brings us to the next step . . .

Return in Humility

And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ (Luke 15:20-21)

Remember, when the son left his father, he left with an offended heart. He had decided that he knew better than his father and decided to do things his own way. But the son realized that if he was going to come back, he would have to reconcile with the opposite attitude.

When we walk away from God thinking our way is better, we must return acknowledging that His ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:9). This turning of our hearts is called repentance. I don’t know about you, but I used to hate that word. The church has made it seem like such a dreadful thing, but really, it’s a beautiful thing. You have to remember the One you are coming before, despite what you’ve done, is looking upon you with compassion. Just like the son–before even speaking–was greeted with compassion.

Also, repentance is not something we do out of duty or habitually. Godly sorrow produces a serious turning of the heart (2 Cor. 7:8-10). You cannot repent if you are not truly sorry for what you’ve done. Repentance is not an easy ticket to wipe out the sin so you won’t have to be accountable for it later. When you repent with a sincere heart, then you are given the honorable privilege to . . .

Receive His Mercy

But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry. (15:22-24)

The morning after going through some serious repentance with a church elder at home via phone, I spent some time in corporate worship. I didn’t feel like participating. Even though I knew I had turned away from all the stuff I’d done, I still felt dirty and unworthy of God. Then my favorite worship song came on, and I could feel God tugging on my heart. It was a song about how great his love is. Then I got angry.

Seriously, I was screaming at God inside my head. I didn’t realize at that moment it was because I was having difficulty receiving His mercy. Before the song ended, I was in tears. He had won me over with one phrase: “It’s not about you. It’s about me.”

I realized that wasn’t in an arrogant “Because I’m God” kind of way. It’s not about me and how unworthy about I am. It’s about him because He is jealous for me. How much he desires me completely overwhelms any wrong thing I could have done. And that’s the beauty of it, beloved. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Rom 5:8). And that’s all that matters. So even if you feel unworthy, receive His mercy. Even at a time . . .

When Other Believers Oppose You

I won’t spend much time on this last point, but I feel I need to say it. At the end of the prodigal son story (15:28-32), the brother of the son complains about the welcome home celebration of the prodigal. , “These many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends. But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.’

It’s human to feel jealous when someone else gets what you feel you deserve. Jesus even made mention of this in another parable where field workers all received the same pay regardless of how long they worked (Luke 20:9-19). So do not be surprised if a few in the church are not so happy to see you return with grace and favor over your life. They are no more righteous than you, we all fall short of His glory (Rom 3:23). Remember, it is God’s word that matters. And His word says:

“It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.”