Category: Reflective Focus

April Fools and All Fools

As a child, I remember trying to be aware of the possibility that someone would play a trick on me when April 1 rolled around. I still have to be careful around some people!

April Fools’ day is practiced in many countries. The origin is not certain, but it may have had its beginnings in Iran, where their joking day started as far back as 536 BC.

Scotland has their “Hunt-the-Gowk” Day (“gowk” is Scottish for a cuckoo or foolish person).

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“poisons d’avril” postcards.This image (or other media file) is in the public domain because its copyright has expired.

In Italy, France, Belgium, and French-speaking areas of Switzerland and Canada, the tradition on April 1 is to attempt to attach a paper fish to the back of someone else without being noticed. In the late 19th century to the early 20th century April Fish (poisson d’avril) postcards were popular.

Poland avoids serious activities on April 1 – so much so that an anti-Turkish Alliance with Leopold 1, signed on 1 April, 1683 was then back-dated to March 31.

In 1957, the BBC published a fake video of Swiss farmers harvesting fresh-grown spaghetti. They had so many requests for the place to purchase spaghetti plants that they had to admit their prank on April 2.

And the jokes go on and on.

What is no joking matter is being a real fool. Proverbs gives many contrasts between a wise man and a fool, but the most serious charge of all is mentioned twice in the Psalms. I am always aware that we should sit up and pay attention when God says something twice in His word.

The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none who does good (Psalm 14:1-3).

The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt and have done abominable iniquity; there is none who does good (Psalm 53:1-3).

The commentators mention that there is nothing in the original language to account for “there is” in those two verses. They were added for clarity. If we leave them out, we have “No God.” As H.A. Ironside said,

Let us leave them out: “The fool hath said in his heart, No God” – no God for me, no God in my life, no God in my thinking – I am going to have my own way; I am going to do as I please; I am going to have my fling; I am going to live as I want to live!  “Fools make a mock at sin” (Proverbs 14:9).

April Fools’ Day is also known as All Fools’ Day. All who push God aside in their thinking, whether they don’t believe in Him or know He exists but chose not to obey Him are fools indeed.

Some may think me a fool because I believe in God. I don’t mind.

 

The foolishness of God is wiser than men…We are fools for Christ’s sake (1 Corinthians 1:25, 4:10)

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God’s Heavenly Kingdom: A Person, A Place and A Promise

 

The kingdom of Heaven and the kingdom of God are often used interchangeably in the gospels. In reading these synoptic gospels, the question can reasonably be asked: Does Jesus mean Heaven when He mentions the Kingdom of God? I believe the answer is yes.

Matthew wrote primarily for Jewish readers and Mark and Luke wrote predominately for Gentiles. For instance, Matthew’s gospel states that Jesus says, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 6:17) and Mark states that Jesus began preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:19).

Attempting to abide by the Ten Commandments, Jews tried to minimize the possibility that they might unwittingly take the name of the Lord in vain (Exodus 20:7) by using other words for God. Heaven was a favorite substitute. Matthew, writing for Jewish readers, speaks of the kingdom of heaven in the same way that Mark and Luke speaks of the kingdom of God.

It helps me to think of all these references as God’s heavenly kingdom. He owns everything. “Heaven is My throne and earth is My footstool” (Isaiah 66:1).

Jesus said that His is a Heavenly Kingdom. “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here” (John 18:36).

A Person

My husband Richard once preached a sermon on Luke 23:39:43, Today you shall be with Me in Paradise. He mentioned that the word paradisos is used here and two other times in the New Testament (2 Corinthians 12:4 and Rev. 2:7), each time clearly referring to Heaven.

He said,

“With all its splendors, the object of the believer’s desire is not so much a place, but a Person: the Prince of Heaven, the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ our Lord. We desire Heaven not merely for its splendor, not so much for freedom from sorrow and pain, nor even for the joy of being reunited with loved ones. That which is our hope and joy is Jesus. He is the glory of Heaven: He is all our desire; “Whom have I in heaven but Thee” (Ps. 73:25)? Heaven would not be complete without Jesus.”

In his book Figures of Speech Used in the Bible, E. W. Bullinger says that when Psalm 73:9 states They set their mouth against the heavens, the meaning is “against God, Who dwells there.The rest of the verse confirms this —‘Their tongue (Met. for words) walketh through the earth.’ Here “earth” is put for the people who dwell upon it; and so “heaven” is put for Him who dwells there. “Heaven” is frequently put for “God,” who dwells there. We say” Heaven forbid,” “Heaven protect us,” etc. So the lost son says, “I have sinned against heaven.” He means, against God!”

A Place

Although the Greek word translated “kingdom” refers primarily to sovereignty and dominion and not necessarily a geographical location, God declares that the kingdom of Heaven is His dwelling place in Deuteronomy 26:15, 1 Kings 8:30, 2 Chronicles 7:14, Isaiah 66:1, Matthew 6:9.
For those who trust in Christ, the kingdom of Heaven is a reality, both as a dominion and a place.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. . . Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3, 10). But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14).

A Promise

The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever” (Revelation 11:15 NIV)

Jesus did say that His kingdom was not of this world, but for our sakes and through His sacrifice, He won the battle for the earthly kingdom which He always rightly owned but allowed Satan to rule for a while. Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and authority and power (1 Corinthians 15:24).  When Satan is ousted permanently from this world, the promise is that he will be gone forever. Christ will reign forever.

The Church, the Bride of Christ, will also reign with Him (2 Timothy 2:12). With an eternal perspective, the challenges of life take on new meaning. We are in the world, but not of it. We don’t belong to the world. We belong to Jesus (John 15:19).

For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:20).

© Stephanie B. Blake

March 2014

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Sisters by Choice

Sisters by Choice

The oldest of four boys, my husband married first followed by his brother Jerry. Jerry’s wife and I bonded from the very start. For over forty years, we were sisters by choice – true soul sisters.

Not everyone knows when she is going to die. Diane did. Over two weeks in hospice gave Diane the chance to say and do things that brought honor to God and joy to her loved ones.

In her life and in her death God was bringing glory to Himself by conforming her to the image of His Son. These are a few of the ways I saw Jesus in her.

A Place to Call Home

Like Jesus, Diane was always busy preparing a place of peace and joy for loved ones.

Diane on occasion worked outside of the home, but at heart she was a homemaker. The goal of her life was to make a home for those she loved. She succeeded.

From the wonderful scents of burning candles and enticing foods to a decorating style that said, “you are welcome here”, her home was always a warm, inviting, comforting place to be.

Diane was without question the best cook I have ever known. She shared with me everything from unique kitchen items to sourdough starters to great recipes. My family knows that all my best recipes came from Diane. She produced her own cookbook but I admit on occasion I have been unsuccessful in duplicating those delightful dishes. She just had a gift.

Besides her culinary skills, Diane tried her hand at anything that would make her home a more attractive place to be – inside and outside. She was always preparing something to make her home a sanctuary for her loved ones.

“In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2).

Thoughtful Gift Giver

Like Jesus, Diane delighted in giving gifts.

She and I shared a love for olives. It was a joke at family get-togethers as to who would get to the olive dish first. One year for my birthday she gave me a five-gallon jar of olives. The miracle was she didn’t expect me to share!

Among many other hand made gifts from Diane, my husband and I treasure a framed cross- stitch of Psalm 8. No effort or time expended was too much for Diane to express her love.

During her time in hospice, one of her concerns was that gifts she had set aside for friends and for my husband’s upcoming birthday would get delivered. She was always thinking of others.

Certainly the ultimate gift giver is Jesus Himself. He gave of Himself, He multiplied loaves of bread and small fish to give to crowds, He produced fish for the fishermen after they had already given up and His Holy Spirit gave special gifts to each of His followers. His greatest gift was our salvation. He delighted in giving.

“But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore He says, ‘When He ascended on high He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men’ “(Ephesians 4:7-8). “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift” (2 Corinthians 9:15).

The Best of Friends

Like Jesus, Diane was a loyal friend – someone you knew you could count on – someone you could trust.

Ask practically any friend of Diane’s and she would probably tell you Diane was her best friend. Her capacity for friendship was enormous – once her true friend, always her friend.

“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you” (John 15: 13, 15).

Discerning Spirit

Like Jesus, Diane had a supernatural ability to judge character.

She knew intuitively whether someone was genuine or not. She could easily recognize pretense and had no toleration for it.

Diane could tell a lot about me by just looking at my eyes. I imagine it was the same for everyone else she loved.

“But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man” (John 2:24-25).

Lover of Children

Like Jesus, Diane loved the little children.

When God wanted to touch Diane’s heart, He gave her another child to love.

She transferred her love of animals to children in her family. There was always a dog or two in her home. She even had a llama. She raised ducks for the children to enjoy.

During the days just preceding her death and knowing her end was near, Diane was eager to get unhooked from a life saving machine so that she could go somewhere where she could see the children. God blessed in providing an apartment where everyone could visit.

Surrounded by her beloved children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, one day some of her husky guys carried her downstairs so that she could see the ducks in the pond.

Many photographs were taken during that time. Some of the most precious are those where several children were climbing all over her. There was an expression of pure joy on her face.

“But Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not forbid them, for of such is the kingdom of God’ ” (Matthew 19:14).

Focus on Others

Like Jesus, Diane’s thoughts were of others. Her actions followed suit.

After Diane learned she was going to die, I was able to spend a day at the hospital with her. I was witness to her sharing her heart and her love with loved ones that day. Her thoughts were not of her own circumstance or comfort. Her thoughts were of others.

“Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You…. I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours. And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them. Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me that they may be one as We are (John 17:1, 9-11).

Forgiveness 

Like Jesus, Diane knew how to forgive.

During her lifetime, Diane was always fiercely protective of her loved ones. During those last days in the hospital, she was told someone who had caused considerable pain to her family wanted to visit but was reluctant because he didn’t want to upset the family. Her response was, “Tell him he is welcome. During a time like this, all is forgiven.”

“And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left. Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do’ ” (Luke 23:33-34).

Eternal Joy

Like Jesus, when Diane died, she went into the presence of our Father.

Diane died with a smile on her face. I wasn’t there, but her husband and daughters tell me that she had not opened her eyes for over a day. Her daughters sang to her “You are my sunshine” (the song she used to sing to children in her family). Diane opened her eyes, looked at them, smiled, and drew her last breath.

That moment was a gift from God to those of us who love Diane and a gift from Diane whose desire was to bring joy to those she loved.

Jesus said to His followers: “Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you” (John 16:22). Jesus said to His Father: “But now I come to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves” (John 17:13).

Sisters by Choice and Sisters Forever

Like Jesus, our brother, Diane’s presence was always a comfort to me

Engraved in my memory is Diane’s smile when I came through the her hospital door and her comment, “There is my sister.” I will forever be grateful for the long hug we shared.

I thank my husband for having a brother who married Diane. I thank his brother for making such a great choice. Most of all, I thank God.

In the hospital, nurses came in and Diane would introduce me as her sister. Other family members laughed when one nurse said, “I thought I saw a family resemblance.”

Diane and I did not have the same earthly parents, but we do have the same Heavenly Father who adopted us both into His eternal family.

We are truly sisters by choice – God’s choice.

“For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together” (Romans 8:15-17).

Stephanie B. Blake

February 2014

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Your Secret Hiding Place

Am I a God near at hand,” says the Lord, “and not a God afar off? Can anyone hide himself in secret places, so I shall not see him?” says the Lord; “Do I not fill heaven and earth?” says the Lord (Jeremiah 23:23–24 NKJV). 

We all played hide and seek as children, but we sometimes unwittingly carried the principle into our adult spiritual lives. God seeks His own we occasionally forget it is impossible to hide from Him. When someone becomes a child of God, he discovers that there really is a wonderful hiding place – not hiding from God but hiding in God. He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust” (Psalm 91:1-2).

In The Bible Knowledge Commentary on Colossians 3:3 (For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God), J. F. Walvoord says that “‘hidden’ implies both concealment and safety; both invisibility and security. He [A Christian] is not yet glorified, but he is secure and safe in Christ. In fact, Christ is his very life.”

The Hiding Place is Corrie ten Boom’s account of life in a concentration camp. The title refers to the physical hiding place where her family hid Jews from the Nazis, as well as Psalm 119:114, You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in Your word.

A Made-just-for-you Hiding Place

God has an enormous family, but He treasures time with every child. He made each of us in His secret place: My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth (Psalm 139:15 NIV84). Not even identical twins have identical fingerprints. We are all unique.

We are unique in our creation and in our sins. Although we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), if we trust Christ, our sins were buried with Him. To meet the Father in His secret place, we must come through Christ.

Each believer’s relationship to God is unique. If you are a Christian, as I am, the relationship you have with our Father is different than the one I have with our Father just as I have a special relationship with each one of my sons. Since He made us, He knows our special characteristics and how to draw us to Him into our special place of peace and safety with Him.

Our Father Hears and Sees What is Said and Done in the Secret Place

In His sermon on the mount, Jesus told His followers to do good without regard to man for your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly. He tells them to pray to your Father who is in the secret place and when fasting, do not fast so that men will know you are fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place (Matthew 6:3-4, 6, 17-18). God knows where you are and what you are doing. He is pleased to be there with you as you humbly serve Him.

The Protection of the Secret Place

Pliny, Roman Governor in Asia Minor in the early Second Century, was so puzzled about the Christians brought before him for trial that he wrote his famous letter to the Emperor Trajan asking for his advice. This was the kind of thing he found himself up against:

A certain unknown Christian was brought before him, and Pliny, finding little fault in him, proceeded to threaten him. “I will banish thee,” he said.

“Thou canst not,” was the reply, “for all the world is my Father’s house.”

“Then I will slay thee,” said the Governor.

“Thou canst not,” answered the Christian, “for my life is hid with Christ in God.”

“I will take away they possessions,” continued Pliny.

“Thou canst not, for my treasure is in heaven.”

“I will drive thee away from man and thou shalt have no friend left,” was the final threat.

And the calm reply once more was, “Thou canst not, for I have an unseen Friend from Whom thou art not able to separate me.”

What was a poor, harassed Roman Governor, with all the powers of life and death, torture and the stake at his disposal, to do with people like that?

(from Tan, P. L. (1996). Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times. Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc.)

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?. . . One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple. For in time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion; in the secret place of His tabernacle He shall hide me; He shall set me high upon a rock (Psalm 27:1-5 NKJV).

The Provision of the Secret Place

Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or “What shall we drink’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things” (Matthew 6:31-32).“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!”  (Matthew 7:11).y

Our Father will use those in His secret place for His glory

 “No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what a master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you” (John 15:15-16).

I treasure my secret place in the Lord. Do you?

© Stephanie B. Blake

January 2014

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In His Humanity

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made….And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth….

 “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star” (John 1:1-3, 14, Revelation 22:16).

 At Christmas time, we turn our attention to Jesus as the baby in the manger. With His birth, the world would never be the same, for that event meant the Son of God became the Son of Man – taking on Himself all the limitations of man without losing His divinity – something only God could do. In The Child Who Chose to be Born, a Bible study on this website, we looked at how God the Son readied Himself to become the Son of Man.

None of His limitations as a human were a surprise to Jesus. For our sakes, He willingly took those limitations upon Himself. The Son of God who was, is and will always be the Lord of Lords did something He did not have to do. Fully God and fully human, He expressed His love sacrificially.

Jesus referred to Himself most often as the Son of Man.

  • In His humanity, the Creator of man became like His creation in order to redeem mankind.
  • In His humanity, the Creator of time came just at the right moment for the prophecies about Him to be fulfilled.
  • In HIs humanity, the Shepherd who cares for His sheep needed a mother to care for Him through His early years.
  • In His humanity, the Source of all wisdom and knowledge grew and learned.
  • In His humanity, the Living Water got thirsty.
  • In His humanity, the Bread of Life became hungry but resisted the temptation to satisfy that hunger with anything that would dishonor His Father.
  • In His humanity, the Judge of all men felt sorrow for fallen man and was determined to take our just punishment upon Himself.
  • In His humanity, He needed rest and sleep.
  • In His humanity, He enjoyed companionship with His fellow man.
  • In His humanity, He prayed to the Father.
  • In His humanity, the One who gave the commandments demonstrated how to obey them.
  • In His humanity, the King of Kings came to serve, not to be served.
  • In His humanity, He accomplished something the rest of humanity could not do – He lived a perfect life.
  • In His humanity, the great Lion of Judah became the Lamb of God sacrificing Himself for those He came to save.

He rose from death victorious – forever to be the Son of Man who would intercede for those He understood so well. There was never a time when Jesus was not God, but with His birth, now He would also always be the Son of Man.

Jesus’ followers should never doubt that God understands what they are going through. He has been there, done that in regards to human life, yet without sin. Although He performed many miracles, they were for others – not Himself.

I am part of His bride and am well aware that as my Bridegroom, Jesus paid the price that made it possible to be with Him forever.

How grateful I am for Christmas and every blessing His coming represents. My Lord and Savior is also my Brother and Friend.

“And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying; “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us” (Matthew 1:21-23).

© Stephanie B. Blake

December 2013

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The Heart of Psalm 119

In every reading of Psalm 119, I am captivated by it – discovering a new theme, another revelation of God and more depth of understanding of the heart of the man who wrote it. Although the psalmist may have been David, many say the author cannot be known for certain. One thing we do know for sure. This man was led by God to write down the desire of his heart – to love God by learning, heeding and keeping His commandments.

Knowing God’s way is the way of truth (Psalm 119:30), this psalmist states that God has revealed Himself through His words, statutes, commandments (law), precepts and testimonies. Determined to live according to God’s plan for his life, he pays attention to what He says.

The same should be true for us today. We cannot separate the love of holy God and His commandments. As sinful men, we come short of completely obeying God’s law. Jesus Christ, The Way, the Truth and the Life, fulfilled God’s law for us, paid the price for our sin on His cross, and offered us eternal life as His love gift. What He asks from us is our heart.

Blessed are those who keep His testimonies, who seek Him with the whole heart (Psalm 119:2). The psalmist wants the blessing of God. In the first three verses, he speaks of “those” and “they”, stating a principle that those who seek God with their whole heart will walk in His ways, do no iniquity and keep His word. In verse four, he changed from speaking of God as “the Lord” and “Him” and begins his prayer with “You have commanded us to keep Your precepts diligently.” From then on until the end of the psalm, his prayer is very personal using pronouns “I”, “You”, and “my”, pledging to God the commitment of his heart.

I will praise You with uprightness of heart, when I learn your righteous judgments (Psalm 119:7). Holy God desires our praise – for His love, for His grace expressed through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ and for His righteousness.

With my whole heart I have sought You; Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments (Psalm 119:10). Even with a commitment to seek and to serve God, the psalmist knows there will always be a temptation to focus on something other than God and His will.

Your word I have hidden in my heart that I might not sin against You (Psalm 119:11). Perhaps the most well known verse in this psalm, the secret to staying in God’s will is to stay close to Him (or as Jesus put it “abide in Him”), to listen to Him, to know His word intimately.

I will run the course of Your commandments, for You shall enlarge my heart (Psalm 119:32). The longer a believer serves and obeys God, the larger the capacity for loving Him becomes.

Give me understanding, and I shall keep Your law; Indeed, I shall observe it with my whole heart (Psalm 119:34). This is not a plea for understanding as the world defines it, but as God does. As Solomon put it in Proverbs 9:10: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

Incline my heart to Your testimonies, and not to covetousness (Psalm 119:36). Sinful human nature can lead one to covet the things of the world. The psalmist wants to love what is lasting – the things of God.

I entreated Your favor with my whole heart; be merciful to me according to Your word (Psalm 119:58). We do not deserve God’s favor, but He promises it to those who truly love Him.

The proud have forged a lie against me, but I will keep Your precepts with my whole heart (Psalm 119:69). C. H. Spurgeon said: “We must first get a thing before we can keep it. In order to keep it well we must get a firm grip of it: we cannot keep in the heart that which we have not heartily embraced by the affections.” When our affections are set on God, the darts of the wicked fall short of their goal.

Let my heart be blameless regarding Your statutes, that I may not be ashamed (Psalm 119:80). Sin originates in the heart. The psalmist did not want to look back on his life and regret falling short of God’s best for Him. Each of us should have the same goal. If, as a young person, we were determined to never shame the name of Christ, what a difference that would make. – How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word (v.9).

Your testimonies I have taken as a heritage forever, for they are the rejoicing of my heart (Psalm 119:111). God’s involvement in our lives is cause for rejoicing. In his song The Longer I Serve Him, Bill Gaither puts it this way, “The longer I serve Him, the sweeter He grows.”

I have inclined my heart to perform Your statutes forever, to the very end (Psalm 119:112). In verse 64 of this psalm, the author says, Lord, the earth is filled with your faithful love; teach me Your statutes (HCSB). God has no obligation to anyone except Himself, but even so, He shows His love to us by His faithfulness to His promises. We owe God everything and are obligated to show Him our love by trusting and obeying Him.

I cry out with my whole heart; hear me, O Lord! I will keep Your statutes (Psalm 119:145). The psalmist’s decision has been made. He will remain faithful to the God who was faithful to him.

Princes persecute me without a cause, but my heart stands in awe of Your word. I rejoice at Your word as one who finds great treasure (Psalm 119:161-162). The inevitable persecution that Christians encounter cannot be compared to the awesome treasure of knowing God.

To those disciples who were true believers – saved by trusting Christ alone for their salvation, Jesus said, “Because I live, you will live also. At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love Him and manifest Myself to him….If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love (John 14:19-21, 15:10).

Looking forward by faith to the Messiah’s fulfillment of the law and the offer of grace through His sacrifice, the psalmist knew that his love for God would be evident as he kept His commandments.

© Stephanie B. Blake

November 2013

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Unless otherwise noted, Scripture references are from the New King James Version.

The Man Called Paul

The man we know as Paul was born Saul of Tarsus. Saul is the name that is used of him up to and including a short time after his conversion. In Acts 13:9, in recording the confrontation that Paul had with Elymas the sorcerer, Luke said, Then Saul, who also is called Paul …. From that time on, Luke refers to the apostle as Paul instead of Saul. From then on, all biblical references to him are as Paul except in those times when Paul gives his own testimony, and he refers back to the times when the Lord and Ananias said, “Saul.” He starts each epistle with “Paul.”

The reason Luke chose this point in writing the book of Acts to stop referring to the apostle as Saul is not recorded, but Paul was the Roman form of his name. It is possible this name was given to him at birth for use in the Gentile world since his father was a Roman citizen. As Paul was called to give the gospel primarily to Gentiles, from now on I will go to the Gentiles (Acts 18:6) … from the Gentiles, to whom I now send you (Acts 26:17), using the Roman form of his name was probably more acceptable to those he was trying to reach. In what became Paul’s last letter, he told Timothy I was appointed a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles (2 Timothy 1:11).

At the point in history when Saul of Tarsus was born, he had the best of both worlds. As a Roman citizen, he was accepted by the Romans and had all the rights due a citizen of Rome. As a Pharisee, born of the tribe of Benjamin, he was among the most respected of the Jews.

It might be said that he was “born with a silver spoon in his mouth,” as he had all the advantages of an influential family and came from the richest heritage of his race. Being blessed with a great mind, he was also given the best education available. His personality was such that he had the determination and energy to focus on those things he believed were important to his God, his faith, his country, his family, and himself, and to carry through on those beliefs. In short, he had everything going for him.

The Persecutor 

As an Israelite, Saul was so determined to stamp out any movement that threatened his religion he personally persecuted followers of the man called Jesus. He obtained permission to wipe them out. In many ways, Saul’s persecution of the Christians could be compared with Hitler’s persecution of the Jews. In his thinking, all Christians must be destroyed. However, one day on the road to Damascus, where he planned to continue his rampage against believers of Christ, the Lord Jesus Himself confronted him.

The first recorded prayer of Paul that we find is the conversation he had with the risen Lord on that road to Damascus. Having obtained permission from the government officials to persecute the believers of Christ, he was a man with a mission. It is possible to visualize his determination as he devoted his life to wiping out this new “sect.”

However, when Saul first heard the voice of the Lord, he was afraid. In response to the voice from heaven saying, Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? (Acts 9:4), he asked, Who are You, Lord? When Jesus identified Himself, Saul trembling and astonished [responded], “Lord, what do You want me to do?”

A New Man 

In between Saul’s first and second questions, a change had come over him. When he discovered the God he was defending was the same God he was persecuting, Paul had only one option: to give everything he had to serve the Lord Jesus Christ. From that moment on, Saul’s heart, mind and life belonged to Jesus.

At that point, he became the apostle Paul. No longer did the voice of the Lord generate fear in his heart, but loyalty. That day started many years of communicating with the God he loved and served. His first prayer was, Who are You, Lord? but among his last prayers was I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief (1 Timothy 1:12-13).

Faced with the fact of the sacrifice of Jesus on his behalf was all it took for Paul to live the rest of his life in obedience to His will. His prayers were always reverent but bold, knowing that his faith was in a God who loves, forgives, and desires to communicate with His children.

In Saul’s conversion experience, he discovered an important truth for himself that he later communicated to his brothers in Christ. Only someone living outside of the will of God would perceive God’s voice as threatening.

© Stephanie B. Blake

October 2013

* This devotional is an excerpt from The Prayer Driven Life.

The Prayer Driven Life examines the prayers of the Apostle Paul. Although many people would admit that there is value in prayer, few can say that prayer is the driving force in their lives. Those who can make that statement have an intimate relationship with God. Often they leave a lasting legacy for others.

Paul is an excellent example of someone whose life was driven by prayer. Using his prayers as a backdrop,The Prayer Driven Life examines essential questions about prayer. What is it? Why should you pray? What difference does it make in your life?

The real value of Paul’s prayers is that they help you get to know God better. From the moment he met God’s Son on the road to Damascus, Paul’s life was driven by prayer. In prayer, he communicated with God and obtained guidance for his life.

So can we.

© Stephanie B. Blake

October 2013

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The Healing Power of Thanks

In everything give thanks; for this is the will of Christ Jesus for you (1Thessalonians 5:18).

 The Gift of Thanksgiving

Loving spouses give of themselves unreservedly to the relationship, not for the purpose of being noticed or expecting thanks. Love puts the other person first – simply because one wants what is best for the other person. When acts of kindness are noticed, however, there is a special atmosphere in the home – very different from a home where every contribution is expected and unacknowledged.

Likewise, parents and grandparents don’t do things for their children or grandchildren just to be appreciated, but a hug, a smile and crayon drawings can warm their hearts. Gratitude from a child is like dessert after a good meal. You don’t have to have it, but the sweetness is a delight.

No one enjoys being taken for granted. Thanksgiving is a gift others give to us, but the reciprocal is also true. The golden rule applies. We love to be appreciated and others do too.

A Thankful Attitude

Thanksgiving has been described as an attitude of gratitude. It is s choice – a way of thinking – an acknowledgment of someone else’s contribution to your life.

Thanksgiving sets the stage for a good day. The lack of it can trigger a gloomy one. Even during times of adverse circumstances, it is difficult to be depressed if you count your blessings. Generally, you don’t have to look very far.

A thankful attitude can make the difference between being happy or depressed, being healthy or getting sick, or even staying sane or going insane. We have a choice.

Thanks to God 

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His mercy endures forever” (1 Chronicles 16:34; Psalm 106:1, 107:1, 118:1, 118:29, 136:1 NKJV).

Every good thing comes from God. He is the ultimate example of unselfishness. Evidence of His love and care are all around us. His supreme demonstration of that love was expressed in the gift of His Son as our Savior.

We often forget He has feelings, too. When we accept His blessings as if we deserve them and neglect to give Him thanks, He notices.

And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30 NKJV). Paul wrote these words to Christians – believers who are part of the family of God. With unbelievers, God can be justifiably angry. With His children, He can be grieved. In a sermon on this passage, the great preacher Charles Spurgeon made this observation:

Here is something very touching in this admonition, “Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God.” It does not say, “Do not make him angry.” A more delicate and tender term is used – “Grieve him not.” There are some men of so hard a character, that to make another angry does not give them much pain; and indeed, there are many of us who are scarcely to be moved by the information that another is angry with us; but where is the heart so hard, that it is not moved when we know that we have caused others grief? – for grief is a sweet combination of anger and love. It is anger, but all the gall is taken from it. Love sweetens the anger, and turns the edge of it, not against the person, but against the offense. When I commit any offense, some friend who hath but little patience, suddenly snaps asunder his forbearance and is angry with me. The same offense is observed by a loving father, and he is grieved. There is anger in his bosom, but he is angry and he sins not, for he is angry against my sin; and yet there is love to neutralize and modify the anger towards me. Instead of wishing me ill as the punishment of my sin, he looks upon my sin itself as being the ill. He grieves to think that I am already injured, from the fact that I have sinned. I say this is a heavenly compound, more precious than all the ointment of the merchants. There may be the bitterness of myrrh, but there is all the sweetness of frankincense in this sweet term “to grieve.”

God is our heavenly Father. We can grieve Him with our sin and our thoughtlessness in our attitude towards Him and His blessings.

The apostle Paul was in prison when he wrote, “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:19-20). For the Lord’s sake, he was beaten, imprisoned, stoned, shipwrecked, hungry and thirsty, and in perils in many circumstances. In everything give thanks; for this is the will of Christ Jesus for you were not empty words to him. They were his life. He knew that regardless of your circumstance, you control your response to it. In the midst of trials, thanksgiving directs your thoughts upward, not inward.

“Thanksgiving—the giving of thanks—to God for all His blessings should be one of the most distinctive marks of the believer in Jesus Christ. We must not allow a spirit of ingratitude to harden our heart and chill our relationship with God and with others. Nothing turns us into bitter, selfish, dissatisfied people more quickly than an ungrateful heart. And nothing will do more to restore contentment and the joy of our salvation than a true spirit of thankfulness.” – Billy Graham

Give thanks to God. He is delighted with our thanks and knows its healing power in our lives.

Oh give thanks to the Lord! Call upon His name; make known His deeds among the peoples (1 Chronicles 16:8, Psalm 105:1). But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:57). Scripture references are from the NKJV.

© Stephanie B. Blake

September 2013

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The Story of the Good Shepherd as Told by a Little Lamb

I awoke with a start, unusually stiff, cold and terribly uncomfortable. The ground I slept on last night was not the soft, dense grass I was accustomed to. This was hard with patches of prickly weed poking me even through my thick wool.  Where was I and how did I get there?

As I struggled to my feet and looked around, I suddenly remembered my folly of yesterday. I had ventured away from my pasture, traveling to what I thought was a plush grass with a beautiful view and a small, clear brook in the distance. Everything had looked so inviting, but my eyes had deceived me. Now I realized what I believed was a path to a better place had been a mirage.

What would I do now?  How would I get back to my mother, my family and the good shepherd? At the end of the evening, the good shepherd counts every one of us and calls us by name back into the sheepfold for the night’s rest. I knew they would be missing me by now. I didn’t know which direction to go, but I decided to head back toward the way I thought I might have come from.

My spirit did not get better as I tried to find my way home, for I was frightened and all alone.  It wasn’t too long before I found myself in a patch of briar bushes. The thorns were so sharp I started to bleed. I couldn’t seem to go forward and I couldn’t turn around. I was hopelessly caught in the bushes.

My struggle was halted, though, with a dread unlike anything I had ever felt before. I felt hot, fast breathing behind me and the smell that filled my nostrils took my breath away.  My heart started beating so hard I thought it could be heard for miles. Although I didn’t want to look, I knew I had to see what was behind me. I twisted and tried to turn, falling into the bush in the process. My worst fears were confirmed. Coming slowly toward me was a wolf.

Oh, the thoughts that filled my mind. If only I had paid attention to my mother’s words. “Never wander outside the fold. Don’t leave the protection of your family. Keep your eyes on the good shepherd. He knows how to take care of us.” How I wish I had taken heed of that advice yesterday. I would not be facing my certain death today!

Just as the wolf was about to make his lunge for my neck, he fell to the ground right in front of me. I had closed my eyes for the inevitable, but when I heard the loud thump of his body, I opened them again to see the wolf, dead, no longer able to have me for his dinner.

Then I saw the good shepherd with the slingshot in his hand. He put it back in his belt, looked at me lovingly and said, “Little lamb, there you are.  I have been looking for you.” Relief filled my heart. His was the voice I knew so well and had been longing to hear. As he gently lifted me, taking care to pull the thorns from my wool and some from my flesh, his eyes were tender, not at all condemning me.

I had gone astray through my own foolishness, and yet he did not mention it.  All the loneliness and fear left me immediately as the strength and security of his loving arms cradled my sore, weary body close to his heart. I rested my head on his chest, silently vowing never to stray again. Not only was I sure I never wanted to ever feel so scared, but I did not want my mother and the good shepherd to pay the price of worry and sacrifice for my own foolishness.

I must have wandered far away from home because it took us quite awhile before we came close to our own green pastures. At the edge of the field, the good shepherd set me down by the still waters I knew so well. He tended all my wounds, taking care to wash away the blood from my fur. Even though he said nothing to me, I knew he wanted to make sure my mother did not see me in the condition in which he found me. After he finished cleaning me and making sure I had quenched my thirst, he lifted me again, cradling me into the crook of his arm where I fell asleep.

The next thing I knew, the good shepherd was laying me down next to my mother.  She was rejoicing and thanking him for finding me. Her eyes met his and he knew that she would remind me again of the treasure of knowing that he was always with us and his rod and staff were our guide and comfort.

I begged mom’s forgiveness and told her I had learned my lesson the hard way. The things that look so good on the outside can be so deceptive. She had reminded me many times before that sheep are defenseless animals. We need our shepherd. Now I knew that firsthand. I would never again take my eyes off the good shepherd.

The years went by and I frolicked and played with my family and friends. Fall turned into winter, winter into spring, spring into summer, and summer back into fall again. Every night, the good shepherd led us into the sheepfold with other flocks and posted his own body as guard at the gate. In the morning, he gathered us from among the other sheep by calling our names aloud, one by one.

How wonderful it was to hear his voice call my name, “Little lamb, follow me to the pasture.” The good shepherd always made sure we did not want for anything.  Sometimes we had to journey onto other green pastures, but we kept our eyes on his staff as we traveled.  If our feet wandered from the rest of the flock, his staff lovingly brought us back. When he found another place with the resources we needed, he lowered his staff and we made pasture there.

As time went on, I had lambs of my own. I echoed the teachings of my mother and paid close attention to my lambs so they would not leave the abundant pasture of the day and the secure fold of the night. My lambs tried to stray occasionally, of course, as lambs are prone to do. I had made a pledge to myself, though, that as long as my sights were on the good shepherd I could call him to bring them back if I needed to.

One day, as my lambs were playing together at the other end of the pasture, I saw a new sheep come into our pasture. It was so unusual to see someone I didn’t know. The entire flock was familiar to me, but this one was a stranger. More than curiosity was getting the better of me. I just couldn’t believe there was a sheep I had not met yet.

This sheep did not seem to want to mix and mingle with the rest of us, but I was determined to make his acquaintance and started walking toward this new arrival. The closer I got, however, the more uneasy I felt. He was larger than most with a walk that was more like stalking than the accustomed slow meander of my friends and family.

Then my heart felt like it was turning to stone. I stopped dead in my tracks. This was no sheep. I caught a look into his eyes and recognized the kind of gaze that had frightened me those many years ago. This was a wolf, disguising himself as one of my very own. As his eyes caught mine, I felt the same immobilizing fear I thought I would never experience again.

The wolf was taking his time coming toward me enjoying my fright. I was frozen in my steps unable to make a move or a sound. Then I saw the good shepherd come between us.  My savior again! He would kill the wolf and the flock would again be safe. To my horror and amazement, the good shepherd did not kill the wolf. In fact, it became obvious he did not intend to kill him. Instead, as the wolf glared at him with teeth bared and ready for attack, the good shepherd transformed in front of us both. My good shepherd became a lamb just like me. He turned his head briefly and gave me a look of deep devotion and compassion, then lay down in between the wolf and me and willingly sacrificed himself to the devouring appetite of the evil wolf. I could not believe my eyes.  How could this be?

After the wolf had his pleasure with the meal that was set before him, he seemed to lose interest in the rest of us and walked confidently and triumphantly out of the pasture. He seemed to be satisfied for the moment.

My feelings of devastation were beyond description. My good shepherd was gone. He has given his life in my place. What would I do? What would we do? We had always had the guidance and protection of our good shepherd and now he was gone, having sacrificed himself for me. I didn’t understand. I was so helpless and afraid. What would become of us?

As tears filled my eyes, I laid down in deep despair. Grief overtook me and I could not even contemplate what life would be like without the good shepherd. I knew I was not capable of protecting my little lambs.

As sobs shook my body, I suddenly felt a firm, strong hand on my shoulder. I looked up – the good shepherd! No, it was not the good shepherd that had just given his life for mine, but another shepherd. He wiped my tears and sat on the cool grass and placed my head in his lap. He said, “Grieve no more, little lamb, for the sacrifice you witnessed was not a mistake. I, too, have been the recipient of his redemption. I am one of the under-shepherds the good shepherd has been training for this very day. He told us about his sacrifice and how it would be necessary to satisfy the evil wolf. He said if we all trusted him he would continue to protect us. There are other under-shepherds as well and he commissioned all of us to take care of his lambs. We will all keep in remembrance what he has done for us. I will be here for you and we will remember him and his sacrifice together.” Although I didn’t thoroughly understand, I believed the under-shepherd and knew that the good shepherd was still there, providing and caring for us all.

As the years went on, my family grew. My lambs had lambs of their own.  As each little lamb grew old enough to hear the story, I would tell of the good shepherd and how he gave his life for mine. How I loved telling that story. Each time I told it, I couldn’t help but feel tears of gratitude well up in my eyes. Sometimes my lambs would ask if I was crying. I would always say, “Not from sadness, my children, but from the joy of gratitude for the gift we have all received.” I would tell them of his provision for us here now and forever in the future. I watched as my lamb’s lambs played in the security of the green pastures.

My pace slowed as I got older, but I followed the under-shepherd each night into the fold where other flocks rested with the other shepherds that the good shepherd had prepared in advance. Now, instead of the good shepherd always taking the watch at the door of the fold, the under-shepherds took turns making sure we were all safe and secure from dangers of the dark.

One beautiful spring day, I was the last of the flock to leave the fold following the under-shepherd to the green pasture. On that particular day, I was drawn back to the very spot where the good shepherd had given his life for mine. I always felt a sense of amazement when I approached that spot. I had never deserved the kind of love my good shepherd showed to me. I had been so disobedient as a little lamb, but he willingly forgave me. What an incredibly unselfish love he had for me and all my kind. I loved the under-shepherd, to be sure, but I missed the physical presence of the good shepherd and longed to see his face once more. Sometimes coming to this spot helped me feel closer to him.

As I settled down on the cool, soft grass, I felt more weary than I had ever felt before.  My family was grown, and I had stayed true to my promise to keep them ever mindful of the wonderful gift of life and love we had all received from the sacrifice of my good shepherd.  He died that day allowing not only me to live, but all the generations beyond me. I longed to say, “Thank you,” in person. I laid my head down feeling a peaceful sense of contentment and drifted off into my last sleep.

As I opened my eyes, there was no sense of drowsiness. The tiredness was completely gone. I felt like a young lamb again. An inexpressible joy filled my heart. Then I realized I was no longer in the same pasture. This one was different in a way I could not describe. Excitement filled my heart as I became aware of the wonderful surroundings.

There was no sheepfold here, just goodness, mercy and peace. There was not just a stream here but a river of pure water, clear as crystal. Everything around me was light, but there was a light in the middle of the pasture that was brighter than all. My gaze was drawn to that light. I started to run as I recognized a familiar face, the face of my Savior.  My sacrificial lamb, the good shepherd, was sitting on a throne. As I reached him, I fell down on my knees and cried out with joy, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”  He said to me with the look of kindness on his face that I remember so well, “You are welcome, little lamb. Welcome home.”

. . . for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters (Revelation 7:17a).

© Stephanie B. Blake

August 2013

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The Work of the Vinedresser

I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away, and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit (John 15:1-2).

Parents want their children to live productive lives. So does our Father in heaven. Once we become His children, He works to accomplish His will in our lives. When the Vinedresser notices that any branch is not producing fruit, He goes to work to remedy that. Although many translations say “takes away” in verse two of John 15, a clearer translation of the Greek word airo would be to “take up” or “lift up.” This same word – airo – is used in Matthew 14:20 when the disciples “took up twelve baskets of food;” in John 4:11, “in their hands bear thee up;” in John 5:8, “Take up thy bed and walk;” and John 11:41, when “Jesus…lifted up His eyes.”

New branches have a natural tendency to trail down and grow along the ground, but they don’t bear fruit there. Their leaves get coated in dust. When it rains, they get muddy and mildewed. The branch becomes sick and useless. The vinedresser goes through the vineyard with a bucket of water looking for those branches. After he lifts them up, washes them off and wraps them around a trellis, the branches begin to thrive.

That’s the way of our Father. In loving kindness, He lifts us up from the grime of living too close to the ground.

If a branch is bearing some fruit, the Vinedresser prunes it or trims it up so that it will bear more fruit. If you suspect you are being pruned, examine yourself and acknowledge that God is trying to get your attention. Trust that since a loving parent would tell a child why he or she is receiving correction, your loving Father will do no less. If sin is the problem, repent and turn around.  If you conclude that you’re being pruned, ask God to show you clearly what He wants you to let go of, and trust Him enough to release it.

Mature pruning is expressed in the Bible as the testing of your faith. Count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing (James 1:3-4). In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, 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, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith – the salvation of your souls (1 Peter 1:6-9).

“You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you” (John 15:3). Jesus told Peter when he said, “Lord, wash not only my feet, but my head and my hands,” “He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean, and you are clean, but not all of you” (John 13:10). Those whom Jesus loves, He continues to wash their feet, whom the Lord loves He chastens…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 12:5-6, 11).

Tony Dickerson of the Royal Horticultural Society says, “While decorative vines require minimal fuss, those for fruit are more demanding and require careful pruning if they are to be usefully productive.”

Karen Cutler, author of The New England Gardener’s Book of Lists and editor of gardening handbooks, says “the general goal when pruning vines is to keep them healthy, vigorous and productive…to keep a vigorous climber healthy, you must do the following.” I added my comments in brackets.

  • Remove any dead, damaged, diseased or unproductive stems. [God will gently remove anything in our lives that is not our best. It may be a diseased way of thinking (harboring bitterness, etc.) or something we carried over from our life before Christ which is damaging our witness, or an unproductive habit. Is there anything you have been holding onto that you suspect God is trying to trim away?]
  • Remove overly tangled stems. [God will continually remind us that we are in the world, but not of it. Put first the kingdom of God. Are you the same on Monday as you are on Sunday?]
  • Remove errant stems, especially those growing away from the support. [God will always work to bring us back to Himself. In the case of the prodigal son, he needed discipline as a son, but he was still a son and the father was watching continually for his return. If we are truly interested in bearing fruit for God, He may prune us by pulling us back before we go to the “far land.” Christians struggle against good, better and best. Are you achieving God perfect plan for your life or are you just doing good things?]
  • Direct its growth. [This may be one of the primary reasons for being pruned: God’s loving hand is directing us to be all He created us to be. When we think of God’s love and care for us, we visualize our comfortable place where we lie down in green pastures (Psalm 23:2) and dwell in the secret place of the Most High, abiding under the shadow of the Almighty (Psalm 91:1-2). Even the most adventurous of us do not invite the pruning of the Vinedresser. Yet pruning is one of the primary ways He expresses His love to us.]

As children of the King, we have our inheritance secure. We will live with Him forever, but because He loves us so much, He wants us to have something to bring with us when we enter the gates of heaven. If it were not God’s purpose for HIs children to bear fruit, He would probably have taken us to our final home as soon as we were born into His family.

You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you (John 15:16).

© Stephanie B. Blake

July 2013

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