A Season of Pruning

“Any branch in Me that does not bear fruit [that stops bearing] He cuts away (trims off, takes away); and He cleanses and repeatedly prunes every branch that continues to bear fruit, to make it bear more and richer and more excellent fruit.” John 15:2 AMP

Pruning is an interesting process. After doing a little research (thank you www.sicktree.com for your information!), I found that that are 3 primary reasons to prune a plant/tree: 1) training the plant/tree to grow a certain direction, 2) controlling the size, and shape of the plant/tree, and 3) improving the quality of fruit in the future. There are 2 primary pruning cuts: heading, which removes the head and stimulates growth at the spot of the cut and thinning, which is meant to provide more light penetration which allows for new growth. In both types of pruning, healing follows naturally.

Pruning is necessary for a plant to grow as strong as it is meant to be and bear as much quality fruit as possible. It requires a master’s touch in order for pruning to accomplish the perfect outcome. God is that Master Gardener in our lives. He looks at all the branches of our lives, our friends, personality traits, habits, etc., and prunes us to help us grow and bear higher quality fruit for His glory.

Pruning is a continual process, not a one-time act. As we grow up and life changes, we are introduced to more outside influences that cause us to either grow closer to God or turn away from God. In each situation, our responses are like branches that sprout. Some of the branches are good and may just need a little trim now and then in order to keep growing well. Other branches begin to move us in a direction contrary to God’s plan and must be thinned and removed to bring us to full health in Christ.

I’ve been going through a season of thinning pruning. God has been removing my reliance on myself and my career. Removing my need for the approval of those around me. Removing my desire to feel my self-worth based on my career and my income. He’s also been showing me areas in my personality that need thinning like taking things personally, feeling shame over past mistakes and feel like I don’t matter. He’s been showing me that all I need is Him and the more I see that, the more all I want is Him. I can feel the light penetrating through the darkness and I know that if I continue to abide where He has me, I’m going to produce quality fruit for His kingdom. That’s exciting!!!

I love that in nature, healing begins immediately after pruning! God has set it up that at base level, pruning and healing happen hand-in-hand. God will never prune you without bringing comfort and healing. Pruning may feel like a punishment but it is critical that we grasp the truth: pruning is an act of love with a desire for healthy growth. No gardener cuts back a rose bush because they are mad at it, they cut it back so that it produces beautiful roses the next season! When God is pruning you, remember it’s an act of love and in your best interest.

Here’s the last thing to think about when it comes to pruning: the plant/tree has no choice. No plant yells at the gardener and tells it to stop. The plant simply exists to produce the fruit and has a natural ability to heal and keep growing. When God is pruning areas of your life, don’t fight it and don’t get angry. Seek His healing comfort and know that He is preparing you for quality growth in the future so that you will receive all that He has for you.

Live in God’s love, grace, peace and mercy. If you need a prayer partner, email me at jesusreliant@gmail.com.

KA

 

Advertisements

Running Unchained

“…let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,” Hebrews 12:1b

“Run in such a way that you may win.” 1 Corinthians 9:24b

About 6 months ago, give or take, I started exercising. I was 45 years old and 100 pounds overweight and I wasn’t being a good steward of the gift given to me called my body. Early in January, God convicted me of this when I was asked to be part of a mission team going to Nicaragua and He spoke so clearly to me that He wanted me to go but He couldn’t send me in the shape I was in at the time. I had a choice: stay heavy and at home, get healthy and get launched. I chose to get healthy.

Through the help of 3 amazing sisters in Christ, I started walking. I felt SO old and SO fat, quite honestly, that just walking 1 mile felt like a hike. These women, truly blessings from God, came beside me and encouraged me, cheered me and walked with me. I’m way below their physical capacity and you know what, they didn’t care. They saw a sister who need help and they helped.

At first, that ugly monster comparison reared its head. As we would walk, I would think about all the ways I wasn’t as good as they were. I was moving but I was chained to a defeated self-image that was drowning in the muck and mire of comparison. As we walked, we talked and it didn’t take long to realize that though I was looking at their outward appearance and feeling like they had it all put together, we were facing many of the same challenges in life and our walks with Jesus. So, the chains of comparison started breaking and not only were amazing friendships developing, but my weight was dropping!

Fast forward 6 months to yesterday. I woke up at 5am and headed out the door to attend my first 5k run by myself. Up this point, I had done 4 other 5k walks with friends with no big goals in mind for each. They were primarily fun. Yesterday was different. Yesterday I was taking on an Irongirl 5k run and I wanted to do my best and come in under an hour. As I was getting ready and driving in, the chains of comparison and fear started tightening their grip and several times, I almost turned around.

Fear of being at this race by myself. Fear of looking like a poser because my brain was telling me I was too fat and old. Fear of being the last person over the finish line. Comparing myself to the people who looked like the “belonged” there, not me. The weight was crushing quite honestly. I was there to show myself, and my daughter and my friends, that I could be more and do more. That God could and HAD transformed me not only on the inside but on the outside. I hadn’t factored in that the enemy would be right there trying to stop me. So, I text my friends and cried out for prayer.

They prayed and I ran. I felt sick to my stomach when we started jogging out of the starting gate. Runner after runner passed me by and for the first few hundred feet, I still considered quitting. I felt so defeated. Then I looked up. I looked up at the beautiful sunrise, the gorgeous red-orange reflecting off of Lake Washington and I started praying. “Lord Jesus, this is the race you have set before me today. Be my strength. Help me not look behind me to see how far back I am. Help me keeping looking ahead, pressing ahead and moving ahead.” I repeated this over and over. Not kidding…over and over.

I never once allowed myself to look behind and that was TOUGH! I wanted to so badly and yet, I kept my eyes focused forward and my mind focused on the cross. God was asking me to trust Him in this race and I wasn’t going to do anything less than my best. My heart didn’t want to come in last but I was determined to praise God if that happened.

I ran and walked for the 3.2 miles and all the while, I was thinking about my race in life. Thinking about how much time I’ve spent chained to comparison and fear and how tired I was feeling from that weight. So with each step, I was crushing those chains. Each step making me stronger. Each step drawing me closer to the cross and pulling me further away from the chains. As I huffed and puffed my way up the last hill and 2.5 miles, it was like saying goodbye to the weight of the chains. Through the strength of my Redeemer, I had conquered fear and comparison in this one setting and that meant that I could do it in other areas of my life. I was not only moving out the grip of the chains, I was stepping into living unchained!

In the end, I didn’t come in last and I know that if I had, it would have been ok. My place in the race doesn’t affect God’s love for me or the love of my friends and family. And, I did meet my goal of an 18 minute mile coming in under an hour at 54 minutes and 20 seconds! Elated isn’t a big enough word for how I felt.

We are all running a race in life but it’s not against each other, it’s against the enemy’s voice in our heads. His desire is to stop you in your tracks, stop you from getting where God has pointed you and stop you from living unchained. Don’t let that happen. Be bold in Jesus, move out into those spaces you know He is calling and move past the fear and comparison. God has so much more in store for you than you can even remotely imagine and it won’t happen if you don’t activate your faith and allow Him to unchain you. God is able where you aren’t, don’t doubt that ever.

If you need a prayer partner, email me at jesuseliant@gmail.com.

Run in God’s love, grace, peace and mercy. He will lead you to victory in your race!

KA

2015 Irongirl 5k This is me with my finisher medal. 🙂

Take the City

“Now Jericho was tightly shut because of the sons of Israel; no one went out and no one came in. The Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and the valiant warriors.””-Joshua 6:1-2

The city is in lock down. Not a single person is coming or going. From the human perspective, there is no reason at all to believe Israel will conquer and take this city. And yet God speaks and says, Joshua, I’ve given you and My people this city, see! If I were Joshua, I would  look up to heaven with a quizzical expression and wonder what on earth God is talking about!

How many times has God told us something, promised us something and we are so consumed with the earthly perspective that we get overwhelmed at the future and don’t truly believe God is big enough? We only see a city in lock down and we quickly forget all the God has done and just how powerful He really is.

Joshua seems completely unshaken by God’s declaration and he gets himself and his people in position to do the unthinkable…take the city. Joshua believes fully that God has this and all he needs to do is press forward and follow.

What city is God delivering into your hands? Where are you chained to fear and doubt so much that you are unable to muster the faith to believe God is able and willing to provide your victory? You won’t make this city on your own, but if God has promised it to you, He will provide what you need. Don’t doubt it. Don’t reason it with an earthly perspective. Don’t miss out on the miracle right ahead of you. Listen for your marching orders and go. God’s got this, He just needs you to move.

If you want a prayer partner, email me at jesusreliant@gmail.com.

Live in God’s love, grace, peace and mercy and take the city!

KA

Unchained: The Following

Matthew 4:19 (Mark 1:17) “Follow Me…”

Matthew 8:22 “Follow Me…”

Matthew 9:9 (Mark 2:14) “Follow Me…”

Mark 2:14 “Follow Me…”

Matthew 16:24 (Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23) “…deny himself, take up his cross and follow Me.”

Matthew 19:21 (Luke 18:22) “…come, follow Me.”

John 1:43 “…Follow Me.”

John 10:27 “…they follow Me.”

John 8:12 “I am the Light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the Light of life.”

John 21:22b “You follow Me!”

Tom Petty has a song that says, “The waiting is the hardest part” (Song, “The Waiting”). In living a life devoted to God, I think that the following is the hardest part!

When Jesus told someone to follow Him it wasn’t a suggestion, it was a command. I can picture Him looking folks right in the eyes, no flinching, no blinking, no smiling, and honestly in some situations, so direct it feels offensive. There was no, “if you feel like it”, no “hey, no biggie if you don’t”, and certainly no, “if you want to”, there was only the command…FOLLOW ME!

Think about your average day and how many different times are you following something, be it directions, recipes, whatever. All the time, right? Most of the time you are following without even thinking like when you pour milk over your cereal. At some point in your life, someone told you or you read that you pour milk over cereal before you eat it and now, you just do it without question, it’s habit. I believe fully that God, in the commands of Jesus that said “follow me”, is leading us to a place where following fully is habit, we don’t even think about it.

Following Jesus isn’t easy and it isn’t pain free, it’s hard. In Matthew 8:22, Jesus denies a request to go and bury a father. Ouch! I read that and in my humanity I think really Jesus? He couldn’t take the time to go and bury his dad? And if I move past my offense and I think about the eternal perspective, I believe Jesus is showing us in this verse that following Him absolutely must be our first priority. There is so little time here on earth and so much work to be done and we must trust that God has a better grip on the time and therefore, we must walk away from situations that seem like a big deal to us and trust Him. And going one step further, think about the incredible witness that follower of Christ is now for the next person who is finding it challenging to follow. He can now share his story and what he walked away from in order to follow. I have to remember that my obedience to God isn’t always about me, sometimes it’s about the person following me.

Following Jesus means I live unchained to me and I live bound to Him. Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34 and Luke 9:23 all say that in order to follow Jesus fully, we have to deny ourselves and take up our cross. This is so counter-cultural for today. We are bombarded with messages of how to make ourselves feel more important, how to be center of the universe and how to get all we can first. Jesus is saying no to all of that, He’s saying to deny our selfish side and pick up the mantle of sacrifice, the cross and then follow Him. Follow His example of hope, healing and love. Follow His example of complete service to those around Him. Follow His example of praying for those who seek to hurt us. In following Jesus, I let go of the chains of my life, I pick up the cross and I move forward.

You can’t follow God in your own strength, plain and simple. Once you acknowledge that, once you get it deep down in your core that nothing you do will ever make you “good enough”, that’s when Jesus will look you straight in the eyes, no blinking, no flinching, and He’ll say, “Follow Me!”. That is when the unchained journey begins.

If you need a prayer partner, email me at jesusreliant@gmail.com.

Live life unchained in God’s love, grace, peace and mercy.

KA

Unchained: The Sacrifice

“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set us free from the law of sin and of death. For what the law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did; sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” Romans 8:1-4

Free. Doesn’t that word get you a little excited when you hear or see it? Free! I’m going to get something without having to pay any price! I don’t have to wonder if I have enough because I don’t need enough, I don’t need anything because it’s free. And at the same time you are feeling the excitement, if you’re like many of us, we wonder what the fine print says. Is it really free or is there a secret price to be paid later? Am I going to have to enter my credit card information at some point in order to receive this “free” gift? Free doesn’t always mean truly free. Except with God.

Humanity lives under a law, a law of sin and death. A law is just a set of rules and regulations and the law of sin and death is simple: we all sin and therefore, we all deserve to die. No big mystery and guess what, your credit card information is already in the system. You’ll never get out of this law on your own. It’s condemnation from the start and you’re stuck. The law of sin and death fully relies on our flesh, our nature, our core being and that, friends, is full of sin. I’m not saying we don’t have the capacity for love, goodness and kindness on our own, I’m saying that we have a greater capacity for deceit, unfaithfulness and pain. We are bound up, chained, in bodies and personalities that at their core will always have a propensity for doing the wrong thing. That is the law of sin and death.

But God. My favorite two words in the entire English language! But God stepped in and gave us a way out. He put up a sign in the lawn of our lives in big bold letters, FREE! and that sign came in the form of a man, Jesus. Jesus ushers in a new law, a law of life through the Spirit. This law knows that you and I will never be able to live a life worthy of a  relationship with God on our own, it’s simply not possible. We are absolutely chained to a life of perpetual sin with no ability on our own to find a way out other than death. This bondage was unacceptable to God and because of His love for us, Jesus made a way to freedom.

When Jesus walked the earth, He was fully man. This means He fully understands the struggle between doing what my flesh wants to do and knowing that I shouldn’t but not always being able to stop myself. Jesus faced all sorts of temptations and because He fully lived by the Spirit, was able to stay out of sin. One might argue that He was able to stay out of sin because He was God, and while that certainly had its advantages, I fully believe that He had every human ability to sin that we do and He made a choice to not give in to those temptations.

So how do we tap into this “law of the Spirit of life”? We believe in the sacrifice, Jesus. We believe that God was unwilling to live without us and allow us to be chained to sin and death, so He provided a way out: the blood of Jesus on the cross. Believing in what Jesus did is the only way to access the Spirit of life that will bring you to a place of no condemnation, there is no other option. Jesus is the ultimate offering, He is the fine print not us.

Once you fully believe that Jesus offered Himself up for you so that you might live a life unchained from sin and death, you enter into a whole new way of living. You enter into a life of power not weakness, Spirit not flesh, and life not death. Does that mean you never struggle with sin again? Absolutely not! Humanity will forever have the internal struggle of doing what we want to do over doing what is right. But God provided a way out of the condemnation that results from that struggle and He provided a new spirit in us that has the power to say, “no”, and make a better choice as well as the power to say, “forgive me”, and move on.

The first step to an unchained life is accepting the sacrifice of Jesus, have you done that? If not, I hope you will. It’s not a magical spell or special word, it’s simply praying and acknowledging that without the blood of Jesus covering your life, you are bound to die in your sin. God will meet you right where you are, no matter how large the mess you’re in, so don’t hesitate on this decision. If you want a prayer partner in this, email me at jesusreliant@gmail.com.

If you have accepted the sacrifice of Jesus, awesome! Stay tuned for more messages on living a life unchained and under the law of the Spirit. If you need a prayer partner, please me at jesusreliant@gmail.com.

Live in God’s love, grace, peace and mercy.

KA