Saturday, July 23, 2016

A time of pruning before you see good fruit

I heard and released these words from the Lord recently:
"I am the vine, and you are the branch. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit. As you connect with Me, like the branches to the vine, there will also come a time of pruning. But fear not the pruning, and despise not the pruning! For the pruning is not to harm you, but so that you will bear more fruit!"

'Pruning' is not a bad thing, or something that you should dread. If you understand this principle of pruning, and if you allow the Lord to do His pruning work in you, the next thing you'll see is fruitfulness.

As a matter of fact, when you abide in (or connect with) the Lord, there will always be occasions (or areas in your life) where He will prune you. It is in order to make you more effective in life (or ministry).

In John 15:1-2, Jesus says, "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."

And then in John 15:4-5, Jesus says, "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing."

The word 'abide' here is 'meno' in Greek, which can mean 'to connect, to stay, to remain, to endure, to dwell, to continue, to be present'.

The vine is a climbing plant in the grape family, and the vinedresser is someone who cultivates the vineyard.

The word 'takes away' here is 'airo' in Greek, and in this context, means 'to put away (from its initial position), to lift up, to bear up'. Psalm 3:3 says, 'But You, O Lord, are a shield for me, my glory and the One who lifts up my head'. He is the One who lifts up your head when you are down.

The word 'prunes' here is 'kathairo' in Greek, literally meaning 'to cleanse, to purge', from the word 'katharos', which means 'clean, clear, pure'. As you can see here, 'pruning' is good for you, because it clears you from any hindrance to your fruitfulness in life!

To understand 'pruning' better, let's do a little study on the characteristics of the grape plants. Grape plants are vigorous plants and (therefore) need to be pruned, removing more than 70% of its branches in order to get the best production of grapes. Pruning is normally done in winter time (dormant time), just before growth begins in spring time.
Source: National Gardening Association, United States of America.

Here are some definitions of 'pruning' found in dictionaries:
1. To trim the tree by cutting away some branches in order to encourage growth.
2. To cut the unnecessary parts in order to make the tree more effective in bearing fruit.
3. To cut away branches that have borne fruit before, but have now become old/hard/deadwood, and therefore cannot bear quality fruit.

What are some of the areas in your life that the Lord 'prunes'?
Fear, griefs, sorrows, hurts, insecurity, worries, anxieties, bodily ailments/infirmities, uncontrolled anger, and the list goes on.
These are negative forces that debilitates you (i.e. makes you weaker), takes up your time and energy unnecessarily, and hinders you from growing healthily in the Lord.

Don't resist the 'pruning' of the Lord
In John 15:1-2, the Lord has promised to cut away every area in your life that has no use, no purpose, and brings no benefit, so that you can now move on to bear more fruit in life. See the heart of God here? Never meant to harm you, but always in view of what is good for you. This is the heart of your Abba Father in heaven who loves you and spares not even His own Son to die for you (Romans 8:32).

Beloved of God, let Him take away all those fear, griefs, sorrows, hurts, and even condemnation from your life today. Isaiah 53:4-5 says, 'Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes, we are healed'.

Indeed, this is a time of pruning before you see good fruit in a brand new season of your life. Amen.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Keys to your 'acceleration' in this new season

I released these prophetic words from the Lord as we crossed the half-way mark of this year 2016:
"As you connect with Me, there will be an acceleration in your life! You will see many things begin to speed up, especially in areas where you have been 'prisoners of hope'! This is a key time to seek Me afresh and anew for what is ahead!"

The word 'acceleration' is defined in Oxford Dictionary as 'increase in speed, make something move faster (or happen earlier)'.

What is the meaning of 'prisoners of hope' then? This expression is found in Zechariah 9:11-12, and it means 'those who have been waiting and waiting for an answer in hope (to their prayers)', or 'those who have been waiting and waiting but with no answer'.

Most of us would agree that 'waiting time' is never easy. The Bible says, 'Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life' (Proverbs 13:12). One illustration is like a prisoner waiting and waiting for the time to be set free from the prison, when one hour seems to be like a year, and one day seems to be like eternity!

But here's a piece of good news for you! The Lord is setting many 'prisoners of hope' free in this coming new season!

In Zechariah 9:11-12, the Lord says, "As for you also, because of the blood of your covenant, I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit. Return to the stronghold (fortress), you prisoners of hope. Even today I declare that I will restore double to you."

Indeed, this is a time to remember your covenant with the Lord and return to Him who is your fortress! (Psalm 91:2) And watch how He is going to bring restoration to you, even double-fold!

Zechariah chapter 9 is a key chapter in this time and season of the Lord.

In Zechariah 9:9, the Lord says,
"Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation.
Lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt (young male), the foal (young one) of a donkey."

Notice I put the key words above in bold, because these are the 3 keys to your acceleration in this new season:
1. Release sound of praise at all times.
2. Remember and return to your covenant.
3. Humble yourself in all lowliness.

Release sound of praise at all times ("Rejoice greatly...")
Sound of praise will connect you to the Lord. Therefore, praise the Lord at all times, and never allow the wrong sound or atmosphere (e.g. murmuring) to pull you down! Psalm 89:15-18 says, 'Blessed are the people who know the joyful sound (of praise)! They walk, O Lord, in the light of Your countenance. In Your name they rejoice all day long, and in Your righteousness they are exalted. For You are the glory of their strength, and in Your favor our horn (strength) is exalted. For our shield belongs to the Lord...'

Remember and return to your covenant ("Behold, your King...")
Unlike an earthly 'contract', a covenant is not to be rescinded, and cannot be broken. This covenant between the Lord and you (when you opened your heart to receive Him as your personal Savior and Lord) is a covenant made with His blood shed on the cross for you. As a 'covenanted person', know that no evil can touch you or overwhelm you. His blood is effective in saving you and protecting you. In cross-reference, read Psalm 89:3-9, Psalm 89:28-29, and Psalm 89:34-37.

Humble yourself in all lowliness ("Lowly...")
Pride is the reason for all contentions and strife (whether in a family, in church, or in a nation). Like Lucifer who 'lifted himself' above God, pride is 'thinking that one is better, or knows better than others' (Isaiah 14:12-15). Proverbs 13:10 says, 'By pride comes nothing but strife...' Proverbs 16:18-19 says, 'Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. Better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud'.
Indeed, those who are proud will be pulled down, and those who are humble will be lifted up. Jesus Himself is the epitome of humility and lowliness, and therefore He was exalted high above every name, 'that every knee should bow, and every tongue should confess that He is the Lord' (Philippians 2:8-11).
The Lord resists the proud, but gives grace (ability, supply) to the humble (1 Peter 5:5-6).
As a matter of fact, no one can pull down someone who has already gone down so low at the feet of Jesus!

Let's continue with Zechariah chapter 9.

In Zechariah 9:10, the Lord says, "I will cut off (take away) the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem; the battle bow shall be cut off (broken)."

In cross-reference, Psalm 20:7 says, 'Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will remember the name of the Lord our God...'

The word 'chariots' here (same as in Zechariah 9:10) is 'rekeb' in Hebrew, meaning 'cavalry (i.e. soldiers fighting on horseback or in armored vehicles)'. This speaks of 'human ability', instead of God's ability; whereas the word 'horses' here (same as in Zechariah 9:10) is from the Hebrew word 'soos', meaning 'leaping like a horse'. This speaks of 'human power', instead of God's power.

To understand Zechariah 9:10 better, it is good to learn the meaning of 'Ephraim' and 'Jerusalem' first. 'Ephraim' in Hebrew means 'double fruitfulness', and 'Jerusalem' in Hebrew means 'founded peaceful'. These are the promises of the Lord for those who are willing to humble themselves and heed His voice, instead of putting their trust in human ability or power.

In other words, to see 'double fruitfulness' and be 'founded peaceful' (i.e. to experience wholeness and wellness) in your life, look to the Lord, and trust in His ability and power, instead of your own. Zechariah 4:6-7 says, 'Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit...' Like the tower of Babel in the days of old (Genesis 11:4), every 'high thing' (prideful thing) built by men shall be 'pulled down' in this end of days.

Indeed, this is a time and season when you will see what Jesus has spoken in Matthew 5:3-10 coming to pass in every way:
"Blessed are the poor (humble) in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

Saturday, July 2, 2016

God hasn't given up on you!

In a time of worship and prayer recently, I heard these words from the Lord:
"Tell My people I have not given up on them, even if they think they have failed Me or have made a bad mistake in life. Tell them to look to My mercy and tell them to receive My mercy! My mercy is greater than judgment."

I then heard further:
"This is a time to receive a renewed hope, even if you think your situation is hopeless and beyond repair. Look to Me, for I am in the midst of doing a renewal work in many of My people - spirit, soul, and body."

Isaiah 62 is a key chapter in this time and season. It is a chapter that brings a renewed hope to God's people, and it speaks of the Lord who never gives up on His people, even if they think they have failed Him or have made a bad mistake in life.

Here's what the Lord say in Isaiah 62:1-4, 'For Zion's sake I will not hold My peace (keep silent). And for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest, until her righteousness goes forth as brightness, and her salvation as a lamp that burns. The Gentiles shall see your righteousness, and all kings (shall see) your glory. You shall be called by a new name, which the mouth of the Lord will name. You shall also be a crown of glory... and a royal diadem (crown worn as a sign of royal power)... You shall no longer be called 'Forsaken', nor shall your land any more be called 'Desolate'; but you shall be called 'Hephzibah' (My delight is in her), and your land be called 'Beulah' (Married to the King)'.

See the word 'until' here? He will not give up doing His great work in you until 'your righteousness goes forth as brightness, and your salvation as a lamp that burns'! Even though this chapter refers to Zion, it is also a 'picture' of what the Lord wants to do in His beloved (i.e. you and I, the believers) today.

Jesus came to a 'dead-end road' at the cross (i.e. became 'Forsaken' and 'Desolate'), so now you are called 'Hephzibah' (My delight is in her), and your land be called 'Beulah' (Married to the King)! Indeed, as a believer in the New Covenant, God's delight is in you, and as a people of God, you and I are the 'bride' prepared for the coming of the 'Bridegroom'! (Revelation 21:2)

One amazing passage about God's great love for us (in spite of our sins and mistakes) is found in the book of Hosea. In Hosea 1:2-3, the Lord said to him (Hosea), "Go, take yourself a wife of harlotry and children of harlotry, for the land has committed a great harlotry by departing from the Lord." So Hosea went and took Gomer...

The name 'Hosea' here in Hebrew is from this word 'yasha', meaning 'to set free, to help, to deliver, to save, to rescue', and the name 'Gomer' is from the word 'gamar', meaning 'to end, to cease, to come to an end, to fail, to be gone'. In one way or another, we are all like Gomer - doomed, damned, 'the end', 'goner', if Jesus never come and save us!

Hosea 3:1 then says, 'The Lord said to me (Hosea), "Go again, love a woman who is loved by a lover and is committing adultery, just like the love of the Lord for the children of Israel, who look to other gods and love the raisin cakes of the pagans."

Notice the word 'again' here? Like Hosea to Gomer, this passage is a 'picture' of God's love towards Israel, and God's love towards His people, even when there are times we have broken His heart with our unfaithfulness, sins, and disobedience (to His voice, leading, and guidance).

Hosea taking Gomer as his wife here speaks of Jesus embracing you (in spite of your sins and mistakes in life). Like Hosea, His love for you never quits, and He definitely hasn't given up on you! The devil (or the enemy) will always want to make you think that God has quit you and has given up on you. And he wants to make you think that you have reached a point beyond repair (a point of no return), and you have come to an end of God's mercy and grace (exhausted God's mercy and grace) in your life!

But the truth is God's desire for you is always mercy, and not judgment; to save you, and not to hurt you! He is a God who longs to show you mercy the moment you return to Him (and His ways). Psalm 145:8 says, 'The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and great in mercy'. The Bible tells us that His anger lasts only for a moment, but His mercy endures forever.
Note: The word 'mercy' here is pronounced 'kheh-sed' in Hebrew, and it can also mean 'loving kindness'.

Therefore, no matter what your past may be (or what wrong you may have committed), come boldly to the throne of grace, that you may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16). Condemn yourself no more, and let go of those past! He is here to heal you (and restore you), and He wants to give you a 'new name' (which speaks of a 'new character') today, just as it is written in Isaiah 62:2! Take it, and receive it! As you turn a new leaf in your life and receive a fresh new hope, declare that you too will see many more good days ahead of you. In Jesus' name. Amen!