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Cut it out!

Have you ever been to someone’s yard and right there in the middle is a sickly tree?  Or been in a beautiful town and discover business’s dying?  Or in a beautiful town full of Churches that are on death’s edge because they are not seeking and saving the lost? Something needs cut, pruned, compeltely worked over! 

My experience is in Church-world. Pruning during stagnation is the most needed Christ-like practice for a church that is stuck in a rut.  (A rut and a grave are the same thing…just 6 feet apart.)

Think about it…when is the last time you saw a Church going through 40 days of pruning?  We have 40 days of prayer, fasting, evangelism, worship, Bible reading…but I’m not sure I’ve seen a Church have 40 days of pruning, when needed.  Jesus is a pruner!

All through Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John…(the 4 most critical chapters of the bible)…when Jesus saw the crowd, around Him, begin to lose His focus…He pruned the crowd.  He went so far, one time, to say to the huge crowd that had misunderstood His Mission,…“If you don’t eat my flesh and drink my blood, you can’t be my disciple.” (John 6:53) The whole crowd, of what had to be more than a thousand people, left Him.  There were only the 12 disciples left.  That’s pruning!

Jesus pruned the pharisees and religious leaders that only wanted to control the people and keep things the way they had always done it…Jesus called them, “White-Washed Tombs (Matthew 23:17), Blind Guides (Matthew 23:16) Hypocrites (Matthew 23:15), Children of Hell (Matthew 23:15), fools (Matthew 23:17), generation of serpents (Matthew 23:34), and murderers (Matthew 23:34).

So Jesus pruned regularly.  To be clear…when pruning, we can never react in anger out of control, or be evil in anyway. We cannot ever justify unholy behavior by saying Jesus did it.  He was perfect in His pruning.  However we can prune with holiness just like Jesus did.  It won’t make you popular, but it will make you like Jesus.

Why don’t more leaders prune when it is desperately obvious it is needed? I can only resort to a Bible verse to explain…

Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Galatians 1:10

Pruning results in a vigorous burst of new growth in the future, and pruning is to be used to achieve the full growth that is necessary…especially in the Church.   More money thrown at the problem, or stored in the savings account won’t cause the Church to be healthy again. Just letting it continue as is, will not cause the Church to be fruitful again.  I can’t think of anything more tragic than a Church that is stuck and dying.  Pruning is what is needed.  Its not fun.  Its not easy, but it’s essential.  Pruning, in Church world, will remove the unfruitful and the spiritually dead.  The death that is about to overtake the whole “tree,” could be something as simple as the comfortable…but it’s especially the fakers, the slackers, hypocrites, the control mongers, or the powers that exist that actually have been lulled into the sleepy deception of thinking their tree is beautiful.  They are the blockers and death dealers.

The “tree” may “bleed” when the removal begins. It may look like…after the pruning…that the tree won’t survive…that is has been ruined.  But it’s exactly what it needed…it’ll survive because Jesus will know the motives of the pruning and bless it.  It only seems harmful at the cutting, and until it grows again..it’ll be a bit scary.  Those being pruned will not be cut quietly. They will gossip and spread false rumors and only verify the reality of the necessity of the pruning in the first place.  Prune anyway! And it will leaf out when its God’s time! It will grow into a full grown, strong, thriving life once again. Beautiful!  Jesus and any leadership that has the guts and perseverance to do the pruning will reap the rewards and once again see the Church be healthy and productive in the most important fruit production area…seeking and saving the lost.

The Kingdom of Jesus cannot and will not stop at anything that tries to prevent it’s growth. It cannot and should not ever be stunted.  Jesus did say about the Church…“I will build my Church and the gates of hades will not prevail!” (MT16:18) So…if the Church is dying…something is seriously wrong. Right!?  So, Jesus said it best…with crystal clarity…

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vineyard keeper. Every branch in Me that does not produce fruit He removes, and He prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in Me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in Me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me. If anyone does not remain in Me, he is thrown aside like a branch and he withers. They gather them, throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be My disciples.”
John‬ ‭15:1-8‬ ‭

So, courageous people of God…prune away.  In Church world, the only thing that is preventing the pruning from happening is leadership.  Courageous leadership.  I love the local Church so much that I will prune anytime, anywhere, any way.  It is what Jesus demands of holy leadership.  If I don’t prune…I will stand in front of Jesus someday and be pruned for eternity.  I don’t want to go to hell. You don’t either.  Prune or Be Pruned!

We are mandated to produce fruit. It is a salvation issue and eternity is in the balance.

Don’t screw with Jesus’s mission.  There is no mercy in pruning…Just judgement.  The only way to avoid eternal judgement and pruning is to make sure you are producing fruit.  The most important fruit in the Kingdom of Jesus Christ is seeking and saving the lost.  Every single member in the Church must be producing fruit.  It is Jesus’s mandate.

When is the last time you personally led somebody into Jesus’s forgiveness?

It is why you were born, and it is your life’s purpose… to be productive in the Kingdom of Jesus.

Last thing…what is the best strategy to begin pruning in a Church that has been in status quo mode…aka…death mode?  Cast a vision that leads the Church to get back into the mandates of Jesus.  Cast a vision to risk for Jesus in evangelism.  The pruning will happen naturally.

Strong Spiritual Leadership rarely has to strategically prune, because a fruitful-risk-taking-vision, cast with holy leadership strength, will naturally and steadily get rid of the wrong people.  Yes…I said it…get rid of the wrong people.  Hold on…You didn’t think pruning in the Church was about gardening did you?  Its about people.


Church and the learning Tower of Pisa

SethGodin.com just wrote a blog asking…”What’s inside the Leaning Tower of Pisa?”

The answer is Nothing. It’s a hollow tube.

One of the most photographed buildings in the world is empty.  But people do not care. It is an iconic building and wows people from all over the world.

I love that this is opposite of the reality of the Church.  The Church’s building sits empty most of the week…but it’s old news that the Church is not a building.

You are the Church. The bride of Jesus. The body of Christ.  Get a couple of people like you together, and God is there with you!  Grasp that!

The big question is, why aren’t people wowed by the Church all over the world?

There are negative and positive answers.

We know the negative reasons.  Do you know the positive ones?  Here’s one to remember…

“Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume. And who is adequate for such a task as this?” 2 Corinthians 2:15-26

That Scripture asks a very pertinent question in its last verse.  Who is adequate for such a task?

The answer: YOU!  You are adequate just as you are.  Oh, you might have to pick up your cross of sacrifice and live differently than you currently are…but that doesn’t make you inadequate.  It just makes you leaning…limping…wounded.  But that is what makes you remarkable.

I’m not sure I can trust anyone who doesn’t walk with some sort of limp…or lean. The Bible is loaded with  historical records of people that limp and lean.  I’m grateful for my wounds that cause me to now limp.  Your limp tells a story of victory and conquering.  Or it should.  If you’ll allow it, that thing, that wound, which caused the scarring that makes you limp, will make you even more remarkable…yes, your leaning can make you incredible.  There are millions of beautiful buildings around the world…but the ones that lean…they have looooong lines of curious gazers and photographers.

You are adequate.  You are never empty, if you are the Church.  You are worthy.  You can live your life in such a way that some people will go crazy wanting what you have.

Its not easy.  You’ll have to lean into Jesus more than you think is even possible.

 

 

 


What religious symbol is your favorite?

While religious symbols can be important, the church has focused perhaps too much on them instead of the underlying reality they reflect.
 

The manger is feeding animals again. The cross is vacant. The tomb is empty.

 
May we befriend and honor the One who is still alive and visited each of those symbols for a very specific purpose…to provide us the opportunity to claim full forgiveness.
 
Focus on the living Jesus…not the symbols He used.  Jesus is alive and He desires to meet with you daily. Jesus desires you to finish the work He started. He is with us always, to the end of the ages.  If I can personally help you in growing closer to your Creator, Jesus, please let me know…I will walk with you. 


A follower of Jesus’s job description

 

Maturity in Jesus is best described as a joyful friendship with Him.

I am mature in Jesus. It’s my  job to make others want to become mature in Jesus. It is my job to remain mature in Jesus.

I must never stop continually maturing in Jesus.

It’s my job to keep the attitude that I am not the owner of anything, and simply a faithful steward of all things owned by God.

It’s my job to look after the church family and be the standard for obeying Jesus’s teachings and commands.  I pray others will see my example and be inspired to replicate it. 

It’s my  job to keep my act together.  

It’s my job to keep my faith like a child’s.

It’s my job to keep finding new ways of looking at the world, getting in the world, and helping others of the world want to experience the remarkable forgiveness of Jesus.

Even if all my friends believe they’ve arrived and it’s time for someone else to sacrifice. Even if all my friends have quit and left me. I will keep my job, my focus, my determination. 

I must never settle.  I will never retire from the work of changing the populations of heaven and hell. 

There are so many who will be separated from Jesus for eternity if I choose to ignore the above standard.

This is my Job.  It is my choice.

I am a Follower of Jesus.


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