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Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. — John 15:5
My family had a tree in our backyard that provided two things: shade and countless jars of pear preserves. One day, I asked my mother why she made so many jars every year. Her response was, "If I don't, they will start falling off the tree and go bad." With that, I went outside to take a look for myself. There were pears everywhere--so many, in fact, that the tree branches were beginning to sag and snap under the immense weight of their fruit. It looked to me like my mother's faithful picking was encouraging the tree to produce even more!
Jesus told his disciples that God acts as a gardener in the lives of those who claim him as Lord. He wants his followers to be abundant producers of good fruit, showing the world that they are children of God (see John 15:8). But this is not enough. Instead of simply harvesting the fruit that is produced, the Lord grabs a pair of pruning shears and begins to trim the branches. A little here, a little there, until he is satisfied with the end result.
This process of subtraction is a good thing. For it is in these times that God rids us of attitudes and actions that limit our effectiveness for the kingdom. In their place, he grants new opportunities to exhibit love, patience, kindness, and self-control (see Galatians 5:22-23). As these values are acted upon, what started out as subtraction becomes addition, and more fruit is produced than before the pruning.
If the branches are not pruned they may become weakened or stressed, and they will eventually snap. Once that occurs, the branches will wither and die because they are not attached to the tree, leaving wasted fruit behind. But the result of a life lived wholeheartedly for Christ will be an abundance of fruit--fruit that will last.
Learning who God created you to be will help unlock His unique purpose for your life
God doesn’t create anything without value. He is the ultimate craftsman. And He designed you specifically to fulfill a unique role in His ultimate plan to establish His kingdom on earth.
Even though each of us has made mistakes, we still are a special work of the Creator’s hands. He even takes time to know about our day-to-day lives. In fact, He is smiling right now, rejoicing as you seek to discover the masterpiece you are to Him.
The Bible says we are God’s “masterpiece” and that He created us anew in Christ so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago (see Eph. 2:10, NLT).
This verse helps us understand that if we want to discover our mission or purpose in life, we first need to look at the masterpiece God has made us to be. While self-help books tell you to look within, the key to living the life you were meant for is to look to God and ask Him to help you discover your uniqueness.
After you discover who you are, then you can start figuring out what God has planned for you—the specific way He designed you to make a difference in the world for Him.
Here are three helpful steps for you to maximize your ministry with God and for God: (1) Embrace your S.H.A.P.E.; (2) Express your S.H.A.P.E. in service; (3) Empower others to do the same.
Before Jesus died, He willed us His peace. But we forfeit His gift through strife.
The Bible tells us that everything the Father has is ours through Jesus (see John 16:15). What does the Father have? He certainly does not have strife. On the contrary, everything He has ministers life to us. His kingdom is one of righteousness, peace and joy. So supernatural peace and joy belong to the believer.
Before He died, Jesus said, "Peace I leave with you; My [own] peace I now give and bequeath to you" (John 14:27, The Amplified Bible). In essence, He was saying, "I am willing you My peace."
God's desire for us is that we live in peace with Him, with ourselves and with our fellowman. He wants us to have peace in the midst of our current circumstances--peace in the morning, at night and all times in between. Peace is our inheritance! And it is a wonderful possession.
Why thousands of churches follow this roadmap to wellness—and how yours can too
Pastor Dave Barr and his congregation at New Hope Windward Church in Hawaii managed to get their entire congregation of 900 into small groups for The Daniel Plan. The weekend attendance during the campaign exceeded the previous Easter and Christmas services and continues to grow.
The six-week study launched more than 100 groups that began a vibrant small-group ministry. The Daniel Plan series was a huge attraction point in their community, as it was with the initial rally at Saddleback, because it focuses on a huge felt need but ultimately fulfills the deeper needs that we all face.
The Daniel Plan was inspired through Saddleback senior pastor Rick Warren’s vision to provide a practical program for people that would restore their health and prepare them to fulfill God’s purpose for their lives. During an afternoon when he baptized more than 800 people, he came to the conclusion that his congregation was overweight!
He confessed that while he gained only three pounds per year while leading the church, he had also been their pastor for 30 years! He said he needed to improve his health as well.
Why it’s important to pour out for others what’s been poured into you
As a brand new member of the Saddleback staff, I know I’m here because of the principle of stewardship. Saddleback Church poured into me and the church I pastored for 18 years; then I passed on to other churches what I learned from them. Paul taught this same principle in his second letter to Timothy: “You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others” (2 Tim. 2:2, NLT).
You don’t have to be big to make a big splash for the kingdom. You just have to be willing to help someone the way God helped you. There are no perfect models or churches—just growing ones!
I remember inviting a neighbor to my small group once, and his reply was honest and revealing: “I don’t need a small group”—to which I replied: “Maybe one needs you!”
After they arrived at Capernaum and settled in a house, Jesus asked his disciples, "What were you discussing out on the road?" But they didn't answer, because they had been arguing about which of them was the greatest. — Mark 9:33-34
It's embarrassing when someone demonstrates he or she can read your mind. Most of us would rather not have our thoughts exposed. We're not proud of our motives. We don't want our intentions broadcast. The disciples had a problem--Jesus understood them. Just as he understands us.
Every tactic we use in human relationships to avoid the truth is absolutely transparent to God. The fact that God knows us that well isn't amazing. After all, he is God. The fact that we still try to work our magic on him isn't all that surprising either. After all, we are human. It is amazing though that God knows us as he does and still draws near to help us be better than we instinctively are.
The disciples were arguing about leadership. They were mind-wrestling over who could claim the top of the heap. They were all poised on the ladder to greatness, and thankfully we are not given the details on how ready they were to step on each other on the way up. Apparently the discussion ended in a draw.
Jesus' question caught them by surprise. The subject of greatness suddenly didn't feel right. Jesus broke the strained silence with a challenge. He gave them the ultimate measure of leadership: "Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else" (Mark 9:35). Apparently the silence resumed. The disciples neither argued with him nor asked any questions. We don't know how long this went on, but Mark records that Jesus spotted a little child in the vicinity and decided to make an additional point while holding the child. "Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not only me but also my Father who sent me" (Mark 9:37). Are the two points connected? Perhaps Jesus was saying, "Do you really want to be first? Then start small."
As you go about your day, think about whom you serve. How aware are you of people who are not being served? Can you see those who are overlooked? In the end, what do you find most important: being called a leader or doing what a real leader does?
If our thoughts and intentions are to serve Christ, we don't have to worry about someone reading our minds.
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