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6. Vine and Branches

June 26, 2017

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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

When caring for plants, a necessary aspect is called pruning. Pruning is the process of cutting away dead or overgrown branches, often due to a prolonged time of fruitlessness. If a tree has branches that are dead or fruitless, the tree will naturally still provide water to the dead area, causing other areas of the tree to suffer. If this continues for too long, it could really hinder the tree’s growth. Pruning ensures that the tree remains vibrant and growing.

Proper pruning involves cutting only the branches—not any roots or trunk. Defining these roles is important for the tree to sustain life. You cannot cut off a branch and plant it away from the tree and hope that it will live or produce fruit. A Branch is not a tree; it is part of a tree.

Christians are branches of a much bigger vine. It is impossible for us to produce any kind of fruit—much less sustainable life—apart from the vine. We are in Christ—completely. Our role is to be a branch, and His role is to be the vine. There are areas that are easy to graft into the vine, while there are other areas we want to hold onto and keep separate.

When we withhold areas of our life from the vine, they will stop producing fruit. Look at every aspect of your life: family, faith, finance, health, relationships. Is there an area that has stopped producing fruit? If yes, then give it back to Jesus. We are the branches, and He is the vine. If we remain in Jesus, we will produce a lot of fruit. But apart from Him, we can do nothing. What does your fruit look like?

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7. Not a Mirage

June 25, 2017

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The parched ground will become a pool, and springs of water will satisfy the thirsty land. Isaiah 35:7

A mirage is a naturally occurring optical phenomenon in which light rays are bent to produce a displaced image of distant objects. Mirages are frequently seen in the dessert or at sea. If you have ever been traveling in a hot area, and in the distance, there appears to be water, but when you arrive, there is actually nothing, you have been the victim of a mirage. The optical phenomena can be frustrating, especially if you are incredibly thirsty. As you walk, you begin to get excited about what is in the distance, but with every step, the water seems further and further away.

There is a vast difference between a mirage and an oasis. A mirage gives the illusion of water without the reality of water. An oasis provides water and refuge. There are times in our life journey where we go through dry seasons, relationally and spiritually. During these times, there can be a lot of things that distract from our true calling and identity. 

The complexity of a dry season leads us to experience mirages. As we journey on in hopes of seeing something that will bring satisfaction, the enemy begins to play tricks on us. The dry season can be a time when we try to find rest and refuge, but they remain allusive. You might be in a dry season right now. 

Be confident in this: God is not a mirage. During a spiritual dry season, we are promised an oasis in the refreshment of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit can bring a satisfaction to our lives that we’ve never experienced before. There may be areas in your life that look and feel like a parched ground. They seem so dry that no fruit could ever grow. However, there is a promise from God that the parched ground will become a pool. A dry season can be frustrating if we look toward a mirage instead of the oasis. Trust that God will satisfy the thirsty land. Your dry season will not last forever.

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8. No Tiptoes Required

June 24, 2017

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Ask and it will be given to you... Matthew 7:7

Most parents think the best way to deter a child from getting into something is to put it in a high place, out of reach. The high placement of candy, cookies, car keys, money and any other things so as not to be messed with is a false sense of security, which most adults buy into. Many times, kids allow adults to believe this tactic works. The reality is, kids know how to get what they want even from on top of the refrigerator.

If motivated enough, kids can reach any height to grab claim to what is put in high places. They will drag a stool across the kitchen floor, climb up on the stool and elevate themselves to the highest point on their tippy toes for the extra few inches. Finally they reach that prized possession! Kids are relentless in their pursuits, and it is actually shocking how much can be accomplished when kids get on their tippy toes. The reality is, kids aren’t the only ones that use their tippy toes. 

There have been goodhearted people who approach God like he has placed the most prized possession on top of the refrigerator. Have you ever wanted something so desperately from God, but it just seemed out of arms’ reach? Have you ever been in a place where prayer and worship almost turns into a tippy toe dance with God?

Be encouraged that God’s intention is for us to have a relationship with no tiptoes required. In fact, Matthew says, “Ask and you will receive ...” God’s promise is to put everything you need, and some of what you desire, right within your reach. We only get on our tiptoes to check the refrigerator when we feel like God is withholding from us. He wouldn’t do that. His hands are open, and he is ready to bless you. Maybe what you need isn’t on top of life’s refrigerator. Maybe what you’re looking for is right in God’s hands.

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9. Dream Big

June 23, 2017

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Then they said to one another, “Look, this dreamer is coming!” Genesis 37:19

The story of Joseph in the Old Testament is a fascinating story. One of the youngest sons of Jacob, Joseph had a series of dreams in which his entire family bowed to him. When he shared these dreams with his family, they laughed and ridiculed him. When they saw him coming from afar, they said, “Here comes the dreamer.” This was probably said with a sarcastic undertone because they ended up selling their own brother into slavery.

Joseph’s story doesn’t end there. He goes through a lot of trials and struggles. He ends up in a prison cell, but he doesn’t stay there. He becomes second in command of all of Egypt. Many years later, during a massive famine, his entire family shows up and bows before him—just like his dream so many years prior. More than that, he was able to save his family and offer them food during the famine. What started as a dream became a reality.

Have you ever had a God-sized dream? When God gives you a dream, there usually isn’t an easy path. Trials and struggles often come—maybe so many struggles that you have given up on the dream or not even started it. When God wakes up the dreamer inside you, there’s often a greater purpose at hand. This is why the enemy tries so hard to stop the dream and the dreamer before the purpose can be realized.

If Joseph had quit during the hard time, his family would have died. But he didn’t. Every time someone tried to stop Joseph, God used it the circumstance to move him closer to the purpose and reality of the dream. Be encouraged to dream again. God wants to do something great for you and through you. It’s time to wake up the dreamer and get the God-sized dream going again so that people can say about you, “The dreamer is coming!”

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10. Do Not Despise Small Beginnings

June 22, 2017

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Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel's hand. Zechariah 4:10

In 1967, Bob and Karen Schmidgall, along with 8 other people, moved from Missouri to Naperville, Illinois, with the dream of pioneering a church. Having recently graduated, this team was excited and ready to see God move. They purchased a building, and shortly after, had their first church service. It wasn’t heavily attended. In fact, alongside the ten planters, three additional people from the community showed up. This was a very small beginning.

Over the years, more people would show up to the church. Thirteen years into their journey, they had outgrown the little church. The search for a bigger building hinted that God was up to something. The move of God brought such growth that more space was needed. Lives were being changed, people were being saved, and God was building his church.

Over the next five decades, with countless prayer services, healings, concerts and salvations, God had taken a church what started with ten pioneers and three attenders to more than 7,000 people in attendance on a weekend across three campuses. What started out as small is known today as Calvary Church of Naperville.

It is always tempting to give up when results do not go the way we think they should. Zachariah illustrates God’s heart towards us when we obey his call and vision. Do not despise a small beginning! It may be a challenge, but it comes from God. What vision has God given you that hasn’t taken off the way you had hoped? Is there a ministry, job or relationship that seems so small right now that you want to give up on it? Don’t give up! Trust God! God rejoices in seeing action on your part. Trust in what God has called you to do and don’t despise small beginnings. You never know what God is up to.

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