Thursday, May 30, 2013

LESSONS FROM THE GRAPEVINE

THE CULTIVATED VINE

Jesus said, “I am the True Vine and my Father is the Vinedresser”. – John 15:1

A cultivated grapevine is carefully tended by a gardener who takes pains to make sure that the vine has everything it needs to produce the best fruit. It is usually fenced in to protect it from enemies and the gardener removes all stones and other debris that could inhibit growth. He often builds posts or fences which are used to provide support to the growing vine.

Like the natural grapevine, God the Father puts a hedge of protection around us 
to keep us from the clutches of the enemy. 
He too, does all He can to ensure that our fruit – love, joy, peace etc. – 
is of the highest quality.

When a branch on a cultivated grapevine is producing fruit the gardener will prune it - cutting back branches and leaving it looking almost bare. This seems cruel, but it causes the branch to draw more life-giving sap from the vine. This eventually results in even greater growth, and yields fruit of excellent quality.

Our Father does the same with us. 
When we are in union with Jesus, the True Vine, the Father will periodically “prune us” 
in areas that have been quite productive. 
To the undiscerning this could feel like punishment or unfair treatment. 
However, this dry spell is the loving Father’s way of drawing us 
even closer to the Vine, Jesus, 
so that our fruit-character more greatly reflects Him.

THE WILD VINE

I planted you as 
a choice vine of seed 
fully tested and true. 
How did you degenerate into a wild vine for me? – Jeremiah 2:21

On the other hand a wild vine is not kept by a gardener, but grows at its own pace, sometimes rapidly. Its fruit are small, sour and inferior in quality. The wild vine cannot support itself, so it may wind itself around a tree until it gets to the top. Eventually it covers the top of the tree, and because the tree’s leaves can no longer receive enough sunlight, the tree begins to die.

The fact that an assembly is growing rapidly, is increasingly visible in the media 
and seems to be advancing is not necessarily an indication that it is connected to the True Vine. 
Jesus warned us saying, “Take heed that you not be deceived. 
For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and, 
‘The time has drawn near.’ Therefore do not go after them.” – Luke 21:8

Paul warns us about “false apostles, deceitful workers, 
transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. 
And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. 
Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.” – 2 Cor. 11:13-15

DON’T BE DECEIVED

Let us be diligent in testing each spirit to ensure that it is of God. Not every Christian program, book, CD, event or assembly is one that promotes intimacy with Jesus Christ.  Too many, like the wild vine, are on a mission to milk unsuspecting believers of their resources. They focus on their own ministries’ survival and personal ambition instead of the purposes of God. Eventually, because of lack of direct contact with the SON, those connected to them could suffer the same fate as the tree engulfed by the parasitic wild vine.

Which vine are you attached to?

“…by their fruits you will know them. 
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, 
but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 

Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 
And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; 
depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” Matthew 7:20-23


Thursday, May 23, 2013

FROM CAPTIVE TO CONQUEROR - PART 4

PURPOSE FULFILLED

Thanks to Allison Sylvester-Conliffe for contributing this series of articles
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Gideon started off as a man full of fear, but God worked through that condition so as to fulfil His purpose for Gideon on the earth.  God built faith in Gideon, and with every step of faith, Gideon displayed increasing boldness.

By the time we get to Judges 7:16-18, we see a transformed Gideon boldly giving instructions to his army of 300 as he was ready to go up to conquer the host of the Midianite army…

Then he divided the three hundred men into three companies, 
and he put a trumpet into every man’s hand, with empty pitchers, 
and torches inside the pitchers. 
And he said to them, “Look at me and do likewise
watch, and when I come to the edge of the camp you shall do as I do: 
When I blow the trumpet, I and all who are with me, then you also blow the trumpets on every side of the whole camp, and say, 
‘The sword of the LORD and of Gideon!’”

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By Chapter 8 of the Book of Judges, Gideon was challenging the men of Succoth and of Penuel for not co-operating with him by giving his men food.  He eventually brought his own word to pass concerning them – he wiped them out on his return.

When Gideon came to the Jordan, he and the three hundred men who were with him crossed over, exhausted but still in pursuit. Then he said to the men of Succoth, 
“Please give loaves of bread to the people who follow me, for they are exhausted, and I am pursuing Zebah and Zalmunna, kings of Midian.” 

And the leaders of Succoth said, 
“Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna now in your hand, that we should give bread to your army?” So Gideon said, “For this cause, when the LORD has delivered Zebah and Zalmunna into my hand, then I will tear your flesh with the thorns of the wilderness and with briers!” 

Then he went up from there to Penuel and spoke to them in the same way. 
And the men of Penuel answered him as the men of Succoth had answered. 
So he also spoke to the men of Penuel, saying, 
“When I come back in peace, I will tear down this tower!” – Judges 8:4-9

What a transformation! Gideon fulfilled his calling as a “great man of valour”!  God had seen him in this manner all along, even while he was yet a coward and afraid – while he was threshing wheat in the winepress, hiding from the Midianites.

In the same manner, we too, are seen by God, not in our present frail states, but God sees us as He created us - with His purpose for us in His mind.  Our job is to join with Him and to co-operate with Him, and so step into His Call that He would have ordained for each of our lives. 

It begins with us answering the Call of Salvation and then taking up the responsibility to follow after God’s direction as He guides us by His Spirit and His Word, on this journey called life.

Have you answered His call yet?


Sunday, May 19, 2013

FROM CAPTIVE TO CONQUEROR - PART 3

NO RESPECTER OF PERSONS

Thanks to Allison Sylvester-Conliffe for contributing this series of articles

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God desires a people who walk, think and act as He does – not allowing natural circumstances to be a hindrance at all.  He desires that we literally call things that are not as though they are – and that they would manifest according to our word just as Elijah did.  We must come to an understanding of our purpose and our position in God, through Jesus Christ.

Then he (Gideon) said to Him (the Lord),
 “If now I have found favor in Your sight, then show me a sign that it is You who talk with me. – Judges 6:17

Gideon was willing to agree with God, but the spirit of fear had a hold on him.  God did not give him that spirit, so He worked with Gideon so that he would begin to learn to gain trust in God at His Word.  God is patient and He is kind to His people.  He understands that we are flesh and blood, and works with us through our various circumstances to bring us into a life in the spirit. 

Now it came to pass the same night that the LORD said to him,
 “Take your father’s young bull, the second bull of seven years old,
 and tear down the altar of Baal that your father has,
 and cut down the wooden image that is beside it… - Judges 6:25

God is no respecter of persons and He does things as HE sees fit.  Gideon was not brought up knowing the true God.  I know that because God instructed Gideon to throw down the altar that was of Baal that his father used to worship.  If Gideon’s father used to worship Baal, then it stands to reason that his entire household worshipped Baal, including Gideon.

We tend to write off people and cast aspersions and judgements on those who are not of our religious persuasions or beliefs – but look at who God used!  He chose Gideon, whose household worshipped idols, to be the one to deliver Israel from the Midianites!! We need to repent as a people for our wrong thinking and attitudes toward folk.  Our God is indeed Awesome.  He sees differently from how we see. 

So Gideon took ten men from among his servants and did as the LORD had said to him.
 But because he feared his father’s household and the men of the city too much
 to do it by day, he did it by night. – Judges 6:27

Gideon was being used of God, even while he was still struggling in his flesh.  The important thing is that he was determined to be obedient to God, regardless of his set-backs in the flesh.  I believe that this pleased God and so He continued to work with Gideon.  God knew what He had already put into Gideon but was working with him in order for Gideon to see himself as God saw him.

The person who you think is furthest away from the Lord
could very well be the next "Gideon" as seen through God's eyes!

To be continued....

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

FROM CAPTIVE TO CONQUEROR - PART 2

THE DOUBTFUL DELIVERER

Thanks to Allison Sylvester-Conliffe for contributing this series of articles

God always looks for a deliverer to free those who are held captive.  He looks for one who is obedient – one who is yielded to Him.  God sees this chosen one from Heaven’s perspective – not in the frailty of his character as is displayed in the natural, but in the spirit and with the purpose for which He created that individual.

Looking at us in the natural, we could appear cowardly, full of wrong motives and not walking fully with God.  This was the case with Gideon....

Now the Angel of the Lord came and sat under the terebinth tree which was in Ophrah, 
which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, 
while his son Gideon threshed wheat in the winepress, in order to hide it from the Midianites. 
And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him, and said to him, 
“The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor!”
Judges 6:11-12

As we observe in this Scripture, God sees each person with the giftings that He has placed within us, even though we may not even know that they are there and laying dormant inside of us. Gideon was afraid. However, God knew what He had placed in him. He knew his hidden potential.

Then the LORD turned to him and said, 
“Go in this might of yours, and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. 
Have I not sent you?” 
So he said to Him, “O my Lord, how can I save Israel? 
Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.”
 – Judges 6:14-15

God’s Spirit is ever present to work with and in us as we agree to co-operate with Him.  It is noteworthy that God spoke to Gideon in the past tense “Have I not sent you?”

God has already won the victory over the devil for us through His Son Jesus Christ, so as far as He is concerned the victory is a done deal.  He has already charted the course, already solved every problem, and already delivered every soul.

Now, He wants a people who would walk on the earth, living out their inheritance of being His children who live as spirit beings and not just fleshly vessels. 

Do you see yourself in the same way that God sees you?
Have you identified the giftings He has given you?
Are you ready and willing to be used by Him?

To be continued…

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

FROM CAPTIVE TO CONQUEROR - PART 1


ARE YOU A SLAVE?
 
Thanks to Allison Sylvester-Conliffe for this series of articles.

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When we fall into habitual sin (going against the will of God), we bring ourselves into captivity....

Then the children of Israel did evil 
in the sight of the LORD. 
So the LORD delivered them 
into the hand of Midian for seven years, 
and the hand of Midian prevailed against Israel. 
Because of the Midianites, 
the children of Israel made for themselves 
the dens, the caves, 
and the strongholds which are in the mountains. – Judges 6:1-2

While practicing sin we toil in vain, because the Scripture says that God is the One who gives the increase. God cannot tolerate sin and therefore He is unable to bless.  Sin is a stench to His nostrils.  Therefore we keep ourselves from prospering in the things that we put our hands to. According to Judges 6:4, because of the Israelites’ sin, they lost all of their blessings.... 

So it was, whenever Israel had sown, Midianites would come up; 
also Amalekites and the people of the East would come up against them. 
Then they would encamp against them and destroy the produce of the earth as far as Gaza, 
and leave no sustenance for Israel, 
neither sheep nor ox nor donkey. – Judges 6:3-4

However, God showed mercy after the Israelites cried unto Him....   

And it came to pass, when the children of Israel cried out to the LORD because of the Midianites, that the LORD sent a prophet to the children of Israel. - Judges 6:7-8a

As we read on, we observe that God always seeks to reconcile, and so He woos us into repentance....

I said to you, 
“I am the LORD your God; do not fear the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell.” 
But you have not obeyed My voice.’” - Judges 6:10

Is there some unconfessed sin in your life? Have you been experiencing frustration because of it? Have you been feeling guilty? Sad? Out of sorts? Unfulfilled? Anxious?

Just as He did with the Israelites, God is wooing you back to Him. If you call to Him He will answer. If you confess your sin, He is faithful and just to forgive you and to give you a brand new start.

To be continued....

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