Cut Off, Cut Back

 

‘So you will produce even more.’ John 15:2 NLT

Jesus said the vine dresser ‘cuts off every branch that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes [cuts back] the branches that do bear fruit so they produce even more.’ Ok, so look at the ‘off’ and the ‘back’:

(1) God cuts some things off. Things you’re comfortable with but that stand in the way of your progress. Things He hasn’t chosen for you. Things that will bring you trouble. Things that refuse to change. Things that have served their purpose.

(2) God cuts some things back. A fruit tree that’s just been pruned certainly doesn’t look its best. And when God starts cutting back certain things in your life in order to redirect your energies, for a while you might not look so good either. Sometimes this means letting go of things you thought would always be there. Or reprioritising your life, or making do with less for a while, or not being able to explain to your friends why you’re going through the pruning process.

But life-giving sap flowing into a barren branch with no potential for fruitfulness is a waste! And so is time, attention, and energy taken from first things and given to second and third things. God knows what needs to be cut off in your life, and He knows what needs to be cut back. And although you may not understand what He’s doing, pray: ‘Send whoever You will and take away whoever You will. I’ll praise You when they come and I’ll praise You when they go, because Your approval is my reward and Your purpose is my reason to live.’

SoulFood: Jer 18–21, Mt 28:16–20, Ps 69:19–36, Prov 8:30–31

word4today an adaptation of The Word For Today is authored by Bob and Debby Gass and published under licence from UCB International Copyright © 2018

Today’s Readings

Jeremiah 18–21 ()

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18:1 The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: “Arise, and go down to the potter's house, and there I will let you hear my words.” So I went down to the potter's house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter's hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do.

Then the word of the LORD came to me: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the LORD. Behold, like the clay in the potter's hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do to it. And if at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, 10 and if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will relent of the good that I had intended to do to it. 11 Now, therefore, say to the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: ‘Thus says the LORD, Behold, I am shaping disaster against you and devising a plan against you. Return, every one from his evil way, and amend your ways and your deeds.’

12 “But they say, ‘That is in vain! We will follow our own plans, and will every one act according to the stubbornness of his evil heart.’

13   “Therefore thus says the LORD:
  Ask among the nations,
    Who has heard the like of this?
  The virgin Israel
    has done a very horrible thing.
14   Does the snow of Lebanon leave
    the crags of Sirion?
  Do the mountain waters run dry,
    the cold flowing streams?
15   But my people have forgotten me;
    they make offerings to false gods;
  they made them stumble in their ways,
    in the ancient roads,
  and to walk into side roads,
    not the highway,
16   making their land a horror,
    a thing to be hissed at forever.
  Everyone who passes by it is horrified
    and shakes his head.
17   Like the east wind I will scatter them
    before the enemy.
  I will show them my back, not my face,
    in the day of their calamity.”

18 Then they said, “Come, let us make plots against Jeremiah, for the law shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophet. Come, let us strike him with the tongue, and let us not pay attention to any of his words.”

19   Hear me, O LORD,
    and listen to the voice of my adversaries.
20   Should good be repaid with evil?
    Yet they have dug a pit for my life.
  Remember how I stood before you
    to speak good for them,
    to turn away your wrath from them.
21   Therefore deliver up their children to famine;
    give them over to the power of the sword;
  let their wives become childless and widowed.
    May their men meet death by pestilence,
    their youths be struck down by the sword in battle.
22   May a cry be heard from their houses,
    when you bring the plunderer suddenly upon them!
  For they have dug a pit to take me
    and laid snares for my feet.
23   Yet you, O LORD, know
    all their plotting to kill me.
  Forgive not their iniquity,
    nor blot out their sin from your sight.
  Let them be overthrown before you;
    deal with them in the time of your anger.

19:1 Thus says the LORD, “Go, buy a potter's earthenware flask, and take some of the elders of the people and some of the elders of the priests, and go out to the Valley of the Son of Hinnom at the entry of the Potsherd Gate, and proclaim there the words that I tell you. You shall say, ‘Hear the word of the LORD, O kings of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem. Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I am bringing such disaster upon this place that the ears of everyone who hears of it will tingle. Because the people have forsaken me and have profaned this place by making offerings in it to other gods whom neither they nor their fathers nor the kings of Judah have known; and because they have filled this place with the blood of innocents, and have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, which I did not command or decree, nor did it come into my mind—therefore, behold, days are coming, declares the LORD, when this place shall no more be called Topheth, or the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, but the Valley of Slaughter. And in this place I will make void the plans of Judah and Jerusalem, and will cause their people to fall by the sword before their enemies, and by the hand of those who seek their life. I will give their dead bodies for food to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the earth. And I will make this city a horror, a thing to be hissed at. Everyone who passes by it will be horrified and will hiss because of all its wounds. And I will make them eat the flesh of their sons and their daughters, and everyone shall eat the flesh of his neighbor in the siege and in the distress, with which their enemies and those who seek their life afflict them.’

10 “Then you shall break the flask in the sight of the men who go with you, 11 and shall say to them, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts: So will I break this people and this city, as one breaks a potter's vessel, so that it can never be mended. Men shall bury in Topheth because there will be no place else to bury. 12 Thus will I do to this place, declares the LORD, and to its inhabitants, making this city like Topheth. 13 The houses of Jerusalem and the houses of the kings of Judah—all the houses on whose roofs offerings have been offered to all the host of heaven, and drink offerings have been poured out to other gods—shall be defiled like the place of Topheth.’”

14 Then Jeremiah came from Topheth, where the LORD had sent him to prophesy, and he stood in the court of the LORD's house and said to all the people: 15 “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, behold, I am bringing upon this city and upon all its towns all the disaster that I have pronounced against it, because they have stiffened their neck, refusing to hear my words.”

20:1 Now Pashhur the priest, the son of Immer, who was chief officer in the house of the LORD, heard Jeremiah prophesying these things. Then Pashhur beat Jeremiah the prophet, and put him in the stocks that were in the upper Benjamin Gate of the house of the LORD. The next day, when Pashhur released Jeremiah from the stocks, Jeremiah said to him, “The LORD does not call your name Pashhur, but Terror on Every Side. For thus says the LORD: Behold, I will make you a terror to yourself and to all your friends. They shall fall by the sword of their enemies while you look on. And I will give all Judah into the hand of the king of Babylon. He shall carry them captive to Babylon, and shall strike them down with the sword. Moreover, I will give all the wealth of the city, all its gains, all its prized belongings, and all the treasures of the kings of Judah into the hand of their enemies, who shall plunder them and seize them and carry them to Babylon. And you, Pashhur, and all who dwell in your house, shall go into captivity. To Babylon you shall go, and there you shall die, and there you shall be buried, you and all your friends, to whom you have prophesied falsely.”

  O LORD, you have deceived me,
    and I was deceived;
  you are stronger than I,
    and you have prevailed.
  I have become a laughingstock all the day;
    everyone mocks me.
  For whenever I speak, I cry out,
    I shout, “Violence and destruction!”
  For the word of the LORD has become for me
    a reproach and derision all day long.
  If I say, “I will not mention him,
    or speak any more in his name,”
  there is in my heart as it were a burning fire
    shut up in my bones,
  and I am weary with holding it in,
    and I cannot.
10   For I hear many whispering.
    Terror is on every side!
  “Denounce him! Let us denounce him!”
    say all my close friends,
    watching for my fall.
  “Perhaps he will be deceived;
    then we can overcome him
    and take our revenge on him.”
11   But the LORD is with me as a dread warrior;
    therefore my persecutors will stumble;
    they will not overcome me.
  They will be greatly shamed,
    for they will not succeed.
  Their eternal dishonor
    will never be forgotten.
12   O LORD of hosts, who tests the righteous,
    who sees the heart and the mind,
  let me see your vengeance upon them,
    for to you have I committed my cause.
13   Sing to the LORD;
    praise the LORD!
  For he has delivered the life of the needy
    from the hand of evildoers.
14   Cursed be the day
    on which I was born!
  The day when my mother bore me,
    let it not be blessed!
15   Cursed be the man who brought the news to my father,
  “A son is born to you,”
    making him very glad.
16   Let that man be like the cities
    that the LORD overthrew without pity;
  let him hear a cry in the morning
    and an alarm at noon,
17   because he did not kill me in the womb;
    so my mother would have been my grave,
    and her womb forever great.
18   Why did I come out from the womb
    to see toil and sorrow,
    and spend my days in shame?

21:1 This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD, when King Zedekiah sent to him Pashhur the son of Malchiah and Zephaniah the priest, the son of Maaseiah, saying, “Inquire of the LORD for us, for Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon is making war against us. Perhaps the LORD will deal with us according to all his wonderful deeds and will make him withdraw from us.”

Then Jeremiah said to them: “Thus you shall say to Zedekiah, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: Behold, I will turn back the weapons of war that are in your hands and with which you are fighting against the king of Babylon and against the Chaldeans who are besieging you outside the walls. And I will bring them together into the midst of this city. I myself will fight against you with outstretched hand and strong arm, in anger and in fury and in great wrath. And I will strike down the inhabitants of this city, both man and beast. They shall die of a great pestilence. Afterward, declares the LORD, I will give Zedekiah king of Judah and his servants and the people in this city who survive the pestilence, sword, and famine into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and into the hand of their enemies, into the hand of those who seek their lives. He shall strike them down with the edge of the sword. He shall not pity them or spare them or have compassion.’

“And to this people you shall say: ‘Thus says the LORD: Behold, I set before you the way of life and the way of death. He who stays in this city shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence, but he who goes out and surrenders to the Chaldeans who are besieging you shall live and shall have his life as a prize of war. 10 For I have set my face against this city for harm and not for good, declares the LORD: it shall be given into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall burn it with fire.’

11 “And to the house of the king of Judah say, ‘Hear the word of the LORD, 12 O house of David! Thus says the LORD:

  “‘Execute justice in the morning,
    and deliver from the hand of the oppressor
    him who has been robbed,
  lest my wrath go forth like fire,
    and burn with none to quench it,
    because of your evil deeds.’”
13   “Behold, I am against you, O inhabitant of the valley,
    O rock of the plain,
      declares the LORD;
  you who say, ‘Who shall come down against us,
    or who shall enter our habitations?’
14   I will punish you according to the fruit of your deeds,
      declares the LORD;
    I will kindle a fire in her forest,
    and it shall devour all that is around her.”

Matthew 28:16–20 ()

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16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Psalm 69:19–36 ()

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19   You know my reproach,
    and my shame and my dishonor;
    my foes are all known to you.
20   Reproaches have broken my heart,
    so that I am in despair.
  I looked for pity, but there was none,
    and for comforters, but I found none.
21   They gave me poison for food,
    and for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink.
22   Let their own table before them become a snare;
    and when they are at peace, let it become a trap.
23   Let their eyes be darkened, so that they cannot see,
    and make their loins tremble continually.
24   Pour out your indignation upon them,
    and let your burning anger overtake them.
25   May their camp be a desolation;
    let no one dwell in their tents.
26   For they persecute him whom you have struck down,
    and they recount the pain of those you have wounded.
27   Add to them punishment upon punishment;
    may they have no acquittal from you.
28   Let them be blotted out of the book of the living;
    let them not be enrolled among the righteous.
29   But I am afflicted and in pain;
    let your salvation, O God, set me on high!
30   I will praise the name of God with a song;
    I will magnify him with thanksgiving.
31   This will please the LORD more than an ox
    or a bull with horns and hoofs.
32   When the humble see it they will be glad;
    you who seek God, let your hearts revive.
33   For the LORD hears the needy
    and does not despise his own people who are prisoners.
34   Let heaven and earth praise him,
    the seas and everything that moves in them.
35   For God will save Zion
    and build up the cities of Judah,
  and people shall dwell there and possess it;
36     the offspring of his servants shall inherit it,
    and those who love his name shall dwell in it.

Proverbs 8:30–31 ()

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30     then I was beside him, like a master workman,
  and I was daily his delight,
    rejoicing before him always,
31   rejoicing in his inhabited world
    and delighting in the children of man.

Tue 03 April, 2018


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