The discipline of God is rigorous, brutal, beautiful and brings freedom. For me the discipline has come as pruning like in John 15:2. The pruning is thorough, and it’s the pruning of unbelief from my heart. This article is about my recent personal journey with God’s discipline.
The pruning of our Father is to remove all that is in us, that is not from Christ. All the dreaming and thinking that does begin in Christ, and therefore will not bear his fruit in our lives.
As I enter 2020 I am sharing this brief review of the Holy Spirit’s leading, discipline and pruning from my personal journey with God.
My sabbatical in 2015
During my sabbatical in 2015 a transition began in my heart; our heavenly Father began to call me to fresh faith, rest and hope.
I was led to focus on:
1) Romans 8:19, the groan for the
sons of God to be revealed. I am learning to live with this groan, and let it
shape my life and ministry.
2) The oneness and precious unity
of Christ’s body. Jesus died for this and is praying for it, the least I can is
live for it. Why do we allow our religious opinions to sacrifice relationships?
Are we trampling on the blood of Jesus?
3) The desire to apprentice new
generations of sons and daughters of God who apprentice others in following
Jesus. I am called to new generations more than those who have considered and
chosen their relationship to Jesus.
4) A refreshed faith in God as
our provider in everything – 1 Cor 9:11, and Matthew 6 were significant here.
God was clear in not allowing me to look anywhere but himself for my earthly
provision and possessions. (I’m Ok with you having a different view, this is my
journey). All we have is on loan, we own nothing, our Father is owner of all.
Therefore, I need to discern what he is putting into my hands so I am not
hoarding and putting my security and future hope in my hoard instead of my
To be clear, I am not sharing this so you know more about
me. I’m sharing this because the Spirit is encouraging me to. Therefore, he
wants to breathe fresh life into you; and that will bring pruning. Without new
discipline there will be no new depth of knowing Father’s love, and new
In 2018 Unite Church, where I had been minister for 20 years, entered a planned year of leadership transition from myself to new senior leadership. The only word I received for my next step was from Acts 6:4. “Give yourself to prayer and the ministry of the word of God.”
In July I handed in my resignation and was becoming aware I should plan to move on from Unite. (There had been thought of me staying on in a new capacity). So, I considered other ministry possibilities. I began to relate to Paul in Acts 16:6-7; because the Spirit led me to stop seeking a ministry appointment or paid employment. He asked me to be available to Him. This has been challenging and rewarding. My wife and I are convicted that we are in full-time ministry before God and called to trust Him alone; without a set position, income or place. It’s been hard and misunderstood. Many times I’ve been asked how retirement is going, I’m not retired. This is Father pruning my soul releasing cleaner faith in Him alone, it’s scary and wonderful at the same time. We are ready and available for any and every assignment The Spirit leads us into. We don’t feel ready, but we know we are when he says so.
God asked me to let everything go, to be like a seed planted. This meant all I am as person, a christian, a minister, a leader, and a preacher. I can’t describe myself as a preacher any more. This has taken some time, as it’s not about learning, it’s about the Spirit growing something new in me. Growing that ‘new thing’ that only he can birth in me. I’m Ok now with never having what looks like a ‘ministry’ thing. This is pruning, the discipline that reveals God’s deep love for me.
Some scriptures the Spirit breathed into me are:
John 12:24 “Truly, truly, I say
to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains
alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (ESV)
1 Corinthians 15:36-38 How
foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. When you sow, you
do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of
something else. But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind
of seed he gives its own body.’ NIV
Philippians 3:8-11 “What is more,
I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ
Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage,
that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my
own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the
righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know
Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his
sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the
resurrection from the dead.” NIV
I encourage you to breathe these verses and their context
into your heart and let them do a new work in you. They are not for me alone,
but for all who follow Jesus.
On 28th January I set out on my revival prayer
ride around Aotearoa. ( I’ve written blogs from this ride)
This prayer ride stirred my heart for our nation and drew my
attention to something God is saying about Maori. This set me on a new journey
to grow in knowing how the Spirit moved amongst Maori before 1840 and what this
means for the church today. And I feel like I am back in kindergarten.
October 2019 I heard God saying:
“I am leading you to see the former things that took place in Aotearoa, the beginning of the gospel and the betrayal. I am opening your eyes to these, so you can see the ‘new things’ I am beginning to do. The birth of my ‘church of Aotearoa’, a house made in heaven. I am doing a new thing that is an old thing.”
My lessons from God’s discipline during 2019.
Abide in Christ – this is our one thing in all things. God
is our end, and all our blessedness is complete in him. He is not the means to
our ends, even our Christian sounding ends, like saving people for Jesus. All
our ministry is an overflow of our one thing, abiding in Jesus. Enter my rest
as perpetual – stop going in and out of it, it is your resting place. The
Spirit says “Enter my rest as perpetual – stop going in and out of it, it is
your resting place.”
Listen, Paul listen – sit and listen like Mary of Bethany, with no agenda. Less talking and more listening in my ‘alone time’ with God. Ouch! I need to grow in this. Listen and obey, without requiring information.
I need to be less concerned with myself and my appearance, my passions, my performance, my strengths and weaknesses etc. I don’t need to justify to myself or others, because all justification flows from fear of judgement. And His love drives that fear out of my heart. I don’t know if you are like me, I often felt I needed to explain, to help others understand; when all I was doing was justifying. Let us be done with comparison and classification even for explanation.
I am no longer a preacher. The Spirit said “When speaking you bring life, you answer the cries of my peoples heart.” This is my only reason to preach. I’m sure I’ll fall into old habits, but I trust the Holy Spirit to continue to convict and challenge me. I give him permission to do with me whatever he chooses.
The call to minister from heaven to earth, from Spirit to flesh. Not from experience and knowledge. Remember: Knowledge puffs up, love builds up. The Holy Spirit told me that flesh was the experiences I had with him in my last season. These are now in the ground dying, and unless he speaks them again they are no longer a reference point for me. Are you hearing the Spirit? What are doing today that he is no longer in?
Do not look at numbers, in meetings or on facebook or anywhere else, for validation or to measure effectiveness. The Spirit said “I will send you somewhere for one person who you may never know personally. I’ll get you to write a blog for one person. I’m like that. I mean this!” He continued “numbers are not relevant for you; whether its 10 or 10,000. I am the only one you look to.” I should know this, and I do at a level; but the Spirit is cutting deeper. By the way; this is setting me free.
“He makes me lie down” and “In quietness and trust is your strength” – God is not turbulence, loud or desperate. As these words, ‘he makes me lie down’ kept coming to mind; I realised I was more comfortable in the valley of the shadow of death and in the midst of enemies than lying down. I’ve learnt how to stand and fight, I knew how to be a man-of-war and was comfortable in the battle of the Lord. Now I am allowing the Holy Spirit to grow in me this place of lying down. It’s difficult to let go of the old ways of serving in the valley and presence of my enemies; but it’s good. The Spirit has been emphasising, ‘he makes me lie down’ and I want to obey. Even at risk of looking lazy to people who value busyness.
I don’t need to know the detail, before I obey? When I feel like I am sure in myself I can be sure I am lost. When I fight to control (understand) my life I am fighting against the life God is giving me. God is growing a deeper more intuitive, instinctive, and natural trust between he and I. A trust that transcends understanding, sight, strength & weakness. I am becoming so free!
To be done with impatience – that little agitation in my soul. I said “I thought I’d already learnt this – and then the Spirit said, “You can’t learn it, I must grow it in you”.
And he used Lamentations 3:24 “The Lord is my portion” says my soul, therefore I will hope in him.” (This is to wait patiently) And I will lie down.
This verse has been my prayer many times over last few months. And deeper quietness and rest is growing within me. This deeper rest of faith is essential for the fruitfulness to come. the call is to live dead to our flesh. And a lot of flesh is doing what we did yesterday today, it’s time to stop it.
In August an old friend in Brisbane asked me if I would go to Dargaville to look after a church. I was asking God why am I going to Dargaville, and heard; “Are you confident I’m leading you there”; I said yes. The Spirit said, “Isn’t that enough. Why do you need to understand?” This was discipline and pruning. I gave up all right and need to understand why. I realised, it was my old flesh that wanted to understand.
I went to Dargaville for one reason, the Spirit led me there. To obey is my worship. I need no more justification or reason than that. I was there for Jesus, anything for people flows from that. Jesus is my one end in life. Not a means to my many ends, even my ‘for Jesus’ ends. It’s not about what I am getting out of God, it’s about what he’s getting out of me, and what he wants is worship.
You see, our everything is in Jesus, its already finished, that means perfectly complete and ready for me, in him. Therefore, I receive it I don’t seek it. And so do you.
Some new fruit within me.
There is fresh love and joy between myself and Jesus within me, and I am more committed to obedience.
I have less confidence in our current institutions and structures of church. But I cannot turn my back on the people Jesus died for who are within these institutions. Our faith transcends our institutions, and his church transcends our structures; so we hold all our understanding of church lightly and Jesus tightly.
We hold all our understanding of church lightly and Jesus tightly
The blood of Jesus is growing in value and significance in me. His blood is speaking today. The cross was 2000 years ago in earths time, but it is now in heaven. The horror, the wonder, the greatness of our salvation that Jesus brought about on the cross is now in eternity and on earth. You see bloodless is loveless, there is no ‘bloodless’ gospel. And when we are casual about faith and obedience, church and mission; it’s the blood of Jesus we are treating casually. This is of deep concern in heaven, and in the hearts of Jesus disciples.
Some groans that are growing within me are:
1. The unity of Jesus Church throughout Aotearoa and beyond. This will come as we pursue the gospel of the cross and reconciliation with repentant hearts. God’s gift in Maori will be released through the church that is reconciled and one with Jesus. We don’t try get it right, we trust all to Jesus and obey. Without unity in the Blood and Spirit, pursuing revival and harvest is vanity and could be idolatry.
2. A ‘groan’ for the cross and resurrection and eternity to
be our gospel experience and faith not just taglines.
3. A desperation for believers to be hungry for truth. Wake
up! And truth is in the scripture, and as we read it the Holy Spirit breathes
it into us, and it is life to us. Many Christians are weak and frail in their
faith simply because they don‘t meditate on scripture much at all.
4. To be more fruitful in making disciples who disciple; and
leaders who lead disciples who disciple. Disciples who meditate on scripture
and pray, and obey Jesus in the Holy Spirit; and who are more concerned with
obedience than claiming their perceived rights as Christians.
5. a groan to cut through our traditional patterns of doing ‘church’ so that we stop sacrificing God’s people on the altars of our traditions and focus on the gospel and discipling.
That’s my 2019.
I’m not convinced that God submits his workings into our
calendar. So I don’t expect anything because its 2020. I do expect more because
God has said he prunes the fruitful so they will bear more fruit. Fruit that
lasts for eternity, that’s what I want. Whether I fully see it or not.
As said in Philippians 1:21-22 “For to me, to live is Christ
and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean
fruitful labour for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know!” I want this to
be my testimony, and I think the Holy Spirit does as well.
Please hear what the Spirit is saying to you, and let him do
his work within you. This is not time to put off until tomorrow what God is
asking of us today.