Pruning, Abiding, Fruitfulness


Today I was reading the John Stott daily devotional that I’ve been using for about a year now. It’s titled Through the Bible Through the Year and it’s probably the single most insightful devotional I’ve ever come across. There are so many gems each day that spark my thoughts and inspire further study.

I wanted to pass along a couple of the paragraphs that were in today’s reading as I thought they were so well written, descriptive and helpful. So, here they are, John Stott’s words:

What, then, are the secrets of fruitfulness? The first is the pruning of the vine. God is an indefatigable gardener. He prunes every fruit-bearing branch so that it may bear more fruit. This pruning is surely a picture of suffering. And pruning is a drastic process. The bush or shrub is cut right back, usually in the autumn. To the uninitiated it looks extremely cruel. Sometimes only a stump is left—naked, jagged, scarred, and mutilated—but when the spring and summer return, there is much fruit. The painful pruning knife has evidently been in safe hands. Some form of suffering is virtually indispensable to holiness.

The second secret of fruitfulness is the “abiding” of the branches in the vine. In essence to be a Christian is to be “in Christ,” organically united to Christ. So to abide in Christ is to maintain and develop an already existing relationship. Moreover, it is a reciprocal relationship, since we abide in Christ and Christ in us. For Christ to abide in us we must let him do so, allowing him to be increasingly what he is, our Lord and our Life Giver. But for us to abide in Christ, Bishop J. C. Ryle put it like this: “Abide in me. Cling to me. Stick fast to me. Live the life of close and intimate communion with me. Get nearer and nearer to me. Roll every burden on me. Cast your whole weight on me. Never let go your hold on me for a moment.”


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Dream: Pray for Trump


A night or two before the State of the Union address (Tuesday, February 5, 2019), I had an interesting dream that the Spirit has brought to my recollection enough times since that I’ve decided to share it. In the dream, I was sitting in the front passenger seat of the president’s car during a motorcade that was slowly moving past a middle school, I believe it was. I clearly remember seeing all the happy children outside waving at the president and the long procession of vehicles as we drove by. I turned to look behind me and saw President Trump in the seat right behind mine. He was leaning forward sort of hunched over and from what I could tell was intently reviewing documents for an upcoming speech. He looked a bit tired, which comes with the territory, I suppose. But when I looked back at him, what struck me most was a sense of the awesome responsibility he has to lead our country and the free world. It was a divine dream-like moment that I believe God wanted me to experience in order to bring more clearly to my attention the sheer weight of his job, and that he needs informed intercessors in his corner praying that he will lead our nation into God’s righteousness and peace, truth and justice, life and liberty.

This dream reminded me of another vivid dream I had during the Obama administration. If I remember correctly, it was during President Obama’s second term and prior to the Iran nuclear deal (which essentially exchanged billions of dollars for a more formal commitment to a peaceful nuclear program). In the dream, I was leading a prayer meeting in which the power of God was manifesting in a way I can’t really describe in words—there was just this feeling of incredible power in the room. I prayed from the front on the microphone, “Lord, give the president (Obama) strength to make wise decisions!” I had that uncanny dream-state clarity in which I understood two things distinctly: 1) that prayer is vastly more powerful than we typically recognize, and 2) that the crushing responsibility of the presidency, along with the debilitating spiritual warfare, can lead to a weariness that produces really unwise decisions. Tired, worn out people make poor decisions, after all.

That being said, let’s purpose to keep praying for the utmost welfare of our president, his family, the current administration and our nation. I believe this to be the most practical takeaway from my recent dream. It’s a simple reminder that we as Jesus’ church—every single one of us—have a role to play through prayer in helping our president make the best and most biblical decisions for the United States of America and the world. I know it can get hairy and complicated due to the toxicity level of political discourse these days, but as believers let’s not allow the spirit of intimidation (or our own staunch opinions) keep us from that secret place of spiritual authority that can make a very tangible and lasting difference.

Would you join me in keeping President Trump and our entire country in your frequent and fervent prayers? If so, consider posting a comment to let me know!


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Merciful Leadership

Saul_and_David_by_Rembrandt_Mauritshuis_621I shared a message on leadership a few weeks ago that has received more positive feedback than what’s typical. It seems to have struck a particular chord with listeners and so I’ve decided to include it in a blog post to make others aware who may benefit from it.

The reality is that a very significant test of our leadership is what we say—both publicly and privately—about other leaders. This includes those who fail in some way or become disqualified, which we’re hearing a lot about in church life these days. When we use our leadership platform (however small or big it may be) to bring undue attention to other people’s flaws and shortcomings, it drastically shifts our family and ministry culture from healthy to unhealthy—not to mention how negatively it affects our own heart.

I encourage you to take some time this week during a commute to/from work, while doing dishes/chores, etc. to give it a listen. It’s my prayer that you and I would become exemplary leaders who value and emulate mercy similar to how King David carried himself. It’s how we will pass, and continue to pass, this significant test, become promotable and be most useful to the King of kings.

Click here to link to the “David’s Merciful Leadership” audio and teaching notes.


If you’ve been blessed by Derek’s blog, resources or ministry, would you prayerfully consider a gift for him and his family? Click here for details on how to make a donation.

Image of “Saul and David” by Rembrandt (c. 1645 and c. 1652) used with permission per Wikipedia’s public domain terms of use.