Today is quite unusual; I went to the office with this urge to write about what the Lord has been searing in my heart lately. Cornerstone, a lot has happened in the past few weeks and these words from God have been carrying me through, and I hope they will do the same for you too.
First, let’s look at a few verses (with my emphasis), then we’ll connect them together later:
“…Jesus says, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the Gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful…” (John 15:1-2)
“…Listen then to what the parable of the sower means… the seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy; but since they have no root, they last only a short time…. the seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful…” (Matthew 13:18-22)
“Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers.” (Psalm 1:1-2)
“The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, “The Lord is upright; He is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in Him.” (Psalm 92:12-15)
Now here’s what the Lord has been carving in my heart:
As some of you may already know, a good gardener will be dedicated to cultivating, nourishing, protecting and growing his garden. That includes pruning the plant to produce more fruit; to prune means to cut away dead or overgrown branches to encourage growth. Also, a good gardener will remove rocks and thorns and anything else that will hinder the growth of his planted seeds.
Our God is no different; in fact, He is the perfect and divine Gardener. We are His garden, and our heart particularly is His soil. He is dedicated to cultivating, nourishing, and growing His word that has been planted in our hearts. That includes pruning as well as removal of rocks and thorns.
This is the truth: pruning hurts, and removing rocks and thorns also hurts. These are not sweet experiences. The Lord’s word to me is clear: what has happened in Cornerstone in recent weeks is pruning by the Lord’s hand. The sad news is that the cutting away of other branches is painful; the good news is that it was done by the Lord’s hand. That means this whole thing was never out of His control; behind everything that has been happening is still God’s hand, diligently working in His garden. Why would God do such a painful thing to his garden? Simple answer: for growth, for more fruitfulness. Growth for those who have left, and growth for those who have remained; growth in maturity and love for God, and fruitfulness in the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Another major part of God’s gardening work is the removal of rocks and thorns. Jesus said that rocks hinder the growth of roots, and thorns choke the seed. If our heart is His soil, that means His goal is to remove the rocks and thorns in our hearts. According to Jesus, thorns are the worries of this life; but what are the rocks? Let me propose this: the rocks are anything that springs up from the old self that hinders the growth of God’s life in us. (Rom 8:5-8, Gal 5:17-21). Kasama dyan ang mga pag uugali ng lumang sarili; kasali na dyan si pride, si ego, si emosyon, si anger, si unforgiveness, si bitterness, at lahat pa ng mga kamag-anak nila.
Therefore, ang trabaho ng Diyos sa atin ay yung patuloy na pagbubungkal ng ating puso, para matagpuan ang mga bato at tinik, at para ma alis Niya ang mga ito.
Alam mo ba kung bakit masakit tuwing tinatamaan ka sa sermon? Or kapag kino-correct at dinidisiplina ka sa church? If you think about it, masakit dahil tinatamaan ang lumang sarili mo; masakit dahil inaalis ang mga bato at tinik; masakit kasi ilang taon na naka baon sa puso mo ang mga bato at tinik na yan; masakit kasi gustong alisin ng Diyos yung matagal mo nang inaalagaan. Ganyan tumrabaho ang Diyos, kasi yan lang ang paraan para mag ka ugat at magka bunga ang tinanim Niya sa iyo.
Now if that is the work of God our divine Gardener, then this is the work of the devil, the evil accuser: Instead of focusing on what God is doing in your heart, the devil will draw your eyes away towards the person God is using to remove your rocks and thorns. He will magnify the pain, and convince you that the pain is caused by outside sources; either the person God is using, or the situation God has placed you in. The devil will tell you the problem is outside and not inside your heart; he will tell you “other people” are the problem. Sasabihin niya sa iyo, “Masakit yan kasi sinasaktan ka nila! Walang problema sa iyo! Sila ang may problema! Sila ang dahilan kaya ka nagdurusa! Banatan mo din sila!”
After years of experiencing God’s painful gardening in my own heart, this is what I have learned: The most prominent evidence of spiritual immaturity is “tampo”, or to be displeased against someone who has hurt you. Why? Because “tampo” will focus on the other person who has supposedly hurt you, instead of focusing on the rocks and thorns that God is working on in your heart.
Refreshingly, the most spiritual mature Christians I’ve met are those who are not easily displeased with people; mga hindi madaling mag tampo. Why? Because they are more aware of their own sinfulness and of their own failures, instead of the sinfulness of others. Therefore, they are the ones who are first to seek forgiveness and reconciliation, instead of distancing themselves from others. Sila yung magsasabi ng, “Oo, masakit yung sinabi mo at ginawa mo sa akin… pero masakit yun dahil may tinatrabaho ang Diyos sa puso ko… kaya hindi ako nagtatampo sa iyo, bagkus mamahalin pa kita kasi ginagamit ka ng Diyos para lumago pa ako.” These are the believers who “delight in the law of the Lord”, meaning they meditate on what God is doing in their hearts instead of meditating on the hurt that are caused by others. Another thing I learned about these spiritually mature believers is that they do not leave when they get hurt; rather, they stay and let God work in their hearts to remove rocks and thorns. They are the ones who are “planted in the house of the Lord, and flourish in the courts of God”. Look at those words: “planted and flourish” are connected. You will never flourish if you are not planted. You will never grow fruitful if you move around and do not develop roots.
Cornerstone, let us seek the Lord together; let us not fall into the devil’s trap. If you are hurting and are tempted to retaliate, don’t… instead, seek what God is working on in your heart. Let us not focus on what others are doing to hurt us. Instead, let us look to the Lord, and seek what He is cultivating in our hearts. You should ask yourself, “Why does it hurt? Bakit masakit? Bakit ako nagagalit? Ano yung tinamaan? Ano yung tinatrabaho ni Lord sa akin? Is it my pride? My ego? My emotions? My worries?”
I can assure you, if this is how you respond to God’s dealing, you will grow in your Christian walk. God will mold your character; He will enlighten your mind to understand His ways; He will illuminate your eyes so you will see all that He wants to show you; He will sharpen your hearing so you can hear His voice; He will strengthen your spirit so you will be able to discern how He moves; He will transform you so that when people see you they will encounter Him.
Today, I’m praying for all of you to experience this reality para pag balik ni Jesus madami siyang mapipitas na bunga ng Holy Spirit mula sa inyo. I love you all… Buhay ang Diyos!