January 2014 Newsletter

Dear friends,

As I’ve sought the Father on what He will be doing in the body of Christ this year, He keeps saying that He is causing those who have ears to hear, focus on the ‘core’ issues of what is truly important and not, of who they truly are, are not.

It started when I was praying for someone in the local Tulsa house churches, and He spoke that to me about them entering a time to focus on core things, along with some other details I later told them. But His presence lingered so I lingered, and I heard Him say, “This is a year of getting back to basics, of core issues, of cutting away the distractions and focusing on core things.”                                                                                                                     

As He spoke I was in the Spirit and saw a tree before me. Its branches were being cut off by an invisible hand, cut clean to the trunk with just a nub remaining. But a few branches were trimmed so there remained 1-2 feet (.5m) of the branch, as if perhaps some of it can grow back at another time, and I wondered about that as I watched.

That part is most interesting to me. He left some so only the cut back branch remained, but He didn't take it all away. It wasn't the prettiest sight to see some of the trunk having short stubs sticking out, but it did give hope some of what was cut away can grow again 'the right way' so to speak.

But as I watched the branches falling to the ground, I became amazed at the straightness and beauty and strength of the once hidden trunk, reaching up to the sky, though somewhat scarred by the stubs of branches, the rest of it was clean cut to the trunk – but the trunk stretched way high with the upper leaves and branches left intact, reaching for the sun.                                                                                                           
I was amazed how strong the trunk was and couldn’t take my eyes off of it. I got the idea the tree had forgotten how strong and straight and true it really was, for somehow I understood the tree had prided itself on the branches and how they looked.

This was an important part. I knew somehow the tree (body of Christ) didn't know how strong and upright it really was, because up to that point it had all its faith in the branches and covering of leaves. But once removed from that covering, after the shock of losing the covering and being exposed for all to see, the tree was amazed and strong and pleased with itself at how strong it had discovered it truly was.

It was like the trunk (body of Christ) had hidden itself behind things that mean nothing, merely a facade, something people see, appearance focused rather than spiritually transparent and real. The trunk had been hidden by a façade of growth, but now cut away, its strength and beauty were amazing. Then the vision disappeared.  

As I thought on this I saw the same vision but from another perspective. It like a movie camera drawing back for a wider angle, and as that happened I realized I wasn't looking just as one tree - the first vision was 1 tree which was the body of Christ.

But now this vision pulled back from 1 pruned tree, and as the perspective changed I realized I was in a forest with hundreds and hundreds of trees standing near each other as they would be in a forest. Each tree had been pruned just as the body of Christ as a whole had been in the first vision. But now I was seeing hundreds of trees all pruned, clearly meaning individual members of the body of Christ.

And somehow I could tell all these trees, being neighbors in the same forest, knew each other and were somehow in relationship with one another, and were in fellowship as all had gone through the same pruning, so all were equal and no one sought to be the focus of attention - they were just equal trees among other trees. Then it disappeared.

What we can gather from this ‘pruning’ (which is not strong enough a word to describe the cutting I saw) is that it is about spiritual and natural things. Pruning isn’t fun unless you are focused on what is truly important, otherwise you will mourn for the loss of the branches. And it is about relationships in Christ as we are pruned.

On the natural side of things, pruning means economic difficulties, pressure of life, stresses of life - a cutting of all that is extra, and refocusing attention on what is truly important. The same is true of spiritual pruning. Spiritual pruning has to do with developing Christ-like character which often comes through difficulty.

A person doesn't have to go through hardship to develop a clear set of priorities that are in line with the Lord and His kingdom, for they will consider each decision as an opportunity for growth, and often take the character building choice rather than the easy way out.

For instance, over my nearly 4 decades of ministry, I've talked to a lot of people about developing a budget, a budget that includes giving, setting something aside for themselves, and organizing with a plan. Yet so many go away failing to implement the discipline though they know they should, and they know they could.

But times are coming where the spiritual and economic conditions will force people into decisions they should have made for themselves.  The Father is speaking that those who have ears to hear, can be what we would say, 'ahead of the curve.' (Prepared as it will catch others by surprise, who even knew to prepare but did not.

I pray what I share resonates and bears witness in your spirit – this getting back to basics, to focus on the core things of life, and who we are in Him. We are stronger in Him than we realize, and for the body of Christ as a whole, there will be a cutting away of facades and things hiding the true person in this year. It means identifying core things, and being focused on them. Praying!

Barb and I want to thank you for your generous support in prayer and financial gifts. We are a small ministry just doing what we've been called to do, and transparent and from the heart. Words can’t express our gratitude for your prayers and support. Thank you.

Chris’ remodel – We sat down with our architect friend, one of the leaders in the Tulsa house churches, and he is drawing up plans for Chris’ handicapped room and bathroom, and also a ‘master plan’ if we are able to add an office room for Barb and enlarge my office (currently about 10x10 and packed with boxes). Once those plans are tweaked as needed the builder will be able to give us a price and we can move forward. We are planning on a spring start, and we thank you for those who have given to help us with this. We think we have about half of what will be needed, but will know more in about a month.

Blessings to you, keep your eyes on Him!

John and Barb

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