Part 2:Desolate Lands & Withered Branches
“This is what the Lord says, ‘On the day that I cleanse you from your sins, I will cause the cities to be inhabited, and waste places will be rebuilt. The desolate land will be cultivated instead of being a desolation in the sight of everyone who passes by. They will say, ‘This desolate land has become like the garden of Eden; and the waste, desolate, ruined places are now fortified and inhabited.’ Then those around you will know that I, the Lord, have rebuilt the ruined places and planted that which was desolate; I, the Lord, have spoken and will do it.” – Ezekiel 36:33-36
“I am the Vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit…If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and is withered; gathered, cast into the fire, and is burned.” – John 15:5-6
I am not sure how often I will write each of you throughout this year, but every time I sense the Lord revealing something new I want to share it with you so that you can join us on this journey into a Season of Harvest…
Twelve years ago when the Lord gave us the promise found in Ezekiel 36 we had no idea how he planned to bring it to fulfillment. This past year as the Lord has led us to believe that the season of harvest is upon us and that He is in the midst of fulfilling the words found in Ezekiel, I have been surprised at what the start of that process has looked like. All along I assumed this promise was in reference to what He was going to do in the North Highland community, but what He has begun showing me is that this promise is actually for me and my family. As we have earnestly been praying, both privately and corporately, for the Lord to cleanse us, the Lord has been responding. What He has shown us is that North Highland is actually not the only waste, desolate, and ruined place; rather, as His Holy Sprit has searched us we have come to see that we are also the waste, desolate, ruined place. As our family has continued to humble ourselves in the presence of the Lord allowing Him the freedom to search us we have seen that there are areas in our life that our desolate and withered. For years, often unknowingly, we have tried to restore these desolate and withered places in our own strength. But lately, the Lord has been telling us that we need to allow Him to put those areas in our life to death. God is showing us that there are times when areas of our lives become so polluted and messy that “fixing” is not what’s needed, death is actually needed. So this year, we have allowed the Lord the freedom to take the desolate and withered parts of our life and put them in the grave. This process has required a significant level of vulnerability on our part, but that vulnerability has led to great relief. Trying to tend to, fix, manage, and restore withered and desolate areas is exhausting and often leaves you feeling as if your wheels are spinning but you aren’t actually getting anywhere. Because we were so desperate for relief, the “putting it in the grave” part was easy. However, figuring out what to do after that has not been so easy.
This morning as I was reading in Luke 23-24 the Lord revealed something to me. After the crucifixion, Christ was taken down from the cross and put into the grave. It says that the women who were mourning at the cross went and prepared spices and perfumes for his burial and then watched as the soldiers placed HIs body in the grave. The following day was the Sabbath so instead of going back to the grave to prepare Christ’s body for burial, “they rested according to the commandment”. After the Sabbath the women returned to the grave where they were greeted by angels who asked them, “Why do you seek for the living among the dead? He is not here. He is risen.” As I read that, I sensed the Holy Spirit revealing to me that I am like those women. He has told me to lay certain parts of my life in the grave and I have obeyed. However, instead of putting it in the grave, and then “resting”, I keep going back to the grave hoping to find something living amongst what is dead. This morning the Holy Sprit asked me the same question that the angels asked the women that day at the tomb, “Carrie, why are you looking for the living, among the dead? Allow ME to put the withered and desolate parts of your life in the grave. Stop coming back to the grave. Leave it. In My time and in My power I will bring life from what is dead.”
Desolate and withered. Those are words that describe parts of our life at the moment. But as Scripture says, “we do not mourn as those without hope”(1 Thessalonians 4:13). Here is the beautiful part, and the part our family is clinging to right now, the promise found in Ezekiel and in John 15 is that in time He will replant what has become desolate and He will allow us to once again bear fruit, much fruit, and fruit that remains as we learn to continue abiding (resting) in Him. Not striving to fix or mend; not going back to the grave, but resting in His presence.
The interesting thing about desolate lands and withered branches is that both have only one remedy…fire. A withered branch must be destroyed in the fire and a desolate area must go through a process called prescribed burning in order to bring forth fruit. Prescribed burns are used among farmers for one reason – to improve the health of the entire field. In order for a prescribed burn to be effective, conditions must be just right. In fact, there may only be a few hours out of the whole year when conditions are right for a burn. But when the conditions are right and when a prescribed burn occurs, the field is then made ready for new growth. Where there was no growth or growth that has been overtaken by weeds and debris, a burning comes in order to produce new growth.
What a beautiful description of what Christ does in the life of the believer that allows Him complete access! As we allow Him access to our withered branches and desolate places, He brings His purifying fire. You and I often see fire and death as something to be avoided, but Christ sees it as the opportunity to bring forth new life; life that is healthy and vigorously producing fruit. The burn destroys all that has polluted the field and lays it bare so that the new growth can be rich, and pure. In light of that my prayer has become, “Search me and try me Lord; and see if there is any hurtful way in me. Bring to light all that is not of You and give me the ability to put the withered, desolate parts of my life in the grave. Help me learn to rest and abide in You, not returning to the grave, but instead giving you the freedom you need to burn away all the dross so that you can begin replanting that which is desolate – making my life a garden of Eden.”
My encouragement to each of you is to take this journey with us. Pray, as we have been, that the Lord would cleanse you. Give him access to the withered, desolate parts of your life so that, in time, He might also rebuild and replant that which is desolate in you so that your life can become a garden of Eden – bearing fruit, much fruit, and fruit that remains.