This past week we have been away at Blairmore House in the Highlands of Scotland – the Ellel Centre to which Pastors and Leaders are coming from all over the world, for a time of personal restoration and healing. On Operation Blairmore we are privileged to see people who have reached the limit of their capacity to cope with the pressures of life, and for various reasons have had to withdraw from the fight for a season, while God restores and rebuilds their lives.
While sharing coffee with other members of the Leadership I casually picked up the Blairmore House Visitors Book and began to read out some of the comments left there by people before they returned home, ready to get back on the road of life and fulfil their destiny under God. As my American friends say, they were ‘awesome’! If we’d asked someone to write a piece for our Handbook, telling people what God is doing at Blairmore House, they couldn’t have written anything more powerful than the amazing things already written down on those precious pages. Their words described nothing less than miracles wrought by the hand of God in their lives. We were laughing at the fact that often we struggle to find words to tell people in our brochures what they will experience, when they come on a course or a retreat at one of our Centres. It crossed my mind that all we really needed to do was let them read the Blairmore House Visitors Book!
Then, on the way home I called to see a friend who himself had reached the limit of his (and his wife’s) capacity to handle the reality of a life which was supposed to be that of a distinguished Christian leader, but which, on the inside, had all the hallmarks of a man who had left morality behind in his search for answers to the pain of his past. He was one of those who, reluctantly at first, went to Blairmore House for help, but really believing that there was little hope for him. Today he is so radically transformed that his wife marvels at the joy his restoration has brought to them both. The enemy was wanting to rob them of their destiny, and had almost succeeded in convincing my friend of the hopelessness of his case. But God had other plans.
Then, yesterday, after returning home, I went to inspect the fruit trees I planted about ten years ago, on a bit of land at the bottom of our garden. They were absolutely laden with fruit. The apples and the pears are not ready yet, but the plums and the greengages were a different story. They were deliciously ripe – their taste was fantastic. So we had a family harvest time and I am writing this blog at the kitchen table surrounded by baskets of wonderful fruit. The team at Ellel Grange are in for a surprise!
But as I walked round the plum trees, I saw something that grieved my heart. Some of the branches were so laden with fruit that they had gone beyond their breaking point. Sadly, the branches had snapped under the strain of bearing so much fruit. As I looked at those broken branches, I sensed God speaking to me about a coming time of harvest. We see a world that his running headlong into its own end-times rebellion against a holy God. But in that world God sees that there are still many who are desperate for an answer which is not tainted by the lusts of the flesh, greed, futile wars, religious battles, economic collapse and which is controlled by fear. For the day will come when there are ‘multitudes in the valley of decision’ (Joel 3:14) looking for someone to show them the only Way out of the mess.
Then the Lord spoke to me saying ‘time is short and my people are not ready. If all the harvest were to come in now, the branches of my Church would break under the strain of trying to bear fruit on branches that are weak and ill-equipped for the season that is to come. Many branches have forsaken their trust in My Word, no longer believe that My Son is the only Way of salvation and no longer understand what I am saying to My people. Some branches are morally rotten on the inside and will snap under the strain. Other branches are so preoccupied with themselves, and their own petty arguments, that they’ve forgotten what a branch is for. Yet other branches are weak because they have not been taught what it means to be a disciple of Jesus, And some, even, like the Laodicean Church are blind, having lost sight of the work I still have for them to do on Earth.’
I was tempted to think about all the other branches there are in the Body of Christ, thinking that this was their problem, when I sensed a loving, gentle but firm rebuke from the Lord, saying, ‘This is for you. I’m only pointing out the obvious things you see around you, so that you can use them as a mirror to look at yourself.’
And so it is that I know I have to do my own heart searching and business with God. A time of fruitfulness is coming and God is looking to the branches which our lives represent. He wants to prepare them for harvest because He has planned that they should not break under the strain of bearing much fruit (John 15:1-17). Will you join me?