Sunday, August 27, 2006

Pruning painful but profitable

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.

Several years ago in the spring, my husband planted three rose bushes in one of the flower beds close to our house. He had missed having roses for several years, and finally decided that he?d had enough? he would plant some roses, even though we knew we?d be moving sometime the following spring. All three bushes were hearty, and each one produced a number of buds. But one ? the Tropicana ? was doggedly determined to produce twice as many buds as the other two ? almost as though it was in a competition with the others! Finally, as fall approached, my husband pruned all three bushes back so that they would bloom again the following year year. But he didn?t ask the Tropicana if it was through blooming? The other two quietly went dormant for the winter, but the Tropicana continued with the dogged determination it had exhibited all year long, growing some new branches, and continuing to produce roses far into December! In fact, the last bud bloomed the day before Christmas Eve!

As expected, we ended up moving in early March, too soon to see the roses bloom. I?m sure that all three bushes sprouted new branches and bore even more roses than they did the prior year. And I?m sure the result was glorious! It would have been fun to watch the Tropicana to see if it continued to out-do the other two bushes!

Why all this talk about roses? Because you and I are much like my husband?s rose bushes. The Lord says that he prunes us so that we will bear more fruit? But why do we need to be ?pruned?? Pruning is an act of cleansing. It cuts away the bad or dead parts so that more good can come through. So our pruning comes about when the Lord allows adversity to arise in order to cleanse a particular part of us that needs cleansing.

I met a woodcarver a few years ago who carved incredibly life-like dogs. I asked him how he managed to make them look so real. He smiled and said, ?I just carve off all the parts that don?t look like a dog!? Using exactly the same process, the Lord is ?carving? all the pieces off of us that don?t look like Jesus.

Pruning or carving? either one not only can be, but usually is quite painful. The reason is, our sinful natures generally LIKE those parts that the Lord is pruning or carving away! Whether we want to admit it or not, it's hard to give up things like sexual immorality, impurity, debauchery, idolatry, witchcraft, drunkenness, orgies and the like. If your eyebrows went up over that list, and you were thinking you?ve never done any of THOSE things. Well, maybe not? but how about hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, envy, or perhaps the most common and deceptive of all sins? gossip? a sin that most people never think of as sin, but that God always ranks right in there with murder and adultery when He?s listing those things that are ?abominations? to Him.

The Lord knows that the only way we can be more fruitful for Him is to be more like Him... and that pruning and carving are the only way. So the next time you run up against a problem, praise God for it! Large or small, and no matter how painful the process, He's merely snipping away another little piece of you that doesn't look like Jesus!

How Big Is God to You?

?Oh, Lord, your ocean is so mighty and my boat so small.? Author Unknown

I remember the first time I was taken out into the Gulf of Mexico far enough that I couldn?t see land any more. And I remember how tiny I felt in the grand scheme of things. It?s easy these days to think of ourselves as much more significant than we really are. In order to get a grasp on how big God is, think for just a moment? If you took all of your acquaintances in this world and tried to keep up with what each one was doing each day, how impossible would that task be? Yet, God sees and knows each and every one of us moment-by-moment in detail. When I think of the incredible accumulation of knowledge that God has allowed us to have, and then I realize that it is no more than a minute speck in the knowledge of God. It?s then that I realize what a precious gift God gave us in His Son. He was given to die for us, not cumulatively, but individually, for our individual sins. Wrap your mind around that for a minute. He sees the sparrow fall. He knows the number of the hairs of your head. He is available 24/7 to you, individually, and to everyone else at the same time.

This week, try to find a few moments to stop what you?re doing. Just be still. And ponder the awesome and massive mind of God. Let God become as big in your life as He truly is, and when you realize His size and power, and you understand that- even as a minute speck ? His love was great enough to sacrifice Himself for you. Then you may begin to understand that He is in control, and that your worries are for nothing.

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