Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Point of Pruning

About a week ago Bruce and I pruned our Japanese maple. It is a weeping variety; very beautiful but prone to dead wood in the interior of the canopy. Pruning can appear brutal to the inexperienced. Whacking limbs doesn't seem like it would help the plant. Yet in the hands of an experienced gardener, a Japanese maple will grow even more beautiful as careful pruning reveals the exquisite branch structure that was always there-hidden in the tangle of branches. Selective pruning of fruit trees or vines produces more and larger fruit-not less. How much more in the hands of the Master Gardener will we grow stronger, more beautiful and more productive for His Glory?

Through everything, we are carefully tended, pruned and nurtured. Jesus said "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.”  Sometimes, we object to being pruned; sometimes, pruning can be painful. Yet our loving Father is the ultimate Master Gardener. He makes no cut that is not necessary. Everything God allows into our life, He uses for our good and His glory. Jesus says that we are ready to bear fruit because of the word He has spoken to us. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can we bear fruit unless we remain in Him. In order for the pruning to produce fruit, we must be in intimate fellowship with our Lord.

Someone once told me that the days are long but the years are short. It is easy to get so focused on today that we forget to think about forever. We never know when we will come to the end of our todays. When I found out that I have incurable cancer, it gave me a new perspective on life.  Since it is so slow moving, I have time to make adjustment-possibly quite a bit of time. But, it is serious enough that I recognize how fleeting time is and how important it is to make the most of every day, every conversation, and every choice. I am searching my life for deadwood; how do I spend my time? What do I read, what do I listen to? I’m looking for signs of fruit. Am I abiding in Jesus? What does that look like for me? Study His word; speak with Him about everything; seek His will; fellowship with believers.

If you think about it, we are all suffering from an incurable, terminal condition- it’s called Life.  But God offers each of us the only cure: eternal life through His gift of salvation which we receive by putting our faith in Christ. First, God asks us to confess to Him that we have done wrong and we have broken his laws. Next, we ask him to forgive the wrong we've done; the Bible says that God actually removes our sin when we ask him. Last, we need to acknowledge that Jesus Christ willingly chose to come to earth and live as a man, yet without sin; that He was willing to die as a substitute payment for my sins; and was the first to be raised from death to eternal life. He offers me this gift of eternal life if I just accept it.  Here is the mystery: that God so loved the world that, while we were still sinners, He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.