Hi this is pastor Ken and these are my thoughts on a Thursday…New Growth

I have spent this week in the bounty of the Blue Ridge. Most of you know from previous podcasts I have done that I think this the most gorgeous place in the world. Add to that the presence of my beautiful wife by my side and there is no place more stunning on the planet. Even as spring is still breaking forth here and some of the shrubs and trees are still without their full complement of leaves, these hills lack nothing. They are astounding in any season.

Several years ago I strategically planted a half dozen grapevines in a row to block some of the view of the road that runs a few hundred feet from our house. Each spring those vines need to be pruned and so this week (a little late perhaps) I headed toward them with shears in hand. To the untrained eye one might think I cut them back too much. Though it might seem I have cut off more than half of the existing vines, in truth I only take away the shoots from the previous season. If I were to allow them to remain there would be new growth this year but its potential would be severely restricted. The vine would not have the ability to feed all of the previous season’s growth and still have what is needed to fuel the pace of the intended growth this year.

I understand I have the ability to think of some crazy things. As I headed up the hill to prune the vines wielding the aforementioned shears I thought of what the vine might think if it had such ability. Would it be asking why I was cutting away what it had labored so diligently to grow last year, or would it be inviting me to free it to be able to meet its potential this season? Would it want to keep its old growth that might not produce as abundant a crop, but would also get to save the expenditure of energy on new growth? Perhaps, it is happy to see me coming though. Maybe it likes being unencumbered by past choices to be free to try to be even more fruitful this year. It’s silly I know but, please don’t judge my sanity just yet, I promise I am going somewhere with this.

In fact, it did get me thinking about the pruning God has to do in my life as I snipped away one old shoot and then another. I wasn’t cutting away that old growth for no reason, I was doing so in anticipation of the harvest. That time is many months away yet, but it must be considered now if it is to be all it can be. Scripture speaks of this very thing.

John 15:1-8 in the New living translations says, “I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.

These verses say that God prunes the branches that bear fruit, so that they will bear even more fruit. I know from pruning my grapevines that I don’t do it out of anger and frustration, I do it carefully and with goodwill toward the plant. I don’t hack away at it indiscriminately, I thoughtfully choose what goes and what will remain based on what will make the vine most fruitful. God does the same with us. It is the branch that produces no fruit that is cut off. The rest He carefully removes what will hinder our new growth and fruit producing ability. He does so lovingly, for our good, so we can bear much fruit that will showcase the goodness of the Gardener!

Hebrews 12:5-6 in the message says, My dear child, don’t shrug off God’s discipline, but don’t be crushed by it either. It’s the child he loves that he disciplines; the child he embraces, he also corrects. It is because God loves us so that He desires our lives produce good fruit. He knows that if we are going to have bountiful lives He sometimes has to cut off that which will hinder our new growth. Jesus said that He is the vine and we are the branches. If we remain connected to the vine we will produce much fruit. The fruit we bear make us by extension the ones who bear Christ’s fruit. Meaning our fruit must look like His fruit. Anything that detracts from that needs to be removed. I don’t know about you, but I am anxious for that kind of pruning to take place in my life.

When I approached my vines to prune them I came armed with a pair of sharp pruning shears. I need the cuts to be accurate and clean so the branches heal quickly and the energy can then be expended on the desirable new growth. So what does God use to prune us? He uses the conviction of the Holy Spirit to highlight where to cut, but He also needs a sharp blade that will be effective and efficient in His hand. Hebrews 4:12 describes His pruning shears like this, For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 speak further of the effectiveness of His shears aka His Word. All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.

God is so very good to us. He cares for us, makes sure we have everything we need and to be strong and fruitful and He lovingly removes the things that hinder our good new growth. He wants us to bear good fruit…more than that, He wants us to want to bear good fruit. That is why Jesus ended His discussion with His disciples about profitable vineyard keeping practices explaining just what kind of fruit He was looking for.

John 15:9-17 describes the good fruit He wants to see in us in great abundance. “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My Name He may give you. These things I command you, that you love one another.

So now, accepting His loving pruning in your life, bear the good fruit that Jesus gives you the ability to, love one another just like He loved you…and Go be awesome!