Friday, November 28, 2008



Most of us get a haircut, trim or styling rather frequently. Our hair grows because it is alive. Likewise things in the natural world grow according to God’s design. Nevertheless, cultivation is necessary if the gardener, farmer, or vine grower wants to assure bountiful produce. God instructed Adam to tend the Garden in which He placed Him. Part of cultivation is to clip and trim and prune shrubs, grapevines, and especially fruit trees by removing overgrowth and wild shoots.

Pruning gets rid of the unwanted extras, the undesirables. The little sprouts or new twigs the gardener removes are not inferior or bad—they are usually healthy and strong. But if he allows all the natural branches to develop just because they look good or he feels sorry to cut them off, he limits the strong main growth. The life of the tree or vine would be detoured into too many branches and inhibit fruit bearing. The gardener shows wisdom and skill as he says NO to certain shoots and YES to others.

Does it hurt the tree to be pruned? Not in the emotional sense of pain. Even elective tree surgery is beneficial to future production. The gardener does the tree a favor by his apparent rough treatment of cutting off its little branches. If the tree could speak, it might NOT say, "Thanks, I needed that!" when the sharp clippers nip off an apparently healthy branch. It might even yell "Ouch! What did I do to deserve that?"

Jesus illustrated the pruning process in John chapter 15 and applied it to our spiritual lives. He made the point that pruning was done to a flourishing, good vine, the already-fruit-bearing vine, not to punish a bad vine. Pruning is done to produce MORE fruit and then MUCH fruit.

He said that God, the Father, is the vinedresser, the Master Gardener. Jesus is the vine, and we are the branches. He taught that abiding in Him, and He in us, was absolutely indispensable for fruit-bearing. At the same time, He must deal with our wild shoots. If they aren't pruned, we, like a vine in nature, become a tangled mess of unfruitful, unruly shoots.

What are these untamed shoots that must be pruned? They are different for each of us. Some people have many popping out all over—like I do. Some have fewer. They may be good things in themselves: good works, good ideas, good talents, even good ministries. But if we attempt all of them, allow them to remain and mature in their own natural way, they will make a jungle out of our lives and hinder our productivity for the Lord.

We don’t always know which branches should be eliminated and which we permit to develop. Only God knows. And if we don’t prune the unproductive shoots ourselves, He takes over and removes certain branches for us. Painful? Yes, often. Resisted? Probably. Not understood? Generally.

The Lord prunes our branches by closing doors to us, removing certain people from our lives, teaching us to say NO to some things which appear good, but are not God's best for us. As we open ourselves to His will and work in our lives, He provides us with wisdom and the gift of discernment to lay aside the unproductive. Sometimes he lays US aside for a time so we can get our priorities straight and concentrate on His mainline will without wild shoots.

It is less painful if we joyfully yield to God’s way and live the self-examined life instead of waiting for the Lord to do the pruning. Either way, in the end we will flourish and produce more pleasing fruit for His glory.


Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Ministry of Trees to Shrubs

(Setting: UninhabitedDryland not far from Riverbank)

"Whew! It's hot and dry!" Green Tree shook the dust from his leaves with a swish and a shudder. "Time for another drink." The ground crackled as he stretched his roots imperceptibly deeper under the earth toward Riverbank. "Ahhhh!"

Parched Shrub, drooping nearby, tried to shake his brittle branch stubs and glared up at Green Tree whose leaves were verdant and healthy. "You think you're somebody special, don't you? If you were down here close to the hot sand you wouldn't act so high and mighty."

"We're in it together, friend," replied Green Tree surprised. "My roots are in the same dry desert. Besides, I'm up here closer to the sun and that's even hotter."

"Well, I'm waiting for Mortal Man to water me. He promised to come when I needed him. He’ll probably arrive by Prosperity Bus anytime now," mumbled Parched Shrub.

“How late is it?”

"Oh, a few months, give or take a few weeks."

"We live in Uninhabited Salt Land," reminded Green Tree. "Did you forget? Prosperity Bus only goes along the Goodtimes route now."

Parched Shrub was silent for a long while. Only his wheezing breath broke the stillness of the desert. Finally, "How do you get along so well through the drought? I even see fruit up there in your dense foliage."

"My hope is in Lord God," replied Green Tree. "He told us when He planted us that we shouldn't trust in Mortal Man. He said He would look after us Himself and never forsake us. He...."

"There you go being preachy again," coughed Parched Shrub. "You Green Trees are all alike. You think you're better than everyone else—some kind of special apples in God's eye."

"That's not true. Lord God doesn't play favorites or keep secrets. He told all of us Greenery Things where to send our roots, you included."

"Aw, I just don't trust 'im. I gave up that God-stuff when I was little."

You're still little," observed Green Tree with a little smile, not intending offense. "I started out as small as you are. You too can...."

"Don’t rub it in!" Parched Shrub interrupted, pretending to be angry, but one hot tear trickled down his bare branch, splashed on the sand and rapidly soaked in.

Green Tree was moved with compassion. He bent his chlorophyll-laden leafy branches low over Parched Shrub. "Come under my shadow, friend. I'll shelter you from the hot sun. It's really not far under the desert to stretch your own roots to Riverbank. You can do it! I know you can. Lord God pointed us in the direction of water."

Parched Shrub snuggled under Green Tree's luxurious foliage. "You'd help me? Even though I’ve made fun of you and turned away from Lord God so many times? Do you think there's enough water for both of us?"

"Absolutely! Lord God said that rivers of living water, cool and pure, flow nearby."

"Oh, I'm dying of thirst!"

"Come on then. Come to The Waters."

"How much does the water cost?"

"Nothing! Lord God already paid for it. It's free now!"

"Let's go then," Parched Shrub's prickly stubs stirred with new hope. "Don't leave me, though. Show me the way...."


A personified allegory based on Jeremiah 17:5-8 from various translations and versions of Scripture. Also reflective of Psalm 1:1-6; Revelation 22:17; Isaiah 55:1.

"Thus says the Lord, cursed is the strong man who trusts in mankind, in frail, mortal man, and makes weak, human flesh his strength, and whose heart and mind turns away from the Lord. For he will be like a bush or stunted shrub in the desert, like a person naked and destitute, with no hope for the future. He will not see when prosperity comes and good times pass him by forever. But he will live in stony wastes, in parched places in the wilderness, a land of salt without inhabitants.

"But most blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord and whose hope and confidence are in the Lord. For he will be like a tree planted by the water, along a riverbank, that extends its roots by a stream, and will not be bothered when heat comes, nor anxious in a year of drought, but goes right on producing luscious fruit."

Leona Choy