Seeking and Pruning

(Video version can be seen here)

Have you seen the video about the sheep named Barrack that was found? It is pretty cool and if you have not seen it, I recommend checking out one of the videos. Barrack was lost in the Australian wilderness for about 5 years and when he was found he had about 77lbs of extra wool. He could barely see, drank water from puddles, and his wool was full of twigs, dirt, and insects. It took them about an hour to cut away all of the wool that was weighing him down. They found this sheep, cleaned him up, and he is on the road to recovery. It is a very cool story and one that made me think about Luke 19:10 and John 15:2-5 among other things.

In Luke 19:10 Jesus says that He has come to seek and save the lost. Jesus says His mission is to find those who are lost and then make them unlost. He says the whole point of His coming is to look for those who are missing and then make them found. In John 15:2-5 Jesus says that we are the vine, and He is the branch but before this, He says that the Father prunes us to make us more fruitful. We get this picture that we are pruned or that we have bad things cut back so we can produce more fruit. First, we are found and then we are pruned. That is the process. The hard part is that like the lost sheep Barrack when we are found we often have a lot that needs to be pruned.

Some people come to Christ and have less that needs to be pruned and some people have more. The point is that we all have pruning that needs to occur. With Barrack, the initial pruning (shearing) took over an hour, and all that extra was cut off. The external had changed but he still needs to heal from 5 years in the wilderness. When you and I come to Christ there is an initial pruning that happens in the way of the Holy Spirit coming in and changing us from the inside. We are forgiven of sin and made new. Sometimes, like in my case, there is a lot that He removes right away but even if that happens there is more and continual pruning that needs to occur.

Coming to Christ and finding freedom and salvation requires nothing from us except to accept it. He has done all of the work because we cannot. Salvation is a free gift. The pruning takes work. The pruning takes time. The pruning takes cooperation on our part. This is because pruning requires that you submit to what God is doing for it to be effective. God can remove things in your life that are holding you back but if you keep returning to them or trading them for new versions of the same vices then the pruning is not effective. Your submission to the will and leading of the Lord is needed. What if tomorrow Barrack decides he does not like being kept in a pen and then heads back out to the wilderness? He will be covered in mud, dirt, and weighed down again. The pruning that freed him will not be effective because he will once again be the same as he was. What if after coming to Christ you decide forgiveness from past sins is enough and you just want to go out and do as you please again? You will get weighed down, covered in mud, and need heavy pruning again. The pruning process of God is non-negotiable. It must occur.

What does this mean for us? How do we get the pruning, how do we respond in the pruning, how do we cope? Hebrews 7:25 says, Therefore, He (Jesus) is always able to save those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to intercede for them. Jesus is always able to save because He lives to intercede for us. This saving is not just the initial salvation either. Jesus can save us daily. When we are being pruned and unsure how we will move forward Jesus saves us and intercedes for us. He owes us nothing, but He chooses to live for us. What can He not do? Who can He not save? What is beyond His ability? The Lord of all the universe, the Word of God, the Author of Life chooses to intercede for you and me. Whatever you require, whatever you lack He can provide and make a way for! In the pruning, we must move forward and push towards Jesus. That is how we get through it, that is respond, that is how we cope. We push towards the one who is available and able to save us. 

There is so much more we could talk about with this, but I would just encourage you today that if you are in the midst of a pruning season, and you know when you are, that you submit to the pruning and seek Christ. Press into Him because that is the only way you will get through it with the fruit you were meant to bear. Be pruned and be changed. Embrace the process and welcome His direction. Maybe it means you let things go, maybe it means you move, maybe it means you admit something. Whatever it is, however hard it is be pruned and see how you can be made new today. 

Just a thought,

Mike

Pruned Like an Apple Tree

In John 11:6 Jesus hears that Lazarus was sick and about to die. Jesus’s response was to wait two more days. I briefly talk about this on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/p/BTuogAvh9KL/) so feel free take a quick detour and read that.

Today I want to quickly look at John 15:2 where Jesus says that every branch that bears He (the Father) prunes, that it may bear more fruit. I am not a gardener but I have been told that that is an accurate statement about how you get a plant to produce more. I think that is fine for plants but I am not sure I like it for me. To be honest the pruning process is hard and often long.

I have recently been thinking that the last few years have been a pruning process for me. I have grown tremendously and while I am thankful for that the process has been painful. There has been long days and nights, lonely days, thankless work, removal of selfish desires and plans, and so on. I am not perfect by any stretch but I am better off than I was before the process started.

This is not at all to say the whole time has been painful as there have been some bright spots but overall, I think it was a pruning process. I am still not sure I like it. Again, I am thankful for it but that does not mean I need to like it. The question I have is why does God prune us if we are bearing fruit?

Well in short, because He loves us and because He is a good Father. He prunes because we are producing and wants us to produce more. It is an odd thing but it works. Think of in terms of apples. If you are currently producing 5 apples then that is good. But God being a good gardener sees your potential and wants you to live up to that potential so He prunes you back a bit and next year your produce 10 apples. This harvest is even better so the process repeats. Next thing you know you are producing bushels up on bushels. Now all the trees in the garden are envious and want to be like you, yet they do not know the pain that was endured to produce so much but you do and you know it was worth it.

God is good like that. He wants the best for you and sometimes the best requires pain to get there. I am not sure this season of pruning is over. I would like it to be but if not, I still trust that God is good and that He has the best for me. The funny thing is that even if this season is over there will be another later on. I suppose that is good news even though I still don’t like it. Of course, the alternative is not be pruned and not produce fruit but we know how that goes

Just a thought,

Mike

Thought on Kempis thought.

Thoughts Helpful in the Life of the Soul
Chapter 12: The Love of Solitude and Silence:

“Hence, for many it is better not to be too free from temptations, but often to be tried lest they become too secure too filled with pride, or even to eager to fall back upon external comforts.” – Thomas Kempis

I both like and dislike silence and in our modern day it is easier to not have silence than to have it. I like the silence because it is in the quiet that I can hear the voice of God, but it is also in the silence that I hear the voice of temptation and accusation. Thomas Babington Macaulay said “The measure of a man’s real character is what he would do if he knew he would never be found out” and I must admit that at times I am afraid of myself. I am not so much afraid of what I would do but what I am capable of doing and in the silence those fears can be seen. I am aware that it is also in that same silence God is pruning and bringing things to the surface so they can be dealt with but the pruning is painful while it happens so I wish to avoid the pain. But at the same time I desire the pruning because it will continue to remove those things I desire removed. It is a sad state to be sure; to desire the thing you do not want in order to be the one you wish to be. Maybe that is what is meant in Hebrews 12:2 where it saysFor the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Christ had to do nothing to be God but in order for us to be reconciled (which He desired) He had to endure the cross. So too must I take up my cross not to be reconciled but to continue to prune away those things which are not fitting for a child of the King.