The Great Outdoors

I’ve been busy this week-end getting caught up on budgets for my clients for the second half of the year; and making plans to travel to Dallas for my monthly trip, as well as a side trip to Oklahoma City to conduct some training for a team there. Things at Byrd’s are going great and we are continuing to ramp up the business. What an exciting time it is….

As you also know, I am also getting ready to preach a message on the Disney movie, Toy Story, June 24th, so I thought I had better start on that as well. Yesterday, I sat down and actually watched the movie again in anticipation of writing an appropriate sermon.

After all the work was done, I really thought that I needed a little time out in the yard to just get a little exercise. Janet has been asking me to cut back a large bush that we have near the corner of the front flower bed next to the driveway, so I got my shears out and went to work. After I pruned the bush, I got out the small hedge trimmers and ended up cleaning up a number of other bushes in the yard as well.

Now I didn’t get carried away, but I did have some outdoor things to do this week-end. In fact, aside from pruning the bushes, I also changed a number of heads in the sprinkler system to make sure the lawn was getting adequately watered with the lack of rain that we have had. For the last several years, I haven’t done too much work in the yard. I have been so busy with travel and also working with local clients that I have left much of the outside work to the crews who cut the grass, etc. and Pat, our dear friend, who has maintained the yard for us.

But this week-end, which is unusual, I needed a little time working with nature. Generally, I feel a little pressure to get a huge amount of stuff done, but for some reason, yesterday was a little different. I just took my time and didn’t bite off more than I could chew. Aside from that, it was hot outside and I didn’t want to do anything that would cause me to be less than fresh for the week. So, I spent the time alone, which is rare, and just let my mind take in the beauty of God’s creation.

As I thought about all the things that I accomplished, I recalled a number of different verses that had to do with bushes or pruning. Because when I was out in the yard, I either cut off dead stuff, or pruned bushes to be able to help them produce better growth. At first, I thought about writing about Moses and his “burning” bush experience. But I wasn’t quite satisfied with the topic, so I landed in the book of John and how God prunes each of us to produce better fruit for the kingdom.

The truth of the matter is that God works on us the same way that we work on our landscape out in the yard. If things are dead, they are removed, and if things have gotten out of hand and grow, but don’t produce fruit, then pruning has to occur. After all, we can all talk a good game but if we don’t produce fruit for the kingdom of God, then we haven’t maximized our value. Sometimes, pruning feels like we are being punished – but that’s not the intent. We are pruned by God so that we can grow in a more disciplined way – extra growth, or diverted effort, without producing fruit, is wasted and it isn’t necessary.

In my own life, I can think of a number of times when I have been pruned by God. Usually it is when I get caught up in my own way of doing things, without keeping my focus on producing good results. When I tend to focus on my success as opposed to kingdom success, God is not usually very tolerant. Sooner or later, I find that I receive correction and have to re-dedicate myself to the idea of putting others first and knowing that I will be taken care of with whatever needs I have. That’s a tough place to be. Because sooner or later, most of us will think that we are indispensable and that’s when we should see the warning signs that we aren’t operating the way God wants us to.

The verse for tonight comes from John 15:1-2, spoken by Christ Himself, “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.” Notice that Jesus is talking about Himself and His relationship with His Father. So it should not be a surprise to us that Jesus also prunes us, as He wants the best for us and for His Father’s kingdom.

My encouragement this evening is that Jesus wants you to produce fruit for His Father. And toward that end, He will gently prune each of us to make us the best that we can be. My prayer is that you will recognize God’s desire for your life and not confuse His work in your life as something negative. I know that’s difficult for me sometimes and I have to remember that I am a work in progress. And that means that I have to be pruned each season. And even after all these years, it’s hard for me to acknowledge that I need more work… Chances are that you do too…. Have a great day in the Lord – grace and peace…


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