PRUNING TREES AND PRUNING PEOPLE

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I have always liked pruning the trees in my yard. It increases their beauty and helps their growth. However, there is a proper way to do it. For example, I learned that if I prune the new branches that are growing downward, it produces a nice symmetrical looking tree with upward growth. There is also a best time to prune trees. Where I am from, it is best to prune the trees in late winter. Because the tree is dormant at that time, it can heal itself before disease has a chance to enter the open wound. Dead and diseased branches can be removed at any time of the year. There is no need to put salve or anything on the cut because the tree will do what humans do, naturally develop a scab when wounded. Also, one should not over-prune a tree or it could result in delayed growth or injury.

He prunes away the dead branches that are not producing any fruit. The living branches he prunes so that they will produce more fruit. God wants us to produce good fruit.

Lessons from how nature works often apply to our lives. Jesus used the analogy of pruning in a teaching found in the Gospel of John, chapter 15, verses 1-8. He talks about a vine that bears fruit, perhaps a grape vine. He likens himself to the main vine and us to the branches that grow from the vine. God, our Father, is in charge of taking care of the plant. He prunes away the dead branches that are not producing any fruit. The living branches he prunes so that they will produce more fruit. God wants us to produce good fruit.

The fruit consists of things like love, patience, kindness, peace, self-control, gentleness, goodness, and so forth. Fruit also consists of aiding in the restoration of relationships. When we help people restore their relationship with God, or with themselves, or with others, we are doing the kind of loving that God wants to see happen. But to be able to produce good and abundant fruit, we must have parts of our lives cut away, parts that are causing hindrance to our beauty and growth.

One of the ways God prunes us is through his word. Verse 3 says, “we are made clean”, that is, pruned because of the word he has spoken to us.

One of the ways God prunes us is through his word. Verse 3 says, “we are made clean”, that is, pruned because of the word he has spoken to us. Pruning takes place and fruit is produced by abiding in Jesus and letting his word have its way in us. When we stay connected to Christ Jesus, and practice what he says in his word, we bear fruit. “Apart from him”, he says, “we cannot do it”. Jesus invites us to ask him for what we need to be able to bear the kind of fruit he wants to see produced. He promises to give what we ask. When we bear fruit through our relationship with Jesus and his word, we glorify God and prove to be Jesus’ disciples.

She said that through God’s love and forgiveness, her life was changed.

One day I sat next to an elderly woman on a park bench. As we talked and became somewhat acquainted, she began sharing part of her life story with me. She spoke of horrible abuses as a child, a life of shameful decisions and broken relationships as an adult, and addictions that have led to the poor health she was now experiencing. Without knowing anything about my religious beliefs, she told me how she came to know God. She said that through God’s love and forgiveness, her life was changed. She went on to say she developed a habit of reading the Bible and it was a great comfort to her. She would read it whenever she felt a need to be encouraged and have hope, and something she read always helped her.

This woman had experienced the pruning of the bad, cut away from her life through God’s word of love and forgiveness. She was now helping a stranger, who for all she knew, might be going through similar troubles. Through her ongoing connection with Jesus, she was bearing fruit. She was not only living the love and goodness she experienced from him, but furthermore, she was helping a stranger to know of God, and what he could do for anyone who needed a new life. In a way, I became a part of her fruit because I went away greatly encouraged by her. My own relationship with Jesus, and my commitment to him, became deeper when I saw the miraculous things he could do in a person’s life. I realized that her sufferings were some of the ways God was pruning her so that she could become a beautiful person and produce the kind of fruit that glorifies our heavenly Father.

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Jay Ashbaucher
Jay Ashbaucher is a native of Northwest Ohio and is currently a retired pastor and published author. He holds a Master of Divinity degree from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and has been a pastor and teacher in Montana for over 44 years. Jay taught grief classes in a hospital setting, and worked for twenty years as a fifth-step counselor and lecturer in an alcoholic-drug treatment center getting to know the hearts of people struggling to get well. While pastoring in Montana, he had enjoyed racquetball, hunting, fishing, and traveling the Big Sky State. Now living in Southeast Michigan, Jay enjoys his family, reading, hiking, golf, time with friends, and time with his fun-to-be-with wife. They have two happily married children and seven grandchildren.