"The life of the branch in the Vine is a life of never-ceasing growth. The abiding . . . is in our reach, for He lives to give it us. Let us be ready to count all things loss . . . ."
Dangling from our big shade tree in the side yard, the chunky branch hung, caught between live limbs and leaves. How long had it been there, showing its blatant death and causing our concern to seem slack? It looked sort of pitiful. All hollow and black, its bark chipped away, its texture worn, its life gone.
My husband and I concurred its final blow must have come with a passing storm several nights ago. Its ultimate demise was not to be avoided even with gentle winds and rain. Once Jeff and I discovered its spooky, lifeless form, he made his way to the tree, brought it down with little effort, and cast it onto the curb, where it awaited pick-up on Tuesday.
That was that. But that was not the first time we have had dead limbs about after a storm. At other times, after other storms, much of the dead wood was unseen by passersby. It could be neglected until our desire and time. Not now. Our little cottage, our now home, sits quaintly on a corner lot, where many pass each day. Which explains our prompt response.
Who wants to see dead wood? Its rotten presence is a often a turn-off. Its charred look and hollowness bring ideas of spiders and termites. Little pesky, unwanted creatures that use the useless piece to feed and nest.
A few years ago, Jeff and I thought we had found the perfect home. Driving down a quiet city street scattered with sweet old houses, we spotted a sign that read "For Sale." The little cottage on a hill looked so lovely. It was worn and sad. It needed TLC. But in its imperfection, we saw grace. We drove by it many days. . . and nights. We couldn't wait to see its inward promise.
Finally, our realtor took us through the home. As we expected, years of neglect proved obvious. Yet, we were still charmed by its possibilities. What potential we saw in its cozy little sunroom with a bay window, the lovely hall staircase made of hardwood, antique doors, living room fireplace, attic bedrooms, and open family room. I thought I had finally found my dream home.
But it was not to be. When we entered the backyard, a large stack of old fire logs warned us as if they had been ablaze with noisy heat. Creeping, crawling, moving amongst the dead wood, were dozens of termites. We returned to our car, disappointed by cold reality.
Our realtor shared stories of termites and their horrors with homes. Sometimes the little nasty creatures are easily seen, but often, they remain hidden and can destroy even the most beautifully presented houses.
So, when I think of dead wood, I remember the possibilities of its presence.
And I also think of the spiritual possibilities of its realities.
Admit or not, dear friends, we all have it or have had it. Somewhere. Stashed away in our own private temples, in our own secret walks with God, dead wood can exist. And its effects are just as destructive for us as termites are for our homes.
If not cast away, thrown to the curb, called out of hiding, the hollow, hopeless, useless branches will bring us misery. They may at first appear as nothing. They may at first seem so minor. They may at first be thought of as ridiculous concern. But their neglected states will draw destructive forces that feed off their lifelessness. And the nagging influences will spread like wind, even eating the good wood that clings to the live vine.
Listen to the words of the Savior as He reveals vine truth. His words were so tender, yet so sober, so filled with warning and love, as he spoke to his disciples on that Passover evening after they had left the Upper Room. You know the story well. Their walk toward Gethsemane led them through a vineyard.
"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples."
Praise God! Dear friends, God does not want us to have dead wood. He wants us to be fruitful. He wants us to bring Him glory. To be beings of light and life. To be free of the old dead things in our lives that drain our spiritual vitality.
Please do not be dismayed at our Father's pruning process. God is love. And he wants to keep us chaste and holy. His desire is that you prosper and live without the dead weight of lifeless limbs. Useless wood that is heavy and tiresome and is a harbor for destruction.
Such wood can be so many things. Some of these things are outright sin that must be dealt with; some are simply junk that needs to be thrown to the curb. And some are weights around our ankles. Unforgiveness, worry, fear, indulgence, neglect of God-time, jealousy, condemnation, regret, unbelief, ignoring God's word, poor self-esteem, pride, and on and on, but God gives more grace!!! Praise His name forever!
We can lose our dead wood. God can cast it to the curb and move us own to fruitful abiding. In His mighty hands are pruning shears. He lovingly takes them up and searches our hearts and removes what is death to us so that we can have abundant life in Christ.
I had quite another post in mind, but I have saved it in my heart for another time. God spoke this word to me, and with all my heart, I have felt its burden.
I love you all and have written with that love. My heart yearns that we all will grow into the likeness of Jesus. May the Lord bless you ever so richly, and may your abiding life in Him bring you great peace and contentment.
Do not forget. He is "able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us" (Ephesians 3:20). It does not matter what your dead wood is or what it is not; what does matter is God's power to work and remove its influence and weight from your life. What does matter is that He can set you free and make you fruitful! What does matter is His unfailing love for you! What does matter is His glory and His desire for your life.
God has a special plan for you. He has designed a beautiful vineyard with you in mind. He has walked the path toward you today, and now, the Gardener waits at your door.
*All scripture is from the NIV translation.