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Fruitful Branches

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” -John 15:5

Several years ago, we planted a tiny vine at our house.  It was called a flowering wisteria, and we planted it near a wooden pergola on our back patio. I have always thought that vines were a beautiful thing and this one was no exception.  It was a healthy vine that quickly grew up and wrapped itself around anything it could in order to continue to climb and thrive.  Each spring, it came to life and grew brilliant green leaves and bore beautiful purple flowers.  Its branches became thick and strong, overwhelming actually, pushing and bending the large man-made structure of our pergola in whatever direction it chose.  

I love the imagery of the vine and the branches that is so commonly used in the Bible.  It has been so amazing to have the analogy come to life in my own backyard.  

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.” -John 15:1 

When we understand the reference to Jesus as the vine, we see a life-giving force that is capable of nourishing and guiding the branches (us), helping them to grow in the direction that He knows best.  As long as the branch remains connected to the Vine, it will be guided in the direction that it needs to go in order to stay healthy and thrive. 

“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.” John 15:2

I’ll admit I do not know a lot about plants, but I have noticed in the case of my own vine, that when I prune it, it seems to grow back even stronger.  Pruning is the “cutting away dead or overgrown branches or stems, especially to increase fruitfulness and growth.”  Like the branches of my vine at home, we often become “overgrown,” resembling more of an invasive weed than our beautiful Vine. Left to our own devices, our branches can grow out of control in the wrong direction, and we can cause damage not only to our own plant, but also to those around us.   Pride, arrogance, jealousy, selfishness, focus on worldly things–all of these need to be pruned from our lives to help us grow healthy and strong in our faith.  We have to remember that even when we are bearing fruit, we are in need of pruning.  Hard lessons in life are often orchestrated by our Gardener to increase our fruitfulness and growth.  

So how do we know that our branch is healthy? By the fruit that it bears!

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” -Galatians 5:22-23 

Are we loving God and loving those around us well?

Is the joy that comes from knowing Jesus evident in our lives?

Are we peaceful, or in constant conflict with the people around us?

Are we patient, or easily offended, irritated, or angered?

Are we kind, or would our behavior be something Jesus would be embarrassed of if He were standing here beside us?

Do we have a tendency toward goodness, or are we often scheming or devising plans to put ourselves ahead of others?

Are we faithful in the time and attention we give to God, or are we so busy with our own lives that we hardly give Him a passing thought through the day? 

Are we gentle, or do we handle others harshly? Do we belittle others?

Are we self-controlled, or do we speak and act impulsively without forethought?

The fruits of the Spirit. This is the fruit that is seen in a life that remains connected to the Vine.  Are there areas of your life that you may need to allow the Gardener to prune?  

Prayer:  God, we know that every good and perfect thing in our lives comes from You.  We trust that You know much better than we do the things in our lives that strengthen our faith, and the things that are harmful.  Help us to do whatever it takes to stay connected to the life-giving Vine of Jesus, growing stronger and healthier in Him.  Show us areas in our lives that need “pruned” and help us to submit to Your discipline as You rid our lives of these damaging things.  God, we want to show people Your love by the fruit that we bear. Help us to bring glory to You in all that we do.  In Jesus name, amen.   

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