Lean and Mean (and Green)


Where do you need to drive some spikes into your life to stimulate new spiritual growth?

We have 2 Leyland evergreen trees in our backyard that we planted last year and both now have about 60% brown limbs and 40% green. They’re getting enough water and some others planted farther down are perfectly healthy.

So I walked into the Garden Center at Lowe’s where we bought them and I find the manager, who also has a horticulture degree, show her a picture of the trees and explain the details. She advises me to do 2 things:

  1. Put fertilizer spikes into the ground around the tree to pump up the potency of the soil.
  2. Grab the dead limbs and strip all the brown branches off.

I said, “Okay, I get the fertilizer, but why strip the brown off if those are dead anyway?” Her answer: “You don’t want the tree trying to save those branches anymore. You want all its growth being focused on the green ones.”

I always find it amazing how often answers in life involve an offensive action—in this case, application of fertilizer spikes. But parallel to that, a defensive effort—in this case, stripping off dead limbs.

Many of you know my analogy of the sword and shield: The sword for offense—spiritual growth and the shield for defense—moral protection.

It’s also always fascinating to me how many times answers in life involve applying something new and stripping away something old—simultaneously. To be productive and truly make changes, we can’t just apply the new; we must also strip away the old. We can’t just strip away the old, but must also apply the new. Offense and defense—together.

So, when we examine our lives, we can be proud of the green places, but what about the old brown limbs? Sometimes those are threatening our very existence or, at the very least, jeopardizing new growth. But isn’t it amazing how often we look at the dead branches in our lives and decide we can’t strip them away because we’re either afraid to or just won’t exert the energy? Fear or apathy.

Today, where do you need to drive some spikes down in your life to stimulate new growth? Where do you desperately need some offense? Where is it time to do the work to strip away any old brown, dead branches from your life? Make a defensive effort to focus and protect your future growth. It makes total sense why Jesus would use gardening analogies to teach about the Father’s work in us.

He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. —John 15:2 NLT

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