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Wit and Wisdom of Gateway Church Athens GA

As we begin our new church life … so too a new blog!

Category Archives: Pruning

I was on a trip this week and had to pick a colleague up at the airport.  While waiting on him, I engaged in one of my favorite past times, watching people.  I noticed a young man with a t-shirt that had a slogan in bold on the back.  “Engage the culture” and then there were a couple of scriptures backing it up.

When I had the chance I asked him “Engage the culture, what does that look like?”.

“Huh?” he mumbled in surprised response.

“I noticed the back of your shirt and I wondered what engaging the culture looked like.”

“Oh that was a slogan from our church conference.”

Then he went on about his business and I went on about mine.  But I couldn’t shake the incident.  Here was a young man that boldly wore a shirt proclaiming the more than noble goal of engaging a corrupt culture for Christ and when asked about it, didn’t have a clue what it meant, let alone what it was.  To him, it was a shirt from a church conference.  Now I don’t want to be too hard on the young man and base opinions about him on one chance encounter in an airport.  Yet there is something about the encounter that disturbs me.  It’s not about the young man either.  It’s about me.

I hope that I don’t represent to God that I am willing to engage our modern culture for Christ and when an opportunity to do so arises, I miss it.  If I am going to “wear a shirt” proclaiming my willingness to engage, I better be ready to engage, or don’t wear the shirt!

Over the last couple of days my colleague and I have had ample opportunity to discuss Christ (he’s also a Christian) and I listened to his testimony.  He had a great statement that I think is worth holding on to.

He starts his day with this simple prayer: “Lord, I invite you to be a part of my life today.”

With that simple prayer he launches into the stress of corporate life, (no easy task I might add).

I think that’s a great prayer for me and I intend to use it each day as I launch out in my little boat into the deep waters of daily life.

Lord: I invite you into my life today.  Help me to be ready to engage the culture when the opportunity is presents itself.   If I am not ready, help me to get ready.


I have been very busy this week, “back on the road again” so to speak.  I had a an interesting experience that I wanted to share though.  I think it is rather pertinent to our discussion on the “Secrets of the Vine”.

As I was headed towards Greensboro on I 40 and I saw a sign that said “RayLen vineyards and winery – tours this way.”  So … I went “this way”.

What a great experience.  It was exciting to shut off the phone and do something I wanted to do.  Especially since it was associated with our Sunday school class.  I stopped on the road as I went in and took this picture.  This was a row that hadn’t been pruned in a while as far as I could tell.  It was in need of pruning.  I was excited wondering if I would be able to see one in the mud on the ground but no such luck.

The Vineyard 007

I went up to the main office area and low and behold there was a wine tasting going on.  I walked in and met 4 of the friendliest people you could imagine.  They were delightful.  I told them I was there to learn about vineyards and that our class was studying John 15.  At that point I learned the make up of our little group.  There was a Baptist pastor and his wife, a Catholic lady that moved in from California and the man serving the wine informed us all that he was a reformed Presbyterian!  So add a Methodist and you have the makings of a fun wine tasting experience.

The Vineyard 005

I must admit I did taste the wine and I will also admit it was very good!  But the interesting part was the answers to the questions I asked.  I asked about vines growing along the ground.  I was told that wouldn’t happen there because they simply wouldn’t allow that to happen.  However he did tell me something interesting.  He told me that from the time things start happening in April until the harvest time in August/September they have problems all the time.  Insects, mites, fungus, rain and on and on it goes.  I think there is a good lesson here and I would love to talk about it in class on Sunday.

The Vineyard 011

Here you see the results of pruning.  I was quite interested in this because of the contrast with the first picture of the un-pruned first rows I saw coming in the vineyard.

The Vineyard 013

Here is a close up of the pruned branches.  (I wondered if it hurt when it saw the foliage on the ground?)

The Vineyard 009

Here is a section of grapes (can you see them there?) that hasn’t been pruned.

The Vineyard 008

Here is a section that is growing fruit and still to be pruned.

The Vineyard 013

Here is the closely pruned branch with grapes clearly showing.

Before I left I mentioned I was from Athens and they told me that Chateau Elan would be a great resource for us to talk to.  I spoke to Tom and I think it would be a great idea for us as a class to plan a Saturday trip to Chateau Elan and find out about growing grapes from the people that do it for a living!

What think ye?????

Rom 11:24 For if you have been cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and against nature grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much easier will it be to graft these natural [branches] back on [the original parent stock of] their own olive tree.

In yesterday’s class, we talked about John 15:1-8.  As I began to think about that, I was drawn to Paul’s comments in Romans 11 when speaking of the grafting in process.  I think there is much gold to be mined in this subject.  I went back and read the verses in Romans just to put a framework on my thoughts.  Paul was speaking of gentiles being “grafted in” to the Jewish nation as a wild olive shoot.  The point is that God took a wild olive and grafted it into a cultivated plant to produce fruit.

When I look at the two passages and compare them I notice something striking.  It seems Paul is talking about the process of conversion while Jesus is assuming conversion has already taken place.  Jesus speaks of the plant processes AFTER the grafting in has taken place.  He speaks of producing fruit.

Paul on the other hand is speaking of the process of grafting in of a wild olive.  This is the conversion process.  Without the grafting there would be no possibility of producing fruit.

I have a background and training in growing things.  I understand fertilization and how plants grow.  I’m from Indiana and I understand corn.  I grew up surrounded by corn fields (although I did live in a house … I don’t want you to think I grew up in a field!).  As Gene rightly points out, there is a lot of work in farming corn.  But Jesus addresses an important point about this:

Mark 4:26 – 29 And He said, The kingdom of God is like a man who scatters seed upon the ground, And then continues sleeping and rising night and day while the seed sprouts and grows {and} increases–he knows not how. The earth produces [acting] by itself–first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe {and} permits, immediately he sends forth [the reapers] {and} puts in the sickle, because the harvest stands ready.

The farmer plants and harvests, but God gives the growth.  The growth happens based on God’s time table not because of anything we do.  You don’t’ have to do anything to corn for it to grow. 

This is not so with the vine.  It has to be attended to be fruitful.  Jesus points out that without Him, you can do nothing!  The fruit God wants you to bear is not something you can gin up with your own efforts.  This growth requires effort by the master of the vineyard.

As I think of this I am reminded of Peggy Jo and here recent testimony.  God has been working her vine, pruning and dressing it and helping her to produce fruit.  I know in my life, I’m experiencing some of the same things.  All of us are.  Close your eyes and think back to the last year in our class.  You can see the hand of the master gardener in all of our lives.

Lord: The process of pruning and cultivation of my vine is difficult.  I don’t like it at times.  Then there are times I don’t see any value in the work that has been done.  I don’t see grapes.  I think I should see grapes all the time, but I don’t.  I know you see my life differently than I do.  You know the beginning and the end.  Help me to relax and know that you know what you’re doing and according to Phil 1:6, you will complete the process!