A Crooked Branch

August 15, 2018
by Vincent Walter

For two decades, my wife and I led the weekly Young Adult Class (14-19) at our church. The first weekend in February, we would have a retreat at an inviting resort. We always had a guest leader who would journey with us to enjoy a weekend full of activities — both physical and spiritual.

On one beautiful, snowy weekend, one hundred of us travelled to a resort in Muskoka in northern Ontario, Canada. On Friday evening and all day Saturday, we had many sports activities, challenging discussions, and lots and lots of laughs. By the time Sunday morning arrived (with less sleep for two nights than most required), we were all ready to hear our guest speaker share helpful spiritual thoughts.

There were exactly one hundred of us there, and the leaders had placed one hundred silver birch branches beside the fireplace. The speaker shared how we all develop at a difference pace and in a different way. The illustration used was the different branches, most of which were small and smooth, but some of which were less beautiful or even gnarled and ugly. The speaker explained how each of us, though shaped differently by life's circumstances, could be changed. We simply had to surrender to Jesus and allow Him to burn away all our sins.

At the end of the talk, we were all invited to come and take a branch and place it on the fire. It was a time of very sombre introspection. Those of us responsible wondered what would happen.

We didn't have to wait long. Almost immediately, one of the supporting staff, Gerry, rushed to the front and grabbed the gnarled and ugly branch, placed it on the fire, and watched it be consumed in the blaze. He later told us that he felt that that ugly piece of wood most described his life. He wanted to get it before anyone else did.

One by one, young people came, picked out a particular branch and prayerfully placed it on the consuming fire. It was a beautiful sight as the fire blazed, and we realized that many young lives were changed that Sunday morning.

That morning, two great truths were clearly set out by the leader and were indelibly etched in my memory:

Firstly, as the fire turned the branches to burning embers, there was no difference between the relatively smooth branches and the ugly ones. All were the same after passing through the refining fire.

Ephesians 2:8 – For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God. (ESV)

Secondly, regardless of age and prior experiences, all met the same point of decision when our branch met the deciding flame: the point of judgment.

2 Corinthians 5:10 – For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. (ESV)

John Gowans penned these words:

    Burning, burning, brightly burning,
    Brightly burning Fire divine,
    Satisfy my spirit's yearning.
    Fill this empty soul of mine.

    Burning, burning, always burning,
    Holy Spirit, stay with me;
    To Your will my will is turning,
    What You will I want to be.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, help us to accept our own inadequacies and to seek to reconcile ourselves with You through faith in Jesus Christ. Amen.

About the author:

Vincent Walter <vwalter@bell.net>
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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1 Comment

  • PresbyCan Feedback says:

    A great word, Vincent.


    Thank you for sharing this thoughtful devotional with us. Blessings.


    Good word Vincent.
    Thank you!


    Vincent – what a moving devotional. I just loved it. Thanks for sharing. God Bless you.


    Vincent, thank you for another meaningful devotional written so we can all understand our worth.


    Thank you for your devotional and for all of your leadership in your church. Yes, we all need to be refined, and are like crooked branches.


    Oh, Vincent, I did enjoy reading this devotion today. Thank you for sharing that weekend experience.
    (ON)


    I wish, Vincent, I could have been a part of “your” group. Your devotional indicates that you and your wife were blessings to that group and the devotional was very meaningful to me.


    Many thanks Walter for sharing this powerful Devotional!
    It explains the refining fire better than anything I’ve ever heard.
    May God continue to bless you and your wife in ministry and life.
    (ON)


    Vincent,
    Wonderful imagery matched with the ideal poem created a powerful devotional that spoke volumes to my heart. Thanks for sharing.
    Blessings.


    Greetings Vince,
    Thank you for writing this morning’s devotional. A very thoughtful and meaningful message.
    Blessings,
    (B.C.)


    Thank you, brother Vincent, for your devotional “The Crooked Branch,” a wonderful example of God refining us. It brought to my mind Proverbs 25:4 Take away the dross from the silver and there shall come forth a vessel for the finer.
    God bless you!


    Hi,
    Loved the object lesson … I’ll use it at a camp that I am now associated with… not a Christian camp, but the analogy works there, too, about a recognition of sin in our lives and the forgiveness that God offers (however well we know or believe, is ready to forgive).
    By the way, for many years, our family had a summer place in Muskoka, and we referred to it, as you did, in “Northern Ontario.” Then it was pointed out to me, that although it’s north of Toronto (the centre of the world), it is still very much in Southern Ontario!!!
    Blessings.


    Hello my friend,
    WOW!!!! I loved this devotion and in my spirit, could see it being used at church where I attend. I wrote it out to take with me. I feel it so strongly, I have to do it with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
    I have spoken different times at this church and I am so thankful I finally found this church which is evangelical and you feel the Holy Spirit and you have liberty to worship the way that is in your heart.
    I just know you will be a ray of sunshine for someone special today!!!
    God bless you Vince.


    ‎Vince,
    Thank you for the thoughtful devotional. It brought back many memories of Teen Ranch but more importantly the message of the logs and the fire – even though I think this particular retreat was before my time – was very powerful. Thank you!


    Hello Vincent,
    What a profound message; thank you for sharing it. Praise God that so many shared that experience with you, and now the Holy Spirit continues to touch so many more through the memory of that occasion.
    Blessings,
    (BC)


    Thanks. Certainly could visualize the event.


    Dear Mr. Walter,
    That’s a powerful devotional. It’s like “Buried in the deepest sea, Yes, that’s good enough for me, Praise God, my sins are gone.”
    Burned up is even more GONE.
    Thank you. Keep writing.


    Many thanks for your thoughtful words and lessons. I always enjoy and glean understanding from the messages you share!

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