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Posts Tagged ‘fruit’

palm treeSometimes it’s hard to believe that there is still life in a thing, in a situation. As people grow older and face their own mortality or, as in my circumstances, walk through the death of a loved one, time seems to be a kind of betrayer. We no longer appear to have the time to do anything new or worse, the energy to even begin, to try, to initiate. And when that happens, we go from stasis to decline. Unless–

The righteous will flourish like a palm tree,
    they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon;
planted in the house of the Lord,
    they will flourish in the courts of our God.
They will still bear fruit in old age,
    they will stay fresh and green,
proclaiming, “The Lord is upright;

    he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.” [Psalm 92:12-15, NIV]

What is bearing fruit at my age? Generally, it’s a metaphor for having children, but what else? I had an evangelist friend who maintained that bearing fruit meant bringing people to Christ. His quiver then, was full of “saved souls” [Psalm 127:3-5]. Others focus on the fruits of the spirit  [Galatians 5:22-23a]: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, looking to improve their characters through acts of generosity toward others, for truly, these fruits are mostly relationship-based. Still others interpret fruit as prosperity, bringing forth a cornucopia of wealth and plenty (aka, fruitfulness).

For me, today, I put forth a very simple meaning: fruit is the natural outcome of any living thing. We are all bearing fruit, all the time, whether it is physical, mental, emotional or spiritual. The nature of this fruit depends on our make-up, our beliefs, and our intentions.

seeds in the wind“A good tree doesn’t produce bad fruit, nor does a bad tree produce good fruit. Each tree is known by its own fruit. People don’t gather figs from thorny plants, nor do they pick grapes from prickly bushes. A good person produces good from the good treasury of the inner self, while an evil person produces evil from the evil treasury of the inner self. The inner self overflows with words that are spoken.” [Luke 6:43-45, CEB]

Today may be the result of my decisions made in my past, but tomorrow has the potential for anything, and depends so much on my choices today. And so goes the cycle, I learn to walk the day I made while at the same time, I can blow seeds into the days to come.

I have a future. Today I can plant a dream, still.

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Fig Tree by Dee Schenck Rhodes

Fig Tree by Dee Schenck Rhodes

A parable: “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’“‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’” [Luke 13:6b-9]

One more year; one more growing season to change; one more opportunity to work with the gardener and produce fruit.

We’re not so great at parables anymore, or maybe we’re just as dense as the disciples were back in Jesus’s time. So many times the disciples had to ask Jesus to explain the stories. But not this one; this one is up to us to figure out.

Who is the owner of the vineyard? Who is the one who cares for the vineyard? Who is the fig tree? What is the fruit? Why didn’t the tree produce fruit? How would the soil be fertilized? And what does it mean to be cut down?

God is the owner. Jesus is the farmer/caretaker. I am the tree. But what is the fruit?

I did a little investigating and apparently the fig tree was one of the most valuable trees in Israel at that time because it bore fruit three times a year. So, in the parable, that means that this particular tree, still hadn’t produced fruit in any one of the seasons that had passed. So, why keep this tree? It was planted for the purposed of yielding fruit. That was the job of the tree, not acting as a shade tree, not as an art object, and not as a road marker. Fig trees bear figs. Fig trees don’t bear apples or peaches or cherries.

Each human “fig tree” has its own fruit as well. Oh, sure, there are the fruits of the spirit (See Galatians 5:22-23 if you want to review the list). And certainly, all trees should have these attributes. On the other hand, a friend of mine said that the fruit of the tree is more believers, more followers of Christ, more like-minded, like-spirited people. This interpretation makes me feel like it’s a numbers game (how many people have you “saved?”).

No, I’m much more interested in the specific and unique fruit that comes from me. Or you. Or any other believer. We each bring something to the table of community and to the Body of Christ. Sometimes, it’s a complex recipe and my part may be small compared to another, or vice versa. I know there are seasons I have missed. But I am grateful for a merciful gardener who is willing to tend and nurture my soil. I am still growing. I am still in the orchard.

The soil is fertilized through prayer and study and relationship.

I can only say, I am still here. And as along as I am, then I will take comfort that my seasons are more fruitful than I may realize. It is not I who must judge the harvest.

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This is one of those chapters that lists a bunch of names. In Matthew, it used to be known as the “begats” a King James word for breed, multiply, or father (as a verb). It was a list of descendants, who were in the line of Noah. Whereas Matthew’s genealogy [1:1-16] recites the names from Abraham to Jesus (through Mary), Luke’s genealogy [3:23-38] goes through Joseph.

Genesis 10:32
These are the clans of Noah’s sons, according to their lines of descent, within their nations. From these the nations spread out over the earth after the flood.

It is Matthew’s genealogy that lists not only the men, but five unique and controversial women: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and Mary. They are suspect either by birth or by circumstances, Rahab who seduced her father-in-law; Rahab, a traitor, who helped the Israelites; Ruth, a Moabitess (a heathen religion that practiced human sacrifice); Bathsheba, an adulteress; and finally Mary, though holy to us, from the perspective of those around her, was pregnant out of wedlock. I discovered the richness of these stories many years ago and had a one-woman performance piece called Pente that I toured in Georgia and Mid-Atlantic for many years.

It is often difficult to discover something worthwhile in the seemingly didactic lists.

But in these I found some information through a commentary that I did not know before. Specifically, I didn’t know that the word “sons” as in the “sons of Shem, Ham & Japheth” could also be translated as “nations.” Therefore, the individual names listed could represent people groups. It’s a much bigger story then. This was the distribution of a civilization, a second time around, a re-do. And yet, this version was equally fraught with error through human foibles (the story of Noah being sexually exposed and mocked by his son, Ham). Eventually, it is the descendants of Ham who begat the notorious cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.

One of Newton’s laws of physics was that “every action has an equal and opposite reaction.” Like sowing and reaping, our actions produce reactions. The Bible takes it one step further to state that an action may have more than an equal reaction, but a 30, 60, or even a 100 times the initial action: not equal but multiplied.

My actions create a ripple effect in my children and undoubtedly in my children’s children.

I am living in many ways in response to my parents’ choices, attitudes, and influence. Some good and valuable: some not. I am still eating their fruit on one level or another. I am growing and producing fruit as well. A cycle. A genealogy. A table of nations, just as surely as Noah.

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I am not very good at waiting for the fruit of anything. I am a product of my culture and generation. I want it now. But faith in the good ending of a situation is the cornerstone of hope and takes time.

Hebrews 12:11
No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

It takes practice to believe in the good end despite the circumstances. It also takes experience. The more personal examples I have of God’s reliability, the easier it is to trust God the next time.

And, apparently, each instance of my faith and hope in God, lays a path for others to follow. That is a by-product of my journey, my willingness to hold my hand to the plow.

I live in northern Maryland near the Pennsylvania line and a few times a year, we take a trip up into the Lancaster area where many Amish communities have evolved. I really enjoy watching the spring planting season as the men work the ground with teams of horses or mules and plows. It’s clearly hard work but it is also a kind of dance. Like any farmer, these men are trusting that their labor will bear a plentiful harvest. Outside forces can impact their efforts, but they still carry on, believing that all will be well.

A God follower is similar to these farmers, willing to cultivate the land of human, believing the ground can be tamed, seeds can grow and new life can flourish.

But, like the farmer, this process is long and painstaking. I cannot rush through it. Just as plants grow on their own timetable, so do souls.

In the Amplified translation of this verse, righteousness is expanded to mean “conformity to God’s will in purpose, thought, and action, resulting in right living and right standing with God.” This is true human and this is the harvest we are intended to pursue here on Earth. And with this relationship comes peace within.

This is the promise, the ultimate fruit of discipline.

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Print by Missy Mohn Schwartz

In how many ways do I have to be told that the essence of walking after Christ is birthed in the Spirit. This is an inside-out faith, not the outside-in. The law was created to initiate the “external” expression of faithfulness. The Messiah finished this work by planting it within.

Galatians 5:22-23
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

If I can operate in the center of love, joy, peace, etc. then the law is unnecessary because I wouldn’t break the essential laws (10 commandments at the least). One doesn’t lie or covet or kill someone we love or cherish. The gentle soul does not rage or participate in sexual orgies. Self-control brings all things under its umbrella.

At the same time, none of these Spirit fruits can be manufactured externally alone. I can’t act in a patient way without being patient. I can’t exhibit kindness without knowing what kindness is . . . or goodness. . . or peace. Love (in this context) is not just a that girly-boyfriend feeling, it’s “agape” and carries the deepest of meanings and expressions. There are inner motives that drive these fruits of the Spirit. They are fruits that must come directly off the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

And as these fruits become ripe within, they become ready for harvest. And when they are harvested, they are distributed freely to all those around us. . . slave or free, gay or straight, black or white or brown or red or yellow or mixed media, Muslim or Hasidim, Mormon or Witnesses, young or old, male or female, . . .

If we are fruitless, then there is nothing to harvest and the only protection we have, the only way to curb our less admirable desires, is the law. First, there is the spiritual law that God gave as a covenant to the people. But, if that fails, then there is the secular law. Neither is particularly known for mercy or grace.

Perhaps we should be more like those cliche mothers who are reaching out encouraging others to “Eat, Eat, Eat,” or like Jesus, “Take, eat; this is My body.” [Matthew 26:26b]

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There is a bottom line truth here: if a person sacrifices his/her time, dedication, and/or expertise for the sake of others, he/she deserves to be compensated or, at the very least, receive some benefit for that service. They shouldn’t have to ask.

I Corinthians 9:10b
. . . the plowman ought to plow in hope, and the thresher ought to thresh in expectation of partaking of the harvest.
[Amplified]

In the 9th chapter of Corinthians, Paul is really letting them have it for not supporting materially, the very people who brought light into their dark place. I’m not even sure he’s talking just about himself, although he does sound pretty feisty in these passages. I think he’s addressing a situation that, quite honestly, hasn’t changed much over the centuries. He’s writing about all of those who are sacrificing for the sake of others.

The modern trap is to assume every compensation is financial. I’m not saying that isn’t important. Obviously, in our society, money is essential to accomplishing almost anything. Money pays the bills. Money opens doors. But there are other compensations that have to do with sharing the harvest, the fruit of the venture. Poor people and third world cultures seem to get this while westerners are blinded.

Whatever the task at hand, those who serve and participate in the process should receive a portion of the fruit. It helps connect people, to create unity, and buy-in.

As Jesus and his disciples walked their world, healing and teaching, people opened their homes and shared what they had. It was enough.

If someone works at your restaurant, let them eat. If someone works at your bookstore, let them read or get books cheap. If someone works in your office, let them make copies. If someone takes care of your yard, let them have flowers, seed, or seedlings. If someone cares for your children, let them participate in celebrations. As soon as we work in community, we become part of that community. Each person deserves full respect for the part he/she plays or contributes to the greater effort.

Freely give it so it’s not taken on the sly.

Usually, most people use these passages to rally the believers into sending more and more funds to support missionaries. And I understand that is important. But I tell you, I believe the full participation in that ministry is even more important. The fruit of participation is greater with the gift of time and energy, prayer and communication, advocacy and visits.

It’s a different kind of bartering that we need to re-energize.

God is giving to me all the time. And what do I have that God might want in return? Access to my heart. Participation in my life.

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John 15:15
“I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”

So which is it? Friend or servant?

Jesus is talking to his disciples, summarily on the same night that he just washed their feet. This section of the book of John is part of a very long record of Jesus’s final teachings to the disciples.

He pronounces them friends because he has shared everything he received from the Father. There is only one proviso: obey his commands. And two verses later, he brings it down to the same singular command: Love each other.

Friends love each other. Servants do not… necessarily. A friend of Jesus follows in the way. A friend of Jesus bears the fruit. A friend of Jesus can ask for whatever … because he/she is in the way of Jesus. The foundation is there before the asking. The love is there before the asking. So many folks wonder why they don’t get their prayers answered… well, answered the way they want them answered. My guess, the problem is that the relationship is not a friend relationship, it’s a servant one.

I want to be a friend to Jesus and others. Make it so Lord Jesus.

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