Posts Tagged ‘fruitfulness’

We are living within patterns and cycles. Nature teaches about the seasons; each year the same and yet each year different, affected by a combination of forces, some human-made, some divine.

harvestLove and faithfulness meet together;
    righteousness and peace kiss each other.
Faithfulness springs forth from the earth,
    and righteousness looks down from heaven.
The Lord will indeed give what is good,
    and our land will yield its harvest. [Psalm 85:10-12, NIV]

Here’s how I imagine this verse playing out: love and faithfulness are the human response. Out of the meeting of love (unconditional love, that is), faithfulness springs forth. What is faithfulness but trust and dependability and truth. Love is the ground from which these are born. Righteousness is the yardstick that emanates from God. It is only in God that righteousness and peace can dwell and prosper together. But here is the promise in this verse: as our love and faithfulness grow here in this three-dimensional world, God sees and we are blessed.

But what then is the harvest that God is blessing? I remember an old friend was adamant that a believer “bearing fruit” meant bringing more and more people to the Christ. I always felt like he was notching his spiritual guns. But today, I find myself leaning to a different understanding.

The harvest is the result of seeds planted, tended, and reproducing themselves. Wheat makes more wheat. Apple seeds make more apples. I am not a single seed but many. All humans are a composite. We see some of our reproduction capabilities in our families. If we are bitter, we bear more bitterness. If we are selfish, we teach the same (most often by example). But, if I love, then love is born in others. If I am faithful, a synergy is created like an unstoppable wave. Love and faithfulness are the strongest and most powerful forces and yet, the least appreciated. Instead, we have cheapened love to mean sex and heaped faithfulness with a list of exit clauses and “what ifs.”

These are the ones to practice and nurture: love and faithfulness and then righteousness and peace will pour down like rain.

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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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Here it is, something to ask God to do for me every day: fill me with the knowledge of His will. Think about it! The perfect solution to every situation, every setback, every decision, and every sorrow embedded in the knowing of His will. This is my new “catch-all” when I am overwhelmed.

Colossians 1:9
For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.

There is a second fall-back scripture for me in times of trouble, “. . . We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” [Romans 8:26] I allow the Spirit to guide in these circumstances.

But now I have this other way, this simple prayer for knowledge of his will. And I’m pretty sure I won’t have a conscious awareness of the knowing. Instead, I will have the effects of it [Matthew 7:18]: the fruits of the spirit [Galatians 5:22-23], the ability to endure and to be patient and to manifest a spirit of thanksgiving in all things [I Thess 5:18].

This is a prayer God will always answer. It’s not one of those “yes, no, or maybe” prayers. Paul prayed in this fashion for others. I can do the same and I can pray it for myself.

When Paul was “kicking against the goads” [Acts 26:14], he was going against the will of God in such a dramatic and determined way that he experienced a physical miracle — and not a pleasant one, no matter how “spiritual” we’d like to make it sound. He was thrown from his horse, lost his sight, heard voices, and had to be led to Damascus in disgrace. After that, he didn’t eat or drink for 3 days. He despaired and expected his own death.

I think I have experienced my own version of going against God’s will, I can tell by the fruits of it: impatience, anger, discontent, harshness, and even cruelty. When my mouth and mind engage in all those sorrows and negativity, I am operating in a vacuum and missing God’s will.

Fill me today, Lord. Fill me to overflowing that the knowledge of your will becomes a sweet aroma to others. Amen.

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John 15:5b, 8
“If a man [or woman] remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing…This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”

The whole issue of the fruit metaphor has plagued me over the years. I got hung up on it when a well meaning friend pronounced fruit as the number of converts I brought into the Body of Christ. For him, the process of “harvesting fruit” (probably based on Matthew 9:37) was a frontal assault: bring the person through the “sinner’s prayer” or share the “4 Spiritual Laws” or whatever it takes to close the deal and get the person to “yes.” It reminds me of sales talk: get to the “ask.” [“Ask” in this context meaning to pop the question: do you want to buy this product or do you want to support this cause with a donation?]

First of all, let me say, I am not against drawing others to Christ, far from it. But I’m thinking differently these days about the way. I’m thinking it’s the fruit that actually draws a new believer, not the other way around. The fruit, like fruits of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) or the description by James [3:17] of being wise, peace-loving, considerate, merciful and so forth, these are transforming energies. These fruits come from the heart. These are fruits of love. These are fruits that draw others to us. And when they are drawn to us, they are drawn to Christ.

Ezekiel says [47:12] “…every month they will bear [fruit], because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing.” This is our future. As the water/spirit of God flows through us, we offer the fruit of love and healing for wounds, both emotional and physical. We are in the restoration business. As we give of ourselves, we are giving life-changing fruit.

Doesn’t it make so much sense that God uses the idea of “feast” … the abundance of fruit … available to us all. And how foolish of us to miss such a feast.

Lord, mark the time for me today. Give me awareness that I might recognize the hunger of others. I don’t want to just “invite” them to the feast, I want to give them a taste of Christ’s fruit. Keep my heart tender, receptive and transparent.

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Matthew 4:3
The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

It wasn’t that Jesus couldn’t turn the stones into bread. He could have done that at any point in his days of fasting and praying. But that was not the point. He was called to fast until he was released from it.

I think this happens all the time. There are things that are not available to us, but not because we are unable to have them. God creates an environment for us that is part of our evolving story.

If I look at my life, there are things I would have changed along the way if I could. For instance, I would have liked to have biological children but then, I would have missed having my wonderful adopted children. While pursuing pregnancy, there were many more steps I could have taken to push the point: more tests, more invasive measures, etc. Probably, I could have turned those stones into bread. But even then, I sensed a different destiny, a purpose if you will, for those circumstances.

Barrenness is part of my story so that God could produce a different kind of fruit. And as a result, not only do I have three wonderful kids, but I also have a sensitivity to the plight of orphans in a way that I would have never had before. I’m glad I trusted the Lord. I pray I can be as sensitive to His Will in my current situation.

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Matthew 13: 3-9
Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. He who has ears, let him hear.”

Despite all that I have done this past year, two bible studies, regular devotions, bible reading, etc., I still come to the Lord today with a heart that feels fallow. I think so much of what I have learned and heard has washed away like water that cannot be absorbed in a hard pan of soil. We are known by our fruit… I know that. So, where is the fruit. (Reminds me of that old fast food commercial where the little old lady would look straight at the camera and say, “Where’s the beef?”) I feel the same way. Where’s the fruit?

Of course, I am also an impatient cuss! Perhaps the soil is not fallow… perhaps the seeds have been planted and are merely waiting for the right moment to sprout. Open my ears this day Lord that I might hear you. Water the garden of my heart.

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