Bearing Fruit 5

Luke 13:6-9

“Give me patience, Lord – but hurry!” Most of us have heard this humorous saying before. Patience may not be our strong suit. We may have difficulty accepting the fact that it may take time to become a fruitful member of God’s kingdom. We may need to work at learning how to do good things for others, to share God’s love in the way we act.

Jesus follows up some comments (Luke 13:1-5) on repentance and on being holy with this parable of a fig tree planted in a vineyard. It may seem odd that a tree is planted in the midst of a vineyard. But the parable creates a clear image in our mind.

The fig tree towers above the thick grapevines which only grow about chest high. It is something easily seen over the rest of the plants. Yet this tree has no fruit. It may look good. It may appear impressive as it rises above the many vines, but it is not producing fruit.

The owner wants to cut it down. He is frustrated with its lack of fruit. But the man in charge of tending the vineyard asks for one more year to try to get the tree to produce good fruit.

Some people who claim to have great faith, who claim the title of “Christian” and who say they love the Lord may appear to tower over the rest of the believers. Their faith appears tremendous and powerful. But the question is, do they produce fruit?

It is not always the appearance of things that we should look at. We should be examining ourselves and other believers to determine if their faith or our own faith is producing fruit for the kingdom of God. Are we doing good things to share the love of God with others or is what we do simply something that looks good but has no substance?

It may take time for any of us to be able to bear good fruit for God. We must be patient with others and with ourselves. But that patience has its limits. We can feel that we are not bearing fruit yet, but we should be working to develop our ability to share the love of God, to care for others, to bear the fruit of the Lord for the kingdom of God.

DAILY CHALLENGE: Are you bearing good fruit for God? Are you moving forward in this effort?

Bearing Fruit 4

1 John 2:5-6

Our teen-age daughter has experienced the hypocrisy some people exhibit in their faith life, a situation many adults have had to cope with. In a car ride the other day she made comments about people she calls “Super Christians.” She says these people are big on displaying their faith by carrying Bibles, quoting Scripture, and being very demonstrative in their prayers.

The problem is that she can recognize that these people don’t always live out their faith. In spite of their appearance of being good they speak poorly of others, they gossip, they lie and cheat. Others, who are less showy in their faith, exhibit their holiness in their actions, by caring about others, by being kind, by sacrificing of what they have.

In this first letter from John we have a description of what a real Christian might look like. How is God’s love made complete? How can we recognize someone who lives in Christ?

If we examine ourselves and the fruit that we bear we can see that we should be bearing fruit that is a reflection of God. Our fruit – the things that we accomplish, the things that we do – should be an expression of God’s love. Our fruit should be an obedience of what God has commanded – love your neighbor, care for the less fortunate. When we are able to do these things then God’s love is being lived out in us and it becomes complete, flowing from God to us and from us to others.

We can call ourselves “Christians.” We can claim that Jesus is living in our hearts. But for God’s love to truly be in us, for the Spirit of Christ to dwell in our hearts, we must walk as Jesus walked. We must offer care and forgiveness to those around us. We must seek out what is best and beneficial for others, and be willing to sacrifice ourselves for those in need.

If we will bear good fruit for God we must live as Jesus did. We must love, forgive, care and teach, and do all of this with a pure heart and humble attitude.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How will you walk as Jesus did today?

Bearing Fruit 3

John 15:5

Recently I was thinking about a job I had as a consultant doing corporate training. Along with the challenges of knowing the material and dealing with all the many people I encountered, one of the hardest things about the job was that I was out on my own quite a bit. I had very little connection with the training manager and other consultants in my own department.

It was difficult to face each day of work without that connection, without being constantly rooted in the support of my manager and co-workers.

Jesus addresses this issue with his disciples. What does Jesus say of himself? What are the disciples? What are we? What can we do without being rooted in Christ?

As we look at the fruit of our efforts, the many things we do to share God’s love in the world and do good things for others, we must remember where our connection lies. Jesus is the vine of faith. He is the source of our love and ability.

The disciples were the branches that sprang forth from Jesus. Their work was an off-shoot, a growth that came from the goodness of Jesus. And the same is true of us. We are simply the branch that emanates from Christ.

As we share love and compassion with other people, as we work to help the needy and care for people less fortunate than ourselves, we must remember that we should remain rooted in Christ. All that we do should be a reflection of the love that Jesus has for all humanity. Our work should be based in the caring that Christ had.

When we are able to remain rooted in the vine of Jesus then our offerings will be acceptable. If we keep ourselves connected to the love of Christ then we will be doing what is right.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you remain rooted in Christ?

Bearing fruit 2

Genesis 4:3-7

You would think that with all that God created – paradise – everything would move along smoothly and without trouble. But very soon after the beginning we have troubles in paradise.

What is the simple story being told here? How does God react to what is offered? What does He say to Cain?

The two brothers, Cain and Abel, present offerings to God and for some reason God prefers the gifts from Abel. God does not like what Cain has given. Naturally, this upset Cain.

We can look at this story and wonder what the problem was. We can even look at this story and say that it was God who started the feud between the brothers. But we must look at the details of the story.

The implication is that Cain brought an offering that wasn’t much of a sacrifice. He brought “some” of the fruits. Abel on the other hand brought offerings from the firstborn of his flock.

Was the problem a difference between grain offerings and blood sacrifices? I don’t think so. I think the difference is that Abel sacrificed some of his best to God while Cain’s offering seemed to be less sincere.

We all may feel that we give good things to God. We may give of our time. We may give from our wealth. We may give of our talents and skills. We may believe that we do many good things to give God honor. But do we?

The fruits we are to bear for God, the offerings we make to the Lord, should be foremost in our hearts and minds. Our fruit should be given to God first – that is, what we do for God should be something we give willingly and something we give that is of our best efforts. Our “fruit” should not be an afterthought or simply something we can spare.

And if we begin to compare ourselves with others – if we begin to feel that we have given more and better offerings than others – and we feel that God has favored another over us we must recall what God said to Cain. If we have done what is right then what we have done will be accepted by God.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you keep a right attitude when offering the fruit of your work to God?

Bearing Fruit 1

Genesis 2:4-8

There is no question that life and growth and all that is in the earth are beyond our own making. All that exists is there because God has ordained that it be there. If we were not present still life would exist and things would grow.

Genesis presents the story of God’s creation. What did God make? What did God do with man?

Verses 4 through 7 tell us that God created all that exists. It also tells us that God created humanity. But in verse 8 we see God placing man – humanity – into the garden. What was the reason for this?

We exist in the midst of God’s work. And we exist for a reason. Part of our relationship with God and God’s creation is to enjoy all that God has made, but part of this relationship is that we tend to what has been made. God has placed humanity to exist within His garden and we are to help in producing the fruit of God’s creation.

But this concept goes beyond the physical plants and animals that God made. We are also part of God’s kingdom, part of the work that the Lord does in the world. This involves ministry and dealing with all other people that God has made.

God’s creation – His garden – is more than just green and flowering plants. It is more than just the animals that roam the earth. God has made us to care for one another. To do the work of God we must produce our own fruit. That fruit is not always something you can touch and taste.

The fruit of our labors, the fruit we are supposed to bear, is the good work of caring for others, having compassion on other people, helping the needy and sharing the love that God has given us. If we will be successful in bearing fruit for the kingdom of God we must be certain that we are rooted in the love of God. God must be the source and center of all that we do and how we work with others.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What fruit can you bear for God?