Fruit on a naked branch

Fruit? Or Roots?

A three-minute read

Fruit is a big topic in Christian circles.

John the Baptist may have dined on locusts and wild honey, but he also knew a bit about fruit. He encouraged the religious leaders of his day to ‘bear fruit worthy of repentance,’ warning them that ‘every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.’ 1

Jesus also used fruit metaphors. False prophets? You will know them by their fruit. Every good tree bears good fruit. But a corrupt tree bears evil fruit. Like John the Baptist, he warned that ‘every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore, by their fruit you will know them.’ 2

The Apostle Paul outlines the nature of this good fruit, produced by Holy Spirit: Love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and self-control.3

But these fruits don’t prosper on their own.

Jesus likened Himself to a vine, and his disciples to branches. ‘He who remains in Me, and I in him bears much fruit’, He said. ‘For without Me you can do nothing.’ 4

So, now I know what the fruit is, and the ways in which it manifests in my life, through my relationship with the Holy Spirit. And since, without Jesus, I can do nothing, by myself I bear no fruit. I have nothing to do with it. Or do I?

I think I do. When I think about how I represent Jesus to others it’s easy to focus on the fruit, and neglect the roots. That’s the key to my part in the story.

A fruit tree only produces fruit if it has the right conditions. It needs to be planted in solid ground so the roots can hold it firmly in place. The soil needs to be good, so the nutrients are there.5 It also needs water to give it life. It needs light for photosynthesis so it can feed itself, and grow and flourish.

It also needs time. Only after these conditions have been in place consistently for some time will a tree produce fruit for others to enjoy.

Just like the tree, I’ll produce authentic ‘fruit’ only if my ‘roots’ are in the right place. I need to plant myself in God’s word – good soil. I need Holy Spirit to pour His living water into my own spirit as I listen to him each day. I need to surrender in obedience to Jesus, the light of the world, who guides me day by day with his easy yoke.

To produce fruit, I don’t need to focus on the fruit, but on the One who produces the fruit, after my roots are set in place.

I also don’t need to count the fruit, I trust that it will be there. And I have learned that it’s there to nourish others.

How are your roots? What kind of soil are they planted in?

From a teaching by Melanie Searle

1. Matthew 3:8, 10
2. Matthew 3:7:16-19
3. Galatians 5:22
4. John 15:5
5. Mark 4:20

burger and fries

Eat Hearty, Christian. Lent is Coming!

A four-minute read

“Each year, around the latter part of winter, Lent arrives. It nearly always surprises me. Here it is, once again, summoning me to change how I typically live.” — W. David O. Taylor

Why should I bother changing the way I live? Isn’t life hard enough? I’m just trying to get along after all. Coping with lockdown and separation. Wondering when the sun will return, and the air will warm, and I can hug you again.

The good news in all this madness is that Lent is coming.

Lent is yet another reminder that what happens in Vegas may stay in Vegas but what happens on earth doesn’t stay on earth. We get to take it with us on judgment day.

It’s difficult to have an eternal perspective when death, dead-ends, poverty, moral failure and other evils seem to trump every card I play. My theology gives out on me sometimes when Perceived Life (what you probably think of as ‘Real Life’) seems to have the advantage.

What is actually Real Life is something much more than this Perceived Life in which I’m trapped. What I see in front of me is temporary, but the things I don’t see, the things I have faith in, are eternal.1

That’s why I need Lent. It’s a reset, where I turn my attention back to those few things that are truly important. The journey is simple and traditional. Traditional Lenten observance means prayer and repentance, fasting and almsgiving. These three things reconnect me with God’s heart.2

Lent is a journey. And, when I take a journey, I need to pack, and check the map to see what might be in my way.

That’s easy to see. It’s the same old rubbish: Pride, self-sufficiency, dishonorable thoughts, judgmentalism, greed, among others.3

‘Wait a minute’, you might say, ‘I thought your Christian faith says “Those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and lusts.” 4 Don’t you have this thing licked?

You are correct about the first part, but not about the second part. The Bible also refreshingly points out that I’ll face temptation. And, I’ll suffer. I’ll feel like falling down. I’ll feel like giving up. It’s a giant Free Will Problem. Whether I stand or fall is up to me. Fortunately, I have supernatural help.

Jesus said ‘In the world (Perceived Life) you will have tribulation. But be of good cheer. I have overcome the world.’ 5 There’s that Real Life I mentioned earlier. The one I can’t see, but which bears me up when I stumble. It’s His life.

How do connect with it? That’s where prayer, fasting and almsgiving come in. I’ll be engaged in all three between Ash Wednesday (17 February) and Easter (4 April), and that will guide my writing journey the next 7 ½ weeks. You are welcome to come along.

I’m not telling you these things to boast, rather to set a backdrop against which you can view an unfolding story. After all, even a superficial study of Matthew 6 shows that Jesus says we should do all these things in secret.6

And I will. It’s just that, since Jesus expects it, and I follow Him, it’s probably not so secret then that I might choose to do these things.

Just to be clear. Lenten practices are not about earning some sort of favor or to make up for whatever rotten stuff I’ve done. Only Jesus’ sacrifice pays for any of that. Jesus alone.7

Lent is not about punishment. It’s not about self-denial either. It’s about emptying myself out so I can be filled afresh. So I can stuff myself with His goodness.

It’s about sharpening my senses. It’s about building a better relationship with God.

Here’s a metaphor. Because the church is described by some as the bride of Christ and the Lord as the bridegroom,8 think of Lent as a marriage retreat.

Or perhaps, a honeymoon.

1. 2 Corinthians 4:18
2. See Isaiah 58-60 for a discussion of this concept
3. Galatians 6:19-21
4. Galatians 6:24
5. John 16:33
6. Matthew 6:3-6, 17
7. Matthew 8:17, Romans 4:25
8. There’s an excellent discussion of this at the Berean Bible Society. I use the metaphor here just as a literary device. It’s a secondary issue and I won’t argue with anyone about it.

Photo by Jonathan Borba via Pexels

Sky at sunset

Stream of Unconsiousness

Verbs are sunny days outside
Nouns lock me away
Anger collects all the adjectives
Adverbs subjectify

Sleep is a punctuation
My heart lies with the nouns
No definitions are forthcoming
Actions speak harder than words

Failures cross-connect
Building an interlocking hole
Who can take my words and say
The pictures lack some definition

My life in puns, yet so obscure
Kaleidoscopic shifting
Becomes the norm
Norm is for normal

A setting on the washer
A nominal standard
Sought by all
And achieved by none

Of the people by the people
For the people all the people
This is what life looks like
When I cast away identity

In favour of a shroud
Shrouds cover death
Which obscures hard truth –
An envelope for the eternal letter

Sometimes a disguise
For something shameful
Walk a mile in my shoes
Shined and ready to going

Nowhere except to feed the
Baby needs new shoes.
7-come-11? No – Snake Eyes
Casting lots over a broken life

Is a powerless roll of the dice
When I could easily reach out
For the One who keeps knocking
With infinite patience.

You can read more poetry here.