Category Archives: Walking with Jesus

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

A piece of straw on the ground

Brother Lawrence Did Me Right

(A five-minute read)

A seemingly impossible task

Beginning at the New Year, my first day out of radiotherapy, I began a 40-day devotional by Harold Myra based on the writings of Brother Lawrence. Brother Lawrence was a 17th century Carmelite monk featured in a now-beloved tract called ‘The Practice of the Presence of God.’

It’s a combination of conversations he had with his friend Father Joseph de Beaufort and letters Brother Lawrence wrote to others.

The essence of his teaching is how to align myself for an ongoing conversation with God. In those moments when I forget (and they are frequent!) I simply come back round, apologize for turning away, and start over. God’s grace is endless for this, because He greatly desires to be in a relationship with me, with you, with all of us.

In one famous passage it’s written of Brother Lawrence, ‘that he was pleased when he could take up a straw from the ground for the love of God, seeking Him only, and nothing else, not even His gifts.’

How can I come to such a simple and unassuming place in life?

Brother Lawrence taught me how: go forward by going backward. Define the goal and then step backward to where I stand. Then I retrace those steps back to the goal. I have a lifetime to arrive.

When I first approach God I’m in an unregenerate state (that’s a fancy theological word meaning I’m not born again in Christ). I’m stubborn and sinful, and stand obstinately in opposition, refusing to accept His love.

Then, for some reason, perhaps a personal crisis, perhaps an ‘aha’ moment, perhaps the silent inward working of the Holy Spirit, I decide to respond to God’s invitation and pursue Him.

That pursuit can only come after a long sequence of changes in me, as I retrace the steps toward the goal. Here’s how it works.

A process for pursuing God

I can’t pursue God until I desire Him.

However, I can’t desire Him until my desire for other things lessens.1

My desire for other things doesn’t diminish until I recognize who I truly am (in Christ).2

That true identity doesn’t become clear until I understand why I was created.3

An understanding of my purpose in life only appears when I decide my way isn’t working, and I humble myself to receive God’s grace.4

It’s a not-so-vicious circle. It began on my knees, but it actually took me somewhere. The Bible instructs us to do things ‘heartily as for the Lord’ and not for men.5 So even if I’m doing work for someone else, I pursue it as though I’m serving Christ directly. Even if I am merely picking up a piece of straw.

The phrase ‘as for the Lord’ in the Modern English Version is rendered ‘as to the Lord’ in the New King James and ‘as though you were working for the Lord’ in the New Living Translation. The Passion Translation suggests ‘as though you were doing it for the Lord Himself.’ The Message Bible reveals that I should ‘work from the heart for my real Master.’

Through it all, I must remain conscious of my imperfection. God can only use me if I’m aware of how inadequate I am. I stand best when I stand on my knees.

This post contains material written for, but not used, in my memoir The Lie Called Cancer, now on sale.

1. 1 John 2:15 – ‘Do not love the world of the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.’
2. Romans 8:5-6 – ‘For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. To be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.’
3. Proverbs 19:21 – ‘There are many plans in a man’s heart, nevertheless the counsel of the Lord will stand.’
4. Psalm 38:17:18 – ‘For I am ready to stumble, and my pain is continually before me. For I will declare my iniquity; I am anxious because of my sin.’
5. Colossians 3:23-24 – ‘And whatever you do, do it heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. For you serve the Lord Christ.’

Reverse Direction

A Special Bulletin

We interrupt our regularly scheduled program for a special bulletin.
You have no need to fear.

Yes, there’s a pestilence loose in the world right now.
But you have no need to fear,
Unless you put your faith in your health.

The stock markets are crashing and the economy seems to be dissolving.
But you have no need to fear,
Unless you put your faith in money.

Someone you love dearly may be ill, or may even have died.
I am with you in your grief, but you have no need to fear,
Unless you put your faith in people.

You doubt the government knows what it is doing.
But you have no need to fear,
Unless you put your faith in government.

The media keeps harping on how bad it all is.
But you have no need to fear,
Unless you put your faith in the media.

The medical system may seem to be failing you.
But you have no need to fear,
Unless you put your faith in medicine.

Your church gives no answers about why this is happening.
But you have no need to fear,
Unless you put your faith in your church leaders.

It’s time to put your faith in the place where there’s never a doubt or failure.
Put your faith in God,
Jesus Christ says you have no need to fear.

“Don’t be afraid,” He said. “Take courage. I am here!” *
Yes, even in your self-isolation.

*Matthew 14:27 (NLT)

This piece originally posted 19 March, 2020. To read a true story about how faith in God overcame fear of death and disease, read The Lie Called Cancer, now available through Amazon.

[Photo: Frisky 007 via Wikimedia Commons]