Some Facts About Fruit

Christians speak often about the importance of bearing good fruit, and important it is. Galatians 5 provides a faithful reminder of the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance.
Fruit to be evident in our lives.

There seems to be something, though, not often included in our fruit-bearing training: what happens to the fruit once it is ripened on the tree. Through everyday experience and exposure, our great Teacher has enlightened me to some important truths about fruit.

For starters, it will be inspected. Just as we check for bruises, our lives will be examined. Like we squeeze to make sure the fruit is ripe and juicy, people will critique our attitudes and behavior. They will pay attention to how we respond to the world around us and situations in our lives.

Most of us don’t like that at all. We call it “judging”. Jesus expressed it as acceptable to evaluate one another’s actions when He said, “…for the tree is known by his fruit.” (Matthew 12:33)   Judging as we should not runs deeper, to the root.

Once our fruit has passed inspection the real fun begins. Somebody needs or wants it. We feel good about that, happy to be of service to the kingdom of God – until the reaping begins.

Think about how fruit is removed from a tree. Occasionally, a gentle hand reaches up in appreciation of its find and ever so carefully confiscates the needed nutrition. But that’s not the norm.

Usually It’s twisted, pulled, and plucked. Often the tree is violently shaken until the coveted fruit falls to the ground where it can be easily gathered.  Remaining joyful or gentle is seldom easy. I’m sure you can think of at least one someone who has tried your patience and pushed your self-control to its limit.

Feel like you’ve been pulled on, plucked, and shaken?

And that’s not all.  Think about what you do with your own fruit once you get it home.

It gets chopped, diced, and drained. It is pulverized into smoothies or smashed into juice. As if that’s not bad enough, sometimes it just sits until it rots, after which it becomes food for the sharp blades of a garbage disposal or thrown in the trash.

I used to get angry about the way people treated my fruit once they removed it from this tree. You know you’re feeling this same way when thoughts of being taken advantage of and unappreciated cross your mind.

There may be times when the Holy Spirit will direct you to back away, at least for a while. But make sure the Holy Spirit is the Director. Too often when we feel like our good nature is being abused and misused, we fence it off or stop producing altogether.
We are to yield the fruit, not dictate what happens to it. When it gets tough, God’s grace is sufficient to see us through.

One more thing. The tree doesn’t choose who gets the fruit. It’s usually easy to love those we deem lovable, to be gentle with those we are fond of, and patient with those we care about.

Yet, those to whom it is harder to offer fruit are often those who need it most. The lack of love, joy, and peace in their own lives is frequently manifested by nasty, hostile behavior. Letting them consume your fruit may be the very thing that initiates a change of heart.

After pondering these truths you might wonder if bearing fruit is really worth the effort.
It is.  You see, we have promises of great reward when we bear fruit.

John 15:16 records one such promise spoken by Jesus, “You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.”

Wow! Anything we ask in Jesus name can be ours if we maintain a fruitful life. Anything in line with His word, yes, but that includes everything we need and could ever desire – plus some!

And the greatest payment of all for our fruit? It makes us more like Christ.

Till next time –
June

FEEL FREE TO PRAY

“Lord, teach us to pray,” came the disciples’ plea. Jesus, undoubtedly pleased at their request, lovingly responded in that which has been called for centuries, “The Lord’s Prayer” (Luke 11).

When we desire a deep, personal relationship with our Savior, and to be an effective intercessor, learning to pray becomes a priority of our heart.  We can learn to pray more effectively. We can increase in fervency and knowledge. We can grow in understanding and rise to new spiritual heights of prayer.

However, in our passion to grow closer to Jesus and our eagerness to be of greater service, we often leave behind a most critical element of prayer – freedom. We are free in Jesus Christ to be ourselves; to be open and honest before our Lord. We are free to follow the Holy Spirit’s lead.

We can become overly focused on saying exactly the right words for exactly the right length of time. We can become too concerned with the precise balance of praise and petition, tears and rejoicing, prayers for self and prayers for others.

When this happens, we soon become frustrated with unsatisfactory efforts to get it right. Undue guilt plagues us as we blame ourselves for problems because we didn’t pray enough or according to the guidelines for success. Prayer soon becomes something we reluctantly mark off of an obligatory do list as opposed to what it should be – communion with our heavenly Father induced by love and desire. It’s all part of an awesome, personal relationship of love and grace.

An Irish peddler declaring he had found something equal to salvation was challenged to explain. “The companionship of the One who has saved me,” was the reply.

Anticipation, not of having to pray, but having the privilege to pray, will explode within us only when we fully understand how completely transparent we can be in God’s presence. Liberated from restrictions and rules, we can rejoice at the very idea of a rendezvous with our Lord. Prayer becomes the extraordinary in our ordinary day, the marvelous in the midst of our mundane.

I am a person who talks to God all the time and about everything. I enjoy His company and want to know His thoughts and will. But I also relish the special time that I set aside where my complete focus can on Him.

Every day I look forward to closing myself off from the rest of the world to spend time alone with my Father. It’s my favorite thing to do and I really miss it when life gets in the way and I cannot. My time with Him is part of my daily routine. What happens once I get there is not routine at all.

Some days I have it all together. Thanksgiving and petitions are presented in an almost systematic way and beautifully laced with Scripture. Some days I fall completely apart. I can do nothing but sob uncontrollably and utter a word here and there that, like those of Hannah, are formed on my lips but never escape my vocal chords (1 Samuel 1:10-15).

At times my prayer is offered completely in song and words of praise and rejoicing. Other times fervency, determination, and victory dominate. Occasionally, I simply sit down before Him and we share one with another, discussing matters of great importance as though we were chatting over a cup of tea.

I would be remiss if I didn’t include the days when all of the above decide to manifest themselves in a single sitting!

One hour may pass, or two. On rare occasions, I find I have been there the entire morning. But it might have been twenty minutes, or fifteen. My schedule, although full, does allow me flexibility that you may not have. Still, we’re talking about freedom in our prayer life.

While sacrificial time is most often required, God does not hold you to standards that are impossible to meet. This is part of the freedom. I don’t enter into God’s presence declaring, “OK, God, I’ve got ten minutes to give You today, hope that’s enough.”

Nor does He say to me, “If you don’t pray two hours, you need not pray at all.”

Allowing the Holy Spirit to lead the way, I pray. When I feel in my spirit it is time to go, and when the Spirit releases me to do so, I go (never leaving my spirit of prayer behind). Remorse has come only when I allowed things of lesser importance to rush me out of the room before I felt the complete release of the Spirit.

Liberty in Christ doesn’t invite disrespect or disobedience. It isn’t demanding or self-gratifying. It is, however, an open door through which our hearts can join with His. It is an invitation to come as we are before the King. An opportunity to offer ourselves in as many different layers as form our personalities.

A story is told of a little girl who had just learned the alphabet. A missionary noticed the child on bended knee, and quietly approached only to hear her thoughtfully repeating the ABC’s again and again. God for sure learned the alphabet that day. When at last the little girl rose, the missionary asked why she had kept her repeating her ABC’s. She answered quite unashamed, “I felt that I should pray, and because I did not know how to pray, I repeated the letters of the alphabet, knowing that the great Lord would fit the letters together to make words out of them.”

This child wanted to pray. She hadn’t learned the rules. She hadn’t been taught Jesus’ pattern or the importance of praying the Word. But she understood freedom in the presence of her Father. If only she approached Him with what she had—herself—He would fill in the blanks. No fear. No shame. Just freedom to pray in whatever way her spirit told her was best.

Have you spent such special times with Jesus, led by the Spirit into a no-holds-barred arena of love where you expressed yourself openly, and in return received life-changing counsel? Where you offered yourself for service and were not rejected? Where you laughed or cried—or both? Have you unashamedly emptied your heart, even if it did sound like an over-achieving auctioneer with more merchandise than time to sell it? Have you bowed in silent awe to gaze upon the Father?

Continue your pursuit of effective prayer. In so doing, you will learn to pray the Word of God, you will learn keys to praying unselfishly and by the leading of the Spirit. You will learn to pray prayers of faith, not of fear or self-pity. And you will find excellent examples of prayers throughout the Bible for most every situation.

Use what you learn with a sincere heart, but don’t let it inhibit you. After a while, you will realize that what you learned has become evident in your prayer life.

Approach God always with love and reverence. After all, He is our creator and our God. Remember though, He is also our Father and our friend.

So by all means, feel free to pray.

till next time —

June   jyB Inspired.com