Life is Like a Garden — What Fruit Grows There

Life is Like a Garden — What Fruit Grows There

Life is like a garden — planted, tended, and watered. Let’s consider what kind of fruit grows in the garden which God has planted in us.

This morning while driving through snow-slush streets, my random thoughts turned to warmer days and the work it takes to produce garden fruits and vegetables. Many times, I have planted seeds in faith, believing they would grow and bring abundance. I consistently rejuvenated the soil with well-rotted compost and diligently worked to keep the weeds away.

Even though I know that daily efforts produces the best results in the natural realm, I often grow impatient when spiritual fruit doesn’t instantly appear in my life.

I love the way Jesus explained spiritual truths through parables of land and crops. He even repeated a parable that Isaiah had told centuries earlier.

A Vineyard of the Lord

It amazes me who God chooses to invest spiritual seed into. — often the least likely and most unconducive to bear anything of value. He sees fertile ground even amongst the stones!

“…My loved one had a vineyard on a fertile hillside. He dug it up and cleared it of stones and planted it with the choicest of vines.”
Isaiah 5:1-2

Oh, how much work God pours into our stony lives. hoping for the potential returns. Lovingly, He chooses each one of us. Looking beneath our rough exterior, He sees value and worth.

Like in the parable, He digs out what needs to be exposed. He clears the rocky debris of rebellion and disobedience. Often, the hardened soil of our hearts resists His efforts rather than yielding to the pressure of His process. If life is like a garden, what kind of fruit will be produced in us?

How many rocks of offense must first be removed? How much of His grace will it take to soften hard-hearted attitudes and stoney selfishness? What type of gifts, or the “choicest of vines,” will He plant in us, hoping to see the fruit of His efforts?

Protect Potential

Though we may feel abandoned during the growth process, nothing could be further from the truth.

“…He built a watchtower in it and cut out a winepress as well…”
Isaiah 5:2

After planting the vineyard, our Lord takes every precaution to protect the tender vines from harm. He stands in His heavenly watchtower. His eye is upon us, protecting and keeping us from and through enemy attack, while always promising to never abandon us.

As I look back, I remember many times of snaring gophers, chasing rabbits away, and ridding my little garden from pesky bugs? Weeds were quickly dug out by the roots to prevent them from sapping the garden of strength. Do you think for a moment that my garden was more valuable to me than we are to God? Hardly!

He faithfully guards the eternal seed He has invested in us, expecting to see an abundance of fruit flowing from our lives. The seedlings, once frail, lacked any potential for immediate increase, but He “cut out a winepress.” He sees ahead to what we can’t comprehend — the full result of His working in our lives.

Life is Like a Garden

Because life is like a garden, we remember that not every patch of ground produces equally. Some years an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables kept our family fed until the next year’s harvest. Other years, the produce grew sparse.

We find in Isaiah’s parable the saddest response to God’s loving efforts.

“…Then he looked for a crop of good grapes, but it yielded only bad fruit.”
Isaiah 5:2

I openly weep as I read this passage. God did everything God could do for us. He even sent Jesus, His Precious Son, to pay the ultimate price for our sins and to die in our place so that we might have abundant life.

Though we were nothing but specks of dust, He chose us to bear fruit. He lovingly planted the best seeds in our lives, and then nurtured and protected them.

But sadly, when it came time for a harvest, He found “only bad fruit.” Life is like a garden. Any bad fruit in our lives never results from God’s flawed efforts. “Bad fruit” in this passage literally means stinking things or be’ushim — a fungus that stunted growth and caused the fruit to shrivel and die prematurely.

Good or Bad

While God came expecting to find vitality and a bountiful harvest, He found fermented, shriveled fruit. How incredibly sad!

What more could have been done for my vineyard than I have done for it? When I looked for good grapes, why did it yield only bad?”
Isaiah 5:4

As we read this passage it causes us to solemnly consider the eternal significance of what we allow in our lives. No one desires to hear Jesus speak these words. Yet when we meet Him face-to-face, He alone will assess the outflow of our lives as either good or bad.

Invisible to the natural eye, tiny but deadly spiritual fungus spores float around us. We, too, must carefully keep watch over the garden of our lives so that we may correct anything potentially damaging to God’s good intention for us.

Many invasive things attempt to rob us of fruit. Upon closer look, we may find critical judgments, pride, slothfulness, selfishness, or even a passive acceptance of thoughts and attitudes contrary to God. Whether our spiritual be’ushim is long or short, the implications of such invasion loom large.

For Us All

Jesus repeated Isaiah’s parable in Matthew 21, to remind His listeners, then and now, of potential harm.

Fungus can live in the soil for generations but, praise be to God, so does good seed. Life is like a garden — a garden that will produce eternal benefits as we cooperate with the Holy Spirit, tending it with daily consistency.

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The Fruit of the Spirit that Keeps Producing — Longsuffering

The Fruit of the Spirit that Keeps Producing — Longsuffering

Fruit grows from healthy root systems. The fruit of the spirit also grows from the evidence of God’s deep and often invisible working in our lives. The more liberty we allow the Holy Spirit in and with us, the more fruit He produces through us.

“But the fruit produced by the Holy Spirit within you is divine love in all its varied expressions: joy that overflows, peace that subdues, patience that endures, kindness in action, a life full of virtue, faith that prevails, gentleness of heart, and strength of spirit.”
Galatians 5:22-23 TPT

Most of us skim through this list, mentally highlighting those attributes we find most appealing while overlooking other less desirable traits. We say a loud, “Amen!” to love, joy and peace. We affirm kindness, virtue, faith, and gentleness. Yet, patience and self-control become far more difficult to applaud! Nonetheless, God works in us to produce all the fruit of the Spirit.

Yet, I have personally witnessed patience, or more accurately longsuffering, to bring the greatest transformation in both my life and in the lives of others.

Longsuffering

The Greek word for patience or longsuffering, makrothymia, is associated with mercy and more particularly patience in respect to people. It exhibits self-restraint before proceeding to action. Longsuffering is the quality of a person who is able to avenge himself yet refrains from doing so.

This fruit of the Spirit gives one both forbearance and fortitude. However, God never intends longsuffering to be a putting up with, or a tolerance of, things and circumstances that are evil or destructive. Longsuffering enables one to withstand very difficult circumstances, while having the spirit-led fortitude to bring godly transformation. Often, those changes first begin within us.

“And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”
Hebrews 6:11-12 ESV

Longsuffering partners with the “full assurance of hope” in the driest and hardest places. Through it, we “inherit the promises” of God.

Refines

Paul captures this idea in a beautiful prayer for the Colossians.

“…We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.”
Colossians 1:9-12 NIV

Nothing prepares us for eternal inheritance as well as forbearance, patience, and longsuffering. It’s called longsuffering because it lasts longer than we hope, takes more than we feel we have to give, and requires more than we are humanly capable of offering.

Longsuffering demands moment-by-moment, day-by-day, year-by-year trusting in Someone bigger and stronger than us. Longsuffering leans into God’s Presence and relies on His Spirit. But longsuffering refines us, producing in us a tenderness and mercy we otherwise would never obtain.

Molds

Longsuffering molds in us a reflection of God’s own heart. Because of His forbearance and patience toward us, we inherit the goodness and benefits of His Kingdom in relationship with Him.

“Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?”
Romans 2:4 NIV

While pressed through the sieve of suffering, God softens and molds us into an increased reflection of Himself. This fruit of the Spirit, longsuffering, begins to ripen and sweeten in our lives, bringing nourishment to others.

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”
Colossians 3:12 NIV

What is your place of longsuffering? Is it robed as a difficult marriage or a sudden loss? Perhaps, it cloaks itself as mental or physical illness? Have you been contending for your faith despite addiction, abuse, abandonment, or rejection? I write this with tears, knowing we all face enduring circumstances that wring us dry of everything but God.

There we find that God is enough. Amazed, we discover the fruit of the Spirit thrives where nothing else could.

Prayer

I glean today’s prayer for you and me from James 5:7-11

“Father, I come to You in the mighty name of Jesus, interceding on behalf of all those walking through a valley of suffering. I ask that the beautiful fruit of the Spirit — patience — would blossom and grow in each of our lives until the Lord’s coming. Just like a farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, we patiently wait for the autumn and spring rains of Your Spirit to drench us, softening us to the core. Enable us to be patient and to stand firm in whatever circumstances immerse us, because Your coming Lord is near. We quench all grumbling and judgment from our hearts and lips. May we become an example of patience in the face of suffering, being counted as blessed as we persevere. Remind us of others in the faith like the prophets and Job who also suffered. Yet You, Lord, brought about great victory and blessing in their lives. Through them we see vivid and beautiful examples of how compassionate and merciful You are and always will be. O Lord may faith rise. May strength be our portion. May forbearance, patience, and longsuffering produce in us heaven’s fruit for earth’s feast. We look beyond our grey today to the glorious tomorrow You have promised. Your love is enough! Your grace is enough! Mold us, Lord! Create in us the full fruit of Your Presence during this season of suffering.
Amen.

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The Importance of Kindness

The Importance of Kindness

A couple of recent messages, one positive and one negative, caused me to reconsider the importance of kindness at a personal level.

A few weeks ago, a friend messaged me about a dream she had about me. In the dream, I was being publicly congratulated for my many acts of kindness. Her message caused more than a little puzzlement. I honestly searched my memory bank for what the dream could be referring to. Had God’s supernatural seeds of kindness actually begun to grow in my life? I wasn’t convinced! Another option seemed more plausible. Perhaps the dream came to cause me to reconsider my ways and spur me toward a greater awareness of the importance of kindness.

More recently, someone else sent a message to confront the lack of kindness she sensed in me. No surprises there! Why? The qualities of gentleness, generosity, and consideration toward others which blend to form kindness seldom flow naturally from my life.

I have sometimes half heartedly joked about my absence when God handed out the gifts of mercy and compassion. While I see them so clearly in others, I struggle to see them here at ground zero — in me!

A small picture assumes a prominent place in my kitchen. It is a treasured gift from yet another friend. Engraved upon the face of the image is Aesop’s familiar phrase, “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” Unfortunately, the image often goes unnoticed.

Kindness Gives What is Needed

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”
Colossians 3:12-13

God purposefully centres kindness between the distinguished garments of compassion and humility.

The root of the Greek word for kindness bears the essence of “usefulness.” It often occurs alongside the concept of forgiveness or with another Greek word which we commonly translate philanthropy. The Complete Word Study Dictionary of the New Testament adds, “It is the grace which pervades the whole nature, mellowing all which would be seen as harsh and austere . . . having the harmlessness of a dove . . . It is the opposite of severity or cutting something short . . . The word is descriptive of one’s disposition.”

I stop and muse over that word — mellowing! Yes, mellowing would certainly be beneficial in me, to me, and through me to others.

Paul includes kindness among other attitudes of the heart, which we should intentionally “clothe” ourselves with — never to be found naked without them.

Kindness offers to others the reflection of God’s heart in the way they need it most.

The Kindness of God

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
Ephesians 4:32

God lovingly placed many kind souls in my path who clearly demonstrated His kindness through their attitudes, words, and actions. In spite of my unrefined, far-from-mellowed, overly jagged, and repulsively crude ways, they generously offered me those most useful and needed commodities of forgiveness, gentleness, goodness, and grace.

In fact, the kindness of God, displayed so lavishly in others, helped to lead me to Jesus. Their kindness caused me to turn my broken life over to Him. Paul explained the importance of kindness so well:

“Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?”
Romans 2:4

One must never underestimate the importance of kindness. One finds the evidence of God’s kindness in every transformed life. Every soul that repents and turns their face humbly toward Him experiences it. Long-time enemies of God become His beloved children!

Jesus said,

“But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”
Luke 6:35-36

A promised reward awaits everyone who emulates God’s kindness shown even to the ungrateful and wicked.

The Reward of Kindness

Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness will find life, righteousness, and honor.”
Proverbs 21:21

Kindness implies a refining and purifying that matures into moral excellence — something that just keeps getting better with age. It’s like that “mellowing” we talked about, but better.

We look inward, knowing we have far to go to reach the moral excellence of kindness. God looks at us, however, and sees His continuing work in progress. In the centre of the list of the Holy Spirit’s fruit, we find kindness:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”
Galatians 5:22-23

If we quickly skim over these familiar verses, we easily miss a key element. The Holy Spirit supernaturally produces kindness, along with all the other fruit, in our lives. Yes, we play an important role by cooperating with what God is doing. Ultimately, however, He receives the credit for His development of His fruit in each of us.

Kindness is Spirit led! It begins with Him and comes only through His deep working in our lives. We reap the rewards only by His grace.

Activate Kindness

What if, like in my friend’s dream, God anxiously waits to commend us for kindness? What if failing to reflect His kind heart, as my second friend challenged, carries far more serious consequences than we think?

Understanding the importance of kindness forms the foundation. Activating kindness builds on that understanding. But how?

First, let’s pray, asking Holy Spirit for His supernatural movement, planting and watering kindness seeds within us, removing any remnants of the old crusty nature, and replacing it with tenderness and compassion.

Second, let’s focus on what others need? What would be the most “useful” thing we could offer? Do they need a helping hand or financial support? Perhaps, forgiveness stands as their greatest need. Maybe helping them develop a skill would prove most beneficial. Would a word or note of encouragement help carry them through a tough season? The greatest need any of us possess is the need for Jesus in our lives. Sharing our faith will always be the most useful and profitable thing we offer anyone.

Third, thank God for the mellowing with age and the building of moral excellence evident in you. Whether dramatic or subtle, recognize and thank Him for the supernatural shaping and movement toward kindness.

And fourth, remember

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted,”
Aesop

What God said first, Aesop reminded us of. Kindness affects others after it first affects us. May we never question the importance of kindness. May it flow from our continually transformed lives by the tender loving heart of God.

“Love is patient, love is kind . . .”
1 Corinthians 13:8

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The Kingdom of God – Righteousness, Peace and Joy

The Kingdom of God – Righteousness, Peace and Joy

Why would Paul include righteousness, peace, and joy as the key ingredients in the kingdom of God? What sets these three qualities above all others? Why are these components indispensable?

“For the kingdom of God
is not a matter of eating and drinking,
but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit,
because anyone who serves Christ in this way
is pleasing to God and receives human approval.”
Romans 14:17,18

I confess to having more questions than answers. However, one thing appears certain, righteousness, peace and joy create the fertile soil from which they each thrive, co-existing for their mutual benefit.

Righteousness

Recently, I’ve had more than one conversation surrounding the frustration we can feel regarding righteousness. (Or perhaps the lack of it.) Why does it seem to be too easy to do the things we would or should not do, while at the same time difficult to do the things we truly want to do? Oops! That’s another question!

Before the initial sin, humanity could freely choose to obey God and maintain close relationship with Him without feeling pulled and tugged in other directions. Since that time however, our propensity bends continually toward disobedience and rebellion. For every son and daughter since Adam and Eve, we now need to make a deliberate choice for righteousness — to walk in innocence and freedom. Without this focused attention, we automatically default to sin and error.

Just a few verses earlier Paul despaired of the same frustration I experience, “Who can possible help us?” he asks. Then immediately he gives the answer,

“Thanks be to God, who delivers me
through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
Romans 7:25

There’s hope! Righteousness means to be faultless, innocent, and guiltless or observing divine laws. Only God fits this description. Compared to His holiness, we all end up far short.

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us,
so that in him we might become
the righteousness of God.”
2 Corinthians 5:21

God solved the problem in Jesus. Through covenant relationship with Him, God counts us as righteous. Because of Jesus, righteousness now becomes the hallmark of all other relationships as well.

Peace

Through the liberty of Jesus Christ, we are no longer forced to continue in negative patterns. He came to deliver us from the stronghold of sin. With righteousness in place, we can start growing upward and onward. Maturity and development in any area isn’t always easy, but possible through Christ.

“The fruit of that righteousness will be peace;
its effect will be quietness and confidence forever.”
Isaiah 32:17

The apple tree in my yard doesn’t have to work at producing apples; it simply bears what it is genetically designed to produce. The fruit of righteousness however does take work, or at least active involvement. “Fruit” here is an activity or byproduct of action taken.

Isaiah says with certainty, the byproduct of righteousness “will be” peace. Peace effects us inside and out, giving us a sense of undisturbed quietness, complete safety, and absolute security.

When I’ve violated God’s standards, I’m immediately robbed of peace and void of internal quietness and confidence. In Christ, however, I am able to be restored again to right relationship with God, producing “fruit” naturally.

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you,
live at peace with everyone.”
Romans 12:18

Peace works its way outward spreading to others with enough fruit to share!

Joy

It’s hard to believe that someone like me, whose life was marked by depression and anxiety for decades, could experience such complete joy. But it’s true! Perhaps more than any other quality, joy marks my life. Because of what Jesus Christ has done in me, I easily share the overflow of joy with others.

“Christian joy is a good feeling in the soul,
produced by the Holy Spirit, as he causes us to see the beauty of Christ
in the word and in the world.”
– John Piper

When we begin to walk in right relationship with God, living at peace with ourselves and others, we possess an ability to see the world in a new light. God enables us to view His Word and the world around us from kingdom perspective.

In a sense, God gives us spiritual contact lens, that allow us to see those we encounter here on earth from His viewpoint. At the same time, we are able to maintain clear focus on Him. Righteousness, peace, and joy retrains our minds to see with His vision.

Paul prayed,

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy
and peace as you trust in him,
so that you may overflow with hope
by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Romans 15:13

Righteousness produces more and more. This time in the form of overflowing, bubbling over and abounding hope.

Kingdom of God

Listen to how the Message Bible phrases our original verses:

“God’s kingdom isn’t a matter of what you put in your stomach, for goodness’ sake. It’s what God does with your life as he sets it right, puts it together, and completes it with joy. Your task is to single-mindedly serve Christ. Do that and you’ll kill two birds with one stone; pleasing the God above you and proving your worth to the people around you.”
Romans 14:17-18

The kingdom of God isn’t so much about what we do, but what God does in us. He “sets it right, puts it together and completes it with joy.” He does it all!  What we need to do is rest in the process, co-operating with the Holy Spirit, while He does the heavy lifting.

We have only one part to play — “single-minded” service. By keeping our eyes on God, all the pressure falls off of us. No matter how old we become, how mature in the faith, or how seasoned in the Scriptures, we constantly depend on Him to lead, equip and enable me.

Though we try our best to please God in every way, our own efforts matter little. Through righteousness, peace, and joy we automatically become pleasing to God and valuable to others.

Righteousness, Peace and Joy

Righteousness, peace, and joy are byproducts of living wholly for Christ. Through my vain efforts to try to do and be, I actually hinder the natural flow of God’s design.

God has planted us firmly. The Holy Spirit washes us continually with the Word, watering us deep to the roots. We rest in His finished work producing the fruit of the heavenly kingdom to which we belong.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace,
forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
gentleness and self-control.
Against such things there is no law.”
Galatians 5:22-23

Don’t ignore the last sentence. “Against such there is no law.” We no longer have to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, or the law pointing out right and wrong, like our first ancestors did. Because of God’s grace, we eat freely and fully from the tree of life where righteousness, peace and joy thrive.

No wonder Paul declared these three ingredients as essential in the kingdom of God. This is how God sets our lives right, puts them together, and completes them with joy.

I Am the Vine You are the Branches – Fruit that Lasts

Fruit that lasts - I Chose You

The thrust of winter is sending one final blast across the prairies, but I’m thinking spring. The garden awaits under mounds of snow; the deep rich soil is prepared for another season of bearing fruit and vegetables. Gardening may be one of my joys in life, but I have been called to more than what my hands can produce.

“I chose you and appointed you
so that you might go and bear fruit
fruit that will last.”
John 15:16

There is only one kind of fruit that truly lasts — what we do for God!

The Vine

When we moved into town, I decided to try an espalier experiment with an apple tree. It sounded like a reasonable solution in a small yard and my personal repulsion to ladder climbing.

I bought a young whip, planted it in a secluded corner, and began aggressively pruning. At times, I was concerned whether the little tree would survive the drastic cutting and shaping process.

Blossoms of promise

Any branches that were reaching toward the back were cut; as were the branches pointing forward. Only those reaching outward to the left and right were allowed to remain. Only the stoutest branches, those equally spaced 10″ – 12″ apart up the main trunk, were left. This would allow sufficient air flow between the limbs and provide full support to each branch by the trellis.

Year by year the little whip began to take shape. Not the shape of a “normal” apple tree with bows spreading upward forming a rounded canopy. Rather the shape of the trellis upon which the branches were fastened.

Every blossom was removed those first few years, so the tree would gain strength. My vision was set for the future.

The Gardener

After the last several years of pruning and shaping my little tree, I can understand these verses more clearly:

I am the true vine,
and my Father is the gardener.
John 15:1

Just like with my little tree, my Father is only leaving me with the “branches” of my life that are willing to stretch outward, to the left and right, toward others. Branches that are pointing too far ahead, toward the future, won’t receive the support needed to bear the weight of a heavy harvest. Those branches that are pointing behind, anchored in the past lacking the present light of Christ, will be susceptible to “disease” of grumbling and complaining.

My fruit bearing ability will not be secure in either the past successes and failures or of the future dreaming.  To bear fruit that will last, I need to trust the Gardener to know what needs to go and what should remain. He is shaping me for future increase!

Resistance

My little tree has a natural inclination to grow full and lush, spewing branches at liberty. Though more beautiful perhaps, it is not the way of fruitfulness.

Me too!

I don’t particularly like the pruning process. As a matter of fact, I quite detest it!

“He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit,
while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes,
so that it will be even more fruitful.”
John 15:2

One of the greatest challenges I face with my little tree is “suckers” that sprout up from the outfacing branches. Their wild quick growing nature saps the branch of precious nutrients. Worse yet, suckers aren’t fruit bearers!

Pruning for fruit

Interestingly though, when these upward shoots are pruned off a few inches from the main branch, the remaining stub will be the source of much fruit in the years ahead.

“No branch can bear fruit by itself;
it must remain in the vine.
Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”
John 15:4

Fruit bearing branches must be “connected” to the vine, the main trunk! It isn’t enough to be connected to another branch!

My main connection must always be with God. When I attempt to sprout out from another man’s ministry, rather than from God Himself, the result may appear healthy at first, but it will be unsustainable. Am I thoroughly connected? And where?

I am thankful for the “fruit bearers” in my life:

apostles and prophets,
evangelists, pastors, and teachers,
forefathers and mothers of the faith,
mentors and counselors,
steadfast, faithful, “waymakers”.

Though appreciative of their input, my sustaining strength comes from only One Source, the Vine Jesus Christ. To be a fruit bearer, I MUST be connected directly to Him.

Clusters

The second greatest problem that requires pruning are the “clusters”.

Clusters of blossoms

I’ve never been able to walk by an apple tree in bloom — never! I must stop to breath in the aroma of the fragrant clusters of blossoms, watch the busy activity of pollinating bees, and let my eyes feast on the intricate God design of each blossom.

The Gardener knows that each blossom will not produce fruit. In fact, each blossom should not produce fruit! The branch can neither nurture nor bear the weight of that much fruit. So, the Gardener sets to work, pruning even the fruit bearing branches.

This is the most difficult pruning for me to do in my garden. I want to see “abundance”, but wisdom tells me to trim, cut, and prune until only the choice fruit remains.

Clustered fruit will never grow to full potential. To ensure the quality of the remaining fruit, I must prune harder.

Humanly speaking, clusters are comfortable. Clusters are safe. We like to cluster! Denominational clusters, team clusters, recreational clusters, clusters here and clusters there! People naturally like to congregate in groups.

Clusters are good places to begin our faith journey. If staying in tight little clusters matters more than reaching out, we will never mature to be true fruit bearers. To touch the lives of those in our world, there must be a willingness to leave our comfort zones and stretch outward in love and care.

Chosen and Appointed for Fruit

As hard as pruning is, harvest will prove its worth!

As I walk around my little community, I notice apple trees flourishing in abundance. Each fall, large boughs bend earthward laden with enormous amounts of fruit. The appearance of fruitfulness is everywhere.

Harvest time demonstrates the true benefits of pruning. Every apple on my little tree is weighty, plump and full. Every cut I made with the shears was for the purpose of maximum harvest. Now it is payback time!

The reward of pruning - choice fruit!

While others are picking, peeling, and processing buckets of undersized produce, only those willing to prune enjoy over-sized rich fruit.

The same will be in my life! The Gardener knows! He has a plan!

“I chose you and appointed you
so that you might go and bear fruit
fruit that will last…”
John 15:16

God has chosen each one of us. He has called us out and appointed us to produce — to produce in abundance and to produce fruit that is eternal. The Gardener isn’t looking for standard garden variety outcomes. He is working in us and through us to prepare supernatural fruitfulness.

Knowing His plan allows us to endure the painful pruning seasons with grace and hope. We may feel naked and exposed during these “harsh” pruning times. Truthfully, God’s loving hand of wisdom and perfection is in every touch.

He is looking to the harvest; it is coming soon!