Pause for thought

No tree, No fruit

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It is my privilege to live on the edge of one of the most fertile deserts in the world — the Central Valley of California. 

The amazing transformation from desert to productive agriculture is only possible because of the diversion of life-giving water from the rivers and delta sourced in the Sierra Nevada (“Snowy Mountains”) to irrigate the land. We are currently in the midst of an extreme drought and would gladly exchange some days of warm sunshine with those of you who live in colder and wetter climes!

Although our town is gradually succumbing to seemingly inevitable urbanization, it is still literally only a two minute drive if I want to be in the heart of fruit orchards and nut trees. Many of our local farms feature “U-pick-em” access, allowing customers to enter the properties and literally pick the fruit directly from the trees. The farmers only charge for the weight of fruit in the basket and don’t take into account the amount of fruit in the stomach — that’s just reckoned as a cost of doing business! People drive from tens of miles around to take home the freshest apricots, peaches, plums, cherries, pomegranates and strawberries, all at the lowest prices but causing major traffic jams parking on the sides of our little two-lane roads! But it is certainly worth the effort!

I am also privileged to have a vineyard as my backyard and it is a constant source of wonder to watch the explosive growth of the grapevines in the Spring — at some times and inch a day! —  the abundant, bountiful harvest as Autumn arrives and the severe pruning in the shorter, colder days of Winter. And then the cycle repeats again with the seasons! Every year the yield from the vines increases and the revenue raised from the sale of grapes and olives helps defray the costs of living in such a beautiful area.

This brings to mind that some of the most vivid illustrations Jesus used to instruct his followers used the metaphor of fruit and fruit trees.

“The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” Matthew 3:10 NIV

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 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. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” John 15:1-4 NIV

Every preacher worth his or her salt has proclaimed and expounded — maybe even expanded — on what Christian fruit looks like:

“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 NIV

But like grapes bought in the grocery store which may still look like they are growing on a branch, I can guarantee that that branch will never again produce a single grape. It could if it were still attached to the grapevine and properly pruned, but being detached irrevocably ends its fruit producing life. What did you do with the stems from the last bunch of grapes you consumed?

I can mentally see Jesus slapping his head and saying “duh!”.

There is a lot of “faux fruit” in our world. I often hear people say things like, “I am law-abiding”, “I try to live a good life”, “I give to charity”, “I am better than those so-called Christians” or “I always try to do the right thing”, and all that may in fact be true, but erroneously they believe that somehow qualifies them for heavenly applause. This is another one of Satan’s deceptions. Listen carefully to what Jesus says:

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.” John 15:5-6 NIV

I am sure that no one reading this intends to have a future as spiritual firewood, but we must be aware that it takes conscious, continuous, intentional effort and constant checking to ensure that we are still connected to the true vine. When we do, constant and improving fruit production is the result.

So let us resolve to make the effort to be connected and fruitful on a daily and hourly basis. 

Remember: “no tree, no fruit!”

Be fruitful (and multiply)!

Blessings on you and yours, Jim Black

Saturday May 28th, 2022