DayBreaks for 4/11/17 – A Fruitless Tree

DayBreaks for 4/11/17: A Fruitless Tree

From the Holy Week devotional guide from our church:

“Jesus was hungry…He might have been hungry…you know; so hungry it makes you angry. He was fully God, but He was also fully man so, my guess is He was hungry.

“Jesus saw the beautiful green leaves of a fig tree in the distance and He anticipated eating its fruit. He knew that if a fig tree had leaves it should have fruit, but as he searched the tree he found nothing. No fruit at all. To say Jesus was disappointed might be an understatement. If every a fig tree could be hypocritical, it was this one. Jesus hated hypocrisy. So much so that this fig tree became an object lesson to His disciples. So, what did He do? He cursed the fig tree! Interestingly enough, it died from the roots up. Its source of life had been removed.

“That same day, Jesus headed down to the temple and what did find? More hypocrisy! To the casual observer, everything “appeared” to be okay. But Jesus is no casual observer. He saw a lot of ‘leaves,’ but upon closer inspection Jesus discovered cheating, dishonesty and betrayal in the temple of all places. This was a place people came to meet with God, so finding hypocrisy in His Father’s house was more than the Prince of Peace could bear.

“You see, Israel was like that fig tree. It followed every ‘religious’ rule, but there was no fruit. What appeared to be flourishing with life was an illusion. In reality, Israel was spiritually dead.

“What about Judas Iscariot? Like Israel, he too resembled the fig tree. He had plenty of “leaves”. He walked with Christ, and along with the other disciples, he preached and cast out demons in Jesus’ name. He distributed the multiplied loaves and fishes. He saw eyesight restored to the blind and hearing restored to the deaf. But clearly he didn’t KNOW Christ. He had not tasted the goodness of God. He was going through the motions with no genuine fruit.

I wonder, are there areas in our lives that are beautiful with lush greenery, but upon closer inspection one would find no real fruit? Are we producing the kind of fruit Galatians 5:22-23 speaks of, But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law’?

“As we enter this Holy Week, we should ask ourselves, ‘After weekly church service, discipleship group and connect group, underneath it all, am I like Israel and Judas? Are there areas where I have only an ‘appearance’ of life? As others examine my life, what kind of fruit do they find?’

“Take time to confess these things and receive the fruits of love, faithfulness and peace from our gracious Savior. This world is filled with hungry people. Let them find in you, life-giving fruit that leads them to Jesus Christ.” – Michelle Swift, vocal director, Perimeter church

PRAYER: Lord, search us and show us the areas where there is an appearance of life, but no fruit. Fill us with your Spirit. May we be like trees planted by the streams of water, bearing fruit in season. In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.


DayBreaks for 03/11/13 – Using Up the Ground

DayBreaks for 03/11/13 – Using Up the Ground              

thevinedresserandthefigtreeLuke 13:6-9 (ESV) – And he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none.  7 And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’  8 And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure.  9 Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’”

Israel is not a large country. Soil was, and still is, at a premium in Israel. It was not unusual for a vineyard owner to give a little bit of his soil up for a fruit tree but the tree took up the best soil, the deepest soil, and required the most water. Three years after planting the fig tree, the owner came looking for fruit on the fig tree and found none.  A fig tree doesn’t grow fruit until three years after planting. So, the owner in this story, had given the tree “due season”, plenty of time, to bear fruit and yet there was none.  All this fig tree did was take up valuable soil and water and energy.  The owner questioned why the tree was allowed to “even use up ground.”

God had given the Israelites the choicest ground. Their land possessed everything necessary to make themselves a great nation, indeed, a light to all nations. They were strategically positioned to send the fruit of God north and south, east and west; but instead, in-fighting continued to make them a worthless fruit tree.

God has given America extremely choice ground.  The American church is the richest group of Christians to ever exist on the face of the earth – by far.  As individuals, we are all rich.  We all have been “planted” here by God, but not just for our own sake.  We’ve been planted here for His purposes…to cooperate and be a part of His plan, to be useful to Him – not to ourselves.

Everyone one of us and all of our churches will have to answer (from God’s perspective) this same question: “Why does it even use up the ground?”  What answer would you give God?  What answer would you give to anyone around you for why you exist?  What fruit are you bearing?  (If you’re not bearing fruit…go back and read the parable again.  You won’t like what you see!)

PRAYER: Lord, I don’t want to just use up ground, to occupy a position in space and time.  I want to be useful to You and for You.  I pray that all of us will be open to what You want to do with us and not our own will. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2013 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

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DayBreaks for 8/23/11 – Of Fig Trees and Pharisees

DayBreaks for 08/23/11 – Of Fig Trees and Pharisees

The fig tree and appearances...and reality.

In the morning, as Jesus was returning to Jerusalem, he was hungry, 19 and he noticed a fig tree beside the road. He went over to see if there were any figs, but there were only leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” And immediately the fig tree withered up. 20 The disciples were amazed when they saw this and asked, “How did the fig tree wither so quickly?” 21 Then Jesus told them, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and don’t doubt, you can do things like this and much more. You can even say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen. 22 You can pray for anything, and if you have faith, you will receive it.” – Matthew 21:18-22

I know that Jesus used this to teach a lesson to his disciples.  The lesson Jesus draws is about faith and doubt.  It is hard to miss that part of the story because Jesus makes it so explicit.  Perhaps we should just leave it at that in the interest of pure exegesis.

But I think that there’s also another lesson that isn’t usually associated with this passage.  Jesus looks at the tree and curses it because the tree was all show – and no substance.  It was much like the Pharisees – with whom he’d had a confrontation the day before – beautiful on the outside, but there was no substance.  They looked good, but weren’t good.  It is so easy to get down on the Pharisees because Jesus allows us to see them as He saw them.  Lest we get too carried away, however, I need to remember that it is probably easier to be like the Pharisees than different from them.

I try (who doesn’t?) to look good on the outside – physically, socially, intellectually and spiritually.  When it comes to spiritual matters, I can say my “Praise the Lord!” when someone experiences something good, so that I sound like I’m always thinking about the Lord and how good He is (and He is!)  Another case in point: I can pray in public when I go out with other Christians to eat at a restaurant, making a show of bowing my head so it’s obvious what I’m doing, even suggesting we pray if others don’t bring it up first…but what if in my heart of hearts it is all a show?  I mean, if I don’t normally give thanks for each meal when I’m at home by myself or with my family, one must ask themselves the question: why am I doing this in public?  What’s my motivation?  Is it truly thankfulness, or am I just putting on a show because I think my Christian co-diners expect it, or because I want them to think I’m spiritual?  And what about watching my language when I’m around other Christians, but not when I’m with foul-mouthed co-workers?  Aren’t those things nothing more than pretending to be fruitful, to present a look of a fruitful Christian but not the reality in my heart?

Pharisees are a dime a dozen.  Real followers, real disciples, are rare treasures.  Which am I?  Which are you?

PRAYER: Lord, we can be such hypocrites – and never even really think about how hypocritical we are!  Open our eyes to our own attempts to appear holier than we are and humble us before your cross.  Grow us into being real followers and not just show-boats.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2011 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

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