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Invisible Fruit?

One day when our daughter was preschool age, she and I were reading a child’s storybook about a little boy who was enjoying his breakfast cereal with slices of apple and raisins in it. Upon observing the fruit in her brother’s bowl the sister commented on having learned about the “Fruit of the Spirit” while at church.

The little boy thought that he might want to try that fruit in his cereal sometime, but his sister laughed gently and then began to carefully explain that the “Fruit of the Spirit” is not something that one eats.

At this point, my daughter did a double-take and looked at me with a puzzled expression on her face. “You don’t eat the fruit?” she asked.

“Not that kind of fruit,” I answered, but before I could elaborate, she flipped a page of the book to an illustration of a caterpillar painstakingly placing sneakers, one by one, on each of its many feet, the word “Patience” sitting beside it in green letters. Then she turned another page to a picture of a bird helping a small insect with the word “Kindness” floating nearby. She continued on through several more pages discovering that none of them featured anything even remotely edible.

“Where is the fruit?” she asked turning to me again.

I smiled at her and opened the pages again. “Right here,” I answered.

“I don’t see it,” she replied.

“That’s because God’s ‘special fruit’ isn’t something that you can eat or hold. It’s something you do.” She looked at me, still puzzled and perplexed, but patiently waiting for me to go on. “The Bible says that there is special fruit for God’s people called the ‘Fruit of the Spirit’.”

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23a ESV).

She seemed to be listening so I went on. “So God’s fruit isn’t something we eat but something we do. They are invisible fruits that come out of us because Jesus lives in our hearts.”

At this, my daughter smiled a big smile. “You mean if I be nice?”

I smiled back and nodded, instead of correcting her English. “Yes, being nice to others is fruit. So is sharing, waiting your turn, and obeying Mommy and Daddy.”

“And not doing bad things?” she added inquisitively. I nodded again.

She took the book back into her hands, studied the pictures of the brother and sister at their breakfast table, and then gazed at the illustrations that followed.

“Invisible fruits,” she giggled. She hopped out of my lap and then, with a red bandana, began to dance around the room singing about God’s “special fruit”, being nice, and sharing because Jesus lives in her heart. She ended her song and dance about fruit with a lyrical, “You can’t see them but they’re there. You can’t see them, because they’re invisible!” As a finale, she folded herself to the floor like a closing flower, paused dramatically and then ran off into the other room.

I’m thinking that I’ll be seeing some of that “invisible fruit” coming from her life as God continues to work His wonderful work inside her heart.

Spiritual fruit is one of the major graces afforded a true child of God. It is the evidence of a heart that has been given new life through faith in Jesus Christ.

Spiritual fruit is one of the major graces afforded a true child of God. It is the evidence of a heart that has been given new life through faith in Jesus Christ.

Such “invisible fruit” is one of the major graces afforded a true child of God. It is the evidence of a heart that has been given new life through faith in Jesus Christ. It is what nurtures and builds the relationship of the child of God with his or her brothers and sisters in Christ as God works out Christian character through him or her.

Of course, there is a danger for such “invisible fruit” to be just a little too invisible. The Scripture in Galatians 5:22-23 concludes with the important thought that against such fruits “there is no law”. But it begins the whole thought in verse 16 with the spiritual principle that if we “live by the Spirit, we will not gratify the (harmful and selfish) desires of the flesh.”

As Christians, we often find ourselves struggling with impulses and temptations that too often overcome the Godly character that our Savior has a right to expect from us.

But instead of demanding such perfection, we are given the assurance that our Christian character is not dependent on our striving for moral uprightness or even our adherence to strict religious legalities. While Christian character IS the living out of those virtues that truly define us as God’s children, they are the “fruits” or “by-products” of lives that are surrendered to Jesus’ lordship. We live each day, giving Him our lives, moment-by-moment, word by word, deed by deed. We offer Him the sacrifice of our actions, our speech, and our attitudes. He then works in our hearts as we get to know Him better through personal prayer, privately meditating on His Word, corporate worship and service with other Believers. When we mess up, we “fess up” and start over again, trusting Him to give us the wisdom, strength, and love to be truly fruitful.

God’s Word goes on to say in that passage, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful (or fleshly) nature with its (selfish) passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” (from Galatians 5:24-25).

It is a sad thing when the “Fruit of the Spirit” is simply too invisible to be found in your life. The presence of such fruit would both give you wings to truly enjoy your status as a “child of God” and inspire those around you with the power of the One Who saved you.

Do a little self-inspection right now. Is there fruit? Is your character becoming more like Jesus’ character? Instead of anger, jealousy, immorality, bitterness, impatience, dissension, envy, and pride, is there more love? Is there more peace? How about patience and kindness? Or even goodness and faithfulness? Can folks see gentleness? Is your self-control on the rise?

If not, then it sounds like there is a disconnect between your heart and God’s. Fruit is not the same thing as success (no matter what anyone tells you).

But if these things are growing in your life, then they are not invisible to God, even if others do not see them or approve of you if they do detect them. If these fruits are growing in your life, then maybe you ought to grab your own red bandana and dance for joy before God and sing a song of praise to Him! It’s all right if you do! I promise that I won’t tell anyone.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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Sticky Russian

One afternoon, many years ago when my daughter was only about six years old, she shyly peered around a corner at met and softly called to me, “Daddy.”

“Yes, honey,” I answered.

“Do you want to play a game with me?” she asked.

I took a long look into her searching eyes, a short glance back at my project (which I had been staring at for hours), and then looked back at her and said, “I would love to, sweetheart.” The fact that I needed a break had less to do with it than the fact that right then she needed some time with me (a point, I confess, that we dads all too often let slip through our fingers unaddressed).

She had evidently taken it on faith that I was going to join her because after she had led me to the dining room table and had me sit in a chair especially chosen for me, she slid a pile of her princess cards to me. She in turn held some cards fanned out in her hand while a pile of cards lay on the table between us.

“So what are we playing?” I asked. She looked over her cards at me and smiled.

“A game I made up,” she said. “It’s called, ‘Sticky Russian’. So do you have any fours?”

“Um…,” I answered scanning my hand. “No… no fours. So what happens now?” I asked.

“You say, ‘Sticky Russian’, Daddy,” she answered. “Then I pick a card from the middle.”

“Oh, okay. Sticky Russian,” I said. She drew a card but apparently found a match. She laid down a pair of sevens and then looked up at me for me to take my turn.

While we played, I finally ventured a question that was on my mind, “So why do you call this game, ‘Sticky Russian’?”

“Because that’s what I call it,” she said grinning broadly. All righty then… it’s hard to argue with that kind of logic.

We played out our hands, sometimes getting matches, sometimes not and having to draw from the middle when the opponent announced, “Sticky Russian”. I didn’t fudge any in my plays, just so you know, but I was hoping that she would win. So, when we finally matched all the cards, I counted out the pairs and found that she had two more than I did.

“Good job!” I said. “You won. You have more cards than I do.”

sticky-russian

“No, daddy,” she explained.  “I lose and you won.  Who has the most cards loses.”

“No, daddy,” she explained patiently, shaking her head gravely. “I lose and you won. Who has the most cards loses.”

 

“Oh,” I said, surprised.

“Good job, daddy,” she said as she started gathering up her cards. I thanked her for the game, kissed her on her head, and then returned to my work, unable to shake the feeling that there had been a lesson in that little visit together.

What was largely noteworthy, as far as introspection goes, was the fact that I assumed that the one who had the most cards would be the winner. While I did play very aggressively with my children when they were younger, I was nevertheless taken aback at the end of our little game when it was revealed that the one who had the most was the loser.

Why didn’t I know that? Because I simply didn’t ask I suppose. But in life the rules about who is going to “win” and those who are going to “lose” are already spelled out for us in the Word of God. Granted, many of us prefer to run on our assumptions (which is what I was doing in our little game of “Sticky Russian”) or just don’t have a clue as to where to look to learn the rules of life, but they have been given to us nonetheless.

The Bible tells us that we are big-time “losers” if we do not have Jesus Christ. At the end of life we will ultimately have only our sin and its “wage”, which is death (see Romans 6:23). But if we do “have Christ”, then we have stripped from us our sin (the ugly progeny of our selfishness), are healed of the spiritual oppression with which it afflicted us, and are adopted into the family of God.

But just what does it mean to “have Christ” anyway? Well, this is really another way of saying that Jesus has us: our hearts, our minds, our will, our actions.

“Then (Jesus) said to all, ‘If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.  For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself” (Luke 9:23-25 ESV).

Great question for today, isn’t it? Just what good is it to have everything you thought you always wanted in this life and yet find in the end that not only do you forfeit an eternity with God, but have lost beyond recall all the “might-have-beens” that your life could have accomplished if only God had your heart?

I’m afraid that many, many people are going to spend their lives striving and earning in this life all kinds of prestige, experiences, and material things, and yet will wake up when their time is done and discover that they have really lost, wishing that they had given themselves instead to Christ Jesus.

Let it not be so for you. Reflect on Jesus’ love for you and His appeal to you to trust Him, receive Him as Lord and Savior, and then to follow Him wholeheartedly.

“Whoever does not take his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me.  Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 10:38-39 ESV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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Once, when reading the story of a burglary in a small community similar to our own, I began to think of what can happen for a person who has no sense of God’s presence in his life. A person who can storm into a house, bully a sick and elderly person or a terrified child (as it was in that particular story), can hardly be said to really believe that a good God exists or that He is attentive to His creation.

Consider the depths to which a person can sink when he or she believes that there are no consequences for his or her actions or thinks that “no one will ever know”! What holds such a person back? The Bible says in Psalm 14:1 that “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, their deeds are vile….” The result of a contemptuous disregard for God is corruption and deeds reeking of the stench of vileness! If there is no belief in God, the human heart cannot help but sink into the swirling maelstrom of selfishness and evil.

Of course, we must have the right kind of “belief”, too. Belief in a harsh, tyrannical deity can leave us vainly trying to “perform” for His favor or trying to earn a salvation, the price of which cannot be met by human effort. That God is sadistically “just waiting for a chance to toss you into hell” is not a very encouraging thought!

On the other hand, it’s almost as bad to believe in either a sugary, wishy-washy God who’s just too big a “pushover” to ever confront us for our being “naughty” or a God who’s nearsighted and just a bit deaf, without His glasses or batteries for His hearing aid. If this last notion is what we subconsciously believe about God, we’ll feel as though we can simply do anything we please confident in thinking that “God isn’t ‘man enough’ to stop me”.

In response to such reoccurring “dumb ideas about God”, the Bible announces two equally vital attributes of the Lord that both complement and uphold the other. The first is that God is perfectly righteous and, consequently, judges sin. Consider the fierce but encouraging words in Proverbs 24:19-20, “Fret not yourself because of evildoers, and be not envious of the wicked, for the evil man has no future; the lamp of the wicked will be put out.”

“No future hope?” Does it really mean that one’s wickedness can result in his being “snuffed out?” Well, yes. It means exactly this if his wickedness runs to its ultimate and logical conclusion. It is a fatal error to not realize that God takes human wickedness seriously. “The Righteous One observes the house of the wicked; He throws the wicked down to ruin” (Proverbs 21:12 ESV).

But sadly, as crime and immorality escalate, it is abundantly clear that we are collectively failing to realize this truth. The evidence isn’t only in the crime in one’s neighborhood. It is also evidenced every time we nonchalantly shrug off integrity in the workplace, when we’re lazy in the care of the health and well-being of our families, or when we turn away those in genuine need though they cry out for help.

Consequently, the only response that one can expect from a perfectly righteous and holy God is a perfectly righteous and holy judgment.

The second attribute then is our only hope. For though our individual and collective rebellions earn us a wage of judgment, He lays before our feet a season of grace, a window of opportunity to turn from our own way and follow Him. “Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers who eat up my people as they eat bread and do not call upon the LORD?” (Psalm 14:4 ESV).

“Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your unplowed ground, for it is the time to seek the LORD, that He may come and rain righteousness upon you.” - Hosea 10:12

“Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your unplowed ground, for it is the time to seek the LORD, that He may come and rain righteousness upon you.” – Hosea 10:12

What should we do in this short but wonderful era in which we might choose to turn to Him? Our response should be what is said in Hosea 10:12, “Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your unplowed ground, for it is the time to seek the LORD, that He may come and rain righteousness upon you.”

Such grace is not cheap: it cost God His very best so that the shower of His righteousness might completely cleanse the horror of our sin. God’s very best was the sending of His Son to receive upon His own body His Father’s judgment of human wickedness. May we individually and as a people respond to such an offer of grace by turning from that which will only drown us in destruction to that which offers us life beyond the limits of our imagination.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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I arose one morning to my early prayer time with crowds of questions and requests on my mind for the Lord. After greeting Him with a few perfunctory praises and thanksgivings (although I was sincere, I rushed through them in order to get to the items on my agenda), I began to unleash my arsenal upon God, increasingly frustrated because as I prayed I could not discern any particular leading in regard to my queries nor even much encouragement for simply persevering.

I hate to admit that I left that time more or less annoyed with the Lord, feeling bereft of wisdom and empowerment that I felt I needed to face the issues that I had presented Him.

After breakfast I completed a few tasks that required attention, but then hastened back to some more time with God in prayer and His Word so I could renew my imploring. I was identifying with Habakkuk a little bit as I felt sorry for myself.

“O LORD, how long shall I cry for help, and You will not hear? Or cry to You ‘Violence!’ and You will not save?” (Habakkuk 1:2 ESV).

Far more important than my questions are the questions that God Himself plies to me.

Far more important than my questions are the questions that God Himself plies to me.

But as I finally began to settle down and be quiet in that time, letting the noisy and clamorous thoughts fade away, I was struck by the realization that far more important than my questions are the questions that God Himself plies to me. Instances from the Bible in which the Lord asked questions of His child came to me and reminded me that my worrying and struggling (evidenced in my ongoing pleas to God to “work in this situation” and “move in that situation”) were the discordant notes of a fellowship with God that still needed much fine tuning.

“Son of man, can these bones live?” (from Ezekiel 37:3); “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” (from Isaiah 6:8); “What are you doing here?” (from 1 Kings 19:8); “What is that in your hand?” (from Exodus 3:2); “Is anything too hard for the LORD?” (from Genesis 18:14); “Where is your brother?” (from Genesis 4:9); and “Where are you?” (from Genesis 3:9). These and countless other passages chronicle the Holy One’s engagement of someone nearly lost in his or her circumstances and/or guilt, working to overcome each one’s near-sighted sensibilities so that he or she could walk in harmony with His love and will.

Thus I am reminded that the point of my quiet time with Him in prayer and mediation of His Word is not so much about struggling with Him in the tempests of doubt that are my questions and anxieties, but is rather about listening heartily to Him so that He can shape and direct my will according to His own.

“Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” (from John 6:5); “Does this offend you?” (from John 6:61); “You do not want to leave too, do you?” (from John 6:67); “Have I not chosen you, the Twelve?” (from John 6:70); and “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” (from John 8:10) are all questions that the Lord Jesus asked of those whose lives He had drawn into relationship with Himself. And in each case, the question was asked, not because Jesus did not know the answer, but to redirect the spiritual eyes of His child.

The better thing to do then in our prayer time is to discard our habit of volleying question after question and request after request to the Lord. Petitions and intercessions have their place, but let them come after we have given God His time, and the opportunity of speaking first to us. As we learn to listen for His voice we will discover that many of our own questions will be answered, or perhaps that they were non-issues to begin with.

“Why are you worried, my child?” He may say to one. “What need have I revealed to you do I now wish to answer through you?” He may say to another. “I have been faithful to death for you; will you now be faithful to Me in front of your friends?” He might ask of another. What question might He be asking of you even now in your life? Is He asking something of you? Sometimes He awaits a direct response of obedience from us.

But the questions that God asks are sometimes unanswerable (at least by us – as attested to in many that He asked Job), but they still have a point and a valuable treasure within them if we will patiently trust the One Who asked them. Rest assured: what we do not know, He knows; what we cannot see, He sees; where we are weak and afraid, His strength is more than enough to sustain us and grant us victory in all that He has asked of us.

Seek now to turn a listening ear to God and learn the joy of trusting and obeying Him! Let Him speak and lead you through what would otherwise be an overpowering jungle out there! Let your strength be renewed by the confidence that God is Master of all creation and that His agenda is to draw you deeply into His love!

“By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. Whoever says ‘I know Him’ but does not keep His commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps His word, in him truly the love of God is perfected” (1 John 2:3-5a ESV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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