Be Fruitful

Be fruitful. Just two words.

This is a state, yes, a state of being.  It is not yet action but a readiness to act.  It is a purposing to act.  The result will become easy to identify.  Because the focus of energy will be seen clearly as time moves forward.  It does not say act fruitful or create fruit.  Nor does it say making fruit is your duty.  No.  None of these will fit.  The state of being brings the designed result.

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Why did Christ curse the fig tree?  He looked for fruit and found none.  To look like a fruit tree without producing any fruit:  this drew a curse from the one who came to bless not to curse.  To look, from a distance, like a tree that was or would be fruitful, yet have no fruit or promise of fruit, is wrong.  The tree was not in a state to produce fruit.

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So, we return to the first part.  Be.  A seed was planted.  A certain kind of seed which came from another fruitful tree.  Like will produce like.  What type of seed?  What characteristics?  The type of seed is the gospel:  God’s words that can take root in an individual and produce fruit.

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Now some fruit is eaten and some seed-filled fruit is the beginning of the next tree, a tree similar to the original.  But, wait!  He has used this example in another place.  He says, you do not have to be the tree, just a branch.  You don’t have to do the work of drawing water up from roots.  Only pass it on.  The work is done.  You don’t produce the nourishing liquid.  You don’t produce the roots.  You don’t hold up the structure.  None of this.

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You become a branch that has one purpose:  to produce fruit.  The tree holds you up and nourishes you.  You are given everything needed.  It has all been placed at hand for you.  Just take hold of the tree and live.  By living and being what you are, in Christ, you will produce fruit.  You will be a source of blessing to people.  You will manifest the nature of God.

If not, be restored and become the ready one.

And be fruitful.

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Who is this man?

On the mount of transfiguration, Peter sees Jesus talking with Moses and Elijah.  They converse as equals, so it seems, except that Moses and Elijah have stepped out of history to have this encounter.  Both Moses and Elijah left earth mysteriously.  Nothing is explained about this meeting or even how long it lasted.  The disciples are wowed by what might be like George Washington and Abe Lincoln meeting with a president elect ready to enter the White House as Secret Service agents observe them.  But consider:  this is not new for Moses.  He spoke with the Lord as with a friend.  He spent weeks with the Lord on a very different mountain.  Now the flesh and blood Jesus talks with Moses.  But the Voice they all hear makes it clear that Jesus supersedes the great lawgiver and famous, brave prophet.  The law and the prophets were until John (the Baptist).

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But let us back up to the beginning of this story of Matthew.  He has just quoted Jesus saying, “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”  Jesus had said several things that the disciples did not understand and this was among them.  He had spoken meaningfully but cryptically to them.  It would be easy to say that the next event relates to the statement but it does not directly relate.  What is on Jesus’s mind?  What weighs on his heart as the end nears?

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He is about to die and he knows it.  He also knows the great purpose of this act.  This is essential to the kingdom of God breaking into this world.  He began his ministry by saying the kingdom of God is at hand.  It’s near.  He knows his path is narrowing to the point where he will walk alone to his death.  But he thinks of how the kingdom of God will collect people from many nations.  He rejects the Pharisees and Sadducees request for a sign.  Too late.  The signs have been given with only one left:  the sign of Jonah.  The sign of a man who disappears and returns from certain death.  The one who returned from the depth with a message for the people of Nineveh.

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Everything he says points directly to his person, his role, his work.  He tells the disciples to be silent, for now, about who he is.  He explains to them what will happen but they can’t bear to hear it.  He speaks of the future glory and reward that follows complete commitment.  Some will see the blossoming of the kingdom before they die.  Matthew says six days later… He relates this to cryptic sayings about his death and the kingdom’s birth.  This is the purpose of God from the beginning:  that men would live on earth in harmony with God in his kingdom.

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Jesus explains nothing as he takes three men up a high mountain.  Like Abraham taking his son, Isaac up a mountain, he explains nothing, only leads.  Why doesn’t he go alone?  Why does he take them?  Because he longs to show them his glory.  Now they can have a glimpse of it.  He changes before them.  It is written that Moses’s face did shine when he came down from a mountain.  But Jesus is shining like the sun.  And they see Moses talking with Jesus.  I know Elijah is there as well but we will focus on Moses.  Moses had talked with the Lord on earth many years before.  Now they speak as men who have both lived on earth.  No one on earth understands what Jesus is doing now.  He goes to Moses for counsel but what they say is not known.  But he speaks with two men who knew rejection and stood apart from others in communion with the Lord.  He does not explain any of this to the three disciples.

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But let us look again at Moses.  Moses spent forty years with people who had every reason to have faith but balked at each test until they were denied entry to the Promised Land.  Moses spent his time with this generation until all but a tiny few remained.  He tells his three disciples not to speak about this remarkable event until he is ‘raised from the dead.’  They ask about Elijah.  He responds that Elijah will come and yet has come. Another mystery.

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But what have we seen?  Maybe what we have seen is Jesus with two men that can converse with him because of their earthly experience.  Peter’s suggestion of shelters for them may relate to a lengthy talk between those three who showed their fellowship while breaching time itself.  Again, no explanation by Jesus but we can understand how Jesus might want to talk with those who can relate to his moment in time.  Jesus, in this supernatural event, shows his humanity in that he wants to talk with men who understand him.  What manner of man is this?  His humanity and divinity are apparent in a seamless way.

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He comes down the mountain and, like Moses, is dismayed that his followers have lost focus.  Now he would like to see his disciples pushing back the darkness but no such thing is happening.  “What’s wrong?” they say.  Too little faith!  But he encourages them to take heart and find the faith to do great things.  Small but genuine faith can upend a mountain.

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Unlike Moses, who faltered when he saw the people in pursuit of a false god, Jesus does not lose heart and takes the situation in hand.  Maybe his talk with Moses and Elijah reminded him that though each of them faltered, they came out faithful in the end.  Jesus speaks of a perverse and faithless generation.  How long must I put up with you?  Moses had put up with a generation that had failed the test.  Elijah had a generation that embraced the false Baal.  He executed Baal’s false prophets and then was hunted by the leaders for standing with God.  What better men to talk with?  These men had born with a generation that disappointed them for much of their lives.  Did they encourage Jesus to look past the lack of faith and see the future generation(s).

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We try to understand what they saw.  The conversation was not for them but the sight of it was.  But, look, this Jesus brings together in one moment his disciples and two of his faithful servants who held to God while so many around them let go of truth and faith.  But Jesus, unlike Moses or Elijah will not lose heart.  He will continue with those who should now have faith.  He will succeed where all other men have failed.  He will do all the will of God.  The Son of Man will bear all things as a man for all men.  He will complete the course until he says, “It is finished.”

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In our time, He offers to each of us all we need.  He treats us as people of great possibility.  He pours out his Spirit on all flesh.  He welcomes us as though we had never done wrong.  He is glad to forget our sins and comes close to us.

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Look how the Lord has always come to befriend men, from Adam to now.  He always desires to be as close as possible.  He has gotten rid of all obstacles to our friendship with Him.  He has done all and is doing all and will do all to bring us into the complete human experience.  He wants to glorify us and let us share his glory.  He lets us serve so that he can reward us.  He lets us experience difficulties that we might overcome through him.  He does not look down from above but is alongside to help.  He only shows his greatness to show his great help.

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The Optimism of God

God created man in his own image and likeness.  This is what it says in Genesis and Jesus quotes some of it and so verifies it.  So God breathed into the man the breath of life and the man became a person. Then God places the man in a doubly good environment.  Doubly good because all the earth was good but this place was especially good because God arranged this environment full of the best things on earth.

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God gives the man freedom to do as he pleases in this pleasing environment.  There is a choice though. There are two trees.  The Lord warns him that one tree will bring sure and certain death.  The other tree speaks for itself. It’s the Tree of Life!  So the man has a choice of life and death.  And God leaves it at that, one warning about one tree.

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The man is friendly with the animals and the birds.  He gives them names. Then, surprize! The man is given a companion. She is gorgeous. She is a knockout! She is perfect.  She hears the warning about the tree from the man.  So we see that man is to discover his own nature.  God has only done good to and for them and they can do no accidental wrong.  They are not drawn to the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  They also show no particular interest in the Tree of Life.  Now the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is not dangerous in itself.  It is just a tree with fruit like many others.  It is not poisonous. 

Eve says that if you just touch it, you die.  But that is not the danger. Only eating the fruit will bring dreadful results.

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So, a dragon says the opposite of God.  This lie is followed by a pronouncement that this tree holds a benefit to be desired.  What the tree really offers is independence from God.  With the knowledge of good and evil, you would be able to make your own choices.  You would not need God to advise you. It says that their eyes were opened.  To what?  They knew they were naked. And they did not like the feeling at all. 

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A few minutes ago, they were okay with being naked but now they feel uncomfortably aware that they are not connected to anything.  Before they felt little of their separate individuality.  Now their life ends at their skin.  And their skin does not seem to be enough to protect them.  They need a covering.  They feel different about their environment.  And about each other.  The tree held a nasty surprize. And an animal tricked them.  That is the first separateness: From nature.  The second is separateness from each other.  No more flesh of my flesh, bone of my bone.  The third separation is realized when the Lord calls out to them.  They run and hide.

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Did you know “it’s all your fault!”?  Everything that is bad is your fault.  You think it’s God’s fault?  Nope.  It’s your fault.  And I mean everything bad and anything bad in particular.  Why is it my fault?  Because your greatest granddad and grandma went the wrong way.  “I wasn’t there!”  Yes, you were.  You were him.  You were her.  You are Adam.  You are Eve.  You made that choice.  You did it.  “No.  No.  No.  I had nothing to do with it!” 

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You (and I) had everything to do with it.  If you were Adam (or Eve), you would have done exactly as they did.  How do I know?  Because if it could have been different, God would have replaced Adam with you.  If a man or woman could have been better choosers than those two, God would have used them.  Used you or me.  If we could have done better.  But we would have done the same.  We would have done exactly the same as they did.  We would have eaten the fruit just like they did.  So we each share the guilt of Adam and Eve.  We were them.  They were us.  So all the bad that came from that decision is your fault, and my fault.

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When Cain kills Abel, what does Adam say?  He says nothing.  He knows it is his fault.  The pain that he feels and that Eve feels are their own fault.  They know it.  But they produce a new hope, another son, Seth.  “God has granted me another child in place of Abel, since Cain killed him.”  In a sense, Abel has been reborn, as Seth.  A new beginning with Seth.  And Seth has a son, too.

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“At that time, people began to call on the name of the Lord.”  The hopeful parents see some of their offspring call on the Name of the Lord.  The third generation calls on God.  Do they see their children and grandchildren calling on God as good?  They tell them how God is merciful and gives hope in the face of wrong and suffering.  Don’t blame God for anything bad.  It’s your fault as if you were Adam or Eve.  Be like Seth and his son and call on the name of the Lord, the Merciful One. 

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While Cain builds his city, Seth and son call on the Name of the Lord.  They know more now.  They know he is kind and gives help to men.  They know he gives new beginnings.  Generations followed until Enoch shows up and it says Enoch walked faithfully with God for 300 years.  Then he disappeared without a trace.  God took him.  Enoch was the best man, so far.  Abel didn’t have a chance to show how faithful he could be.  But as soon as a man, Enoch, showed that he would live on the earth and remain faithful to the Lord, God took him.  No explanation.  Just gone.  Taken.  No note.  No witnesses.

More about Enoch

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So, we see the Optimism of God.  He knows the first humans will make a terrible choice.  But He also knows some people will call on His Name.  They will find Him kind and ready to help them.  And a few will walk faithfully with God like Enoch.  Will you be like Cain and reject the help of God?  Or will you be like Seth who called on God for help.  Or maybe you will be like Enoch.  The man God was waiting for.  You, like Enoch, live on the earth and remain faithful to the Lord.  Do you think God would treat you differently that Enoch?  No.  He will take you to be with Him for ever.

Enoch, God’s First Friend

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Love is the Path

Hey, we all want to find love but where are we looking? I mean, are we on the right path to finding love? Let’s face it, we are all looking for a great lover! But what if, think about it, rather than trying to find a lover, we become a great lover ourself? Then someone would be looking for us.

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Now, let’s see, what would that look like? We should choose a good example to follow. We should choose the best example, if possible. There was this guy who actually set himself as the model for loving others. He said, “Love each other like I have loved you.”

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Now we have an example of someone who really loved others. Jesus. Did I lose you? This is big. Bigger than romantic love. This is about you becoming a loving person. Seriously. So, what was his secret? I mean, how did he do it?

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Maybe Jesus is like a magician. He doesn’t reveal his secret. Maybe we must study for many years to reach his level of loving. No, he came to reveal secrets and make clear what may have been hidden. He doesn’t keep it a secret at all.

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What’s the first thing Jesus does? He goes to see his cousin, John the Baptizer. And something big happens at his baptism. He is dramatically filled with the Spirit of God. Next. He is tested. He goes out in the desert and faces the devil himself. One on one. Except Jesus hasn’t eaten for many days.

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Now he may be the Son of God, but he has put himself in the place of a man. He keeps calling himself the Son of Man. And he keeps all the sayings God gave to humans. He lives out the best life right before the eyes of his contemporaries. He loves God and calls him his Father. And he loves the people he meets. Yes, some of his actions are miracles, sure. But he just likes being with people. He especially likes those who are ignored or even despised by others, like tax collectors and prostitutes.

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So Jesus gets help from The Spirit of God. Can we do that? Yes, we can. Jesus said you need the Spirit in you. And he holds up under testing. Can we do that? It seems so. Ordinary guys who followed Jesus held fast to their faith under extreme pressure. The key seems to be that they really loved this guy. They believed him, sure. But what kept them going was that they loved the guy who kept going even in the face of death. And he came back from death and convinced them he had conquered death.

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So, back to our question: What if Love is our path? Not the end of the path. No, the path itself. Love is living like Jesus. And if we want to know more about how love acts, we can read 1 Corinthians 13. And after we read it, and we know the characteristics of love, we can make it our To Do List.

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I Corinthians 13

Love Believes All Things

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Cain

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Cain has a younger brother, Abel. Now Abel seems to be the favorite of their parents. But something takes place that makes Cain think God is also playing favorites. Cain is mad. God asked him directly why he is mad. God tells him that it doesn’t have to be this way. But Cain shrugs this off focusing on his brother as the source of his problems. He decides to get rid of him. He invents murder. Can you believe this? The first two men, brothers, and one decides to kill the other!

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He does kill him. Now things are better. Hardly. Cain has lost any natural love he had for his brother. His parents feelings have become unimportant to him. He fears being killed. Someone might invent revenge! He takes his wife and begins to wander. He keeps moving from place to place. Eventually, he establishes a home where he keeps his family close around him.

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