Fruit Recognition

[Jesus said,] Thus you will recognized them by their fruits.
Matthew 17:20

When my family lived in Southern California, we were blessed to have a plum tree and a lemon tree in our backyard.

Alas, the plum tree only produced fruit one of the four years we lived there. But the lemon tree had a lot of fruit each and every year.

The home next door had an orange tree – part of which hung over our fence. The orange blossoms in the spring gave a wonderful aroma to the backyard!

Each summer we would go out into the backyard and look for oranges on the orange tree, plums on the plum tree, and lemons on the lemon tree.

It would be silly to look for bananas on the orange tree, green grapes on the plum tree, and apples on the lemon tree.

We looked for the fruit that was expected on the various fruit trees. Each tree produced its own distinct fruit.

We were disappointed when the plum tree didn’t produce plums. We found out later that it was due to insufficient water reaching the tree roots.

As I remember looking at the trees without their fruit, I could tell they were different trees but that’s about it. I could not tell what kind of trees they were until the fruit appeared.

As Jesus says, “Thus you will recognized them by their fruits.

This is true of fruit trees. This is also true of people.

Everything we do – as Christians, that is, – should be pointing people to Jesus Christ and his salvation. This is our fruit.

But unless we actually produce the fruit, no one will know we are Christians.

Our fruit is a distinctive kind of love, as the camp song says, “They will know we are Christians by our love, by our love! Yes, they will know we are Christians by our love!”

When Jesus talks about good fruit and bad fruit in Matthew 17, he begins by pointing out that he’s talking about being warry of false prophets.

You will know a false prophet by the fruit they produce. They may “talk a good game,” meaning they may sound religious and doctrinal. But unless they actually produce the fruit of a prophet, they are to be seen for what they are: false prophets.

But don’t make the mistake of thinking that since you are not a prophet, Jesus is not talking about you.

You actually are a prophet, in a sense. You are one who is to speak God’s Word to other people (the first and foremost role of a prophet in the Old Testament).

Martin Luther describes what a modern-day prophet does this way:

“You must hold on to the chief part, the summary, of Christian teaching and accept nothing else: That God has sent and given Christ, His Son, and that only through Him does He forgive us all our sins, justify and save us” (Luther’s Works, American Edition, Vol. 21 quoted from The Lutheran Study Bible, copyright © 2009 by Concordia Publishing House, p 1593).

This is our fruit. This is our love. This is our story that we share.

By this fruit we will be known.

Almighty God, you have called your Church to share the love of Christ as our fruit. This is our story: that in Christ you have reconciled us to yourself. Grant that by your Holy Spirit we may continue to proclaim the good news of your salvation so that all who hear it may receive the gift of salvation; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen

©2017 True Men Ministries

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Read past devotions at the True Man Blog here.

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Rain and Snow

[The LORD declares]: So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
Isaiah 55:11

As an older kid, I used to love thunderstorms. That all changed when a storm tried to knock down our new house in Wisconsin that we had just bought and moved into the month before. (I wrote about this in a devotion called Natural and Special Revelation, which you can read here.)

Pam King the day after the Ground Hog Day Blizzard of 2011. Why is she smiling? She lives in Florida!

Now, even though I don’t particularly like thunderstorms, I do love it when it rains (until it starts to flood the place, that is).

The author the day after the Ground Hog Day Blizzard of 2011

Snow, on the other hand, I love all the time. As far as I’m concerned, it can snow moderately from the first week of November to the middle of February (at which time it would be great if God would make it warm up and dry the ground out so that we can start baseball in March).

Too much rain and too much snow are a problem, of course. They cause flooding and damage.

But God has made this world in such a way that when there is just enough snow in the winter and rain in the spring and summer, crops and other vegetation grow in all their beauty and bounty.

That’s the glorious beauty of this creation and God’s amazing love and power! Rain and snow come and just that simple water molecule makes crops grow and people can eat and live and thrive.

This is also a picture of God’s Holy Word. Right before our very eyes, whenever it snows or rains, we can see that God’s Word also accomplishes what God intends and purposes – the salvation of our souls.

As Martin Luther said:

“Rain and snow are not useless, but they water the earth, giving seed to the sower. The rain can achieve everything for the earth …. When we experience the absence of rain, we see what the earth produces. So He takes away the glory of the earth and shows that it is not the earth that does it but that it is accomplished by the rain. So our building and promotion of the church is not a result of our works but of the Word of God which we preach” Luther’s Works, American Edition, Vol. 17 quoted from The Lutheran Study Bible, copyright © 2009 by Concordia Publishing House, p 1181).

God’s Word is incredible and complex. It can do so much! It is the Holy Spirit’s Means of Grace. When joined to simple water, it because a life-giving Baptism that creates faith and forgives sin. When joined to bread and wine, it gives Christians the very body and blood of Jesus Christ that, when eaten and drank, forgives sins, gives life and salvation.

God’s Word is the way we carry out the Great Commission of Jesus Christ. We use God’s Word to make disciples and teach what Christ has done and commanded us to do.

This is why having God’s Word saturate the Christian Church’s worship and life is so important and powerful!

From the hymns that are based on God’s Word (some God’s Word literally set to music) to the Scripture readings and responsive Psalmody, to the sermon and sacraments, God’s Word soaks through the worship service and immerses the participant in God himself.

Like rain and snow bring forth the fruit of the earth, so God’s Word will bring forth and strengthen Christian men and women of all ages.

Lord God, heavenly Father, I pray that your Word will continue to accomplish your purposes among us and around the world, namely to forgive sin and bring people into everlasting life. Teach me to hold your Word sacred and gladly hear and learn it; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen

©2017 True Men Ministries

______________________________________

Read past devotions at the True Man Blog here.

Contribute to True Men Ministries here to help keep this devotional going.

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God’s Sword

In case you missed it this morning.

The True Man

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Hebrews 4:12

I love to read, and have since I was a young boy. Starting in the 1st grade my dad would bring home once a week – usually on Fridays – comic books (Batman, Superman, Archie, etc.). He still sends a box of comic books to the house once or twice a year. He says it’s for my sons, but I must admit I still love reading them myself!

As I got older, I started reading some of his favorite books and authors – Robert A. Heinlein and Isaac Asimov.

I started with science fiction then moved into the fantasy genre – with the requisite knights, damsels in distress, and swords.

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God’s Sword

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Hebrews 4:12

I love to read, and have since I was a young boy. Starting in the 1st grade my dad would bring home once a week – usually on Fridays – comic books (Batman, Superman, Archie, etc.). He still sends a box of comic books to the house once or twice a year. He says it’s for my sons, but I must admit I still love reading them myself!

As I got older, I started reading some of his favorite books and authors – Robert A. Heinlein and Isaac Asimov.

I started with science fiction then moved into the fantasy genre – with the requisite knights, damsels in distress, and swords.

So when I read about swords in the Bible, it definitely gets my attention.

Hebrews 4:12 is one of those attention-getters!

A quick glance at this passage might suggest that God’s Word is a sword – as it certainly is in Ephesians 6:17.

But here in Hebrews it specifically says that the word of God is “sharper than any two-edged sword.” It isn’t a sword itself but more than a sword!

It is “living and active” and basically gets to the heart of every person.

Does this mean that I should be careful with what I say and do with my Bible sitting on the desk next to me?

Well, yes and no.

The book itself doesn’t listen to me or read my mind.

But the Bible is more than just a book. It is the Word of God and, as John’s Gospel begins, the Word is the 2nd Person of the Holy Trinity – Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God!

And Jesus Christ knows us intimately. As the omniscient Son of God he can look into our hearts and see it all.

This is what the writer to the Hebrews is getting at in chapter 4 of his (or her) epistle.

Nothing is hidden from God. We can hide our inner thoughts and feelings from other people – even those we love. But we cannot hide anything from God.

God’s Word opens us up before him better than any sharp sword ever could.

God sees into our hearts. He sees all our sinful thoughts, desires, intentions, and predilections.

God, through his word – the Law – brings to light our sin. It shows us our sin as a mirror bright.

Thankfully, that’s not all God’s Word does! God’s Word also brings to us God’s grace.

After God’s Word opens us up like a sword, the sweet and healing balm of the Gospel heals and revives us to the life Jesus came to give us through his death and resurrection!

Martin Luther put it this way:

“The Word is so effective that whenever it is seriously contemplated, heard, and used it is bound never to be without fruit [the topic of a future devotion, by the way!]. It always awakens new understanding, pleasure, and devoutness and produces a pure heart and pure thoughts. For these words are not lazy or dead, but are creative, living words. And even though no other interest or necessity moves us, this truth ought to urge everyone to the Word, because thereby the devil is put to flight and driven away” (Large Catechism, Part I. The Ten Commandments, quoted from Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions, copyright © 2005, 2006 by Concordia Publishing House, p 370).

This is, indeed, good news! Let’s share this with everyone today!

Blessed Lord, since You have caused all Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning, grant that we may so hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.    Amen

©2017 True Men Ministries

______________________________________

Read past devotions at the True Man Blog here.

Contribute to True Men Ministries here to help keep this devotional going.

Listen to the True Man Podcast here.

Subscribe to In My Father’s Footsteps here.

Stories That Come to Life

In case you missed it this morning.

The True Man

[Jesus said], “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.”
John 5:24

The idea that reading something makes something come alive has been a creative device for a long time.

The computer game Myst has it. The plot of the game is that Atrus has written books/stories and in doing so has created worlds, or ages, as the game calls them. This was one of my favorite games to play back in the 1990’s.

The movie Bedtime Stories, staring Adam Sandler, is about a man who tells stories to his niece and nephew and these stories magically come true.

And the movie Goosebumps, staring Jack Black, is about the author R. L. Stine whose stories actually come to life!

While these are just…

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Stories That Come to Life

[Jesus said], “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.”
John 5:24

The idea that reading something makes something come alive has been a creative device for a long time.

The computer game Myst has it. The plot of the game is that Atrus has written books/stories and in doing so has created worlds, or ages, as the game calls them. This was one of my favorite games to play back in the 1990’s.

The movie Bedtime Stories, staring Adam Sandler, is about a man who tells stories to his niece and nephew and these stories magically come true.

And the movie Goosebumps, staring Jack Black, is about the author R. L. Stine whose stories actually come to life!

While these are just stories written to amuse and fascinate people, the concept has its roots in the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

Does that surprise you? I don’t think it should. After all, humans are created in the image of God. Since the Fall, each human carries the echo of God’s image within them, an echo that is loudest in our creativity! Consider this: the greatest stories ever told are about the epic struggle of good versus evil and our favorite stories are when good overcomes evil!

When humans create these kinds of stories, it is an echo of the very true epic battle of Good versus Evil – that is, God overcoming and conquering Satan through the person and work of Jesus Christ.

Jesus comes right out and says this in John 5, “whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life.

Jesus is saying that if we hear his word, that will lead us to believe in God and that means we have eternal life!

We hear his word. That word is the Gospel! Jesus’ words are eternal life – as St. Peter said in John 6, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:68-69).

Hearing the Gospel leads us to believe in God. The God who loves us so much that instead of leaving us in our condemned state because of our sins, he provided the perfect sacrifice to forgive all our sins.

And through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we have eternal life.

All because we heard the words of Jesus. All because we read the story or heard the story.

The story that came to life.

The Story that came to give us life!

O Lord God, heavenly Father, by the blessed light of your divine Word you have led me to the knowledge of your Son. Grant me the grace of your Holy Spirit that I may ever walk in the light of your truth and, rejoicing with sure confidence in Christ, my Savior, be brought unto everlasting life; through the same Jesus Christ, my Lord. Amen.

©2017 True Men Ministries

______________________________________

Read past devotions at the True Man Blog here.

Contribute to True Men Ministries here to help keep this devotional going.

Listen to the True Man Podcast here.

Subscribe to In My Father’s Footsteps here.

Dwelling Life

In case you missed it this morning.

The True Man

If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.
Romans 8:11

The word “dwelling” interests me. In everyday use (in the English language) it can mean a house, an apartment, or other place of residence.

In other words, it is where you live.

My friend, Len, awakened in me a joy of exploring words and their origins, as well as how to use words effectively and powerfully.

The word “dwelling” in English comes from an Old Norse word that means “delay, tarry, or stay.”

This is the word that the translators of the English Standard Version of the Bible use to describe the Holy Spirit living in us.

Not only can it mean that the Holy Spirit lives in us…

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