Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 2 Timothy 4:2
When the average person hears the word apple, they picture a bin overflowing with ripened fruit at the farmer’s market, but for me, having pruned, sprayed, and harvested apple trees for more than a few years, it brings back memories of Wintertime in the orchards. I remember again that it takes four seasons to grow a single apple. In today’s verse, Paul tells us to be ready to do God’s work “Out of season”. We need to live and love and serve, not only when the sun is warm and things are sweet, but also when the snow drifts stand around us and our sap is hidden deep underground. In an orchard there is always something to be done, and Winter is actually even busier than Fall. Trees that are left to themselves in the off season, produce smaller, more diseased and fewer apples each year. Winter is the time to cut out fire blighted branches, before they spread their deadly bacteria to the rest of the tree. Then, we must cut out the tall sucker growth that saps energy from the hard-working fruit wood. Last, and perhaps saddest of all, we have to saw off once fruitful limbs that have succumbed to age, disease or damage done by storms. In the same way that Paul tells Timothy about his work with the church, this activity is not just something to keep us busy in the off season. It must sometimes be performed regularly and in the worst possible working conditions. Even on days when temperatures barely creep above 0˚ Fahrenheit, we reprove uncontrolled selfish growth, rebuke the diseased limbs and exhort and encourage faithful fruitful branches. And on the day we finish an orchard, there is no sight more beautiful, than looking out over orderly stands of well-trimmed trees and seeing with eyes of faith the harvest to come. Yet, even as we walk away with relieved smiles, we know that there will always be a next Winter when someone must patiently return. We remember that without our, “Out of season” work the harvest will never make it to market.
Forever, O Lord, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens. Your faithfulness endures to all generations; you have established the earth, and it stands fast. Psalm 119:89-90 ESV
If you live in the Northern States you have already seen the beauty of the leaves changing their Summer clothes for colorful Fall outfits. Apple cider and pumpkins fill the market shelves, but that celebration of the new season is mixed with a melancholy knowledge that Winter is not far away.
Some changes in life are eagerly anticipated, like weddings or the birth of a child. But when our child graduates from high school and sets off on their own, that happiness mixes with silent tears. It was no different for Jesus as He lived on earth. The joys and gifts of the Christmas story were quickly followed by Joseph and Mary’s flight to Egypt. His healing of the sick was followed by Judas’ betrayal and Peter’s denial. But as Jesus hung on the cross and the most difficult hour of change was upon Him, He held on to words that never change. “I thirst”; “Why have you forsaken me?” and “It is finished.” were all quotes from the Old Testament. Jesus was trusting in a word that never changes because He knew that in Heaven His Father’s promises would not fail Him. They would carry Him through death and the grave to resurrection. Unlike the falling leaves, God’s word never lets go. It stays attached to the heart of the Father forever. If there are circumstances that are changing your life forever, then hold onto the faithful and loving promises of God. He has you firmly held in the palm of His hand and He has promised that whatever may come in both life and death that He will never let you go!
Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering his seed, some fell along the path and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop – a hundred, sixty, or thirty times what was sown. Matthew 13:3-8
In seed catalogues every variety comes with a photo. But the photos are not of the seeds; they are of, red ripe tomatoes or deep green broccoli. No one wants to see shriveled up corn or dried beans. Continue reading →
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