Figs Out of Season

Scripture Focus: 1 Thessalonians 5.14
And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone.

Mark 11.13-14, 20-21
Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it…In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. Peter remembered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!”

Reflection: Figs Out of Season
By John Tillman

The fig tree Jesus cursed was unfruitful because it was out of season. 

The fig tree was a picture of the Temple that Jesus had cleansed the day before. The Temple (whose massive edifice the disciples were enamored of) bustled with activity but produced none of the spiritual fruits of righteousness that it was intended to produce. It produced robbery rather than righteousness and pridefulness rather than humility.

The withering of the fig tree represented what Jesus consistently predicted would happen to the Temple in about 70 years. “They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.” (Luke 13:33-35; Luke 19.40-44

Regardless of the season of the year, in the presence of the Messiah, fruitfulness is possible and expected.

It is not possible to know for certain, but Paul may have had the image of the cursed fig tree in mind when he wrote to Timothy (2 Timothy 4.1-2) to produce spiritual fruit “in season and out of season.” 

In this season, Holy Week may feel strange and divorced from our normal spiritual activities. We will not gather as normal. We may not eat as normal. We may not celebrate as normal. It may feel impossible to produce fruit in a time such as this. We may even feel that we are experiencing the chastisement of Christ that the out-of-season fig tree experienced. We may feel withered and diminished. 

But the other side of the living (or perhaps dying) parable of the fig tree is that union with Jesus makes all things possible. The disciples are encouraged that the command to the fig tree is nothing compared to what is possible for those of us who believe.

In a time of crisis the faithful are empowered by grace to respond with what is needed. Through the power of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives we are able to produce fruit in supernatural abundance and beyond our natural abilities.

As Paul prayed for the Thessalonican church, so we pray over ourselves. May we not be disruptive or negligent, lazy or self-interested. Instead, may we focus on being encouraging, helpful, and patient. May we be fruitful, carrying out good and beneficial actions in our communities.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
Let them know that this is your hand, that you, O Lord, have done it. — Psalm 109.26

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Proverbs 26 (Listen 2:37) 
1 Thessalonians 5 (Listen -2:37)

Read more from Light Shines in the Darkness
The Temple Solomon built was destroyed by God because it lost sight of holiness. The second Temple Ezra built would be condemned by Christ for losing sight of mercy…

Read more about The Cultivating Life
When we partner with him and cultivate the soil of our hearts, we ensure that Christ’s power will take root in us and bring forth a harvest of the fruit of the spirit.

More and More and Less and Less :: Guided Prayer

Scripture Focus: ‭‭1 Thessalonians‬ ‭4.
We instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more.

Reflection: More and More and Less and Less :: Guided Prayer
By John Tillman

Paul uses the term “more and more“ twice in the fourth chapter of his letter to the Thessalonians. Both times he is pleased with where the believers are currently, yet hoping for and encouraging them toward more. 

Sanctification is easy to confuse with moralism. 

To the moralist, “more and more” means more rules and ratings.
To those being sanctified, “more and more” means fewer outward rules and more inner change.

Through sanctification, we are slowly transformed by influences beyond our selves—-the Holy Spirit’s power and the reading of God’s Word. In sanctification, we focus on change in our lives, not others.

Through moralism, we transform scriptures into affirmations of our faithfulness and condemnation of others’ sinfulness. In moralism, we focus on others lives, measuring ourselves against them instead of scripture. 

Sanctification and moralism both introduce change, but only one is spiritual and is powered by the gospel. Let us pray this prayer over the weekend that we may not be more “moral.” But that, instead, we may be more like Christ.

More and More and Less and Less
Gracious Father, we know…

We cannot do “more and more” of the things Christ calls us to without doing “less and less” of some other things.

More and more of Christ in our life means less and less of us. He must become greater and we must become less.

Give us more and less, Father… 
More of Christ’s love for others less of our love of self. 
More of Christ’s grace for others and less of our grudging forgiveness. 
More of Christ’s hatred of sin and less of our hatred of those whose sins are different than ours.
More of Christ’s Word, the Bible, and less of the algorithmic sales machines that social media has become.
More of spreading the good news of the gospel and less of spreading the worst news we can find about our enemies.

We know that we will be at our happiest, at our most fulfilled, and at our most true self when we continually surrender more and more to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

No Christian is ever perfect until perfectly conformed to Christ. Conform us, Lord.
No Christian is ever righteous without the righteousness of Christ. Make us righteous, Lord.
No Christian can say, “It is finished.” Christ came to say it for us. Finish your work in us, Lord.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
O Lord, I cry to you for help; in the morning my prayer comes before you. — Psalm 88.14

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
1 Kings 21 (Listen – 4:19)
1 Thessalonians 4 (Listen -2:24)

This Weekend’s Readings
1 Kings 22 (Listen – 7:51), 1 Thessalonians 5 (Listen -2:37)
2 Kings 1 (Listen – 3:13),  2 Thessalonians 1 (Listen -1:52)

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Read more about Christ, the True Hero
We are not the saviors, but the ones in need of saving. It is Christ, not us, who is the hero of our cities and our world.

Read more about The Law that leads to Grace :: Guided Prayer
We cannot live by the Law. If we could, then Christ’s death was for no purpose.

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