Refresh: Begin with prayer. Ask for the Holy Spirit to open your heart to new understanding and for God’s character to be revealed.
Read: Luke 6:43-45 in the English Standard Version (ESV). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: A few months ago I was in Auburn, Washington, doing a Week of Prayer for the academy there. Not only did I attend Auburn Adventist Academy during all four years of high school, but I also lived about five minutes away from the school in a small, two-story house situated on about five acres of land. Although none of my family lives there anymore, this place is still home to so many memories. I made forts in the bamboo forest, climbed dozens of trees, planted gardens and orchards, played make believe, and suffered some real life injuries (mostly bumps, bruises, and scrapes).
While I was visiting, I had the opportunity to swing by this place that had nurtured and taught me. No one was currently living there, so I just opened the gate with the secret latch my dad installed right by our driveway gate and made myself at home. (I’m not sure if that’s still considered trespassing, but I guess in this instance ignorance is bliss.) Walking around the property felt like second nature for me. I came upon a couple of pear trees that had provided great afternoon snacks in years past and picked one right off the branch! (Now I really hope that is not considered stealing.)
The pear was sweet and juicy! Although those trees hadn’t been tended for months, their fruit was still good. As I read this passage in Luke, I couldn’t help but think of the fruit trees that had been on our property since before we moved there and also the ones we planted. I thought about what makes a good tree a good tree and a bad tree a bad tree. I have never actually seen a whole tree of “bad fruit.” Maybe a rotten apple here and there, but never a whole tree producing bad fruit.
Although I never saw one of our trees produce bad fruit, some of the cherry and plum trees we had planted took some “sabbaticals.” There would be years during which they wouldn’t produce any fruit, and then they would come back with a vengeance, making up for lost time. As a person, I can relate to these trees. There are seasons when I don’t feel as if I have the strength to produce good fruit, and then there are times when I feel like I’m going full force and doing so much.
The Bible also talks about cutting off branches that don’t bear fruit, but in what time frame? I doubt a wise person would ever cut down a non-fruit bearing tree just because it failed to produce for one year. Trees have seasons of life. So do people. If we cut people down or out of our lives based on their actions during a bad month or year, we would be pretty lonely. We know good trees because we’ve seen them produce good fruit—but that may not mean that they always produce good fruit.
As we enter into the holiday season, it can seem like “the most cheerful time of the year” has become “the most stressful time of the year!” Remember to cut yourself and others a bit of slack. Just because you can’t see the good fruit right at this moment doesn’t mean you aren’t looking at a good tree. It may be that some people in your life are ready to blossom shortly!
Recalibrate: We are told of two options for what a tree can produce: good fruit or bad fruit. Why do you think those are the only options and why there is not a third option consisting of a combination of the two?
Respond: Pray through whatever season of life you are experiencing. If you are feeling on top of the world, look for ways to bless others. If you are struggling, pray for ways to find comfort and motivation.
Research: Look up the stages of life trees go through.
Remember: “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of” (Luke 6:45, NIV).
Jessyka Dooley is associate pastor at Boulder Adventist Church, leading Live Wonder (ages 0-3), Live Adventure (ages 4-11), and Live Purpose (ages 12-17), along with their supporting ministries. She grew up in Washington State and has a degree in theology from Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska. Jessyka has served in various areas of ministry, but her passion for discipling kids has taken center stage in her career.
Go over the Words to Remember with your little one. Jesus says, “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of” (Luke 6:45, NIV). Point to yourself and say “I.” Next, hug your little one or do a heart-shaped love heart with your hands and say “love.” Then point to your little one and say “you.” Hold onto your Bible and do the same thing but end with the word “Jesus.” Fill up your little one’s day with love.
Have you ever climbed a tree or picked fruit from a tree? Maybe you have sat under a tree to have a picnic? This week’s text begins with a tree. Luke tells us in the Bible that this is Jesus talking. He says, “A good tree does not produce bad fruit. Also, a bad tree does not produce good fruit. Each tree is known by its fruit.” What has all this talk of trees got to do with us? Jesus goes on to explain that “a good person has good things saved up in his heart. And so, he brings good things out of his heart. But an evil person has evil things saved up in his heart. So, he brings out bad things. A person speaks the things that are in his heart.” Watch this video and also this one, and see how meeting Jesus can change what comes out of a tree and out of a heart.
Jesus spoke about many things during His short time on earth. He talked about people, God, love, and . . . trees! Why would Jesus talk about trees? I don’t know much about trees, but I know a lot of people who do. One of the members at my church is a tree doctor. That means his whole job each and every day is to determine if a tree is healthy or unhealthy, and what can be done to fix it. One of the things that he has taught me about trees is that they can be a lot like humans. A tree may look perfectly good on the outside, yet as you dig just below its surface you can find rot, stress marks, cancers, and other issues. I think the reason Jesus spoke about trees is because He knew that just like trees, we are good at hiding what is on the inside by looking good on the outside. What are you hiding today that is causing you pain and trouble? There is a doctor whose name is Jesus and He is ready and willing to help you deal with what is right below the surface.