God’s Candy

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood

My father loved fresh fruit, and I must admit nothing tastes quite as good as a peach, or a plum or an apple plucked fresh off the tree. George Burney was one of my elders in Arizona. He owned a navel orange orchard. Each year the men would come and harvest the oranges in the fall, but the workers never picked all of them. One year, just before Christmas, George introduced me to one of nature’s delights. We drove out into the orchard, and he explained, “Those oranges that are left are special. For over a month, all of the energy of the tree is focused on those few remaining oranges.” He was right. The Christmas oranges were special. They were as big as grapefruits and so full of juice they would explode in your fingers as you peeled them. I have never enjoyed a finer piece of fruit in my life. George is gone now, and I really miss his stories and his wisdom, but truth be told, I really miss his oranges!

The Apostle Paul congratulates the Colossians. He says the gospel “which has come to you,” and like George’s late oranges “is bearing fruit and increasing” (Colossians 1:6), but have you ever wondered what type of fruit the Gospel produces?

It could be the apostle is describing the rapid spread of Christianity. After all, in context, he is talking about “increasing.” The Apostle Peter describes the Word of God as “seed” (1 Peter 1:23). The expansion of the faith in the first century is amazing! Preachers often describe the Gospel truth this way to emphasize the importance of evangelism – and that is a very valid assertion. But earlier, Paul described the fruit of the Spirit as “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control;” (Galatians 5:22, 23). (Remember, this is a singular fruit that produces all these virtues.) That too is a valid interpretation. In fact, I believe the transforming power of the Gospel is one of the most powerful attractions of the Good News. When people see the beauty of our lives in Christ, they want to learn more and so the Gospel bears fruit.

Let me make one more observation. In recent years, I’ve noticed people forgetting peaches have pits. That is, some ministers are so focused on the delicious fruit that they forget that apart from the seed, peach trees would quickly cease to exist. Likewise, if peaches were just pits, peach pies would just be baked sawdust at best. For the church to thrive, we need to preach the fruit of the Spirit and spread the seeds of truth.

Be a Blessing (and bear fruit!)

The 73rd Annual Pepperdine Bible Lectureship

John guiding in Bavaria 1975
John guiding in Bavaria 1975

This Friday, May 6th, I will be teaching a class, “Five Minutes on the Back of a Napkin: A Visual Approach to Sharing the Gospel,” at the 73rd Annual Pepperdine Bible Lectureship in Malibu, California. Sharing the Good News shouldn’t be a program. We don’t need to learn a “sales pitch” or use some kind of gimmick to share the Gospel. When my daughter was born, I had to tell someone the good news. It was 3:00 in the morning! So I went to Denny’s and burst through the doors shouting, “It’s a girl!” Everyone shared my joy and someone bought my breakfast!

Do you remember the story of the Triumphal Entry (Luke 19:28-43)? When the religious leaders tried to tell Jesus to quiet the Master’s joyous celebration,  “He answered, ‘ I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”

Likewise, Jesus used this principle with the Gerasene Demoniac (Mark 5:1-20). When the man was cured, he asked to go with Jesus, but the Lord said, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you.”

The apostles used this principle with the Sanhedrin (Acts 4:1-22). When the politicians told the apostles not to talk about Jesus anymore, they replied they couldn’t help but speak.

You know your own story of how God saved you, but what many people struggle with is a framework. Where do I begin? What do I need to say? That’s what this class is all about. If you happen to be at the lectureship, I hope you’ll join me. Meanwhile, several people have asked me to share more about sharing the gospel on the back of a napkin. Stay tuned!