Fall is one of the most beautiful times of the year in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. The color of the leaves turning is simply stunning. People from all over the world come to our neck of the woods simply to walk around and look at trees. The streets and cafes are packed with people admiring the change in season. Pictured above are some trees right outside my office. They are Bradford Pear Trees. They have nice white blooms in spring and deep green leaves throughout the summer. In the fall they have an array of colors.
On Thursday mornings at 7:00 am, I meet up with my friend Ken and he disciples me. Ken is a very strong Bible student and has a heart for making disciples. We spend time every week sharing in Bible Study and prayer. Ken is also one of the most intense people that I have ever met. It is one reason I enjoy being around him, because we are so different. As we talk, it not unusual for Ken to openly weep over the Bible. He can also get pretty worked up and even bang on the table. Recently, as Ken and I began to talk about our week, somehow we got on the subject of trees. I causally mentioned how much I enjoyed the colors this season…even the trees right outside my office. Ken actually started getting visibly upset about the Bradford Pear trees. Not really upset, just intense. (But if you don’t know Ken, he looks upset.)
Ken said, “I can’t stand those trees. They are useless!” Ken went off about the trees for one simple reason: Bradford Pear Trees do not bear fruit. They look great. They even have a nice name. But they do not give us anything. They also are not very strong. In times of storms and snow, it is not unusual for them to crack or for their limbs to give way. Tree experts tell us that they have weak wood and poor branch structure. In fact, they only last about 20 years, and then they begin falling apart. Remember that 20 years is not very long for the life of a tree.
Ken went on to talk about the apple trees in our area. Pictured below is an apple tree. Apple trees are actually not that attractive. They are kind of gnarly and gangly. Yet apple trees are beautiful to everyone here because they produce fruit. Our biggest weekend of the year here is the Apple Festival, when tens of thousands of people come to our town to enjoy the harvest of apples. Apple trees can live up to 80 years, and they provide for the livelihood of many in our community. In fact, worldwide, the apple industry is worth billions of dollars.
Now compare these trees to our own lives with Christ. Am I like the Bradford Pear? Is it possible that I look good on the outside, but do not bear much fruit? Or am I like the apple tree, bearing fruit year in and year out? Do I stand strong in the storms of life? Am I making a difference? Am I being discipled, and am I making disciples?
“By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples” (John 15:8).
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