A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none.
And he said to the vinedresser, “Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?”
And he answered him, “Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.” (ESV)
Once there was a tree … and she loved a little boy.
And everyday the boy would come and he would gather her leaves and make them into crowns and play king of the forest.
He would climb up her trunk and swing from her branches and eat apples.
And they would play hide-and-go-seek.
And when he was tired, he would sleep in her shade.
And the boy loved the tree … very much.
And the tree was happy.
But time went by.
And the boy grew older.
And the tree was often alone.
Then one day the boy came to the tree and the tree said, “Come, Boy, come and climb up my trunk and swing from my branches and eat apples and play in my shade and be happy.”
“I am too big to climb and play” said the boy. “I want to buy things and have fun. I want some money.”
“I’m sorry,” said the tree, “but I have no money. I have only leaves and apples. Take my apples, Boy, and sell them in the city. Then you will have money and you will be happy.”
And so the boy climbed up the tree and gathered her apples and carried them away.
And the tree was happy.
But the boy stayed away for a long time … and the tree was sad.
And then one day the boy came back and the tree shook with joy and she said, “Come, Boy, climb up my trunk and swing from my branches and be happy.”
“I am too busy to climb trees,” said the boy. “I want a house to keep me warm,” he said. “I want a wife and I want children, and so I need a house. Can you give me a house?”
“I have no house,” said the tree. “The forest is my house, but you may cut off my branches and build a house. Then you will be happy.”
And so the boy cut off her branches and carried them away to build his house.
And the tree was happy.
But the boy stayed away for a long time.
And when he came back, the tree was so happy she could hardly speak.
“Come, Boy,” she whispered, “come and play.”
“I am too old and sad to play,” said the boy.
“I want a boat that will take me far away from here. Can you give me a boat?”
“Cut down my trunk and make a boat,” said the tree. “Then you can sail away … and be happy.”
And so the boy cut down her trunk and made a boat and sailed away.
And the tree was happy … but not really.
And after a long time the boy came back again.
“I am sorry, Boy,” said the tree,” but I have nothing left to give you – My apples are gone.”
“My teeth are too weak for apples,” said the boy.
“My branches are gone,” said the tree. ” You cannot swing on them – ”
“I am too old to swing on branches,” said the boy.
“My trunk is gone, ” said the tree. “You cannot climb – ”
“I am too tired to climb” said the boy.
“I am sorry,” sighed the tree. “I wish that I could give you something … but I have nothing left. I am just an old stump. I am sorry …”
“I don’t need very much now,” said the boy, “just a quiet place to sit and rest. I am very tired.”
“Well,” said the tree, straightening herself up as much as she could, “well, an old stump is good for sitting and resting. Come, Boy, sit down. Sit down and rest.”
And the boy did.
And the tree was happy.
A man lived in the Great Plains, many years ago. He had only one source of wood for all his needs: a beautiful large oak tree growing behind his cottage. Anyone passing by could see that this was truly a beautiful tree, and of course it was an oak tree so it must be strong. It would protect him from the prairie’s storms and provide shade from the sun.
This man was very happy about his tree. It was really all he had ever wanted to meet his many needs. It was large enough to provide firewood from its fallen branches, its many limbs could be cut as he needed them for building furniture. The man was very happy.
One day the man decided to make a chair, so he took his saw and went out to his tree. He climbed onto one of the lower limbs and began to saw it off. As his saw bit into the wood, the man got a funny feeling. Something just didn’t seem right. As he finished sawing the limb suddenly snapped as if it were brittle, shooting splinters into the man’s eyes. He was surprised and hurt, but he managed to clear his eyes and slid down to where the limb had dropped to the ground.
He looked at the end where he had made his cut and to his amazement he saw not the solid, gleaming bands of a healthy oak, but a pithy, brittle mass riddled with holes. The limb would not serve for furniture – no way. And the man realised that something was amiss. He began having suspicions about his beautiful tree.
The next day the man tried again, for life presses on, and he really needed a chair. So he climbed again to another limb, and began cutting. And again, just as he was about to complete his task, the limb shattered and sprayed him with sharp splinters. This time he was prepared, and managed to turn his head, but the splinters were sharp and they hurt him nonetheless. Again he climbed down, and discovered the same pithy, brittle mass.
With this the man realised that his precious tree was not well. It was diseased. It was infested with an insect, the prairie oak flea, which was known to cripple trees, but not to kill them.
As the disease progressed, the man realised that he was not getting from his tree the things he counted on for his safety and comfort. The leaves became thin and scattered, and the tree could not provide the shade that he needed from the hot sun. When storms came, instead of the sheltering buffer he had hoped for, the tree would yield its weakened limbs to the winds and they crashed down on his cottage roof. Once a limb broke right through in the midst of a storm and the man spent a cold wet night waiting for daylight so he could close the hole.
But still, the man loved his tree. It was a beautiful tree. And it was an oak. It was HIS oak. “I love my tree,” said the man. “I know it has a disease, but I love the tree nonetheless. I chose to build my home in its shelter and I am committed to staying with it.”
One day a passing wagon stopped, and the man in the wagon asked, “Why do you stay under this sick tree? It’s causing you so much pain, and there are things you need that it doesn’t give you?”
“Oh, no,” said the man. “ I love my tree. It’s the disease that I hate. The tree is still a beautiful tree, and it is my life.”
“But look,” said the man in the wagon. “Its wood is rotten. Its shade is useless. It harms you in storms when it should shelter you. And you have no furniture because its wood is brittle and pithy.”
“Oh, no,” said the man. “You must learn to separate the disease from the tree. Otherwise you’ll become embittered.”
“Well,” said the man in the wagon, “if the disease is separate, then where is the tree without the disease? I don’t see a healthy tree standing next to a disease. All I see is a pithy, bug-eaten tree that can barely stand on its own. If your tree is such a good provider, why is that you have so little, and what you have is patched and leaking?”
The man thought for a while, and then said, “You know, maybe you are right. No matter how much I say I love that tree, it will never give me the things I need from it. I guess you’re right. The TREE and the DISEASE are all the same thing. I don’t have a tree and a disease. I have a DISEASED TREE. And the longer I hang out under this tree, the longer I’m going to live without the shade and the wind shelter and the furniture that I need, and the more likely I’m going to be conked on the head by a falling limb. Maybe I need to start looking for another tree that can give me what I need…”
The man thought about it, and a little later he decided to look around for another place to have his home. And the man found a spot, even better than the one he had been living in, with a healthy maple growing nearby.
He hated to think of building his home all over again, but he was, at heart, a courageous man, and he decided to try. In a few months he had a new home, shaded in the summer, shielded from the wind, safe during storms, and he was able to build beautiful furniture for his study. He lived there, mostly happily, writing to his many friends who also had problem trees.
His old tree continued to grow in its same spot, and continued dropping limbs during every storm, just as before.
I find this passage curious.
 “Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish.  When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away.  This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous  and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (NIV)
Verse 47 is about selection. It is about a net. A net selects fish on the basis of size. Fish smaller in size than the apertures in the net pass through it. Fish larger in size than the apertures in the net do not.
Verse 48 is also about selection. The fishermen collect the good fish in baskets, but throw the bad away.
Verse 49 too is about selection. The angels separate the wicked from the righteous and (in verse 50) destroy the wicked by throwing them into the blazing furnace.
I can’t help but think that Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection has precedents in Scripture.
“Have you understood all these things?” Jesus asked.
“Yes,” they replied.
He said to them, “Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.” (NIV)
It was great to meet you Reed, and to catch up again with you Richard.
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“The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God…”
“For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:”
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A man was trapped in his house during a flood. He began praying to God to rescue him. He had a vision in his head of God’s hand reaching down from heaven and lifting him to safety. The water started to rise in his house. His neighbour urged him to leave and offered him a ride to safety. The man yelled back, “I am waiting for God to save me.” The neighbour drove off in his pick-up truck.
The man continued to pray and hold on to his vision. As the water began rising in his house, he had to climb up to the roof. A boat came by with some people heading for safe ground. They yelled at the man to grab a rope they were ready to throw and take him to safety. He told them that he was waiting for God to save him. They shook their heads and moved on.
The man continued to pray, believing with all his heart that he would be saved by God. The flood waters continued to rise. A helicopter flew by and a voice came over a loudspeaker offering to lower a ladder and take him off the roof. The man waved the helicopter away, shouting back that he was waiting for God to save him. The helicopter left. The flooding water came over the roof and caught him up and swept him away. He drowned.
When he reached heaven and asked, “God, why did you not save me? I believed in you with all my heart. Why did you let me drown?” God replied, “I sent you a pick-up truck, a boat and a helicopter and you refused all of them. What else could I possibly do for you?”