Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Seeing Jesus in Apple Cider

I love the outdoors but I have a strong aversion against anything that has to do with plants and gardens. (If you read the Beauty & the Beast series you might recall why here). That said, my brother-in-law Kurt and his wife Jenna have this beautiful farm about 40 minutes from our home and every time I go there I'm able to set aside my "issues" with gardening and find myself amazed. We recently went over for a visit and Kurt taught the boys how to make homemade apple cider. Pretty cool stuff (see video below).

As you can see cider-making involves a lot of time and energy for just a little bit of juice. It took many years for the trees to become mature enough to produce fruit worth consuming.

All this got me thinking about how God has used fruit trees to teach us about Himself and His ways. One of my favorite books of all time is a brief 91 pager entitled The Green Letters by Miles Stanford. I first read it back in college and it's an absolute keeper:
"It seems that most believers have difficulty in realizing and facing up to the inexorable fact that God does not hurry in His development of our Christian life. He is working from and for eternity! So many feel that they are not making progress unless they are swiftly and constantly forging ahead." (p.13)
I often find myself frustrated in my own spiritual walk. I see my own shortfalls, failures and inadequacies as a father, husband and person and feel I'm not growing and changing fast enough. And then I'm reminded that my victories and my failures are not wasted and are both being used by God to shape me into the image of His Son - for my good and for His glory.
"Experiences and blessings, though real gracious visitations from the Lord, are not sufficient to rest upon, nor should they lead us to glory in ourselves...No. Fruit ripens slowly; days of sunshine and days of storm each add their share. Blessing will succeed blessing and storm follow storm before the fruit is full grown or comes to maturity... when God wants to make an oak, He takes a hundred years, but when He wants to make a squash He takes six months."  (p.15)
What wasn't captured on the video was the last step and perhaps most important part of the cider-making process. On top of the machine is what is called a "fruit press" which drives a large wooden plate downward by slowly twisting a handle to compress the apple remains into pulp - this last step is arduous and lacks excitement but more juice is produced from this final step than any other.

Did you know that the word "Gethsemane" is actually the combination of two Hebrew words "gat" and "shmanim" - which means "the place where olive oil is pressed"?  I find it fascinating that the location of Jesus' most difficult night was at a place where olives are pressed and oil is poured out.

It is a place of sleepless nights and sorrowed tears. (Mt 26:37)

It is a place where friends may fail you and temptations seize you. (Mt 26:40)

It is a place so intense that flesh becomes weak and sweat becomes blood. (Lk 22:44)

It is a sacred place and it is holy ground.  

Many of us have been to this place more than we'd like. But we have not been anywhere that Jesus himself has not been first.  And though often we are not there by choice - Jesus was. And while his struggle was great and while he had every opportunity to go his own way he did not choose his will in heaven, but the Father's will on earth. 

"Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." –Luke 22:42
 ....that same choice lies before each of us at our own "Gethsemanes". We can choose our will or God's will. We can let our fruit rot on the stem or be hand-picked, crushed and like poured-out wine.
“No healthy Christian ever chooses suffering; he chooses God's will, as Jesus did, whether it means suffering or not.” –Oswald Chambers   
Thankful to serve a God who is patient enough to grow me slowly. Thankful to be loved by a God who does not waste my failures or my suffering. Thankful to have a Lord who has been tempted in every way as I am and yet was without sin. Thankful for little truths about a big GOD found in oak trees and apple cider. 

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