Wednesday, June 11th, 2008 | Author:

[I wrote the following several years ago for a church newsletter. It's been coming to mind recently, so I thought I'd share.]

When I moved into my country home, a good portion of the backyard was a jungle. Neglected for years, it was full of discarded junk and over-run by weeds. As spring turned to summer and I began the process of reclaiming this ground, I discovered some treasures in the midst of the mess. I found a long-lost lady’s ring, delicate and delightful. I salvaged many old bottles, some with labels intact.
Also hidden among the nettles and wild grapevines, I uncovered some raspberry bushes. Being one who enjoys gardening (and really enjoys raspberry pie,) I fertilized and weeded and watered. I staked and mulched and nurtured. Those raspberry bushes flourished and bloomed. Growing and healthy, I could see the tiny green fruit setting.
I watched and waited for the fruit to ripen, and finally the day came. Early in the morning, I took my bucket and headed out for the harvest, anticipating a warm, juicy pie for dessert that night. I reached out my hand to pick the first raspberry — and it fell apart. Puzzled, I picked another one. The same thing happened. Looking closer, I finally understood. These weren’t raspberries at all: they were redcaps.
The surface of a red cap looks and tastes like a raspberry. The center, though, is a hard white core. Redcaps look like the real thing, but there is no substance, no useful body. The fruit is only on the surface. That morning, I pulled off all the redcaps that were ripe and got less than a cupful of fruit — not enough to make jam or even a small pie.
In recent days, the Lord brought this back to mind and showed me that often we are more like redcaps than raspberries. We go to church regularly, we try to do what Jesus would do during the week. We look around at other Christians to help us determine the right things to do and say, and over time, we get better at saying and doing these right things — but it’s all on the surface. We’re on our way to becoming redcaps. We may look good, but our core is still hard, white and lifeless. We have become so concerned with conforming, with looking good to our brothers and sisters, that we haven’t let God make the changes real, from the inside out. God wants raspberries. He wants real change, real fruit from our hearts.
We may lead people to the Lord, or contribute to rousing worship services. We may minister to the sick and downtrodden. We may spend hours in prayer. We may help out in Sunday school, or give our labor to work on building repairs. We may do any or all of these things, and we should, but the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. [Gal 5:22-23 NASB] If we are not allowing God to work these characteristics into our hearts, into that hard white core, then we are building with hay and straw and our work will be burned up in the day when each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it, because it is to be revealed with fire; and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. [1Cor 3:13]
I believe that God honestly doesn’t need us to accomplish a specific task. Instead, He gives us the opportunity to do it, but His purpose is to change something in our heart.
Imagine that your Pastor announces the beginning of a brand-new ministry in your church. As soon as you hear of it, your heart cries “Yes!” You know that God is calling you to this area, and you can’t wait to begin. You show up at the first meeting, full of excitement, but who else is there? Someone in the congregation you just can’t stand! Perhaps they lied to you or betrayed you. Perhaps they talk constantly and always want to be the center of attention. Whatever the situation, the last thing you want to do is be involved with them in this new ministry. And yet … you know God has called you.
Now we find His real purpose. He wants to work some fruit into your heart, and He has arranged this circumstance so He can. The ministry itself is secondary. What He really wants to do is give you a new level of patience or self-control, or maybe some kindness and gentleness. Are you going to let Him? Are you going to pray and ask Him to change your heart, so you can work honestly and lovingly with this person? If you do, He will be faithful. You will acquire some real, lasting fruit, and the new ministry will be blessed, as well. If you make an excuse and leave, or if you decide to stay and just avoid that person, then you have missed a blessing. You have become a redcap, putting on the acceptable face, but not letting God change that hard, white core. You have missed a new level of growth.
If we make too many “redcap” choices, over time that’s just what we will become. We’ll stop seeking and finding God’s real purpose in our circumstance, and simply take the easy road. And when it’s time for the harvest, when the real test comes, we will fall apart and our hard, white core will be exposed.
Jesus said in Matthew 12:33 Either make the tree good, and its fruit good; or make the tree bad, and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. I believe God does just that. He burns and exposes those things in our lives that look good on the surface, but are hard, white and lifeless inside.
Jesus is coming back for a pure and spotless bride, not a half-hearted fiancé, and definitely not a baby in diapers. He is exposing those things in our hearts that are ugly and sinful. Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealously, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you just as I have forewarned you that those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. [Gal 5:19-21]
We need to invite God to expose us to ourselves. We need to ask Him to change the ugly things inside and soften that hard white core. We need to ask Him to make us into lush, ripe raspberries instead of imitation redcaps.

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Category: Christianity
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