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  • Writer's pictureJulie Branstetter

Seven Ripe Blueberries

Each year, at the beginning of early spring, the blueberry bush blooms and catches my eye. It is always exciting to see them because blooms lead to berries, delicious sweet berries. Although, from the bloom to the harvest, quite a bit of time has to pass, the promise of the harvest is almost certain once you see the blooms. Last spring we had a late snowfall, which is rare. I was concerned that the harvest may not come to fruition, what with such a harsh beginning, so I curiously watched the blooms to see any signs of damage. It was really at that time that I believe the Holy Spirit began to teach me through the blueberry season. Blueberries are pretty tough so the light snow didn’t harm them at all. Much of what has come to mind over the following few months, and especially lately during the harvest, was nourishment for me during this new season of ministry. The harvest of the blueberries began in July and now has rolled into August. Now let me say upfront, I am no expert on blueberry cultivating and harvesting. I don’t know why the bush knows when to bloom, how the blooms develop, or why the berries ripen at different times even on the same branch within the same clusters, but by observing the growth and production of fruit on this bush, and also meditating in the Word of Truth while working around it, I have recorded some things I would like to share. First, I didn’t plant this bush. When we moved into our new home, it was already well established. I did not even know the bush was there until I saw the blooms on it. It’s planted among many other varieties of ornamental bushes and under pine trees. I pruned back the bushes after we moved in not even recognizing the blueberry bushes. Once the blooms filled the long strong branches of the tall leggy bush, I knew what I had. I am pretty good at recognizing fruit by their blooms, because my father grew a variety of fruit trees growing up and I have always been watchful of them. The first thing the Holy Spirit brought to mind was that I did not plant this bush; it was already planted when I came along, but it became my responsibility to care for once it was given to me. God calls us all to labor for the Kingdom, and once God has made this clear to us, the work is our responsibility. We can’t shrug our shoulders and expect someone else to come along and do the work for us. The work may be done by other workers, but not to our account. In some cases, the cares of the world may grow up and choke out the harvest. Woe to us if that happens where we were expected to tend the soil. We are responsible for our response to God’s call. We are fellow-workers with God in the field, and it is our responsibility to faithfully do the work He has given to us to do. So point number one is the work God has given us to do he expects us to do; we must be faithful to labor in a way that is pleasing to God.

1 Corinthians 3:5-15

“Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”

In ministry, God will pass on to us work that began long before we came along. There are times when we plant, but most often we labor in the more lengthy watering and harvesting seasons. God is the One who brings out the fruit and makes it ready for harvest. As a gardener well knows, we can fertilize, water, prune, and mulch, all of which are necessary to helping provide the best environment for the best fruit, but at the end of the day, we cannot bring that fruit out of the branch, and we cannot make it ripen. Our own personal experiences and walk with the Lord is how He brings out our fruit and ripens us for harvest, and that is how it works for others. We cannot do that, God has to do it. We can only work with Him to make the environment productive. The produce is all His. We have to remember as we labor for the Kingdom of God, that we can only do so much and apart from God we cannot ultimately do anything. So point number two is that God brings the increase!

As the summer days become longer and hotter, the day of harvesting comes, but not all the berries are ready to be picked at once on a blueberry bush. You may have a large cluster of berries in one particular area of the branch and each of those berries may be plucked on different days throughout the season. Why some of them ripen before others, I don’t know, but you don’t pick and eat the green ones, I know that much. Yuck! So, you have to watch every day for the fruit to show signs ready for harvesting. If the berry is plucked too soon it will be bitter and useless, but after only a couple more days on the branch, it can go from hard and bitter to plump, and sweet, and pleasing! The spiritual development of the people around you as you work is just the same. Some are coming to revelation at different times, and I cannot tell you why some come to it sooner or later than others, but with patience and care, you will hopefully see them come along. So point number three is you cannot be impatient when it comes to the harvest! Point number four comes up very quickly behind three. You cannot be lazy when it comes to the harvest either.

At one particular time of the summer, I had a large number of projects all coming to completion at the same time and my time was stretched so thin, I didn’t visit the blueberry bush as often. Over a week went by and the heat and humidity was the highest it had been all year. The berries were reaching a very ripe stage and were ready to be picked. My neighbor knows how much I love to pick the blueberries. He saw me outside one afternoon and caught my attention to let me know that the birds were starting to enjoy the bush. We talked for a few minutes, and by the end of the conversation, I realized that the Holy Spirit had been resonating truths in me every time I would go to the bush, and was beckoning me to come back to work. I felt this was the Spirits way of calling me back to the school house. My husband and I are in the early stages of planting a ministry that God laid on our hearts 20 years ago, and it’s no surprise to me that all of this is happening in my prayer time in the garden. I commune with the Lord almost incessantly in the garden. So I went back to the bush to bring in a beautiful large bunch of some of the ripest berries I had ever seen. But while I was there, point number four came into view in two similar ways. One was that the birds were going to take the harvest if I didn’t, and we’d have missed an entire season of bringing that harvest into this house had I not gone back to work. In ministry, the laborers have been given the ministry of reconciliation. It is our responsibility in the hands of God to be submitted to God to glean the fields for the harvest.

Luke 10:2-3

Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.”

Now why would Jesus mention the wolves along with the laborers and the harvest? For the very reason that if we don’t go out and work in the fields and bring in the harvest, the wolves will eat it up. And also while we are working, we can expect to have to protect that harvest from such as well. If we love our neighbor, we will recognize that the world our neighbor lives in is for their destruction, and we are the tools in God’s hands to protect them as we serve the Lord. If we love the Lord, we will keep His commandment to go and make disciples and teach them as He has taught us. If we love, we will feed the Lord’s sheep and not leave them to wander on a thousand hills among a thousand wolves. If we love…

While I was picking those very ripe berries, I kept hearing a noise nearby but ignored it while I worked. I am mostly deaf so when I hear noises, I am pretty sure at this point they aren’t coming from where I think they are coming from anyway. I ignore a lot of noises. After about the third time, I looked up and saw a huge gob of caterpillars on a branch right above my head devouring what had to have been a cluster of very ripe berries. Aside from the full body heeby-jeebies, it actually hurt my heart, not because of the blueberries, but I immediately understood that this world is perishing, and it is taking down what was ripe for harvest. The believers have been called to go and bring that harvest in. See what Paul meant when he said, “Woe is me, if I do not preach the gospel!” How much hatred must we have in our hearts not to serve the Lord? It may look like selfishness, but selfishness to God is hatred. So let me repeat point number four; you cannot be lazy when it comes to harvest time. There is a time to harvest, and it will not wait for you. Either another laborer will bear an even heavier load and take it in, or the devourer will take it out. If you’ve been hesitant to go out into the field, let me encourage you and remind you of something Jesus said.

Matthew 21:28-32

“But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go, work today in my vineyard.’ He answered and said, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he regretted it and went. Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, ‘I go, sir,’ but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?”

They said to Him, “The first.”

Jesus said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him; but tax collectors and harlots believed him; and when you saw it, you did not afterward relent and believe him.

What is Jesus really saying here? He tells the story of two kinds of ‘believers’ in the form of two sons. Both are sinners because they were called into the field to work but did not go. The first one repented and later went into the field to work, while the other only said they would go, yet never went at all. The first one was forgiven and put to work, and he would receive his reward. If you have been hesitant to go into the field, but you know your Father has sent you to work, you can still go. The hour is late, and the harvest is plentiful. It is worse for those who speak platitudes but never actually put their hand to the plow. So even though you cannot be lazy when it comes to the harvest, there is grace for those who have hesitated. You can repent and start picking now, because harvesting today is better than no harvest at all.

By the time August rolled around, the berries were ripening quickly and needed to be picked about every other day. The heat stressed the berries and they ripened faster and faster. The world works like this too. The world is full of cares like thorns, reaching up and choking people away from the hope of Christ. Jesus is the hope the world needs more than ever, and His light shines brightest in the darkest places. I went outside to pick the berries again just this week, and it was so very hot outside. We had a tropical storm looming off the coast, and the humidity was just awful. But I could not wait any longer because the harvest had to be brought in. If I let the birds have it, they will come sooner and sooner every year expecting to be fed. Most of the time, the harvest will be at its peek at the hottest, most uncomfortable time to bring it in. I had picked berries for no more than about 10 or 15 minutes before I was drenched with sweat from head to toe, and when I say drenched, I mean I had to wipe the sweat out of my eyes so I could clearly see whether the berry I had my hand on was green or blue. It was like picking berries underwater. I could not just go inside and wait for cooler weather; it would have been too late then. Harvest time doesn’t care about the conditions, and when it is time to harvest, it is time. So point number six is You will have to sacrifice comfort to bring in the harvest. That’s because the harvest comes in God’s timing, not in ours. We serve the Lord, not ourselves. And as simple as that concept may seem, we need to remind ourselves of that in every decision we make. Even Jesus Himself adjusted to the Father’s will and timing.

Luke 22:41-42

And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.”

Lastly, we come to the final point, number 7. I often have a bad habit on busy days of getting up in the morning, throwing on my work clothes, and going straight to work without eating or drinking anything. One morning, I did this and went out to pick the berries, and it was one of those really hot days. It was very early in the morning, which helped with the heat a little, but not an awful lot, because after just about 15 to 20 minutes, I was covered in sweat again. Going out in heat to work like that with no water and having not eaten is not wise. You can become dehydrated and faint quickly. If you faint, you will not bring in the harvest. While I was working I felt light-headed and thought, “It probably wasn’t a good idea to come out here without food or water.” And the Holy Spirit said, “Eat the berries, there is more here than you will ever need.” I thought, “But these are for bringing in?” By this point in the season, picking these blueberries for me was more than just picking the berries. I was spending time with the Lord, and waiting for Him to teach me. That is when the Spirit gave me point number 7. The Spirit said, “You don’t understand. You shall not muzzle the ox while it treads out grain, and the laborer is worthy of his wages.

1 Timothy 5:17-18 Luke 10:7 Deuteronomy 25:4

Let the elders, who rule well, be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine. For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer is worthy of his wages.”

So I ate a few as I went, but I was careful to put much more in the bowl than in my mouth! That may sound funny, but there is a growing love for money in the church today, and it’s clouding the judgment of church leaders, and destroying their harvest. Hear what I am saying! What many think is necessary in ministry isn’t, and much of what has been tossed away is of great importance. The church, as congregated bodies, must return to their first love, and use discernment, and again follow Christ and be unified in the mission He has imparted to us all.

Proverbs 14:11-12

“The house of the wicked will be destroyed, but the tent of the upright will flourish. There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.”

Matthew 28:18-20

“Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

John 17:20-23

“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.”

May you think very seriously about the manner of work this is God has placed into your hands, and work faithfully at it until He returns.

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