Monday, May 19, 2014

Time for Gardening (Part 2 of 2)

B.     Plant Seeds and Pull Weeds!

       Start sowing seeds as soon as you can!  Plant GOOD things into your life!  The better the seeds you plant into your life every day, the better the harvest that will continually be coming up!

       Are you sowing seeds that will inspire you to jump out of bed each morning and throw open the windows, excited to see what’s growing from the seeds you planted? Or are you closing the shades and covering your head because you don’t even WANT to know what’s coming up from seeds you planted?  (I DON’T even WANT to see that person!!!!)  What do you need to plant more of so you can eagerly anticipate the harvest?

       The past few years I’ve absolutely been INCREDULOUS of what Christians have allowed into their lives.  Compromise after compromise. Then, when the HARVEST comes, the people that so openly violated God’s statutes and principles are the first ones to feel confused, acting like GOD just dealt them an unfair hand.

       God’s Word says it plainly:  DON’T BE DECEIVED (KJV).  Don’t be misled: No one makes a fool of God. What a person plants, he will harvest. The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others—ignoring God!—   harvests a crop of weeds. All he’ll have to show for his life is weeds! But the one who plants in response to God, letting God’s Spirit do the growth work in him, harvests a crop of real life, eternal life.  (Gal. 6.7-8)

       If you grow a healthy tree, you’ll pick healthy fruit. If you grow a diseased tree, you’ll pick worm-eaten fruit. The fruit tells you about the tree.  (Matt 12.33)     

       You can tell what has been planted by what is growing.  You can go by any field and know that if strawberry plants are everywhere, that’s what was planted there.  If corn is growing you can be sure that corn was planted.

       Let’s take a minute to think about what has been growing on in our own lives.   Have we been “sowing” to the flesh, which the Bible promises will reap “corruption,” or to the “Spirit,” which the Bible promises will reap everlasting life?  Are there some things that the Holy Spirit has been putting it on your heart to do that you just haven’t made the time to do?  Are there some things that you know the Holy Spirit has been putting on your heart NOT to do, yet you still do them?   Do you “redeem” the time, and live with an eternal perspective? 

       Just like in a regular garden, good things will NOT grow by “accident.” Things worth keeping will not just plant themselves when you’re not paying attention!  For example, in order not to sin against God, you must hide His Word in your heart!  In order to rightly divide the Word of truth, you must study.  In order to find, you must seek.  In order for the enemy to flee, you must resist him.  In order to discern the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, you must not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind!  In order to be exalted by the Lord, you must humble yourself.  These things must all be DONE in order to achieve the stated result!  None of these promises of God fall from the sky:  they are all stated to be EFFECTS of certain actions!  Do a verb study in the Bible and see what seeds you need to be planting to get the harvest you desire!  God’s love is unconditional; but many of His blessings are EFFECTS of obedience to His statutes and principles.  

       WEEDS are different:  they can “drift in” and even take over by accident!  In fact, left to itself, a garden will become so FULL of weeds, that the life of the good plants will be choked out!  What has “drifted in” and choked out your eternal perspective? If it looks destructive or even not productive, weed it out! 

       Also, remember that with both weeds AND with good plants, what you harvest is always exponentially larger than the seed originally put into the ground.  Consider a tomato seed.  It is incredibly small, yet one seed produces a plant which produces many tomatoes FULL of seeds to produce more plants!  Consider a dandelion.  One seed produces a plant which produces many more seeds to blow and carry to produce more plants!  Be wise about what the seeds you plant because you will have exponentially more to bless or curse your life with when the sown seeds come to maturity!  Hos 8.7 says, Look at them! Planting wind-seeds, they’ll harvest tornadoes.

C.     Many lives will be impacted positively OR negatively by what is produced there.

       Romans 14.7 tells us that no one lives or dies unto themselves.  Many people are affected by the seeds you sow in your life and the resulting harvest from them.

       If your garden has been allowed to populate with weeds, it is time to attend diligently to it.  Too many people have allowed compromise and lack of conviction to set in, and without even realizing it, their weedy garden has seeded and flown into others’ lives producing weeds there also.   In the book of Romans, Paul says that he will do NOTHING that causes others to stumble.  In Luke, we are told it is better for us to be thrown into the sea with a huge weight around our necks than to cause someone to stumble.  When David committed murder and adultery, the judgment of God fell on him specifically because he had given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme.  (2 Sam 12.13-14)   Our influence is a HUGE responsibility.  If your garden hasn’t been blessing others abundantly, just start pulling those weeds immediately!

       God’s plan is for your garden to yield so many good things that it overflows to everyone around you.  It is meant to yield far more than you can enjoy alone!  Remember when the girl in the Bible was referred to as “a garden closed in…”?  In Song 5.1, the picture is the Lord coming back to her garden, finding abundance there, and inviting friends to partake of the fruits there.  As the Father sent Jesus, He sends us (John 20.21).  When we do good to others, it is as if we are doing it for Him.  He even desires that when He comforts you through your trials you share the same comfort with others!  (2 Cor 1.4)

       Is your garden one where you willingly share what is produced for the benefit of those around you?  We are stewards of everything we receive from the Lord; and He has entrusted us with various spiritual, emotional, physical, financial and experiential provisions to share with others.  To whom much is given, much is required.  Have you used all He has entrusted you with to bless others?   Whatever it is, even if it’s just a lunch like the young boy gave to Jesus, dedicated to the Lord, He will use what you give Him to bless many many people.  (Handful of meal; cruse of oil – Elijah in 1 Kings 17.12-15;  pour out – like the woman who poured out her pot of oil and as she poured it filled vessels “not a few!”)


I close with what Paul says in 2 Cor 7.8-12 to the Corinthian church after his letter convicted them:

The letter upset you, but only for a while.   Now I’m glad—not that you were upset, but that you were jarred into turning things around. You let the distress bring you to God, not drive you from him. The result was all gain, no loss.
 Distress that drives us to God does that. It turns us around. It gets us back in the way of salvation. We never regret that kind of pain. But those who let distress drive them away from God are full of regrets, end up on a deathbed of regrets.
 And now, isn’t it wonderful all the ways in which this distress has goaded you closer to God? You’re more alive, more concerned, more sensitive, more reverent, more human, more passionate, more responsible. Looked at from any angle, you’ve come out of this with purity of heart.   And that is what I was hoping for in the first place.

This incredible parallel was meant to inspire each of us to “lift the bar.”
Assess your garden with the Lord, Plant Seeds, Pull Weeds!  Not only does the Lord wish to bless YOU, but allow others to be incredibly blessed by the fruit of the seeds you plant in your life!

I will make you a great nation, I will bless you. I will make your name great,and you will be a blessing.  (Gen. 12:2)

You’ve gotten a reputation as a bad-news people, you people of Judah and Israel, but I’m coming to save you. From now on, you’re the good-news people. Don’t be afraid. Keep a firm grip on what I’m doing.  (Zech. 8:13)

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Time for Gardening! (Part 1 of 2)

After telling the parable of the sower, Jesus asked “Are you listening to this? Really listening?”

Mark 4.33-34, reading from the Message, it explains the use of teaching in parables:

With many stories like these, he presented his message to them, fitting the stories to their experience and maturity.   He was never without a story when he spoke. When he was alone with his disciples, he went over everything, sorting out the tangles, untying the knots.

The Lord gave us several parallels in Scripture that relate to gardens.  In Song of Solomon 4.12, the Shulamite woman is compared to a garden enclosed, a field shut up, a fountain stopped.

In Song 8.13, the Lord is called Thou that dwellest in the gardens.  In 4.16, 6.2 and 6.11, we see the Lord comes into our gardens to see whether the vine flourishes and the fruit grows, and to enjoy the fruit and flowers there. In 5.1, we see the Lord’s higher purpose for our gardens is to produce enough to provide for others, which is a delight to the Lord. 

So, roll up your sleeves, because we are going to do some gardening!

A.     Assessing your garden.

       The problem with the Shulamite woman is that the fountain was STOPPED in her garden, and the garden was CLOSED.   Let’s look at YOUR garden.  Do you find you are “closed off” to visitors?  Do you sometimes feel that you have “nothing to offer” anyone?  One of the biggest tools of the enemy is to isolate you from others.  One of the best ways to do that is to make you feel like you have nothing to offer or that you just don’t have it together enough to be a blessing to others.   God’s plan for you is totally different:  He’s made YOU to be His hand extended, to be a blessing to others, to be involved in the lives of others!

       You and the Lord, take inventory TODAY.  Take some personal time with the Lord, and take a real, hard look at what your life is producing for Him.

       In John 15 (1-2 and 5-6), Jesus said, I am the Real Vine and my Father is the Farmer.   He cuts off every branch of me that doesn’t bear grapes. And every branch that is grape-bearing he prunes back so it will bear even more.  … I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing.   Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. 

       Have you “separated” from the life in Christ and your walk with Him, and you need to address some things right away?  If you’re already bearing fruit, you still need to scrutinize your garden:  His plan is to PRUNE you back FURTHER so you can bear even more! 

       In Luke 13.6-9, Jesus told His disciples a story, A man had an apple tree planted in his front yard. He came to it expecting to find apples, but there weren’t any.   He said to his gardener, ‘What’s going on here? For three years now I’ve come to this tree expecting apples and not one apple have I found. Chop it down! Why waste good ground with it any longer?’
 The gardener said, ‘Let’s give it another year. I’ll dig around it and fertilize,   and maybe it will produce next year; if it doesn’t, then chop it down.

       As you look at your life with the Lord in your prayer time, is He exclaiming, “WHAT IS GOING ON HERE?!  For (however long) I’ve come to this tree expecting something to be growing, and I haven’t found ONE thing!” 

       After your assessment, get to WORK.  We’re DISCIPLES, and a good garden takes discipline!  Spring is a GREAT time for getting rid of dead leaves, turning hardened ground over, and fertilizing the soil. Throw out the DEAD stuff that cluttering up your life.  Don’t look just at what’s “okay” to do or be involved with, look at what is PRODUCTIVE!  In 1 Cor 6.12, the Bible says, Just because something is technically legal doesn’t mean that it’s spiritually appropriate. If I went around doing whatever I thought I could get by with, I’d be a slave to my whims.

       Are there areas where your heart has been hardened and you need to dig into so that something new can be planted?   The Bible tells us Sow righteousness, reap love.  It’s time to till the ready earth, it’s time to dig in with GOD, Until he arrives with righteousness ripe for harvest.  (Hos. 10.12)  Dig in with God and OVERTURN any wrong thoughts or attitudes that will stop the right things from growing in your life!   Pray Psalm 139.23-24:  Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:   And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

       Do you need to add minerals or nutrients to the soil in your garden? 

       1.  His presence.  Are you spending time with the Lord DAILY. In His presence is strength, wisdom, and joy:  things you need EVERY DAY.  

       2.  Prayer and Bible study.  Do you need to devote more time for prayer or study?  He said when you study, you show you’re approved, and you will be able to “rightly divide the Word of truth.”  I have seen many people with sincere hearts following wrong doctrine because they don’t know the Word of God!  Be sure to study and know God’s Word! 

       3.   Fellowship with other believers.  Have you been neglecting fellowship with other believers? The Lord gave different gifts in the body so that “iron sharpens iron.”  He handed out gifts operating in the Church, HIS BODY, so that we would be “mature.”

(To be continued...)