Growing Gardens

Recently I gave a message at the church I attend and I wanted to share it with you all. I hope it is an encouragement to you all. Blessings!

In 2019 a movie came out that would go on to be the highest grossing movie of all time. Any guesses? Avengers Endgame is the culmination of 22 Marvel Universe films over an 11 year period. All of those films built up to one peak moment. The villain, Thanos, was attempting to reset the universe by eliminating a third of all living creatures. His methods weren’t based on merit or the salvation of the righteous but solely on mass destruction to preserve those left behind.

Besides what some of us may think, we don’t live in a superhero universe. But we do have an endgame that all of life is building up to. So what’s the endgame? As believers in Jesus, what is all of this leading up to?Is it heaven? Is it something else? For all of my childhood and much of my adult life, I was under the impression that heaven was the goal. After all, we’re told that our citizenship is in heaven (Phil 3:20) and that Jesus went away to prepare a place for us (John 14:2). But none of those things speak of our final destination. You see, heaven is just another temporary stop on our way home. To understand the end, we have to go back to the beginning.

“then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, and there it divided and became four rivers. The name of the first is the Pishon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. And the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there. The name of the second river is the Gihon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Cush. And the name of the third river is the Tigris, which flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates. The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” Genesis‬ ‭2:7-15‬ ‭ESV‬‬

The garden was created as a place for Man and God to coexist. It was a place where heaven and earth overlapped. God and His creation could experience and intimacy unhindered by brokenness and death. It was a place filled with beauty and purpose. The entire salvation narrative is imaged in these few verses. God forms us, He gives us life, and then he takes us to a home prepared for us. But it wasn’t to last for Adam and Eve. After an unknown number of years, they messed up and the result was exile. Refer to Genesis 3:23-24. Ever since we’ve been living in exile with a longing to get back to the garden. Throughout the remainder of the Bible our attention is constantly drawn to the Garden.

The tabernacle and the temple both contained illusions to the garden. The Gold and onyx, the lampstand, the flowers And vines, the olive oil used, etc. It was a place where God’s holiness resided. A place where a certain few could come and meet with Him. The promised land is also a picture of God bringing us back to Eden (Num 13 the fruit that the spies brought back). It was a land flowing with milk and honey. A place between the Great rivers.

“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.” Revelation‬ ‭22:1-5‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Tell me that doesn’t sound like a garden. Earth will be renewed. We are coming back with our Savior King. The Holy City will descend and Heaven and Earth will be one. Intimacy with God will be final and glorious.

Understanding our origins and our destiny helps us to know our purpose here and now.

Our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19 and 2 Cor 6:16). So what does that mean? We have the garden living inside of us. Our hearts desire new things, eternal things. God resides within us. If the tabernacle and the temple were meant to be sanctuaries of God’s peace and love and truth, then that’s what we’re supposed to be. Christ’s sacrifice opened up a whole new intimate relationship with our God that hadn’t been enjoyed since the Garden. Even the tabernacle and the temple had a veil, but Jesus tore that down. So what does that mean for our purpose?

“Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'”” John‬ ‭7:38‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Our role is to water the soil of our surroundings and work to bring the kingdom of heaven to our place on earth. We are springs of living water and we are called to help perpetuate new life. Not that we can give life ourselves but that we show people the source of living water within us. The believer is a Gardner. Our homes should be a garden. Our area of the workplace should be a garden. Our relationships should be a gardens. Think of all the words Jesus spoke comparing us to the branches and Him the vine and how we need to remain connected to Him to bear fruit. Or later when Paul talks about the fruit of the Spirit that all believers should be hearing. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, and goodness should all be growing within us and spring forth into our homes and relationships.

Our words, prayers, and actions can bring about healing, encouragement, and hope. Our life should point others to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. The only way that’s going to happen is if our spring isn’t stopped up. My hope for you and me is that the springs of living water would break free within us.

Let’s go plant some gardens!

The way forward

We can stand against injustice and stand with our brothers and sisters in blue who put their lives on the line every day to do the same. Cops aren’t the enemy, hatred is. Hatred only produces more hatred. Solidarity means moving forward together. Love is the weapon. Jesus is our hope. The way forward is by seeing the intrinsic value of every person who is created in God’s image and loving them as such. That goes for all those wearing a badge and all of us who don’t. The call to seek justice, love mercy, and to walk humbly before our God is the same for every human who has ever walked this earth. Peace in Christ to you all.

No Greater Love

Thank you for your sacrifice. Thank you for living and dying for a greater cause. Thank you for the freedom you have won and upheld for me. Today I honor you.

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” John‬ ‭15:13‬ ‭ESV‬‬

For me, and my family, Memorial Day is about remembering and honoring great sacrifice. It is a sacred day. For soldiers all over the world who have paid the ultimate price, we are more than grateful.

Today we also pay homage to all our brothers and sisters who have gone before us and who still lay their lives down for the great faith in Christ Jesus.

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Philippians‬ ‭2:3-4‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Most of all, we reflect on the greatest sacrifice that won us the greatest freedom. We honor our Savior who’s love lead Him to a cross. May His sacrifice change us. May we learn what it means to love others more than ourselves. After all, the value of our lives is determine by the means in which we spend it, Lord help us to not waste our lives on selfish ambition but give it away out of love for our neighbors.

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians‬ ‭2:20‬ ‭ESV‬‬

With every season

Seasons change and we’re not always ready for it. But the fact that they change is inevitable. Daughters become little girls overnight. The journey from the hospital room to your little boy’s one year birthday party seems like a flash. People come and go in our lives. Loss happens in an instant. Relationships change and evolve. Pandemics can sweep the world. It’s best to not fight change but to expect it. The only constant in life is the One Who originated life. He is who we cling to in the hard seasons of change. He is who we cling to in the celebrations of life.

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”
‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭13:8‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Let Jesus be your constant in the ever changing seasons of life. Peace in Christ brothers and sisters.

Be Refreshing

“For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭1:11-12‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Being around other believers is irreplaceable. We need each other to get through tragedies, bear the weights of life, and move towards Jesus and a more consistent manner. And it’s good to stop and reflect on our own personal impact on others in the faith. I we someone who refreshes and encourages? Our effect on others is not a sub issue of faith, it’s paramount. Our faith is never meant to be kept to ourselves. As part of God’s family, we are a transport of spiritual nutrition to those around us. Jesus compared us to a well overflowing with living water. Never should we be guilty of draining life from one’s heart because we are connected to the author of life Himself. To be refreshing to others, we too must be refreshed in Jesus and through His people.

Peace in Christ

Where am I looking?

It’s easy to look to the things we see or the people we know to be our source of assurance. People are created to have hope. We cling to whatever we can in desperate moments. We seek all our lives to find the things that bring us comfort and confidence in our present circumstances. Be it a person, a place, a thing, a status, a relationship, or even an accomplishment, everyone hopes in something or someone.

There’s always needs arising for people to find hope. At any given moment in history there have been wars, famines, pandemics, economic turmoil, slavery, and the threat of evil ideologies and the effects they have on human life. They may not always look exactly the same but our world is always in need of hope.

God’s people are supposed to be known for finding their hope in one source alone-God. The Bible is full of stories where that did not happen. Look at any believers life and you will see moments when that did not happen. None of us are immune from the plagues of self-reliance and materialism. In my reading this morning I came across one such story. It’s in the book of Ezekiel where the prophet is rebuking the nation for trusting in Egypt rather than God for their security. In chapter 29, God promises to bring down Israel’s neighboring powerhouse so that they will no longer have them as a weak crutch to lean on.

“Egypt will no longer be a source of confidence for the people of Israel but will be a reminder of their sin in turning to her for help. Then they will know that I am the Sovereign Lord.’ ”” Ezekiel‬ ‭29:16‬ ‭NIV‬‬

God takes seriously His people’s tendency to misplace their trust and hope. Jesus rebuked those who trusted in anything other than God…like those who trust in money (Matthew 6:19-21), in religious heritage (Matthew 3:9), or in their religious ‘goodness’ (Mark 13:1-2). Confidence in anyone or anything other than God’s goodness and faithfulness is an issue of misplaced loyalties. Like the Israelites of old, we have to safeguard our hearts from wandering the path of false security.

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” Psalms‬ ‭46:1‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters

Who is God for?

LetYourLightShine

Have you ever pondered the question of whether or not God was for you? What does that exactly mean? Are we asking if God is in support of what we want or how we would like our lives to turn out? How about during strife with someone else? Do we wonder if God would take our side in the ordeal? Maybe He’s for our career pursuits? In times of war, is He for our nation’s cause or the other?

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?  Romans 8:31 NIV

I think its very important to understand the context of this passage in Romans. I hear or read people quote it often and quite a lot it seems to be thrown around pretty loosely to apply to almost anything. Yes, God is for us. But what does that mean? If you read the entirety of chapter 8 (in light of all of the Book of Romans) we are being told that God is for our spiritual transformation and our eternal destination. Those are the two things God wants more than anything for every person in His creation. No matter how much we run away, God wants us back. No matter how much we bring shame to His name or ridicule His holiness with our lives, He wants us back. God is for us in the best possible way. God is always faithful and God is always true. Instead of wondering if God is for us, we should focus on whether or not we are for Him.

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters

Jesus: The Passover Lamb of God

the-pre-passover-meal

This Wednesday marked the beginning of an 8-day celebration of God’s salvation. The celebration’s first day is called Passover. It is the day that honors two incredible events in which our God rescued His creation. The first came thousands of years ago when God brought Israel out of Egypt after bringing the world’s mightiest empire to its knees. It came after a series of plagues designed to deface the gods of Egypt and show God’s glory. The second event came about 2000 years ago in the person of Jesus. This was the greater Passover. The target was not Egypt, it was sin and death. It wasn’t meant to free us from just a temporal slavery, but a spiritual and eternal one. It didn’t defeat the gods of an empire but the Prince of evil himself…satan. Both required blood…the blood of a lamb…but the one was far more precious. A couple days later, many around the world come together for what is referred to as Good Friday. It honors the sacrifice and death of Jesus of Nazareth…both man and divine…God in the flesh. Passover is the event on which Good Friday’s sacrifice took place. Because Jesus is the Passover Lamb of God.

The following are parallels between the lamb in the Feast of Passover as described in Exodus chapter 12 and the ultimate Passover Lamb, Jesus Christ. It’s great evidence that the Passover in Egypt was meant to prepare the world for the coming Messiah. Enjoy the study!

Connection Old  New
The Lamb Exodus 12:3 John 1:29

1 Cor. 5:7

Chosen ahead of time Exodus 12:3 1 Peter 1:20-21
Without Blemish Exodus 12:5 1 Peter 1:17-19

2 Cor. 5:21

Thoroughly Examined Exodus 12:6 Luke 22:66-23:15
Killed by the people Exodus 12:6 John 19:12-16
Killed in the evening Exodus 12:6 Mark 15:33-39
The Lamb’s blood was shed Exodus 12:7 Luke 22:14-20
The blood saves us from God’s Judgement Exodus 12:7, 12-13 Hebrews 9:13-14

1 John 1:7

Revelation 1:4-6

Hebrews 10:19-22

Romans 3:21-26

Ephesians 1:7

Romans 5:6-9

ALL of Revelation 5

Neither Ignorant nor Fearful

SQ_LightOfWorld_750x750

I have noticed two very contrasting views of the current pandemic. Some speak out in an apathetic tone almost in a way to scoff at the coronavirus. I’ve heard claims from people about COVID19 not being a big deal or that its a media-driven hysteria that’s not really worth worrying about. These are those who refuse to take precautions and who may even make fun of or ridicule those who do. On the other end, there are those who are in a sheer panic. They’ve stocked up and barricaded themselves. They are the ones emptying the shelves of the grocery stores and feeding the worldwide anxiety. Both extremes shield themselves from reality. and for followers of Jesus, we shouldn’t find ourselves in either one of these camps.

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.  James 3:17 NIV

Ignorance is never a beneficial approach to…well…anything. People who downplay the significance of this pandemic are simply promoting a lack of respect and compassion for those whose lives have been shattered and the wreckage it has left behind in their families. More than likely, their own convenience is driving much of their attitude. No doubt, many have been forced to make huge sacrifices. This is difficult on so many levels. For Christians, our hearts should be turned towards prayer for the hurting and action to do what we can to help those in need. The last thing Christians should ever be doing is complaining and downplaying while so many have been devastated. The coronavirus IS a BIG deal. Let’s promote mercy and be considerate of others. That’s wisdom from above.

for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.  2 Timothy 1:7 ESV

Fear cripples people. It’s so hard to watch somewhat riddled with worry. It consumes their thoughts. They believe that the worst is not only probable but imperative. For a Christian to be paralyzed by fear is contrary to the very Spirit within us. Whether it’s through heavenly wisdom or heavenly power, the believer is driven by compassion and love and the pursuit of peace. Fear prevents people from those things. And so does ignorance. In this time of hardship that’s ravishing the world, let’s not be part of the problem by being ignorant of fearful. Let’s be lovers of peace and truth. Let’s hold fast to the anchor of our faith…Jesus…and share Him with the world. In the darkest of times, the light of Jesus’ followers should shine brightest.

Peace in Christ loved ones

The salvation equation

 

Have you ever tried to “add” to our salvation? What I mean by that is you think you need to accomplish something in order to seal your salvation. There’s a stark contrast between adding to our faith and adding to our salvation. Passages like 2 Peter chapter one and James chapter two can make people think that somehow there’s an equation associated with salvation. Something like Jesus plus…(you fill in the blank) equals me being saved.

Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30 ESV

For me, I struggle with a perfectionist mentality. I can’t stand doing something less than extremely well. When I don’t, which is often, I feel a sense of failure. When it comes to my relationship with Jesus, I’ve based my sense of well-being on how well I’m doing as a follower. Some of the factors that affect my perception are things like how often I’m serving those in need, how much prayer time I’m devoting, if I’m keeping up on my Bible plans, if I’ve devoted a lot of time to worship or not, and how well I’ve treated others. No one would argue that those aren’t all great things, right? But nowhere in the Bible does it say that my salvation is based on my relationship with Jesus PLUS how many times I pray or sing worship songs or serve the homeless.

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

Acts 4:12 NIV

All of us have been guilty of pursuing holiness as a means of being in the presence of Jesus. All that amounts to is self-righteousness which is no righteousness at all. The only true righteousness is that which is imparted by faith in Christ. Everything else is but filthy rags according to scripture. It’s being touched by God that makes us holy and it’s because we’ve been made holy that we start acting accordingly. Isaiah, a devout man of God, (probably far more than any of us here tonight) knew that nothing he had done could possibly warrant Him being in the presence of God’s holiness in the temple. That privilege had to be granted by God alone. The same goes for Moses before the burning bush as he stood on holy ground.

“Holiness is not the way to Christ, Christ is the way to holiness.”

Charles Spurgeon

We need a humble heart that knows our need, not a puffed-up spirit built on the backs of all we’ve accomplished. We have to stop thinking that we add to or earn our salvation in any way. And we also can’t be people who seek to push a similar agenda on innocent believers and non-believers alike. The Apostle Paul was appalled by such people. There were those in the first century, and every century since, who were pushing a message of “now that you have Jesus you still need all of these other things in order to be saved.” Paul rebuked these people. Just check out Colossians 2, Galatians 1, and 2 Corinthians 11 if you want to see exactly what I’m referring to.

Jesus *said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.

John 14:6 NASB

It all boils down to this: if we say, in any way, that Jesus plus ___ equals salvation, we are devaluing Jesus. His sacrifice is all-sufficient. His blood cleanses us from sin. His life gives us life. He makes us children, and heirs. It was Him who ransomed you and me from the grave and In the end, it will be Jesus who ransoms this world. That is the message we carry and we need to share with the world, and with ourselves.

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

2 Corinthians 5:21 NASB

Jesus plus NOTHING equals salvation. Walk in that freedom brothers and sisters.