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!

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

Christ-like, not us-like

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20 (NIV)

It is, always has been, and always will be the purpose of God to mold His creation to be more like His Son.  In allowing God to do this for us we must die to ourselves. That’s a concept that is both strange and frightening at first. We must live this life from the perspective of who we are in Christ. We are either taking steps towards this or away from it. We know the general direction God wants us to go and He is forever doing His part by guiding us in that path. But it’s up to us to stay on that path. As Ephesians 4:15 says, we are growing in every way like Christ. That means we can’t have areas of our lives that we tell God that we don’t want Him to mess with. We have to refuse to hold back parts of our lives and must be committed to allowing God to have every aspect of our lives to transform us into the likeness of Jesus. Once we became believers the “self” died and Christ lived in us. This is Christ’s life, not ours and just as He died for us we too must sacrifice our selfishness out of love for Christ. We don’t do this as an obligation but as an opportunity to serve our Savior and show our love and affection for Him. The more we make life about Him and about others the more joy we experience in this life and the more our life begins to make sense on a cosmic level.

Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. Ephesians 4:15 (NLT)

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters!

ALL unto Jesus

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Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Colossians 3:23-24 (NIV)

Often times I have to examine my life to see if I am really doing everything to the best of my ability. That is about more than just my effort, it’s also about my attitude. This includes work, ministries, marriage, family, and friends, and most importantly: our relationship with Jesus. I think it’s important to remember that all good and pure things we do, we need to do with all our hearts as though we are doing it unto the Lord. It’s far easier to devote our time at church, our time in worship, and our time serving others to the glory of God, but how about the routine things of life? How about our jobs, or hobbies, and even the things we do want to do? Those things can equally be a form of worship if they are done in a way that brings attention to the person and character of Jesus. If we devote all areas of our life to God then imagine how much of a blessing we’ll be to others. If we can approach the tasks of life with a high level of gratitude and humility I think we’ll be amazed at just how much we can do all things unto the Lord.

Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.” John 6:27 (NKJV)

God bless loved ones!

Don’t be a rotten fig tree

“On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. And seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. And he said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it.” Mark‬ ‭11:12-14‬ ‭ESV‬‬

This has been one of the oddest stories in the New Testament, for me, for so long. It just seemed out of place. But knowing that God has a unique design for everything that’s in the Bible I still knew that there was a deeper meaning that I was missing. When it finally dawned on me I became extremely convicted. That seems to happen a lot when reading the Bible.

Jesus used the symbolism of the withered fig tree to teach His disciples that the nation of Israel had become as spiritually fruitless as the tree Jesus cursed. The same lesson is important for today’s followers of Jesus to understand as well. A person can look spiritually healthy on the outside just as the fig tree looked good for bearing fruit. But the best indicators of spiritual health are a person’s faith in God and love for others (see vv. 22-25). We can certainly look the part and not be the part. More than anything Jesus renounced and rebuked hypocrisy in people who claimed allegiance to God.

“As they passed by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots.” Mark‬ ‭11:20‬ ‭ESV‬‬

For all the people walking into churches and going to Bible studies yet aren’t producing faith and love and change in their lives are but a tree withering at the roots. We have to guard against complacency and apathy. We have to let Jesus keep our hearts soft and tender and open to others. We have to continue to grow in love and goodness. Let’s move forward loved ones. Let’s produce the faith and joy and wonder that this world longs to see.

“”You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew‬ ‭5:14-16‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Jesus said GO, not stay

whoWillGo

He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.

Mark 16:15 NIV

So many of us are spending our lives staying put, waiting on something or someone, working away through the drudgery of life. When we live that way, we are ignoring the life mission that our Savior has given us. Our life mission is to be on mission, wherever we are, and whenever there is an opportunity. Jesus tells His followers to go, not to stay. That warrants the question: what does it mean to ‘go’? Well, I would say that depends on several things. What are your passions? Are you using them to make Jesus known? Where do you work? Is the gospel proclaimed there? Who is in your sphere of influence? Do they know Jesus? What’s your financial situation? How can your possessions and/or money be put to use to further the mission of Christ? Where are the hurting and needy in your community? How can you come to their aid?

Going means knowing the needs of those around us and doing what we can to fill those needs. The world needs Jesus. The world needs genuine love. The world needs a truth that is unwavering and doesn’t bend to cultural pressures. The world needs to value life and human dignity. We can, and should be bringing those things to our home, our work, our schools, our community, and beyond our shores. Whatever we do, we cannot waste this life we’ve been given by staying where we are, emotionally, physically, or spiritually. Stagnation always leads to regression. The call to “go” beckons us to move forward…to progress. Jesus didn’t say, “wait until I call you.” We’ve already been called. Let’s make Him and His love known. The world awaits us.

…but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.

Acts 1:8 NASB

Which is really blind faith?

not-everyone-is-blindI really struggle with how much evolution is plugged into our society today. Not because I have a problem with science. I love science. God created science. Yet our public schools are presenting theories as truth which has either been disproved or has no factual evidence to justify it. I’m not going to pretend that I am an expert. I’m far from it. But it doesn’t take an expert to see the major gaps in what is being taught, not just in schools, but in media as well. Of course, I am biased. I am a Bible believing, Jesus loving, Christian. That’s because Jesus has changed my life, God has shown me my value as His child, and the Bible is the most reliable source I know. Even without that bias, I would find evolution wanting on so many levels. I have felt for some time now that I need to share what I’ve found in my journey to understand origins and meaning. I would like to think that I would never be opposed to something that is true. For that reason, I don’t believe things blindly. Here is a simple, not exhaustive, list of why the theory of evolution would require just that…blind faith.

Evolution does not provide for origins of the so-called single-celled organism that can, all of a sudden, know how to replicate and create new species.

There is no proof of macroevolution ever taking place at any point in history. Macroevolution is based on the “creation” and “introduction” of new novelties of biological chemistry which is impossible without outside involvement. Hence a designer.

There are zero “missing links” in the fossil record showing the transition from one species to another.

Evolution, by definition, is based on the creation of a new kind of species from genetic information that never existed beforehand. That has never happened, been observed, or reproduced.

Paleontologists have based much of their theory on “cavemen” from partial skeletons, teeth, bones, etc…and filled in assumptions.

Humans have 1400 novel genes that apes do not. There is no possible way we are related.

Evolution cannot explain the existence of two sexes.

Radioisotope dating cannot be accurate without knowing how much radioactive material was in the rock when it formed. Since none of us were around when the Earth was made, that is impossible to know. Carbon dating is based on faulty assumptions as well.

Ernst Haeckel’s drawings of embryos (which are still in public textbooks) have been proven as fake. They were doctored to look similar.

The universe must have a beginning but evolution makes no explanation of that.

Evolution is based on organisms propagating its own design, which is impossible with sexual reproduction due to the sharing of genes between mates and the existence of recessive genes.

All mutations known to man have had no positive effect. Therefore, evolutionary mutation cannot lead to any new or improved species. In fact, it has been proven that genetically, species regress not progress. That means, as things change over time, there is actually a loss, not a gain. (Yes, that means we are actually not as smart as the first humans. That’s another hit on the caveman theory.)

Bacteria mutate, and so do fruit flies. But never have they ever changed to anything but bacteria and fruit flies.

There has never been any shifting of shapes in the fossil record, therefore no evidence of change occurring.

Evolution violates the second law of thermodynamics which states that things start out concentrated and spread out over time. The natural process bends towards equilibrium and disorder, which is the opposite of what evolution presents.

Evolution also violates the law of Biogenesis which states that life only comes from life.

This is only a taste of the holes in the evolutionary theory, which has changed so many times to try and cover faulty science. Assumptions and theorizing aside, everything we know about science points to intelligent design. The natural world, space, our bodies, everything is screaming creation. In Luke 19 Jesus said that even if we stay silent, the very rocks will cry out in praise of Him. Psalm 19 says that the heavens declare the glory of God. In Romans one, it says that since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made. I am not a Bible-believing Christian despite science. Science has only gone so far as to further the evidence that what the Bible teaches is the reality.

The Bible tells us that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. We aren’t accidents. We aren’t the product of mutations and biological improbabilities. And we certainly aren’t related to monkeys. You, dear reader, hold God’s affection. He made you for a purpose. You have a place in this story and your life matters. Evolution would tell you the exact opposite, without reason, and without proof. There is a God, and He loves you more than you could ever know.

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)

Be the Proof

Throughout my years as a Christian, I’ve had to work through my faith like anyone else. I’ve had to try to reconcile my purpose, what it means to be a Christian, how good works fit in to the equation, and so much more. Conflicting messages have only served to complicate the search. Denominations have been formed over these same basic questions. Debates have long divided societies. If you’ve found yourself struggling to resolve similar questions in your own walk of faith, let me offer you something to contemplate.

On my most recent journey through the Bible I locked on to a passage late in the book of Acts. The book of Acts is a valuable source because it records the commission given by Jesus before He ascended to heaven, the giving of the Holy Spirit to His followers, and records of how that Spirit used Christ’s early followers. The book focuses on many different followers but a big portion centers on the apostle Paul’s missions. He is one of our greatest examples of what it means to follow Jesus, and he laid out his mission statement for us all. It comes in Acts chapter 20 verse 24.

But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.

It’s simple, and yet very deep. It’s one line but all consuming. Paul’s entire life had the purpose of pointing others to Jesus. Whether by his words or actions, Paul wanted the world to see Jesus in his way of life. When Paul encountered Jesus, everything changed for him. Jesus consumed his heart and every affection, and he had to tell everyone.

Paul said he was propelled with the purpose of testifying to the gospel of the grace of God. To testify is far more than just telling people. It also means to serve as evidence or proof. Our life, as a Christian, is supposed to be the evidence of God’s grace. That means we love greatly, unconditionally, serve everyone, forgive quickly no matter the offense, put others before ourselves, and lay our lives down for the cause of bringing others to God. Every single one of those things, Jesus did and then extended His hands in invitation for us to do the same. Our lives should show the world that the grace and love and power or God are very real and available to everyone.