Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Miracle Grow, the Garden, and Church

When I was pastoring I received junk-mail advertising miracle grow just about every week. I’m talking about the equivalent of get-rich-quick schemes to grow congregations. Buy this program or hire this consulting group and your pastoral worries will be over, the people will come, the money will come, and if you follow through on the program you’ll need to build a bigger building. It is as if prayer and the Holy Spirit and being on mission to bring others to Jesus, as opposed to attracting people to your church, were dead and gone…long gone.

When I was working in the vegetable garden yesterday I was reminded that working the soil counts for more than miracle grow – or sure, fertilizing and soil balancing have their place, but they have their place with the gardener who is focused on the soil and the plants for the long term; not the gardener who wants a quick miracle-grow fix. Getting a bang for the good old church buck with a miracle-grow program is not the same thing as growing people who learn to be sustained by the Word, the Holy Spirit, and fellowship with the Lord Jesus and with one another. Working the soil matters, caring for the plants matter – I know what happens when the plants in my garden aren’t cared for…do we know what happens when people aren’t cared for?

Monday, July 27, 2015

Weeds; You Don’t Always Pull Them

This morning, in the vegetable garden, I was reminded that you don’t always pull weeds – not when pulling them may uproot good plants (Matthew 13:24 – 30). Sometimes you just have to do the best you can and wait them out, maybe trimming back a little here and there and doing your best that they don’t take over good plants – these are the times when the weed’s root system is such that yanking it out may destroy or damage fruit-bearing plants.

It is easy to fixate on weeds and forget the good plants – our mission isn’t to eliminate weeds, it is rather to nurture good plants. We have to weed but we don’t have make weeding our primary focus, if we do then we will not behold Him, not directly and not in others…we’ll always be looking for weeds.

There are weeds that will just have to wait for when the Master Gardner sends His reapers into the fields under His direction – until then it is good that we trust Him and not ourselves. 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Volunteer Squash and the Kingdom of God

There is a volunteer squash in our garden. We didn’t plant it but it’s there. A few years ago we had volunteer cantaloupe – it was the best cantaloupe we’ve ever grown, in fact, it was the only cantaloupe we’ve successfully grown to date, though we’re trying again this year.
When I first saw the squash (actually Vickie pointed it out to me) had I not known it was a squash I might have pulled it as a weed – after all, we didn’t plant it.

There’s a place in the Gospels where the disciples tell Jesus that they saw someone doing works in His name and they told him to stop because he wasn’t one of them – Jesus told them that they’d made a mistake – just because the man wasn’t part of their group didn’t mean he wasn’t serving Jesus.

Paul writes in 1 Corinthians that one person plants, another waters, but that it’s God who gives the increase. I don’t think Paul was much of a gardener or he would have talked about weeding too. Sometimes we plant the seed and work with it through maturity and harvest; sometimes we inherit plants that are there because others sowed seed; sometimes we come upon plants that just need some water – some love and some care and maybe even a little weeding and pruning.

If we don’t know what good plants look like we just may pull up some plants that God has had someone else plant. If we are so focused on tomatoes we may miss a squash or even a luscious cantaloupe. We may think, “That plant can’t be any good because I didn’t plant it. That can’t be a good plant because it isn’t a tomato.”

I’ve seen church folks do that with denominational traditions or specific doctrines that have little if anything to do with Jesus Christ and Him crucified. They want tomatoes to become cucumbers and pole beans to become beets. I have a propensity to be like that myself – if it isn’t a vegetable I enjoy I’m apt to ignore it whether it is in God’s garden or not. There is something not quite right with that.

A smart gardener rotates crops – planting the same thing year after year in the same soil is generally not smart. Yet – we think nothing of spending our entire lives growing the same perspectives, the same traditions, the same ways of doing things, the same way of identifying with the Kingdom of God, the same way of relating to people. Now if this same way is submission and obedience to the Scriptures that’s well and good – because the Scriptures lead us into an experience of life that is kaleidoscopic – the sixty-six books of the Bible will have us rotating our crops. Otherwise we will be sons and daughters of the tomato or the pole bean or the stand of corn – and we’ll uproot the squash and call it a weed.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Plant a seed, reap rebellion

If I don’t want invasive bamboo in my yard then I ought not to plant it. If I want tomatoes then I ought not to plant green beans. The fundamental principle, attested in Scripture, is that we’ll sow what we reap.

Can a nation conceived in revolution reap anything but revolution?

A seed of corn has never produced a squash.

I can repent of planting the seed of corn, dig it up, and plant a squash seed. But if I deny that I haven’t planted corn in an area designated for squash, no matter how vehement my denial, I shall have corn. I may hate you if you call what I have planted corn, I may insist it is really squash – I may yell that you are not my friend – but I shall still have corn – though in my mind I may have squash.

Can a nation conceived in revolution reap anything but revolution?

There are political rebellions and there are moral and spiritual rebellions.

Could it be that after America declared its independence from Great Britain that it embarked on a campaign to declare its independence from God?

Can a nation conceived in revolution reap anything but revolution?

The apotheosis of rebellion against our Creator is when we codify our rebellion by saying, “We reject the notion that you exist. We reject the idea that there is anyone or anything higher than we are and to whom we are accountable. We will define and redefine ourselves as often as we see fit.”