Sowing Seed

Our garden is just about fully planted. We bought some plants and sowed some seeds.

Sowing seeds is always somewhat a mystery to me.

I buy the seed packets with the pictures of the vegetables I want to grow, and in most cases the packet seems empty; the seeds are so small. When I tear open the packet I find dry, brown seeds that don’t seem to have any life in them at all. I then carefully place a single seed into each hole I have made in the soil. Once I’ve filled the holes I smooth over the soil, covering the seeds.

I leave the garden with it looking no different that when I went in. There is no visible evidence that I did anything. I know that I sowed the seeds, but no one else can tell.

Only time will prove whether or not I sowed seed.

Our words are as seeds sown in the hearts of others.

And at the end of most days I don’t really notice any difference from the words I have spoken.

But as time goes on a harvest will come.

“Now this is the commandment, and these are the statutes and judgments which the Lord your God has commanded to teach you,… that you may fear the Lord your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, you and your son and your grandson, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged. Therefore hear, O Israel, and be careful to observe it, that it may be well with you, and that you may multiply greatly as the Lord God of your fathers has promised you—‘a land flowing with milk and honey.’ “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. “And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.” Deuteronomy 6:1-7

This remains God’s promise to His people today;

God realizes the power of sowing seeds!

God desires a great harvest! Generations of much fruit!

Sowing seeds in the home begins with the fear of the Lord.

It is the profound reverence and awe of who God is, of all His attributes, of His sovereignty, and His never-ending love, that convinces us to commit ourselves to wholeheartedly obey Him, no matter what.

Complete obedience makes the soil of the heart good!

Good soil produces good fruit!

“Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.” Matthew 7:17

The fear of the Lord and wholehearted obedience to His word produces a harvest of good fruit that our family will taste and see that God is good!

So, I must ask myself,

“What kind of seeds am I sowing in my home?”

“What kind of fruit is being produced?”

Buying a packet of seeds, putting the seeds into a hole and covering them up seems so easy compared to what God is calling me to in these verses. Yet, there is a simplicity to my analogy that I like.

“Jesus also said, “The Kingdom of God is like a farmer who scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, while he’s asleep or awake, the seed sprouts and grows, but he does not understand how it happens. The earth produces the crops on its own.” Mark 4:26-28

Jesus said that a farmer scatters seeds and while he goes about his day he doesn’t understand what is happening to the seeds. They sprout, grow, and produce a harvest on their own.

The simplicity of doing what I’m called to do; to fear God, wholeheartedly obey Him, and talk about Him and repeat His commands throughout my day, and then leave the sprouting, growing, and producing a harvest of the seeds I’ve sown in His hands sounds like a good idea!

Realizing that I’m not responsible for the sprouting of those seeds,

I’m not responsible for the growing of those seeds,

And I’m not responsible for producing a harvest from those seeds,

that sets me free!

When I sow seeds in my garden I don’t go back every day and dig them up to check on them. I don’t worry or cut them open so that they will sprout quicker. I don’t get frustrated and pull on them to get them to grow faster.

But as ridiculous as that may sound I have found myself checking on the seeds I have sown in the hearts of others. I’ve worried about them and tried to convince them to sprout. I’ve become frustrated and angry trying to get them to grow quicker. I have seen the fruit from their lives and have tried to change it by manipulation and control.

Working in our garden has helped me to realize what my part is and what God’s part is.

There is a cycle of life that is found in everything God has created. 

There were seeds of truth sown into my heart. No one caused them to sprout, pulled on them to make them grow, nor manipulated and controlled to produce a harvest.

Those seeds of truth sprouted as the Holy Spirit watered them with conviction and opened my eyes to see my need for a Savior.

Those seeds of truth grew as Jesus shone His light into my heart, trading my shame for His righteousness.

Those seeds of truth produce a harvest because God is for me and His love for me keeps me in abiding in His presence.

This is the cycle of good that God intends for my family as well. And so I am called to sow seeds into the hearts of my family.

And I can have full confidence that the same Holy Spirit, Jesus the Son, and God the Father, will sprout, grow, and produce a great harvest from the seeds I sow!

 

 

 

Purpose of the Critter?

God says its worth the work of tending and guarding the garden of your heart.

God tells you not to give up, no matter how invasive the weeds or how destructive the critters!

God tells you this because He knows…

The condition of your heart determines the fruit of your life.

“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” Proverbs 4:23

And, the condition of your heart affects what you say and do.

“What you say flows from what is in your heart.” Luke 6:45

God understands gardens and the work they require.

He planted a garden for Adam and Eve, filled it with beautiful plants and trees, and told them to tend it.

But even God had a critter get into His garden!

The critter got in and did a lot of damage by trampling God’s truths with his lies.

This is the same critter that creeps into hearts today with weeds of deception that choke out the abundant life God intends.

It is the same critter that comes in and tramples God’s truth with his lies and destroys us so that we are unable to produce the fruit He created us to bear.

God loved Adam and Eve, He created them to be loved by Him and He enjoyed their friendship; walking and talking with them each day. So when the critter came in and deceived them, breaking their relationship with God, God declared a death sentence over him.

And because God so loves everyone and creates us all to be loved by Him He sent His Son, Jesus, to destroy the damage the critter caused with his deception and lies.

But, even though all power has been removed from him, he still has permission to roam around in hearts to rob, kill, and destroy.

What is the reason God has given him permission?

God is a Good Father, so the reason must be a good one.

What purpose do weeds and critters serve in the good of my garden? How can there be any good found in them?

In my analogy what I find is that those invasive weeds and the cunning critters give me reason to tend and guard my garden regularly. 

I have seen the results of a neglected garden and its not pretty!

So, I have a choice of how I will respond to the weeds and critters that damage and destroy my garden.

And, God has given me a choice of how I will respond to the deception and lies that damage and destroy my heart.

Could God’s reason for allowing the critter to roam around with his deception and lies be so that I will realize how messy, unfruitful, and hopeless my life really is without Him? 

Could it be that the critter’s deception and lies bring me to the end of self so that I cry out to Him for help?

God has given me the freedom to choose.

Who’s voice will I listen to?

Who does my heart belong to?

Choosing to leave the weeds of deception and lies of the critter roaming my heart will not require any guarding or tending, but it will leave my heart messy an unfruitful.

Choosing to listen to the truth of God will require work to guard and tend my heart.

Knowing that the weeds of deception and the lies of the critter have been given a death sentence by Jesus’ death and resurrection…

and knowing the critter has no power, he is just a liar…

I can see them for the good God intends them to be. 

I realize those weeds are the very things that remind me of my need to diligently read God’s word every day. As I read His word the lies are exposed, pulled out, and replaced with God’s truth.

I realize it is the critter that brings me worry and anxiety that causes me to fall to my knees in prayer. It’s there on my knees where worry is turned to praise, anxiety is turned to hope!

Those very things meant for my harm are actually intended for my good!

Even though weeding and critter proofing our garden is a lot of work, there is a joy and satisfaction the comes from the effort. Knowing that my work is protecting the plants from harm and damage so that they can grow and produce good fruit encourages me to push through the digging, pulling, and stiffness I experience.

God’s Garden of Eden was perfect. It was a place where Adam and Eve found satisfaction in the work they were given to do. It was the place where their food grew that satisfied their hunger. And it was the place where they walked and talked with God.

 

This is the Good that God intends for you as well!

To do the work of tending the garden of your heart. To trust Him to provide for your physical needs. And to have a friendship with Him; to walk and talk to Him every day!

 

 

 

 

But what about those Critters?

Weeds are one thing. You can see them, pull them, and as long as you kill them off as much as possible, and daily pull any that keep popping up, you can keep your garden free of weeds.

But what about those critters?

I went into my garden the other day and found my perfectly smoothed garden beds full of holes.

I’ve heard that deer love freshly dug soil and that is what I think was the cause of the damage done to my garden beds.

So, I realized that the things we have put into place to keep critters out, the fencing Mark buried under the ground and the six-foot fence, just aren’t enough to do the trick.

So, again with my analogies…

As long as there were weeds growing in the garden beds I couldn’t tell if deer were jumping into my garden or not. As long as I wasn’t working in the garden I saw no evidence of their presence. But as soon as I began to pull the weeds, smooth the soil, and plant seeds; it was then I became aware.

That is just like your heart. When you aren’t tending your heart and are living in ways that seem right to you the weeds of neglect are creeping in, making a mess, and are feeding critters you aren’t even aware of.

It’s when you begin to get serious about the condition of your heart that you become more aware of all that your heart needs guarding from.

When you begin to read God’s word with full intention, not just out of duty…

When you allow God’s words to sink deep into your heart, instead of just reading words on a page…

When you decide to do God’s words, not just hear them…

That’s when the Holy Spirit opens your eyes to see where you have been wrong, you become convicted of sin, and you begin to pull out the weeds as you confess your sin.

That’s when the soil of your heart gets cleared, turned over, and smoothed out.

When you get serious about your faith and do the work of guarding your heart, you begin to live a life that produces a great harvest for the kingdom of God!

But, you also become a threat to the enemy and he increases his efforts to steal, kill, and destroy!

The damage the deer did to the soil of my garden was very discouraging. When I saw the holes their hoofs made and the tiny plants they trampled I wondered whether it was even worth all the effort. It caused me to question whether or not I wanted to keep working in my garden.

How important is a good harvest?

Is it worth more work?

“So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” Galatians 6:9

God says it is!

 

 

 

 

The Power of Black Plastic

This past Saturday found Mark and I back outside working in our garden. After spending so much time clearing out the leaves, weeds, and thorns from the garden last week I looked at the fence that surrounds the garden and realized so many weeds were growing against it and were creeping under it.

I realized if I tended the perimeter around the outside of the garden fence it would guard against the weeds that were creeping into the garden.

So, I decided the easiest way to do war against those destructive weeds and thorns was to cut away all the dead growth that remained after the winter, and put down black plastic. Black plastic is proved to kill anything it covers! So now, several feet of black plastic held down with rocks lines the perimeter of our garden.

Black plastic is my answer to guard my garden!

The success or failure of my garden hinges on how well it is guarded.

And so as I wrote last week of the importance of ridding my heart of the things that grew because of neglect during the “winters” of life, I also find there are weeds, and thorns that are constantly trying to creep through the fence and into my heart.

This reminds me of the verse…

“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” Proverbs 4:23

How do I guard my heart?

In keeping with the analogy of my garden, I need black plastic to put to death those weeds that are creeping into my heart.

“Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live.” Romans 8:12-13

As weeds will creep in and kill my garden plants, the deeds of my sinful nature will steal, kill and destroy me as well.

The success or failure of my life hinges on how well I guard my heart!

The condition of my heart determines the course of my life!

And when I choose to put to death the deeds of my sinful nature, by the power of the Holy Spirit, I will live!

And so, the power of the Holy Spirit, is to my heart as black plastic is to my garden.

To guard my heart is to spend time with God each day. As I read God’s word the Holy Spirit shines His Light of truth into my heart to show me any weed that needs to be pulled. Weeds that creep under the fence are’t seen right away as their roots travel undetected under the soil. I guess that’s why one day my garden is weed free, and just several days later its full of weeds!

“For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.” Hebrews 4:12

The Holy Spirit uses God’s truth to be like a spade that exposes and digs out the deeds of our sinful nature. Often our natural responses to situations don’t seem like the destructive weeds that they are. Left to ourselves we won’t see the weeds creeping under the fence. We won’t see them spreading under the soil, but one day they spring up and we realize they have been choking the life out of us.

Like when I have a conversation with my daughter and bring up a list of things that she has done wrong, and the next morning I read 1 Corinthians 13 that describes what love is; that it doesn’t keep a record of being wronged, I can pull that weed. It’s the power of the Holy Spirit that convicts me. I realize that even though I meant it to prove my point, to choose God’s way of love is the better way. I can confess my sin, ask God’s forgiveness, and pray that God will fill my heart with His love for her.

Or when I’m doing my Bible study and I read, “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged,” and the Holy Spirit brings to mind someone I have judged in my heart, I can pull that weed. I thank God for showing me my sin and confess the judgement I made against that person, and ask His forgiveness. In response I can pray a prayer of blessing for that person.

By guarding my garden from weeds it keeps the plants free of all that robs them of what they need to be strong and healthy.

Then they will produce a good harvest! 

By guarding my heart from the deeds of my sinful nature it frees me of all that robs me of what I need to be spiritually strong and healthy.

Then I will produce a good harvest!

 

 

 

The Good Gardener

Last Friday and Saturday were beautiful days; the weather jumped from winter to summer! Mark and I took the opportunity to do some work in our garden. We raked out the leaves, pulled the remaining weeds and thorns from last fall, and smoothed out the soil in many of the raised beds in preparation of planting seeds. Mark planted several of the cooler weather crops; snap peas, kale, and arugula, and today I’m thankful for the rain that is watering the seeds, hopefully not washing them away!

Neglect of our garden through the fall and winter months allowed for many unwanted leaves, weeds, and thorns to take over.

I suppose I could just dig holes amidst these leaves and weeds and hope that the seeds would grow and produce a crop.

But, somehow I just know that won’t work.

Gardens aren’t the only things that get messy when neglected.

When “winters” come into our lives they cause neglect and our hearts become messy!

“Winters” of the heart come in many different forms, with many different intensities, and can last different lengths of time.

But the affects of “winters” can leave the heart filled with leaves, weeds, and thorns. 

Here in New Jersey the neglect of gardens during the winter months is typical…

But when it comes to matters of the heart, seasons of neglect should not be typical…

Thankfully we have a Good Gardener who’s unconditional love for us will carefully tend and restore our hearts.

There are many different “winters” of the heart, but here are a few…

A “winter” of the heart can be busyness.

One morning we find we are too busy to read our Bible, pray, and, worship. One day becomes one week, one week becomes one month, and eventually the weeds of busyness have taken over and we can’t remember the last time we spent time alone with God.

“The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced.” Matthew 13:22

A “winter” of the heart can be disappointment.

Disappointment from an unanswered prayer or from an unfulfilled promise from God can bring “winter” to the heart. Disappointment can plant a weed, a lie, that God doesn’t care, that He can’t be trusted. The weed of disappointment will send out roots of doubt and unbelief.

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick,” Proverbs 13:12

A “winter” of the heart can be unforgiveness.

A wounded heart brings “winter” by building walls of protection from further hurt. While they may protect from hurt, they isolate from love. Walls around the unforgiving heart are as thorns that keep others away from us, including God.

“If I regard iniquity in my heart, The Lord will not hear.” Psalm 66:18

A “winter” of the heart can be self-sufficiency.

“Winters” of the heart can happen even when everything is going well. It can be during those times we begin to rely on ourselves, believing  we can handle things on our own, and taking credit for our accomplishments; we become proud. Pride is as the fall leaves that cover the heart to hide the weeds and thorns of neglect so that we appear good to others.

“When you have eaten your fill in this land, be careful not to forget the Lord, who rescued you from slavery in the land of Egypt.” Deuteronomy 6:11-12

So what is it that motivates me to roll up my sleeves and tackle the mess of my neglected garden?

It’s the potential a cleaned out garden bed represents; free from all the mess that collected during the season of neglect.

The hope of new life held within seeds as they pop through the soil.

And the anticipation of the growing plants developing a delicious harvest!

I can’t help but think; because we are created in God’s image, He feels the same way.

He knows our potential!

He has a hope and a future for us!

And He is filled with great anticipation to see the fruit we will bear!

As the Gardener of our hearts I’m sure God never looks at our hearts and says, “Wow, that is too full of leaves, weeds, and thorns. It isn’t worth tackling that mess!”

“Winters” are the harm the enemy meant, that can be turned to the good God intended!

So, if the Gardener is God, and the leaves, weeds, and thorns are the sins and bad habits that grow in our hearts, our hearts would be the soil.

And so, as the soil didn’t do anything to keep me from tending it, so our hearts need to be yielded and open to the presence of God as He takes His strong hand and lovingly rakes, digs, and smoothes our hearts.

When we invite the Good Gardener to tend our neglected hearts the Holy Spirit will begin to rake away our pride so we can better see the weeds and thorns that are making our hearts so messy.

When we humble ourselves and acknowledge that we can’t tend our own hearts and allow God to come into the mess, He will rake away our pride. Pride always needs to be removed so the weeds and thorns will be visible. Once pride is removed, the weeds of busyness can be pulled and replaced with seeds of desire to spend time with God. The weeds of disappointment that spread doubts and unbelief can be taken away and replaced with seeds of faith and trust. Those thorns of unforgiveness that have kept us isolated will be striped away as we have the courage to choose to forgive.

“Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?” Romans 2:4

A heart that is tended by the Good Gardener will remain surrendered to the raking, digging, and smoothing that is required to produce much fruit!

“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.” John 15:1-2