Water Your Garden

Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.  Genesis 2:15

 Then to Adam He said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’; Cursed is the ground because of you; In toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; and you will eat the plants of the field; By the sweat of your face you will eat bread,  Genesis 3:17-19a

         I love working in my garden.  It depicts our lives in the world in many ways.  For example, I’ve noticed that weeds, like vices, don’t require planting. Like fleas on a hound dog, they just come.  Furthermore, if I neglect the garden for even a short time, the weeds take over.  Likewise, if I neglect my relationship with the Lord, even for a short time, sin and selfishness take over.

Desirable plants, like my walk with the Lord, must be purposefully planted, carefully cultivated, and faithfully nurtured if the plants—and my life–are to produce fruit.

If I don’t water the garden, the desirable plants wilt, but the weeds thrive!  When I don’t “water” my life continually with the truth of God’s Word, my walk with the Lord “wilts,” and sinful self thrives. John 4:14

Finally, I realized that my first garden was too ambitious:  Planting a half-acre of fruits and vegetables, I bit off more than I could chew, so to speak, and set myself up for failure.  Discouraged by my inability to keep this extensive garden weed-free, I was tempted to give up.

I learned two life lessons from that experience.  First, God’s good is the enemy of God’s best.  If I try to take advantage of every opportunity that presents itself, rather than prayerfully considering when to say “yes” and when to say “no,” I can easily overextend myself and end up frustrated, engaged in much activity with little eternal result.  As our pastor has said, I must know my purpose, or I will live aimlessly.

Secondly, I learned that the garden does not have to be 100% weed free to be fruitful.  Upon first glance at the garden, it may appear that my labor has been in vain, for the weeds seem to dominate.  Closer examination, however, reveals that the carefully tended plants have been tenaciously holding their own and are bearing fruit.

In life, too, it sometimes appears that my diligent effort to walk with the Lord and to make a difference in my world has been in vain, for sin and evil seem to dominate, both in my personal life and in the world.  I am learning, on the other hand, that just as a garden doesn’t have to be totally weed-free to be productive, every little detail does not have to be “just so” for a project to be effective.

I take heart from my garden plants:  they don’t use the weeds as an excuse to give up, but, instead, tenaciously hold on and bear fruit in the midst of the weeds. I must do the same.

About the Writer:
Cheryl Smith is a Jew, redeemed by Messiah Jesus, Whom she has followed since Tuesday, February 8, 1977 @ 5:05 p.m.  A retired Marble Falls ISD teacher, she lives in Dallas with her mostly-homebound mother.  Cheryl is a member of the Morning Son Sunday School class at First Baptist Church Dallas.

Martha, Martha, Martha

I don’t know about you, but I can identify with Martha more easily than I can identify with Mary.  I am a Martha by nature.  Because my spiritual gift is the gift of service, I see things that need to be done and feel compelled to do them.  My daughter is much more like Mary and I admire that quality in her.  Mary really understood what was important, so she sat at the feet of Jesus to soak up everything that He had to say.

In Luke 10, we find that Jesus stopped at the home of Martha as He was traveling.  Martha was concerned about the preparations to feed Jesus and those who were with Him.  She asked Jesus to get Mary to help her, but Jesus’ response was not what she expected as is recorded below.

But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.  Luke 10:41-42

 I don’t think our Lord meant that what Martha was doing didn’t have value; I think He wanted her to realize how important the spiritual part of her life was and that she needed to give it priority.  I get caught up in making sure that my house is clean, the laundry is done and that whatever I need to do to help others takes priority.  It is much harder for me to sit at the feet of Jesus and soak up what He is saying.

One scripture that the Lord keeps bringing me back to is the first part of Psalm 46:10.  I like the ESV translation best:

Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10 ESV

I’m not sure why it is so difficult for me to be still, but it is.

Martha was busy making sure that everyone was taken care of and that food was prepared for her guests.  Her focus was not much different from that of the disciples in the story of the woman at the well in John 4:31, we find the disciples urging Jesus to eat and His response to them was not what they expected.

I have food to eat that you do not know about. John 4:32

The disciples took this literally and thought that someone else had brought Him food while they were in town.  Jesus was not talking about physical food.  He was talking about spiritual food; His Father’s Word.  I think this was the same message He was speaking to Martha in John 10.

It is quite necessary for us to care for physical needs.  However, our Lord wants us to see that the spiritual needs are really more important; our physical bodies will die, but our spirits will live on for eternity.  We need to be sure we are adequately caring for our spiritual needs, and this requires stillness before God and a focus on His Word.  We need to be still so we can hear what He has to say to us.  If we are constantly busy with the cares of this world, we may miss something important that He wants us to hear.

About the Writer:
Anna is a mother to three grown children, Nana to four grandchildren and enjoys coordinating Prison Ministry for her church. Her desire is to finish this life well by pointing others to faith in Jesus Christ and to a deeper reliance on Him.

Know Your Legacy, Leave a Legacy

Sometimes I get so caught up in the worry and angst of life that I forget to look up and see that God has a plan that not only includes me, but He intends to use the very problem I worry about to fulfill His plan. The story of Rahab in the Bible is a great example of how God uses our circumstances to fulfill His plan for us.

Hebrews 11: 31 By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.

When we read the story of Rahab in Joshua 2, we find the city of Jericho in a state of panic.  Can’t you just visualize it?  Everyone from the King to the messengers of the city looking out over the wall to see the enemy Israel camped just a few steps outside the city gate. They know the mysterious success that the Israelites keep experiencing.  They scurry around, fearful, plotting and scheming, desperate to keep safe everything they have and everyone they love.

Rahab was in the midst of this chaos and panic.  She had a couple of choices to respond to this fearful time for herself and her family.  She could join the city in dreading the invasion or she could look at the history of this strange people and discover what they had that differed from her culture.  She chose the latter.  In verses 8-11 she tells the spies what she has discovered about their God and how he has delivered them time after time.  She looked at her own situation, one full of sin, struggle, and above all, fear.  What difference did she find in these two cultures? She found God!  Her beautiful expression of faith in the One who can deliver is found in Chapter 2:11-12. When she calls him Lord, she is expressing her personal belief in the One the two spies from Israel represented.

Rahab could never have guessed what God’s plan for her was once she took that leap of faith.  She only wanted to be saved, she and her household, and she requested a relationship built on loyal love, but God intended so much more!  If you look at the rest of her story in Joshua 6:17, 22-25, you discover that she was saved from Jericho, married a Jewish prince, and became the mother of Boaz, that great man of faith in the book of Ruth. Ultimately Ruth became the great-great-grandmother of none other than King David, and of course is named in the lineage of Jesus Christ himself (read Matthew 1:4-6).

As you look at your current circumstances, where do you find yourself? How are you looking to find God’s plan for your future?  Is it in a way that you can control, or is it in a way that God has planned?   Today, let’s commit together to look and see where God is in your circumstances and have faith that He will use His loyal loving plan to see you through.

About the Writer:
Pam Brewer is Director of Women’s Ministry of First Baptist Dallas, a wife, a mom, a grandmother, and grateful to be included in this great team of Yada Yada bloggers.

Pilate the Peacekeeper

“You won’t talk to me?” Pilate demanded. ”Don’t you realize I have the power to release you or to crucify you?”

Such confusion! Such inner turmoil! How I pity Pilate in his predicament – wanting an easy way to do what was difficult, but knowing no such path existed. He wanted Jesus to be merciful of him in his situation where, in his mind, he was bound at the wrists. Jesus did in fact speak words of grace to Pilate, but He let Pilate alone decide his course of action. From the text in the Book of John and the details of Pilate’s conversation with Jesus, Pilate was obviously looking for any way out besides crucifying Jesus. Something in his mind or heart was nagging at him, assuring him that this man was not deserving of death and that the whole mob uprising was a big mess having nothing to do with Jesus’ wrong doing.

Pilate certainly put forth good effort to sway the crowd, but it was not enough to dissuade them from their mission to crucify the One who claimed to be the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

“You crucify him,” Pilate said. “I find him not guilty.” Or as recorded in Matthew 27:24, “Pilate saw that he wasn’t getting anywhere and that a riot was developing. So he sent for a bowl of water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood. The responsibility is yours!”

The sinful part of me wants to applaud Pilate’s valiant efforts to stand up for Jesus and validate his attempts to clear himself of blame. However, Pilate’s example is very different from that of Peter or Paul or Stephen in the New Testament chronicles. Later in Acts we read how other men of true faith boldly proclaimed who Christ was and is without fear of the consequences. They faced the very same fate and fears as Pilate (death, uprising, violence, damage to self/family/position/property, etc.) and did not count the cross shame.

Note these words of Paul to his mentee, Timothy:

So do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, or of me, His prisoner.  Instead, join me in suffering for the gospel by the power of God.  2 Timothy 1:8

And consider these words of Jesus to His disciples:

For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.  Luke 9:26

As we see in the case of Peter, Jesus offers grace to the one who has wilted under pressure and denied any association with Christ; however, with a restored relationship comes a renewed calling. Jesus Himself said feathers would be ruffled because of His claims to be the Son of God with all authority to forgive sins (Matthew 10:34 and Matthew 9:6).  Like in the case of Pilate, it can be convenient to let someone else carry the cross while we ourselves stand silently to the side possibly ensuring peace, but gaining nothing if we forfeit our souls.

About the Writer:
Lyndsay has been many things in her past, but no career, experience, or calling define her more than the desire to follow after Christ in response to His gracious work in her life. At present, she teaches movement classes and works as a wellness consultant in addition to loving her amazing husband and raising her daughter to know and love the Lord.