Thursday, January 30, 2014

God: The Perfect Planter

As the Master Gardener, God isn't satisfied with simply preparing the soil of our hearts.  He does not prepare our hearts to receive truth only to abandon us.  He doesn't put the tools away and lock the garden gate.  No, He continues to work, planting seeds of truth to bring our spiritual garden to life.

As a still-have-a-lot-to-learn gardener, I don't know that much about planting seeds.  Yet, I do know the basics.  To thrive, seeds must...

  • be planted in the right kind of soil
  • be placed at the right soil depth
  • be situated to receive appropriate sunlight
  • be spaced adequately apart
  • be distanced from certain other plants

Let's consider those one at a time over the next few blog posts.

Seeds must be planted in the right kind of soil.  Most gardeners, I believe, aim for the standard:  a rich, loose loam--soil with nearly equal proportions of sand, clay, and organic material.  Many gardeners, however, must begin with the sandy or clay soils on their property.

I've gardened with all three types: my third garden plot had heavy clay soil that stifled root growth and clung to my boots.  I tried to amend the soil with compost, but my efforts were only marginally successful.  My tomatoes and peppers produced moderately well, but my root crops failed miserably.

My fourth garden plot had sandy, rocky soil.  As a result, water and nutrients quickly left my garden and my vegetable plants produced little.  My efforts didn't pay off well.  

My current garden plot has soil that's nearly perfect.  The blades of my tiller cut easily through the rich, dark soil.   Because of this, the soil retains water well--but not too well--and allows excellent root growth.  The organic matter in the soil also nourishes the growing plants.  It's a joy to sow in great soil, knowing that the seeds are bound to thrive.

As mentioned in my last blog post, God works faithfully to prepare the soils of our hearts to receive the truth. If we allow Him to work, God will ensure that our hearts are prepared to accept those seeds.  No, His work of preparation won't make us immediately ready for all truth.  After all, most of use are cursed with sandy or clay soils that aren't suitable for nourishing seeds of truth.  But as we yield to His spade, God will faithfully plant the seeds--in the right place at the right time.  If we let Him, God will place seeds of truth where they are certain to spring in to life.       

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

God: One Who Prepares the Soil

At this time of year, I begin to grow excited about the prospect of gardening.  Even as the snow swirls outside my window, I'm ready to get started.  No, not outside.  It's much too early for that.  I'll soon begin finding seeds, cleaning seed trays, filling them with soil, and planting seeds.  Then, I'll set the seed trays on the warm radiator in our house near a window so the seeds will begin to sprout.  The young seedlings will poke their heads from the soil in a few days, but won't be ready for the garden for many weeks.  

As much as I enjoy planting and watching seeds spring into life, I really don't enjoy the next task: preparing the soil to receive the transplanted seedlings.  Last season it was a laborious task.  To encourage my plants to grow while discouraging weeds from sprouting, I tilled the soil with the big red monster, shaped the dirt into neat rows with a hoe, placed weed blocking fabric and mulch between the rows, and newspaper and compost on top of the rows.  It sounds easy enough, but it was back-breaking labor.  To get enough compost to top the garden, I drove a pickup out to our local horse race track, waited for the backhoe to fill the bed, navigated the pickup-now fully loaded--back to our urban garden, shoveled the compost onto a tarp at the front of the garden, scooped it again into a wheelbarrow, and used the wheelbarrow to truck each load down two "flights" of stairs to my garden plot.  Whew!  To mulch the rows in my garden, I did much the same thing, except that the mulch was light enough to toss over the fence onto a tarp before being moved up a single set of stairs up to my garden plot.   

So, as an eager gardener, I loosened the soil to encourage root growth and used a weed blocking strategy to discourage competition.  But did I check the soil for missing nutrients?  Perform a pH test and make needed adjustments?  Check acidity or alkalinity and make appropriate soil modifications?   No.  I enjoy gardening, but I'm frankly not a master gardener.  

I do, however, know a Master Gardener.  One who prepared the soil of my heart to receive the truth and encourage growth.  One who called me to follow Him.  One who gives me the grace to walk with Him.  One who enables me--despite my weakness--to bear fruit.  

As the Master Gardener, God is faithful to prepare hearts to receive the truth.  His work in cultivating the soil may take different forms:  He speaks through His Word.  He ministers through His servants.  He may get attention through trying times--the loss of a loved one, a steady income, a long-term friendship.  He may prepare hearts by allowing them to suffer the consequences of sin.  Regardless of the method, His cultivation of hearts is always good, for He longs for us to be His children.  To enjoy the blessings of relationship with Him.  To find fulfillment in His kingdom.  To love and be loved by Him.     

Yes, God is the Master Gardener who know just what the soil of our hearts needs to receive the truth and encourage growth.  Would you allow Him to work in your life today?  

Thursday, January 16, 2014

God: The Master Gardener

In the next few weeks, I'd like to explore a topic that recurs frequently in scripture: God as the gardener of our souls.  At creation, God placed mankind in a garden.  There, in the peaceful beauty of a garden, God walked and talked with man.  Later, God refers to his chosen people as a vine which he had cultivated. Consider these passages from scripture:    

  • In Jeremiah 2:21, God speaks of Jerusalem as a vine:  "Yet I had planted thee a noble vine, wholly a right seed: how then art thou turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine unto me?"
  • In Malachi 3:10-12, God offers restoration to his people: "Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the Lord of hostsAnd all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the Lord of hosts."
  • In John 15:1-8, Jesus identifies himself as the vine: "I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples."

To extend these images further, I'd like to focus on the many tasks in our souls undertaken by the rough-yet-gentle hand of God.  God, as the master gardener, surely works to prepare our hearts to receive the truth, to provide the nourishment needed for growth, to remove the weeds that would choke fledgling life, to support the growing plant, to protect the plant from debilitating disease, to prune branches that aren't productive, and to produce fruit that benefits others.