The Garden of God’s Word March 26, 2008Posted by preacherwin in Devotions, Gardens of God's Word.
Tags: Bible, Garden, God, Scripture
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Before I enter scripture itself, I wanted to begin with it as a whole. God’s word is very much like a wonderful garden, filled with all kinds of produce. And, it is a garden that reflects back at us all of the thorns and thistles of our lives. When I was growing up, my parents kept a large vegetable garden. This garden usually caused me to lament the coming of Saturday, for I often was made to spend them pulling up weeds or tilling the soil when I would have rather been playing baseball or watching cartoons like my friends. Yet, though we all sweated and toiled over it, the produce was always a blessing on the dinner table.
God’s word is the same way. As a Christian, we need to labor in it. It takes work to root out the deep truths and riches that it contains. Does that mean that the Bible is full of thorns and thistles, subject to the fall? Certainly not! The thorns and thistles are the things that we bring to the table. These are our secret sins and lusts. The word of God is powerful and potent when it comes to convicting men of their sinful ways. And if we are going to approach the word of God seeking its fruit, then those thorns and thistles in our own life must be pulled out by the root.
But what a rich variety of fruit that lies within God’s Word! There are the sweet berries of God’s promises, the abundant and hearty beans of God the Father’s nature revealed within, the spicy peppers of the power of God the Holy Spirit moving through history, and the earthy tubers of God the Son’s work on earth. There are the majestic and flowering fruit trees of God’s grace and there are the bitter radishes of God’s judgment on unbelievers. And the abundance therein proclaims without hesitation God’s glory and his constancy toward and provision for his people.
And just as is with any healthy garden, it is full of life. Worms to till the soil, bugs to pollinate, and birds to fill the trees with song, God’s word is alive and healthy and how the Christian ought to long to rest therein for all of his days. And the garden most importantly is a garden that is fed with a spring of pure and living water, even though it is surrounded by a dry and arid land. What an oasis we have in God’s Word! Oh, how the Christian inflicts such pain on himself by seeking the worldly pleasures of baseball and cartoons over the riches of God’s word.
God’s Garden March 26, 2008Posted by preacherwin in Devotions, Gardens of God's Word.
Tags: Eden, Garden, Genesis, God
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It would seem that God is the original gardener. And what a garden he planted. It was paradise! Yet, what made it paradise is not the variety of beautiful and tasty plants, but God’s own presence therein. God strolled freely with Adam and Eve in the garden. Even the pits of hell would be paradise with Him as a companion. Yet this garden also was not fallen. There were no thorns or thistles, there were no pesky rocks to till out, and there were no diseases within the place. There were no storms in Eden. There were no natural disasters or floods to worry about; just the cool summer rain that fell gently on their backs.
There was no viciousness in the animals and no predators to worry about. They could sleep under the stars gazing at a picture of God’s glory undefiled by the clouds of sin or the fear of darkness. They lay naked and unashamed. What a contrast this is to our world today. And Adam and Eve gave all of this up for a bite of fruit and a lust to be like their creator.
It has been said that you never appreciate your blessings until they are gone. How this truth is illustrated by Adam and Eve. They threw away paradise! And we would do the same if we got the chance. How often we find ourselves longing for the “greener” grass on the other side of the hill. We know that it is not greener, but our heart still yearns for it. How often we reflect longingly at past paths of sin. We only remember the fleeting moments of pleasure and never the lasting pain of guilt and grief. Oh how often we see the seeds of temptation as harmless, yet, time and time again, they sprout in our fertile hearts.
Let our hearts long once again for paradise. For the believer in Jesus Christ, paradise has been reserved for you in heaven, no more will the ravages of sin destroy. Yet, as we look around at those we care about, we must ask, how many of them will not be joining us there. Let us seek to plant the seeds of paradise in the hearts of those around us, that they might walk the cool meadows of heaven by our side.
Adam’s Garden March 26, 2008Posted by preacherwin in Devotions, Gardens of God's Word.
Tags: Adam, Garden, Genesis, thistles, thorns
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What a contrast Adam’s garden is to God’s. Adams is filled with rocks, thorns, and thistles. It requires the sweat of the brow to be worked, and where was the eternal spring of water to nourish the produce? And where was the presence of God, walking freely within?
There is such a difference between the things that God has made and the things that we attempt to make. We marvel at our towers and sky-scrapers, yet God built the mountains to tower miles high. We have seen towers topple as a result of earthquakes and hurricanes. On September 11th a few years back, we found out how quickly towers fall in an explosion. Yet, even with the explosive force of a volcano, which is millions of times more powerful than a detonating airliner and thousands of times more powerful than an atom bomb, there is still quite a formidable mountain that remains. James says that the edifices of man will burn away like grass under the hot winds of the summer. Pound for pound, the tensile strength of the silken strand of a spider-web is many times greater than that of man-made steel alloys. Oh the vanity that lies with in the garden of the children of Adam.
And what fruit did Adam’s garden bear? It bore the fruit of discontent and shame, for it was Cain the gardener who slew his brother in the fields. And we are still slaying each other today in our fields. Yes, we may be more subtle than to bash in our brother’s head with a rock, but when we destroy his marriage because of a fling with his wife, we do the same thing. Calvin said that the heart of man is a factory of idols. If that is the case, it is the mind of man that is the heart’s marketing firm. And production is in high gear. Not only do we fill our lives with the thorns and thistles of sin, but we export our sins to our neighbors and our children. What a mess Adam’s garden was. What a mess ours continues to be.
Noah’s Vineyard March 26, 2008Posted by preacherwin in Devotions, Gardens of God's Word.
Tags: Garden, Genesis, Noah, Vineyard
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(Genesis 9: 20-29)
What a picture of human nature we have painted for us here by Moses. Noah, “the preacher of righteousness” to quote Peter, had just exited the ark and planted a vineyard. Though that is not a bad thing in itself, what he does next is. Noah becomes drunk and in some way exposes himself to his son Ham. Ham, perhaps with a tinge of sarcasm or humor, tells his brothers, “guess what dad did!” And all over again, we have the separation of the children of God and the children of the world. Ham and his line are cursed and Shem’s line is blessed.
How often in our own lives have we fallen into this trap. During times of great trial and difficulty our faith shines and is strong. But during times of peace and prosperity, we let our guard down, falling prey to the sins of the world. This is what happened with Noah. Once he had a chance to relax, he fell back into his old ways. Is this not the tendency of the church itself? The times of greatest church growth are always during the times of great persecution and trial.
I would argue that this is the greatest trial of the church in America today. We have great freedoms when it comes to expressing our faith and in religion. We don’t have to worry about government oppression or persecution. While this is a great blessing, it has become a stumbling block for many. Church has become culturally acceptable and in turn it requires no sincere commitment.
I suggest that we learn from Noah’s folly. Even in times of prosperity and rest, we need to keep our guard up. Yes, we are reminded of the humanness of many of these “Bible heroes,” but more importantly, let the lessons of their failure fall on attentive ears. Satan is always seeking to destroy, he is always lurking behind the next corner. Though he may not attack with claw or bite, he will attack in some way and it may be with wealth and flattery. Let us seek to live to God’s glory every day and in every moment and not fall into sin during times of relative comfort.
The Jordan Valley March 26, 2008Posted by preacherwin in Devotions, Gardens of God's Word.
Tags: Garden, Genesis, Jordan, Sodom, Valley
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When Abram offered Lot a choice of land to settle in, Lot chose the Jordan Valley for it was well watered as Eden had been. Abram trusted in the Lord for his provision, but it is clear here, that Lot evaluated things by the way of men. But what he found in that valley would eat at his heart. Peter tells us that Lot’s heart was tormented because he lived and worked around the wicked men of Sodom. The grass looked greener in the valley, as the Garden of the Lord, scripture tells us, but there was one thing missing from that garden altogether: the presence of the Lord. God had left those men to their wickedness.
So often this is a testimony to the result of our own decision making. We often make our choices based on human ideas and terms. “What do I think that I would like,” we ask. “Where would I like to serve in ministry?” “How should I spend MY money.” Yet, the money does not belong to us, the ministry does not belong to us, and our life does not belong to us. Thus, the only opinion of what we should or should not be doing that matters is the opinion of our Lord and Savior. I think that it was Spurgeon who said that there is no ideal place to serve God—except where he puts you. How often do we truly seek God’s will first and our will second. Let us learn from righteous Lot the torment of making decisions based on human reasoning.
The Promised Land March 26, 2008Posted by preacherwin in Devotions, Gardens of God's Word.
Tags: Garden, Joshua, Promised Land
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The Israelites had been slaves in Egypt, having had to work to irrigate the gardens which they grew, they had traveled through the desert, with God as an oasis from the elements, and they were about to enter into the Promised Land. This land was to be a place much like Eden, where the vegetation was lush and the thorns and thistles were few. It was described as paradise, but Canaan was only meant as a partial fulfillment of God’s promise to his people. Canaan had been polluted with the sin and wickedness of its inhabitants and the Israelites did anything but purge the land of sin. Rather, they quickly joined in with the pagan revelries.
How little we do to preserve the purity of what God has given us. We pollute our marriages with want and a wandering heart; we pollute our families with the things we teach our children to ignore. We pollute our jobs with laziness and we pollute our relationship with our Creator with neglect and sin. We may not have carved Baals and Asherahs, but we have set humanism and materialism in our hearts. We need to turn our hearts back toward the Lord, seeking his glory and the joy of the promised land kept and preserved from ruin for those who would call on the name of Jesus for salvation.
Naboth’s Vineyard March 26, 2008Posted by preacherwin in Devotions, Gardens of God's Word.
Tags: 1 Kings, Garden, Naboth, Vineyard
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(1 Kings 21)
Once more, we have a picture of Adam’s garden. Ahab wanted that which was not his and Naboth was too stubborn to give the king what he wanted. While Naboth is certainly “in the right” by all legal and moral estimations, he still coveted the land of his fathers. Now we can certainly talk about Leverite law and how a family is to keep the land within the family, but we also must remember Samuel’s warning about the ways of kings (1 Samuel 8:14).
Perhaps Naboth was not aware that Ahab would seek his death. Perhaps Naboth was not aware of the wiles of Jezebel. No, that hardly seems possible. Ahab had deliberately sought the death of the prophets of God. Perhaps Ahab was just misunderstood by those pesky prophets. “Ahab did more to provoke the LORD, the God of Israel, to anger than all of the kings of Israel who were before him” (1 Kings 16: 33). I hardly think that there was any misunderstanding about the nature of Ahab.
Naboth coveted his land and would not give it up to the king. Naboth had to know to what end this path would bring. And once again, blood flowed. Sticking to your guns is a good thing, even in the face of death, but I am not convinced that Naboth is doing just that. So often we too hold stubbornly to the wrong things. And usually those things are sins that God is calling us to mortify. We must always remember that it is not our fathers who have given us their land, but it comes from God, and it is given for His glory, not our satisfaction. He who giveth can also take.
Solomon’s Garden March 26, 2008Posted by preacherwin in Devotions, Gardens of God's Word.
Tags: Garden, Song of Solomon
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(The Song of Solomon)
While it is important not to allegorize this book, there is a clear sense of looking both forward and back. This is Solomon’s pursuit of a young lady, but the purity with which this pursuit is done is a model for all Christians today. In addition, it points back to the purity of the marriage pursuit of Adam and Eve in the garden before the fall and it points forward to give us a picture of our Savior pursuing his bride, the church.
Yet, there is something else worth noting about the setting of this book. This book describes a hidden garden where the maiden works. The garden is a safe place, a place where these pursuits can take place without fear or threat. Our homes need to exhibit that same sense of safety. They need to be a place where husbands and wives can come together with joy and pleasure, knowing that they will not face the kind of the scrutiny that the world gives out. And it needs to be a place of safety where children can retreat to and find comfort and hope therein when the world seems to hate them. It must be a place of building up, not tearing down.
Is that how our spouse would describe our home? How about our children? If not, then there is cultivating to be done.
Jeremiah’s Garden of Hope March 26, 2008Posted by preacherwin in Devotions, Gardens of God's Word.
Tags: Garden, Jeremiah
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The setting and timing of this event is as bleak as it gets. The Chaldeans are bearing down on the city of Jerusalem. They have been on a warpath conquering all of Judah, and the walled city of Jerusalem is one of the last holdouts. Jeremiah has been preaching to the people that the reason that the Chaldeans have come is because God is using them to bring punishment on the people for their faithlessness. Many wish to fight, Jeremiah is telling them to surrender, for this is God’s will.
Yet, as bleak as this time seems, there is a point of hope. Though the promised land is about to be totally overrun by the Chaldeans, God instructs Jeremiah to buy the field of his cousin. While this might seem contrary to common sense, God was using this purchase to make a statement.
Though Judah had sinned, though God was bringing catastrophic judgment on the people, God would also restore his people. Jeremiah’s purchase was a sign that the land would be restored to the people of Israel. They could not know this, but God would bring Cyrus to power in Persia to overthrow the Chaldeans, and would eventually send the exiles home. The field that Jeremiah bought would eventually be redeemed, as would all the land.
Yet, we must remember, that even that hope was a temporary one. Though there was repentance on the part of the people, a solution had to be had to atone for sin. God had that planned as well, for he would later send his son Jesus to do just that and to prepare a land that is permanent and unfading for his people. We have a great hope in Christ, dear friends; take courage. Even though things may look bleak, God, is, as he has always been and always will be, in control.
Habakkuk’s Garden March 26, 2008Posted by preacherwin in Devotions, Gardens of God's Word.
Tags: Garden, Habakkuk
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(Habakkuk 3: 17-19)
In many ways, Habakkuk’s story is like that of Job’s. Though Habakkuk had not been afflicted personally with trial, God’s people were being afflicted by their neighboring nations. Assyria had conquered the northern Kingdom of Israel and Babylon had just conquered the kingdom of Assyria and would soon come to destroy the southern kingdom of Judah. And behind it all is God’s hand of judgment on his people for their idolatry. In the face of this, Habakkuk boldly places the question before God as to how he could do this. How could God use the ungodly to punish his people? And ultimately, by God’s grace, Habakkuk comes to the same conclusion as did Job: God is sovereign and he will use those means that he chooses to rebuke his people. Yet, no matter how harsh the rebuke may seem, God will redeem his people as well. What a message of hope this is today, in a world that seems to have embraced chaos instead of holiness.
At the end of this little book, Habakkuk gives us a picture of his garden. It is a picture of barrenness and destruction. There is no blossom on the fig tree, no fruit on the fine, and the olive crops have failed. There is nothing in the fields, either plant or animal, and there is nothing in the stalls. This is a picture of a desolate land. Yet, it is not desolate at all! Why? For he understands that his strength, his help, and his salvation do not come from the crops that he produces or the animals that he owns, but it comes from the hand of God himself. God will deliver his people even when all of the means that this world has to offer are spent.
In the time of impending doom that Judah was facing at this point, what a message of hope and encouragement this is. What a stark reminder it is to us? So often we look only with discouragement at our own gardens. The things of our life may not be working out the way we have planned, never-the-less, if our trust is in God, he will provide for us our needs. God is a great and merciful God, and is abundant in blessing toward his people. Let us learn from Habakkuk’s own testimony; the sure provision of God is better than all that the world can provide.