Monday, June 24, 2013

A Life of Faith and Hope

"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."
                                                                                                Hebrews 11:1

In a mother's womb were two babies.  One asked the other:  "Do you believe in life after delivery?" 

The other replied, "Why, of course.  There has to be something after delivery.  Maybe we are here to prepare ourselves for what we will be later.”  

"Nonsense," said the other.  "There is no life after delivery.  What would that life be?" 

"I don't know, but there will be more light than here.  Maybe we will walk with our legs and eat from our mouths."  

The other said,  "This is absurd!  Walking is impossible.  And eat with our mouths?  Ridiculous.  The umbilical cord supplies nutrition.  Life after delivery is to be excluded.  The umbilical cord is too short."

"I think there is something and maybe it's different than it is here," the other replied.  

"No one has ever come back from there.  Delivery is the end of life, and in the after-delivery it is nothing but darkness and anxiety, and it takes us nowhere."  

"Well, I don't know," said the other,  "but certainly we will see Mother and she will take care of us."  

"Mother??"  You believe in Mother?  Where is she now?”  

"She is all around us.  It is in her that we live.  Without her there would not be this world."  

"I don't see her, so it's only logical that she doesn't exist."  

To which the other replied, "Sometimes when you're in silence you can hear her, you can perceive her.  I believe there is a reality after delivery and we are here to prepare ourselves for that reality....”
                                                                            Author Unknown (looking!)

"Hope is one of the Theological virtues.  This means that a continual looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some modern people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do.  It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is.  If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next."
                                                                                                   C.S. Lewis

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

How Do Our Gardens Grow?

I read an essay recently that calls for all families in the United States to plant a vegetable garden.  The author argues that such an endeavor is good for the environment and good for us.  I have no doubt he is right, and I greatly appreciate my husband’s home-grown tomatoes.  But if I had to grow my own food, I would almost certainly starve.

I am not a gardener.  As much as I enjoy flowers and vegetables, I do not enjoy gardening. I am most grateful for the gracious help and advice of bona fide gardeners in my circle of friends.  In a recent conversation with one of them, she commented that the hard part of gardening is getting a flower or vegetable bed set up; then it can be enjoyed.  Yes, but…no garden will thrive without being tended.  Ken’s tomatoes need to be watered, tied as they grow, and scrutinized for insects and disease.  If I do not pinch off my spent pansy blooms, I will not get more.

The same is true for the garden of our spiritual lives.  The Apostle John records Jesus using the analogy of gardening to teach His disciples about their spiritual lives in the fifteenth chapter of his Gospel.  God desires His people to bear fruit for His kingdom.  And the foundation and lifeblood of that fruit is Christ Himself.  He is the vine.  We, as the branches, are able to bear fruit only as we abide in Jesus.

Although Jesus does the “heavy lifting” in our fruit bearing, Scripture makes it clear that we need to tend our spiritual garden.  Not only do we need to maintain an abiding relationship with Christ as the soil and water of our fruit-bearing faith, we need to fertilize that faith by keeping company with other believers (Heb. 10:25).  Studying and meditating on God’s Word keeps our focus on our source of power just as plants turn their leaves to absorb as much sunlight as possible (II Tim. 3:16).  Vigilance in weeding sin and temptation from our lives removes the obstacles that can derail our life of faith (Heb. 12:1). 

So what is a reluctant gardener to do?  I think we need to acknowledge an important truth.  While we live in a culture in which someone else grows most of our food, only we can bear the spiritual fruit that God has created us to bear.  That can, in our lazier or more selfish moments, seem like a burden.  I would comment, though, that it is precisely the bearing of fruit for God’s kingdom that gives us eternal significance.  We matter, to God and to others.  We don’t have to bear fruit; we get to bear fruit.  And it gets better.  We don’t have to settle for boring.  As we bear fruit together as His body, we get to produce a “fruit salad” that is as unique as we are.  That is Gardening for which I will gladly and gratefully sign up.