About this Site

The LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed. (Gen. 2:8)

Gardens just don't happen, ground must be allotted, prepared; seeds and saplings planted, watered, tended to, and protected. As growth ensues nutrients must be provided, pruning must occur when necessary, and vigilance must be maintained against parasites and predators. All of life is a metaphor, material object lessons pointing to a spiritual reality - this do and live. Gardens just don't happen, they are purposed, take work, and need external blessing to prosper.

“...but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." (2Pet. 3:18b), working "out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure." (Phil. 2:12b-13)

Friday, January 18, 2019

How Long, O Lord, How Long


How Long, O Lord, How Long
WHEN James Garfield (President of the U.S. - 1881) was principal of Hiram College in Ohio, a father asked him if the course of study could be simplified so that his son might be able to go through by a shorter route. “Certainly.” Garfield replied, “But it all depends on what you want to make of your boy. When God wants to make an oak tree, He takes a hundred years. When He wants to make a squash he requires only two months.” We are producing too many squashes and not enough oak trees in our day. (Source Unknown).
WE live in an ATM society.  We get and want our news and information in sound bites and social media, seek instant access to all sorts of things from food to entertainment, looking for quick fixes and easy solutions to our hearts desires.  We are an impatient lot, we want what we want, and we want it now. I actually saw a t-shirt recently being worn by a young girl in a mall that had emblazoned across the front, “I want what I want, live with it!”
ONCE counseling an individual dealing with personal struggles, we were making marked progress when he asked in a quiet contemplative moment, “When will this be over?”  To his dismay I answered, “never.”  “Oh yes, you will by faith overcome this particular sin and struggle (1John 5:4), but if you are simply looking for a quick fix to get back to life as usual, the door you have opened and the road that you have embarked upon will never end, that is if you choose to press-on and not pull back.”
THAT door that he had opened was the door that exposed his own heart deceitfulness and need.  The path that he had found was of redemptive recovery unto and into Christ.  But the journey had only started as well as the process of further exposure of need and deeper discoveries of grace.  Each day, yea moment, required that on-going faith decision to continue to work out [his] own salvation with fear and trembling; with the sure knowledge that it is God who works in [him] both to will and to do for His good pleasure.  (Phil. 2:12-13)  Would he follow Paul’s example and imperative to continue without ceasing to press on, that [he] may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of [him]? Would he continue to forget those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus? (Phil 3:12-14) 
AS I explained to this young man - the Lord is faithful and will deliver him in the mercies of Christ from each encounter of opposition, both within and without (1Cor 10:13).  But as He exposes and deals with one area of sin and shortcoming, then will come another, and another, as the Master Craftsman works away to bring us to the intended image of Christ. As Paul writes: My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you. (Gal 4:19)  This is the process of sanctification and character building into the stature of Christ.
BEING once asked that if God knows all who are His and are going to come to Him in faith, upon that point of salvation and conversion, why does He not just call them home and be done with it?  The answer of course is that our heavenly Father desires more of His children then mere birth; observe Rom 8:29, For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.  As an ole’ preacher once said on this verse, “The Father loves the Son so much, he wants the heavens filled with others just like Him!”  It is a simple truth, but there is more to it than that. What father holding an infant son or daughter in his arms does not dream of all that he holds in what is, can, and will be?  That parent looks to the day when that child takes the first step, utters their first words, grows, matures, and reaches their true self and personhood. What hopes and expectation resides within a fathers heart, also knowing the trials and difficulties that will most assuredly be faced and hopefully overcome to an ever strengthening of heart and soul in order to get to an ever increasing depth of character.  It is said that the worse place to develop character is in heaven where there are no hard choices and moral lessons to be learned.  Even our Lord and Savior learned obedience through suffering during his earthly walk (Heb. 5:8), thus leaving us an example of moral certainty and necessity.
BUT You – O Lord, how long?  “How long?”  “How long” is oft repeated in Scripture.  We cry out “how long” wondering how long we must endure?  The answer to that question is one that aggravates child and all being exercised in patience.  The answer is, “As long as it takes.  If “God wants to make an oak tree, He takes a hundred years. When He wants to make a squash he requires only two months.”   Isaiah proclaimed of old:
 “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, because the LORD has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; he has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, to console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.”  (Isa 61:1-3)
THE trees of righteousness in this passage are literally “oaks of righteousness.”  This is what is needed in every generation, every heart and every soul, “oaks of righteousness;” they alone shall rebuild the old ruins, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the ruined cities, the desolations of many generations. (Isa 6:4) If you have a Bible close at hand, read the entire text of Isaiah 61.  Possibly your text will footnote that this is the prophecy and promise fulfilled in Christ and all that is centered in Him.  See how it ends:  
My soul shall be joyful in my God; for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. For as the earth brings forth its bud, as the garden causes the things that are sown in it to spring forth, so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations. (Isa 61:10-11)
NOTE: ...as the garden causes the things that are sown in it to spring forth, so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.  Lessons from the Garden – It takes time, diligent, and patient effort to grow Oaks of Righteousness; but Oaks of Righteousness are what we need.

In the wondrous blessings of Christ,
Joe
Neh. 8:10, Isa 30:15 & Job 2:10

Friday, January 11, 2019

Introduction to Lessons from the Garden "...but what we ARE!"




THIS site is written with the thought towards Spiritual Growth in Christian Character. It is an outgrowth of weekly emails titled Morning Greetings that were distributed to a small group beginning in March of 2009.  At that time the focus was to share thoughts and considerations, to encourage and instruct with the aim to bringing every thought captive to Christ (2Cor. 10:5), to the end that in each and every one might be found a measure of advance and fulfillment in the primary objective defined in Romans 8:29, ...to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 
WHEN the Apostle Paul concluded his pivotal letter to the church at Ephesus, commanding the one and many to “put on the whole armor of God,” it was to the end that the called of God would fight evil, do good, and by faith having done all, to stand in the three-fold battle of the elect (Eph. 6:10ff).  To the uninitiated, that three-fold battle is one in which the believer is found engaged in opposition, whether they are aware of it or not, with the world around them, spiritual forces unseen, and their very own nature at war with God.  It is with these three forces that the Christian must take up arms, even against self, the most deceptive adversary (Jer. 17:9).
WISDOM abounds, but it is not always heeded.  Celebrated headmaster of Eton College, Cyril Alington (circa 1899) was once confronted by an aggressive mother:
“Are you preparing Henry for a political career?” the mother asked Alington.
“No,” he said.
“Well, for a professional career?”
“No,” he replied.
“For a business career, then?”
“No,” he repeated.
“Well, in a word, Dr. Alington, what are you here at Eton preparing Henry for?”
“On a word madam?  Death.  That is the principle mission of our education here.” 
HE went on to explain that in preparing the students for life, the starting point was learning the reality that life is short and ends in death, and instilling the courage to face the reality that nothing in this world endures except that reality beyond what cannot be seen and heard and felt. That is where life’s true meaning resides.
HAVE we not heard this in the familiar words of our Lord, Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?   Mark 8:34-36
WHEN confronted by the rich young ruler, with all of his proclamations our Lord said, looking at him in love, One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.  This is tough love speaking, because the cross means dying to self above all else.  When our Lord say’s, “Be holy, for I am holy.”  (1Pet. 1:16; Eph. 1:4) it is no abstract proposition.  It is to bear the image of Christ in godliness, for [He] has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Pet 1:3-8)
LOOK again to the above statement - “...For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful...”  We close with the following words worth repeating from J.R. Miller.
Not what we HAVE or what we KNOW, but what we ARE!
We must strive to realize every longing for holiness and Christlikeness, which our hearts seek. Remember that it is character alone, which is the test of true living.
It is not knowledge; for knowledge will fail.
It is not money; for money cannot be taken into the eternal world.
It is not fame; for fame's laurels fade at the grave's edge.
It is not culture, or education, or refinement either.
It is our character alone--not what we HAVE or what we KNOW, but what we ARE -- which we can carry with us into the eternal world.
"He who is unjust--let him be unjust still; he who is filthy--let him be filthy still; he who is righteous--let him be righteous still; he who is holy--let him be holy still."  (Revelation 22:11)

In the wondrous blessings of Christ,
Joe
Neh. 8:10, Isa 30:15, Job 2:10

Friday, January 4, 2019

Choices


Morning Greetings!  
It has been a few months since I last posted to Lessons from the Garden. Having finished the lengthy commentary through The Green Letters, I’ve been in prayer whether to continue or not with these postings.  I do have a couple of “growth” books near at hand that would make for excellent and similar review. But, "The Green Letters” remains a favorite for a number reasons. 
I enjoy a particular mystery novel writer, and there is one quote out of all his books and story telling that repeatedly comes to mind whenever counseling or encouraging others.  It goes like this, “It doesn’t have to be this way.”  The context of that remark has to do with making bad or foolish decisions willfully or ignorantly.  Foolish decisions and choices cut both ways, troubling both self and others.  The comment "It doesn’t have to be this way” referenced bad choices and subsequent unintended consequences of a negative sort.  The author of that phrase is making a point that ignorant or foolish choices are in fact a choice.
Every week I have the students of my school recite:
Watch your thoughts, they come your words;
Your words become your actions;
Your actions become your habits;
Your habits become your character;
And your character becomes you – every day you are becoming the person you will be forever!  Proverbs 23:7
I’ve seen the above axiom stated a little differently at the end: And your character becomes your destiny. Either way, the fruit of our life resides in our thought processes, rooted in who we are.  (Proverbs 23:7; Mark 7:20; 2 Corinthians 10:5)
Habits of the heart are hard to change, yet not impossible.  Old ways can be replaced with new.  But doing the right thing depends on knowing right things.  It is a process.
That’s why I always seem to come back to The Green Letters as basic to a Christian’s walk in the understanding and doing right in ones Christian life. Sadly, these fundamental truths so often elude so many who – by choice - suffer negative patterns and outcomes in their life.
I recall the day when a faithful Pastor sat with me in my backyard under one of my fruit trees, opening a portion of The Green Letters, pointing me to one of its the fundamental doctrines in counseling my troubled soul. I’ll never forget that moment and the new directional path it placed me upon.  That was so long ago, but I’ve enjoyed repeating that moment, doing likewise for others along the way.
So here I am again, inclined to start afresh and revisit these Lessons From The Garden with the prayer that the Lord would bless others along the way in the teachings I often need to be reminded of myself.
So next week, we’ll start afresh from the beginning. 
“So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”  Psalm 90:12
In the wondrous blessings of Christ,
Joe
Neh. 8:10 Isa 30:15, Job 2:10
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