God's Garden -

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies it bears much fruit.”
– Jesus in John 12:24

“Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.”
– John the Baptist in Matthew 3:8

“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion - to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified.”
– The Prophet Isaiah speaking of the Messiah to come in Isaiah 61:1-3

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide….”
-Jesus in John 15:16

“Christ values his saints above all others. All the world is nothing to him in comparison with his saints. They are his garden. The rest of the world is a dry desert.”
- Puritan John Owen in, Communion with God, p. 110

Today is a beautiful day in the Northwest and I’m glad for the not-so-subtle reminders of the coming of Spring. There are buds on the willow trees outside our window and the crocus’ have pushed their heads up through the ground. It won’t be long and Judy and mom will be making plans for planting a garden.

Monday morning I woke up thinking about the passage from John 12 where Jesus talks about a grain of wheat falling to the earth and dying and then bringing forth much fruit. That got me thinking about God’s garden. It’s no coincidence that gardens are a theme throughout Scripture. Creation begins with a garden (Genesis 2:8), when they sin Adam and Eve are exiled from a garden (Genesis 3:24), the crucifixion begins in a garden (Mark 14:32) and ends in a garden (John 19:41) and Christ’s redemptive work places His people forever in a garden (Revelation 2:7). Because of Jesus’ life, death, burial, resurrection and ascension the grain of wheat has fallen to the ground and died and its (His) purpose is to bear much fruit. God’s intention is that the seed that has died should not remain unfruitful or alone. Because of the efficacious work of Christ’s substitutionary death and His subsequent resurrection new life has come to the believer. A new seed is planted within the Christian. God’s garden is doing what gardens are intended to do – grow and bear fruit.

A few weeks ago when we looked at the parable of the unfruitful fig tree (Luke 13) I was struck by the language Jesus used. Fig trees are to bear fruit and similarly Christians are to live fruitful lives. A Christian without fruit is like a garden that does not produce. It is a contradiction in terms. This is sobering and ought to move us to be thinking about what it truly means to be a Christian. Make no mistake, the death and resurrection of Christ is the fertile soil in which Christian fruit-bearing takes place. As sure as Christ has died and rose again God’s garden will produce the delicious fruit of regeneration and sanctification in His people.

Dear friends, think about this, we are God’s garden.

-DJM (written 3/5/08)


The Battle is the Lord's -

Once more into the fray
Into the last good fight I'll ever know
Live and die on this day
Live and die on this day
-       From the movie, 'The Grey'

Love is a battlefield.
-Pat Benatar

Hast thou no scar?
 No hidden scar on foot, or side, or hand?

I hear thee sung as mighty in the land,
 I hear them hail thy bright ascendant star, 
Hast thou no scar?
Hast thou no wound?
 Yet I was wounded by the archers, spent,

Leaned Me against a tree to die; and rent
 By ravening beasts that compassed Me, I swooned:
 Hast thou no wound?
No wound, no scar?
 Yet, as the Master shall the servant be,

And, pierced are the feet that follow Me;
 But thine are whole: can he have followed far
 Who has no wound nor scar?
-Amy Carmichael, 'No Scar'

Lead on, O King eternal,
The day of march has come;
Henceforth in fields of conquest
Thy tents shall be our home:
Thro' days of preparation
Thy grace has made us strong,
And now, O King Eternal,
We lift our battle song.

Lead on, O King Eternal,
Till sin's fierce war shall cease,
And holiness shall whisper
The sweet amen of peace;
For not with swords' loud clashing,
Or roll of stirring drums;
With deeds of love and mercy
The heav'nly kingdom comes.

Lead on, O King eternal,
We follow not with fears;
For gladness breaks like morning
Where'er Thy face appears;
Thy cross is lifted o'er us;
We journey in its light:
The crown awaits the conquest;
Lead on, O God of might.
- Lead on, O King Eternal, Ernest Shurtleff

Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.
-       2 Timothy 2:3

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all.
-       Hebrews 12:7,8

In a couple of scant hours another battle will have begun.  We will have made our way through the snow and slush to the hospital for another surgery and another battle to be fought.  Amid the sights, sounds and smells of four hospital walls a new fray will be encountered.  In many ways this is the microcosm of the Christian life.  For the Christian…life is war.

Life is war and the Christian is no stranger to conflict and battle.  There are skirmishes on every front.  There is a battle for truth, a battle for love, a battle for honor, a battle for relationships, a battle for the gospel, a battle for souls, a battle for joy, a battle for worship, a battle against sin and temptation, a battle against bitterness and criticism, and innumerable other small and large conflicts that work their way into everyday life.  In the moment some battles are won and some battles are lost, but either way we must continue to fight.

The truth is that in all of these battles we are not alone in them.  We have One who has gone before us and Who stands with us in them, and particularly today, this is a great comfort to us.  By the surgeon’s hand another war will be fought.  You won’t hear battlefield sounds, but a war will be fought nonetheless.  In a few hours Judy will enter the fray into another battle and her gracious and loving Commander will be with her and with us to wage war.  And yet in the mysterious economy of our resurrected Savior-King the Prince of Peace has already won.  In the tension of the ‘already and not yet’ the outcome of these small skirmishes has already been decided. Our King is a conquering warrior on a white stallion, but whose kingdom comes at great cost to Himself.  In the mystery, humiliation, and condescension of a cross, and in the glory of an empty tomb every battle and even death itself has been vanquished.  Every enemy, yes, even death itself, must bow.

In hope, we’re reminded of this,

‘Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God's.’
- 2 Chronicles 20:15b

Thank you for standing with us in the battle.

- Dan and Judy

(This is a re-post of something I had written just over a year ago.  Over this past year we have been incredibly grateful for those who have helped us raise our hands in worship, and helped us see God's great mercies in the middle of this battle.)