Restoring the Garden: Better than good

Our family was driving back from Topeka, Kansas a few weeks ago and we passed one of the most ingenious inventions I have ever seen-

a greenhouse shed.

It was a little shed you put in your backyard, but with greenhouse walls. Ta-da!

Maybe not genius, but I thought it was pretty darn smart.

I wanted one. I want to grow my own stuff year-round. I want to eat so local it resides in my backyard. I want red peppers at my fingertips, a lemon tree in a pot, and zucchinis to zoodle to my heart’s content.

I had big dreams looking at that shed.

However, my earthly reality is that it takes all my energy to keep my kids and dogs alive, so growing anything else sounds fun, but plants would likely go unattended.

But that pull is there. We all have a pull to the garden…or at least the farmer’s market. 😉

We have a pull to fresh stuff, better stuff for us, even when we cave to the 9pm giant bowl of ice cream calling our name from the freezer in the basement.

Doritos are fine when you’re 15, but then you turn 24 and realize that fresh has something processed never could offer. We have the pull to something good, not just something there.

Galatians 6:6-10 affirms this natural pull to desiring good, even when we’re fully aware of the imperfect:

Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor.

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

There is a natural reaping and sowing of good in life. God designed actions to matter. Karma isn’t a thing, but reaping and sowing is. Sin will have consequences. God is not mocked. He is the author of this whole universe, so He knows best how it’s supposed to roll.

The problem is that good doesn’t always prevail in the now. The good we are drawn to, doesn’t always work out. Sowing and reaping happen, but there’s a whole realm of goings on that we do not see. Good intentions ruined by darkness. Sin soiling the purest of hearts – good discombobulated outside the garden of paradise God created for us so long ago.

Paul isn’t making an argument for karma with sowing and reaping-

Do good, good comes

Do bad, bad comes

If life worked like that, you’d think we’d all have it figured out a long time ago.

Instead, he’s concerned with where we put our trust. Where we hope to find good to begin with.

Look at Galatians 6:8 again:

For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.

A little bit better is doing good, so that good comes to you.
Freedom is Hope…knowing God is good and that Good lives in us in the Spirit.

The Circumcision Party, the Judaizers, the Freedom Stealers – whatever you want to call them, of Paul’s day – they wanted the Galatians to reap and sow of the flesh, to reap and sow in this kind of Christian karma…

“I do what I’m supposed to (get circumcised). God will love me enough to give me Jesus.”

Paul pleads with the Galatians not to accept this corrupted version of Truth…

We sow and reap the Holy Spirit. End of story. Freedom in Christ. Reap away, because in Christ, it always looks like the Spirit at work –

Love becomes greater love in Christ

Darkness becomes light in Christ

Sin becomes forgiveness in Christ

Does it look like karma-style fair?

No, and that’s what trips us up every time. Shouldn’t we have to do something, answer for something, be rewarded for something?

Paul’s answer –

Freedom to take the opportunity to do good.

Good is better, yes. I love good and I’m sure Paul loved good. Be kind to a neighbor, say nicer things in traffic, help a widow, all that and more. You would never find Paul shutting down opportunities for good. Evil is just that, evil. It’s ugly and we want to turn away from it. So, we teach and we learn and we grow (Galatians 6:6). But all of that only happens by the power of the Holy Spirit, through the Word of Life.

Good has nothing on the Holy Spirit.

With hope in the Spirit we’re more than a little better, we’re at the ready, we’re hopeful, we’re faithful, because He is at the ready, hopeful, and faithful.

Freedom, it’s so much better than good.

Hearts wide for Him, reaping and sowing, and stretching our hearts. Freedom in Christ.

Discussion questions:

What is your favorite thing to grow yourself or to find at the farmer’s market or the produce aisle?

When have you heard the concept of karma used in everyday life? What appeal is there for do good, receive good back, do bad, receive bad back?

What ways do we actually begin to let the Spirit do its work in us? In what ways does the Spirit well up to bring good from us to our neighbor?

Farm livin’ or a time to plant

                                     *photo created with the vrsly app 

Day Three – Farm livin’ or a time to plant
We live in the corn, or the wheat, or the soybeans. It wasn’t something I saw coming in my life. But after being here for 11+ years, I love the flat growing fields, especially when the sunrise pops over the horizon. All you can see for a mile is shoots of fresh crop sprung up from the ground, and big bold beautiful colors filling the sky, with tiny red barns dotting the space in between. The contrast is amazing. And the food! We eat crazy fresh food. My beef comes from cows I have met, that lived less than a mile away, abundant produce baskets fill the narthex in the summer, and we do, in fact, own a cow with friends. Something that surprises even me.  Rural life has its benefits.
In these past 11 years I have learned to appreciate farming. I learn something new about the techniques and modern mechanisms of farming every day, but something the people taught me right away is that God is a farmer.
All we have comes from Him. We plant with our hands, only by His grace. Crops grow, only with His tender care. The harvest is plentiful and lean depending on the need God sees and His plans for men on earth, with the eternal in mind. God calls his earth good.
In Genesis 2:8 God plants a garden for Adam and Eve to reside in and after forming man with his very own hands, he uses those hands to make a home for him:
And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed.
God created and created, but He still planted a garden for His children. Remarkable!
As often as God talks about planting in the traditional farming sense, in the Scriptures, he also talks about planting people.
Look at Exodus 15:17-18, at the end of Moses’s song, after crossing through the Red Sea:
You will bring them in and plant them on your own mountain,
the place, O Lord, which you have made for your abode,
the sanctuary, O Lord, which your hands have established.
The Lord will reign forever and ever.”
Where does it say that God plants the people? With Him.Yes!
On His holy mountain…not aimlessly, but firmly in His care, in His hands.
Just like the Israelites we are planted with care in the place where God puts us, we are never apart from His presence. We may walk out of His sanctuaries, buildings made by human hands, with His blessing, but we are the living stones. We are not just built, or even built up, sister. We are planted, with roots that run as deep as His faithfulness. And, oh man, is He ever faithful.
Jeremiah 17:7-8 is my daughter’s confirmation verse- to be:
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
    whose trust is the Lord.
He is like a tree planted by water,
    that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
    for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
    for it does not cease to bear fruit.”
We pray for strong roots for our children and wings to fly, He gives them both without fail.
We understand this idea of God planting us as people, and even more as New Testament believers because he has planted His very self in us at our baptisms. We are now that sanctuary that houses His Spirit, Himself. We are planted in God, and need not fear.
Sometimes it is a time to plant new ideas, new jobs, new friends, new adventures, new challenges. We can embrace all of it with Him, knowing that He will plant firmly what is supposed to remain, while other things will pass away quickly because they are not in His long term plans.
Deciding on something new? Place it before Him.
Lord, plant me deeply in Your Word and Truth. Plant Your Love and Grace ever deeper in my heart. Thank you for sending Your Spirit to live in us and through us. Help me to be ever mindful that there is no greater gift, that You are in me. Guide my life, Jesus. Pluck me up, plant me where You would have me. Help me to identify what is of You and what is distraction. Help me in the struggle of growth. You, O Lord, You are the Farmer and Gardener of my soul. I trust in You. In Jesus Name, Amen.
Discussion questions:
What is your favorite crop that comes from the ground and why?
Imagine the Garden of Eden. What does it look like in your mind when you picture it?
What new thing is God planting in your life?