How Does Your Garden Grow?

July 21, 2012

Imagine different gardeners and their plants.

In one case, there is but an overgrown pot. Everything is under control, but growth is stifled. The plant could be several times its current size, but that would mean being repotted or placed in the garden. It would mean having room to grow.

In another case, the garden is neglected. The plants are sickly. They need weeding and pruning. They need water and fertilizer. With attention, the garden could be lush and fruitful, but this garden has many a brown spot and plants that are about to die.

The third garden is hardly a garden. Dead plants really do not a garden make. It is evident that something toxic had been in this garden. Instead of water and fertilizer, these plants received poison.

The final case is a lush, green, and fruitful garden. It has received good care from the gardeners. Weeds have been pulled. Water and fertilizer have been applied, and the increase is great.

The story of the gardeners provides a lesson for the church. The selection of elders and deacons is a vitally important decision. As the work of gardeners affect the garden, so does the work of elders and deacons affect the church.

Overbearing leaders (see 1 Peter 5:3) can stifle the life of the church. The church can be like the pot bound plant—capable of great growth if given the chance, but stifled instead.

Neglectful leaders fail to do the work that needs to be done. The church can become like the neglected garden in need of weeding, pruning, fertilizing, and watering.

Toxic leaders bring false teaching (see Titus 1:9-11). Instead of the sound doctrine that produces spiritual health. False teaching kills off the life of the church.

Finally, good leaders do the work that needs to be done in the church. The result is a healthy church. The members are equipped for service (Ephesians 4). The church grows and produces good fruit.

As we consider the qualities that elders and deacons need to have, and the work that they are called to do, may we be reminded of the importance of this decision. The health and growth of the church are dependent on the quality of leadership we have. May we wisely choose spiritual men who will be a blessing to the church.

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But It’s Not Perfect

July 16, 2012

The local church is not heaven. Heaven will be a place of perfection. No sin. No problems. No conflicts. Although the church is made up of forgiven people, it is not made of perfect people. Regrettably, problems can arise, and these can even disturb the faith of some. We need to remind ourselves, that even in the New Testament we can read about people in the church attempting to resolve problems.

In Acts 6:1-7, the Hellenistic Jewish widows were being neglected. It involved the church’s ministry and matters had reached a crisis. The apostles commanded that seven men to be chosen, so they could be appointed over this need. Fairness was restored. Afterwards, the church grew even more.

In Acts 15:36-41, Paul and Barnabas had a serious disagreement as to whether John Mark should be taken on the next missionary journey. It involved matters of judgment, but I bet it was a bit tense in the Antioch church until that matter was resolved, but good came out of it.

In Galatians 2:11-21, the apostle Paul opposed the apostle Peter because he was not eating with Gentiles for fear of the circumcision party. This was a matter of doctrine, and my guess is that it was difficult for the friends of Peter and Paul to see such a disagreement arise. Yet an important doctrinal point was made; Peter was prevented from going the wrong direction. Later in life, Peter was able to write commendably of Paul (see 2 Peter 3:14-16).

I have to admit there are probably times when all of us would like to quit. Working with people can seem so hard. Why can’t I just go out in the middle of a field and worship alone! The reason is simple. God has called me to be a part of an assembly of people—the church (Hebrews 10:23-25). God in His infinite wisdom knows I need others for the maturing process that goes on in Christian living. The process is sometimes painful, but I must trust the Potter as He molds me, His clay.

What do we do while we wait for the perfection of heaven? “As a prisoner of the Lord, then I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:1-3, NIV).”


The Widow’s Might

July 8, 2012

The scene was likely in the court of the women also known as the court of prayer in Herod’s Temple (Mark 12:41-44 and Luke 21:1-4). It was an area with a simple colonnade on three sides. Along the colonnade were thirteen trumpet shaped chests for placing contributions. Jesus observed the rich depositing large sums, but it was a poor widow that he commended. She gave two copper coins (the King James renders as “two mites”). She gave out of her poverty. She gave all that she had to live on.

The widow’s gift reminds us of the faith of giving. I can see my checking account balance. I can see my car. I can see my house, my possessions, and my investments. But to store up treasures in heaven is to put my trust in the unseen. It is to claim that the unseen is lasting while the things of this world are temporary. It is to say that God’s cause is more important than the things I can touch. It is also to trust God to provide for the future. Will what I give up today be needed tomorrow? Or can I trust God that if I seek first His kingdom, all these things will be added also?

The widow’s gift reminds us of the sacrifice of giving. The rich had given larger sums of money, but the widow had made the greater sacrifice. Jesus says that she gave her whole life. The word, “life,” was also used for the things sustaining life, so our English versions will say, “all she had to live on.” But the point of giving her whole life is significant; she gave herself completely to God. Like the Macedonians who “gave themselves first to the Lord” (2 Corinthians 8:5, ESV), the widow also gave out of poverty but with great generosity. The Lord knows how much we have and how much we give. Generosity is measured by the sacrifice of our giving and not the size of our gift.

The widow’s gift reminds us of the joy of giving. Although the widow’s joy is not mentioned in the text, I can’t imagine her walking away in sorrow about those two coins — “for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7). I suspect she thanked God that she had something to give. There is joy in being a part of something bigger than ourselves. There is joy in being a part of God’s work. It gives meaning and purpose to our lives. Scripture teaches that joy and giving go together (2 Cor. 8:2). “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35, ESV).

The story of the widow’s mites reminds us of the widow’s might. She has left a mighty example of the faith, sacrifice, and joy of giving.