Friday, August 28, 2009

Winter Gardening

"While the earth remains,
Seedtime and harvest,
And cold and heat,
And summer and winter,
And day and night
Shall not cease."
Genesis 8:22 (NAS)

Composting Many of us see winter as a time to rest from gardening, a time to wait for spring to return before commencing gardening activities again. While our gardens and yards may appear to be in a state of inactivity during winter, there are actually important things taking place all year long that contribute to the overall health of the plants and vegetation in and out of seasons. The soil, for example, is active all year long and the evergreen plants continue to use nutrients.

According to WinterGardeningTips.com, winter is an important period in the gardening season for composting. Composting involves a mixture of decaying material of plants and food waste to use as fertilizer for improving the growth of new plants. While this is going on, cover crops or what is also known as ‘green manure’ can also be grown to add nutrients to help improve the soil for the next season. Cover crops usually perform multiple functions which include soil improvement and soil protection.

Besides cover crops, there are many other plants that can be grown during fall and winter, such as the ornamental and bulb plants for indoors as well as outdoors. Various kinds of winter vegetation, such as the pumpkins and winter squash, are also ideal for planting off season for harvest during late fall and winter or for storage and cooking through the entire winter. Gardeners can also strategically plan a winter garden to enjoy color and attractive plants all year long. In warmer states such as California and Florida, more opportunities for off season planting is not unusual, but no matter where we live, we can actually enjoy working with plants all year round.

Much like composting which involves decaying material of plants and food waste to improve the growth of new plants, Jesus in the Gospel of John teaches a similar lesson on discipleship when He compares our willingness to give up our all to follow Him with a grain of wheat that must fall into the earth and die before it can bear much fruit (John 12:24-26). If we therefore wish to follow Jesus, we must be prepared to forgo all things and free ourselves of the enticement and entanglements of this world in order to bear much fruit and be a true disciple of the Lord (Hebrews 12:1; Luke 9:57-62).

Like cover crops and other plants that can be grown during winter, we can also learn a spiritual lesson about what it means to preach the word in season and out of season (2 Timothy 4:2a). Preaching the gospel need not be only when in season because while the earth remains, seed time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night shall not cease (Genesis 8:22). As long as we are on earth, there will always be a need for planting the seed of faith, composting to improve growth of the new in faith, fertilizing to get ready the pre-believers to the next level of faith, and harvesting in season and off season the ones who are ready to receive Christ as Lord and Savior. There will also be those who are ready to move up the next level of faith, like the cover crops and the wheat of grain that falls into earth and die, be willing to give up all to follow Christ.

Dear Lord, stir our hearts that we may be willing to be used by You in every season and at all times, regardless the role we may need to play. Help us Lord not to slacken or sit back to wait when opportunities come our way to bring others to You, but strengthen us Lord and make us willing to forgo our all to follow You.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Taking Time

So teach us to number our days, That we may present to You a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 90:12 NAS)

Taking Time Many of us live our lives rushing all the time, and I, like many, am also always running and rushing all my time. I rush to get to work, I rush to complete my assigned work, I rush to meet deadlines, and I rush to get home. Few are the moments I have to pause and catch my breath, and few are the days I can take extended breaks. This is the kind of lifestyle I live by, and I know it is not healthy, a sure sign of an impending breakdown and possibly a prelude to a heart attack.

I am by nature a time conscious man, probably because of my upbringing and because I live by the principle of living each day meaningfully. I am aware of the shortness of a human life, so in desiring to accomplish much while alive, I am always seeking for more time. Then one day God decided to grant me my wish for more time -- time to completely rest from my labor. So rest I did, first in hospital for a surgery, then at home for recovery. All that took place some years ago, and during that one month of rest, I learnt to be still before God and to be at peace. I also leant that in all the haste, I have gained nothing much except in jeopardizing my own health.

When I finally recovered from my illness, my perception of life was somewhat changed. Sadly, however, I soon returned to my rushing game because I was then studying and working at the same time. Now, after many years, although I have completed my studies, I am still learning how to take time to rest without feeling unrest or guilty of wasting away my free time. Maybe I am too conscious about time, or maybe subconsciously I simply cannot live life without a purpose in mind.

Time is one of the greatest barriers in witnessing. The reason why many pre-believers or professed believers are yet unsaved today is probably because of Christians such as I who are always too busy doing things that are necessary, yet not quintessential. Spending time with pre-believers to touch their lives, for example, are important aspects of witnessing which can nurture relationships to help them grow in their faith to desire more of Christ. Not spending meaningful time with pre-believers, on the other hand, can destroy a growing faith and turn them away from drawing nearer to Christ. We must, therefore, as followers of the Lord learn to number our days to present to God a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90:12), to know when we are to spend time on the more important things, such as the salvation of the yet unsaved, and when to do the needful things that are often less urgent or less important.

The Bible makes it very clear that there is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven (Ecclesiastes 3:1). Therefore, in order for us to number our days and use our time wisely, we must first have a heart of wisdom. Wisdom, although is more often associated with the mind than the heart, is what God is looking for when it comes to numbering our days to bring God’s salvation to mankind (Psalm 90:12). Only through the sincerity of the heart can pre-believers experience the heart of God and response to Him. God in His wisdom has made everything appropriate in its time, and He has set eternity in the hearts of man so that man will know there is nothing better for them than to rejoice (Ecclesiastes 3:11-12), and to receive Him as Lord and Savior.

Teach us therefore dear Lord to know when to run, when to slowdown and when to stop and rest. Help us to be sensitive to the leading of Your Holy Spirit so that even in our busyness we may not fail to see the more important things in life, especially when it involves one who is yet to receive Your salvation. Lead us Lord in Your wisdom to know how to keep our time in check, to strike a balance between the necessary and the important, that we may not, out of our negligence, cause the loss of lives of those who are yet unsaved.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Adulthood and Responsibility

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. (1 Corinthians 13:11 NRS)

Responsibility of Adulthood When we were still children, we were able to do things without having to account for our actions. Even when we made mistakes, we need not have to worry, because our accountability rest in the hands of our parents or guardians. Our well being was never our concern because they were the responsibility of the adults. Many of us, however, even before we have reached the age of adulthood, have already demanded for the rights to make our own decisions. Little did we know then, that the day we chose to make our own decisions was also the day we became accountable for our own actions, and not just our actions, but also the repercussions that result from our decisions.

As adults, we can no longer afford to take things for granted and assume someone else will take responsibility for the decisions we make, because every decision we make bears consequences. Adulthood is therefore not all about exercising our rights to make our own decisions. It is about responsibility, and responsibility is not just being accountable for the things we do, but also about handling the events in our lives that come along the way. When I was still in my early adulthood, for example, my father fell seriously ill and was bedridden for an extended period. Taking care of him with my siblings over several years was no easy task and each of us was drained of strength, energy and sleep. In a situation such as this, I could, as the youngest in the family starting on a new career, walk away from my responsibility and leave my siblings to take care of my dad, yet I did not do so because I am a part of the family. As a part of the family, therefore, I must do my part and take responsibility, for this is acceptable in the sight of God (1 Timothy 5:4). Like the good Samaritan in Jesus’ parable who took the responsibility to care for the wounded stranger (Luke 10:30-37), we as followers of the Lord should likewise care for the people whom God has placed in our lives, whether they are family, relatives, friends, colleagues or strangers.

All of us face different situations and circumstances in life, and as adults we must handle them well, regardless of our physical ability. Some situations however may be beyond us to handle on our own, and in such situations, we need to ask God for the strength to go through it and learn to do our part, and leaving God to do His. We should never turn away from responsibility, because if we do, we are not much different from a child who expects his or her parents or guardians to take the responsibility. If we fail to take responsibility or consider the interests of others when we make decisions, we will be like the ones whom the author of the epistle to the Hebrews said ought to be teachers, yet in need for someone to teach them again the basic elements of the oracles of God, and requiring milk instead of solid food (Hebrews 5:12-14). As grownups, therefore, we must end our childish ways (1 Corinthians 13:11), and not do anything from our own selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard the interests of others more important than ours (Philippians 2:3-5).

Dear Lord, remind us to consider the interests of others when we make decisions. Help us always to be ready to take responsibility, not only of our own actions, but also for actions requiring our responsibility. Open our eyes Lord to see the possible repercussions our decisions may cause, and lead us to make the right decisions. Strengthen us and see us through Lord in the handling of events that come along the way in our lives. Cause us to grow Lord in maturity that we may not always rely on others to be taught the basics and drink of milk, but to grow up to take responsibility and eat of the solid food.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Spring Nurturing

Ask rain from the LORD at the time of the spring rainThe LORD who makes the storm clouds; And He will give them showers of rain, vegetation in the field to each man. (Zechariah 10:1 NAS)

Plant Nurturing Spring is a very active period for plants because it is the season for them to arise from their winter nap to begin a new stage of growth or to start a new life. Spring is like a time of fresh beginnings and rebirth to the gardeners, an ideal season for plant nurturing and fertilization to yield the best results. According to an article 'Springtime is Plant Unkeep Time' written by Susan Foster, a house plant advisor and writer for the Beautiful Home and Garden blog at blogspot.com, a beneficial rule of thumb when fertilizing plants is that less really is more when it comes to new nursery plants and fresh soil of re-potted plants because fertilizer nutrients are already in them. Fertilizing should therefore not be done for a plant that has just been re-potted a few months ago or for a new plant that has just been brought home from the nursery.

Much like the ways plants are taken care of, the Bible also teaches a similar lesson concerning planting vegetation in the fields. If a plantation hopes to yield good crops during harvest time, two seasons of rain is crucial. The former is autumn rain before or around seed time (Hosea 6:3), and the latter is spring rain just before harvest (Zechariah 10:1). Little or no rain usually falls during summer in the holy land, therefore spring rains at the right time on the fields after autumn rains are reckoned as crops secure for harvest in summer. If spring rains fail to fall after autumn rains, the soil of the ground will become hardened and will not be easy to plough. The grain will eventually wither away.

Planting seeds of faith to bring pre-believers to the Lord is very similar to house gardening and vegetation planting. When a seed is laid on fertile soil and planted in the heart, a fresh beginning or the rebirth of a faith left dormant in winter of cold and dark will start to germinate. Nurturing and fertilization are the next steps to help germinating faith grow. Our part is to spend time with the pre-believers to ‘fertilize’ them in increasing their faith and trust. We should however not overload them with too much spiritual talk, because when it comes to building faith, less really is more. A good rule of thumb when 'fertilizing' pre-believers is to let the Holy Spirit do His work in those who are first timers hearing the gospel or who have just been awaken from their 'winter nap' to return to the Lord and enter into a more active stage. The reason for this is obvious. The seed which has been laid in the hearts of the pre-believers is already at work by the Holy Spirit, and it is not dependent on us who plant or water, but on God Who sends the rain and causes the growth (1 Corinthians 3:6-7).

When preparing for a harvest, therefore, we must remember to pray and ask of the Lord for the ‘spring rain’ of the Holy Spirit to speak to the hearts of the pre-believers. Prayer is crucial and timing is important. Unless we do our part and let the Holy Spirit do His, according to the perfect timing of the Lord, a germinating faith can become a diminishing faith leading to harden hearts that will be difficult to penetrate, and may eventually lead to lost souls.

Dear Lord, forgive us for being insensitive to the leading of Your Holy Spirit at times and to the people whom we hope to bring to You. Help us dear Lord to know when we should speak, when we should nurture and when we should stay clear and let You do Your work. Remind us Lord that our role is just to plant, water and nurture germinating faith, and it is You Who cause growth and supply the rain. Holy Spirit, be with us as we share the gospel to the unsaved. Reach their hearts that they may at the right time receive Jesus as Lord and Savior.

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