Garden Decision 5

John 17:20-21

In the game “Apples to Apples” the dealer turns up a topic card – a card that has an idea on it, like “Fun.” You then toss in cards you have that you feel match the topic. For instance, if you have a card that says “Pancakes,” you might toss that in for “Fun” because eating pancakes can be fun.

Few, if any, of the cards are even related to the topic, let alone perfect matches. Part of the fun of the game, then, is trying to convince the dealer that what you offered is worth choosing as the closest match. You hope your decision becomes the dealer’s decision as well.

Today’s passage is a return to John and the prayer that Jesus offered before being arrested. He has been praying for his disciples. Now who is he praying for? What does he desire?

In this time of stress and anticipation, this time before going to the Garden of Gethsemane and struggling with the ultimate decision he had to make, Jesus took the time to offer prayer to God for his followers. He wanted God to strengthen them and to bless their efforts. He wanted the disciples to have success in living out their ministry.

But his prayer extended out beyond those closest few at his side. His prayer expanded to include all who would hear the message of the resurrection. His prayer was that all who heard the story of Christ would believe, would embrace it, and would become as one in spirit with all others who believed.

The prayer Jesus prayed was for you.

Jesus prayed that you would hear the Gospel story and believe. He prayed that you would embrace the love God has and that you would choose to share that message. Jesus prayed that your faith would allow you to impact the faith of others, that lost souls might be rescued.

Our faith can become like the game. Jesus made a decision. He made a choice. Now, we must make a decision to believe and serve him or not. If we choose to serve him, then we can influence others in their decisions.

Your garden decision, your choice to do the good work of God’s kingdom and share the good news of who Jesus is and what he did, will influence others. Because of your choice, others will also need to make a decision of their own. Will they accept Christ? If they do, will they choose to serve him?

DAILY CHALLENGE: Who needs to know the choice you have made?

Garden Decision 4

1 Peter 2:4-5

I have mentioned my friend Bill before. He was the one who got me interested in collecting miniatures. Bill was an expert at painting the 15mm figurines. He has thousands of them and his always looked fantastic. He also has an N gauge model railroad that is incredibly impressive.

I have long admired Bill and his talents. Many years ago I wanted to have the same things Bill had – a collection of miniatures and a model train layout. But I kept thinking that I could never do as good of a job as Bill.

Eventually I realized that if I wanted what Bill had I needed to do what Bill did. I needed to move forward with what I wanted and apply my talents, weak though they may be. In time I developed my own abilities and skills, and now I impress myself with what I can produce.

When it comes to faith we have one Master who has shown us what to do. Jesus Christ is the one who has given himself completely for the ransom of our souls. Jesus is the one who was able to express perfect love. Jesus is the example before us all.

And we can compare ourselves to Christ and find that we are seriously lacking. We can tell ourselves that there is no way we can ever be anything like Jesus. But Peter has some guidance on how we can develop our spirituality.

Who are we to come to? What happens to us when we draw near to Christ? What are we to offer?

We will never have the perfection of love and spiritual strength that we find in Jesus, but we can become better Christians. We do that by coming to Christ – drawing near to him in our faith, trying to imitate his behaviors and attitudes, trusting in his presence.

Then, as we draw near to Christ – becoming more like Jesus – we become priests in this holy faith of Christianity. We take on the spiritual authority and spiritual ability of devout believers. And through this devoted life and devoted behavior, what we do and say becomes acceptable sacrifices to God.

For each of us to be more like Jesus in our attitudes, for each of us to have more spiritual strength, for each of us to be able to do good things which are acceptable to God, we must first choose to do so. We must make our own decision to follow Jesus and be like him.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you be built into a spiritual house and a holy priesthood?

Garden Decision 3

John 20:17-18

As a parent I sometimes get frustrated with my children when they don’t do what I have asked them to do. I tell them to bring down the dirty laundry. I tell them to sweep the floor. I tell them to take out the garbage. When I see that they haven’t done what I told them to do I get aggravated.

In John’s account of the resurrection Mary Magdalene has come to the garden to visit he tomb. When she discovers it is empty she assumes someone has taken the body. Upon seeing Jesus she at first assumes he is the gardener and asks him about where the body might be.

But when he says her name she immediately recognizes him. What does Jesus tell her to do? What does she do?

Although they were in different gardens and the events were separated by a few days, both Jesus and his follower, Mary, were in a garden when they made decisions about God’s work. Christ made the decision to put his own desires aside and go through with the crucifixion. Now, Mary has received instructions from Jesus in a garden.

He has told her to go to the other disciples and tell them about the resurrection. She has been given instructions to go and do something – spread the word. Tell the good news.

Is it because Jesus can’t leave the garden? Is it because Jesus has no idea where the disciples are? Is that why Mary is supposed to go inform the disciples?

I don’t think so. I think it is simply that each of us who believes in Jesus Christ and who embraces the love of God is supposed to share our faith. We are supposed to be the hands and feet of Christ. We are supposed to go and do.

Mary is given her instructions. She now has a decision to make. She can hang around the garden with Jesus. She can ignore his instructions and keep the good news to herself. Or she can choose to obey her Lord.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What can help you make your own garden decision?

Garden Decision 2

John 17:3

“And they lived happily ever after.” Most of us are familiar with that phrase. We hear it all the time at the end of bedtime stories, fairy tales and fables we heard as children. While intended to be a positive statement it can be kind of dismissive – you don’t need the details; they were happy! End of story.

Unfortunately many the faithful believer has a similar approach with faith. What are we to do in our faith? We are to accept the death and resurrection of Christ. Then we are saved. We live happily ever after.

We seldom go into much more detail than that. Accept Christ. Be saved.

But Jesus sums up this happily ever after in a single sentence. What is he describing? What is it?

In his prayer to God before the arrest and crucifixion Jesus makes statements about all that he has done in his ministry and all that he wants to have happen with those who believe in him. He asks God to be with his disciples after the crucifixion. He prays for all who will hear the message of salvation.

But before giving the details of doing work for the kingdom, Jesus begins with the declaration that he has the authority to offer eternal life. And then he defines eternal life. It is knowing God and knowing Jesus. Eternal life comes when you are familiar with and understand who God is and what He is all about. Eternal life is understanding and thoroughly being aware of the sacrificial love of Jesus.

This is a difficult concept to grasp (it is much easier to take the “happily ever after”), but I believe we enter into the eternal nature of God, the everlasting life of God when we have learned to appreciate and value God. When we truly recognize the self-inflicted pain God gave Himself through the crucifixion we see love in its purest form.

God showed pure love when God (the Father) allowed God (the Son) to suffer on the cross for us. When we recognize the importance and the weight of such a decision we can enter into that God-flow of God-love and become more and more like Jesus was.

To be part of that happy ever after we must appreciate the decision of Jesus and learn to imitate it. We must learn to make those garden decisions, to choose to give of ourselves in love.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What can you do to help others enter into the eternal life of knowing God?

Garden Decision 1

Matthew 26:42

We had a friend named Scotty Ballinger who collected a variety of guns. He once told us about the time he was target shooting with a pistol he had just acquired when he misfired and put a bullet through the neighbor’s window. His first impulse was to act as if he knew nothing about it, but he was aware that he had to confess his mistake and make things right. Commenting on his need to face his neighbor he said, “That was the longest walk I had to make.”

His words often come to mind when I am confronted with a task I am not looking forward to doing. So often we may be faced with a difficult task, something we know we need to do. We just need to take a deep breath and make that long walk.

As Jesus neared his time on the cross, the certain torment and death that was waiting for him, he struggled with the task before him. With his disciples in Gethsemane he went off to pray. What is his first desire? What does he ultimately concede?

My belief of Jesus is that he desired more than anything else to do whatever was required of him to serve his Father in heaven. All of his teaching and healing, all of his miracles, everything was meant to serve God. Still, Jesus was not only God, he was also human and with that he had human emotions.

It is clear that as he was alone in the garden he had fears about what he had to face. Like anyone Jesus was not looking forward to the pain and suffering that he must go through. His first impulse was to confess to God that he didn’t want to face death on a cross. If it was possible at all he wanted to avoid that suffering.

But Jesus knew in his heart that he had to take that long walk. If he was going to do the miraculous work of God, if he was going to be that sacrifice that saved all of us from sin and death, then he had to die on the cross.

In the end Jesus gave himself over to that need. He made the decision in the garden that night that he would do whatever was required of him because the good of God’s kingdom was far more important than his own comfort.

As believers in Jesus and followers of Christ we too must often make similar decisions. We must choose to be willing to set ourselves aside and do those things that we may not be looking forward to. It may be sharing the good news of Jesus with someone, it may be working to help the poor, or it may be giving of our finances to support a ministry. Even when we do not want to do the good work we must, in the end, choose to do the will of God.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What is the “long walk” you may need to take to do God’s will?