Wednesday, October 21, 2009

I Come to the Garden Alone - Part Three

I Come to the Garden Alone
Part Three
By Judy Vandiver

The last two days, I have shared with you, some of my failed attempts at gardening; how I wanted to meet God in my garden, receive blessings, and how I was convinced I had a black thumb. I thought God would never want to come to my garden area and there were no lessons from my disastrous flower growing. I was finding out, however, that God had much to teach me about Himself, even in what I considered a barren garden.

A sane person might think I would have given up on having a picturesque garden. And I might have, if I had not had a stunningly brilliant idea. I drove to the local dime store (we still had them in that day), and bought artificial flowers. They were gorgeous shades of blue and pink and I loved them.

I went home and "planted" my new blossoms in the flower box and in the muddy spot next to the front door. I know we shouldn't brag, but, honestly, I had the best-looking house on the street. If there had been a garden club, I’m sure I would have won a monthly award. Every time I went in and out of the house, I smiled smugly to myself. I had beaten the gardening game.

A few days later, I heard a noise from just outside the front door. When I opened the door, there stood my sister, Gwen and her fiancĂ©, Kevin. They held their sides, doubled over with laughter. “How rude,” I thought. “They may not like my artificial flowers, but they could at least appreciate my efforts.”

I stepped on the porch to defend my blue and pink blossoms.  I looked down and gasped. Someone had stolen my flowers. They were gone. In their place, someone had planted white flowers of irregular shapes.  

Then I looked closer and discovered the problem. You see, this was before the days of silk flowers. My artificial flowers were plastic. Now, you might be able to plant plastic flowers in Alaska—but not in Houston—and certainly not in August. My gorgeous blue and pink flowers were now a bleached white. And as if to add insult to injury, the wax had melted and was dripping from what remained of the stems. To this day, my family reminds me that I can’t even grow artificial plants.

"Okay, God, here we go again," I thought. "What lesson do you have for me in these bleached and melted flowers?" I began to think about how plastic and fake my flowers had been. From a distance, they looked real enough, but under close examination, the truth was revealed. When they had been tried and tested, my flowers could not stand up to the heat.

God led me to Matthew chapter 15. Some Pharisees had come from Jerusalem to Gennesaret to ask Jesus questions. They wanted to know why Jesus’ disciples were not following all the Jewish laws. Jesus responded to them by quoting from the scriptures. He said, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.” 

God began to show me that when I claim to honor Him, but live a self-filled life, my worship means nothing. If all I am doing is acting religious, then I am as artificial as the plastic flowers. My actions and attitudes must be sincere. If they are not, then Jesus is describing me when He calls the Pharisees hypocrites.

The Pharisees knew a lot about God, but they didn’t know God. It is not enough to study about religion or even to study the Bible. I must respond directly to God. I must come to know God in a very real and personal way. Then when tried by the trials of life, even though all else around me withers and dies, my soul won't melt like warm wax on a hot August day.   

Personal Study Questions:

  1. Do I worship Christ in vain?
  2. Is there anything about my relationship with Christ that is plastic?
  3. Are my actions and attitudes sincere?
  4. Can my faith stand up under trials? Can it take the heat?
  5. Memorize John 4:23-24 “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” (NIV)
NOTE: God has given me a special picture taken in my garden. I will share more about that at the conclusion of this devotional series on my gardening attempts. The concluding devotional will be next Tuesday, Oct. 27. Tomorrow's devotional, I'll share how I found "just the right kind" of garden for myself. 

Copyright 2002 by Judy Vandiver