Gardening Your Heart | Thanksgiving
Updated: Nov 23, 2022
Welcome to another teaching blog. If you missed last week’s blog, you can find it here.
It also happens to be Thanksgiving Week in America and even though we are an international ministry with home churches on 5 continents around the world, we LOVE this holiday!
Thanksgiving reminds us of just how blessed we are. No matter what or where or when, if you're born again, you are blessed! What's so powerful about Thanksgiving is that it serves as a reminder that focusing on what we have (and not what we don't have) cultivates joy and contentment, no matter what we are going through.
Here is a wonderful quote from the Pilgrim William Bradford, the English Puritan separatist who moved to Holland to escape persecution from King James I of England, and then, along with a group of congregants, crossed the Atlantic on the Mayflower ship. Bradford established a colony in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1620 and became the governor, serving for 30 years. The first winter was devastating for the people of Plymouth Colony, with the death of 51 of the 102 people in their community. The following spring the Pilgrims, along with help from their Indian friends, planted crops that yielded an abundant spring and fall harvest.On December 13, 1621, the Pilgrims instituted a three-day feast of thanksgiving to God and celebrated with their Native American friends.
"Having undertaken, for the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith, and honor of our King and Country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia, do by these presents solemnly and mutually, in the presence of God, and one of another, covenant and combine our selves together."
America was established for the glory of God and advancement of the Christian faith! Isn't that amazing? Keep praying for America. God isn't done with that mighty nation yet!
Happy Thanksgiving to all of our American readership, wherever you are around the world from all of us at Upstream Worldwide Ministries. We pray that you will know God's faithfulness and goodness more and more every day and that the attitude of gratitude will rise up in you like never before. No matter you're going through today, take time to find and focus on the things you can be grateful for. I guarantee you there are more than you think.
And so, back to our teaching on the Parable of the Soils. What a great time to transition to Good Soil! Are you good ground? Even if you've been gardening for many years, there are always weeds ready to pop up. Here's how we stay on top.
Before we get into the good ground, we want to finish up the third type of thorn from last week. Removing thorns is a big part of gardening your heart.
Titus 2:11-12 says; For the grace of God that brings salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.
God doesn’t want us given over to worldly lusts. 2 Peter 1:4 - Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. Corruption is decay and death. When Jesus talks about thorns in this parable, He’s talking about things that compete for the Word of God. Many people live for pleasure. Now when we say lust or pleasure, people’s minds tend to veer straight towards sex. But lust doesn’t just mean ‘physical’ pleasure in that sense. It includes that for sure, but lusts can be all sorts of things. Cars, ambition, career, houses, money, sports, food, all sorts of things.
So how do we deal with it? We work hard to prevent it getting in in the first place, but if it does get in, dig it out as quickly as you can. Reject it. Don’t let it stay in your heart. Dig it out by taking thoughts captive and replacing them with the Word of God, the promises of God, the love of God, the Kingdom of God.
So that’s the thorny ground dealt with! Easy right?! And now we come to the ground we all want to be; The Good Soil!
In the beginning of this series, we talked about how we are all made alike. We are all individual, but with the same potential in our hearts to receive the Word of God. Psalm 33:15 says He fashions their hearts alike. That’s good news. It means we get to choose! We said our hearts are like farms and we are the farmers! You can prepare your soil, dig out the weeds and make it suitable to grow a harvest. Did you know a farmer never does anything to the seed? His job is to prepare the ground in which the seed gets planted.
Your heart is designed by God for faith. It’s to be an incubator for God’s Word. God causes it to bear fruit, but we have to take care of the condition of the heart. Isaiah 55:11 - So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. A farmer doesn’t do anything to the seed. What the farmer does is tend to the condition of the soil. The same thing is true for our hearts.
So what is a ‘good ground’ person?
Someone who understands the Word,
Someone who is committed to unconditionally loving God and regarding His Word higher than anything else,
Someone free from worldly distractions and ungodly desires.
That is someone who is fully persuaded. Romans 4:20-25 talks about the faith of Abraham: He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform. And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness. Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.
Abraham was fully persuaded! He risked it all and persevered after a promise that was impossible in the natural realm. But he didn’t start out that way. In Gen. 12:1-3 God made Abram (as he was then) a promise. But Abram certainly didn’t do everything perfectly from them on. He made choices that were far from God’s plan, he lied about Sarah (his wife) being his sister to avoid danger, and he even slept with his wife’s handmaid, Hagar to try and 'make' God's promise come true. That was definitely not God!
But he also does amazing things for God and it demonstrates to us a faith that is up and down. We could go on and on with this rollercoaster faith-ride, until we get to Genesis 22 and the moment God knows that Abraham is fully persuaded. Read the passage where God asks Abraham to sacrifice Isaac in Gen. 22. Notice that Abraham says to his servant that he and the boy will return, and then in verse 8 Abraham says that the Lord will provide the sacrifice.
By this point, Abraham is fully persuaded. Notice that he didn’t get there over night, it was a journey. It’s a journey for us all. We are the farmer, we are responsible for the condition of our land, of the soil of our heart. Abraham had to get rid of the rocks, the thorns and the trampled, hardened ground of his heart. Have you ever noticed that, in the natural, ground isn’t ready to receive seed!? We have to prepare it don’t we. We need to weed our gardens! Read 1 Corinthians 3:6 and 9. Here we find another farming analogy saying that God gives the increase, but that we have work to do. We are labourers together with God. This is can sound like hard news, it means we have responsibility. But it also means that we can prepare the soil of our hearts to receive the Word of God and bear eternal fruit. That’s great news!
You are not destined to be bad ground. Get the word of God down deep, get rid of the rocks and offences and get rid of the things that compete with the Word in your life. Do that and you will bear eternal fruit for God.
One of the best ways to go about this whole process, is to be plugged in to a church that disciples you in the way the New Testament began. At Upstream, our vision is to make disciples of Jesus Christ around the world. We do this through effective teaching of the Gospel of Grace, anointed worship and following the example of the New Testament believers who gathered in homes. We believe home church provides an intimate environment for building true community as well as giving and receiving the authentic ministry of the Body of Christ. To accomplish this vision, we are planting home churches worldwide. We are currently on 5 continents and growing all the time. If you want to see lasting change and a fruitful relationship with God and the Body of Christ, why not consider trying Home Church. You can find our current locations here, and if there's not one near you, why not consider starting your own? Click here to find out more.
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