Often we pray that God will not allow us to preach that, which we don’t practice or live in our own lives. (As surely as God listens to prayers, he lets us go through certain times of ‘learning by doing’.) When the going gets tough that’s when we stop to think, “wait, what did I pray?” Some of these moments are quite intense, long winding and tiring. It costs almost all of our strength, effort, faith, patience, vulnerability and helplessness as we search and strive to figure out what God wants to teach us. He allows all this to happen to test how far we would reach with our own wisdom, minds, knowledge, experience and self. Then comes this time of physical, emotional, mental and spiritual exhaustion after we expend all of our available resources towards the achievement of an answer and just self-surrender. God allows us to come to this place and then he intervenes to teach the core message that we have been trying to discover all by our own means. In acute and urgent cases we seek him through fasting and prayer.
One such moment has been the re-doing of our garden. Since 2005, we live in a small village of 351 people here in the Black Forest of Germany that has just one vending machine for chewing gums, nothing else. No other shops or Cafe or restaurants. It is a beautiful village with vineyards, cherry, plum and apple trees, cows and tractors. Most of the villagers are farmers and work at their land. The average German admires perfection, the country side German idolizes it.
The garden around our house is like a sore thumb in this village. It is considerably big and both Wolf and me have less green fingers. Plus for many other reasons, this garden has not been really taken care of for the last 13 years. Since we moved in here 4 years ago, it has bothered me to have an untidy garden in a small village like ours. We did our best to pull out weeds, to trim plants, cut back the over grown trees and we were even able to afford to get a tree cutter to cut down 13 trees, that blocked sunlight and air around our house. And yet the garden is an unfinished task. It needs new lawn, new hedge trees, a fence, stone path, so the car doesn’t get stuck in the mud and loads of digging and moving heavy stones.
For 4 years now I have been praying, asking help from friends, pleading, nagging, and forcing Wolf to do something about the pathetic condition of our garden. We even had 3 different gardeners come and help us suggest an easy-care garden. They also left behind sheets of unaffordable estimated cost. Winter is almost gone, the snow has thawed and Spring reveals the ugliness of our garden again for this year.
It is frustrating for me since I live here everyday and being an Auslaender, outsider (not a pleasant word for non-natives), people look down on us too for not tending the garden as any normal German would do. Discouraged and disheartened after any possible attempt to fix the garden, I brought this situation also today before God like I have done for the last four years. And it was different.
Suddenly, God opened my mind to think things that I have in all these four years never thought of. He started to show me that there are reasons why we are allowed to go through this frustration and discouragement. Gardening is at the heart of God. Firstly, he created a grand garden for Adam and Eve in this world that gave the purpose of their lives – to tend the garden and defend it from the enemy. Secondly, in the garden he met the first humans every evening and they shared lives.
From here on my mind rushed to the “gardens” of the Kingdom of God, that Paul describes as areas that are measured out by God to his gardeners for the advancement of his kingdom:We, however, will not boast beyond proper limits, but will confine our boasting to the field God has assigned to us, a field that reaches even to you. We are not going too far in our boasting, as wo uld be the case if we had not come to you, for we did get as far as you with the gospel of Christ. Neither do we go beyond our limits by boasting of work done by others. Our hope is that, as your faith continues to grow, our area of activity among you will greatly expand, so that we can preach the gospel in the regions beyond you. For we do not want to boast about work already done in another man’s territory. But, “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.” For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends. 2 Cor 10:13-18
There are many many desolate gardens everywhere. Gardens that need to be fixed from the scratch, like our own garden. Gardens that are trampled by everyone and everything, from false foundation to false teaching to false mission. Gardens that are not given the proper care because the hands of the garden owners, (apostles and prophets) who work at it are tied up. They survive by making tents. As long as we build on the foundation of pastors, evangelists and teachers, we will have aliens (disunity) among us; we will continue division in the body of Christ.Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. Ep 2:19,20
I’ve been asking God almost everyday how long will my garden remain unusable? God takes us through this frustration with our own garden to reveal to us his own pain about his gardens and the heavy cost to pay to redo it. It costs our very lives to serve in the Kingdom, to see his garden established. This was God’s answer to Jeremiah’s complaint when he was in such a situation.Many shepherds will ruin my vineyard and trample down my field; they will turn my pleasant field into a desolate wasteland. It will be made a wasteland, parched and desolate before me; the whole land will be laid waste because there is no one who cares. Jer 12:10,11
How dare we trample his garden for our own self-consumption, with ‘what is in it for me?’ attitude. The gardens of God that he can make use of again, to meet his people and give purpose for their lives need the foundations of the apostles and the prophets. Right now, they are treated as Auslaender (outsiders) and the church barely acknowledges their existence. Their hands are tied, because most of the resources are wasted into churchy programs and events that are run by pastors and evangelists who cater to the ever consuming Christians. We have a market shaped church. God’s voice is replaced by programs and we don’t see God really walk in the cool of the day in our churches anymore. We are led to feel the presence of God through lulling music, but not really touch him, sit with him, talk to him, hear him, exchange lives with him.See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.” Jer 1:10
This is what needs to happen everywhere. It is time to re-do the garden; every stone has to be turned upside down. We need to break the ground, uproot unnecessary wild bush that block sunlight and fresh air, tear down old structures, destroy weeds, and overthrow wrong foundations and build according to the patterns of heaven to see his Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. We need to uproot market shaped Christianity and plant Kingdom shaped Church. We need to move along with the Holy Spirit to a Kingdom mind-set. As we do that God will rearrange and rebuild the church on the true apostolic and prophetic foundation. Imagine how his garden will look like in the area of money, sex, power and church! Imagine the non-Christian neighbors in your area watch and wonder your garden grow that brings forth Kingdom fruits that remain! Imagine the heart of the creator bubbling with joy to see his garden tended carefully and defended from enemies.
Pray and ask God how you could contribute your resources to see Kingdom shaped gardens flourish in your region and beyond.