Teaching Grace From Tomatoes

This article is part 4 of 4 in the series Grace


   Behold, two men without to grow tomatoes. The first took little time for preparation. Taking the tender plants in rough and careless hands, he threw them in makeshift holes, quickly dug. He kicked the dirt about them, thrusting them back and forth, and packing the dirt with the heel of his boot. His movements were harsh and unfeeling and he hardly finished the job of planting one when he moved on to the next one. Then he stood back and commanded the plants to grow. Marching around the little plants he would shout out his instructions, “Produce, I command you! Produce!”
   Day by day he would appear with the stick in hand, moving about in a threatening way. “Your quota is a total of thirty two tomatoes per plant this year and you’re already behind in your growth pattern!”
   The second gardener took an entirely different approach. With tender hands he softened the ground, turning the rich soil again and again. Gently placed each little plant in the best position to catch the morning sun. He noted the shade of the larger trees, and how they would provide a cover during the heat of the day. He mixed his fertilizer with the soil and made a soft texture around the plant.
   Day by day he would come out with a spade in hand and till about the plants, watering and carefully removing weeds that would make their growth difficult. As the plants grew he staked them out, allowing the spines of each plant to be strengthened. He pruned the “suckers” that drained energy from the plants.
   “I know all of you will do well”, he said encouragingly. “Don’t you be in a hurry, harvest time will come and we will feast together.”
   The first man did not water is garden, nor did he bother to soften the hard lumps of clay. His fertilizer, without the necessary water, caused the plants to burn and wither. The ground hardened and the weeds grew. The man just could not understand tomato plants. “They’re just weak” he would grumble. “Next time I’ll plan something stronger – something that can really take it.”
   In time the harvest came.
   The plant that was beaten, in spite of the tragic circumstances produced some fruit. The branches had been broken and withered with the beatings of ‘guilt and failure’. The few tomatoes that were gathered were rather bitter. “Too much acid,” one remarked. No one was more disappointed than the plant itself, yet scars of daily neglect had taken their toll. Seeds were few for next year’s planting.
   The harvest of the other garden was rich and full. Tomatoes in all stages of growth in color literally way down the branches of all the plants. Seeds were set aside for the coming year and the fruit was gathered daily, well past the normal harvest time.
   People are much like tomato plants. Even the strongest ones need loving care, with words of praise and encouragement. Time is also a needed and useful element in maturity and harvest. The tomato plant, like the believer, has within the natural desire to bear fruit. The word of God sums it all up in these simple words… “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
   (This was taken from dad’s study book “Amazing Grace – God’s Power To Be”).

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Slavery Or Freedom

This article is part 3 of 4 in the series Grace

   After 430 years of slavery, the Israelites were finally free from Egypt and the horrible treatment of slave masters. God chose Moses (Exodus 2-3) to be His messenger to Pharoah. It took Pharoah ten lessons (Exodus 7-11) before he finally let God’s people go. They packed up everything they could carry, and even looted the people of Egypt, and set out for the Promised Land of Canaan. Following the Red Sea event, where Pharoah met his final defeat (Exodus 13-14), they are now free, but there is more to freedom…  
   After the song, dance and celebration came the hardship and responsibility, something they were not prepared for.  The wilderness was not easy and Israel continually griped and complained to Moses and Aaron about conditions… (Exodus 15:22-23; 16:3). They even wanted to go back to slavery in Egypt! 
   Slavery at least (the Government) provided them with food and water, and they didn’t have to even think for themselves… they were told what to do. Sure they were beaten if they failed at their jobs… but now the hardship of freedom and responsibilities of freedom, made them long for slavery once again.
   There are two ways to look at this thing called FREEDOM. Freedom is good and bad because it means you have to think and make decisions based on the knowledge of right and wrong. It depends on how bad you want to be free.  
   Some Christians still want a lot of rules and regulations… they have hard a time with the grey areas where decisions and choices must be made. Paul’s greatest battle was with Jewish teachers and Christians who were trying to either enforce or go back to the slavery of the Law (Galatians 4:8-11). The problem was that they were trying to be saved by PERFORMANCE OF LAW KEEPING not by FAITH IN CHRIST.
   The result of going back to law keeping… it takes the joy of the Christian away (Galatians 4:15) and you “fall from grace” (Galatians 5:4), since LAW/WORKS and GRACE/FAITH are incompatible. It really is a case where FREEDOM IN CHRIST is at stake.  
   Paul says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Religion which enslaves, and demands performance is a religion of frustration and guilt. You can motivate by both LAW and GRACE, but only one of these brings JOY.
   Yes, freedom in Christ means responsibility to study and think for yourself, and yes there is the possibility of making mistakes… but that is what grace is for. Grace means “unmerited favor”, it means having some “elbow room.” “Elbow room” to grow, make mistakes and get up and try again… not try to BE SAVED, but BECAUSE YOU ARE SAVED. Christians cannot grow under law… but they can grow under grace.
   There is a big difference between ‘going to church’, giving, praying, singing, studying because you HAVE TO and because you WANT TO. Slavery verses freedom…. I’ll take freedom in Christ every time.

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Amazing Great Big Grace (God’s Power To Become)

This article is part 2 of 4 in the series Grace

   Grace – God’s Power To Become
   Understanding God’s grace is one of the greatest challenges of God’s people. We sing about it, thank God for it, quote scriptures which mention it, yet in reality seldom do we understand it. Some are challenged by it, because it means freedom from the ‘out of balance’ thnking of legalistic, check list systems they try to enforce. When truly understood, it means freedom from the guilt feelings of “I haven’t given enough, done enough, won souls enough, attended enough.” When grace is properly understood, it means real power, power to actually ‘become’, to grow, to serve from the most powerful of motives, love. Paul said, “the love of Christ constrains me”, not guilt, not fear of hell… THE LOVE OF CHRIST.
   How many Christians have withered on the vine as it were, not using their gifts and talents? Well, let this be a clarion cry, for all Christians to open their Bibles and study the “riches of His grace”, grace that gives power to become what God wants you to be.
   Some of this may be ‘old hat’ to some who already know about his grace. The challenge is to study with a renewed desire passages memorized years ago, in search for new truth, great principles, which will bring life to the soul, transform the life. The shackles of guilt that have been carried for years for sins of the past were never meant to be carried by the Christian.
   The story is told of a man walking along a country road. He had travelled for miles it seemed, when a man in a horse drawn wagon came along. He offered him a ride, which was gratefully accepted. He climbed on the wagon, and the old man drove on. After a while he looked back, and saw that the man on the back of the wagon was still carrying his heavy nap sack. He stopped and asked him why he was still carrying it. The man said, “I didn’t know you wanted to carry my burden  as well.” This is so much like us when we come to Jesus. We repent of our sins and are immersed for remission of sins like Peter said in Acts 2:38, but then we insist on continuing to carry the burden while trying to walk with Jesus. We wonder why it is so difficult, and why the joy is not there. Fact is, Jesus not only wants us, He wants to carry that old ‘sack of burdens’ that have weighed us down for so long.
   Take time to re-read the first article in this series, GREAT AMAZING GRACE, and get your coffee and sit and just think about this wonderful subject. The series  will continue to grow as more and more we discover together what the Bible teaches, and it is my prayer, that we will grow, in grace, applying it to every aspect of our walk in Christ (as well as our recovering from sins in our lives). 
   There will be no appology offered for the study, for it is much needed. Where the Bible leads in this study, that’s where we will stand. Some traditions may have to fall, some ‘old ways’ may have to change, but if it is because of understanding God’s great grace better, then so be it. Yet all will be because of a deep desire to know the truth, and be set free, not to ’cause trouble’. Our hesitancy about preaching on the subject, our fear of ‘reprocussions’, will have to laid aside if we are to truly “search the scriptures’ and “speak where the Bible speaks”.  
   John Newton was confronted while preaching one Sunday, by a man who stood up during his sermon. He said, “How dare you preach about Jesus when you have raped and beaten slaves.” To this John said, “That’s right, I have, and that’s why I preach. Amazing grace how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see.”
   The problem is, many look at the forgiven and say, “THAT’S NOT FAIR… YOU DESERVE PUNISHMENT… NO FORGIVENESS.” “You have to un-do what you did in the past or we cannot accept you!” The fact is, we all have committed sins in our past that have not been ‘un-done’ by us. We have simply leaned on and continue to lean on His grace as we should. We realize, that we cannot ‘unscramble the eggs’. Even if we could, it wouldn’t pay the price, and that is what grace is all about.
   Does this mean take his grace for granted, or abuse it. “God forbid”. Even though I (we) all must admit that I (we) have abused grace at one time or another, and that we are ashamed of it, as I have been ashamed, and repent. But we certainly do not want to make it a habit, for that would lead to being lost forever.
   Praise God for His great, big, awesome, GRACE (Romans 5:9).
   (As we continue this study, please understand that I claim no attitude of ‘knowing it all’ nor some ‘special knowledge’. I am sharing with you, what I have learned through my ‘sit downs’ with dad, and others who have helped me tremendously with over-coming guilt and shame. I ask if you can help me, and all of us, grow in this subject, that you contact me by email.)
   (More to come) 

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Great Big Amazing Grace

This article is part 1 of 4 in the series Grace

   Mercy is when you DON’T GET what you deserve. Justice is when you GET what you deserve. Grace is when you GET what you DON’T deserve. Three simple principles to remember when studying the Bible.
   We have made the Christian life far to difficult, and taken the joy right out of following Jesus by allowing legalism to creep into pulpits and classes. Legalism is a system of works whereby one feels he has balanced the religious scales so he can get into heaven.  Legalism is the focus on obeying commands (of God) and minimizing the grace which makes a “walk with Him” possible,  and takes the heart, joy and soul out of following Jesus.
   Answer these questions: Can you give more? Can you attend church more? Can you tell others about Jesus more? Can you read the bible more? Can you pray more? You say, “Sure, I can do more.” Well, legalism says, “You are bad because you have not done all you can.” Law has no Savior, no Calvary, no forgiveness. It just condemns you when you don’t DO what it says. You can never do enough ‘under law’. You will find a lot of guilt on this ‘road too much travelled’, because no matter what you do, it is never enough. This is what many use to get people to give, pray, and attend, bring people etc…
   Consider these questions: Do you give some? (“Yes” – Wonderful! Grow), Do you go to church? (“Yes” – Wonderful), Do you tell others about Jesus? (“Yes” – Great! Keep it up). What’s the point? Well it should be obvious because we are showing the difference between legalism and grace. Life under LAW is hard, and demanding and a life of guilt. Life under GRACE on the other hand is a life of joy, and encouragement to keep growing in Jesus.
   For example, just think about your driving record. All of you “good” drivers, think of all the times you did a ‘rolling stop’, or crossed the solid white line, or made a “U” turn where you shouldn’t have, or went over the speed limit, or parked wrong. Now imagine a roll of paper coming down from the sky with ALL of your infractions listed over the years you have been driving. Long list, right? Under LAW, you are a terrible driver. Add to that all the other things you’ve done wrong. There’s no hope. 
   Under GRACE however, this roll of paper has nothing written against you. God says, “This one is Mine, My Son paid for his sins. Read Romans 8 
   Well, will Christians who act like they are under law and works go to heaven? O, I believe they will, but they will go kicking and screaming, never confident about their salvation, never believing they have done enough, prayed enough, given enough, attended enough. Never seeing that Jesus did it all.  Amazing grace is not tiny grace, narrow grace, or ‘barely there’ grace… it is great grace. Great enough to save even the worst of sinners. Great enough to save believers who disagree.
   I don’t, go to church, give, sing, pray, study, write articles – to be saved… I do these things because I am saved by grace and heaven bound.
   May I suggest that gaining a balanced and Biblical view and understanding God’s grace along with His commands, will truy make His yoke “easy” and the burden truly “light”. God bless you.  (More to come).   

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