Cultivating Your Spiritual Garden 

Cultivating Your Spiritual Garden 

Friday’s Column: Supplemental Strength

brent 2020

Brent Pollard

Wisteria is beautiful. Despite its beauty, though, wisteria can be an invasive vine if it is not carefully cultivated, becoming genteel kudzu. As I had to go to a doctor’s appointment in Gainesville, Georgia, yesterday, I noted how much wisteria grows around that city. For the most part, it was not managed well. Thus, you would see azalea bushes or maple trees with purple flowers choking them out. However, if you take the time to train the vine, you can make a stunning addition to your garden with wisteria. One popular way of taming wisteria is having it run along an arbor creating a tunneled walkway through the blooms.

 We have other things around us that act a lot like wisteria. These are things having the potential to be something helpful or enjoyable, but which end up being deleterious to our spiritual health because we do not manage them well.

Becoming distracted by doing good is one such type of spiritual wisteria. When Jesus was with his dear friends in Bethany, Martha wearied herself seeking to be an excellent hostess. She asked Jesus to rebuke her sister, Mary, for not helping her prepare. Since Mary was listening to Jesus teach, He said she was doing what was necessary (Luke 10.39-42). It is a good thing to be hospitable. We note that the need to be hospitable is one of the qualifications for an elder (1 Timothy 3.2; Titus 1.8). However, one’s priority is the kingdom of God (Matthew 6.33). Thus, even in having a desire to do a good thing, one may be overwhelmed and end up missing out on opportunities for spiritual growth.

Social media is another type of spiritual wisteria. During this period of social distancing, I’ve noted how many more brothers in Christ are utilizing Facebook and YouTube to put out encouraging and convicting lessons from God’s Word. Congregations are streaming “virtual worship services” for homebound people to participate in. It excites me that we might be seeing the beginnings of the “Third Great Awakening” in the United States as people realize they have ways of expressing their faith which has nothing to do with a building. Even so, I note that with people using social media even more now (if such a thing is possible) it likewise gives rise to a lot of things that ultimately detract from spiritual growth. People are also posting depressing or rancorous things. You still see lewd jokes and double entendres. We need to ensure that our use of social media at this tend helps us to serve as salt and light in this world so God can be glorified (Matthew 5.13-16).

 You may have noted other types of spiritual wisteria I have not included. We want to emphasize that this “wisteria” in and of itself is not a bad thing. It is, rather, that a failure to discipline ourselves allows for this good thing to lessen its value.  You must put forward the effort to properly utilize and enjoy physical and spiritual wisteria. You must do the same thing when it comes to cultivating a beautiful, spiritual garden pleasing to God (cf. 1 Corinthians 9.24-27).

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Carrie Fisher Wisdom: Do AND Deny

Carrie Fisher Wisdom: Do AND Deny

Neal Pollard

Social media is abuzz about both the caustic criticism of fans commenting on how poorly they think Carrie Fisher has aged and her withering response to their mean, thoughtless remarks. Barely in her twenties when she appeared as Princess Leia in the original Star Wars in 1977, she reprised her role 38 years later almost in her sixties. You will inevitably add some wrinkles and lose some tone in four decades. Fisher gave an interesting interview to Good Housekeeping that appeared just before the debut of the historic blockbuster earlier this month. Apparently, she felt she had to lose a significant amount of weight for the movie. How did she lose the 35 pounds? She says, “I did it the same way everybody has to—don’t eat and exercise more! There is no other way to do it. I have a harder time eating properly than I do exercising. It’s easier for me to add an activity than to deny myself something” (Good Housekeeping UK, staff, 12/7/15).

Most of us can relate to her insight. Being active and doing something takes some resolve and endurance, but withholding or removing what does not belong often challenges our appetites, desires, and cravings much more. This battle rages on an infinitely more serious front than weight-loss, though. Jesus makes self-denial a salient ingredient of discipleship (Luke 9:23).  BDAG indicates this word for deny means, “To refuse to pay attention to, disregard, renounce (oneself in this passage)” (Arndt, William, Frederick W. Danker, and Walter Bauer. A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature 2000 : n. pag. Print.).  Restraining myself from saying a sarcastic, bitter, angry word is harder than lifting my voice in song or prayer. Fighting the urge to give in to a temptation requires more effort than doing something kind or necessary for someone in need. Our relationships are not just damaged through neglect or omission, but also by failing to conquer unhealthy and unwholesome attitudes, words, and actions.

Doing and denying are dual elements essential to overcoming this world. God wants obedience, but He also wants self-control. It was a staple expectation of Paul’s gospel preaching (Acts 24:25). It is listed among the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:23). It is among the Christian graces (2 Pet. 1:6). But as we regularly master it, we will shine Christ to those around us in a memorable way! As we do God’s will, let’s also deny ourselves.

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