Tending a Fruitful Life

As spring makes its entrance, many of our minds turn toward gardens and flower beds. I am a terrible gardener, but I keep trying. Last year, I planted eight tomato plants. They grew tall and lush. They were beautifully green and suffered none of the yellowing and spots that have plagued other plants in my care. I was so excited! I could imagine the amazing flavor of my homegrown, heirloom tomatoes. I would slice them and layer them with mayo on sandwiches, or maybe I would sprinkle a little salt and eat them on my front porch like I did with my dad when I was little. They would be red, juicy, and sweet.

Alas, I harvested one, mediocre tomato. I don’t know with certainty what went wrong. I would be lying if I even began listing the reasons for my failure, but I know one thing that my tomato-keeping lacked. As a gardener, I lacked consistency. I watered my tomatoes, sometimes. I weeded my raised bed, sometimes. I hoped it rained enough. I hoped my netting would hold up to the deer. I did not always take the actions required to have a thriving, bounteous crop of tomatoes (or anything else for that matter).

Spiritual Fruit

Do you ever feel that way in your devotional life? If you are anything like me, you go through seasons when you read God’s word occasionally. You seek out spiritual instruction from godly teachers sporadically. You consult valuable commentaries on scripture inconsistently. You are not alone, friends. Many of us seem to be hoping that God’s word will be imparted to us through osmosis as our Bibles sit on our nightstands, unopened and collecting dust. We hope that being in a church while someone is preaching will give us a big enough dose of truth to get us through the week. Maybe if we sit there enough times, we will be nourished and quenched. Maybe we will thrive, and hopefully, the weeds of sin will wither.

Sorry, fruit doesn’t grow like that—neither tomatoes nor spiritual fruit. My tomato plants looked healthy. They had enough nutrients and water to get along okay. However, they only had enough of what plants need to put their energy toward growing green leaves. They did not have adequate resources to put energy toward growing fruit. As a follower of Christ, you can probably appear okay on a bare minimum. You might glean enough inconsistent nourishment to trudge through a tough season. After all, God is holding you tightly and seeking after you with persistence when you stray (not unlike a parent hanging on to a toddler at the zoo). His love can sustain you through all kinds of trials. 

Consistency is Key

Most of us do not want to simply appear alive. We want to live. We want to live in God’s presence, building toward a richer relationship and a more fruitful life for his glory. We don’t need perfection or greater intelligence or access to seminary-level courses every night of the week. We need consistency—consistent reading of the scriptures, consistent conversations with our brothers and sisters in Christ who push us to grow and to learn. We need to take hold of even short segments of our days and devote them to growing in the Lord instead of the 101 other possible uses of our time. 

I wouldn’t be the first wishful gardener who felt tempted by another fancy gadget or expensive plant food to solve my tomato problem. And I am well aware that the world is full of apps, cool journals, and Bible commentaries to try to solve the scripture-starved-Christian problem. These tools promise to make it easier to dig into God’s word and stay there. They may, indeed, be useful tools, but none of them will have the impact of simple consistency. For me, regular reminders to stop and sit for a time of devotions help establish a steady routine. I use alarms on my cell phone or Post It notes to signal a new habit. Sharing your plans with a spouse or friend can build useful accountability.

Beating ourselves up about shortcomings in our Bible study habits will not bring us any closer to the meaningful relationship with God that we desire, just as punishing myself for not tending my garden is not going to produce more crops. We tell ourselves that we need to work harder and push further in order to be good or valuable. Fortunately for us, God already knows our shortcomings, and a perfect record of daily devotions will not make us more worthy of his gift of salvation. Love is a greater motivator to create consistency than shame or other external reprimand will ever be. Desire God and then seek him in his word. He will meet you there.

Seeking a Harvest

If you are feeding yourself scripture on a consistent basis, fruit will grow. When you are filled up with the good nourishment of God-breathed truth, you will see the pesky weeds of sin and pluck those buggers right out. You and I will crave more of the Bible because time surrounded by God’s goodness whets our appetite for more of the same. Instead of the drive-by sprinkle of scripture at a short Sunday service, you will long to be doused in refreshing water from the source and linger in the flow. 

My poor tomato plants got some watering because rain happened to fall. They had some food because the soil harbored some nutrients on its own. However, with consistency and intention, I probably could have helped them produce a respectable crop. I am challenging myself to consistency this summer in my gardening and in my devotional life. Will you? I’ll keep you posted.

Photo credit

Links for the Weekend (1/8/2021)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out.

Begin with Worship

Zach Barnhart writes about how we can use the first hours of our day to glorify God. And without making it seem mandatory, he commends private worship early in the day.

On many occasions, people have asked me whether I see any difference between Bible reading in the morning compared to at night. The spirit of the question seems to be asking permission not to study the Bible in the morning. Reasons abound. We are “not morning people.” Our children need our attention. Our morning duties render the thought of meaningful Bible study impossible at sunrise. Each family has its own particular challenges to navigate with time, of course. And no time spent with the Lord, whenever it may be, is deemed inferior or a waste. But the more I have experienced the choice of beginning my day with purposeful worship, the more I believe there is something to it. It seems Scripture itself tells us so.

The Quiet Power of Ordinary Devotions

This seems a good article to pair with the previous one. While we may long for powerful devotional times, filled with dramatic insight and joy, more often we find our times ordinary. And yet, as the title says, there is power in ordinary devotions.

Yet the cause does not always lie in us. If we are reading our Bibles rightly, in fact, we should expect many mornings of ordinary devotions: devotions that do not sparkle with insight or direct-to-life application, but that nevertheless do us good. Just as most meals are ordinary, but still nourish, and just as most conversations with friends are ordinary, but still deepen affection, so most devotions are ordinary, but still grow us in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ.

The Gospel in a Democracy Under Assault

What happened at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday was shocking, and Russell Moore has written a helpful reflection for Christians.

2021 Bible Reading Plans

If you want to plan your Bible reading for the year but haven’t done it yet, Ligonier has a long list of options for you. You may also want to see what reading plan Tim Challies uses.


Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the individuals or groups referenced here. 

Links for the Weekend (6/14/2019)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out.

My Quiet Times Are Anything but Quiet

Perhaps we don’t read and pray as much as we’d like because we’re waiting for a perfect time that never arrives. Rachel Jankovic thinks this is the case, and writes about seeking the Lord in the midst of a noisy life.

When we imagine Bible reading, what we are seeing is something like the life of a scholar. We see uninterrupted focus and commentaries. We see a pastor in his study, where the word is his life’s work. We see someone living at a lake house — no intrusions, complete serenity, perfect coffee. Maybe we see the life of a superwoman, who rises well before dawn because she cares so much more than we ever will be able to. We see calm. We imagine focus. We see heroic diligence.

Simply put, we see the Christian practice of reading the Bible as dependent on a really specialized kind of moment — a moment that seldom (to never) graces our own life.

When Your Friend Is Suffering and Sinking

Sarah Taylor writes a helpful article at The Gospel Coalition about her experience of the pain and suffering caused by cluster headaches. She details the lies she is tempted to believe in the darkest moments, and she relates how her friends have helped her.

Lies especially thrive in the darkness. When I wake up at 2 a.m. with searing pain yet again, the pull to believe lies is strong. It’s hard to believe God is really for me. It’s hard to believe he loves me.

I hear things like: If God really loved you, he’d heal you. Your life was supposed to be better than this. Your children deserve a better mom. Your husband deserves a better wife. You deserve to be normal. No one cares about your pain. This is pointless pain. It would all be over if you’d just drive your car into an oncoming semi. Those are just some of the lies I’m tempted to believe in the dark.

The Good Enough Podcast

Lore Ferguson Wilbert and Andrea Burke host the Good Enough podcast, which I gladly recommend to you. I’ve read and benefited from Lore Ferguson Wilbert’s writing for years now, but the podcast is a new venture for her. It’s aimed at women, but I think everyone will benefit from listening. Here’s the podcast description.

Influencers aplenty, memes a dime a dozen, self-help books lining the shelves of bookstores, and YouTube tutorials for every tip under the sun and it’s still never enough. Why do the messages like “You’re the hero of your story” and “Trust yourself” still lead to anxiety, fear, uncertainty, and despair for most women? Andrea Burke and Lore Ferguson Wilbert are tackling fourteen of the counterfeit gospels American women believe today. We invite a guest each week to talk about beauty trends, diet culture, social media, “clean” living fads, singleness, dating, friendship with guys, and more. We know in Christ we truly are good enough for this never enough world.

I’m guessing that the whole podcast series (which is ongoing) is excellent. I’ve listened to and enjoyed this episode on diet culture.


Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the individuals or groups referenced here.