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  • Writer's picturePastor Mark Porterfield

What a Hot, Texas Watermelon Taught Me about My Faith

Updated: Apr 1, 2023

"Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God's people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God's Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ." Ephesians 4:11-13 (NLT)

My grandfather D.G. was a medical doctor in Abilene, Texas. I never really got to see him in his element in that regard though. Closest us grandkids would get was if we were injured he'd just assure us that we'd be better in 6-8 weeks. (Tylenol on occasion was appropriate if we were old enough and really whining)


But where I did get to see him in action was as a rancher. By day - doctor. By mornings, evenings, and weekends (when I had a chance of being with him) - West Texas cattle rancher.


Out on the ranch he and my grandmother also had a garden near the "party barn." Truth is to my memory I remember it being more her garden than his! Anyway, I always found the green leafy garden a bit peculiar among the west Texas bullnettle and cactus of the aptly named Double Sand Dunes ranch.


But I won't ever forget the simple and sweet pleasure of taking a break from hanging fence to crack open one of the watermelons growing in that garden right there on my Grandpa's dusty truck bed. I mean that literally - we'd just slam it down on the truck and let it crack open. The abundant juice would make our hands sticky and messy, but it was a small price to pay to enjoy this warm, vine-ripened gift from God.



Even at a young age I realized it must have taken a lot of intent for my Grandma and Grandpa to get those juicy watermelons to grow to maturity in that dusty place. They didn't live on the ranch, so they couldn't tend the garden constantly. That just makes their efforts all the more intentional! Consistent attention, hours of work, and months of waiting were all poured into the garden project so that some day a tired and hot grandchild might experience the euphoria of a ranch watermelon. That's West Texas love (or maybe "Big Country" love).


What I suspect happened before I ever saw the living evidence of a garden on the Double Sand Dunes ranch was that my grandparents prepared a seedbed at home for their watermelon seedlings. Do you know what a seedbed is?


**quick disclaimer - I do not have a green thumb, and I share the next paragraph at the risk of sounding silly to my Master Gardener/Naturalist friends**


A seedbed is a controlled environment in which you use reliable techniques, tools, and materials to increase the chances of a budding seedling making it to maturity. Seedbeds are essential for the initial maturing process of a seedling so that it can eventually grow freely and fruitfully in a garden bed or field because a seedling is delicate and fragile. So the magic of seedbeds is really all about their limitations. The seed begins in its own pod, it gets a limited and controlled amount of water, sun, and soil nutrients. It gets the same exact treatment from the gardener as all other seedlings do. It's shielded from the harshness and chaos of natural weather. And it is these very limitations that launch the seedling into a healthy and mature life. But catch this - before the freedom of maturity comes the limitation of the seedbed.


Our journey of faith toward holiness is like that seedling in need of a seedbed. If we don't get the initial steps right, we will be set on a trajectory that will end in demise. If we don't start intentionally, then we'll grow haphazardly. If we're not nurtured at first, we'll wither away and become indistinguishable from the sands of the Double Sand Dunes ranch.


Let me be real clear though - Jesus saves. Period. There are no "right steps," "good intentions," or "appropriate nurturing strategies" necessary for Jesus to justify and give you new life. This is all done by His free grace. It is a gift He offers without consideration of whether you have earned it or deserve it.


But what I'm talking about is not regeneration or justification, but sanctification. It's holiness. It's what happens after you are justified and saved by grace yet before you are glorified in life eternal. It's the life-long process of becoming holy as He is holy. It's the process that matures you into the person God is crafting.


Mature Christians love and serve others as Jesus does. But how do we know how to do that? What is our point of reference for what true "love" is? What is our point of reference for what "good" and "bad" is? How do we discern God's will from our own?


Before we have the freedom of maturity in Christ, we are formed by the limitations in the seedbed of our faith where we come to learn and be confident in what is true and good about our Father, His Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is this endeavor to know God and to know our own faith that is the seedbed for Christian maturity. Out of the seedbed we are launched into our mission to love and serve others according to the will of God. Remember, before the branch produces fruit, it's nurtured and given life by the vine.


Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5

By the way, amongst the sticky juice, cracked rind, and sweet pulp of those ranch watermelons was one more thing - seeds, lots of them! So you can see how intentional limitations in the seedbed lead to fruitful maturity in the field which in turn leads to more seeds, more seedbeds, and more fruit, constantly multiplying and increasing the yield of God's blessing. So it is with our faith too.


As we set out on a new season of life together as First Methodist Church and as Global Methodists, I want us to discover confidence and assurance in the foundations of our faith. So that as we mature and grow together, we can serve God and love our neighbors in the will of God to the fullest.


So beginning April 23rd, before worship on Sunday mornings at 9:45am, I invite you to join our 10-week "Seedbed Class" where we will explore our basic Christian beliefs as Global Methodists.


Who is the class for? Well if you've been considering joining our church, it'd be perfect for you! If you have been a member of our church for decades, it'd be perfect for you! If you're not sure what I mean when I say "justification," "sanctification," etc, it'd be perfect for you! If you are a youth or are a parent to a youth, it's ESSENTIAL for you (this is literally seedbed-time-of-life season for youth)!


So I hope that everyone will join us April 23rd as we set out together in our Seedbed season. And May God bless us as we Encounter Jesus and bring glory to his name throughout Cameron, Texas and beyond.


Blessings,

Pastor Mark

 
 











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