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Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.



Despite the poor soil, it thrives.

Under the veneer of grass, my back yard is basically clay.  Though I can coax some peppers to grow in my strip of a garden, the only vegetable that is happy here is this rhubarb plant – though at this point, I hesitate to call this explosion of green a plant.  A rhubarb bush?

It sits majestically on the rim of the bowl of my yard, crowned now with clusters of pale seeds.  Seeing it has little competition, it seems intent on taking over the whole garden -- which, I suppose, would be fine if the taste of rhubarb was better liked by my family.  And if it didn’t take a mound of sugar (and often a dollop of vanilla ice cream) to sedate its tartness.

But still, I’m happy to have such a healthy plant-bush under my care.  Not that it needs me.

As I tend my patch of soil under the welcome sun this morning, I think about how Christianity grows around the world.  The fact that it takes root and blossoms in environments that are hostile to the gospel speaks to the power and presence of God.  Recently, I read in my devotional time Paul’s description of his ministry:

known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.   (2 Cor. 6:9-10)

One could say that the success of his missionary team was in contradiction to the conditions it faced.  Those are powerful words: and yet.  They go hand in hand with the similar phrase he uses in other passages – but God.  The Lord is not thwarted by a hostile setting.

Some months ago, I started an online prayer group.  A few Christian brothers and I started to contact people we know in ministry to spend thirty minutes praying with them about whatever pressing needs they have.  We were hoping to encourage people on the front line of the Kingdom.

What I hadn’t foreseen was how uplifted I would be after each session.  For these dear brothers and sisters are reminding me of how God’s work continues in the most improbable places.  How, for instance, trained indigenous believers are starting churches in remote parts of northern India despite persecution.  Or how hearts are opening to the gospel in a Muslim country through acts of kindness by Christians.  Students are coming to Christ in an urban American campus.

Chris, shown above, encourages pastors in Wales, where, in the last century, the culture has turned overwhelmingly secular.

I need these reminders.  Sometimes, in my small garden of a life, it seems like nothing grows easily.  I keep waiting for the ground to improve.  But I’m relearning that the gospel takes root even in the most hostile of soils.  Because, “God gives the growth” (1 Cor. 3:7)

It’s his nourishing that fosters flourishing.

Father, it’s no coincidence that you put the first couple in a garden.  For you are the source of all growth and flourishing.  Despite what may be the poor soil of our situations, help us to thrive to your glory.

Reader, what surprising plant prospers in your garden?  I’d love to hear about it.

Email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. And if you liked this, please use the buttons above to share it.

Bruce Van Patter

As a freelance illustrator, graphic recorder, and author, Bruce is on a lifelong journey to delight in the handiwork of the Creator. And he’s always ready for fellow travelers.

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