Bread… so, so Good.

Sourdough is one of my favourite types of bread especially when it is toasted, slathered with butter, and topped by a generous layer of Hagelslag (milk chocolate sprinkles). I have recently discovered that sourdough bread has a very short ingredient list. Basically, all you need is flour, water and if you like, a pinch of salt. Beyond these simple ingredients there comes a process to shape them into an edible loaf of bread. 

In the context of scripture what is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear or think about the word “bread”? Do you think about the provision of mana God sent from heaven to feed his people? (Ex.16). Maybe your thoughts go to the account of the last supper where Jesus broke bread with his disciples (Luke 22). Maybe like me, you think about the five small barley loaves that fed 5000 people in John Chapter 6.

John chapter 6:35 is where Jesus declares “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” After Jesus meets the physical needs (hunger) of the people through this incredible display of his power, he draws them into a spiritual conversation using the words, “I am the bread of life”. 

The group of people Jesus is talking to in this verse seem to be missing the message intended for them, so he breaks it down into relatable terms that they can understand (using a metaphor). He is referring to himself in this verse both as “I am”, the God of their forefathers, and the “bread”, the source of life; the promised one sent by God as their Saviour and Messiah. The words that follow are two “simple ingredients” that speak to their spiritual needs, to their life in him.

The first ingredient, “come to me” is an obvious, point-blank call to faith given to the people. Jesus, the Messiah was right there in front of them and just having performed an incredible miracle they did not believe in him. “You have seen me and still you do not believe” (John 6:36). Second, “whoever believes in me” is another call to action (ingredient) much like the first. There is a decision or choice to be made. 

One commentary on this verse summed it up beautifully, “Christ shows that he is the true Bread; he is to the soul what bread is to the body, nourishes and supports the spiritual life. He is the Bread of God. Bread which the Father gives, which he has made to be the food of our souls.”

The bread metaphor used in this verse was rich with meaning in its original context because it was a staple of life. Today, especially in western culture this may not be the case. But the message is still the same. Jesus is still the source of life, both spiritually and physically. The call still stands, “come to me… believe in me”. Have you answered this call, is Jesus the bread of your life?

The Gardener

When it comes to pruning there is a right way to do it and a wrong way. One independent review of my pruning technique leans heavily towards the wrong way of doing things. In my defense, it was a big tree. I figured big tree, big tool, a chainsaw. In the end the tree survived, as I did when my reviewer returned from work that day (just barely). 

The opening words of John chapter 15 record the words of Jesus as he shares one of his last “I am” statements, giving us a glimpse of not only who he is but his Father in heaven. 

I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful… I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing”. (John 15:1-2,5)

Much can be said about these words regarding the relationship between the Father (the gardener, or farmer), the vine (Jesus), and the branches (you and I as disciples of Christ). These relationships are foundational to understanding our place and purpose within the kingdom of God. 

As I seek to know God better through the names given to him in scripture, I could not help but focus on the role of God as the gardener or more definitively translated “farmer”. A true gardener or vinedresser has the necessary skills to tend to a vine in a way that yields the most fruit possible. For me, to hear and think about God from this perspective draws me into understanding how much he cares for his people. 

The illustration of the vine used in these verses from John has a long history and connection with the people of God. Throughout the Old Testament the vine and gardener illustrations depict God’s commitment and care for the people of Israel (at that time, the vine). 

Isaiah writes the words of a song about the deliverance of Israel in chapter 27 that speak to the characteristics of his love and care for his people.  “Sing about a fruitful vineyard: I, the Lord, watch over it; I water it continually. I guard it day and night so that no one may harm it… In days to come Jacob will take root, Israel will bud and blossom and fill all the world with fruit.” (Is 27:1,6)

Under the new covenant (New Testament) Jesus becomes the life-giving vine that connects us to our Father in heaven.  As the gardener of our lives, I am thankful that God in his grace and mercy “prunes” and cares for us in a caring and loving way. Unlike my ill-fated chainsaw approach to pruning, God has an incredible plan for our lives.

With great care and purpose, even before our branch began to grow on the vine God knew what was to come, he knows what kind of fruit will be produced and continually works to prune or shape the lives of his people today. 

God’s word to us proves that he cares. John 3:16 says he cares (loves) us so much that he gave his one and only Son for us, Philippians 4:9 states that God will supply our every need. What an incredible loving and caring God we serve. 

It is my hope and prayer that the fruit we produce through the vine (Christ), and the loving care of our Heavenly Father will inspire and bear witness to others the goodness of God.  

Green with Jealousy

What is your favorite colour? How does it make you feel? On one side of the spectrum, the colour green has a longstanding history of being associated with feelings of sickness, greed, jealousy, and envy. On the other end of the spectrum green can be a colour that represent abundance, growth, and renewal. Our definition depends largely on context. 

I was reading in Exodus chapter 34 the other day and I had to stop to better understand the words found in verse fourteen. The chapter recounts the time when Moses goes before the Lord to receive for a second time the ten commandments. The verse reads, “do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God”. 

The primary dictionary definition of jealous is a “feeling or showing envy of someone of their achievements and advantages”. If this is true, how do we deal with the understanding that our God, who is perfect, be a jealous God? What is he jealous of? 

Human jealousy is most often tainted or spoiled by the influence of sin that clouds our thoughts. Human jealousy is often seeded with feelings of envy, a “painful or resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another joined with a desire to possess the same advantage.” 

Remove the influence of sin, the human condition from jealousy and mix it with the pure and unconditional love of God and his jealous nature becomes righteous and holy. 

In the context of Exodus 34 and other places in scripture God’s warnings of jealousy is a response to the idolatry of his chosen people. The second presentation of the ten commandments was in a sense a renewal of the covenant God made with his people to bring them out of slavery into the promise land. 

The word qannoʾ translated as jealous is used only to describe God. Behind the word is a sense of intensity and qualifies the actions and unique jealousy or zeal the Lord has for his people. Our God, our creator, cares deeply for and protects his people, those who have chosen to follow him. The motivation of his jealousy is filled with a pure and fervent love that reaches beyond anything we as finite humans can comprehend. 

God does not change. He continues to be a jealous God. It is only by his grace and mercy that we can be in good standing before him. The same love and protection that brought his people to the promise land continues to lead and guide us to the promise of life with him after death. He still desires our full attention to his will for our lives, to live a life that shines his love and light in the world. 

The idols of this world, the sin in our lives, constantly pull at our faithfulness to living God’s will for our lives. We are called to love the Lord with all our hearts, souls, and mind. (Matt 22:37) Knowing that he is a Jealous God, that his love for us is pure and has our best interests at heart should be the motivation to inspire our faith, hope and trust in him. 

I am thankful that my God is a jealous God. This often-overlooked part of his character fits together with the whole of who he is. It is my hope and prayer that as we continue to grow in our knowledge of who our God is we learn how to reflect his character in our own lives so others can see him.