“Hey Jude”.

Written by Paul McCartney, the ballad “Hey Jude” was penned to comfort and encourage a young man as he experienced turbulence in his life. Julian (Jude), son of John Lennon, was working through the hard changes in life as his father left his marriage relationship to be with someone else. The song was a letter thoughtfully written by a friend to a friend in need, written with emotion, and care. 

Have you ever been in church and the pastor comes up to give the message and he says something like this, “this past week I worked on a message to give today but last night God laid it on my heart to share something different with you this morning.” 

If you have read the short letter of Jude in the New Testament you will experience this exact notion. Verse three reads, “Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people.”

Jude wanted to write about the incredible promise of salvation that each follower of Jesus shares in as a brother or sisters in his name. He introduces himself to us in this letter by identifying himself as a servant of Jesus Christ. Tasked with the responsibility of sharing the good news of salvation given to them through the death and resurrection of Jesus, he also felt the burden of speaking to the dangers that threatened to break apart their faith. 

In the NIV translation much of Jude’s letter follows the heading, “The Sin and Doom of Ungodly People”. There were persistent, observable, and not so obvious problems (I will explore some of these in future blogs following this one) creeping up in the life of the church. The truth of the gospel message was slowly being twisted by false teachings; people (posing as friends) were purposely leading others into denying that Jesus was the anointed one, the sovereign Lord over their lives. 

Jude was a friend, writing to friends in need. The Greek word translated “dear friend” (agapētos) can also mean beloved. There was a sense of deep connection, tenderness, care and love that Jude held for those in the church. The salvation they shared together served as a type of bond, both through their relationship with Jesus and then with one another as brothers and sisters. A true friend in Christ will always point you in the direction of Christ. 

I am reminded of another song, “What a friend we have in Jesus”. Originally written as a poem by a pastor to comfort his mother while he was away, the song reminds me that we also have friends in Jesus. The church is like a home for people, a place where they seek comfort, safety and encouragement, a place where friends and family can come together because of their common faith and salvation. 

Jude thoughtfully wrote this letter to urge his friends to contend for their faith, to stand up for what they believe in. When was the last time you encouraged a friend to stand firm in their faith or shared an encouraging word? 

You don’t have to write a letter but don’t be afraid to try. With so many digital platforms that keep our lives connected, think about sharing an encouraging word with a friend today. Who will you say “Hey” to today? 

Being Called by your Full Name

Have you as an adult ever been called by your full name? Maybe by a grandparent, parent, or spouse? If you have experienced this sometimes-startling call, you know the power it has to stop you in your tracks and grab your attention. It has not happened often, but I cannot tell a lie, it has happened to me.

Over the many years of listening to sermons, lectures or simply reading scripture, my attention is peaked when the speaker or author refers to Jesus as our “Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ”. For me, there is a sense of having to stop and pay attention to what is being said and who it is being said to.

Three times in Peter’s second letter to the church he speaks of our “Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (1:11; 2:20; 3:18) The context of these words in time and place of writing would likely have had more impact on the hearts and minds of the people than they do today. In our abundantly different contexts of our Western culture, many “Christians” have distanced themselves from the reality of Christ as Lord in their lives, the need for a Saviour, and for some, even turning a blind eye to the name of Jesus Christ all together.

Peter communicates through his words that Jesus was so much more than just an extraordinary human being, He was the incarnate Son of God, coequal to and coeternal with God the Father. Understanding the triune nature of Father, Son and Holy Spirit has been an ongoing quest of humankind since the day Christ entered this our world as an infant. For you and me, understanding who Jesus is through reading scripture strengthens and grows the relationship we have with him. 

When I hear the name of Jesus in this context, I am reminded that He is the Lord of my life, that I need to live in obedience to his will and calling, to carry on his mission through the work and power of the Holy Spirit in my life. I am forever reminded that as my Saviour, Jesus paid the price for all my sins, that only through him may I have a relationship with our Father in heaven.  

While Peter speaks to many different powerful themes in his letter (the authority, truthfulness, and inspiration of the word; salvation, judgment, and the final days to come) the foundation on which our faith is built is the relationship we have with Jesus as our Lord and Saviour. 

In chapter 3:1 Peter states his purpose for writing this letter along with his first. They are written “as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking.” The written words of Peter are reminders for the people of the church to “stir up” or “wake up” the truths (the foundations) of their faith that had been taught to them. “I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles.” (2 Peter 3:2)

Words like “Lord” and “Saviour” certainly stimulate my mind when I hear or read them. How do you feel when the name of your Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ is spoken in word or read in scripture? Are you reminded of the truth of the gospel message that has the power to forgive, save, and promise eternal life?  Stop, listen, and reflect on the gift we have in our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.  Allow the words of scripture to stir within you, to inspire, comfort and challenge you, then share those thoughts with those around you.

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.  

A Safe Place

A “safe place” has been defined as “a place that provides a physically and emotionally safe environment for a person or group of people, especially a place where people can freely express themselves without fear of prejudice, negative judgment, etc.”. The communities we all live in have been challenged to meet the demands of strong cultural influences that in themselves have created the need for more diverse safe spaces. 

As I read through scripture, I am reminded in various ways that “safe places” are not a new thing, especially if you read through the book of Psalms. Often described as a place of refuge or hiding place, the writers describe more than just a physical space, they were pointing to their relationship with God as their place of refuge. 

Psalm 46:1-3 says that “God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.” Psalm 91:2 describes God as “My refuge and strength” while Psalm 46:1 echo’s these words. Psalm 32:7 says, “You are my hiding place”. 

Scripture also draws for us some thought-provoking word pictures that describe God as a place of refuge. He is called a “Fortress” (Ps 46:7); A rock, a fortress, and a deliverer. (2 Sa 22:2-3); A shelter or shade (Ps 91:1); Sheltering wings (Ps 57:1); A shield (Ge 15:1), and a tower (Pr. 18:10). All these word pictures share in the meaning of how God is our place of refuge, a safe place to abide in.

As a follower of Christ, where is your place of refuge? What do you do or where do you go to feel safe? Where can you go to freely express yourself as a child of God?

I have had the privilege of being raised in the church since the day I was born. Over the many years of life that I have lived the church has been a safe place for me. Within the “four walls” of the church is a place where I can freely express myself without fear of prejudice and negative judgement. 

In addition to the definition already given here, a place of refuge can also be described as a “stronghold from which to launch a counterattack”. While this may sound a little extreme, I do believe that this is true. A church committed to extending the mission of Christ becomes the training grounds or center for equipping people to live out their faith in a world resistant to knowing and accepting the good news of the gospel. 

Christ is the head of the church. Colossians chapter 1:15-18 states “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation… He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.”

Knowing that Christ is the head of the church, we can take refuge in him. He becomes the rock our salvation is built on, he is the shelter, the shade where we can find rest, he becomes our shield of defense, a fortress where we can find safety and peace from the trails and temptations of the world constantly places in front of us. This has been my experience with the church, I know that this is not everyone’s experience. There are those who have been hurt by others in the church, it is my hope and prayer that these hurts/hearts can be healed, and the church can be the safe place it was designed to be. 

Incomprehensible… not Unknowable

Incomprehensible is the word used to describe a thought, idea, or action that is not able to be understood.

I was reminded this past week of the unity or oneness of who God is while listening to a message on Baptism. According to the great commission in Matthew 28:18-20 When we baptize someone, we do so “in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” 

Opponents of the Christian faith will argue the doctrine of the Trinity, (the oneness of God, the deity of three, his three in oneness) is incomprehensible. Guess what? They are right! Our finite human minds are not able to understand the fullness of the nature of God.

The psalmist writes. “Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom.” (145:3). Following Jobs’ account of how great God is as he commands the skies above him, he says “And these are but the outer fringe of his works; how faint the whisper we hear of him! Who then can understand the thunder of his power?” (Job 26). 

Speaking through the prophet Isaiah the Lord himself declared, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isa 55:8-9)

The incomprehensible truth of who God is as Father, Son and Holy Spirit for some people is a proverbial “brick wall,” stopping them from pursuing a relationship with God as their heavenly Father. 

The “faint whisper” Job so eloquently describes are the words given to us in scripture today that have the power to draw us near to God; it supplies all we need to know about him. The revelation of who God is through the inspired words of the Bible provides for us great assurance of who he says he is. 

Does this understanding of who God is require faith? Absolutely! What is it that stands in the way of those who oppose the truth of the Gospel? Could it be a lack of faith? 

The writer of Hebrews tells us that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Faith is confidence, it is to trust in the word of God that draws us into a relationship with him. Faith is more than the mere knowledge of what is true; it is embracing what we do know and trusting in what has not yet been revealed as true and good as we seek to know an incomprehensible God. Faith is acting in obedience to the call of the Lord to be on mission for him and with him. 

In no way can I examine the intricacies of this foundational truths of the Trinity in 600 words or less here. Books upon books have been written to help us dive deeper into the understanding of the relationship between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and for that I am thankful. 

I have questions just as I am sure you do. What I do know is that our Father in heaven has given us an incredible gift through the death and resurrection of his Son (salvation – the forgiveness of our sins). Through the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives we can continue to grow in relationship with a God who loves us unconditionally. There may be things about God that are incomprehensible but, he is not unknowable. I pray that your faith is placed in the arms of our loving father. 

Shedding some Light on the Subject

Here are some interesting facts about “light” that you may or may not know. Thomas Edison was the creator of the incandescent light bulb back in 1879. The Aurora borealis (Northern lights) are created by gaseous particles colliding in the earth’s atmosphere. According to Star Wars fandom website “Wookiepedia” the official weapon of the Jedi Knight was a retractable “lightsaber”. 

James, in his letter to the twelve tribes of Israel who are scattered (Christian Jews living outside of Palestine) describes God as the “Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows”. (James 1:17)

James is drawing our attention back to the creation story in Genesis where God himself created light. He makes this reference to remind us of the absolute power and authority that are a part of his character.

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” (Genesis 1:1-5)

In every day of our lives, we experience the change in light during the day, from dark to light in the morning back to dark in the evening. There is a predictable variability in the light of day and even the light of the nighttime sky. 

The words that follow this beautiful reminder of who our God is opens the door to a deeper understanding of his character. The words James uses in the second half of this verse speak to the “change” or variability of the shifting shadows of light in the world to draw a contrasting image to the truth that God himself does not change. 

This truth that God does not change is not easy to comprehend as we live in a world of perpetual change. Think back 100 years, or even 20 years and consider all that has changed in our world. The undeniable changes in technology, law, society, culture, and environment all influence the way we live our lives every day. It seems that there is no constant stream of truth left in life that cannot be challenged by way of change through human effort.

Scripture is clear that God is the one constant in life that is unchanging. James highlights that here, the psalmists’ words remind us that God remains the same, and that his years will never end (Ps 102:27). Centuries later in his concluding remarks the writer of Hebrews says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. 

Our God who created the light of day, who led his people out of the shadow of slavery into the light of the promise land, is the same God who provides for us complete forgiveness of our sins through the life, death, and resurrection of his son on the cross. 

Changes in life are inevitable, constant, and speak to both good and evil. The truth of unchangeableness as seen in God’s character should inspire and deepen the faith of those who hope and trust in him. The lights of this world change and vary, but the one who created them never changes.

What was that Word?

There are several words in the English language that make us feel a little uncomfortable. While some make us shift in our seats or send chills down our spine others make us “run for the hills”. I did a Google search for “words that make us feel uncomfortable”. Little did I know, the list was very consistent among various sources. High on the count of awkward and squeamish words were, “moist, ointment, creamy, squid, squirt, phlegm and smear”.

If you are still reading, thank you for continuing to follow this unusual train of thought. In our minds we tend to associate words with different experiences we have in our lives. Often, the meaning or context of a particular word is defined by our personal experience and at time even redefined (hi-jacked) by cultural influence.  

What comes to mind when you hear the word/name Lord?

Defined as “someone or something having power, authority, or influence; a master or ruler” there are several different contexts in which the word lord is used. Not counting words like, a, and, or the, “Lord” is the most used word in the Bible. It is found between 7000-8000 times, depending on the translation. This English translation of the Hebrew names “Adonai”, “Yahweh” and “Jehovah” along with the Greek “Kyrios” speak to the whole character of who God is. 

As followers of Jesus, we make a commitment to live our lives in accordance to the power and authority of Jesus, our Lord and Saviour. I have had numerous conversations with people that were exploring Christianity and while understanding the need to be saved from their sins, they were reluctant to commit themselves to having Jesus be the Lord in their life. Having Jesus as Lord in their lives made them feel uncomfortable. It can be difficult to let go of what we have built up on own.

In today’s world of individualism and widespread “all about me” attitude, standing accountable to a higher authority seems counter to what our current culture so desperately calls of us. It is in this moment that we need to grab ahold of what Jesus has to offer us. It’s a matter of stepping out in faith and trusting that the Lord will lead and guide our lives.

A good friend of mine spent most of his youth thinking that the Lord was an angry, vengeful watchdog just waiting to smite him when he said or did the wrong thing. His understanding of who God is as his Lord was skewed. It was not until he understood (little by little) the wholeness of God’s character that he experienced his incredible love and grace in his life. 

So much can be said about having Jesus as our Lord. Micah 6:8 sums up beautifully what this looks like for each one of us in a practical way; “And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” 

As our Lord, Jesus seeks to have a personal loving relationship with us, so we can know him better. He watches over us, not as a “watchdog” but as a caring, compassionate, loving Lord who cares for us deeply. Is Jesus the Lord of your life? Have you experienced his love and mercy in your life? Pray for the desire to act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with the Lord your God. 

A Rock Song or a Song about a Rock?

Rock music is a genre of music that has captured the listening ear of music enthusiasts for many generations. Within this wide-ranging genre, you have subgenres like, classic rock, hard rock, punk rock, progressive rock, indie rock, rap-rock, funk rock and even Christian rock. Rock music has a unique set of characteristics that defines its sound. It combines elements of rhythm and blues, jazz, and country music.

Here and there throughout scripture, there are some songs and prayers that refer to God as a “rock”. These narratives reveal to us some of the characteristics of who God is and how he relates to us as his people.

When we read the story of Hannah (1 Sam. 1&2) she sings a prayerful song from her heart saying, “there is no Rock like our God”. She had overcome bitterness, misery, and depression when the Lord answered her prayers. Her song describes a God who is mighty, powerful, caring, compassionate and just. 

The word translated “rock” in this verse is used to characterize who God is. It carries the idea of God as a support and defense. For Hannah who fervently poured out her heart and soul to God in a time of need, He was the rock that she so needed to stand on. 

The song of Moses found in Deuteronomy 32 was recited in the presence of the whole assembly of Israel. Verse four of the song says, “He is the Rock”. Here we have the same word Hannah used to describe God, this time conveying power and stability. Moses uses this word to declare that God has been true to His covenant promise, to bring the people out of bondage and into the land promised to their fathers. 

The Psalmist David wrote in his song that God was his “rock of refuge”, “a strong fortress” (Psalm 31:2-3) He uses these words again is Psalm 18 as he celebrates the hand of the Lord protecting him from his enemies. 

So far in these examples we have seen some of the characteristics of God revealed to us through the stories and experiences of real people. God is our Rock, our support, defense, power, stability, strong fortress, refuge, and protector. These unique combinations of characteristics describe a God who is alive and active in the lives of his people both then and now. 

The famous words of the Sermon on the Mount end with a parable that teaches in simple terms the success of the builder who builds his house on the rock. This beautiful picture points us to one thing; knowing, understanding, and living (practicing) out the word of God in our lives will not end in destruction but in life everlasting. 

One can say there are many different types of rocks in this world, and they would be correct. But the solid rock that has and continues to provide such strong characteristics as described here is set apart from all others. This rock is none other than Jesus Christ, the son of God who lived among us, died as a sacrifice for us, and overcame death so that we could continue to stand together with him. 

Do you know what the rock you are standing on in life is made of? What are its characteristics?  I invite you to stand with me on the solid rock of Jesus Christ.

An Upgraded 1G Network

Cellular providers around the globe are constantly working to improve the quality of their communications networks. No matter how advanced the technology is or how powerful the device in our hand becomes, there always seems to be a “corner” of the earth that has no coverage. There will always be limitations in the providers ability to give us what we “need”. 

When I turn the pages of my life memories back about 40 years I can still remember being in church (maybe Sunday School) singing the words of a once familiar song called Jehovah Jireh. You might remember it as well, 

Jehovah Jireh,
My provider, His grace is sufficient
For me, for me, for me…

My God shall supply all my needs
According to His riches in glory
He will give His angels charge over me

Jehovah Jireh cares for me, for me, for me
Jehovah Jireh cares for me

Jehovah Jireh is one of the many names ascribed to the God who we serve. It means “the Lord will provide”. This name speaks to the character of the one God (1G) in heaven who loves and cares deeply for his people. 

Throughout scripture we can read the many accounts of God’s provision for his people. From the alter where Abraham was asked to sacrifice his son Isaac, (Gen. 22) to the edge of the waters on the Red Sea (Ex. 14), all the way to the mountainside where thousands were fed by seven loaves and a few small fish (Matt 15) and everywhere in between we see and hear of God’s faithfulness in providing for his people. 

As the song says, “My God shall supply all my needs… Jehovah Jireh cares for me, for me, for me”. The words of this song touch on the apparent personal relationship between its author Merla Watson and her God, who created her. That is who our God is; He is a personal and loving God that cares so deeply for us that he continues to provide for the needs of all those who follow him. 

In the ever-changing landscape of the world we live in today, I am sure that any one of us can put together a list of “needs” that we have. We are “needy” people living in a world that tries desperately to fill those needs, often overshadowing the most important need of all, a personal relationship (connection) with the one who cares for us the most. 

God in his infinite wisdom provided a way for all of us to be in relationship with him. Through the death and resurrection of his son on the cross, he provided a way for us to be in relationship with him. Jesus stood in our place to fill the need of forgiveness for the sin in our lives, this is the one thing that the world cannot provide. 

Through Jesus, we are connected to a ‘network’ that has full coverage, is easily accessible, error free, and provides clear connection and communication with our Father (provider) in heaven. There are no limitations to the power of the One God (1G) that has been made available to us. So, who is your provider today? Are you a part of the same 1G network that provides for all your needs? Join today, it’s free.