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. 

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. 

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. 

Copyright on Life

Recently copyright laws in Canada have changed to include protection of creative works for the lifetime of the author/creator plus 70 years from the calendar year of their death. While the intricacies of the copyright act can turn our minds into a tangled web of spaghetti, one fact remains; it defines a creator and what he creates is his own. In the law, the rights of integrity refer to the authors ability to preserve the intended meaning of the work and protect it from destruction or defamation.

As a follower of Jesus my life has been profoundly impacted by the incredible power found in the foundational creative moments in the story of creation. The creator of heaven and earth (Gen 14:19), the Lord our Maker (Ps 95:6) releases his power in a creative brilliance like no human hand has ever done. He is the author of Life, what he has created is his own.

Genesis chapter one ends with these words, “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” God, the creator of all things was completely satisfied that all created things were very good. Can you imagine for a moment the picture this would have been? 

Free from the curse of sin and the world of change that was to come, this moment in time is the benchmark of perfection; the measure for all things good; the masterpiece in the life of the creator that shows his true intent and purpose for all created things, free from destruction and defamation. In many respects this was the fixed moment in time when the “copyright stamp” was issued to the creator of all things that were very good. 

Fast forward from this incredible moment in time to here and now. How far have we as individuals and societies broken the bounds of the original copyright owned by the creator of the world? Is it even possible to hold a mirror to this original masterpiece and see any resemblance of a true reflection? 

There are some who say that God is dead, that we are way past the lifetime plus 70 years of protection that in essence guard against the change of all that he called his own. The incredible message of the Bible says otherwise, God is very much alive and active through the work of the Holy Spirit and his Word in our lives. The writer of Hebrews records these words, “For the word of God is alive and active.” (4:12).

God is alive! As the original creator of all things good he still holds the copyright on life. Like a blanket, this covers all that lives over land and sea and most significantly the pinnacle of creation, his people. 

With a seemingly endless array of influence and opinion, we (myself included) have taken the liberty of twisting the likes of this original creation into something that we think is better. From the way we steward the resources given to us through the earth beneath our feet to the way we identify ourselves among one another we have appropriated the original author’s copyright. 

One of the most incredible and amazing things about the author of life, the God who loves us, is his power and grace to forgive us for what we have done. There will come a day when all that was very good will be restored by the hand of the creator. God’s written word to us (the Bible) is the guide to that incredible restoration. It was given to us to be the inspiration to preserve and protect all that is rightfully his.


The picture-in-picture feature on our televisions, computers and smartphones allow us to view more than one “channel” or “window” at a time. Typically, you have your main program running on the big screen and off in one of the corners you have another screen streaming something else. At times, the little window in the corner distracts us from what is happening in the big picture, and we miss what is happening.

This past week while I was reading Paul’s letter to Titus, I was distracted by some thoughts that pulled me away from the bigger picture of what Paul was trying to communicate. The first two verses of chapter 3, particularly the opening words captured my attention and preoccupied my mind for some time. Here are the words, 

“Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.” (Titus 3:1-2)

Still fresh in the minds of many are the orders given to us by our governing authorities in response to the recent pandemic. Personally, I did my best to live within the confines of the instructions given. While there were many different opinions and choices made during that time, I felt convicted to live and act in a way that was honoring to the words of scripture and to those in authority. 

For a little while I was stuck in a spiral of questions and thoughts trying to understand how we as Christians should live, how “to be subject to” our modern-day rulers and authorities. 

My distractions and focus in one area of life temporarily blinded me from seeing the bigger picture of why I choose to live for Jesus, Paul had much more to say to me through these words.

These two verses (3:1-2) speak volumes into the life that we are live as Christians and ultimately why. Not only is obedience required along with a readiness to do good, but we are also to treat others in a way that builds them up not tear them down, to be peacemakers, to put others before ourselves and to have a gentle spirit toward those around us. 

Why the reminder? What then is the bigger picture? 

The lives we live (as believers) are to reflect who Jesus is so that others will see him through us. Our lives are to point people toward Jesus. We need the reminder because we do get distracted, and when that reflection becomes more about us or the world than it does about Jesus the focus in no longer on the big picture, which is the love of Jesus. The message of the Gospel is Christ’s love for us, communicated through our lives as we live according to God’s word. 

We were never promised that living for Jesus was going to be easy. Distractions, no matter what they are or how they come into our lives have the power to draw our attention away from living up to the words Paul speaks to Titus and you and me.

What is distracting you from experiencing the incredible love of Jesus today? When we live a life for Him, we become a part of the big picture, sharing, and showing the love that he has for all his people. Don’t be a distraction for others, be the picture of Jesus in how you live your life. 

On Purpose & for a Purpose

The product development team behind the design of the French’s Mustard bottle have done something very much on purpose and for a very specific purpose. You will notice a tiny yet noteworthy feature on the base of the lid, a seemingly insignificant dimple of plastic. This small yet useful feature is there to hold the hinged bottle tip back from messing up the stream of mustard as it is squeezed onto your food. (Go ahead, get up and check it for yourself, your mustard plying experience will never be the same). 

In my last post I shared some thoughts about the confidence Paul had in his role as a servant of God. This Spirit filled confidence gave him a purpose as he lived out God’s will for his life. In the opening words of his letter to Titus he highlights this purpose, 

“…to further the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness…” 

If you have been a part of a church, you will likely be familiar with its mission and vision statements. These short yet powerful statements give direction and purpose to the life of the church. With hope and trust in God, everything the church does is to help further the mission and vision laid out before them.

In these opening words to Titus Paul has stated for us his personal mission statement. A personal mission statement defines who you are as a person and identifies your purpose. It explains what you will do to pursue that purpose.

Paul is a man of action, his words “to further the faith of God’s elect”, give us a sense of movement or growth in our faith. The word “further” gives us a picture that he is extending something toward us, leading or guiding us forward down a particular path. That something is the “knowledge of the truth”. Simply stated, the knowledge and truth Paul describes here is hearing and understanding the message of the gospel in a personal and transformational way. 

Paul does not just stop there; he goes on to explain further the purpose of this action. The destination of that path Paul leads us down is a lifelong journey to godliness. If you read on in Paul’s letter to Titus, he begins to break down the appropriate behaviors and responsibilities of those who are involved in leading the church (to be an example for others). His words describe how a life transformed by the gospel should reflect the love of Jesus and his Father in heaven so that others will see him. 

Do you have a personal mission statement for your life? Does it challenge you to take action in your life and the lives of others? Is your mission Christ-centered? What is your goal, your destination in life? What have you learned from Paul’s words?

It is my hope and prayer that these questions and Paul’s words inspire you to think about your mission in life. Pray and ask God to help you know and understand his will for your life. Live life on purpose and for a purpose, let the truth of the gospel be the center of your life on mission with Jesus. 

A Particular kind of Confidence

Confidence in its various forms can be defined either as a feeling or belief that one can rely on something or someone. It can also be used to describe the feeling of certainty about the truth of something. Confidence in oneself can be described as a feeling of self-assurance coming from one’s appreciation of our own abilities or qualities. 

Today I began reading Paul’s letter to Titus and was reminded once again that God reveals himself and his truths to us in incredible ways. As I was reading the opening words, I was struck by the remarkable confidence Paul had in knowing who he was and his role (purpose) in advancing the message of the Gospel. Read his words as he opens the letter and “introduces” himself,  

“…a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ to further the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness—in the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time, and which now at his appointed season he has brought to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior…”

Considering the depth of meaning attached to the word “servant” or “slave” as some translations write, Paul makes a very powerful statement. While our minds tend to think of this position through a negative lens, Paul helps us understand it differently. He is declaring in this letter that he belongs to the Lord, that his life and purpose are to serve the God who created him. Understanding who Jesus is and what he has done for him, Paul put all his trust in him. 

Paul’s words of introduction have made me stop and think about the confidence he had in his faith. Normally I equate Paul with his title of Apostle, one that gives him authority and responsibility in the mission that was entrusted to him. The roots of Paul’s work to advance the message of the gospel go so much deeper than any prescribed role. His life, his work, his passion for God reflects the incredible power of the Holy Spirit through the work of Christ in his life. 

Paul’s confidence, his knowledge and understanding in living for Jesus underscore the hope that he has in the promise of eternal life with his Father in heaven. The same promise given to you and me as we live our lives here and now. Paul’s life should be an inspiration for our lives. 

Can you or I claim to be a servant of God like Paul? Absolutely! We serve the same God as Paul and are afforded the same power and presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives when we place our hope in trust in the message of the Gospel, in our relationship with Jesus. 

For me, Paul’s actions speak louder than the words that he wrote. He lived a hard life as a follower of Jesus. Paul was entrusted with a mission, one that he took with him to the grave. The heart and soul of Paul’s life and writing continue to live on. The confidence he had in the message and reality of the Gospel will carry on for generations to come. 

Today, as I read the opening words of Paul’s letter to Titus, I am thankful for the reminder that we can have confidence in the promises of God. I am thankful for the power of the Gospel message. I pray that through the power of the Holy Spirit I can have the same confidence as Paul to be on mission for Jesus Christ. This is my prayer for you as well.