and the One who walks with me on it.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Gardener and His Vines

        You can always tell a true farmer over a hobbyist.  The farmer will be out tending his crops no matter what the weather is like, how his own body feels, or in the dead of night if need be.  My neighbour Harvey was a real farmer.  One of the crops he grew was concord grapes.  I watched as he went out every morning tending his vines.  His vines were healthy, full and produced abundant fruit- which he was sure to share with us. 

       One morning after a huge downpour, when Harvey was very old, he went out to his field to tend his vines.  He got stuck in the mud and didn’t have the strength to get out for hours as no one had seen him in trouble.  The next morning he was back out in the field again.  A true farmer, he was committed to his land and the crops.  What always surprised me though was the harshness of his pruning every year; to me it seemed he cut off far too much and the vines would not be able to produce, but every year I was proven wrong.  Little did I know the truth about grapes.  Jesus knew.  He spoke about it.

I am the true Vine, and my Father is the Gardener.  He lops off every branch that doesn’t produce.  And he prunes those branches that bear fruit for even larger crops.  He has already tended you by pruning you back for greater strength and usefulness by means of the commands I gave you.  Take care to live in me, and let me live in you.  For a branch can’t produce fruit when severed from the vine.  Nor can you be fruitful apart from me.  Yes, I am the Vine; you are the branches…  (John 15:1-5 TLB)

       Those branches that don’t produce are cut off and left to wither and burned with the fire.  That makes sense to most of us and we are okay with that.  But look at the next part.  And he prunes those branches that bear fruit for even larger crops… you are the branches.  Ouch!  The Gardener prunes us for greater strength and fruitfulness.  And it’s no gentle pruning either.  This is what information I found about the subject:

Most home gardeners do not prune their grapes hard enough. Pruned grape vines will "bleed". This causes concerns to home gardeners but it is a good sign and the "bleeding" will stop.
…Grape vines must be pruned hard every year.

       So to produce abundant fruit and be useful, the Father has to prune us hard every year.  Hmmm… could that be the reason for some of our trials?  The Bible does indicate that trials and suffering improve our character.  (Rom. 5:3-4)  I can’t really guarantee how God will prune us, only that He will.  Do I enjoy ‘being pruned’?  Not really, but I’ve gotten used to it and I know He will help me through to the other side.

       As branches, we can only live while attached to the Vine, for it is through the Vine that we receive nourishment and all the other necessities for growth.  If we cut ourselves off from the Vine, we will wither, never be able to produce fruit, and will die; not a great choice to make.  But if we continue to live in Him, and He in us, we will flourish and produce wonderful abundant fruit. 

Thank You Lord for being our Vine!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Temporary Guest- Psalm 119

       It was early in our marriage and we were on the east coast of Canada staying at a most impressive-imo- motel.  The outside building and grounds made you feel as if you were somewhere in Europe out in the beautiful countryside.  We could sit on the outdoor swings and watch the ducks walking by.  Inside, the d├ęcor was similar and very comfortable.  The workers were friendly and the atmosphere peaceful.  The food was all homemade, even the bread which was cut thick, and it was all very delicious.  Overall, it was the most enjoyable stay I’ve ever had in a motel.  Too bad I lost track of its name and where it was…

       My memories of that motel live on in me, though I was only a guest.  That motel wasn’t my home, nor was it ever meant to be my home.  It was meant as a place to stop in my journey out to the coast.  Kind of like my life journey.  The Creator ‘put’ me here on this earth as a temporary rest stop on the way to my real home which is with Him. 

I am a sojourner in the earth…  Psa 119:19a

       A sojourner is a temporary resident (Webster’s 1828) which means we are only here for a limited time.  God is the One who determines the amount of time we will reside on the earth, not us, not the devil, and not the doctors.  Our lives cannot be extinguished one nanosecond before the Lord allows it.*  He has a plan and purpose for each of us, whether it is for a long or a short time here.  But our real home is for Him as He has prepared a place for us with Him forever. (1 Thes. 4:17) 

Let not your heart be troubled: believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I come again, and will receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.  (John 14:1-3  ASV)

       ‘that where I am, there ye may be also.’  Jesus wants us to be with Him.  How amazing is that!  Being with the Lord is our ultimate goal.  We are just temporary residents here so we should enjoy as much of our time as possible and in Him: live abundantly, laugh frequently, love everyone unconditionally and show the world what life with Jesus will really resemble so they will want what we have.

*For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall both live, and do this or that. (Jas.  ASV)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Open My Eyes… Psalm 119

      There I was sitting in the lounge area of the city library reading my Bible while waiting for my van to be repaired.  It was to be a long wait, so I made myself comfortable and opened up The Book to a familiar passage.  Several verses down the words seemed to ‘hit me hard’ and I began to weep.  They changed my heart and life that day.  Though I had read them many times before, they suddenly became very real and active in my life.  My eyes were opened…

       Similar experiences seem to happen every time I read the Word.  It is like there is a fly swatter hidden in the words that springs up and whacks me in the face although I’ve read them many times before, and they abruptly become alive- working in me.  It’s as if the Bible is three dimensional and the words too profound for me to fully comprehend at one time.

       How can it be that a book written 2000 years ago PLUS can still apply and have meaning to my life today?  Come on, the authors didn’t even have planes, trains and automobiles; heck, they didn’t even know North America existed!  How is it possible for words written thousands of years ago to impact me today?  The words in the Bible are living because God made them that way.  'For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword…' (Heb. ISV)  The word ‘living’ is the same word that Jesus used when speaking of Himself as living water and living bread, as well as when other authors write of the living God.

       How do I know the Word of God is inspired?  (every Writing is God-breathed2 Tim.   YLT)  Because I’ve read other lengthy books and although some are interesting and you even learn about historical events or legends, the words don’t jump out at you and change your life.  Occasionally I have read words from authors that have impacted my life, but they are few and far between.  Overwhelmingly, it is the Lord’s words that continue to change me on a daily basis.

Open my eyes to see wonderful things in your Word.  Ps 119:18  KJV

       Those words are often my prayer when I open the Bible.  In other words, I pray the Lord would open my eyes so that I can understand the words and thereby understand Him better.  His Spirit teaches us and quickens the words to our hearts.  (1 Cor. 2:13)  And there really are many wonderful things in His Word: love, life, freedom, joy, peace, healing, truth...  But best of all is getting to know Him, the Creator of all life.  How awesome is that!

Lord, open our eyes…

Sunday, July 24, 2011

With My Whole Heart... Psalm 119

With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments. v. 10 KJV

       Twenty eight years a Christian and I can say without a doubt that I have not always sought the Lord, let alone with my whole heart.  I really wish I could say otherwise, but I can’t.  There were backslidden times when I relegated the Lord to my back shelf, and times when I was so angry at Him I didn’t speak to Him for months.  I’m glad that forgiveness and salvation continues through the blood of Jesus Christ.  Without it, I am sure that I would never have returned to my first Love.

       So, I am to seek or follow after the Lord with my entire heart/ feelings/ will/ intellect.  (see Strong’s Dictionary H1875).  The sum total of who I am or will ever be is supposed to pursue the Lord- to know Him more*.  I aspire to have this be true at all times- forever.  Is it even possible?  I’m not sure, but I can try.  I know I will never be perfect while on this earth, nor will I be able to live sin free; but I believe it is possible to continue to seek the Lord every day of my life.

       The second part of the verse sounds to me like a child asking a parent to not allow him to wander away.  In other words, the parent is assisting the child in the endeavor.  Throughout my Christian journey, I have tried to stop sinning and in the rare instance it worked, but more often than not, I needed the Lord’s help in halting sin or changing my desire for it.  Help me Lord, to not make mistakes or err when it comes to Your Word.  Help me to stay on the path of obedience- not obedience because I have to, but obedience because I love You and don’t want to hurt You.

Lord, I choose to seek You with my whole heart.  Help me to follow You completely.

*John 17:3- And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.    Php. 3:10- That I may know him…  KJV