Friday, December 21, 2007

God the Gardener

John 15.1-2: 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 become even more fruitful.

Why? Why do we see people who love the Lord all of a sudden or over time just stop serving? Why are there no kingdom priorities in their life? On the other hand, why do God's people go through such great difficulties? They may ask, "Why is my life so difficult? Does God love me? Does He see my pain?"

Jesus answers those two questions in John 15.1-2. Jesus uses a picture of a vine and a Gardener and explains in a way that cannot be misunderstood. If you do not have a life that is bearing fruit for God, then you will be cut off. They will not care because they have already stopped bearing fruit. Pangs of guilt may arise once and a while but on the whole being cut off is really not a deep concern because they have already cut themselves off from God.

But the life of a true believer is different. They are bearing fruit as they live in Christ and for Christ. The difficult matter for the believer is that God knows that with some pruning, they can bear more fruit. So God steps up to the believer and begins to shape and mold and cut so that they become even more fruitful. This wise Gardener knows where to cut and how much to trim so that the vine will produce quality fruit.

This means at least two things. First, it is exciting to know that every believer will bear fruit. There is no one who is able to say that they are of no consequence in the kingdom of God. Part of your privilege as a child of God is to bear fruit for God as you serve him in your sphere of life. Second, this can be a painful process. That is why at times the believer is left wondering about God's activities. Why Lord? Well, the answer may be that some pruning is being done so you can bear even more fruit in His kingdom.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Hospital Gowns

Recently my brother-in-law had to take his wife to the hospital and as they sat down to wait for her operation, he noticed the gowns the patients wore. As he contemplated this, he mentioned how it struck him that it did not matter your social status, the size of your house or the amount of presents under the tree - they all wore the same type of gown.

His reminder was timely as Western culture is consumed with material gifts while neglecting the true gift of Christmas - Jesus. It shows you how rebellious our hearts are before God. We have the freedom to learn about the birth of Christ and our culture spends its time in malls - not church. It also shows you how great and precious the gift of God is - that it meets our greatest need, not just felt needs.

When it comes time for me to put on one of those gowns, I am so thankful to God that the gift given me is not under the tree but He is on the throne.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Battling Temptation?

John 12:25-26: The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.

The battling temptations surround all of us - daily, constantly. We can experience the triumph of obedience one moment and the defeat of disobedience the next and so it is important in the moments of being tossed by the waves of temptation to stand on the solid Word of God.

Jesus, in John 12, gives direction and hope as he tells his disciples not only of his coming death but also of what the believer's life must consist.

1. Learn to hate your life and value the life to come (While that man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life) When Satan tempted Jesus it was about the here and now - you can have bread now, you can have the kingdom now and without the cross. Jesus' answer? Man does not live by bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God; worship the Lord your God and serve him only. Jesus practiced what he preached as he valued the life to come and the life he would give to all who would follow him.

2. Learn to be a servant - this life is not about you (whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be) Even in the Garden of Eden, Satan tempted Eve with words that would make her the master and put God in His proper place. But Jesus states: you are my servant. That one line or that one heart attitude helps us understand temptation and what is constantly bombarding us: will we serve Christ or our desires? Will Christ be master or will we?

3. Learn to be satisfied with God's approval (My Father will honour the one who serves me.) God will honour the one who serves Christ. Will I be satisfied to let go of the praise of men and women and simply long to hear the words of God: I honour you, my servant and my child? I sometimes wonder if the most precious moments in Jesus' life on earth were when he heard His Father say: This is my Son, in whom I delight. The servant of Jesus, as he battles temptation, must have a greater longing for God's approval and honour.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Psalm 9 - A Good Reminder

Psalm 9 begins with the inscription For the director of music. To the tune of , "The Death of the Son." A psalm of David. Sounds ominous, doesn't it? Put away the happy instruments and bring out the "low, sombre notes" setting the stage for the death of the son tune. David finds himself surrounded by the sad "music" of rebellion against God as the Godless relentlessly attack God and His people. However, what is surprising is that the death of the son seems to be a warning to those who oppose God. We read in the Psalm that David spends most of his time warning the rebellious that God reigns forever and therefore He will judge, He will avenge the blood of His people, and He will strike them with terror.

But it is this last line that I want to mention - let the nations know they are but men. Imagine the last words of the song - you, you who stand against God - know this: You are but men. Nothing more, nothing less. Try to stand against God as you will but you will fail and you will know that you are but men.

We also live in a culture that says: we are men! God adds a simple word - as you stand before me, you are "but men".