Geek Out

I didn’t do well in high school science. I nearly failed Biology 11 and thought it best to leave my science career right there. But in the light of what the Bible has to say about a lot of things, I’ve suddenly become very interested in some areas of scientific research.

And this Living Expression is the Light that bursts through gloom—
    the Light that darkness could not diminish!

John 1:5 (TPT)

Most people understand that light is a spectrum. Visible light (what our human eyes can actually process) is a very small part of what makes up the electromagnetic spectrum.

What does this have to do with the Bible, you ask?

Everything.

In the third verse of the entire Bible, God called light into being. He didn’t create the sun or stars or the moon. He simply said, “Let there be light”; and there was light (Genesis 1:3). If we take this literally, that means that light existed in creation before there was any celestial body to create it.

John 1:5 tells us that the Word—the Living Expression, Jesus—is also the Light. So we can suppose then, that when God announced light into creation, Jesus burst forth.

Like vine-dressing in relation to John 15, I’ve learned some really interesting things about light that pertain to John 1. For instance, “It is proposed that all electromagnetism [light—visible and invisible] in the Cosmos is a consequence of sound. Put differently, electromagnetism would not exist without sound.”* Imagine that, something makes a noise and light is the result.

If you stand outside on a clear day and yell, someone a mile away might be able to hear you. But that doesn’t mean that that’s the end of it. It is hypothesized that, while sound waves eventually peter out beyond what is audible to the human ear, the electromagnetic waves created by that sound (an atom bumping into an atom that bumps into an atom…) go on through the atmosphere and into space forever, barring an unexpected meeting with dense matter. Each atom affected holds and transfers all the data from the initial event that caused the sound. So, in effect, every word you speak is truly eternal.

Human beings are frail and temporary, like grass, and the glory of man fleeting like blossoms of the field. The grass dries and withers and the flowers fall off, but the Word of the Lord endures forever! And this is the Word that was announced to you!

1 Peter 1:24-25 (TPT)

God, in His infinite wisdom and grace, created humanity in His image and invited us to participate in a union with Him that allows us not only to speak to Him and have Him respond, but He’s actually allowed us to take on His identity. As Jesus is Light, so we are invited to not just be in His light, but to actually be that light.

There are things on earth and in the atmosphere that affect sound. It can be stopped, but light cannot. We need to think beyond what we can see and hear with our physical senses. We need to learn to see beyond what merely seems to be to what really is. If science can prove that light is a result of sound and that the waves it makes are eternal, what can we learn from Jesus—the Light of the world—living within us and we in Him? If we can learn to truly see Him as Light and learn that our place is in Him and His is in us. Who or what can stop us?

What was made in infinite power could not be unmade by any finite power. It could only be hidden by darkness.

Ted Dekker, The 49th Mystic

The commentary for John 1:5 will soon be available here.

*John Stuart Reid, The Special Relationship between Sound and Light with Implications for Sound and Light Therapy

Out with the Old

Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.

John 15:2 (NASB)

Hands up if you’ve heard preachers dole out condemnation along with this verse? “If yer not livin’ fer Jesus, He’s a-gonna cut you right off and toss ya into the pit of fire!” (*insert southern preacher voice here.) It’s not a comforting thought about a God who literally claims to be the full embodiment of love.

So what does pruning here actually entail? It does not include God coming at the church with a machete like an backwoods bushwacker. According to The Passion Translation study notes, the term take away actually means that he takes up [to himself] every fruitless branch. As in, He lifts those wilted, lifeless, unproductive branches off the ground where they will spoil and puts them in a position where they can become productive. God’s version pruning isn’t cutting people away, it’s placing them in the best possible place to succeed.

So where does the cutting come in?

I’ve learned a few things about vine-tending. Pruning happens in the winter—after harvest and before the spring buds start to appear. A good vinedresser is not shy about pruning. The most common mistake people make is not pruning enough. When it comes to trees, a good, sturdy trunk with good sturdy branches is ideal. It means that thing is going to stay standing and provide shade for a long while. With vines, a sturdy root stock is important, but when it comes to branches, old is bad, new is good.

Old growth on vines doesn’t produce. It just steal the much needed energy from the new growth that produces the best and most fruit.

“This church hasn’t changed a lick in over a century!” Good for you. That’s why the congregation is the same size and meeting in the same building as it was a hundred years ago. Many (I’d even go so far as to say most) professing Christians hold on to traditions of the past—traditions that we have no biblical example for. Those are old growth believers, still a part of the vine, but not producing because they refuse to endure the discomfort of the pruning required to promote new growth.

If I’ve learned anything on my journey to where I am today it’s that letting go of what I used to think has been well worth gaining what I now know. That’s what childlike faith is—coming to God with a blank slate and then, like every kid ever, keep asking “why?”

God makes us ask ourselves questions most often when He intends to resolve them.

Thomas Merton

If we really believe that we serve an infinite God, why would we ever stop asking questions? Why would we be satisfied as a tough old branch that might sprout a few leaves when we can be a shiny new vine that produces the good fruit?

If you’d like to see more on John 15:2, click here to purchase the commentary.

The Vine for the Wine

I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.

John 15:1 (NASB)

Let’s face it, in our lifetime, most of us will never grow grapes. We’ll eat them. We may drink them. But we won’t grow them. So immediately, our understanding of what Jesus is saying here is limited.

In my digging through this verse and the following scriptures, I took the time to learn a bit about vinedressing and even a bit about winemaking. When looking at what would normally be very dry, very boring information in a spiritual context, suddenly that very dry, very boring content comes to life.

Did you know that not every grape is right for every vineyard? Grape grower, Wes Hagen, said to choose the right grape to plant, not the variety you prefer. From a natural standpoint this makes sense. Just because you want to produce a certain wine, it doesn’t mean that the soil you have is right for that variety of grape. From a spiritual standpoint, Hagen’s comment is even more profound. The right vine in the right soil makes all the difference in the final product. In accordance to the gifts we’ve each been given, we are all best suited to thrive in different areas. Just because you may want to be or do something doesn’t necessarily mean that’s where you’re best suited. The best result comes when you allow the vinedresser—God—to choose where you will grow and produce the best.

Another interesting fact about vineyards is that very few are planted from seed. More often than not, the variety that’s growing on the trellises is not what’s rooted in the soil. This is because many of the best varieties of grapes for winemaking do not have the strongest root structure. So root vines are planted and the growing vines are grafted.

I am a true sprouting vine, and the farmer who tends the vine is my Father.

John 15:1 (TPT)

As New Testament believers, we are the vines that have been grafted on to the sprouting root stock. There is no way we can grow roots strong enough to grow a worthwhile fruit on our own. And, thankfully, we don’t even have to try. Our strength, our roots, come from what or, rather, whom we’ve been grafted to. All the nourishment we’ll ever need comes through that root system that Jesus has established and all the care we need comes from the Father, the vinedresser.

Further verses will address our need to stay in the vine lest we be unproductive and cut away. For now, though, take the time to think about the implications of the root and the vine working together and all that means not just for grapes, but for us as individual believers.

If you’d like to see more on John 15:1, click here to purchase the commentary.

What is truth?

Pilate looked at Jesus and said, “What is truth?”

As silence filled the room, Pilate went back out to where the Jewish leaders were waiting and said to them, “He’s not guilty. I couldn’t even find one fault with him.

John 18:38 (TPT)

What is truth? could very well be the most imperative question in society today. In a world of my truth and your truth, what is the truth?

TRUTH: Conformity to fact or reality; exact accordance with that which is, or has been, or shall be.

Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language

The fact that Pilate felt the need to pose his question before Jesus leads me to believe that truth was as difficult to find in ancient Jerusalem as it is today. Many people will tell you what they believe the truth to be, but how much of that believe system is actually true?

It is the personal responsibilty of each individual to discover truth for ourselves. We cannot depend on what others may know or think they know or even want to know. In the end, we are all accountable for what we know—intimately experience.

Truth goes beyond fact. Jesus declared Himself to be the Truth.

Jesus explained, “I am the Way, I am the Truth, and I am the Life. No one comes next to the Father except through union with me. To know me is to know my Father too.

John 14:6 (TPT)

The Passion Translation footnote says that the Truth is the True Reality. What we see and experience in this plane of existence isn’t Truth. It’s a shadow. Jesus, the Light of the World, is the lamp that guides the way to Truth—Himself.

Pilate may have been sarcastic in his question, he may have just thrown it out there, or maybe he really wanted to know. We cannot know his attitude, but we can (and should) know our own. Do we really want to know the Truth? Or are we content in our blindness? We need to be willing to let go of what we think we know if we ever expect to know the True Reality.

If anyone comes to Me (responds to the good news of the kingdom), and does not hate (release attachment to) his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sistersm, yes, and even his own life (all the masks we cling to in relationship to others and ourselves), he cannot be my disciple. (Cannot follow Yeshua into an experience of the kingdom now present within all.)

Luke 14:26 (NASB), amplification by Ted Dekker, Rise of the Mystics

As a bit of a celebration for my first post in this new season, readers can download for free my visual commentary page for John 18:38. One day there may be a complete commentary, but for now, it’s simply verse-by-verse.

If this content has helped you in any way, please consider making a small donation so that I can keep digging deep and creating it to share.

Introducing Verse-by-Verse

Before diving right in to this new phase, I want to give an introduction of how and why this commentary has come about and will continue to come and evolve as it goes.

All that has come before has led to this.

The story begins in 2017 when I decided to read the Bible cover to cover in a year—not just read it, but get something out of it. Daily: A Year in the Word of God was born. What began as a new spiritual journey for me ended the year with a series of 13 four-week devotional books with my thoughts regarding some of the scriptures I’d read every day throughout the year. In 2018, my plan was to once again read through the Bible in a year, forcing myself to dig deeper. My original intent was to end the year with another publication.

Sometime in the spring of 2018, God finally got my attention. It turns out I’d been reading my Bible looking for my next blog post rather than the True Reality of Jesus Christ (John 14:6 TPT). So the posts ended and my reading continued. As summer hit, I hit my own block. I felt like I’d run into a wall. My spiritual well felt as though it had run totally dry. So I actually set my Bible aside and started picking up some other books hoping to jar myself out of the funk I’d found myself in.

Books like The Way Back: How Christians Blew Our Credibility and How We Get it Back by Phil Cooke, Letters to the Church by Francis Chan, and Pagan Christianity by Frank Viola started to open my eyes to a version of Christianity I’d never even dared to dream about.

By the time 2018 ended and 2019 began, I was ready to embark on a new journey. Little did I know how deep down the rabbit hole it would take me. On January 19, 2019, I opened my Bible to John 1:1 intent on discovering for myself who Jesus really is and what He really said about His Church.

Nearly two years later, I’m still gloriously mired in John’s gospel. The road has been bumpy (bumpy like a Saskatchewan back road in spring) and it has been long. I’ve experienced more pain than I thought I ever would. But I’ve also experienced joy. Best of all, I’ve experienced Jesus. I’ve come to know Jesus in a light that all my years of church involvment and attendance never prepared me for or introduced me to. For many, 2020 has been a year of hardship and trial. For me, it’s been a year I’d never trade for anything. As I dig deeper into the scriptures I’ve found Jesus in every word of every verse of every translation.

Verse-by-Verse is my way of attempting to share some of what I’ve discovered on my own journey. Nothing I’ve discovered is linear. It’s not a road. It’s more like the Amazon River, running deep and wide while spreading out fingers into any place it finds purchase. Be patient. Don’t rush. And don’t get frustrated if nothing seems to be in order. An incredible thing about God is that He exists outside of space and time and everything fits together within Him. It really all work out in the end because it has already been worked out.

I invite you to join me in this amazing journey. Ask the big questions. Ask the strange questions. Don’t dismiss ideas because they might not align with what you’ve always been taught. You may be as surprised as I have been at the answers you receive.

Protect the promise

If you’ve made a commitment to someone, how far will you go to see that it happens? If someone has made a commitment to you, how far will you go to see that it happens? And what about what God has promised to you? How far will you go to hold on to the promises that you have from the Lord? Only until it gets a little uncomfortable? Only until it’s inconvenient and doesn’t really fit into your plans?

What if we could see the end at the beginning? Would it change our response to God’s promises? It certainly made a difference in Judah. God had promised that David’s line would never end. David would have an heir on the throne forever. But as we read in 2 Chronicles, that line was in serious jeopardy. Upon the death of King Ahaziah, his mother took it upon herself to destroy every possible heir. But one got away. Just a child, but an heir nonetheless.

Jehoiada said to them, “The king’s son shall reign, as the Lord promised concerning the descendants of David. Now this is what you are to do: A third of you priests and Levites who are going on duty on the Sabbath are to keep watch at the doors, a third of you at the royal palace and a third at the Foundation Gate, and all the other men are to be in the courtyards of the temple of the Lord. No on is to enter the temple of the Lord except the priests and Levites on duty; they may enter because they are consecrated, but all the other men are to guard what the Lord has assigned to them. The Levites are to station themselves around the king, each man with weapons in his hand. Anyone who enters the temple must be put to death. Stay close to the king wherever he goes.

2 Chronicles 23:3b-7 (NIV)

That is an awful lot of fuss for a kid just barely out of kindergarten. Yet Jehoiada knew that this boy was heir to far more than just the nation of Judah. He was the heir of a promise that would extend throughout eternity and they would protect that promise with their lives.

We have a book full of promises from God. How far will you go to see those promises come to pass?

The thing is, just because a promise has been made, doesn’t mean that we aren’t required to do anything. It doesn’t mean that we just get to sit around and let it happen around us. Had Jehoiada decided to leave matters be—it’ll all work out in the end, won’t it?—Joash would have been killed along with the rest of his siblings. The last of David’s line gone. And then what? It’s not as though God couldn’t have come up with another plan for salvation. But that’s not what God does. He’s not a God of plan B. He doesn’t even have a plan B. It’s plan A. Period.

So how do we know that God will keep His promises?

For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

2 Corinthians 1:20-22 (NIV)

If God has made a promise to us, we can be assured that He will keep it. But we also have a responsibility to protect that promise. We must arm ourselves as Jehoiada armed the priests and Levites to protect Joash. God has given us His Spirit so that we can stand firm in the face of our enemy and declare the Amen—let it be so—with confidence that if God has promised it, He will perform it.

Do you have a promise from God? Protect it. With your life.

Read: 2 Chronicles 23-25, John 16:16-33

Not yours

Do you need God to move in a big way in your life? Wait. That’s a silly question. Who doesn’t need God to move in a big way in their life? If you’re sitting there thinking that you don’t, then you really need God to move in a big way.

We all need God. And we all need Him to move in our lives. But most of us never really see God move in the ways we’d like him to. Jim Cymbala said in his book, Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire, that he despaired at the thought that [his] life might slip by without seeing God show himself mightily on [his] behalf. What a sorry existence we live as Christians if we never really see God move in or through us.

So what does it take to see God move?

  • Individuals. A move of God starts when one person decides that they want more for their life than what their own plan can accomplish. It takes one person making the choice to put God’s plans ahead of their own.

The Lord was with Jehoshaphat because in his early years he walked in the ways his father David had followed. He did not consult the Baals but sought the God of his father and followed his commands father than the practices of Israel.

2 Chronicles 17:3-4 (NIV)

  • Leaders. A move of God requires leaders—those who have made the choice to put the plans and purposes of God above everything else—to stand up and encourage others to do the same.

As they set out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Listen to me, Judah and people of Jerusalem! Have faith in the Lord your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful.”

2 Chronicles 20:20b

  • Families. If one person can make a decision, a family can make a difference. The entire nation of Israel was one family descended from Abraham. When they chose to walk in the ways of the Lord, God went before them and blessed everything they touched.

All the men of Judah, with their wives and children and little ones, stood there before the Lord.

2 Chronicles 20:13 (NIV)

  • Worship. Our response to God, His goodness, His faithfulness, His good plans for us, stirs His heart. God cannot move where He is not welcome and what better way to welcome His Spirit than to stand in an attitude of adoration?

After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying:

“Give thanks to the Lord,
for his love endures forever.”

2 Chronicles 20:21 (NIV)

In the case of Jehoshaphat and the nation of Judah, God went ahead of the army and defeated the enemy for them. By the time the troops arrived on the battlefield, all that remained were dead bodies and so much plunder that it took three days to gather it all.

We may not be headed into a physical battle, but we are most certainly in a spiritual one. If we want God to move on our behalf, there are certain things required of us. The greatest of these things is the sacrifice of ourselves.

He must become greater; I must become less.

John 3:30 (NIV)

It’s hard to let go of our own wants and needs. Scary, even. But when we recognise God for who He is—a good God and a loving Father—it becomes easier to allow Him to set the course for us. And that is what we must do. God will move, but it will be in His direction, not ours. We must be committed and submitted to His will.

For the battle is not yours, but God’s.

2 Chronicles 20:15b (NIV)

Read: 2 Chronicles 20-22, John 16:1-15

If the world hates you

The world. Unredeemed society, estranged from God, held in the grip of sin and the evil one, blind to spiritual truth and hostile to those who have the life of God in them… Hostility is rooted in spiritual dissimilarity.

Everett F. Harrison, The Wycliffe Bible Commentary

More and more, it would seem, the world hates the Church. I don’t believe that it is so much because we carry a message of hate—our message is quite the opposite—but that they do not understand our message. It’s different than what they’ve been told to think. Talk to anyone who is militantly against faith in Christ. More often than not, they don’t even know why they carry so much anger or hatred nor do they know enough of the Bible to make any relevant argument against the faith.

As frustrating as this can be to Christians around the world, Jesus gave us fair warning.

If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, That is why the world hates you.

John 15:18-19 (NIV)

People fear what they do not know and that fear can easily be turned into hatred. A child may claim that he hates all vegetables. As it is unlikely that he has tried every vegetable in existence, it can be assumed that their conclusion of dislike for all produce stems from either a bad experience with vegetables or a fear of the unknown. That which hasn’t been sampled can seem strange and different and uncomfortable.

The world’s ignorance is the true cause of its hatred to the disciples of Jesus. The clearer and fuller the discoveries of the grace and truth of Christ, the greater is our sin if we do not love him and believe in him.

Matthew Henry

The mention of Jesus, however, elicits a far stronger reaction than broccoli. Most people who claim to hate Jesus along with those who follow him really know nothing about him and what he really taught. Their opinions are often based on hearsay or that one bad experience. Because we don’t share common values or beliefs, we all become like vegetables—hated for no other reason than being a vegetable, or in our case, Christians.

There are those who believe that, if Christians would just act more like the rest of the world, it would be better. Wrong. It wouldn’t be better. Jesus called us out of the world. We shouldn’t look like the world. That’s like a mother mashing cauliflower and carrots into the potatoes to make her kid eat vegetables. Sure, the cauliflower is still cauliflower and the carrots are still carrots, but they’ve been blended in with the potatoes so much, you can no longer tell what’s what. The original substance, texture, shape, and flavour has all been lost.

How did Jesus respond to the haters? He loved them. It is our love for one another and our love for the world that sets us apart.

But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.

Luke 6:27-31 (NIV)

Read: 2 Chronicles 17-19, John 15

He was found

They entered into a covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers, with all their heart and soul. All who would not seek the Lord, the God of Israel, were to be put to death, whether small or great, man or woman. They took an oath to the Lord with loud acclamation, with shouting and with trumpets and horns. All Juda rejoiced about the oath because they had sworn it wholeheartedly. They sought God eagerly, and he was found by them. So the Lord gave them rest on every side.

2 Chronicles 15:12-15 (NIV)

I am amazed at the intensity with which Judah swore their oath to seek God. We’re not used to such excitement when it comes to commitment. Most people are consider themselves committed if they’re only five minutes late for church instead of fifteen and then are upset if someone happens to mention their perpetual tardiness. Be glad you weren’t in Judah at the time this covenant was made. You’d have been put to death.

A little much, you think? Perhaps. Or perhaps not. While the penalty for not taking the oath was great, the reward for taking it was even greater. And he was found by them. So the Lord gave them rest on every side.

We have a bad habit of looking at our faith as deeply personal. It is, don’t get me wrong, but it is not just for us as individuals. Our faith and our commitment to the the Lord is also for the entire body and the entire body is to reach a lost and dying world. When Jesus sacrificed himself on the cross, it was for you and it was for me. But it was also for the church—his bride. His death was meant to bind us all together like Judah’s covenant united them.

While death may not be a bit of an extreme punishment for a lack of commitment these days, we have somehow lost our connection to each other and forgotten the great importance of community and sharing a common covenant. We can all take an oath as individuals and experience a certain amount of peace, but look at the effects Judah’s nationwide oath had on the people—rest on every side. And that rest lasted as long as they kept the oath.

If the church—not just a church, but The Church—would stand up and make a serious covenant not only to seek God with all their heart and soul, but to keep each other accountable to it, imagine the effect it would have on our nation. If God is not found where we are, maybe we’re not seeking Him as eagerly as we thought. But if we would all join together as Judah did in that time of rejoicing over a renewed covenant, perhaps we’d find God along with our rest.

Read: 2 Chronicles 13-16, John 14

Mutual, I’m sure

Everyone wants a label. A title. We want to be called by a name that defines us. That announces us. That lets everyone else know who and what we are. If someone doesn’t have a label, we immediately want to give them one. A singer. A banker. A president. A streetwalker. An addict. A hero. Once given, we are usually disinclined to offer another label unless that person makes a grievous error or heroic effort. Then the original label is nearly impossible to get back.

While being known for one big thing is not an issue, carrying multiple labels tends to be. It’s confusing. Are you one thing or are you the other? Honestly, we can all be, and should all be, more than just one thing.

Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

John 13:14-17 (NIV)

Through his teaching, Jesus gave his disciples all sorts of contradictory labels. Be a teacher, but be a student. Be bold, but be humble. Be a leader, but be a servant. Matthew Henry said that duties are mutual; we must both accept help from our brethren, and afford help to our brethren. 

By disrobing, getting down on his knees, and washing the feet of his disciples, Jesus displayed for all of us the example that a man can be both a leader and a servant. His entire ministry, he was leading people to serve. These things are not exclusive, but as Matthew Henry stated, mutually inclusive. All of these things that may seem contradictory are in reality complimentary.

One cannot teach without a willingness to learn. One cannot be bold without truly knowing what it is to be humble. One cannot lead unless they understand how to follow.

We can call Jesus Lord, and that wouldn’t be wrong. Neither would it be incorrect to call him Savior or Son of God. But we cannot stop there. Jesus doesn’t fit under just one label, but many. He is also a servant to mankind. He is a follower of his Father. And because Jesus did, so that we may follow his example, so should we be called by many things, and possibly the greatest of which being servants.

Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.

Matthew 20:26 (NIV)

Read: 2 Chronicles 7-9, John 13:1-17