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John 15:1 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.”

We were doing some yard work recently, and my wife was complimenting me on the trimming of a small tree/bush near my son’s window. My wife noticed that some leaves poking out were different from the other leaves she saw. While she was looking at the leaves, I was tracing the branches down to the root. While we were discussing if it was the same plant or not, I commented, “Honey, you’re looking at the leaves, and I’m looking at the roots!” Sure enough, it turns out that new leaves were part of one tree, and the other leaves belonged to a second tree growing close alongside. To look at it from far off, you would think it was the same tree, but when you look closely, you see which tree which branch of leaves belongs to.

Jesus was telling His disciples that they cannot bear fruit unless they abide in Him. Just like a branch cannot bear fruit unless it is attached ultimately to the roots, we cannot bear Christian witness or works apart from Jesus Christ. He is our Source. When I was a little boy, my grandmother had some grapevines that strung across an old bed spring-like fencing. Unfortunately, also in this fencing was poison oak. I didn’t want to touch either because I couldn’t tell which was which. Of course, once the grapes started growing, I could easily tell where the true grapevine was.

Jesus also told his disciples that God “prunes” the good branches to produce more fruit; if He has branches not producing fruit, they are taken away. Once you accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, your salvation is guaranteed and you are going to Heaven. But we also need to use our gifts and abilities (that God gave us, by the way) to glorify Him and serve Him, else those gifts get rusty or fall into disuse…and what a waste of God-given talents that would be!

Tis better to be a fruit-producing branch of the True Vine; wouldn’t you agree?

Something to think about.

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Song of Solomon 2:1: “I am the rose of Sharon, And the lily of the valleys.”

Shortly after I graduated college and had my first job, I was travelling home from watching a local high school football game with a friend. It was raining, and I was driving down a dark country road. I hit a tree branch that had fallen in the road; it was large enough that it caused me to skid off the road into a dark ditch. I couldn’t see the bottom of the ditch, so I had no idea if I could climb down; I was close enough to the road that I could climb out the window of my door. It was all but pitch-black and still raining. I had no idea how close I was to my folks’ house (that’s where I was heading), plus being the country, there were bound to be wild animals out. Well, it wasn’t too long after, a truck came down the road, and I managed to flag it down. the driver called out to me from his vehicle and asked was I okay. I told him I was, and asked if he could give me a lift to my folks’ house. He called out my name, recognizing my voice, and said “Is that you?” I aid, “Yes, it’s me! Who are you?” Turns out it was a friend of my family’s (for privacy, we’ll just call him Tommy) When he told me who he was, man, was I ever glad to see him! He told me to hop in, and he’d take me to my folks. The next day we were able to pull the truck out of the ditch with a tractor. At the time, no better friend and hero did I know than Tommy! He was a life saver in my dire predicament.

I always wondered why the “rose of Sharon” was one of the appellations for Jesus Christ. The Song of Solomon is a beautiful love poem between King Solomon and his Shulamite bride. It is also an analogy of the love between Jesus Christ (bridegroom) and the Church (bride). Though it is commonly assumed that this verse is spoken by the bride, many other translations state that it is the bridegroom who makes these statements (I did some research using Thru the Bible Commentary on Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon by Dr. J. Vernon McGee.) In Chapter 2, page 134, of this commentary, Dr. McGee states that “These words describe the Lord Jesus.” He explains that for anyone else to state this, it would be pride, but our Lord came down as a meek and lowly Savior, so it comes across as humility.

As Christians, we not only NEED a Savior, we should DESIRE or WANT a Savior. He should be the hero we need to rescue us in our sinful situation. And He is! The rose of Sharon and the lily of the valley are among the most beautiful flowers in that part of the world. Like my friend Tommy was that night, my Lord Jesus is the most wonderful Person I could see. He is there in times of trouble and of plenty.

To me, the old hymn says it best:
“I have found a friend in Jesus, He’s everything to me,
He’s the fairest of ten thousand to my soul.
The Lily of the Valley, In Him alone I see
All I need to cleanse and make me fully whole.”

There is no more beautiful a Friend than Jesus.

Rev 22:13: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.”

In the classic movie Beneath the Planet of the Apes, astronaut Brent had followed the same time-travel trajectory of George Taylor; his flight was sent to find out what had happened to him. After several adventures (encountering Nova, Taylor’s mute love interest, discovering Ape City, meeting the simian scientists Cornelius and Zira), he finally found Taylor, a prisoner like himself of a band of underground, radiation-scarred humans with psychic powers of illusion. After the three of them have killed their jailer, Taylor is attempting to treat Brent’s wound, when Brent tells him of the terrifying discovery he and Nova had witnessed: the humans’ “god”.

Brent: “Taylor…Taylor, they’ve got a bomb…atomic bomb…it’s operational! They intend to use it.” (since the gorilla army was advancing on the humans’ stronghold, they were going to fire it at Ape City)
Taylor: “What type is it?”
Brent: “I don’t know…I don’t know, what type, I’ve never seen it before.”
Taylor: “Didn’t you see a series number?”
Brent: “No numbers, just some letters…on one of the fins…Greek letters (Taylor freezes in realization)…”Alpha…”
Taylor: (resignedly) “and Omega.”
Brent: (surprised that Taylor knows) “What?”
Taylor begins dressing Brent’s wound as he explains about the “doomsday bomb”: “Another lovely souvenir from the 20th century. They weren’t satisfied with a bomb that could knock out a city. They finally built one with a cobalt casing…all in the sweet name of peace.”
Brent mutters in despair, realizing the consequences: “if they shoot it off at some of those apes, they’ll set off a chain reaction in the whole atmosphere…”
Taylor: “…burn the planet to a cinder…how’s that for your ultimate weapon?”

I replayed this dialogue on my copy of the DVD movie. Just like Taylor called it…a doomsday bomb, the beginning and the end of any conflict in which it’s used, an Armageddon. Tragically, in the movie, the bomb did go off, destroying everyone and everything.

Now, there really is going to be an Armageddon, but not with a bomb called the Alpha and the Omega. There will be a different Alpha and Omega as John tells us in his vision, which is the book of Revelation. That Beginning and End is Jesus Christ. John 1:1 and Revelation 1:8 reiterate what Christians already know: Jesus existed at the Beginning; He was, is, and always will be. He is God the Son, the Messiah. He is one of the three persons of God (God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit). He will be there at the final battle against Satan, and He will be victorious! He is the End, too. This is part of His Majesty, being the timeless Lord He is. Though He walked the earth as the Lamb of God, He reigns in Heaven, as our Righteous King.

That’s a Beginning and End I will see one day!

John 10: 11, 14: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.” “I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own.”
1 Peter 5:4: “and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.”

Our pastor used to live in Wyoming, and among his many encounters, he got to know a local shepherd and wanted to learn about his occupation of caring for sheep. One morning, while the shepherd was rousing the flock to wake up, our pastor saw the shepherd tend to some sheep that had rolled over on their sides. Sheep are similar to turtles; if they fall over sleeping, they need help getting up. They can actually die from asphyxiation if they’re not righted, because they cannot get up on their own. The shepherd would help right the sheep, massaging their legs until they could stand and move on their own. This puzzled our pastor; he asked the shepherd why did he keep those sheep, for all the trouble they caused him. Why didn’t he just get rid of them?

The shepherd looked at our pastor in amazement. He told him he wouldn’t get rid of them; those were some of his best sheep! They were incredibly loyal, and would never wander away from him. They knew the sound of his voice.

(Now, our pastor told us this tale in his own sermon series recently on Jesus: I Am; so, if I’ve quoted the story incorrectly, I’m sure he’ll set me straight. :-) )

We are sheep, and we need a Good Shepherd. Jesus is that Shepherd. He cares for us, protects us, and even corrects us when we stray. Jesus contrasted the Good Shepherd with hirelings who don’t take care of sheep, who run at the first sign of trouble. Jesus isn’t that way; we know the sound of His Voice, and are dependent on him.

Peter writes in 1 Peter, chapter 5, verse 4, that those who care for God’s flock will receive that crown of glory from the Chief Shepherd…and this Shepherd is also Jesus.

Something to think about!

Mark 10:17-18: “Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God.””

All of us have been taught throughout our lives, whether we wish to admit it or not, whether we were willing participants or not. Some of the people who taught me, I remember more fondly than others. Some were good teachers. Experience itself can be a hard teacher. But there are some good teachers we can all recall. Two instances I remember: one was my grandmother, who taught me in Sunday School when I was very young. She and my mother made sure I knew about God, Jesus, and the Bible. Two, was my first grade teacher; as a little boy, I had a crush on her! 🙂 She was so tall and pretty. She loved us kids in her class a lot. Now, she could be tough when she had to be, but I fondly remember learning the alphabet and math under her guidance. (For the record, when I saw her years later, I discovered that she wasn’t as tall as I thought…but then again, I was a short first-grader!) I still love her; she was a second mama figure to us!

Good teachers are those who care about us, and want us to learn the right things. The rich young ruler, when he greeted Jesus, addressed Him as “Good Teacher” due to His reputation as a prophet and teacher. I find Jesus’s response wonderfully ironic when He answered him and said, “why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God.” And, of course, Jesus is God!

The point is, Jesus does care about us, He loves us, and He wants to teach us. What we have to do is learn (and I do mean LEARN) to listen and to obey Him, when He teaches us.

Class is in session.

Something to think about!

Ever seen two bighorn sheep “go at it”? Our pastor used to live in the Rocky Mountains area, and he has seen them. He told me it is truly something to see these 600-lb rams go full-tilt at each other, and then you hear that “CRACK” as they collide. It’s the power in that sound that gets your attention. I’d only seen it on TV programs such as National Geographic specials or Marty Stouffer’s Wild America.

When I first saw this name for Jesus, I was curious. True, Jesus is not recorded in the New Testament as calling Himself by that name, but others did. Once God loosened his mute voice upon the naming of his son John, Zacharias the priest (the father of John the Baptist) praised God, saying “Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited and redeemed His people, And has raised up a horn of salvation for us In the house of His servant David,” (Luke 1:68-69) I had thought “horn” in this case meant something like a musical instrument, but I was mistaken.

Below are some commentaries I have copied on this verse; I found them at http://biblehub.com/commentaries/luke/1-69.htm

You’ll also find the most common cross-reference from Psalms 132:17: “There I will make the horn of David grow; I will prepare a lamp for My Anointed.”

“Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers
(69) Hath raised up an horn of salvation.—The symbolism of the horn comes from Psalm 132:17, where it is used of the representative of the House of David, and answers to the “Anointed” of the other clause of the verse. It originated obviously in the impression made by the horns of the bull or stag, as the symbols of strength. Here, following in the steps of the Psalmist, Zacharias uses it as a description of the coming Christ, who is to be raised up in the House of David.

Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary
And hath raised up a horn – A horn is a symbol of strength. The figure is taken from the fact that in horned animals the strength lies in the “horn.” Particularly, the great power of the rhinoceros or unicorn is manifested by the use of a single horn of great “strength,” placed on the head near the end of the nose. When the sacred writers, therefore, speak of great strength they often use the word “horn,” Psalm 148:14; Deuteronomy 33:17; Daniel 7:7-8; Daniel 7:21. The word salvation, connected here with the word “horn,” means that this “strength,” or this mighty Redeemer, was able to save. It is possible that this whole figure may be taken from the Jewish “altar.” On each of the four corners of the altar there was an eminence or small projection called a “horn.” To this persons might flee for safety when in danger, and be safe, 1 Kings 1:50; 1 Kings 2:28. Compare the notes at Luke 1:11. So the Redeemer “may be” called the “horn of salvation,” because those who flee to him are safe. In the house – In the family, or among the descendants of David.

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
69. horn of salvation—that is “strength of salvation,” or “mighty Salvation,” meaning the Saviour Himself, whom Simeon calls “Thy Salvation” (Lu 2:30). The metaphor is taken from those animals whose strength is in their horns (Ps 18:2; 75:10; 132:17). house of … David—This shows that Mary must have been known to be of the royal line, independent of Joseph; of whom Zacharias, if he knew anything, could not know that after this he would recognize Mary.

Expositor’s Greek Testament
Luke 1:69…because kings were anointed with a horn of oil…because in their horn all horned animals have their power”

Many times, Christians and non-Christians alike point to the meekness and gentleness of our Savior. But do not be misled. Jesus is the mighty Horn of Salvation; only through Him can we be saved from sin. And as you’ll recall, He could be roused to righteous anger, too (just ask those moneychangers in the Temple!) Like the contemporary song states, “Our God is Mighty to Save”.

Something to think about.

John 11:25 “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.””

In the Marvel comic book The Avengers, there was a storyline in Avengers Annual #14 called “The War to End All Skrulls” (the Avengers part of this story was called “Fifth Column”). It had the Avengers and the Fantastic Four, out in space, converging on a plot by a member of the shapeshifting Skrull alien race to use a “doomsday” weapon. A renegade named Zabyk was threatening to use a galactic bomb to take command of the Skrull race in the aftermath of the destruction of its throne world by Galactus. He used the genius of an old compatriot, a scientist named Myrn, to fuel a hyperwave bomb through a dimensional interface on the old Skrull power asteroid to “change the Skrull race forever”. The Avengers had allied themselves with a Skrull contingent under General Zedrao (originally to stop Thanos’s self-proclaimed granddaughter Nebula), and partnered with Zabyk’s old rebel ally, Prince Dezan, to try and stop him. To activate the bomb, Myrn had Zabyk shapeshift his form into insulate-armor, needed due to heavy radiation leakage during the bomb’s powering up. In his moment of seeming triumph, Zabyk slew Myrn and activated the bomb. What the bomb did, though, was not what everyone thought. The dimensional radiation from the bomb stabilized the Skrulls’ deviant DNA throughout the galaxy, thus removing their shapeshifting abilities! As Myrn said, “it would change the Skrull race forever”.

Once the Avengers and the Fantastic Four had broken through the chamber to confront Zabyk, he was pitifully whimpering that he couldn’t get out of the armor! As Reed Richards commented to Zabyk and to Captain America, they had found the dying Myrn when they entered the space station. He confirmed what Reed suspected the device to be. “Ironically,” Reed commented, “Zabyk killed the only person who could have possibly helped him get out of the armor”. No one else could.

In the passage above, Jesus is at the tomb of Lazarus, who had died days earlier. In talking with Lazarus’s sister, Martha, Jesus assured her that Lazarus would rise again. When Martha answered that she knew he would rise in the resurrection on the last day, Jesus said to her directly, “I am the resurrection and the life”. Only through belief in Jesus as Savior and Messiah, would a Christian never die. Our old bodies may pass, but our spirits will be forever with Him! Jesus goes on to demonstrate this by physically calling Lazarus back to life.

Only one Savior can give us that promise of resurrection and life. Not Mohammed, not Buddha, not any other prophet of any other religion in the world. Only Jesus gave Himself on the cross as the perfect offering for our sins, and only Jesus died and rose again to conquer sin and death’s power…forever! On this evening before Easter, think on that thought…and rejoice!

Happy Easter! He is Risen indeed!