Saturday, August 31, 2013

John 15:2 - Pruning Produced Better Grapes

The Bible once again is shown to be correct: pruned grape vines produce better fruit. The Scripture is based on John 15:2 which states,
"Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away, and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit." (John 15:2 NKJV)
In December 2012, I wrote a blog article entitled Grape Trellis Based on John 15:2. We had just finished building a two-trellis grape structure in the Gethsemane Prayer Garden. The intent was to prune the vines on one trellis and not prune the other trellis. It was our expectation that the ones that were pruned would "bear more fruit."

We planted four vines: two under the to-be-pruned trellis, and two under the not-to-be-pruned trellis. Otherwise, the vines were treated in an identical fashion.

The vines were too small to prune in January so I waited until May. I more aggressively pruned the vine on the left but the vine on the right was pruned less heavily: there were four small branches – I removed one of the four but unfortunately left another because it had some flowers.

The vine on the left was pruned more than the other

Conversely the vines that were not pruned are much smaller and one appears sickly:

These two vines were not pruned

To me, the real proof is in the size of the fruit:

The two on the left are from the pruned vines,
while the two on the right are from the not-pruned

The most heavily pruned vine produced large and very robust fruit. All of the other vines, including the one that was partially pruned, have small and weak appearing fruit:

Fruit from the most heavily pruned vine

Is the experiment conclusive? Well no, it is only indicative. We intend to repeat this experiment each year. Yet we already know the results for the Bible is always true: better fruit is produced when vine branches are pruned.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Jehovah Jireh: The Lord Will Provide, and He Did

As caretaker of the Gethsemane Prayer Garden at Faith Chapel, I have again seen where the Lord's promise, that He will provide, was today fulfilled.

In the Bible when Isaac asked Abraham, "Where is the lamb for the burnt offering?", Abraham replied these famous words, "The Lord will provide." The Hebrew for these words is in both Genesis 22:8 and 22:14 – transliterated as 'Elohiym jireh and then YHWH jireh. The King James Version renders Genesis 22:14 as Jehovah-Jireh, but it really means The Lord will provide.

We have been digging a small pond that we have named 'Pool of Siloam' as an extension of the small stream on the edge of the garden. The pond is surrounded by three very large willows which should have been a clue: lots and lots of roots. In any case, three of us were attempting to dig this 15' by 25' oval pond using just shovels. The digging portion of the farmer's backhoe that we normally use has been broken for over a year with no prospect that it will be fixed soon. We were very, very discouraged because the Lord had provided the vision for the pond.

Last night, in an email to a friend, I wrote "So far we are digging it by hand, but I am sure praying for some equipment to move that digging along." More pointedly, today at noon I asked one of the workers to join me in prayer that Dave Delaney who owns the farm adjacent to the church would provide the equipment that we need within the next 24 hours. I was really expecting a Jehovah Jireh experience.

Twenty minutes later, as I pulled out onto the main road from the church to pick up a lunch, I found myself behind Dave's pickup truck. I knew the Lord had arranged this – I followed him past my lunch spot to his roadside farm stand where he sells the most delicious corn. Dave met me as I got out of the car. "Are you digging that pond by hand?", he asked; I affirmed, "Yes." He told me how he stopped by last night and recognized the many shovel imprints, stating that is a mammoth project. I told him about the complications with the other farmer's backhoe.

The Lord then instructed me to buy some corn. (Earlier I had decided not to buy corn this year because my wife has been directed by her doctor not to eat corn.) I bought 6 ears; as I returned to my car, Dave was standing where I left him. He said, "I'll tell you what. If you are available, I'll bring my backhoe over tonight at 7pm – I can dig that in an hour where it will take you several days." He really meant weeks but he was being kind.

Dave showed up at 7pm as promised. He dug the pool in 45 minutes as his machine aggressively cut through the extensive mass of willow roots. I had no idea how difficult this would have been by hand. But God knew and that is why He provided. He fulfilled the prayer petition and promise within seven hours of it being spoken. Jehovah Jireh!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Purple Smokebush: Cloud-like, great for prayer gardens

I see the purple smokebush as a stunning shrub with a kingly sense of royalty, a great plant for a prayer garden. We planted four purple smokebushes 'Cotinus Coggygria Attropurpurea' in the Gethsemane Prayer Garden in May, 2013. Also known as smoketrees, those familiar with them know that their small size (currently four-feet tall) will someday be far larger and will sprawl over a wide area. I have seen some as large as twenty feet tall and wide; ours will be pruned to ten or twelve feet to maintain a full effect.

Purple smokebush planted this year

Mature 15' tall purple smokebush in a neighbor's yard

The four purple smokebushes are part of a larger planting based on Exodus 33:7-34:35. Located near the cross in the Grace Prayer Room, these royal purple smokebushes are complimented by seven flame-shaped upright junipers, five stiff upright junipers, two pieces of stone, a round boulder, a prostrate blue spruce, and a brilliant red-flowering weigela. Together these objects portray a pictorial representation of the encounter that Moses had with the Lord while in the cleft of the rock.

The purpose of this blog entry is to explain how the smokebush fits the role of the cloud from the Bible. Future blog entries are intended to focus on other portions of this Exodus story. But for now, the question becomes, "What is the purpose of the cloud as seen in Exodus and other books of the Bible?"

Whenever this cloud was mentioned in the Bible, God was present. For example:
  • When the Israelites left Egypt, God's presence was there in the cloud by day
  • When Moses went up the mountain, God was there in the cloud
  • When the cloud shifted location in the wilderness, God was directing them to pick up camp and move to another place
  • When Moses went in the tent of meeting to meet with God, the pillar of cloud stood outside the tent
  • When the High Priest went into the Most Holy of Holies in the tabernacle, the cloud was there and God was in the midst
  • When the temple was dedicated by Solomon, he recalled the Lord's proclamation that He would dwell in the cloud (1 Kings 8:12)
  • When Jesus went up the Mount of Transfiguration with Peter, John, and James to meet with Moses and Elijah, God spoke out of the cloud
"Then the cloud covered the tabernacle of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle." Exodus 40:34-35 NKJV
The purple leaves of the Gethsemane Prayer Garden's smokebush indicate royalty – the presence of God.

From outside the cloud, it is very difficult if not impossible to see through it; from within the cloud, objects may be seen. We have planted the smokebush as a visual screen between those praying within the garden and those "outside the camp."

Purple smokebush flower
The heavy amount of moisture in a cloud restricts the ability to see into it. To the Israelites at the base of the mountain in Exodus 19, they knew God was in the cloud but they could not see Him. They were looking towards God from a distance.

Moses could not initially see the Lord in the cloud while on top of Mount Sinai, yet from within the cloud, he saw the Lord pass by (Exodus 34). In Revelation 14:14-16, John beheld One like the Son of Man from within the cloud.

The cloud is formed by loosely coupled masses, much like the flowers of the smokebush. Within this eight-inch blossom, there are little dots which are the seeds for next year's plants. It is striking how much space remains between the tiny branches and seeds, yet the massive effect of the efflorescence prevents seeing through the plant.

As the Egyptian army pursued the Israelites, the pillar of cloud protected His people by providing darkness between the two groups. As the cloud later moved them from place to place, the Lord was both directing and protecting them in their journey across the wilderness. The purple smokebushes are planted as a reminder of the Lord's protection over us.

The Voice of the Lord
The Lord spoke to Moses out of the cloud as a man speaks to a friend. About Himself, the Lord stated He is,
"Merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children's children to the third and the fourth generation." Exodus 34:6-7 NKJV

The purple smokebush, planted near the cross in the Grace Prayer Room, is a reminder that we can hear His voice. We do not have to turn to the smokebush to hear it, but it is a reminder, a picture if you will, of how God speaks to us. He is speaking no matter where we are.

Therefore, the purple smokebush is placed in this quiet and restful place to help us know His royal presence, seek His face, understand His protection, and hear His voice.