Thursday, April 23, 2009

Water Into Wine

There was a wedding in the village of Cana in Galilee. Jesus' mother was there. Jesus and his disciples were guests also. When they started running low on wine at the wedding banquet, Jesus' mother told him, "They're just about out of wine." Jesus said, "Is that any of our business, Mother - yours or mine? This isn't my time. Don't push me." She went ahead anyway, telling the servants, "Whatever he tells you, do it." Six stoneware water pots were there, used by the Jews for ritual washings. Each held twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus ordered the servants, "Fill the pots with water." And they filled them to the brim. "Now fill your pitchers and take them to the host," Jesus said, and they did. When the host tasted the water that had become wine (he didn't know what had just happened but the servants, of course, knew), he called out to the bridegroom, "Everybody I know begins with their finest wines and after the guests have had their fill brings in the cheap stuff. But you've saved the best till now!" This act in Cana of Galilee was the first sign Jesus gave, the first glimpse of his glory. And his disciples believed in him. - John 2:1-11

I am always happy when God’s Spirit reveals a little nugget to me. Jesus promised that if we seek for Him, he will reveal himself to us. Luke 11:9; Luke 10:22. I too am always happy to know when God chooses to work on me. I know God continues to shape me and mold me into something that I’ve never been before. Sometimes I feel myself become hardened to his touch – being unwilling to bend or move. Sometimes I feel myself melt in His hands, completely yielding to his touch. Whatever shape, O LORD. Bend me to your will. Make me into your vessel so that I may serve you the way you intend me to.

Have you ever been something that you now look back on in amazement? Maybe something in your past that as you think about, or even see an old photograph, you now have a chuckle at? I can remember a time when I had a head full of hair. I laugh about it now, but I also claim that I’m even better than before, as far as that goes. People can change for either good, or bad. What amazes me about the story of Jesus’ first miracle is the fact that it was a miracle about change. Jesus, the son of God, changed something ordinary, into something extraordinary. Something good was changed into something even better. I compare myself and everyone else who has answered God’s call with these water pots, these jars of clay. God is willing to use us – these jars of clay, for His purpose. Philippians 2:12-13.

Granted, I agree that there are many similar stories that can be learned from this story, but this morning, this is what popped into my head.

God can use you and me, such simple vessels to be filled with something so pure and sweet that we can have powerful influence over the world. How did Jesus demonstrate this? Jesus said this in Mark 10:45. Jesus lived his life perfect and free from sin. Not that we could ever attain to his perfection, but we should strive to follow his example. The apostle Paul said it this way in 2 Corinthians 4:5. Paul also states that in his own teachings, he lived a life of servant-hood so that he might have more influence over those whom he taught. 1 Corinthians 9:19.

Dear God my Father, be merciful to me today. LORD, fill me up with your Spirit. Live in me. Move about me and around me, LORD and wash me and cleanse me of my sin. Make me holy, LORD so that you might dwell in me. LORD, change me into something better, for your sake, so that I might have influence over those who do not know you. Use me LORD. Pour me out onto those whom you want to know – onto those who are looking for you and have not yet found you. Amen.

How do you want to go through the rest of this life? Do you want to be a plain person – not having much influence or impact on others? Or do you want to be used by God. My prayer is that God will also touch you, and with His word, fill you with His Spirit so that you may be willing to be used by God. Study the story of Cornelius found in Acts 10:44-48 and witness an excellent example of a changed life. Yes friends, Jesus is still able to turn water into wine.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

It's Seed Planting Time

Last month I started planting lots of seeds for my upcoming flower garden. For me, seeds that are planted and come to life are a reminder that God is our creator, and through His creation we can believe and come to know Him. Romans 1:20, Colossians 1:16.

You can see in the picture above that the plants that are now visible are casting off their old bodies. Do you see the seed shells of the sunflower seeds? They are no longer useful for the new plant that is growing. Just like they, we too will have a new body, and will cast off our old decaying body and be raised a new creation. Thanks to God!

Just like the seed is buried in the garden with hope for a resurrection of a new plant and future harvest, we too are buried with Christ in baptism, the symbol of being buried with Christ. We will also be joined with him in his resurrection. Casting off all unrighteousness, our old bodies which lived a life of sin, are then raised with Christ to live a new life. Romans 6:13

The Apostle Paul talks about this in 1 Corinthians 15:35-50 when he talks about the familiar practice of farming to the Corinthians when he speaks about sowing seeds into the ground, the seeds rotting and decomposing, but still being far from being permanently destroyed, but instead they grow up into something more beautiful than the seed. Seeds are normally dry and hard, but they spring up green and alive by the power of God. If God is able to demonstrate to us his abilities in the simple lives of seeds, how much more is God able to raise our corruptable decaying bodies from the dead, into a far more excellent body with will not see corruption? I admit, it's hard enough for me to understand much about seeds, and even harder for me to understand about the resurrection. But I believe.

This story brings us back to the Gospel. Christ died for our sins, [just as the scriptures said he would/did] and that he was buried, and that he rose again on the third day. [just as the scriptures said he would/did] - 1 Corinthians 15:3, 4. The early Christians didn’t understand his purpose for dying, until after he was raised. They came to understand Jesus' burial was a necessary but temporary prelude to his resurrection.

The Apostle Paul takes the connection one step further by applying it to baptism. In Romans 6:3-5, and Colossians 2:12, Paul symbolizes baptism as being buried with Christ. Through faith, Christians are then raised with Christ to walk a new life. So then, burial comes to be connected with the hope of a future resurrection, as shown in proof of Christ burial and resurrection, but also the reality of a new life in Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:20-23, 1 Thessalonians 4:14

Again, praise be to God for the hope that is found only in Christ Jesus! Romans 5:10

So, here’s my recommendation; go to the store and buy a pack of sunflower seeds. Plant the seeds either outside in your garden, or in pots and water them and care for them, and sit back and let God work in those seeds. I want you to witness the resurrection that God will work through those seeds. I want you to know, that you too can have that same hope of being resurrected in the same way those seeds were, and in the same way Jesus Christ was. Jesus went through it for us, as proof that God is faithful and will do the same for us.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Do You Have A Giant

Then David said to the Philistine, "You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you and take your head from you. And this day I will give the carcasses of the camp of the Philistines to the birds of the air and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. Then all this assembly shall know that the Lord does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord's, and He will give you into our hands." - 1 Samuel 17:45-47

For many times, I’ve hesitated to speak about the story of David and Goliath. Figuring it was a story that most everyone had heard before, I figured that I certainly could offer no more than has already been said about the story. Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to listen to some great sermons in the car while driving to work each morning – a blessing that I’ve certainly come to look forward to. And the other morning, I heard a great lesson about this same story. Like many of you, I’ve heard this story many times, and perhaps heard the same points as this most recent time. But isn’t God’s word wonderful in that each time we hear it, God reveals something new to us that we’ve never thought about before? God’s word is alive and searches the heart to know what we need, when we need it.

This time, God revealed through His word a story that was awesome to me. It’s a story for me, about who should fight my battles – me or God. It’s a story for me, about who I trust more – me or God. It’s a story for me, about who I fear more – others or God. It’s a story for me, about who I should listen to and follow – others or God. It’s a story for me, about facing giants – and how much power they have over me.

The story is laid out in 1 Samuel 17 and is told that the army of the Philistines lined up on one side of a mountain facing a valley on which the Israelites lined up across the valley on the opposing mountain side. The giant Goliath came out and with loud and proud talk, harassed the Israelites and challenged them to fight a one-on-one battle with him. “If anyone can defeat me, we’ll call it quits and serve you. If I defeat your champion, then all of you can serve us. There’s no need for all of us to fight, only one of you and me can settle this and the rest of us and you can be spared.” Goliath did this for 40 days. Goliath had already defeated the whole army of God’s people on the very first day. Every man had given up. Every man had already determined that someone else besides himself should head out there to defeat Goliath, but it wasn’t going to be “me”. Every man had also listened to the other man, and that man was telling him there’s not a man in our camp who can defeat this Goliath. We’re all doomed. Can’t you just hear God sigh?

God had already been working in the life of David. God had already been showing His young servant – a man after His own heart, that He will work through him. David loved it to. David loved to be used by God. David was going to let God use him again, and this time God was going to show a lot of people a great lesson. In fact, God is still using David even today, to teach us the same lessons.

Goliath had already defeated God’s army, the Israelites by his bluffs. Goliath was dressed for battle, wearing all the proper armor, helmet, leg and arm guards, shield, sword, and spear in hand. Goliath was an awesome sight to behold. One look at him, and everyone cowered in fear with trembling. Then Goliath spoke and intimidated them even further.

The Israelites also defeated themselves from the beginning in the fact that never once in the story did they call upon God to rescue them from this champion. Never once in the story did they call back to Goliath in the name of the LORD. But in every time, they considered Goliath too big of a match for just one person, too big for themselves individually, so much so that this battle was over even before it began. The Israelites also defeated each other because as each man looked at each other, they admitted that this champion was too much for their friend or partner to go up too as well. In fact, see what King Saul told David in 1 Samuel 17:33 "You are not able to go..." This is the saying that went throughout the whole camp. “You are not able to go, and I am not able to go. Who is able to go?” They were defeated and defeated themselves.

But God used David to show the Israelites and the Philistines that with man nothing is possible, but with God all things are possible. Luke 18:27 David also would not allow anyone to tell him otherwise. David would not listen to the cancerous talk that had filled the camp with fear and strangled it from allowing God to work through them. No, David knew that with God’s help, God would defeat this small giant, because David worshipped a God that was much bigger than this small giant. David worshipped a God that made the heavens and the earth, and there was nothing that could stand in His way. 1 Samuel 17:37

We know the rest of the story. We know that God used such a small boy, a boy that men did not put their trust in, to defeat a giant. David put his trust in God, and God worked wonders that day through him. Do we face giants in our own lives? Do we allow ourselves to convince us into failure? Do we allow others to convince us into failure? Do we turn everything over to God and trust in Him to fight our battles? Do I trust in myself more than I do in God, thereby defeating myself even before the battle has started? Do I fear what others might say or do I fear what God might say? Whom should I fear more? Do I listen to and follow those who trust more in themselves, more than they do in God? Do I realize that God is in control, and there is no one bigger than God?

Turn your giant over to God, and give your complete faith in Him. Do like David did. Read this story again and remember it. God left us this story for that very reason.