Month: July 2017

Do Whatever He Tells You

blindfold

His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. (John 2:5-7) 

Did you ever play a blindfold team building game?  In one version, you need to find a book that is hidden somewhere in a room. You put on a blindfold and your unblindfolded teammate tells you where to turn and reach until you find the book. Basically, you need to “Do whatever he tells you.”

In the blindfold game, when you find the book was it mainly because of your own effort?

In today’s verses, the water in the jugs becomes wine. The servants did whatever Jesus told them but who was responsible for the transformation into wine?  Of course, the answer was Jesus.  But do you think that following Jesus means doing your very best to keep the rules? Do you think it means you must try harder and harder?

Sure, Jesus tells us to obey, and we should. But we often act as if the results all depend on us. We can fall into two opposite traps. The first is to think “It worked! I am Super Christian!” And the second is to think “This is not working! I am such a failure! I must figure out what I am doing wrong.”

Often the feeling that it all depends on us is why our joy and fulfillment are gone and we are empty. Today we see that Jesus is telling us to obey, but the fulfillment in our Christian life is all from him.

Do you get stuck thinking that fulfillment depends on your own effort? Ask Jesus to show you how it really does depend on Him!

A feast with no wine and a plane with no pilot

When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.”  (John 2:3-4)

On a December flight from Des Moines to Denver a few years ago came two disquieting announcements. First

“Does anyone in the cabin have medical training?”

And then, ominously,

“Does anyone in the cabin have flight experience?”

A plane with no pilot.

A feast with no wine.

A life with no hope.

Now what? Can anyone handle it?

Somehow Mary thinks that Jesus is the answer to the wine problem. She understood part of why Jesus came to earth back then, but now we understand the full story of why he came.

Jesus gently rebukes Mary because He is not ready to reveal at this point what you and I now know:  that He was the Messiah who would go to the cross to pay the penalty for our sin and be resurrected to redeem us and give us eternal life.

I don’t think Mary was expecting Jesus to give a point by point procedural, 5 steps to take when the wine runs out.

Nor would we expect that Jesus gives us a list of 5 things to do to replenish our empty joy tank.  Rather, when we are out of hope, we see that Jesus does not have the answer to the problem, he is the answer. In John 10:10b He said, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

By the way, the pilot in our opening vignette had had a heart attack. But in this case, no disaster. Turns out a talented nurse saved the pilot and and the co-pilot knew how to land the plane after all.

Today, focus on who Jesus is. Give thanks that only Jesus, who rescued us from sin and death, is able to give us true joy and fulfillment.

The Real Cure for a Dirty Mouth

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (Ephesians 4:29)

teacher-go-wash-your-mouth-out-with-soap

Were you ever thrilled that someone became a Christian and stopped cussing?

Great, they don’t use any of George Carlin’s 7 forbidden words any more.

But which is easier—to stop cussing or to become someone who knows how to build people up?

Don’t you hate it when you’ve been gone a couple days and you open your refrigerator and you are overwhelmed by the stench of rotten fish? The Greek word for “unwholesome” in today’s verse is Saprós, which means putrid and rotten. But if you think about it, you realize that we can say stuff that is putrid and rotten without using any cuss words. We can use clean language while simultaneously ripping someone to shreds with gossip and slander.

So, what is the opposite of this kind of trash talk? Do we wash our mouths out with soap?  By washing our mouths out with soap, I mean we might be able by sheer force of willpower, to hold ourselves back from using those cuss words. After all, people in church expect us to clean up our act. But this wouldn’t automatically lead to edifying and encouraging talk. What we really need to see is:

But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere.  For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. (2 Corinthians 2:14-15)

I like that we are captives of Christ. Without being Christ’s captive, we really are just washing our mouths out with soap. But it’s different when, empowered and captivated by Jesus, we refuse to let crudeness, viciousness or slander come out of our mouths, and instead replace it with being a sweet aroma—what a wonderful opposite to the smell of stinking fish!