Just the Facts, Ma'am

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And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there: And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage. And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come. His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it. And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece. Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim. And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it. When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom, And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now. This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.
— John 2:1-11

I imagine every bride throughout the ages has had pre-wedding anxiety over the many things that could go wrong.  What if the ring bearer throws up all over the wedding rings?  What if my veil gets too close to the candles and bursts into flames?  What if my hair won't curl or my face breaks out?  What if the groom changes his mind?  Oh, the wedding what ifs!  

When I read this account in John, I'm torn between two hopes.  On the one hand, I hope the happy couple never became aware of the lack of wine.  Who needs such drama on their wedding day, right?  Mary knew.  The servants knew.  But we're left to wonder if the bridal party was aware of the predicament.  In many ways, I hope not.  Why ruin their happy day?

But, on the other hand, what better story to tell to their kids and grandkids than that of the water turned to wine during their special day?  Would it be worth the drama if everything turned out better than okay in the end?  I don't know.  But I don't want to focus on the bride and groom today anyway (sorry Cana couple).  I want to take a quick look at Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Look at the simplicity of Mary's statement. "They have no wine." I often get frustrated with Jason because he insists on giving me nothing more than "man details."  He'll take a phone message for me and say, "Your mom called."  That's it.  That's all he'll say until I pepper him with more questions.  "What did she want?  Does she need me to call her back?  When did she call?"  Of course, each of these questions is met with more "man details."  

What did she want?  "She had a question for you."  

What was the question?  "Don't know."

Does she need me to call her back?  "I'm not sure."

When did she call?  "Earlier."  

Seriously?  I've gotten clearer answers from a Magic 8 Ball!

But, here's the thing, Jason gets equally frustrated with me because of my "woman details."  When he asks what we're having for dinner, he wants me to say, "tacos" or "meatloaf."  He doesn't want to hear the story that goes along with my decision to have said dinner option like how I was planning to have something different, but the store was out of one of the key ingredients, and I didn't feel like driving to another store, so I decided to change the plan, but then would you believe the store was out of one of those ingredients too, so I had to switch to plan C. . . (How's that for a run-on sentence!  My brain is a LONG series of run-on sentences.)

The Bible doesn't tell us enough about Mary to know if she preferred short, sweet answers or the more "flavorful" ones that paint a picture, but on this occasion, she opted for "man details."  What's the problem?  "They have no wine."  Enough said!  She didn't worry. She didn't try to solve the problem herself. She didn't even ask Jesus to do anything. ("Jesus, be a dear and conjure up some wine for this sweet couple.") No, she modeled for us the perfect formula for dealing with any problem in our lives. She told Jesus about the issue and then left it up to Him to solve it as He would.

Oh, how much simpler life would be if we would heed this lesson!  How much less stress would we have if we weren't running around frantically trying to solve all of life's problems?  What if we told Jesus the problem and then left it in His hands?  No stress.  No worry.  No drama.  Just the facts.  Mary didn't wring her hands in anxiety over the embarrassment awaiting the couple when the thirsty crowd discovered the wine was gone.  She didn't whine to Jesus how it wasn't fair for something so tragic to happen to such good people.  (I guess you could say she didn't whine about the lack of wine.) She didn't fret, fuss, or fume.  And she didn't take matters into her own hands.  After all, she knew there was nothing she could do.  The problem was beyond her power to solve.  So, she did the only thing she could--she laid out the need before the Problem-Solver and then gave orders to the servants, "Just do what He says."  

Do you have a problem today?  Is there something in your life causing you stress and anxiety?  If so, I urge you to tell it to Jesus.  He can help.  He can meet the need.  Don't waste your time and energy trying to figure it out for yourself.  Give it to God.  He excels at doing the impossible. . . and He even understands "man details."

 

Based on a chapter from my book, He's Still Working Miracles.

Doorways and Decisions (A Repost)

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Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia, After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not.
— Acts 16:6-7

No doubt about it, there are a couple of strange phrases in those two verses.  Did you notice them?  "And were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia."  The Holy Spirit forbade preaching?   I was under the impression that preaching was a good thing.  Didn't Christ say, "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel"?  As far as I can tell, that's exactly what Paul and his gang were trying to do, but the Holy Spirit wouldn't allow it.

Look at the next one:  "but the Spirit suffered them not."  In Bible times, the word "suffer" meant "allow".  So basically, it's saying that the Spirit wouldn't allow them to go to Bithynia.  But they were going there to preach.  They were trying to win souls for Christ.  They were trying to follow the great command of Christ.  Why wouldn't the Spirit let them do it?

The simple explanation is this:  it wasn't His will.  Yes, God wanted them to preach.  Yes, God wanted them to witness.  Yes, God wanted them to win souls.  He wasn't forbidding their preaching; He was forbidding their direction.  Paul and his gang were trying to head further into Asia, but God had other plans, and those plans involved a man back in Macedonia, several hundred miles in the opposite direction.

Has God ever slammed a door in your face?  It smarts, doesn't it?  We don't like to be told "no."  We pout when we don't get our own way.  After all, we have plans, goals and dreams, right?  But aren't God's plans, goals and dreams for us more important?  Yes, it's disappointing when God closes a door just when we thought things were looking up, but we know it's for our good.  The real question is, how do we respond?  I know how Paul responded.
 

And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us. And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them
— Acts 16:9-10

As soon as Paul got direction from the Lord, he set out.  Notice he didn't argue with the Lord.  He didn't ask for an explanation.  He didn't try to persuade the Lord to change His mind.  He obeyed.  He gathered his things and went in the direction of Macedonia.

Did you notice what else he didn't do?  He didn't stand there staring at the closed door.  Have you ever wondered how much time we waste pursuing things that can never be?  We know God has closed the door, but we can't seem to move away from it.  We just stand there, thinking of other ways to "make it happen."  Or maybe we think if we stand there long enough, God will feel sorry for us and open the door.  Who knows? 

Unfortunately, as long as we're standing there staring at the closed door, we're not doing anything else.  If God has closed the door, it's because He has something else for us to do.  So why aren't we doing it?  It's impossible for us to stand at one door and walk through another one at the same time.  We have to make a choice.  

Paul did.  He obeyed, and the Lord worked mightily through Him.  Don't we want the Lord to work that way in us?  He can, but it's going to require something on our part.  It will require obedience.  It will mean turning away from the closed door and walking toward the open one.  And if there isn't an open one, we're told to keep doing the last thing the Lord told us to do.  When the time is right, He'll open the proper doors.  And we'll be amazed at what's awaiting us on the other side!

The Contagious Courageous

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The military officer paces before his loyal troops.  “Today, we face the greatest enemy we have ever encountered.  We are outmanned and outgunned, but we are all that stands between our foe and the fair land we call home.  This mission is unlike any we’ve embarked upon before, but I have surrendered to answer the call.  I cannot and will not order you to follow, but I wonder, are there any among you who will join me in the fight?”

For several moments, the soldiers survey the faces of those around them.  Fear.  Indecision.  Shame.  Finally, a single warrior steps forward and proclaims, “I will go with you.”  Within a few seconds, another steps forward and then another until, finally, each soldier has joined the fight.

What made the difference?  What motivated the fearful warriors to risk their lives?  Their decision could be attributed to the love of their country, the respect for their commander, or even the moving speech given by their superior officer.  But I believe the most significant contributing factor to their decision to go forward was the courageous stand of one of their fellow soldiers.  A single man compelled an entire army to throw caution to the wind when he dared to step forward.  You could say his "courageous" was contagious.

Few of us want to be the first to take a stand, but as Christians, that’s what we’ve been called to do.  We are soldiers in the Lord’s army, and we ought to motivate others to take a stand that makes a change.  We ought to be the first to step up and say, “I’ll go.”  And if we’re concerned about standing alone, we need not be.  First off, the Bible assures us we are never alone.  God is on our side, and He will never leave us or forsake us.  But not only that, when we dare to take a stand, we inspire others to do the same.  Our "courageous" becomes contagious.

Just imagine how we could impact the world today if each of us were willing to step forward and join the mission.  Consider how many others we might inspire by our bold obedience to the call of Christ.  

Our Commander is asking, “Who will join me in this fight?”  How will you respond?

Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the LORD.
— Psalm 31:24