Jesus, The Wine That Never Ends

Steve & Shirley

Steve & Shirley

There was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with His disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.” John 2:1-3

When I think of all the weddings in which I have officiated, I am reminded of all the festivities that took place there. I’m sure it is the same for you. That’s because people go to a wedding to celebrate and have a good time. Most of the time the good time happens after I leave.

Of course, in Jesus’ day, when someone went to a wedding, they went to a wedding. The festivities lasted an entire week. Imagine, a full week of feasting and celebrating. John tells us in our Scripture text that Jesus, His mother, and His disciples were in attendance at such a wedding in the town of Cana.

Unfortunately, the festivities at this wedding were going to run down because “the wine ran out.” Things were looking desperate when Mary went to Jesus. At His time the Lord Jesus provided some first-class wine. Embarrassment was avoided, and the party went on.

Have you ever noticed that there are times when the wine runs out in our own lives, when there is no pleasure in anything, when we wish to avoid others and if we can’t avoid them, we pick fights with them? We’ve all seen how…

* when the wine of love runs out of a marriage, a couple no longer sees the point of continuing;

* when the wine of peace runs out of our lives, we find ourselves in constant conflict;

* when the wine of excitement runs out of our jobs or chosen careers, we quit;

* when the wine of fellowship runs out in a church, people break away.

Many different things can happen when the wine runs out. And our reaction is often like the writer of Ecclesiastes who commented, “All is vanity” (see Ecclesiastes 1:2).

The question is what do Christians do when the wine runs out?

At the wedding, Mary went to Jesus. In the book of Psalms, when the wine ran out, David turned to God (see Psalm 42:11). Then, having seen what God was doing David wrote, “My cup runneth over” (see Psalm 23).

Perhaps as we read this, the wine is running out in some area of our life. Let me urge us to do as Mary and David did, turn to the Lord. Jesus assures us we will find refreshment when we turn to Him (see Matthew 11:28).

With Him we find the wine of forgiveness; we find the wine of life; we find the wine of salvation; we find the wine if inner strength.

Dear Lord, you have always lead me beside still waters; you make me to lie down in green pastures; you restore my soul, even when I don’t know I need all these wonderful gifts of grace. Thank you for giving us your finest wine… a wine that never runs out, in and through Jesus. Amen.

Grace and Peace

Steve

Come, Holy Spirit Prayer

Just in case you were unable to download the music

for the prayer last night I wanted to share the words

with you tonight. WOW, what a wonderful prayer for

us all as we face each day.

Come, Holy Spirit

Bryan Duncan

Come as a wisdom to children

Come as new sight to the blind

Come, Lord, as strength to my weakness

Take me soul, body and mind

Come as a rest to the weary

Come as a balm to the sore

Come as a dew to my dryness

Fill me with joy evermore

Come Holy Spirit, I need you now

Come, Sweet Spirit, I pray

Come in your strength and your power

Come in your own gentle way

Come like a spring in the desert

Come to the withered of soul

O, let your sweet healing power

Touch me and make me whole

Come Holy Spirit, I need you now

Come, Sweet Spirit, I pray

Come in your strength and your power

Come in your own gentle way

Come in your own gentle way

Grace and Peace

Steve

Sing To The Lord

Steve & Shirley

Steve & Shirley

“Your solemn processions are seen, O God…the singers in front, the musicians last, between them girls playing tambourines.” from Psalm 68:24-3

Yesterday we were at St. Pius X Catholic Church for our granddaughter’s ending performance to this week’s camp on “Little Miss SPX Pageant.” All week long they practiced walking, talent and answering the “world peace” question. Yesterday was the two hour pageant. Abby won the prize for the “Most Courteous.” I thought that was a great award. She did a wonderful job and smiled her beautiful smile all the way through.

As we were waiting to go into the old gym, we were talking with some parents in the hallway. In jest, I asked one father if he were singing today? His very quick response was “Oh, you don’t want to hear that.”

A pastor friend of mine tells that when she was young, whenever she sang in church choirs, her father always felt obliged to tell her, “You know I can’t carry a tune in a bucket.” Then he would say, “When I was a little boy, I was invited out of the church choir. First they invited me in, and then they invited me out.” He would laugh, but he told me this story often enough for me to know it mattered to him. He would say that it freed him up to spend more time playing “kick the can,” but it had to have hurt at the time.

I think his church choir director confused worship with a concert. In her quest for perfection, she left in her wake a little boy who grew up to be a man afraid to open his mouth and sing.

In the psalms, we often hear about music. Sometimes the processions are solemn, sometimes they are joyful, but clearly, our music matters to God.

When the children’s choirs of four to six year olds sing at any of our churches, let me tell you, it is not a solemn procession. Amped up on donuts and the thrill of the moment, they wiggle and squirm on the steps in the chancel area of the church. They sing their little hearts out, many of them in tune. There seems to always be one little boy who sings real loud and very off key. They bring delight to everyone in worship, including God. They may not all be musical geniuses but they are learning that their voices matter to the one who created them.

Dear God, remind me that I do not have to be a concert musician to have my voice be beautiful to you. Thank you for allowing it to be pleasing to you, even when I make up my own notes. Amen.

Grace and Peace

Steve

Worship Anywhere – Everywhere

Steve & Shirley

Steve & Shirley

“Late that night Paul and Silas were praying and singing God’s praises, while the other prisoners listened.” – Acts 16:25

A friend tells about some years ago he was with a group from his church on a mission trip in Nicaragua. He said: “We were welcomed for dinner at the home of a member of the church we were visiting. After dinner our hosts got up and sang hymns – without hymnals or accompaniment – beautifully.”

He continues: “I was really enjoying this gift until it suddenly occurred to me what was coming next. They would, of course, invite us to stand and sing too. And what would that be, “Jesus Loves Me?” “Kum Ba Yah?” We weren’t very well prepared for such sharing because we had few hymns written on our hearts. We would look around and wonder if any of our group were choir members who could take over.”

Here, in today’s passage, Paul and Silas were singing and praying – worshipping – in, of all places, jail.

Sometimes I wonder if we’re too dependent on the idea that worship only takes place in a church building. That we have to have organs or pianos to worship. Or that we have to have hymnals to sing praise to God. Or (worst of all) that you can’t worship without a “bulletin.” (OMG!)

Suppose you had to do “take-out” worship? That you worshipped the living God wherever you were – in a jail cell, around a campfire, in a home, a hospital, or on the city street? Would you be ready? What hymns do you know by heart? What Scriptures are written upon your heart? Are you ready to pray? And, in the words of Peter, to “give an account of the hope that is in you?”

In truth, worship doesn’t happen because of a church building, instruments or bulletins (!). It happens because we trust God, because we want to seek God and need to praise God. It happens because our church has equipped us with the words and ways of worship to take with us wherever we go.

Do you have worship you can take anywhere?

Write your word across our hearts, O loving God, so that when our hearts break, your word will fall into our hearts and heal us, in and through Jesus. Amen.

Grace and Peace

Steve

Teach Me, Oh Lord

Steve & Shirley

Steve & Shirley

“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee…”  – Hosea 4:6

At a social gathering two tables were set with a fountain of punch on each table. On one table, a sign read “NON-ALCOHOLIC.” On the other table the sign read “ALCOHOLIC.” The “ALCOHOLIC” sign was accidentally knocked off the table when someone noticed a conservative pastor go up to the table, fill his glass with the unmarked punch and begin to sip.

After drinking three glasses of the unmarked punch, the pastor made his way back to the table for another refill. The person who had been observing the pastor went up to him and asked: “Reverend, do you know what you’re drinking?” “No,” he responded, “And I don’t want anybody to tell me.”

Lack of knowledge is one thing. Resistance to learning is something else.

Many parents are attending Freshmen Orientation with their daughters and sons at many universities during the late days of July and early days of August. The president of a local university of great distinction told the incoming freshmen students that it did not matter what grades they had made prior to their matriculation at that university. “What matters most now is your openness to learning and your willingness to take advantage of every resource this university offers for your advancement.”

There is relevance here for everyone. The knowledge we reject is far more critical than the stuff we don’t know. Life itself is a laboratory, and life holds each of us responsible for everything vital that we refuse to learn.

Teach me thy way, oh Lord.  I want an “A” in openness to all ways of learning in and through Jesus.  Amen.

Grace and Peace

Steve

The Gold Edged Bible

Steve & Shirley

Steve & Shirley

“Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.”Acts 2:41

Eight men sat in a small dimly lit room in a rural Chinese village home. Seven were preachers and their eyes were glued to the Bible held by the eighth man. It was a leather-bound zippered Bible with gold-edged trim on the pages.

The western visitor suddenly became aware that the seven men were staring intently at his Bible. One of them generated enough courage to say, “What a beautiful Bible. May I look at it for a moment?”

“Of course,” he replied. The Bible was gently handed from person to person as though it was made of eggshells. They asked how much it cost. And their faces fell when they learned it was the equivalent of twenty dollars.

Then the visitor received an inspiration. He decided to make this a personal ministry project. The qualification for receiving one of these Chinese Bibles should be so high that these leaders would be inspired to greater achievement. Yet, at the same time ensure that he would not need to provide a great number.

He told them, “If a person is mightily used by God, then I will bring him one of these Bibles.”

“What do you mean mightily used of God?” the preachers queried eagerly.

Thinking fast he replied, “Those who have led at least 10,000 people to the Lord and discipled another 10,000.”

To his astonishment the preachers burst out laughing. They said, “Oh, this is too easy. There are five of us here who can now qualify for your zippered gold-edged Bible, and we know ten more.”

After his trip the visitor chuckled, “I’m bankrupt.” But more seriously he added, “I’ve been working in China with house church leaders for many years. But one thing never changes…I am literally taken by surprise during each visit at how fast the church is growing.”

Perhaps we need to take more seriously our responsibility in sharing the Good News. Can you imagine that being true of our church in America? Why not? If we will actually get serious and expect God to empower us to be that kind of leaders… nothing is impossible with God.

Thank you Lord that Your church is continuing to grow quickly in China. May that be a reality in my country as well, in and through Jesus.  Amen.

Grace and Peace

Steve

The Royal Baby

Steve & Shirley

Steve & Shirley

As I begin this devotion today, Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, has arrived at the hospital, St. Mary’s, and is in labor. Soon there will be the event many people have been waiting for, the birth of the royal baby… the one who will be third in line to the throne of England. At this point we know not whether this baby will be Prince Noah or Princess Abby. But we do know that everyone is excited about this very special event.

You know what gets me is that this child has done nothing. It is just being born into a family, and that family happens to be royal. And that royalty makes this child special.

George W. Bush and I agreed with some things and disagreed with others. But, being the good Methodist he is, he cared about the children with his program called “No Child Left Behind.” Even though it didn’t work and was never funded, the concept was right on target. Every child should be special. No child should be left out or left behind.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the news reporters lined up outside the hospital when your child was born? When every child was born? Saying to every child “You Are Special! You Are Royalty! You Are A Child of The King!” And what if we treated each child as a child that would one day inherite the throne? Can you imagine how the world could be changed if we would treat each child as a prince and princess, and do all that we could to make sure that they were given all the advantages of being raised as a child of the King.

Guess what? Each child already is a child of the King of kings, and therefore each one should be treated as royalty.

Grace and Peace

Steve

Good At Grieving

Steve & Shirley

Steve & Shirley

“They shall call the farmers to mourning, and those skilled in lamentation to wailing…” – Amos 5:16

“I’m getting good at this,” a parishioner said.  “I don’t want to be good at this.” Someone shared with me that over the past year, two close family members and a friend had died unexpectedly, and we were planning yet another funeral. Funerals are not the kind of thing that most people, with the possible exception of morticians and ministers, want to get good at.

We may not have professional mourners for hire as they did in Amos’ day, but there are people who’ve been through so much grief that their amateur status is definitely in question. What I notice more often than not, at least in the church, is that the saints who have become skilled at lamentation also tend to have become skilled at other things: gentleness, generosity, commiseration, comforting. They’re the ones who have that special look in their eyes where they let you know they feel bad for you without pitying you. They’re the ones who can hug you without creeping you out, even if you normally dislike hugs from strangers. They’re the ones who can say things that would sound like platitudes coming from anybody else.

It’s not the kind of thing anybody wants to be good at, but thank God for the people who are.

Dear God who grieves every death and who mourns the fall of every sparrow, you knew this pain before any of us felt it. Don’t give us the opportunity to become TOO good at lamentation, but grant that every grief we bear might show us how to help others bear theirs, in and through Jesus. Amen.

Grace and Peace

Steve

PS: We had a scheduled time with TWC for tomorrow morning to fix the DVR box. Guess what???? They came by a day early!!!!!!!!!!!

Hope Flew Out The Window

Steve & Shirley

Steve & Shirley

Today on CNN Trayvon Martin’s father said that “this jury did not consider this case from his son’s perspective”. He is right. However, what he did not say was that they really could not do that. They could only understand it from their life’s understanding and perspective of the facts presented to them. Let me use some of Ron Hall’s book “What Difference Do It Make?” to help us in this explanation.

Ron’s book is about a man named Denver Moore, a black friend, who tells the story of his life. Some of these moments are very revealing about the separation between all of us. Denver says: “I was born in Red River Parish, Louisiana, in 1937, a time when whites was whites and blacks was colored. Officially, there wadn’t no slavery, but that didn’t mean there wadn’t no slaves.

We was sharecroppin on a plantation down near Coushatta. When you is croppin, here is how it works. The man that own the plantation give you everything you need to make a cotton crop, ‘cept he give it to you on credit. Then you plant and plow and chop cotton till pickin time. When you bring in that cotton, you s’posed to split that crop down the middle, or maybe 60/40, and the man take his share and you take yours. ‘Cept somehow it never did work out that way ’cause by the time you pay the man back for all he done loaned you on credit, ain’t nothin left outta your share a’ the crop. In fact, most a’ the time, you in the hole, so you got to work another season on the plantation to pay back what you owe.

I worked like that all the way till the 1960’s, all without no paycheck. Then one day when I was grown, I realized I wadn’t never gon’ get ahead. I wad’t never gon be able to pay the man back what I owed. “

This is the first part I want to share with you tonight. Can you imagine that you will have to work very hard all your life and never break even, never get ahead. No one is going to listen, really listen, nor give you a chance. He said, “No body is going to give you a job that paid enough for you to get a place to stay when you done told them you use to be a slave on a plantation. They would throw you a dollar every now and then, and say “Here’s a dollar. Good luck and God bless.” What he is saying is summed up in his next words: “Hope flew out the window. For most of us there came a time when nobody was willin to take us in. Nobody was willin to help in no kinda way. All the doors was slammed in our faces, and the next thing you know, we just sittin on the curb with every-body passing us by, won’t even look at us. And once that happens, people rather come up and pet a stray dog than even say hello.

Even when you see those homeless folks on the street that look real cheerful and happy, that’s just a mask. Underneath is a swamp of misery, but they put on that mask so they can get through the day”.

I read some of Denver’s story and I began to realize that what was missing was hope of things ever changing or people ever caring. Tonight let me leave you with this thought: spend time pondering how you think your life would be if you were in Denver’s shoes: No job, no hope of ever getting a job. Nobody willing to help you out of the pit you are in. Imagine how your life would be right now if you were Denver. It is easy to see that we don’t understand.

Grace and Peace

Steve

Send your responses and let’s see how it affects us.

Where Are You Dad?

Steve & Shirley

Steve & Shirley

For they sow the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind. … Hosea 8:7a

Hosea’s words about reaping the whirlwind have found a new application in the 21st century of North America. That calls for an explanation — an explanation which begins with a quiz. And, lest you’re wondering, it most certainly is not a trivia quiz. Just fill in the blank:

* According to the U.S. Department of Health, 63 percent of youth suicides come from _______ homes.

* According to the Center for Disease Control, 85 percent of all children with mental or behavioral disorders come from __________ homes.

* According to the National Principals Association 71 percent of high school dropouts come from ______________ homes.

* According to The Christian Post, girls are 711 percent more likely to have children as a teen, 53 percent less likely to marry as a teen, and 92 percent more likely to get divorced if they are from a ____________ home.

Well, did you figure out the answer?

To get 100 percent on the quiz you can put the word “fatherless” into each of the blanks above.

In spite of those frightening figures, in my lifetime I have seen society “sow the wind,” as fathers have gone from knowing best to knowing nothing at all. The king has deserted his castle and is now confined to his man cave. No longer revered and respected, dads are discounted and disregarded.

And where does the whirlwind come in? In this: even as the percentage of women who respect marriage is rising dramatically, the percentage of men who value marriage is dropping — like a stone. And who will pay the price for this shift in society? It will be the children, of course. You need not be a rocket scientist or brain surgeon to see the downward spiral this situation creates.

Now you may wonder what does all this have to do with a Devotion. Simply this: the homes of Christian men and women are to be different. We have a different standard, a different goal, a different direction. Most certainly, in Jesus, we have a different model to follow.

Paul showed us that model when he wrote, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25).

That is a concept the world has never understood. The best, the most noble idea it can come up with is “Marriage is a 50-50 proposition.” That is not what the Bible says. In Scripture fathers are told to emulate Jesus; they are told to give as Jesus gave.

That means giving when it’s not wanted, giving when it’s not appreciated, giving when it is not applauded. It means putting the welfare of others above that of yourself. It means giving until it hurts, giving even to the point where you are ready to sacrifice yourself.

We are to give because that is what Jesus has done for us. From start to finish, from beginning to end, Jesus’ life was dedicated to us. And we fathers with our families can honor our Lord and impact the future by doing as He did. Fathers are you listening?

Dear Lord, may our homes be blessed by Jesus’ presence. May our lives be lived trying to follow His example, in and through the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Grace and Peace

Steve

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