Meditating on the Commands of Christ (47): Be “Perfect” . . . Is That Even Possible??

My father grew up going to church but rejected what he had learned as a child and became a self-proclaimed atheist for many years, so when I was a child, I never went to church or heard anything about Christianity. In fact, my mother wrote as a “cute saying” in my baby book that at some point I said, “I think I should know more about the Bible.”

After eagerly trusting Jesus as my Lord and Savior the first time I ever heard the good news that God loved me and Jesus died for me, I immediately shared the Good News with my parents. I don’t remember what they said, but my mother’s attitude was sort of a non-descript “That’s nice honey,” and my father’s was a condescending, “Well, you’ll soon grow out of it.”

I was much older before I got my courage up to ask them why they didn’t believe. My mother (who was at that time agnostic) said it was because she didn’t feel certain God was real. She was afraid he was perhaps just an abstract construct, so she was unwilling to trust lest she be disappointed or discover that she’d been deceived. My father, on the other hand, had a more definitive reason. He remembered reading Jesus’ command from Matthew 5:48, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect,” and—knowing that he could never be perfect—decided to give up before he ever started trying. Why ascribe to an impossible standard? Why undertake an impossible quest?

My husband’s parents both believed in God and felt that the Bible was true, but Alan’s father had an almost exactly similar stance to my father’s. He said he could never be perfect, and that if he were to say he was a Christian, then he would have to be perfect, and since that was impossible, he would always feel like a liar and a hypocrite.

Why did Jesus tell people to be perfect, since he knew good and well they couldn’t be? Was he trying to turn people away? Was he just setting us all up to feel like guilty losers who are nothing but failures? Was he suggesting that unless we attain perfection, we’ll never enter heaven?

NO! But, well yes (in a way)! Jesus spoke the truth, which is that in order to go to heaven, we must be perfect. Thankfully, Jesus is also the way: Although we can’t be perfect, he could, and he was. He fulfilled the Laws of God perfectly, but then he offered himself as a sacrifice for our sins. If we are willing to humbly admit that we aren’t perfect and never will be, and that we don’t deserve to go to heaven based on our ability to keep God’s perfect standards . . . if we are willing to admit that we are sinners (law-breakers of God’s perfect laws) BUT are also willing to accept the free gift that Jesus offers us—his death as the full payment for our sins—then we become children of God, joint-heirs with Jesus, and possessors of eternal life. When we accept Jesus as our savior and surrender our lives to Him, He becomes our Savior and Lord. The Holy Spirit indwells us and begins the good work of making us more and more like our Master, until someday—when we see Him face-to-face in heaven—we will at last become perfect, not because we are, but because He is, and He has made us like himself.

Now, that’s not so hard, is it? Nobody told me I had to be perfect to become a Christian. All I heard was that God loved me and Jesus died to save me, and that’s all you need to hear. Believe in Jesus and surrender your life to him. He will receive you, give you eternal life, and the Holy Spirit will indwell you to comfort, guide, and teach you. Life is hard, but trusting Jesus is inestimably easier than trying to attain perfection without the aid of the one and only, truly holy, 100% good Higher Power, which is God himself!

Texts for today’s meditation: Matthew 5:48: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” Also: “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

P.S.—Thankfully, both my parents became believers in their eighties, and Alan’s mother became a believer in her sixties. I hope Alan’s father also became a believer, but I’ll have to wait until heaven to know for sure. At any rate, as long as you have life and mental faculties enough to choose Christ, it’s never too late. Hopefully, as we age, we’re better able to recognize our own lack of perfection and more willing to lean on God’s everlasting arms for help! He is “our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). My mother was never disappointed in Christ after she believed. Instead, she became peaceful about her impending death, which assured me that her future was secure. God is so merciful!!

Photo Credit for Painting: “Love Everlasting” by Yongsong Kim, permission granted by Foundation Arts, website: Havenlight.com

So You Don’t Like Going to Church Anymore?

Have you drifted away from being involved in a church? If so, I would love to hear your “why” and if there is anything you can think of that would make the Church so appealing to you that you would want to go again.

My grandchildren keeping busy during a message at church

I am thankful all my kids are involved in church communities, but it almost seems like this is now unusual rather than the norm for those between twenty and fifty. When I was a young mom, I very much admired a woman whose husband had been the pastor of our church. They had eight grown children who were all involved in churches, but in very different denominations. I thought that was really strange and wondered how the children of a minister could possibly end up going to such diverse churches. A generation later, I am no longer amazed. In fact, I’m sort of like that pastor’s wife!

Alan and I always attended very conservative evangelical Baptist/Bible/Brethren churches, and I assumed our children would follow in our footsteps. Totally not so! Now, I will say that I’ve attended almost all the churches where my kids fellowship (except our military kids, who moved to Belgium last summer), and I almost always feel blessed and instructed by what I hear, but a few of them have found church homes quite different from those in which they grew up.

What happens? Well, for one thing, as we mature, we have to decide for ourselves what we believe and what we’re going to prioritize in life. We aren’t born with spiritual life, we are born again into spiritual life. We may grow up in a Christian home, but we aren’t born with faith in God. We may be taught about God (as in the case of my children), or we may become curious about whether or not there is a God (as in my case, who did not grow up in a church). Either way, as we grow up, we have to evaluate what we believe about God, the Bible, and spiritual life.

For most of us, spiritual life is largely explored and lived out in community, and the “community” God has given us is the local church. If you want to learn more about God, read your Bible and pray, but also get involved in a church family. Like coals of fire, we burn brighter and longer when sharing the heat with other coals in the fireplace! Embers that explode and fall off the grate usually burn out very quickly.

Some of our kids visiting Calvary Church with us in Grand Rapids

That being said, as we approach the beginning of a new school year, I hope you make being part of a local church one of you priorities. If you live in the Grand Rapids area and don’t have a church home, I would like to invite you to visit my church, Calvary Church (on the East Beltline). We have a fabulous Sunday school class called Heirs Together that is really helpful for ages 55-75, but there are excellent classes for all ages. Please consider visiting our class if you’re in town and around that age!

This past Sunday our pastor, Jim Samra, just began a new series on the Book of Titus. It’s the first of a series of topical messages that will find their roots in Titus but cover a plethora of very practical topics, such as “What is Godliness?” The first message can be found here:

If for any reason you are disabled, have to work on Sundays, live in a country where there is no local church, or are otherwise unable to attend church in person, this sermon series will be online each week. (The new message is downloaded each Tuesday morning.) If you’re looking for a prayer group, I am part of a weekly “Zoom” prayer group that you are welcome to join. Just email me at kathrynwarmstrong@gmail.com and I will connect you. Nurturing your spirit is every bit as important as nurturing your body (and I would say— “Even more so!”).

Hope to see you or hear from you soon—either at church, on Zoom, or in the comment box below with suggestions for how to make church a more spiritually nurturing environment for you and members of your generation! Thanks, and may God bless you in your spiritual journey!

O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together” (Psalm 34:3).

Billy Graham on the diversity of our children and the fact that you can’t inherit faith; it must be a personal decision: https://www.facebook.com/BillyGrahamEvangelisticAssociation/videos/449200715806760/

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (41): Do Unto Others as You Would Have Them Do Unto You

I don’t know if you’re like me, but this directive seems a lot easier to me than some of them. For instance, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (from Matthew 22:39) seems impossibly hard unless I put it in the context of Luke 6:31, “And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.”

Do you feel a difference? Here’s what happens in me. I am most aware of my own needs and spend most of my life providing for the needs and comfort of myself and my own family and friends. On the other hand, I try to treat all people with whom I interact with respect and fairness, and that is what I hope for from others toward me. I don’t expect others to meet my needs; I do expect that others will not thwart my honest efforts to meet my own needs. That is the essence of “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” isn’t it?

So, I think of this command as the “Golden Rule,” sort of “Human Decency 101.” In the book of James we get another look at this command, where it is called the “royal law:” “If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors” (James 2:8-9). In this passage, we get another clue about what “loving your neighbor as yourself” looks like: No prejudice! No picking favorites when it comes to being kind and doing good. Be fair with everyone!

Being fair is the first step toward love, but probably not the last step. As we learn of Jesus, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). This goes way beyond being fair and giving everyone an equal chance to work for their own “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” I don’t know about you, but I am willing (and on occasions eager) to sacrifice myself to ease the burdens of those I love, but I don’t have a lot of natural compassion for strangers, at least for those who have no visible signs of disability or neediness. On the other hand, I’m pretty sure that if I saw someone dying by the side of the road, I would go to a lot of trouble to try to rescue them (although I stand in awe of the good Samaritan, who provided so fully for the wounded man’s care). Wouldn’t you?

I bet most people would go to the aid of someone in dire need unless they were afraid for their own life. This might be considered “Human Kindness 101,” which makes me think of the passage in 2 Peter, where we are told to grow one step deeper, from “brotherly kindness” to “charity.” This gets tougher! Many mature people have a heart for compassion and “brotherly kindness,” but few attain true “charity,” or the ability to love others (particularly “neighbors” when you define them as anybody in need) sacrificially. And, what about the beggars by the wayside? In America, we never used to see people begging anywhere, but now it’s not uncommon to see someone with a sign up and a hand out. When Alan and I visited Singapore, we learned that begging was an offense that could land you in jail, so there are very few beggars there. (There are those who peddle goods, however.)

To give, or not to give? That’s a complex question. Most of the research I’ve read suggests that beggars need to be steered toward agencies that can access their true needs and assist them in getting the care they need (which might be emotional as well as physical) before helping them learn how to help themselves. In Grand Rapids, we have several ministries, such as Mel Trotter, that will provide food, shelter, and support (including vocational training) for those who are destitute. Pine Rest Christian Ministries reaches out to those with true mental illness. Exalta Health is another ministry downtown that provides for medical, emotional, and spiritual needs at greatly reduced prices. If you have a heart to give, you might consider giving to a local ministry you personally trust to provide for the true needs of the poor. Internationally, there is a “Comcare Hotline” that can help people. Many communities have some type of church-related or government-based help for the poor. It would be worth our while to know what’s out there so we can at least make sure panhandlers know about these options. Beyond that, we have the resource of the Holy Spirit to guide us individually as we seek to love others in a way that is actually “loving” them rather than supporting possibly lazy or dysfunctional lifestyles.

Whatever we do, it’s good to keep in the forefront of our thinking the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” This may not be the ultimate act of sacrificial love, but it sure is a good beginning! May we love others as we love ourselves, using the same standards of expectation and mercy. May we expect from others what we expect from ourselves. May we have compassion on those in genuine need, as we would want others to have compassion on us in our times of need. May we be fair. May we be merciful. May we pray without ceasing, asking the Holy Spirit to guide us into Love as we interact with all those around us.

Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord,According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins” (2 Peter 1:2-9).

Celebrating the Resurrection at Northridge

Celebrate Easter!
Did you go to church? If not,
Why not listen now?

Did Easter slip by you this year? Many people work in industries where there is no option to stop and rest on Sundays, and for others, attending church wasn’t a priority. Maybe you’re among those who were super busy preparing a feast for family and friends, hiding Easter eggs, and enjoying the cultural aspects of the holiday. If you weren’t able to attend a service anywhere and feel a tug in your heart that you may have missed out, then it’s not too late!

Hundreds of churches around the world now have their services on line! Why not take a break and take in what’s been going on at Northridge Church near Detroit, Michigan? This church is so full of love and energy to reach out to others that on February 17, 2019, they received the “Liberator of the Year” Award for Michigan and Ohio for their involvement in helping with the human trafficking problem. (They are the first and only church to ever be given that honor!) Northridge has also been so excited about Easter that they held 18 services where over 21,000 joined in worshiping and praising God together. You might be happily surprised by what you see, hear, and learn! And, if you live in the area, this coming Sunday (April 28, 2019), Dr. Hugh Ross will be discussing the interconnection between faith and science.

http://northridgechurch.com/experience/talks/the-moment/310/

Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live” (John 11:25).

Sacred Fire (inspired by A.J. Sherrill)

Last night, Alan and I celebrated our 46th anniversary! Such a joy!! This morning, as I was reflecting back over our marriage, it occurred to me that when I prepared my last blog (on how Christ can heal us), I hadn’t really made any particular connection to the every day struggles we all face, but I listened to two messages Sunday night that were so good, and so appropriate, that I want to share the gist of them with you. Throughout the course of my life, the two hardest conscious struggles (probably more significant unconscious challenges) relate to self control in what I eat and what I think about. I’ve always felt very “normal” (if such a thing exists), so my guess is that these almost come as standard weaknesses on most human models coming off the assembly line. Can you identify?

A.J. Sherrill (a local pastor) taught a two-part series called “The Soul of Sexuality.” I’ll put links at the end and highly recommend them as healthy soul food to help you manage your appetites (maybe not as much for food, however).  In turn, A. J. gives much of the credit for his teaching to Richard Rohr, a little monk from Albuquerque, with whom he spent a week some years ago, trying to understand life. You may think a monk wouldn’t be the best resource for understanding how to cope with our innate sex drive, but think again. Any monk who has actually been able to keep his vow of celibacy has spent his entire adult life trying to figure out how to handle his own drives.

Even as a married woman, dealing with sexual impulses has been challenging! I remember when I was mid-forties, asking my spiritual mentor (who was about 80), when men stopped making passes at women. She nodded thoughtfully and replied, “Oh, maybe sometime between 75 and 80.” I was shocked and felt doomed! Would I never be free from unwanted male advances? Men I love, just like I love women. But, men challenging my commitment to my marriage, I do not appreciate. It’s not funny, and it’s not fun. Worst case scenario, it can actually be tempting, which was terrifying when I was 40 and my husband was way too busy to pay attention to me.

So, I used to complain to the Lord, “Why did you make us sexual beings, anyway? Why couldn’t you have made us without sexual passion???” One of the most helpful resources I found was Living with Your Passions, by Erwin W. Lutzer. (It came out in 1983 but is still available on Amazon.) After reading Lutzer’s book, I came to a somewhat grumbly surrender to the thought that God must have known what he was doing and determined to learn how to live a moral life despite my immoral heart, but I wasn’t thrilled about the challenge.

After studying the Song of Solomon for ten years, I decided that God intends our chief love to be spiritual, and that as we’re drawn into a love relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we find joy and strength that surpasses human love . . . an energy and beauty that causes those around to marvel: “What will ye see in the Shulamite? As it were the company of two armies” (Song of Solomon 6:13: the dance between our soul and the Trinity [my interpretation]).

A.J. took it a step further, and I love what he had to say. The “why” of sexuality is about “beauty, mystery, and meaning . . . Your sexuality is an echo of a larger cosmic mystery unfolding, which is the story of Christ and the Church.” “God is not a stoic force; he’s a passionate lover.” (I’m putting everything in quotation marks but they may not be perfect; I was typing as fast as I could!) God is Israel’s husband (Isaiah 34; Jeremiah 31) and in the New Testament, we learn that we, the Church, are the “bride of Christ” (Ephesians 5). From John 7 and 15, we can infer that our marriage to Christ is designed to flow into the stream of life and bear spiritual children and spiritual fruit. In John 14 we are offered the Kiddushim—the covenant of love—and now we’re just waiting for the Huppah, when Jesus comes back to receive his bride (us!).

“Information in the head is not the same as intimacy in the heart. We were made for intimacy.” “Ya had” means to throw out your hands. Let go! Let God dwell in us so much that through us He will produce fruit! Hebrews 12—throw off all false lovers and fix our eyes on our true lover, Jesus. When we celebrate communion, we are celebrating our love covenant with Christ. He wants us to understand how much we’re loved and feast with him. He has never forgotten us or forsaken us, even though we have failed him and had other lovers and idols. Come and feast with him. Let him heal you!

The first message dealt with vertical love; the second message with horizontal.  A.J. offered three scripts for how sex is handled in our culture: Erotic play, Intimate connection, and Covenental Promise. He offered some excellent quotes thinking through the value and power of sexual energy (a couple of which I’ll write out for  you below), and he ended with an invitation to reach a “higher altitude” for viewing. “Sexuality is the best instrument for learning self-control There are times when offering yourself is a gift and when withholding yourself is a gift.” If you’re in a relationship right now, he suggested that you “Talk with your partner about what you want without finger pointing, but by offering your longings, not your complaints. Complaints create emotional distance, but longings are redemptive. You’ve trusted God with your soul. Will you trust him with your body?”

“A healthy sexuality is the single most powerful vehicle there is to lead us to  selflessness and joy, just as unhealthy sexuality helps constellate selfishness and unhappiness as does nothing else . . . Sex is responsible for most of the ecstasies that occur on the planet, but is also responsible for lots of murders and suicides. It is the most powerful of all fires, the best of all fires, the most dangerous of all fires, and the fire which, ultimately, lies at the base of everything, including the spiritual life.” —Ronald Rolheiser

“The fire of sex is so powerful, so precious, so close to the heart and soul of a person, and so godly, that it either gives life or it takes it away. Despite our culture’s protests, it is not casual and can never be casual.” —Rolheiser

So, in light of Jesus healing the lame man—and offering to heal us too!— if you’re restless or unhappy with your sex life (or lack thereof), this is a great time to let Jesus heal your wounded heart! Consider watching the two messages (which together are shorter than a movie!):

https://marshill.org/teaching/?sermons=the-soul-of-sexuality-week-1

https://marshill.org/teaching/?sermons=the-soul-of-sexuality-week-2

I am come that they might have life,
and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).

Free Dental Day Coming Up Tomorrow (February 8, 2019): Need Help? Want to Volunteer?

Tooth pain hurts!  That’s why our son, Daniel
(who’s the dental director at Exalta Health here in Grand Rapids),  has been facilitating free dental days several times a year for the past few years. Each Free Dental Day, there’s been a wonderful group of very capable volunteers
who donate their time and expertise, which is good, because there’s also a long line of patients waiting outside
well before it’s light in order to get dental care that day.

(Many patients are uncomfortable having their pictures taken, so I couldn’t take any photos of the line, and fewer than half the patients in the overflowing waiting room agreed to let me take their picture, so the majority of them were actually behind me in the hallway when I took this photo.)

           Exalta at its heart is motivated by the love of Christ.  It’s a charitable outreach to those who are uninsured
and find it nigh unto impossible to pay for health care. This includes many young adults who no longer have parental support, as well as people of all ages who are out of work, homeless, or have low-paying jobs. Exalta also reaches out to refugees and has a large Hispanic-speaking population. They’ve been blessed by many Hispanic Christians who’ve taken an interest in the work, including this couple, who met at Exalta and are now newly married! This year our volunteer coordinator had the bright idea to do a press release, so a camera man  and a news reporter from Fox News visited  to interview patients and let Grand Rapids know what’s happening here. Not long afterward, Channel 13 News came to interview Daniel,and do a story on Exalta! Of course, the publicity was exciting, but that’s not why anybody helped. We helped because it’s good to help! We want to be the hands and feet of Jesus to love others wherever we go. Still, I hope the exposure in the news media will make the public aware of the opportunity both for service and to serve. In addition to care that can be provided by dentists and hygienists, an oral surgeon was available for some of the more challenging work. Exalta has a panoramic X-ray machine to help with diagnostics, and patients can receive free eye screenings or counseling services if wanted.Caring for many patients in a timely manner takes tight coordination, including people who can translate, triage, and guide the patients. Just keeping packets of instruments sterile is a HUGE job
(which I know from trying to do it sometimes). It’s tricky trying to find just what you need when you need it, and faithfully restocking the drawers is a challenging labor of love! As photographer, I got to appreciate first-hand the beehive of activity . . . and the sense of satisfaction that comes from a job well done. So, if you need some dental care, or if you have time to volunteer, call Exalta Health in Grand Rapids and get plugged in
for their next free dental day, which is tomorrow, February 8th, 2019. If you can’t help tomorrow but are interested, they need volunteers with or without medical training every week day, so please call!
https://www.exaltahealth.org/

(All photos taken during Exalta’s last free dental day, November 2, 2017.)

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (11): Draw Out Now and Bear to the Governor of the Feast

Last week we ended our study of Jesus’s ninth command with everybody holding their breath to see what was going to happen next, and this is what happened: “And he [Jesus] saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it.” (I think they were very brave souls!!) “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,10 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.11 This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him” (John 2:8-11). Let’s start at the beginning and think through the details of this occasion. Jesus and his disciples were attending a wedding feast in Cana where they ran out of wine. Jesus’ mother, Mary, told Jesus about the problem.  In response, Jesus directed the servants to do something that was possible but probably made no sense and was possibly a little scary; they were to fill up the waterpots with water. But . . . how would that solve the problem?It might be worth noting that these ancient waterpots held “two or three firkins apiece” (John 2:6), and my understanding is that a firkin is a quarter of a barrel. I’ve heard estimates of these waterpots holding between 20-30 gallons. Multiply this by 6 (there were six of them), and you have as much as 180 gallons of water!  Given that the water was turned into wine, even if the wedding celebration lasted seven days (which was common), there would be no shortage of drinks again! As someone who’s never had an alcoholic drink, I’ve often wondered why Jesus turned the water into wine. Jesus could have purified the water as his miracle, and pure, cool water might have tasted better than anything any of them had ever tasted before. Water symbolizes life, as Jesus taught us in John 4:14, “Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.Paul wrote that “Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:25-27). Jesus could have simply purified the water, but he did not.       Jesus turned the water into wine  . . . wine better than the best they had.  For the sake of clarity, “wine” comes from the Greek word οἴνῳ, (or in Latin: vino, “from the vine”) and was used generically for both non-alcoholic grape juice and fermented, alcoholic juice products. “Wine” in the Bible is symbolic of joy, and of the Holy Spirit. I don’t know if Jesus turned the water into fresh, non-alcoholic grape juice or fermented “wine,” although after much study (which I’ll write about separately someday), I personally believe it was fresh. Still, as I pondered this, the thought crossed my mind: Am I missing out on joy by refusing to drink alcohol? The Lord brought these verses to my mind: “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18), and “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace . . .” (Galatians 5:22). In the flesh—in this world—people experience a certain type of pleasure by drinking wine, but true joy comes from being filled with the fruit of the Spirit—not fruit of the vine. If you’re drinking in God’s spirit, you have better than the best the world can offer! So, none of us who are abstinent are missing out on joy . . . and we may be avoiding great sorrow. 🙂As  a last thought, turning the water into wine was such an obvious miracle that the disciples couldn’t miss it. Reading from our perches 2,000 years after the fact, it’s easy to see that “the miraculous draught of fishes” (as it’s commonly called) was also a miracle, but the disciples didn’t really recognize it. They recognized Jesus’ power, but it just made them afraid of him. This time, in Cana, the change from water to wine was indisputable but not the least bit scary, and the disciples began to trust him: “This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.”How about you and me? Do we believe the testimony of the miracles that Jesus performed? Has that made us trust him? Are we enjoying the true fruit of the Vine, the Lord Jesus, who is “drink indeed” (John 6:55)? Are you looking forward to participating in the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, to which all are invited, but only those who are dressed in the robes of Jesus’ righteousness will be attending (Revelation 7:14)? As Christmas approaches, I hope you are experiencing true joy—the joy of knowing Jesus as your Lord, King, and Savior!

Joy to the World

Joy to the World; the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King!
Let ev’ry heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing.

Joy to the earth, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields & floods, rocks, hills & plains
Repeat the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make his blessings flow
Far as the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love. (—Isaac Watts, 1719)

(*Photo credits: Photos of famous, “Public Domain” paintings are from free online sources, particularly Wiki Commons and Wiki Arts Encyclopedia: https://www.wikiart.org/en/Search/Marriage%20at%20Cana . I took the photos of the Greek storage containers last fall at Getty Villa, California. The photos from a modern reenactment of the biblical story are from http://www.freebibleimages.org and can be used freely on blogs or for teaching purposes with attribution to: www.LumoProject.com. These are great resources. If you know of other free resources, I’d love for you to share the links in the comment box below. Thanks so much!)