Monday, April 27, 2009

Water Into Wine: John 2:1-11 - by Josh Fletcher

Let me get straight to the point. Jesus did not suffer to give His followers an average, ordinary life and label it Christianity. Jesus is a life giver! Too often we hear a truncated preaching of the Gospel that misses the deeper truth. The blood of Jesus was shed to make us His children and heirs whose lives testify that Jesus has conquered sin and death. There is nothing more powerful and extraordinary than the abundant life God has for us in Christ Jesus. The word “Christian” means “little Christ”. Too often we settle for designations that are much less. We settle for “good person” and even try to hide our faith in certain company for fear of offending someone. Can I make a confession? I do not want to be known as a good person anymore. I want to be known as a “little Christ” in this world. Like Paul and with God’s help, I want to be able to say with confidence “Imitate me as I imitate Christ.”

In the Gospel according to John, Chapter 2 we read about what presumably is Jesus’ first public miracle. He turns water into wine. In the past I would read this and think how neat it was that Jesus provided for a need, that he blessed a wedding feast. I thought it a lesser miracle, Jesus’ warm-up for what was to come. Recently I have seen a deeper truth in this story. Jesus is giving revelation about himself. Up until this point the world has known Jesus as a good carpenter, son of Mary and Joseph, a good man, perhaps the most eligible bachelor in the village. He remained ordinary water to them. Good and life giving, but ordinary water none-the-less. Jesus changes the water into wine. He is not ordinary – far, far from it. He is not just a prophet but The Prophet. He is not just a priest but The Priest. He is not just a king but the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He is the only begotten Son of God, the Messiah, the Light of the World. He is rare, costly, poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. WINE! When the earthly wine had run dry, the best was yet to come. Jesus, the inebriating source of Life for all who believe!

It is in dark times that Christians must stand out like beacons of hope for others to see. Where I live we just received the news that 1100 people are about to lose their jobs. Similar stories are popping up all around the country. Unemployment is rising and the economy continues to sink to points that we have not seen in decades. People are fearful and suffering. Our enemy confronts us with the temptation to doubt that Jesus offers us true and abundant life and that we are children and heirs. What is an appropriate response to the signs and the times? In trying times can we see Jesus for who He really is? Can we see ourselves the way He sees us?

I say “No” to the enemy! Jesus has conquered sin and death on my behalf! God is my Daddy! I am His beloved son! He gives me true and abundant life and this gift is available right now! Today! Christ’s glory is abundant and longing to shine in the darkness through me! I will be a “little Christ” bringing light to a dark world! Can I get an AMEN!?
Because of this new revelation, I feel encouraged to work on a set of paintings called “Water and Wine” to demonstrate the person and work of Christ. What is God encouraging you to do to shine in the darkness and say “No” to the enemy? How can you be a “little Christ” who can say with confidence, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ”? Share your thoughts. I want to hear how Christ is moving His people to push Satan out of the way and turn fear and suffering into peace and victory.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Honeymoon with God - Christina Darnell

Debbi had been dreaming about Africa since she was young. She remembered stopping by the travel agency to look at the brochures. The pictures of the African children gripped her heart, their eyes pleading for her help. She knew she was called to go – she was even willing to move there if God directed.

But after 17 years of waiting, that dream seemed to lay dormant in her heart. She had a husband and two children, one of whom was still an infant. She felt as though she had missed her chance.
Someone shook her awake, and she opened her eyes. It took a minute to figure out where she was. Her eyes cleared, and she saw Diana sitting next to her on a plane. “They’re about to pass out the dinners and beverages. I thought I should wake you up.”

Debbi looked around, her mind still a little fuzzy. “Thanks.”

She was on her way back home after the fulfillment of her dream. She had spent the past three weeks in Africa traveling to different orphanages, sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ and providing practical relief through food, clothing, and toys. It was every bit as wonderful as she’d thought – but something dawned on her.

God had sent her there for a purpose, but not the purpose she thought. It was clear she wasn’t called to move there. In fact, she wasn’t sure if she would even get to go back. But one thing was clear. God had sent her to Africa so that He could relay an important message to her: He cared as much about her dreams as she did, and He wanted to be her Dreamgiver.

Her relationship with Him reached a new level of intimacy because God communicated His love to her in such a personal way. The mission trip was a chance for her to minister to others, but God had ministered to her. She was reminded of a prayer in Ephesians. “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” (3: 17b – 18). God had certainly increased her understanding of his personal love.

As the plane landed hours later and she rushed into the arms of her adoring family, she knew where she had truly been – she realized she had just been on a honeymoon with God.

The story above is about my mom. I had always known her heart for Africa, but I thought her realization about a honeymoon with God was powerful. It is such a testimony of God’s love for us as individuals…I hope you are encouraged to know that He desires to fulfill the dreams of your heart. God gave her the fulfillment of her Africa dream 17 years ago, and then she came home to raise my brother and me. Now she says that being a mom and pouring into us was her highest calling other than knowing Christ. It shows because both my brother and I are serving the Lord and seeking deeper relationships with Him. She was a true example of a disciple of Christ, and I am so thankful to the Lord for her.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Sower, Seed and Soil Story - Kim Jackson

The Sower, Seed and Soil Story:
A Parable from Matthew 13
in the “KJV” (Kim Jackson Version)

Slowly strolling beside the secure shelter, the Savior stopped and sat on the sand beside the sea. A stupendous swarm surrounded the Savior so he sought a small ship, sailed from the shore and sat still, as the stupendous swarm stayed, standing on the seashore.

So the Savior spoke in a series of stories, saying, “A certain sower set out to sow some seed, and as he sowed, some seed scattered beside the street and was stomped by several sandaled soles and the scavenger sparrows soaring in the sky swooped, seizing and swallowing the seeds.

Some seed scattered on stony sod, where the soil is sort of scarce, so the scrawny seedlings swiftly sprouted since the soil was so slight. Soon the sun shone severely, suddenly scorching the skimpy seedlings since they possessed such superficial stems, so sadly, they shriveled and slumped.

Some seed scattered on the sharp, stiff sort of stickers and the stickers sprang up and strangled the seedlings. Some seed scattered on select soils and survived, succeeding in sprouting splendid and stable stalks, some supplying several sizable sheaves, some sixty and several a still smaller sum.

So the story of the sower, the seed, and the soils is this: the seed is the Scripture. Sometimes someone seemingly searches Scripture without succeeding in sustaining the spiritual significance of his study, so shrewd and sneaky Satan schemes, snatching and sabotaging what is sown inside. This is the seed scattered beside the street.

So the seed sown on the stony sod is someone who listens to the Scripture, receiving it speedily with celebration, but is shallow and has such a small source of stability he stands for a smidgen but soon, suffering and seasons of struggle and strife surface and simultaneously he succumbs.

So the seed scattered in the sharp, stiff stickers is someone who listens to Scripture, but soon stews in the distresses of such a sordid society, and seeking assets so superficially satisfying, strangles the Scripture, and all sprouting skids to a sudden stop, certainly a sorry sight.

So the seed scattered on select soil is someone who savors Scripture and sagaciously spawns—in certain situations—sensational superior-sized supplies; in similar circumstance, sixty; and in several, slightly smaller, but certainly supremely significant sums.

So this is the story’s cessation.

Kim Jackson loves words and enjoys putting them together in fun, creative ways, as is evidenced by this story. She is a charter member of Crossroads Communicators, Vice President of Education for Goldmine Toastmasters, and a freelance writer and speaker whose “day job” is Concierge at Eden Gardens Assisted Living. Visit her on the web at

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Forgiveness this Spring - Emily Carter

Spring is my favorite time of year. I like it because of the green grass, beautiful flowers, and the warmer weather. Recently, as I was walking in my neighborhood, I heard the beautiful song of Spring. The birds were singing praises to the King. They were singing so loudly that I could not hear the song on my ipod. Did God have other words he wanted to speak to me? Was David Crowder to be turned off this fine, crisp morning?

As I walked, I began thinking about a hurt from my past. The Lord had delivered my family through a difficult situation, yet I was holding on to the pain from it. I thought I had forgiven, but I realized that I was still resenting the people who caused the hurt. Ouch! That is honesty for you. I thought I had forgiven the ones who had hurt us so badly. Yet, only these five years later did I realize that the forgiveness was not there, not true forgiveness.

When I think of Jesus’ teachings on forgiveness, three different passages of scripture come to mind. The first was what his words said about forgiveness and the next set of scriptures focuses on his actions. In the third passage Jesus teaches us about the limits of forgiveness.

Matthew 6:12, when Jesus was teaching his disciples how to pray he told them, “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” The Greek word for “forgive” is “Aphiēmi” meaning to let go from one’s power or possession, let go free, let escape. To release from obligation, remit a debt, and pardon or forgive debts or faults. To forgive means to not only forgive in word but in the feelings that we have towards the person or situation. We must let go of the resentment that sometimes comes with betrayal. We must forgive completely and move on towards reconciliation.

Jesus, from the cross, used the same term when he said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34) The forgiveness that Jesus offers is complete without resentment. This week as you ponder the cross and the resurrection remember what has been accomplished. Death has no victory. Forgiveness is available to all.

Matthew 18:21-35 is the story of the unmerciful servant. He receives forgiveness from a huge loan. Then when someone else comes to him and seeks forgiveness for a tiny debt, the servant refuses. The parable closes with this “In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.” (Matthew 18:34-35)

So, I came to the conclusion, as a believer of Jesus Christ who am I to hold back forgiveness. Not that I have attained it, but I am going to press on to this calling that the Lord has placed on my life. I must forgive completely. Then and only then can my heart be made new like the beautiful Spring season that is ours to enjoy.