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Faithlife

An Intimate Portrait

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Scriptures: John 2:1-11

1.  A Question of Priorities

Jesus declared his express purpose of entry in the mainstream of human life.  It was to seek and save those who were lost.  Could there be any loftier goal?  Could there be anything more worthy of spending ones’ life in martyrdom?  If it were possible for the “One and Only” to take our place and to provide redemption for a world:

Ø      that pre-dated his fleshly existence,

Ø      that neither recognized him nor received Him as He, the Creator walked as a stranger among the created,

Ø      that would know him only by His Words of life and the presence of the Comforter and the Convicter and the Companion, the Holy Spirit of God,

then it would stand to reason that He would wear the pressure and the stress and perhaps even a sense of personal importance that at times might unravel at the edges as we tend to do under the tremendous load of every day circumstances.  But that didn’t seem to be the pattern.  There has never been a human being that has carried such a load and such a purpose. 

Ø      The more proud among us see ourselves born for greatness.

Ø      The more success oriented among us have a tendency to reduce what is divine to what is measurable, and controllable in the belief that we can somehow reproduce it in kind or package and market our accidental successes so that others can experience what has become significant to us merely because God has chosen to bless it.

TO:

Jesus, Son of Joseph

Woodcrafters Carpenter Shop

Nazareth 25922

FROM:

Jordan Management Consultants

Jerusalem 26544

Dear Sir:

Thank you for submitting the resumes of the twelve men you have picked for management positions in your new organization. All of them have now taken our battery of tests; and we have not only run the results through our computer, but also arranged personal interviews for each of them with our psychologist and vocational aptitude consultant.

The profiles of all tests are included, and you will want to study each  of them.

As part of our service and for your guidance, we make some general comment, much as an auditor will include some general statements. This is given as a result of staff consultation and comes without any additional fee.

It is the staff opinion that most of your nominees are lacking in background, education and vocational aptitude for the type of enterprise you are undertaking. They do not have the team concept. We would recommend that you continue your search for persons of experience in managerial ability and proven capability.

Simon Peter is emotionally unstable and given to fits of temper. Andrew has absolutely no qualities of leadership. The two brothers, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, place personal interest above company loyalty. Thomas demonstrates a questioning attitude that would tend to undermine morale.  We feel that it is our duty to tell you that Matthew has been blacklisted by the Greater Jerusalem Better Business Bureau. James, son of Alphaeus, and Thaddeus definitely have radical leanings and they both registered a high score on the manic-depressive scale.

One of the candidates, however, shows great potential. He is a man of ability and resourcefulness, meets people well, has a keen business mind and has contacts in high places. He is highly motivated, ambitious and responsible. We recommend Judas Iscariot as your controller and right-hand man. All of the other profiles are self-explanatory.

 We wish you every success in your new venture.

Sincerely yours,

Jordan Management Consultants

Ø      The more ambitious among us see ourselves born to establish our superiority over others.  We want to make servants of other men to suit our purposes.  Jesus came as a servant of others to make them sons of God and full heirs of the riches of His kingdom. 

Ø      The more greedy among us trade our lives away with the hope that the things that we acquire will somewhere, somehow, sometime quench the insatiable that drives us and bring satisfaction – the notion that our longing will put an end to our longing??? 

Ø      The more self-sufficient among us take way to much credit for the work of our hands.

"When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the LORD your God for the good land he has given you. Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. He led you through the vast and dreadful desert, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions. He brought you water out of hard rock. He gave you manna to eat in the desert, something your fathers had never known, to humble and to test you so that in the end it might go well with you. You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today. If you ever forget the LORD your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed. Like the nations the LORD destroyed before you, so you will be destroyed for not obeying the LORD your God." (Deuteronomy 8:10-20, NIV)

[1]

We are so different from the model that Jesus presents to us.  In the midst of all this purpose and pressure, he finds himself at a wedding.  Not quite half of his disciples were with him.  As a matter of fact, the wedding seems to be an interruption in this most important part of his mission – at the outset of his ministry to find 12 very special men, not men of acclaim, but learners who would be charged with the task of taking his gospel to the ends of the earth.  In the middle of this a wedding and Jesus finds himself there, his mission on hold.

There is no person among us today that faces greater pressure or stress or opposition than Jesus faced as he walked

2.  A Quandry Of Purpose

And so Jesus finds himself at a wedding.  Most men want to attend one wedding.  Women cry at weddings, men cry on the way.  Had he been like us, a thousand other things in his mind, fully present somewhere else, unconsciously resentful at the expectation that brought him here, he would have been of little help and incapable of being sympathetic to his mother’s suggestive remark or the plight of the party.  If he had been like me he would have consumed his punch prior to the bridal toast and bristled at the thought of pretending to “toast” someone, believing that there must be some way distinctly different from the secular notion lifting glasses filled with an alcohol substitute to honor someone very special.

The quandary here for Christ was that things did not fit his time schedule. 

"“Dear woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My time has not yet come.”" (John 2:4, NIV)

[2]

He was torn by his devotion to his earthly mother and the direction that he was being given by his heavenly Father.  When a person really believes that he is doing God’s work, it becomes extremely annoying to “fritter” with interferences.  When you fully believe in the worth of your cause, you can overlook people and situations that are the most precious that God has given you.

How many times do we have to hear the stories of the forgotten housewife at home who becomes a stranger, “estranged” from the person that she has married?  How many times do we need to see troubled children and teenagers who bury their anger at absentee fathers who have “important” roles to play in society and exhibit dysfunctional and/or destructive behaviors before we realize that we are on the same path as partners and parents?

I was reminded of this just recently – wonderful Christian man, involved in a network marketing business – not from Fredericton.  Without asking for a rationale he told me more than once that he was spending his nights working so that he would have more time to spend with his kids later on – he believed this with all of his heart – he was a great man and a good witness to his friends – a stranger to his children.  His oldest child was killed in a car accident a year or so ago and he never reached that spot prior to his death where he was able to find that time.  If your children were to die today, would you have regrets over the time that you had invested in their lives?

There Jesus was, torn between an undeniably worthy cause and a tiny and relatively insignificant need.  So there was no more wine – how long do these people need to draw this celebration out?  Many such gatherings would last days, even a week.  Don’t these people have anything more important to do with their time.  It’s good that the wine is gone – now everyone can sober up and go home.  Isn’t it amazing how we can become judgmental in the face of someone else’s need?  That sort of lets us “off the hook”.  License to lift our noses in the air and walk away feeling fully justified in our lack of compassion.  Is there any need that cannot be dismissed in the same manner?  Many of us can trace of circumstance and our need back to something that we might have done differently if we could have hindsight as foresight.  None of us do.  I would have many less difficulties in my life if I had that luxury.  Knowing what I now know would I do what I did then?  The answer is inconsequential because we can’t change the past.  No one can.  And whenever you meet a disciple of Christ who truly represents Him, you will never find help reserved for those who have never made a bad or foolish decision.  Christ meets the needs of those who have chosen foolishly and made a mess of their lives apart from him.  He doesn’t work to bring regret over our foolishness and the mess but over our wayward hearts.  It is the callousness and the pride that leads us away from God, and his kindness that allows us to return.

" You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance? But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed." (Romans 2:1-5, NIV)

[3]

And really the mess doesn’t matter – what you want to do about it is important.  True today – what you want to do today is the important thing – it’s the only thing that God can work with.  It doesn’t matter what you were or what you are.  He loves you totally and He can make the difference in your circumstances if you can bring yourself to dare to trust Him.

Mary knew that her son could be trusted – she had every confidence as she turned and muttered over her shoulder, “ Do whatever he tells you. ”

3.  A Quintessential Problem-solver

Nothing is too hard for God!  Sarah found that out as an old woman. 

"Then the LORD said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the LORD? I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son.”" (Genesis 18:13-14, NIV)

[4]

Something that she should have known long before.  If God promises, He delivers on His time – always.

Jeremiah discovered this truth.

"“After I had given the deed of purchase to Baruch son of Neriah, I prayed to the LORD: “Ah, Sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you. You show love to thousands but bring the punishment for the fathers’ sins into the laps of their children after them. O great and powerful God, whose name is the LORD Almighty, great are your purposes and mighty are your deeds. Your eyes are open to all the ways of men; you reward everyone according to his conduct and as his deeds deserve. You performed miraculous signs and wonders in Egypt and have continued them to this day, both in Israel and among all mankind, and have gained the renown that is still yours. You brought your people Israel out of Egypt with signs and wonders, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm and with great terror. You gave them this land you had sworn to give their forefathers, a land flowing with milk and honey. They came in and took possession of it, but they did not obey you or follow your law; they did not do what you commanded them to do. So you brought all this disaster upon them. “See how the siege ramps are built up to take the city. Because of the sword, famine and plague, the city will be handed over to the Babylonians who are attacking it. What you said has happened, as you now see. And though the city will be handed over to the Babylonians, you, O Sovereign LORD, say to me, ‘Buy the field with silver and have the transaction witnessed.’” Then the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah: “I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me? Therefore, this is what the LORD says: I am about to hand this city over to the Babylonians and to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, who will capture it." (Jeremiah 32:16-28, NIV)

[5]

People still discover this truth today – nothing is too hard for God.  Sometimes it’s as simple as filling empty wine jugs with water and pouring them out as wine.  Do you hear Mary’s words?

“ Do whatever he tells you. ”

It seldom will fit your reasonable approach.  If we could reason our way out of our difficulties we probably would be able to reason ourselves away from them in the first place.  It’s like the small child who gets his/her head stuck between the railings in the stairway or the back of the chair.  We want to scream “Why?” and then pontificate, “If you got it in there then you must be able to get it out.”  But the child is still screaming and still stuck and we do not have words enough to free them.  And in the face of their panicked screams for help many times we stand back from humanity as a church and scream those same things to lost folk.  “Why?” and “If you created the problem, you can solve it.”

Please beware of a cynical spirit in any area.  Don't be cynical for any reason.  Don't be cynical even toward yourself.  For every Christian who is troubled by pride, I suspect there is another whose opinion of himself is so low that it hinders him from seeing that God is bigger than his faults. 

Tozer offers some good sense on the subject.

"In this world of real corruption, there is a real danger that the earnest Christian may overreact in his resistance to evil and become a victim of the religious occupational disease, cynicism.  The constant need to go counter to popular trend may easily develop in him a sour habit of fault-finding and turn him into a critic of other men's manners, without charity and without love.  What makes this cynical spirit particularly dangerous is that the cynic is usually right.  His analyses are accurate, his judgements are correct, yet for all that he is frightfully, pathetically wrong.  As a cure for the sour,  fault-finding attitude, I recommend the cultivation of the habit of thanksgiving.  Thanksgiving has great curative powers, and a thankful heart cannot be cynical

But a loving parent doesn’t hesitate, they reach down and do whatever they need to do to free the child.  They’d cut the rail into pieces without a thought.  They’d do it as many times as they need to because sometimes children die in such places.  People die as well – every day – they have passed on this week in our city.  Many,  . . . most not ready and God help us we see their problems and miss their needs.

Jesus didn’t do that – he never missed their need.  He made the solution simple.  Fill the empty jars.

"Thus saith Jehovah that made thee, and formed thee from the womb, who will help thee: Fear not, O Jacob my servant; and thou, Jeshurun, whom I have chosen. For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and streams upon the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring:" (Isaiah 44:2-3, ASV)

[6]

People who become obsessed with the problems of life become deaf to God’s direction.  The more panicked we become the more detached we become.  The more fatalistic we become the less visionary we become and thus we resign and back away and we become the producers of our own prophecy.  We actually hasten by our attitudes what we want to avoid.  We make it happen instead of making it go away.  Churches in turmoil obsess over their issues and the whole thing becomes worse.  Listen to the Lord today.  “ Do whatever he tells you. ”

Listen for the answers – don’t spend time languishing in the difficulty.  And why is that so hard – is trusting God going to make it worse?  Not likely.

People step ahead when they trust God – they see His hand at work and they are encouraged to trust Him further.  This year at First Wesleyan is going to be “Try It” year.  We are going to ask each one of you to step ahead in one way or another.  God is going to ask some of you this year to do things that you never imagined you could do – to get out of the boat and walk on the water – do the “Simon Peter Thing”

4.  A Quantum Point

The end result of the first miracle was a classic “win-win”.  Jesus did not reveal himself and those who were a part of the process experienced a “faith flash point”.

"Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.” They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine.

 

He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew.

 

 Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.” This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee.

 

He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him." (John 2:7-11, NIV)

[7]

Do you know that we grow in our relationship with God only as we step ahead according to His leading.  When was the last time that you “laid it on the line” with God?  You said, sink or swim, I’m going to trust you.  I talked to one of our men in the hospital this week who has reached one of those points.  He has done well in his job and has been promoted to management – problem is that he is working most Sundays.  He told me the other day that God had spoken to him in the bed there.  I asked him what the Lord wanted. 

He told me, “I realize that I have put God on the back-burner for my work.  God wants me to resign my position and to step back to another level that will allow him his Sundays.  Do you suppose that God will honor that?  Do you think that he’ll be able to make ends meet?  I suspect so.  Do you know why so many Christian folk receive so little from God?  It’s because we are trusting in our own ability to solve the issues and we have the result that we have chosen – from our own limited resources we receive limited recompense, spiritually, physically, emotionally. . .  You got it!  We do not receive from God because in reality, we do not trust Him.  We think we are but we actually trust ourselves.  We can change that

You see, what goes into the jars goes in at our hands.  What comes out, does so by the hand of God.  We just struggle to trust and to follow.


----

[1] The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

[2] The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

[3] The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

[4] The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

[5] The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

[6] American Standard Version. 1995. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

[7] The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

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