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John records several signs with the intention of leading us to faith in Jesus.
 
Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name. - John 20:30-31 NASB
 
I’ve heard many say there are seven signs in John’s gospel, but I count nine. We’re going to look at the first seven over the next few weeks.
 
Turning Water to Wine The Royal Official’s Son Healing at the Pool of Bethesda Feeding of the Five Thousand Walking on the Water Healing the Blind Man Raising of Lazarus
 
Now, look at this list. If you were Jesus, and you were planning your ministry strategy, where would you start? Let’s assume you know how much power you have at your fingertips, where would you start. Ok - maybe not with raising the dead, we all like a good climax. But how about one of those times Jesus healed everyone in town or fed the masses. Don’t you want to come onto the scene with a big splash?
 
But John starts his account of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords with a miracle Jesus Himself didn’t even want to do. Even the venue was regrettable, a little family wedding in a tiny town in Galilee. Not in the Temple in Jerusalem, or in the courts of the king, but He starts His ministry in a little nothing town.
 
And then we have the nature of the miracle. Many of the miracles Jesus did brought relief to suffering, or clear glory to God.
 
But John starts with this very strange story.
 
Jesus and His disciples find themselves invited to a wedding. At this point, we know He’s got at least five followers. I’m guessing there were seven by this time.* Mary, the mother of Jesus is also there.
 
You know the story. They run out of wine at this wedding party. Weddings could last up to a week in the tradition of the day, but do you know what they called a wedding with no wine?
Over!
I’m not sure how Mary learned of this or why she felt responsible to do something about it. I guess all moms know everything. She found out and takes the news to Jesus. “They have no wine.”
 
Jesus’s isn’t impressed. He says, “Mama, Why are you telling me? My time has not come.”
 
He’s not scolding her, but He didn't feel the pull of the Spirit to do anything about this particular issue.
 
So why this story?
 
Remember when Jesus started speaking in parables? The first parable is the model. He uses that model to teach not only the lesson but how to interpret all the other parables.
 
So it is here. 
 
Mary is going to give us a key to all John’s signs.
 
Jesus blows it off, but Mary does not accept His pass.
 
Mary gives us a command—an imperative.
 
"Whatever He says to you, do it." - John 2:5
 
There it is. The key.
 
This is what’s going to open up every other sign.
 
This is what’s going to open up every solution in your life.
 
You know the rest of the story. Jesus has them grab the nasty tanks of water where people have been washing off the filth from their live’s journeys. They fill these tanks up to the brim and then Jesus tells them to ladle some out and take it to the boss. Jesus makes somewhere in the neighborhood of 180 gallons of wine.
 
The waiters carry this ugly water to their boss, all the while smelling dirty water in the ladle. Right up till the head waiter puts it to his lips. Suddenly, he’s tasting wine. And not just any wine. This is fine wine, good wine, the best wine.
 
Guess what—the party is on!
 
You know, for thirty years, I’ve heard this preached as “Jesus saved the best wine for last,” but that is not what the text says.
 
It says you’ve saved the best for “NOW.”
 
For “NOW.”
 
Not for the last generation, not for the last days, not for the day before the 2nd coming. I suppose that could be us. But even is Jesus tarries, this word is for us.
 
He made the “BEST” wine for “NOW.”
 
I love this.
 
Bring the water pot of your life, filled with the filthy water of your past, and place it in front of Jesus. Allow Him to fill you with the living water—the Holy Spirit. As He ladles you out to this thirsty world, what they will experience is the best wine, NOW. And not just a communion cup half full, but abundant wine. Enough to bring joy into every circumstance.
 
So what now? What about us?
 
Go and do whatever He tells you to do.
 
That’s going to require you to listen for His words daily. That’s going to demand ears willing to hear and a heart willing to believe and follow no matter where He leads.
 
Are you in?
 
Let’s do this.
 
Hey, thanks for coming by.
 
Come back again soon.
 
Ben
 

NOTES:

*We’re told the two of John the Baptists followers left John and began following Jesus. One of them was Andrew, Peter’s brother. Andrew went and got Peter. Then Jesus met Philip who brought Him to Nathanael. So that’s five we know of for sure. I’m thinking James and John are in the group too, but I can't prove it.
 
I mentioned in my introduction that Bishop Joseph Garlington preached a message at the Voice of the Apostles Conference last week, in Lancaster, PA. His sermon inspired this series of messages. In it, he highlighted the imperatives Jesus spoke for each of these signs. I am going to take some time to look at these signs and those imperatives in this blog.
 
Jesus, in the great commission (Matthew 28:18-20) tells us to teach those we touch to obey everything He commanded. In simplest of terms, Jesus’ commands us to love God with all we have and all we are and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. But in these Jesus encounters, we’ll see Jesus giving clear instructions to those around Him. Let’s look together at these commands and see what they have for us today.
 
If you missed any part of this series, I’m collecting the links on the intro article here.

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I spent this last week at Global Awakening’s Voice of the Apostles conference in Lancaster PA. By our best reckoning, this was the 8th or 9th time Corinne (my wife) and I have attended the VOA conference. The level of teaching and ministry, and the sheer revelation, always blow us away during these 4 days.

The opening evening was with Bishop Joseph Garlington. If you’ve never heard him preach, you really must experience it. He speaks with the accompaniment of his keyboard player and dear friend Clarance. You never know when he might break into song, with his beautiful tenor voice.

I can remember back to when I was courting my wife in the 70’s her mom, my dear mother-in-law Barbara, used to tell stories of his preaching over forty years ago. Back then, my Father-in-law, Don Hayhurst ran a tape ministry which recorded the preaching from the Full Gospel Business Men’s ministry in Bergen County, New Jersey. Bishop Garlington was a regular preacher in that venue.

This week, his opening message was from the book of John. He spoke about the signs of John. I’ve studied these signs before and heard many sermon series teaching on them. But Bishop Garlington brought new light to them. I’ve decided I will take the next few weeks and press through them and share some of what he brought, and press into the life in these beautiful accounts of encounters with Jesus.

So keep your eyes open for new posts. If you’re not subscribed here, drop your email address in the box to the right (near the top of the page) and you’ll receive emails as these installments are published. As I post to this series I'll add links to below so you can grab it all here eventually.

Thanks for stopping by, and get ready for a great ride.

Love you!

Ben

 

Here's the rest of the series so far:

Mary's Imperative - #Signs - Episode 1

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Then He said, "Do not come near here; remove your sandalsfrom your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground." - Exodus 3:5 NASB


Ground—it’s made of dirt—you know—soil. It’s composed of sand, silt, clay and humus—not the chickpea side dish—decayed organic material. Thanks, Brighthub.

So how does this mess of ingredients become holy?

Was this particular ground always holy, and as such, inviting to the Lord God, YHWY? Moses just stumbled upon this place where God loved to hang out.

No.

This ground became holy by the presence of the Holy One. God didn’t come to this remote location because He had heard about a holy spot. God came to this remote location because Moses would be passing, and God wanted to talk to Moe.

Holy is what happens in the presence of God. When God shows up, it’s not just the atmosphere around Him that changes. Everything changes—even the ground gets holy.

Now, in the Church today, there are a lot of Christians who feel like dirt. They reckon themselves to be vile and filthy and not fit habitations for the Most Holy One.

Wrong.

Though we come from dust and are returning to it, when God shows up, He fashions of us a habitation suitable for His presence. He takes the ground and makes it holy.

So many say, I’m just a sinner saved by grace. But O the work that salvation works. The old sinner man/woman is buried in the ground, then God makes the ground holy, by His presence.

Up from the grave comes a holy child of God, transformed by the indwelling presence of the Spirit of the Living God.

Free from the bondage of sin.

Free from the deadly consequences.

Free from the domination of temptation.

Free to be a home for the Source of all holiness.

You are holy ground, so you better take your shoes off. You’re in the presence of YHWH. He lives in you.

Hallelujah—What great salvation.

Thanks for coming by,

See you again soon,

Ben

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"And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord." - Luke 1:45 NASB

Mary was pregnant. She was not yet married. The baby was not the product of her relationship with her betrothed.

That’s the world’s take.

Elizabeth, who now knew first hand what God could do, saw it differently.

"You are blessed, my dear cousin."

Blessed!

We have, out of the mouth of Elizabeth and 9th Beatitude.

Blessed are you when you believe that God will do what He said He would.

Earlier in Luke 1, the angel told Mary,

"For nothing will be impossible with God." - Luke 1:37 NASB

Mary believed.

Mary received this massive blessing.

Note-The blessing probably didn’t feel like such a blessing at times. But we step back now and see what a huge privilege it was for her to carry and care for God’s own Son.

Can you believe that God will do what He said He would?

Your Blessed in believing, and you will be blessed, carrying whatever seeming burden comes with the blessing because God is in it.

Thanks for stopping by.

Come back soon.

Ben

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Check out this great post about the power of our words by my friend Ginny Wilcox.

 

Speak the word only

ROMANS 4:17

‘…even God, who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist.”

Words have impact and power in our lives…

We all confess this to be true, but do we really believe it, do our lives reflect it? What about our prayers; are they prayers filled with item after item of what is wrong with a situation, begging God to hear our prayers and fix everything?

What about those words we choose when we speak to God, do they not have impact and power? (Positively or negatively) ... (Read more here.)

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Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? - Matthew 7:9 ESV

There was a day when if you wanted to relate to the Lord God, your only choice was the law written in stone, but that was not God’s original intent. God was looking for relationship—friendship.

In Exodus, God hands His chosen people His Word—laws written in stone. The people send word to Him (because they would not—could not—address Him directly) that they would obey everything He told them to do.

All the people answered together and said, "All that the LORD has spoken we will do." And Moses reported the words of the people to the LORD. - Exodus 19:8 ESV

But from the beginning, it was not so.

And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, "Where are you?" - Genesis 3:8-9 ESV

I infer from this it was the norm for YHWH (in the form of a man, that would be Jesus—see Philippians 2:7-8,) Adam, and Eve to walk together in the cool of the day and commune—like friends.

But by the time we get to Israel and their exodus from Egypt, man is too awed by this miracle working God of wonders to think in terms of friendship. They can only imagine a Master/slave relationship with this God of plagues and miracles.

Master/slave works okay, but it’s not God’s best. His idea was a walk in the garden. Jesus demonstrates this as He often heads to a garden or other quiet place to be this His Father. Solomon wrote about it in the Song of Songs. (4:16-5:1)

God’s original plan is not the law of stone, an external law imposed upon us. He desires an internal relationship with His people. Bread, eaten by His beloved children, becoming part of us. The Word of God made flesh—the Bread of Life, broken for us, and eaten as a simple demonstration that God has come into us, He longs to be part of us, one with us.

The law God wants for us is not an external, hard, cold lump of stone. His holy law of love has to become part of us—written on our hearts—energized by His Spirit. A law that is so ingrained in us that our greatest desire is to walk in that simple law of love.

"Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. "I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances. - Ezekiel 36:26-27 NASB

Do you see it?

Lord, today, I ask you for bread, and for a heart of flesh where you can write Your law—Your love—with Your finger, Your love for me and for those I touch today.

Thanks for stopping by today.

See you again soon,

Ben

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I want to see with God’s eyes.
 
This is especially true when it comes to how He views the people around me. In God’s economy, people comprise the main treasure. All the stuff we find ourselves running after amounts to so much flotsam and jetsam.
 
Perhaps you, like me, forget this from time to time. We shift our focus from seeking and saving the lost, like Jesus, to using people to gain those things we yearn for. The fame or fortune we grasp for, in the end, mean nothing, while the people we used or ignored to get there, were the ones we were sent to touch.
 
They need an encounter with Jesus, and we use them for our own advancement.
 
They have broken hearts and crushed dreams and we see only how they can be part of our plan for profit.
 
We like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day hate people unless we can use them to build their own kingdoms.
 
Luke 15 contains three of the most well-known parables Jesus ever told; the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost (prodigal) son. But the context is set with these two quick verses.
 
Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him. Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, "This man receives sinners and eats with them. - Luke 15:1-2
 
Though there is a ton of meat we could glean from these three parables, and there are plenty of life applications we can draw from each. But today, I find it interesting that they each end, in the same way, with Rejoicing.
 
[7] I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
 
[10] In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.
 
[32] But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found. - Luke 15:7, 10, 32
 
When Jesus looked at the lowest of the low, He saw His Father’s business, God’s highest priority.
 
In the context of the whole teaching, He looked past the current life of these tax collectors, these “sinners.” He saw rejoicing in heaven over their repentance. He found no pleasure in where they were but looked at the potential party in heaven.
 
Some preaching today finds these their place in flames and wrath. Jesus looked at their potential for heaven. He saw what the Father created them for. That is what He spoke into.
 
The writer of the book of Hebrews says this:
 
… who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, … Hebrews 12:2
 
His entire life was given to this one task.
 
For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost. - Luke 19:10
 
He chose every word for its value in drawing prodigals home.
 
He looked at every person He met and envisioned the party in heaven. He saw the potential for a life filled with joy in the kingdom of heaven for each sinner He engaged.
 
Not so much for me.
 
I curse bad drivers, hang up on telemarketers, manipulate those I’m buying from, and pressure those I’m selling to. I walk past the homeless as if they don’t exist. I fear those I don’t understand. I think the worst of a man or woman based on his or her appearance, clothing, style choices or mannerisms. I do what I can to curry favor with those who can offer me advancement. I do it in business with those who can make me look good.
 
I even do this in the church. I live in ways that will make me look more spiritual. I choose my words and topics so that I seem to be the most godly, while at the same time ignoring the person obviously hurting in the pew beside me. I rub shoulders with those who can promote my agenda, while letting the visitors, seeking a touch from God, slip away unnoticed, and untouched.
 
Lord, I DO want to see with your eyes. I pray that your priorities would become mine and I would appraise with your value system. God forgive my indifference to those you treasure and give me a heart that loves without worrying about my reward.
Glad you stopped by.
See you again soon,
Ben

“Your cheeks are lovely with ornaments, your neck with strings of beads.” (Song of Songs 1:10 NASB)

We are eaves dropping on a bit of romance these days on SoS Saturday. We are listening in as the Shepherd King describes His maiden fair. Last week we heard Him tell her of how He loved her cheeks as they expressed the depth of her emotion and passion for Him.

Today we overhear His musings about her neck.

So how is it with our maiden? Anytime He is in the room, she turns to see Him, to look Him over, to see what He is doing and with whom He is talking.

Her neck is a compass turning her head—her attention—ever northward—toward her King.

The neck is our most vulnerable feature. Exposing your neck to another is a sign of trust and submission. I trust you not to exploit this weakness, and I submit to your will and ability to rule me.

There is a phrase used in the older translations of the Bible, which means obstinate—stiff-necked. It is a neck that is unbending, immovable, unyielding.

So, you see, when the Shepherd King speaks of the maiden's neck He speaks of her will and submission.

When Jesus looks at us, He considers our neck.

How is your neck? Are you quick to turn toward the sound of His voice? Are you moved by His call on your life? Do you drop those things that would offend Him when your conscience whispers “No”?

Or does Jesus have to battle to get your attention? Are you slow to turn from your own way? Does your heart cry out the anti-Gethsemane prayer – Not Your will but mine!

There is another lesson in the neck though.

Victory is in the turning.

Often, when we Christians do our spiritual accounting, we only count victory as having complete dominance over our sin. I am only victorious in a battle with sin when I no longer even think of committing it.

This could not be further from the truth.

God is pleased with the turn of our neck toward Him. He knows it is a process we must walk through. He understands the weakness of our flesh.

Hey—He throws a party the day you decide to follow Him, at your very first turning. And every turn you make in submission to Him, even a small turn, pleases Him.

He knows your current struggle and sees your desire to be free and follow Him in that area. He is cheering for you! He hurts with you when you fall and fail. He is there to draw you once again.

Don’t give up in your struggles to live a godly life. I promise He has not given up on you.

Hope that helps

See you next week.

Ben

In my ponderings, I ran across six of the saddest words I’ve ever read.

I found them right in the opening to the book of John.

…His own did not receive Him. - John 1:11 NASB

The “Him” here, thus far, has only been identified as “The Word” and “the Light.” We’ll learn later in the first chapter that the old apostle is talking about Jesus Christ.

John establishes first that Jesus and the God of the Jews are One in the same.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. - John 1:1-2 NASB

Next, He tells us that this same Jesus, the Word, is the agency through which all things came into being, He’s the creator.

All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. - John 1:3 NASB

But the heartbreak comes down in verse 11.

He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. - John 1:11 NASB

This creator of all things actually made a covenant with a people. He chose to reveal Himself to the Children of Israel.

He chose them

He brought them out of slavery

He established them in the land of promise

He protected them

He gave them a land and made them a people

But when He came to reveal Himself to His people

they rejected Him

they hated Him

they mocked Him

they scourged Him

they crucified Him.

There have been times when I’ve been unwilling to receive Him. Even as a child of God, even after He saved me and I received His free gift of salvation, there have been times when my heart closed up to Him. Has this ever happened to you?

He chose me

He revealed Himself to me

He delivered me from the power of sin

He blessed me with all spiritual blessings

He protected me from the punishment of sin

He joined me to a people who were not my people

And yet there are times when I don’t receive Him

When I set Him aside

When I don’t pursue Him

It is sad, isn’t it?

Lord Jesus. I am so thankful that you came, lived, and loved me/us. Forgive me and help me walk with my heart open to you today, moment by moment. I don’t want to be remembered like these you record in your Word who did not receive you, though you came to them.

You are a good, good Father, and I thank you for speaking through Your Word.

Don’t leave feeling guilty. Conviction comes from time to time to call us back to a place from which we’ve stepped away. Today is a good day to step back into the arms of the Father. He’s right there at the end of the lane, waiting with open arms. Every time we open our hearts to receive Him, He opens His arms to receive us…

…And great rejoicing ensues!!

Hallelujah!

Thanks for stopping by today.

See you again soon.

Ben

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“Your cheeks are lovely with ornaments, your neck with strings of beads.” (Song of Songs 1:10 NASB)

As we look at the Shepherd King’s[i] words toward our maiden fair we are going to see Him use dozens of word pictures. Last week we looked at an example of an image from nature, this week we see Him muse about her appearance.

He will get pretty explicit as the song goes on, and I will attempt to make some sense of how it applies to the believer’s life.

Today we start with cheeks.

What good are cheeks?

Read the Cheeks!
Read the Cheeks!

They are like the emotional thermometer God has installed in each one of us. They rise and fall with our moods, and flush and pale with our passions.

Emotions are a funny thing in the church. For many years, centuries perhaps the church has frowned upon any display of emotion. I can remember as a 20 something singing a song in church where the lyrics said “I lift my hands up, unto Thy name” and looking around to see 8 hands in the air, in a room of 150 people.

We, the Church, have a limited view of God’s emotions as well. We have a God who is happy and smiling the day we repent and come to Him, and then angry with us every day after that, because we are not walking in complete submission to His will.

This is messed up.

God created us with a broad range of emotions and passions, and they are intended to bring the most out of our lives. There are ways to experience each of our God-given emotions in a way that pleases Him.

When He looks at us, our cheeks bring Him pleasure. He sees them flushed with the thrill of His presence and raised in joy and anticipation. Our passion for Him can't be hidden.

What about these ornaments?

Ornaments are adornments made for us by skilled artisans to bring out the beauty in our cheeks.

This may sound crazy, but I believe one adornment is worship. When we worship the Lord we engage our emotions, and take the skillful work of others—Poets, Songwriters, Musicians, Artists—and let it bring out the beauty in our emotion. We let our emotions do that for which they were created – bring Glory to Jesus.

Does that make sense?

I know it helps me.

BenThanks for stopping in.

See you next week.

Ben


[i] For the purposes of this series the Shepherd King represents Jesus in our reading of the Song, and the maiden is the individual believer. You can see the discussion on this in my earlier post – “Interpretation - #SoS Saturdays

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