Better Than My Best?

I can’t count the number of times I have been given the advice- You tried your best, that is all anyone can ask of you. As I write this, I sadly realize I have spoken those same words to others. Is doing our best all we can really ask for?

The first miracle of Jesus that was written about was changing water into wine in John chapter 2. There are some important aspects to ponder that get a lot of attention such as the interaction between Jesus and his mother Mary and that his disciples believed in him after witnessing the miracle.

group of people holding wine glasses
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There is something else that really catches my attention in this account. That isΒ what the master of the banquet said, who did not know Jesus had changed water into wine, when called the bridegroom over aside to chat.

The custom was to serve the best wine first and then bring out the cheap stuff after people drank the good stuff thus they wouldn’t notice the cheap stuff. Kind of like if at a wedding today they served imported wine from France first and then served the cheap box wine after everyone had a few glasses of the good stuff.

So the master of the banquet said of the wine Jesus made from water- “you have saved the best till now” after the people had consumed all of the wine they had before Jesus turned water into wine. In other words- What Jesus did was better than their best.

close up of hand
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This causes me to think about my life of trying to follow Jesus. Reading this account and intellectually understanding that what Jesus does is better than my best is one thing, but do I really count on that. Do I trust him to come through for me? Am I willing to wait on Jesus or do I try to rush things along?

I have to admit there have been too many times in my life that the answer to those questions have been no. The results have been okay at times, disastrous a few times, and who knows what could have happened at other times. The comforting thing is that in Romans 8 it says that God cause all things to work together for the good for those who love God and are called according to his purposes. Even my times of impatiently trying to rush things God can cause to work for the good.

So perhaps the encouragement I should give is a question-have you asked Jesus? Yes, we need to put forth the effort such as study for that exam, or prepare for that presentation, or spend quality time with our loved ones. We should strive to do our best. But let’s remember to ask Jesus and invite him into the process. πŸ™‚



Visits by Jesus After His Resurrection- What About Mary His Mother?

One of the mysteries in the bible for me is what happened when Jesus came to visit His mother Mary. She is not listed in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John as being present during his visits after His resurrection. Surely He must have appeared to Mary His mother. She was there when He was crucified. She was there when He was buried. She had been with Him throughout His life as we see various times after His birth that she was with Him such as at the wedding in Cana. I wonder what happened when He came to her.

Think about her life for a moment. She was a young virgin when an angel appeared to her and said, “Hail Highly Favored One…..” and told her she had been chosen by God to give birth to the Savior of the world. She said yes to God’s plan. She gave birth to Him in a stable of animals and then had to flee to Egypt because Herod wanted to kill the baby Jesus. She raised Him and cared for Him like no one else ever will. She saw His miracles and was even there for His first public miracle of turning water into wine. In fact she kind of instigated it. Then she is there during His passion and watches Him die on the cross before her eyes. She helped to prepare His body for burial. So why is there no mention of Mary the mother of Jesus during His visits after the resurrection.

While I would not make a claim to know for sure or teach this as a doctrine, it is my thought that Jesus’ first visit with His mother Mary was so highly personal and emotional for Mary that the Holy Spirit did not have it recorded. I have often heard it expressed that God is a gentleman meaning He is polite and considerate. While God does record the failings of Peter and the other disciples, there are certain things left unwritten such as the exact nature of Mary Magdaline’s life before Jesus healed her of demon possession. I believe that the moment Jesus first came to see His mother after His resurrection was so personal and emotional for her and out of respect for that moment it was kept private.

Let’s imagine how she must have felt though. She knew better than anyone why He had come into the world. She knew it from the start when the angel Gabriel told her. She saw Him die on the cross and heard Him give her care over to John. She saw Him buried and then she sees Him after His resurrection. She must have been so full of joy that she could not contain her emotions. Tears of joy that must have flowed from her eyes. Surely she embraced Him with a wonderful motherly hug and didn’t want to let go.

There is something in the bible that convinces me that Jesus must have visited Mary after His resurrection. Mary was with the disciples in the upper room when the promise of the Father came upon them. When the Holy Spirit was sent to those who were waiting, Mary was there with them.Β  In the bible she may fade from the scene as the focus of the story shifts to what the apostles did as they started the church, but she was there when the Holy Spirit came signaling that she still has a role. She is one person I look forward to meeting one day when Jesus calls me home. I would love to hear the story from her πŸ™‚

Mary’s advice at Cana- “Do whatever He tells you”

I was reflecting today on the advice Mary gave to the servants at the Wedding in Cana. Jesus was there with His disciples and a problem arose. They ran out of wine. Mary informed Jesus of the problem and He said “woman why do you involve me, my time has not yet come”. Mary spoke to the servants and instructed them to “Do whatever He tells you”. Jesus told them to fill the water jars with water. They could hold gallons of water. He told them to take some out and take it to the Master of the Ceremony who was surprised when He drank it because it was better than what was served first. In that culture they served the best first and brought out the cheap stuff afterward when no one would notice. The wine Jesus made was better than their best.

Jesus was once asked what works God requires. He said “The work of God is to believe in the One He sent”. In other words the work of God s to believe in and trust Jesus. When the disciples saw what happened with the water turned into wine, they put their faith in Him.They believed in the One God sent.

Wonderful things can happen when we “do whatever He tells us”. He can do far better than our best. No matter what our situation is, we can trust Him to do better for us than what our best effort can bring about for us. We may need to take a step of faith or we may need to take a step of obedience such as the servants did by filling the jars with water. The step of faith might be to give our problem to Him in prayer. It might be to forgive a person. It might be to apply for that job even though we think we can’t get it. Taking that step of faith is what puts our faith into action. With all of the problems we face today. Mary’s advice seems more relevant than ever- “Do whatever He tells you”

For Nothing is Impossible with God

I love that quote from the bible. It is what the angel Gabriel said to Mary when she did not understand how she could conceive a child when she was a virgin. Gabriel told her it would by the Holy Spirit and “Nothing is Impossible with God”. When I think about the meaning of this truth in my own life I am astounded as I look back over my life.

15 years ago I had been written off as someone who would not make it in this life. I had been sick for a few years and had difficulty following a basic conversation. In fact when I signed up to go on my first trip to Romania, the missionaries who had met me when I was sick, had the response of “isn’t he the guy who talks slow?” My situation looked hopeless, but with God nothing is impossible.

God helped me to recover and rebuild my life. Step by step He helped me every step of the way. It was not always easy. It required me to take some steps of faith, but over time my life was rebuilt and what I am doing now is far more fulfilling than anything I had done before I was sick. Whatever situation we find ourselves in, it can be not just comforting but also empowering to know that with God nothing is impossible.

God does special work through impossible births

The birth of any child is a special occasion because a new life has come into the world. Birth is a miracle of God. There a few births that really stand out in the bible that only happened because of the miracle working power of God.

Abraham and Sarah had their son Isaac when Sarah was over 90 years old. She had not had any children yet and God blessed her with a son when she was too old to have a child. They named him Isaac which means laughter because they understood the humor involved. The birth of Isaac happened in a way that showed that it could only happen because of God. Isaac carried on the line of Abraham that led to the birth of Jesus over 2,000 years later.

Moses was born when the Pharaoh of Egypt wanted all the first born Jewish boys killed to prevent a deliverer from rising up. Moses’s mother placed him in a basket and Moses ended up being raised by Pharaoh’s household. Even better was the fact that they needed someone to nurse him and that ended up being Moses’s birth mother. Moses went on to be used of God to deliver the Jews from slavery in Egypt.

John the Baptist was born to a couple, Zechariah and Elizabeth, when they were old. Elizabeth had not had any children yet and was past the childbearing age. God caused Elizabeth to be able to become pregnant with John the Baptist who went on to prepare the people for Jesus to come.

The most special birth of all was the birth of Jesus. It was spoken about over 700 years before Jesus came by a man named Isaiah. He wrote- “a sign will be given to you, a virgin will be with child…” A virgin will be with child. That could happen today with modern medicine assisting, but back then there was one way to get pregnant and that was to have sex. A virgin with child would be a great miracle indeed. Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary. The Holy Spirit caused it to happen. Jesus went on to die for our sins and defeat death by coming back to life on the third day.

Dreams at the first Christmas

Jesus was born at a time when there were no computers, fax machines, or cell phones. There was no text messaging or chat. Communication took days and sometimes weeks or even months depending on how far the news had to travel. Distance is no problem for God. If God wants to communicate, He can do it with or without human involvement. Such was the case at the first Christmas.

Joseph did not want to take Mary as his wife because he did not believe her story at first. An Angel spoke to Joseph in a dream to tell him that the baby Jesus was from God. Sometime after the baby Jesus was born, King Herod wanted to kill the baby Jesus but the Angel again came to Joseph in a dream and warned him to leave and take Mary and Jesus and escape before Herod’s soldiers came. The 3 wise men were asked by Herod to tell him where they found the baby, but they were warned in a dream that Herod wanted to harm the baby, so they left by another way. After Herod died, God spoke to Joseph again in a dream to tell him it was safe to return.

God is always speaking. He can speak through others. He can speak through the bible. He can speak in many ways. The two questions are; are we listening and will we follow through on what we are told.

Prayer- a young man gets out of a seemling hopeless situation

In 1989 I rented an apartment with a friend whose family is from Iraq.Β  My friend grew up in America and thought of himself as an American. His father went back to live in Iraq and my friend finished high school here. His younger brother was too young to saty here without his parents, so he went back to Iraq.

Their father wanted to send the younger brother here to visit for his 21st birthday as a gift. The younger brother was born here, so if he decided to stay here it was no problem. The problem was the issue of being allowed to leave Iraq. That was when Sadaam was in the height of his power in Iraq. It di dnot look very hopeful for my friend’s younger brother to get out. We met with my brother, my friend’s sister and my sister-in-law to pray. We fasted and prayed for him to get out of Iraq. We looked to Jesus for His help.

The day came for the younger brother to leave. It was common for Sadaam’s government to sell more tickets than they had seats for on the plane. It was also common for young menr to not be allowed out of the country, so we had two issues to pray about.Β  When the younger brother went to the airport he was treated very well and allowed to board the plane. Our prayers had been answered. What is even more amazing is that five days after he arrived in Lincoln Sadaam invaded Kuwait. We sat in the living room and watched the morning news about what had happened. I told him that it was Jesus who had helped him to get out.

Prayer- a boy with a serious health crisis recovers

Several years ago I saw a story about a boy in the UK that had a brain tumor and his situation looked hopeless. I remember how I felt when I saw the news. I felt burdened for the boy as I am sure many did. I felt burdened to pray for the boy that I never met. I even went so far as to call the UK to some churches and ask them to pray. That burden in prayer stayed with me for a month. I did not see any updates and let it go.

A few years later I was working at Billy Graham ministries. I had forgotten about the boy until one day when I was reading a Christian magazine in the break room at work and saw the update. A surgeon in America heard about the boy and arranged to do a new procedure with a gamma ray scapel or something like that. The boy had the surgery and recovered and went on to be a normal school boy.

When we have those burdens to pray, we need to respond to them. We may not know why we have the burden. Sometimes we find out the results and sometimes we do not. There is one person who always knows the results and that is the one we pray to, God. Those burdens may stay with us for a while or for a short time, but they come from God who for some reason unknown to us chooses to work through our prayers. Our job is to PRAY and leave the results to God.

Prayer- Thankfulness/Gratitude- our attitudes show what is in our hearts

One day when Jesus was here on earth He healed 10 people who were lepers. Their disease meant social isolation and rejection. Lepers had to go to leper colonies to wait to die apart from their families. If others saw lepers walking close by they would yell out Lepers!! and throw rocks at them. Jesus healed all ten people. That instant their lives were radically changed. They could leave the leper colony. They could go back to live in dignity. He told them to go show themselves to the priest to follow their law’s teaching. After they did so, 1 of them came back to thank Jesus. Jesus made an observation worth noting. He said- “there were ten healed but only one returns to thank me”.

It is too easy for us to not show our gratitude. God is always at work. Every day God gives us the air we breathe. Every day God shows His love. 2,000 years ago God sent His only Son, Jesus, to be our Savior by dying on a cross. Think of the great gift. We do not deserve for God to forgive us, but if we come to Jesus, God will forgive us 100%. Do we show Him we are thankful? Do we even say Thank you?

In prayer we can begin the day by thanking God for His love and for Jesus. We can thank God for many things in our lives. The question is are we like the nine who went on their way and did not thank Jesus or are the the one who came back to say Thank you?

Prayer- Went to Romania in April 05 but did look like it in February 05

In February 2005 I had surgery to have my Gall Bladder taken out. I went into the emergency room in pain on a Friday night. I drove there much to the surprise of the ER personnel. They told me I needed to have my Gall Bladder out. I was on Morphine and IV antibiotics all day that Saturday. On Sunday morning I had the surgery and they removed me Gall Bladder atheroscopically.

One of my Pastor friends came to see me on Saturday. I was scheduled to go to Romania in April 2005 for their Easter celebration. I looked at Pastor Scott and said “I am still going to Romania”. I do not know what he thought at that moment. The surgeon had just come up before Pastor Scott did and informed me that they might have to do the surgery the old way which would mean an 8 week recovery time. I told him I had to go to Romania so do his best. He kind of looked at me funny. He probably thought it was the Morphine.

The surgeon was able to do the surgery by scope. I went home on Tuesday. I was back in church the following Sunday teaching my class. My simple prayer through the pain that the Morphine was barely helping went something like this- “Jesus if you want me in Romania this surgeon has to be able to do this with a scope and not the old way”.

I did go to Romania. It was a wonderful trip. I was able to share Jesus with a college group. I was able to preach their Easter Sunday service. I was able to see some dear friends. The gospel must go forth and as Jesus promised “the gates of hell shall not prevail against the kingdom of Jesus.