The Sign: Turning Water into Wine

water into wineDid you know that according to the Gospel of John, the first miracle Jesus performed was that of turning water into wine? That’s really amazing to me! I mean, think about it! You would think that the first miracle would have been something like giving sight to the blind or making a lame man walk. But according to John, the first miracle was turning water into wine!

What is that telling us? Well, I did some reading in my Greek New Testament and I discovered that the Greek word that is translated into the English word: “miracle” in the Gospel of John in the King James Version of the Bible is more accurately translated as the word: “sign.” In fact, everywhere the King James Version has the words “miracle” or “miracles” in the Gospel of John, a more accurate translation would be the words: “sign” or “signs!” In John’s gospel, the miracles of Jesus were signs that pointed to the greater reality of the deity of Jesus!

But, aside from pointing to the greater reality that Jesus was and is indeed the Son of God, what was the “sign” of turning water into wine? Well, I believe there were couple of things Jesus was doing by turning water into wine (beside the immediate context of supplying the need of the wedding feast, thereby sparing the host of potential social embarrassment)! First of all, I think Jesus was trying to tell us that his presence provides the potential for turning the ordinary (water) into the extraordinary (wine)! If you read the story in John 2, you will discover that the host was amazed because it wasn’t just wine, but it was extraordinary good wine! There really is no such thing as an ordinary Christian life because the presence of Jesus via the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer makes life extraordinary and exciting!

I also think that Jesus was giving an indication of what life is like with him with this sign! He turned water into wine, not because they had ran out of wine for communion; but rather they ran out of wine for a wedding feast! Too many people think that being solemn and sour is the mark of a Christian. But I think Jesus was saying with this sign of turning water into wine that a dominant characteristic of the Christian’s life is joy! A wedding was and is a joyous occasion and wine makes it even more jubilant! The message is this: Don’t be such a “stuff-shirt!” Life in Christ is meant to be joyous and exciting, not dull and boring!

Well, that’s what I think! So the next time you meet someone who is supposedly a Christian, yet there is no joy in their life, it may be because they didn’t “read” this sign right or it may be their wine has run out! The life of faith is not primarily about following rules and laws (although there are rules and laws we must follow), but more so about a joyful relationship with the Father through the Son by way of the Holy Spirit! So loosen up my brother; let your hair down my sister! Enjoy your life (in Christ)! I believe that was the message of the sign of turning water into wine!

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If You Had a Choice of Color

multi handsSeveral years ago, a song-writer penned these words as the opening lyrics of a song:

“If you had a choice of color

Which one would you choose my brothers?

If there was no day or night

Which would you prefer to be right?”

But the truth of the matter is: We don’t have a choice of color! No one has any control of the color of their skin or of their ethnicity. And why should they? In the grand designed of the Creator, he chose to make people of different colors and ethnicity. Now while some have claim superiority based on color and racial make-up, such assumptions are not really intelligent or logical. For one, how can any one race claim superiority when that particular race (or any race for that matter) had no choice in the matter? Secondly, if the Creator made one race or people superior to another, then the Creator is divided and flawed, because whatever is created is a reflection and part of the Creator. It is neither logical nor sensible for the Creator to make one race greater or lesser than another! And it is neither logical nor sensible for people to be penalized or glorified for something (race and ethnicity) of which they had no control or choice!

The Creator God is a being of supreme intelligence; therefore, it stands to reason that variety is a good thing! Therefore, at its roots, to practice racism is telling God He didn’t know what He was doing or that He made a mistake in creating diversity in the racial and ethnic make-up of people! And then, think of how boring and bland the world would be if everybody was the same! There would be no basis for personal growth because if everybody was just like you, there would be no differentiation, hence no basis of learning from someone different. I don’t know about you, but I am thankful for diversity! I can’t imagine how mundane life would be if I was just “216,000,000 of whatever!” (Star Trek fans can relate, remember: The Borg!) A creation is always an expression of its creator; therefore, it takes all of us, in all colors and ethnic groups, to express God!

Finally, on the outside we may be red, yellow, brown, black, or white, but have you noticed that we all bleed red blood? While we are different on the outside, in essence, we are in a sense the same on the inside! We are one! I can’t hurt you without hurting myself! I can’t discriminate against you without discriminating against myself and the God who made you!

It’s time we grow up! Racism at its core is childish and immature behavior! We don’t have a choice of color! There’s a verse in the Bible that asks: “Can a leopard change his spots?” The obvious answer is “No!” But my question is: Why should he want to? God made him a leopard with spots and everything God made is GOOD! Therefore my friend, no matter what your racial make-up or ethnicity; be comfortable and proud of the skin you are in! Don’t let small-minded and immature people judge or intimidate you based on the superficial skin color! Variety is good! Life would be so boring if we all drove red Ford pick-ups! Thank God for Cadillac, Dodge, GMC and others! Thank God everybody doesn’t wear the same color clothing! We are like a bag of different colored peanut M & M’s! They are different colors on the outside; but on the inside, they are all chocolate covered peanuts! We come in different colors and ethnicity, but at the core, we all bled red blood! We all have grey brain matter! We all come from the same source! We all are via creation; children of God! We are all people! So, I’m glad we didn’t and don’t have a choice of color! If you think we are messed up now because of the color issue, imagine how much more chaotic it would be if orange, purple, green, rainbow-colored and plaid colored people were added into the mix! LOL!

How Does God Feed the Birds?

bird feeding“Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”   (Matthew 6:26 ESV)

Jesus spoke these words to encourage his listeners not to stress and worry about acquiring the basic necessities of life such as food, clothing and shelter. The logic of the statement is that if God feeds the birds that are of lesser value, then surely he will provide for the needs of people who are of more value to him. Well, I’ve always looked at this statement and went on to the next verses, but a few days ago, I stopped and wondered: “How does God feed the birds?”

The birds don’t plant neither harvest crops, nor do they store food in barns, yet God feeds them! But exactly how does he do it? Well for one thing, he certainly hasn’t program worms to crawl up into the birds’ nest! No! And God does not directly feed the birds with a Divine bird feeder! But what he has done is pre-programmed the birds with the instincts to feed themselves! Birds instinctively know how to fly about and spot worms crawling around on the ground and they instinctively know how to sky-dive for fish swimming near the surface of lakes and streams! Now, working with the logic of Jesus’ statement from the lessor to the greater: Surely if God has pre-programmed birds and other animals with the instinctive knowledge and skills necessary for their survival, how much more has he already placed within us everything we need for our survival?

I would like to suggest that our key to success in life is not in someone we need to meet or in something we need to attain. Whatever we need; we already have it! God created and designed us at birth with a certain set of attributes, skills, gifts, talents, and abilities that guarantee our success in life! What we need is already within us! All we need to do is bring it out what God has placed within and develop it! Therefore, the final and greatest frontier is not really outer-space; it is inner-space!

Our success is within us! But we need to understand that real success has nothing to do with having a lot of money, being famous, or even having the admiration of people. Real success is being the person we were created and designed to be! It’s not real success to be a successful lawyer (according to society’s standards of success), when in fact, you were really born to be a doctor! Real success is fully developing what God has placed within so that we might fully be the person he created us to be!

So the look up, take a hint from the birds and be encouraged! If God feeds the birds by giving them the instinctive qualities that guarantee their survival, how much more has he given us the basic skills, attributes, and abilities needed to be successful at being the person he has created us to be!

Life is Like Riding a Bike

child on bikeIn the movie “Forrest Gump,” there is a scene where Forrest is sitting on a bench at the bus stop, talking to a stranger. Forrest says: “Momma always said: ‘Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you are going to get!” Well, I don’t know about life being like a box of chocolates, but I do know that life is often like riding a bicycle; the only way to stay upright is to keep moving forward, maintain your balance, and watch for bumps in the road!

Several years ago, I read a book by Anthony Robbins called “Awaken the Giant Within.” In that book, Robbins describes what he calls the CANI principle. C-A-N-I is an acronym for Constant and Never-ending Improvement. The principle states that in order to live a satisfying life, we must constantly strive to grow and to improve. I whole-hardheartedly agree!  The ongoing process of progress and constant improvement are essential to a fulfilling life! Anything that is not growing is dying! And just like riding a bike; if you don’t keep moving forward, you are going to fall down!

In addition to the need to be constantly moving forward, there is also the need to constantly maintain balance. In riding a bike, you must constantly shift your weight from side to side to maintain the proper balance needed to stay upright. It is also necessary to maintain a proper balance in life. Too much of this and/or too little of that can cause us to lose our balance in life. And if we lose our balance in life we will fall down!

Another principle in riding a bike that is applicable to life is to always be aware of the bumps and irregularities in the road! In order to do that while riding a bike, you must not only look in front of you to see where you are headed, but you must also periodically look down to assess the conditions of the surface you are riding on. You do this to adjust to and to compensate for the bumps, dips, or holes in road. To successfully navigate through life, we must also have such a dual focus; looking in front and looking around at the conditions on and around the path upon which we are traveling.

No! I am not so sure about life being like a box of chocolates, but I do know that life is like riding a bike: If you don’t keep moving forward, you are going to fall down! If you don’t maintain your balance, you are going to fall down! If you don’t take into consideration the conditions of the path you are riding on, an irregularity will cause you to fall down!

But if you have fallen off your bike, take courage, get up, brush yourself off and try it again! The best is yet to come! Your best performance is ahead of you! If you find your life dull and boring, it might be because your bike has stopped moving! Start peddling! Start moving forward!

There is one more thing we can learn about life from riding a bike: Once you learn how to ride you never forget! So if you haven’t been on your bike in a while; if you’ve suffered some setbacks in life and you feel like you can’t get back into it; remember, if you did it once, you can do it again! Life is like riding a bike; once you learn, you never forget! Just get back up and get back on! You may be a bit rusty and wobble a bit at first, but if you keep at it, you’ll be riding like a champ again!

NOW: The Only Time We Have

hourglass clockI can’t count the number of times I’ve heard people make comments like: “Don’t rush, take your time.” Or: “I really don’t have time to deal with this now!” Or: “I have plenty of time!” Now, I understand what they are talking about and I have made and continue to make similar statements myself, all of the time! But, when you really stop and think about it, the truth is; the only time we have is now; this very present moment!

Yesterday, last night, an hour ago, a few minutes ago, and even a few seconds ago, are all descriptions of time that no longer exist! That time is gone! We can’t use it anymore! We can’t re-live it! Tomorrow, next week, next month, next year, even the next hour, the next minute and the next second, are all descriptions of time that we can’t use yet because it doesn’t exist! We can’t live in the past because the past is gone! We can’t live in the future because the future is not yet! The past is gone; we no longer have it! The future is not ours because we haven’t got it yet! The ONLY TIME we have and the ONLY TIME we can do anything with is NOW!

Therefore, it would be wise for us to learn to live more fully in the now! Wisdom dictates that we learn not to spoil now with leftovers from the past nor preempt now with promises of the future! We messed up yesterday! So what? Learn from it! It’s spilled milk! It’s water under the bridge! We can’t take it back! What we can learn from the past is to be more careful with the now because the decisions we make now will produce the results we live with tomorrow! And when “tomorrow” comes (and in a sense, “tomorrow” never really comes, because when it arrives, it is no longer tomorrow; we call it “today!”), we must learn to live it to the fullest and not wait until the next tomorrow to do what we could and should do today!

So, what is it that you could or should be doing now? Are there some things you want to do, but everything hasn’t fallen into place yet? That’s OK, do what can you do . . . now! When you make it a practice to always do what you can do now instead of trying to wait until everything is just right before you do anything at all; you will get more living out of life! Now is so precious and valuable! It is actually more valuable than money! The value of a thing can be measured by its limitations. All things being equal; you can always earn, find, or be given another dollar, but once you spend time; it is gone forever! Yes! Time is valuable and there is no time more valuable than now! Now is a gift, that is why it is called “the present!”

Yesterday is a cancelled check and tomorrow is a promissory note! The only currency currently available to spend is the time we have today!  And even when the time is today; the only time we can spend within today is now! There is a Gospel song with the lyrics: “Lord, teach me to live one day at a time!” But the truth is we really can’t live one day at a time! We can actually only live, one moment at a time! Yes! The only time we can live in is now! The only time we can do anything with is now! THE ONLY TIME WE HAVE IS NOW!

Be the Change, Make the Change: My Thoughts on Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman, & America

In the circles I travel, there is a familiar saying: “Prayer changes things!” But I have discovered that more often than not; prayer changes people and it’s the people changed by prayer who change things!

tmartinzimmermanAs I write this post, I am reflecting on the state of our nation in regard to the recent findings of the jury in the George Zimmerman trial. Whether we agree with the verdict of the jury or not, this case has brought to the forefront the age-old problem of respect, race, and ethnicity in America. On one hand there are those who cry for justice because they feel that justice was not served in this case. On the other hand, there are those who say that the verdict has been given and whether we like it or not, we need to move on.

In my opinion, I don’t think justice was served! It was tragic that an unarmed Black teenager was unnecessarily killed and it is tragic that his killer goes free with no repercussions! My thoughts and prayers are with the Martin family as they deal with the loss of a son and the loss of justice! My thoughts and prayers are also with George Zimmerman and his family as he and they deal with the reality that his actions were most likely motivated by the racial and cultural profiling that is rampant in America.

Now while I sympathized with the Martin family, I am at the same time, sickened by the hypocrisy of the Black community! This case received national attention and there is presently protest in the Black community and elsewhere ONLY because the victim was Black and the accused is perceived to be White! (Actually, according to Mr. Zimmerman; he is Hispanic) If George Zimmerman was a Black man, chances are, we would have never heard of this incident! Therefore I ask: What about the countless unarmed Black victims that are being gunned down EVERYDAY in Black communities as a result of Black on Black violence and crime? Who speaks for them? Where is the national outrage and protest about innocent unarmed Black children being killed in the crossfire of drug-turf wars in Black communities nearly every day! There is no national protest about that! Now again, this is not to minimize what happened to Trayvon Martin! But it very well could be that part of the reason other people de-value the lives of Black people is because Black people de-value the lives of Black people! We (I mean Black people) have run the Klu Klux Klan and other White-supremacy groups out of business! It wasn’t very long ago that Black parents feared their sons would be killed by the Klan; now Black parents fear their sons will be killed by other Black sons! Where is the national protest about that? We crucify Paula Dean for racial slurs she admitted to have uttered in the past; but what about the demeaning racial slurs Black people berate one another with in personal conversations, rap songs and videos every day? Call me old-school if you want, but to me, that is part of the problem! If you don’t respect yourself, it’s crazy to think other people will respect you! If we are going to boycott Paula Dean, we also need to boycott the gangster and hip-hop rappers who are getting paid to disrespect Black women and others with their profane lyrics!

So where do go from here? What do we do? To my White brothers and sisters, I would suggest that you remember that at the core, people are just people. It is not a person’s race or color that really defines them; it is their character! With that in mind, I would suggest we all take a serious look at revising a judicial system that has turned into a warehouse distribution center for the new plantations otherwise known as the penal system. To my Black brothers and sisters, we need to take responsibility for our own and respect ourselves! Quit being so quick to always place the blame on the “others” when often (not all the time; but more often than not) the blame is with the “brothers” (and sisters)!

How can change happen on a national scale? Don’t expect it to come through legislation or laws. It will come; one person at a time! It will come when we, as individuals, quit demanding, depending, or waiting on other people to change! If there is to be real change, then we as individuals, must be changed, be the change and make the change!

Watch Your Mouth: Don’t Cuss or Curse!

hand over mouthI can remember, while growing up as a young boy in Mississippi, my friends and I would often play ball in the back yard. Sometimes, we would get angry with one another and let out some expletives that we wouldn’t have said in our Sunday School class. At the time we said those words, we didn’t know that mother was listening. But, soon we would hear her yell out the window: “You’d better watch your mouths boys!” You see, back when I was growing up, it was a BIG NO-NO for children (anyone under 21) to use “cuss” words.

But, I would like to suggest that, even though we live in a society in which we are constantly exposed to profanity on the Internet, radio, TV, and other media outlets, “cuss” words are not as nearly damaging as “curse” words! You see, there is a difference between “cuss” words and “curse” words! “Cuss” words are the words used when we sometimes get angry and lay our religion down! (But then, there are some folks I know of who have incorporated these words into their normal everyday vocabulary!) You can tell when you are “cussing” because if you have ever had any home training, something within you tells you that you are using bad language! But “curse” words are horses of a different color! I know some preachers who use “curse” words (by the way, some of them “cuss” too!). There are many people who would never “cuss,” but they “curse” all the time!

You are “cursing” when you say that you can’t, when God has said that you can! You are “cursing” when you tell your child that they will never be anything because (in your opinion) their father is no good! You are “cursing” when you always talk about what’s wrong with your life and never express appreciation for what is right! You are cursing when you always speak negative, non-productive, cynical, and pessimistic words! The Bible says that a man’s belly will be satisfied with the fruit of his mouth . . .death and life are in the power of the tongue! Jesus said, “Whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be cast unto the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass, he shall have whatever he saith.” (Mark 11:23 KJV) In other words, whatever you consistently speak with your mouth and constantly believe in your heart will eventually become a reality in your life! Your present circumstances are a direct result of the words you have been habitually speaking! Your words have power!

We used to say when we were children; “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me!” Well, that’s not exactly true! Not only can words hurt you; words can kill you! Especially if they are “curse” words spoken and/or believed by you! Watch your mouth! Don’t cuss and don’t curse! Be careful what you say! Make sure you speak life and not death into your life and into the lives of the people around you!