by Terrance & Lisa McCoy
Does it strike anyone odd that Jesus made wine for His first miracle? Perhaps the strangest part of the first miracle was that Jesus used bathing jars to hold the wine. Honestly, isn’t that a little gross? As crazy as this first miracle seemed, the strangest part to me was when he had them fill the huge jars full of water. He had his disciples fill the stone jars to the brim. Why didn’t Jesus just go over to the jars and pray a little prayer and make wine? He could have. There is a purpose for the water.
In Bible times, stone jars were used for purification rituals. Stone was believed to hold purity. These jars were often made of limestone, which was easy to carve. The water poured inside would thus be pure, “living water,” held in this cistern of sorts, for later use. The jars were useful, moldable, pure...but just attractive jars without the water being inside them. The water was the tool to be used. The water was the key element in the purification ceremonies. The water was the stuff of Heaven, being held in specially chosen earthen vessels. The water was the game changer.
We are the jars - chosen, moldable, ready to be used for the Kingdom, waiting for the Water that will flow and heal. But if we come before God without being filled, without lifting our hearts and empty vessels for a fresh filling of His Spirit, power, and direction, we are just attractive stone. We may clean up nicely and say, “Amen!” at the appropriate time, but we are hollow, cavernous, and cold inside without the stuff of Heaven sloshing out and into the world. The stone is nothing without the water.
If I may be honest, we live in a world of carbon copying. Everywhere you look and in all things, we are looking for the next cool look. We are waiting on the next mega church to write another hit song so we can share it in our church. We wear our hats certain ways, bend our brims in certain ways, roll up our pants legs, cut our hair, wear our jewelry and plan our church services in certain ways in hopes to have success. I’m guilty more than anyone else. It leaves me asking myself, “What am I depending on to radically love and change the world around me”. When I try to perform or create things to change the world without listening to God, I am making my own “boxed wine?”. Am I squeezing my own grapes and trying to manufacture my own power? Am I bypassing the living water and hoping the stellar stone will do the trick? A wine connoisseur can identify a fine wine a mile away. They can distinguish its aroma, its intensity, balance, and complexity of notes and flavors. Our hearts are the same way. When you have had choice wine, boxed wine is way less appealing.
Jesus was making a huge point. In John 4:14 He asked the Samaritan woman for a drink. He was building up to an eternal and epic moment with her. “With this living water, you will never thirst again.” I have tasted this water. I’m so glad I did. I, too, fill it to the brim and it bubbles over. If I fill my life with my talent, performance, hard work and grit, I offer the world box wine, devoid of Heaven’s flavor and intensity. If I fill my life with His Holy Spirit, the miracle happens. He allows choice wine to spill out of my dirty stone jar. This, and this alone, is what our world needs. People need much more of Him and much less of me. They need my worship flowing from my emptiness and His filling. They need all of us to go from water to wine, pungent and resplendent for His glory.
Kick the boxed wine, my friends. Let’s go for the Chardonnay!
by Chantel Waltz
We can carry around a lot of things that can hinder our worship. Self-condemnation, sorrow, fear… I feel like we hear a lot about these things. Today I want to talk about something that isn't really talked about a lot. I want to talk about anger.
Last Sunday morning, I walked into the church sanctuary as the lights began to dim. The band came out as I found my place in my row. I'd had a hard week, but I was glad to be in the house of God. I wanted to lay it all down and worship the Lord. Our first song was 'This is Amazing Grace' by Phil Wickham, and I had just really started to enter in to worship. My heart began to engage with the lyrics, which recount many of the wonderful promises of God, as I sang to Him. Things were going great, until we got to a particular promise in one line of the song that says "Who makes the orphan a son and daughter." And I froze. I started to feel a heaviness in my chest. And then the tears started.
You see, we have been pursuing an international adoption from Africa for four, very long years. 2 years ago, we actually had a referral to a little girl in Tanzania. We had her picture up on our fridge, and our family was really excited to bring her home, and in my heart she was my daughter. But because of some political issues we lost our referral, and we lost her. It was very painful, but we still felt called to adopt. Soon after that we started the process all over again, this time in the African country of Guinea. We have been waiting on a referral for a 12 month old little girl, who has been chosen for our family, but recently found out that there are some serious complications with THIS adoption as we found out our adoption agency will be closing permanently.
I've spent a lot of time talking to God about our adoption process, declaring victory and begging God to intervene. We really felt like God told us to pursue this, and believe He promised us a little girl from Africa. But this has been such a long, difficult journey.
Sometimes I do great, I'm filled with expectation and strength to keep waiting and trusting God. But there have also been seasons when all I can do is cope, and I just force myself to not think about it. Then there are the times when all just feels really hopeless. It hurts. It doesn't seem fair, for us OR these orphaned children.
Here's some of the awful thoughts that I wrestle with in those darker moments. “If God REALLY does give mom's and dad's to orphans, then what about the little girl we almost brought home from Tanzania? She's still stuck in an orphanage. What about the baby girl in Guinea? Are You going to take her away too? What about my feelings, my husband's feelings and my 3 bio kids? Why am I being punished when I'm trying to do something GOOD? And spending a lot of time, energy and money to do so?”
The most painful part is that I KNOW God could change all this right now. He is sovereign. He could have stopped it. At any point He could have made it right for all of us. But He didn't. And right then, in that darkened church sanctuary, I realized that I was really angry at God.
Nothing shuts down a relationship like anger. For all the married folks, have you ever tried showing affection to your spouse while you were angry at them? Have you ever tried honestly blessing them, or harder still, giving your whole heart to them in intimacy? You can't do it! Not for real! You can fake it. You can go through the motions, but truly, anger is a nemesis of heart intimacy. The worst of it is, anger is that it doesn't just "go away." You can push it back, try not to thing about it, but in that moment when you try to make a heart connection with someone, it comes right back up. To move forward in relationship, any relationship, the anger has to be recognized and called out for what it is. It has to be dealt with.
We all know anger is bad, but anger at God seems particularly bad somehow, doesn't it? I mean, He's God, right? He knows everything, who are we to question His judgment? Just ask Job, who got an earful of holy lecture when He dared to question God's judgments. This is Christianity 101! But the truth is, God knows the anger is there anyway, and He wants all of us, the good bad and ugly.
The worst thing we can do in our relationship with Him is to try to hide ourselves from Him. It stops our trust, stops our ability to be intimate with Him. He asks us to not hold anything back. To give Him our whole hearts, however sinful, and to let Him create in us a clean heart.
In that moment at church, I knew I couldn't keep singing to God as if nothing was wrong. It would have been fake. I knew I needed to deal with my anger at the Lord. And, as embarrassing as it was for me (cause, shouldn't I know better by now?), I confessed anger at God to Him as sin. But I also recognized that He wasn't angry or disappointed at me for being angry at Him. God, Himself is SLOW to anger. He knows our hearts, He understands our pain AND our imperfect love. I gave Him my emotion of anger. Then I told my own soul, my own emotions, to line up with the truth of my good and loving God. I told my spirit to rise up within me. I cried as I affirmed that my family, myself and both of these little baby girls, are perfectly taken care of by my Father. I affirmed that His ways are not my ways, and I relinquished the right to understand.
I started to feel lighter, like a guard around my heart was falling off. Worship was still going, and now the song was 'Do it Again.' by Elevation Band. "I've seen you move the mountains, and I believe I'll see you do it again, You made a way when there was no way, and I believe I'll see you do it again”. I looked up at that projection screen and literally forced myself to begin to sing out these words, through tears I felt His peace come over me. I started shouting the words, and the Lord began to remind me of all the times He came through for me. The many, many times and situations that He has helped me, provided for me, saved me, fulfilled His promises, miraculously healed me. And I began to praise Him for those times and for the times to come. I allowed my faith to rise up again over our adoption.
Hey, maybe you have some really tough stuff going on in your life right now, and you're reading this and realizing that you are angry at God. That it's keeping you from being truly intimate with Him. There's good news for you! He's just waiting for you to come to him, with all your stuff, and pour out your heart to Him. He longs to reassure you of His love, like He did for me last Sunday, so come to Him. Be real about what's going on, He understands! Submit your whole self, even your emotion of anger, to Him. Call your faith to rise up, even if it's just a mustard seed. Remind yourself of how He has come through in the past, how He's proven His goodness over and over again, and then worship Him for who He is, what He's done, and what He's going to do!