Did Jesus Turn Water Into Wine or Grape Juice?

People love to debate Biblical issues and one of the more popular ones is whether or not Jesus’ miracle in John 2, turning the water into wine at the wedding in Cana, was creating alcoholic wine, or just grape juice. Like any readings in the Bible, it can be up for interpretation. Let’s take a look at John’s account.

On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”

“Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”

His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.

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.”

What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him. (John 2:1-11)

Highlighted in The Chosen

If you have ever watched Season 1 of “The Chosen” you will remember this sequence of events very well. Not intended to be precisely the way it was, the drama clearly reveals the intent. I particularly love the exchange between Jesus and His mother. His reluctance to perform the task, and for good reason, is quickly turned into acquiescence, because, I think, who can say no to mom? It’s a tender, human moment.

Wine or grape juice?

Now to the point. The word “wine” is the key to understanding what happened. This is not semantics or splitting hairs, it’s really quite plain. When the wine is presented, His disciples were amazed.

Verse 11 says “and his disciples believed in him.” There are many signs and wonders that will follow, but sadly the point of this miracle is lost in a battle of words. The Greek word used is “oinos,” a common word for ordinary wine, that is, fermented, alcoholic wine. The same word is used by the Apostle Paul, in Ephesians 5:18, warning people not to get drunk on wine.

Semantics aside, there is no historical or cultural proof that the wine wasn’t the “good stuff.” Jesus created a normal, ordinary wine. Remember this was a wedding and clearly when the wine is described by the master of the banquet as being “choice,” the point is made. Seriously, would he have made a fuss for grape juice?

It was wine

Of course there are folks who really do not approve of the consumption of alcohol. They would suggest that by turning water into fermented wine, Jesus would have been promoting sin. They will hold that alcohol is inherently sinful and therefore Jesus could not have done this. But the argument is not Biblical. There are even positive references to consuming alcohol.

Ecclesiastes 9:7 instructs, “Drink your wine with a merry heart.”

Psalm 104:14-15 states that God gives wine “that makes glad the heart of men.”

Amos 9:14 discusses drinking wine from your own vineyard as a sign of God’s blessing.

Isaiah 55:1 encourages, “Yes, come buy wine and milk…”

From these and other Scriptures, it is clear that alcohol itself is not inherently sinful. Rather, it is the abuse of alcohol, drunkenness and/or addiction, that is sinful (Ephesians 5:18; Proverbs 23:29-35; 1 Corinthians 6:12; 2 Peter 2:19).

Jesus was not promoting drunkenness

Jesus was well within Godly limits. He was not promoting drunkenness, just as He did not promote gluttony when he performed the miracle of the loaves and fishes. Certainly wine can be abused

By turning water into wine, Jesus was not promoting drunkenness and He would not have been responsible for people making bad choices. The truth of John 2 is the fact that water was turned into the best wine and the wedding went on.

Drunkenness is sinful. Addiction is sinful. God’s standard is moderation and self control. Personal responsibility is important. God’s standards were in no way violated. He was glorified.

How To Read The Bible

In the Begining

For so many people,how to read the Bible can be a challenge, either because it’s hard to understand or we just don’t know where to start. It can be a difficult task, but not if we can break it down into bite-sized pieces.

Even though the Bible is one, contiguous story, it can be read in just about any order. Pick a spot and dig in. But for the sake of convenience, my recommendation is to start with the Gospel of John. It tells a similar story about the life of Jesus, but more than any other Gospel, it is a love letter from God to us.

Here’s something to consider– if you understand who Jesus is and what He’s about, you’ll get insight into what every book of the Bible is trying to say.

God reveals what we need when we need it

The Bible is alive. The Holy Spirit flows through every word, every sentence. It is also spiritually discerned, which means that God will reveal to you what something means at the appropriate time. You may read something a hundred times and not know what it means, then suddenly it makes sense.

Because the Bible was inspired by God, who used men to write His message, it is logical to ask God for help when you start to read. Many people just browse the Bible and really don’t “read” it at all. They flip through pages, like changing the channels on the remote control. You ask for help, read the passage and that brings us to an important step—reflect on what you just read. This might be tough to chew on, but there are nine questions you need to ask as you reflect on what you just read. They are:

Is there a sin to confess and do I need to take action?

Is there a promise to claim?

Do I need to change my attitude about something?

Which commandment I need to obey?

What example for me to consider, positive or negative?

What a prayer to pray?

Which error do I need to avoid?

Can I see a new truth to be believed, new understandings about God?

Should I praise God for something?

Take a small piece at a time

Remember, just take the Bible one small piece at a time. As you read John’s Gospel, think of these questions. Take your time. Ask God to speak to your heart and mind and wait for His response.

It isn’t as difficult as people make it out to be. Just relax and enjoy the ride. Find a version of the Bible you like and get started. I personally use the New International version, but there are so many great versions.

To be honest, I also enjoy the New Revised Standard, the New Living Translation and of course, I do enjoy the King James for it’s Old English flavor. Versions may vary in emphasis. Some are word-for-word translations from the original Hebrew and Greek. Others are concept focused and try to convey the original intent of the writers. But stick to a translation and avoid a paraphrase version, which can be misleading.

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Just enjoy.

Navigating Mental Health Issues as a Christian

Mental health issues are something we really don’t want to talk about. While it may be a reality, bringing it out into the open isn’t something that is easily accomplished. We want to hide it away from the world

Years ago I served as a visiting pastor to Rogers Memorial Hospital, a behavioral health hospital, to offer communion, group Bible study and one-on-one visits. The experience taught me a valuable lesson—it’s important to look beyond the stigma of mental health.

During those years, God showed me that the patients were people whom He dearly loved. Jesus told Peter, “Feed my sheep,” so how was this any different?

I am a chaplain not a mental health professional, so over the years, in a variety of settings, I have kept to my side of the street. Collaborating with counselors, psychotherapists and others gave me an understanding that body, mind, spirit are all connected and play a part on a person’s well being. More importantly, God does move in the lives of people, so letting Him lead is an essential part in reaching out to people.

Mental health issues are scary

Mental health issues are scary for so many people. They call it behavioral health. People can have a mental illness, but not have any “behavioral” issues. Mental health is not much better. Call it “Help for the Soul.” Mental Health and Wellness teams strive to not only help people through their issues, but also to connect them with God. We don’t usually think of the Lord Jesus Christ as a Mental health worker, but truth be told, he is the ultimate psychotherapist. Not only does He bring resolution, He brings healing.

We all deal with mental health issues in ourselves or a loved

Because most everybody at one time or another is going to deal with a mental health issue, that doesn’t make them any less of a Christian. We are dearly loved, made in God’s image, so the focus is on getting through the situation and moving forward.

The Bible is not specific on mental health, but it does touch on emotions. We see episodes of demonic possession in the Bible, but that is not mental health as much as it is a spiritual attack. People struggling with issues are not demon possessed, but they have problems that require help.

Stress, anxiety, depression are common and can be dealt with. People do not lose their salvation because they are fighting a problem. Anyone can have mental health problems, young and old, rich or poor. Because of this, we should not judge them, but reach out and try to help. Look at it this way, Elijah the prophet had suicidal thoughts. In 1 Kings 19:4 he prayed that he might die, but God strengthened him.

Mental health issues need to be treated

There are those who do not trust mental health professionals, or doctors in general, but the fact is people who have mental illness episodes need to be treated. Sometimes that means medication, but often it is a matter of talking things through and gaining a different perspective.

Often we can call upon God to take away those anxieties and worries. 1 Peter 5:6-7 speaks to this directly:

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

The Apostle Paul tells us:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

The key is having a close relationship with God, through the Lord Jesus Christ. In today’s world, people turn to anything and everything to get help or relief. They seldom turn to God. The more we fight against the love and compassion of God, the worse it gets for us.

The religion of the world is humanism. Pushing God aside, we strive to solve our own problems our own way. Man is the center of the humanist world. Elijah thought his suicide would be the answer to his troubles. God had a better way.

The 10 Commandments… A good way to live well

They are the basis of all western law. Putting aside any spiritual or religious meaning, the 10 Commandments are what most of western law is based upon. The 10 commandments are carved in stone on the walls of the United States Supreme Court. Taking a closer look, four of the commandments deal with man’s relationship to God, while the other six deal with man’s relationship to man. For this discussion we will focus on commandments 5-10.

The Supreme Court and the 10 Commandments

A group of people were having dinner outdoors at a small cafe. The conversation got around to a grievance one of the people had concerning the United States Supreme Court.

A man expressed his displeasure, disgust and outright anger over the fact that the 10 Commandments are carved in stone on the walls of the court. He viewed this as a serious violation of his freedom from religion. He went on to say that the very fact that someone would put them on the court’s walls was immoral.

When he was reminded that our laws were based on the commandments, he became combative and and refused to listen to the alternate point of view. Another man, a close friend, spoke up and told him that the 10 Commandments were in fact, the basis of our laws, as we understand it in the West. This troubled him and he did not argue the point further, as he saw the evidence was substantial.

Commandments are logical

Think of it this way, the 10 Commandments make sense. They are logical. According to the Bible, the 10 Commandments were given to the Israelites by God (Exodus 20). There were over two million Israelites and at the time God give the commandments, they had only been out of captivity in Egypt for three weeks. It was necessary to structure an orderly society and, logically, there needed to be rules.

The first four commandments deal with man’s relationship to God. We will not discuss those in this article. The last six deal with man’s relationship to man, so we will stick to that for now.

Honoring our parents

We begin with the fifth commandment: Honor your father and your mother. One of the ties that holds societies together is the family unit. In modern society the value of family is not as strong as it was in past generations. But the common sense directive clearly advances the value of family. Honoring can mean showing respect, or obeying your parents’. It can also mean loving your parents as they age and need your help. Or it can simply mean being respectful to your elders. Western societies tend to discount experience that comes with age, as everything is geared for youth.

Don’t kill

The sixth commandment means exactly what it says. Do not kill. Courts of law will argue what is acceptable taking of life, such as self defense, war. But for everyday life, having respect for someone else’s right to live goes a long way in achieving order and harmony. It’s difficult to justify any other position.

Do not commit adultery

The seventh is also straight forward: Do not commit adultery. Men and women are meant to be joined in marriage, for life. This means not going with someone else. When taken a little deeper, it would include not wanting to be with someone else.

Don’t steal

The eight commandment prohibits stealing. People may think they follow the commandments, but they still have to lock up their house, their car and take preventative measures to insure that no one takes their property.

Don’t lie about your neighbor

You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor is the ninth in our list. Don’t lie. Some versions of the Bible use the word witness instead of testimony.

Don’t covet

The last one is very, very difficult. Do not covet. That means do not wish you had something that belongs to someone else. Everyone wants food, clothing and shelter. People get jealous of other people’s possessions, or their spouse or their children. They want a bigger and better home, and they want more money and better social standing. They want, they want, they want. That can lead to killing, stealing, false witness, lies, deception, fraud and the like.

We all should review and try to live by these ancient rules

Here is a complete list of the commandments that God has given us. If we do our best to follow these our lives are likely to be lived well.

1 “You shall have no other gods before me.

2 “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

3 “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

4 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

5 “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.

6 “You shall not murder.

7 “You shall not commit adultery.

8 “You shall not steal.

9 “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

10 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

Finding Hope

Hope is the desire or expectation for something to happen. In the Bible, hope is the desire for God to fulfill His promises. The Apostle Peter wrote:

Always have an answer when asked about the hope that you have.”

Find Hope in the resurrection of Jesus

For Bible believers, it is the hope of the resurrection, that believers in the Lord Jesus Christ will have eternal life. It is the hope that Jesus gave to the thief on the cross before He died:

Today you will be with me in paradise.”

Because we cannot prove the existence of God, we hope. Biblical hope is faith founded on fact.

The Bible is our source for hope

Hope in God’s promises is not mere blind faith, but hope based upon the Word of God, the veracity of the Scriptures. Hope is something that every person needs. In the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, people are hoping for vaccines, a cure and the end to a long and difficult path.

People have lost their jobs and don’t know how to make ends meet. So many have lost people they love and just hope that others are spared. We wait for the end to the pandemic to come, we hope the end is soon.

The late C.S. Lewis, a truly marvelous Christian author, wrote:

Hope is one of the Theological virtues. This means that a continual looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some modern people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do. It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next.”

The old saying “keep the faith” can also be said “there is hope.” Hope is looking forward and not focusing on the moment. The hope of eternal life in heaven, the hope of God providing justice, the hope that no matter what happens God will prevail and protect us, is the hope that is presented in the Bible.

Deuteronomy 31:6 reads:

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Hebrews 13:5 states the same promise:

“Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

Faith informs our hope

The difference between hope and faith is important. You hope that something happens and you have faith that it will. Your faith informs your hope. The Apostle Paul wrote that we are saved by the Grace of God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. That is our hope.

Hope plays an important part in the lives of every man and woman. Without hope no goals are achieved. Without hope dreams never become reality. Without hope tomorrow is no longer something to look forward to.

In 1 Chronicles 29:15, it says:

We are foreigners and strangers in your sight, as were all our ancestors. Our days on earth are like a shadow, without hope.”

Job 8:13 states:

Such is the destiny of all who forget God; so perishes the hope of the godless.”

Psalm 25:3 says of God:

No one who hopes in you will ever be put to shame, but shame will come on those who are treacherous without cause.”

God gives us the faith we need to have hope. Like faith, Biblical hope is based on God’s amazing track record of keeping His promises. Far from being baseless, it is founded on the certainty of His Word.

Sweet Holy Spirit

Father, Son and Holy Spirit are the three persons of the Trinity. For years it was “Holy Ghost,” but that changed in the last 50 years or so. God’s Holy Spirit is one of the great mysteries of the faith and more often than not misunderstood and under appreciated.

Jesus was fully MAN and fully GOD. He set aside his deity and came to us as a servant, but the accounts of his life are filled with amazing healing, turning the water into wine, walking on water, etc.

Did Jesus the MAN do this, or was another person at play in all of these remarkable moments? When he read from the scroll of Isiah in the synagogue and spoke the words,

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,”

who was He referring to?

Certainly with a snap of his fingers Jesus could have done anything He chose to do, but that’s not how things happened. Jesus the MAN was completely subservient to His Father. Jesus the MAN derived all of His power from the Holy Spirit, to give all of the glory to God. He didn’t even want people to say who did the miracle. The point is He wanted His followers to understand that they could do the same through the power of the Holy Spirit. All credit to God.

The Holy Spirit works in many ways

The Holy Spirit takes on Kingdom work in a variety of ways. It is the power of the Holy Spirit that convicts us of our sin and gently guides is to salvation in Christ. The Holy Spirit informs, instructs, and most of all reveals all truth.

Sometimes that truth is something that is going to happen in the future. It was the Holy Spirit that inspired the Old Testament writers to predict, with astonishing accuracy, what would come to be. It was the Holy Spirit who revealed the future to the New testament writers, none more impressive than the Revelation, penned by John.

The Holy Spirit dwells within believers. 1 Corinthians 3:16 states,

“Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?”

The Spirit illuminates. Believers often tell of not being able to understand a passage of Scripture, but suddenly, out of nowhere, comes understanding and insight. That’s the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit helps us to do God’s work

The Holy Spirit also gives special gifts to people to do God’s work. Some can preach, or play music, or teach, or just have the gift of hospitality that reaches out to others. The Spirit works quietly and sadly people OFTEN miss God’s presence. It’s not like the Holy Spirit announces Himself, rather He works in the background, suggesting, guiding, nudging a believer along.

Interestingly, we even miss the point when reading about the Holy Spirit. For example, the Gospel of Luke could rightfully be renamed “The Acts of the Holy Spirit through the Lord Jesus Christ.” Luke’s Book of Acts is actually the “Acts of the Holy Spirit through the Apostles.”

The Holy Spirit softens our harden hearts

The Holy Spirit works to soften the hearts of people, pointing out their frailties and pointing them to Christ. Absent the presence of the Holy Spirit, man would be devoid of conscience. That little reminder that something you are about to do is wrong is not an accident.

The Spirit renews the minds of believers, gives them new perspectives, strengthens their faith and forever seals their relationship with God the Father.

The study of the Holy Spirit is an endless task, but a very satisfying one. Who better to turn to if you want to understand the nature and character of God?

The Holy Spirit waits your invitation to guide you to new understanding, new hope and new assurance. Jesus, the man, did not perform miracles. The Holy Spirit did.

Jesus intentionally set aside His deity to allow the Holy Spirit to work through Him. Why? Because Jesus wanted that same power to work through us. That’s the most remarkable truth about the Holy Spirit.

Go To God, Any Time, Any Place

Go to God: For many years I had the privilege of working for Rev. Dr. Dan Geeding in the ProHealth Pastoral Care Department.

I came to Dan’s department after a few years working at Rogers Behavioral Health Hospital, as a visiting pastor to offer communion, facilitate group Bible study and do one-on-one ministry.

Dan started me out in Adolescent and Adult Behavioral Health. Later I would be moved to the Lawrence Center to facilitate lectures on the spirituality of addiction recovery. That would lead to my becoming lead chaplain at Oconomowoc Memorial Hospital and later Angels Grace Hospice.

We had a tight professional relationship and I am blessed to have worked for a man that I love and respect. Both of us have retired, but the friendship to this day is very precious.

We meet every week at the therapeutic pool in a fitness center, which is one of the last places I would look for a time of prayer and reflection, but recently Dan shared part of a devotional, written by Ruben P. Job and Norman Shawchuck.

As we did our stretching and resistance work he began to tell me about the powerful impact it had on him. Our discussion centered on the benediction.

“Embrace the will of God.

Obey the call of God.

Receive the Power of God.

Reflect the peace of God. Amen.”

Go to God,Embrace the WILL of God”

What does God want from us? I had four years working as an associate pastor. Although richly rewarding, they were challenging years and throughout that period I never felt like I belonged.

The people were great, but looking back, every day was just preparing me for what God had in mind. Once I understood that to embrace the will of God would open doors and make the path a lot smoother, it became clear where I was headed.

God showed me His will

I sat in my office one day and God clearly showed me that I need to move on and go into Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE). I trained in the Aurora system, doing an internship at Lakeland Medical center and a residency at St. Luke’s.

CPE was a difficult challenge, but God was telling me the whole time that I was going to be a chaplain, even though I wanted to quit every day.

Go to God, Obey the Call of God”

We are all a work in progress. God moves us along a path and I can clearly see His hand in everything. Armed with a piece of paper saying I had completed CPE, I was led to Dan, who hired me on the spot. I was the guinea pig.

Dan had some difficult assignments, so I got them. When I found myself being considered as a lead chaplain for my local hospital, I just left that up to the Lord. OK, I trust you Lord.

Go to God, Receive the Power of God

Letting go of myself and relying completely on God’s leading allowed me to get by. Prior to walking into a hospital room I would simply pray, “God, please help me stay out of the way.”

I’ve known ministry people who have all of the academic credentials, but sadly lack common sense and the understanding that they are not the focus of any patient encounter. If, however, the academic pursuit is accompanied by a fervent and sincere desire to serve God, receiving the power of God is far more possible.

After all, it’s all God, isn’t it? We are saved by the Grace of God, not of our works.

“Embrace the will of God.

Obey the call of God.

Receive the Power of God.

Reflect the peace of God. Amen.”

Stations of the Cross

During Lent, many denominations that stem from European Liturgical Christianity will focus on the stations of the Cross. It is common for churches to have the stations of the cross permanently displayed on the walls, one of the most striking being the stations depicted at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, currently under repair after a devastating fire.

But believers from non-Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, Baptists, Evangelicals, or Methodist backgrounds may not be familiar with these:

The First Station: Pilate Condemns Jesus to Die

The Second Station: Jesus Accepts His Cross

The Third Station: Jesus Falls the First Time

The Fourth Station: Jesus Meets His Afflicted Mother

The Fifth Station: Simon Helps Jesus Carry the Cross

The Sixth Station: Veronica Offers Her Veil to Jesus

The Seventh Station: Jesus Falls the Second Time

The Eighth Station: Jesus Speaks to the Women

The Ninth Station: Jesus Falls the Third Time

The Tenth Station: Jesus Is Stripped of His Garments

The Eleventh Station: Jesus Is Nailed to the Cross

The Twelfth Station: Jesus Dies Upon the Cross

The Thirteenth Station: Jesus Is Taken Down from the Cross

The Fourteenth Station: Jesus Is Placed in the Sepulcher

Liturgy is beautiful

It had been some time since I have attended a Stations of the Cross service, so I visited a Charismatic Episcopal church where my friend and former colleague Fr. Dennis Kubena was presiding. Another dear friend, Deacon Ralph Modgeska, was assisting.

This was a service heavy with liturgy and it immediately reminded me of the diversity of worship within the Christian church. Personally, I like liturgy, as it was something I grew up with Fr. Kubena read from a script. There was a lot of repetition, as the congregation was invited to participate in response.

The final hours of Jesus’ life before His death and Resurrection

The stations are recalling events in the final hours of Jesus’ life. We are reminded of His suffering. Evangelicals remember the events, but not in a ritualistic sense. It’s just different. The first nine stations are about Jesus on the way to the cross. The last five are at the cross. The Catholic Church developed the liturgy in the times of the Crusades, so it is a long established tradition.

Fr. Kubena’s church has a crucifix above the alter, whereas Evangelical churches have a cross. The distinction here is that Jesus is not on the cross, but at the right hand of God the Father, awaiting instructions to return to earth as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Jesus is very much alive. He rose on the third day and walked out of the tomb.

Both ways are fine just different

There is no right and wrong here, just a difference in the way people worship. I recall standing at the back of a Catholic mass at a race track. It was a Sunday morning before an Indy Car race. I was standing next to a Methodist chaplain. He nudged me with his elbow and said, “I see you love the liturgy too.”

The priest was Fr. Phil DeRay, a lifelong friend of Mario Andretti. Fr. Phil once counseled a group of race car chaplains from various denominations. They were discussing how their organization could best serve the race car community.

He drew a cross on a piece of paper and asked, “Can we all agree on this?” Everyone agreed. “Good,” he said, “then we’re done.” I thought this to be a brilliant response. Jesus is the beginning and the end. There is nothing else we need to focus on.

Jesus is ALIVE!

When we go through the stations of the Cross, we must reflect on what happened, but understand why it happened and what it means for the world. Jesus died for our sins on that terrible Friday. BUT, Sunday came and He was ALIVE!

Is Satan Real?

Is Satan real?: Years ago comedian Flip Wilson created a wonderful character named “Geraldine.” This popular bit on his television show quickly became a favorite and Geraldine’s GO TO excuse for her bad decision making was to say, “the devil made me do it.”

Flip was brilliant. Very funny. But the comedy was evidence of a very real and often disturbing fact of human nature. When we want something, we often don’t think about the consequences of our actions and we do as we please.

The Apostle Paul has a insightful dissertation on this in the Book of Romans, especially in Chapter 7. We live our lives tugged back and forth between good and evil. That’s an ugly statement so we soften it by saying we make good decisions/choices and bad decisions/choices.

We don’t believe in Satan

Humor aside, many people, even Christians, don’t necessarily believe in Satan, even though Satan is well documented in both the Old and New testaments. We pick and choose what to believe, like going through a cafeteria line and choosing between the prime rib and the chicken. “Oh, I don’t believe THAT.” This is code for “This is too frightening and I hope it isn’t real.”

He goes by many names—Lucifer, the Devil, Beelzebub, Mephistopheles. He is described as the father of lies, the Prince of Darkness.

Jesus Is Tested in the Wilderness

Jesus Tempted in the Wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11)

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:

“‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”

Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”

Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.

Jesus doesn’t stop Satan in the desert

Many people have heard this story, but there is one very large point of fact that is not mentioned at all. You can read this 100 times and you may not think of this important piece of truth. Jesus did not challenge the authority of Satan to do all that he said he could do. There are many references in the New Testament of Jesus warning people to be aware of Satan’s tricks and not to be fooled. The same Satan who tempted the Messiah is the Satan who tempts us.

Still, many Christians choose to not believe in Satan, or in the consequences of sin. Giving further proof to the warning signs shared by Christ. If you believe that Jesus did in fact spend 40 days in the desert being tempted by Satan. Then you must believe that Satan exists.

Understand that the only proof of Satan is found in the Bible. It is written that Satan is a threat here on earth. It is written that God is the ultimate power in the universe. We cannot prove the existence of God, nor can we prove the existence of Satan. But the evidence is there.

The Lord God Gives Us Peace

Photo by Billy Pasco on Unsplash

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace. (Numbers 6:24-26)

We hear this so many times at church. It means the service is over and we can go home. It’s a nice way of ending things on a Sunday morning, but what is its significance?

Most significantly, it is an invitation to follow and obey God. Obedience is not a word we like to hear, and in all to many cases it connotes authoritarian rule over the community, as if God were warning us to be good or else.

But that is not what God calls us to do. He has given us everything we need, but He has so much more to offer.

Other Blessings in the Bible

Similar and other wonderful blessings are found in Scripture. Here are a few.

May God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and increase your numbers until you become a community of peoples. (Genesis 28:3)

You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country. The fruit of your womb will be blessed, and the crops of your land and the young of your livestock—the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks. Your basket and your kneading trough will be blessed. You will be blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out. (Deuteronomy 28:3-6)

Save your people and bless your inheritance; be their shepherd and carry them forever. (Psalm 28:9)

Save your people and bless your inheritance; be their shepherd and carry them forever. (Psalm 128:5)

He will guard the feet of his faithful servants, but the wicked will be silenced in the place of darkness. It is not by strength that one prevails; those who oppose the Lord will be broken. The Most High will thunder from heaven; the Lord will judge the ends of the earth. (1 Samuel 2:9-10)

Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings (Psalm 17:8)

Must know our own shortcomings to fully receive the blessing

In order to fully appreciate God’s magnificent perfection, we must first realize our own shortcomings. “The Lord bless you and keep you…” gives us an insight into His promise of eternal salvation.

He will bless us and He will keep us. Jesus said He will never leave us or forsake us. But human nature doesn’t necessarily allow for God to offer us the best of everything just for turning to Him.

No, we are looking for the catch. What’s He really saying? That’s the logic that the serpent used inn the Garden of Eden, to deceive Adam and Eve into disobeying God.

We seldom think of our desire for “more” as a shortcoming. But the very fact that we are so easily deceived is indication enough that we’re pretty helpless and insatiable.

God always offers us more!

God continuously reaches out to us and offers us “more.” In fact, he withholds nothing. The universe was created for the Lord Jesus, and we are joint heirs to that Kingdom. Yes, the Kingdom of God expands far beyond this planet. To His sons and daughters go the entire estate.

Imagine hearing the reading of the will of a fabulously wealthy person and you get everything. Only nobody dies, the whole lot is ours to enjoy and share with the one who made us. Being a part of that family is so much better than being on your own, slugging it out on the mean streets.

In anticipation of the great gift, we are given His peace. His shalom. This gives us the ability to turn to God and avoid being deceived. It gives us contentment. Regardless of our station in life, God’s promise is solid. He will bless us and keep us. His face will, shine on us and He will be gracious. He will turn His face toward us and give us His shalom.

Nothing is going to top that offer.