Water to Wine

It’s the baffling, head-scratching miracle.

The “why this one?” miracle.

At the request of his mother, Jesus turns water into wine at a wedding reception.  His very first miracle!

water to wine 2

Not a lame man being healed. Nor a blind man receiving sight. Not a leper being made whole. No, this miracle, his first miracle, is turning water into wine.  No one would suffer if the flow of wine stopped except perhaps the bridegroom from momentary embarrassment.

So don’t you agree that it seems strange that this would be the first miracle Jesus performed?Every time I would read the account of this miracle, I wondered why it was even documented in the Scriptures.

But often, from what is at first baffling to us God teaches powerful lessons.  Recently as I read John 2 once again, I was stopped by a truth central to this miracle:  Jesus didn’t just turn water into wine; he turned water in fine wine. The wine was so fine that the banquet master was stunned by its quality.

Suddenly I saw in this miracle what I had never realized before. This first miracle foreshadows the transforming work Jesus does for us! He can transform our ordinary, mundane lives into extraordinary, remarkable lives.  But in order for that to happen, we have to heed the words of instruction Mary gave the servants at that wedding banquet.

“Do whatever he tells you.” (John 2:11 NLT)

The servants obeyed.  They followed the instructions Jesus gave them.  And, the water they poured into the large jars was miraculously turned into fine wine.

For our lives to be transformed,  we too have to do what Jesus tells us to do.  We have to be obedient to His  words of instruction given to us in the Scriptures. We have to live the truths and values of our faith.  Because when we do, Jesus can perform his first miracle in our lives; he can take the “average” and transform it into excellence.   He can still turn water into fine wine!

For those reading “A Hand On My Shoulder,” I have posted the last three chapters of M.D. Beall’s memoir. God placed His Hand on a young girl in the UP in the early years of the 20th Century and took her on a journey of faith that continues to encourage us today. Indeed, God transformed her life:  he turned “water” into “fine wine!” Although M.D. Beall finished writing about her life of faith in the 1950’s, God continued to place His Hand on her shoulder until a September day in 1979 when she went into the presence of the Lord.

If Mom Beall, as many called her, touched your life, I would like to invite you to share your experience by leaving a reply (click on “Leave a response”).   How wonderful it would be to read how her story continues in the lives of believers today. 

Compelled by His Spirit

The Apostle Paul was on his third missionary journey. And, he was compelled by the Spirit to go to Macedonia. Later “the Spirit compelled him to go to Jerusalem.”  (Acts 19:21; 20:22 NLT)

I love that phrase: compelled by the Spirit.

Paul was being led by the Holy Spirit. God’s divine will was being revealed to him not by an angelic vison nor a dramatic voice from heaven. He didn’t receive direction at a burning bush or at the foot of a quaking mountain.

He was simply compelled by the Spirit.

The revelation of God’s will for his next steps came in a very simple and quiet way – the Holy Spirit compelled him. The Spirit of God captivated his attention and built in him a divine desire – a desire accompanied by a confident peace, a desire revealing God’s gentle, but firm hand of direction pointing the way.

Paul didn’t require the spectacular or the dramatic in order to know God’s will for his next steps. He just tuned his spirit into the wavelength of God’s Spirit and heeded the compelling of the Holy Spirit.

Sometimes I think we miss out on following God’s quiet direction for our lives, because we think His direction has to be revealed to us in a dramatic or spectacular way. And it may.

But more often than not, the way that God leads us is by the compelling of His Spirit. We are led by God’s Spirit as He fills our hearts and minds with a compelling directive. It’s not a spiritual shout. It’s a quiet voice that stirs our hearts. And, if we quiet the noise of our lives and with intention, listen for His direction, He will compel us. He will direct our steps and show us the way!

images02IBHTH2 (2)


For those reading “A Hand On My Shoulder,” Chapters 25-27 are three of my favorites.  They are a testament to God’s compelling power to lead and guide us, and in M.D. Beall’s case, to do so in very dramatic way.

Learning To Pray

“How do I pray for more than just a minute or two? What would I say?’

An honest question asked by a young woman inmate in the county jail where I teach a Bible study.

It wasn’t that she didn’t want to pray, she wanted to know how to pray. And her questions caught me off guard. For you see, having grown up in church, prayer has been a constant in my life. Having been raised in a Christian home where my parent lived their faith, I heard the words of their prayers. I listened to how they prayed and witnessed the power of prayer.

So when this inmate asked her question about prayer, not only did I realize how blessed I have been, but also the necessity of teaching people how to pray.

After all, that is what Jesus did.

Continue Reading

Moved with Compassion

Jesus had just received heartbreaking news.

John the Baptist had been beheaded by King Herod in a most ignoble way.  This was a blow to Jesus. He and John shared not only family ties (their mothers were cousins), but they shared a strong spiritual bond.

Their ministries were tied together. John’s ministry had prepared the way for Jesus. John, was the one who baptized him, the event God the Father used to announce that Jesus was His beloved Son. Both men knew the will of God for their lives and were being obedient to His will.

But now John was dead – murdered.  Sorrow filled Jesus’ heart. And, all he wanted to do in that moment was to be alone.

Away from the crowds.

Away from teaching and preaching.

Away from bantering with religious leaders.

He just wanted to go to the mountaintop alone and pray. To be comforted by prayer with His heavenly Father. So,

When Jesus learned what had happened, He got on a boat and went away to spend some time in a private place. “   (Matt. 14:13 Voice)

But the crowds followed Jesus. By the time he stepped off the boat, thousands had gathered.

Though Jesus wanted solitude, when He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, and He healed the sick and the lame.                    (Matt. 14:14 Voice)

Then after hours of performing miracles of healing and deliverance, Jesus performed the mind-boggling miracle of feeding the people, over 4,000 in all, with just five loaves of bread and two fish.

All of these miracles are amazing, but what touched my heart was the amazing compassion demonstrated by Jesus.

Then, after the crowd had gone, Jesus went up to a mountaintop alone (as He had intended from the start). As evening descended, He stood alone on the mountain, praying.  (Matt. 14:23 Voice)

When everything within him clamored for solitude, because he was moved with compassion he pushed aside his own needs and attended to the needs of the thousands who followed him.  His compassion moved him to action.

Lord, help me demonstrate this kind of compassion in my life. Even when I am weary, even when I am overwhelmed by the affairs of my life, let me be so moved with compassion that I respond with action.  Give me eyes to see the needs of others and to respond not just with compassionate feelings but with acts of compassion.


A Miracle

In just over three short years, Jesus performed a multitude of miracles.  To name just a few:

He healed the blind man at Bethsaida,

the lame man by the pool of Bethesda,

the woman who hemorrhaged for 18 years,

the boy who was oppressed by demons,

ten lepers outside of the city walls,

and raised from the dead a young man from Nain.

Hour after hour the crowds would wait their turn for a healing touch, a healing word. News of astounding miracles spread like wildfire throughout the land of Israel and the surrounding region.   Unbelievable, eye-popping, faith-stirring miracles!

In our churches today, we wonder what it must have been like. We ask, “Will God do it again?” I have no doubt that God can cause a wave of miracles, signs and wonders to be prolific once again. But as I stood in church last Sunday, I realized we have already experienced miracles far more amazing than physical healing and deliverance.

As believers in Jesus Christ, we have experienced the miracle of salvation – the miracle of exchanging a destiny of eternal separation from our God to an eternal destiny of being in His presence.   We have experienced the miracle of forgiveness, the miracle of God’s grace, the miracle of His favor.  But there is more.

Sunday as we sang the song, “This King is Among Us,” a verse jumped out.

“Holy Spirit fire, burn brightly in my soul”

These words reminded me that a sinless Christ became sin for us so God the Father could send His Holy Spirit to “burn brightly” in our soul.  It is truly a miracle that we can have His Holy Spirit not just with us but at work within our hearts and soul.   Perhaps that is why the Apostle Peter called the indwelling of the Holy Spirit a gift – a miraculous gift of God’s presence leading, guiding, and transforming our lives.

untitled (5)

Continue Reading

Deep Waters

She stands at the edge of the pool – at the deep end.

Her mom is waiting with open arms for her daughter to jump in, but the little girl hesitates. One moment ready to jump into the deep water, the next stepping back in fear.

In the shallow end, where her feet touch the bottom, she swims for hours. She jumps in without hesitation. She can float on her back with ease. Using her arms and legs, she propels her body from one side of the pool to the other. But now she is at the deep end where the water is over her head, where she can’t touch the bottom.

At the edge of the pool she has a choice to make – a choice of trust.

Will she trust her mother’s arms will keep her safe in the deep water?

Will she trust what she has learned to do in the shallow end, that she will be able to do in the deep water?

It may not be at the deep end of a pool, but we too can find ourselves facing the same choice of trust when God wants us to go deeper. When He wants us to take that next step in our spiritual journey, to move beyond where we have become comfortable, to step out in faith into a new area of service or ministry. To swim in waters that are over our heads where our feet can’t touch the bottom.

Can we trust God to be with us in the deep?

Can we trust what God has already taught us to be part of His plan to take us deeper?

Can we trust that God’s will is better than what we “will,” even when our present isn’t leading us to the future we expected?

In the book of Hebrews, we read about believers who were content to stay in the shallow end – to remain spiritual “babies” at a time when they should have been spiritually mature.

“By this time you ought to be teachers yourselves, yet here I find you need someone to sit down with you and go over the basics on God again, starting from square one—baby’s milk, when you should have been on solid food long ago! Milk is for beginners, inexperienced in God’s ways; solid food is for the mature, . . ” Heb. 5:12-14 MSG

Our relationship with God must not remain static. Our faith must continue to grow and mature, which will require us to make the choice of trust and jump into deep waters.

Instead of fearing the deep, we need to embrace the challenges of the deep.

Instead of flailing in fear and panic, we need to rest in His promise to never leave or forsake us.

He arms are ready to catch us. He will keep our heads above the water. He will help us “swim” in the deep waters. We just need to trust God and jump!

girls jumping in pool



Jesus performed yet another miracle. A man who could not speak was healed.

The crowd was amazed.

Yet some among them began to question the source of Jesus’ power. Others demanded he perform yet another miracle. As Jesus addressed their skepticism, countering their unbelief with great insight and wisdom, a woman in the crowd interrupted the debate. While there were those in the crowd who were more concerned about how this man was healed, questioning the source of Jesus’ spiritual authority, this woman stayed focused on the miracle itself.

A man who had suffered, who was unable to speak, was miraculously healed! The man who couldn’t speak a word could now praise the Lord with his own voice.

So with her voice, she shouted out to Jesus,

“Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.”                        (Luke 11:27 NIV)

Then Jesus immediately replied with these amazing words,

But even more blessed are all who hear the word of God and put it into practice.” (Luke 11:28 NLT)

With this simple statement we see how important it is to the Lord that we put into practice His Word.  He bestows great blessing upon those who are not just “hearers” of God’s Word but are “doers” of it.  How imperative it is not just to say we are a Christian, but to be a Christian. For the truths of the Scriptures to become our way of life. To live our faith!

And that is not always easy. Why? Because of the thorns.

images (6) Continue Reading

The Miracle of Forgiveness

His third denial had barely tumbled out of his mouth, when the cock crowed. And the realization, that he had just done what he never believed he could have done, crushed his soul. In despair and full of condemnation Peter fled. He had abandoned the man he believed was the Messiah, the man who had prophetically declared that Peter would be the “rock” upon which the Lord would build His Church.

Surely these denials would disqualify Peter from being that “rock.” But this is where the miracle of forgiveness reveals once again the great mercy and love of the Lord.

Before the resurrected Jesus ascended into heaven, he had an intimate conversation with Peter. He asked Peter one question three times:

“Peter, do you love me?”

With each of affirmative answer, Jesus gave Peter these three charges:

“Feed my lambs!”

“Take care of my sheep!”

“Feed my sheep!”  (John 21)

Jesus had the perfect opportunity to condemn Peter for his denials. Perhaps even to say, “I told you so.” But instead of condemning Peter, he countered those three denials with three charges, reinstating Peter’s divine purpose to be the “rock” upon which the Lord would build His Church. In that moment, Peter experienced the miracle of Lord’s forgiveness – forgiveness without condemnation, forgiveness that restored and resurrected the Lord’s divine purpose for his life.







Continue Reading

Faith Takes Hold

His son was near death. All advantages of being an official in the royal court proved useless – none of the medical wizards of the day had a cure, no medicine had been successful. This father was frantic and without hope, until he heard that Jesus, the Rabbi who had performed miracles in Jerusalem, was now in Cana near his home in Capernaum.

Without hesitation he rushed to Cana. Upon finding Jesus, this official implored Jesus to come to his home and heal his son.

But Jesus didn’t go with the man. Instead he gave this father these words of instruction:

“Go home, your son will live” (John 4:49)

And this is what we read in the very next verse:

“When he heard the voice of Jesus, faith took hold of him and he turned to go home.” (John 4:50 The Voice)

He heard the voice of Jesus and

faith took hold of him.

His was not mental assent faith; it was active faith – he turned and went home knowing his son was healed.  Because he listened to words Jesus spoke, faith rose up in this man, and he went home.

He heard, he believed, he acted.

We may wonder how incredible it would be to hear the audible voice of Jesus speaking miracles into our lives. Yet we are not left with a voiceless Lord. We may not hear him with our natural ears, but He still speaks.

We can hear His voice in a message our pastor preaches. We can hear His voice as we read a verse, a parable, or a story in the Scriptures. We can hear His voice as we pray – as He inspires a nugget of truth that speaks to our need.

The Lord still speaks. And when we listen to what He speaks, faith takes hold in us- faith that inspires obedient action.



(Note for those reading “A Hand On My Shoulder” this truth is clearly exemplified in the life of M.D. Beall. In Chapters 4-7, just posted, you can read about two pivotal moments where she hears the voice of the Lord, faith takes hold and she responds with obedience.)

A Hand On My Shoulder

In 1920, a young woman was at a crossroad in her life. She needed to make a decision, a decision that would determine the course of her life.

One evening she had been invited to a friend’s house for dinner. While sitting in the living room, she noticed a book on the end table. Because she had a passion for reading, her curiosity was piqued. She picked up the book and randomly opened it. As she started to read what was on the page, her heart leapt within her. There on the page of this book she had never read before was the answer to her dilemma.

The woman was Myrtle Dorthea Beall. The book she had opened was the Bible. That verse of scripture gave her the wisdom she needed, and that night she made her decision. And, it was that decision which led her to a journey of faith where she wholehearted embraced the Call to be a devoted follower of Jesus. But what is truly amazing about her choice to embrace His Call is that it inspired countless others to do the same.

In 1934 she would open a Sunday school for children that led to founding a mega church called Bethesda Missionary Temple. But what was remarkable at the time wasn’t just that thousands of people attended a church pastored by a woman, what was truly remarkable, what is noteworthy, was the reason the people came. In the late 1940’s, Bethesda became the epicenter for what would be called a “Latter Rain Revival.” People came to hear a powerful, inspired “word” that transformed their lives. People were healed, delivered from addictions, and discovered the will of God for their lives.

In the 1950’s, with the guidance of Jo Burbank, Myrtle’s memoir was printed as a series of articles for a monthly church publication. However, these articles had never been edited and published as a complete work. For several years her daughter, Patricia Beall Gruits, had encouraged me to take on this project. And so, this past fall I set aside time to edit the articles and knit them together as a complete story.

detail_15707757 Continue Reading