Thinking Thursday: Water into Wine – John 2: 1-13

This week yet another story about a banquet – a wedding banquet. See the previous ones here and here.

When Jesus taught us how to pray, the last thing he prayed was, For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory for ever. (Matt 6:13)

The first miracle Jesus performed, when he turned water into wine, fulfilled that prayer:
His kingdom commenced

His power portrayed
His glory revealed

The Wedding at Cana by Daniel Sarrabat [Wikimedia]

The Wedding at Cana by Daniel Sarrabat

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.” 

“Dear woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My time 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.”

This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him. (John 2: 1-11)

His Kingdom Commenced

This may have been a family wedding, which would explain how Jesus and Mary were there. Mary seems to have been involved in the arrangements.

Mary takes the initiative, but she doesn’t dictate to him. She had been told by the angel before his birth who he would be. She knew about the Kingdom. She already has faith in his power.

Jesus is guided by his heavenly Father not his mother. He says, “My time is not yet come.” All his ministry is in the light of the cross.

Mary’s focus is utterly on God, as shown in her song after the angel’s visit (Luke 1:46-55).

His Power Portrayed

This was Jesus’ first miraculous sign. He demonstrated his power over nature.

John comments on the sign by following it with the story of the cleansing of temple (John 2:13-17).

The water jars held water for the guests to wash. The roads were dry and dusty. Turned into wine, this was too much wine for a simple wedding – indicative of the abundance of grace.

New wine is also a symbol of the abundance of God’s blessings:
In that day the mountains will drip new wine, and the hills will flow with milk; all the ravines of Judah will run with water. A fountain will flow out of the LORD’s house and will water the valley of acacias. (Joel 3:18)
“The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when the reaper will be overtaken by the plowman and the planter by the one treading grapes. New wine will drip from the mountains and flow from all the hills. (Amos 9:13)

His Glory Revealed

 John comments at the end of the story, He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him. (John 2:11)

God’s promise of restoration is symbolised by marriage:
No longer will they call you Deserted, or name your land Desolate. But you will be called Hephzibah, and your land Beulah; for the LORD will take delight in you, and your land will be married. As a young man marries a maiden, so will your sons marry you; as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you. (Isaiah 62:4-5)

Jesus himself is the good wine kept back until now:
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

Jesus fulfilled his life work of revealing God’s grace. The miracle at Cana symbolises the generous outpouring of God’s grace.

Do you have a place in his kingdom? Do you experience his power in your life? Has his glory been revealed to you?

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Writing Wednesday: The Magna Carta Story

My new history book is finished!

Cover (Carrie)This one is not really a story from medieval Gower, but I will be including it in the series, since it came out of my Broken Reed book. I’ve been talking about it ever since last July, when I first got the idea and pitched it to a publisher – who promptly closed down!

But I was convinced it was a good idea, so I went ahead anyway. I introduced it in October as Magna Carta Demystified but wasn’t happy with the title. I wanted to indicate that it was a popular history, told as a story, but with all the facts correct, like my other books.

It is now called The Magna Carta Story and the blurb calls it ‘a layman’s guide’. Here you will find the background and the intrigue and the bad behaviour. You will also find a chapter explaining what Magna Carta actually said, with a translation in the Appendix if you really want the actual words.

I’ve published a couple of extracts. The Introduction was a blog post called Magna Carta Debunked, and part of the chapter on what it actually says was a post called Magna Carta for Free Men, both on my author blog.

The text is finished, and the illustrations are found. I’m having it read by a few people to check it for readability and clarity, and then I’ll be publishing it. I’m going to have the cover design the same as my other two books, so I have a lovely drawing done by Carrie Francis for the last book which I’ll be using. Next week I will be seeing the printer who put my last cover together.

So – watch this space!!

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Thinking Thursday: The Parable of the Wedding Feast – Matt 22:1-3, 8-14

I wrote recently about the Parable of the Great Banquet, about inviting all kinds of people into the kingdom. This is another banquet parable, this time about the status of the guests.

g0180658Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.” (Matt.22:1-3)

Once again, the intended guests refuse to come. Jesus was making a point about the Jews, the people of God, who had rejected him and refused to come into the kingdom. They were to be supplanted by the Gentiles.

Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. ‘Friend,’ he asked, ‘how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ The man was speechless. Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are invited, but few are chosen. (Matt.22:8-14)

The main point is about the wedding clothes. The king discovered someone who, although he came, didn’t make the effort to come properly dressed. The king asks him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ The king calls him ‘friend’, for he was invited, but when he has no answer, has him bound and thrown out into the darkness.

This may sound harsh, but did you notice that no one picked up on him before the king came along? He looked okay to everyone else, only the king could see the difference.

g0135162It is God’s prerogative to know who are sound at heart in their profession, and who are not. We may be deceived in men, either one way or another; but God cannot be. The day of judgment will be the great discovering day, when all the guests will be presented to the king: then he will separate them out, which we could not see.

All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. (Matt.25:32)

If the gospel is the wedding feast, then the wedding garment is a frame of heart, and a course of life agreeable to the gospel and our profession of it. Paul urged the Ephesians:

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. (Eph.4:1)

and the Philippians:

Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.(Phil.1:27)

This man was not naked, or in rags; he had some clothes, but not a wedding garment. Those, and those only, who live by faith in Christ, and to whom he is all in all, have the wedding garment.

Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear. (Rev.19:7-8)

The man stood mute, being convicted and condemned by his own conscience. They who live within the church, and die without Christ, will not have one word to say for themselves in the judgment of the great day, they will be without excuse.

Likewise, all those who expect to be with God and their loved ones when they die are going to be speechless when they don’t have a wedding garment.

For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. (Gal.3:27)

[based on a sermon at Pantygwydr Baptist Church]

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Writing Wednesday: Why I’m not looking for a publisher

Why I'm not looking for a publisherWhen you start out, it’s every writer’s dream to have your novel accepted by a publisher.

Then you learn that some publishers do not accept unsolicited manuscripts, so instead you dream of getting an agent. But really, the dream is the same – you want somebody to say your writing is good enough to publish.

For years, struggling writers have shopped their manuscripts around from one place to another, collecting rejection slips and despair. Then came ebooks.

Now you can write something, convert it, slap on a cover, and put it up on Amazon or any number of other ebook sellers. The trouble is, there are no gate-keepers to ensure the quality of what is put out. There are no big publicity machines either to let the world know about your book.

So the allure of the publisher remains. It’s very attractive to think you can hand your manuscript over and a whole machine will get into motion to ensure it reaches a high standard in writing, design and, most importantly, the cover.

But you still have to persuade a publisher to accept it.

More and more authors – even long-established ones – are taking back control over their books.

Yes, you have to pay your own editor to ensure the manuscript is a good standard. Yes, you have to get your own cover – find someone who will produce a really good cover for love or money. Yes, you have to do your own publicity and marketing, but all publishers today expect authors to take an active part in marketing today anyway.

But you do get complete control.

You can look on these things you have to do yourself as a burden or an opportunity. Yes, they take time and effort, and sometimes money. But you have total control. I have heard of authors who clashed with their editor over the direction they wanted to take the story. I have heard of authors who hated the cover the publisher provided. I will have none of that. My editor works for me and there is no publishing contract in danger if I refuse to take her advice. My novel will be exactly what I want it to be and my cover will be the design I choose.

Another factor is time.

I understand it can take a year or even two from acceptance of your manuscript to publishing the book. Although I have to sort out my own editing, cover etc, once I decide the book is ready it takes a few minutes to submit it to Kindle or Smashwords. It takes a few hours for them to process it and then it’s on sale. Smashwords can take a day or two to ship it to all the distribution channels but then it’s on sale everywhere.

The final reason is money.

A publisher will pay you a small percentage of every sale, once you have covered your advance. The ebook distributors pay up to 70% on every sale. Ebooks are priced much lower than print books, but because of that you’re liable to sell more, so it definitely works out a better deal.

I would very much like someone to tell me my book is good enough to publish. But, after a lot of research and thought, I’ve decided I should have faith in my own work – or why continue? I will make it the very best I can, I will pay an editor and a cover designer, and then I will publish it myself, promote it myself, and let the readers decide.

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Thinking Thursday: Come, Holy Spirit

Come, Holy Spirit, fill me up.
Let me drink from your loving cup.
Fill me until I overflow,
and all the Spirit’s fruit I show.

Joy, peace and patience, all be mine,
kindness, gentleness, love divine.
May self-control and goodness shine,
and faithfulness like sweet new wine.

Oh let me come to you and drink
’till all my selfish ways shall sink,
and from my faithful heart shall go -
rivers of living water flow.

Praise God who gave His Son for me,
may I the Spirit’s temple be.

by Ann Marie Thomas

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. (Gal.5:22-23)

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Writing Wednesday: Platform Automation – It Works By Itself!

I spoke last week about revising my social media platform. The more places you have a presence across the net, the more chances for people to discover you. But, without automation, the more places you are, the more work it is.

Many writers who are starting out are daunted by the sheer scope of the internet and hardly know where to start. I wrote some advice on this a while ago – if you’re daunted, read this. It’s a hard balance to find, between doing your business and doing the promotion. In my case, I need time to write, but if I don’t promote, nobody will find my books and read them.

Let me point out that you can’t be everywhere, you have to choose where you are most comfortable and where you will be most effective. Also, you can’t be widely known at once. It takes time to build your platform.

But once it’s built, if you automate, you save time. Here are a few tips.

Wordpress sharingIf you blog on WordPress, like this blog, you can set it to share every post to Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Tumblr and Path. I’m on all but the last two, so every post on my personal blog goes to four other places.

Blogger sharingIf you blog on Blogger, like my author blog, it will link to Google+, since Google owns Blogger. So every post on my author blog goes to one other place. So that’s automation without leaving your blog.

IFTTT exampleThen there’s IFTTT, which stands for If This Then That. It allows you to link from one thing to another. I use it to fill in for Blogger’s deficiencies and pick up my author blog posts and put them on Twitter and LinkedIn. I have two Facebook pages and IFTTT cannot link to two, so I use it to link my history posts on my author blog to my history page on Facebook. I have to put my science fiction posts on my science fiction Facebook page myself – but that’s all I have to do.

Hootsuite schedulingI tweet about other things, not just my blog posts, but I can’t be going into twitter every few hours – I have a life to live, as well as the times I need for uninterrupted writing. So I use Hootsuite, which does two things: it allows me to schedule tweets ahead of time, and it allows me to view my Twitter feed in different ways to make it easier to interact.

Facebook pages now allow scheduling of posts (see here for instructions) , so I schedule some of my tweets to my Facebook pages too. Because of Twitter and Facebook scheduling I can prepare most of my posting in less than one hour a week. Then I just pop in and do some live interacting now and then.

So, what do you think of automation now? Like all social media work, don’t try to run before you can walk. Start simple and build up. If you want advice, just leave me a comment. Good luck!

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Thinking Thursday: Waiting – Luke 2:21-38

Christmas is long over. The parties are finished, the dinners are eaten, and the presents have been opened. The waiting can seem endless, especially for children, but then it’s over so quickly. Now the Valentines cards are in the shops, then it will be Mother’s Day cards for those in the UK, and after that it will be Easter.

We always seem to be waiting for something.

Israel waited a long time for the promised Messiah, and many today are still waiting. This promised Saviour was not like waiting for a party, it was something much more important. Something life-changing.



At Christmas we go over once again the story of Jesus’ birth. We hear about the innkeeper, the shepherds, the angels, the wise men. And we experience again the wonder of the birth of a baby to a poor couple, Mary and Joseph. A baby that would grow up to teach people about God’s Kingdom by his words and deeds, and then sacrifice himself for the sins of the world.

But there are two people we don’t usually get to hear about. Two people who had been waiting all their lives for this to happen, and who recognised the Messiah when he came. Their names were Simeon and Anna, and they were in the Temple when his parents came to present him and make a sacrifice for him, when he was 8 days old.

Simeon and Anna by Rembrandt (Wikimedia)

Simeon and Anna by Rembrandt

Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts.

When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”

The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him.

Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” (Luke 2:25-35)

You could say it was a coincidence that Simeon happened to be there. There were probably other parents bringing their babies too. You could say that Simeon just happened to come across Mary and Joseph among the crowd. But the Holy Spirit brought him to that place at that time to see the fulfilment of what he had been waiting for.

Simeon was able to praise God and testify about Jesus, and prophesy about him too. Simeon’s private words to Mary must have been hard for he to hear, but they came true 33 years later when she wept beneath the cross.

There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. (Luke 2:36-38)

Anna was also brought by God to the right place at the right time. She too thanked God that she had been allowed the privilege of seeing that special child. She told everyone what she knew about his future.

I wonder how many people believed the words of Simeon and Anna and went away rejoicing that God’s promise of a Saviour had been fulfilled? How many believed the waiting was over?

How long have you petitioned God for something deep in your heart? How long have you been waiting? As long as Simeon and Anna? Can you keep faith and wait patiently?

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