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May 12, 2011


Miracles – Part 2, Water Into Wine

by juju2112

This is a continuation of my analysis of the sermon on miracles that I started yesterday. Part 1 can be found here:

During the second half of the sermon, the pastor goes over the story where Jesus turned water into wine. It’s in John 2:1-12 if you haven’t read it before. The thing I find most interesting about these sermons is how they always read the bible like all of it actually happened. Even the things that there is no other corroborating evidence for besides the bible. Suffice to say, I’m very skeptical of this water into wine story.

At any rate, he outlined 5 things we can learn from the story of Jesus turning water into wine. The pastor essentially gives a lesson on how to ask God to perform a miracle. It’s rather long, so I’m just going to summarize his points. Hopefully, I won’t misrepresent anything. This starts at 19:20 in the video if you want to see the whole thing.

Lessons to be learned from the story:

1) Invitation – If Jesus hadn’t have been invited to the wedding, he wouldn’t have turned the water into wine. Just like you invite guests to your wedding, Jesus has to be invited into your life. You need Jesus in your life for miracles to occur.

2) Intercession – We have to intercede before the lord and make our request of him. Make your request rational. Don’t ask for something foolish, like a house in the Caribbean.

3) Obedience – It was obedience to the instructions of Jesus that enabled them to experience the miracle. So, just ask Jesus what to do in your life.

4) Instruments – Jesus used whatever was around (such as water cisterns in the case of the water/wine miracle) to perform his miracle. Since Christ used ordinary vessels to reveal his power, anything can potentially be an instrument for a miracle.

5) Inspiration – The miracles should inspire a greater and deeper faith in God.

These steps are very interesting, because they show the exact steps you need to go through in order to fall victim to confirmation bias. Here are my versions of the steps for performing a miracle, reworded based on my 20/20 hindsight:

1) Be a believer.

Essentially, he’s saying that you need to have Jesus in your life for this to happen. Remember how Voodoo doesn’t work on people who don’t believe in it? Same thing. Also, the more Jesus is in your life, the more strongly you’ll be convinced that this can work. That’s important for this sort of thing. When I was into witchcraft, I was 100% convinced that I could change the weather. If I had doubted myself, it never would have “worked”. Being a believer is a crucial step.

2) Set your expectations.

There’s no point in praying for the ability to fly or for the ability to shoot fire from your fingertips. When we
say “miracle”, we mean things that could happen on their own through random chance. This is just something you have to find a way to rationalize. Since things that can’t happen won’t happen, you have to find a way to justify why they don’t. Otherwise, the cognitive dissonance will interfere in your belief, messing up step #1.

3) Have a preconceived idea of what you expect to happen.

The placebo effect can’t happen if you don’t know what you’re supposed to expect. By actively asking Jesus for what you want, you set up an expectation in your mind. Then, you start looking for an answer to it. The placebo effect can be extremely powerful, but you have to wish for something first before your brain can fool itself into thinking it’s working. You don’t just get miracles without asking for them first, because you don’t have any idea what to look for without a preconceived bias. A real god, by the way, could actually perform a miracle that no one asked for.

If you start looking for something, you’ll generally always find it. This is why some people are always grumpy and some people are always happy. It’s all in what you expect from your day. If you wake up and tell yourself that everything is going to be cheerful and awesome, and you truly believe it, then you’ll pay more attention to the good things that happen and blow past the bad things that happen.

And the reverse is true for grumpy people. Some people will blow up at the slightest provocation and hardly bat an eyelid when something good happens. It’s all in what you pay attention to. The good and bad events happen at the same frequency. It’s just that you only remember what your mind gives weight to. Selective memory is much stronger than most people realize.

4) Make sure you’re actively watching for quirky coincidences.

While on the front end of this equation, you’re stating your goal clearly, on the back end, you’re widening the criteria of what you’ll accept as much as possible. If you pray for rain and then someone sprays you with a water gun, for example, that could be seen as God playing a joke on you. You didn’t get what you wanted, but you still see it as evidence that God was listening.

This is a big component of the New Age movement, too. The only difference is that they attribute the coincidences to personal magic or spirits.

5) Believe more!

Here, we come full-circle. This works like a feedback loop, provding more and more certainty to the believer with each iteration.

The pastor expands on point #3 further:

“And here’s what I want you to understand. You say, “Well, how do I know the voice of God?” Jesus, everytime he speaks to you, through a picture, through a word, it will line up with the word of God that’s already been printed that you have called the Holy Bible. If he tells you to do something illegal or immoral, or unethical, it’s not Jesus. He will not tell you to divorce your spouse because you’re mad at him or her. He will not tell you that. That is the voice of the devil. That is not Jesus. [People will say to me], “I prayed about this, I prayed about that.” And I’m like, no you didn’t. You might have prayed, but you heard the wrong voice. Because God, Jesus will never speak to you anything that is contrary to the word of God. Because his word is powerful and truth and it cannot change.”

There’s no way for anyone to know this other than a vague feeling they have inside them. The scary thing is, this shows me that some Christians live their lives basing their decisions on vague feelings. The fact that he has to remind people to check their internal moral compass while listening to the voice of God just strikes me as weird. Mostly because I’ve always heard from Christians that we get our morals from God. But you apparently use your morals to determine if it’s God you’re talking to. The truth is that WE are the ultimate navigators of our own morality. That’s why there’s so much inconsistency among different religious sects.

“If you want to learn how to hear from God, I want to encourage you in something. We’re going to help you do that. In the month of June, we’re going to be teaching on Wednesday nights and Thursday nights, a couple nights a week, we’re going to be holding some classes on how to hear the voice of the Lord, how to know the voice of Lord.”

Wow, a whole class on confirmation bias. That’s a useful skill to have. Think there’s any chance they’ll put it online?

Video Link:

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1 Comment Post a comment
  1. TheRealThunderMonkey
    May 12 2011

    “He will not tell you to divorce your spouse because you’re mad at him or her. He will not tell you that. That is the voice of the devil. That is not Jesus.”

    Yeah, but what if you married an asshole that beats up on you and your kids?

    Jesus or God isn’t going to tell you do something illegal, unethical or immoral? Obviously the preacher hasn’t completely read the Bible.

    God tells Abraham to sacrifice his own son.
    God hardens the heart of the Pharaoh, not to let the Children of Israel go.
    God tells the Israelites to slaughter women and children as the Children of Israel began to conquer the Promise Land.
    The Wise Men willing lie to the King in order to protect Baby Jesus.

    Here’s my thought on miracles in my post-church-attending days: Miracles aren’t the act themselves, but rather, the miracle is in the timing of the act. It wasn’t a miracle that the Red Sea parted enough for the children of Israel to cross to the other side, but rather it parted at the exact moment that they needed it.


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