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Made Whole

Luke 17:19-Your faith has made you whole.

One day as Jesus travels he is encountered by ten men who are lepers. The horror of their predicament is illustrated by the fact that they cannot even approach Jesus but, from a distance, plead for his pity.

Jesus issues simple instructions to go show themselves to the priests; a requirement for anyone healed of leprosy to have it verified. And the text says, “as they went, they were cleansed.” Interesting—not “they were cleansed and went” but as they went. They obeyed and were healed.

Then one of them, only one, seeing he was healed returned to praise God and thank Jesus.

Does this incident surprise you?  It did Jesus!  I find it hard to say that and wondered if I could (I know the theological difficulty).  In one sense Jesus is never surprised.  He is God.  But, he is also human and in a human sense, he was surprised.  He was also apparently very disappointed.  It shows in his words: “Were not all ten cleansed?  Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”

Then Jesus adds the words that put a whole different light on this story.

“Rise and go; your faith has made you well [whole].” Did you notice? All were “cleansed” or “healed.” But only this man was said to be made whole. Or as the Message has it: “Your faith has healed and saved you.”

Physical healing is great but it is not salvation. Fixing some problem we have, helping us be a better person, giving us insight into a puzzling situation all are things for which to be grateful. But only our faith in Jesus provides salvation, makes us whole.

The point of it all is to be made whole.  To stop short of that is to accept a treatment that deals with the symptoms rather than radical surgery which produces a cure. God wants to make you whole.

The nine received a touch from God, and they probably went on to do what they were told, but they were not made whole. It made them better able to fit into the community, better citizens but it did not produce the indelible stamp of faith: gratitude. When God touches us, then our praise, gratitude takes precedence over everything else!

God, don’t let me settle for anything less than being made whole.

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Jesus Wants To Make His Home With You

The fourteenth chapter of John is one of the best known and loved passages in the Bible. It has been one of the standard passages read at funerals. I don’t know that I ever did a funeral with reading from it.
The emphasis is usually on the comfort God provides and the promise of a home in heaven (“I go to prepare a place for you.“)

These are certainly wonderful promises. But, I am intrigued by this statement: “We (My Father and I) will come to him and make our home with him.” What a “breath-taking” idea. Someone has said, “There is no more precious verse in the whole Bible.” We can host God, not just as a visitor but living with us.
He knocks at the door, waiting for us to open it and invite Him in. And He will only stay as He is loved as demonstrated by our obedience to his word.

When someone lives with you, you really get to know them. You share the “nitty-gritty” of your life: the heat/cold, the sparse furnishings, whatever. In return, we have direct and familiar access to the creator’s power, and the redeemer’s love, forgiveness and companionship.

Who wouldn’t want to share your home with some one like that?

“God’s Children Bear A Family Resemblence”

I John 3:2 we are God’s children now; …we will be like him.

All important events in the life cycle are connected to certain rituals which most of us know and in which we readily share.  For instance—when a baby is born:

“Who does she/he look like?”
“He has his Dad’s nose.”
“Her face is shaped just like her mother’s.”

            Now, often that is not a fact so much as expectation.  We look for and expect a child to resemble its parents and family members.  As a child grows it usually exhibits more and more traits of family.  It may not be so noticeable to those who see it every day but is often obvious to others.

So when John says we are God’s children, it raises some expectations.  If you were reading this in the Greek text, it would say “NOW we are God’s children.”  The emphasis is on the “now.”  In context, it is clear that those who are trusting Jesus belong to God’s family.

To say we are God’s children has powerful implications.  Not the least of which is that it establishes our identity.  To know who you are, to have a sense of identity, may well be one of the most important factors in your mental and emotional health.  If you do not have a sense of identity, if you do not know who you are, chances are, you have some real problems in your life.  This is especially important in our day, because we live in a world where there is a tendency to treat a person as an object, to manipulate a person, to see a person as disposable, to see one as useful only as he/she serves me and my ends.

To have a sense of belonging, to have a sense of identity is also vital to our spiritual health.  Often when someone introduces me, they tell my name but add something to that.  He’s our neighbor, a pastor at Messiah Church, Alana’s husband.  And the less they know me personally, the more likely they are to do that, to identify me by my function, my job.

Probably you have been identified, not by who you are so much, as by some relationship—Joe Blow’s wife or Susie Blow’s husband, or by some job you perform.

But when we say we are God’s children, it establishes our identity, not by our function or even just our relationship but OUR NATURE.  The CHRISTIAN LIFE IS NOT SIMPLY TAKING ORDERS FROM GOD OR EVEN FOLLOWING JESUS’ EXAMPLE.  THE CHRISTIAN LIFE IS LIVING OUT A NEW NATURE, being part of a new kind of people.  Obviously as to “behaving like God’s children” most of us have a ways to go.  The child is not yet what he/she may become.  But the genes are there and with normal growth and development maturity will come.

And we have that amazing promise: “We shall be like Him!”  “Not yet but shall be” is essential to being human.  There is always the tension between what I am (performance) and what I shall be.  As Gordon Allport has said, “All people are in transit.”

Are you anxious to be like Jesus?  Keep trusting him and following and it will happen.

Be My Valentine

For God so loved…that He gave…His son…. John 3:16

Today, Valentine’s Day, love is on everybody’s mind, everywhere you look and crosses lips where it’s seldom at any other time mentioned.  We are told by retailers to say it with flowers, chocolate, jewelry and anything else they’re trying to peddle.

But we have a problem with the word “love.”  We say, “I love ice cream, my house, baseball, to swim, listen to good music and my wife” (not necessarily in that order).  We can really get confused about what love means.  I once heard Stuart Briscoe say we think love means “to like an awful lot.”  However, it is possible to love someone and not like them at all.

The benchmark, the standard of love’s expression is found in these words: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever heart-cross-thumb12673094believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)  And that provides us with the clearest idea of love.  It is not in words but deeds.  It is not about how we feel (as nice as that might be) but what we do.

Even in the church we are not always clear.  I heard someone say that Jesus came to show us God’s love.  It is as if our only message to the world is “smile, God loves you.”  It’s great to know that but the real message is because of God’s love Jesus died on the cross for my sins (yours too).

Then Jesus really set the bar for us when He said, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12)  Nothing less than to love the way God loves will do.  The only way that can happen is to receive God’s love and let God express that love through us.

What Are You So Happy About?

“Rejoice because your names are written in Heaven.” -Luke 10:20

There are some great benefits to being a Christian.

  • There is purpose and meaning for life,
  • peace with God and with ourselves.
  • There is opportunity to see the remarkable power of God to affect individual lives, to bring healing, both spiritual and physical.
  • The power to change society–
    • greed, hatred, corruption, indifference,  self-centeredness all have been overcome when the gospel has been heeded.
  • Hospitals and churches have been built.
  • the poor and the sick have been helped.
  • And there is opportunity to be part of the family of God.

But Jesus had a way of getting to the real issue, and he reminded his disciples of a very important fact.  Though the benefits of responding to God’s good news are many and varied, there is one central cause for the Christian’s joy—your names are written in heaven.  The ultimate reward is heaven, with all that involves.  The real benefit of knowing Jesus as Savior and Lord is life, eternal life, i.e. heaven.
How important those words, how important that is for us to remember in a world like this, when life isn’t going well for us.  It was Malcom Muggeridge who said, “The only ultimate disaster that can befall us,”…is to feel ourselves at home here on earth.”1  This is especially true when we are faced with our mortality, our death.  Death for the believer is simply arrival at the final destination.
The Gospel, the good news gives us that hope.  It is a simple (yet profound) story which we often make very complicated.  The Bible teaches that each person has a fatal affliction called sin.  The basic element in this affliction is failure to believe, to trust God, “un”faith.
However God, has provided the remedy—“God loved the world so much that he gave his only son [Jesus] so that whoever believes in him will not die but have life.”
In short, the gospel, the good news is that though each of us has been infected with sin, if we acknowledge it, confess it, place our trust in Jesus by surrendering our life to him, he will give us eternal life—ultimately heaven.
Every other benefit pales in comparison.

1quoted in Christianity Today, 12/8/72, p.54

The Goal of Your Faith

For you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (I Peter 1:9)

            What is the purpose, goal of faith?  To make us feel good?  To help us adjust to life?  To better handle adversity, hardship, even defeat?  I expect we could spend a great deal of time simply listing all those things we have heard given as reasons to believe.  
            Many of them seem to reflect the same logic as a statement contained in an article published in a Lewistown, Maine newspaper: “The fire department quickly brought the fire under control, but not before the building had burned to the ground.”   Now maybe I’m wrong but I thought the goal of the fire department was to put out the fire, to prevent the building from burning to the ground, i.e. to save it.
            Peter says the goal of your faith is salvation—not success, a comfortable life, wealth or a myriad of other things we often look for.  This is one of the great words of the gospel.  In one sense, in fact, salvation is the word of the good news, the subject matter, what it is all about.  Consequently it is a comprehensive word. It has the idea of deliverance, rescue from danger, disease, death, fear—all those physical and emotional ills of life.  But, most of all, it was to deliver, set free from sin.  Jesus was to be the one who “would save his people from their sins.”
            Isn’t it amazing how this idea is avoided?  Forgiveness—YES!  But deliverance from—well, that’s a different matter.  The story is told about a man who came to prayer meeting and kept telling about things which keep coming between him and God.  Cobwebs, he called them.  Finally, someone prayed, “Oh God, kill the spider.”
            The goal of your faith—salvation from your sins, all that would destroy you, to eternal life in Christ.  Praise God!