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Unbelievable?

“they did not believe the women, because their words seemed…like nonsense.” (Luke 24:11, NIV)

Those are some of the most telling words in the New Testament concerning the resurrection of Jesus. Forever they should dispel the notion that Easter was created by the wishful thinking of gullible, unlearned, poor fishermen and such. The first reports that Jesus was alive did not seem credible to them.

These people had to be convinced that what seemed impossible to them was really true. Only when they saw him with their own eyes did they believe it. And this Jesus, once dead but now alive for ever, changed their lives and the world. He has changed me and he can change you too. Because he lives, he offers life to anyone willing to follow him.

He is risen!
He is risen indeed!

Hallelujah!

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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.

When Jesus says, “Follow me.”

Luke 5:1-11
v11  So they … left everything and followed him.

Empty nets
It has been a long frustrating, fruitless night for Simon and his two partners, James and John.  All night long they have fished.  They have let down their nets, time and again and gone through the back-breaking process of drawing the nets to shore—empty!  They have tried different angles, different places, everything they can think of, every trick they know after many years fishing this lake.  Nothing worked.  Finally as the sun rises, exhausted and in a poor mood they pull their boats up on shore and begin the job of washing their nets—a final blow to their spirits—washing the nets which have remained empty all night.

Some nerve
As they go through the motions of this difficult and monotonous routine, out of the corner of Peter’s eye, a crowd appears by the lake.  In the center is a man surrounded by people pressing to get as close as possible to hear what he is saying.

As they watch and strain to hear what he’s saying, he walks over to Simon’s boat and gets in it.  “He’s got some nerve, Simon thinks to himself.”  Then he realizes who it is.  It’s the man Jesus he has been hearing about.

“Simon, could I trouble you to put your boat into the water and move out a little way from the shore?”

I’ll do it
For some reason, Simon does what he asks.  And he listens to what he says.  And he has never heard the likes of it before—no one every spoke like him.  Nice words, but just words!  Then he finishes speaking and Simon hears him speaking to him.  “Go out into deeper water.  Over there, cast your nets.”  Simon is too tired to argue and senses the easiest way to get out of this is to humor him.  Still he can’t resist protesting.  “We’ve fished all night and caught nothing, but I’ll do it.”

Fish and more fish
And then as they begin to draw the nets in they see fish—more fish then they’ve ever seen in a net.  It’s more than they can handle.  Some of the strands of the net begin to break.  The call for help—the second boat comes and the weight almost sinks them but finally they get the catch to shore.  They are astonished, frightened, elated, mystified.  Suddenly they realize they are in the presence of the holy and they are reminded of their Un holy lives.

Don’t be afraid, from now on you will catch people.
And they left everything and followed Jesus.

This story reminds us that GOD OFTEN INTERUPTS OUR LIFE—“Can I borrow your boat?” God gets our attention often in the middle of something else.  It is not always when we would expect—in church, a Bible study, or even during prayer.  It may be on the job (like here), on a journey (The Apostle Paul) or maybe in the midst of our sleep.  A cousin of mine was on a business trip in a hotel room when God called him to ministry.

So it can be a little inconvenient.  I don’t have time right now.  Can’t this wait until later?  Inconvenient, perhaps, but not all that difficult or earth-shaking—it’s something that stops us just long enough— for God to make Himself known—“Try again.”

I can imagine Peter thinking,  “This won’t work.  I’m a life-time fisherman, for goodness sake.  I know how to fish.”  I know how to live my life.

“Try Again.”

“For most people the disaster of life is that they give up just one effort too soon.” Carl F.H. Henry

There is no perfect set of circumstances.  To wait for that is to never begin.  Jesus often asks us attempt the impossible.  This is the first step and when we take it, we find out THIS IS GOD.  We have met the Almighty.  And when we do, like Peter, we realize how unworthy we are.

Now the invitation…
Leave it all.

Nothing less will do. The issue is not everyone leaving your occupation or residence but making your self available to God. For most of us it is about living a new way where we are—job, school, neighborhood.

But make no mistake, God’s call is not to ease and comfort but to adventure/challenge/meaning. Some time ago I read this story:

The great explorer, Sir Francis Drake, was attempting to recruit a number of young men for an upcoming exploration. He gathered them around and told the group that if they came with him they would see some of the most marvelous things their eyes could ever behold—sandy white beaches, juicy fruits, foreign peoples, priceless treasures, and gorgeous landscapes. And he told them that this wild adventure could be theirs if they came with him. Not one of them enlisted for the journey.
The next day a different group came out. Drake told them that if they came with him they would encounter storms that would terrify them into tears. Tiger winds would hammer them and blow them off course for months. Water would frequently be scarce. At times they will be so thirsty that their very souls would cry out for simply one drop of water. In short, danger would always be their constant companion. Drake concluded by declaring that if they could handle these things, the joys of exploration would exceed their wildest dreams. Every single one of them in the group joined Sir Francis Drake that day, some did not even go home to say goodbye to their families, they just boarded the boat eager for the journey.

This is how God calls us. Jesus promises not ease and comfort but a cross and, in the end, incredible joy. He says, “Follow me.”

Picture from the Web Gallery of Art

How do I start the journey?

Since the time of Jesus His followers have been trying to find the best way to answer that question.  And as surely as we are all different, to some extent, the best answer for anyone may be unique.  Like starting from different places to travel to a specific destination requires directions appropriate to where you are so does beginning the journey to become like Jesus.

I have chosen to use the image of a journey with Jesus as our companion with our goal to become like Him.  Others use different images.  For example Yvon Prehn, a church communication specialist, uses the analogy of closing the sale on a house.  She does a great job of describing what it means. Click to read.

But whatever image, analogy or description is used it always begins with a choice, a decision.  It involves a certain attitude toward Jesus.  It is to trust, believe him-what He says and where he takes us.  And as a result to, with His help, do what He says.  John 8:31  To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples [followers].

No one does that perfectly and, at the beginning, we are as children learning to walk.  The foundation of it all is the incredible idea that God really loves you/me, wants you to love Him and offers Jesus, His Son, to make it possible.

If you want to begin you can pray a simple prayer that acknowledges you are on the wrong path (the Bible calls it a sinner) and you claim God’s forgiveness through Jesus, put Jesus in charge of your life and begin the journey.  It might go something like this:

God, I am on the wrong road, a sinner.  Forgive me because of Jesus.  I want you to be in charge, Jesus.  Help me to become like you.
Amen.

Now find a community of believers (a church) and join them on the road with Jesus.  Let me know about it and if I can help.
dannyumc@comcast.net

Additional help:

http://www.leestrobel.com/

http://www.whoisjesus-really.com/