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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!

Some Old Bones + A Breeze=An Army

a valley;…full of bones…. and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet–a vast army. -Ezekiel 37

“Some  Old Bones + A Breeze=An Army”

In an article about a reunion of old time aviators, the lead read: “Two veteran aviators met here yesterday for the first time in 40 years and discovered that of all the things that fly, time is the fastest.” (RD,2/89,p.114)

A human being has dreams, hopes, aspirations.  It is the soul and substance of life’s meaning.  It is, in fact, part of the definition of human.  This is best seen in the young before the corrosive effects of time take’s its toll.
Lorraine Frontain, a kindergarten teacher, told about a little girl named Gina, whom she had warned several times, to pay attention.  It was to no avail.  Finally in desperation,  she asked, “Gina, why are you so excited?”  “I can’t help it,” she replied.  “My daddy said I could have a horse when I’m 35.”1
The anticipation of the young.  Dreams, hopes, plans are laid for life.  But as surely as we have dreams, we also have failure of dreams and hopes, set-backs and reverses.  Dreams and hopes can be lost, abandoned and not replaced.  It may be hard for youth to identify with that.  For them, hope is easier.  But few escape defeat which can lead to lowered expectations and hopelessness (loss of dreams).  Sometime ago an article on social workers quoted one as saying,  “I wanted to make a difference for the kids. Now I realize it was a totally unrealistic expectation.”  Lost dreams, cynicism.
There is an interesting and mysterious story in the Bible which tells about a vision given to a strange man called Ezekiel.  In the vision, Ezekiel sees a valley full of old dry bones.  As he speaks God’s word to them, flesh and breath are restored and they come to life—a vast army.

It is a vision symbolic of a people discouraged, defeated, hopeless as bleached out bones in a desert.  But God says he can and will bring life back to dead bones of shattered dreams and lives.  When we lose, when we fail, when a dream goes up in smoke, when life throws us a wicked curve, what can we do?

We can pick up the pieces because what left is usable by God, even old bones.  We can learn, we can adjust, we can “roll with the punches.”

In 1920, a young man by the name of Oswald Smith had a dream to be a missionary.   He had   prayed and dreamed for the opportunity and now stood before a board selecting missionaries.  He was turned down.  Did not meet qualifications, failed the test.  Decided if he couldn’t be a missionary, he would build a church that could send missionaries.  That church, People’s Church, Toronto, Canada became one of the greatest resources for missionaries in history,  sending hundreds to share God’s good news about Jesus.

Nothing given to God is lost.  A Christian, who gave money to build Baylor University,  later lost everything he had.  Someone asked him, “Don’t you wish you had the money back that you put into that school?”  “Not at   all.  It is all that I have saved.  If I had kept that money, I would have lost it too.”
We just need to let God breath life into what’s left.  When you do, life is an adventure(not easy, comfortable, predictable) but adventure.  We are too focused on winning or loosing, success or failure.  We miss the pure joy of living.  Gene Stallings tells of an incident when he was defensive backfield coach for the Dallas Cowboys.

Two All-Pro players, Charlie Waters and Cliff Harris, were sitting in front of their lockers after playing a tough game against the Washington Redskins.  They were still in their uniforms, and their heads were bowed in exhaustion. Waters said to Harris, “By the way Cliff, what was the final score?”2

When you love and are immersed in the game, the score doesn’t matter all that much.

Walter Peyton was one of greatest running backs in National Football League history.  During a telecast of Monday Night Football, one of the announcers remarked that he had gained over 9 miles rushing in his career.  The other said, “Yeah, and that’s with somebody knocking him down every 4.6 yards!”  That’s 3443 times!

Life will knock you down, wreck your dreams, but God is not foiled by that.  Just remember WHEN YOU’RE DOWN, THE WAY OUT IS UP.
God’s word to Ezekiel was “Then they will know that I am the LORD.”

1Reader’s Digest, Jan., ‘89, p.80
2 Penney F. Nichols, Leadership

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/

How Am I Doing?

Spiritual evaluation is an important practice for discipleship.  It is to look back and try to evaluate the past.  What did we accomplish? Where did we fail? How can we do better.  The problem is that evaluation of spiritual things is not all that easy.  We can count statistics and we should, but that doesn’t really tell the story.  Spiritual growth or health can’t always be objectively measured.

Several years ago this letter was written to the editor of a British paper:

“Dear Sir,

It seems ministers feel their sermons are very important and spend a great deal of time preparing them.  I have been attending a church quite regularly for the past 30 years and I have probably heard 3,000 of them.  To my consternation, I discovered that I cannot remember a single sermon.  I wonder if a minister’s time might not be more profitably spent on something else?

Sincerely,…”

For weeks a debate was carried on through letters to the editor.  Finally, the uproar ended when this letter was printed:

“Dear Sir,

I have been married for 30 years.  During that time I have eaten 32,850 meals–mostly of my wife’s cooking.  Suddenly, I have discovered that I cannot remember the menu of a single meal.  And yet, I received nourishment from every single one of them.  I have

the distinct impression that without them, I would have starved to death long ago.

Sincerely,…”

This is not an argument against the need for spiritual evaluation any more than regular physicals.  It is simply a reminder that it is not as simple as counting people or dollars as important as that is.

We know that when we don’t pray, worship(including hearing the Word of God proclaimed), share our lives together, and minister in Christ’s name we cannot be spiritually healthy and may die.

A spiritually healthy life-style–let’s go for it!