Saturday, August 21, 2004

Lexi Payne with President George W. Bush in Panama City, Florida. Posted by Hello

Kenny and Lora Payne with Patricia Schubert Barnes Posted by Hello

Friday, August 13, 2004

I sat by a....

I live and work about half the year in Gorlovka, Ukraine. One of the groups I am part of is a group of elderly ladies (babushka's) who meet on Wednesday mornings for Bible study and fellowship. In late July we had a visiting babushka at our class, and she sat by me. About seven years ago she lived in my building, but then she was forced to move away, so she sold her apartment. Then in July she showed up again in our neighborhood. Turns out she had been in prison for seven years for killing a man who lived with her. She came back to her old home to visit some neighbors, and to clarify a story she heard. She had been told that there was now a church meeting in her old neighborhood, and that many of her old neighbors were part of it. After finding out that this was true, she asked about attending the babushka class. We told her she was welcome, of course.
Our lesson was "David and Goliath." I was a little nervous about teaching a story where God approved of one man killing another! But she did not dismiss her sin by claiming that she simply killed a giant in her way. She is attending class still because she told of coming to faith in Jesus Christ while she was in prison. She wanted to keep her faith growing by being part of a church family that would encourage her.
Would you have been nervous to sit by a murderer in a Bible class? Maybe that is a little too close for comfort. But if you think about it, some of your favorite Bible characters were murderers. Moses was. David, too. Most of the judges were, as well as a lot of the kings. Paul says, that the church in Corinth was full of people who were murderers - along with other sins. BUT they were changed, they were washed, they were made righteous through their faith in Jesus Christ.
Again, we do not get to choose the other disciples that Jesus calls. But we can celebrate for them and with them!

Calling Levi

When Jesus walked by Levi the tax collector and invited him to follow, what did the other disciples do? Can you see Peter turning up his nose and generating reasons why Jesus was wrong for inviting a tax collector to follow him? Can you imagine Andrew wondering if the people he introduced to Jesus are going to be angry with him now because Jesus reached out to someone who was outside their comfort zone? I think it was only because these guys were so new at walking with Jesus that they didn't have the courage or the ability to object to Jesus calling Levi.
I once worked for a church where the leaders told me that I was reaching the "wrong kind of kids." I was reaching out to any kids who would come to activities. They wanted me to reach out to kids from respectable families whose parents would attend church services with them. I can only imagine how these leaders would have reacted to Jesus calling Levi if they had been there.
One truth about following Jesus is that he calls all kinds of people, and those who are following do not get to choose who those people will be. This is either the worst imaginable news, or the greatest opportunity - it all depends on if you are thinking like Jesus or just thinking about yourself.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

We're Going Forward...

Jesus calls us to follow him. That is at once an exciting and an intimidating invitation. It is exciting because if we follow Jesus we know that we will be involved in life changing ministry, touching people with the love of God. It is intimidating because Jesus rarely stands still, usually just long enough to rest a little and recharge for the coming journey. While Jesus called those who were weary to come find rest in himself, he also strengthened them for the continuous journey that is Christian faith. Jesus is still working in the world, still moving around touching lives and healing souls. As disciples, we're going forward, step by step with Jesus! Are you following?