A Gospel Ghost Story 
Wednesday, October 31, 2007, 07:28 AM - Extra Christy
A Gospel Ghost story is found in Matthew chapter 14. It sets us up well for a scary story: a boat out on a windy night, with one of the party missing. It even has the classic line: "It's a Ghost" cried out in fear by the terrified boaters when they see a figure moving towards them across the water in the pre-dawn hours.

It was actually Jesus who responded to their terror and fear with the words, "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid." To be fair to the fearful followers of Jesus, he was walking on water, somewhat unexpected. To Peter's credit he went quickly from fear to faith and went out on the water to meet Jesus. The water walking was going surprisingly well until he looked away from Jesus and "saw the wind". Then Peter (which means "Rock"!) began to sink like a Peter and the Lord had to give a hand to both body and spirit.

What could Peter have seen in the wind that frightened him so? I wonder if it was his imagination that colored the blowing blankness with danger and doubt as soon as he took his eyes off his savior.

This Halloween give your imagination a rest from ghost stories and follow the Jesus' advice:

Take courage. Do not be afraid. Christ is with us.

Ghost on the Water

Right away, Jesus made his disciples get into a boat and start back across the lake. But he stayed until he had sent the crowds away. Then he went up on a mountain where he could be alone and pray. Later that evening, he was still there. By this time the boat was a long way from the shore. It was going against the wind and was being tossed around by the waves. A little while before morning, Jesus came walking on the water toward his disciples. When they saw him, they thought he was a ghost. They were terrified and started screaming.

At once, Jesus said to them, "Don't worry! I am Jesus. Don't be afraid."

Peter replied, "Lord, if it is really you, tell me to come to you on the water."

"Come on!" Jesus said. Peter then got out of the boat and started walking on the water toward him.

But when Peter saw how strong the wind was, he was afraid and started sinking. "Save me, Lord!" he shouted.

Right away, Jesus reached out his hand. He helped Peter up and said, "You surely don't have much faith. Why do you doubt?"

When Jesus and Peter got into the boat, the wind died down. The men in the boat worshiped Jesus and said, "You really are the Son of God!" -- Matthew 14:22-33 (NIV)

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Bell Ringer 
Wednesday, October 24, 2007, 08:06 AM - Extra Christy
I have a young friend that calls me on my cell. That isn't unusual, but if I don't answer the cell immediately, I know that it will shake again seconds later with a voice message, and followed quickly with a text message. Then the church phone will ring and the home phone will blare. During this virtual traffic jam of tiny beeping horns, an instant message will pop up, and finally an email will arrive, probably IN ALL CAPS. I expect faxes and even smoke signals to be added to mix any day. A faint ringing echo occurs even after we connect, for concerned family and co-workers call the rest of the day and ask if I was aware that my friend wanted me.

My friend doesn't give up getting my attention. Asking once and then giving up if there is no response isn't even considered as a possibility. Leaving a message is a means toward, not the end of, a conversation. And my friend's faith is rewarded! We talk and that is good.

Some people give up talking to God because there is "no answer". Only once in all my years praying did I get a "YES!" answer the moment I opened my eyes from a prayer request. (It scared me, a prayer answered too fast. I get a little giddy remembering it even now, 30 years later!) Most of the time answers worked out over time, sometimes months and years...some we're still working on and a few I expect to have an answer take a lifetime.

So, in faith, keep calling God: out loud and in silence; in ancient phrases and new song, in church and on walks, in anger or in joy, on retreat and during errands, through tears and thanks, in traffic opened eyed and with closed eyes at night, before meals and after meetings, with coffee and with candles, holding others close and alone in your room.

Always pray in all ways. God will answer.

Keep Praying
Jesus told his disciples a story about how they should keep on praying and never give up:

In a town there was once a judge who didn't fear God or care about people. In that same town there was a widow who kept going to the judge and saying, "Make sure that I get fair treatment in court."

For a while the judge refused to do anything. Finally, he said to himself, "Even though I don't fear God or care about people, I will help this widow because she keeps on bothering me. If I don't help her, she will wear me out."

The Lord said: Think about what that crooked judge said. Won't God protect his chosen ones who pray to him day and night? Won't he be concerned for them? He will surely hurry and help them. But when the Son of Man comes, will he find on this earth anyone with faith? -- Luke 18:1-8 (CEV)

God waits to hear from you even more than you wait to hear from God.

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Where is Zion? 
Tuesday, October 23, 2007, 08:11 AM - Media
What was the significance of Zion in the Bible?

Zion narrowly means Jerusalem, Mt. Zion is in Jerusalem. It has come to mean God's land, where God's people are, either in the actual Holy Land or in a place where the Godly are gathered.

Longer and other definitions are found in wikipedia here:

I guess Zion for a child would be that land of God in Bible times.

As we get older, we can understand also that the closer as we come to being God's people, the closer we come to living in Zion.

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The Same Parade 
Wednesday, October 17, 2007, 08:24 AM - Extra Christy
As a new resident of Rochester, Indiana I found out that The Round Barn Parade was the highlight of the Round Barn Festival. I like parades and eagerly read the local newspaper's coverage to find out the parade route to plan my vantage point. Finally, the third time through, I found this sentence:

The parade route will be the same as last year.

Hmmm. Must have been a Church member, maybe even a Presbyterian, that wrote that line: assuming everyone who reads the paper this year, was at the parade last year. Boy, do we do that in churches! It is time for X again, so you know what to do! We leave out those for who it is a first time for X! (And let them know they are "different".)

Jesus was at a parade, or he was the parade. (Not Palm Sunday, you insiders!) This one was earlier. First time visitor Zaccheus couldn't get in position to see Jesus because of all the other people excluded him from a place on the parade route. Yet, Jesus stopped the parade he was leading and called to Zaccheus to lead the parade to Zaccheus' house!

This was a rather large change in the route from previous times, for Zaccheus was an unpopular person in an unpopular job for an unpopular government. (Think dishonest IRS agent tied in with violent organized crime from Russia, no wonder no one let him see the Jesus Parade!) But Jesus changed his parade route and brought good news to the despised dishonest tax collector who changed his ways for good.

As you go on your route today, and life parades by, look for Jesus beckoning you to a new way, he often goes off the expected route we plan for him. And make friends with new people along the way, the Jesus parade might lead through their house this year!

A Different Parade

Jesus was going through Jericho, where a man named Zacchaeus lived. He was in charge of collecting taxes and was very rich. Jesus was heading his way, and Zacchaeus wanted to see what he was like. But Zacchaeus was a short man and could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree. When Jesus got there, he looked up and said, "Zacchaeus, hurry down! I want to stay with you today." Zacchaeus hurried down and gladly welcomed Jesus.

Everyone who saw this started grumbling, "This man Zacchaeus is a sinner! And Jesus is going home to eat with him."

Later that day Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, "I will give half of my property to the poor. And I will now pay back four times as much to everyone I have ever cheated." Jesus said to Zacchaeus, "Today you and your family have been saved, because you are a true son of Abraham. The Son of Man came to look for and to save people who are lost." -- Luke 19:1-10 (CEV)

Remember to pause and remember the saints that have paraded through your life.

Hoping you find the parade...or the parade finds you!
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Can a Rocket Get to God? 
Sunday, October 14, 2007, 08:17 AM - Media
Can I take a rocket ship to God?

The Bible tells us that God is love. (1 John 4:8b)

So the best way to get to God is love each other. You can have the biggest, fastest, loudest rocket ship ever, but if you don't have love, you will never find God no matter how fast or how far you travel.

You don't have to get into a rocket ship. God loved us so much that he came to us in Jesus Christ. He made the trip to us so we don't have to search the universe for God. He is right here with us, whenever we gather as Christians in peace, love and unity.

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