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Further Visions To Follow

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"Further Visions To Follow" by David O. Bales
"Baptism by the Spirit" by David O. Bales
"New Beginnings" by John Fitzgerald


Further Visions To Follow
by David O. Bales
John 1:43-51

Philip searched in and around Cana, but he didn’t know it well. He dashed down street and alley asking everyone if they’d seen Nathanael. The third person directed him to the rabbi’s tree—the village’s area for prayer and contemplation by the rabbis.

Philip knew he should be quiet, but from a stone’s throw away he yelled, “Nathanael. Nathanael,” as he rushed to him. Under the fig tree Nathanael seemed to be in a trance, for Philip had to shake him to get him to look up. Nathanael’s eyes slowly focused on Philip who stood gasping. “We’ve found him. We’ve found him and he found me and enlisted me as his follower.”

Nathanael’s eyes struggled against the sunlight, “What are you doing here Philip?”

“You’ve got to come. We’ve found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.”

“‘We?’” he said.

“Andrew and Peter, fishermen with me in Bethsaida. They too were John the Baptist’s students. We’re sure Jesus is the Lord’s promised prophet.”

“He’s a teacher and he found you? Where’s your sense, Philip?” He rubbed his shoulders against the tree to wake his body, “Teachers don’t choose their students. And ‘Nazareth’ you said? Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”

“You’ll understand. You’ve got to come see for yourself. He and his students are on the road from Nazareth. If we head south we’ll meet them. We’ve got to start now,” Philip pulled him to his feet.

“All right,” Nathanael yanked Philip’s hand off his tunic. “Let me get my sandals.” Philip followed him, doing his best not to push him to his house then onto the road south.

On their way, Philip couldn’t restrain his enthusiasm, “I’ve never been more sure of anything. Never.” He walked along nodding in agreement to each positive thing he said about Jesus. “From your life with God and your understanding of the scriptures, you’ll see—I know you will—Jesus’ place in God’s new world.”

Nathanael seldom spoke. He didn’t have much chance, because Philip talked all the way, prodding him to rush so they’d meet Jesus before sundown.

Nathanael’s meeting with Jesus was more than Philip could have prayed for. At first sight Jesus praised Nathanael as the genuine innocent Israelite and told him that he’d seen him under the fig tree before Philip found him. Then Jesus uttered the promise that overwhelmed Philip as much as Nathanael, “You will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” Jesus seemed to be all that Nathanael had waited for and prayed about and also much that he had prayed to.

That signed the deal for both Philip and Nathanael. As often as they could they left their homes and families to go with Jesus and his twelve chosen students, to learn from him, and to spread his message. Whenever people rejected their message, Philip reassured Nathanael, “further visions to follow.” And everything that Jesus did, though not exactly what the two expected, confirmed that he was God’s special person: healing people, casting out demons, reinterpreting scripture, feeding the hungry, forgiving sinners, resisting the proud.

When Peter, James, and John hinted about a wonderful experience with Jesus on a hilltop, Philip said to Nathanael, “further visions to follow.” Even though the opposition to Jesus increased after he reached Jerusalem, Jesus’ followers shared their conviction of Jesus’ special place in God’s plans for Israel and for the whole world. Philip added his constant declaration, “further visions to follow.”

Yet, Jesus was apprehended in Gethsemane’s garden and Jesus’ students fled. When Philip and Nathanael heard of Jesus’ arrest they tried to devise a way to help him. They didn’t know how short the time was. All of Jesus’ followers had deflected his teaching that he was to suffer. Consequently, they were unprepared for his crucifixion.

They were stunned by Judas’s betrayal and immobilized by Jesus’ death. His remaining eleven students gathered in the home that had welcomed him for Passover. Philip and Nathanael joined them. No one even suggested what to do next. None of them had been able to aid Jesus during his trial, and thus Jesus’ death struck his chosen eleven twice as hard. Nathanael was so defeated that he just sat or laid on the floor. When he walked he acted as if he wasn’t sure the ground would support his steps. He didn’t eat, barely drank, and occasionally mumbled a prayer of lament.

Philip was undone also. He, however, dealt with his grief by repeating what had happened, reciting the order of Jesus’ last days in Jerusalem and then becoming nearly hysterial when he recalled how not one of them stood by Jesus. Nathanael, wearied of Philip’s prattling, said with a sneer, “Further visions to follow?” That silenced Philip.

On Sunday morning Nathanael woke to Philip’s dragging him off the floor, laughing and crying at the same time. “He’s alive. He’s alive.” He pulled Nathanael to his feet. “Jesus is alive.”

“What?” Nathanael said.

“Jesus has risen from the dead,” Philip said, nearly crushing Nathanael in a hug, at which Peter and Andrew tumbled into the room laughing and shouting that Jesus was alive. He’d appeared to Peter. Nathanael shook his head to clear his thinking as the news sunk in. Others of Jesus’ students crowded into the room shouting about Jesus’ resurrection and praising God. Nathanael remained dumbfounded.  Philip leaped in front of him, raised his arm high and pointed down at Nathanael, “Hah!” he shouted as he laughed. “Hah! Further visions to follow! Further visions to follow!”

Preaching Point: The good news of Jesus’ resurrection is always more than anyone expects ... or deserves.

* * *

Wired
by David O. Bales
1 Corinthians 6:12-20

Before he got drunk he’d made up his mind to be hyper-attentive at the hearing. Now, suffering from terminal hangover, he strained to be alert as the door opened before him. They must have arrived late because some official ushered him and his mother right in. The room was larger than he expected and he blinked at the bright lights. He looked around to see tiny clusters of three or four people, obviously family groups. They resembled a photo he’d seen of defeated American Indians waiting to be carted off to some far away reservation. The only person with a head up was at the back wall, a man who seemed intent upon him, with a smile as huge as a cartoon character.  

He fought with nausea as he tried to clear his mind. He and his mother were led in front of three people sitting behind a table. He struggled to focus his eyes. Nothing extraordinary about the three at the table. A few papers in front of each. A man on the left with a droopy eye. A younger woman in the middle. He assumed she was the chief judge, her hair waxed like wings. A really old woman on the right kept trying to smile then forgetting to do so.

“Randall Schute,” the winged hair lady eyed him and spoke his name.

If his mother hadn’t elbowed him, he might have gone to sleep standing up, “Say, ‘Yes, your Honor.’”

The lady didn’t wait for him to respond. She spoke first to his mother as though she’d said the same thing dozens of times. “We are not judges and you are not in court. We are the Juvenile Council.” She turned to Randy, “You are here after your first arrest. Our council is in lieu of court. No judges, no attorneys, we are just citizens serving the community. We are here to help you so that you never must be charged with a crime. We are giving you a chance to make up for your mistake. Do you understand?”

His mother with her head down nudged him. “Yes,” he said.

“You have been apprehended for under age drinking and driving under the influence. Do you have anything to say?”

Randy made a moan that sounded like “Wellll,” when his mother spoke up, “Randy’s a good boy. My baby,” she said, as she held onto his arm. Randy knew the tone and could hear the tears coming. “Randy’s a good boy, O Jesus help us. My baby. His father was an alcoholic.” Tears splattering all over. “My baby. He was a good student. Freshman year an A in history. Have mercy on him.” More tears. Her hands in front of her face now, muttering into a mashed handkerchief. “My baby. O Jesus, help us.” Randy wondered what the people in the room thought of her, thought of him! The three behind the table waited until his mother gained control of herself. The droopy-eyed man said, “Your mother has suggested a plan to our council.”

Randy looked at his mother in astonishment.

“If you accept it and remain satisfactorily under the supervision of Mr. James Clements without abusing alcohol until you are 18, you will be beyond our help, which is to say out of our jurisdiction. You will be considered an adult and any infraction of the law by you then will be prosecuted as an adult crime.”

Randy’s thoughts were spinning: What? Who?

“Mrs. Schute,” he aimed his droopy eye at her, “explain your plan.”

She stood erect and spoke clearly, “Mr. James Clements, from my church.” She pointed to the back of the room and the man with too many teeth stood. Everyone looked at him. Randy had never seen him before. “He will employ Randy three afternoons a week, pick him up at school and bring him home after work. He will get him to and from youth group on Sunday evening and be his advisor.”

Who is this man, and who is this woman he thought was his mother? A minute ago she was crumbling in grief, now she sounds as though she could organize the defense of New York City.

The droopy eyed man was signaling toward the back of the room. The smiley man came to stand beside his mother. The droopy eyed man addressed him, “Mr. Clements, you heard Mrs. Schute. You will give Randall a job?”

“Yes sir,” the smiley man responded. “I own an electrical business. We’re non-union, but licensed and bonded and we pay well. I’m a recovering alcoholic. I’ve helped others. I’ll supervise Randy.”

“Randall,” the droopy-eyed man said. Randy drifted uncertainly from his contorted thoughts and faced the council. The lady of the staccato expression was holding a fairly solid smile now. “Do you agree?”

His thoughts ricocheted through his mind; but he managed to say, “I guess so.”

“That means ‘yes, you will’?”

“Yes,” he mumbled.

The difficult problem in the first weeks was Leroy, his supplier. Each time he saw Randy he said he could get a bottle of weapons-grade vodka. For two weeks Randy held him off. He’d settled into the routine of working six hours a week. He didn’t mind the labor. Some of the fellows on the crew were interesting, some hardly sane. By now he was calling Mr. Clements ‘Jim,’ as everyone in the youth group did. The youth group was different for him; but he knew a couple of the kids from school. An hour of fun and food and then talking Bible and faith and each Sunday’s group ending with a prayer circle with Jim praying for each by name.

On his fourth Thursday of what he called “probation,” he was in front of the high school with Leroy offering to get him a bottle as Jim drove up. He didn’t talk much on the way to work and an hour later he stood absently in front of a junction box running a wire back and forth through his hand as though trying to polish the insulation. He must have been talking to himself, because Jim came and stood in front of him.

He asked, “How’s it going?”

“You mean staying sober?”

“At least that.”

“I’m sober, but …” he thumped a fist into a palm, “but it’s hard.”

“I’m with you on that.”

“Still hard for you?”

“Sometimes, but less all the time. And I know I’d be safer drinking transmission fluid than alcohol.”

Randy nodded and grinned.

“You haven’t asked,” Jim said, “but when you’re tempted, my advice is that you grip onto the faith that you’re wired in to God.”

Jim had his attention.

“You believe in Christ, right?”

Randy curled up the side of his mouth and tilted his head, “Some.”

“Then you’re wired in. That’s how I think of it as an electrician. We aren’t alone. You’re in the network. We’re wired in to God and other believers—like your mom and I are wired to God and into the church. The good thing about being wired to God is that you’re on a two way switch.” His smile nearly exceeded his mouth, “Turn him off and he turns you right back on.”

“I get that,” Randy said.   

“God’s inside you invisibly the way electricity is. It’s another way to say what the Bible does that your body’s a temple of the Holy Spirit because God’s inside you. Something that I grab onto real hard when I’m tempted. Make sense?”

“Uh huh, a little. I’ll think about that.”

“Sure enough. We owe that help to one another, in that we’re wired together. Now, get those 10-2s pulled to the box because I agreed to have this hooked up by Friday night.” He gave a big smile, “then the lights come on.”  

Preaching Point: Christians are united in the most intimate and energizing way with God and other believers.

* * *

God's Gentle Calling
by John Fitzgerald
1 Samuel 3:1-10, (11-20)

The America of 2018 is an angry nation. We are filled with resentments and express our self in a crude and vulgar fashion. In our scripture reading we see Samuel called by God in just the opposite manner.

The young boy Samuel hears God’s voice speaking to him three times in a gentle way. Samuel’s mentor, Eli, does not pick-up on the fact that God is speaking to his pupil. But God will not let go of the lad, and finally Eli recognizes what is going on.

Sometimes the Lord must speak several times before people listen. This scripture is a challenge to hear God’s gentle pleading in our life. Can we hear the quiet, unexpected voice of God’s calling in middle of an angry age? Let me share this story of one man transformed by God’s gentle work in his life. It is a great example of what needs to take place in 2018 America.

This is the account of a Navy Seal. This man had been highly trained to serve in our armed forces. He served in several dangerous missions. Our nation’s warrior received credit for scoring twenty-five kills upon enemy combatants during this time. This was one tough hombre with arms and legs covered by tattoos to prove his fierce nature.

Our man served the country in Vietnam before retiring from the military and becoming a civilian once again. At this point, our friend had a change of heart upon reflection of the horrors of war. He ended up becoming a Presbyterian minister as a result of his war experiences. The bloodshed in Vietnam led our preacher to become a pacifist with a vow to never take human life again.

This changed man had an opportunity to get into television and express his new found belief. Eventually he had the occasion to host his own television show. It became one of the longest running television programs in history.

On his television program the guy always wore a sweater. Generations of children watched his TV presentation and learned about peaceful ways to live with each other. By now, you may realize I am describing the life of FRED ROGERS. This is Fred Rogers of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood.

Mr. Rogers always wore a sweater during his television work to disguise a body covered by tattoos. Mr. Rogers displayed the epitome of gentle behavior. No one would have guessed of his live as a Navy Seal.

Fred Rogers, just like the young boy Samuel of our scripture, became transformed by God’s gentle call. We need more transformations like this in America of 2018.

*****************************************

StoryShare, January 14, 2018, issue.

Copyright 2017 by CSS Publishing Company, Inc., Lima, Ohio.

All rights reserved. Subscribers to the StoryShare service may print and use this material as it was intended in sermons, in worship and classroom settings, in brief devotions, in radio spots, and as newsletter fillers. No additional permission is required from the publisher for such use by subscribers only. Inquiries should be addressed to permissions@csspub.com or to Permissions, CSS Publishing Company, Inc., 5450 N. Dixie Highway, Lima, Ohio 45807.
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