Mark 10:32-52 – James & John, Blind Bartimaeus

Mark 10:35 – What a bold request – “we want you to do whatever we ask.” Would you say that to anyone? Maybe, “can you do me a favor” or “I’d like you to do something for me”, but “do whatever we ask”? Wow.
Mark 10:37-38 – I suspect they really didn’t know what they were asking because they misunderstood what ‘his glory’ would be. They were still thinking Earthly kingdom, they wanted to rule Israel with Him. They didn’t realize how Jesus’ kingdom would be manifest.
Mark 10:42-45 – Jesus redefines leadership. It’s not about position, power and glory, it’s about service. Many pay lip service to this idea, especially politicians, but I wonder how many truly understand it. I suspect that those who do are leaders in character, but not in position. They lead quietly, serving those around them, silently impacting lives and advancing the kingdom. Those ‘out front;’, trumpeting their leadership are frequently not truly those leading the way.
Mark 10:52 – It was his faith that made him well, but not until Jesus said so. His simple faith that Jesus was able to fix him. Notice, he didn’t ask if Jesus could? His ability was a given in his mind. It was only a matter of if he could get through to Jesus. He didn’t need to know how it would be done or why, he just knew Jesus could if he could get to Jesus.
I know I can get to Jesus, but I’m not convinced that he can. Well, in the very least, I want an explanation of how he can before I believe that he will. I know too much, and it hampers my faith. Bartimaeus had no knowledge of how his sight worked or why it wasn’t working. He didn’t need to, he just knew that Jesus could fix it. Oh, for that simple of a faith.

Farewell Cinderella

I’m an emotional Dad of three girls, so I have a hard time not misting up when I hear Steven Curtis Chapman sing his new song Cinderella. The first video is the song, the second is the story behind it. I can so relate to the story behind this song. That is me, frustrated, short tempered and later full of regret.
Today, however, this song is even harder to listen to as news came that yesterday, Steven Chapman’s teenage son struck and killed his 5 year old sister in the driveway of their home. This is one of the girls, Maria, that inspired this song. Imagine, you’re a new driver and not only have you been involved in a fatal accident, it was your baby sister. And Dad’s a famous Christian artist. And he wrote a hit song about her.
I can’t imagine how hard that must be for the entire family. Can’t. Imagine. My heart and prayers go out to the family.

Mark 10:23-31 – Wealth & Faith

Mark 10 has a lot of meat in it and is taking me several readings to dig through. This is the third post and I’m not yet done.
Mark 10:23-31 – This passage, well, at least these words of Jesus have been on my mine lately. That and Jesus inability to work any miracles in his hometown because of their lack of faith. (Matthew 13, Mark 6, Luke 4, John 4)
The people of Nazareth knew Jesus too well, that was their problem. He was the carpenter’s son, that kid who used to hang at the synagogue. They knew who he was, you see, there was no way he was capable of anything special.
I contend that we have much the same problem in the America. I think that Jesus is far too familiar to us, so much so that he can do no miracles in our midst either. We hear his name on the radio and in church, we see him proclaimed on TV and see his fish on our cars. He’s everywhere, well, at least people are using his name everywhere. He’s common place.
In addition we are wealthy and self reliant. We know the answers to so much now, we have great banking and manufacturing systems. We know how the world works.
Frankly, we no longer need Jesus.
We have too much and have accomplished too much and have heard too much empty Jesus talk so that we no longer can see Him being able to transform us. We’ve learned that the world just doesn’t work that way, so Jesus has no power for us. He has no honor here.
Several weeks ago, when I read about the faith of the bleeding woman who was healed, I wondered why I didn’t have such faith. Why can’t I simply know that by being in the presence of Jesus, I could be changed?
A friend who once had a blog called Virusdoc, asked me a couple of years ago if I thought real transformation was still possible. In his view, even religious people simply weren’t transformed. Did it still happen? I wanted to answer yes, but the evidence was on his side. Religious folk talked a lot about living with their sin, but there weren’t many stories of real transformation. Certainly not in proportion to the number of professed believers. I wondered why.
Go dig up stories, however, from China or India or Iraq and you’ll find transformations and miracles left and right. It’s amazing. This week, the leaders of the church we support in Indonesia will be here to share what God’s doing there. They’ve done it before, and it’s astounding what happens with their faith, and a bit humbling and scary. Frankly, Jesus simply isn’t doing here in America what he is in Indonesia. The difference? They are poor and know they are in need, we are wealthy and think we are set. As a result, I think their Jesus is still huge and amazing, while ours, like those in Nazareth, is too familiar and routine.
I realize that my Jesus is too small, or rather, my faith in myself is far too big. I want to be amazed be Jesus again. I want to know that he is able, no matter how big the odds. I want to reach out and touch his cloak, knowing that a simple brush of the fabric has the power to transform. And hearing his words here in Mark 10, I’m more than a little frightened to be so wealthy. But I take comfort in verse 27:

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”

Living Intentionally

Codepoke has an interesting post yesterday that runs parallel to what I intended to post on today. There’s a bunch of stuff in there that I intend to chew on – later.
I haven’t posted much lately. Frankly, posting here has been sporadic at best for a long time. I wish I could say that it was because I was too busy living. You know, spending time with he kids, working around the house, getting projects done and stuff like that. No, mostly I’ve been distracted by a lot of stuff.
I sit down at my laptop every night and most days (like now) at lunch, but mostly I browse around the web looking at stuff. Some good stuff, like Codepoke’s blog or Jared’s blog (two you ought to read), but sometimes it’s just time killers. The online equivalent of reruns of M*A*S*H, something you do to have something to do.
It’s interesting or entertaining to a point and I learn some stuff and talk to some folks, but it’s immensely unsatisfying most of the time. I want to blog, but look, Bloglines says there are 18 new posts on my favorite blogs and I have 4 emails to return. Those things are easier, so I go there and the thoughts in my head that I wanted to share or the Bible study that I wanted to do don’t get done.
Of course this applies to more than being online. Before we had the Internet, there was TV to watch. Even before we had a bazillion channels and DVDs and pay per view, we’d sink into the fantasy world of whatever show was on that night rather than doing something productive. before that there were books and gossip and a million other things.
I blog partly because I enjoy writing, but partly (maybe even mostly) because in putting these thoughts to the screen, I’m forced to flesh them out. I have to do the research, get the facts straight, see if there’s any meat to hang on those bones. In doing so, what God has put in me becomes more real and in turn becomes useful to someone else (hopefully). But too often, I’m satisfied with the skeleton of an idea or the happy thought in my head. I’m convinced, however, that God put them there for more and through blogging that’s what they become.
In order to do that, I have to decide. I have to intentionally ignore my feed list in Bloglines, my Inbox in Outlook and the call of mt Pop up camper club and Thunderbird forum and intentionally sit down to read my Bible and write out my comments or put that thought from Sundays message to the keyboard. It’s intentionally pursuing what God has, in part, created me to do.
Isn’t Christianity like that too? We are bombarded every day with interesting things, TV shows, newspaper and magazine articles, movies, conversations, shopping, radio shows, music and on and on. Jesus calls us to turn our eyes to Him and follow, despite all the calls of the world. Some of those things will flow through the path that we take as we follow him, but we are not to turn our eyes from Him and follow them.
We are called to live intentionally, deliberately on a course that runs counter to the culture around us. It’s like trying to travel straight across a fast moving river to a point directly on the other side, The current want s to push you down stream, it takes determination to stay the course and not be pushed off track.
Too often I live accidentally, doing whatever falls in front of me instead of intentionally following a course toward Him.

Mark 10:13-22

Mark 10:13-16 – I’ve often wondered about this passage. What exactly was Jesus getting t saying we need to receive the kingdom like a child? I mean, there are many ways I can imagine that being like a child wouldn’t be good. My kids can be down right selfish and stubborn, I’m assuming that Jesus is not telling us to imitate that.
I think, though, that he wants us to imitate their innocence and faith. My kids listen and I teach them about God an Jesus. When I tell them what God thinks is important and how God wants us to view the world, they take it in, absorbing it as fact. They don’t analyze and scrutinize (for the most part), the simply accept it. That’s how we ought to approach Jesus. We don’t need explanations of how it all works before we believe. I think we seek that too much, and it holds us back.
Mark 10:17-22 – The price of following Jesus is high. He demands all of us, just as he did this man. It’s all too easy to shake our heads at him and his unwillingness to go all the way, but are we much different? What lines have we drawn that we won’t cross for Jesus? Have we marked out a nice, comfortable boundary to practice our faith in and we aren’t’ willing to step outside of it?
Jesus demanded all of this man, he demands it from us too. That’s his call, all or nothing. It sounds harsh, and for me, it can send my mind reeling on this fools errand of determining if I’m doing enough or not. It gets me worked up and worried about where I stand. That’s not Jesus’ point, I know, but it’s hard to separate full commitment from working for approval from God. Approval is not tied to performance, but that’s how we are conditioned to see it. It’s true in our jobs and school and in too many of our relationships, so we think that it’s true of God too.
Actually, like so many things of God, it’s the opposite. God’s approval is not tied to our performance, rather our performance is tied to God’s approval. What I mean is, we ought not to seek to perform better, rather we ought to simple seek God. As we see him and His holiness and as we see that we are not like him but yet he loves us and, through Jesus, approves of us in spite of our shortcomings, we ought to be motivated to live as he expects. We have it backwards. We seek to be good so God will be pleased, but God is already pleased so we are free to be good.

My Brother In Law’s Story

I’ve been wanting to post this here for a while now, but I wanted my Brother In Law to type it up so the facts were straight. He recently put it on our family website. It’s an amazing story, here it is …

2007 brought a lot of change in our lives. I have told parts of this story to several of [the family] and it has been requested that I post the whole story. So I will.
When I graduated high school, I went to one job interview. I got the job. That was June 15, 1995. Between then and mid 2007, I had been in four different positions for the company. In 2006, I had reached the top of the ladder. I was the supervisor over all the areas that I had worked during my career there. I had several good employees under me. I was making good money, which would have only gotten better over the next several years. I was put in charge of a 3 million dollar project to build a new facility. I had arrived. I thought.
Our faith and church have always been very important to us. We had changed churches in 2006 and feeling very comfortable in the new church. We were given the opportunity to run the youth department. That had been something we had done at our old church, so we were pleased that the ministry JUST HAPPENED to become open at the right time. By the way, I don’t believe in accidents, coincidence, or just happened. The Bible says “All things work together for good to them that love God and are called according to His purpose” It did not just happen, it was God’s Will.
In August 2007, our church held their annual preacher’s meeting called “Fishers Of Men Fellowship” Pastors from all over the state and surrounding states come to our church to hold three days of meetings. A day consists of breakfast, four different pastors preaching, lunch, four different pastors preaching, a two-hour break, supper, and a revival type service in the evening where two more pastors preach. It is a marathon of preaching, but one that I will never miss. On Thursday of the week, a preacher named Ray Ditch was asked to preach. He had recently had a stroke and was still suffering from some of the effects of that, but when he started any and all aliments were gone and he was able to preach. The sermon was 21 minutes long. In those 20 minutes, my life was forever changed. He preached on James 1:22. It says, “Be ye doer of the work and not hearers only” He said that standing idle was not acceptable. God has a will and a purpose for each of our lives and that if God is calling you to do something then you should just do it. He kept saying that just do it, just do it. He was not finished but after about 20 minutes he said the Lord was telling him to sit down and that was what he was going to do. He sat down and over the next 2 1/2 hours three other preachers spoke about “something”. I don’t know what they spoke about because Just Do It, Just Do It kept ringing in my mind. When the meeting broke for lunch, I went down to the altar at the front of the church and asked God a question. “Just Do What, LORD??” Over course he didn’t answer but while I was still kneeling there I told the LORD something that I meant then and that I still mean now. “Whatever it is LORD that you would have me to do LORD I will do it. Whatever it is, I’m in.” I literally felt something, a weight, lifted off of my shoulders. The day continued. I went to lunch and then we had four more preachers speak.
After the second session, I went home and talked with Hannah. She had no knowledge of what had gone on. I walked in and asked her a question. I said, ” If the LORD calls me anywhere, are you with me?” She had the “deer in the headlight” look. Her look told me to ask the question again so I did. She said after the second attempt, Yes, she would follow wherever the LORD would call us. Then, she asked, “Why?” I feel this was important because I had committed to God without knowing what I was committing to. Hannah also had to blindly commit to me, her husband, before knowing the circumstances or “the what”. God wants us to blindly commit to His calling. That is the faith the Lord wants us to have. I told Hannah what had transpired throughout the day. She asked me, ” Do you know what it is?” I told that I did not but when I did I would let her know.
Early the next week I had a feeling, I guess you would call it. I felt the LORD had showed me what was going to happen. As I had promised, I went to Hannah and told her that I thought I knew what was going to happen. This is what I told her. In our church, there are three full time paid positions. One is the pastor. One is the printer at our printing ministry, and one is the principal of our Christian School. All three positions were filled and had been for years. I told Hannah that Ron would step down as printer, Mike would move from Principal to Printer, and I was going to become Principal of the school. My wife, full of faith and spiritually minded said, “Yeah Right!” I thanked her for her support and told her that was what God had showed me. Her response this time was more open-minded. She said, “We’ll See.”
Two days later, on Wed, Ron stood up and announced that for personal reasons he would be stepping down as printer after many years of service. Hannah looked at me dumbfounded. COINCIDENCE. Over the next month, three men of the church applied for the job of printer. Mike was not one of them.
At work, we were just finishing the building project. The hectic time was beginning to turn into a more normal routine. My job had become easier. The workload was lighter. BUT I was not happy. I had always enjoyed going to work. I took pride in my job. My philosophy was I had to be there so I might as well enjoy it. I could not explain it. I was not happy.
Through the interview process, all of the men who had applied for the printer job had decided that the job was not for them and they were not interested in the position. At the September business meeting, Mike stood up and said that he felt that God was pushing him toward taking the job as the printer. It was a push he was willing to take if the church would allow him to make the move. The church voted then that Mike would become the new printer and now the position of principal was now vacant. COINCIDENCE. Hannah was shocked. After the meeting, I immediately went to the pastor and told him that I was interested in the job of principal. His response shook me. He said, “I know.”
After that conversation, I left it in God’s hands. I did not ask any questions. I just waited. In November, I was called in to have a meeting with the pastor and the deacons. It was then that I realized that another man had applied for the job. I never considered not getting the job. I figured that God would work it out. At the December business meeting, the deacons recommended that I be voted into the position. The church agreed and I was to start in Jan. The next day, I done something I never thought I would do. I gave my two-week notice to take a job that paid 1/3 less and I was not only happy about it, I was elated. The unhappiness that I had felt since August had also been lifted. It was then that I remembered something that Brother Ray had said. When you are not in God’s Will, you are just not happy. I realized that for 12 years, God’s will had been for me to work at Orscheln and I loved it. In August 2007, His Will for me changed and I could not be happy again until I was back in His Will.
I started the job of principal on Jan 1, 2008 and I have not had a bad day at work. I love it. It has now been 5 months and the school year is winding down and I still love it. We still run the youth department and love it also. Through the summer I will work at our camps and help Mike in the print work. I will also work on the next year of school. We are remodeling a building that we will use next year for our school. The LORD is going to grow the school and we need to be prepared for that. I will also go to some training during the summer to help better equip me in the new position. Everyday the Lord gives me the strength that I need for that day. He has blessed my family and I in so many ways there is not time to type it all.
The LORD is real and wants us to help Him. We do this by committing ourselves to God before he shows us where or what He would have us to do. If you commit, God will show you things and do things in your life that you would not seem possible.

One thing I’ll add that he shared with me, but didn’t include here. When me met with the church leaders, they asked him if he’d been praying about this decision. His reply was “No, not at all. God told me this was what was going to happen, there didn’t seem to be a point in praying about it.”

Grace is Scandalous

Here’s a Thinklings two-fer.
First, go read the incredible story of a man who’s mother was murdered by the next door neighbor’s son. What’s incredible isn’t the murder, it’s the grace offered by the family of the victim.

Yesterday at her funeral, her son offered to pay for the defense of her killer. … He said that he was following Jesus’ teachings: loving his enemies, forgiving others, and doing unto the “least of these” as he would to Jesus. The radio host said, “Jesus is my Lord and Savior too, but all I would want is 5 minutes alone with the guy.” “Yeah,” Mr. Barrios said, “but you’d be doing it to Jesus.”

Wow. There are only a few comments on that post, but the tone shows just how even believers can find grace scandalous and ridiculous to the point of tossing it out. Not possible or even worth considering. Except that when they need it, they’re glad that Jesus offered it.
The harsh responses to the story prompted Jared to share this post on the audacity of grace which he originally wrote in the midst of a particularly hard time in his former congregation, when their popular minister was let go.

Imagine you are one of the early church’s first members. You are sitting in a home with a few other believers, sharing a meal. You pray together. You sing a few Psalms. Someone recites a bit he’s heard of Jesus’ biography. Then someone gets up to read a letter to you from some guy named Paul.
Paul is a guy who used to go by the name Saul. It’s possible he is responsible for the murder of someone you know, perhaps even your parents or one of your children. Now you have to sit and listen to someone read not just words from this guy, but instructions from this guy. Since his conversion from Christ-hating enforcer of the Law to card-carrying Jesus freak, he’s not just one of your fellow Christians. He’s an authority over all Christians recognized by nearly everyone.
It is possible this arrangement would not have sit well with you.

Go read them both, but if you must choose make sure you read the second one.
Grace is what makes Christianity different. It’s what makes us whole. It’s what makes everything OK when it absolutely shouldn’t be OK. It’s exactly what we need and exactly what we could never expect to receive. It’s a ridiculous solution to a tragic and insurmountable problem. When all seemed absolutely lost, grace saved the day. Grace puts all the crazy endings to all action adventure movies to shame, both in it’s efficacy and it’s audaciousness.
We need reminded. We think too much that Christianity is a nice, straight forward religion. It’s not because at its core is a God who took the audacious step of suffering Himself to redeem those who had wounded Him. It’s even more scandalous than the victim’s family paying the legal fees of the murderer. In our trial it’s the prosecutor who dies for the defendant.

as we get older

Did you ever have a moment when life suddenly seems more real and things are put in their proper perspective? When you suddenly realize what’s important and you don’t want to loose the feeling, the realization?
Paul did, just about 13 hours ago, and he captured it beautifully in a poem. A snippet:

as we get older
before our eyesight fails us
let us make a pact
to glance upon each other’s faces
from time to time
and to invite the memory
to sear

Go check out the whole thing.

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