Tuesday, September 30- Early Squirrely!

Early SquirellyWhen I was a teenager, I couldn’t tell ANY difference between getting up early and the WORST idea I had ever heard! I LOVED to stay up late- I was always a night owl. But getting up early was another thing entirely. I was, to be blunt, a fate worse than death! Even in college, I HATED early morning classes. I tried SO hard to avoid them like the plague. And for the most part…I succeeded!

And then, you get out “in the real world” and pesky things like jobs and kids get in the way and, over time, you get better and better at handling the early-morning hours. You still don’t necessarily LIKE them any more, but you at least can handle them better.

Eventually, you have had to get up early for so long that you learn to not only adjust to the early hours but you actually begin to like them. (There was a tiome when I would have said that was crazy! Now…not so much!)

But lately, I have seen the polaer opposite of this behavior play out in my house. My younger son is choosing…CHOOSING…to be involved in things that meet early in the morning. Did I mention…CHOOSING?! He has been involved in Scholastic Bowl for 5 years now. (He got a unique opportunity to start early- when he was in 5th Grade.) And in the school district we are a part of, that activity meets in the blessed AM! 6:40 in the blessed AM, to be precise!

And NOW, he made the High School Jazz Band as a Freshman and they meet…you guessed it…at 7AM! And not once but TWICE a week! So, for those of you keeping score at home, that means that a full three days out of each week, he has to be at school somewhere between 6:40 and 7AM. And the thing that amazes me? He doesn’t complain. Oh sure, he’d rather stay in bed some days…who wouldn’t?…but he gets up on his own, takes a shower, eats and heads to the car. When I was his age, I could barely FIND the car, let alone want to actually get in it!

I am decidedly partial, but I have awesome sons- and I am so proud to be their dad!

Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- The Commitment Question: Do YOU Want to Quit?

Monday, September 29- Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head!

raindrops

Now it can be told! There is a woman who is a member of the congregation I currently serve who has ALS. She has fought valiantly against this insidious disease and is truly an inspiration to all who know her. She rarely misses Sunday morning worship and is a regular, contributing member of my Sunday School class.

As I’m sure you have seen, in the very recent past, there was a spate of “ice bucket challenges” that populated Facebook. In these short videos, someone would state that they are accepting the challenge from someone else. They say they will donate X number of dollars to ALS research. They challenge someone else…and then they have a bucket of ice water dumped on them!

When those were going strong on the internet, I began to have members of the congregation I currently serve contact me, suggesting that we as a churchy should do something along those lines to honor the woman in our church. As conversations happened, several suggestions came out. One suggestion was that we bring what is lovingly called “the horse trough” (it is, in fact…a plastic horse trough that the church has used at times for immersion baptisms) and have people stand in it during church, eight down front, and have the bucket of water poured over them. I allowed as how I didn’t think that would be the best choice!

In the end, we decided on a plan. A group of people gathered together last Friday afternoon at my house. There was myself, my wife, our Worship Director, our Director of Youth and Children’s Ministries, our Office Administrator, our Treasurer and the husband of our United Methodist Women president. We invited the woman who has ALS and her husband to come and watch, along with my wife’s parents, who live with us.

There is a deck on the front corner of my house that is JUST the right height for such a venture. One by one, the folks involved stood just off the corner of the deck, looked into the camera (my iPhone, actually!) and said why they were there and encouraged the congregation to “give when the cans came around”. Then, someone on the deck above them poured a 5-gallon bucket of water over their head! Then they would challenge the next person. And so on.

The last people to go were my wife and I. She was wearing a dress (machine washable!) and I was in a shirt and tie (a tie that I didn’t care about). I also had on black gym shorts so that the shot could be framed in such a way that it looked like black dress pants! My wife started out very nervously explaining what we were doing and why. Then, I looked at the camera and said, “We are very supportive of this venture, but I just don’t think this is appropriate for the pastor and his wife. Therefore, we support it but won’t be participating.” I then turned to my left, motioned off-camera and said, “Can I have my glasses, please?” That was the cue for not one but TWO 5-gallon buckets to be dumped- one on each of us! The video ended with a tribute to the woman in question!

Later on in each of our three Sunday services, cans were passed to collect specifically for ALS research. The money will be sent to wherever we find that uses to largest percentage of the money specifically for research.

Was it goofy? You bet! Did we have WAY too good a time doing it? Probably! Did it touch people and raise both money and awareness? Absolutely! I want to always be the kind of pastor who demonstrates that it’s OK to let your hair down (metaphorically speaking!) and have some fun! It’s OK to not be SO straight-laced that no one feels they can connect with you. As Christians, we are not called to be OF the world…but we sure are IN the world! And SINCE we are, we need to continually look for ways to meet people where they are and help them get to…Jesus!

Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- Early Squirrely!

Sunday, September 28- Step Four: Plan the Activities

Terra Incognita Step Four     A woman invited several people over for dinner. All the preparations were made and, at the appointed time, all the guests arrived. After some “pre-dinner” conversation, the guests were invited to the table. And once they were all seated, the hostess turned to her six-year old daughter and said, “Honey, would you like to say the blessing?” “I wouldn’t know what to say,” the girl embarrassedly replied. “Well Sweetie, just say what you hear Mommy say.” The little girl thought for a moment, nodded to her mom, bowed her head and said, “Lord…why on earth did I plan to invite all these people to dinner?!”
This morning, we continue to venture ever deeper into uncharted waters as we continue our current Sunday morning sermon series- Terra Incognita. Latin for “unknown land”, Terra Incognita describes that which is beyond the boundary of what has yet been discovered. It’s the great unknown- the things that are beyond our current understanding. Over the 7 weeks of this series, we are looking at several aspects of the “uncharted waters” into which we as a church are currently sailing. And every week along the way, we pause to focus on the beauty, the wonder AND the challenge of the “undiscovered country”!
James 4:13-15 And now I have a word for you who brashly announce, “Today– at the latest, tomorrow– we’re off to such and such a city for the year. We’re going to start a business and make a lot of money.” You don’t know the first thing about tomorrow. You’re nothing but a wisp of fog, catching a brief bit of sun before disappearing. Instead, make it a habit to say, “If the Master wills it and we’re still alive, we’ll do this or that.”
Jesus is saying that if you want to be His disciple, if you want to truly follow Him, here’s what you need to do- make plans that put Him first, above everything else in your life. It may be simple…but it’s NOT easy. Teddy Roosevelt said, “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”
A couple on vacation was exploring the back roads of the Emerald Isle- Ireland. They inevitably got lost. They finally spotted a farmer who was leading his cow across the pasture. They stopped him. The wife asked (because we ALL know that men don’t ASK for directions!), “Excuse me, but could you direct us to Mohill? We’re lost.” A lovely smile creased the man’s leathery face and he replied, “You’re not lost at all, don’t y’see? You’ve found me…and I know where you’re going and how to get there.” When you’ve found Jesus you’re not lost at all, because He knows where you’re going and how to get there. And if you don’t make plans, if you don’t know where you’re going…you’re simply going to end up somewhere else.
Isaiah 32:6a, 8 For fools are fools and that’s that, thinking up new ways to do mischief. They leave a wake of wrecked lives and lies about God. But those who are noble make noble plans, and stand for what is noble.
Leadership magazine once ran a cartoon that showed a church building with a billboard in front that said: “The LITE CHURCH: 24% fewer commitments, home of the 7.5% tithe, 15 minute sermons, 45 minute worship service; we have only 8 commandments—your choice. Everything you’ve ever wanted in a church … and less!”
That might represent what some people are looking for in a church, but it does NOT represent what Jesus is calling OUR church to. The question ISN’T “Can I follow Jesus completely?” The question is, “Am I WILLING to follow Jesus completely?” We’re all human- sometimes we make mistakes, sometimes we make bad choices. But what God is confronting is NOT our ability to follow Him…but our willingness.
My wife’s parents live with us and, when they moved in, they brought with them a dog. She is a pood…cocker…shih…terr…she’s a DOG! And she’s a little dog. BUT…she THINKS she’s a big dog. Get her on the leash, take her outside and she begins to DEMAND that she is going to do…or NOT do…whatever it is she want do…or not do! “I want to go there! I want to stand here! I don’t want to go over there!” The reality is, however, she can THINK that all she wants- I outweigh her by some rather large exponent and therefore…she simply doesn’t get to dictate her plans!
Most people don’t have any REAL plan for their lives. They go through life without a clear picture of what God wants. They have no idea of their God-given destination. Many years ago, Albert Einstein was on a train bound for New York City. As the ticket taker came walking through the car, Einstein reached into his pocket to retrieve his ticket, but couldn’t find it. He frantically searched his coat pockets, turned his pants pockets inside out, but still couldn’t produce the ticket. The ticket taker said, ‘Don’t worry, Mr. Einstein, we all know who you are. Forget about it.’ About 20 minutes later, the ticket taker came back through the car, and by this time Einstein was on the floor searching everywhere for the lost ticket. Again the ticket taker tried to reassure Einstein by saying, ‘I told you not to worry about the lost ticket. We trust that you purchased one, and that’s good enough for us.’ Einstein looked up at the railroad employee and said, ‘Young man, this isn’t a matter of trust but of direction. I need to find the ticket because I forgot where I am going!”
When we seek to honor God with our lives, if we trust God will all our heart then He will work out everything for His own ends. In other words, even when we mess things up…we STILL belong to God and God will STILL work it out. Without God guiding you, you might think you know your plans, but the end result probably won’t be where you hope to be. The danger for every Christian is to put God on a shelf somewhere, on hold until we REALLY NEED HIM, and make our plans without giving any thought to what He wants of us.
An atheist, in what he saw as one last great act of defiance, left his farm to the devil. When he died, the legal system was baffled over how to honor his wishes. Finally, the court decided that the best way to carry out the farmer’s wishes was to permit the weeds to take over the farm, let the house and barn rot and to let the soil erode and wash away. The court declared in its ruling, “The best way to let the devil have possession of anything is to do nothing.” The best way to allow Satan to destroy your plans and dreams is to simply do nothing. Just continue to live with no plans…and you’ll never arrive at your desired life destination. A plan is simply a road map for getting you to where God wants you to be.
There is nothing wrong with planning. The problem is when we make plans without including God. The foundational question we should ask about any plan we make should be, “Is this plan consistent with God’s will for my life?”
So, how do you develop a plan that’ll get you from where you are to where you God wants you to be- in your marriage, your finances, your career, your ministry, your faith, your life? Well, first, you need a defining purpose. “What am I here for? Why do I exist?” The answer is clear: You are here…to glorify God. We are ALL here…to glorify God. That’s our purpose. Author and pastor Rick Warren offers a five-point purpose plan:
1. Worship. Our main goal as human beings is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
2. Fellowship/Membership. God wants EACH of is to be a contributing member of His body.
3. Maturity. God wants us to be spiritually mature- Christ-like.
4. Ministry. God wants us to meet a need in the world and to be a contributing part of the body of Christ
5. Mission. God wants to communicate to the world…through us.
A lot of people are simply NOT into planning. They just put their hope in “fate” and then accept whatever comes. But a plan for your life should involve something that you’re passionate about. But how do you identify what you’re passionate about? Bob Biehl, president of Masterplanning Group International, suggests six questions to help you identify your passion:
1. What needs that I see in the world are of concern to me?
2. If I could meet any need in the world, what need would I meet?
3. What are the most urgent needs in my country, my community, my work, my school, and my church?
4. What age group or type of people naturally interests me?
5. What are the major needs among my neighbors, my friends, and my family?
6. If I don’t meet these needs, who will?
Your plan, your purpose, should involve something for which God has given you special gifts. And I firmly believe with all my heart that God has given EACH of us unique gifts designed to help us fulfill our unique purpose…our plan…in the world.
In the end, there’s nothing wrong with making your own plans. But the Old Testament Book of Proverbs says that no matter what plans you make, God decides where those plans will take you.
Proverbs 16:1-3 Mortals make elaborate plans, but God has the last word. Humans are satisfied with whatever looks good; God probes for what is good. Put God in charge of your work, then what you’ve planned will take place.
If we commit our plans to God, then He will make our plans succeed and our paths straight. What’s the shortest distance between two points? A straight line! And when we submit our plans to God, He says He’ll make our paths straight. If we plan to go where God wants us to go, He will help make our path straight. Abraham Lincoln once said “No one ever got lost on a straight road.” Why? Because on a straight road, there’s only one direction to worry about. Oh sure, there might be little side roads, diversions and rest stops along the way, but as long as you stick to the straight road that God has for you, you’ll always know where you’re going.

Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head

Saturday, September 27- The Joy of Worship

worship1

I have a confession to make. Ready? Here it comes- I LOVE worship! Seriously! I LOVE worship. Now you might be saying, “Well, I would HOPE so, Pastor. I mean, you ARE, after all…a Pastor!” But I don’t love worship simply because I’m a pastor. I love worship because…it’s what I was made to do!

I was recently reminded of that fact. I had to go to a clergy meeting in a town that is a good, solid 45-minute drive from my house. I will admit right up front that the words “clergy meeting” and I don’t mix well! (Honestly, the word “meeting” and I are barely on speaking terms!) I have been to my share of “clergy meetings” over the years and, to be brutally honest, they are often right up there with watching paint dry on the “excitement scale”!

But this particular clergy meeting, and all the clergy meetings planned by my current District Superintendent (DS), are…different. Why? Because they are…ready?…worship services! Yep! Worship services! Meeting shmeeting- we worshiped! There was an awesome young man there who played the guitar and ushered us into a sense of worship. There was a young pastor there who is starting a new church in the greater area and shared his testimony with us. There was prayer. (My DS told the gathered that if they wondered whether or not miracles still happened, all they had to do was look…at me! Amen, Brother, amen!) After we worshiped together, we went to the basement of the church we were in and did the OTHER things that us United Methodists do well- eat! (Italian beef, slaw, chips, cake…good stuff!)

Worship- what was once something I could barely stand (I would check my watch and count the number of things STILL left on the Order of Worship in the bulletin) is now something I look forward to. I lead three worship services every Sunday and the only thing that would be better than that was if we had…FOUR! There is simply nothing quite like gathering together with fellow believers and lift your voices, your prayers…your lives up to God…together. For my money, it simply doesn’t get any better than that!

Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- Step Four: Plan the Activities

Friday, September 26- Look Busy!

look busy  I was recently driving through a community about 45 minutes from where I live. I found myself following a Deputy Sheriff’s car. I was obeying the law…and HE was obeying the law, so we were just…well…driving! At one point, I noticed two guys walking along who

would be the kind of folks many would “profile”. They both had shaved heads (insert your joke here), over-sized jean shorts and no shirts. Tattoos seemed to be the order of the day and shirts were, apparently, completely optional. They were laughing and kind of shoving each other as they walked, and they, frankly, had the stereotypical look of the skinhead/neo-nazis that television likes to typecast.

I noticed them RIGHT before they noticed the Sheriff’s Deputy car. The speed at which they suddenly got VERY serious and suddenly walked VERY straight almost made me dizzy! They looked STRAIGHT ahead, not acknowledging either each other OR the Deputy! After the police car passed them…their heads slowly turned to check and see if the Deputy had driven on…or was turning around! He drove on, they breathed a collective sigh of relief and life as we all know it went on as planned.

As I watched that scenario unfold before me, I was taken back to, of all places, seminary! I had a buddy in seminary that had a marvelous collection of funny t-shirts. You never knew which shirt Phil would have on, but you ALWAYS knew it would be both funny and clever! But arguably one of my favorite “Phil” shirts was one that had NO pictures on it…just words. But the words were…FUNNY! The shirt said, “Jesus is coming…look busy!”

I regularly laughed at Phil’s shirt, but I wonder if it hits a bit closer to home than many of us might be comfortable with. We struggle all the time with behaving in a way that makes Jesus proud of us. We WANT to live our lives in the right way, but some days it’s SO hard.

I heard a quote recently that made me laugh out loud- “You don’t want to get caught lying to God!” The quote is funny, but it also reveals a flaw in the way we sometimes approach God. We seem to want to see God…like we see each other. “If I do this or that wh

en He’s not around to see…I’m gold!” But the truth is that it doesn’t work like that. God is ALWAYS there, ALWAYS with us, ALWAYS watching. That fact used to creep me out a bit, but now I find it very comforting. He is ALWAYS with me. Good stuff!

So instead of “Jesus is coming…look busy”, perhaps our t-shirts should say “Jesus is here…stay busy!” His presence in our lives should make us want to remain active in the ministries to which He has called us! Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll go work on that new t-shirt!

Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- The Joy of Worship

Thursday, September 25- Situational Ethics

situational-ethics-cartoon

A phrase came up recently in a class I was teaching. It is a phrase that I am very familiar with but one I haven’t thought about much lately. The phrase is “situational ethics”. The Merriam-Webster online dictionary (my beloved dictionary.com didn’t cover it!) says that situational ethics is “a system of ethics by which acts are judged within their contexts instead of by categorical principles”.

So situational ethics is a construct whereby “right and wrong” are defined much more by the specific perspective or circumstance one finds themselves in and much less by any over-arching and universal “truth”. A simple example that we can ALL identify with would be driving 15 miles per hour OVER the posted speed limit and justifying it when your kid or grandkid points out that you are breaking the law by saying, “I’m just keeping up with the flow of traffic!”

I DON’T think we can argue much about the fact that situational ethics exist. The reality is that we are faced with them everyday…every hour…nearly every moment.

So the question ISN’T, “Are we challenged by situational ethics?” Instead, the question is, “What do we DO about them?” And so…what DO we do about them? Is it OK to let the situation dictate how you respond, rather than have any semblance over an ethic that doesn’t adapt to the circumstance but instead remains rock solid? Are we comfortable with our kids and our grandkids seeing us “bend reality” to fit our circumstance?

I’m sure it must be obvious by now what I think! There IS a universal ethic that should inform everything we do…and everywhere we do it! There IS a way to act…a way to behave…a way to respond that should overshadow any individual circumstance. Look at it this way- if you’re swearing like a sailor when you’re out with the guys (or girls) or when you’re at work but you are a paragon of virtue when you’re at home…you are FIRMLY ensconced in situational ethics.

Who is God calling you to be? Seriously. Right here. Right now. Who is He calling you to be? You may be saying, “I don’t know!” But guess what? You DO know! And guess what else? You will never be complete…NEVER…BE…COMPLETE…until you become the person God calls you to be.

And the only way…the ONLY way…you can be that person is to have an ethic that doesn’t change with the wind or the tide. If something is wrong, it’s wrong. And to justify doing it because of the circumstance is just that- justification. Draw a line in the sand. Stick to your guns. Refuse to give in simply because it’s easier. Treat people the way you want to be treated. Say “please” and “thank you”. Hold doors for people. Do the right thing…simply because it’s the right thing.

Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- Look Busy!

Wednesday, September 24- The Wholeness Question: Do YOU Want to be Made Well?

Wussification Do You Want to be Made Well     Do you want to stay safe in the world? Well, the 1st thing you need to is avoid cars. 20% of all fatal accidents occur in cars. The 2nd thing you need to do is don’t stay home! 17% of all accidents occur in the home. The 3rd thing is to avoid streets and sidewalks. 14% of all accidents happen to pedestrians. The 4th thing is you should avoid traveling by air, rail or water. A full 16% of all accidents happen on public transportation. After all of that, of the remaining 33%, 32% of all deaths occur in hospitals, so we should obviously avoid hospitals! But you will be pleased to learn that only .001% of all deaths occur during a worship service and most of them are due to preexisting conditions. Therefore, logic would CLEARLY dictate that the safest place to be at any given point is…the church! The moral of our story is this- attend Church- it may save your life!
Tonight, we are on the 3rd week of our current series- The Wussification of the Church. Based on the writings of Leonard Sweet, this series is squarely aimed at the decline of the mainline Church over the past 30+ years. Each week, we will look at what we can do to be on the front line of a much-needed resurgence in the American Church. Each week, we are asking a hard question designed to help us make those necessary steps. The 1st week we asked, “What are YOU looking for?” Last week the question was, “Do YOU understand?” Today we ask, “Do YOU want to be made well?”
There’s a counseling technique called “Solution-Focused Therapy”. In it, the counselor asks, “What are YOU going to do?” And almost always, the 1st response to that question is, “I need somebody else to do something FOR me- my husband, my wife, my boss, my kids…God.” For them, the solution to their problem is OFTEN the responsibility of anybody BUT the patient. And, to be honest, that’s a typical human response…isn’t it? It’s far easier to look for a rescuer than it is to take responsibility. But the Solution-Focused Counseling method reminds people of their role as a responsible participant in their own lives. We are NOT to merely be innocent bystanders- watching life go by, experiencing the hurt, rejection and disappointment that go with it but being unable to do anything about it. Solution-Focused Counseling focuses the attention back on the individual and their personal responsibility. But the truth is this- that technique isn’t really anything new- Jesus used it quite often.
John 5:1-15- Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda, which is surrounded by 5 covered colonnades. Here, a great number of disabled people used to lie down- the blind, the lame and the paralyzed. One man who was there had been an invalid for 38 years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, He said, “Do you want to be made well?” The man replied, “Sir, I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.” Then Jesus said, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.
I want you to imagine for a moment the Pool of Bethesda. It was a place where sick people would congregate because they believed they could be healed by getting into the water when it bubbled up. In the middle of that sea of humanity was a man who had been in that situation for 38 years! Then one day Jesus comes along. Here is this man- obviously crippled. He’s got all the accouterments and paraphernalia that were common to the folks who begged for a living. He And he has been there for 38 years- longer than Jesus has been alive! He has been hanging out at the pool for 38 years, hoping to be healed. Then Jesus comes along and asks the man a crazy question- a question to which the man offers a lame (no pun intended) excuse. And then Jesus gives him an impossible set of instruction.
The crazy question Jesus asks the man is, “Do you want to be made well?” Now really- what kind of question is that? Does the crippled man want to be made well? I mean, come on- that’s like when your dad would ask, “Do you want a spanking?” “Is that a rhetorical question, Dad? Can I have a second to think about it? Are there any OTHER choices?” Let’s be honest- the answer seems obvious.
But maybe the question isn’t as crazy and obvious as it seems at 1st blush. Think about it-
here’s a guy who has been crippled for 38 years. And like Blanch DuBois from the Tennessee Williams play A Streetcar Named Desire, he has had to depend on the kindness of strangers.
If he was suddenly “made well”, then he would also suddenly…have to start earning his OWN way in world- for the 1st time in 38 years!
He would no longer have any excuse. The responsibility would suddenly be his. So, maybe “Do you want to be made well?” wasn’t such a crazy question after all. Instead, maybe it was a question that pierced to the very heart of the issue and exposed the motives that lay deep inside.
Notice what comes next- the man doesn’t answer! Instead, he offers an excuse as to why he is not healed. “I’m all alone with no one to help me!” You hear his sad, tragic cry and you can’t help but feel sorry for him- he’s alone in the world. He’s crippled and he’s lonely. BUT…he doesn’t answer the question but instead offers up what amounts to an excuse. To say “There is no one to help me” also means, “I can’t help myself and God’s apparently not going to do anything for me either!”
But Jesus is having none of it. He’s like your mom- He’s heard it all before! AND, He knows there is a better day waiting for this man…if he will only believe. So Jesus says, “Get up, pick up your mat and walk.” Notice this- Jesus doesn’t offer even one little drop of syrupy sympathy. He does NOT accept the man’s whining and moaning. Instead, Jesus offers him a message of life and vitality. He offers the man what we might recognize as the Gospel’s version of Nike- “JUST DO IT.” And…the man DOES it! He picks up his mat and he walks…for the 1st time in 38 year- maybe for the 1st time ever.
Now, let’s be clear- the healing was 100% by Jesus’ power. But there IS a human factor here as well. Think about it- who healed the man at the Pool of Bethesda? Jesus did. But who had to get up and walk? The man did. Who saves us from our sins? Jesus does. But who has to repent and believe? We do. Who gives us the power to live above sin? Jesus does. But who has to consciously decide, day by day, to follow Him? We do.
All too often, we hold on tightly to the things that tend to paralyze us spiritually. But Jesus can heal those things. And when Jesus heals us, we are left with no excuse for our lives other than the choices we make. We won’t be able to cry out, “My life isn’t my fault- it’s everybody else’s!”
The man said, “I don’t have anybody.” But in Jesus, we DO have Somebody, and not just someone to drag us around on our mats of self-pity but somebody Who can bring healing to our damaged lives. It frankly would have been easy for the man at the pool to simply dismiss Jesus as a nutjob. It wouldn’t have been the first OR last time. It takes more strength to obey Jesus’ impossible instructions, leave the hurt behind and accept the salvation that only He offers.
Despite how it may seem sometimes, Jesus isn’t oblivious to your pain, your hurt, you need. Just as He saw the man at the pool and knew he’d been there long time, He knows how long, how much and how deeply you’ve been hurting, too.
You may be looking at this story and thinking, “But what about all the OTHER people at the pool? Why didn’t Jesus heal them, too?” And to be honest, with a Master’s Degree, seminary training and 17+ years of ministry…I have NO earthly idea! Some people by the pool might not have chosen healing over hurting if the healing meant leaving their old life and no longer being able to lean on others. Some people actually choose to hold onto the hurts, because they’d rather complain and play the martyr than do the work necessary to get better. Maybe Jesus knew the man was ready to make a change. JC said, “Do you want to be made well?” It may sound like a “Well…duh!” moment, but it’s really not. I’m convinced a lot of people don’t really want to be healed- they don’t really want to be made well. Sound crazy? Not saying “yes” means admitting we hurt. “Whaddya talking about, Jesus? I’m fine- never better! Don’t worry about me; go help THAT guy- he’s the one with the REAL problems.” Saying “yes” means choosing wellness over pain. So for some, being a spiritual invalid isn’t so bad- somebody else does all the work.
Too much of the American Church is wussified. The Church used to be about great and mighty things- bringing light into the darkness, making the dead come back to life. The Church of Jesus Christ used to make waves. Now, I fear, many churches struggle to even make a splash. The Church has become wussified. It’s become populated by a healthy percentage of folks who whine and wheeze at every cut and scrape society gives them. The Church has a drug problem- they’ve allowed themselves be drug into places they really shouldn’t be. In a wussified Church, the pain comes from being relegated to the margins of a postmodern life. The healing offered by Jesus is downplayed- it’s consigned to nothing better than equal footing with meditation and exercise regimes that are designed to de-stress our hectic lives. Jesus’ powerful message to a weary world that is stumbling in soul-sucking darkness is often considered nothing more than leisure-time reading- a light summer novel. The Church has become just another, and I might add not very well recommended, option for spending time on a Sunday.
So, what about us? Jesus looks at us- sometimes crippled by our problems, our circumstances and our sin and what does He say? Is He asking us same question? Is He saying to us- “Do YOU want to be made well?” Do YOU want to continue to hold on to the hurt? Is it easier to just let the bitterness fester, to wallow in the hurt betrayal, licking our wounds? Or do YOU want to be healed?
Today, Jesus asks us the question, “Do YOU want to be made well?”…and He waits for our answer. Will you continue to hold on to the things that hold you back? Will you keep on offering the same old excuses? Or will you listen to the call of Jesus and reach out for that which is beyond you? Will you “Get up, pick up your mat and walk”? It’s time for us to leave our hurts behind, pick up our mat and walk. It’s time to choose healing over hurting. It’s time to take the 1st step. Will you? Will you believe in God’s goodness and His grace? Will you believe that He wants to revive your spirit and restore your heart? Will you admit to the hurting? Will you make the healing choice? Will you pick up your mat and walk? Jesus has the power to re-animate lifeless limbs and empty lives.

Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- Situational Ethics