AND IT JUST GETS UGLIER!

 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

Romans chapter 15, verse 2; from the New Living Translation

You know, I thought I was through writing about the mess in the United Methodist Church. This was because I am no longer a United Methodist pastor. Yet, 48 years of service to the United Methodist Church compels me to pray for the United Methodist Church. But write about it? No way, Jose`! One would think that since the “divorce” is final for many former congregations and pastors, the words about us wanting to leave would be over. Apparently, some think differently than me. Even a friend and brother in Christ. Ron seems to think more needs to be said.

So, I am speaking only to United Methodists who are in the discernment phase and to those who think that as traditionalists they can stay in the United Methodist Church. And from the comments made on Ron’s post and similar posts, there is a prevalent mean and ugly spirit within those remaining United Methodists. He is Ron’s post. I am concealing his last name for obvious reasons.

Let me speak into this statement first: “How many Pastors drove this hatred of the UMC into their congregations?!” OK, Ron, tell us. What was that number of pastors who drove their hated of the United Methodist Church? Was it 1? 5? 25? 50? Of the 198 congregations that disaffiliated December 10, was it 100 pastors? I’m waiting, Ron. And before you give me a number, cite your research and sources.

Let’s look at the next statement: I’m not convinced that all those members had the desire to leave the UMC. OK, Ron. There was a 3 month clearly defined process and procedure. It included first and foremost, prayer. In fact, the entire process was to be covered in prayer. Are you saying those 198 congregations didn’t pray? Refused to pray? This process also required to hear from those who were staying in the United Methodist Church. And the last step was a Church Conference where all full members were allowed to be present and allowed to vote. The percentage required to approve disaffiliation was set at 67% in favor. Did the District Superintendent mislead the congregation on how they needed to vote? Was there collusion in counting the votes? Was there a conspiracy within the Conference Board of Trustees to just get rid of those 198 congregations? If their desire was to stay United Methodists, then why did the outcome of those 198 congregations say otherwise? Again, Ron. I’m waiting for your answer.

Now, let’s take on this next statement: “I blame their Pastors. I feel as if they indoctrinated their people.” So, Ron, it’s their pastor’s fault? Really? Are you saying that laypersons are incapable of forming their own opinions and making their own decisions? Hummmm. Interesting, Ron. I wonder how those laypersons feel about your statement? I wonder if they would agree with your personal assessment that they were incapable of making a factual decision. Or, perhaps, you have documentation to prove your allegation? Pastors have a difficult enough time to implement a simple change with just a simple majority. But a 67% majority? My experiences would find that hard to believe. I know your statement said “I feel as if”, but tell me, Ron, when did your feelings become facts? I’m still waiting for your answer.

Then you said, “It’s painful to let 198 congregations go in one day, not to mention all those Pastors who just quit and gave up their orders. It pains me to see so many of my colleagues just leave our Church.” To your credit, half of your statement is true. It is “painful to let 198 congregations go in one day”. And I wholeheartedly agree with you. But did you ever consider that it was painful for many of them, too? I have witnessed the pain of laypersons who made this decision. They are convinced it is where God is leading them–but it’s painful for them, too. Or is it that their pain doesn’t matter? Or is it your pain is larger and more important than their pain? Still waiting for your reply.

But the other half of your statement simply isn’t true: not to mention all those Pastors who just quit and gave up their orders! Just as congregations went through a discernment process, so have we pastors. I, and my fellow sisters and brothers have determined that God is leading us in another direction. And in an act of integrity, we must surrender our credentials. It’s what the current Book of Discipline mandates. We are not quitting, we are following! Following the requirements of the Book of Discipline. But more important–we are following Jesus to where He is leading us. If Jesus is leading you to stay in the United Methodist Church, then be faithful to Jesus, Ron. No one is accusing you of not following Jesus. I cannot tell you what Jesus wants you to do anymore than YOU can tell us what Jesus wants us to do when it comes to the United Methodist Church. I hate to think this, but you give the impression of arrogance. We haven’t given up. Just because you say we’ve given up doesn’t mean we have. In case you haven’t figured it out–sometimes it costs us dearly when following Jesus. At 66 years old, I could have simply retired, and kept my United Methodists orders. But God is leading me in a different direction. I’m not asking nor expecting you to like it–however it is reasonable to expect from you my friend and brother in Christ, to respect my decision.

And one last statement you made and I do not know if you thought about how it sounds: I say to those 198 congregations, “Go ahead and Leave, do whatever it is you need to do. We will continue to stand in the light of God and do our part to spread God’s Kingdom! This will not stop and Jesus will be our guide and Lord!” Ron, I hope and pray you will continue to stand in the light of God. Know what, Ron? We who left are going to continue to stand in the light of God and do our part to spread God’s Kingdom, too. Is that so hard for you to comprehend? Surely you are not so–what’s the word–presumptuous as to think we are incapable of making the same decision! Are you? That’s not the Ron I met and thought was my brother in Christ and friend.

You ended your post with these words: “May our tempers be calm, God’s grace prevail, and by the mercy of the Holy Spirit help us all to move forward.” By us all, do you mean US ALL–or just United Methodists? Ron, if you are just frustrated, I can relate to that. But the accusations you made against 198 congregations and us pastors–well it doesn’t sound like moving forward, it doesn’t sound calm, and it certainly isn’t grace-filled words. Contrary to your statements, I am capable of listening to God and following Him where He wants me to go. Your words, my friend, didn’t form my decision. However, they did confirm I made the right decision.

So, to current United Methodists who are traditionalists/conservatives that think there’s room for you in the United Methodist Church–I can’t tell you what to do. But know that the voice of my friend isn’t the only voice offering ugly words and a lack of grace. You are held in contempt until you agree with progressives. If you can live like that, then by all means, stay United Methodist. I am not abandoning the United Methodist Church. I’m not quitting the United Methodist Church. I am following Jesus, Ron. I’m follow Jesus–even if you think I’m not!

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CUPCAKES!

 “You have minds like a snake pit! How do you suppose what you say is worth anything when you are so foul-minded? It’s your heart, not the dictionary, that gives meaning to your words. A good person produces good deeds and words season after season. An evil person is a blight on the orchard. Let me tell you something: Every one of these careless words is going to come back to haunt you. There will be a time of Reckoning. Words are powerful; take them seriously. Words can be your salvation. Words can also be your damnation.”

Matthew chapter 12, verses 34 thru 37; from The Message (Msg)

Cupcakes! We are living in a world of cupcakes! No, not the kind one sees at parties! It’s people I’m talking about. When I was young, I often wondered why “old people” were always so. . .so blunt. They didn’t mince or sugar-coat their words. And now that I’m old, I understand. As I get older I know that my time here is getting shorter and shorter. Thus, my opportunities to speak the truth are becoming fewer and fewer. I realize that I just don’t have the time to draw pictures to explain the things that are really important. It seems my ability and talent to be snarky has come into full bloom. I define snarky as a mixture of satire with a heavy dose of sarcasm. But here’s the thing–I don’t use it very often. Some may say otherwise, but they’re wrong. I refrain from using my snarky more times than Carter has little pills. (You have to be from the south to know what that phrase means!)

My previous post brought out my snarkiness. And as snarky tends to do, I offended at least one person. (click here to see the post) Someone thought my insights worthy of passing along to several people via email. And I am humbled they thought so. Apparently one of the recipients did not like my blunt honesty. And had this to say about my post: It’s insulting and immature to speak to grown people who can think and decide for them self. To point I think it’s low class to say suck it up buttercup.”

Allow me the kindness to pull out one part of that comment for further reflection: It’s insulting and immature to speak to grown people who can think and decide for them self.” Yes, people can think and decide for themselves. Got no problem with that premise. Our problem as a church, culture, and society is HOW people think. I.E.–people are all to quick and easy to be offended–especially with The Truth. It goes beyond the insane concept of political correctness. It’s rooted in how people respond. And the United Methodist Institution is an excellent case study.

People are so afraid of hurting someone’s feelings that it has become more important to be nice than it is to be truthful. Somehow it has become mean and ugly and hateful to be truthful; that somehow if we disagree with someone that we can’t and don’t love them. Where did this idea come from? I KNOW! I KNOW! From the heart and mind of Satan! Yes, Virginia, there is a Satan even if you think there isn’t. Nowadays the only way you can love someone is to approve, bless, and sanctify how they think. And if you can’t–well you are just plain ol’ mean and insulting.

I sigh a deep sigh when I think that it’s more important to make people feel good than it is to be truthful. Did you notice how Jesus responded in the passage I opened with this morning? You have minds like a snake pit! Did I miss something here? If Jesus said that today, people would demand an apology from Jesus! And IF Jesus was present like He was then, then by their views, Jesus should have said afterwards: “Oh, I’m so very sorry I offended you. And so that you can feel better about yourself, I renounce those words and I agree with you. Feel better now? Good! Here’s you a cupcake.

BUT WHICH ONE WAS IT?

11 To illustrate the point further, Jesus told them this story: “A man had two sons. 12 The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons.

Luke chapter 15, verses 11 and 12; from the New Living Translation (NLT)

The other day, The Spirit planted this thought in my mind and heart: But Which One Was It? Out of nowhere (actually it came directly from the Throne of Grace and HE who sits on it) I started thinking about what is commonly referred to as The Story Of The Prodigal Son. And I got to thinking, “Did Luke, who wrote this letter, really put a heading on this section that read The Story Of The Prodigal Son? Well, don’t most preachers give their message a title? It just goes to show how our thinking is influenced by HOW we think. When a writer sits down to write, they always put in chapter numbers and often titles. But Luke, and the rest of the writers didn’t write that way back then. In fact, (this may be a shocker to my fundamentalist friends), not only did they NOT put in chapter numbers as they wrote, they didn’t put in the verse numbers. These were devices added later on by editors and translators to assist the readers find a particular passage. Which only makes it a wonderful miracle that day Jesus opened the scroll of Isaiah and found the exact passage He wanted to use that day.

OK, OK, I’m turning into a professor of biblical studies. Let me get back on track. At some point, an editor added this heading for today’s passage: The Story Of The Prodigal Son. Notice, no “s”! Therefore, people assume only 1 of those sons was the Prodigal. Notice carefully what the Father did in this story: So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons. Now notice that there’s an “s”. This means the youngest and the oldest received their portion of the estate. Are you clear on this point? Good! So, answer my question: Which one was the Prodigal? Write down your answer. Got it? Good! If you said it was the youngest son:

Did you assume that because the youngest left home that he is automatically the prodigal? Well, doesn’t the word “prodigal” mean “spending money or resources freely and recklessly; wastefully extravagant.”? As a matter of fact, it does. But listen very carefully–Jesus never used the word “prodigal”. This is a story about a Father who had 2 sons–neither of which He identified as “prodigal”. WE and others have given that designation–but not Jesus. So, what’s my point?

It’s rather simple: This “Father” had two sons, neither of which understood their Father at the beginning of the story. Both sons were lost; but only one ended up knowing he was lost. We know this because of the ending of the story:

28 “The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him, 29 but he replied, ‘All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. 30 Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!’

Luke chapter 15, verses 28 thru 30; NLT

The eldest son did not share the heart of his Father. Instead of being thankful for all the money that had been given to him at the beginning of the story, he chose to be ungrateful because his Father didn’t kill and bar-b-que a goat for him and his friends. Can you see it now? We can be lost in the “foriegn” land, wasting our resources on things that doesn’t fill us with life. Or we can be lost right here at home, lamenting that we never had a party with bar-b-que goat. So, which son–the youngest or the eldest–was the Prodigal?

Sure, the youngest “wasted” his inheritance of money. But the oldest wasted his inheritance of the values that his Father had tried to impress on them both. And in case you’re not connecting the dots–we can be just as lost at home, sitting in a church building every Sunday morning, as the person who goes out on Saturday night and parties like there is no tomorrow. If we waste what God has given us on the things that don’t really matter when it comes to The Kingdom Of God–then WE are just as much a “prodigal” as the youngest son in the story. I’ll end today’s musings right here. But be warned, I may take this thought about “wasting what God has given us on the things that don’t really matter when it comes to The Kingdom of God” at a later date. But for now, let me say: “Be very careful who you label as the prodigal!”

What’s Your Synergy?

I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

Philippians chapter 3 verse 14 from the New Living Translation

Think about this: Energy produces synergy; and synergy produces energy! Perhaps I should take a step back and share the definition of synergy: the interaction or cooperation of two or more organizations, substances, or other agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects. Maybe I’m the only one this morning thinking about that word synergy. But YOU, think about it. Synergy is producing the energy that keeps your house with light, a/c, and such going. Think about hydroelectic energy. Water flows throw a turbine, the turbine spins against that thingy, and electricity happens. Or think about your vehicle. The gas (or diesel as the case may be) in the fuel tank is drawn up to the engine–then that computer kicks in pulling all the components together–and off you go to wherever. Remove just one part of these processes and the energy ceases to exist. What does this have to do with The Kingdom Life? Good question! Great question!!!

There is a synergy in every person; it comes from seeking and wanting life as they want it to be. That’s the point: Wanting life as they want it to be. They know they can’t get there by themselves so they seek other sources to cooperate with them to that goal. That energy forms synergy and that synergy forms more energy. When it comes to the human life and human heart, where we seek cooperation or help matters. For that source ultimately determines success or failure.

Some are seeking cooperation with the world’s value system; allowing the world to tell them what they need. It might be money, power, fame, or even sex. We see this synergy happening within my beloved Tribe, the United Methodist Church. Many believe that the Bible needs to be changed–or at least how we see the Bible–so that some might achieve what they believe will give them life. Cooperating with the latest pop psychology, the latest cultural trends is what many in our leadership believes will produce that synergy and energy that will reduce decades of decline.

The synergy that will produce the energy for the life we are created for is as Paul declared in today’s passage: through Christ! The synergy is found as we cooperate with Him through The Bible and with The Holy Spirit. For this synergy to work we must cooperate with God. You see, God doesn’t cooperate with us. He works ON us; IN us; and THROUGH us–never, never does He COOPERATE WITH us. WE cooperate with HIM! HE shows us what we need to achieve real and abundant life. And it’s all found in The Bible. But we also need the Presence and the Power of The Holy Spirit! Without The Spirit we end up with the form, but it’s void of the substance.

So, if you are finding your life missing some things–maybe even void of life–then do what Paul did–develop the synergy by cooperating WITH HIM that creates the energy which in turn produces the life, the ONLY life that fills us with peace, joy, and hope. And so much more. So VERY much more.

The Word In Our Feet! When The Times Are Dark!

This is the second and last of the series Getting The Word In Our Feet.  We need, more than anything else in these times of chaos and fear is Direction.  Not just any direction; but a New And Different Direction.  Choosing a direction is not enough.  Choices without action are worthless.

Last week we learned that Any Choice That Doesn’t Come With Action Is Just Wishing And Useless.  That’s what the Old Testament illustration of the Hebrews at the edge of the Promised Land teaches us.  All those over 20, except Caleb and Joshua, never got to live within God’s promise.  Their direction was cemeteries scattered throughout the wilderness.  Now we look at a New Testament story about a single cemetery that illustrates the need for Both Direction And Action.  Turn to John 20:1-9 (N.L.T.)

Early on Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance.  She ran and found Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved.  She said, “They have taken the Lord’s body out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!” Peter and the other disciple started out for the tomb.  They were both running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.  He stooped and looked in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he didn’t go in.  Then Simon Peter arrived and went inside. He also noticed the linen wrappings lying there, while the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head was folded up and lying apart from the other wrappings.  Then the disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in, and he saw and believed—for until then they still hadn’t understood the Scriptures that said Jesus must rise from the dead.

Decades ago, before radar and computer flying, an airplane was somewhere over the Rockies in a fog that went from the ground to way above the clouds.  The pilot came over P.A. and announced, “Ladies and gentlemen, I have some good new and some bad news.  First, the bad news: we’re lost!  But the good news is, we’re 2 hours ahead of schedule.”  This describes the culture we live it; it describes people all around us—2 hours ahead of schedule but lost.

When times seem to be the darkest, people struggle to find the right direction and the subsequent actions that will bring them out of the darkness.  And here is the One Thing you need to remember today and it’s a principle that will always work:  Actions, Not Intentions, Produce The Right Outcomes. The Good News Of God’s Kingdom isn’t about changing our intentions—it is about changing our actions.  It’s not all that complicated.  Intentions cannot produce faith.  Cannot manufacture hope nor deliver us from our fear and despair. 

I can intend to do something all day long and will accomplish nothing.  If you don’t believe this, just trust me on this because I’ve done it enough to be an expert.  Just suppose Debbie asks me to do something before the day is done, I’ll say, “OK, dear, I’ll do it.”  Well, I intend to get that done.  But come the evening, if I haven’t done that, she’s going to get upset at me.

But why?  I mean I intended to do what she asked.  I intended to do it better than she thought I could do it.  Why is she so upset?  I intended to do it.  It’s just unbelievable that she would get upset that I didn’t do that—even when I intended to do it.  Are you starting to get the picture here?

Let’s bring this down to this principle and the passage behind it.  Easter Morning. I don’t know what went through your minds then I read the text. Maybe you thought that Easter’s not here yet.  Lent doesn’t even start until Wednesday.  I still have a couple of days of indulgence left.  

When I read this, I focused on what was happening to the people.  Mary Magdalene RAN to tell the disciples.  The disciples RAN to the tomb.  These folks were RUNNING!  There was motion and movement by these people. The Resurrection got the disciples involved with direction, motion and movement.  They no longer stood still!  Christians are people who Run!  The question for us here and every church is this:  How Can We Get The Word In Our Feet So That We Can Get Motion And Movement On Our Part Into God’s Promises? 

Well you have to understand that there are Sitters and there are Runners.  One of the ways you can sort out people in church is to say they come in 2 types:  Sitters and Runners.  OK, let’s look at each.

1.  First, Let’s Look At The Sitters.

The best way to describe sitters is to image them in a rocking chair, rocking and watching the world go by.  Sitters Are Those Who Are Content With Motion Without Movement And Momentum.  They Have Been Deceived Into Thinking Motion Is Movement When It’s Clearly Not Producing Momentum.

Well, here, let me show you with this rocking chair.  There’s motion, but nothing is really changing.  If you’re not prone to motion sickness, rocking really is relaxing—if you’re into that sort of thing.  There’s activity and motion, but look—this rocking chair is still here.  Am I right?  I’m moving; I’m just not going anywhere. If I turn the rocking chair around, nothing’s really changed—I’m just looking in a different direction.  OK, I’ve changed direction, but I still in the same place.  The only thing that has changed is my view.  I’m not in a different place—I’m in the same place, just a different view.  And nothing has really changed. 

Sitters Are Those Who Are Deceived Into Believing That Because They Are Rocking—There’s Motion—That This Motion Is Enough.  While rocking in a chair may be relaxing and enjoyable it is not accomplishing anything—other than make us feel better about ourselves. 

2.  Now, Let’s Look At Runners.

Runners are different!  They don’t stay in the same place.  And their view is always changing.  Runners have direction and motion—just like the sitters—but runners add the all important element of forward movement.  It Is Movement Not Motion That Always Creates Momentum.  Movement and momentum described what was happening in that cemetery just outside of Jerusalem.  Transformation began when they started running.  Running Produced Movement And That Movement Starting Producing Momentum.

Churches Are Dying Today.  It’s Not Because Of A Lack Of Direction.  Everyone is pointed in some direction.  It’s Not Because Of A Lack Of Motion.  Ever heard the phrase “Going through the motions”?  It’s Because They Have Lost Movement And Without Movement There Is No Momentum.   Remember the rocking chair.  There is always motion—but no real movement or momentum.

There was a runner by the name of Saul of Tarsus, running as hard as anyone against Jesus.  But God grabbed him on the Damascus Road, turned him around, and he kept right on running, this time as Paul the Apostle to the Gentiles!  Give me a church full of runners every time; even if like Saul, they are running in the wrong direction.  

Because when you get runners going in the right direction, things happen!  Communities change for the better.  Families become stronger.  People quit complaining and whining so much.  People meet and follow the real Jesus.  And The Very Foundations Of Hell Tremble And Shake In Fear!  God Wants Runners!

We need to get the Word in our feet and start running!  How?  Well, the Nike commercial says it best: Just Do It!  Don’t talk about it, plunge in with both feet.  The problem with a lot of congregations is that they want a pastor to be successful for them—to do the praying, serving, witnessing and get more members.  But this is not what God has called the pastor to do.  

The pastor is one called out of the life of the church, trained and approved to help you, the lay people do your ministry.  The pastor is not to be a busy body, his job is to get the body busy!  Now, I can back this up with scripture, Eph. 4:11-12—“These were his gifts: some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers for the building up of the body of Christ!”  

Who is the body of Christ? Those outside waiting to be saved?  NO!  You are!  How do we become Runners rather than Sitters?  Allow me to give you a few principles:

  1.  Begin By Being Still. We can’t be running in just any and every direction.  We need focus.  Being still before God gives us the direction to begin running.  Think about Elijah in that cave at Mt. Horeb.  He was running in the wrong direction.  But when he stood still before God, and listened, he found that new direction—and that new direction created Movement And Momentum.
  2.  Don’t Question Or Think About The Direction, Just Run. Try to do a cost or risk analysis on the direction—and Satan will convince you it won’t work.  Think about that day Jesus told the disciples to find something to feed that crowd.  They found a boy’s small sack lunch.  They should have been ready to run—but they did the cost/risk analysis and concluded it wasn’t enough.  If Jesus sends you to do something, then He knows what’s out there and He knows it will be more than enough.
  3. Build Upon Even Small Successes.  Your running doesn’t have to produce things worthy of a page in Guide Posts.  Think about Jesus and the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well.  After discussing buckets and wells, Jesus led her to thinking about the Messiah.  In the world’s economy it was a small success.  When He had her thinking about the Messiah He was able to get her thinking about herself.  And when He got her thinking about herself and The Messiah, she went and told her whole village about Jesus.
  4. Sustain Momentum.  Keep on praying.  Keep on studying The Word.  Keep up the pace.  Keep on living this Life In Grace.  Don’t ever settle in one place of success.  Think about those Disciples after Pentecost.  About 3,000 people were saved.  Hey, that’s a lot.  Time to rest, right?  Wrong!  They kept it up—sharing life together in meals, Holy Communion, praying and growing in maturity.

And since you can’t follow Jesus and stay where you are, here’s your Next Step:

Decide Right Now If You Are Going To Be A Sitter Or A Runner!  

Years ago, someone gave me this poem, called “Sitting By The Fire” and it’s on the back of your sermon notes page:

Sitting By The Fire

He wasn’t much for moving about, it wasn’t his desire,
No matter how hard the others work, HE WAS SITTING BY THE FIRE!
This went on from day to day, he never seemed to tire,
when others were working so hard in the church, HE WAS SITTING BY THE FIRE!
He died one day as all must do, and some say he went up higher,
but if he’s doing what he’s always done, HE IS SITTING BY THE FIRE

Are you a Sitter?  Or will you become a Runner?

BLUEPRINT FOR A NEW YOU: DEVELOP YOUR PERCEPTION!

Last week we talked about the importance of having a transformed mind because only the mind transformed into the mind of Christ can discover, accept and live in God’s will.  But God also wants us to see our world the way He sees it.  And it’s different from the human view.  To be able to see a person or situation in a different way requires paying close attention to all the details, even the minute details.  It’s easy to overlook the most obvious things, and sometimes it’s not easy to see the smaller details.

At times it even requires that we look at more than just what lies at the surface.  We need to see beneath the surface at what you can’t see, and most of the time, that’s real difficult.  I Mean, How Do You See What You Can’t See

But with persistence, careful analysis, and sometimes even with the help of a friend, we can scratch beneath that surface and discover more, much more than we thought.  Seeing requires more than just physical eyes.  It takes the right perspective.

Take a moment and think about something you had misplaced; maybe car keys or a tool.  You look everywhere and it just seems to have vanished.  We blame the kids, the spouse, or even a gremlin.  But then you start all over looking again and like a miracle, there it is.  It was there when we looked the first time.  We want to think that somebody put it there AFTER we looked, but the truth is—it was there all along.  We simply didn’t see it.  Our perception is it wasn’t there.  The reality is it was there!

It is tragic for anyone who is physically blind.  But there are so many who have been able to compensate for their loss of sight in so many other ways. 

Think about Helen Keller and her accomplishments.  Think about the contributions to music made by the likes of Stevie Wonder, Ronnie Milsap, and Ray Charles.  But, as tragic as it is to be without sight, there is a greater tragedy when We Live Our Lives Without Perception

Let’s step back a moment and define perception.  Here is my definition of perception:  Perception Is The Ability, Skill And Gift Of Recognizing What Is Happening To Us, Around Us, And Within Us. 

  • When I say it’s an ability I mean that God has given every one of us a way to recognize all that makes up our world.
  • When I say it is a skill what I mean is that this given ability needs to be sharpened and refined through use. 
  • When I say it is a gift by that I mean only God can bring all our ability and skill to the depth that we need in order to live life the way it has always meant to be.

We all have blind spots, and not just in our cars.  We have emotional, psychological and spiritual blind spots where we fail to recognize what is happening around and even within us.  And in this Blue Print For A New You, you need to Develop Your Perception.  Let’s look at the story of a man who needed his physical eyes opened and see if there’s something in this that can help us in our perception of God and our world.  It is found Mark 10:46-52 and I want to share it with you from The Message:

They spent some time in Jericho.  As Jesus was leaving town, trailed by his disciples and a parade of people, a blind beggar by the name of Bartimaeus, son of Timaeus, was sitting alongside the road. 

When he heard that Jesus the Nazarene was passing by, he began to cry out, “Son of David, Jesus!  Mercy, have mercy on me!” Many tried to hush him up, but he yelled all the louder, “Son of David!  Mercy, have mercy on me!”

 Jesus stopped in his tracks. “Call him over.”  They called him.  “It’s your lucky day!  Get up!  He’s calling you to come!”  Throwing off his coat, he was on his feet at once and came to Jesus.  Jesus said, “What can I do for you?”  The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”  “On your way,” said Jesus.  “Your faith has saved and healed you.”  In that very instant he recovered his sight and followed Jesus down the road.

Now, try to put yourself in the shoes of this beggar named Bartimaeus.  Think about his world and his life.  Ask a resident around Jericho, “Who is this fellow Bartimaeus?”  Anyone who knew would probably answer, “Oh, he’s just a poor, blind beggar, that’s all.”  Nothing more, nothing less—a poor, blind beggar.  What does it mean to be blind?  Normally, most people think about total darkness, and for sure, some who are blind live in a totally dark world.  But not all blindness is total darkness. 

If you forget everything else I say today, then remember this:  Only God Can Give Us The Vision To See A Future Filled With Promise, Hope And A Real Purpose.   

I was blessed with the friendship and teaching of a saint by the name of Dr. David Naglee.  For years he wore glasses that looked almost like prisms.  Later on he needed the help of a magnifying glass to read.  And finally he had to give up teaching anywhere but near his home at LaGrange College because with the strongest lenses and the strongest magnifying glass, his world turned blurry. But Dr. Naglee never lost sight of God’s Promise, Hope and Purpose for his life.  He lived with a laser-sharp perspective.

So many today are living an out of focus life.  Day after day after day many are living in blindness that they don’t want to live in.  And sadly, many have resigned to that kind of life.  Maybe that’s where Bartimaeus was.  Every day was the same for him.  He would go to a spot, sit there and beg.  He never woke up with the excitement of anticipation that something exciting would happen.

All he could pray for was that generous people would pass his way.  And on that ordinary day, just another-day-of-begging, he went to that place.  He was hoping for enough to just barely get by.  But suddenly he senses a large crowd and there’s a lot of commotion and talking.  He can’t see what’s happening but he has a feeling something big is happening.  He just doesn’t know how big a happening it will be.

He asks, “What’s going on?”  And someone tells him, “It’s Jesus, the traveling Rabbi from Nazareth.”  Bartimaeus Is Blind, But He’s Not Deaf.  He’s heard people talking about Jesus and all the miracles He had been doing.  And he found in his heart a small ember of hope.  If Jesus could heal others diseases, just maybe He could open his eyes.

But he has to act; no time for delaying or pondering.  So with the loudest voice he had, he began crying out, “Son of David, Jesus!  Mercy, have mercy on me!”  The people around him tried to hush him up, but he only got louder.  Let’s leave Bartimaeus in his place of begging to ask you 3 crucial questions:

1.  What Is It That Blinds You?

There are lots of things that blind us to the real world around us.

  • Prejudice blinds us because we make up our minds before we know all the facts, and so it blinds us to the worth and value that God sees in people. 
  • Oh, then there’s Fear.  It gets us all knotted up inside to where we can’t think clearly.  It makes problems and especially potential problems more powerful than they really are and causes us to doubt God’s presence, promises and provisions. 
  • Resentment and its twin Bitterness can blind us to the power of grace.  Resentment and Bitterness are like kudzu; it grows wildly and covers everything up in its path.  They are like corrosive acid, destroying everything it touches so that on the inside, we become hollow and empty people.  It Takes Away Hope, Joy And Peace. 
  • Feeling Forgotten can blind us to the truth that God loves us.  The feeling of being ignored, that no one cares, can shut down the heart and spirit.  It will blind us to the truth that God does love us. 
  • When we feel unloved, unwanted by others, makes it easy to think that God doesn’t love or want us.  Perhaps this is where we find Nicodemus.  Being crushed by the belief no one cares crushes us.  A lot of people are in this place still today.

There are lots of other things that blind us.  This makes it crucial that we regularly evaluate our heart and mind to see if something is blinding us to the real world and to the presence of God.  Question 2:

2.  What Does NOT Seeing Cost Us?

We don’t know if Bartimaeus was born blind or if some accident or disease claimed his eyesight.  The price of losing one’s sight is to miss, miss the experiences that happen every day.  When we are spiritually blind, we pay the same price, too. 

  • We miss seeing the beauty that is always around us.  We can miss the beauty of a smile, the beauty of a child exploring their world. 
  • We miss friendships that are waiting to be made by someone who has so much to give as a friend. 
  • We miss experiencing love from another person.  Our hearts could be changed if we knew we are unconditionally loved.  But if we are blinded spiritually, we can’t see those people.  We miss feeling the sigh of relief that comes from a friend who simply offers their presence and nothing more.  It not only costs us.
  • The price is extracted from others who miss out on the ministry that only you can give.  The biggest price of our self-imposed blindness is that others are denied what God longs to pour into them, through us!  NOT seeing costs us the opportunities to become the presence of Jesus through the use of our hands, our words, our actions and our hearts.  It strips us of the very purpose we were created for.  Perhaps this describes Bartimaeus.  Always on the receiving end, never on the giving end.  We know deep down, that we are made for giving, for helping others.  Loss of perspective robbed him and robs us of that deeper purpose in life!

But there’s one more question that begs to be asked, and maybe someone here today needs to confront this question:

3.  What Can Happen To Us, If We Make The Same Request As Bartimaeus?

Bartimaeus is sitting by that dusty road begging when he hears that Jesus is there.  His heart knows what needs to be said—What Must Be Said.  For much of his life he had been treated as second class, but he cries out anyway. 

People try to silence him because, after all, What Could Jesus Possibly Want With A Poor, Dirty, Blind Beggar?  Would Jesus really have anything to do with someone who is a poor, blind beggar?  You Better Believe He Would.  And Jesus tells those trying to keep Bartimaeus silent, keep him away from Jesus, “Hey!  Stop treating him that way.  I want to see Him.”    And so they bring this blind beggar to Jesus. 

Why does Jesus want him there, near Him?  To ask the only question that God has for those who are poor, blind, and broken inside.  “What Can I Do For You?”  This is the question Jesus desires and longs to ask everyone, each of us. No beating around the bush for Jesus.  No long theological discussions or committee meetings.  Now Bartimaeus has a decision to make.  Should he dare make the bold request?  Does he fear that Jesus would deny his request?  I see no hesitation from Bartimaeus when he says:  “Rabbi, I want to see.” 

And in this very moment, right now in this place, listen—listen because Jesus has never stopped asking that question, “What Can I Do For You?”  And if right now you feel just like a poor, blind beggar, that your life is out of focus and blurred, that darkness, a darkness no one knows but you and Jesus, has blinded your eyes to a future filled with Promise, Hope And A Real Purpose, He is asking you, “What Can I Do For You?” 

Will you trust Him enough to repeat those same words to Jesus?  Lord, Savior, Master—I want to see!  And what will Jesus do? The same thing he did for Bartimaeus:  “Your Faith Has Saved And Healed You.”  Make your request, and then do what it says that Bartimaeus did:  In that very instant he recovered his sight and followed Jesus down the road.  And that, my friends is how Jesus works: To Give Us Eyes That Are OpenAnd Then For Us To Follow Jesus Down The Road.

Your Next Steps

Your next steps are simple—but they may be difficult. 

What Do You Want Jesus To Do For You?

What is it that is keeping you a prisoner—a captive?  What is it that has robbed you of any hope of a better you—a better future?  What is keeping you from seeing your world—your situations—this church—your life—the way HE sees it? In order to see all this as God sees it, then you have to confront whatever it is that is blinding you to what God sees.  Things like Pride, Fear, Prejudice, Bitterness, Resentment, Overwhelming Grief, A Sense Of Worthlessness….and the list goes on.  Only Jesus can help you see—and the Good News today is this:

He Will Open Your Eyes When You Admit You Are Blind.Only then can you have the perspective to see yourself, your circumstances, and the world as God sees it.

Remember, Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the Glory goes to HIM!