Jesus Wants To Meet With Everyone (Bible Study Mark 10 – Part 1)

Mark 10:46-52 tells the story of Jesus’ encounter with Bartimaeus the blind man.

Jesus and his followers are entering the city of Jericho.  As they are walking along what is probably the main road it seems there is a crowd of people gathering.  Bartimaeus was a blind man sitting and begging on the side of the road.  When he hears that it is Jesus who is coming by he begins to call out to Him, asking for Him to have mercy on Him.

Bartimaeus had obviously heard of Him.  He cries out to Him.  The crowd tries to quiet him.  They basically say, get back to your side of the street.  This is Jesus, He has important things to do or teach.  Stop crying out.  But this doesn’t stop Baritmaeus.  Instead he cries out all the louder.

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Obedience Is Our Part (Bible Study John 5 Part 3)

We’ve been looking at the story of the healing of the paralyzed man in John 5.

Jesus is in Jerusalem and ends up by a pool near the sheep gate.  It was believed that when the waters were stirred (perhaps a spring occasionally bubbled up there) that the first person in the water would be healed.  Because of this there were many lame, blind, and otherwise ill people laying there.  One such man was paralyzed and had been in that condition for 38 years.

Jesus approaches the man and asks him, “Do you want to get well?”  The man answers that he does want to but that he can’t get to the water in time.  In a sense, as we said last time, he is saying that if Jesus would help him with his plan to get well then he could be ok.  He is failing to recognize that Jesus is offering something different, something more.  Jesus is better than the pool.

Jesus of course does not help the man into the pool.  He also doesn’t say, “Man that’s tough.  I hope that works out for you at some point” and move on.  Instead he does something very Jesus like.  He gives him a command.

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Do You Want To Get Well (Bible Study John 5 Part 1)

Today I want to begin to take a look at the story in John 5.  Here are the basics.

Jesus is in Jerusalem and ends up by a pool near the sheep gate.  It was believed that when the waters were stirred (perhaps a spring occasionally bubbled up there) that the first person in the water would be healed.  Because of this there were many lame, blind, and otherwise ill people laying there.  One such man was paralyzed and had been in that condition for 38 years.

Jesus approaches the man and asks him, “Do you want to get well?”  Wait!  What?!

I want to stop here and consider this moment.  First, let’s just get a few facts out of the way.  Jesus can for sure heal this guy.  He’s already done some healing previous to this.  He has the power to heal this man.  And this man has been in the condition for a long, long time.  Frankly it’s a minor miracle that he lived that long in those times while in that condition. He is also at the pool, hoping to get in at the right moment.  Why else be there but for the hope of being healed?

So why does Jesus ask him if he wants to get well?

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Your Faith Matters – Put It In The Right Things (Mark 2:1-12 Bible Study Part 3)

Today is the final part of a three part series on Mark 2:1-12.  This is the story where some people bring a paralyzed man to Jesus and because they can’t get him to Jesus they dig a hole in the roof and lower him down.  The first week we looked at what Jesus did and why He may have done it.  Last week we began to see what we might be able to learn about ministry and evangelization from this story.  We talked about how these friends loved their friend, worked as a team, and avoided two traps – they realized they couldn’t fix him, and they didn’t stop because there were obstacles.  Today we continue this line of thought.

Their Faith Mattered

These people who brought the paralyzed man had faith in Jesus.  They knew that only He could offer eternal forgiveness and that only He could heal the man.  Not only that, but they had so much faith that they were really to work really hard to do it.  They didn’t let obstacles get in the way.  They didn’t quit because it was hard.  They were sure that if they could get their friend in front of Jesus that good things would happen.

In the account it says that it is when Jesus saw their faith He said to the man, “You sins are forgiven”.

This is a really tough thought.  It doesn’t say that Jesus saw the paralyzed man’s faith.  He sees the faith of those who had brought him.

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Evangelization Starts With Love (Mark 2:1-12 Bible Study Part 2)

Last week we began to take a look at Mark 2:1-12.  This is the story where Jesus is teaching at a house and some people come bringing a paralyzed man to Him.  They can’t get him to Jesus because of the crowd so they go to the roof and drop the man down in front of Jesus.  Jesus forgives the man of his sins and then heals him.  Last time we looked at Jesus and what He was doing in this story.  Today I want to look at how this might be applicable to us in evangelization.

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Forgiveness of Sin of First Importance. (Mark 2:1-12 Bible Study Part 1)

Today I’d like to look at Mark 2:11-12.  This is a great story.  It tells us a lot about Jesus and I believe can tell us about some ways we think about evangelization.

Here’s the story in brief.  Jesus is teaching at a house.  It is full of people.  People inside and probably surrounding it as well.  His ministry is really starting now.  People are showing up to hear this new teacher and perhaps see a miracle.

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We All Need Touch

About 15 years ago my brother and I went to a Rick Springfield concert.  I can’t believe I just typed that.  You have to understand that I was a child of the 80’s and Rick, was well, sort of awesome.  He had 17 top 20 hits.  He was smooth with the lines and the ladies.  So anyway in 2000 or so, long after he was cool, he was in concert to promote a new album that of course no one actually bought.

At any rate there we were at Station Casino and it’s packed (meaning there were like a thousand people there. . . maybe).  Rick steps up on stage, and forgets the words to his opening song.  Haha. Then he says, “I sort of forgot the words there, but it’s ok.  I feel I’m among friends tonight.”  The “crowd” roared.  From then he was on fire.  Flawless as he belted out the tunes as we sang along.

At one point, he starts to sing one of those top 20 hits called The Human Touch.  “We all need the human touch.  We all need it. . . I need it too”.  Then he went out into the crowd and began hugging people and giving high fives.  My brother and I died laughing as we watched a 40 year old woman run screaming to a friend, “He touched me! He touched me!.”

I know at this point you are wondering why I’m sharing this story, but I share it because I think we actually do need human touch and as a single person it can be hard to come by.

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When “Staying You” Is A Bad Idea

When I was about 27 or so I had been dating a woman for a several months when she decided that I wasn’t for her and that someone else was.  It was a hard thing for me to take for a couple of reasons.  I had waited what felt like a long time already to get married and I really, really thought she could be “the one“.

As I was processing through the “breakup” I was fortunate to have some good friends and mentors who really came along side me.  But one of the weirdest conversations I had was with a woman maybe 20 years older than me said something like, “Wow it’s hard.  All these years you’ve been single.  How do you keep from blaming yourself?  How do you keep from thinking you’re the problem?”

I gave some sort of answer to that.  I don’t really remember what, but I’m sure it was good. But here’s what is interesting.  In many ways I’d like to have that conversation back.

While I think that this woman was honestly just trying to be encouraging and telling me that, “Hey, don’t worry – it’s not you” maybe what I needed to hear was, “So what part of this is you?”

The reality was in that particular case, it really wasn’t me.  But the fact that I made it to 41 and single – a lot of that was indeed me.

Do you remember when you were in school and you would get the school yearbook? There’d be a few pages or an insert or some other place where you would get notes from classmates. Have you ever read back over those?  It’s mostly generic stuff like, “Hey bro – great time rockin’ with you in English this year,” or “J Man – thanks for keeping me sane in Chemistry.”  But often we gave each other the worst advice of all – “Stay you.”  “Don’t ever change.”  Umm yeah – don’t grow or develop – good idea.

If I look back on mine, I could sum up the what every girl I was attracted to wrote – “J – you’re such a good friend.  Couldn’t have made it without you.  Don’t ever change.”  I’ll come back to this in a post soon – but that right there sums up far more guys’ lives than would want to admit it.

But for today, what I want to focus on is this idea that we don’t need to change who we are, what we do, how we act, think, or live.  I’m not saying people who espouse it don’t mean well, they typically do.  But when it comes to most things in life, and for sure dating and marriage – it’s just simply terrible advice.

In Christianese terms it usually means that God “has someone else for you” or if you stay true to yourself, then for sure God will bring someone at the right time. It could also be that every person you’ve ever been interested in had it wrong.  But the bottom line is, there is someone out there for you.  And you need to just stay strong and be “who you are” and then the “right person” will love you for “who you are”.

It all sounds nice, but I’m not sure how helpful it really is.

Without even getting into the dating/single/marriage stuff, we are not called to be who we are currently.  One could make a case that we are called to become who we are created to be.  But that is different.  Who I am right now is a flawed, broken by sin (my own and others’) individual.  I’m in Jesus and He is changing me over time to become who He meant for me to be.  But until I’m there – I should be changing, aka growing.

We all have stuff that we need to grow in and change.  Now to be clear, I’m not saying that you have to first get all your stuff together before you get married.  That’s part of the reason we have the problems we do, this false idea that i have to be “ready” to get married.

When it comes to dating, if the same stuff keeps happening over and over again, we need to look inward and ask what part of that is us.  What can we do different?  I think when it comes to dating, especially as a Christian guy, this seems to get skipped over.

Stuck in the friend zone over and over again?  That could be you.  In a new relationship every six months?  Maybe you.  Can’t seem to ever talk to or approach someone you are really attracted to?  Might be worth thinking about.

Look at this way.  In other practical areas of your life you grow.  When you were a kid, you got better at sports or math, or a band instrument.  You didn’t stay the same.  When you get a job – hopefully over time you get better at it.  Are your current friendships the same type as you had in high school? (If so, that might be a problem as well).

Relating to the opposite sex is no different.  If you’re stuck, maybe it’s time to change.  Maybe that means getting help -be it friends, counseling, books – you name it.

Most of the time in life, we know when change is necessary. We just don’t like it.  It’s easier to say, “it’s not me” than to say, “Maybe it is me”.

Final thought and clarification.  Am I saying be fake?  No.  Am I saying go out and misrepresent yourself? No – that’s called lying.  What I’m saying is it’s ok to grow in how you relate to the opposite sex.  In fact, I would suggest that if you are over 26 and single, it might be necessary.  It was for me.

 

Maybe The Church Should Man Up

My favorite TV show ever is Friday Night Lights.  Basically everything about it is good. Seriously.  I love the main character, Coach Taylor.

Taylor is the classic high school coach who wants to win and shape young men along the way.  What I love about it is that while he does give some nice pre-game speeches, he also personally invests into their lives.  Nowhere is this more true than in his relationship with a forced into action backup QB Matt Saracen.

Saracen’s father is mostly absent.  He is insecure.  He loves art more than football.  But Taylor is convinced that he can be QB1.  Taylor knows that isn’t going to “just happen” and so he invests in this kid.  Over the course of three seasons, Saracen grows into a grown up man.  He becomes a leader.  He doesn’t become a different guy, so much as he becomes the guy that he was meant to be.

What Taylor doesn’t do is say “man up” and then hope for the best.  He invests.  He takes Saracen to the field at night and works with him.  He has him over for dinner.  He goes to his house.  He speaks into his life in critical moments.  He fights with him and for him.  He shares his life not just his words.

As I mentioned last week one of the latest mantra’s being thrown at Christian guys is the idea that what we need to do is man up.  Now, full disclosure here, I’ve told people that they needed to man up.  I’ve said from up front that, “sometimes” you just need to man up. I’ve told people certain people that I’m invested in that it’s time for them to grow up.  What I’m saying here is that there are times where this is pretty good advice.  But what it isn’t is a good blanket answer for what is wrong in the world of marriage, dating/courting, and singleness.

When it starts getting put out as a generic answer it leads to all sorts of problems.  Here are a few, in no particular order.

1. We are terrible at linking it to singleness.  Do you have to get married to man up?  What if you’re called to celibacy?  Should you man up and be celibate?  Did Paul not man up? What does man up mean for my sexual desires?

2. When it comes to dating we are completely confusing to men.  Does man up mean ask everyone out?  Or do I man up and “wait for God” to bring me “the one“?  Do I man up and pursue the girl that said no or do I man up and walk away?  Do I man up and marry someone I don’t want to?

3. The man up people almost always assume its the guy that is the problem.  Women in the Church aren’t typically told to woman up so to speak.  What if the guy is doing everything right – or at least really trying to?  This is huge for both singles and marrieds.

4. Man up is kind of a charge into battle type of saying.  That can be good. But what if you are really broken?  Do you need to just man up?  Can you “heal up“?  Am I supposed to just try harder to get healing from my wounds caused by my sin and the sin of others?

5. It seems to me that if you’re not careful you could man up without actually walking with Jesus.  Just make it happen. Do, do, do.  What about grace?  Here’s the best part, most of the people using this line tell us all the time how sinful and bad we are and we can’t do anything good without Jesus.  Hmmm.  So I’m bad, can’t do anything good, but I should man up.  Gotcha.

Now hear me clearly.  I’m all for challenging guys to grow.  I’m all for having hard conversations.  I’m not saying we don’t have guys that need to basically man up.  But what I am saying is that as a talking point or slogan, without relationship, it gets into platitude territory in a hurry.  Or at the least, ineffective territory.

And this is the ironic part.  You know who needs to man up?  All the men who should be helping the guys in trouble by investing in their lives.  All the men who sit in the pews and applaud because they know that young single guy or the guy who is struggling in their marriage and think, “I sure hope that guy is hearing this – hope he mans up”.  All the seminarians and hipster Jesus dudes who sit around sipping premium brews of coffee or beer while sharing about how most men need to man up – and then not actually investing in any of those men.  How’s that for some tough man up talk?

When it comes to the single guys between the ages of 22-29 (soon to be 30 . . 31. . .) the main group that needs to man up is the Church.  You know why? Because those guys aren’t there to hear the speech.  And if they do come and hear it, and we don’t invest in them (read pour out our lives, spend time getting to know them) then they won’t keep coming.

If man up isn’t followed by, “and here’s how we want to help you do it” then we’ve failed. In other words, don’t tell someone to man up, unless you are willing to man up for them.

Christian Sexual Prowess

Yesterday I wrote about the fact that every guy asks the question am I good in bed?  How we answer that question is critical to our core confidence as a man.  We can wish it wasn’t that way.  We can try to over spiritualize it.  We can blow it off with joking and hiding.  But it’s still going to be there.  We question our sexual prowess as a man and we in the Christian community MUST have an answer.

At first glance it seems that as a “Christian” that there is no way that I could answer that until I’m married because I’m not supposed to have sex.  Often because we are so worried about sex outside of marriage and the costs that come with it, we end up telling men that they should just table the question and then “presto” answer it on their wedding night.  But in my opinion that is not good enough.  That might have worked a couple of generations ago when people got married by 25 but it won’t work now.

It’s a good thing to direct people to wait until marriage to have sex but it is not ok to wait until then to help them answer their question about sexual prowess.  They are going to answer it somehow.

We need to stop answering the sexual prowess question with a sexual ethics answer.  We need a different conversation.  Sexual prowess and sexual experience are not the same thing.  Thinking they are the same leads to men that are either having sex to answer the question or men that are living with lack of intimacy, touch and confidence in their ability to deliver.  Neither of those are acceptable.  The ironic thing is that our Christian theology actually does answer the sexual prowess question.

The first thing we have to do is realize that God has ultimately created us as sexual beings. It only takes one chapter in the bible for God to bring up sex.  We all have the tools, and I don’t just mean that we have the right “equipment”.

If we believe in a God that created us good, then we must start with the premise that God’s answer to do I have what it takes sexually is yes.  Let that sink in for a minute.  God says, “I have given you what you need here.  You can do this.  You have what it takes because I gave it to you.”

This is core.  Yes we are messed up because of sin. Yes we may have been wounded in this area in even horrible ways.  But at the core of who we are as a man, at the very center of it, we are created with sexual prowess.  It’s there, somewhere, no matter what our experience tells us.

The problem is we take sex out of context and turn it into it’s own question.  It becomes about performance which just kills us as men.  We fear failure.  We fear that we won’t be able to come through and when we make the act of sex the scorecard we are in trouble – even if we are “good” at it.

The act of sex was never intended to be that.  God did not create sex in it’s own context.  Sex is a part of a larger question.

Sex is not intended to be about performance.  It’s about loving another person.  It’s about trust, strength, intimacy and passion. It’s about giving and receiving. It’s about being a good lover, not about being a good performer.  This is why married sex (even in secular research) is described as the best sex.

If I try to answer the sexual prowess question without answering the intimacy question then I’m in trouble – even if I’m married.  Sex is not the goal.  In a sense it’s one of the means to the goal within the context of marriage.  As a stand alone thing, sex will not satisfy.  It will never answer the question.

If you are a good lover, you will be “good in bed”, or at least you’ll figure out how to be.  If you love well, the sex part will be there because there will be the context of trust, intimacy and passion to work on it.

The question we need to be asking is, “am I a good lover?”  It’s actually a lot harder question. If we need the woman’s approval we can’t be a good lover.  If we can’t be strong enough to be vulnerable, then we can’t be a good lover.  This is why women at their core are attracted to strength.

It’s a huge issue for us as men.  Becoming a lover is actually a stage of development just like learning to be a warrior.  Hence the wise saying, “Never give a man a sword who can’t dance.”

The good news is that we can work on all of this without having sex.  We can become lovers.  We can work on how to have intimacy and good physical touch (I’ll say more about how to do this soon).

Here’s the bottom line.  As a man growing in Christ, my sexual prowess should be growing because my identity and confidence in Him grows along with my capacity to give and receive love.   If I’m truly confident in Christ then I’ll have the freedom and strength to be a good lover – and as a part of that to be “good in bed.”