My Masters Swim Group Rocked My World Again

As I was running my long run, well long for me, this morning, it started hitting me that ten weeks from today, I’m going to be competing in the Kansas 70.3 Half Ironman (1.2 mile swim/56 mile bike/13.1 mile run).  This is a step towards the dream of doing a full Ironman race (2.4 mile swim/112 mile bike/ 26.2 mile run).

I really wanted to do Kansas in June, but as each month went by, it just wasn’t looking like it was a possibility financially for me, since the money Megan and I do have has to go to bills, food, and debt. I just couldn’t bring myself to spend the money it would cost to do this race, no matter how much I wanted to do, especially not knowing what’s going to happen after I graduate from school in May and my GI Bill stipend goes bye-bye.

Back in February I wrote about the Masters Swim group that has developed out of the triathlon club I’m a part of (here’s the link to that- https://impacteternity.wordpress.com/2014/02/04/how-my-masters-swim-group-is-teaching-me-to-be-a-better-pastor/).  Many from this group, and even more from the team are going to Kansas, not only to race, but to support those racing.  I told Brad, the club president and leader of the swim group that I wouldn’t be able to race it, but that Megan and I would still be going up to camp and cheer on the team.

Acts 4:32 says:

All the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had.

This last Thursday, I found out how my teammates put this verse into practice.  After the warm-up, and before Brad laid the smack down on us with a tough 1200 meter main set, Brad told me that my friends on the team were taking care of my entry because they knew how much I wanted to race this event.

They aren’t doing this for what they can get in return, because when I’m about 10 miles into that run after everything else, I’m probably not going to be glad they did this!  They did this because they could, and because they care.

So this week, I want to challenge you. What can you share to someone else? You have no idea how big a blessing you can be until you try!

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The Healer, The Haters, The Healed (Final Part)

The Healed

           The blind man did not have the education of the Pharisees.  He did not have the sight of his neighbors.  All he had were two eyes that did not work.  But when Jesus put that mud on his eyes, and the blind man went and washed it off, more than just a physical healing took place.  At the moment his eyes began to see, his life began to transform, as well.

            Though the Pharisees are spiritually blind, the blind man is not, and as the story progresses he becomes more and more aware of the true identity of Jesus. At the beginning of the story, the man does not do or say anything. He is merely a flat character used as an opportunity for the disciples to ask a question and for Jesus to teach a lesson. As soon as Jesus speaks to him, however, the blind man does as Jesus tells him. His unquestioning obedience is rewarded by the immediate cure of his blindness. His prompt obedience is remarkable, considering that he knows very little about Jesus; just how little he knows is made clear when he refers to Jesus as “the man called Jesus” in verse 11. Clearly he expects his neighbors to know who Jesus is, but he does not yet understand that Jesus is more than a normal person. He does, however, recognize that it was Jesus who healed him. The man’s amazed neighbors take him to the Pharisees, who ask him how he received his sight. The man’s response is often passed over without more than a cursory glance, but J.L. Staley reveals that the man’s response is a fascinating insight into his character. Unlike the lame man of John 5, who baldly stated that Jesus was the one who healed him, the formerly blind man seeks to protect Jesus from the persecution of the Pharisees. The man tells the Pharisees, “He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see” in John 9:15. The man does not mention Jesus by name because he is aware of the Pharisees’ attitude towards Jesus.

            The blind man plays a part in this, as well.  Jesus told him to wash off the mud in the pool of Siloam.  Now, he could have just as easily been walking, heard that there was water closer, and used that water, but he completely obeyed the instructions Jesus gave him.  His readiness to obey the command of Jesus is an essential element in the cure.  Jesus didn’t go with him to make sure he followed the directions, he went on his own.  Jesus provided a way to get rid of the label he had, and the blind man did what Jesus told him to do, and the blind man now became the healed!

            What this blind man knows is that once he was blind, then he had an encounter with Jesus Christ, and now he can see.  The label he had on himself his entire life, the blind guy, no longer exists anymore because of what Jesus did.  And Jesus can do the same for you.

Conclusion

  • Perhaps you label yourself as depressed.  Will you allow Jesus to take that label off?
  • Maybe you label yourself by your addiction.  Will you allow Jesus to take that label off?
  • What label have you put on yourself?  What label have others put on you?  Regardless of the label, Jesus Christ can, and will, take that label off.

Will you let Him?

Will you let Him?

Will you let the Healer replace that label, that label that the haters put on you, and let you be the Healed?

The Healer, The Haters, The Healed (Part 2)

The Haters

If you grew up in church, you see the Pharisees as villains.  You see them as really bad dudes.  Yet, if they were sitting next to you today, I have a feeling you would not think that at all.  In fact, you may have aspired to be like them.  These men came from all walks of life.  You did not have to be from a certain village, social strata, or economic status.  If you were a man, you could be a Pharisee.  The Pharisees were men passionate about the law.  They loved the law, and desired with all of their heart to live in such a way that they never disobeyed it.

For example, we all know we should wash our hands before we eat.  They even took that to an extreme. They were so focused on keeping themselves from being unclean that they would thoroughly wash their hands, for if they didn’t, by putting their unclean hand in their mouth when they ate, they automatically became unclean.

They weren’t bad people.  They did not do these things to be evil.  They lived this way because they desired to be godly.  Unfortunately, they missed it.  They were so wrapped up in how things should be done, that when God Himself came in and changed the game, they were blinded to what was happening.  They could not see the Healer.  They only saw the hated.  They were haters!

It wasn’t just the Pharisees, though.  Even those who knew this guy, and had seen him beg for years struggled with what happened.  Some thought it was the blind beggar, and others didn’t.  They couldn’t grasp that this guy could see, and then when they heard how the guy described this Jesus did it, they did the only thing they could think to do.  They took him to the Pharisees.

The neighbors, the friends, the Pharisees, and even the parents focused on the wrong thing.  Instead of seeing this miracle that just happened, instead of seeing how this blind man now possessed sight, they focused on the fact that Jesus worked on the Sabbath.  Jesus spit in some dirt, and physically made mud to put on this man’s eyes.

These haters became blinded by their religion, when right before them was the One who could give them sight.

So before we move on, how do you think you would react if something like this happened today? Let’s put the story in today’s context.  Imagine Jesus is tattooed up, pierced all over, and instead of doing something like this in a church, He runs into this blind man in a bar.  He takes some whiskey; puts in in his mouth; swishes it around, and then combines it with some cigarette ashes and puts it on the blind man’s eyes, and then tells him to go wash it off in the James River.

What would you focus on? Would you focus on the fact that Jesus was in a bar? Or that He put whiskey in His mouth? Or would you focus on the healing? Would you focus on the sight restored? Or, would you be a hater?

The Healer, The Haters, The Healed (Part 1)

John 9 provides for us an amazing story.  Many of you have either read it yourself, or heard of it.  Perhaps you saw it in a clip in part of a movie about Jesus, or when you grew up as a kid you saw it on a flannel graph, although, that reference is probably pretty dated and only those of you over thirty-five caught it.  Maybe, though, there are those of you who have never heard this story at all.  Regardless of whether or not you have read this story, studied this story, or have no clue about this story, we can learn something today.

            In this story we see different characters.  There is the healer.  There are the haters.  And then, there is the healed.

The Healer

            This story in chapter nine follows a series of debates between the Pharisees and Jesus about who He was, and what team He was on. Jesus just went against everything they thought was the way to go.  He kept on siding with the wrong people for some strange reason.  He SUPPORTED the woman caught in adultery.  Instead of picking up a stone, He picked her up and told her “go and sin no more.”  He gave her a new label.

            He challenged the Pharisees on what they believed in, and questioned if they even knew God at all.  This was some seriously controversial stuff.  Since there is no break with chapter 8, Jesus is presumably still in Jerusalem, and presumably not still in the Temple area. The events of chapter 9 fall somewhere between the Feast of Tabernacles (7:2) and the Feast of the Dedication (10:22).

            In John’s narrative the connection exists—the healing of the blind man recorded in chapter 9 (along with the ensuing debates with the Pharisees) serves as a real-life illustration of the claim Jesus made in 8:12, “I am the Light of the world”. This is in fact the probable theological motivation behind the juxtaposition of these two incidents in the narrative. The second serves as an illustration of the first, and as a concrete example of the victory of light over darkness.

            C. K. Barrett summarizes the chapter this way:

This chapter expresses perhaps more vividly and completely than any other John’s conception of the work of Christ. On the one hand, he is the giver of benefits to a humanity which apart from him is in a state of complete hopelessness: it was never heard that one should open the eyes of a man born blind (v. 32). The illumination is not presented as primarily intellectual (as in some of the Hermetic tractates) but as the direct bestowal of life or salvation (and thus it is comparable with the gift of living water (4.10, 7.37 f.) and of the bread of life (6.27)). On the other hand, Jesus does not come into a world full of men aware of their own need. Many have their own inadequate lights (e.g. the Old Testament, 5.39 f.) which they are too proud to relinquish for the true light which now shines. The effect of the true light is to blind them, since they wilfully close their eyes to it. Their sin abides precisely because they are so confident of their righteousness.

This healing is so key in John’s narrative because of its great messianic significance.  In the Old Testament it is God who provides sight for the blind, and here, we see the Healer doing what God does. Healing the blind.  Jesus Christ in the healer.  He’s the one who transforms the lives of those He touches. It is in fulfillment of these prophecies that Jesus gives sight to the blind. As the Light of the world he has defeated the darkness. Thus the miracle recorded here has significance for John as one of the seven “sign-miracles” which he employs to point to Jesus’ identity and messiahship.

            I don’t know about you, but if I knew that Blindy McBlinderson, who I had known was blind since we were in preschool together, had a guy put mud on his eyes, giving him sight, I would be pretty amazed.  I would hope that I wouldn’t question the method, and just be astonished and thankful my buddy had sight.  But maybe, just maybe, I would be like another group in this story.  The Haters.

We’ll look at the Haters next time!