RE:Solution 2010

July 8, 2010
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Hosea 6

May 27, 2010

Devoted to Good Deeds

May 18, 2010

Good deeds… good works… niceties… pleasantries… philanthropy… humanitarianism. There are all kinds of different levels, descriptions and ways of describing those words, actions or intentions that benefit someone or something other than our own selves. I think most people desire to engage in them to some degree or another. However, we don’t necessarily pay much attention to it.

Sure, when we read the headlines of a news feed or catch some bit of breaking news regarding this catastrophe or that tragedy, many of us wish that there was something we could do about it. Or when we hear of a grand philanthropy or another sacrificial endeavor toward social justice, we may feel compelled towards it. But for the most part, our attention toward good deeds is frequently passive and regards something grand. Sure, there are those little niceties along the way, but often we come across a story or occasion that is either so admirable or pitiable, that we feel a compulsion to participate in it.

Ultimately, in this scenario, the good deed becomes polluted. We haven’t been proactively paying attention to philanthropy; a compelling story or situation has come to us. Many of us want to join in, not out of careful consideration, but out of a knee-jerk desire to take the goodness and grandeur of what is being done and unite ourselves with it in order to make its goodness and grandeur our own. We are trying to make ourselves good and grand.

When it boils down to it, our good deeds and philanthropy are contingent. The contingency is over what it will accomplish for us, for our conscience, for our psyche, and for our self worth and self perception. They are contingent on how compelling the issue at hand is. This is why we don’t spend much time giving careful consideration to continually doing good deeds. Careful attention or consideration will reveal to us our true heart in the matter and our good deeds won’t feel so good anymore, because they aren’t as “good” as we’d like them to be due to our associated selfish intention.

This brings us to the Apostle Paul’s letter to Titus. In 3:8 Paul has just given Titus a “trustworthy saying” that he is to “insist on.” The purpose of this insistence is, “so that those who have placed their faith in God may be intent on engaging in good works.” (NET) Grammatically, the Greek word that gets translated in the NET as ‘intent’ is the verb in the clause, and lexically means, lexically means, “to give sustained thought to something, think of, be intent on, be careful/concerned about.” The word translated ‘engaged’ is an infinitive and means, “to have an interest in, show concern for, care for, give aid.” So there is something in this trustworthy saying that is going to equip and make it possible for God’s people to be intent on, and give sustained thought about a care and concern for good works.

What is it that liberates us from our own selfish ambition and our own pursuits of self-realized goodness and grandeur that corrupts our good works? This is the trustworthy saying to be insisted on that Paul reminds Titus of in verses 4-7.

It begins with the kindness of God our Savior and his love for mankind. It appeared in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, and faith therein, saves us from sin, not our good deeds or good works. For one, our good deeds are infected with our insidious endeavor for self promotion. Second, even if our good deeds were not tarnished with our sin, they do not atone for our sin. The offense of our sin is infinite and eternal because God, the offended party, is infinite and eternal. None of our finite and temporal good deeds could possibly pay an eternal and infinite debt. So God has saved us, according to verse five, on the basis of His mercy, not our works. He, through Jesus Christ, washed us with a new birth, a birth with a new heart and new mind, renewed by the Holy Spirit. With this new heart and mind given us by the Holy Spirit, in accordance with the new covenant that God has made – that through faith in Christ we would receive the Holy Spirit and have our inner person renewed – we are able to give deep consideration to our continued participation in good works.

We are able to do this because what is able to be revealed now is not our own selfish ambition, but rather a worshipful act of love. Our good deeds may be done out of care and concern for others, regardless of what it accomplishes for us, because it is an outflow of God’s love, care and concern. It is from His Spirit dwelling and swelling within us. Our good deeds are no longer to atone for ourselves or aggrandize ourselves, but to participate with God in doing what brings Him and us joy.

Apart from the trustworthy truths of who God is and what He has accomplished for us through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives because of our faith in Christ, good works will not withstand close scrutiny and it will be impossible to remain engaged in them. However, in – and resulting from – the gospel we are freed to give sustained thought toward concern for good works and worshipfully participate with God in what He’s doing and experience the freedom and joy therein.

Resolving Guilt and Condemnation

March 18, 2010

God’ s Will for Rescue

March 2, 2010

Last time at the Mill we talked about the centrality of the Gospel; that the thing that distinguishes Christianity from every other religious system or faith is exactly the Gospel. In one statement in chapter 1:3-4 Paul sums up the Gospel and its entirely unique nature. “Jesus Christ… gave himself for our sins to rescue us from this present evil age according to the will of… God.”

Ultimately, humanity and each of its members are on a quest to escape or be rescued from this present evil age. We have individually and collectively sought out to construct social, political, philosophical, scientific, medicinal, religious and individualized systems by which we can transcend out of our personal and collective short comings, imperfections and the consequences thereof. From communism to capitalism, polytheism to atheism, absolutism to agnosticism, naturalism to supernaturalism, rationalism to relativism, individualism to collectivism; each endeavors to achieve a eutopic experience that humanity has not yet realized. They have all have failed and are failing because, quite simply, they are not God’s will to rescue us. That is part of the profundity of the Gospel.

Jesus Christ gave himself for our sins… insulting isn’t it? All the analysis and synthesis of the greatest human minds discoursing throughout the run of human history – crossing languages and cultures, time and place – our most brilliant and synergized theories regarding the source and solution to human delinquency, like us, fall short. However, the idea that a human being, having lived a perfect and sinless life, could die in consequence of humanity and its members’ collective and individual inadequacies and wrong doings, is exactly the description of the reality of what God’s will for our rescue actually is. All else is false, and to greater or lesser degrees perpetuates the systemic failures of the human enterprise of self-salvation, regardless of how “Christianized” it may even be.

Now, I am not suggesting that there is not a place for systemic, socio-political, religio-philosophic, and therapeutic/medicinal solutions that improve or modify human behavior. What I am suggesting, though, is that these are salves to alleviate symptoms and are themselves corruptible by the virus of sin coursing through the human heart. And I move from suggestion to assertion that God’s will to rescue humanity from evil is the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.

This raises loads of questions, three sets of which I want us to consider. One set of questions has to be, “Do I actually believe that stuff?” “If I don’t believe that Jesus’ life, death and resurrection are God’s will to rescue us from evil and ourselves, what do I believe will elevate humanity out of its current state?” and “Regardless of what I say I believe, what do my life, attitudes and actions betray about what I really believe will save me or my fellow man from the plight of humanity?” Another set of questions would naturally be, “Why would I consider Paul’s truth claim about God’s will for the saving of humanity to begin with? Isn’t he just another mind among the myriad previously mentioned?” The last question would probably be, “How, exactly, does Jesus’ giving of himself rescue anyone from evil?” and “If I do believe this, what are the implications?”

These are the kinds of questions I hope to answer as we continue in our series in Galatians at The Mill. Hopefully as we process this book and these truths together, we will be refined, create new kinds and qualities of life, and truly LIVE. Please visit the “about” page for our meeting dates and other info.

Eulogy

February 24, 2010

It’s always nice to be spoken well of. Few things can change a crappy day into a happy day than a handful of kind or complimentary words spoken by the right person. It really can’t be just anybody who says something nice to or about you for it to be satisfying. Whoever is giving that compliment has to be someone who is “in the know.” In the Olympics, the judges are people who know the event they are judging and have the most acute discernment regarding what is truly excellent and what is not.

I was thinking about this in regards to Ephesians 1:3, “Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us in the heavens with every spiritual blessing in Christ.”

The word “blessed” or “blessing” is the English translation of the Greek word, eulogia, from which we also get the English word “eulogy.” We usually understand this word in terms of a funeral when someone gets up and speaks well of the deceased. That’s what it literally means; to speak well of or to speak wellness into. While the blessings that are mentioned in our verse are multi-faceted and have several layers of meaning, it is this sense of “speaking well of” or “speaking wellness into” that struck me most recently.

First of all, in our verse, God is the One spoken well of. He is the Good One. Jesus, in an attestation to His divinity rhetorically asked, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God.” God is the Good One, and He is the One who continually and eternally exists as blessed – spoken well of – by His angels and by those who have gone before us who have recognized and confessed God’s goodness, and ultimately by His Triune Self (but that’s another blog). God as the eternally Blessed One – the One who is Good and most deserving of eulogy – also, then, is the One who is most “in the know” regarding what is good and warrants being spoken well of.

With this understanding of who God is and what eulogy means, I stumble with the rest of the verse. To insert our definition, “God… has [spoken well of] us in the heavens with every spiritual [well-speaking].” Really?! ?! Hey, Seth and Amy, could you throw this into the Weekend Update? Or maybe a Thursday Update? How is it possible that God could do this? I thought God couldn’t lie, right? Consider yourself deeply for a moment… upon that consideration, could God really honestly speak well of you or me to any audience in the heavens? How is this possible?

This is where that last little phrase is so huge; “in Christ.” The life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, who is Christ, has made this all possible. In order for God, our judge, to – in the face of the accusation of all the wrong we’ve ever done, said, thought or felt – speak well of us, something had to be done about all of that insult to His goodness and His wrath on those offenses needed to be satisfied. Jesus’ sinless life and horrific death on our behalf provides cleansing of all our wrong, righteousness in its place, and satisfaction of God’s wrath so that no accusation can stand against us and God can, because of Christ, speak well of us in the heavens with every spiritual well-speaking.

But how does this square with our experience? I don’t feel yet like someone these things can be true of; that I’m truly someone who has earned the right to have God speak well of me. The first problem is that I continue to think that God’s well-speaking of me is something I earn by my performance rather than something He gives me “in Christ.” This also brings us back to the other sense of eulogy as, “speaking wellness into.” When God speaks, things happen. Regardless of the mechanism employed, when God spoke the universe became. It was not, God spoke, and now it is. Romans 4:17 describes that God, “gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were…” or “calls into existence things that do not exist.”

This is kind of like what the author of Hebrew writes about in 10:14, that God has “made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” God’s well-speaking of us is a result of what He has accomplished for us in Christ. Our sins are forgiven and our lives are cleansed. Through faith in Christ we are given His righteousness and no accusation stands against us, and God who is Good identifies Christ’s Goodness in us and He speaks well of us in the heavens. But also, here in life on earth, we are growing into that goodness and because of what Christ has done, God speaks wellness into us that wasn’t there before; He calls things into existence that do not exist.

May we embrace and realize who we have been verbally recognized as and spoken into being by God because of who Christ is and what He has done. May we embrace this well-speaking for the truth it is by virtue of the Good One who has spoken it and continues to do so. And may we consequently experience life in the joy that this Good One desires for us.

Suck It Up

December 1, 2009

“Suck it up!” These words, or similar expressions, are far too easily in my heart and on my lips. I’m not the most compassionate person. No, really, I’m not… this isn’t just pastoral false humility. It’s not that I’m totally dead inside or that I never am moved with sympathy or empathy, and sure enough I can do and say compassionate things, but it just doesn’t seem to always characterize my regular inward pattern toward others and myself.

“Suck it up!” Why are these words so easy? Where did this phrase come from? Why did it come about? When pain, misfortune or something else negative enters into our life or someone else’s what makes us think that this is the right attitude or counsel? Of course, I have an idea. Otherwise I wouldn’t be blogging about it.

What does it mean to suck it up? Simply, it means that we set aside or disregard our pain and grief for the purposes of maintaining personal function. We suck up our pain, discomfort and grief. I also think this is interesting: we do the same thing with joy. Amid incapacitating celebration we are told and tell ourselves to “settle down” or to “focus.” It is a beckoning to numbness.

Why do we need to suck it up? Why settle down? Why numbness? Why would any of us do such a thing? Why don’t we have time for other people’s grief or joy and sadly enough also not have time for our own? We adopt a personal and collective numbness that anesthetizes our souls. Why?

Fear.

Fear that something different than what we have known and experienced is impossible. Grief is an indictment. It says that what is being experienced ought not be. It draws attention to what is broken and each of us intuitively understands that broken things shouldn’t be that way. That’s what “broken” means. No one looks at a bicycle lacking a chain and says, “Yup! That’s the way it ought to be for a bicycle!” And if something ought not be one way, then it follows that it ought to be another, and “ought” carries with it a sense of obligation. We fear deeply the despairing thought that things are not the way they should be, the obligated remedy does not exist and things will never be as they should. The bicycle needs a chain, but there are no such things as bicycle chains nor will there ever be; so get it out of your head – this nonsense about riding – stop crying about it and just suck it up.

Enter compassion.

Walter Brueggemann, in his book, The Prophetic Imagination, writes, “Compassion constitutes a radical form of criticism, for it announces that the hurt is to be taken seriously, that the hurt is not to be accepted as normal and natural but is an abnormal and unacceptable condition for humanness.” Grief accuses the way things are of not being as they should; compassion affirms that accusation and brings others into the criticism of it.

In Mark 7:31-37 Jesus encounters a man who was both deaf and mute. Jesus does some odd things like sticking his fingers in the man’s ears, spitting and touching the man’s tongue. But before Jesus actually heals the man he sighs and says, “be opened” and then the man was healed. This idea of Jesus sighing got in my head a little bit. Why the sigh? Why include that little detail? Of all the details that are excluded in the gospels and all the details selectively included… why that one?

In the Greek language that the New Testament was written in the word we translate as “sigh” is used only a handful of times. It communicates an expression of intense longing. Jesus’ healing of the deaf mute man was preceded by an intense longing that it be done, an intense longing that things be different than they were. He did not tell the man to suck it up because audible communication just wasn’t the way things would be for the man and numbness to it was his only livable option. He has compassion on the man and a longing for something different. And from Heaven, something different became.

Our grief cannot be for the purposes of wallowing or an excuse for a paralyzed existence. It must be for the purpose of rebuking the brokenness of a world infected with sin, and it must be followed by compassion joining into the accusation. Jesus looked to Heaven and sighed. He looked to the source of newness, the wellspring of something other and different than this world the way it is. Likewise in our grief and compassion we must look to Heaven, to God, and instead of projecting our own desire for numbness and inaction onto Him, look expectantly for God to birth something different in our world.

When Jesus says, “Be opened” the Greek word Mark uses to translate what Jesus said in Aramaic has denotations to the opening of a womb and is usually used in that sense. I don’t think that statement “be opened” was commanded to the man’s ears and tongue, but was issued to Heaven, toward his Father. His command was that Heaven, the womb of life, would be opened and something different would become.

By compassion, I don’t mean mere sympathy. What I mean is that we sanction grief and join in its accusation of the brokenness of this world. But we don’t remain there in the stagnation of sterilized pity, but look to Heaven in faith that Christ has brought and is bringing something new, something different, something where this old order of things is passed away and we step into joy.

If we “suck it up” and expect that of others, we sanction numbness and make joy impossible. When we are too numb to grieve we are to numb to celebrate. Numbness represents submission to the rule of sin and its death and hopelessness for something new and different, vivacious and thriving. Numbness and sucking it up forfeits a birth of life within us from Heaven.

Let us grab hold of grief. Not for attention, or impotent pity from or for others, but for true joy and for new life from Christ!

“Blessed are those who mourn because they will be comforted.”

To Think or Not to Think…

November 17, 2009

The angst of decision making can, at times, be overwhelming. Where should I study? What should my major be? What kind of career do I want and what track am I on? Should I marry, and if so, who? Pop Tarts or Toaster Strudel? Recently, the multimedia online magazine, FLYP, highlighted a piece on decision making and the human brain entitled, “Make Up Your Mind.” The basic premise of the piece is based on a study by the University of Rochester asserting that the brain is hardwired to make the best decision possible and that decisions made at the subconscious or “gut” level are often more reliable than decisions made with significant deliberation. You can check it out by following or copy/pasting this link:

http://www.flypmedia.com/issues/35/#4/1

Participants in the study were asked to observe complicated phenomena, then with little time to evaluate their observations, make a decision and give a conclusion. The studies suggested that more optimal decisions were made with the information at hand with less deliberation. The article then extrapolates that larger decisions such as which house or car to buy, or who you should marry would better be made with less deliberation and more at a gut level…

Really?

That’s interesting because with little deliberation, my gut level response to this assertion is that it’s bunk.

To be sure, as the piece mentions, we make countless reliable subconscious decisions throughout the course of our day. They are nearly automatic functions such as opening the correct cupboard to get out the appropriate bowl for our Fruity Pebbles. But can that really be extrapolated into larger, course of life affecting decisions? (At this point all you chaos theorists can just relax about the universal significance of every action) I think the conclusions of these studies and this piece draw out a couple of questions.

First, what is the purpose of deliberation? The studies cited suggest that deliberation is the process whereby data is evaluated and acted upon. It is suggested that all relevant data is gathered subconsciously then evaluated and computed subconsciously by the brain for the optimal response. It is then implied that our deliberation only takes into account conscious observations, leaving out data that should be considered. However, within the study is the claim that our brains subconsciously make the optimal decision with “the information at hand”. So perhaps deliberation should allow for additional insights to inform our initial observations. In which case deliberation is paramount to making a decision that is not just optimal at the moment, with the information at hand, but is most beneficial for the long term.

Second, how is “optimal” evaluated? In controlled, measureable clinical studies, “optimal” must be quantifiable, and variables must be restricted. All gatherable information must be gatherable at the time of the study so that a rubric of “optimal” may be possible. But isn’t “optimal” a determination largely based on a person’s presuppositions and worldview, regardless of the accuracy of those presuppositions against reality? “Optimal” then becomes an exclusively individual evaluation that is determined and restricted by the subject’s own brain based only on the information it has gathered in its own time, place and interpretation of experiences and has little to no clinical objectivity whereby a rubric could be constructed and measure could be made.

Additionally, any clinical research inherently has a difficulty taking into consideration spiritual realities that cannot be quantified in a lab. The Apostle Paul cautions the Ephesian believers not to live the way they did before their faith in Christ, following “deceitful desires.” Another presupposition of this study is that our subconscious observations and interpretations are accurate to reality and not swayed by our own spiritual condition. When our spiritual condition is considered, not only is deliberation not obstructive to “optimal” decision making, but it is imperative. Each of us must take time to consider the veracity of our observations and interpretations thereof. I believe this is why the same Paul implores the Roman believers to renew their minds so as to test and approve – determine as “optimal” – God’s will and not simply our brain’s mechanical functions operating under the influence of deceitful desires.

So what is a Biblical response to this? I think it’s to take all of these things into account. There are ways in which we ought to put a little more stock into our initial processing of information and ability to make reliable snap decisions. However, when considering large scale decisions of life and future, prayerful deliberation in a faith community is imperative. We must be patient and willing to prayerfully mull over the information at hand, seeking spiritual wisdom to determine the actual reliability of our observation and interpretation and not disregard our ability to deceive ourselves simply to indulge desires. We must be willing to subject the information at hand to other and Biblical information in order to compile as extensive database as possible from which to decide what is truly “optimal.” We must also be willing and subject our processing to others who will participate in the process with us, showing us our blind spots and deceptions, adding wisdom and alternate perspectives. The book of Proverbs alone is replete with admonition to this end. I think the whole of ancient Hebrew wisdom literature and Apostolic instruction would defy any other understanding of wise decision making.

Pain, Questions and Answers

October 28, 2009

A couple of days ago I asked a question on Twitter and Facebook: “When faced is with pain, which question is more important to answer, ‘when’ or ‘how’ the pain will be relieved?” Of course the question is crappy because it leads the reader to primarily consider those two options, when others exist. It also presumes relief as the concern while other concerns exist as well. While most people responded within the two options presented there were, of course, many others who offered up one common alternative which is the ‘why’ aspect of the pain.

The ‘why’ of pain is certainly worth considering, but it is also broad. First there is the ‘why’ of cause, as in how the pain came to be. This is particularly worth examining in light of cause and effect relationships with our pain, and may speak very quickly to the how and when of the relief of pain. For instance, if my foot hurts, and I can determine that it is because I kick large rocks; then the ‘why’ can help determine the ‘how’ and ‘when’ of my relief. But much of our pain that puts us into these types of deeper queries is not quite so simple.

The ‘why’ that we are looking for amid this deeper, soul smothering pain is often the ‘why’ not of cause, but of purpose. There are times in life when the pain that we are enduring simply will not be salved by some quasi-Socratic deduction into the why of cause that sheds light on the how and when of relief. Then, further grief is taken on when we arrive at the conclusion that the why of purpose is usually conjecture and speculation on our part and rarely arrives at satisfactory resolution.

If you have been around me much, or are familiar with much of my stuff, you know that Job is probably my favorite book in the Bible. For those reading this who are not familiar with the book, it records the story of the most wealthy man of his time and place who in a celestial contest between God and Satan to determine Job’s motivation for worshipping God, lost literally all of his assets, immediate family and health other than his nagging wife and his most basic life functions in a terribly short period of time. Much of the book is a passionate debate between Job and some of his friends regarding the why’s of cause and purpose for Job’s pain and the how’s and when’s of his relief. The first two chapters set the stage and after 36 chapters of theological discourse, God speaks up and in nearly four chapters of mostly monologue, God answers none of these questions. His silence towards resolving these deep soul level concerns is bewildering – at least it has been to me.

God seems remarkably unconcerned with giving us insight into the why’s of pain and the how’s and when’s of its relief.Perhaps that’s because we wouldn’t accept His answers even if He gave them to us. What is the soul ravaged by the deep pain and grief of living life in a broken, God-forsaking system to do?

I turn once more to Job.

My last study through Job stabbed my heart, mind and soul before I could finish the second chapter. The setting is that Satan has just obliterated all of Job’s assets, wealth and children. Job has not defied his allegiance to God in worship and Satan is reporting once more before God. I will paraphrase what God says to Satan based on the Jewish Publication Society’s translation of verse three of chapter two.

“God says to Satan, ‘Did you notice my servant Job whom you’ve attacked? There is no one like him in the whole world. He is blameless and upright, he fears Me and shuns evil. Even though you have harassed him like you have, he maintains his integrity and worships Me still! So this little competition has been worthless, and destruction has been brought to him for no good reason!’”

The whole issue was one of worship.

Satan attempted and continues to attempt to destroy the worship of God through delivering blow after blow of inexplicable pain and suffering, and all kinds of maladies, sin and despair. Too often, answers regarding our pain and soul angst are either nowhere to be found or found only to be all too unsatisfactory.

The question is whether or not we will continue to worship God.

Repeatedly in Job, his integrity is affirmed in that he continued to worship God. He would accuse and defend God, question and silence himself before his Creator, but never did he cease in his worship of God. The great Messianic Psalm 22, written by King David and echoed by Christ while enduring His crucifixion reads in the first few verses:

“My God, my God, why have you abandoned me; why so far from delivering me and from my anguishing roaring? My God, I cry by day – You answer not; by night and have no respite. But you are the Holy One, enthroned, the Praise of Israel.”
-Jewish Publication Society

For Job, King David, and for Jesus, the response to their suffering was not a quest for answers. It was a quest to persevere in worship. The why’s of our pain actually have quick answers. Whether we’re discussing the why of cause or not, at least one of the why’s of purpose is to thwart the worship of God. This does not necessarily mean that continued worship of God is the how of relief or that the when of relief will be brought more quickly as we remain steadfast in worship. But we can gather from God’s incensed response to Satan and the eventual restoration of Job’s that God will not tolerate these attempts to thwart His worship indefinitely.

John Piper has quoted himself in his book Brothers We are not Professionals, “God’s chief end is to glorify [Himself] and to enjoy His glory forever.” Conversely, I believe we can say that Satan’s chief end is to seek to destroy the glorification of God and to thwart worship of Him. This is a contest God will not lose.

So, amid our crippling pain, suffocating aches of the soul, and incapacitating upheaval of the heart; will we allow ourselves to become further encumbered by endless questions of, “why?”, “how?” and “when?” with teasing answers that bring even more questions and little satisfaction, or will we thumb our Adversary, share in the glory and victory of our God and worship?

What do You Want?

October 20, 2009

One of the things I appreciate about serving at Orchard Hill is that the continual spiritual development of the staff is a priority. In addition to my responsibilities as the Director of Young Adult Ministries, I serve with the Student Ministries team, and as a team, Shannon, the Director of Student Ministries, encouraged us all to consider Jesus’ question to Bartimaeus found in Mark 10:46-52.

Essentially, the story is about how Bartimaeus, a blind man, calls out to Jesus for mercy and Jesus asks him plainly, “What do you want me to do for you?” We, as a team, were asked to consider for ourselves, if Jesus were asking us, what we would have Him do for us, and then pursue Him meeting us at our point of need.

I was anxious to dive into this exercise, and as I did, was not entirely prepared for what I would encounter in the text or in my heart.

In Mark 10, just before the account about Bartimaeus, Jesus asks the same question of His disciples, James and John. For the sake of space, I will not fully elaborate on comparing and contrasting James, John and Bartimaeus, their approaches, Jesus’ response and whatnot, but I would encourage each of you reading to spend some time in Mark 10:35-52 and participate in that yourself.

Here, though, is where I want to get to: James and John (actually, their mom, also, if you see the parallel passage in Matt. 20) were looking for something specific, namely glory. I can’t speak for everyone, but I know that when I’m searching for glory, I’m searching for value. I’m searching for validation maybe even vindication. I’m looking for some litmus outside of myself that proves, maybe to others, but mostly to me, that I have worth.

There are a couple of layers of irony in that whole scenario. First is that glory glibly bestowed on the inglorious does not sophisticate the savage. Rather, it tarnishes the brilliance of the initial glory. Jesus taught from the Hebrew Scriptures that when something unclean comes into contact with the unclean, the unclean does not become clean, but the clean thing loses its cleanliness. So the thing that would serve to give value to worthlessness does not actually do that, instead the once priceless thing becomes common and meager. Second, glory isn’t something that is asked for. To Jesus and His Apostles, it is something suffered for; yet another inverse operation of the Kingdom of Heaven. Paul wrote, “I want to know Christ, and the fellowship of sharing in His suffering, becoming like Him in His death.” Paul also writes in the kinosis passage of Phil. 2:5-11 that Jesus has the greatest glory because He had the greatest suffering.

Contrast this with blind Bartimaeus who simply wanted to see.

Healing.

Am I – or are you – looking for granted glory to give unwarranted value to your or my brokenness or are we looking to truly be healed? This leads to another question Jesus asked a man once.

In John 5 Jesus encounters a crippled man and asks him what seems like a stupid question, “Do you want to get well?”

Do you – do I – want to get well?

There is a song lyric that reads, “I’d rather feel the pain all too familiar than be broken by a lover I don’t understand.” If you are anything like me, you have built so much scaffolding around the brokenness of who you are to keep it from falling apart, that the idea of removing that scaffolding and letting the feeble structure of our lives do what it dying to do – collapse – is just too fearful. If the frail faltering structure that is my life already feels so poor and insignificant, what about when it falls apart and is nothing? We’d rather cling with stingy lockjaw to our scraps, and then ask Jesus to bestow glory on it.

He will do no such thing.

He asks:

“Do you want to get well?”

“What do you want me to do for you?”

He invites us to follow Him, to be like Him, to do what He’s done; to abandon whatever we consider our value, to become nothing, to suffer. He invites us to this so that we can be healed. So that we can receive true and real value. He invites us to participate in His own humiliation and glory like in Phil. 2:5-11. And, honestly, I don’t know what that looks like for each of us. I think that’s the point. Do I, and do you, trust Christ implicitly? Do we trust that because He’s done it, we should?

He asks:

“What do you want me to do for you?”

“Do you want to get well?”