Saturday, April 2, 2011

Thankful for Bad Eyes

Notes for tomorrow's sermon at Crossroads... (Note as of Sunday, 1:23 p.m. - The actual sermon preached was quite different than this one.  I didn't use my notes.)  Here's a link to where you can listen to the spoken portions of the worship hour:
John 9:3,39-41
Jesus said, "This man was born blind so that God's works might be revealed in him... I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind." Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, "Surely we are not blind, are we?" Jesus said to them, "If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, 'We see,' your sin remains."
Are you blind?  Are you handicapped?  Are you sick?  Jesus says you are.  And without help, without healing, if you try to stay strong on your own, if you think you're doing alright without help, I'm sorry, you are even more blind--blinder than a bat.  Blind to your own needs, blind to your weaknesses, trying to get by--you won't make it.  Reality will come at you like I went after the bat in our bedroom with this tennis racket.  I waited, I waited, closer... boom.  One dead bat.

In this life, by our own ability, we can't see the things we need to see.  We might be able to see our present circumstances, you might have good physical eyesight, but you can't see the really important things.  You can't see anyone's heart, you can't see people's motivations, and you certainly can't see the consequences of anything you do.  (You can't see the future... you can guess... you can say what will probably happen, but you can't know for sure.)  In terms of what's really real you are flying blind.  And the best thing you can do is admit that truth and quit pretending.  Quit pretending that you, or I... quit pretending that we are better, or have better eyesight, than anyone else.

It says in John 9 that Jesus "came into the world for judgment, so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind."  Because God loves us so much he sent his son Jesus so we would know the truth--and knowing the truth of our blindness and our lostness, that truth will keep us from driving or flying or living blind--and we will learn to follow and trust Jesus--instead of trusting ourselves.

Trusting ourselves is like driving with no headlights at night.  Not good.  So what Jesus wants us to do is to give up and quit getting by, to ask for directions, to ask for help.  This is true at the beginning of our Christian life, when we first come to God for mercy, and it's true every day.  We never get over our need to trust Jesus instead of ourselves.

(Do this part of the sermon without my eyeglasses.)  It was sometime between my third and fourth grade year that I got my first pair of glasses.  (I'd post a picture or two if I could find them.)  I only remember that because on the first day of fourth grade a girl that I kind of liked came up and said, "You didn't have those before."  If she ever liked me, that was the end of that.  I was officially a nerd.  And I've been one ever since. (Glasses back on.)

Now I can't say that my bad eyesight... and I've got really bad eyes without glasses... I can't say that my bad eyesight brought me to Jesus, but I can say that it is certainly not my strengths that did that!  And, honestly, it's not my strengths that really help me share the love of Jesus with others.  More often than not, it's those places of wounding and neediness, where I've needed to cry out for help, it's those places that connect me with others and their need for God.  In a sense, I'm thankful for my bad eyes.

On Thursday a friend and I were talking with Aaron White, a pastor from Annandale Free Church.  He was telling about a couple times when he and some other men were going out door to door, just to let people know they cared, to share about Jesus, and to pray with people who had any needs.  First he told me about going to a fairly new housing development, where it seems people were doing quite well.  Aaron said almost no one had any needs that he and the other guys could pray about or help with.  People there seemed to be doing pretty well on their own.  Then they went to a mobile home park.  Doors opened, hearts opened, many asked for prayer, and many were open to the good news of Jesus, who died in the place of sinners like me.

If we think we're doing well, if we think we can see just fine, if we don't admit our broken lives and sin, then there will be no reason for Jesus to come near.  But if you know you are in need--if you know you are in need today--if you know you need Jesus even more than I need glasses--that's when we open the door to him.  That's when we are saved.  That's when the healing begins--healing that, by God's design, is never complete in this life.  For if we were healed completely, if we could see all and know all and have total peace in this life, we would forget how much we need our savior every day.  It is by God's design that we continue to walk with a limp, need glasses, feel sad, have trouble with our weight, and deal with all kinds of other trouble, as long as we live.

Is there healing?  Do miracles happen?  YES!  Too often we give up without even praying!  If you have a need today, ask someone to pray for you!  And keep praying and asking and knocking on heaven's door!  Don't just give up!  Let's not forget the miracles that God often chooses to give!  And when he does give a cure or a healing, praise God!  Dance and sing!  But even when the healing is delayed, we still have reason to give thanks.  Those unfinished miracles are ways that keep me dependent on my Lord and on those who keep praying with and for me.  There's never a good reason to stop praying for a physical miracle of healing, or for the healing of a broken heart.  Keep expecting.  Keep bringing one another to the Lord in prayer.

My handicaps are not just for me and my personal relationship with Jesus.  They help others who I call on, asking for kindness and care.  They get to step out in prayer and listening and sharing!  Still another bonus is this: when we recognize how needy and handicapped we are we become so much more understanding and patient with others.  Originally I was going to focus today on the need for forgiveness and understanding and reconciliation on a human level.  And that is important.  We've been learning on Monday nights that broken relationships between believers are ways that the enemy gets in and messes around.  But when I remember my brokenness and how much I depend on God every day, it will be so easy for me to be patient AND to point out where others may need Jesus too... because even though a conversation or two may stretch me beyond what I can handle, I will never be afraid of going to where it's hard.  Jesus will meet me there every time, just like he met the blind man in John 9.

I'm thankful for my glasses.  And I'm thankful for my bad eyes.  I'm thankful for all the weaknesses and trouble that I only admit to those who know me best.  It's right there, in the midst of those challenges, that Jesus meets me, and, having met me, goes with me to touch the world God loves so much.

What is your need today?  What's your handicap?  How are you poor?  How can we bless and pray for you?  How can you share what God has done through your weakness, through your pain, through your need?  Truly, when we get real, amazing things will happen in our midst.

My prayer for this church, and for every church, is that we will be honest about who we are before God and one another, and, together, share the merciful and healing power of God. We will expect God to restore sight, physical and spiritual, bring peace and joy and beauty from pain, and in the end, meet us with his mercy and grace in his kingdom.  For Jesus died for me and my blindness and my sins, and he will lead me in this life, and in the life to come.  He can do the same for you.

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