Much to my mother’s dismay, I loved to make mud.
Mud is a versatile thing: you can shape it, sling it, eat it––you name it––it can be done with a little mud.
That was then; this is now.
Now, I am much more under control when it comes to mud. I am an adult after all, with a reputation to keep. I no longer run wildly for a puddle of water. I am certainly beyond making (and eating) any mud pie! Nowadays, I only wear mud when I absolutely have to…
This is probably about where the blind man, as recorded in the Gospel of John, found himself. Even though he had been blind since birth, he still probably had a few reservations about wearing a little mud, too.
I am sure he knew the difference between mud and dry dirt. I am sure he knew when water was combined with dirt it made mud. I am sure he knew what it felt like to be clean. But, most of all, I am sure he knew what it was like to not be able to see.
Sight is something you just take for granted. Your ability to read these very words is something for which to be thankful. Take your sight away and your entire world changes.
I’m thankful for glasses. I’ve worn them since first grade. Although I received my share of “four-eyed” comments, I’m sure glad I live in a day allowing me to see what every other 20/20 sees.
Sight is a blessing from God even if it requires a man to wear a little mud on his face.
Jesus spit on the ground and made a little mud. Placing the mud on the blind man’s eyes, he instructed him to go into the middle of town and wash his eyes clean.
The blind man was obedient. Into the waters of the Pool of Siloam, he bent down as a man with mud and blindness and came up as a man with clean vision. For the first time in his life, he was able to see!
Jesus never seemed to operate in the norm. He always had an unusual way of going about his business of touching people’s lives. When you mix spit and dirt, you’ll get mud every time. This odd combination seemed to be a curious concoction for healing a blind man.
Why in the world would Jesus use such a formula to heal? Did the combination have a medicinal use––a righteous, particularly potent conglomerate? Or, was the combination to be symbolic of the creation? After all, God did create man from the dust of the ground.
It is hard to know––but one thing is for sure––the blind man did not care about the theological basis for his healing. He admitted what he did and didn’t know. When asked, he simply stated, “One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”
This man was really desperate for sight, for his actions required a high level of risk. Washing mud off your face in the middle of town would surely cause a scene. Everybody knew the blind man, The mud on his eye sockets would be hard to disguise. Walking to the pool would require passing many curious people. Washing your face in public had to be humbling.
What if it doesn’t work? Won’t I look like a fool?
Someone once said there are three approaches to life. You can either choose to be a risk-taker, a caretaker, or an undertaker.
The most disabling tool against our personal progress is the fear of failure. It is the real reason why we don’t fully trust God––why we don’t set impossible goals. Even if it requires a little mud on your face, can you really believe in God without ever trusting in Him?
So, how do you eliminate the fear of failure?
First of all, you have to redefine it. Failure is not not reaching your goal. Failure is never setting a goal––even one that is impossible. It has been said today’s impossibility is tomorrow’s miracle. The Bible clearly shows us nothing is impossible with God. The very word impossible should not even belong in our vocabulary. It simply should be a nonexistent word. The Apostle Paul wrote we could “do all things through Christ.”
Therefore, redefining failure is the first step in eliminating your binding fear.
The second step is to refuse to compare yourself to others. Comparison will always lead to false evaluation. For, inevitably, you will always find somebody who is doing it better and that will make you discouraged. Or, on the other hand, you will always find somebody who is doing it worse and that will make you proud. Either way, you lose.
Impossible goals should not be based on what you think you can do, but on what you believe God can do. In fact, you haven’t really believed God until you’ve attempted something that can’t be done in the power of the flesh.
Wearing mud on your face is risky. However, wearing mud on your face often brings the miraculous. The scripture reminds us in our weakness, He is strong. Bottom line: God can do more in five seconds than what you can do in five decades.
Personally, you can rely completely upon your own wisdom and strength. It will take you somewhere, probably not far from where you already are. Or, you can tap into the power of God. It will take you anywhere, especially right to the middle of God’s good, perfect, and pleasing will.
The same God who has the ability to turn the water into wine, heal the sick, feed the thousands, walk on the water and restore sight to the blind, can fix your impossibility––even if it means the risky and humbling chore of wearing a little mud.
Give me the mud; Seeing is pretty cool.by Pastor Doug
To celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary, while we were still child-free, my wife and I rented a car and drove through eleven countries in Europe. We relied completely upon a stack of AAA maps and a Fodor’s Guide to Budget Europe.
After making lots of wrong turns, we made a decision, keeping our marital peace. Since we had never visited the continent before, we came up with the following motto: “No turn can be a wrong turn if every turn is a new turn.”
It worked. We enjoyed all of our turns!
Most of the time, our definition of happiness is a seamless day. We like life to be a straight line. A good day is a day in which we get from A to B as quickly as possible.
How do we define a bad day? A bad day is likened to a bumpy line. We hate not being able to get from A to B quickly. We like to plan; we like to control the plan.
Life isn’t always straight. We’re not always able to lose 20 pounds by the given date. Not every student graduates in 4 traditional years. Our plans to become completely debt free by the end of the year are sometimes derailed by unforeseen circumstances. The “ladder of success” is not climbed by everyone. A husband and wife’s decision to have children is sometimes more difficult than imagined. Raising children is not always painless. Even the best of marital bliss meets the unwelcome, uninvited times of struggle.
The road of life is often bumpy. The sea of life is often stormy.
It sure was for the first century disciples of Jesus.
After a long day of ministry, they got into a boat and headed for their next assignment––the city of Capernaum. Jesus was not with them. However, while crossing the lake, they met a violent storm that ended their smooth sailing. After about nine hours of rowing, they found themselves facing harsh, life-threatening waves.
People tend to be “result-driven.” They like to get from A to B as quickly as possible. Remember, the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.
God rarely uses straight lines.
Abraham looked for a son. God gave him a century to build his faith before he became a father––the father of a great nation. Joseph knew that someday he would lead his older brothers. God used false accusations, unjustifiable imprisonment, betrayal and other setbacks to prepare him for his future. Moses was born to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. God used forty years in the desert to prepare him. The Israelites longed to see the Promise Land. God turned an eleven day trip into a 40 year adventure.
In each situation, God used a process to bring about a result. God tends to be “process-driven.”
Rather than moving them quickly across the lake, Jesus allowed his disciples to struggle. Sure, it ate up some time and caused some discomfort, but it also made them realize they needed help.
Often, we see similar situations as wasted time and unnecessary suffering. We look to achieve the result quickly so that we can move on to the next thing––getting from A to B as quickly as possible.
How can a good God allow such circumstances? Why are storms a part of our daily routine? Why can’t our days be filled with straight lines? Is it because God is cruel or because God is good?
The Apostle Paul saw God as one who uses suffering to produce the inner qualities that never come to those who only know smooth sailing. Trials produce perseverance, character and hope for the future. These essential ingredients can only be found in those who’ve learned to trust in God.
In other words, the days filled with straight lines produce little character. The bumpy, stormy days are not pleasant, but are inwardly invaluable.
Walking upon the water, in the midst of the storm, Jesus sees his disciples strenuously rowing. He says to them, “It is I; don’t be afraid.” They hear his voice and recognize him, bring him into the boat and, immediately, he takes them safely to the other side.
Are your children having struggles? Do you think a quick fix is what they need? Are you struggling financially? Do you think winning the lottery will bring you a better life? Are you experiencing the pain of a broken relationship? Do you often wish you could lose all feeling for that person? Is it a reoccurring temptation? Do you think that instant deliverance is the answer?
How are you suppose to endure the storms of life?
Anything is possible, but most of the time, you will only have one good option. You’ll obediently get into the boat, grab a hold of the oar, face the storm and look for God to come. And, when He does, I hope you’ll consider inviting him into your boat.
Let Him take you to the other side.by Pastor Doug
“Take out a clean sheet of white paper. It is time for a…”
In the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John, Jesus gives his disciples a…pop quiz.
It was just before the lunch bell and, probably, they were very hungry––not a great time for academic pursuit. The subject was mathematics. He gave them a multiplication problem. Remember those? Their job was to provide an answer, a solution.
They’d enjoyed a day of outdoor education on the side of a mountain when Jesus sprung the question. A crowd of people gathered and, after counting some five thousand male heads, not including women and children, Jesus quizzed them with an everyday math problem.
“Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?”
It was lunchtime and everyone was hungry. The appropriate expectation was to feed all of the hungry people. Every educator knows that an empty stomach makes learning difficult. Before the afternoon session could begin, Jesus felt as if everyone should take a break and eat lunch. Together.
That’s what I like about Christ. A lot of his stories involve eating. I love to eat. It would have been great to spend my seminary years learning (and eating) alongside Jesus. Utilizing an everyday event, Jesus employed the common to do the miraculous. In the process, valuable learning took place.
Philip, the local expert, answered first. His insight came from years of common sense. It really wasn’t a difficult question to answer because the facts were so obvious. Just for everyone to have one bite of food, it would take two-thirds of a year’s wage to feed them. In other words, they had no budget for entertaining such a large crowd.
Even if we could, we couldn’t. We cannot afford to do something like this. His simple math showed that Jesus’ math simply did not add up. It was a good, innocent question but a hard, impossible reality.
When faced with similar situations, we cringe, fear, worry, and are extremely uncomfortable. We don’t like being taken out of our comfort zone. We throw up our hands and cry, “It’s impossible! It cannot be done!” Big problems overwhelm us every day. Big problems, the ones that go against our best knowledge of fundamental mathematics, simply aren’t realistic.
It seems as if the only folks who escape the world’s problems are the ones who reside at places like our local cemetery, Memory Gardens. The rest of us, still on this side of the river, still among the living, never escape the struggles of life. To be alive is to face daily challenge!
From an adult point of view, God’s math––most of the time––simply doesn’t add up. After years of seeing it done one way, it’s extremely difficult to believe any other way is possible.
That’s why you got to love kids. They’re not yet spoiled by patterns and trends, especially the patterns of this world. As far as they’re concerned, a little bit can make a lot. Providentially, a young boy from the crowd offers Jesus his lunch. He offers Jesus the answer key for the pop quiz.
“Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish,” Andrew, another of the disciples, offers in desperation. Obviously, even the simplest student in the class knows something is better than nothing. Andrew qualifies his answer by saying, “But how far will they go among so many?”
Go ahead. Do the math. Over five thousand mouths divided by five small loaves and two small fish. Now we are talking about crumbs per person––not bites, and certainly not full stomachs. This real life problem was shaping itself into a hospitality disaster. An invitation to a luncheon is generally hollow if you, well, get no lunch.
The boy, obviously without an understanding of math, offered what he had––nothing less, nothing more. Seeming to know no better, he was naive enough to believe that his lunch would make the difference.
God seldom looks for big. We seek big. We’re the scientists. God’s not the one in the lab coat crunching the data. He’s the Creator and He looks for willingness. His math is different from ours. He takes our availability and times it by His ability and it equals everyone being fed––all five thousand plus of them, full stomachs and leftovers for supper!
It’s what I would call the miracle of multiplication.
The good news is that it still happens today. All the time. Everyday. In big ways and in small ways. Sometimes the numbers are in the millions, the tens of thousands, and sometimes the numbers only involve your immediate family. The miracle of multiplication is when our math falls short and His math springs tall.
Every time I give God what I’ve got, He always takes it many times farther than I ever, in my best effort could have gone. (When I say my best effort, I mean my fantasy Braveheart freedom speech rah rah, on my white horse, holding my large sword, with the music playing in the background!) The hours I give to him are multiplied in return beyond comprehension. The resources I spend on Him are given back in ways that logically do not add up. The best of who I am, when offered for His service, is used way beyond what seems humanly possible.
Would you like to see some heavenly math in your life? Trust him with your time and see if you do not end up with extra hours at the end of your day. Trust Him with your financial resources and see if you do not end up with a bit extra in your checkbook. Trust Him with your abilities and see if He uses them far beyond what you thought was ever possible.
It’s called Heavenly Math 101. God’s ways are not our ways, especially when it comes to numbers. His ways, in case I need to remind you, are always better. He’s God. You’re not.
“So, take out a clean sheet of white paper. It is time for a pop quiz. Your question today is: Describe something that only God can do.”
Write it down. Turn it in. Trust the Grader.
His math is good.by Pastor Doug
Larry Walter made the evening news because he decided to fly.
He went down to the local military surplus store and bought 45 weather balloons and several tanks of helium. He attached the balloons to his lawn chair and anchored his chair to the bumper of his jeep. Packing some refreshments and a loaded BB gun (to pop the balloons when it was time to return to earth), he cut the cord and, to his surprise, found himself floating at 11,000 feet.
He stayed up there, sailing around for fourteen hours, totally at a loss about how to get down. However, when he drifted into the approach corridor for LAX, his situation now became serious.
The Navy eventually was able to rescue him and bring him back to safety. As soon as Larry was on the ground, he was arrested. When asked by a reporter why he did such a thing, Larry replied firmly, “A man can’t just sit around!”
In the Gospel of John, a story is told about a severely crippled man, ill for thirty-eight years. He was sitting on a mat. After talking to this man, Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.”
The scripture tells us that “at once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.” Thirty-eight years without working limbs. Immediate healing. A lifetime spent going one direction. A complete reversal. A man who had to be carried was now able to walk. What a sight it must have been!
But, I’ve got to admit, I am a little puzzled as to why Christ asked him to pick up his mat? Why not leave the filthy thing behind? He didn’t need it anymore. Why not separate the memory of his past from the reality of his future?
God has a pattern of using simple, everyday things. He asked Moses to use his rod. Samson used the jawbone of a donkey. David utilized his sling and a few river stones. This man used what he was sitting on. God can use anything.
His mat was his bedding. It was his identity. It defined him. It spoke of dependence upon others. It probably had became a fixture in town after 38 years. It was his home.
So why was it important for him to carry his mat?
Perhaps, it was his security. It provided comfort, routine, predictability. Even though he longed for something different, it was, at least, secure. He loved it; he hated it. He couldn’t live with it; he couldn’t live without it.
Now, it represented a radical reversal of his condition. For years, the mat had carried him and defined him, speaking of his despair. Now, for the first time in his life, he carried the mat, for he had been healed.
So, what are you sitting on? Have you lived with a dependency? an addiction? a inferiority complex? a defeated spiritual attitude? a non-repairable relationship? a confusion of who you are in Him?
Perhaps you are saying, “I can’t kick it. I can’t lick it. I just don’t have what it takes to get over it.” How have you become stuck in a desperate place? How have you become psychologically, spiritually and emotionally paralyzed?
It is time to stop making excuses. It is time to stop skirting the issue. It is time to start taking God at His word. It is time to allow Him to transform the very thing on which you’ve been sitting for such a long time.
“Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.”
After all, a man can’t just sit and around…by Pastor Doug