LOOK BOTH WAYS

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And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus (Mark 10:50)

Jesus hears your voice.

That's easily the primary take-away as we consider the story of blind Bartimaeus. Ol' blind Bart was persistent in his calling out to Jesus. The crowd couldn't silence his voice. The entourage couldn't keep Jesus from noticing a man who wasn't able to join the parade. Jesus hears us when we call. This is our hope when darkness defines our days.

Now for the real question: Will you hear Jesus when he calls your name?

Prayer Traffic

In his book The Voice of Jesus, Gordon T. Smith opens with these words:

Every Christian should be able to answer two questions: First, what do you think Jesus is saying to you at this point in your life, in the context of the challenges and opportunities you are facing? Second (and just as critical), what indicators give you some measure of confidence that it is indeed Jesus speaking to you rather than someone or something else? (p. 9)

Those are good questions. My condensed version of them would ask "What is Jesus saying to you these days, and how do you know it's Jesus?"

From a very early age, when someone took us by the hand and helped us cross a street or intersection, we were taught a lesson that would do far more than help us navigate busy streets: "Look both ways."

A failure to look both ways can be dangerous. Intersections in England are often marked "Look Right" or "Look Left" - a gracious gesture to those of us who can't remember that Brits drive on a different side of the road. Over there, looking both ways isn't enough. You need to look in the right directions.

Prayer is two way traffic with God. There is great encouragement and comfort for us in knowing that Jesus is close and hears us when we call. But once we've called to Jesus, Jesus may have something to say in return. Will we discern what he wants to say to us? And how will we know that what we hear is indeed his voice?       

The Voice

In holding up the example of Bartimaeus my aim is not to explain how to discern the voice of Jesus in your life. I'm still learning that one myself - and besides, Gordon Smith's book will be far more helpful to you than anything I can write here.

What I notice in the story, and what I'd like to hold up for your consideration, is the way Mark tells us thatBartimaeus "sprang up" when he was told "Take heart. Get up. He's calling you." The NIV Bible says he "jumped to his feet." I don't want to read too much into the text, wringing out meaning that isn't there, but it is remarkable that a blind man jumped to his feet.

A man who couldn't see with his eyes sprang up in response to what he heard, a voice calling him. 

The main take-away this week might be that Jesus hears your voice. But the traffic of prayer moves two ways. The Jesus who hears you is also the Jesus who calls. Listen for his voice. The best way to do that is to open his word. Someone has said that if you want to hear God speak in an audible voice, read your Bible out loud. That might overstate the matter - but the underlying conviction is sound.

Jesus still speaks. He summons you by name. Be ready to respond, to rise your feet and follow.

Prayer

We give you thanks, O God, that you still speak to us. You call us and make us whole and invite us to live our days in glad response to your mercy. We confess that we are often far more aware of our need than we are of your voice. So give us ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to us today, we ask in the name of the one who calls us, Jesus our Lord. Amen.    

Mark H. Crumpler
Pastor for Worship and Formation

 

ALL THE MORE  

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And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more . . . (Mark 10:48)

Why are we so easily put off in our prayers?

Why so ill prepared for the long distance course with God, left gasping for air after a few hurried petitions? How is it that discouragement sets in so quickly? We storm heaven's gates, but heaven rarely yields according to our plan. What we feel as God's resistance sends us into retreat, questioning, maybe even sulking.

Jesus once told his disciples a story, a story aimed at urging them to pray and never give up (Luke 18:1-8). He knew that they, and we, would need that kind of encouragement. We are prone quit crying out when everything around us tells us we're wasting our time.

Forrest and Leon

You probably remember the fictional character Forrest Gump, the lead role in the 1994 film by the same name. By the mysterious providence of God (my take on the story) Forrest Gump became a kick returner for the University of Alabama football team. A teammate would catch the kick, hand the ball to Forrest, and shout the familiar "Run, Forrest, Run."

And run he did. He not only ran to the end zone, he ran through the end zone and out of the stadium. Eventually the marching band made a large sign: "Stop Forrest." He didn't know when to stop; left to himself he'd just keep running.

Contrast the real life football player Leon Lett, a defensive lineman for the Dallas Cowboys in Super bowl XXVII. Lett recovered a fumble and made a long run down field, seemingly home-free and certain to score. But before getting to the end zone he started to 'hot-dog,' holding the ball aloft in an early celebration. That's when the Bill's Don Beebe came from behind and knocked the ball from his hands.

No touchdown for Leon. He should have run a bit harder for just a bit longer.          

Keep Praying

As Jesus entered Jericho and blind beggar by the name of Bartimaeus began to cry out to him, calling him "Son of David," pleading for mercy. His repeated shouting bothered the people around him. He was making a scene. It was annoying, embarrassing. They rebuked him. They told him to shut up.

Bartimaeus responded to their rebuke by crying out all the more. More urgency. Louder. This man would not be easily put off. With Jesus so close, with the possibility of sight a shout away, he simply didn't know when to stop. He would not stop or be silenced.

What about you?

Where do you need the mercy of God in your life right now? Has something or someone silenced your prayers? Maybe you're begging mercy for someone you love - but they aren't changing. Nothing is changing. And so you've grown quiet, less expectant. Or maybe the noise around you is so thick you don't have any confidence that your voice is heard. What good does it do to keep calling out when your prayers evaporate in the crush of sound and busyness that surrounds you?

Learn from a blind beggar. Be stubborn in your prayers. Do not be easily silenced or discouraged. Call out all the more. The one to whom you call has more for you than you know right now.     

So keep praying.

Prayer: Grant us grace, O God, to be bold in our prayers, calling to you all the more when so many things around us tell us to quit. Our need is great, and so is your power, so we look to you as our hope and help. This very day we call to you again, all the more, through Jesus our Lord. Amen. 

Mark H. Crumpler
Pastor for Worship and Formation