“I Am Willing”

Mark 1:40-42

“40 A man with leprosy came and knelt in front of Jesus, begging to be healed. “If you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean,” he said. 41 Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” 42 Instantly the leprosy disappeared, and the man was healed.”

I’ve always loved this story in Mark. It’s only three short verses, and you could quickly skim over it without even thinking. But when you remember that stories like this are more than just stories, that they are true, and they happened to real people just like you and me, then you start to discover how full three little verses can be.

Here are some thoughts, questions, and notes I had while reading through this during morning worship.

“A man with leprosy…”

Who was this man? He was a leper; he was unclean, he was an outcast. That’s all we know about him. We don’t know his name, how old he was or if he had a family. All we know about him was his label. Nothing else about him mattered.

“…came and knelt before Jesus.”

Because of his disease, according to the law at the time, he should not have even been in that crowd. He was unclean and would have defiled everyone that came into contact with him. Why did he do it? He could have been killed! Was this man that desperate? Or was this more an act of boldness and faith then desperation?

“If you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean,”

This man knew Jesus could heal him. He knew Jesus could restore him to the life he once had. Nothing in this man doubted Jesus’ power. He doubted Jesus’ willingness. Was this man so used to people avoiding him, so used to people looking at him with disgust, that that’s all he expected from Jesus? When he said, “If you are willing” was he saying, “Am I worth it?”

“Moved with compassion (anger)…”

I like that in some translations of this story the word anger is substituted for compassion. “Jesus was moved with anger.” He wasn’t angry at the leper. He was angry for him. The people around this man might have only seen a leper, Jesus saw more. Jesus always sees more. Jesus saw how much pain this man was in. He understood what this man had lost because of his disease. Jesus felt the sorrow of a man that had lost everything. He felt the pain this man felt when he was cast out. He felt the shame this man felt when he had to beg to survive. Jesus understood how worthless society saw this man. Jesus understood how worthless this man saw himself. Jesus was angry for this man. Jesus was hurting for this man.

“Jesus reached out and touched him…”

I wonder how long it had been since another person had touched this man? Who was the last person he touched before realizing he had leprosy? Was it his wife’s hand? Was it a kiss from his daughter or a hug from his son? I imagine that was one of the greatest things this man longed for. Just to be touched again. Why do I think that? Because of how Jesus responded to him. Jesus could have healed him with a word, a gesture or a command. Instead, Jesus reached out and touched him. Why did Jesus touch him? Jesus knew the law. He knew what would happen if he touched something unclean. He would be defiling himself! But that didn’t matter to Jesus. Jesus’ priority was, and still is making the unclean Holy.

“Instantly the leprosy disappeared, and the man was healed.”

The man was healed. But not just healed, he was free. Can you imagine what he felt? All that he knew, all the pain, sorrow, longing for what once was…gone. All replaced with hope. He was no longer unclean. No longer someone to be avoided. He had a new life. He had been restored. The pain no longer mattered. The disease no longer made the rules.

Now imagine the crowd. Silent. Shocked. All staring at this man. This man with brand new skin like a baby. Maybe this was the first time these people saw him as a man. Before he was the leper that they avoided at all cost, and now he was the man that Jesus healed. That’s not something you forget. Do you think this man spent the rest of his life known as the man that Jesus healed? Did one touch from Christ, change his whole identity? It usually does.

Put in the context of my life, I’m not sure how I would respond at that moment. Standing before Jesus, staring at my new hands. What would I have done? Would I run home to my wife and kids? Would I hold them, hug them, never want to let them go? Would I just stand there? In awe of what just happened to me? Would I laugh? Would I leap? Would I cry? What would I do? How would I respond?

How would you respond?

And while you think about that, think about this: There’s is no need, no disease, no sickness, no failure, no mistake, no sin, no choice from your past, that would keep you from receiving the same answer that this leper received from Christ:

“I AM WILLING.”

On Change

I hate CHANGE.

I am one of those people that order the same thing every time I go to a restaurant; I never try anything new.

There’s nothing wrong with not liking change. There is, however, something unhealthy about RUNNING FROM CHANGE.

“CHANGE is the only constant in maturity.”

If you always fight change, you will never grow. If you want to mature, if you’re going to grow, you have to be willing to CHANGE.

One thing I am sure about is I don’t know everything. (My wife would confirm this if you like) Because I don’t know everything, I tend to ask a lot of questions, “Why would you say that?”, “Why would you do this?”, “Why do you believe that?”.

The one answer that makes me cringe every time I hear it is, “because we’ve always done it like that” or “because it’s always been that way.”

Right now people are reading this that need to make some changes. Some serious, some not so serious. (yet)

There are businessmen and women whose companies would grow if they would make changes in their staff, “But they’ve been here forever!” It doesn’t matter. CHANGE.

There are husbands whose marriages are slipping away because they won’t grow up, “She knew I was this way when she married me”. So what, CHANGE!

There are some teens that are reading this, and you know that if you don’t change the decisions you are making, they are going to wreck you. Don’t wait. CHANGE!

There are parents who are about to lose your relationship with your kids because you can’t admit you might be wrong. CHANGE!

Don’t let pride or comfort get in the way of your growth. We were created to go to the next level. The next level in our RELATIONSHIPS, in our WORK, in our SCHOOL, and in our FAMILIES.

DON’T BE AFRAID OF CHANGE!

Is It Your Problem or God’s Problem?

When I work at home on my laptop, because the house that we live in doesn’t have an extra room for an office, I usually just sit at my kitchen table.

The only problem with working at my kitchen table is the Sun.

We have two big windows in our kitchen, and because of the placement of the room, these two windows are in direct sunlight all day. Sun up to Sundown.

This is a great problem to have. I love natural light in the house. But it also means that while I’m working, I’m either dealing with Sunlight beaming through the spaces between the blinds when they are closed (that seem to always shine like a laser into my eyeballs) or the sunlight glaring off my computer screen.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Why don’t you work somewhere else?” I could. “Why not cover the windows better?” That might work. “You could re-arrange your dining room so the sun doesn’t hit your table.” That’s a good idea. “You could wear sunglasses.” Wearing sunglasses inside is stupid.

These are almost all great ideas. But here’s the point I’m making that you probably don’t even see coming.

The greatest advice in the world is useless if I don’t choose to act on it, and there is nothing you can do about it.

It’s frustrating, isn’t it? Watching someone you know make the same mistake over and over again, getting the same result every time? And no matter what you do or say, they don’t listen to you? It begins to feel like your beating your head against a brick wall.

I’ve been there, and if you’re in any leadership position, you’ve been there too.

The problem with beating your head against a wall is eventually your going to hurt yourself, possibly permanently.

How could you hurt yourself permanently? Because if your not careful, your FRUSTRATION could turn into INDIFFERENCE and then you might stop caring. As leaders and as Christians, that can’t happen. We can’t stop caring. We can’t give up on people. We don’t throw people away.

BUT, we can protect ourselves. Here’s how: KNOW WHAT YOUR RESPONSIBILITIES ARE.

Here are two of the most significant lessons I’ve learned as a Pastor:

1) My authority over and my access to a person’s life only goes as far as that person allows.

“But, they are in your church! They should submit to your authority!” Yeah, maybe. But they also have a free will. And most of the time they’re adults, and I’m not their Dad or their boss. I’m their Pastor. It’s up to them to allow me to be their Pastor.

2) It’s not my job to change people. That’s God’s job. My job is to point THEM to HIM.

People may not listen to me. People may even go so far as to ignore or avoid me. But no matter what they do, they can’t stop me from loving them and praying for them. That IS up to me. And it’s a choice I HAVE to make, sometimes on a daily basis. I have to make the decision that I WON’T give up on a person.

When I had those two revelations of leadership, it did something AMAZING in my life. It took the burden I was carrying and put it back in God’s hands where it belonged. And because I know that there’s only so much I can do and that at some point it’s entirely in God’s hands, I can have peace.

And trust me, trying to lead without peace is a road that leads straight to burnout and failure.

So right now, right where you are, take the next 2 minutes and ask God to show you what walls your beating your head against. (You probably don’t need the 2 minutes. You already know.)

Now ask God these two questions:

1) Is there anything else in the natural I can do or say to help breakthrough in this situation? (other than unconditional love and unstoppable prayer)

2) Give me the strength to COMPLETELY hand this over to You, and the peace to know YOU’RE the one in control.

Now, let God handle it.