Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Get rid of your cloak!

I’d like to blog today about something that I would like to lose in 2014.  If you’ve seen me lately, you probably think that this is going to be a blog about weight loss!  Instead, I’d like to lose my cloak, and I wonder if you’d like to join me.  Let me explain by letting you read Mark 10:46-52.  Do you remember the story of Bartimaeus?


46 Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”48 Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

49 Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” 50 Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.

51 “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.  The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”

52 “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.


As a backdrop to this story, Jesus had been doing many miracles in the area and rumors were starting to circulate about these miracles.  Bartimaeus had heard what Jesus had been doing and was excited to hear that Jesus might be passing his way that day.  I can imagine that it would be hard for Bartimaeus to have hope.  He was blind and unable to work and make a living.  His only way to obtain money or food was to sit at the gate of the city and beg.  His reality was bleak, but he had heard what Jesus was doing and knew that Jesus could change his reality. 


When he heard the large crowd forming and starting to murmur about Jesus, He began to SHOUT to Jesus.  As he was shouting, those around him were offended and rebuked him.  Telling him to be quiet and not bother Jesus.  This scolding, by the community, only caused him to SHOUT even louder.  He knew Jesus could change him and he wanted what Jesus offered.  No amount of peer pressure was going to hold him back. 


Amongst all of the noise and commotion, Jesus heard Bartimaeus call for help.  He heard his words specifically through the crowd.  Jesus stopped.  He was really busy and on his way somewhere, trying to push through the crowd but he heard the desperate cry of someone in need and he stopped!  Jesus asked for those around Him to call for Bartimaeus.  Those around the blind man that were initially rebuking him, now were saying “Hey dude, this is your lucky day, Jesus is calling for you specifically”.


In verse 50, Bartimaeus did something remarkable.  When he realized that Jesus was calling for him, he stood up, THREW HIS CLOAK ASIDE, and went to Jesus.  As a blind beggar outside of Jericho, his cloak is likely all that he owned.  I often think of the middle east as a dry, hot desert.  Jericho has an average low temperature near 40F in January.  So if your cloak is all that you own, your cloak is what keeps you warm and protected.  It is a significant deal to toss your cloak and run to Jesus.  His cloak went from something that offered safety to something that was holding him back.  He did not want anything to slow him down from getting to Jesus. 


So Bartimaeus has taught me a few things as I move forward.


1.)     We have to know that Jesus can change our reality.

2.)    We need to ask Jesus to change our reality.

3.)    God hears the cry of the needy, even above the crowd.  Prayer has the power to stop God and focus His attention on you!

4.)    We too often are unwilling to let go of our cloak.  That thing that we think gives us security, but is really holding us back, keeps us from going to Jesus and we let Him pass us by.  When we let Him pass by, we find ourselves staying in our current reality.


It is 3 months until our group leaves for Uganda this summer.  Perhaps dropping your cloak would allow you to go with us. 

Perhaps dropping your cloak would allow you to raise funds for the medications needed for our clinics while we are there.  I have made a short list of things that we could use your help in putting together, prior to leaving for our 2014 trip.


1.)     Good used iPhones – These can be used by pastors to communicate with their congregation and organize events when they do not have computers.  These devices are quite expensive in Uganda.  Please let me know if you can donate a “retired” iPhone that is still in good shape.

2.)    Lap tops – If you have a used lap top that is still in good shape or if you feel that you could buy a new lap top to send with us, it would be a great blessing.  Computers and electronics are quite a bit more expensive in Uganda than they are here.  If we can take them and leave them, it would be a great gift to local pastors and health care units.

3.)    Donations to fill plastic trunks with medications.  On average, a trunk of medicine costs $250.  We have 20-25 days of clinic scheduled for this summer.  We go through a lot of medicine.  We never charge for medication and we see 200+ patients per day.  Medications are available in Uganda and it is cheaper to take the money and buy them there, rather than trying to ship the medications over.  Please let me know if you, your family, your small group or Sunday school class might like to sponsor a trunk.

4.)    Donations for reading glasses.  We have seen remarkable responses from older Ugandans when they are fitted for reading glasses.  Some of them have not been able to read for years, and suddenly are able to study their bible.  These are cheaper to buy in the US and take with us.  Please let me know if you might be able to help us with this part of our ministry.

5.)    Money for Bibles – We have found that the best way to get bibles is to buy them in Uganda.  There are many different tribal languages, and we have found that if we give away bibles in the local language, the village people are able to read and study them more immediately.  We have started to work with a Ugandan bible group to see if they can develop a bible that will have the text in the local language and in English side by side.  This allows the recipient to study their bible and to help them learn English.  English is the Ugandan national language, but it is used in a limited amount in rural areas.  We really do take our bibles for granted.  This is one of the greatest gifts we can give that lasts, even after we have come back to the US.


Focus on what your cloak is.  Is it fear of the unknown?  Could it be your work or even your church work?  Is it financial concerns?  Our cloak can take many forms.  Pray about this cloak, and ask God to help you toss it to the side and change your reality.