Why Do You Ask? 3 types of questions put to Jesus

The understanding arising
from the search for an
answer outweighs the
value of the answer itself.

I learned a long time ago that God relishes our questions. When we come to Him with an authentic desire to know more, trust more, glorify more, He welcomes even the toughest of questions and points us down a path of discovery. Sometimes God doesn’t give us a straightforward answer—oftentimes actually—but the depth and breadth of understanding we receive from the search for an answer outweighs the value of the answer itself, had we received it.

When Jesus walked the roads of Galilee and Judea, people asked him lots of questions. I read somewhere that he directly answered only three questions. Usually, he pressed into the question somehow, and often he replied to that question with a question of his own. Remember these?

Whose image is this? And whose inscription?  -Matthew 22:20

What is written in the Law? How do you read it? -Luke 10:26

It wasn’t the status or appearance of the person that affected how Jesus answered. It was the person’s heart. John said, He knew what was in each person (John 2:25). Jesus deliberately led the questioner to the Truth behind the question, which, like our own inquiries today, was actually more important than the specific answer.

As we read through the Gospels, we find at least three types of people who asked Jesus questions. In our examples, let’s limit ourselves to Pharisees, just to make it interesting, and we can find all three types of askers among this group.

Demonstrators declare, “Look what I know.”

I’ve seen this type of person in classrooms and lecture halls. He asks a question to impress the professor and students, not because he wants to learn. In front of Jesus, this type is most clear when the Pharisees and Sadducees asked Jesus about the resurrection (Matthew 22:23-33). They asked in order to trick Him, to show how clever they were. They weren’t sincerely interested in Jesus’ answer.

Debaters challenge, “Prove it.”

This is the one who says, “I’m not going to take your word for it. Show me the evidence.” Sometimes the Pharisees were indignant about Jesus’ claims and/or actions. How could Jesus be so bold? Then they asked things like this:

The Jews then responded to him, ‘What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this? -John 2:18

Or this:

To test him, they asked him for a sign from heaven. He sighed deeply and said, ‘Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to it.’ Then he left them, got back into the boat and crossed to the other side. -Mark 8:11-13

Jesus wasn’t interested in giving signs (a.k.a. miracles) to people who weren’t interested in trusting Him. He just walked away. He left them standing there in His dust, looking slightly foolish.

Discoverers plead, “I just don’t know, but I want to believe.”

I almost called this section “Doubters plead.” I am convinced that it’s okay to doubt…when you take your doubts straight to God. Doubting is really about what you discover in the process. So keep reading.

Immediately after the Pharisees challenge Jesus at the temple (John 2:18), John gives us the contrasting story of Nicodemus, an individual Pharisee (John 3). Did you ever wonder why Nicodemus came to Jesus at night? According to the notes in my Bible, either he was afraid of being judged by his peers or he just wanted to avoid the interruptions of a day-time crowd. Doesn’t matter, really, because Jesus saw his heart. Jesus saw that he honestly wanted some answers. Nicodemus thought Jesus might actually be the Messiah, but things weren’t happening the way he had always been told they would happen. Nicodemus was sincerely trying to wrap his mind around all this new, tradition-busting information.

Jesus didn’t condemn
Nicodemus for asking
questions.

So this time, Jesus was patient. He answered Nicodemus’ questions in the best way he could, according to Nicodemus’ understanding. The answers aren’t as straightforward as he—or we—might wish (“Born again?” What?), but there’s no sense of impatience on Jesus’ part…maybe frustration because Nicodemus should have understood, but Jesus didn’t rush off, and He didn’t condemn Nicodemus for asking.

This is where we find ourselves, so may years later. Before we go to God with our questions, we must ask ourselves why we are asking. What do you hope to gain from questioning God? To demonstrate, to debate, or to discover Truth? Because it’s not the questions themselves that are the problem.

Suppose three people come to Jesus with exactly the same question, but the motivation behind each is different. Jesus’ reply will be different for each one. How are you asking questions? First, don’t be afraid to ask. Second, know that the answers you get (or lack thereof) probably tell you more about yourself than about your God.

 

Missional Women

5 Best Books for Spiritual Growth

When we lived overseas, books were our primary means (outside of the Bible) of receiving discipleship. So in recognition of a new year and new starts, I offer you my top five best books for spiritual growth. You’ll hear echoes of these authors in everything I write.

Hearing God by Peter Lord

If you read one book in your
life about spiritual growth,
Hearing God should be it!

This is ostensibly a book about prayer, but it applies to every aspect of the Christ-follower’s life. In Hearing God, Peter Lord opens the door to recognizing God’s will and responding. This is not a technical or cerebral book, neither is it mystical or charismatic. It’s a friendly, practical companion for improving your quiet time, your prayer life, even your day-to-day existence. If you read one book—ever—about personal spiritual growth, this should be it.

The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence

We can always be meditating, always be attune to the Holy Spirit’s leading. In this centuries-old book, a Carmelite monk documents his habit of remaining constantly aware of God’s presence. This is not a novel or biography but rather a collection of conversations and letters, so it’s not easy to read (although it is rather short). It can, however, teach you how to adopt a mental posture of prayer and humility even while you’re peeling potatoes or making a presentation.

The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness by Timothy Keller

C.S. Lewis said that humility is not about thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less. Keller expands that concept into a small but provocative book. Always an excellent and theologically-sound writer, Keller is at his best in this book. When I stop thinking it’s all about me, I find incredible freedom to just live the Christ-life (as the title suggests). I learned to separate myself from what’s happening around me so that neither criticism nor praise affects me deeply and I exist more purely for His glory.

Tangible Kingdom by Hugh Halter and Matt Smay

The Word became flesh
and made his dwelling
among us.
John 1:14

Jesus Himself became tangible, touchable, accessible…real. We are the Kingdom of God on earth, and we are called to do the same. This book challenges the way you live your life, pushing you to recognize where you’re making choices that you didn’t realize you were making. It’s about finding your unreached community—your personal people group—and being intentional about sharing Christ in it. If Hearing God is the manual for your personal Walk, Tangible Kingdom is the manual for your public Walk. Even if you don’t agree with everything they say, don’t skip it.

Oswald Chambers: Abandoned to God by David McCasland

This is “the life story of the author of My Utmost for His Highest,” a devotional book that’s been hugely influential in my life and the lives of many others. But MUHH is excerpts of sermons; they aren’t the real man. I discovered that Chambers was an artist and a thinker who saw life with God as an adventure to be grasped. Through it, God gave me permission to be the artist, the expressive soul, the free-thinker that He created me to be! McCasland is a good author, and his subject is inspiring…worth the time it takes to read the 350 pages.

I hope you found something here to encourage you and challenge you in 2016. If you’ve already read any of these books, please let us know what you thought by sharing in the comments section below!

When It Rains

We had a lot of rain in East Tennessee this week. It reminded me of something Jesus said…

He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.  –Matthew 5:45b

When I was younger, rain meant we couldn’t play outside, so I thought Jesus’ comment about rain was a negative example, as in, bad things happen to both good and bad people. Later, I learned that in the ancient Near East, the sun and the rain were good things. Thus the application for us goes like this: “God gives out gifts of wisdom, talent, beauty, and skill according to his grace—that is, in a completely unmerited way.  He casts them across the human race like seed, in order to enrich, brighten, and preserve the world” (Timothy Keller, Every Good Endeavor, Penguin: New York, 2012. 191).  Without disputing this truth, I think the negative perspective is also true.  Consider this example… Continue reading

Random F.A.Q.s and O.H.E.s for a Q.T.

or Frequently Asked Questions and Often Heard Excuses for a Quiet Time (randomly assembled)

or Don’t Quit on Your Quiet Time (Part II)

What do I need?

You need a Bible, a journal, and a pen or pencil.  That’s it.  Keep these things in a specific place so that you don’t have to search every morning.  Use the journal to record what your Father shows you in His Word and how you intend to respond.  Every week or so, look back through what you’ve written.  Often, a bigger pattern emerges.

Does it HAVE to be first thing in the morning?

No.  In my experience, God’s expectation is that my q.t. become my number-one priority.  That means I put “time with God” on my daily schedule first, then I plan everything else around it.  People reference Mark 1:35 as a directive for an early-morning q.t. because it says,“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.  But Jesus did lots of things that I don’t do, like sleep outside and drive businessmen out of the temple, so I don’t think we can use this as a command.  For most people though, it’s simplest to do the q.t. first so that (1) it doesn’t get overlooked or squeezed out in the busy-ness of the day and (2) you can orient the rest of your day around what you hear from Him.  In fact, I’ll go out on a limb here and say that I don’t know any strong Christian who doesn’t do his or her quiet time early in the day.  Please comment if you have a different opinion.

But I have a hard time getting up in the morning!

Yeah.  We all do.  Try going to bed earlier.  If time with the Lord is your number-one priority, then it’s worth adjusting your evening so that you get more sleep.  It will take a few days for your body to become accustomed to the new routine, so give yourself a goal such as, “I will go to bed at ____pm every night for a week and see if that helps.”

Secondly, ask God to help.  The Bible says that His power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).  Certainly, He is stronger than the pull of your warm bed.

Thirdly, as you begin to delight in your time with Him, you will look forward to it, even desire it above all else.  If you hunt or golf, you know the feeling of waking up with excitement.  No, I am not joking.  It IS possible to feel that way about spending time with God.

What about prayer?  How does that fit into a Quiet Time?

You should definitely do it.  Prayer is a high and holy calling, and when you are setting aside time to be exclusively with God, include time for straight-up prayer.  I’ve written a bit about prayer previously.  We just can’t get into this here or it will be the never-ending blog post!

But I like to use a devotional.  What’s wrong with that?

There’s nothing wrong with it.  Many mature Christians use a devotion book ALONGSIDE their personal time in the Bible but not in place of it.  Devotionals and most Bible study books tell you what someone else heard from the Lord through His Word and/or their experiences, and it may be very meaningful to you as well, but it is second-hand.  God can and will reveal the same things to you directly through His Word.  Let the pattern of your life become one of intimate times alone with the Father.  Use other books as supplements or short-term substitutes.  (Since I’m currently writing a Bible study for publication, I’m certainly not saying you should never use one!)  Look at:

  • Exodus 20:18-21.  How much did the Hebrews miss because they refused to speak to God themselves?!?  (Thanks, T.A.!)
  • 1 Peter 2:9. We are the priesthood. We don’t need another intermediary!
  • Hebrews 4:14-16. Jesus, Who is God, serves as our High Priest. We don’t need anyone else.  And look at that last part: “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence” (emphasis added).

How can I actually hear from God?  That sounds weird.

God can and does “speak” to His Followers.  In fact, if you are a Christ-follower (and possibly if you aren’t), He has shown you your lostness and convicted you of Truth.  No, you couldn’t hear it in your physical ear, but you know what I’m talking about.  Probably, He has reached out to you at other times as well, but maybe you were talking . . . or playing a game on your smartphone . . . or listening to the radio.  Maybe you heard it but you just passed it off as your conscience or your own mind.  The Holy Spirit does something just short of miraculous when, with humility, we open God’s Word in God’s presence.  For one thing, we learn to recognize His “voice.”  For another, we can hear Him more clearly because the other distractions are gone.

But I always get distracted or my mind wanders.

If you have a hard time focusing (like most of us in 2015), read Hearing God by Peter Lord.  I’m not the only one who will vouch for the practical helpfulness and encouragement of this easy-to-read book.  Also, if you begin your q.t. by prayerfully devoting that time to God, He will help you stay focused (see Don’t Quit . . . Part I).

Am I a failure if I don’t “hear God” one day?

Absolutely not!  Some days are just “duds” and many days are good but not earth-shattering.  Make sure there’s no unconfessed sin in your life, consider what section of the Bible you are reading (Leviticus?  Matthew’s genealogy?), and try to find something to know or remember even if it isn’t super-significant.  For example, Joseph’s father’s name was Jacob (Matt 1:16).  That’s interesting.  As you get closer to God, you can expect fewer and fewer “dud” days.  Remember that one of the purposes of your quiet time is to reconnect with God through His Word.  That entire, big book is His Word, so you are connecting as long as you are engaged in reading it and thinking about it.

Why is it called a “quiet time”?  And what’s the difference between q.t. and Bible study?

Some people will say it’s simply a matter of semantics, but for me, the quiet time means I am quiet before the Lord.  I am prayerfully listening, responding, obeying.  The focus is on my interaction with God.  Bible study, on the other hand, often prompts obedience, but the focus is on what I gain from the Word.  Again, I wouldn’t debate anyone on this point.

How long do I have to do this before it’s effective?

The first time you shoot a basketball, even if you are right beside the basket, you probably aren’t going to score.  It takes practice and a sense of the rhythm.  Don’t worry if your first few days of paring down your quiet time are meager.  Neither your brain nor your spirit are accustomed to working this way.  As long as the Holy Spirit affirms your process, keep at it.  Ask a couple of trusted friends to pray for you.  I can’t remember exactly, but I’m sure it took me probably two weeks before I felt like the time was productive, but because I knew God was calling me to this discipline, I kept at it.  You can, too.

What if I come upon something that I don’t understand?

This can happen to any of us (more in some books of the Bible than others).  After presenting your dilemma to the Lord through prayer, start by looking at cross-references. The Bible is the best commentary on the Bible.  Check the study notes if you are using a study Bible.  Beyond that, ask yourself how important it is for you to understand this verse.  Does the Father want you to pursue it right now?  Perhaps you need to put this question in your pocket and save it for later. If so, make a note in your journal.  Often, once you finish the chapter or the book, you will be able to understand the confusing verse better.  If the question continues to bother you, ask your pastor or another trusted Believer.   I love to dig in the Scripture; I love to solve puzzles and untangle knots, so I will never dismiss a question flippantly, but there are some things of God which we are not meant to understand—things that He has organized which are beyond us.  As you grow in trust, you can become . . . at least ‘okay’ . . . with releasing those things to Him.  In fact, I’ve come to delight in those unanswerable questions because I know that He has never been stumped or puzzled or surprised.  Just read Job 38-41.

But my young children invariably interrupt me.

In my experience, this is the toughest life stage in which to maintain a regular quiet time, so know that you are not alone and that God sees your effort.  I am confident that He honors a heart that is set on Him even when very few minutes belong exclusively to Him.  HOWEVER you cannot use your children as an excuse to slack off.  Talk to your spouse about giving you the gift of half-an-hour alone at some point in the day.  Call it a gift or an act of service (I’m thinking about the Five Love Languages here.).  When the children are a bit older, train them to sit and watch a half-hour video.  If you are anti-TV, pray and ask God to show you an alternative.  This is the one situation in which I would not push you toward first-thing-in-the-morning.  Just keep it as your number-one priority!  Yes, it is more important than playing patty-cake or reading board books out loud.  It is even more important than taking a shower, honestly.

Furthermore, separate your expectations from God’s.  Relax.  He sees the sincerity of your heart.  He loves you, and He loves your child(ren).  Get into the pattern of praying while you change diapers, meditating on the Word while you brush your teeth, singing praise songs while you bathe your baby.  This stage of life is really a fantastic opportunity to integrate your relationship with the Lord into your daily habits!

Man, I do a quiet time, but I just cannot remember it later in the day, so what good is it?

We all have the occasional day like that, but as God plants the desire for His presence more deeply in your soul, you will find it happening less often.  There is a very short, old book that has inspired me in this area.  It is Practicing the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence.  As I wrote in the previous post, schedule reminders for yourself throughout the day until recollection becomes natural . . . or at least a habit.  Again, as you increasingly delight in your time with Him, remembering will occur more effortlessly.

Where should I start?

Philippians and John are excellent choices, but anywhere in the New Testament would be good.  Ask God to show you which book He wants you to read.

To get you started, I’ve made a schedule using Philippians below.  You can see how long it might take and how much each day covers.  Believe it or not, sometimes you may feel like you didn’t plunge the full depths of that day’s selection (Romans 11:33)—like you know there has to be more but you are already full-to-overflowing with what you have “eaten”.  Return to it the next day.  “Leftovers” in God’s Word aren’t the same as last night’s congealed spaghetti.  Remember, the goal is not to finish reading the book; it’s to become more like Jesus through the transforming power of His Word.

Daily Schedule – Philippians

or How to Spend More Than a Month in One Small Book of the Bible and Not Get Bored

Day   Chapter/Verse

  1. 1:1-2               Think about servants, holy people, grace and peace.
  2. 1:3-6                What is God saying to you in these verses?
  3. 1:7-8
  4. 1:9-11              Can you see how this is just the NIV paragraphs?
  5. 1:12-14
  6. 1:15-18a          You might spend two days here—good stuff!
  7. 1:18b-21
  8. 1:22-26
  9. 1:27-28
  10. 1:29-30
  11. 2:1-2
  12. 2:3-4
  13. 2:5-8
  14. 2:9-11             Read back through verses 5-8 to understand this poem as a whole.
  15. 2:12-13
  16. 2:14-16
  17. 2:17-18
  18. 2:19-21
  19. 2:22-24
  20. 2:25-30
  21. 3:1-4a
  22. 3:3-7                These three days overlap because they are so interconnected.
  23. 3:7-9
  24. 3:12-14
  25. 3:17-19
  26. 3:20-21
  27. 4:1-3
  28. 4:4-7
  29. 4:8-9
  30. 4:10-13
  31. 4:14-16
  32. 4:17-18
  33. 4:19-23

What if I have a question that you haven’t answered?

Please ask it in the comments.  I would love to answer you or find an answer for you!

Don’t Quit on Your Quiet Time (Part I)

You all better hold on because I’ve been thinking about this one for a while!  In fact, I had to divide it into two parts.  The F.A.Q. section will post in a couple of days.

Do you remember those offering envelopes from the 1970s and 80s?  I know some of my readers weren’t even born then, but if you’re of a certain age and you grew up in church, you know what I’m talking about.  Sometimes they were pink, of all things!  They had these little squares at the bottom or on the side where you checked off things you had done that week:  present (Wait, what?), on time, attended Sunday School, brought Bible, read Sunday School lesson, tithed, read Bible daily . . . things like that.  Anyway, you got a score based on how many boxes you could mark.  Can you imagine?  “Mom, I made a 70 in Sunday School this week because I forgot to take my Bible!”  But that’s how it was.

Somewhere along the way, shortly after we quit using those envelopes, we shifted from “read Bible daily” to “had a quiet time.”  No, we didn’t check off a box any more, but it became one of the, umm, qualifications of a good Christian.  But many of us didn’t change what we actually did.  We just kept reading the Bible every day.

And then, one day we thought (although we would never admit it), “I have been reading this same book since I was eight years old.  It’s getting kinda old.  If I miss this one day, it won’t matter.  No one will know anyway.”  One day turned into two, then a week, then a month, until finally, our daily Bible reading (a.k.a. quiet time) could be described as ‘sporadic’ at best.

At a certain point in that “somewhere along the way”—a point that would take me pages to explain, so just trust me—someone showed me that daily Bible reading and having a quiet time are not the same thing.  A quiet time involves three things:

  1. Resetting your focus on the Lord
  2. Hearing from the Lord (usually through His Word plus the Holy Spirit)
  3. Responding in obedience.

But you can’t just check these three things off on your mental Sunday School envelope each morning and be done with it.  Actually, if you are really focusing on Him, you’ll find it so much more fulfilling than getting 100% in Sunday School ever thought about being!

People say, “I don’t know how to do a good quiet time.”  We try to complicate everything, to think there’s a specific process–almost a formula or incantation–that we must perform in order to have a “good” quiet time.  A good quiet time is any moment in which we reconnect with God.  A great quiet time is when the repercussions of that moment stretch throughout the day.

That being said, allow me to offer a few principles based loosely on Hebrews 5:13-14.  And if you didn’t grow up with those church envelopes, it will still be good “food for thought” (haha!).  But first, consider this:

“The Jewish approach to Scripture is that we don’t read the Bible but rather that it reads us!  . . .  Mere exposure to [the Word] does not change us into agents of the kingdom.” –Alan Hirsch and Lance Ford in Right Here, Right Now

Sit down at the dining room table.

Come to your quiet time expecting to hear from Him. 

What do you do at the dining room table?  Or rather, what are you supposed to do?  (We use our dining room table for an office, art desk, and Lego-building space; that means we have to eat at the kitchen table, but just go with me here.)  The point is, when you sit down at the table, you expect to eat.

Quoting John Piper, Jonathan Parnell (at desiringgod.org) encourages us to bring our minds and hearts into a “hungry readiness to hear the Lord himself speak kindly and deeply and powerfully to our souls.”  (See, he said “hungry.”  I knew this analogy was good!  Just kidding.)

Say the blessing.

Center your focus on him through prayer.

Thank God for His Word.  Praise Him for being a revelatory God, which means He wants to be known by His people.  Ask the Holy Spirit to meet you there.  Ask Him to show you something of Himself as you study.  Ask Him to change you as a result of the time you spend exclusively with Him.

Cut off small bites and chew.

Slow down in your reading. 

Treat the Scripture like your favorite meal, enjoyed rarely and savored.  Again, this is not just “daily Bible reading.”  There is no prize for completing more chapters than anyone else, as if we were in a hot dog eating contest.  You don’t pick up a whole steak and stuff it in your mouth then try to chew (forgive me for that analogy, vegetarians).  You cut off bites—preferably small bites—and you chew them thoroughly before you swallow.  Approach the Scriptures with the idea that every paragraph has value, that every sentence was intentionally included.  Take a couple of sentences and see what the Holy Spirit can show you.  This works best (especially if it’s new to you) in the letters of Paul or Peter.

Perhaps it’s left over from those years of “daily Bible reading,” but we tend to fill our quiet time minutes with reading the Word so that we don’t have to do the actual work of hearing Him and obeying!  Plus, if you read too much, you are just going to forget most of it anyway.  James (1:23-24) said, Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.  We are to look intently and continue in that state of having looked so that we don’t forget but instead, we do/act/obey (James 1:25).

Read a few verses or as much as a paragraph.  Think about what it means.  You probably know the context, and that helps.  If nothing strikes you, check the cross-references for other related verses.  After you consider what it meant to the author and to his first audience, focus on what it means for you.  This second ‘level’ of meaning is directly related to the first, but we live in a very different culture and a very different century.  Let the Holy Spirit guide you in this, and test any understanding against Scripture as a whole.

Digest.

Let the Holy Spirit use God’s Word to change you.

In eating, this is where your body really goes to work.  It takes awhile, and it often affects you for hours (sometimes in a negative way, like if you ate beans & rice!).

“I think you should learn, of course, and some days you must learn a great deal.  But you should also have days when you allow what is already in you to swell up inside of you until it touches everything.  And you can feel it inside you.  If you never take time out to let that happen, then you just accumulate facts, and they begin to rattle around inside of you.  You can make noise with them, but never really feel anything with them.  It’s hollow.”  –e.l. konigsburg, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

Is this not what we often do with the Word of God?  We accumulate knowledge, then let it rattle around inside us, doing nothing but creating noise.  So let what you have come to understand sink into your mind and heart.  Paul said, Let the Word of Christ richly dwell within you . . . (Colossians 3:16 NASB).  Toward the end of your set-aside time with the Lord, give yourself a few minutes to sit and ponder.  Think of Mary (Luke 10:39), just sitting at Jesus’ feet, soaking in everything He says without any agenda of her own.  This is meditation.

If you are at a loss, ask yourself any or all of these questions.

  • What does God want you to do with what you’ve learned? (James 1:22-25)
  • What change do you need to make in your life in response to what you’ve studied? How, specifically, are you going to make this change? (Write it in your journal.)
  • How does this thought or information apply to your day?
  • Is there anyone specific with whom God wants you to share these thoughts?

Then, before you close your Bible, put your thought(s) in that part of your mind where you store things you seriously need to remember for today, things like “pick up kids at 3pm.”  As a matter of discipline, remind yourself of what you studied as you go through your day.  I’ve heard of people setting their watches to beep every hour, taking a moment before opening Facebook, writing something on the bathroom mirror, and other similar reminders.  It’s up to you.

Remember, “You are what you eat!”

My husband likes to brush his teeth just before he goes out the door:  after coffee, breakfast, shower, everything.  So more than a few times, the rest of us stand at the door, waiting on him while he runs back to brush his teeth.  It’s become a joke.  As we open the door, someone will ask, “Dad, have you brushed your teeth?”  When your quiet time takes on value and affects the rest of your day, it will become an absolutely essential part of your routine.  Just as you would NEVER leave the house without brushing your teeth, you will think it entirely unacceptable to walk out the door before you spend some quiet, alone time with God.

Whaddaya want?

Sometimes the question is raised, “Why should we pray?” After all, God already knows everything and He already has a plan, so what’s the point? Read on…

Luke 18:35-43.

As Jesus made his way toward Jerusalem for the last time, a blind man asked what all the commotion was about. Hearing that it was Jesus, he started calling for Jesus’ attention. (We’ll overlook the people who tried to quiet the blind man. Probably the disciples, since they were leading the way.) This guy had obviously already heard of Jesus and knew he needed Jesus’ help.

It’s almost funny—this moment where Jesus obviously knows what the man wants, yet makes him say it anyway:

Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” 

“Lord, I want to see,” he replied -Luke 18:40-41`

Why did Jesus make
him answer the question?

Lord, I want to see. Why did Jesus make him say it? He had to be taken by the hand and led over there. He had been calling out desperately. His blindness was surely evident.  Even the blind guy didn’t think it necessary to state the obvious. And yet Jesus made him answer the question. Why?

I think there were a couple of reasons. One, his statement voiced the faith that already dwelt in his heart. Like asking someone a question to which you know the answer, but you ask just to prove a point. For example, do you love your mother? Everyone loves his or her mother. If I ask such a question, I must be going somewhere with it, not because I really don’t know the answer. The blind man had no doubts about Jesus’ miracle-working abilities; otherwise, he wouldn’t have insisted on Jesus’ attention like he did. So without saying anything directly, Jesus’ question contrasted this random man’s faith with the faith of those who watched and followed him…and with our faith as we read the story now. Is my faith such that I absolutely, unquestionably believe that Jesus can and will meet my needs?

The act of asking means
I want the answer.

But there’s another, deeper reason for Jesus’ question. When we ask for something, we’re saying two things:  one, “I am in need;” and two, “I will receive what you give me.” We’ve all been given unwelcome (or at least unasked-for) gifts, and while we appreciate the generosity, there’s a part of us that is unwilling to receive the gift. I once received a wooden carving of an island made to stand up on a table or shelf.  Umm…gee…thanks. But if I ask for something, the very act of asking means I want and will receive the answer. If I ask for your advice, it means I want to hear what you think, and I will receive your opinion (hopefully with thanksgiving). I am receptive to you, and I recognize my inability to help myself.

So beneath Jesus’ question were several others:

  • Do you understand Who I am?
  • Do you believe I can heal you?
  • Do you put the authority over your life in my hands?
  • Do you want to be changed forever?

For each question, the man’s answer was “Yes!” That’s confident and authentic faith–confident: I know You can do it; authentic: I confess that I need and want you to do it. I wrote before about how we phrase our prayers and how we present them, now in this picture with Jesus, we find a beginning (because there’s SO much more to this!) explanation of why we pray.

A blind man as our model of faith: we ask because we want His answer. (click to tweet)

In your opinion, what is the purpose of prayer? There’s more to it than this, I know. Please share in the comments below. Let’s have a conversation!

 

Inform or Implore?

Sometimes, it looks like Jesus put the disciples into awkward—even difficult—situations on purpose . . . like He knew they were going to be tested.  I would have hated it if I was one of them, but I love watching what happens from my 21st-century perspective!

For example, in Luke 8:22 He said, “Hey, let’s take this boat across the lake.”  Then He fell asleep in the boat—deeply asleep.  A big storm came.  Did He know that it would come?  Did He want to test their faith?  I tend to think He did.

Well, they failed the faith test.  First, they were afraid, but this is not their failure.  It’s okay to be afraid when something big and scary happens.  The Creator built us that way.  It helps us survive.  Then, they woke up Jesus.  That’s not their failure either.  Talking to God is a good thing to do when you’re afraid.  That’s what we tell our kids, isn’t it?

So where are they lacking?  Or, as Jesus put it, “Where is your faith?”  Answer:  They assumed Jesus couldn’t take care of the situation; they thought they were as-good-as-dead.  They woke Him up in a panic, saying, “We’re going to drown!”  (Makes me wonder why they even woke Him up; I mean, if I was about to die, I’d just as soon be asleep when it happens—less scary that way.)  Looks to me like they just wanted Jesus to be aware of the situation.  Instead, they should have said, “We need you to take care of this.”

It’s okay that they didn’t know how He would handle it.  He just expected them to believe that He could and would.

Sometimes our (okay, MY) prayers focus more on informing God of the situation than on asking Him to handle it, more on complaining than complying, more on the crisis than the Christ.  If I really believe that He is sovereign, then my prayers need to reflect an “asked and answered” attitude.

Know what I mean?