I went for a walk this morning, just through our neighborhood. It was amazing. There were thousands and thousands of helicopters everywhere. It was like helicopters were growing on trees. Who could design that? A tree that manufactures helicopters?
I helped my son move to Knoxville this week. It was a bittersweet experience. I was glad for the opportunity to help, but sad to see him go. He and his family are now four hour away instead of 20 minutes.
After we finished unloading the U-Haul trailer, I was getting ready to come back home when he asked me if he could pay for the gas. I told him “No, but there is one thing you can do for me.”
“What’s that?” he asked.
“Promise me that if you ever need help, you will call me.”
“I promise.” he replied.
Fighting to maintain our macho guy image, we both got a little glassy eyed, gave a quick hug, then quickly turned and walked away. The emotions were strong because I am his father, and it gives me comfort to know that my precious son would not struggle alone when he needs help. My love for him stretches way beyond the four hour drive to Knoxville. I want him to know that if he needs me, I will be there for him. I might not always see or do things the way he wants, but I want him to always, always, always, know that if he needs anything, he should talk to me about it, because we love each other.
So, that brings me to this morning’s bible study. It was from Luke chapter 11. It’s the story where the disciples ask Jesus how they should pray and he gives them an example, and a story about always asking, seeking knocking. Those christians who would make me feel guilty for making my prayers mostly about asking God for things should read their Bible more closely. It’s exactly what Jesus told us to do. Our Heavenly Father wants us to ask him when we need help. Why? Because we love each other.
Yesterday was a nice day, especially for December. The temperature was above normal and the Sun was shining bright, so I stretched out my hammock in the back yard and enjoyed a rare December day, relaxing on the hearth of God’s bright, enormous fireplace. While listening to the birds singing joyful thanks to the Creator for such a beautiful day, I looked up at the trees that were holding my hammock. I realized that the same trees that provided shade from the Sun in the Summer were now clear of leaves so that the Sun could shine through and warm the Winter ground below. What a marvelous design. And believe it or not, while laying there in the hammock, I actually got to talk with the Designer.
Here’s a crazy Bible story for you:
Joshua son of Nun sent two spies out from Shittim secretly and instructed them: “Find out what you can about the land, especially Jericho.” They stopped at the house of a prostitute named Rahab and spent the night there.
Joshua 2:1 NET
When I read a snippet like that from the Bible, my imagination goes wild. How in the world did this happen? Joshua sends two spies out on reconnaissance. They are about to tackle a major battle with a fortified city and they need intel, so these two guys sneak in, then decide to visit a prostitute… and spend the night?? Who’s idea was that? Did they know she was a prostitute when they picked her house? Or did they just pick her house at random, find out she was a prostitute, THEN decide to spend the night when she seemed friendly? And even if a prostitute acts friendly, wouldn’t you guess her motive was more in line with her career than her character?
Here’s more of the story:
The king of Jericho received this report: “Note well! Israelite men have come here tonight to spy on the land.” So the king of Jericho sent this order to Rahab: “Turn over the men who came to you – the ones who came to your house – for they have come to spy on the whole land!” But the woman hid the two men and replied, “Yes, these men were clients of mine, but I didn’t know where they came from. When it was time to shut the city gate for the night, the men left. I don’t know where they were heading. Chase after them quickly, for you have time to catch them!”
Joshua 2:2-5 NET
It would seem, “visiting a prostitute” was the perfect alibi. Even so, wouldn’t you love to hear how this went down when these two guys got back to camp and gave their report? I can hear the questions now.
“So what happened?”
“You did WHAT??!! You stayed where???!!!”
“Did you really think she would help our cause?”
“What did she do?”
“Just who’s idea was it to spend the night with a prostitute anyway?”
I wonder what their answer was?
The day you came, you brought joy and laughter, and love. Your arrival marked one of the best days of my life. You made me feel so proud and so blessed to have you in my life, and so it has been for 35 years. Now a new life has come to you, and all those feelings come rushing back, some for the new arrival, but mostly, for you. Watching you become a mom has made me the proudest father, all over again.
Pilate addressed them once again because he wanted to release Jesus. But they kept on shouting, “Crucify, crucify him!” A third time he said to them, “Why? What wrong has he done? I have found him guilty of no crime deserving death. I will therefore flog him and release him.” But they were insistent, demanding with loud shouts that he be crucified. And their shouts prevailed.
– Luke 23:20-23 NET
Some things never change. Those who yell long enough and loud enough usually get what they want… or at least what they think they want.
I’ve never really liked the story from the Bible about the two guys on the road to Emmaus. (Luke 24) Something about it just didn’t seem right. These guys were disciples, Jesus comes along and walks with them, and they don’t even recognize him. It makes them sound clueless. Dumb. Like not sincere followers. If you read the story carefully though, you will notice it really wasn’t their fault. The Bible says that their eyes were kept from recognizing him. So was Jesus playing a joke on them? That doesn’t sound right either. These are the reasons I never liked this story, until this morning.
This morning, it was different. As I read through the story again, I gained a new perspective on the blessing Jesus shared with these guys. He wasn’t playing a joke on them. He was blessing them. They were kept from seeing him as Jesus. But why?
Imagine two walks, the one they had, and the one they would have had if they had recognized Jesus from the start. If they had recognized Jesus when they met him on the road, they would have been in awe. They would have worshipped him. They would have feared his power and praised his greatness. It would have been wonderful for sure, but it would not have been at all like the walk they had. What if Jesus wanted something different?
Imagine the walk they had. Three guys met on the road and walked along together talking about their experiences. The new guy taught them about the scripture in a new way. They listened, they discussed, they questioned and contemplated together. No one felt on edge, on their guard, off balance or unworthy. They were just three guys walking and talking together as friends, discussing the recent events and the history of their faith. Perhaps that is exactly what Jesus wanted.
After all the events he had just been through, a quiet walk and talk without all the hype was the way Jesus chose to relate those events to his disciples. He was Lord and Master choosing to relate to them as equals. As friends. And because he kept their eyes from seeing him in all his lordly glory, they experienced him as friend and confidant.
I wonder, could it be this very story that provides a hint as to why God doesn’t make himself more visible? Why does God not powerfully show himself to the world and prove he exists? Maybe, possibly, could it be that the unapproachable blinding holy light of his glory would keep us from seeing the close companionship of a loving friend and father?
As the sun in the wide-open blue makes its way, And I wake with a new day before, I sit and I think about the gift of a day, And I wonder what my Lord has in store. Will I walk the straight path with my eyes on the prize? Will I act with the Kingdom in mind? Or will I wander and fall to the enemy's lies, As I chase selfish things I might find. Lord Jesus may I live this day as would you, With joy and with Your confident peace. Help me do all the things you would have me to do, Then let worries for tomorrow all cease. When I lay in my bed or my grave for the night, And this day, or the last is all through, I want to know that I've lived with your Kingdom in sight, And every moment was lived, for You. I want to shine in the darkness I want to sing from my heart I want to live for you, Jesus Take my life, every part
Maybe it is more important that I be totally committed to what I believe than always confident in what I believe. Doubts, when they come, make it hard to be totally confident in beliefs. Commitment means the doubts don’t matter.
The trash man is now a robot. Well, more precisely, a robot arm. The big truck pulls up next to my trash can and a long robotic arm reaches out to pick up my can, dump the contents in the truck, and set the can back on the ground. It’s wonderfully efficient for the trash company. The robot arm doesn’t have to be trained. It does exactly what it’s programed to do with no variation. There’s one less worker to pay. The robot arm doesn’t require benifits and it doesn’t have sick days or union membership. Perfect for the trash company, but lousy for me.
I miss the real person. The person who sees if some of the garbage falls on the ground and takes a moment to pick it up and throw it in the truck. The person who makes sure the can is placed back at the end of my driveway, and not in the road. Robots work fine when everything behaves as expected. When all the variables are accounted for and nothing out of the ordinary happens. But that is not real life. Real life has regular occurances of the irregular. Wise humans have learned to expect the unexpected and adjust in the spur of the moment as needed, because we are irregular ourselves.
Real humans are unpredictable, adaptable, and refreshingly unique. They make life interesting, exciting, and full of infinite possibilities. Some do crazy things, some do wonderful things, but they all do suprising things as they constantly make their own choices about life. And the wonders of those inifinite choices are why God gave humans free will. He didn’t want programmed predictiability. He didn’t want robots. He wanted people.