Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Why Does Jesus Ask Obvious Questions?

Why does Jesus ask obvious questions?

He asks a blind man, “What do you want me to do for you?” (Mark 10:51) Duh. Isn’t it obvious Jesus? I want to see.

He asks a man who has been paralyzed for 38 years, “Do you want to get well?”( John 5: 6) Who wouldn’t want to get well? Of course, Jesus. I want to walk.

At times it seems like Jesus ask not only obvious but downright ridiculous questions.

“How many loaves do you have,” he asked his disciples when faced with thousands of hungry people. (Matthew 15:34) What difference does it make Jesus how many loaves we have? Even a year’s worth of wages wouldn’t be enough to feed all these folks. Or he asks Mary and Martha, “Where have you laid him?” (John 11: 34) What difference does it make Jesus? He stinks by now. Lazarus has been dead for days. You’re too late. If you had been here he wouldn’t have died. But it’s too late now Jesus.

Maybe Jesus asks what seems like obvious or ridiculous questions for the same reason we ask our children questions. Sometimes I will ask my children something that I already know the answer.

“Did you clean your room?”

“What happened in school today?”

“What do you want?”

“What did you say?”

I want to see if they are going to tell the truth. Are they going to be honest? Are they trying to fool me and themselves? I might ask them a question already knowing what they need but I want to see where their head is at and what’s on their mind. Do they really know what they want and what it might entail or the responsibility that goes along with it? Why do they want it?

We ask our children obvious questions because we want them to recognize who they are talking to. We are their parents. We love them. We want what’s best for them. Most times they have come to us because they believe we have the power to grant or deny their request.

Unlike us as human parents, Jesus has the power to not only grant our requests but to do exceedingly and abundantly above what we can ask or even think. Before he left this earth, Jesus declared, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” (Matthew 28: 18) He already knows what we need, but are we going to be honest and come clean about where we’re really at in our situation. And if he says he has something else for us or tells us to wait, are we willing to accept his authority? We want blessings but are we willing to accept the responsibility. We want the promise but are we willing to go through the process.

Jesus has the ability to make something out of nothing. He can supply our needs according to his riches in glory. He can bring life to dead situations in our lives. But he wants us to recognize who he is. He is God. He has the power. He just asks another question, “Do you believe?”

What About the Homeless?

“…I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25:40

Recently I was walking in downtown Chicago. There’s nothing better than downtown Chicago on a summer’s evening. Beautiful flowers grace the median of Michigan Avenue. The sounds of a violin or the rapid beat of boys beating drums pierce the air. Most pedestrians stroll, enjoying the beauty of the last breath of summer.

But in the midst of the beauty of downtown Chicago, there is also the ugly reality of the homeless--men and women who carry their life’s possessions on their back. I don’t get to the city regularly so I forget how many homeless people spend their day begging along Michigan Avenue. Is it my imagination or are there more of them than there used to be? They come up and ask for money. I don’t want to reach in my purse to hunt for a few dollars in the middle of the street. Apologetically, I say sorry—feeling sad that I couldn’t help in some small way. Sometimes I try not to see them or make eye contact hoping that I won’t be faced with saying no. I resolve in my mind to remember to carry a few dollars in my pocket next time so that I’ll have something readily available or tell myself that I will make a donation to the Salvation Army or another charity that helps the homeless.

We should all be concerned about those who are less fortunate. But unfortunately, many people who are blessed see those who are less fortunate as a nuisance who put themselves in that situation. I was surprised when my 13-year-old daughter said her friend commented that she would not help the homeless.

“Homeless man shouldn’t have gotten himself into that position,” her friend said.

And this is from a 13-year-old girl. But unfortunately children get those attitudes from adults. Instead of feeling compassion or a sense of “There but for the grace of God go I” too many of us have a condescending attitude. In spite of the bad choices people may make and the unfortunate circumstances that those decisions may place them, God calls us to help those in need. You might be living in a house in the suburbs today, but as the recent economic crisis has shown, many of us are just one paycheck, layoff or medical crisis away from being homeless. When we help the least of these it’s as if we are doing it for God.

My husband, John, a professor of journalism at Roosevelt University in downtown Chicago, had one of his journalism classes explore homelessness in Chicago during the spring of 2009. The multimedia project included photographs, videos, podcasts, articles and essays. The work that they produced is displayed at the web site, When the City Turns Cold.

John also wrote an essay about the homeless and his class project which appeared in the Chicago Tribune on July 12, 2009. Click here to read the article Now, I See, which also appeared on the web site Op Ed News.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Candy Straws

“But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9

My seven-year-old son loves candy.

If I would let him, he would watch television and eat candy all day. His favorite candy is candy straws. His eyes light up with excitement and his tongue even hangs out in anticipation when I buy him candy straws. He’ll even do a little dance in the aisle of Walgreens when I’m buying him candy straws.

Sometimes I will buy him candy without him knowing. I store it on a high shelf in the kitchen above his reach and eyesight. He doesn’t know that it’s up there because he’s not tall enough to see it. He has not grown enough to see the good thing that is in store for him.

I usually don’t give him the whole package all at once. It’s too much sugar at once for his little system to handle. I also want to teach him not to eat it all at once, but how to save some for later. I want to reward him for being an obedient child and following my word. It is a pleasure to reward a good child. But sometimes I buy it just because he’s mine.

When he doesn’t know that I’ve already bought candy, sometimes at the store he will ask if he can have some candy and I say I already have some for you at home. You will get it in time. That answer at times brings whining or complaining. Sometimes that attitude of ingratitude makes his wait even longer. I may wait to give it to him, but it is his candy. I bought it just for him.

God has prepared some things for us. We’re just not tall enough to see it yet. We have not matured enough to see or handle the blessing. Maybe we’re walking in disobedience or in a spirit of complaining like the children of Israel who delayed their promise by 40 years by their disobedience and complaining attitude.

God wants to give it to us. It’s his gift just for us. If we as human parents know how to give our children good gifts how much more so does our Heavenly Father? One of his greatest gifts for those who love him is his love. He gives us the gift of his presence in our lives and the promise that that He will never leave us or forsake us. Even when we don’t feel like He is there or we don’t see his hand in our lives, He is still there.

Let’s grow up in Him and continue to wait upon the Lord. He will give us what we need and even the desires of our heart at the right time or we will grow up enough in our faith that we will be able to see it with our spiritual eyes. Or maybe, like my son, we will come to know that even if we can’t see it, it doesn’t mean it’s not there.

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