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Monday, May 6, 2019

The Faith to Ask Questions

Let me shoot you a scenario. A Child is arguing with his mother about staying up late on a school night. He is telling his mon that he wants to stay up an hour longer "because all his friends are doing it," but his mother stands firm stating that he needs to go to sleep at his normal time. Then the inevitable question comes. "But why?"

Now, this mother can go through all the details of why he needs to go to sleep at a normal time--
---That he is a nightmare to wake up in the morning even with his normal sleep schedule...
---That he needs as much sleep as possible so he can focus at school...
But instead, she responds with:

"Because I said so!"

Now, we've all been there. We have either been on the receiving end of that statement or on the side of giving that statement---or both. As a parent, I know that I have used this several times. 

"Why mom?" 
"Because I said so." 

"Why is this like this?"
"Because that is just the way it is."

"Why is the sky blue?"
"Because it is."

We all get tired of the questions, but I'll tell you something. I find myself thanking God that he doesn't get tired of our questions. But I realized something. We approach questions about God, the Bible, and Christian traditions much the same way that we approach the questions our children ask.

"Why do we do this (or not do this) as Christians?"
"Because God said so."

"Why do we do church this way?"
"Because that is just the way it is."

"How do we know what the Bible says is true?"
"Because it is."

And sometimes, when we ask those questions, we are quickly reminded of "Doubting Thomas." We all know that story. He's the disciple who demanded that he would not believe unless he saw and felt Jesus' wounds on the Living Lord. Jesus answered his request but said, Because you have seen me you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe" (Jn 20:29). Boy, do we rag on Thomas. How dare he not believe? But we say nothing about Peter and John who ran to the tomb to see for themselves that it was empty--God knows they didn't believe the women who ran to tell them. We say nothing about the other eight disciples who failed to believe until Peter and John came and confirmed what the women had originally told them. What is different? The difference is simply that Thomas was the only one who voiced his questioning, so we give him a bad rap. I want to point something out. When Jesus told Thomas "Because you have seen me you have believed," he said it in a room full of disciples who had doubted his resurrection.

But we take this as "do not question God." Jesus did call out the lack of belief, but questioning God is not at all what is being addressed here. The angel (and Jesus himself) had commanded the women to tell the disciples that he rose. It was not what they questioned---it was why. They questioned, not to inform belief but because they doubted those who were sent.


Throughout the Bible, there are numerous accounts of people questioning God. The Psalms are riddled with questions of "Why?" The prophets regularly questioned God and even expressed blatant frustration with his call on their lives. Even Jesus questioned and pleaded with God. So why were the disciples "rebuked" and not the Psalmist? Why were Jesus' friends called out and not the prophets? Why is it okay for Jesus to question God but not his disciples?


Hebrews 11:1-2 says, "Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen. For by it our ancestors won God's approval." In verse six, it says, "Now without faith, it is impossible to please God, since the one who draws near to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him."(Italics mine)

Those who earnestly seek him.

Seek. To ask, to request, to solicit, to call for, to entreat, to beg, to petition... to question. 

Matthew 7:7-11 says, "Ask and it will be given to you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be open to you. For everyone who asks receives and the one who seeks finds., and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Who among you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for fish, will give him a snake? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him?"

Parents, we identify with this. If our child asked for something that is good for them, we would NEVER give them something that would harm them instead.

When my daughter was little, she loved vegetables even more than she does now. She used to ask for carrots and celery instead of dessert. You can bet your bottom dollar I did not wave a cupcake under her nose instead of giving her the desired carrots and celery. Nope, I excitedly gave her the veggies and beamed at the fact that she wanted something that was healthy. I still brag about that characteristic. That girl STILL loves her fruits and vegetables.  

Even still, when she asks for healthy snacks--like oranges or broccoli (seriously, broccoli)--I make sure that she gets a healthy snack. 

Jeremiah 33:3 says, "Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know."

God is longing to reveal his truth to us. But he is not going to bestow it on someone who refuses to seek it. 

"A discerning mind seeks knowledge, but the mouth of the fool feeds on foolishness" (Pro 15:14).

A discerning mind seeks knowledge.

How do we gain knowledge?  By asking questions. When we ask God for wisdom, for understanding, for knowledge, he will give it--

IF WE EARNESTLY SEEK IT!

"How much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him?"

But we live in fear of asking. We take "fear God" as "don't you dare question."

But those questions plague us. We read our Bibles and wonder... or at least I do... I wonder... and then I ask... and when I ask, I am always told: "Because the Bible says." But the question doesn't leave. I read the Bible and wonder why things must be this particular way, but was always told: "that is just the way it is."

"That is just the way it is."

THAT IS SUCH A LAZY RESPONSE!!!

#sorrynotsorry 

But for real. If anyone has used that as an excuse for why Church is the way it is, well folks, y'all are just being lazy!

"A discerning mind seeks knowledge."

"That is just the way it is," "Because the Bible says so," "Because the Pastor says so." These are dismissive statements. They are not knowledge seeking or knowledge enhancing. They are empty words of a lazy religion. The question is still there, unanswered and brushed--like a fungus, eating away at the seed of faith within the heart.

But the fact is, we are afraid. Countless Christians profess that you cannot love God and the sciences. In fact, John Wesly once said, "I am convinced, from many experiences, I could not study either mathematics, arithmetic, or algebra...without being a deist, if not an atheist" (qtd. in Meunier). We fear the questions. We fear the closer examination. We want faith to be "at a glance" instead of "detailed analysis."

But Why?

Because Science, Mathematics, History, Psychology, Sociology-- these all force us to examine the Bible in greater detail. We view that as a doubt to its authenticity and there is the fear that if something with the Bible is found to be untrue, our faith will prove to be false. Well, if your faith is in the total historical, scientific, and mathematical accuracy of the Bible, sorry folks, your faith is in the wrong thing.

Now, don't get me wrong. I believe the Bible to be true. I believe, wholeheartedly, in 2 Thes. 3:16 
"All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." But it was also written by man, and sometimes some of the minor details recorded were wrong. ie: Jeremiah got the date of the fall of Jerusalem wrong--but that does not invalidate the Bible. Why? Because the Bible isn't about the dates. It is about God. We cannot put our faith in the minor details of the Bible. Our faith needs to be in the one the Bible is about.

Proverbs 1:7 says, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction."

As Christians, if we fear the Lord, we will continuously seek him--and seek knowledge about him. That means a closer examination of scripture.

"Fools despise wisdom and instruction."

Why do fools despise this? Simply because a fool does not want to be told they are wrong. They want to continue living life in bliss ignorance believing they have life completely figured out. 

"Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain fell, and the rivers rose, and the winds blew and pounded that house. Yet it didn't collapse because its foundation was on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and doesn't act on them will be like the foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, the rivers rose, and the winds blew and pounded that house, and it collapsed. It collapsed with a great crash" (Matt 7:24-27).

What is your foundation?

Is it the Rock?

Is it God and seeking Truth?

OR

Is it the Sand?

Is it the way you've always been raised to believe what the Bible says?
Is it your personal interpretation of scripture?
Is it what your Church, Pastor, or Parents believe?
Is it what is easiest for you to believe?

How many times do we become irritated when we hear someone use the excuse: "Well this is the way we've always done it" and fighting progress? This is the mindset that has kept women from equality. It is the mindset that kept the races segregated. It is the process that caused people to fight medical advances. 

And yet...

It is the same mindset that keeps us from growing in our faith, knowledge, and trust in God.

Tradition has its place, but remember--it isn't everything.

And "because that is just the way it is" is laziness through and through.
The "Why" must be answered.

As Christians, we cannot be afraid of "Why?" Our trust should be in God. He is strong enough to withstand any question we have. Whether it is about him, about why he works a specific way, why something happened the way it did... it doesn't matter what questions. He gave us a brain wired with wonder. We are supposed to use it.

A three-year-old does not fear questions. Any parent can attest to the fact that at that age, everything is "Why?" Maybe that is what Jesus meant when he said we must be like Childre. We must be willing to admit we do not have all the answers and not be okay with a simple statement of "that is just the way it is."

Look at your Pastor, your Sunday School Teacher, your Bible Study Leader, your College Professor--- these people are human. They study the Bible, but they do not have some special direct line to God for accurate interpretation that you do not possess. They read the same Bible you do. What they say is not the end-all-take-their-word-for-it-100%-of-the-time-Truth. They spend a ton of time studying what they will share with you and they will never share with you something they feel is inaccurate, but they are not the divinely-selected-interpreters of scripture. 

EACH OF US MUST STUDY FOR OURSELVES!

Once upon a time, only priests possessed the ability to read the Bible--and through that "power" a lot of heresies were born. These heresies were blindly followed because the people didn't know any better. When the Bible was translated into the common language, People were actually angry. Why? Because of fear. The Priests told them what to believe and how to express their "faith"--and ignorance was bliss. If they had to read the Bible for themselves, they would be responsible for what they discovered. But they didn't truly have faith. What they had was blind obedience bred out of fear. 

Romans 12:2 says, "Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing and perfect will of God."

We live in an age of ignorance. I am just going to say it. Browsing through social media, it is very evident. I scroll through my newsfeed and see numerous posts which express how uninformed everyone chooses to be. I cannot tell you how many "Pray for Dakota Miller" messages I have received.***For those of you who don't know, it is a hoax message that has circulated about an 18-month old boy who shot himself with a nail gun*** I have been getting those messages for the last two years and for the last two years I have bee responding with a link explaining that the message is a hoax.

How many of us received a message on facebook saying "Hi, I got another friend request from you yesterday... hold your finger on the message until the forward button appears..." a simple examination of this message stated that it was simply a forward and no one actually received a friend request from you or even the person who sent it to you---but no one wanted to accept that as the truth. 

The fact is, this age doesn't really care about what is true. The truth takes effort to find and it's much easier to post uninformed opinions or thoughts than to make sure what we are posting is true--and it is much easier to believe what we have always been told about the Bible (even if it doesn't quite make sense) than it is to seek the truth and know without a shadow of a doubt that what we believe is accurate. 

But a faith that is blind is not faith, it is ignorance. 

And ignorance is bliss.

Until it's not.

I am going to give you a challenge:

HERE IT IS:

Ask Questions.

Seek Answers--don't be content with lazy responses.

When someone else asks a question, don't give them a lazy answer.

If you don't know the answer, seek the answer.

Remember: A faith that is blind is not faith, but rather a fearful ignorance masquerading as submission to God and his will.

But God's will is for our faith to have a firm foundation--the Solid Rock

and The Solid Rock--the foundation our faith should be built on--is Christ.

The questions will come and the doubts may surface, but if our foundation is on Christ, no matter what answer comes our way, our faith will not be shaken.

"Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed--not only in my presence but now much more in my absence--continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose" (Phil. 2:12-13). 











Works Cited:

Meunier, John. “John Wesley's Advice to Stephen Hawking.” John Meunier, 20 Sept. 2010, johnmeunier.wordpress.com/2010/09/20/john-wesleys-advice-to-stephen-hawking/.

1 comment:

  1. So excited to see you writing again! How in depth and well formed! I bet you are an amazing pastors wife and teacher yourself! Enjoyed your post today, and it was a big encouragement!

    ReplyDelete

The Faith to Ask Questions

Let me shoot you a scenario. A Child is arguing with his mother about staying up late on a school night. He is telling his mon that he wants...