How many times as young parents did we hear this question from the back seat as we traveled down the highway, “Are we there yet?” It was spoken in seriousness, but sometimes would be repeated over and over again, knowing it was getting under the skin of the front seat occupants! Needless to say, the question was a signal the back seat was about to have about as much sitting still as they could take.
It was also a signal of uncertainty. The young ones knew the departure point but the destination time was a little foggy. It was at this point in the trip when all the games planned on the trip lost their luster and parenting skills were now required.
No matter how much parents repeated, “We’re almost there” it somehow did not alleviate the anxiety of the young ones. They had a pre-conceived idea of how long the trip would take, and once it exceeded that period of time, all they could do is focus on the goal – arrival!
The nation of Israel was under Roman rule when Jesus walked among them. This rule was oppressive, and the people hoped for days of freedom. They remembered their liberation from their days of slavery under the Egyptians, and celebrated it every year. The prophets foretold of the coming of the Messiah for generations. The people hoped He would free them from the rule of a foreign government and join all the tribes once again under one king.
The Apostles were Jewish and knew of the prophecy. They like all others desired to see the nation of Israel return to one nation under a new king. Even though they had spent approximately three years with Jesus, there was some ideas that were hard to give up.
On the day Jesus ascended, they gathered around Him and asked, “Are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” Basically, they were asking, “Are we there yet?” While they believed Jesus was the Messiah to their very cores, some of the things Jesus taught them were still being lost. They were ready to arrive at their destination of a united Israel.
Jesus knew His disciples, and us as well, have a hard time as humans understanding God’s master plan. We all have a part to play in it, one specifically chosen for us. We can remember the beginning of our relationship with Christ, but on this journey, we can’t see the destination as clear as we would like.
This week, rest in the faith that God has a plan, and nothing we can do nor anything this world can throw at it will inhibit it one bit. It is a marvelous plan and one beyond our wildest dreams. Get involved in God’s plan, but mostly we should enjoy the trip with Him in the driver’s seat!
During my last deployment to the Middle East, I had a conversation with a Colonel that bears sharing. We were longtime friends, so when he said, “Doug, you’re just a Warrant Officer” I didn’t take offense. I responded, “I’ll take that as a compliment!” He inquired about my positive response.
I said, “Colonel, you’re an Infantry branch Officer. You bounce around serving in many different positions from operations to supply, from intelligence to personal and even in public affairs. You have also served in varying levels of leadership in different size organizations. At the end of all of this, you’ll know a little bit about everything, thereby becoming a generalist. Your next rank is a General Officer.” He was locked into my explanation at this point.
I continued, “Sir, I’m a Chief Warrant Officer in the Intelligence branch. I stay in my field my entire career and with over two decades of experience, I’ve become the subject matter expert in all things intelligence. When you are briefing as a generalist in a big conference, I’ll be standing at the back wall as the expert in intelligence ready to help you with the questions you can’t answer!” He smiled and said, “Point well taken, Chief.”
We can compare a general officer to a person who is very wise in a great deal of matters. But the question is do they have a full understanding of them? One would have to conclude no, or they would not need large staffs to assist them with decisions.
Solomon was called the wisest man to ever live. People sought him out for guidance in disputes and other matters in daily living. He must have displayed a great deal of common sense. But here is my question (and I know you’re saying finally!): Is wisdom better than knowledge or understanding?
Would a Warrant Officer in my example above be considered wise or having understanding? Of course, it’s the latter. To understand a subject, one must have in-depth knowledge. A person with no formal education can be wise, but their in-depth understanding of specific matters may be inadequate.
Should we strive to be wise about spiritual matters or should be desire an in-depth knowledge about them? We can recite the 66 books of the Bible in order, but do we have knowledge or understanding of their contents?
Two verses give us a roadmap to understanding God, and the first step is wisdom. Proverbs 9:10 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”
We don’t have to take the first step on our own. Ask God to give you wisdom. With it, you can develop a better knowledge of Him, and His goal for us is to understand Him and the desires of His heart for us! This week, let us begin asking for His wisdom in us.
In my father’s boyhood days, there was no such thing as a community swimming pool in rural Oklahoma. Even though the Greeks and Romans had pools 600 years before the birth of Jesus, I guess rural Oklahoma had yet to catch up.
My father could swim well. I asked him how he learned, thinking all along of the dust bowl state in a post-depression era. He told me his dad would take each of his siblings when they came of age to the big pool in the nearby creek (yes, you know what’s coming next!). My grandfather would convey to them he was right there if they needed him, but it was a matter of sink or swim. With that, the student was thrown into the creek to either swim back to the bank or be rescued by my grandfather. I’m unsure how many times my father was rescued, if any. Its obvious he grasped the idea of staying on top of the water quite well.
We apply the phrase “sink or swim” to our daily lives in situations which do not involve water at all. We say, “nose to the grindstone,” “fish or cut bait,” or “sink or swim” to indicate its time to get motivated or succumb to the hardships in our path. Highly motivated individuals can do this with some ease, but most of us need help just getting started.
Biblically, when you hear the “sink or swim” phrase, our minds should automatically go to Simon Peter. Peter was bold, brash, and made some quick decisions that later got him into a little trouble. These decisions usually didn’t have very much thought behind them.
When the disciples were in the boat struggling all night against the wind on the Sea of Galilee, Jesus walked out passed them. Initially, they all were terrified until Jesus identified Himself. It was Peter who challenged Jesus saying, “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.” A few steps later and Peter was sinking, crying out to Jesus to save him.
Contrast this with the disciples fishing together after the resurrection. Jesus asked them if they were catchin’ any (just like any good fisherman would ask!). When He instructed them to try the other side, the nets became full. At that moment Jesus was recognized and it was Peter who wrapped his outer garment around his waist, and into the water he went without hesitation. It’s speculated he made it to shore before the boat!
The difference? Preparedness for certain. But the greatest is keeping our eyes on the one who can motivate us to greatness, even in the midst of our circumstances. Jesus was present with Peter at both occasions, but it was Peter’s focus that motivated him to reach his goal.
Where is your focus today? Are your eyes set on the one who can pull you from your situation? You can sink or swim, but Jesus not only wants you to swim (our goal), He also wants you to walk on water (His goal for us)! Do some “water-walking” this week with the right focus!
“You can’t see the forest from the trees!” Understanding this phrase was difficult for me as a young man. Just exactly what does it mean? If you’re looking at the trees are you not looking at the forest as well? I’ll give you one of my least favorite answers – yes and no!
Let me try to explain with another question: how focused are you? Sometimes we can get so focused on the details, we fail to see the big picture. When that happens, we develop what is called “tunnel vision.” We are so focused on one thing, all else around it seems to blur or disappear. With that in mind, can we focus on a single tree and fail to see the entire forest? Yes, we can.
Our gaze can tell us a great deal about our circumstances. When you walk, is your gaze down or is your head up? By looking down, we see the place for our next few steps, but we fail to see the big tree in our path a few yards out! It’s much like the videos we’ve seen of people texting on their phones and walking straight into a big fountain. The gaze and focus of this type of person certainly needs to change, as it would keep both phone and person drier!
What about our spiritual gaze? Are we looking two or three feet ahead of us or are we looking down the road? In our present circumstances, it would be easy to drop our head and get down. It is hard to look down the road when the road is covered in a fog of uncertainty. We don’t know when businesses will be opening again. And when they do, we don’t know what exactly how businesses will be operating!
Two men walking on a road had their eyes downcast. The future was uncertain and their hopes for a different and wonderful future had just been destroyed. These men had been following Jesus. They just knew He was the one to bring the tribes back together and return the nation of Israel back to prominence. They had seen the crucifixion three days before and heard about the empty tomb. They knew the words of the prophets who foretold of the Messiah. Yet now that Jesus was gone, they no longer called Him the Messiah. They referred to Him as a prophet.
When Jesus appeared and walked with the two men, they were so down and their gaze toward the ground, they failed to recognize Him. It wasn’t until they were in a home sitting down for a meal did they finally recognize who had been with them all along. Their focus then changed.
During our present circumstances, it would be easy to get downcast. Jesus is walking beside us. We need to change our gaze, look at Jesus (who has been there all along), and let our hearts burn with the love only He can give! We will all get through this, with Him!
Data is everything! We solve problems from the examination of mountains of information. Weather forecasters use historical data and couple it with present day to make future predictions. Those who predict human behavior use past data, or behavior patterns to predict future behavior. As the old saying goes, it’s hard for a leopard to change its spots.
As a former professor of statistics, the last half of the semester was spent on inferential statistics, that is using data gathered from samples to infer future results. The larger the sample size the better. And as the number of pieces of data increases and approaches infinity, the more the distribution will approach normality (I couldn’t resist causing a few headaches)! Therefore, using the normal curve as a measure of the population is a pretty sound practice.
We want more data, or more information to guide our daily lives. Politicians say, “I don’t have enough information to form an opinion on this matter.” Nine-year-old boys shrug their shoulders and eloquently state “I don’t know” when they don’t have an answer. Some of you are seeing a comedic correlation here, but we must move on.
Sometimes we make snap judgements before we have all the data. Other times we refuse to take a stance until we have every piece of data available! The disciples of Jesus contained both personality types.
There are two disciples who come to mind from the above statement. Peter, the impetuous one, jumped onto the water to walk to Jesus. He was also the first out of the boat, swimming to shore when they spotted the resurrected Lord.
On the other end of the spectrum we have Thomas, or “Doubting Thomas” as we know him. Thomas was not about to decide without all the data. He definitely wasn’t one for a quick decision.
Did Thomas doubt the Lord had risen? Or did he not have faith in the other disciples after he watched them scatter at Jesus’ arrest? We don’t know the mind of Thomas other than he wanted proof, and he was zealous about it.
Thomas was zealous about a lot of things, but most in his support for Jesus. It was Thomas who said, “let us go so we may die with him!” When Jesus said He needed to go back to Judea, even after a near-stoning, it was Thomas who was not hesitant in his support of Jesus.
So, when Thomas said the only way he would believe was to touch the scars and side of Jesus, he was being his usual non-impetuous self. Thomas had a zealousness Jesus could count on.
Are we zealous in our faith? I mean, do we want more proof to satisfy our own questions, or more information about Jesus to share with the world? We should all have a desire to know our risen Savior better. When we want to know more and get closer to Him, it is hardly doubting but rather desire!