Who, What, When, Where, How and Why

Who, What, When, Where, How and Why:

Inquisitive, I am, and am seldom satisfied with a standard answer. On one hand, that’s exactly who I am, but on the other hand, I’m often satisfied with the idea that I will never know the answer. And that’s okay. Some day. Some time. Someone will find the answer and publish it for me.

Some will leave their past behind as they keep asking questions about things they can never know the answer to. Some will never leave their present place, even though questions should take them into research that begs them to travel to distant places and times to find the answer.

For example: I’ve been to Israel twice, although there was a time several decades ago that I never could figure out why people enjoyed going. But today? I’m ready to go again. Even by myself. I want to hang out in Jerusalem and study the history found in a single place. My other trips took me all over the country, and I saw a lot of interesting things. But, Jerusalem! That’s the place for me.

I want to travel to historical places. And study. I want to think back to ancient times and determine what life must have been like. I want to think back into a time and place, and relive it in my studies and thoughts. This is, perhaps, the reason why I enjoy Historical Fiction. (James Alexander Thom is one of my favorites!) Someone has taken the time to research, and they are bound and determined to tell the story in situ.

Now. That’s a strange word, but it has meaning that is applicable to my questioning mind…

In situ is a Latin phrase that translates literally to “on site” or “in position”. It means “locally”, “on site”, “on the premises” or “in place” to describe an event where it takes place, and is used in many different contexts. [Source]

First sight of Petra, 2013

So much of history can only be experienced “in place”. You cannot find it physically anywhere else but where it is original. In order to study it, and to ask questions hoping for answers, you must visit it where it is. I’ve been to museums in London where so much “history” has been ripped from the original ground and transported to a room in a far away place. Sort of sounds like a zoo! Oh, I want to go see Lions, Tigers, and Bears in situ!

Of course, I’ve seen bears in Alaska, but it’s about time to go to see the polar bears!
Arctic Ice! Here I come!
And lions and tigers, Oh My!
Savanna! Here I come!

I can sit and watch documentaries, read historical books, and day dream all day long about far away places. Or, I can figure out how to get there. And ask my questions. Who. What. Where. When. How. Why.

When I visit a foreign place, I want to see how people live. Today. Walk their streets. Visit their grocery stores. Hardware stores. I want to see how they have evolved from the history that I’m there to study. My wife is tired of me wandering the grocery aisles, looking at the local products! But you find something interesting! Every Time!!! In Scotland, I found a can of green beans that had been opened and pushed to the back of the other cans…

I was proud to find something weird!

Back to Jerusalem for a moment. Wandering the busy streets, all around the temple site, there are “quarters” for each of the 4 major sections of the temple area. They represent time. And history. And you can wander each of them: Jewish, Muslim, Armenian, Christian. Each is unique to a people, time periods, and a place you can research that is special to each group. A great time was spent in each one… But I want to go back. Here’s some documentation from another traveler: ====>>>> [Click Here]

I wonder, would I have followed Jesus back in those early days of his ministry? Would I have been looking for a Rabbi to teach me? Or hoping that this was finally the Messiah? Who can say. But I’m thankful for this portion of scripture that tells me someone was interested enough to question, and to follow.

And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. Then Jesus turned, and saw them following, and saith unto them, What seek ye? They said unto him, Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master,) where dwellest thou? He saith unto them, Come and see. They came and saw where he dwelt, and abode with him that day: for it was about the tenth hour. (John 1:37-39 KJV)

Jesus. Where are you living? Come and see.

I guess we will go where we want to go if we are inquisitive enough to ask the questions, and follow our dreams. How about you? Where have you traveled in your mind, always hoping, someday, to be there in person?

Where have I been? Iceland, Germany, UK, Scotland, Canada, Mexico, Alaska(!), United States (about 37 states in all), Paris (just in the airport), Israel, Jordan, Petra, Jerusalem, Bethlehem.

Where do I want to go next? 

Everywhere!

 

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I’m Listening

I’m Listening…

This morning I wanted to continue a thought from yesterday’s blog when I asked, “Who’s Listening?”

For anyone who knows anything about Seattle, there is a fictional radio doctor with a Harvard degree who opened his call-in show with the phrase, “I’m Listening”…. He was a mental health profession (Psychiatrist, I think) and had a job solving the woes of people who would call in and talk about their problems in a public arena. Perhaps you know Frasier Crane.

Sometimes Frasier was good at his job… Sometimes not…

Frasier CraneI woke this morning thinking about hard sayings we struggle with. You know. “I’m sorry. Forgive me. Please. Thank you.” And Frasier’s opening line to a caller made me realize how hard it is for so many of us to sit back and simply say, “I’m listening.”

Most of us listen and our mind speeds through our potential responses. We are often failures at hearing the entire story, or the real reason the story is being shared. This is true for many of us, we do not listen to understand, we listen to give a response.

A person trained in therapy is not there to give us solutions (I’ve been told), rather, they are there to ask revealing questions that will guide to solutions of our own making. They help us come up with our own solutions.

In fact, a therapist may ask you something like, “Why are you here?” Your response could easily be, “I don’t know, you tell me.”, to which the therapist replies, “Sorry, it doesn’t work that way.”

And that’s a hard pill to swallow.

Most of us want to give solutions, not a guiding hand. Most of us want to solve things the way we see it, and not allow the person to follow their own lead.

Recently, Prince Harry revealed that he is finally getting therapy to help him get over the death of his mom, Princesses Diana. [Source] In one local radio talk show yesterday, while talking about Prince Harry, it was revealed that each of the talking heads (KIRO 97.3) had experienced, previously, or were currently in counseling or therapy (each felt differently about the word usage) and the benefits they perceived from getting to talk to someone who would simply listen.

Who’s listening to you? Your questions? Your confusion?

Since my deeper study has been around the bible and theology, I looked through some writings dealing with the questions, answers and listening styles of various persona’s. One study of the gospels suggest that Jesus was asked 183 questions and only answered 3 of them. He was not the “answer man” we all think of him as. Rather, “he modeled the struggle, the wondering, the thinking it through that helps us draw closer to God and better understand, not just the answer, but ourselves, our process and ultimately why questions are among Jesus’ profound gifts for a life of faith.” [Source]

I would like to think that the way Jesus handled questions are the way we should handle questions. Listen. Guide the conversation so that the person asking has the ability to realize the answer on their own. But too often we feel the question or thought is a personal challenge to our own views and we righteously defend, even to the point of drawing blood and ill feelings.

I know this has been my modus operandi to some who would question.

Why do we do this? Perhaps it’s generations of examples that has taught us how to deal with questions. Or how to give answers. It must take years of training and practice to get good at dealing with the questions that people ask, or handling the problems they are presenting. Maybe that’s why future lawyers join the “debate team” – they have to develop quick wit and response mechanisms so as to not get overwhelmed in the courtroom.

Once again, I look to scripture and bring several areas of personal interest and study dealing with Jesus and the audience. Here are several thoughts about the questions between Jesus and his followers. I wonder who’s listening deep enough to respond appropriately to the question?

First

When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:13-15 NKJV)

He asks a general question about his personal identity, and the disciples talk about it for a while. I’m sure it was not a simple answer, there was probably a lot of discussion and comparison of opinions. Then Jesus drills down a little deeper, “Who do you say I am?”  Okay. I’ve heard you say what others think, now what do you think? Peter blurts out the proper answer that he suddenly believes in, and is rewarded with a leadership role in the new church.

Second

How about the conversation between Jesus and Peter after the resurrection, and just before the ascension? (John 21:15-19) Three times Jesus asks Peter if he loves him. Three times Peter answers. Three times Jesus gives him a future job to do.  Each of the questions are subtly different in the original language. You would need to look at the words for Love, Lambs and Sheep to understand the questions, as well as the answers. Jesus is asking one way, Peter is responding a different way. In fact, Peter never responds appropriately to the question the way Jesus asks.

To close this thought with what I discussed yesterday… If our actions speak louder than our words, then I wonder what your actions are trying to say about your life questions and choices?

I just want those close to me to know, “I’m listening.”

No Such Thing as a Dumb Question

We’ve heard this from teachers, often…

Questions“There’s no such thing as a dumb question, except for the question not asked.”

While this is a true statement on many levels, here are some things to consider.

Some questions are better asked in private, rather than in public. Other questions need to be approached at a time that answers can be given. Reporters and lawyers may ask questions with the hope of surprising an answer that can make an article popular, or the trial exciting. But most of us are not reporters! Nor lawyers!

Even Jesus faced this! One group saw the failure of another group with their quest to challenge Jesus, they swooped in trying to test him with their own question.

But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” (Matthew 22:34-36 NKJV)

He could have given them an answer they thought they wanted to hear, but this is not the way of Jesus. No. He gives them something deeper and broader than they had ever thought! He linked two great truths together!

Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Matthew 22:37-40 KJV)

Perhaps we should consider learning some etiquette about asking good, no, let’s say better…wait, by not just make them the best questions! Let’s glean from St Jerome and think about how this applies to questions we would like to ask.

“Good, better, best. Never let it rest. ‘Til your good is better and your better is best.” ~St. Jerome

Add to that, we are judged by our questions! Ask a simple question, expect a simple answer. Ask a complex question, and with some thought I could probably give you a series of simple answers! Or simply obfuscate your question with extraneous information that will simply confuse the original question!

But one more thought. The age and maturity of the person will scope out the type of question that should be allowed… Okay? So… Ask away… I will not be judged by my answers!

  • “Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.” ~Voltaire
  • “My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” ~JFK

 

 

 

The Law of Asking

How do we get Answers to our Questions…

QuestionsI know kids often have no compulsion about asking impossible questions! “Why” seems to be their favorite word. You can fill in the blank after the word and probably remember what kids of younger years ask.

Often, as adults, we ask questions improperly and just like little kids we struggle with understanding the answers we get.

You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. (James 4:3 NKJV)

Have you ever asked questions that had no answers? Or perhaps the answers you received did not compute! Perhaps the biggest problem is learning the proper way of approaching the questions process so as to receive answers. There is a surprise to this that you will find at the bottom of this post.

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7 NKJV)

The words  of Christ come around the conclusion of what has been commonly called “The Sermon on the Mount.” Contained within the chapters of Matthew (5-7) are words, perhaps from a compilation of a multitude of teaching points, or even one fateful day of utterances.

Regardless, we can see the plan of the words of Jesus in this structure. He lays the foundation of what we are supposed to be like with something we’ve titled “be-attitudes.”

  • Character (Mat 5:3, Mat 5:4, Mat 5:6, Mat 5:8)
  • Conduct (Mat 5:5, Mat 5:7, Mat 5:9)
  • Influence (Mat 5:10-16)

Then Jesus gives some New Kingdom laws. (Mat 5:17—7:27)

  1. Demonstration of the beatitudes (Mat 5:17-20)
  2. The law of anger (Mat 5:21-26)
  3. The law of purity (Mat 5:27-30)
  4. The law of fidelity (Mat 5:31-37)
  5. The law of flexibility (Mat 5:38-42)
  6. The law of impartiality (Mat 5:43-48)
  7. The law of pure motives (Mat 6:1-18)
  8. The law of liberality (Mat 6:19-22)
  9. The law of reduced interests (Mat 6:24-34)
  10. The law of tolerance (Mat 7:1-5)
  11. The law of spiritual truth (Mat 7:6)
  12. The law of the Father’s wisdom (Mat 7:7-12)
  13. The law of re-relating (Mat 7:13-14)
  14. The law of roots and fruits (Mat 7:15-20)
  15. The law of obedience (Mat 7:21-23)
  16. The law of building codes (Mat 7:24-27)

So, the Sermon on the Mount is essentially a new set of Kingdom laws that build upon the foundation of the Old Testament world.

In the The Twelfth Law – Law Of Seeking God: The Father’s Wisdom (Mat 7:7-12),  we find Jesus telling His listeners to Ask, Seek and Knock.

Ask (Use it as an acronym A=Ask, S=Seek, K=Knock)

Asking is something we are all capable of doing. An infant begins to learn how to get something by a few grunts and a motion of hands and movements of eyes. A toddler learns to ask, often by taking something because they can! A pre-schooler and new student begins to ask questions, and even when you tire of trying to answer, they keep asking. Teens questions parents, College kids question the system. Parents question their kids, older parents question the grand-kids, and the rest of us just question the sanity of all… And the cycle begins all over again.

Perhaps the best thought of how we ask, is looking at the “way” we act when we ask – the younger we are, or the more informed we are, our mode of questioning changes. James stated it like this:  James 4:2-4 –  You have not because you ask not.  You ask and receive not because you ask amiss. We must realize, first, that we MUST ask, then ask properly , and finally to ask for things that are appropriate.

Seek

Let’s define “seek” according too the meaning of the Greek word. “Go in search for, look for, pursue, aim at, entreat.” Actually, this word as used by Hebrews also means to “Worship” when focused upon God, or to “plot against” when focused upon negative motives.

Both testaments have examples of seeking. Here are a couple.

  • Matthew 6:33  Seek ye first the Kingdom.
  • Psalms 27:8  When you said seek ye my face, my heart said, Thy face, Oh Lord will I seek.

Knock

Knocking has something to do with Doors! Knocking also has to do with the right use of truth that we have been given. We are required to confer with God on what to do with what He has given us. We can pray, “Lord open a door” but we have to be ready for that “door” to never open. God never opens the door to situations you are too immature to handle, because He never puts anything on us that we are not able to bear.

There are two dangers:

  • Not knocking at all (become stale), and
  • Tearing the door off its hinges (too soon).

Where Asking is simplicity, Knocking is importunity

  • Timid knock ‑‑ lacking faith (James 1:6)
  • Runaway knock ‑‑ no patience (Psalms 40:1)
  • Late knock ‑‑ lacking time (Luke 13:25)

Scripture even tells us the proper way of how to knock!

  • Early while still young (Psalms 5:3)
  • Earnestly with all your heart (James 5:17-18)
  • Repeatedly (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
  • Distinctly (Matthew 7:7)
  • Expectantly (Psalms 27:4)

Finally, we cannot just stop with the A-S-K…

For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. (Matthew 7:8 NKJV)

Remember that this is not a one time asking, seeking, or knocking. There is a continual action expressed in the Greek. Those who keep on asking will keep on receiving. Keep on seeking and you will find! Keep on knocking and the answer will open for you.

Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? (Matthew 7:9-10 NKJV)

Why mention these? Because what you receive may appear more like a stone or a serpent than the bread and fish that you are asking for. When you ask for one thing from Him you are not going to immediately get that but something else may come in its stead. Just like Israel cried for deliverance and the first thing that happened when a deliverer [Moses] came was more cruelty under the taskmaster. But God was getting Pharaoh’s heart ready to release them and in order to do so he would first have to make it harder on them. The same will happen with you. When you pray for something there may come some adverse circumstances first for faith has to be tried.

  • But keep waiting for when you ask for bread He is not going to give you a stone.
  • If you ask for a fish and suddenly you see a serpent, you are to keep on asking, seeking and knocking, for He has promised you that this is not your answer, though it may be a forerunner to it.

Do not stop your quest for an answer until you receive it.

  • Be like the widow in His parable on prayer (Luke 18:1-8).
  • Be like Elijah who prayed for rain until a cloud formed like a man’s hand.

The stone, or serpent, is only a trial of your faith, so keep praying.

  • Ask:  Knowing He hears and delights in supplying needs.
  • Seek: Knowing He is waiting to reveal Himself to us.
  • Knock:  Knowing He will open the door, saving us from the stagnation which would result if apathy should set in, as well as from the fiasco that would result from our stubborn aggression.

So….Here’s the surprise!

If we are expecting to receive answers from God, it is predicated on our relationship with our fellow man, woman and child… Verse 12 is the last verse in the Law of Asking God… It’s a very important completion to the law.

Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets. (Matthew 7:12)

Here’s the bottom line… All things that you want men to do to you… then you must do all things unto them the same way – and this comes from the law and the prophets… This is who we are, and if you are not this way, this is the way you MUST be.

You CANNOT ask from God and expect God to treat you different than how you are treating everyone around you.

One MUST keep the Horizontal relationship in tune with the way you want the vertical relationship to be… Just as Jesus tells Peter (Matthew 16:18-19), “…and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

I hope you get the Law of Asking … Your vertical relationship is patterned by Your horizontal relationship.

Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again. (Luke 6:38 KJV)

Answer Me This

C’mon… Answer me this…

2016-03-30 07.27.32Some people are afraid of questions. They worry they will not know the answer.

Some worry that their question will only raise more questions, and there will be more questions than answers!

Some people who ask questions worry how you will answer!

I read that attorneys are taught to never ask questions they do not already know what the answer will be – as in, that’s generally what they find out in discovery or research.

This morning, while previewing my various news apps on my iPhone, I realized that there are too many stories that have no real good answer as to why they are so popular. As in, why are we so focused on the antics of a few, and miss the bigger stories of global need? Why do I care about Bruce Jenner? Or March Madness (replace with a rousing game of horse and call it done!)… U.S. Politics – they are all gamers playing a game they hope to win so they can do what they want.

Questions are often used to get a rise out of someone…or even to get an answer that will give you ammunition.

But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”  (Matthew 22:34-36 NKJV)

Let’s see if we can get him to say something that will be to his detriment! Jesus obviously gives them a good enough answer.

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”  (Matthew 22:37-40 ESV)

They cannot dispute the first portion of the answer. And the second part is probably a point of discussion between various groups but the concept of what God loves then we should love equally.

Jesus then flips the coin and asks them several questions they are easily able to answer, and then one they cannot answer. Here’s Matthew’s summation of this particular exchange…

And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions. (Matthew 22:46 ESV)

Sometimes your question puts the other party on notice… I know a lot and you probably have no question that can I cannot respond to, and my question reveals your ignorance and bias.

During this political season, and perhaps all the time, I do not answer the phone unless I know the caller. Even though I am on the “Do No Call” registry, pollsters are allowed (it seems) to call my number despite my desires. In the past I noticed something.

They ask questions that give them results to pad their poll with a specific answer.

Flipping the CoinYou know, you can only answer Yes or No…
Never with a Maybe…
Or, it depends…
And the question either puts you on one side of the coin or the other.

It’s frustrating to not have your opinion validated with a correct view of your belief. Sometimes, you just need to keep your mouth shut and say nothing.

At the end of each Wednesday night Bible Study, I always open the floor to comments, questions, likes or dislikes. It often brings out things I have never thought of before, or clarifies a point, or raises issue with something particularly pointed out. Sometimes is rousing. Sometimes nothing is said. And sometimes there is nothing…

Regardless. I do enjoy the moments where we can dialogue and discuss. That’s often the purpose of questions.

 

Where Do I Find It?

Have you ever desperately needed something …

Encyclopedia Britannica…and had no clue where to look for the answer?

It was back in the 70’s and the Houston Public Library was blitzing the airwaves with the suggestion that you could call their research department and get an answer to just about any question you had.

So, the group of programmers I worked with at Gray Tool Company had a discussion one day about where the East began, and the West ended. I think it was the result of some radio contest!??! Of course, we are at work pre-WWW days. There was no Wikipedia, or Google. No Bing. Yahoo. Or any of those magical websites we take for granted these days.

So, we called the Houston Public Library, filed our question, gave contact information and waited nearly a week for an answer to come. Go ahead. Ask the Internet this question and see the variety of answers!

When it comes to living right, or Godly, or dealing with some spiritual need, then we often turn to the Bible as the source. But can we find the answer, or principle, or even guidelines, in the Bible. Of course, there are deep answers found with serious questions, and the Bible is not necessarily the easiest place to find a hidden answer.

But trust me, there is an answer there!

The thing we must realize is that the Bible deals with subjects from many angles. Some angles are not meant for everyone to try to understand, especially if you are coming from a beginners standpoint.

For example, Jesus quotes from several Old Testament sources when he declares to the tempter:

But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. (Matthew 4:4 KJV)

To find the source of his statement, you would need to go back to Deuteronomy 8:3, 6:16, and 6:13 in order to find the root. What this tells me is that Jesus was affirming a principle found in scripture from thousands of years before.

Often, the answers we need are the sum of many other portions of scriptures, summarized to face the moment we live in.

In essence, scripture affirms scripture. It comes from God and we depend on God to give us what we need in order to live today, or at some time in the future. What we need to live in all the trials we face is to return to the source of instruction.

The B-I-B-L-E,
that’s the book for me!
I stand upon the Word of God.
The B-I-B-L-E!

 

Fresh Ideas

Someone asked me where I come up with my blog posts…

Photo permitted by A. Shepard
Photo permitted by Alexcia Shepard

Don’t you ever run out of things to say?

You might as well ask if the sun will ever stop shining!

The thing about my blog is that I have more thoughts about things to say than time in the day to write about them. Everything I look at becomes a thought.

How did it get here? What’s it’s story? How you you make that item? When did someone first think that was an okay food item? 

You know the questions we learned in grade school? Who? What? When? Where? How? Why? All are very applicable to everything we deal with and the answers are often surprising – at least when you first learn of them. Then all that knowledge builds into a fountain of information. Wealth! Power! Win Trival Pursuit!!!

Consider this true story. Each had a childhood event that put them into bed for a long period of time. One was very secular in his approach to time spent. The other a bit more spiritual. The first man read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica. The other man focused on reading the Bible, over and over again.

The first man I met when I was in my teens. A boss of sorts, but definitely an owner of a growing concern. The second man I met in my 30’s. A great leader and pastor today. Each had characteristics that I used in forming myself. Only, I did not have them at the same time leading my mind down certain paths.

I love knowledge. Facts. Being able to recall information to put to use for the moment. All of this while dealing with the secular world behind me, and while pastoring my church around me.

I think this is why my mind is so full of things to write about, and this is why I will probably only stop writing when I begin struggling with sharing.

So… Think about your past and what brings you to this day. What have you learned? Who taught you? When were your questions answered, or when did you find the answer on your own? Where have you been, along with have your senses become aware of? How did you get to the place you are in, and how will you get to the place you are going?

Finally… Why?

Do not let anyone hinder you from learning about the things around you. Consider, simply, that Jesus spoke the same concept about a certain subject 2,000 years ago.

“Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter in yourselves, and those who were entering in you hindered.” (Luke 11:52 NKJV)

You have taken away the key of knowledge…. Hold onto your key!

My Blog Motto: Everything begins with a very simple thought and grows into a magnificent premise and returns to a very simple thought…