Observation — H

In town the other day, I saw a mother and her child. They used the crosswalk to get across the street in front of us. They caught my attention because of HOW they went across. The mother was stiff-legged and stiff-armed, walking like a robot. Her little girl was imitating her. Their smiles and laughter told me of their delight in one another.

I kept watching them as they went down the sidewalk, the mother in the lead.

Her daughter wasn’t beside her, so she looked back.

With a knowing, loving smile on her face, she had stopped, turned partway around, and stretched out her hand for her daughter to come hold.

The girl saw the reaching hand. But, first, she fingered a chain stretched across a stairwell.

Still, the mother waited. Her expression remained the same. There wasn’t irritation. There were no reprimands. No expressed urgency. Just that Mona Lisa smile and the hovering, still, outstretched hand.

In the process of going toward her mom, a pretty flower got the girl’s attention. She remained on the sidewalk and examined the flower.

Staying still, the mother waited. The love remained on her face. The offered hand didn’t drop.

Meanwhile, the girl stayed on the sidewalk and was slowly making her way closer to that hand. Then, something at her feet caught her eye. An ant, perhaps.

The mother remained, still smiling, still ready to hold hands for the journey ahead.

————–

It seemed to me like that’s the relationship we can enjoy with God.

This mother and daughter knew each other. The bond was evident. The journey was together. They weren’t holding hands in the crosswalk, but they were still together, still delighting in one another. They weren’t holding hands yet on the sidewalk, but the mother was still watchful. The little girl had obviously been trained to use the crosswalk and to stay on the sidewalk.

Did the little girl have to run up and grab her mother’s hand immediately?
Obviously not.

Had the mother seen danger, would she have leapt into action or shouted a command?
I have no doubt of that.

If danger had suddenly loomed, would this little girl have responded immediately because of the change in posture or change in voice?
I think that is likely. Trust and love had already been established.

How do I know that?

I base it on the look of affection that little girl had given her mom as she imitated the robot-walk and they crossed the street the way only those two in their own little world could have.

I base it on the fact the little girl looked and saw the offered hand and started moving that direction.

I base it on the stillness of the mother and the steadfast love exhibited as she remained and watched with quiet understanding.

Although I couldn’t hear anything the girl might have been saying, I know most kids would be giving a running commentary and belting out questions about the chain and the flower and the ant and the sky and that tree over there and…

Although we turned the corner and I never saw whether or not their hands ever connected, do I think they did?
I think it is likely. And, I don’t think it would have been the first time they held hands. Probably not the last.

And, once their hands finally connected and the mother led the way, did the child know the destination? I don’t know. Does it matter?

What if the child had managed to run off, get lost, finally find out where home is, and went running to the door? Is this the likely scenario?
Opening the door, the mother says, “Depart from here. I don’t know you!”

Matthew 7:7-14 (LEB) — “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you, if his son will ask him for bread, will give him a stone? Or also if he will ask for a fish, will give him a snake? Therefore if you, although you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him? Therefore in all things, whatever you want that people should do to you, thus also you do to them. For this is the law and the prophets. Enter through the narrow gate, because broad is the gate and spacious is the road that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it, because narrow is the gate and constricted is the road that leads to life, and there are few who find it!”

Let’s stick to the narrow sidewalk, beside Him every day and grasping at those opportunities to imitate Him and to grab His offered hand. It is a wondrous thing to be called His son or His daughter!

Am I an apologist?!….Are you? — H

Late last year, I had been listening to the YouTube videos of a pastor I thought was a Messianic Jew. I was learning a lot of Jewish history that helped me see the Bible in new ways. Then, though, I came across one teaching that didn’t jive with what I knew from Scripture about Jesus. Listening to more from him, I realized he was Jewish and was saying some correct things about Jesus, but was thinking of Him as an excellent teacher and A son of God rather than THE Son of God. I was thankful for what I had learned that did hold up under scrutiny. But, I moved on.

Meanwhile, in its recommendations, YouTube listed a video that drew my attention. The descriptive title was a Bible question I’d been puzzling about. The video supposedly answered the question. So, I clicked to watch.

Following along in Scripture, it made sense to me. I prayed. I studied some more. I was satisfied.

“So, who is this person?” I wondered.

I clicked on their channel to find multiple Bible questions and their answers.

I went to the “About” section.

A Christian.
“Okay, good. We’ll see.”
I kept reading.

Hmmm. She used “apologist” as one of the labels for herself.
“Uh oh.”

Although I was truly clueless about what “apologetics” is, I had a bias against apologists because I figured they “made apologies” for Scripture.

My thoughts stood in rebellion: “No one needs to make apologies for my Father’s words!”
I paused, though. I pondered.
“Perhaps I’m wrong about what apologetics is. Yet, maybe these are the argumentative types who potentially give a bad name to Christians.”

“Wait, though,” I continued, arguing with myself. “This video was fine. She sounds like a reasonable, respectful individual. And, I’ve sometimes been seen as argumentative simply because I stick by what I’ve learned from the Bible is true. Same goes for others I know and love. This self-proclaimed apologist just answered my long-held question. I am satisfied with this answer. Hmmm. Maybe I’ll listen to just a couple more videos on this channel.”

Several hours later, I was not only familiar with her material, I’d found videos where she’d collaborated with other apologists. I’d gone to the channels of those other apologists and learned some things. They, in turn, had collaborated with other apologists. Before long, YouTube was recommending the work of other apologists.

“Hmmm. Maybe I’ve been really misunderstanding what apologetics is. These people just seem to be seekers. Some are pastors, but some aren’t. The difference between them and the seekers I know in person is that they’ve used social media to share what they’ve learned.”

My thoughts continued. “And, they are tenacious seekers. I like that. They not only refuse to give up on God or the Bible when faced with a puzzle, they sink their teeth into the challenge and plunge ahead. I like people like this. I want to be such a people.” (grin)

Then, I was faced with a question, “Am I already an apologist?!”

When one is a thinker who picks up on seeming inconsistencies or “conflicts within Scripture,” there can be a strong temptation to treat the Bible in certain ways:
* Toss it aside as a whole, or,
* Focus only on parts and ignore other parts, or,
* See it as just another book with segments that are inspirational but no more special than the books held aloft by other religions.

From what I’ve seen and heard from favorite apologists, they seem to have similar traits:
* When they have been or are faced with “hard questions,” they have the tenacity and stubborn faith to cling to the Bible and really “study it out” until they are satisfied, at least temporarily, with an answer.
* They’ve done this studying-until-satisfied process enough that they’ve become awed by the sheer genius and wonder of what the Bible really is. They come away, saying, “Surely, the hand of God accomplished this feat!”
* All are driven to reach out to others with what they’ve found.

Based on my observations, my favorite apologists have these practices and perspectives:
* If you think one part of the Bible conflicts with another part, it isn’t the Bible that is wrong; it is the reader’s current confusion or lack of knowledge. Keep digging.
* Some have live question-and-answer videos. They seem to all practice this: If you don’t know, say so. If whatever you say next is a guess based on what you do know, say it is a guess.
* Encourage others to read the Bible.
* Pray, asking for wisdom and understanding. Read the context. Keep reading the Bible with the hard question in mind. Study Bible history and Jewish culture. Listen to what other Bible scholars have found and see if their explanations are valid.
* Now that I have this answer, I’m going to put it out there and see what sort of feedback I get. I may be wrong. I don’t currently think so, but I’m willing to learn. I trust my fellow Christians to engage with me so we can learn from one another. I may someday modify what I currently think. That’s part of the learning process. I trust my viewers to point out where they think I am in error.

What I think and do when I am faced with a hard question:
* I go to the Bible first in order to see if I can find the answer. Sometimes, I find it, and I am satisfied. Sometimes, I don’t, so I figure someone has done a study of Bible history or Jewish culture that I haven’t. So, I go see what I can find from others. Inevitably, I find that someone else has been wrestling with the same question.
* There are sometimes missing or unsatisfactory answers as I go through the writings and videos of the apologists I trust most. Same goes for commentaries from Bible scholars I trust most. Either I haven’t found the right commentary or video yet….or, it’s a question that I myself need to keep searching out.
* I’ve found that, if I don’t let go of the question nor the Bible, an answer often comes. After all, we are told repeatedly to wait on God.
* When that answer comes, I see that as a signal I need to do my part and share that with other believers. Perhaps others, like me, have said, “It is possible that the answer isn’t to be grasped right now, but I have faith it will be.” And, the treasure I have found might be an answer to their held faith! Maybe their wait is over because God worked through me.

So, as I read commentaries, watch videos, and listen to sermons, I think the answer to what I puzzle over may come through someone else. Or, maybe there’s a question someone else is puzzling over that I can help answer.

I’m thinking this phenomenon is by design and is yet another excellent reason for the body of Christ. And, if none of us have a Biblically-sound answer, it may be we’re not supposed to know now. The “aha moment” will come later in earth’s time or once we are all face-to-face with our Saviour.

Mercifully, we’re actually told of one answer we won’t get through study — the day and the hour of His return.

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away. But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.” (Matthew 24:35-36 ESV)

That leaves room for a lot of fruitful learning! Being told what we won’t know tells me we can still study to try to find other answers.

Yet, what if I’m just not finding an answer?

It is a temptation to focus on the current “thorn” rather than see all that has gone right. Sometimes, when there isn’t an answer to a question yet, I avoid getting discouraged by thinking back through all the answers that HAVE been found. I consider all of the satisfaction I have received in what the Bible says — what I have already experienced as true.

I find that keeping a journal or taking notes of thoughts and discoveries during Bible study is really valuable for this purpose. Reading back through my journals and notebooks helps to strengthen my faith and warms up my Bible-studying “muscles.” It helps me see how and where I have grown over the years. It makes me want to learn more and grow more. It makes me hungry to devour more Scripture. It causes me to want to follow Him even more closely.

“Hard questions.” That is what one of the apologists calls them. They can also be called “doubts.” It is normal to have doubts. I choose to believe anyway, waiting on the Lord. I thinkĀ  doing so is part of the growth process. Faith is what one must have in order to cling to the Bible even harder when faced with doubt. Like Jacob continuing to wrestle, I trust that an answer has been found by someone or will be found, perhaps by me.

What I try to do in the face of doubt:
* Pray. Talk to God about it.
* Dig into the Bible harder.
* Go to the apologists and pastors. See if what they share makes sense. If not, then it’s a case of needing to add “yet” to that negative statement in my head:
— “I don’t know the answer…yet.”
— “None of the apologists are talking about this…yet.”
— “Pastors/commenters aren’t addressing this. Maybe they aren’t seeing this issue…yet.”

Maybe the doubts are an opportunity to step from passively consuming what others are feeding me toward joining the army that is actually doing some of the feeding.

May that opportunity give glory to God and to His Word!