Category Archives: Mystery

Dealing With Life’s Most Persistent Question: Part 10

Highway to sunset Farm Road Springfield MO 5-2-15On the road to Emmaus, Jesus took the time to offer an explanation to his two questioning friends who were searching for an explanation, for a reason behind all the events they had experienced. He understood the sorrow and disappointment they felt, the loss that had blinded their eyes with tears and dampened their hearts with grief.

“Jesus quoted passages from the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining what all the Scriptures said about himself” (Luke 24:27, nlt).

Jesus is a gentleman. He patiently listened and explained. They had an engaging conversation. As they walked, they approached their destination. He did not invite himself in for dinner. He will not force himself on anyone. He will respond to an invitation, though. He waits patiently for each of us to invite him into our heart. He says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock,” (Revelation 3:20, nkjv).

Cleopas and his friend invited Jesus in and he joined them for a meal. Jesus wants fellowship with us. He wasn’t angry with them. He loved them and was concerned for them. As Jesus blessed the dinner bread, they suddenly understood. Their eyes were opened and they immediately knew who he was.

Along with that revelation came something unexpected. God is always doing things we don’t expect. He vanished out of their sight. But even though they couldn’t see him with their physical sight, their spiritual eyes were opened. That is what happens when we journey with Jesus; we walk by faith, not by sight.

An encounter with Jesus changes everything. They had seen the Lord and their emotions went from confused sadness to elated gladness. Excitedly, they told each other how their hearts had felt strangely warm as he explained the Scriptures to them as they walked down the road.

When we can’t clearly see the road ahead because our vision is blocked by tears or by the tangled web of weedy circumstances, we must focus on Jesus. Once we see him, he gives us vision for the road ahead and shows us the way. He can turn our “Why?” into “Why not!”

I don’t know which lonely Emmaus Road you may be traveling. But I am sure that Jesus is with you, even if you don’t see him or recognize his presence. And when Jesus accompanies us on the road less traveled, it makes all the difference.

 

Dealing With Life’s Most Persistent Question: Part 7

Road Less Travelled Spring trees roadway 3 forks area 4-15-15In 1916, Robert Frost published a poem titled, The Road Not Taken. It helps to illustrate the fact that life really is a journey and that we have a variety of options. “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— / I took the one less traveled by. / And that has made all the difference.” Jodi and I both love that poem, and the many parallels to life that can be drawn from it.

Sometimes the little choices we make in life that really do make all the difference. Had it not been for a mutual friend, or the fact that I chose to attend a particular church youth event as a teenager, I might never have met Jodi. Naturally, we seldom realize the importance of those little choices and decisions at the time. Because we never see more than a small snapshot of the entire roadmap at any one time, we are prone to be shortsighted. That makes it even more important to stay close to Jesus and walk with him so he can show us the way. It can be a tall order.

The Apostle Paul reflected on this challenge in 1 Corinthians 13:12. He wrote, “Now we see things imperfectly as in a poor mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God knows me now” (nlt). Here he contrasts our present blurred vision with the future clear revelation in heaven. When we see Jesus Christ face-to-face, we will see everything else with clarity. Even in this life, the more clearly we see Jesus, the more clearly we will understand the meaning of the here and now.

The Easter story provides the foundation for our faith in Jesus as the resurrected Son of God. Before the resurrection came death and despair. Jesus’ followers were scattered and shocked. You can read Luke’s version of the story beginning in Luke 24:13. All of Jerusalem was in an uproar. The disciples of Jesus were in hiding. There was serious talk of disbanding their group. They were about ready to close the door on the New Testament church for the last time. Little did they know that they were really only forty days away from the grand opening of the church doors on the Day of Pentecost!

Without Jesus, they couldn’t go on. Their hopes were crushed, their dreams shattered. As far as they could see, their leader was gone. But was he? Strange reports from some of the women and a firsthand account by Peter told of an empty tomb, grave clothes lying wrapped as though the body had just evaporated from them, and an appearance by angels announcing a resurrection.

As two friends walked on the road to Emmaus (a distance of about seven miles from Jerusalem) they discussed the situation. We know the name of one, Cleopas (possibly a male form of Cleopatra). His name meant “the glory of being called a father.” A name like that would identify him as a leader. Obviously both Cleopas and his companion had been closely associated with Jesus and the twelve disciples. Perhaps they were part of the larger group of seventy that Jesus had sent out.

We don’t know why they were walking to Emmaus. Maybe they lived there. Maybe they were escaping Jerusalem for fear of losing their own lives. Maybe they just wanted to walk and talk and try to sort things out in their minds. Whenever we have problems, it helps to talk things over with a friend. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the greatest miracle and the greatest event in history. Yet, from day one it has generated a lot of questions—for many people more questions than answers. That’s the way it is with miracles. Reason asks questions. Our mind wants a resolution to our questions, our hearts want ato believe for that which seems impossible. Faith simply believes the impossible is possible.  Keep believing.

Moments of Mystery – Part 1

Moments of MysteryYou’ve heard it before, “Inquiring minds need to know.”  Does that describe you? Do you collect bits of trivia because you never know when the information gleaned might come in handy, like when you are a contestant on Jeopardy and need to formulate a question to the answer, “The leading cause of toenail fungus in Southern Hemisphere sloths.” Have you developed skills, such as eavesdropping or jumping to conclusions just because you are intrigued by what you don’t know? Do you love a mystery and enjoy speculating about whodunit before that information is fully revealed?

Maybe you are on the other end of the spectrum, and don’t feel a compulsion for speculation.  When others drone on about personal details you did not ask for, you are not embarrassed to say, “TMI, that is more than I want to know about that subject!” You believe that life’s perplexing questions block your path often enough, without intentionally trying to stumble upon more of them.

Most of us probably fall somewhere in between the two extremes, striking a balance between being inquisitive and being contented to mind our own business. Yet there is something to be said about a sense of wonder and mystery. A four year old’s constant barrage of questions about who and what and why and where and when may reach the point of annoyance, but you can’t help admiring their quest for understanding. The world is opening up to them and their mind is beginning to grasp for answers, thus their questions pepper us with pleas for an explanation to all things observed in their environment.

In the age of information, we expect instant answers to every inquiry and problem. Knowledge our parents might have spent hours gleaning from searching card catalogs and library shelves we discover only a click or swipe away. If Google doesn’t know, Bing might, and Siri will be glad to answer, even if she provides nothing more than comic relief. “How far is to Lincoln?” you may ask while driving a Nebraska highway.

“There are four restaurants nearby that serve ling cod,” she replies to your question. Grrr…

To solve a really perplexing puzzle takes time. Gleaning valuable skills and insight requires years of intensive study and practice. You can’t become a board certified brain surgeon by taking a three week online class or watching a couple of YouTube videos. The same is true for any worthwhile pursuit. So why do we sometimes expect our journey with Christ will only lead us on happy trails filled with light and road signs every mile or so explaining our precise location and the exact conditions ahead?

Is it possible that the road of suffering might provide moments of mystery for our benefit? Could those dark shadows from the threatening storm cause us to cling ever closer to Jesus? Might our faith muscles stretch and develop through the twists and turns of an uphill climb when we don’t know exactly what lies around the next bend? Could the mystery of those moments cause us to speak with a little less certainty about our own ability and instead trust more fully in God’s? And is it possible that we are better for those mysterious moments because we can now encourage fellow travelers to keep climbing, keep pursuing, and keep moving forward because we have felt the hand of the Good Shepherd leading us through the darkness of the valley of the shadow of death?

Inquiring minds need to know, yet there are times when no easy answer comes. Ask Jesus. His plea, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” was met with silence on earth. Yet you can be sure it was heard in heaven. He understands the moments of mystery you face. And you don’t have to face them alone.