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March 9, 2015, 10:58 AM

Coming to Jesus with a Loaded Question...

We are experts at asking loaded questions.  "Can I ask you a favor?"  We like to put an innocent smile with that one, then drop the bomb of needing help carrying a 900 lb treadmill down a flight of rickety stairs.  We always approach those situations by trying to paint it with bright, cheery colors.  The reality though is far from bright and cheery.  Its usually when we have the hardest tasks ahead that we mask the request in guilt or false joy.  The same goes with a child asking for something they know they wont get, like a cookie right before dinner.  The request is loaded, and sometimes they've even got well thought out research and statistics as to why a cookie does no harm right before dinner. They're all loaded questions though, loaded with guilt, manipulation, or just outright selfishness.  

And we're really good as asking them.  We do the research and know exactly which angles to approach from when we want to manipulate or gain favor.  We have a fear (which is often justified) that if rejected, the door is closed permanently to that idea.  Which is why, when its a subject of faith or blessing, we run to those moments where Jesus responded with a "Yes."  When Jesus says "No" we tend to either run away, or try and find the exact reasons why.  Sometimes the question isn't a matter of Yes or No, sometimes its a matter of "you already know the answer to this one."  Which we interpret as a "no."  

Even when Jesus turned someone down or rejected their idea, he left the door open for something good to happen.  When we run to the Gospels to find inspiration, or confirmation of our own ideas we find ourselves seeking out those moments when Jesus granted someone's wish like a finely tuned genie.  "Jesus, heal my servant."  "My daughter is sick." "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on us!"  Which we (naturally) interpret as Jesus wanting to grant every wish and request WE ask of him.  If he doesn't, we assume we've either been abandoned, or have done something to cause him ilk or disappointment with us. ("I got stuck at every red light on the way to work, what did I do to deserve this God??"). 

Sometimes though, God says "No."  There were people who wanted to be a part of what Jesus was doing, and he denied their requests.  If it were me, I'd be happy to have as much support as I could muster.  But Jesus turned them away, telling them he doesn't have a warm place for them to sleep, or that they need to sort out their priorities first (even when it comes to funerals, etc...), and the worst:  that they would have to sell everything they own and give it to the poor before being a true disciple.  

I really think these requests of Jesus were made with hidden agendas or selfish intent.  Therefore they were denied.  And on the flip side, the pleas for Jesus to heal a loved one were met with an immediate, positive response.  Historically (looking through the O.T.) there are some other famous denials from God:  David was told not to rebuild the Temple; Moses was denied entry into Canaan; etc...  

The first point I'm trying to get to here is that sometimes we need to hear "No", even when we're on our knees with nowhere else to go.  If we only ever heard affirmation, we would become spoiled and entitled.  Looking at some of the trends in the Prosperity movement, some have already arrived at the entitlement and spoiled stage, expecting God to bless us unequivocally.  When Jesus denied someone's request, they were encouraged to sit down and figure out what needs addressed before he could affirm them.  For some it was a shift in priority, for others it was a drastic lifestyle change.  For all it was a call to self examine.  

Secondly, things aren't always going to go our way.  At Church, decisions will be made that we don't immediately agree with.  At work, our bosses may install a policy that frustrates us.  At school, our children are going to witness bullying, secular teaching, and be isolated if they publicly exercise their faith.  Does any of that mean we're abandoned or no longer blessed by God?  Absolutely not!  These are not instances where God has denied our request.  These moments are not about a Yes or No.  They are about discovering the passions we have inside us to either live for Christ, or for the world.  If all the obstacles are stacking up in front of us, maybe we're on the wrong path and seeking the wrong end.  But be warned, sometimes the right path has all the obstacles stacked up in front of us as well.  Asking Jesus to remove all the hard stuff will probably result in a "No."  

When we already know what we're supposed to be doing (Matt 22: 37 - 40) maybe the best thing to do is stop asking questions, and start loving.  

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