We meet all sorts of people during our travels. Recently we spent four days at the hobby-farm of family of home-schoolers. They are raising 9 children; seven of them still in the house and I must say that it was one of the most peaceful happy households we have ever stayed in.
These people had a notion of limiting their activities to a pace where the family had the time to appreciate each other, spend time in spiritual activities, and overall enjoy living.
One of the children was in a wheelchair due to a spinal birth defect. When my wife told the mother, “It must have been so difficult to find that your newborn was handicapped!!”, the mother replied, “Oh no; we knew at 12 weeks during the pregnancy. They gave me the option to “terminate” the pregnancy! But I would not and I am so glad I didn’t.
My wife and I spent several days with the children of that family. Christine taught some jewlery skills as well as how to cook a Thai dish. I gave a Hebrew class. All the children of that family had a something special, but the one on a wheelchair (a 12 year-old) was particularly gifted in History, Geography, languages, and Bible so he and I had some good conversations. From the wonders of the Hebrew alphabet we went on to Bible stories in the chinese letters. He was such a positive, happy, and bright child. He was not given any special ‘pity’ treatment. He was like one one of the others pulling his own weight with his own share of chores which was to mow the lawn using riding mower.To think that in many countries and many cases in the States these children are aborted!
All in all, we were still amazed by the attitude of the mother, until we met her father. Her father was deaf. Since we know sign language we could easily communicate with him. One of the first thing he told Christina in sign was, “You know God talks about the deaf in the Bible!”. I knew about Isaiah’s messianic prophecy “On that day the deaf will hear the words of a book…”, (Is 29;18) but he had a different one in mind. He quoted, “You shall not curse the deaf …”(Lev 19:14). Then he said, “You see, the deaf have a purpose: to test people’s hearts!”
I can’t help but trace the powerful attitude of the mother to the attitude of the father who, instead of seeing his handicap as a curse from God, saw it as a tool in the hand of a caring God who also provided a protective legislation for the deaf in His Word.
This coming Monday we will witness a rare celestial event: a full eclipse of the sun. While in ancient times skilled astronomers paid much attention to such events, modern technology allows us today to know its exact path minute per minute. As such, people from around the world are coming to the United States to get front row seats for the formidable celestial play.
Locals also have seen the signs of the skies. Hoping to gather earthly wealth from these heavenly events, many have converted their properties into temporary campgrounds. City officials do not miss their clue either. Expecting an unprecedented influx of people creating monster traffic jams, in some places, the National Guard has been deployed and fire engines scattered in key places.
It is good that people prepare for such things. It reminds me of something Jesus said to farmers of his days. In an attempt to awaken them to their contemporary social and political situation He said to them,, "When it is evening, you say, 'It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.' And in the morning, 'It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.' You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. (Mat 16:2-3)
Farmers and herders in the days of Jesus knew how to read the sky and take appropriate decisions concerning their fields and flocks. But at the same time, Jesus hoped that the people would read the events of their days and see the proverbial “handwriting on the wall.” Genesis 1 tells us that the heavenly bodies have been given to us for signs (Gen 1:14). A sign usually carries a message that may invoke a particular action. Such an eclipse was visible in Jerusalem at the moment of the death of Jesus
There is a particularity to this eclipse: it will be only visible from the United States, and it will cross it from West to East. So if sign it is, it is a logical to assume that it is a sign for the United States, not for anyone else. The hard part now is to define what is its message. From times unmemorable solar eclipses have been seen as omens of warning. Many feel very free to share their conclusions generated by their own political preferences or religious opinion, and there seem to be no-one to arbitrate the flow of assumptions. Very often, we only understand these things long after the fact, but one thing is certain, Someone is telling us something!
A friend called me this week asking me about a discipleship program at their church. The program was based on the reading of a particular book.about discipleship. I went over the book and it seemed to be a very good book explaining the particulars of discipleship in biblical times.
I told my friend though, that while the book may be very good, the idea of discipleship in the Bible is different than indoctrination, such as one might learn from a book. Indoctrination, by the way, used to be a positive term referring to the full intense learning of a subject or doctrine.
Discipleship is not about a transfer of knowledge from master to pupil. It is rather about the pupil learning to live by closely following the example of his Master. It was about doing, not just learning about how to do. It was clinical, not mental.
When the Galileans wanted to become the disciples of Jesus, they asked, “Master, where are you staying?” (Jn 1:38) That is because in Israel in those days, a would-be disciple left home to live and even become part of the family of his master/teacher. To their surprise, Jesus answered the disciples that he didn’t have a home, thus exemplifying the idea that the true believer's home is not of this age but of the World to Come. As it happened, the disciples then spent the rest of their time with Jesus travelling the dusty roads of Israel as the itinerant preacher their Master was.
This made me think of a documentary I saw long time ago, The Woman who Willed a Miracle.This woman became the foster parent of Lemke, a blind, cognitively impaired boy with cerebral palsy. When the child became older, she brought him to the fence in front of her yard so he could stand there. It is then that this frail woman decided to strap this boy who couldn’t stand by himself and much less walk on her back, body to body, arm to arm, leg to leg. Little by little, his muscles strengthened and, to the surprise of everyone, he learned to walk. More happened to him but I will not spoil the story for you. Maybe you can get the film, I will put a link to a short video of the story at the end of this posting.
In the eyes of God, our attempts to live in His righteousness are make us similar to that boy who couldn’t walk. We learn to walk, and our spiritual muscles are strengthened by strapping ourselves onto Him, body to body, arm to arm, leg to leg,following in His every step and move.
That‘s what discipleship is: imitating the Master; walking in His footsteps.
Come to think of it, the best teachers teach using the clinical method: they teach by example.
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