Sunday, August 7, 2016

Why Is the Sky Blue?

I remember this TV ad from a long time ago where a young child asks his father, ‘Daddy, why is the sky blue?’ I don’t remember what happened after that. But I googled the question. And this is what the internet told me.
A clear cloudless day-time sky is blue because molecules in the air scatter blue light from the sun more than they scatter red light.
A fine answer.

I can imagine a young child also asking this question. ‘Why is it cold in the winter and hot in the summer?’ I didn’t google this one. But I’m assuming that the internet would mention how the axis of the earth is tilted relative to the sun so that in one season our hemisphere is tilted toward the sun, hot summer, and in the other season it’s tilted away, cold winter.

You’ll notice that these are solid answers. They are correct - as far as they go. But the Scriptures have something to add when it comes to questions about how our world functions. Here’s a promise that God made.

While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease. Genesis 8:22

Why is there day and night, or cold and then hot? Why is the sky blue? Why does our world function in the way that it does? These things happen in these ways because God makes them happen in these ways. In fact, He promised that they would.

There are lots of things that could be said from this, but here’s the one thing that I want to point out to you. God is intimately involved in His creation. He’s not a god who is too busy with something else. He’s intimately involved in all that goes on here. And that’s why our world functions in the way that it does.

That seems pretty clear. But let me tell you why it’s important. God being intimately involved in His creation means that He is intimately involved in you. Remember, you are a part of His creation. What happens each day, beyond things like how hot or cold it is, and whether it is light out or dark - what happens to you each day happens because your heavenly Father makes it happen to you. He is not some distant, distracted deity. He is intimately involved in you. He is your Father who is right next to you and so very deeply into you.

It is as our grasp of that simple fact grows that our sense of the nearness of God grows. God feels closer. He doesn’t become closer. He is already so very close to each one of us. It’s just that as we get it, we come to enjoy that closeness more. It’s this enjoyment of His closeness that I want to talk about today.

So, consider one of your average days. That means different things for each of you. But as you work through each day, this happens and then that happens. And most of the time it’s no big deal. We just work through the things that we need to do. But there are times when there’s this bump in the road. Something goes wrong. The unexpected happens. We’re thrown for a bit of a loop. There is a multitude of ways that we respond. It might be a deep sigh, a bit of anger, asking yourself a question like, ‘What in the world is going on?’

I want to suggest a different response, a better response, a better question to pose in those situations. This question goes something like this. ‘Father, what are You doing?’ Remember, what happens to you each day happens to you because your heavenly Father makes it happen to you. So, the question is very appropriate. ‘Father, what are You doing?’

Do you see the difference in the two kinds of responses? The first looks at life in a particular way. People are thoughtless, immature kids act like immature kids, life is hard and things just happen. But the second response understands life differently. Nothing just happens. What happens to you each day happens because your heavenly Father makes it happen to you. He makes winter cold, night dark and your life what it is.

So, there is a new addition to the family, whether by birth or adoption. Your Father made that happen. You got a hundred on the math test. Your Father made that happen. Your car - or truck - needs an expensive repair. Your Father made that happen. You enjoyed a relaxing vacation. Your Father made that happen. You are surprised by an emergency surgery. Your Father made that happen.

In each of those situations your Father was doing something. And so, it makes sense, in each of those situations, to ask, ‘Father, what are You doing?’

You don’t ask that question with a bit of an attitude. You ask it in order to get an answer, to understand. And the Scripture provides answers.

So, there is the time that you experience something that’s really hard. The Father sent that your way so that you could get to know Him better. That’s what happened to Job.

There is the time that you are comforted by the Father in the midst of that hardship. He gave you that comfort so that you will be used to comfort someone else in the future. Paul talks about that in the beginning of 2 Corinthians.

And then, there are those times when life is working really well. That’s your Father rewarding your faithfulness so that you can encourage others to be faithful. The Bible has lots to say about God rewarding us.

There are answers to the question, ‘Why is this happening to me?’ And those answers start by rephrasing the question to, ‘Father, what are You doing?’

Now, there will be plenty of times when, in the moment, you won’t be able to get an answer to that question. Sometimes understanding what your Father is up to comes later. But in the moment you can always take comfort in knowing that whatever He is doing it’s a part of His good and wise and loving plan for your life. And that’s what you tell yourself in those moments while you wait for an answer. You depend on this most basic fact of reality: your Father loves you more than you know and that He knows what He is doing with your life. Nothing hits you out of the blue or just because. It all comes from your loving and wise Father who is doing you good.

Now, when someone doesn’t hold on to these things, when someone lives thinking that things do come ‘out of the blue’, then there will be problems. For one thing, dealing with the hard things of life becomes a solo affair. It’s all up to you to take care of it. That never works. Even if someone can work out a temporary plan that seems to work, at least for a while, the emotional cost is so very high. And at some point or other, the plan will fall apart.

There are problems even for those who pray in these situations but still don’t believe that the Father is intimately involved in their lives. Their prayer is something of an act of desperation. It’s a call to that god way over there, busy talking to some angels or dealing with the really important events of the world or whatever. And maybe, just maybe, He will notice that prayer and do something to ease the difficulty. Maybe. But what kind of god is that? That isn’t the God of the Bible, the God who invites us to call Him ‘Father’, the God who is intimately involved in His creation, the God who is intimately involved in our lives. No, this God, our Father, is standing right next to us, Immanuel, well aware of all that is happening in our lives, causing all that is happening in our lives. This God is our Father who loves us.

Now, I need to say that this is not true of everyone. The blessings of a God who is near belong only to Christians. And while He has a sincere love for all the other people who inhabit this globe, He has not obligated Himself to them. That is reserved for Christians. It’s reserved for those who come to Jesus as the one who rescues them from all that is evil and as the one who calls the shots in their lives. So, it makes sense for us to offer a hearty, ‘Thank You, Father’, for these blessings every once in a while. It also makes sense to do what we can so that more people will come to enjoy these blessings of the Gospel.

Last thought. There is an image from a favorite Psalm of mine that captures what I’ve been talking about. Listen.

          Nevertheless I am continually with You;
          You have taken hold of my right hand.
          With Your counsel You will guide me,
          And afterward receive me to glory.
          Whom have I in heaven but You?
          And besides You, I desire nothing on earth.
          My flesh and my heart may fail,
         But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Psalm 73.23-26

The beauty of this passage is captured for me in an image that I have shared with you before. It’s the image of a little child walking down the street, little hand upraised and held by the strong and gentle hand of his father. And as he walks the child explores this and that. Troubles come and go. Good times are enjoyed. And the little child experiences it all with hand upraised and held. His father is right there. And so, as the child walks through life he can ask all his questions. ‘Daddy, why is the sky blue?’ And at the right time, his father answers them all. And even in those situations when he needs to wait for an answer, he’s okay. His father is right there, holding his hand, guiding him through life.

You have no idea how comforted I have been as I see myself as that little child with hand upraised, held by the strong and gentle hand of my heavenly Father. And I want that comfort for all of you.

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