Did you know that the glue on Israeli postage stamps is kosher? These stamps are certified kosher (“proper food”) by the chief rabbis of Israel, because most people lick the glue to affix stamps. Did you know that Israeli cows produce more milk per cow than in almost any other country in the world? And did you know that Israeli scientists developed the first fully computerized, no-radiation diagnostic test for breast cancer?
You probably didn’t. And my point is not to enlarge your awareness of the rabbinate, dairy products, or medical science in Israel. Instead, I want to share some thoughts about the power of questions. I immediately got your interest when I started with the kosher stamp theme, even though I doubt it will change the way you lick your stamps. Like me, you probably couldn’t care less about the glue on your stamps.
There are so many things we don’t know, and so many things we don’t need to know. There is so much information in this modern, media-centered world. But there is still power in new and unexpected questions.
We can see this in the Bible, too. Jesus used questions to get people“out of the box,” to focus on the main issues, to show the way from religious thinking to a mindset of living faith. He said, “I will also ask you a question. Tell me: John’s baptism—was it from heaven, or of human origin?” (Luke 20:3–4). The question doesn’t mean that Jesus didn’t know the answer. The question itself solved a difficult situation, even though nobody gave him a direct answer.
Though there are many amazing things happening in the body of Messiah, our focus might still be on our own little, safe, cozy box. But the kingdom of God is not in a small box. It is a kingdom with godly order, with clear lines and limits, but it is still a living, growing, enlarging, and world changing divine composition. The kingdom of God is a seed, yeast in dough, a tree, a well, a spring of water, fire, light—simply “unboxable,” but so easy to understand that even a child can get it.
In Finland, people are worried about ISIS members arriving among the new refugees. But did you know that there is a real revival happening among these people? The kingdom of God is growing where we didn’t expect it to. Those who came to faith give testimonies openly and are even willing to go back to their politically stormy homelands to share the gospel with their families and friends. Did you know that some of them are open about their faith even though they might face violence, even death, from Muslims in their neighborhood?
“Did you know . . . ?” questions can help us think outside the box. They also motivate us. We can, of course, talk about ministry by saying, “Did you know we need to read the Bible?” or “Did you know we need to pray for Israel?” But doing so does not expose the deeper challenges. How then can we address the challenges in a ministry so that people want to know more, to help and join with the ministry?
When I first came to Israel 16 years ago, I was asked, “Did you know that there is only one believer in Jesus for every 1,000 Israeli Jews, and that they have hardly any educational programs to help them study the Bible?” That question led me to serve at the Caspari Center.
During these years many other instructive questions have been raised, such as: “Did you know that there are Arab Christians who do not know even one Messianic Jewish believer, though they live in the same city in Israel?” We were able to change that reality a little at a leadership seminar, where some Arab and Jewish believers became good friends, praying and studying together for the first time in their lives.
Now we have an international theological course coming up. The question to introduce the need for this course could be, “Did you know that in Scandinavian Lutheran theological seminaries there aren’t any classes about Messianic Judaism?” There is a need to study not only the Jewish roots of Christianity, but also modern Messianic Judaism.
This year—like every year—will be full of new challenges. Big things are happening outside of boxes. And I am not talking about ISIS or climate change. I am talking about the kingdom of God and how important it still is to ask questions that inspire fresh new directions in our biblical and theological thinking. It is good to be ready for the new “unboxable” questions we will encounter this year!