With degrees in philosophy and theology, Sam Higgenbottom went to India to serve God. In India, he discovered that farming techniques were primitive, and cows (which were considered sacred by Hindus) did not produce much milk. As a result, there was a severe scarcity of food. Sam realized that until this problem was solved, the people of India would not be ready to hear the message of the gospel. So Sam went back to the United States, studied animal husbandry and agriculture, and returned to establish the first agricultural college in India.
In the Fall of 1981, I began taking classes at Messiah College. Each semester, I’d be excited as I started learning new things. Each new class brought new discoveries. And each new discovery brought increased joy. But as each semester rolled along, the joy of learning new things would wane in the face of projects, research papers, and the memorizing of facts for exams. With each passing day of each new semester, it therefore would become harder to generate enthusiasm for the tasks at hand. As a result, the joy of learning that would burst into flame in my soul at the beginning of each new semester would slowly be extinguished by the end. The next semester, the pattern would repeat itself. I would start out with excitement as I learned new things, and end with boredom as I went through the motions of merely completing the educational process.
In 1992, Steve Martin starred in a movie titled Leap of Faith. It was about a con artist named Jonas Nightengale. Jonas would roll into town with a caravan of trucks, set up a tent, and announce that he was there to lead healing services. As people arrived, his fellow con artists would mingle with the crowd, listen for people’s ailments, and feed that information back to Jonas. Jonas would then take the stage in a silver-sequined jacket, announce that someone was there “named Jackie who had Cancer,” or “Ted who lost his job.” He would then bring them on stage, pray for them, and announce that if they had enough faith their problems would be solved.
Over the years, I have seen a lot of Christian bumper stickers. “I’m not perfect, just forgiven.” “Jesus Saves.” One of the oldest is “God is My Co-Pilot.” It was taken from an autobiographical reference to the military career of General Robert L. Scott, an Air Force Pilot who flew in China with the Flying Tigers during World War II. Originally, it was theologically appropriate, as there were numerous incidents in his career where Scott felt that it was only by God’s helping hand that he survived a particular mission. But when the phrase “God is My Co-Pilot” was applied to Christian life by way of a bumper sticker, it created a theological problem.
The Talmud is the rabbinic commentary on the Torah, the first 5 books of the Old Testament. In the Talmud, there is a story about a drought that occurred in Israel in 5 B.C. As planting time approached, the people grew worried. Without rain falling soon, their crops would perish, and they would starve. In response to their concerns, a priest named Honi appeared outside the city walls. He took his staff, and marked a circle around himself in the dirt. Raising his hands to heaven, he vowed to God in a thunderous prayer “I will not move from this circle until You send rain!” Instantly, a very light drizzle began to fall. But the people complained to Honi, saying “This is a poor excuse for rain, only enough to release you from your vow.”