Living Through Loss

After living with less the Shummanite woman faces loss–something so common we expected it and yet at the same time long for more. It was her rejoicing turned mute: going cold, dark, and dead—as we actually begin …

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Living Through Loss (2 Kings 4:18-20, 25-28) 18 The child grew, and one day he went out to his father, who was with the reapers. 19 He said to his father, “My head! My head!” His father told a servant, “Carry him to his mother.” 20 After the servant had lifted him up and carried him to his mother, the boy sat on her lap until noon, and then he died. A miraculous birth now amounts to a mountain of pain! Alfred Lord Tennyson famously penned, “Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all… 25 So she set out and came to the man of God at Mount Carmel. When he saw her in the distance, the man of God said to his servant Gehazi, “Look! There’s the Shunammite! 26 Run to meet her and ask her, ‘Are you all right? Is your husband all right? Is your child all right?’” “Everything is all right,” she said. 27 When she reached the man of God at the mountain, she took hold of his feet. Gehazi came over to push her away, but the man of God said, “Leave her alone! She is in bitter distress, but the Lord has hidden it from me and has not told me why.” 28 “Did I ask you for a son, my lord?” she said. “Didn’t I tell you ‘Don’t raise my hopes’?” Continue reading “Living Through Loss”

Living With Less

As we continue in our sermon series called Greater Things following the miraculous moments of Elisha’s ministry. He decluttered the past to make room for a greater future. He ferociously followed his master until he was ready to lead. He changed the course of kings, and last week we saw him change the life of one solitary woman who was facing disaster. A woman who felt like she had nothing, but found that what she overlooked was what God used to overcome. This morning in 2 Kings 4: 8-37 we go from a woman who had nothing to the other end of the spectrum, to a woman who seemingly has more than enough.

Background: It all started as Elisha’s work had him traveling throughout the land administering his duties, like Lincoln rode through IL on his legal circuit. Elisha would go from Mt. Carmel to Shunem, south to Gilgal, and each time he arrived in Shunem he received the hospitality—welcomed into the home of the Shummanite woman and her husband. It is one thing to get a home cooked meal, good conversation and friendship, but this couple went further, building on to their house, giving Elisha a motel 6 experience—“We will leave the light on for you!” From the outside the Shummanite looked content, like she had everything she wanted or needed, but God was about behind the curtain she was actually:

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Living with Less (2 Kings 4:13, 16-17) 13 Elisha said to him, “Tell her, ‘You have gone to all this trouble for us. Now what can be done for you? Can we speak on your behalf to the king or the commander of the army?’” She replied, “I have a home among my own people.” 14 “What can be done for her?” Elisha asked. Gehazi said, “She has no son, and her husband is old.”15 Then Elisha said, “Call her.” So he called her, and she stood in the doorway. 16 “About this time next year,” Elisha said, “you will hold a son in your arms.” “No, my lord!” she objected. “Please, man of God, don’t mislead your servant!”

The Shummanite woman was comfortable and generous. She was willing to do almost anything for Elisha—share her wealth, add on to her house, give him a room fully furnished with a lamp, bed, and table, but she wasn’t sure she wanted God to do anything to her! Continue reading “Living With Less”

2 Ears, 1 Mouth

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Listening is so difficult because it is a moment to moment dying to self. Muffling that immature voice inside which screams silently as others speak: “Wait! Hear me! See me! Notice me! Acknowledge me!” Instead the other person has a voice, grows in significance, and increases in value.

James 1:19 declared, “Brothers and sisters, take note of this: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.”

Investing in others begins by hearing the other person. They matter to God and therefore should matter to us.

 

From Empty to Excess

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As the widow found in coming to Elisha (2 Kings 4), God would not be held hostage by the expectations around her, he instead would set her free with the exceptions; however, in the end it would all come down to whether she would allow herself to go from…

Empty to Excess! (2 Kings 4:5-7) She left him and shut the door behind her and her sons. They brought the jars to her and she kept pouring. When all the jars were full, she said to her son, “Bring me another one.” But he replied, “There is not a jar left.” Then the oil stopped flowing. She went and told the man of God, and he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left.”

Elisha didn’t magically give her enough oil to pay her bills; instead he reveals God’s plan was to allow her willingness to step out in faith to match his provision. God wasn’t something to be possessed, a check to cash, but took on flesh to be pursued!   Think about it, if she would have only gone out, sheepishly, nervously, uncertainly asking for a few jars—3 or 4 from only her closet friends because she was nervous of the result—nothing would have changed her situation for a lifetime. It was in the midst of her problem that God’s provision was given in proportion to her willingness to trust Him! Continue reading “From Empty to Excess”

Set-Free By the Exception

Elisha reveals that it is possible to go from trapped by expectations to…

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Set-Free by the Exceptions (2 Kings 4:2-4) Elisha replied to her, “How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?” “Your servant has nothing there at all,” she said, “except a small jar of olive oil.” Elisha said, “Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few. Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side.”

When the widow explains her ordeal, it is clear that when she looks at her situation she sees no opportunity, nothing to work with, and yet it is the very thing  that she has Overlooked that will be the means for her to Overcome! It is in the exception where Elisha sees the opportunity for her to be set-free. God in the process drives the widow and us outside of what we know—beyond ourselves, beyond our limitations, beyond our preferences. Jesus got his twelve disciples to the same starting place as the widow as he sent them out, “He told them: “Take nothing for the journey–no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt.” He pushes them to depend on the exception rather than give into the expectation. It should remind us that our security is never found in possessing God but in pursuing Him. Continue reading “Set-Free By the Exception”

Slave to Expectations

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As we continue in the life of Elisha, one of Israel’s greatest prophets, we have seen him transform from a simple farmer to being called to something greater. He burnt the plows that might have beckoned him back to his comfortable life and instead began being used by God—changing the course of a nation, and today he changes the course of a desperate widow who was beginning to see life as a dirty trick with no remedy or cure. Today in our text from 2 Kings 4:1-7, we find a widow who feels like a…

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Slave to Expectations ( 2 Kings 4:1) The wife of a man from the company of the prophets cried out to Elisha,(If you’ve spent a lot of time around seminary students you will find out money is flowing very freely. It wasn’t rare in married student housing  to find a couch out by the dumpster one day and then proudly displayed by another couple the next or a card table used for a dinner table.)  “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that he revered the Lord. But now his creditor is coming to take my two boys as his slaves.” No plea for help just a statement of desperation! Proverbs was right (22:7) The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender. The law allowed for Hebrews to be sold or to sell themselves as a way to pay off their debt. God intended it to be temporary and help transport people beyond humble beginnings or big mistakes.  What was established to be a way out of bondage, through loopholes in the law inflicted bondage on the weakest and most vulnerable. Losing possessions is one thing, but that is nothing in comparison to the panic of watching her two sons become slaves. While people ignored God’s expectations to care for the widows and orphans, to limit the number of years in service, to bless those who served under you,  you can almost hear the familiar refrain: “It’s just business as usual!” Just what everyone expected. Continue reading “Slave to Expectations”

Greater Than Good

Elisha had been willing to do what many are not—creating space-cutting free from the past in order to embrace the future calling. Finding that radical amputation did not leave him with less, but left him with more as he embraced the radical opportunity …but look at how the account moves along, giving us some:

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Radical Observations (2 Kings 2:13-15) (Elisha) picked up the coat that had fallen from Elijah. He went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan River. Then he struck the water with Elijah’s coat. “Where is the power of the Lord?” he asked. “Where is the power of the God of Elijah?” When Elisha struck the water, it parted to the right and to the left. He went across the river. The company of the prophets from Jericho were watching. They said, “The spirit of Elijah has been given to Elisha.” They went over to him. They bowed down to him with their faces toward the ground.

As the Israelites once crossed the Jordan on dry ground ending their Exodus, Elisha now walks across the Jordan on dry ground confirming his transition and installation. He has officially taken up the mantle of his mentor, becoming the chief prophet to Israel. It is easy to miss in the whirlwind of activity, in the momentous moments just how radically God was working or to say “Wow, look at how amazing Elisha is now!” Don’t miss this—time and time again—God doesn’t use good people he uses faithful ones. Here in our story, he has taken a young man working in the fields, we get no comment on his education, his charisma, his IQ, his religiosity, and all we see is that he was faithful. Continue reading “Greater Than Good”