Disconnected

What begins as an exciting vision—with big plans, eager hands, and an exciting dream of what is to come can sometimes feel more like…

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Swinging without an ax head (2 Kings 6:5) As one of them was cutting down a tree, the iron ax head fell into the water. “Oh no, my lord!” he cried out. “It was borrowed!”

Literally meaning “it was begged” for.  During the reign of King Saul, the Israelites had to go to the Philistines to get all their iron plows, sickles, and axes sharpened, and still after 200 years, iron was precious and the cost was steep. There were no extra resources in this vision, unlike when you are putting together something from Ikea. All of a sudden there is a disconnection between what the prophet has and what he needs.  With the loss of the iron ax head, suddenly he was facing a debt he was unable to pay, he was staring into the dark water which probably felt like a black hole, he would be hit with a bone-crushing debt- no more being a prophet, it would be time to become a slave. An ax head, something that seemed so small, and yet without it the entire project comes to a standstill. The vision has devolved into a vexing problem.

I was reminded of the problem of disconnection just this week. I was on the phone with someone who had called for advice and so I listened, probably for 15 minutes, listening intently with ideas formulating in my head, and when they opened the floor, it was one of my finest moments, the words made sense, I was surprising myself, thoughts were crisp and flowing, for a minute, minute 15 it was like I was a Gatlin-gun of good ideas. Continue reading “Disconnected”

Poorly Placed, Perfectly Situated

The mission for three servants was simple: Provide a cure to Naaman! The first servant came upon her assignment almost by accident as a…

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Young Girl who was on the surface was POORLY PLACED, but found out she was PERFECTLY SITUATED (2 Kings 5:2-3)– Now bands of raiders from Aram (Israel and Aram were ethnically related), had gone out and had taken captive a young girl from Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.”

Talk about a poor placement for a young girl who was taken from her homeland, and family- what we would call her a non-enemy combatant—a treasure for an Aram raider who went about inflicting terror on the Israelites, leaving them constantly in fear of losing their livelihood, their family, and their life. It is telling that she is a nameless servant, without rights or identity to her captors. It is in horrible placement that she could have avoided bringing up the name Elisha or approached the assignment with apathy—why help these people, “they ruined my life! Let his life come to rot!” and yet from the beginning she shows herself poorly placed, but perfectly situated to speak truth into the life of someone who didn’t yet know God. Continue reading “Poorly Placed, Perfectly Situated”

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”

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”

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”

Ferociously Following

We are told to throw off or cut away everything that hinders us, but we create space for God to do something greater. Creating space opens the door for Elisha to…

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Ferociously Follow—As 2 Kings 2 opens up after months, maybe even years of training, and it is time for Elisha to take over, and for his mentor to be taken into heaven, the rumor has spread that he isn’t going to die but God is going to take him. (best retirement plan)(2,4,6) 2 Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; the Lord has sent me to Bethel.” But Elisha said, “As surely as the LORD lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel. 4 Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here; the Lord has sent me to the Jericho. And he replied, “As surely as the LORD and as you live, I will not leave you.” So they went to Jericho. 6 Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here; the LORD has sent me to the Jordan. “As surely as the LORD and as you live, I will not leave you.” Three times Elijah tells Elisha to stay and three times he refuses.  His commitment is tested before God commits to him a new opportunity. God knows that in every opportunity that we want there will be obstacles—he had been following for months but would he follow to the end, even when he didn’t like what was about to happen?

(8-12) Elijah took his cloak, rolled it up and struck the water with it. The water divided to the right and to the left, and the two of them crossed over on dry ground. When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?” “Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,” Elisha replied. 10 “You have asked a difficult thing,” Elijah said, “yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours—otherwise, it will not.”  11 As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. 12 Elisha saw this and cried out, “My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!” And Elisha saw him no more. Then he took hold of his garment and tore it in two. Continue reading “Ferociously Following”