IN the Face of Tragedy

Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”  /Luke 13:1-5

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In the face of life’s tragedy we want an answer to the question of “WHY?” A day ago, we got news of a crushing loss that struck a family we met through ministry. It is shocking, horrifying, and the question rumbles all the louder: “WHY LORD?”

As unsatisfying as it is sometimes, we know the answer to the why. An imperfect world gives us imperfection. In the pain of loss, as we seek Jesus, he refocuses us. Instead of being lost in the question of why, he calibrates us to wake up to the question of: “WHAT WILL YOU DO IN RESPONSE!”

When are each of us going to wake up to our own need for repentance? When is tomorrow too long to wait? Today you have enough time to stop and come back to Jesus. Take a few minutes right now and allow the light of God to shine into the dark places, turn back to holiness, and let’s repent instead of perish.

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Quote of the Day

Tim Keller: “You don’t really know Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you have.” (5).

“Christianity teaches that, contra fatalism, suffering is overwhelming; contra Buddhism, suffering is real; contra karma, suffering is often unfair; but contra secularism, suffering is meaningful. There is a purpose to it, and if faced rightly, it can drive us like a nail deep into the love of God and into more stability and spiritual power than you can imagine.” (30).

Waking With God through Pain and Suffering

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”

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”

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”