Posted in Different Moments, Different Scriptures, Uncategorized

the dirt…

Whether you’re a young person who’s just returned from a summer “Youth Camp/Retreat/Conference” experience, or you’re a little older and still reminiscing on those days, there’s a draw to a particular response. It’s natural. The response we often have is “Oh my goodness, that was a great experience in the presence of God, I wish we could recreate these conditions for all of my future experiences!” It’s good for us to know – we’re not the first ones to feel this way. We shouldn’t feel shame for having such a response. When God meets with us in a particular way, the temptation is to connect strongly to that “way”.

When Sarah and I first started dating, she wore a uniquely fuzzy coat. I remember walking her to her dorm on one of our first dates ever, and giving her a hug “goodnight”, wrapping my arms around the fuzziness of that coat. Just a few weeks later, as I was home on Christmas break, I saw a men’s winter jacket that had the same “fuzziness”, and you know I just had to get it. Even far from her, when I wrapped my arms around myself, I was reminded of that hug and looked forward to seeing her again. It’s part of how God has wired us. The neurochemical responses that form long-lasting memories (especially involving music/singing) connected to our “bonding/attachment” experiences can be a blessing.

Today’s lectionary reading from scripture gives us a similar story. Namaan was a commander in the army of Aram, who’d just been miraculously healed by obeying Elisha’s instructions to bathe 7 times in the waters of the Jordan river. He was saturated in these waters of a particular experience and found himself having a renewal and healing as never before. God was faithful, and released Namaan from the chains of disease. Namaan was grateful, and wanted to make sure he had access to this same experience as he went home. In his culture, gods were often tied to particular areas geographically, so it made sense for him to make this request:

“Then Namaan said… ‘please let two mule-loads of earth be given to your servant; for your servant will no longer offer burnt offering or sacrifice to any god except the Lord.” (2 Kings 5:17)

He wanted to bring some of this holy ground home so that any time he desired an experience of this God who met him in the waters of the Jordan, he could. We don’t have the response of Elisha recorded, but I wonder if he looked with compassion on Namaan as he helped him load up some dirt.

Imagine if I returned to campus after Christmas break, so thankful for my new fuzzy coat. Whenever I missed Sarah, I could wrap my arms around myself and be thankful for the warmness of such memories. But how sad it would be, if I was so contented/taken by feeling that coat around me, that I never pursued building a relationship or creating new memories of love together with her. It’s a silly illustration, but I hope you’re seeing the connection. How pitiful it would be if we came home, and tried really hard to replicate the transformational moments, missing out on the God who wants us to be aware of His presence in every moment and every location. God desires that we would not seek special moments with him alone, but abide with Him as He transforms every moment with Kingdom purposes (John 15:5).

We can be thankful for the experiences we have had of God, and even have moments where we wrap our arms around such experiences in the future. We should definitely remember these moments, and testify about them to others as we share what God has done. But let us not pursue the ground we stood on. Let us pursue the God who we met on that ground. The good news is – this is the same God who has promised to meet with us wherever we seek Him. (Proverbs 8:17) In fact, scripture says that God rewards those who seek Him (Hebrews 11:6).

May we seek Jesus and His Kingdom today, taking each step in the knowledge that we are entering a space He desires to make holy…

Posted in Different Scriptures

When reality changed (changes)…

When I was growing up, I loved reading fantasy fiction books about realms where supernatural things happened. Life was difficult at times. There was a season where my dad was in prison, and we didn’t have much money. I wasn’t one of the “cool kids” in school, wasn’t good at sports or band, or even academics. So I loved to “retreat” sometimes by enjoying a story about magical places. I might even spend time imagining – what if I had some sort of power? What if the world I know could be transformed by something I could do?

I would wonder: what if the supernatural wasn’t just for books and movies – but existed here in our world? This past Sunday was a special day in the church – a day we call “Transfiguration Sunday”. It’s a day we often talk about Jesus ascending a hill in front of Peter, James, and John, and crazy things happening. They saw reality, transformed by Heaven.

I chose the “other” passage from Sunday’s readings, from the Old Testament. It is the final moments shared by the prophets Elijah and Elisha. It’s good for us to remember – Elijah is the prophet who had the showdown with the prophets of Ba’al – and saw God consume his altar with fire. He was getting too old to continue. Elisha would go on to do great things, and even gave a widow a jug of oil that never ran dry. But at this part of the story, he was still young, and wanting to follow Elijah.

Elijah and Elisha began this passage, in a place called “Gilgal”. This was the place Joshua first camped with the Israelites after they crossed the Jordan River, as they were entering the promised land. He set up an altar there, with 12 large stones to remind God’s people of His faithfulness.

Then they traveled to Bethel. You’ve probably heard of Bethel before, as the place where Jacob saw angels coming and going on a ladder. (Genesis 28) It was a place that reminds us that God is connecting the realities of earth and the realities of Heaven.

Then they traveled to Jericho, where God proved His presence with the people of Israel by crumbling the walls, in an amazing first victory as they began to receive and inhabit the promised land. Elijah was taking Elisha – and they’re taking us today – on a tour that reminds us of the Faithfulness of God – that Heaven and Earth aren’t just connected – but God is establishing His reign and rule in Earth as it is in Heaven. God is crumbling strongholds that previously existed, and claiming new territory as His Kingdom.

Next, they went to the Jordan River. The Jordan always seems to symbolize “crossing over into something new” in scripture. Elijah was preparing Elisha, inviting Him to enter into a new season of life. They were followed by 50 other prophets – people who spoke with God’s heart and vision into the world. Perhaps Elijah wanted some privacy, as this is a moment not meant for everyone, so he hits the water with his coat – and the Jordan splits, allowing them to walk across.

Now, I’ve never split a body of water larger than a puddle. But God splitting a large sea or lake seems possible. But for God to split a large FLOWING body of water, like the Jordan River, or the Danube, seems impossible. The water is always flowing – from upriver, and to downriver. So here, just like in the book of Joshua, we can imagine the water piling up and flooding out on one side – while drying up slowly on the other. Just as it happened when God’s people were leaving the wilderness, and entering into a new season of God’s provision in the land He’d promised Abraham long ago.

After they’d crossed (we can assume the water began to run again, as the other prophets didn’t seem to follow), Elijah turns to Elisha and asks “What can I do for you before I go?” Elisha responds, “The Spirit you have – what God is doing through you – I want a double portion of that kind of living.” Elijah thinks back – probably remembering all the times his life had been threatened or difficult. He says, “you have asked for a difficult thing.”

Not long after, as they were still talking, Elijah is separated by chariots that were blazing with the glory of God – Elisha could only describe them as being “of fire”. Then a windstorm comes, and seems to swallow up Elijah, and Elisha is so overcome by awe, and with grief, he rips his clothes. He had seen – literally, the transformation of reality. The flowing water had parted – this is not something that we’re accustomed to seeing in our physical world. He had seen chariots blazing with God’s glory, and saw Elijah taken away – he seemed to be swallowed up by the wind.

My question is – did reality change for the 50 prophets on the other side of the river in those moments too? Do you think they noticed the transformation of those moments? If they didn’t, does that change the reality of what happened?

Today, I want to invite you as Elijah invited Elisha. To consider the faithfulness of God. I want you to remember the way God’s reality and the reality we know are connected even here and even now. I want you to know that God’s desire is to crumble walls that we have built up – walls that made us feel safe, or comfortable, or strong on our own. I want to invite you to this moment – this Jordan Riverside moment. Because right now, God is parting the waters and asking you to come across with Him. To leave behind yesterday. To leave behind the ways you trusted yourself, or things of this world. To finally be set free from what has been holding onto you for so long. To know God’s looking into your eyes, and asking, “Do you know what I’ve done for you?”

When Jesus came – he also entered the Jordan River. God was declaring – now humanity is entering into a new reality I’ve promised since long ago. Where all land becomes my “promised land”, and the Spirit of God will be poured out in all directions. In that Spirit, we live today in the promised land of relationship with God – no matter what the reality of our world declares.

Knowing that God has transformed our reality by the love and life of Jesus Christ – how does God invite your life to be transformed this week?

Posted in Different Scriptures, Spoken Word

2 Kings 4:18-37

Why did Gehazi run ahead
When Elisha was on the way?
It seems he’d already left
When he heard the prophet say

“Don’t walk, but run and don’t distract
It’s urgent you obey,
Place my staff on the child’s face!”
And Gehazi did not delay.

And yet, he wasn’t able
To bring the child to life
Even though he obeyed full well
He could not ease their strife

Imagine as he walked away
Seeing Elisha and woman appear
Wondering if they will ask
As they both came near

He confessed, deflatedly
“The child did not wake.”
Elisha still went to his room
And prayed for the child’s’ sake.

The methods of this revival
I’ll never understand.
Warming the boy who sneezed seven times
Was somehow in God’s plan.

But as I read the story
While my own prayers over me tower,
I pray to have Gehazi obedience
With Elisha’s Holy Spirit power.