Yesterday I mentioned a story in 2 Kings 6 about the prophet Elisha and the attempt by the king of Aram to capture him. The servant saw the army and wondered what they were going to do to stay alive. Elisha encouraged his servant to not be afraid, but he also prayed for him. He helped to connect the dots between what God was doing and his life. “God help him see it” God answered the prayer and he saw.
Isolation is no friend to someone walking in faith because we are easily shaken on our own. A life of faith is not something we just do on our own, nor should it be. We live it out with each other. We grow together. What a privilege to be able to help someone see what God is doing in the midst of crisis and to receive the same ourselves! It is awesome to be able to look at our brother and sister in Christ and say – “Keep your eyes on Jesus. Let’s do this together.”
How can you encourage someone to keep their eyes on Jesus, not in some cliché way like — “it will be okay”, but in a real way? How can you help someone in a way that doesn’t diminish the junk they find themselves swimming in, but instead helps them look up out of it to the Lord who walks with them through it. We need to pray with each other that God would open our eyes to whatever He has for us in any circumstance and to give us the faith needed for anything that might happen.
It is at this point that we are no longer paralyzed by the fear of the unknown, but are empowered by faith in the risen Savior. This changes how we live! Elisha acts on what his eyes of faith tell him and he prays that God would strike them with blindness in verse 18 and God does it.
It would appear that the servant takes a deep breath and calms down also. He has now seen that God is up to something big and he rests in it. Do you rest in Him? Do you find ways to stop, in the confidence of God’s Word and the ministry of His Spirit to rest in Him? Do you apply that which we confess with our mouth about Jesus being the Lord? That means giving up the desire to have it all perfectly arranged before stepping out in faith. That means coming before the throne of God with open hands and knowing that the assurance we have for each day does not come from a paycheck or a career, but a relationship with Jesus Christ.
We need to be connected with each other. We do know is that we will accomplish more walking in faith together than we will when we try to do it alone.
In 2 Kings 6 there is a story about the prophet Elisha and the attempt by the king of Aram to capture him. Early in the morning Elisha’s servant wakes up and looks out to find that a superior military force surrounded them while they slept. This terrified him as he could see the dangers, but he had no concept that there could be deliverance from it He wondered to Elisha, “What should we do?”
Truthfully, we relate pretty well to this servant. We worship together on Sundays and declare great truths about God together only to be discouraged by the chaos we find ourselves in on Monday. How do we apply faith to daily life?
“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” – Hebrews 12:2
I remember when I would take my children swimming when they were babies. They would be absolutely calm and happy if I held them so that they could see me. They would laugh, splash in the water, and even let me toss them in the air. But the minute I spun them around in the water, and they could not see me any longer, they got tense and started to cry. My hands never left their bodies and I never came close to letting them drown, but they lost sight of me and panicked at the sight of the mass of water around them. While this seems funny to us, we just as easily do that when the circumstances of life overwhelm and we take our eyes off our Jesus.
Life through eyes of faith is life fixed on Jesus Christ; we are called to look to Him in all things. In Christ we receive the ability to stand firm no matter what circumstances come our way and gain confidence to take faith-filled risks. There is a calm that comes upon us as we decide to keep looking to Jesus Christ and not to the circumstances around us.
Elisha tells his servant, “Do not fear! Those who are for us are greater than those who are against us.” It took eyes of faith to see that. It took assurance that there was greater power and purpose than what could be physically understood.
Everyday brings new opportunities to fix our gaze on Jesus Christ; He offers Himself to us. It means to follow Him, even when the odds seem against us and the challenges are overwhelming. We do well when we remember that there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God. We gain confidence when we let God’s Word remind us that if God is for us who can be against us. Our job is to glorify God by walking in obedience to Him, no matter what happens in life, because our life of faith is not built on life circumstance, but on Jesus Christ.
It has been a few weeks, but we have started to settle in here. Of course it has been below zero much of the past couple weeks, but God has been good to us. As we get started here, I just wanted to share something again that the Lord has been teaching me. I look back at the past year and am amazed at how God led us to where we are. I would not have placed myself here now, but there is such a peace that comes from knowing this is where God has us. We were able to pack up our things, drive out here, get unpacked, and make meaningful connections without having too many melt downs. That is God’s work, no doubt about it.
Today I am walking in the confidence again of knowing my calling and resting firmly in it.
“Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers — not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve.” – 1 Peter 5:3
Even more amazing is that way that sun has been coming up even in the cold. It is like God is smiling on us and reminding us of His blessings to come. I look forward to them and all that He will accomplish in 2014.
Christmas is such a magical time. There is just something about lights and snow that makes me want to drink hot chocolate with candy canes. It brings families together and brings people to church for candlelight services. There is something very intriguing to us about a silent night that was interrupted by a chorus of angels praising God for the birth of Jesus Christ. The only thing is that each year it seems like we add more distance between that scene in Bethlehem and what Christmas has become. Yet, no matter what we try to scream at each other, Christmas still means something valuable to all of us. We don’t just enjoy it, we long for it. It is the one time of year when we throw out all caution about leaving the lights on and we add more lights to our home. I mean, it is Christmas — it only comes once a year!
Steeped in all of the commercial and political correct jargon is the reality of what has taken place. Sure a winter solstice is happening, but Christmas was not that big of a deal until it became a celebration of Jesus. It provided a time for us to gather together to tell the story of God taking on flesh to save people who have rejected Him. It allows all of us to start to answer the question about what this is all about and how we can have hope in a future. Jesus is the gift we need and He is where the focus needs to be. The story actually includes us.
Think about what would happen if you received a gift that would save your life. If your life literally hung in the balance and you got what you needed to live, would you put that gift on the shelf? I know I would open it up and apply it to my life. If I knew someone else with the same problem as I had, I think it would be a nice idea to try to save them too, wouldn’t it?
In Luke 2 there are shepherds out tending to their flocks. It says that they were living in the fields. I would imagine that it was an ordinary night of sheep watching. Then God showed up and His glory shown around them. In other words, they knew that it was the Lord who was showing up to tell them something. Despite their fear, they are able to calm down and hear about the Savior who has been born. The gift is a baby and not just any baby, the Savior of the world for all people!
So they go to see and they find the baby in the manger. What they do next is what I think we need to remember — they went and told everyone! There is good news and they want the world to know.
This challenges me to make sure I don’t miss out on the giving part of Christmas. There are people all around us who have never received the gift of forgiveness and eternal life in Jesus Christ. We must not keep Him to ourselves. I know it is not politically correct to talk about Jesus, but it is far worse not to. The Savior has come for all people. (yes, even them)
I believe that all of the rhetoric and media hype over things people say is just a distraction from what really matters. We need to keep our head on straight. Jesus Christ is the way for anyone who will come. Christmas is a holiday to celebrate that. The Bible is truth and God does not need us to defend any of it. We are to share the gift of Jesus with the world around us.
As you receive the blessing of drawing near to God because of Jesus, remember also to share Him with others.
You may have noticed by the amount of crazy, frivolous spending, that Christmas is coming. Materialism has run crazy and taken lives in its wake again. Getting deals does not make people evil. The sinful heart does a great job of bringing it out of people. But why? How is it that rational people can get so short-sighted over an electronic device that will be obsolete in a matter of months? It is a lot like getting caught in the undercurrent. If you don’t prepare for how you might guard yourself from it, you will end up underwater.
It is no different for any other area of our life. I know my family is currently in the midst of a transition from one ministry to the next. That lends itself to a lot of opportunities for unguarded emotions. What helps is to back up and look at the big picture – eternity. We are serving the God of all the Universe. We are obeying Him and not getting taken in by the comfort of settling somewhere where God is telling us to leave from. That is a hard place to be at times because our ability to try to control everything gets in the way. But there is such joy in the trust that comes from a relationship with God. It means we need to keep our eyes on Him and not on other things.
I don’t know what that means for anyone reading this, but I do want to share how I have been praying in order to keep focused on where I need to be now. And when I say that I don’t just mean as a pastor, but as a parent, husband and member of a community.
“He is always wrestling in prayer for you that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.” – Colossians 4:12 (part of it)
I have been taking time to wrestle in prayer for my family. We want to not just sort of settle in God’s will but we want to stand firm in it. We want to have our feet firmly planted on the Rock of our Salvation, Jesus Christ. So, I pray that my children, my wife and those I serve in ministry with will know the will of God and stand on it with confidence. I also have been praying for progress and growth in our relationship with God. (maturity) As we get closer, we become more like Him. And lastly I have been praying that we are fully assured of that will. As we walk each day in step with the Spirit of God, we want to know that we are right where we need to be!
This type of prayer involves taking a longer range view. It means understanding that sometimes what is right in front of you is not what you might have chosen, but you know the God who has chosen it can be trusted.
The beginning of the first proclamation of a national day of Thanksgiving from 1789. – by George Washington. (before it became a yearly thing)
‘Whereas, it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the Providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, humbly implore his protection and favor…”
The goal was always to thank God for his provisions. That is what Thanksgiving is about!
Why is God where our Thanksgiving beings, as it says in verse 2 “come before him with Thanksgiving.”
He gives Salvation to us
The Psalm reminds us that God is the Rock of our salvation. Right now there is turmoil in families all over the world. If we were left to our own devices to somehow obtain salvation and make sense of it all, it would be like trying to build a mansion on the beach with no foundation. Sure, you might get by for a while, but the wind and waves will come at some point and the house will be destroyed.
We can be thankful today that despite all the changes in our culture, positive or negative, that God does not change. We can be thankful that He still saves sinful people from the mess of sin we are in. He takes us and places us on the Rock, Christ Jesus.
He Made it All & is Over It All
In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. The sea is his, for he made it,
and his hands formed the dry land – Psalm 95:4-5
There is purpose and order in the creation. No matter what is going on at any given moment, God is still the real King. Why? Because He made it all. I mean try to imagine this scene. The depths of the earth in his hand. The mountain peaks, some of which people have never climbed, and never will climb, are his. The sea in all its splendor is God’s. He owns it because He made it. I mean I have made some amazing things with Lincoln Logs and Legos, but never anything as amazing as the universe, the depths of which we can never fully grasp.
This makes my heart burst with thanksgiving because it tells me that God is always on the throne. God is never surprised by anything that happens. There is no molecule in the universe that he is not aware of. He made it all. He knows it all. It reassures me that no matter what I am going through, no matter how alone I might feel, I can find comfort in knowing that God knows exactly what is going on.
He Knows and is Involved With us Personally
This is where it gets crazy. God over everything, but He knows everyone personally, individually. It is one thing to recognize that there is a God who is over everything, who is larger than anything. Many people believe in a “higher power.” But, the difference here is that God is personal and involved in our lives.
Come, let us bow down in worship,
let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; – Psalm 95:6
He is our maker. That means we are not a mistake and not junk. Ephesians 2:10 says that we are God’s handiwork, His masterpiece. He has molded each person individually like an artist does with clay.
So, as we gather today we give start by giving thanks to God because in Him is where our Thanksgiving begins.
Have a Happy Thanksgiving!
One of the greatest stories to bring up with high school students is the story of Elisha’s way of dealing with a bunch of youth. They called him bald and he prayed and God sent bears to maul them. Sounds like teens should be nice to their bald youth pastors. But, why was this the reaction? At face value, this looks rather harsh. I mean, couldn’t they have just said, “hey, be nice to the man.”
First, here is the story, if you are not familiar.
From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, some youths came out of the town and jeered at him. “Go on up, you baldhead!” they said. “Go on up, you baldhead!” He turned around, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the Lord. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the youths. And he went on to Mount Carmel and from there returned to Samaria. – 2 Kings 2:23-25
The explanation lies in both who the youth were and who Elisha was. First of all, I asked an Old Testament professor about this and one thing he brought up was that this wasn’t the average youth group. This was a group of trouble makers, or muggers. They were comparable to a street gang. So, sorry youth pastors, I guess if you are balding you can’t use this as a threat.
When they tell him to “go on up” they are not just talking trash. They are telling him to move on, to get out of town. Elisha, being a prophet, would not have always received a warm welcome in all places. Clearly this group was not thrilled with the message he brought and wanted him gone.
With that being said, this had everything to do with opposition to God. In this case, God dealt with the opposition in a swift fashion. It is never a good idea to be opposed to God. This is not a new concept, but just an occurrence where it is done with uniqueness.
It is not an overreaction. It is the act of an unholy people trying to live in proximity to a Holy God. This is something that they never did well, which is why Jesus Christ coming was so significant. Now there was a mediator between God and man. Now there was an ability to be forgiven of sin and to be viewed as righteous before God. We could never have done that!
I will say that if you are a teen and have a balding youth pastor, it is still wise to be nice to him. But, when he tries to ask God for bears to maul you, make sure you remind him of what was really going on there.
And of course — be careful who you taunt.