Pass It On

So Elijah went from there and found Elisha… Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around …Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his servant. ~ From 1 Kings 19

Elijah and Elisha… two peas in a pod? Seems like they should be. Both of them are prophets. Both of them did amazing miracles through the power of God. Both of them killed and burned oxen. Both of them had servants. Both of them raised the dead sons of widows. Their names sound alike and are often confused. They are like twins separated at birth!

Not really. And that is what makes their partnership … actually a mentor/mentee relationship … so powerful. We do not have much information about their time together. It came after Elijah’s mountaintop moments, when his biggest role had been played. It ended when a fiery chariot carried the fiery prophet away to be with the Lord forever. In case you have a doubt about that, it is Elijah and Moses who are chatting with Jesus in the Transfiguration a long long time later.

Elijah and Elisha seem much different in temperament, tone, and confidence. After Elijah dispenses with the prophets of Baal and promises Ahab that it is about to rain, he has an anxiety attack. He puts his head between his knees and sends his servant out seven times to see if there might be a cloud. When Elisha tells Naaman (via a servant) to go dip in the Jordan River seven times in order to be rid of leprosy, he doesn’t even look out the window to see if it happened. Elijah was known to King Ahab as the ‘troubler of Israel‘; Elisha’s power and wisdom were sought out by kings. We could continue on, but you can read the stories. These two prophets were both called by God, but they were cut from different cloth.

Early on in Scripture God lets us know that even if we’re brothers, we are not identical twins. Although we live in a cultural climate that clamors for people to be tolerant and accepting of differences, some of the people who speak the loudest about such are the least so. As far as I can see, the purveyors of tolerance are no more tolerant than the rest of us.

God, the Magnificent Creator, who made such a vibrant and fascinating world values variety. In your church environment there are all sorts of people. Thank God that they are not all scholars, not all somber, not all class clowns, not all country, not all city, not all urban, not all urbane. As a result when they open His word they might not all see the same thing you do. We’ve all got room to grow, friends.

We need the spirit of Elijah, passing on the mantle to others, sharing with them the glorious gospel that has come to be settled in our hearts. Elijah does not resent Elisha’s role in God’s story. He welcomes the opportunity to pass along a double measure of his strength.

We need the spirit of Elisha, absorbing and learning from those who have been on this path a long time. Elisha did not shrink back from responsibility, learning, reaching a place where he can capably embrace the next vision of God.

Your church is full of Elijahs and Elishas. You are an Elijah, and an Elisha. And together we will know our God, speak His word, and embrace the mission. If we do not work together to pass it on, the next generation will be missing a vital voice.

Thanks for reading,

John

The End of the World

It will soon be May 21st. A man I do not know has created quite a stir predicting the end of the world on May 21st. Largely this is not only rejected, but has created quite a cacophony of  laughter directed toward all Christians. So thanks for that.

As a matter of disclosure I’m a decided amillennialist. The rapture idea is that after Jesus collects all the Christians from the earth, there are people left behind to endure terrible things in order to give them a second chance. It makes a great series of novels, but I find little in the Bible to support it. I do not place any faith in the purported timelines popularized by premillennialists.  The first time I ever saw an end times map was on the 700 Club and Pat Robertson had everything figured out. I’ve seen John Hagee take a shot at it. And Hal Lindsey’s Late Great Planet Earth hit a glitch when his predicted date came and went. We’re  not very good at learning from history.

That doesn’t mean that I look down on the pre-mills. Many of them are excellent Bible students with a great deal of faith. Like many others, I figure that whatever Jesus wants to do when He comes back, I certainly won’t argue with him. I remember when I was in college hearing an elderly Church of Christ minister banging on a pulpit and screaming about ‘the damnable heresy of premillennialism’. I think that’s a stretch. I still agree with his main points, but the crescendo of condemnation at the end was not acceptable to me.

It doesn’t hurt to ask the question, “If I knew the end of the world was Saturday, what would I do?” Looking around it is clear that the world does not believe that the world is about to end. Mostly they’ve made fun of the messenger. So the Enemy must be pleased that people once again ridicule God, host their rapture parties, and ignore the truth.

I’ll close this post with a word from 2 Peter 3.

Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water.  By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed.  By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.
But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.  The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.

Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.

So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.

So, there is a day coming. It’s not May 21st, probably. But since we do not know the day, we should approach each day as if it were that one great day that is coming.

~John

 

 

Good Friday

Do not rush through the sorrow of Good Friday. Good Friday is not to be sprinted through so that we can arrive at the certain ending that brings us all hope. Along with the joy and elation of the resurrection, there is a need to experience the loss. There is a time to weep, a time to mourn (Ecclesiastes 3:4).

He was oppressed and afflicted,  yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.  Isaiah 53:7

Sometime today, linger over the bitterness of His anguish. Weep with him in the garden. Feel the weight of your sin, the burden of your soul. Until you journey through Good Friday, Resurrection Sunday is empty. Before we can celebrate the resurrection we must acknowledge the suffering.

Before the disciples dine with him, he must wash the feet of his betrayer at the last supper.

Before his followers can see his glorified resurrected body, crowds must spit upon his beaten back.

Before the women fall and touch his feet, sodiers must drive nails through them.

Before the angel proclaims He is Not HERE, His mother must weep because he was THERE.

Before Peter can be restored to His faith, the thief must be with Him in paradise.

Before the stone is rolled away, the cross must be raised.

~John

The Effect of Jesus

4.20.14

“The effect of Jesus Christ upon His contemporaries was that many threw stones at Him. They hated Him; and finally, choosing a murderer instead of Him, they put Him to death. This is the effect Jesus Christ always has upon the world. But you see there are other ideas about Him. There are worldly people who tell us they admire Jesus Christ, but that is because they have never seen Him. If they saw Him, they would hate Him as His contemporaries did. He does not change, man does not change. So let us be careful that our ideas about Christ are such that the natural man cannot easily admire or applaud.” ~ D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount

If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.  (John 15:18-20)

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  (Matthew 5:10)

Getting To The Good Heart

Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop. Luke 8:12-15

I’m in there somewhere. Truthfully I’m all over the place.

I’ve heard God speak and carelessly allowed the Enemy to steal away divine truth so that I could without conscience (temporarily) continue on my own selfish path.

I’ve had great experiences that thrilled my heart and let me feel like jumping for joy, only to stumble and fall at the first temptation that came my way.

I’ve known better, but allowed my life to become overcrowded with the unsightly and unnecessary, sometimes drowning beneath them.

I’ve heard God and followed with my whole heart, too.

Listening to God isn’t always easy. There’s the whole ‘how‘ do I listen to God thing. Do you ever get irritated with the people that God is always telling something to? (“I was wondering what I should get my baby for Christmas and the Lord just spoke to my heart and told me to go ahead and get that iPad for myself and not worry about it.”) Seriously, I think the harder I try to listen to God the quieter things get. Contemplating God’s word and will … not a walk in the park.

But if we ever really listen we’ve got a much bigger struggle on our hands. Submitting our hearts to Him and following Him without editing his instructions to suit our preconceived notions. It’s one thing to listen to God, it’s quite another to decide ahead of time what we think He ought to tell us and then go look for it.

But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.

That is what I want to do. Tonight in class there were excellent suggestions for how to cultivate the good heart. Pray. Study. Fellowship. Serve. Seek His Kingdom First. I agree with all of those. I see three terse encouragements here from Jesus:

Hear the word. Not just words floating in the air, and not just hearing a thousand opinions about what everyone thinks about His word. Hear His word. Consume without being satisfied.

Retain the word. Keep it. Let it come into our hearts and stay… warm and welcomed … desiring to receive all that He has for us in the riches of his revealed will. Memorize (I’m terrible at that), contemplate, meditate, give His words time to have their effect. Linger over the thoughts He has provided to you.

Persevere. Stay with it. No crop was ever harvested after just a day or a week. Feeling a famine coming on? Facing some brick walls in your life? Got some heartache that won’t go away? Never let anything keep you from hearing, retaining, and staying on this path.

And if you fail (and you will fail), don’t think it’s all over. Open the book and read about the failures and mistakes of some of the greatest people that ever lived. Remind your heart how God is an expert at using broken people to change the world. Remember that it won’t be by your efforts alone that this will happen, His Holy Spirit will renew and strengthen you in ways you could not guess.

God bless you in getting to the good heart.

~JD

Forever

And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Dear Lord,

I sing your praises because you have led me so perfectly. On this journey I have faced my greatest fears. They were not imaginary, they were not irrational. They were as real as the wood that formed a casket. They were as severe and as strong as any I ever thought I might face. The Wolf did his best to ensnare me, wound me, devour me. Honestly, there were times when I thought he had. Yet here I am. You have led me to food and water. You taught me to live in your righteousness. You illuminated the path through the darkest valley. You led me to Your banquet table, so perfectly set even in the presence of my enemies.

Now You lead me home. My heart smiles as I realize that You are not leading me back to the sheep pen … back to the barn…back to my humble beginnings. You are leading me to Your house. Oh my God! My Shepherd! My Savior! What a home it must be! And look who’s here! No greater joy, no greater peace.

All those times I thought I’d find my own path are now revealed to be such foolishness. The voices of the The Enemy filled my ear and sometimes my heart, but he could never provide what You are giving me now. I was discouraged sometimes and wanted to give up but something inside wouldn’t let me.

I know. There is a sense in which I am still a lamb in your flock. The danger isn’t over. But in Your grace and mercy You have revealed to me the deepest longings of my soul.

I will dwell in the house of the Lord.  Forever.

Shepherd, I await the renewal of all things and look forward to our forever time together. Tomorrow I may find myself reminding my heart the virtues of this Song from the beginning once again. But the ending is the same. In faith I will wander the pasture with You. In the storms and miss-steps, I will remember where we are going. I will picture the beauty of your estate and think about how long we shall be there. Then the familiar words will ring truer than ever as they pass my lips.

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.

~John