Elisha the pragmatic prophet…The king’s mighty warrior Naaman was a leper, So Elisha told the leperous warrior to go and dip 7 times in the Jordan. He had no agenda, he wanted nothing in return and gave a straight forward direction for a complete cure. Namaan was so mad. He wanted pomp and ceremony. He wanted a fuss. So when Elisha gave a direct cure–Namaan griped until he completed the task and was cleaned. He was then very pleased and grateful, But, again, for Elisha it was all in a days work.
The great lesson of Elksha was that he did not do God’s work for any reason other than to please God. He did not need stuff, he did not seek fame. His reward was to honor God. He had Elijah’s power and then some. He had already raised the dead, feed the hungry and now healed a leper–it always was simply to honor God.
If we could follow the Lord, selflessly as Elisha did–then we would see God do amazing things; and we could take joy in seeing God being honored. We can be sure that God will be honored, and He will bless his chosen. We must only walk humbly and seek Him. The Lord will make sure we are exalted in His time and in his way. We can never outgive God or out honor Him. The more we try, the more He will blesses us. Elisha’s servant failed to see that, He became greedy and paid a huge price. It is critical for us to simply trust and follow the Lord. If we will, we can rest assured that God will bless us mightily.
God Bless You
Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master and in high favor, because by him the Lord had given victory to Syria. He was a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper.[a
] 2 Now the Syrians on one of their raids had carried off a little girl from the land of Israel, and she worked in the service of Naaman’s wife. 3 She said to her mistress, “Would that my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” 4 So Naaman went in and told his lord, “Thus and so spoke the girl from the land of Israel.” 5 And the king of Syria said, “Go now, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel.”
So he went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels[b] of gold, and ten changes of clothing. 6 And he brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read, “When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you Naaman my servant, that you may cure him of his leprosy.” 7 And when the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Only consider, and see how he is seeking a quarrel with me.”
8 But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent to the king, saying, “Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come now to me, that he may know that there is a prophet in Israel.” 9 So Naaman came with his horses and chariots and stood at the door of Elisha’s house. 10 And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean.” 11 But Naaman was angry and went away, saying, “Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call upon the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper. 12 Are not Abana[c] and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage. 13 But his servants came near and said to him, “My father, it is a great word the prophet has spoken to you; will you not do it? Has he actually said to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” 14 So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God, and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.
I love Elisha’s style. A widow approaches Elisha. She is completely distraught. Her husband died and left her poor and in debt. Her creditor was in route to take her sons in payment for the debt as slaves. She was heartbroken, hopeless and completely without options…well, except one. She came to God’s man and told Elisha her trouble and need. Elisha, the pragmatic prophet, went right to work–“Go get all the jars you can put your hands on. Do not be shy and do not be lazy. Ask everyone.” She does as he told her. She gathers jars and jars. He then tells her to take the little olive oil she has, and start filling the jars. She does. In that moment, God provides an ulimited supply of oil. She continues to pour until the last jar is copmpletely full. Then the oil stops flowing. Elisha then tells her to sell the oil and pay the debts. Then use the rest to live from then on.
Once again God shows His miraculous ways in very simple fashion. There was no pomp or ceremony. Elisha did not demand a special recognition or sacrifice. He simply led the woman back to the provider and her faith caused an amazing thing to occur. In that, she was saved and her family was kept in tact. We need to have that same faith that looks around, assesses a situation, and allows God to do what he does best–protect, prepare and provide. There need not be any drama, ceramony or special recognition–only the faith to ask God for our needs and then the faith to trust Him to provide. Elisha never had a doubt and the widow would never doubt again that God does provide. We need to have that saame faith and confidence–God will provide, that is simply who He is! Jehovah Jirah.
God Bless You
The wife of a man from the company of the prophets cried out to Elisha, “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.”
2 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.”
3 Elisha said, “Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few. 4 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.”
5 She left him and shut the door behind her and her sons. They brought the jars to her and she kept pouring. 6 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.
7 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.”
When Esther heard that her uncle was trapesing around Susa in Sackcloth and ashes, well, she was beside herself. Afterall, He was the uncle of the queen–that was not proper. From Esther’s perspective, things could not be better. She was in love, with a King who loved her and had made her his queen. Once an orphan now the 1st lady of the Persians. What she did not know was that her entire nation had an expiration date, thanks to Hamaan. An irreversable law was in place that allowed for the genocde and looting of an entire people. Her hubby signed that law into place, without even knowing it affected his new queen. She sent her best protector to help her poor crazy uncle, but what she would soon learn would turn the world upside down.
Our lives touch so many others. We cross paths daily with those who we affect without even trying. We must stay sharp, seek God and be prepared to intervene with prayer, encouragement, our skills and our wallets to assist those that are in a struggle. If, however, we are blind to what is going on, we may miss the opportunity to turn the world upside down. That is why we must remain ready to give an account and be ready to serve. God is always there and will prepare, protect and provide for what we need to fill that role. Help me Lord to be sensitive to my opportunities to serve.
God Bless You
When Mordecai learned of all that had been done, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the city, wailing loudly and bitterly. 2 But he went only as far as the king’s gate, because no one clothed in sackcloth was allowed to enter it. 3 In every province to which the edict and order of the king came, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting, weeping and wailing. Many lay in sackcloth and ashes.
4 When Esther’s eunuchs and female attendants came and told her about Mordecai, she was in great distress. She sent clothes for him to put on instead of his sackcloth, but he would not accept them. 5 Then Esther summoned Hathak, one of the king’s eunuchs assigned to attend her, and ordered him to find out what was troubling Mordecai and why.
6 So Hathak went out to Mordecai in the open square of the city in front of the king’s gate. 7 Mordecai told him everything that had happened to him, including the exact amount of money Haman had promised to pay into the royal treasury for the destruction of the Jews. 8 He also gave him a copy of the text of the edict for their annihilation, which had been published in Susa, to show to Esther and explain it to her, and he told him to instruct her to go into the king’s presence to beg for mercy and plead with him for her people.
One of the most difficult disciplines in life is the discipline of definition. Each day, when one awakens, he/she is given the opportunity to define himself/herself. Some define themselves by their appearance, others by what they have accumulated. Many, however, define their lives by the circumstances that they face. Naomi was a woman that loved God. Yet, life had dealt her a very difficult hand. She lived in a foreign land, she lost her husband and her two sons. She had two daughters-in-law that she cared for, but needed to send away–simply because she could not care for them. Ruth, one daughter-in-law refused to part; and so, the two returned to Bethlehem. When they arrived, the women of the town asked is this Naomi (Pleasant)? Naomi replied, DO NOT call me Naomi (pleasant)…call me Mara (bitter). Naomi had grown bitter under the weight of the circumstances.
In truth, it is very difficult to live a life that rises above one’s circumstances. Day-to-day events and interactions often fill our thoughts and determine the paths that we take. Once we are in a relationship with God, however, the Holy Spirit allows us to rise above our circumstances and become defined by who we are, and whose we are in Christ Jesus. The apostle Paul told the Philippians, “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstance that I am in. Well-fed or hungry, living in plenty or in want, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Phil 4:12-13. The Father knows the plans He has for us. Jer 29:11. He is never surprised by trials or tribulations. He provides the grace, strength, and direction to face what lies ahead. If we will trust Him, lean into Him and follow He will navigate us through life’s difficulties. Then, when we arrive on the other side, we can look back and see His fingerprints on each step along the way.
God Bless You
“Look,” said Naomi, “your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her.”
16 But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” 18 When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.
19 So the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them, and the women exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?”
20 “Don’t call me Naomi,[b]” she told them. “Call me Mara,[c] because the Almighty[d] has made my life very bitter. 21 I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted[e] me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.”
22 So Naomi returned from Moab accompanied by Ruth the Moabite, her daughter-in-law, arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning
Truly one of the most important roles in life is the roles we lead in marriage. Peter discusses the roles in a very specific and direct way. First, he talks about how critical a wife is to the spiritual condition of her husband and of her family. Peter tells wives that their respect for their husbands could be the greatest evangelistic tool in their toolbelt. Men who see Christ in the lives of their wives are more apt to seek him. In addition, as he talks about wives, Peter says for them to look on the inside and assure it is right before worrying about hair and make-up. In short, there is so much beauty that Christ produces within us, that it will greatly outshine any outfit, jewelry or ensemble that can be assembled.
Peter also speaks to the Husband. Husbands are to treat their wives with honor. Husbands are to lead with grace and realize the critical role their wives have in the family. Wives make the house a home and the group of humans a family. It is not the role of master-servant, it is the role of CEO and COO. Husbands are to lead and face the daily battles of provision and protection of their families and their homes. But, that is impossible without a person doing the day to day operation of the home. With what is provided, wives raise the family and teach them decorum, survival, salvation, and socialization. Husbands that do not understand how critical their spouse is to the survival of the family fail in being the leader God calls them to be. I not only respect my wife and love her; I truly stand amazed at all she has accomplished despite me and my battles in life. She is amazing on all fronts and counts. As a family, we are not worthy of her, but, we are sure grateful that she is who she is–the Chief Operating Officer of this group. She deserves all the respect and praise available but continues with or without it. Thanks, Wives and Moms (ESPECIALLY MINE) for all that you do!
God Bless You
Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, 2 when they see your respectful and pure conduct. 3 Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— 4 but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. 5 For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, 6 as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.
7 Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you[a] of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.
It is simply easier to love beautiful people. People that are wealthy, healthy and free of life’s baggage are often given preference and position. Those that struggle with life, with finances and have difficult journeys are often avoided and forgotten in the world. James says the Church must be different! As a community, the Church must not show favoritism and it must take folks warts and all. That is the example the Lord showed by loving tax collectors and sinners of all sorts, healing the sick, crippled and dead. James is reminding the Church that it is truly our place to love people as they are and never look back.
It is a tall order to simply love folks as they are. People drive us crazy. Their attitudes and actions may be maddening, but then the Church can be a part of seeking to save that which is lost. One simply needs to look at their own lives to realize we all have our own sets of baggage. That is why we must not serve as judges, but instead as a family to those with needs. As we do that, the communities we live in will grow strong and our hearts will grow rich. Selflessness will bring purpose and those touched will then touch others. We are called to be different. As a community, loving each other no matter what will set us apart from the rest of this selfish, biased world!
God Bless You
My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. 2 Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. 3 If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” 4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
5 Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?
8 If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,”[a] you are doing right. 9 But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.
Paul was the super pharisee. If one wanted a poster child for how to “do religion” Paul was easily that guy. He was circumcised, Part of the tribe of Benjamin, trained by Gamaliel the ultimate Rabbi. He knew all the traditions, all the law and exactly what to do. He attacked the Christians with zeal and complete abandon. Any Jewish leader would be proud of Paul’s record. Paul, however, realized that it was not his knowledge or performance that made him righteous. Paul went as far as to say that stuff was bio-waste compared to the surpassing greatness of Christ, Paul no longer needed to flaunt a resume–He simply needed to trust God and allow God to transform him into the image of Christ.
We are the same. We are not a product of our accomplishments. We can never “DO” Christianity to a level that our actions bring us justification. In fact, as Paul so elegantly articulated it, our efforts to earn salvation look, smell and feel like bio-waste! We need to know Christ! As we get to know him we quickly see that it is His grace and His mercy, not our background or performance that brings us salvation. If we will simply trust and follow His lead–He will restore our relationship with God, and he will prepare us for the journey that lies ahead. In addition, the Lord will change our hearts and our desires to conform to His image. There is simply no greater gift than the salvation we receive by trusting Christ alone.
God Bless You
Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. 2 Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh. 3 For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— 4 though I myself have reasons for such confidence.
If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.
7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in[a] Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.