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February 12, 2010

Chapter-a-Day 2 Kings 6

2008 12 31 New Years Eve Dinner Party LR "Not on your life!" said Elisha. "You didn't lift a hand to capture them, and now you're going to kill them? No sir, make a feast for them and send them back to their master."

So he prepared a huge feast for them. After they ate and drank their fill he dismissed them. Then they returned home to their master. The raiding bands of Aram didn't bother Israel anymore.
2 Kings 6:22-23 (MSG)

We like using our dining room. Necessity is a good part of the appeal. Our quaint little house does not have a kitchen big enough for a kitchen table, a bar, or a breakfast nook where many families snarf down their meals on the fly. So, we use the formal dining room a lot. We sit around the "good table." We like setting it nicely for family, friends and guests. You feel in less of a hurry when the meal is an event. You take more time. You eat a second helping. The conversation goes a little deeper.

There is something about the gift of hospitality that can soften the hard hearted. Sharing a good meal together eases tension, fosters conversation and deepens relationship.

Killing the Aramean raiding party would have only served to escalate the violence and tension between Israel and Aram. Elisha's solution was a good one. Treat them like an honored guest. Have a feast. Sit down over choice food and break out the good wine. Talk, laugh, and raise a glass together. You're less likely to kill the person with whom you shared a great meal.

February 11, 2010

Chapter-a-Day 2 Kings 5

Charting course. Naaman lost his temper. He turned on his heel saying, "I thought he'd personally come out and meet me, call on the name of God, wave his hand over the diseased spot, and get rid of the disease." 2 Kings 5:11 (MSG)

My wife and I sat in the living room last night talking about the way you picture your life turning out, and the way it actually ends up looking. From the time we're little children we are asked "What are you going to be when you grow up?" Without being aware that we're doing it, we begin to plot, plan and prescribe the path we want our lives to take. Somewhere along the growth curve we become aware of God's presence on the journey. Instead of relinquishing the Google map we printed in on our heart and brain of the path we're taking, we ascribe authorship of the map it to God. We mentally stamp God's approval on it. Sometimes we even get so bold as to proclaim it: "God called me to...," "God wants me to...," "God is leading me to...,"

Like Naaman, we want God to work the way we've imagined and prescribed He will. We want Him to lead us where we want to go. Then we kick and scream at every detour, or like Namaan we simply opt out and head off on our own (then find out He planned for that, too, dangit).

God cannot be confined except within boundary lines that He, Himself, has set. He certainly cannot be confined by an individual human's thoughts and desires. His plans and designs for us are infinitely more intricate and complex than we can possibly fathom. We can chart a course, but we shouldn't be surprised when the journey takes us on a much different path than the one we imagined.

"In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps." Proverbs 16:9 (NIV)

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and marchorowitz

February 10, 2010

Chapter-a-Day 2 Kings 4

A dry and thirsty land. Elisha said to her, "This time next year you're going to be nursing an infant son."

"O my master, O Holy Man," she said, "don't play games with me, teasing me with such fantasies!"
2 Kings 4:16 (MSG)

Promises feel profane to those whose life experience sit in opposition to that which is promised.

Mary was young and naive when Gabriel told her she would conceive and bear a son. We applaud her faith in joyfully embracing the message. Seriously, she had no concept of the pain of barrenness. That was not her journey. She would experience a different kind of barrenness and pain 30 years later.

The promise of a child is another thing altogether to a woman who has believed and hoped for years, and has nothing to show for it. Promise that woman she will conceive and you'll be met with Sarah's sarcastic and cynical laughter. You will feel defenses rise. You might even get the biting reply of the Shunnamite woman telling Elisha and God, in certain words, to keep their promises to themselves.

Promises are an encouragement to some. They are a burden for others.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and Eric Rice

February 09, 2010

Chapter-a-Day 2 Kings 3

Lost in worship. But considering—bring me a minstrel." (When a minstrel played, the power of God came on Elisha.) 2 Kings 3:15 (MSG)

A few months ago, our church published a new pictoral directory. It's like a phone book with pictures. After receiving it, my wife and I sat on the couch and went through it. We attend a large church with four Sunday morning services, so there are a lot of people. Wendy and I are trying to be more intentional about getting to know people so we tried to pick out some of the families who regularly attend the 10:30 service, which we call home.

"Oh there's the [pick a name, any name] family," Wendy would say.

"Hmmmm. I don't recognize them," I responded, with a slight shake of my head.

"But they always sit [pick a spot, any spot]," my wife would exclaim with incredulity as she described how many rows and seats away this particular family usually sat from our normal stage right, back row seats.

This conversation was repeated.

Several times.

My wife tends to think that I'm really inobservant, and I won't argue that point. She has a lot of evidence with which she could convince any jury. Nevertheless, when I'm sitting in church and the music starts, I tend to feel like I'm transported to a different place. My focus narrows and everything around me tends to fade. When I'm at worship and the minstrels are skillfully doing their thing, it's just me and God in the room. (note to my wife: This isn't an excuse for not observing and knowing who the people are around me, just a reason).

How interesting that Elisha called on a musician when he desired to consult with God. Music is often a creative conduit for God's Spirit to move and speak.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and chrismoncus

February 08, 2010

Chapter-a-Day 2 Kings 2

Consider what you drink. One day the men of the city said to Elisha, "You can see for yourself, master, how well our city is located. But the water is polluted and nothing grows." 2 Kings 2:19 (MSG)

It doesn't matter how well situated I am in life and how good things look from the outside. If I am drinking unclean water on a daily basis, then my whole life will be poisoned at the core.

"Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst—not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life." - Jesus

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and vathsav

February 05, 2010

Chapter-a-Day 2 Kings 1

Auditions20lr The king then sent a third captain with his fifty men. For a third time, a captain with his fifty approached Elijah. This one fell on his knees in supplication: "O Holy Man, have respect for my life and the souls of these fifty men! Twice now lightning from out of the blue has struck and incinerated captains with their fifty men; please, I beg you, respect my life!" 2 Kings 1:13-14 (MSG)

My wife and I have been involved in community theater for several years. We've served administratively on the board of directors and have directed and produced a number of shows. One of the challenging parts of directing a show is choosing a small cast from a large host of people who audition. Most actors in my community are wonderful people to work with. There are those individuals, however, who walk into the audition with attitude to spare, expecting you to cast them in the leading role. If you don't, they throw a tantrum and threaten legal action (right, as if that's just the kind of person I want to work with every night on stage for six weeks).

Throughout the journey, I've had opportunity to be in positions of leadership in family, church, work and community. As a leader or manager, nothinge turns me on edge faster than being approached by someone with an attitude of disrespectful expectation. Requests are phrased as demands, as if they are rights. Humility is absent as appeals are made as a challenge to your authority.

The first two captains sent to Elijah approached him with attitude, demanding his audience with the king. The subtext of their attitude was that the spiritual should bow to the temporal. God, and his servant, should bow to the king's demand. Pride. Expectation. The first two captains' attitude was a word-picture of the root problem. The king and his men had no respect for God and His power.

How do I approach those in authority over me? How do I approach God?

February 04, 2010

Chapter-a-Day 1 Kings 22

Willing not to follow the crowd. The king of Israel told Jehoshaphat, "As a matter of fact, there is still one such man. But I hate him. He never preaches anything good to me, only doom, doom, doom—Micaiah son of Imlah." 1 Kings 22:8a (MSG)

As a consultant, I often have the opportunity to observe the culture of a company as an outsider. It is always fascinating to me how middle managers and upper management relate to the President or CEO of a company. I often watch people wrangle with how they will approach the top dog. They sweat over what they should say and how they should say it. Many live in terror of the meeting in which they must address their company's executive. They are afraid of consequences if they offend the boss, so they attempt to diving exactly what he or she wants to hear.

As I read about the 400 prophets blindly telling the King of Israel exactly what he wanted to hear, I thought about the hoardes of corporate "yes men" I've observed through the years covering their collective asses and lining up to say exactly what their boss wants them to say.

It gives me an even greater love and appreciation for Micaiah, who is willing to be the lone voice of truth in a culture that panders to the whims of their leader. He is so sold out to God's truth that he is willing to face painful consequences rather than fall in line with the other lemmings.

God, grant me the courage and commitment of Micaiah.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and Ric e Ette

February 03, 2010

Chapter-a-Day 1 Kings 21

Rings of influence. Ahab, pushed by his wife Jezebel and in open defiance of God, set an alltime record in making big business of evil. 1 Kings 21:25 (MSG)

Our lives are influenced by those with whom we surround ourselves, and few people, if any, influence our lives as much as the person we marry. Jezebel gets a bad rap, and deservedly so. Yet, Ahab's weakness created a black hole which Jezebel filled with her own brand of evil. Had Ahab cultivated a heart for God and developed character qualities of selflessness, righteousness and strength, the story may have been quite different.

Every marriage is a perpetually reciprocal affair in which man and woman influence and affect one other. Both partners bear responsibility for the motives, thoughts, words and actions which affect themselves, their partner, and the whole of the relationship. Ahab and Jezebel each bore responsibility for the evil that eminated out of their reign and relationship.

God, help me cultivate a heart for you and to bear the fruit of the Spirit in my own life, so that my wife, my marriage, my family, my children, my friends and my community will be nourished, refreshed, and strengthened.

February 02, 2010

Chapter-a-Day 1 Kings 20

Don't be a wimp. The man said to the king, "God's word: Because you let a man go who was under sentence by God, it's now your life for his, your people for his."  1 Kings 20:42 (MSG)

Reading the past few chapters, I'm struck by King Ahab's character. He had to have some backbone to have ascended the throne, but his actions reveal that he's a wimp. He straddled the fence, allowing his wife to promote and worship other gods, throwing his lot in with her while keeping Obadiah on the payroll and turning a blind eye to the prophets he hid in a cave. When God brought the fireworks on Mt. Carmel, Ahab ran like a tattle-tale to his wife and let her do the dirty work. In today's chapter, it looks like Ahab is going to obey God and do what the prophet says, but then wimps out and allows Ben-Hadad to walk.

It's easy to start well and make well meaning promises. It's a lot harder to actually carry through.

It's February 2nd. How am I doing on all those goals and resolutions from New Year's?

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and krishnade 

February 01, 2010

Chapter-a-Day 1 Kings 19

Living on Memory Lane. So Elisha left; he took his yoke of oxen and butchered them. He made a fire with the plow and tackle and then boiled the meat—a true farewell meal for the family. Then he left and followed Elijah, becoming his right-hand man. 1 Kings 19:21 (MSG)

Many years ago I lived in a small town and, as a warm-up to my exercise regimen, I shot hoops at the local YMCA. There was a group of men there who played a pick-up game almost every day. Though I shot the basketball, by myself, on a nearby court, I was never invited to join in their game. The one time I asked if I could play, I quickly learned that I was not welcome. Nevertheless, I would find myself at the gym at the same time each week working out and shooting hoops on another court. I listened to their conversations and it became clear that these men had all played basketball together for the local high school many years earlier. They got together multiple times each week to relive "the glory days." Without fail, I would over hear stories of their high school games, their parties, their girlfriends, and their adolescent adventures.

Everyone who knows me will testify that I enjoy a trip down Memory Lane once in a while, but these guys decided to build themselves a subdivision and live there.

As I read today's chapter, I found it interesting that Elisha burned his plow. He was striking out on a whole new leg of life's journey with Elijah. There would be no going back. He burned the tools of his former trade just to make sure. Sometimes we need to let go of the things that hold us back from taking the next step.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and welfl