Suffering

Magnificent God (2 Kings 4)

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Elisha is the one true God’s representative. In a nation divided and filled with the worship of false gods, the call on Elisha is not just to bring messages for God but to reveal who God is through his everyday life, actions and interactions.

In this chapter we see God revealed in numerous ways through a collection of short stories which all put on display God’s nature as the one who sees, a personal God, involved in the intricate details of people’s lives, who is not indifferent to the cries and the pain that individual people endure. These stories reveal God as the one who is able to miraculously suspend or overturn the normal with His supernatural inbreakings of power at any time on people’s behalf.

Short story 1: Debt (2 Kings 4:1-7)
A poor widow in crisis is struggling with mounting debts and the ongoing challenge of providing for her two children as a single woman has the debt collectors at her door threatening to take away her children as slaves as payment for her debt! Crisis. She asks God by asking Elisha and God provides miraculously an abundance of olive oil which she sells and pays off all her debt and as able to live off the rest. God is the miracle working, prayer answering, need-seeing God who intervenes in remarkable ways for poor or rich people.

Short story 2: Deep Longings & Despair (2 Kings 4:8-39)
A wealthy woman is hospitable and honouring of God’s servant, she was rich but used her wealth to bless Elisha & Gehazi not to gain anything (vs13-14). Elisha discerns the true longing in her heart, one she is not even willing to express for fear of her longing being dashed again, and so promises her a child. She is so shocked she can’t receive this good news (vs16) but she does conceive and a son is given to her. Many years later the child falls suddenly ill and dies will in the fields with his father. She rushes straight to Elisha in deep despair, she would have rather not had a son than have one and then loose one like this! Elisha goes with her, and raises the son from the dead and gives him back to her alive. God knows the deepest longings in our hearts, even the ones we dare not speak of for fear of being hurt or disappointed again or opening up the wound… God is able to bring back to life people, marriages, finances – God is good and is so whether you are rich or poor.

Short story 3: Deadly Stew & Multiplication (2 Kings 4:38-44)
There is a famine in the land, Elisha is hosting around 100 of the prophets. He wants to cook for them, but Gehazi is a bad cook or one of the prophets is injudicious in his produce selection and the stew being cooked is bad, so bad it is like death warmed up. They complain. Elisha miraculously cures the pot with a little flour and the food becomes edible to them all. While they are all there, a man brings to Elisha some of his first fruits offering to supply food for Elisha. Elisha tells Gehazi to set it before the men to eat (but there is not enough – vs43). Elisha tells him to proceed and they all ate and yet there was excess and they had food to spare. God is hospitable, able to throw feasts of abundance in the midst of a famine, able to supply all our needs according to His riches in glory (Philippians 4:19).

Our God heals, answers long-lost longings, provides financially and materially. This all makes me think of the song we sung on Sunday;

You’re my author, my maker
My ransom, my Saviour
My refuge, my hiding place
You’re my helper, my healer
My blessed redeemer
My answer, my saving grace
You’re my hope, in the shadows
My strength, in the battle
My anchor, for all my days
And You stand, by my side
And You stood, in my place
Jesus, no other name
No, only Jesus, no other name…

So, cry out to him now!  Tell your Father in Heaven your deepest longings, know that He is good and when you can’t join all the dots of your confusing life, He can and He does and so having asked Him trust Him.

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Complaint to Praise & Prayer (Psalm 28)

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Confident Complaint!

David begins this psalm with a declaration of faith (God is his God) and an expression of  his feelings toward God whom he calls, “my rock”.

“My Rock” – God is personal immovable and immutable.  Because of this God can be trusted, God is worth calling out to in prayer.  If God were not God and if God were not personal or immovable or immutable it would not be worth calling out to Him in prayer!  Because God is all these things and we can confidently call out to God in prayer.

And yet David’s prayer is also a complaint.  Sometimes it feels like God is not hearing, like God is not speaking, as if God is unmoved by our situation or unaware from our perspective.

(vs3-5) In these verses David’s complaint is outlined, it feels like God is treating him no differently to his enemies, he is looking for God to act on his behalf and seemingly hasn’t seen God’s answering his prayers.

What’s happening in your life that feels like God is not hearing, not seeing, not aware, not speaking or answering?

I urge you to lift your eyes again to your God. 

Why not declare as David did that God is your ROCK, your FORTRESS (another way of translating the underlying Hebrew word).  God can be trusted because He cannot change, will not shift under your feet, God is worthy of our trust even when we can’t see what He is doing or why He is allowing something to happen.  So, call out to Him again, put your faith in God again.

Passionate Praise

The psalm changes in vs6-9 becoming a psalm of praise.  David is convinced now that God has heard his cries, his prayers, his lament.

David has been strengthened in his faith, knows God is his strength and his shield (protection), God is the One whom his heart can trust and so He finds help in his moment of need.

And so his heart exults, it jumps for joy (literal translation) and bursts into song!  What a transformation when we see God for who he is, when we enter again feeling his presence and the warmth of his love.  David had been feeling like God was no where now David’s heart is bursting with praise and thanks and love for God.

Worship is warfare!  When we feel like God is distant or disinterested, we should take drastic action, reminding ourselves of the truth about our God our immovable immutable rock who is worthy of our trust and we should begin to worship as warfare against those feelings of doubt choosing to warfare not wallow in those feelings of doubt.

In worship we declare what we believe (God is our ROCK vs1, our SHIELD vs7, the ONE who HELPS us vs7, our STRENGTH vs7 & the SAVING REFUGE OF HIS ANOINTED vs8).

We worship with faith and in worship faith is renewed.  And on that foundation of renewed faith we can ASK God for the future (vs9).  Amen.

Loving Deliverer (Psalm 18)

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‘I love you, oh Lord my strength’ vs1

‘This God—his way is perfect’ vs30

‘…he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him’ vs30

David wrote this Psalm reflecting on God’s having delivered both himself and Israel from many foes (you’ll find this Psalm as a song recorded in 2 Samuel 22 if you want to read the context in which it was written).

There are three lines that summarize this whole Psalm, they summarize king David’s feelings towards God because of his personal experience of God’s faithfulness and protection in many challenging life situations.

‘I love you, oh Lord my strength’ (vs1)

In all David has experienced of God’s intervention and deliverance, what has resulted in David was a heart full of love for God.  God’s loving care produced a love for God in David who proclaims this love and declares at the outset of this Psalm his dependence on God – God is his strength .

‘This God — his way is perfect’(vs30)

Don’t you love David’s summary statement of his experience of God’s faithfulness to him over many years of challenges and threats?  This is a wonderful personal testimony from personal experience.  Perfect, there is nothing wrong with God’s dealings with Him.  There must have been many times David felt God wasn’t answering prayers, or that God’s ways were hard to understand…  But when reflecting on his life David could say; God’s ways are perfect.

‘…he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him’ vs30

Through out this Psalm David shares testimony of how God answered his prayers, coming to his rescue and delivering him when he cried out!  God is a shield for those who tuck into His protection and care.  God rips open heaven as it were and comes down to rescue us when we pray and cry out to Him (see the wonderful testimony of vs6-19).

Reflection:

  • What is there in your life right now, or in the life of those you love that causes you to feel like God is distant, not listening, doesn’t care?
  • Take time to reflect on times God has ripped open heaven to deliver you from situations in your own life, times when God has answered prayers you cried out to Him
  • Thank God for those times and then pray giving to God those thoughts and questions and replace them with prayers of faith from the testimony of this mighty Psalm.

Meaning Makers (John 9)

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Dallas Willard said that people are ‘meaning-makers’. We look for and or even assign meaning to things that happen in our lives. We want to know, ‘why?’ and when we don’t know why we create our own meaning.

This is what was happening in John 9. A man was born blind. Jesus’ disciples wanted to know; ‘why?’ What was the cause, did this man’s parents sin in some way and that is why this happened or did the man himself sin – why?

I had an accident – why?
I got sick – why?
I lost my job – why?
………… – why?

All too often our desire to know why, combined with our very limited knowledge, leads us towards unhelpful or inaccurate conclusions. We add 1 + 1 and end up with 22 not 2!

This man was born blind, but it wasn’t punishment or the result of some sin that he was blind, no his tough life-circumstance was simply that God’s work could be displayed in him according to Jesus (John 9:3). Something much greater than his own life/behaviour was in play here, something that he had no control over.

God was going to use this moment to reveal the divinity of Jesus to him (vs35-38) and cause him to believe in Jesus as a result. God was going to use this to show his authority, glory and power to those who would take note of what Jesus did and said.

Is there something in your life right now that you are grappling with?
Is there something that you are trying to work out, trying to find meaning in?

I urge you to put down your theories as to why this is happening or happened, and simply ask Jesus to reveal to you what He was doing, or is doing through this thing.

The man born blind, gets healed miraculously, encounters Jesus personally and believes in Jesus and worships Jesus as Lord and Saviour in this story. He must have spent his life up to this point resenting his ailment, but in this moment his ailment became the very thing that lead Him to Jesus, to forgiveness, healing & belief in Jesus and therefore salvation!

May you stop making your own meaning and may you rather ask the King of kings, Jesus to give you His meaning. And may you, trust Him when there is no answer yet, may you accept the mystery, may you trust Him that He is good, and that He loves you and that what you can’t see or know or understand – He does see, know & understand!

Behold Jesus.

Gospel Glimpses (Mark 15)

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Justification (vs3-5)

Jesus didn’t justify Himself, didn’t defend himself against His accusers, would’t speak in his own defence to Pilate’s amazement.  Why?  Jesus would not justify or defend Himself, in order that He could justify and defend from the accuser, those who trust in Him.

Substitution (vs6-15)

Jesus the sinless One was mocked, whipped, beaten and ultimately crucified in our place for our sin, while the sinner (Barabbas) walked free!  The One deserving of only praise substituted Himself and took the punishment that was only ours to bear.

Jesus saved us by not saving Himself (vs29-32)

Jesus was taunted; “save yourself!”  People thought Jesus’ death was a sign of Jesus’ lack of power, thought it was a moment of Jesus’ defeat and yet it was Jesus’ power and strength, His power of the will that kept Him there not a lack of power.  Jesus could have at any moment called upon a host of angels to save Himself from the cross and the mocking.  But Jesus endured the cross scorning its shame for the joy of what lay ahead if He did (Hebrews 12:2) – the joy of redeeming us and restoring us to a right relationship with Him.  Jesus didn’t save Himself so that He could save you and me.

Forsaken so we could be adopted (vs33-34)

In what I believe must be the most chilling, shocked words in all of Scripture, Jesus cries out to the Father; “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  Jesus was forsaken, abandoned in that moment by the Father & the Spirit as the sin of the whole world rested on Him, so that those who put their trust in Him would never be forsaken by the Father ever.  Jesus was forsaken so that we who trust in Him could be adopted and would belong to the Father forever.

Access granted (vs37-39)

Jesus endured all of this, so that the way to God could be opened up forever.  Nothing remains between God and those Jesus has forgiven.  We are sons and daughters of the most High God, we belong in His presence, we have access, we have His heart and His attention.  We have no need of a sacrifice system or a priesthood, we have benefitted from the once and for all sacrifice of Jesus and we have one mediator between ourselves and God – Jesus Christ.

Praise Jesus!  There is no one like you Jesus.  None can compare.  Thank you for salvation, thank you for bearing everything that should have been ours and for giving us what we did not deserve.

Faith (Mark 5:21-6:6)

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pistĕuō (Greek): to have faith (in, upon, or with respect to, a person or thing), to entrust, to believe, commit (to trust), put in trust with.

Faith is believing God.  Faith is to put one’s trust in God regarding something when one has yet to still see the outcome.  Faith is believing and acting according to that belief.  Faith is always rooted in SOMEONE or something.

Jarius the Synagogue ruler had a need, his daughter was desperately ill.  Jarius has seen or heard of myriads of people being healed by Jesus and on that basis Jarius believes that Jesus is worth approaching and reveals his faith when He says to Jesus (Mark 5:21-23); “Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live”.

Coming to Jesus revealed his belief that Jesus was worth coming to, imploring Jesus to lay His hands on his daughter puts his belief about what was possible with Jesus on display.

Similarly, the woman who has seemingly unsolvable long-term medical issues believes, has faith.  Scripture clearly explains that the reason for her action was;

She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” (Mark 5:27-28)

Her thinking was, Jesus is the answer to my unsolvable problem – that’s faith!  And faith is what God loves.  Jesus commends the woman for her faith (vs34) and Jesus urges Jarius to keep believing (vs36) when he hears the news that his daughter has passed away.

Why does God love faith?  

Is it because of the relational component that there is to faith?  

I remember teaching my children to swim in the pool and in the ocean.  I remember so clearly just wanting those little freaked out kids to trust their dad, to believe that he would not let them get hurt or worse, to believe that he knew what they could handle.  I know what it feels like now teaching my 18yr old how to drive, when she is panicking that she can’t do something I know she can do, or drive somewhere where I know she can drive, I know what it feels like to just want her to trust me, to trust that I’ll help, I’ll direct and counsel and together we will achieve things she will be proud of and delighted with in the end…  Faith has a relational component to it.

God loves it when we trust Him, when we choose to believe He is good, He is loving and all powerful and that He knows what’s best for our lives.  Will you trust Him, will you have faith like this woman, faith like Jarius?  They saw their unsolvable problems solved because they believed!

In closing, Mark 6:1-6 is set in stark contrast to this.  Jesus goes to his hometown and He encounters the exact opposite of faith, people don’t believe they disbelieve He is anything special and so it says;

And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them.  And he marveled because of their unbelief. (Mark 6:5-6)

Jesus still did some miracles, but it was not much, He was astounded at their unbelief and as a result of their unbelief, His hometown lost out on what might have been if only they had believed like the woman, like Jarius.

Will you believe?

Do you trust Jesus in everything?

Are you living today, filled with the faith that God loves?

Misunderstood? (Mark 3:1-35)

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Crowds followed Jesus wherever he went as he healed people and set people free people from any demonic influence in their lives. But that’s not all that followed Jesus.

Opposition, misunderstanding and threat followed Jesus from as early as Mark 2:7, when Jesus forgave the paralysed man of his sin and then also healed him.

In Mark 3, Jesus meets a guy in the Synagogue with a withered hand. Jesus has compassion on him and heals his hand but He does this on a Sabbath day. Now, healing someone, restoring their hand to full function, sounds like a good thing, right? Not so for some. And so in that moment a plot to destroy Jesus is initiated (Mark 3:6)!

Great crowds (Mark 3:8-9) follow Jesus to the lakeside, and multitudes are being healed and delivered – these are good things, things to rejoice in! Jesus eventually pulls back from the crowds for a while and calls just some (12) to be with Him, these ones become His disciples, His sent ones (apostles) (Mark 3:13-20).

They come down the mountain, and the crowds return, eventually surrounding his house ‘so that they could not even eat’ (Mark 3:20). Many are being touched, lives transformed, these are good things.

And yet Jesus’ family, an extended group who must have known the stories about His unique birth, must have witnessed His godliness as He grew up and must have heard from Jesus’ mom & dad what had been spoken over him to them by angels…

Even this group of people misunderstand, don’t support Jesus, but rather go out to grab Him, to stop Him, because some of them thought that Jesus had somehow lost His mind and gone crazy (Mark 3:21)!

How did these things make Jesus feel?
How does it feel for us we when are falsely accused, misunderstood, judged & not supported even by those who should love and support us most?
In what ways can you identify with Jesus today?

Here’s the good news. Jesus left heaven, took on a human body, endured experiences like these SO THAT He could enter our humanity fully, SO THAT He could not merely save us from our sin, but also SO THAT He could empathise with us in our experiences.

Whatever you’re facing, accusations, people not understanding you, not supporting you…. Jesus knows, and you can call on Him who endured all that for you, He understands the frustration, devastation & disappointment and He can and wants to lift your eyes to see His today.

So pour your heart out to Him now, He is listening.