Bigger Hands

June 24, 2017

There are bigger hands at work here.

There is more to this than we can see.

As we travel on today and draw closer to our destination in the suburbs of Detroit, I know that there are a lot of parents and loved ones at home a little anxious about the admittedly dangerous reputation of the city we’re going to serve.

To be sure, the reputation comes from observable reality, but we’re not exactly street preaching on the legendary 8 Mile Road. But it’s a hard place. It’s a place with a lot of darkness and in desperate need of the penetrating light of the gospel of grace.

As we were making our final preparations for this adventure, a brother (thanks Steve!) shared this observation with me that has developed into this post.

He reminded me of one of my favorite accounts in the Scriptures—that of Elisha and his servant and a startling morning discovery. I encourage you to go and read it in 2 Kings 6.
The king of Syria had grown weary of his attack plans being fooled by someone warning his target, the king of Israel, of his plans. After searching his ranks for a spy, someone pointed out to him that there was a prophet of God that was warning the king of Israel of his evil plans. This dangerous king immediately sent an army to bring back that troublesome prophet, Elisha.

Elisha’s servant awoke early one morning and stepped outside to the terrifying sight of the entire city of Dothan surrounded by the Syrian army. Yes, the absurdity of sending an entire army after one prophet is significant, but the response of Elisha’s servant was understandable. He immediately did what most of us would do (and what some of us have indeed done when we thought about sending out kids to Detroit) – he freaked out.

Elisha, the prophet, who had a great and unique connection with God, said something strange to his servant:

He said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” (2 Kings 6.16)

But as soon as he spoke these calming words to his servant, he prayed for him:

Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.” (2 Kinds 6.17a)

Then God answered… and WOW what an answer…

…So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. (2 Kings 6.17b)

I am convinced that there is a spiritual reality around us to which only God can open our eyes. There are too many instances in Scripture that point to such things for me to ignore it and I am just spiritually aware enough to know that my understanding is limited and utterly incapable of fully comprehending all that God is doing around us.

As my buddy Steve well observed, God did not need a fiery army to protect his servant. He provided such and revealed it to him and his servant for their sake, not His own.

The story is fascinating, but it carries on with God striking the Syrian army with blindness at Elisha’s request and Elisha leading the blinded enemy army that had been sent to capture him right down to the capital and the king of Israel.

The king of Israel, recognizing the opportunity, at least has the sense to ask the prophet if he should eliminate this threat to his kingdom. Elisha gives counter-intuitive counsel:

“Set bread and water before them, that they may eat and drink and go to their master.” (2 Kings 6.22b)

You see, because of the intervening hand of God, the evil intended upon His servant Elisha and the people of Israel was turned away. The great result is seen in verse 23:

So he prepared for the them a great feast, and when they had eaten and drunk, he sent them away, and they went to their master. And the Syrians did not come again on raids into he land of Israel.

And so we come to a place that is not particularly hospitable to the gospel that we proclaim. We come to set before them the Bread of Life and the springs of living water. And we trust that, having come in obedience and desiring to serve in obedience, our God is with us. As the great worship song reminds us, the God of angel armies is right here by my side.

There are bigger hands at work here.

There is more to this than we can see.

Father, open our eyes to see Your hand at work… and let us join in.

Embarrassingly Easy

June 7, 2016

I’ve lived in the same house for 8 1/2 years – coming up on 9. We live in a very pleasant neighborhood with a ball field across the street. We’re known as the house with all the cars/teenagers.

I’m attempting to lead our fellowship to step out into the community this summer and our first “breakaway” event was to have a cookout there by the ball field across the street from my house. I told our faith family that I was inviting all of my neighbors. I was going to print a nice invitation with a picture of us so they would know which crazy neighbors had left this piece of paper on their door. Read the rest of this entry »

The Three Longest Nights

March 25, 2016

In our day of binge-watching entire seasons of our favorite tv shows and virtually limitless on-demand entertainment options, three days and three nights of silence and fear and hiding is next to impossible to really comprehend. But I suggest to you that, even in a starkly slower time, the followers of Jesus found those three days and nights between Jesus’ burial and resurrection to last for what seemed like years.

[Side note: I realize that our tradition is to observe Good Friday as the day of the week of Jesus’ crucifixion and the resurrection on Easter Sunday. I also recognize that Jesus said that it would be three days and three nights. The whole discussion is a matter for another context.]

For three days and nights the disciples were trying to wrap their heads and hearts around the notion that Jesus simply was not who they thought him to be. No doubt they lay sleepless in the dark night wonder how they could misunderstand, why things had gone the way they had, and were the soldiers coming for them next?

The fear and uncertainty mingled powerfully with the pure grief that came with the loss of this man who was a friend like none they had ever known – the One who had fed thousands through the very hands of these who now stayed hidden behind locked doors. The hope that less than a week before had moved them to spread their cloaks on the ground as a makeshift carpet and shout with the joyous, “Hosanna,” had vanished.

But, come Sunday morning, everything was seen to be different than it seemed.

In these hard days and gut-wrenching nights, could we have the spiritual gumption to step back and look beyond our heartache to see the certainty of what is surely to be? Can we, through the eyes of faith embrace the hope built entirely on the very nature of the One who proved His love and faithfulness through the cross and the empty tomb?

In the assurance of His promise, even the longest nights are a temporary trouble.