Hearing the Music

Loving Discipline

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This Sunday we are going to be following the story of Naaman in 2 Kings 5. It’s a fantastic story. There are so many angles, details and little plots that happen throughout it, we will not be able to cover it all. Since that is true I wanted to cover one of the characters we won’t spend much time with for a minute. Gehazi.

Gehazi is Elisha’s servant. We know him from different stories throughout Elisha’s story arc (2 Kings 4, 5, 6 & 8 are all places he makes appearances in some form or fashion). He shows great compassion during the Shunammite woman’s story in 2 Kings 4. He plays his role in Naaman’s miraculous conversion as the servant who passed on Elisha’s message when Naaman and his entourage showed up at their door (2 Kings 5:10). Yet he also has his moments that make us scratch our heads, like at the end of 2 Kings. When you read through the whole narrative, and I would highly recommend you do so before we worship together on Sunday, you will notice that the end of the story seems pretty dark. Just as Naaman begins the story with leprosy, Gehazi ends the story with leprosy. What happened?

Gehazi can’t look past himself. When Naaman offers Elisha a payment or gift for his role in his healing, Elisha refuses. He wants God to get all the glory. Naaman insists but Elisha continues to say no. Gehazi doesn’t like this, he thinks they deserve some of that money. He thinks it would be helpful for the work they are doing. Or perhaps he wants a little bonus for the role he played. What his motivations were we won’t know this side of the Jordan. So Gehazi takes matters into his own hands, he tricks Naaman and gets some money and goods out of him.

He is disciplined by God, through Elisha for his betrayal of what Elisha said and what God truly wanted. For God to be glorified alone. This discipline seems sad. It seems to be a dark ending for this servant of Elisha and of Yahweh. Yet we know that this is not the end of Gehazi’s story, he returns in 2 Kings, pointing to the fact that he is disciplined, but not isolated, not outside of God’s love, favor, mercy and grace.

So it is with our discipline. It’s hard to walk through seasons of discipline. Personally I try and shy away from it. When I know I have wronged somebody, and ultimately God, I pretend as if nothing happened. Why? More times than not its because I’m scared. I’m scared of what people will think or do to me. Will they include me in their social gatherings? Will they share information with me? In other words, will I still feel like I am in the in crowd? And these all translate to God as well. 

The message of the Gospel is that King Jesus loves us enough to discipline us AND to keep us close to him. In fact that is exactly what his discipline communicates. I love you, and I want the best for you, and I hope that you see how this discipline will lead you back to me! As Jack Miller used to say, “Cheer up! You’re a worse sinner than you ever dared imagine, and you’re more loved than you ever dared hope.” 

Friends, that is what King Jesus says to his children. Through discipline we experience that love, that mercy and that grace.

 

 

Photo by Daiga Ellaby on Unsplash

Posted by Addison Hawkins

Heat, Health, and Hearing

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A few random strains of thought for you this week. On the top of my list is Heat (and escaping the heat). It has been quite a string of 90 degree days for us Michiganders. Lisa and I are getting ready to head out camping for a couple of weeks and are looking forward for a break from the heat along the lakeshore. I am grateful for the rhythms of rest, including vacations, that are built into the life of humanity, and we are looking forward to our time to disconnect.

Second thought is Health. Some of you know that our daughter Lydia has sort of a complicated health history. Mostly she is fine; a fully functioning, delightful young adult, but underlying this somewhere at the metabolic level things are not 100%. This foundational metabolic code, which most of us rarely think about, can trigger some scary episodes for her. We had another different sort of episode this week as she passed out unexpectedly and was unresponsive for close to 3 hours. We have appreciated your thoughts, prayers and expressions of love as we seek to help her navigate these challenges. As I sit in the hospital with her and think about these things I am struck by how spiritually we can be on an underlying level not 100%. All can look well on the surface, but deep down we experience imbalances that can cause us to crash. Sometimes these are triggered by events on the surface (i.e. loss or conflict), and other times our crashes seem to come out of the blue. Either way, it is a reminder that we all have this spiritual level that, though we do not always think about it, gives shape to our lives. 

Finally, a thought about Hearing. As we think about the kind of nutrition that our spiritual metabolism is in need of, we come to the Word of the Lord. Romans 10:14reminds us of the connection that exists between the kind of metabolic, Gospel belief we need and our hearing the Word of God. It is only as we hear, read, and feed on the Word of God that the nutrients we need for life are transferred. I think of this as we come to our passage for this Sunday, 2 Kings 4, and the picture of the remnant community that we see in it. Various people, with various needs, who all ultimately find their answers through the Word. I also think of the importance of hearing the Word in connection with our new ministry partners, Campus Outreach (CO). If you have not heard much about our new partnership with CO, I invite you to take a listen to this podcast. This is a group that is passionate about sharing the good news with folks that have not heard. Much more is to come on CO!

It is great to walk this journey with you. I look forward to seeing you this Sunday, but also looking forward to a couple of weeks away. 

Photo by Marcelo Leal on Unsplash

Free to Love

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While the celebrations will be a bit different this year, many of us will spend time this weekend celebrating with friends and family the independence of our country. We will spend time thanking God for the freedoms that we enjoy, especially the opportunity to worship our Creator without fear of persecution. It is a wonderful thing to live in a country that supports such freedoms, especially as we see so many other places in the world where the picture is much different. Thank You Lord for our Freedoms.

But with these freedoms comes great responsibility. Paul put it this way in his letter to the Galatians, “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:13-14). Here the Lord, through Paul, rightly reminds us that freedom is not the absence of constraint whereby we can do whatever we want, whenever we want. But rather freedom is the opportunity to be the people that God has created us to be, and called us to be in Christ, operating within the parameters that He has laid within us. Dietrich Bonhoeffer put it like this:

In the language of the Bible, freedom is not something man has for himself, but something he has for others… it is not a possession, a presence, an object… but a relationship and nothing else. In truth, freedom is a relationship between two persons. Being free means “ being free for the other,” because the other has bound me to him. Only in relationship with the other am I free. (Creation and Fall, Temptation p.37)

I am sure that you see how this Biblical notion of freedom challenges both the right (free to acquire all the wealth I can) and the left (free to use my body any way I want) of our present cultural moment. Rather than a freedom from restraints, our freedom has bound us to Christ (Romans 6:18). It is in following His path that brings life, peace and a heart free from condemnation (Romans 8:1-6). As we lean into this truth, every day becomes Independence Day!

I look forward to seeing many of you Sunday or to being seen by you through video. We will be looking at a relatively little known passage in 2 Kings 3 in which Israel’s kings go to war against Moab. And while we see the mixed hearts of the human actors in the story, God once again shows up to remind us that only as we seek Him will we experience true blessing!

 

Photo by frank mckenna on Unsplash

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