Hearing the Music


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If you are part of the podcast audience you know that we have mentioned issues of depression, grief and anxiety that are connected to the pandemic. In recent days many people have had their struggles with mental health triggered as comfortable routines are disrupted and the unknown is upon us. Others have seen battles with addiction (alcohol, porn, Netflix, eating, etc...) intensify as worry and idle time have come together in an unhealthy combination. Even an increased propensity to emotional responses of anger are being reported in connection with pandemic life

Over the years one of the truths that I have picked up in terms of effectively combatting addiction is that we are helped when we learn to recognize our triggers which alert us to pivot more quickly when we find ourselves in a danger zone. Similarly if you are in a position to care for someone in such a battle, recognizing the triggers they might be battling, can assist you in coming alongside of them. One helpful rubric for recognizing common triggers we deal with is the acronym H.A.L.T. We find ourselves susceptible when we are Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and/or Tired. In these moments we seek immediate comfort, sometimes at the expense of healthy resolution.

I share this with you in light of 1 Kings 19, the passage we will be looking at this Sunday. In this passage we meet Elijah on the run from Jezebel. Instead of returning to Israel after his victory on Mt. Carmel (I Kings 18) and finding a converted nation, he finds that not much has changed, and now Jezebel is seeking his life (19:2). His escape leads him to the desert where he finds himself under a broom tree, convinced that he is the only YHWH fearer left alive, asking the Lord to take his life (19:4). In response YHWH meets him, touches him, feeds him, lets hims sleep, asks him questions to show that he is listening and reconnects him to his purpose in life (19:6-9). In terms of H.A.L.T. we see Elijah angry at the lack of change in the people and feeling alone, while YHWH starts his “treatment” by addressing his hunger and fatigue.

It is really a wonderful chapter on the tenderness of YHWH, a fact that I hope to bring out to you on Sunday. For now, however, with a more limited focus there is something to be gained in recognizing the Lord’s multifaceted response. Rather than lecturing Elijah, he tenderly empathizes with his prophet, reminds him in a powerful way that he is not alone, and sets Elijah back on the path. There is a lesson to be learned here as we struggle not to diminish the importance of seemingly small things like hunger, fatigue or emotions like anger or loneliness. These are like indicators on a car pointing to potentially deeper issues. There is also a lesson here for those of who care, not to rush right to lectures or even to sympathy, but to really work to meet our friends where they are struggling and walk with them to a renewed sense of purpose. (Brene Brown has great piece on Empathy. )

One final word, if you find yourself struggling, please reach out. We are all struggling to some degree and there is no shame in seeking help. We have resources available to help at many levels. But even more than that we would want you to know that you are not alone!


Photo by Free To Use Sounds on Unsplash

in prayer

Process of Prayer

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And Elijah went up to the top of Mount Carmel. And he bowed himself down on the earth and put his face between his knees. And he said to his servant, “Go up now, look toward the sea.” And he went up and looked and said, “There is nothing.” And he said, “Go again,” seven times. And at the seventh time he said, “Behold, a little cloud like a man’s hand is rising from the sea.”      I Kings 18:42-44

Yes I can confirm it is Friday, I checked the calendar this morning :-). As we have been studying Elijah, I have been observing one of the secondary elements to the stories; namely the role and the process of prayer in the life of the prophet. Prayer seems to be part of the prophets job description as a covenant intercessor. Elijah is certainly known as a man of prayer (cf. James 5:16b-18). But two things stand out as interesting in observing Elijah and prayer. The first is that sometimes God seems to answer Elijah’s prayers almost immediately (cf. 17:1 and the drought, 18:26-28 and the sending of fire) while other times there are multiple entreaties before the Lord answers (cf. 17:21 and the three-fold prayer for the boy’s life or 18:42-44 and the seven-fold prayer for rain). This matches my own experience in which sometimes God seems to answer prayers almost immediately, while other times it seems that the path forward is to keep praying, still waiting on the Lord to answer.

The second thing that is interesting to note is that when Elijah prays for rain, he is praying for something that God has already told Elijah he would do (cf. 18:1). Rather than seeing this as an unnecessary redundancy, it seems better to see this as the graciousness of a God who invites us into the accomplishing of his will. While there are many mysterious things about prayer and and God’s sovereignty, we can confidently say that prayer is something our Heavenly Father invites us into relationally, not transactionally. We do not come to God as we would to an ATM, but rather we come to seek his heart even as we pour out ours. It is through prayer that the Bridegroom courts his bride. As those united to Christ by faith, we can be assured that he has determined to lay out such a path for us that will effectively navigate us to the halls of splendor. Our invitation is to let him take the lead and by our prayers clasp his hands and follow his steps.

I hope that this is some encouragement to you today. As the days of quarantine drag on, the bills pile up, relationships are strained, as losses mount and new paths are sought; may we continue to come to our Lord in prayer. 

This Sunday we will be back with Elijah and the great confrontation with the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel (I Kings 18:17-45). I do truly look forward to opening this word with you.

Rhetoric of Love

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If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.    
I Corinthians 13:1

 As I type this morning, reports are that soon Governor Whitmer will take to the airwaves and extend a stay at home order. This will be another in a series of pronouncements that extend from the Office of the President through state and local officials, even to leaders of the companies we work for and the churches we attend. As these decisions hit close to home and effect our freedoms, our livelihoods, the lives of those around us, the capacities of our healthcare system, etc…, we begin to form opinions. The next step we Americans often take is to exercise our right of free speech, and express those opinions, either via social media, around the dinner table (because we are eating home!), or even within the confines of our heart.

While I certainly endorse the right to free speech, my concern here is that we do not lose sight of our Christian duty to exercise that “right” in keeping with the very character of Christ. I am sure that many of you are dismayed by people that profess Christ, that we know to be Christians, attacking, ridiculing, and mocking political leaders who they disagree with. This pastime has no particular party affiliation and seemingly is done purely ad hominem, divorced from any reasoned argument or position. (Current favorites of opposing parties are President Trump (R) and Governor Whitmer (D)). This practice is frequently defended by Christians with an appeal to the character of the individual that they are attacking, insinuating that due to the moral or character failings of that individual, we are free to attack them.

I am going to be a little more strident here than I often am, and appeal to us all, as followers of Christ - we have to do better. Certainly the times that we live in are not worse than the conditions that the early church lived in and suffered under. Yet it was these believers that taught us to respect authority (Nero!, among others) because that authority has been placed there by God (Rom 13, I Peter 2). It was Paul, mistreated Paul, one who had his “rights” violated far more than any of us ever will, who taught us that if our speech lacks love, we are but a noisy gong or a clanging symbol (I Cor. 13:1). He went on to describe love as patient and kind, not given to envying or boasting. Love is not rude (I Cor. 13:4-5). Where did he learn this? He learned it from our Savior who taught us that when our rights are being violated (Jesus calls this persecution) that we are to bless those who persecute us and pray for those who violate us (cf. Luke 6:27-31). Jesus modeled this love for enemies both in his silence (Is. 53:7, Lk 23:9) and in his nail pierced prayer (Lk 23:34). It was this Spirit of Jesus that empowered Stephen as he was being unlawfully stoned to imitate his Savior in breathing grace toward those sinning against him (Acts 7:60). Is it any wonder why the early church spread like wildfire among both the nobles and the nobodies? It wasn’t because they were screaming the loudest. They didn’t capture hearts with their protests. Rather, it was a counter cultural effusion of love on which the church was built.

Friends, our hope is not in the government. Our identity is not in our rights. We live as those who stand in the presence of the Lord (I Kings 17:1). God is our refuge, a very present help in times of trouble (Ps. 46). The joy of the Lord is our strength (Neh. 8:10) May these very real and precious truths ground us in uncertain times. Let us be who we are in Christ!

PS — be sure to catch our upcoming podcast further exploring the Rhetoric of Love. 

Photo by ROBIN WORRALL on Unsplash

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