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  • A Baby Story

    I've been painfully inconsistent with writing this year so far. And I'm guessing I'll continue to be as I put into practice some new ways of living life. The miracle of the life strapped to me currently has been made evident in many ways. At every turn starting before she was even conceived we've been asked to entrust her to the Lord, and it's been our great privilege to do so. 

    We prayed and asked God to give us a child. We prayed consistently and hard and after nearly a year we began the adoption process believing that perhaps this would be how God would choose to expand our family. We started and finished the process in a few months. Our anticipation was through the roof. We knew of a set of twins who needed a family and the only thing holding us back was my background check approval from the state of Georgia.

    We waited for months and I filled and re-filled out the same paperwork multiple times. We were confused by the process and didn't understand what was going on in Georgia, yet trusted the Lord. We waited as long as we could and then the twins were born and our opportunity was lost. In the meantime I found out God answered our prayer in a different way. I was pregnant.

    At 8 weeks of pregnancy I started bleeding. It was my 35th birthday. We anxiously contacted our doctor and waited all day long before we could be seen. When we got there they did a few checks but wouldn't do an ultrasound until the following day. It was a tearful 24 hours. When we finally got to have our ultrasound we saw her heart beating strong and the Lord chose to preserve her. 

    Our agency would still allow us to adopt a newborn up through the first trimester of pregnancy so we continued to wait and pray and see what God might do. When our window was closed, and I was 12 weeks and 1 day I contacted our agency to let them know we'd need to pause the adoption process due to pregnancy. I kid you not, the very next day we received confirmation that my background check was approved and our homestudy complete. God made His plans completely clear. We would not be adopting a newborn at this time.

    Throughout the pregnancy we received word of 2 other children, both 10 months old who at different points needed loving homes to come into. We were able to have our profiles shown because they weren't newborns, and they'd be over a year by the time our little would be born. We bathed both situations in prayer anxiously hoping that God would bring into our home exactly who He wanted us to raise. In both instances the birth family chose other families to love their children. 

    At 22-ish weeks Jason and I were driving to watch the Nebraska-Minnesota football game at a restaurant and a woman rammed us from behind. Our car was totaled. Her car was too. We'd found out just 2 weeks before that we would be having a girl. We stood on the chilly sidewalk praying, very anxious about the life of our girl. The ambulance came and said we'd need to go to the ER to have the baby monitored. We sat in the labor and delivery room listening to her heart beating and the cloudy sounds of her movements, and they were some of the sweetest sounds we'd every heard. We also watched the Cornhuskers beat the Gophers. :) 

    At 32 weeks at our weekly dr. visit our doctor felt my belly and let us know our baby girl was breech. We'd been through a bit already so nothing much came as a surprise. We headed home and tried pretty much everything you could find on the internet to get your baby to turn. All to no avail. We scheduled a c-section for March 16th. There was an end in sight! We couldn't wait to meet her. The week before at another regular check up her heart rate was dipping. After 40 minutes of monitoring they let us leave, but told us to come in if anything changed. Well, things seemed fine so a week later we woke up early and headed to the hospital for our scheduled c-section. By then I was contracting every 12 minutes and with every contraction her heartrate would drop in the 50's. We had about every staff member in our room at one point or another. Our doctor wasn't responding to pages so another doctor came in to sign consents and prepared to do the surgery. Jason and I relived this memory later and shared with each other that he kept praying, "God, You are my rock. You are my rock. You are my rock" While I prayed from my hospital bed, "Lord, I trust You. I trust You. I trust You."

    Our doctor arrived at about that time and we headed to the ER. I'll save the gory surgery details, but 40-ish minutes later we came face to face with our beautiful daughter. She screamed her pretty little face off and with tears streaming down my face I finally got to see this tiny miracle.

    Throughout our hospital stay we dealt with loss of more than 10% of her birth weight and some jaundice and finally we were ready to be discharged. On the final checks our nurse spent a little longer than usual listening to her heart. She pulled away from Marylane and told us she had found a heart murmur. She called our pediatrician immediately. They then ordered an echo cardiogram to happen in the next hour. Again, we were waiting to see what God might be doing in the life of Marylane Raleigh Lempola. It felt like she'd already overcome so much to make her way into our family. We bawled waiting for the technician to arrive.

    Jason stood over her holding her tiny hands the entire time the echo was happening. It was supposed to be 20 minutes, and an hour later he still was bent over her tiny self talking to her. Finally the technician finished but said a cardiologist would have to tell us the results. A few minutes later our angel of a nurse slipped in to tell us that they hadn't expedited the results, which meant it wasn't as serious as it could be. After another couple hours of waiting a doctor called into our room to let us know it is a VSD murmur and would most likely heal within the first year of her life. We will be meeting with a cardiologist in May to go over the results and have her checked again to confirm what the technician found. 

    Every morning Jason and I pray together thanking God for Marylane's life and asking direction for our future and family. Once she's 6 months old we can have our homestudy updated and we can again pursue adoption, which we intend to do. We're certain that it will require the same trust that Marylane's life has required. But we're excited to see how God grows our family and us through this process. 

    Thanks for bearing with my LONG and drawn out story. It's lovely to have it down all in one place. It reminds me just how present God has been with us. 

  • Everything I Know about Changing Identities

    Single, Married. Without kids, With kids. Meloncholy, Sanguin. Employed, Unemployed. Southern, Midwestern. Dog hater, Dog lover. Christian. Daughter. Niece. Aunt. Neighbor. Friend. Coworker. Writer. Crochet-er. Musician. Reader. Introvert. Cook. 

    Written on my business card of life could be 100 descriptions of who it is that I am and what it is that I do. I'm kind of all over the place. Who I was at one point in life no longer describes who I am now. In fact, it looks the direct opposite in many instances. The time I spent in the situation before this one shapes the decisions I make now, even though my circumstances are completely different. 

    I am married, yes, but much of the time I find myself in scenarios thinking 70% as a single person. I could say this about everyone one of the other "befores and afters" as well. I haven't fully come out of or into my own with these new life situations. 

    When I look up in Webster for the definition of "Identity" this is one of the definitions I am given: "the distinguishing character or personality of an individual."

    As I examine what "distinguishes" me I see a compilation of experiences and circumstances that make up who I am. My mind and heart haven't seemed to caught up with all the experiences as of yet. 

    I'm still working on piecing everything together for myself. I have a feeling I might not be alone in working through these seemingly opposite parts of myself that all make up who I am. What parts make up who you are that you feel compete with one another?

    When I look at all of these experiences who make up the whole of who I am I can flounder in the question marks they create. Or I have another option.  I can choose to make it much more simpler. I am Gisele. I'm a mix of good and bad, strengths and weaknesses, who I've been and who it is I'm becoming.  This will be the whole of life: taking one experience after another and building upon it until on my deathbed I can come close to naming who it is I have become. 

    In the meantime, I have a lot of becoming still to become. So I might as well be about the business of becoming her with intentionality.

  • We’ve Reached The End

    James 5:13-18

    We've been together for 38 weeks now, studying the lives of John the Baptist and Elijah. Thanks so much for reading along in studying their dramatic lives. Hopefully their courage and faith has been as encouraging to you as it has been to me. 

    This is our last experience with Elijah. He’s lived a life that left a legacy of faithfulness for us to follow. His intimate walk with God has become a guide for us of what to do when God asks the nearly impossible of us. We are to turn to God and let His strength accomplish the work through us.

    James found encouragement in Elijah’s story as well. James is calling his readers to be prayer warriors. He himself has seen his prayers answered and wants to encourage his followers to also live lives of prayer and intimacy with God.

    It’s the answer to all that ails you…

    You’re suffering? Pray.

    You’re happy? Praise.

    You’re sick? Call others to prayer over you.

    You’re sinful? Pray for forgiveness.

    God’s promise through James is that the effective prayer of the righteous can accomplish more than we can imagine.

    And here is where James recalls Elijah’s prayer life. Remember a while back when we studied Elijah on the mountain begging God for rain? He has just finished with the Baal worshippers begging their god to answer them. Elijah prays and God answers immediately. He knows His God is listening. He is begging God to break the drought that has come. Deep in prayer, he sent his servant to look to the sky and after several attempts, he finally sees a cloud the size of a man’s hand. Not much to go on, yet Elijah believed God was answering his prayer. He had seen God do it before, he was confident God would show Himself now.

    And He did. The rain came. Elijah’s prayer was answered.  When I was reading James, I thought sure he would have some nice wrap up about prayer in his passage, but I found no such thing.  He did not need to. His point to make was that prayer is worth it because God is listening. What great point did he need to make outside of a story where a man of great faith prayed and God was listening?!

    God is listening to you. He is hearing your prayers. He is delighted in every step you take in the direction towards Him. We have covered a lot of ground in our study of John the Baptist and Elijah.  We looked at their history and their legacy. We have talked about how their faithfulness becomes an example for our own faithfulness. We have seen God answer prayers, love them well, give them courage, and perform miracles.

    The question now becomes, how are you going to let the stories of God through these two men transform your life?

    Take some time to look back through our notes together and recall the stories that inspired, challenged, and touched you. Now ask the Spirit to transform your heart through His power. Not your power, the Spirit’s.

    Thanks for joining me on this journey. I’ve enjoyed every second.

  • God’s Preservation

    Romans 11:1-11

    We’re going to dive in a little more deeply and theologically into the story of Elijah. Just when we think we’ve seen the last of Elijah, we find his story immersed in other’s theology. So is the case with Paul. Here Paul uses Elijah’s story as a reminder of God’s faithfulness to His people.

    Throughout Romans and specifically this passage, Paul shares the Gospel over and over again. If we meander up to the end of Romans 10, Paul has been explaining that belief in Jesus is what brings us Salvation. He talks about Israel’s obstinacy against God, and their lack of understanding of God. Paul is working hard to show that there’s nothing new. The same disbelief in Elijah’s time still existed in Paul’s, and it exists in ours too. We also struggle to believe.

    But the same God who was in the time of Elijah, is the God of Paul and God of you and I. He remembers His promises and will make good on them. Paul reminds his readers of Elijah’s discouragement over Baal worshipping. He was fed up. He wanted God to give up on them too. Perhaps you can relate. You’re frustrated with a situation, your community, maybe even your church and you beg for God’s justice. All the while forgetting that if God is unwilling to show them mercy, He just might also be unwilling to show my filthy heart mercy too.

    Paul shows his readers the words of God back to Elijah. Elijah begs God to discipline the Baal worshiping idolaters and God assures Elijah that he’s not alone. He’s NOT the only one who hasn’t bowed down. There are others who too have remained faithful to God. 7000 of them, in fact.  Paul assures the people of his time, that if God kept and protected those 7000 that He would certainly do so again. God would preserve His people. And he would choose to do so by grafting in other nations and tribes. The message is not only for Jews, it’s for Gentiles as well. Do you remember Andrew’s experience with being an advocate for Gentiles to come to Jesus? He and Paul believed the same message. It’s for you and me too. We are the remnant God promised. We are the people of God who will carry out His work and in our obedience, be used by God to do great things for His glory.

    None of this is about us. God’s preservation and work has not ONE thing to do with our goodness. It had nothing to do with Paul’s or Elijah’s either. God did all He needed to do through His son, and once we genuinely believe in Him, God forever sees us through the perfection of Jesus. There’s nothing the devil can do, or that we can do to change that fact.

    God is outside of time. He doesn’t see time in a line as we do. He sees lives covered by the blood of Jesus. Once we genuinely believe, forever and always after, God sees us covered by the blood of Jesus. There’s nothing we can say or do to remove that fact. Once God’s, we’re protected. And once God’s, He’s given us a purpose. Our purpose is to reflect the gift of Jesus in every way we can. It is not about earning God’s favor, it’s about reflecting God’s nature so the remnant can grow.

    We could go a lot of directions with this, but I want us to sit with and think through one thing.  What is the good work God has for you to do?

    Will you do it knowing 100% it’s not about you and your good work, but about God and His gift to you?

     

  • Deep Heartache and Hope

    Matthew 27:33-56

    Last week we looked at how Jesus was transfigured and Elijah and Moses joined him. Just a short while later, He has taken our sin on Himself and is hanging on the cross. It’s another time that those around Him would rather look for Elijah than believe Jesus could be who He says He is.

    It’s a gruesome scene. Jesus has been tortured and hung on a cross. He’s been struggling to breathe for 9 hours.  Even as He’s dying, He is not spared. The majority of his disciples have ran in fear, afraid that they too might find themselves hanging next to Jesus.  Jesus has been withstanding abuse from those who refuse to believe. They’re so hoping what He promised would come true, but they fall into the same trap as we do. We want what we want RIGHT NOW and exactly how we expect it. Jesus gives them something better. They were merely waiting for the removal of their present suffering but instead Jesus gives eternal life AND an abundant earthly life to ANYONE who will believe, not just the two jokers hanging beside Him. He has bigger eyes than we do. A greater plan.

    In Matthew 27:46 Jesus calls out. Scripture says He cries out in a loud voice, which is hard for me to wrap my mind around.  Where does He find the energy, except only in His deep heartache and hope? He cries, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” 

    But these were words the Jews were not familiar with. They believed Jesus was calling for Elijah. Jesus, the Son of God, Messiah of the Universe, and our Savior, calling to be saved by Elijah? Did they know nothing? Had they been listening at all?

    As Jesus hang dying, His father turned his back to His Son. God wasn’t turning His back on Jesus’ suffering; He was turning away from our filth. Jesus took upon Himself all our ugliness, shame, wrongdoings, the murder in our hearts and on our hands, unkind words, lustful eyes, ungrateful hearts, greedy attitudes, every sin you’ve worked so hard to purge from yourself, Jesus magnificently conquered.  

    What his words meant were no cry to Elijah, it was a cry to His Father. My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” There Jesus hung, carrying all our sin, and even in death He was abandoned, yet He turned to His Father.

    Elijah didn’t come rescue Jesus. Neither did His Father. Jesus was left to die.

    His disciples carried his body to a tomb to get it prepared for burial, and the unthinkable happened 3 days later. Jesus rose from the dead. He conquered death, defeated the ultimate enemy, and gave us a way for salvation through His act.

    Just like the criminals hanging beside Jesus, I want to look to other saviors also. I look for my own Elijah’s in a hundred ways every single day. But there is one who answers. There is one who holds the truth about my future and is willing to do something about. My Savior is the Jesus who suffered for me, stole my shame; He wrapped my broken flesh around Himself so I could be whole.

    This was the message of John the Baptist. This was the hope of Elijah as he endured suffering. This was the Good News worth suffering over, so you and I, our friends, our family, strangers around the world, could know the deep love of Jesus.

    Will you trust in Him? Maybe you have already. But maybe today you need to receive Him again, not for your eternal salvation, you’re assured of that already, but maybe you need to receive salvation today for the grace to make it through another day.

    Ask Him to save you today from the shame of your sin, from the darkness of your doubt, and the self-sufficiency you claim. Ask Him to intervene. Ask Him to save.

  • The Transfiguration

    Matthew 17:1-13

    Elijah shows up throughout the New Testament in interesting and compelling ways.  

    1. Elijah attests to Jesus’ divinity at the Transfiguration in Matthew 17.

    2. His absence at Jesus death attests to Jesus being the one true way for eternal salvation in Matthew 27.

    3. Remembering God’s answer to his prayer shows us that God will be faithful to protect a remnant of His people, The Church, until the return of Jesus in Romans 11.

    4. And his example gives us strength for our journey, knowing God hears our prayers, forgives our sins, and hears our prayers in James 5.

    Elijah lived a life faithful to our Savior, and in so doing, he became an example of salvation and a way to live faithfully before our God. Let’s take a look.

    The first of these stories is told in 3 of the Gospels. Just saying “transfiguration” conjures in my mind this fantastical image of Jesus and his disciples on a side of a mountain having their minds blown.

    You probably remember the story well, but I want to take a closer look.

    Jesus went on a walk with Peter, James, and John. They went high on a mountain to be alone and as soon as they reach their spot, before their very eyes, Jesus is transfigured. I believe Peter, James and John were being given a picture of our resurrected Lord on the top of that mountain. They were seeing God in all His glory, in the form of His son, Jesus.

    Moses and Elijah join him there. They are talking with Jesus. Can you imagine with me for a moment, the excitement Moses and Elijah must have experienced, getting to commune with Jesus in this way? They have to have some inkling of what Jesus is about to do in just a short time. He is about to become the fulfillment of all they dreamed of decades before. They walked by faith and the men on the ground below them get to walk by sight.

    Moses, Elijah and Jesus are talking together, and the disciples are blown away with what they are experiencing. They didn’t want to leave. Peter wants to do something to honor them and to keep them from leaving. He’s caught up in this glorious moment, and asks if Jesus wants him to build 3 tabernacles, one for each of them.  He’s interrupted mid-sentence by God Himself. God tells him that Jesus is His beloved son. That they should listen to Him. The point of the story is JESUS. The point of the story is ALWAYS Jesus.

    God the Father is addressing Peter’s instinct to place Jesus at the same level of Moses and Elijah by building tabernacles for the 3 of them. God differentiates Jesus from the prophets. It’s yet another opportunity for God to speak of the deity of His Son. Moses and Elijah are below Jesus. They were preparing the way for the Messiah to come. They are not deserving of a tabernacle, they were always a part of building one to point to and worship Jesus. Jesus is the only one deserving of the worship of the disciples. Yet God, in His great kindness, does not point to Peter’s sin in the moment, He points to His Son. He shows in this moment what Jesus’ death will forever do for all mankind after: when we believe, God no longer sees our sin, He sees His Son’s blood covering us, making us perfect.

    When God spoke, the disciples fell to their faces. They immediately recognized whose presence they were in. They were hearing from God, and they were afraid and humbled. Jesus touched them and told them to not be afraid. When they looked up again, Elijah and Moses had disappeared.

    The disciples ask Jesus why the scribes promise the coming of Elijah and Jesus takes a second to explain.  Jesus explains that Elijah came and no one acknowledged him. He suffered at the hands of the people.  And now on this mountain, here he has just returned but to only a few. Three disciples just saw the fulfillment of the prophecy and no one else. They want to scream from the mountaintops about what has just happened, and Jesus asks them to tell no one. The people did not acknowledge Elijah then, they will not acknowledge their Messiah now.

    What Jesus more deeply wants them to understand, is that when the prophets spoke of Elijah returning, they were emphasizing the return of “A” prophet. John the Baptist became the “Elijah” everyone was expecting. They are no better at understanding metaphors than I am. The people kept expecting Elijah himself, and God sent John the Baptist. After 400 years of silence, a prophet returns, and the Messiah comes. And on this mountain Elijah stands with God, for just a moment.

    What does the Transfiguration cause you to think of?

    What strikes you most about the story of the Messiah, the prophets, and the disciples?

    Do you believe God quit pointing at your sin when you trusted in Jesus to cover your sin?

  • A Dramatic Departing

    2 Kings 2:8-15

    Imagine Elijah bending down, and removing his head or shoulder covering. Imagine him trembling for a moment as he knows as soon as he’s on the other side, he will see God. And then imagine all the floods of memories of when God used the miracle of river crossings to deliver His people.

    Exodus 14: Moses’ job is to the lead the people out of Egypt. They start walking with the millions of slaves who are tasting freedom for the first time, and they arrive at the Red Sea. God tells Moses to reach out his staff and Moses obeys. The Israelites all pass through on dry ground. And then Pharaoh’s army is swallowed by the sea. God delivered His people. He made good on His promise, and started them on a journey of promise that continues even thousands of years later.

    Joshua 3: Joshua leads God’s people to the Jordan. They are tasked with securing the Ark of the Covenant, where God dwelt, in the land on the other side of the Jordan. They stood at the edge of the water and with great faith the priests dipped their feet in the water like they were just going to walk right across. In another massive miracle, the waters parted and they crossed over on dry land with the Ark of the Covenant and the people of God.

    2 Kings 2:8: And now we get to our prophet. Elijah is about to meet God. He’s standing where Joshua stood with the priests while they held in their hands the place where God dwelt. And Elijah knows he too is about to stand before God. He bows down before the Jordan, drops his mantle and folds it, and the waters part for he and Elisha. They cross over alone to the other side.

    When Elijah and Elisha cross over the Jordan, Elijah turns to Elisha to ask what Elisha might need that Elijah would have to offer. Elisha wants Elijah’s spirit. He asks for a double portion of it, in fact. Elisha knew this work was not for the faint of heart, there would be opposition at every turn. He had been watching Elijah’s life, and wanted the same spirit within him that Elijah had in order to bear the load. Elisha wasn’t asking for the big “S” Spirit [That is only God’s to give.] Instead he was asking for the wherewithal to stand under the pressures and struggles that he would be enduring.

    He [like Solomon] avoids the wealth, health, long life, and prosperity requests that are more associated with a genie in a bottle than with the God of the universe. Instead, both of these men, when offered the world, asked for an increase in character.

    Elisha has fought Elijah to remain with him through the day. Elijah tried to get Elisha to turn from him all day long, but Elisha stuck with him at every stop. At this point, Elijah tells Elisha that if he remains a little longer, if he watches Elijah’s entrance into heaven, he would be granted a double portion of his spirit.

    These two men have had an eventful day. Three cities, 25 miles of walking, a parting of the Jordan, and now they’re having a serious discussion of character, when horses and a chariot on fire appear before them.

    Imagine this with me. It’s almost more than my brain can wrap itself around. The burning bush that Moses fell before is one thing, a flaming chariot and horses on fire is another.

    Scripture says Elijah is taken in a whirlwind into heaven and Elisha watches every second of it, then calls out, My father, my father, the chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” Would there be other words than this? All Elisha could speak was the exact truth of what he was seeing.

    Elisha does not waste a single second. He takes action immediately. He tore his clothes in 2 pieces. He’s just lost his friend, confidant, and counselor. Elijah is now gone, and he carries the weight of prophecy on his own shoulders. He takes this moment to grieve. And then he gets busy.

    And now another parting of the waters. When Elijah went to God, he folded his mantle on the ground. Elisha gathers up the mantle and goes straight to the edge of the water of the Jordan. He’s “testing the waters” so to speak. He asks, “Where is the LORD, the God of Elijah,” and strikes the waters. And the waters part. He’s seen a lot in a short amount of time. He’s seen the waters part for Elijah, he’s seen a chariot and horses on fire take Elijah to heaven in a whirlwind, he’s lost his best friend, he’s gained his spirit, and now he himself, has struck the waters of the Jordan and God has caused them to part. This is Elisha’s first recorded miracle. What an inauguration!

    When Elisha goes back through Jericho, the people of God can immediately tell that Elijah’s spirit rests on Elisha, just as Elijah had promised. And Elisha begins a life of miracles, prophecy, and sharing the words of God.

    When faced with the challenge of the next chapter of life, what is it that you want to be written?

    Elijah’s story is not finished. We have a few more appearances from him. His legacy is legendary. He’s respected and feared. He’s the prophet who did not see death. Elijah never wavered in his devotion, fearful or courageous, he is known as a man and prophet who walked with God.

    What characteristics define your life?

    What characteristics do you WANT to define your life?

  • Preparing to Go

    2 Kings 2:1-6

    Elisha and Elijah have been spending a bunch of time with each other. They’ve been walking with God together and God is answering another of Elijah’s prayers. Except, He is about to answer it in the most unexpected way possible. Just like that, we’ve come to the end of Elijah’s time on earth. Not the end of his impact, however as we’ll continue to see.

    Elijah knows that today is the day. He’s ready to be taken up with God. He is ready to be finished with the work God has for him.  He wants to spare Elisha the heartache of leaving. I think he also wanted to go alone to be with God. The way Scripture writes it, it sounds a though Elijah knows he’s going to be taken to God.

    Elijah asks Elisha to stay put. He knows God is sending him to Bethel from where they are at Gilgal, and is wondering if that is where God will take him. Elisha insists on coming with Elijah. He’s not going to miss this for anything!

    It seems that news is getting around. There are other prophets in Bethel, and they came to Elisha and asked if he knew that God was going to take Elijah that day. Elisha asks them to pipe down. YES, he knows. It’s as though he doesn’t want to spoil it with a lot of idle talk. He wants to experience it with Elijah.

    I appreciate about Elijah’s story that God has a few things to finish with him even the very day He brings him home. We’re not finished with God’s work until God is finished with us.

    From Bethel God sends Elijah to Jericho. The story plays out the same for Elisha. He has yet another reminder from the sons of the prophets there that Elijah will be taken to God. He lets them know that he’s aware. And he asks them to be still. He doesn’t need gossip as a distraction. He’s focused on the work God is doing through Elijah in all these travels. We don’t know exactly why God is taking Elijah all these places. Scripture doesn’t say what he’s doing, who he’s meeting with, what the purpose is. But it’s another beautiful picture of the obedience of this prophet of God. God is taking him on a journey and he is following where God is leading.

    God speaks to Elijah again. This time He asks him to go to the Jordan. Elijah once more tells Elisha to stay put. And once more Elisha refuses. The Jordan has been a symbol of promise and redemption since Genesis. This would not have been lost on the prophets. They know God is about to do something miraculous in this place. Here are a few other Biblical characters God met at the Jordan. Lot and Abram scoping out Canaan, Jacob and Esau, Moses, Saul and David, and later, John the Baptist.

    Elijah is about to meet God in a place where Fathers of the faith before and after him also met with God.

    To get to this point, Elijah and Elisha have journeyed about 25 miles to finally arrive at the Jordan. And they’ve assembled quite the crowd of 50 prophets. They know God is going to show up and they want to see their Savior.

    Next week we'll look at Elijah's miraculous meeting with God. But I'm wondering, do you feel like God’s taking you a wandering meandering journey to get you where He wants you?

    How are you about following?

    Do you sense anticipation for what God is going to do next through you?

    How can you deepen your resolve to follow God’s leading with great anticipation?

  • A Terrible Way To Die

    2 Chronicles 21

    We last looked at Ahaziah's terrible death and the death he brought onto his men because of his own sin. At about this time, when Jehoram is just made king, he is walking a path other than with God. Jehoram is taking over for Jehoshaphat, who had a relatively good relationship with God. But Jehoram married Ahab’s daughter. His life looked a lot more like Ahab than Jehoshaphat. Jehoram chose the legacy of Ahab’s evil over the legacy of Jehoshaphat’s love of God. Elijah must be sick of all these kings doing their own thing. Elijah finishes delivering a message to one, and he’s right on to the next guy who is breaking God’s rules and leading His people from God.

    Jehoram had killed everyone in his way to be made king. He would stop at nothing, and did whatever it would take to get there. Also, Jehoram wasn’t an ally to his neighbors. He provoked them, causing generations of enemies, and built “high places” of worship in the mountains of Judah.  Essentially, every command God gave as protection to His people, Jehoram discarded.

    Enter Elijah.

    My dad is known for his letter writing. He’s not a confronter, but if he’s unhappy with his government, a company he’s dealt with, or a vender for his business, he will write them a letter. We’ve teased him about his letter writing for years. It’s one way of getting his point across, and a few select times, he’s even gotten favorable responses.

    Well, Elijah decides to take the letter writing approach this time. This is his short, sweet, and to the point letter to Jehoram:

    “Thus says the Lord God of your father David, ‘Because you have not walked in the ways of Jehoshaphat your father and the ways of Asa king of Judah, 13 but have walked in the way of the kings of Israel, and have caused Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to play the harlot as the house of Ahab played the harlot, and you have also killed your brothers, your own family, who were better than you, 14 behold, the Lord is going to strike your people, your sons, your wives and all your possessions with a great calamity; 15 and you will suffer severe sickness, a disease of your bowels, until your bowels come out because of the sickness, day by day.’”

    Well, that sounds unpleasant. I’m sure it’s not exactly what Jehoram was expecting to hear that day when he opened his mail. You have to wonder if he even paid Elijah’s letter any attention. But just as God had promised through Elijah, so it happened. The Philistines next door invaded. They carried off Jehoram’s possessions and even his family. All that was left was one son with him.

    God  then struck Jehoram with some sort of bowel disease. He was a disgrace. After two years of sheer agony, he finally died. [It’s very descriptive at the end of 2 Chronicles 21, if you want to read exactly how his death takes place.] His people were so disgusted by his life and rule that they didn’t give him a king’s burial ceremony. More disgraceful than that, they didn’t even bury him with the kings. He died at age 40, after only being a king for 8 years. He died without family, followers, or possessions. It says when he died his people did not regret it. They were glad he was gone.

    Now, there are a lot of descriptions of people’s lives in Scripture, many of them I hope to exemplify. But I read Jehoram’s story with a pit in my stomach. It’s not fear exactly; it’s caution.  

    Have I received words of counsel that I have discarded because they were not what I wanted to hear? The consequences of my actions may not have the far reaching effects of Jehoram’s but if I’m completely honest, it does cause me to examine my life for an extra second. I’m sure Elijah’s letter was followed with eye rolls from Jehoram and then a prompt crumbling and dumping into the trash can next to his desk.

    I often don’t want to hear that my leadership is not worth following, or that I am not headed where I ought to be. I want to trust my wisdom alone. But I need to hear words of wisdom from others.

    Who are you listening to?

    Whose advice are you taking?

    Where is it leading you?

  • The Next Generation

    2 Kings 1:1-18

    Switching books of the Bible seems like there should be something more significant than the turn of a page. But the stories of our prophet and of the sin of Israel continue right in line with 1 Kings. We dive into the book with the story of why Ahab’s son, Ahaziah only lived as king for 2 years. His kingdom was in Samaria. If you remember from New Testament stories, Samaria is often shunned by the people of God. The people living there are considered half Jews because of how the people there mixed with other nations. Most likely it all started around this time, with the false Gods of Ahab and Jezebel and the rebellion of their descendants.

    Moab has decided to come against King Ahaziah and in Ahaziah’s surprise and fear, he fell through the ceiling, in his own home. You might imagine it like a balcony with a screened in porch of sorts.  It was devastating to his body to sustain a fall like that, and was ill in bed. Keeping in line with his father’s idolatry, he asks to consult a Baal to see if he’ll live or die.

    Enter Elijah, our beloved and courageous prophet of God. Elijah worked a ton with Jezebel and Ahab and now here he is working with their son as he's been made king. God tells Elijah to intercept the king’s messengers on the way to consult with Baal. This is what Elijah asks them, per God’s command: “Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are going to inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron?” Elijah and God are calling out the precise place of Ahaziah’s distrust.  He does not believe God. Meanwhile God has been pursuing Ahaziah’s family for years. If he will only look for it, he would see evidence of God’s hand all throughout his parents’ story.

    The messengers return to Ahaziah without consulting the Baal, and Ahaziah wonders why they’re back so soon. As the messenger relays Elijah’s words Ahaziah is building in his mind exactly who it was, who delivered these words. He guessed that it was Elijah, especially after the messengers described Elijah as being hairy and wearing a girdle. It sounds like the weird descriptions they used for John the Baptist, and it also sounds isolating for Elijah.

    The king decided to send a captain and 50 of his men to apprehend Elijah.  “If you are a man of God, come down,” they command Elijah. Elijah has little patience for their shenanigans. He tells them that if he is a man of God, his God would send fire to consume them. Sure enough, fire comes down from heaven and consumes the captain and his 50 men. Just like that, over Ahaziah’s own death sentence, he’s sentenced 50 for men to death, along with a powerful captain.

    Ahaziah does not understand what has just happened, so he sends another captain and 50 more men. Again, they ask that if Elijah is a man of God, to “come down quickly.” Elijah responds the exact same way he did the first time, and fire from heaven comes down exactly like it did the first time, and another captain and 50 more men are killed.

    We have to go through this a 3rd time. King Ahaziah sends another captain and another 50 men. This captain probably had some anger towards his king for putting him in such a position, but he was wise and humble in approaching Elijah. He fell before Elijah in humility and begged him for his life, and the life of his 50 men. He begged Elijah that his life and the lives of his 50 men would be PRECIOUS in his sight. And God takes pity on these 51 men and commands Elijah to not be afraid and to go with them.

    Those men had a tough job. It was a death wish either way. Either they do not complete the mission and their king kills them, or they are killed by God. Their king had no regard for the lives of his men. All he was concerned with was finding out if he would live or die.

    Guess what the outcome is? It’s exactly the same as it was before. Elijah tells the king to his face that he will die. And then the king died shortly after.

    Yet another miracle for Elijah, and yet another opportunity for a king to turn to God, but again, he rejected the word of God and suffered the consequences. There is no telling if he would have been healed had he been walking with God, but I do know at least the 102 men he sacrificed would have been saved. As my dad often reminds me, our sin never affects just ourselves. It always also affects those around us. In this king’s case, 102 of his well trained men.

    Jehoram, son of Jehoshaphat became king because Ahaziah didn’t have any sons.

    Have you been the witness of any miracles?

    In your opinion, why do you think we don’t see miracles like Elijah did?

    What big prayers are you praying right now where you would love to see God intervene? Talk to Him about it!