Friday, August 28, 2015

From the Dead: Life by Association

In recent weeks I have been going to work out at 5:00 a.m. And for all intents and purposes, I go feeling...sort of...dead. My alarm goes off at 4:30 a.m. and I think: "I can't do this." But I trudge on, through the doors of OrangeTheory Fitness where I am greeted by a crazy person. The trainer. This guy is really UP for 5:00 a.m. He's giving you high-fives, and scrolling through his iPhone for his perfect playlist of jams. He yells randomly and roars in your face.

I remain deadpan.

But...I do feel the beginnings of life. I set my treadmill jog pace at 4.5. Effort = "I don't care." But then I look over to the girl next to me, and she's already at 6.0. I tick the speed up a little bit. More life. And after a few minutes, I am completely alive. I'm working out at 100% and the hour just flies by!

This is not a commercial for OTF. It's been 2 months since I joined, and I haven't really lost any weight (note: I've been eating the world), and I don't think I have tons of new muscles (but perhaps a few). But I'm in a routine now, whereas before I may have been in a rut. I came in contact with a lively trainer, and a lively/bustling group of people...and it revived me.

Life by association.

 ...Is that a thing? Maybe.

Elisha died, and they buried him. Now the bands of the Moabites would invade the land in the spring of the year. As they were burying a man, behold, they saw a marauding band; and they cast the man into the grave of Elisha. And when the man touched the bones of Elisha he revived and stood up on his feet. - 2 Kings 13:20-21

This is perhaps the most random section of scripture I've ever read. And what makes it random is that 2 Kings 13:1-19 and 2 Kings 13:22-25 are not even remotely related to his occurrence. This account is seriously out of nowhere! But, this is the third recorded account of a resurrection from the dead. 

There are a couple of ways I could go with this: 
  1. Create a "read-between-the-lines" metaphor-type blog that you might hear in a charismatic sermon somewhere. It goes something like this:    
    When your friends and your family gave up on you...when they left you for dead, God had the power to bring you back to life. Sometimes, people are beyond hope. But even in death. Even in the tomb, God can work a miracle. God can take the hopeless person who is dead, in a hopeless place like a graveyard, and give life. Can I get an "amen?" Or, 

  2. I could try to figure out what happened in this scripture.
But, honestly, even that is reading between the lines, because it's two verses. But I break the two verses down like this (in my mind):
  • Elisha died, and he was buried. 
  • Another man died, and in haste (because bandits were coming), they threw the man into Elisha's tomb.
  • When the man's dead body touched Elisha's dead body, the man came back to life. 
1 dead person + 1 dead person = 1 alive person?

We've see instances where 1 alive person has brought 1 dead person back to life. If someone drowns, they can breathe into your mouth, do chest compressions, and that person sometimes comes back. We've seen (in real life if you're a doctor, on TV if you're not) someone flat line, and someone charges up the paddles and shocks someone back into a heart rhythm. Who was gone.

But if both people are dead...? I'm thinking: it's chopped.

And so I've decided (and I may be wrong): there was something alive in Elisha's tomb.

And the man's dead body came in contact with something that, though it looked dead, was very much alive. And that man was revived. Life by association.

But what do I mean that Elisha, though dead, was alive? Well, I think scripture says eternal life is gained, while we are living:

Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. 
- John 5:24

When does forever start?! It starts at hearing and believing the Word of God. And that happens, while you're still alive. While you're walking around, while you're going to work, and while you're trudging in to 5:00 a.m. workouts. We are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8) in both the New Testament and the Old. Elisha was a man of intense faith in God, so I think it's fair to say he had already crossed from death to life before he was ever laid in a tomb. And when that dead thing came in contact with that living spread. By association.

Which is why, those of us who have already crossed over from death into life, should try to get as close to dead things as we possibly can. This is the charge of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19). It is getting close to dead things that Paul prescribes, in order to save some of them:

For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some.
1 Corinthians 9:19-22

So, be careful who you associate with. And I mean that in the opposite way of how we usually mean it, but be careful who you associate with, because you might be able to show light, and therefore give association.

Monday, August 24, 2015

From the Dead: Hold it In


Have you ever had a situation where you had to "hold it in?" Like something crazy sad just happened, but you have to hold back the tears. Or something is super scary, but you have to hold back your fear and move forward in fake (or mustered up) courage?

I'm terrible at doing that. At the first sign of disaster, I'm a wreck. The disaster doesn't even have to occur for me to breakdown. Just imagining it. Just thinking about it, can put my nerves on fray.

But there is a time to hold it in. There's a verse in Exodus 14:14 that says:

"The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still." 

Moses says this to the people when they're backed up against the Red Sea with Egyptian chariots barreling down on them. "This is a panic-worthy situation, but don't panic...this is a time to run, but don't run." Hold it in. Wait. Hold it in. Trust in the Lord.
This next story is so similar to the last, that they're are often confused with each other. But the players have changed. Instead of Elijah, we have Elisha. And instead of the Widow of Zarephath we have the Shunammite Woman. And we have a situation where someone "holds it in."


The Shunammite woman and her husband routinely let Elisha crash at their place when he's passing through. They built an entire room for him, they cook him meals, they extend immense hospitality to the man of God. As a result, Elisha wants to bless them somehow, but she can't think of anything that she wants. So Elisha and his servant look at her situation: she's barren, her husband is old, she doesn't have an heir. So Elisha says:

“At this season next year you will embrace a son.” And she said, “No, my lord, O man of God, do not lie to your maidservant.” The woman conceived and bore a son at that season the next year, as Elisha had said to her. 
- 2 Kings 4:16-17

This is not the crux of the story, but I have a few key takeaways from just this part:
  •  Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us - Ephesians 3:20
She didn't ask for anything! She couldn't think up anything that she wanted...that was possible. A child is clearly something she yearned for, but it was in the realm of impossibility so she didn't even bother asking. This is limited faith. But, your limited faith doesn't necessarily stop what God has planned for you. Throughout scripture, we see God working with people; helping them build faith. I'm not sure why we think the ball is always in our court.
    The Shunammite woman's inability to ask for what she wanted? Faithless. Her reaction to the promised fulfillment of her unspoken desire? Still faithless: "Don't lie to me."
      She's like: "stop playing." She is really skeptical. As such, I feel this chick; I identify with her doubt. Because I'm never quite looking for the impossible. I'm generally looking for the "doable." God can do so much more than the doable. We really have to start thinking in God-sized terms. But we're afraid of that because the let down can be too much.

      Despite all this, she had a son, and then this happened:

      When the child was grown, the day came that he went out to his father to the reapers. He said to his father, “My head, my head.” And he said to his servant, “Carry him to his mother.” When he had taken him and brought him to his mother, he sat on her lap until noon, and then died. 
      - 2 Kings 4:18-20

      Her son just died in her arms. Time for panic. Time for weeping and gnashing of teeth. It really is that time. But this is what happened next:

      "She went up and laid him on the bed of the man of God, and shut the door behind him and went out. Then she called to her husband and said, “Please send me one of the servants and one of the donkeys, that I may run to the man of God and return.” He said, “Why will you go to him today? It is neither new moon nor sabbath.” And she said, “It will be well..." 
      - 2 Kings 4:21-23

      Then, when Elisha see her coming, he sends his servant out to greet her:

      When the man of God saw her at a distance, he said to Gehazi his servant, “Behold, there is the Shunammite. Please run now to meet her and say to her, ‘Is it well with you? Is it well with your husband? Is it well with the child?’” And she answered, “It is well.”
       - 2 Kings 4:25-26

      But when she gets to Elisha, she falls down at Elisha's feet, begs him to come heal her son. He goes, he prays over him, brings him back from the dead (2 Kings 4:32-37). 

      Her son died. But nobody got to know it until she brought it to God (via Elisha). Everything was fine. Everything was cool. Until she could bring it to the Lord. It was there and only there that she unleashed her petition. 

      She held it in. All of her despair, all of her fear. It was suppressed beneath her faith that once Elisha heard her cry, that God would hear her cry, and her son would be restored. She didn't bother telling her husband...though some may think he had a right to know. She didn't bother telling Gehazi (Elisha's servant) even though he was in a position to relay her message. But she took it straight to where she knew her help could and would come from. 

      And the takeaway for me, personally, is sometimes I have to hold it in. I need to learn to hold in all of my doubts/fears/crazy and take it to the Lord in prayer. Why do I  first vent to my friends and family members? Why do I first bemoan my circumstance in the public sphere before God hears a word of it? Maybe I'm alone in this, but I think maybe I talk too much and pray too little. 

      God has already brought us this far. And everyone's distance is different, but wherever you are...God brought you there. God brought the Shunammite the son, and that was a miracle in and of itself. So she thought it no small thing that God could also bring him back from the dead. Even though that was in the realm of impossibility! It was more possible for her to give birth than it was for her son to die and come back to life. But the former thing she doubted, and the latter she believed wholeheartedly. 

      Why? Because God has already proven Himself to her, and from then on...all of her problems would be laid at his feet. 

      So why don't we do the same? Why aren't we holding it in until we can get to God in prayer? Maybe we've forgotten our former thing. And need to take some time to recall them. 

      **Watched Fear the Walking Dead last night. Gloria was not "patient zero." Just an unfortunate drug user who OD'd and then ate her friends. :(

      Wednesday, August 19, 2015

      From the Dead: Patient Zero

      Sunday is the premiere of Fear the Walking Dead which is a spin-off of my favorite TV show The Walking Dead. Admittedly, I have nightmares every Sunday night in the fall. But I've weighed the pros and cons and it is totally worth it! That show has so many dimensions. The scariest thing in the show isn't necessarily the's the depravity of mankind. It's the loss of humanity in an attempt to preserve one's human life. And so, who's really dead? The zombies or the survivors?

      But alas, this has nothing to do with my blog. Except...the new show (per internet buzz) will show us "Patient Zero." How this person became infected? Why this person? What started it all? What happens now? Well, we know what happens: zombie apocalypse. But everything else we won't be told.  Why? The creator of the show thinks that is unimportant (though, I beg to differ).

      Well, for a long time I've wanted to write a blog series about resurrection from the dead (which is decidedly less spooky in biblical terms). However, there's almost no need for a series. I could just write one blog on Mark 16. Jesus.
      Is this Patient Zero?

      But...Jesus technically wasn't the first to rise from the dead. There were of course elements of His resurrection that are specific only to Him with impacts to all of mankind...but what about "Patient Zero?"

      And so I start with an account found in 1 Kings 17. This is the first recorded account  of  a resurrection from the dead:

       Now it came about after these things that the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, became sick; and his sickness was so severe that there was no breath left in him. So she said to Elijah, “What do I have to do with you, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my iniquity to remembrance and to put my son to death!” He said to her, “Give me your son.” Then he took him from her bosom and carried him up to the upper room where he was living, and laid him on his own bed. He called to the Lord and said, “O Lord my God, have You also brought calamity to the widow with whom I am staying, by causing her son to die?” Then he stretched himself upon the child three times, and called to the Lord and said, “O Lord my God, I pray You, let this child’s life return to him.” The Lord heard the voice of Elijah, and the life of the child returned to him and he revived. Elijah took the child and brought him down from the upper room into the house and gave him to his mother; and Elijah said, “See, your son is alive.” Then the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth.”
       - 1 Kings 17:24

      There is a lot going on in these verses that makes no sense unless you read the whole chapter, so I'll have to refer to some earlier verses to clarify. But here's the breakdown:

      Son becomes sick and dies...Mom blames Elijah?

      The woman's reaction to her son's death is rather strange, is it not? She says that Elijah showed exposed her sin, and as a result killed her son. If you believe that sin results in death (which it does), this is not so strange of a reaction. She identifies Elijah as the "man of God" but she doesn't identify herself as a "woman" of God. She is a Gentile. A heathen. A sinner. Without God. How do I know? Well, inference. When Elijah first shows up (during a severe drought) to ask this woman for water and bread she says:

      “As the Lord your God lives, I have no bread, only a handful of flour in the bowl and a little oil in the jar; and behold, I am gathering a few sticks that I may go in and prepare for me and my son, that we may eat it and die.” 
      - 1 Kings 17:12

      She self-identified God as someone who had nothing to do with her. So here she is, a sinner, exposed in the presence of God's prophet. And her son dies. This must be recompense for her sins. A+B=C. 

      Elijah then...Blames God?
      So Elijah takes the boy up to his room to pray. And he puts everything on God. Everything. "Lord, you made him die." And then, "Lord, let his life return to him." I really love this phrase: "let the child's life return to him." It makes our lives sound alive even after they've left. Like it goes somewhere, and God directs its comings and its goings. And Elijah prays a prayer that acknowledges this fact. And the boy is revived! 

      Elijah takes him down and presents him alive to his mother.

      The Mom's Reaction

      Then the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth.

      She just became a believer. I find this to be amazing because she'd already witnessed a daily miracle in her home. When Elijah came, she was on her last handful of flour. Her last drop of oil. She and her son were going to die, and Elijah asked for bread promising her that her flour and oil wouldn't run out. And so, unbeknownst to her, when she gave her finite resources over into the hand of the Lord...she gained access to an infinite resource. 

      But..."NOW" she knows? 

      Yes, because this is more than flour and oil. Now she knows that God is life. That God is the source of life. And that He commands life. And that's a huge deal. We often say that nothing is sure except death and taxes.

      ...what if it's just taxes? 

      Personal Takeaways

      Great story, but what does this have to do with me? Quick conclusion:

      We're a lot like the Mom

      But...there's a bridge. The Grace Bridge.
      The mistress of the house has already acted in faith by giving Elijah the bread and water, and letting him crash at her place. She's already experienced the miracle of the never-ending oil and flour. Yet, she still expects her sins to be her downfall and ruin. She still expects her sins to separate her from God and result in ultimate punishment.

      We are the same. We have already put our faith in Christ. We have already experienced His mercy, grace, and the indwelling of His Holy Spirit. And yet, we can get so discouraged by sins. We often still expect separation and punishment...when we've already been accepted.

      We need to be more like Elijah

      I like the idea of blaming God for everything. Not in an accusatory "how dare you?" type of way. However, I think we need to always acknowledge God's sovereignty and the reality of "The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away." The scripture says not a single sparrow falls from the sky apart from the will of God (Matthew 10:29) He's a hands-on God and is directing the comings and goings of your life.

      Yet, Elijah knows that prayer changes thing. I give up on prayer on a regular basis. But I try it again on regular basis too! He prayed three times, which showed some persistence, and belief that God could and would do this thing.

      And finally, it builds faith to read these stories. Just like the woman had faith firsthand, we can have it secondhand. Experiencing the resurrection of Patient Zero.