Follow the Call — 24 February 2020

1 Samuel 2:27–3:18, 1 Samuel 16:1–13, Matthew 7:15–27 (read online ⧉)

Often we are oblivious to God’s blessings. We succumb to the world’s perspective that things “just happen” and we “earned” it all. While in some regards there is truth in the world’s words, there is a conflict between the underlying great Truth that undergirds many of the world, and Christians. Much of the world believes that there is no God or (at best) God “set and forgot” the world and walk away. Christians, on the other hand, believe that God is active and moving in the world, especially through the work of the Holy Spirit who works through each of us.

Eli was aware of God. Yet, he chose to disregard God’s blessings by allowing his sons and servants to ignore the Law about the sacrifices. What Eli was thinking is not written in the Scriptures. His response was either fatalistic or more along the lines of disbelief. One would think that disbelief was far from Eli’s thought process, especially with the morning’s revelations from Samuel. There is no sign or mention of repentance. Yes, Eli was upset with his sons, just not upset enough to place God before them.

The story of Saul follows a somewhat similar line as Saul’s behavior was a lack of faith in God. That lack of faith removed the kingdom of Israel from Saul’s (and his descendants’) hands before it was even firmly established. Saul’s efforts were vapor in the wind. Still, he strived and strived. Despite having had God-directed encounters, unbelief still ended up sending him down a path that wasn’t what he wanted.

Sometimes God calls us to great things. Sometimes God calls us to small things. From small to large, God calls us. Sometimes what we think are great things (that are beyond our abilities or gifts) are really only a collection of a lot of small (even tiny) little faithful steps of following God’s call on our lives. Sometimes it is only when we look back and see the little things stack up that we realize how large and great God’s call was on our lives.

No matter what stage of life we are in, we are always called to follow God into new things.

1) What do you think Eli’s s struggles were based on? Pride? Unfaithfulness? Tiredness?

2) Have you had a refreshing of God’s call on your life? If so, what it is? If not, will you pursue it?

Called to do or be? — 23 February 2020

2 Kings 2:11–15, Malachi 4:4–6, Mark 9:11–13, Luke 9:18–21, John 1:19–28 (read online ⧉)

Moses was the Great Propet of Israel, as he brought the Torah to Israel. Through the faithfulness and humanness of Moses, the Israelites became more than a collection of related families. They became a nation. You would think, therefore, with his place at the forefront of Israelite history, Moses would be the one the First Century Jews would be waiting for. He, Moses, led them out of captivity to the most powerful nation (at that time) on earth. Who else would lead the Jews (the remnants of Israel) out of their current captivity/oppression of the First Century’s most powerful nation on earth, Rome? Yet, it was Elijah who was expected.

To be clear, this is not a reincarnation story. Neither Moses nor Elijah were expected to be reincarnated. Our familiarity with other religions can actually lead us down false trails, as we all use the same language and words to convey different understandings. The language used is similar, but its intent is to convey something different. From the perspectives of the Scriptures, whether we’re talking about Malachi or all the words spoken about John the Baptist or Jesus Christ regarding Elijah, it is not literally Elijah, but the person whose time and place it is to be an Elijah. In other words, the person called has called at a particular time or place to bring the descendants of Israel back into relationship with God.

Malachi expected this “spirit of Elijah” to lead Israel back to God, restoring relationship and right worship to the people. By the time of John the Baptist and Jesus Christ, Elijah was more of—though not solely—a cleansing spiritual fire that would restore the people’s desire for God, not just relationship and worship. In that regard, John the Baptists did “carry” the “spirit of Elijah.” People came to him in repentance and to be spiritually restored and healed. Jesus Christ, himself, recognized that John the Baptists bore the “spirit of Elijah.” Only John denied it.

There could be a number of reasons why. There are two likely reasons. The first reason would be that he didn’t want to draw attention away from the Messiah. That is a reasonable thing, as everyone was looking forward to a Messiah, just as they were looking for an Elijah. There would be pressure and expectation (as if John the Baptist probably didn’t already have it) to be an Elijah. John the Baptist already knew he wasn’t the Messiah.

Probably the most likely reason is that John the Baptist didn’t seem himself as Elijah. Yes, John the Baptist probably did see prophetic ministry in himself. Whether it was quiet humility (does not see himself as an Elijah) or studied humility (did not want to take away from the Messiah), either one is defensible and either one is good. John also, however, did not stop being who God called him to be and doing what the Holy Spirit led him to do.

1) Does it really matter whether John the Baptist bore the “spirit of Elijah?” Why or why not?

2) Often people dismiss themselves, their abilities, or their calling by saying something like, “I’m not like…,” or “I don’t have….” How have you dismissed your calling lately?

3) People expected whoever had “the spirit of Elijah” to lead them. What is wrong with that expectation? What is valid with that expectation?

Learn Deeply — 22 February 2020

Mark 9:2–13, Mark 9:30–32 (read online ⧉)

School could bring happiness to some, and great misery to others. Often the refrain of children is, “what’s the point.” “This is useless.” “I’ll never use this.” Perhaps you’ve said it yourself. Learning can often be hard. Learning new concepts can be even harder. Learning things that shatter your self-perception or perception of the world are the hardest of all.

With Jesus’ fame as extensive as it was and growing, he and the disciples were probably not often alone, although we don’t really know. Only 3 of the disciples witnessed the Transfiguration. Did the 3 really not tell the others? Can you imagine witnessing such a sight and having to keep quiet? Apparently, they did. Was it possibly just one of those amazing things among other amazing things that they experienced.

Perhaps it was time to process all those events. Jesus seems to have set some focused time with the disciples. They experienced yet something else that didn’t fit. They had to understand at some point. What is interesting is that this particular time is framed in reference to the coming cross. The implication is that Jesus did some more extensive teaching of his disciples to understand what would happen. Based on future responses, it is likely that Jesus was setting the foundation/groundwork for them to be able to understand in the future, even while they didn’t understand at that point.

Was it frustrating to Jesus? Many would say, “of course not! He’s Jesus!” On the other hand, Jesus is man, so it makes sense that he would be quite frustrated with their thick-headedness. Teachers deal with this on a constant basis. Parents deal with this on a constant basis. Trying to pass on knowledge requires giving them the framework to build on future knowledge. In an often desperate attempt for the “them” to get it, though, there is this push to get information into them. Yet, that often results in frustration and setbacks.

Jesus provides us a small example. Give space to process. However, in today’s world, everything is pushing information to us. We often don’t have time—and don’t make time—to process information. This means that the information we are given becomes a confused mess, and often our responses are the same. This leads to hard feelings and wall-building, which is not the intent at all.

1) What is God calling on you to sit and process? What is one big thing/goal/learning that God has brought into your life that you need God’s help to work through?

2) Who do you have in your life do you have to help you process things, especially “God” sorts of things?

3) How do you process things? Do you have another word for “process”?