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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Why did Jesus say, "Love your enemy"?

A month ago I moved from LA to Redding.

To lighten the moving truck, I gave away a number of stuff including desks. So I needed to buy a desk. To buy one I checked here and there in Redding stores and the ones I liked were not affordable. They were way too expensive.

Then at one of the thrifty stores I found an old desk. Price tag - $65! After a 10% senior discount it came out a little below $60. Plus I liked the desk for the tag says, "Mission Style Desk!"

On coming home, I called out to Rebekah, "Look, come out here and see what I've got. Finally I found a nice desk. It is a real antique. I know you will like it!"

Rebekah came out from the kitchen, took a look at the desk and said, "Oh, my goodness. It is a piece of junk! How much did you pay?"

"What?" She screamed. "Even if someone gave it for free, I would not get it. You know I throw away junks." 

Immediately the word of God came to me: "Love your enemy!"

Then why did Jesus say "Love your enemy"? The answer is found in the very nature of God, that is, "God is good and good all the time." When God provides you with a spouse who is even your enemy, God does so still meaning all that are good for you. 

In what respect is this so? I think it is found in the meaning of the word "help-meet" in KJV (or "suitable helper" in NIV), for according to the Torah Study for Reform Jews, ezer kenegdo in Hebrew means a "helper against him." 

Rashi, a Jewish commentator,  takes the term literally to make a wonderful point: "If he [Adam] is worthy, [she will be] a help [ezer]. If he is not worthy [she will be] against him [kenegdo] for strife."

I came to thank the Lord for providing me with a wife who is different than I, that I would be complete with her not being the same but the opposite!


To throw away, not to throw away, that is the question.

My answer then is, "Do not throw away; keep it."

Once upon a time Martin Luther said, "If I were God, I would destroy the people of the world ten times a day, for they are so wicked." 

In considering myself [and fellow human beings], I realize it is purely because of God's love that I am who I am, for despite myself operating as His enemy, still he sent His Son even to die for me! Why then does he choose to love me, even an enemy? He did it because I am so valuable for him even as I am!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Pilgrim's Progress (Elijah's Version)

Before departure from this mundane world to heaven The Lord took (or rather sent) Elijah to 4 cities:

First, Gilgal
Second, Bethel
Third, Jericho
Forth, Jordan.

Why did the Lord choose these and those in that order?

The answer is found in the names of the cities.

Gilgal: rolled away, rolling away of reproach (which you have picked up on your life while sojourning in this side of the world) Joshua 5:9 

Bethel: house of God where life is no longer a rat race but ascending to and descending from heaven (Genesis 28)

Jericho: a city of palm trees, symbolic of the righteous thriving in it (Deuteronomy 34:3; Psalm 92:12)

Jordan: crossing out of the [promised] land [to go back to the Lord, gaining heavenly dimension] (2Ki 2:8-11) (Mark 1:10; John 1:51)

The order denotes the spiritual stations : have your reproach (dishonor, disgrace, shame, discredit, stigma, stain) rolled away, begin a life's journey away from the father's house to Paddan Aram/mundane world only to come back, joining the city of the righteous, then crossing the river in glory.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Intimacy 101 (I come to the garden alone)

"Stay here, the Lord has sent me to Bethel." 2Ki 2:4,4,6

2 Kings begin with Elijah leaving the field and Elisha taking over the ministry. 

As the day of his departure drew near, Elijah said to his associate Elisha, "Stay here, the Lord has sent me to [this place or that place], and he did it three times. (2:2,4,6)

Why did he do this? The answer is obvious: he needed QT with the Lord. This in turn tells us the nature of the Christian walk in the Lord, the intimate aspect of it, which demands freedom from intrusion or disturbance. 

Once Henry David Thoreau said, "The finest qualities of our nature, like the bloom ---on fruits, can be preserved only by delicate handling. Yet we do not treat ourselves nor one another thus tenderly." He stresses the relationship with one another ought to be treated with tender care. 

In a cartoon Robin-hood took his lover into a quite forest garden, then to a water fall, and  then to a cave behind the water fall. There he had a sweet moment. The two whispered, and then there was a kiss. 

Song of Solomon expressed the spiritual intimacy of the Lord with his bride, and his bride with him saying, "Let my lover come into his garden and taste its choice fruits." 4:16 Or "I have come into my garden, my sister, my bride; I have gathered my myrrh with my spice. I have eaten my honeycomb and my honey; I have drunk my wine and my milk." 5:1 (Choice fruits include joy of salvation, deep sense of relief and release, peace rolling like a river, etc.) 

Speaking of the same truth on the intimate nature of the Christian walk in the Lord, towards the end of his life here on earth, our Lord Jesus said to his disciples, "Stay here and keep watch." Then he went 'a little farther', fell to the ground and prayed. Mark 14:34,35
Why did he say, "Stay here"? Why did he go 'a little farther'? Why did he fall 'to the ground'? A little more 'intimacy' with the Father,  in time of uttermost disturbance! 

In another place Jesus said, "When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." Matthew 6:6

Thus, the lyrics of the song, "I come to the garden alone" goes: 

I come to the garden alone 
While the dew is still on the roses 
And the voice I hear falling on my ear 
The Son of God discloses. 

And He walks with me, and He talks with me, 
And He tells me I am His own; 
And the joy we share as we tarry there, 
None other has ever known. 

He speaks, and the sound of His voice, 
Is so sweet the birds hush their singing, 
And the melody that He gave to me 
Within my heart is ringing. 

And He walks with me, and He talks with me, 
And He tells me I am His own; 
And the joy we share as we tarry there, 
None other has ever known. 

I'd stay in the garden with Him 
Though the night around me be falling, 
But He bids me go; through the voice of woe 
His voice to me is calling. 

And He walks with me, and He talks with me, 
And He tells me I am His own; 
And the joy we share as we tarry there, 
None other has ever known.

2 Kings Bible Study

Take My Staff in Your Hand and Run

2 Kings 4:8-36; 5:1-27
Key Verse 4:29

“Elisha said to Gehazi, "Tuck your cloak into your belt, take my staff in your hand and run. If you meet anyone, do not greet him, and if anyone greets you, do not answer. Lay my staff on the boy's face."”

The book of 2 Kings begins in turmoil: a believer consults a demon. It ends with disaster: the destruction of the Lord's temple. The Lord had already predicted the downfall of Israel prior to the beginning of the kingdom age. For in the first place it was not the Lord's idea that the Israelites should be ruled by human kings. The Israelite's request for a human king was rebellion against God. Through their request they effectively replaced the Lord, who is the perfect king, with humans, who are bags of imperfection. The Lord God called the Israelites out of Egypt into the worship of God. In so doing, the Lord God intended each of them to be a worshiper of God. As each person learns to worship the Lord, they would all live under the wings of the Lord's protection and provision in great peace and joy. But they rejected the Lord. However, the Lord did not abandon them. In compassion he raised up his prophets.

The question for us then is, "What was so special about the prophets that the Lord found them worthy of being chosen as his instruments?" Answering this question would serve the purpose for us tonight, that is, to offer ourselves as the Lord's instruments for righteousness. In the account of Gehazi found in 2 Kings, we can find some clues to the answer to this question. While there are many other clues that are found in the 2 Kings, tonight we would like to focus on the relationship between Elisha and his servant Gehazi to answer the question. Let’s look at their relationship in two parts.

I. What Gehazi could have become.

A close study of the books of Exodus and Deuteronomy (Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5, in particular) reveals that God's will for all who come to worship him is for each person to rise to the level of a prophet and live as a servant representing God's word. Elisha is a good example. Although many consider Elisha one of the greatest prophets, we must remember that he was not a born prophet. He was not born into the family of a prophet or prophets. Like many he was a lay person. Yet, as the Lord's call fell upon him through Elijah, he accepted the call, burned the bridge behind, and put himself in service of his master Elijah. Eventually, he became a great prophet.

The same could have been true of Gehazi. Unlike many he had a special privilege to be in service of Elisha. We do not know how he came to join Elisha's ministry. But one thing is clear: he was the only person whom Elisha allowed (or called) to serve him nearby. The reason for this blessedness is because the closer you are to a man of great stature, such as Elisha, the greater the opportunity is for you to learn and grow up. We can easily understand this truth when we think about what made Elisha to be a man of such great prophetic caliber. It was first thanks to his close relationship with his master Elijah (2Ki 3:11). Had it not been for the opportunity to serve Elijah as his personal gopher, Elisha would not have been able to become what he became.

The miracle of raising the son of the Shunammite woman from the dead back to life proves the point further. As we see in the key verse, as soon as Elisha found out why the Shunammite woman came to him, the first thing he did was call Gehazi. What did he say to him? 2 Kings 4:29 reads, “Elisha said to Gehazi, ‘Tuck your cloak into your belt, take my staff in your hand and run. If you meet anyone, do not greet him, and if anyone greets you, do not answer. Lay my staff on the boy's face.’ ” Why did Elisha call Gehazi first? Of course, it was because he trusted Gehazi as his top disciple. Had Gehazi not been so close to him, would Elisha have sent him for such an important mission as this? There is evidence that Elisha had other prophets under his supervision. Yet it was Gehazi that Elisha sent to fulfill such an important task. Certainly, Gehazi had a great privilege to learn from a great master.

Had Gehazi learned what he should have learned, he could have become a great prophet, performing twice as many miracles as the miracles his master performed.

But as we shall soon see, he did not learn "anything" from his master. He did not exploit the opportunity he had. His example then reminds us of the possibility that we too might commit Gehazi's error. Like Gehazi, we too might ignore the greatness of the opportunity we have in the Lord, and thereby sleep on the golden opportunity to learn from the Lord. It is quite probable that just as Gehazi screwed up big time, and that to his great shame, so also it is very possible that we goof up on the great opportunity to learn of the Lord Jesus Christ and fail rise to Jesus' greatness. Unlike any other great man or woman, Jesus is the author of all who are great. He is the author of all miracles. He is the maker of all prophets. In fact, it is Jesus Christ who established all of the prophets throughout all generations. It is Jesus who empowered them to do what they were equipped to do. Plus, in order to facilitate us to grow to his level and enable us to do things that are even greater than what he did, Jesus promised to send, and indeed did send, the Holy Spirit who is at work within us (John 14:12; Eph 3:20).

What then was the one thing which Gehazi should have learned? I say, 'the one thing,' because learning from our master is not as complicated as it seems. Why? First of all, one is more important than two, for as has been said, "Two is one divided." When we learn one thing we can start learning two, then three, then four and so on. By the same token, when one does not learn even one thing, he has not learned anything, and so cannot go for more. Speaking of the same truth, Jesus said to a rich ruler, "One thing you lack. Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. The come and follow me."

So what is the one thing Gehazi could have learned? We can find an answer to this question in 4:29, "Elisha said to Gehazi, ‘Tuck your cloak into your belt, take my staff in your hand and run. If you meet anyone, do not greet him, and if anyone greets you, do not answer. Lay my staff on the boy's face.’" We do not know what kind of training program Elisha maintained for Gehazi. Most likely, to the very date when the Shunammite woman came because of her son's death, Gehazi did not have any chance to learn the prophetic power firsthand. Perhaps all Gehazi was asked to do (or was trained to do) until that time was doing chores, such as chopping wood, carrying waters for his master, laundry, etc.
But this time it was different. He had the opportunity to learn of a prophet, for when he was asked to take his master's staff and run, he had his first hands-on project. It was the first on-the-job training.

How did the training go? In learning from a master it is critical for a student to follow the instructions of his teacher both in spirit as well as in letter. So let us think about the instructions.

First, tuck your cloak into your belt.

This instruction reminds us of Jesus' instruction on the right attitude (or preparedness) of a servant: "Be dressed ready and keep your lamp burning."  

At first glance this instruction concerning a cloak or a belt does not seem critical. Depending on how you read it might strike its reader as insignificant as a driver being asked to fasten a seat belt before hitting the gas pedal. Yet we know that God is the God of economy: he does not do what is not necessary. Had this sort of instruction not been necessary, Elisha would not have said what he said. So we admit that no matter how trifle it may seem, we should not ignore any instructions, rather we must follow them in spirit as well as in letter.

We can easily understand this concept when we think about the mishaps that occur in our day to day life, such as a car accident. Why do car accidents occur? Our daily experiences indicate that when a car accident occurs there is always a reason for such an accident: a driver or drivers involved in the accident not following instructions, however small, such as the instruction to stay focused on driving, the need to look into mirrors, or the requirement to remain alert on what is going on with respect to other cars nearby.

For a student who registered for a prophetic school, the instruction to tuck one's cloak into his belt goes a long way for it keeps the student usable and effective throughout his tenure as a servant, because the point of this instruction is to ask the servant to keep his spirit, mind, and body in a watertight, good, working condition. It is to keep the student protected from all counter-influences that work against the operation of the prophetic power God intends to release in and through the servant. It is to keep the servant compatible with God who is working. This is the call to keep a servant in a "serving" (or "running") mode, the call to keep himself in top working condition to best serve the will of his master.
Second, take my staff in your hand and run.
While the instruction in regards to the cloak and belt goes to one's attitude as a servant, this instruction goes to the means by which to get the work done. Here "my" staff refers to the staff that belongs to his master Elisha. It is something which Elisha relied upon. Symbolically, it refers to the source of power with which Elisha always got the work done. We can better understand this concept when we think about what the staff is made of. What is it made of? We know the answer: it is a mere wood stick, a dry, dead piece of wood. Yet it refers to the nature of the instrument God calls us to use. What are the characteristics of a staff? First of all, since it is a wood piece which is dead, it denotes that in order for God's servant to be worthy of God's use, he must remain as dead as a staff. In practice it means that one must die to himself so that he would not rely on himself but on God's power fully. Then God can release his power fully without being disrupted by the servant's ideas, will, desires, or emotions.

In 2 Corinthians 12:9, the Risen Jesus explained this concept to the Apostle Paul saying, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Thus the Apostle Paul declares, "Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me."

So here is what we ought to remember: both you and I are nothing, compared with the greatness of God's power. If God can work a miracle such as sending sheep, bringing about God's healing for the sheep, or getting prayer topics answered even in an impossible looking situation, such a miracle or miracles have nothing to do with us: it has everything to do with God who alone deserves the full credit.

“Take my staff in your hand and run.” This instruction then reminded Gehazi that he was nothing. If any great work was going to be done, like the boy coming back to life, it would be only because of the credit of the God of Elisha. [Note: Elisha means "God is my deliverance".]

[The call to "run" has to do with the "due diligence" with which a prophetic student is called to bring God's help to where it is needed. It is like a fire-truck speeding to a patient's house, weaving its way through traffic.]

Third, do not greet him; do not answer those who greet.
This instruction has to do with getting out of the way humanistic influences or forces that are from external sources. Among all the counter forces, human beings are the most devastating. As I mentioned earlier, while the staff symbolizes God being the only source of power, the call to greet no one or the requirement to answer no one who might bust in even with good intentions, such as greeting, goes to cutting off at the source all the counter influences that work against the operation of God's power. This is very important for even a slightest hint of interference, such as a man with an unclean (or adulterated) spirit that is transmitted into the life of a prophetic student from an unbelieving person, can be catastrophic.

In practice, the call to not greet anyone or not to answer anyone greeting, has a million different aspects of application (like where to go or not to do, what to see or not to see, whom to meet or not to meet, etc.). One aspect of it can be practicing asceticism, not in a legalistic way adopted by a carnally minded man, but in the way adopted by spiritual men, such as John the Baptist, the Apostle Paul, and our Lord Jesus Christ. John the Baptist lived in a desert area. His clothes were made of camel's hair. He wore a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. It might be difficult for us to copy his lifestyle as it is. But the point remains the same: by adopting a simple lifestyle fully devoted to God, he kept himself away from the worldly, secular, humanistic influences. In the same way, while we live and work in a metropolitan city, we must be cautious of materialistic and humanistic influences, so that our relationship with the Lord would remain intact. For we are told repeatedly in the Bible that we must live a life that is holy, as it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy" (Lev 11:45), and "Without holiness no one will see the Lord" (Heb 12:14).

Part II. What Gehazi became.

Did Gehazi learn anything from this field-work training? The evidences are that he did not learn anything. The first evidence is that although he went to the house of the boy and put the staff on the face of the boy, the boy did not come back to life. Why? Was it because something was wrong with Elisha's instructions? No. Examine all the rest of the miracles Elisha performed. Miracles took place without any wrinkles, perhaps except in the case of prophesying against the Moabites in 2 Kings 3:1-27.  Then what might have gone wrong? The answer is obvious. It was due to Gehazi. We can withdraw this conclusion from the way the Bible describes him, particularly his lack of sensitivity to the pain suffered by God's flock as well as to the will of his master Elisha. God's servants must be sensitive to the ailments others suffer from. Consider the way he treated the Shunammite woman. When she came to seek help from Elisha he rudely pushed her aside, and he did it against the will of his master (2 Kings 4:27). This indicates that he was not a good student, much less a servant. Another clue is the episode in which he asked General Naaman for gifts. After sneaking out of the premises he asked and took a truckload of gifts from the general. Yet he told a lie to his master, saying he did not go anywhere. “But Elisha said to him, ‘Was not my spirit with you when the man got down from his chariot to meet you? Is this the time to take money, or to accept clothes, olive groves, vineyards, flocks, herds, or menservants and maidservants? Naaman's leprosy will cling to you and to your descendants forever.’ Then Gehazi went from Elisha's presence and he was leprous, as white as snow" (2 Kings 5:26-27).

In conclusion, let us read 2 Kings 4:29, "Elisha said to Gehazi, ‘Tuck your cloak into your belt, take my staff in your hand and run. If you meet anyone, do not greet him, and if anyone greets you, do not answer. Lay my staff on the boy's face.’ ” Like Gehazi we are blessed to be called to live as missionaries serving the Lord. What then can we learn from the Lord? What does the Lord want us to become? What is at least the one thing we must learn in serving the Lord? In many ways our generation resembles that of Elisha. And how can we offer ourselves to the Lord as the Lord's instrument?

One word: take my staff and run

Class Exercise:

1. Skim through 1 and 2 Kings. How many kings served in the kingdom of Judah? (          ) How many kings served in the Northern Kingdom (called Israel)? (          )

2. How long did the kings of Judah rule altogether? [In other words, how long did the Southern Kingdom last?] (       ) years. How long did the kings of the North rule altogether? (      ) years

3. Upon Elijah's departure, Elisha cried out saying, "My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!" (2Ki 2:12; Read also 2Ki 13:14). What does his cry indicate about: 1) the relationship between Elijah and Elisha; and 2) the importance of a man of God, such as Elijah?

4. Elijah means (in Hebrew) "The Lord is my God." Elisha means, "The Lord is my deliverance." What do these meanings indicate about: 1) the Lord God; and 2) the way to serve the Lord in our generation?