Turning bitter to sweet

In 2 Kings 2 there is the story of Elisha and the bitter water. There was a place where he lived and the water was poisonous. It was not safe. (Who knew Elisha visited Flint, Michigan?)

Elisha had the inquirers put salt into a jar and toss the salt into the water. The water became “sweet”, or life giving, again.

We may face situations that are poisonous. We face a tough work situation, family situation, church situation and the waters are poisonous. Nothing good is happening. The question becomes, “Can the bitter become sweet?”

It is easy to join the bitter. It is prophetic to turn the bitter into sweet.

This is not about ignoring the poison. It is about changing the poison. It takes a prophetic, Spirit-filled leader to bring that kind of change.

Be that kind of leader. 

KEYS:

  1. We must be deep in Christ. When we are deep in him, sweet “water” can flow from us. If we are not plunging the depths of Christ ourselves, the bitterness can infect us. We have two ways to grow: grow into bitterness, or grow into a sweet depth of Christ. It is easier to grow in bitterness if the sweet depth of Christ is not there first.
  2. Through the Spirit, we are enabled to see what is POSSIBLE. Elisha could see what was possible even though the presence situation was bad.
  3. Prophetic action may seem “salty” at times. I’m just using the picture from the story, but there are answers to turn a situation around that aren’t always “tasty.” Sometimes the prophetic action seems “salty,” or abrasive, or rude, or doesn’t correlate to the end result. But, the prophetic leader follows the lead of the Spirit, acts, and the result is life.

When we came to our current ministry 18 years ago, the waters weren’t “sweet.” Over the process we’ve seen the Lord turn possible bitterness into sweet waters of life. We’ve had to be “salty” at times as leaders. But as we’ve dug roots of ministry here, leadership has become so deep in Christ, there abides a life-giving element of leadership that pushes out all attempts of poison.

Life is possible. Change is possible. We don’t have to abide in bitterness. We don’t have to ignore the poisonous situation. We can bring the change needed.

The Lobster Story

This weekend we had our annual Leadership Training at the church. It was an incredibly significant time because we are in the midst of huge transitions.

Our church property is for sale, we’re looking at a new property, adding a business… and so much more.

It is a call for transformational thinking. 

I centered my teaching around a great book called, The New Parish: How Neighborhood Churches are Transforming Mission, Discipleship and Community. 

One particular illustration out of the book could not have been better placed or better timed for our situation. It was the story of how lobsters grow. I will paraphrase the thoughts.

Lobsters never stop growing. Every few months a lobster sheds its exoskeleton and this process is extremely tiring and leaves the lobster incredibly vulnerable. In the process of shedding the outer shell it is open to attack. There is no protection. But if the lobster is to grow, it has to let go of the very nice outer protective shell. That wonderful protection becomes its death trap if it would somehow “refuse” to grow.

The inner being outgrows the shell and has to push out the shell joint by joint. The eyes then have to pop out of their holes, rendering the lobster blind for the duration of the process. There is then the slow process of wrenching the body out of the shell. The claws. The back. The tail. Exposed and tired, it’s unable to stand for more than half an hour at a time. It’s exposed and helpless.

The pink we see on a lobster, if we eat lobster, is the beginning of a new shell. The outer structure is birthed out of what was there before. There is continuity in transformation.

Lobsters also become more fertile with age. As the lobster grows, the shedding process takes longer, but the lobster can also continue to produce more offspring. This is also their mating time. The female must shed her shell to become fertile. If she is not vulnerable, the eggs cannot be fertilized.

The authors used the illustration to talk about the vulnerability of a church when change is so desperately needed, but vulnerability is needed in the process. How can we shed our “old shell?” What courage do we need to risk “blindness” and move toward maturity?

I could not have come into a more powerful illustration of where we are currently as a church. And as leaders, we recognized it in that moment.

Lord, help us GROW!