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.

Where Now is the God of Elijah?

There is a quote that was famous in a couple of movies I’ve seen over the years. Turns out it’s from a book on “spirituality” by Marianne Williamson. The full quote is HERE.

I am not trying to promote books like that, but the quote has one line that needs to be embedded in my own thinking:

Your playing small does not serve the world.

“Small” playing doesn’t serve the Kingdom of God, either.

We are going through 2 Kings this morning at church and I’ve been captivated by 2 Kings 2. Elisha stands at the Jordan with the mantle of Elijah. Elijah is gone. It’s now up to Elisha to understand this is HIS moment. And he grabs it. 

He never lives under the shadow of Elijah. He never really reflects on, “Well, back in the day when I served under Elijah…”

If he “played small,” he would not have served the Kingdom of God… or Israel… so powerfully. Now, Israel wasn’t very grateful for Elisha’s boldness, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t serve them boldly.

Today must be different. Every day after today must be different. Playing “small” doesn’t serve anyone.

 

This is an EASY Thing for God

2 Kings 3:14-19

Elisha prophesied for Joram, not out of any love for the man, but out of respect for Jehoshaphat. The trouble was Moab and Joram wanted to know if they were going to be okay.

The thought that stands out for me is this: “This is an easy thing in the eyes of the Lord.” (v. 18, NIV)

It jumped out to me as I have been praying about some HUGE things God has given me in the last year. There are things I know with a lot of assurance are GOD, but when I look at what is at hand… it’s a bit nerve racking.

Yet, I have confidence in what God is saying. When I think about what is ahead, I keep coming into passages like this one.

These are places where the Lord readily reminds me, “This is an EASY thing for me, Dan. Just step out!”

New things are stirring. God is ready to birth new things in our church. And it is EASY for him!

The Divine Math

OA+DA=GV

One of my heroes in ministry spoke at our church yesterday and he gave us this formula from 2 Kings 4, the story of the widow and Elisha. She was in debt and the creditors were going to take her children as slaves. Elisha had her take the little oil she had and begin pouring it into every vessel should could borrow from her neighbors. The oil stopped when she ran out of vessels. She could then sell off the oil and pay off her debt and live on the rest of the proceeds.

It’s math that doesn’t make sense. Very little oil was already there, yet she kept pouring and the oil kept coming.

The phrase from the formula above goes like this:

Obedient Activity combined with Divine Authority will bring Great Victory.

We need to understand what we HAVE. Elisha asked the widow what she had, and she focused on what was NOT there. We have that response. We need the response that says, “This is what I have. It may not be much, but here it is.”

And see what God will do with it.

Half Baked Asking

Compare two stories about asking in 2 Kings.

In the first story we have Elisha. Elijah asks him what he wanted and Elisha immediately stated boldly, “A double portion.” He wanted the inheritance of the first born. He wanted the legacy of Elijah to rest with him. Bold. Decisive.

The second story is the end of Elisha’s life and Jehoash the king comes for a visit. One of the things Elisha has Jehoash do is take a bundle of arrows and strike it on the ground. Jehoash half-heartedly strikes the ground three times. Elisha is furious. God would work on Jehoash’s behalf, but not as fully as if Jehoash had been insistent in pounding those arrows on the ground.

We need bold prayers.

Don’t be Jehoash. Be Elisha.

Living in the Current Anointing of God

In reading through the story of Elisha I am struck by the ease with which Elisha moves in each situation. The miraculous pours from him. He has not looked back since he struck the Jordan River with Elijah’s cloak.

There is almost the mundane situation of having the stew taste funny and he knew what to do. Then there is the widow and the oil that supplied money for the debt she owed. It is as “every day” as an ax head that gets lost, or the very surreal event of the enemy’s general coming for a visit.

Elisha isn’t intimidated. He doesn’t show favoritism. He hears from God and moves as God wants him to move.

Elisha wasn’t intimidated by Naaman, an enemy of Israel. He doesn’t refuse Naaman because he is the “enemy.” He hears God and lives to OBEY.

My heart is challenged. This week has been a week of prayer as I’ve examined this life of Elisha all over again.

Can You Stand as a Prophetic Witness?

2 Kings 2

When Elijah and Elisha came to Bethel, a company of prophets came to greet them. Bethel was a place of rebellion. Jeroboam had set up one of the golden calves to lead Israel from the worship of God in Jerusalem.

Elijah and Elisha themselves were prophets in Israel, the northern tribes, in an era when Israel had no godly kings.

We need to pay attention to these stories and take them into our lives. Being spoiled for a few hundred years, having Christianity be so “free” in this nation, has made the Church soft. We don’t know what a prophetic witness really is. It’s beyond standing up and shouting a “thus saith the Lord!”

The company of prophets stood in stark contrast to the world around them. When Israel refused Yahweh, this company of prophets kept pressing toward Yahweh. They didn’t wait for their culture to get on board. They simply went after God.

Today we need this company of prophets, the prophetic witness of the Church, to rise up again. No excuses. No whining. No wishing for the “old days.” Just follow God and let that stand out against the turning of the tide.

 

Where is the God of Elijah?

Elisha asks this question as he comes back to the Jordan after witnessing Elijah being taken to heaven. He has the mantle of Elijah and he has asked for the firstborn’s inheritance: a double portion.

He cries out, “Where is the God of Elijah?” and strikes the water. The Jordan parts again.

As I read this passage and look through some old notes, I think of two great men of God I miss right now. David Wilkerson, who pastored Times Square Church in New York and spoke prophetically for many years. He also founded Teen Challenge out of witnessing to gang members in New York back in the 1950s. David had words that would enrage people. I would get mad from time to time at “dumb” things I thought he said. Yet, I always knew this man trembled in the presence of God and prophets just say things that tick you off from time to time.

The other man I miss is Calvin Olson. Other than a few people in Minnesota, probably no one knows this incredible man of prayer. He was a missionary in his career. When I met him he was retired and helping with prayer ministry in our District. The man walked with God. I do not say this jokingly: you could ask Calvin what God was up to in the world and Calvin could honestly tell you.

I miss these men and I miss their voices in my life, and in the life of the Church.

But there is a time to miss men like this and there is a time to pick up their “mantle,” so to speak, and get on with the next stage of the journey. It is one thing to talk about what has gone before. It is another thing to actually engage God at the level those men walked with God.

Elisha decided to walk with God as Elijah had shown him. It wasn’t about wishing Elijah was still here. It was knowing the God of Elijah was still around, and if so, pick up where Elijah left off.

Burn the Plows

There are those moments. Times when something stirs in your heart. Windows of time when you know there is a decision to be made.

But the question is too stark. It’s not a gradual question. It’s a hard question.

“Are you all in, or not?”

Something like that.

Those moments come. They come when God is ready, and he honestly knows we are ready. But we can so easily hesitate.

The stuff of life. Obligations. Desires. We are just plain soft. Comfortable.

Will we stretch? Will we respond?

Elisha was minding his own business, literally. He was in the family business, so he was plowing the field. His response to Elijah demonstrates he had been thinking about this, or something had already been stirring. But the moment came. Here was Elijah. The mantle was given. What would be the response?

Elisha goes and kisses his parents good bye. And he kills the oxen and burns the plows. He is lighting a torch to his part of the business. Literally. He will not go back. The call came. He responded so thoroughly he wasn’t going to go back. His sacrifice showed his gratefulness to God, and his commitment.

We feel a stirring. Then, the Spirit speaks.

Do we negotiate? Do we ignore it?

Or do we burn our plows?

Do We Quit Too Soon?

18 Then Elisha said, “Take the arrows!” so Joash took them. Elisha then said to Israel’s king, “Hit the ground with them!” Joash hit the ground three times and stopped. 19 The man of God became angry with him. He said, “If only you had struck five or six times, you would have finished the Arameans off. As it is, you will defeat them only three times.” (2 Kings 13:18-19, CEB)

Elisha was on his deathbed and one last king comes to consult Elisha because the king is in trouble. Elisha predicts victory over the enemy, then tells Joash to strike the arrows on the ground. Elisha was angry because Joash gave up. He was half-hearted. He wasn’t told how many times to strike the ground, so he gives it a weak effort and stops.

Prayer and asking things of God can be like a dial-up connection in a 4G world. Who has time to stop and actually ask what God may want? We think we can fire off a text to God, keep him up to date on our Twitter account, and that should be good. Why can’t God answer a request of 140 characters or less?

Hey, as long as we get into this argument about the Bible doesn’t “apply” to us today, let’s just throw out that whole, “Ask, seek, knock” stuff. (Of course, we’ve already done that in practice, but let’s make it official.) Who has time to keep on seeking? I have a life, you know!

The principles of the Kingdom are soooo out of date! Let’s see if we can get God to speed things up a bit.

But the Kingdom moves on… and it moves in power. And that power comes through prayer. Asking. Seeking. Knocking.

For how long?

As “old-time Pentecostals” used to say, “You pray until.”

Until what?”

That’s when they would give me a weird look.

Lord, help us to hear the voice of the Spirit.