We Do Not Well, If We Don’t Tell (2 Kings 7:1-20)

Tucked into this rarely read section in the Old Testament of our Bibles is a compelling story that can motivate and mobilize New Testament believers for mission. God’s people in Samaria, Northern Israel, are besieged by their Syrian enemy and struck by a lethal famine. Prices are exorbitant; desperate people resort to cannibalism! To add to the commotion, God sends Elisha to prophesy that in 24 hours, grain will be plentiful in town. A captain mocks this possibility, but is warned of a coming judgment. Frustrated and furious, Israel’s King Jehoram blames God, vowing to behead Elisha.

© Olga Kolos | Dreamstime Stock Photos

© Olga Kolos | Dreamstime Stock Photos

At this juncture, four lepers decide to go into enemy territory and risk their lives for the chance to find mercy and some food. God uses the bold mission of these lepers to fulfill Elisha’s prophecy. He turns their footsteps into the terrifying sounds of a mighty army of chariots. The horrified Syrians leave everything in their camps and flee for their lives! The lepers help themselves to the supplies, hoarding their findings. Suddenly they realize: “We do not well, if we do not tell” (v. 9). They recognize that it is a day of good tidings and their time is short, so they go report this to Israel.

Israel discovers the lepers’ testimony to be true. They plunder the rich spoil; God’s Word is fulfilled, and grain is sold cheap at the gate. People rush to get a share and in the chaos the contemptuous captain is trod to death. God’s power and providence shows up best in weak people with audacious faith. And He does so on behalf of those who demonstrate they are unworthy yet graciously enabled to “go and tell” others. We do well to follow their example of faith for mission. The Gospel has an impelling “Go” in it!

We can maintain at least four different attitudes toward the divine mandate to “Go and Tell”:

1. Godless King of Samaria: “Go and Kill” (6; 7:12)

King Jehoram, when faced with a national crisis, threatens to renounce YHWH and attempts to kill God’s prophet. When things don’t happen our way, we often react by doubting God’s presence and promises. We tend to lose our faith in God and seek to destroy the faith in others! (1 Th. 2:15) This is common in the leaders of socialistic or humanistic nations in which missionaries serve.

2. The Skeptic Captain: “Go away, no way!” (7:2, 17-20)

The royal attending officer scoffs at the possibility of Elisha’s prophecy. He does not heed the warning, therefore doomed to face the dreadful consequence of faithlessness. Leaders who once trusted God but become cynical do well to realize that God is not mocked (Gal. 6:7). God always has the last word! Leaders must fearlessly use their influence to guide people into trusting God.

3. The Probing Officer: “Go and Check Out” (7:12-15)

After receiving the good news, this particular servant of the king is still suspicious. Relying on his experience, he suggests they send two chariot horses to ensure this isn’t a deceptive strategy. The Gospel is not based or built on human reason, but it’s reasonable (Isa. 55:1). Faith is not a leap in the dark, but daily walking in the light of God’s Word. For our secular world, “seeing is believing,” yet as believers we know, “obeying is seeing” and rewarding!

4. Israel, God’s People: “Go and Spoil” (7:16)

It is sad to see how carelessly God’s people feast upon God’s abundance. We tend to gratify our own immediate wants, then selfishly store up for the future. The goodness of God must lead to repentance (Rom. 2:4). We must be living of sacrifices in order to be generous kingdom people! The lepers teach us that we are all like them spiritually—dirty, distant, and undeserving of grace.

Let’s Do Well and Go Tell

Often during a crisis we feel like we ought to “Go and Die!” And when blessed, we tend to, “Go and Hide,” but God’s grace mandates us to “Go and Tell!” God’s grace is lavished on believers. Why? Our obligation now is to “Go Tell” others and the urgency is to tell them while we still can!

Family Matters: Secrets for Great Communication

Ephesians 4:15 – But speaking the truth love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ.

Paul wrote this letter to the believers in Ephesus from a Roman prison around 61-63 AD. His purpose was to show Christians who they really were “in Christ.” Christ’s body, the Church though made up of Jews and Gentiles was ONE and not divided. It was comprised of people who were different in many ways and with different perspectives on life. Yet submitting to the same Christ as “head” or Lord would bring them into a unity in which they were to grow and be a witness.

We live in a broken and divided world. Yet the problem lies within a particular unit of society – the human family! It is no secret what Christ did for his Bride, the Church. He loved her and laid down his life for her. Now God wants Christian husbands and wives, with their children, to reflect on and live out this love at home. The key to valuing and building up any relationship is communication.

The word communication comes from the Latin com-munis, which means “to share, make common, or have a common faith.” So for believers, this is more than exchanging ideas or words. It’s about sharing a common life—Christ’s life in us—in a way that blesses others and causes us to become more like Jesus together.

Here are six secrets from Paul’s advice to the Ephesians (4:12-32) to help us improve our communication that we can apply in our family conversations:

Secret #1: Silence can say something profound!

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is not true! Inappropriate or rude words hurt people and can irreparably damage them for life! Paul exhorts us to speak truth in love and shows us how lying and anger can ruin relationships (25-27). So while there is a time to speak, there is also a time to keep silent! Within our families, the general principle, “If you have nothing good to say about someone say, nothing at all”, can be helpful.

Secret #2: Say something meaningful, don’t shut down!

When we’re hurt, instead of lashing out, we often tend to hide—we cave in or bottle up our feelings and don’t communicate. This allows Satan to let bitterness and misunderstanding to develop within both parties (30-32). Before the sun goes down, talk things over. Be honest, kind, tender-hearted, and forgive. Say “sorry” to one another. Being careful, yet truthful, promotes harmony in homes.

Secret #3: Show Christ’s mind, don’t give out pieces of your own!

Our talk stems from the thoughts we cultivate, so we must think before we speak. Paul stresses the importance of having a Christ-like mind (17, 23). We must not be ignorant of or imitate those who are unsaved. Rather each family member who has “learned Christ” must seek to understand the others (18, 20). Only then will our attitudes and communication at home be winsome.

Secret #4: Speak only what is true, don’t lie to one another

Telling “the whole truth and nothing but the truth” starts at home! A lie is any statement that contradicts the facts, misleads, or intends to deceive. It breaks trust and relationships. If we always speak the truth we don’t have to remember what we said yesterday! Did you know that hell was prepared for habitual liars? (Rev. 22:15). A loving family that speaks truth is a safe haven.

Secret #5: Share only what’s worthy of the Gospel, don’t gossip

“Corrupt” communication must never characterize Christians (29). This word refers to what becomes “rotten, filthy, or worthless” and spoils healthy relationships. We must not take those closest to us for granted by talking down, badly of them, or behind their backs. Let us encourage or “minister grace” to each other in order to survive tough times and thrive as a godly family.

Secret #6: Say it in a way that builds up and blesses others

The Christian family must be a vital part of a local church to receive from and build other families. As a faith community we can reach out to our society. As the “salt of the earth,” people will sense our influence by our seasoned speech. This is how we not only grow up or mature “in Christ,” but compassionately share the truth about our soon-coming Bridegroom!

This 1 thing I Do! – ‘Press On’

carllewis.jpgEverybody likes ‘new beginnings’, fresh starts! Having said that, I also believe in continuity and faith-fulness to the task at hand or, in the way I sign off my letters – ‘Pressing On’. There is much value in ‘positive, forward thinking’. I understand the Greek god Janus, from whom we get the name for the month January, has two faces. One looks backward with a frown, and the other ahead with a confident smile. Paul, the early Church’s missionary and gospel preacher was once Saul of Tarsus, its menace and persecutor. But, an encounter with the resurrected Jesus, transformed his life. He made a startling statement in Phil. 3:13-14 that can help us have a fresh start and as Christians ‘press on’ in our faith, work and witness, no matter what

Paul declared: This ‘one thing’ I do, forgetting the things behind and reaching forward to the things before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Paul was Christianity’s greatest theologian, a well-traveled missionary, evangelist, church planter, pastor, minister in fact, over half the literature and library we call the ‘New Testament’ was penned by this apostle. What didn’t he do? Yet, amazingly he was a specialist in singleness of purpose: acutely focused with dogged determination to do ‘one thing’– press on! This he did quite simply by forgetting what is behind him and focusing on what was before (v.13). What does this mean and how can it motivate me?

1. Elimination: Forget what lies behind
At times I wish my mind had ‘total recall’ yet often I’ve coveted the gracious ‘gift of forgetfulness’ for some of life’s painful situations. Surely Paul is not referring to a state of mind that forgets history, one’s responsibility or ‘all God’s benefits / blessing’ (Psa.103:2). Rather, this a selective forgetfulness that chooses not to dwell on those aspects from the past that interfere and ruin living well in the present. Anxiety can clog what we ought to do ‘here and now’. Worries are yesterday’s mice eating today’s cheese!

First, past sins must be put away. Our failures and short-comings from the past can haunt us and soon hinder us from effective service then hold us back from receiving what God has for us, here-and-now! Why do we dig up and fish for that which God does not hold against us but buried in the depths of the sea? (Isa.38:17; Psa.51:7; 103:12; Mic.7:19) If the Devil does, we must remind him of God’s abundant mercy and grace. Apart from ‘besetting sins’ there are ‘weights’ to cast off that slow us down in this race-of-life (Heb.12:1).

Second, surprisingly, past successes must put aside. Paul uses the analogy of a Greek marathon runner. How true, our past victories can make us conceited or so content that we become complacent– mediocre and lethargic. But notice it is not just the bad things Paul was laying aside but also the good for the Best, what he once counted ‘gain’, i.e. his worldly accomplishments and self-righteousness. Now, that’s hard!  It is precisely here that we must ask ‘why’ did Paul delibrately embraced such a view.

2. Exertion: Focus on what lies ahead
Winston Churchill once warned, ‘If the present quarrels with the past there can be no future’! I believe it was Bonhoeffer, who came out of the Nazi camp who said: He who has a ‘why’ for living can face the ‘how’ of life’s struggles! Paul’s life’s ambition (3:10) placed him among ‘the Unstoppables’ and in his image of an athlete we see two clear motivational factors: the mark i.e. his Goal and what he reckoned as prize or reward i.e. his Gain.

First, consider the challenge Paul’s goal posited. It made him to concentrate and ‘press on’, to reach out, stretch and strain every muscle to get his body into motion. There was a cause as well as a cost. Winning the prize meant paying the price – that discipline and audacity to keep on keeping on. There is only one place where success comes before work– in the English Dictionary, everywhere else its ‘no pain; no gain’. It is incredible to see what a deep sense of what my destiny is, can actually do to me and for me.

Next, consider the crown Paul’s reward promised. ‘Where’ Paul was heading determined ‘what’ he chose to leave behind as well as his perspective on those things he was leaving behind. ‘Things’ he once deemed as gain he now calculated as ‘loss’, even ‘dung’ in exchange for ‘knowing’, ‘being found in’ and ‘becoming like’ a person – his Lord, Jesus. His destiny is not a place but to ‘be with Christ’ – a Treasure and ‘Pearl of great price’ worth trading for everything else in life. In Paul’s sanctified aspiration, we find no ‘I can’ activism or ‘may be’ passivism, but a sure and steadfast hope. Not a fading earthly crown (stephenos) but Christ himself was his Vision, Mission and Ambition!

Hudson Taylor, missionary to China, pronounced: “I am willing to go anywhere, as long as it is forward, onward and Christward’. Let us with undivided hearts not look back and worry, but count the cost and press on toward this high and upward call in Christ Jesus. The winner of the Greek Olympics was given much honor. An effigy of his face was craved in marble and he was given a front seat in every game. He was exempted from paying taxes to Rome but most of all, he would receive a crown that laurel wreath from Caesar himself. My goal is to be with Christ and one day hear Him say to me: ‘Well Done! My good and faithful servant’. Till then, may we also demonstrate that ‘to live is Christ, and to die is gain’. Remember: the Christian’s past is under the blood – forget it, the present is under the cross – live it, the future is under the crown – go for it!

Pressing On! – Chris Gnanakan

Starting / Finishing Well!!

In our age of consumerism and novelty, people buy new things and start new tasks but don’t preserve to “finish well!” On this New Year’s Eve 2014, Paul’ words ring in my mind, “I’ve fought the good fight of faith, I’ve finished my course and I’ve kept the faith! (2 Tim. 4:7) Life is a battlefield, not a playground. Yet we don’t fight for victory but from victory. Christians are “more than conquerors” through our Lord Jesus, the faithful One who started a good work in us, will also finish it. The questions is, “How can we be found faithful to Him?”

For God to direct us and fulfill His purposes, we must unreservedly trust and intentionally acknowledge Him in everything. (Prov. 3:5-6; 16:3) We must seek Him and delight to do His will. How does this look particularly for missionaries? Three things will clearly evidence this: our Priorities, Strategies and Goals.
Our priorities reveal what is first and foremost on our hearts and minds. For OTANers this is determined by what God requires (Great Commission) and our overarching purpose (organization’s mission). OTAN exists to make disciple makers of nationals among the unreached within restricted access nations.

Based on deep faith, commitment and sacrifice, our motto “doing what others don’t, won’t and can’t” clarifies our mission. Our strategy states how (method) we intend to deploy our resources to vitalize our God-given vision. The proof we are “bearing fruit that remains” or our “nationals are reaching nationals” is the formation of sustainable faith communities – we are creating indigenous church planting movements! This is natural, spontaneous, exponential and efficient!

If we aim at nothing we always hit it! Goal-setting is God’s desire and our duty (1Cor. 9:26; Phil. 3:14-15) OTANers definitely need definite goals to clarify our mission and focus our energies on our calling! Goals give impetus and evaluate progress of the individual and organization. Goals must be S.M.A.R.T (Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound). For example, you could say, in 2015, I will conduct 2 trainings for 40 nationals and mentor 2 leaders (1 in US; 1 in-country). During our Skype we will share with our team these goals we have set for ourselves and the country we represent. Our success significantly increases when we receive encouragement from are accountable to our team!

None of us are as good as all of us put together! – Dr. Chris Gnanakan

The Perfect Present

christmasgift.jpgI struggle getting gifts for family and loved ones especially at Christmas time. The difficulty lies in selecting the best possible gift. My predicament is threefold: First, they may already have what I’m planning to get them.  Second, they may not care to value or use it. Third, given they really need it, I worry if I have the means to pay for that gift! Have you faced a similar dilemma? The issue is whether a gift can been ‘afforded’ and then ‘received’ with appreciation.

God knew our problem of sin and need for forgiveness and fellowship and so God promised to give us an appropriate gift. He announced it through the prophets who clearly recorded it in the Scriptures: ‘For to us a child is born, to us a Son is gifted ’ (Isa.9:6). God is both able and faithful. He loved us enough that he gave  his one and unique Son to be our Savior. God expects us to believe in who Jesus is and receive his offer of salvation (Jn.3:16; 1:12). The Bible has much to say about gift-giving and Christmas… Continue reading

Simeon’s InSight, ForeSight, Vision 4Mission

Day by day he was getting older, weaker and his eyesight… dimmer! Simeon was ‘a man’; a poor, aging commoner with his share of daily difficulties in getting up each morning. Yet his devotion to God’s and his word was swelling and determination steadfast! The Spirit had assured Simeon that he will not see death until he sees Life: Israel’s Messiah, the world’s Hope for salvation! Each day he watched scores of babies brought into the temple to be dedicated and wondered, “Could this be the Messiah?” then he’d cope with another disappointing day! One Fine Day Continue reading

Simeon’s Christmas: Hope Amidst [Physical] Fears

Growing older, I’m learning that practical faith and Christian living doesn’t mean I won’t have serious doubts. God gives faith as a gift to yielded believers who like Simeon, yearn to see his glory! I’ve watched some youth act “old and grumpy” yet many a Simeon/Anna “growing old gracefully”. Humans age and develop anxiety over the condition of their bodies, yet they’ve learnt the art of being not just happy, but full of hope amidst fears! Let me comment on some fears old folk have, then on the Hope Simeon had that 1st Christmas Continue reading

Christmastime: Waiting for/on Our On-Time God

It’s Christmastime, at last! I find waiting really difficult. We belong to a restless rat-race where waiting is synonymous to wasting time! Solitude is scary and stillness adds stress. Waiting when related to unemployment, ill-health or broken relationships can cause anxiety. Do you feel like you have been put “on hold”? I find it striking how most of the characters of Christmas were waiting people: Anna and Simeon, Elizabeth and Zachariah, Mary and Joseph, the shepherds… all representative of a faithful remnant full of expectant hope within a despairing nation. Along with these we are called to wait for and on the Lord Continue reading

Christ’s Mass and Christian Mission

nativity-print.jpgThrough an angel God announced to lowly shepherds the most significant event in cosmic history. The saying was plain yet profound: “Unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior who is Christ the Lord” (Lk.2:11). Did you know that “Christ-mas” was the name given to the day a special religious service or “mass” was conducted to celebrate the birth of “Christ”? We must remember that Mary “brought forth” what God in eternity past had planned, “chosen” and “sent forth” (missio Dei ; Gal.4:4). Let us not get all bogged down with the exact date  for Christmas that we forget that wondrous fact  that Christ came and… we must go. The doctrine of the incarnation is an intrinsic part of the gospel (good news) with an impelling “go” in it! God’s disclosure of his salvation in Jesus is linked to Christian mission. How? Continue reading

Unshakable: Standing Strong When Things Go Wrong

O Death, where is your victory or grave where is your sting? 1Cor. 15:55

Death is inevitable – a separation or loss that calls naturally for grieving. At Corinth “spiritualists” falsely taught that the believer’s bodily resurrection had already taken place. Paul corrects this heresy to show death is not a dead-end but a doorway. We will be resurrected because Christ is risen. Death’s sting is sin, since Christ came to save us from sin, now death is defeated. That first Christmas, with the mothers of Bethlehem, Mary had to deal with dying. Believers grieve but not without help and hope since we have an eternal home! Continue reading