Nine Days ( by Carley Evans )

Holy Spirit

(Photo credit: micmol )

For the past nine days, I’ve seen a marked drop-off in visits to Grace Partakers, and a bit – well, that may be stretching the truth — of an increase here at obsecrations. When things are going along merrily and then suddenly not, I take pause. Have I done something to displease others? Wait. That doesn’t really matter compared to the key question: Have I done something to offend the Holy Spirit? I can’t even imagine going through a full day without offending God’s Holy Spirit here and there, so the critical question: Have I done something to offend the Holy Spirit without confessing it? Yes. I imagine so.

Sometimes, it’s quite obvious what I’ve done to offend. Other times, I’m not so sure. Things that I believe offend Him most include: spiritual pride, arrogance, hatred, self-hatred, envy, jealousy, rage, depression, loneliness. I can almost hear you protest — depression? Loneliness?

I’m going to let that percolate in your own minds for a while before coming back to those ‘sins’ later; perhaps much later.

Oh — please forgive me.

Not for Sale ( by Carley Evans )

Elisha Refusing Gifts from Naaman

After being healed of his leprosy — healed by his obedience to the command of Elisha to dip himself seven times in the river Jordan — Naaman and all his servants find the man of God. Naaman declares to Elisha:

“Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel. Please accept now a gift.” (2 Kings 5:15, NIV)

Elisha refuses a gift. Naaman presses him, but Elisha is adamant as God’s healing is not for sale. Naaman then asks Elisha for a gift — for as much earth as a pair of mules can carry. Presumably this earth will be ‘holy ground’ upon which Naaman will be able to worship only the God of Israel. He also requests pardon for the assistance he must provide to his king during worship. The king leans on Naaman’s arm when bowing in worship to the god of thunder and rain. Naaman, as the king’s servant, must bow in tandem with the king. But, Naaman pledges never to “make burnt offerings to any other god but the Lord.” (2 Kings 5:17)

Not rigidly legalistic, Elisha tells Naaman to “go in peace.” (2 Kings 5:19)

Later Gehazi, who is one of Elisha’s servants, believes Elisha has been “too easy on Naaman.” He determines to “get something from him” (2 Kings 5:20) and runs after Naaman’s chariot. Naaman is concerned. “Is everything all right?” (2 Kings 5:21) Gehazi lies, telling Naaman that God’s healing is for sale, after all. He asks Naaman for two talents of silver and four sets of clothing, enough for two men. Of course, Naaman happily gives up what is requested.

Gehazi essentially hides these items in his own house, then goes to Elisha who confronts him. “Where have you been, Gehazi?” (2 Kings 5:25) Gehazi lies again, declaring he’s not gone anywhere.

Elisha says, “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.” (2 Kings 5:26)

Gehazi becomes “leprous, white as snow.” (2 Kings 5:27)

Father God, thank You that Your Son paid the price for our healing. You accept no gift from us; instead You give us the very earth we need to worship You in spirit and in truth. In Jesus’ Name, we praise You. Amen.

“Do Some Great Thing” ( by Carley Evans )

English: Naaman in Jordan River (2King 5:14) Р...

Naaman, a commander in the army of the king of Aram, is admired. He is a man of valor, but he is also leprous. A captive girl of Israel — serving Naaman’s wife — is bold enough to say to her mistress, “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” (2 Kings 5:3, NIV) Obviously Naaman’s wife tells her husband of the girl’s suggestion for Naaman asks the king of Aram if he may go to the king of Israel regarding this cure. The king says, “By all means, go.” (2 Kings 5:5) He even writes a letter of introduction to the king of Israel for his servant, Naaman. And, Naaman does not arrive in Israel empty-handed. He comes with silver, gold, and “ten sets of clothing.” (2 Kings 5:5)

But, the king of Israel is distressed by the request for a cure. He tears his clothes, and says: “Am I God? Can I kill and bring back to life? Why does this fellow send someone to me to be cured of his leprosy? See how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me!” (2 Kings 5:7) (Talk about misunderstanding an email!)

Elisha, the prophet, sends a message to the king. He asks, “Why have you torn your robes?” (2 Kings 5:8) Then, he suggests the king send Naaman to him for the cure he seeks so that “he will know there is a prophet in Israel.” (2 Kings 5:8)

Naaman comes to Elisha’s front door, but a messenger greets him rather than the prophet. The messenger says, “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.” (2 Kings 5:10) Naaman is enraged. He’s angry that a representative of the prophet Elisha gives him only a message, not the cure itself. He reasons the rivers of Damascus are better than the river Jordan in Israel. “Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?” (2 Kings 5:12)

Naaman’s servants calm him. They so wisely say, “If the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!” (2 Kings 5:13) Naaman goes to the Jordan and dips himself in the waters seven times, as commanded by Elisha. His flesh is restored and he becomes clean “like that of a young boy.” (2 Kings 5:14)

Thank You Father God for Your awesome cure for sin and death. May we respond to Your call to healing, and dip ourselves in the waters of your sacrificial love. May we remember that Elisha did not command Naaman to do some great thing; rather he told him to wash and be cleansed in the Jordan. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

God’s Example of Love ( by Carley Evans )

The Prophet Hosea, by Duccio di Buoninsegna, i...

God asks Hosea to love his wife again, even though she is an adulteress and has betrayed his trust. God says, “Love her as I love the children of Israel even though they betray Me with other gods and with addiction to alcohol.”

“Then said the LORD unto me, Go yet, love a woman beloved of her friend, yet an adulteress, according to the love of the LORD toward the children of Israel, who look to other gods, and love flagons of wine.” (Hosea 3:1, KJV)

God says to Hosea, “You think you’ve been hurt! I created Israel to be My own, and this people turn against Me! Yes, you are hurt as I Am hurt. Like Me, take your adulteress wife back into your defiled marriage bed and make her your own again, despite her betrayal. Do this according to the example of love I set for you. Love the unlovable.”

The Key to Knowledge ( by Carley Evans )

English: Pharisees in the Temple in the synagogue

I’ve pondered this verse many times: Jesus says to the Pharisees, “Woe to you experts in the law, because you take away the key to knowledge. You yourselves do not enter, and you hinder those who are entering.” (Luke 11: 52, NIV)

Jesus speaks to the Pharisees about “loading people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and not lifting one finger to help them.” (Luke 11:46) And He speaks to them of “building tombs for the prophets” even though their forefathers murdered those very same prophets.

I think Jesus tells the Pharisees that they have no knowledge of God at all. These “experts in the law” miss the whole show, so to speak. Worse yet, they parade around as if they know God and know the way to Him. And in their burdening of the people with rules and regulations, they hinder these same people from “the key to knowledge.”

In Jesus’ day, the “key to knowledge” is the Torah. Who takes it away from the people who are trying to enter into it? The very ones who ought to know it and teach it appropriately — the experts!

Jesus warns us not to hinder the children from coming to Him. Children are those who do not have any knowledge of Him except what they see and hear from those of us who claim to know and worship Him. Let us beware that we “experts in faith” do not hinder those who are “entering” the Word for the very first time!

The Pit ( by Carley Evans )

Our Lord Jesus Christ

In the television program WEST WING, Josh — one of the main ensemble characters — falls into a pit of malfunction and can’t find his way out. He doesn’t even realize he’s fallen in, for one thing. This unawareness or denial is because he’s experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder, having been shot and having survived an assassination attempt.

Another of the WEST WING main characters is a recovered alcoholic. He knows what it’s like to fall into the pit and not be able to get out. He’s been helped out of his pit.

He tells Josh,  presently stuck in the pit, a story:

A man falls into a pit. He can’t get out. A priest walks by. The man yells up, “Hey Father, can you help me out?” The priest stops, writes a prayer and throws it down into the pit with the man, goes on his way. A doctor walks by. The man yells up, “Hey Doc, can you help me out?” The doctor writes a prescription and throws it down into the pit, walks on. Finally, a friend walks by. The man yells up, “Hey Joe, I’ve fallen into this hole. I can’t get out. Can you help me?” His friend jumps into the pit. The man says, “Joe, why’d you do that? Now we’re both stuck in this hole.” “Yeah,” says Joe. “But I’ve been down here before, and I know the way out.”

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. (2 Corinthians 1:3-5, ESV)

A Deep Hole ( by Carley Evans )

Giorgio Vasari: An angel strengthens Jesus pra...

In Robert Redford’s film ORDINARY PEOPLE, the main character describes what it is like to be depressed to the point of suicidal. He speaks of falling into a deep, dark hole. Unable to climb out, eventually he becomes the hole. His eyes widen. The girl he speaks to of this darkness suddenly giggles, as she is incapable of understanding this darkness and she is embarrassed.

Jesus understands this darkness — this hole that He becomes on the cross. In the garden of Gethsemane, who witnesses Jesus’ prayer for deliverance from this coming blackness? Jesus prays for this deliverance because, of course, Jesus is not suicidal. But, who hears His prayer? Every one who enters the garden with Him sleeps while He prays alone. A major part of the deep hole is loneliness.

Perhaps Jesus tells His disciples after His resurrection of the mighty struggle He undergoes before He submits to the Father’s will. I can imagine Thomas giggling in embarrassment and disbelief. “Lord, how could You feel so low? How can You be lonely? You are the God of the universe!”

Jesus shows Thomas the wounds on His hands — “Yes, I Am who I say I Am.” But, not only that, Jesus’ wounds show Thomas that God suffers. God falls into a deep hole, becomes the hole, and emerges triumphant.

Val’s Day ( by Carley Evans )

Scan of a Valentine greeting card dated 1909.

Valentine’s Day approaches. In Japan, per my daughter who lived there for a total of four years, Valentine’s Day is for the woman to give gifts to her man. Later in the year — as I recall, it’s a day in March — the man returns the favor on White Day, a day for the man to give gifts to his woman.

Romance twice in the same year? What an idea!

Odd to me how men and women court one another so well during the initial months of a relationship — little notes, cards, flowers, candlelight dinners, wine, chocolates — then fail to maintain this air of romance through the subsequent years.

Do yourself a favor! Give your spouse or your intended something special on Valentine’s Day. Take his or her hands, look deep in the eyes, and say softly “I love you.” Your tone of voice, the softness of your touch, and your eyes will tell the truth.


Grace Partakers

“Love keeps no score of wrongs,” writes Paul to the church at Corinth. Love “does not gloat over other men’s sins, but delights in the truth. There is nothing love cannot face; there is no limit to its faith, its hope, and its endurance.”

How do we love without limit? The father of the prodigal son is a great example of loving without limit. His son demands his inheritance early, then when his father lovingly complies with this request, the son squanders the entire amount of his father’s hard-earned money. Later, during a famine which comes across the entire land, he finds himself wallowing in the mud along with pigs; alone and desperately hungry. No one is willing to help him. He thinks, I’ll go back to my father, the man I’ve disrespected and essentially cheated. Perhaps he’ll let me be as “one of [his] paid servants.” (Luke 15:20) When…

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