Friday, August 26, 2011

The Tucked Cloak

Imagine being Jehu.

King of Israel. Successor to Ahaziah’s nefarious reign. Charged and anointed by a prophet sent by Elisha. And prior to your commission, this messenger is given the most random: “Tuck your cloak into your belt” (v. 1).

Wait, what? Is Elisha tipsy here? Did somebody bump his head after doing the chicken dance too many times?

Probably not. What is certain is the Bible does not directly clarify the significance of this action; however, you can bank on this representing something important.

Quick rabbit trail: I would argue that God crafted the Word so that its readers would have to dig in to find certain answers pertaining to inherent questions. Another message for another day though…

Back to the cloak…

A concordance check reveals that this isn’t the first time this instruction is mentioned. We find it earlier in 2 Kings 4 and Exodus 12, when God bestows Passover guidelines to Moses.

In both situations, haste is specifically addressed. Why? Perhaps to remind us that often times, God’s master plans require timely compliance. The chosen vessel, whether a mere servant (Gehazi) or the greatest prophet of all time (Moses), was secondary to the Lord’s objective and its execution. Pressing in further, we find a God who desperately wanted to reveal a sovereign sign. And in accordance with his burn to demonstrate power and perfect directive, he needed recipients purely devoted to his agenda.

The trend continues in 2 Kings 9, where Elisha’s alacrity is evident by electric excitement. Why was he in such a hurry? Well, if we look at 2 Kings from a distance, we see the house of Ahab wreaking vice all over the place. No doubt, the next select king of Israel needed to act strategically aligned to God’s timeline in order to sufficiently wipe away the line’s immorality. And Jehu, son of Jehoshaphat, had the advantage of inheriting the blueprints to overcoming idolatrous corruption (read about Jehoshaphat’s reign in 1 Kings 22). Elisha must have been ecstatic to launch the beginning of the end for the Ahab dynasty.

By the end of 2 Kings 10, Jehu had fulfilled the mandate of destroying the house of Ahab, featuring a bloody blitz on Joram, Ahaziah and Jezebel. However, before Jehu could serve as king and complete his assigned tasks, he had to be anointed by a prophet spurred by a specific order. What exactly can we take away by this?

First off, to “tuck a cloak into a belt” meant, in part, to encourage the receiver, having earned the confidence to carry out the delegated mission. If we examine alternate translations, we discover a Hebrew inference. To tuck a cloak into a belt or bind up loins suggested, “Get ready for travel.” When I hear this, three words come to mind: Brace for adventure!

In adjunct to rightful rapidity, the charge merits deference. Think about it. When a major event is on tap, we ready ourselves. We dress up, freshen up. We spray the Axe. We check our teeth. To adequately prepare is to revere the reason for doing so. The process not only keeps us in check, but unites each element of our entirety in believing something big is about to happen. So the prospect of pursuit had to be countered with honor.

So is it okay to give Jehu a victory clap for his slaughter-laden conquest? Absolutely. But let’s not forget the first two characters in the story, who rightly played their part in the transition between two God-fearing leaders.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Perspective

When I think of subjective words that drive me crazy, perspective comes to mind. By itself, I savor the word; universally, however, the word has grown cliché, culturally costumed to fit the individual more so than any other entity. And though I don't seek to undermine personal relevancy, we must not let the 'self' take away from its ideal meaning: true understanding proportionate to importance. What's important may vary from person to person, but perspective always bridges the gap between perception and reality. If perspective acted as a device, it would stretch, connect, filter and process our daily perspicacity to produce a quality output, aligning to absolute truth.

Now that I have gotten the mumbo-jumbo out of the way, I can clarify the past five sentences with a testimony.

In recent weeks, my big-picture perspective has benefited from various experiences, some inspiring, and others discouraging. On the plus side, I’ve endured some major rejuvenation by means of stepping out of my comfort zone and persevering through intimidating circumstances. Conversely, I've had to face a few prickly pears, testings on minor scales and setbacks brushed by disappointments.

One particular low came the night prior to departing for The Gate Alabama tornado outreach, when I came face-to-face with a challenge. On the heels of failing my first attempt on the P/1 exam, God specifically told me to go down to Alabama and, "live and serve as if I had passed." Thus, the biggest test lied before me. I could have caved in and adamantly turned away. But I made the decision before stepping out the door that I was going to pass the test. I had to believe God had my best in mind (one of the more underrated definitions of hope), and that the best would happen.

Driving down to Huntsville, I felt mired in a “0-2” hole, but God, in his grace and sustainability, helped me connect to his perfect mission. So when the time came to break down oaks in sweltering heat, my spirit soared like a ball destined for the outfield bleachers. And as I re-entered Tennessee territory, my perspective had finished rounding the bases. All I had to do was stick to the Father’s game-plan.

Our thoughts, words, aspirations and goals must constantly riddle through God’s flawless strainer. If we separate our natural inklings, then we inevitably discover how pathetic our brain waves can be. We classify people by numbers – amount and quality of talent, income and knowledge gross. Even more ominously, we make critical judgments based on imaginations and assumptions. We desire to be seen as real, but make daily decisions rooted in what is anything but that. We begin to forget where we’re going and why it’s important to go there. In no time, a cloudy haze caps our ability to adequately define “worthwhile", before we're struck by a tornado of another nature.

Are we out for God’s glory or our own? Maybe fame isn’t on the ambition list, but what about respect? Say we focus on what we feel allows our true identity to shine, but if it bounces for being alien to God, does it really count? Does the feeling of getting ahead financially, love by a soulmate, abiding by self-installed order and false peace satisfy our depths at day’s end?

Standing at ground zero surrounded by EF-5 tornado damage - amidst a landscape of hope and grief - this light bulb went off. Why do I become so sucked into my own vortex of narrow-mindedness? I mean I can become easily swept into striving mode. But for what? To accomplish a worthy goal to find esteem in the eyes of others? Do I really think that's going to produce a lasting peace? Besides, this has nothing to do with a heaven-bound outlook! Here, I am playing my small part in the grand pursuit of fulfilling the Great Commission. With each smile, each helpful hand extended, I am representing Christ. I am an ambassador for him! I was made for moments like this. Not to collect my $50,000 a year and receive the smiles given by a world no longer ignorant to the fact I've found my "place". I just want to do the will of the Father. Why do we make things more complicated than they need to? Doesn't it make sense for even our flesh to want the simpler way? There are Alabamians who have been stripped of all possessions. Some families were wiped off the face of the earth in the span of minutes on April 27th. Others survived for a divine purpose, and still don't know it. Yet, their hope is being restored day by day. Can I say the same thing about me? Is any part of me swirling into chaos, despite a sturdy roof over my head? I know what I can't take. And I'm aware of the truth I must absorb in my spiritual mainstream:

So if you're serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don't shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that's where the action is. See things from his perspective.” ~ Colossians 3:1-2 (MSG)