Episode 103: 2 Kings 1-2 Elijah is Taken, Elisha Continues

In this episode, God shows His power to Ahaziah and takes Elijah up to heaven, while Elisha continues the ministry. In Christ, we get to be a faithful part of His Body with members from all across the world! 

With your kids: Who are the 5 people you talk to most often each week? Ask God to show you how you can talk with them about how great He is. 

P.S. Don’t forget, if you’re a patron, you can check out the latest bonus episodes on my patreon page, https://www.patreon.com/aliciayoder. So far, Finn has told the stories of Samuel being born, David’s friendship with Jonathan, the end of Saul’s life, and Jesus’ death and resurrection.

How To Find Your Place in God’s Kingdom

How to Find Your Place in God's KingdomWhen we spent a summer in Iraq a few years ago, I noticed that the beautiful houses were surrounded by concrete walls. Our English student’s wife told me that she didn’t like her sons to play out on the street because of the kids who said bad words.

But they weren’t isolated, because in the neighboring houses behind the wall, relatives came in and out of each other’s homes, cooking together, watching each other’s children, and showing the latest finds from a shopping visit.

When our church gets together to worship and fellowship, it’s a precious experience to praise our Maker as one voice. It’s a taste of community life in American culture.

Most of the week, though, we live our lives by our own schedules, intersecting through the occasional get-together or a quick comment on social media.

In my prayer times during the week, I pray for family and friends, those sharing the message of the gospel overseas, and for God’s contentment in my own circumstances.

Sometimes, I start to feel insignificant, wondering if I really am doing what God wants me to do in His kingdom. I look at what others are doing and compare it to my own  diaper changes and nursery rhymes.

How To Find Your Place in God's KingdomI forget that I am only a turquoise thread.

And that my friend in Asia is a red one.

And that my husband is a green one.

And that the pastor in China being persecuted for his faith is a purple one.

And that God is weaving us all together in the beautiful tapestry of His rescue plan for the world.

Abraham was a thread.

Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel were threads.

John the Baptist was a thread.

If my son chooses to follow Jesus, he will be a thread.

And maybe his children.

And maybe theirs.

The tapestry was started at the beginning of the world and won’t be finished until Jesus comes back to tie it off and hang it up on a wall in the New Earth.

Old Threads

In the Old Testament, the Israelites were called God’s chosen people, the nation He made a covenant with and blessed so that all the nations of the world would be blessed through them.

In the prophetic books of the Bible, the prophets called Israel as a nation to turn back to God. The individuals He used were always part of His plan in fulfilling His covenant to Israel, which found its ultimate fulfillment in Jesus’ death and resurrection.

He was the perfect Prophet, Priest and King.

How To Find Your Place in God's KingdomThere were times when I tried to live the Christian life as if I were building a resume.

I tried to do good works for God and thought that if there were enough impressive deeds on there, I would be worthy to be used (which forced me to compare my works with others’ works).

But when I remember that God doesn’t need me but has still created me in His image and chosen me as His child, desiring for His power to flow through me (and using my unique personality as part of it), I am free.

No longer do I have to try to be loving, joyful and forgiving in my own power. I can invite Jesus to be loving, joyful, and forgiving through me.

God is also free to use me in the best way I fit among all the other people He is using to bring His salvation to the world.

Praying As Part of the Tapestry

When Jesus was on earth, He gave some guidelines for prayer. I’ve said the Lord’s Prayer in corporate settings, but it wasn’t until I meditated on the verses in my personal devotions that I realized I might not want to take out the plural wording in all my individual prayers.

Because sometimes, I need to worship Him as our Father.

I need to remember the church around the world when I ask for His kingdom to come and His will to be done.

I need to ask Him to give us daily bread, providing for not only my needs but the needs of the woman who lost her husband and the church that got burned to the ground by those who hate Christians.

I need to ask Him to forgive me for my sins and all the ways that we as the church around the world have failed, and to pray for God’s forgiveness to flow through us to others.

I need to pray that God would help us in the temptations that threaten to pull the church down, and that we would be delivered from the spiritual attacks of the evil one.

It’s a way to help remove the focus from me and put it back on God.

Then when I see God use someone to lead another in a commitment to faith, I can rejoice in how God is using us to bring more into His kingdom, instead of feeling guilty I haven’t shared enough.

I can thank God for the ministries He is using to bless those in bondage to poverty, corruption, and slavery, even if I can’t give financially to each one.

When I’ve hurt someone and feel like I shouldn’t be free to accept God’s grace and forgiveness again, I can remember all the times He gave it in the Bible and in the lives of those around me.

When I feel I can’t overcome a temptation any more, I can remember that all Christians must battle the powers of darkness and struggle with sin until it is annihilated in the end.

I used to think praying for people was like casting a fishing line in different directions.

Cast. Pray for this person. Reel in. Cast again.

How To Find Your Place in God's KingdomBut it’s really more like a net.

As we pray, encourage, and support one another, God chooses to work through the criss-crossing lines of everyone’s prayers to fulfill the beautiful work of bringing people closer to Jesus.

When we look at the tapestry of God’s plan, it won’t all look the same.

Some tapestry threads might get more recognition on earth than others.

Some threads might be barely noticed.

But God desires each one to be surrendered to how He wants to weave us into his masterpiece.

I don’t have to worry that I’m not being awesome enough. I can instead delight in the fact that I’m His precious thread, a thread He was willing to give His life for.

Will you join us in asking how God wants to use your thread?

What is one area outside your influence where you rejoice to see members of the Body of Christ at work?

Why You Don’t Have To Be an Extrovert To Be Brave

Why You Don't Have To Be an Extrovert To Be BraveI was in 8th grade, and our family had just moved to a new state. In the past, my gym experience had consisted of making sure the teachers knew I was trying, and not looking too relieved when I got hit with the dodgeball and could sit on the sidelines.

In most team sports, I could run around and still become translucent enough for the other kids to forget to pass me the ball.

But this new school implemented a torture program called skills tests. The teacher would grab her clipboard and check our names off if we bumped the volleyball in the air 100 times in a row. (Okay, maybe it was only 10 times).

I had enough coordination to play a Mozart Minuet on my violin, but could not, for the life of me, get that volleyball to return to my clutched hands when I bumped it into the air.

The other kids stood around watching me (or maybe they’d already started to head to the locker room to change), and there I was, chasing after my renegade volleyball with the gym teacher telling me to try again.

I concluded that I’d be able to save myself a lot of pain and embarrassment if I avoided these situations as much as possible. Since my parents wouldn’t let me homeschool gym class, I had to continue risking my GPA and dignity.

But there were plenty of other chances I could put my theory to work.

The youth group was getting together to play soccer? Offer to take pictures instead.

The summer camp was doing a relay involving shaving cream and wet thrift store clothes?
Find some other girls who wanted to be cheerleaders on the sidelines with me. (And who were also equally disgusted with the idea of jumping in a mud pit for fun)

It seemed to work fairly well, pretending everyone else was on some reality show that I couldn’t join even if I’d tried. (I’d even whisper jokes into my friend’s ear sometimes, because I knew she’d be brave enough to say them out loud and make people laugh.)

But soon these ideas bled into almost all of my relationships and thoughts.

Introduce myself to the new kid at church? What if I don’t know what to say?

Speak up in Sunday School class? I’ll probably stumble over my words, and people will be wishing the whole time that I’d be quiet so someone more capable could vibrate their vocal cords.

Play my violin on the youth worship team? Worship teams don’t have violins, and I might ruin the song with wrong notes.

Pray out loud with someone? What if I get so nervous I say something heretical or there is a long five-second silence?

Over the years, Jesus has used mentors, friends, and His Word to open my fist enough for some of the fears to slip away.

Here are three things I learned (and am learning) in the process:

Why You Don't Have To Be an Extrovert To Be Brave1. It takes practice.
Once I started introducing myself to a few people, it became less finger-numbing and sweaty. I found myself asking similar questions to find out about their lives.

I’d steal my husband’s question and ask what they did for fun. I’d volunteer some information about myself and my interests. Each time it got a little easier, (with a few awkward moments still sprinkled in there to keep me on my toes).

When I’d make a comment in a class, sometimes no one would grab onto it as I silently reeled in my empty fishing line of thoughts. I’d go home and replay the scenes in my head, wishing I’d said something different. Sometimes, I’d ask for Jesus’ help to not think about it anymore.

He caused me to realize that before I started contributing my thoughts, I would always wish I’d been brave enough to say something.

One summer in high school, I shared with my camp counselor about being afraid to speak up. She challenged me to think about what I would be selfishly keeping from the Body of Christ by not sharing the insight I’d learned.

When I was finally brave enough to join the worship team, I got to use the classical musical knowledge I had gained in a new way, adding harmonies to the guitar chords like sprinkles on a cup cake. And I even made some friends in the process.

Praying out loud became easier when I “practiced” praying in my private devotions, asking myself what I really wanted God to do in people’s lives, how I wanted them to feel His grace and love in their pain, and look to Him when they were struggling. (An exciting added dimension in this stage of life has been praying with someone while keeping an eye on my toddler who likes to soak himself at the drinking fountain.)

Why You Don't Have To Be an Extrovert To Be Brave2. It takes focusing more on the other person than on myself.
Sometimes, if someone asks me a question in front of a group, I feel like I have a personal court stenographer who’s going to write down everything I say and read it back so everyone can laugh at how un-eloquent I am.

But when those fears threaten to tie a gag around my mouth, I have to remember where my identity comes from. It’s not about what I say and do. It’s about finding my confidence in Christ’s finished work on the cross.

Only when I know my identity is secure can I invite others to delight in Him as well. I can risk some awkward silences and miscommunications.

If it’s more about showing others God’s glory than looking good ourselves, it doesn’t really matter whether we could have been more witty or intellectual-sounding.

In fact, maybe our fancy words would have just gotten in the way, like trying to convince someone how delicious a souffle is before letting them taste it for themselves.

3. It takes grace. Lots of it.
It’s not easy to admit to being wrong or have someone disagree with me. It’s scary to feel misunderstood. But I’m reminded that I’m not alone when I read the gospels and see how many people disagreed with and misunderstood Jesus, who was perfect. It might not be me they are rejecting.

And when I do say something I wish I hadn’t, I can always ask for forgiveness and accept the grace Jesus offers every second of every day.

Sometimes I still like to just listen and observe. I don’t want to try to become an extrovert. But I also don’t want to miss the chances that God wants to love someone through me.

Jesus, show us how to bravely love like you this week. We are yours.

Why Women in the Church Can’t Be Cheerleaders on the Sidelines

Why Women in the Church Can't Be Cheerleaders on the SidelinesDid you know that during World War I, more American women died in childbirth than American men died on the battlefield?

Women’s healthcare improved dramatically the next year once women we able to vote, but the pain of Eve’s curse hasn’t gone away.

Every day I am reminded of my physical weakness as I go about my daily tasks. I tire easily. I can’t open jars. When extra things are jammed into my daily toddler-filled schedule, I can barely keep up.

Sometimes I wonder. . .

Why did God make us physically weaker than men?

Why would he want to use us in our hormone-charged limitations when there’s another gender out there that doesn’t ride out their emotions on a 28 day cycle?

Fight Like a Girl
I recently listened to a talk by Bible teacher Jen Wilkin, who explored biblically what it means to “fight like a girl,” (referring to the female empowerment campaign that ran during the Superbowl).

She asked, “Are women’s contributions to the church nice but not necessary?”

Why were women created in the first place?

In Genesis 2, God created Eve to be Adam’s helpmate and work together in the beauty of the Garden. It wasn’t good for him to be alone.

So what does it look like for women to be, as Jen puts it, “co-laborers in the fight, and not cheerleaders on the sidelines?”

In Exodus 1-2, the Hebrews living in Egypt had multiplied so much that Pharaoh started to get scared. He told the Hebrew midwives to kill all the baby boys that were born, but that they could keep the girls alive. Since the midwives feared God more than Pharaoh, they told him that the Hebrew women kept giving birth before they had a chance to get there.

How many baby boys were saved because of these women, eventually growing up and guiding their families across the Red Sea to freedom?

Moses’ mother hid him after he was born, and God used him to lead the people out of Egypt.

Pharaoh underestimated these women.

Why Women in the Church Can't Be Cheerleaders on the SidelinesI’m grateful for our culture’s desire to value women.

But the beauty of womanhood is not in our ability to be equal to men.

God has gifted members in the Body of Christ differently, so that He can use us to touch all kinds of people.

Here are five ways God may want to use us because we are women:

1. Women are compassionate.

2. Women can empathize.

3. Women are brave. (Like a shepherdess who guards her sheep against a lion)

4. Women understand powerlessness better than men.

5. Women see needs that men may not see.

Men might unintentionally overlook widows, orphans, single moms and hurting children. They may not perceive when someone is living in fear.

They probably won’t ask:

Who might need to be nurtured?

Who might need someone to listen to their confusing flurry of emotions?

Why Women in the Church Can't Be Cheerleaders on the SidelinesA Parable for the Gospel
Jen Wilkin shared that when a woman gets pregnant, she makes herself weak for a designated period of time, delivers another by the shedding of blood, is restored to her former strength, and lives to intercede for that new life.

Could there be a clearer physical parable for the gospel? (Check out Philippians 2:6-11)

“Women, you are not an afterthought. What you contribute to the mission of the church is not of secondary importance.” (Jen Wilkin)

Are you ready to give Him the chance?

Click here to listen to Jen Wilkin’s 35 minute talk (with more humor and insight than I can usually conjure up).

Jen also has an excellent article on her blog about women and the church entitled, “More Pressing Than Women Preachers.” Click here to check it out.

Evaluating Priorities (Part 1)

I used to wake up in the morning and try not to sigh.

The routine of the week was forecasted to look a lot like the routine of last week, which resembled the one before that. There were always jobs to do around the house–dishes, cleaning, laundry, food prep, bills, emails, keeping my son alive, etc.

evaluating priorities 2Each task felt like one more rock to dig out of the ditch I was walking down. Some moments I would peek above the edge and see the flowers poking up out of the ground, the trees blossoming, and the clouds dancing patterns in the sky. (I’d remind myself that life was filled with an abundance of blessings if I looked for them, right?)

But most of the time I was digging out the rocks, face so close to the dirt that washing the dishes seemed like a cruel joke as they magically reappeared by the sink, caked with tomato sauce.

Looking for More Rocks
But the worst part was finishing my tasks and feeling like I needed to be looking for more rocks to dig out.

An event needed baked goods?
Someone needed a babysitter?
An elderly person wanted visits?

And what about people’s spiritual needs?
Who did I need to tell about Jesus?
How could I find them?
Should I be jumping on a plane to share the gospel somewhere?

I’d feel guilty if I ignored the ideas that ran through my head.
The crisis pregnancy center could probably use supplies.
We should probably have more people over for dinner.

Having my “free” moments taken up by those thoughts zapped my motivation for my other responsibilities. It felt like a never-ending cycle of “have to’s,” “should’s,” and “ought-to’s.”

A number of people gave me a hand outside of the ditch of discouragement, and two women offered me tools to stay out.

Evaluating Priorities
My mentor Natalie helped me to step back and take a look at my priorities. Just making a list forced me past all the “ought-to” thoughts that filled my mind. My list looked like this:

1. My relationship with God
2. Husband
3. Baby Isaiah
4. Family and friends

Once I figured out what was most important, I was able to see how all the other “good things” I thought of could be preventing me from serving the people God has put directly into my life.

A Ministry of Prayer
When I started asking God to show me how to spend my time, I realized I could trust Him to lead me in blessing others and being a part of His kingdom work.

MEDION DIGITAL CAMERAOne of the ways God showed me how to reach out to others was through prayer. Even if I couldn’t be a part of physically meeting a need, I could always lift that person before God, asking for Him to work and acknowledging His sovereign care over the situation. I started to even do that with the tragedies I heard about in the news, praying that God would use the situation to draw people to Himself and to show people their need for the gospel.

God also led me to send notes and emails to encourage those serving in our community or involved in overseas ministry. And when I did interact with people in person, I started asking God for the courage to speak truth and life while listening to them.

The Body of Christ
In my quest to please God (and people, if I’m honest), I’d forgotten about the beautiful Body of Christ. In Romans 12:4-5 it says:

“For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”

It’s not up to me to try to do all the prophesying, serving, teaching, encouraging, giving, leading and showing mercy. And that’s only the list from Romans 12!

When I admire the wonderful things God is doing through other people, I have two options:
1. Feel guilty that I’m not being used in that way
2. Praise the Father like crazy for using people like us to accomplish His plans and purposes.

evaluating priorities 5The daily tasks will always need to be done, (even if I don’t feel “gifted” to wash dishes). I can still do all the little chores for God’s glory, but how cool is it that God has given each of us unique ways to serve Him? Let’s look for ways we can praise Him as we do our piece and see others do theirs in the mosaic of God’s redemption masterpiece.

Next week, I’ll share about the second tool that has helped me stay out of the ditch of discouragement. But until then, I’d love to hear about anything God has used to pull you out of the guilt-laden “ought-to” trap.