“The Prophets According to Pokemon”

We just finished a sermon series on some of the Old Testament prophets: Elisha, Amos and Hosea. These men, and others like them, were much sought after in ancient Israel. People listened to them because they wanted to know, “Is there a word from the Lord?” Folks then believed the prophets had special insights into the heavenly realms—God’s space—that others did not. The words of the prophets pulled back the veil separating the two worlds: the earth below and the heaven above. Through the prophets, God revealed another reality—God’s preferred future for God’s people.

pokemon-go-device-3-1280x2194png-c754e0_640wBy now, most everyone has heard of the wildly popular cell phone-based game Pokemon-Go. The game requires players to go to different sites on a map where they find Pokemon (imaginative cartoon creatures), and capture them using their cellphone cameras. This type of game is known as “augmented reality” because it enables people to operate in two worlds: the virtual world of the game and the real world. With Pokemon-Go, you get to see into another reality.

The wild popularity of “augmented reality” in Pokemon-Go reminded me of one of the stories involving the prophet Elisha. Israel was at war with its neighbor, the Kingdom of Aram. Elisha had been warning the King of Israel about the movements of the Aramean army, so the King of Aram sent troops to capture the prophet in the town of Dothan.

When Elisha’s servant awoke one morning and saw the enemy’s horses and chariots encompassing the town, he cried out to Elisha, “Oh no, my Lord! What shall we do?” Elisha answered: “Do not be afraid, for there are more with us than there are with them.” Elisha prayed for God to open the eyes of his servant and then he saw the hills were filled with horses and chariots of fire all around. In the end, God enabled Elisha and his servant to walk through the enemy lines to freedom.

Elijah 6.18-20_Elisha’s story reminds us that there is another reality at work in our world. It’s the spiritual realm, the Kingdom of God that has come near in Jesus Christ. Like the Pokemon-Go game, we cannot see the “augmented reality” of God’s world all the time. But through Jesus, the veil is drawn back, the reality of God’s mercy and grace are revealed, and we can glimpse the glory of the living God.

“Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see,” the prophet Elisha prayed for his servant. Jesus opened the eyes of the blind—the eyes of those who were physically as well as spiritually blind. And they saw the glory of the Lord. May we live with eyes that are open to the reality of the living God in our lives.

Remember, too, that no matter what struggles you are going through in life, “there are more with us than there are with them.”

You can read the story about Elisha in the Bible, 2 Kings 6:11-23.

Advertisements

“There’s Still Good News Out There”

120px-Cherry_chocolate_cupcakesAre you getting tired of all the bad news stories? For several weeks now, the media has bombarded us with bad news stories from around the world. Everywhere we turn, there’s yet another event involving death and destruction of some sort on a scale that breaks the heart. Whether it’s Dallas or Baton Rouge, Orlando or Nice, France, anyone reading these stories could be forgiven for feeling depressed about the violence in our world.

Sadly, this is part and parcel of our world. Human nature, with its “bent toward sinning,” has been violent ever since Cain killed Abel (see Genesis 4).  And we have a lot of work to do as the Church to promote God’s peace in a broken world.

But this is not the end of the story. The Good News is we can break free from the cycle of violence through the love of God that is given to us in Jesus Christ. Jesus bore our sins and suffered the violence of the world to save us from ourselves. This Good News means we no longer have to be slaves to our sin-nature; instead, we are adopted children of God, called to share in God’s redeeming work in the world.

If bad news stories have been getting you down, let me highlight for you a couple of good news stories that were in the news recently. Both stories appeared in the 25 July edition of the Frederick News Post:

  • Family Christian Bookstores has a new product line called “Cupcakes and Jesus,” designed to cultivate a more positive image for young girls. Items under this label contain positive messages like: “shine bright,” “be bold,” and “show love.” Some items include Bible verses. While “Cupcakes and Jesus” is meant to be fun, it also provides an alternative to some of the other messages girls in the “tween” years (7 to 15) receive from our culture—messages that can be demeaning, not uplifting. And the positive message for tweens is that Jesus empowers them to live a godly life.[1]
  • Gabrielle Williams is a Prince Georges County 12 year-old on a mission to build her own baking company. She’s been baking since third grade and has designed her own tasty confections like a frosting called “Guava Lava,” espresso bean brownies and red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. Gabrielle transferred from a Christian school to a public school, where she was picked on for saying grace at lunchtime. But her hobby gave her a sense of purpose. As the news article described it: “Gabrielle startled Prince Georges County economic development officials when she showed up at a local church for a business seminar earlier this year, business card in tow, the only child in a room full of dozens of adults.” The County is now planning a “KidPreneur Day” so Gabrielle and other young people can learn about business. Gabrielle knows she has something special going. As she put it: “There aren’t many kids who do what I do.”[2]

What both these stories have in common—other than cupcakes—is a positive, empowering message for young people, a message that is just as applicable for anyone of any age. God created each and every one of us to “shine bright” and to “show love” to others. God gave each one of us a unique set of gifts to love others the way God loves us, and to build up the body of Christ, the church. Compare that to the forces in our world that tear down and destroy and you have to admit, “There aren’t may people who do what we do.”

And that is a Good News story that makes for great summertime reading, or any other time, for that matter. You can read it for yourself—in the Bible.

Be Blessed,

Pastor Bob

 

 

 

[1] Lindsay Powers, “Faith, with a hint of frosting, Cupcakes and Jesus aims to empower girls,” The Frederick News-Post, July 25, 2016, page M6, article online.

[2] Arelis R. Hernandez, “The flour of youth, Young Maryland businesswoman turns hobby into baking company,” Frederick News Post, July 25, 2016, page M15, article online.