Every year in February, actionchurch takes time to celebrate our “birthday month” as a church. It’s a great time to look back at what God has done for us in the past, and to share the stories of how we began with those who more recently became part of the actionchurch story . It’s a great time to point out the tremendous “Leverage” of faith that comes from trusting God enough to act even with very limited information, and then seeing him multiply our limited human efforts many times over in ways we couldn’t have even imagined. It’s also a great time to just celebrate…and since actionchurch is turning six this year…what six-year-old doesn’t like to invite their friends over for a party?
Another important part of “birthday month” at actionchurch is looking forward…asking God what he wants us to focus on in the coming year. It’s not creating a “plan” for the year, not “forecasting”, or even “setting Goals”. It doesn’t lead to a new mission statement or a new logo. But, James 1: 5 says ” If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.” and every year we find that to be true. Last year, we were inspired by the way Jesus empowered and released his disciples to minister and spent the year focusing on equipping and giving individuals “permission” to minister wherever they found themselves in the POWERDOWN initiative.
This year my inspiration is a bit different…and when I say different, I mean it in the same way your mom called your cousin who collected McDonald happy meal figures and lived at home until he was 36 “different”. This year our main scripture is one of the weirdest stories in the Old Testament, which in itself makes modern Christians nervous because of it’s content. 2 Kings 20:1- 11 AND Isaiah Chapter 38 BOTH relay these strange events:
About that time Hezekiah became deathly ill, and the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to visit him. He gave the king this message: “This is what the Lord says: Set your affairs in order, for you are going to die. You will not recover from this illness.” 2 When Hezekiah heard this, he turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, 3 “Remember, O Lord, how I have always been faithful to you and have served you single-mindedly, always doing what pleases you.” Then he broke down and wept bitterly. 4 But before Isaiah had left the middle courtyard, this message came to him from the Lord: 5 “Go back to Hezekiah, the leader of my people. Tell him, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of your ancestor David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears. I will heal you, and three days from now you will get out of bed and go to the Temple of the Lord. 6 I will add fifteen years to your life, and I will rescue you and this city from the king of Assyria. I will defend this city for my own honor and for the sake of my servant David.’” 7 Then Isaiah said, “Make an ointment from figs.” So Hezekiah’s servants spread the ointment over the boil, and Hezekiah recovered! 8 Meanwhile, Hezekiah had said to Isaiah, “What sign will the Lord give to prove that he will heal me and that I will go to the Temple of the Lord three days from now?” 9 Isaiah replied, “This is the sign from the Lord to prove that he will do as he promised. Would you like the shadow on the sundial to go forward ten steps or backward ten steps?10 “The shadow always moves forward,” Hezekiah replied, “so that would be easy. Make it go ten steps backward instead.” 11 So Isaiah the prophet asked the Lord to do this, and he caused the shadow to move ten steps backward on the sundial of Ahaz! 2 Kings 20:1-11(nlt)
It’s a passage that Bible skeptics quote and preachers avoid. It’s filled with more questions than I can list, let alone answer. Medically speaking, how does a fig poultice cure a life threatening boil? Not a clue. (But even the word “boil” doesn’t stop me from craving fig Newtons). From a science perspective how exactly does the shadow on a sundial (or more likely the palace steps) move BACKWARDS??? Did the sun move? The earth? Axis tilt? Weather anomaly? Eclipse? No idea. None. Although some of you offered some really good theories since. Theologically speaking, did God change his mind? Did he merely test Hezekiah? How does that square with Numbers 23:19 that states that God never changes his mind or says something that doesn’t happen? No answer here…except that God is God…and he can do WHATEVER he wants to do. You can sort of see why there aren’t many sermon series based on this scripture…at least by wise preachers… :-)
Here’s why, in spite of ALL the unanswered questions I have about this event, I am inspired and challenged by it: Hezekiah asked for MORE! In the face of something as grave and final as a God telling him he was going to die, the king somehow mustered the courage and the faith to ask to live long(-er)! AND, somehow, God chose to honor that prayer and use both natural and supernatural events to cause it to come to pass! I believe 2014 is the time for praying those same kind of “-er” prayers…to ask for MORE as a church…and as individuals. To ask, NOT in a competitive sense, NOT to bring glory or attention to ourselves, but because we believe in our mission that God has given us. I’m praying for a LONGER time, GREATER influence, LARGER reach, BIGGER impact, MORE-ER resources…okay you get the picture. :-) I’d love for you to join me as we further explore this amazing story and what it means for us today this month on Sunday mornings. Most of all though, if you are a part of the actionchurch family and believe as I do that God has even greater opportunities waiting for us to Love God, Love people, and take action in the coming year, I’d love it if you’d begin to pray humble yet bold “-er” prayers to the God who can easily set the sundial shadow in reverse!