A Josiah Moment

2 Kings 22:11-20 (NLT)

By Chuck Griffin

It’s always a shock to discover we’ve strayed from the Lord’s plan.

In today’s Bible passage, we hear how a young, good king, King Josiah, was introduced to the basics of how his people were supposed to be living, via a rediscovered Book of the Law. A proper understanding of how God was to be worshiped had been lost during the reign of prior evil kings, men who allowed paganism to creep into the land.

When Josiah realized how far his flock had strayed from their very reason to exist, he grieved so powerfully that he tore his clothes. Disaster loomed large. Fortunately, there still were priests and prophets in the land, and the king learned that God’s just response to the rampant unholiness would be delayed until Josiah’s righteous reign had ended.

We live under an expanded, improved version of the plan, of course. Strict adherence to the law was the closest the Israelites could come to establishing a relationship with God. We live in the time after Jesus Christ, knowing that his willingness to die in our place for our sins now makes that relationship possible. All we have to do is believe, allowing God’s Spirit to go to work in our lives.

And yet, we stray.

In many ways, we can be like those ancient children of God, called to serve and worship but distracted to the point of forgetting who God is. One generation fails to adequately tell great truths to the next generation. The shiny things of the world and the worries of the world begin to dominate our thinking.

God’s call on us is powerful, though. It breaks through, and we can have a Josiah moment, grieving for ourselves individually and the people around us collectively. Dawning awareness of how wonderful it is to be in communion with God is an exciting and wonderful experience to have.

I have experienced such a moment in a big way in my life, and I continue to experience similar little moments as I exist with one foot in a time-bound world and the other in eternity. Let’s grieve over what we lose when we take our eyes off God, but let’s rejoice at how God offers to restore us when we lock our eyes on the throne once again.

Lord, help us to keep our eyes eternally fixed on you, and with your guidance and strength, may our lives be conformed to your will. Amen.

Risky Business

This Sunday at Holston View United Methodist Church, the sermon will draw from Mark 12:38-44, where Jesus again causes us to think about our spiritual relationship with money. If you cannot join us in person, join us online at 11 a.m., or watch a recording later.

Today’s Preparatory Text:  1 John 3:16-24 (NLT)


By Chuck Griffin

When preaching, I occasionally reference the biblical concept of hospitality. As we prepare for this Sunday’s sermon, I want us to further explore this tame-sounding idea that actually is quite radical.

In the letter of 1 John, we hear what real love is, our eyes drawn to the death of Jesus on the cross. This is the same author who wrote in the Gospel of John, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” Later in the Gospel of John, in the 15th chapter, he also quoted Jesus as saying this: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

With the idea in mind that we might need to die for each other, it’s no stretch to say that living the Christian life requires us to take risks. We should never be foolish with our lives, but it’s possible our lives could be endangered as we work on behalf of our savior and the world around us. It takes spiritual courage not to pull away when such risks arise.

In my opinion, American Christians can be a little short on this kind of courage, in part because we are so affluent compared to the rest of the world. When you have stuff, you get used to guarding your stuff from others who might want it.

Our concern for our stuff makes our tolerance for risky interactions with others low. I’m generalizing, of course, but I feel comfortable that I just described our group average, and I acknowledge I often am more a part of the problem than the solution. A risk-averse people have difficulty solving many of the social problems around them simply because they cannot, as a group, step up and do the hard work that has to be done.

For an example, let’s look at helping the homeless. This kind of hospitality ministry invites us to make sacrifices in our own lives so we can dramatically impact the lives of others. Individually, some Christians go so far as to maintain “Elisha rooms,” creating simple spaces for people in need. (The Bible story behind the name is in 2 Kings 4:8-17.)

Again, there is risk, particularly when we engage with people we don’t know that well, and with risk comes fear. But when we dwell in a Holy Spirit-inspired community, we can help each other with hospitality, reducing risk and fear.

Sometimes the solution is as simple as modifying our church spaces with hospitality in mind. At my first appointment out of seminary, the church was expanding its facilities. The church leaders plopped the blueprints down in front of me one day and asked if I had any input.

“Just one,” I said. “Maybe a shower somewhere? Then if people in the community have an emergency, we could use the building for short-term housing.”

The church members liked the idea so much they put in two shower facilities. They now regularly house and feed homeless guests through a program providing temporary help to displaced families.

Sadly, not enough American churches have a hospitable mindset. Many churches, perhaps most churches, have yet to embrace this very scriptural work. They even are willing to pass that responsibility on to the government, distancing themselves from the powerful call God places upon us in Scripture.

Where do we get the spiritual strength to take radical risks as we make ourselves more hospitable? Well, we begin with small, communally shared risks, and we grow in strength over time.

It is my prayer that one day the American church, regardless of its denominational lines, will fully be the hospitable church described in the Bible. When that happens, the government’s intractable problems will prove to be no problem for God and his people.

Lord, take us down paths requiring courage, filling us with your Holy Spirit as we go. Amen.

Most Hospitable

2 Kings 4:8-17 (NRSV)

One day Elisha was passing through Shunem, where a wealthy woman lived, who urged him to have a meal. So whenever he passed that way, he would stop there for a meal. She said to her husband, “Look, I am sure that this man who regularly passes our way is a holy man of God. Let us make a small roof chamber with walls, and put there for him a bed, a table, a chair, and a lamp, so that he can stay there whenever he comes to us.”

One day when he came there, he went up to the chamber and lay down there. He said to his servant Gehazi, “Call the Shunammite woman.” When he had called her, she stood before him. He said to him, “Say to her, Since you have taken all this trouble for us, what may be done for you? Would you have a word spoken on your behalf to the king or to the commander of the army?” She answered, “I live among my own people.” He said, “What then may be done for her?” Gehazi answered, “Well, she has no son, and her husband is old.” He said, “Call her.” When he had called her, she stood at the door. He said, “At this season, in due time, you shall embrace a son.” She replied, “No, my lord, O man of God; do not deceive your servant.”

The woman conceived and bore a son at that season, in due time, as Elisha had declared to her.


One of my favorite seminary classes was on the subject of hospitality. Hospitality is much more than setting out tea and cookies—it is a powerful theological concept.

Today’s story wonderfully illustrates scriptural hospitality. Simple acts of caring and concern tap into the ever-flowing grace of God, and lives are changed for the better.

And yes, “simple” is an important part of godly hospitality. Note that the wealthy woman didn’t build a house for Elisha after she saw him passing through her town regularly. She began by feeding him, and then she moved on to establishing for him a small rooftop shelter furnished with just a few basic items.

Keeping hospitality simple takes away the pressures that so often can keep us from being open and welcoming to others. Hospitality is much easier when we’re not worried about our stuff or how our actions will be judged.

Hospitality also makes possible new relationships where remarkable events can happen. There is no indication the wealthy Shunammite woman thought she might gain something from her hospitality, but out of it came a blessing money could not buy, the child she and her husband wanted.

The blessings from such encounters aren’t always so dramatic, but they can be uplifting. A few years ago, I was traveling alone to Indianapolis, and I checked the Airbnb listings. I wound up renting the most modest arrangement available—what was essentially a walk-in closet with a cot, and access to a bathroom, for $30 a night. I thought of Elisha’s little room as I lay there.

The room may have been tiny, but I got to know a couple of wonderful Indiana University grad students, one of whom owned the old house, which he was renovating. Both students were from other countries and wanted to know about me, and I got to hear about the research they were doing.

One was studying music’s effects on brain waves, with a possible benefit for autistic children, and I heard a miniature concert of the work he had done. The other was exploring third-world economic policies. I think I enjoyed my brief time with them more than the convention I attended. I felt I was in the presence of two young adults who could change the world for the better.

Hospitality is about new relationships and the hope they bring, and what church doesn’t want those? I’ve barely touched on the subject here. For those wanting to explore the concept further, a great place to start is Dr. Christine Pohl’s “Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition.

Studying hospitality now will ready us for the day when the pandemic is behind us. People are craving simple, genuine relationships and the blessings that flow from them.

Lord, guide us in our understanding of how to reach out to others, making ourselves available through acts of kindness and openness. Amen.

Too Easy

By Chuck Griffin
LifeTalk Editor

2 Kings 5:1-14 (NLT)

I hope you’ve taken a few moments to read the above story of two kings, a slave girl, a powerful leper named Naaman, and a healing so simple that Naaman almost refused to accept a life-changing gift from God.

I think of this story as the Old Testament preparing us for New Testament grace. I’ve known people who actually refused to accept Christ as Savior because they thought the path to salvation sounded too easy, like religious pablum spooned out to calm the masses.

According to the 2 Kings story, the Prophet Elisha didn’t even bother to go outside his house when Naaman the Great arrived with his entourage. Instead, Elisha sent a servant out to tell the army commander to wash seven times in the Jordan River, and he would be healed.

Easy peasy!

Naaman was suspicious, though. He was very specific in describing what he had expected to happen.

“I thought he would certainly come out to meet me!” he said. “I expected him to wave his hand over the leprosy and call on the name of the Lord his God and heal me! Aren’t the rivers of Damascus, the Abana and the Pharpar, better than any of the rivers of Israel? Why shouldn’t I wash in them and be healed?”

Arrogance, preconceived notions, and a little ethnocentrism all got in the way. He almost walked away in a huff from a healing. He was blessed to be surrounded by trusted advisers who convinced him to give the prophet’s offer a try.

I’m no Elisha, but if you’re spiritually broken, let me offer you similarly simple advice. Believe Christ died on the cross to save you. You will be healed of your brokenness, your pain and your shame.

That’s it. Believe. Trust. At that point, you will be made right with God. If you’ve not been baptized, you’ll also want to be washed in the water.

You will still have to think through your new situation. You’ll have to work through some complications. Naaman had to do all that. Humbled and grateful, he decided to focus on worshiping in the right way. He also had to learn to navigate the worldliness around him while honoring the God who had healed him.

That’s all very doable, though. Trust me.

Lord, thank you for making salvation simple. We know it was not easy for Jesus; he did the work, he had to bear the pain. Let us never forget the price he paid so we may have access to healing and eternal life. Amen.