Monday, December 31, 2012

Limping into 2013?

This morning I was reading in 1 Kings 18:20-20. It is the story of Elijah and his confrontation with King Ahab and the prophets of Baal. Elijah had called the King to assemble all the people of Israel at Mount Carmel for a decisive showdown with the false prophets and ultimately with the King and his treacherous wife Jezabel. Ahab is recorded as doing more "evil in the sight of the Lord, more than all who were before him"(16:30). That was a grand statement seeing that most of the Kings of Israel and Judah (except for Asa) had sinned against the Lord and followed the false gods of Baal and Asherah. And so the showdown was set.... Ahab gathered the people and the false prophets on Mt. Carmel.

In vs. 21, Elijah asked the people a question. And I think it is an appropriate question for all of us as we enter the new year. In the ESV translation, Elijah's question reads...

     "How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, then follow Him." 

The NIV and NLT translate the word "limping" (Hebrew- pasakh) as "waver". The Holman Christian Standard Bible and the New American Standard Bible as "hesitate". The New King James as "falter". All the English translations give the same implication: Following any other god except the God of the Bible leads to a improperly lived life. Just as the prophets of Baal were unable to move properly around the alter of Baal (vs. 26), so we to limp, hesitate, waver, and falter through life if we serve any god other than the Lord.

So, what gods are you serving? Are you "limping" along in your opinion of who you will worship? Do you claim Christ with your lips and deny Him with your lifestyle? Admittedly, I find myself, from time to time, in this position. As I allow the things of the world (selfishness, greed, pride, shame, etc...) to drive my attention inward, I find myself worshiping things that are convenient, breakable, and fleeting. I claim to be a follower of Christ, but chase after lesser things. And I find myself on Mt. Carmel again.

Elijah's question, therefore, throws in sharp relief the idea of a true disciple and those who are only such by name. May I paraphrase the prophet's words in the declarative? I think he was simply saying this: "Make up your mind! If you say you are serving either the Lord or these false gods, fine! Just do it! Stop limping along trying to please everyone! Choose who you will follow!"

So, we are confronted with a choice. Who will we serve in the new year? If you claim to be a Christ-follower, will you be just that? Will you strive to live as Jesus lived and obey what He asks you to do? Will you make up your mind (which is the essence of repentance) and choose to "seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness" (Matthew 6:33)? Will you make the declaration of Joshua (24:15 ESV) as he proclaimed, "And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." Will you cry out with the people of Israel, "The Lord, He is God; The Lord, He is God" (vs. 39)?

That is my declaration this New Year's Eve! Is it yours? If not, fine. But stop limping about. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Hope of Christmas

This past weekend, the Worship Ministries of Fayetteville First Baptist Church presented the dramatic musical experience“The Hope of Christmas”.  Several months ago I was approached by the drama team of our church asking if I would be willing to play one of the parts in this presentation. I was to play the part of the Pastor of an urban church attempting to reach those in a large metropolitan area. Honestly, this role has stretched me, both artistically and spiritually. It has caused me to see the gospel, and the story of Christmas, again in a new light.

After repeated attempts to share the hope of Christmas with those around him, my character begins to show a little wear. Having just tried to share the gospel with a runaway teenage boy, my character is encouraged by a church member.

Church member: “You okay, Pastor?’

Pastor: “I’m okay. I just wish I could get through to the people around here.”

Church member: “We will. Don’t give up hope.”

Pastor: “Hope. That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?”

If you are a Christ-follower, and have attempted to share the good news of Jesus with others (which is what Christ-followers do!), you have probably found yourself feeling the same way. Tired, frustrated, and maybe even ready to give up hope. But let the words of this anonymous church member encourage us all this Christmas season. We shouldn’t give up hope! Why? Because there is a great need right at our front door. A need for the hope that only comes through a relationship with Jesus Christ. We, as God’s people, have been given the great privilege, content, and context in which to share this hope. Now, by the power of His Spirit, He has called us to share.

Whether you are a Pastor in a local church, or you are a layperson running errands in your community, serving in your child’s school, or living out your faith in the marketplace, God has placed you in critical areas of influence for His Kingdom’s sake. He has called you as His missionary to your specific “field” of service. He has equipped you with the good news of Jesus. And He has given you the message of hope that a hopeless world desperately needs. Now all you have to do is share and watch God move!

May God bless you as you share the good news of the hope of Jesus with all who need Him this Christmas season.