Who's the Boss?

1 Kings 18:21 says, “And Elijah came to all the people, and said, “How long will you falter between two opinions? If The Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” But the people answered him not a word.” (ESV)

This verse comes from the familiar story of Elijah’s battle (or God’s battle) with the 450 prophets of Baal. Seeing their influence over and among the people of Israel was frustrating and disheartening to this prophet of The Lord. But he did not waver in his faith or his understanding of God’s sovereign power over His creation and His people. So he waged a challenge. You build a fireless altar and cry out to your god and I’ll build a fireless (and very wet) altar and cry out to the True and Living God. The side whose god answers with fire from heaven wins. He is the True God.

Sure enough, the false gods of Baal failed. They did not show up because they are non-existent. But God Almighty showed up and showed out and demonstrated that He alone is God. There is none other, none to compare.

And He is the same God today! He is All-Powerful, All-Knowing, All-presence, Yahweh God. He has revealed Himself as God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. “He is the same yesterday, today, and forever! (Hebrews 13:8). He is God!

So why don’t we trust Him with complete obedience and let Him settle the scores.

I had a conversation this week with a young man in ministry trying to expand his reach and God’s Kingdom in our area. His testimony of what God has done is awesome and there is so much more to come.

But one local opportunity is pretty much closed. One place has said no to his ministry because of fear, afraid of what could be said or done. I do not take their history lightly and understand some in trepidation and carefulness about handling things rightly (especially in light of our culture of political correctness). But paralysis because of fear is damning to the current and future generations.

As I see it, at some point, believers have to stand on truth, stand up to the bullying of a vocal few, and declare the greatness and goodness of God to the lost and dying world regardless of opposing nonsense.

If God is God (AND HE IS), then He will prove Himself faithful at all times. If He is Lord, He is to be Lord over each individual and each church that bears His Name. If He is King, then we pledge our allegiance first to Him and hold Him in highest honor over our lives. If He is Savior, then we declare His salvation to ALL who need to hear.

Here’s my challenge. It’s time that we who believe be obedient at all cost. Let’s trust The Lord with our lives and our outcomes. Let’s obey those in authority over us in worship to The Lord unless that obedience contradicts the directions of The Lord.

With our faithfulness, let our Lord prove Himself as King of kings and Lord of lords. He will reign victoriously. He will not disappoint.

Focus in 2014!

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:6-8 ESV)

In Acts 1, the disciples were still trying to figure out Christ’s role in establishing his political kingdom. They didn’t quite get it. When they asked Him about its coming, He redirected their focus to what really matters, bearing witness to His gospel “to the end of the earth.”

What really matters to the heart of God today is the very same thing, the reach of the gospel to the ends of the earth. Can we really live as though that has been accomplished when our families and neighbors and community live without Christ? Have we gotten so caught up in the peripheral things of this life that we neglect the primary purpose of Christ’s life, bearing witness to Jesus.

My prayer is that for you and me in this New Year that God would grant us compassionate hearts and boldness to tell of Jesus until His gospel reaches the end of the earth.

Oh, God, focus our hearts and lives on what really matters and give us boldness to do something about it.

Unconditional Love

“So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” – 1 Corinthians 13:13

Our culture has had an increased emphasis recently on the problem of bullying.  I fear at times that it is an over-emphasis on a natural phase of life which weakens the resolve of some kids to endure difficulty.  That is my opinion but it is not a denial of the reality of a problem. 

That opinion has been challenged recently as I have watched one of my own endure a certain amount of bullying or meanness from a few so-called friends at school.  We have heard the stories and seen the tears of one broken-hearted young lady, feeling destroyed by something as fickle as the opinions of others (I’ve been told I don’t understand because I’m not a girl.).

Recently it came to light again as I picked her up from school.  When she got into the truck, tears streamed down her cheeks as she began to cry and pour her heart out about what had happened that day.  She was greeted by the laughter of her two “friends” about her choice of clothing for that day.  At some point they criticized her hair, a point she previously wasn’t worried about but now is aware.  Then the “straw that broke the camel’s back” was one “friend” demanding the other not give my daughter the address or directions to the birthday party she had been invited to two days earlier.  She was crushed!  The emotion was inconsolable.

Wendy and I have heard similar things all year from the same two names and we have seen the heartache she feels.  We’ve counseled repeatedly to encourage her about her beauty, her spirit, and great value in the heart of God.  We’ve tried to counter their cruel words with gracious words of biblical truth and joyful hope.  And recently we’ve encouraged her to find new friends because they don’t fit the true definition of “friend.”  It’s in that very counsel and my little lady’s response that God showed me a picture of unconditional love.

As I listened to her cries, I said, “You just need to find some new friends!” 

Her reply, “But Daddy, they are two of my favorites!”

Wow!  No matter how many times over the school year they have hurt her feelings or sent her home crying, she still considers them two of her best friends.  That is unconditional love!

That is Jesus-type love; love that would look into the eyes of wicked abusers and cry, “Father, forgive them.”  It is a love that though because of our sinfulness we have offended God, he has “demonstrated his [unconditional] love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

And that is the type of love we are called to show others.  When the world says write them off and look elsewhere (as I did to my little girl), Jesus called us to love even the least.

Thank you, Lord, for your demonstration of love through the rugged cross and through the heart of my little girl!

Proverbs 17:17   "A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity."