News about Christianity in the USA is often bleak. For years the influence of the Christians in society has been dwindling. Each year 3,500 to 4,000 churches close their doors forever. Those who study these changes predict little variation of this trend. Statistics about the percentages of churches that may not be in existence in the next 10 to 20 years is alarming. We have seen first-hand some of this trend.
In spite of this news, I am optimistic about the future of FBC Carthage. I don’t say this with rose colored glasses I am a realist. I know that as a congregation and as a Christian community we have hard work before us. I am actually excited about what God is doing and will do through us. God’s people have faced hard times before and thrived. Last week we heard how Nehemiah said to the people, "You see the bad situation we are in, that Jerusalem is desolate and its gates burned by fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem so that we will no longer be a reproach." The people not only assessed the situation but responded to the vision that God gave them to rectify the situation. The words “let us” are extremely important. When God’s people work together on a God given vision incredible things happen.
Right now we are beginning several new adventures. We have just begun a stewardship campaign. A critical component of this campaign is to discover what God has laid upon our hearts. We don’t want to just “do church” but we want to be a part of what God is doing right here at this time. Maybe some of the churches that are closing their doors forgot their missional purpose God had for them. I pray that we continually remind ourselves and refresh that vision of reaching out with the love and hope of the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ. The truth is America has never been more ripe for the Gospel. Other countries have begun to send missionaries here. As a part of discovering where God is working an outreach team is seeking ways we can better serve our community. Additionally, we are starting a youth group that has been completely revamped from last year.
This Sunday I will preach from 1 Chronicles 29:1-20. This chapter shares how God’s people joyfully gave of their finances and abilities to build God’s temple. In the opening verses King David asked, “Who then is willing to consecrate himself this day to the LORD?” When we hear the word consecrate usually we think of it meaning “to set apart” or “to make holy.” Many places the Bible talks about consecrating the priest. In this context they are set apart for the work of service for God. I discovered recently that the word we have as consecrate is actually a Jewish idiom which literally is translated “to fill the hands”. I think this is a powerful picture of worship and thankfulness. Think of salvation. In salvation we reach up empty handed to God and He blesses us with forgiveness, salvation, and a place in the family of God. Now we who have reached up empty handed put our hands back up. This time they are not empty. This time not to earn anything nor out of need. Instead, we reach up with thanksgiving and praise. We reach up with an offering of a portion of what God has given us. When we understand this we can say with David, "But who am I and who are my people that we should be able to offer as generously as this? For all things come from You, and from Your hand we have given You.” (v.14)
Who then is willing to “fill his hand” this day to the LORD? Let’s seek the Lord together as we heed this call.