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Posted: July 19, 2012 10:15 p.m.

Scharf: The power to be ‘all in’

Not too long ago, my son taught me how to play Texas Hold'em. We don't play for money, just chips. And that is good. First, because I wouldn't want to let gambling lead to greed and second, because I would lose. It turns out, in poker, if you keep trying to go "all in," you lose your chips pretty quickly. To quote a popular song, a wise player "knows when to hold 'em, knows when to fold 'em, knows when to walk away, knows when to run..." In poker, apparently, you have to be a little conservative with how you expend your chips.

I'm glad God is not a poker player. Last week, we saw how he went completely "all in" for us, how Jesus willingly lost his life. He gave it. He put all his chips on the line and gave them up for us. Today, let's look at 1 Kings 19 again and see how God asks us to go "all in" as well. We have a beautiful example in a man named Elisha.

Elisha was a farmer, a wealthy one. They had 12 teams of oxen, even on the back side of a three-year total drought, not a single raindrop. But now that there was rain again, things were really looking up for his business. Then God told the prophet Elijah to go call Elisha as the next prophet for Israel. Our text picks up right after Elijah gave that message: "So Elisha...took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his attendant." (1 Kings 19:21).

Talk about "all in." On the back side of that drought, I'm pretty sure there wasn't a farmer in Israel who would have had "extra oxen" that were expendable. The equipment he destroyed would have been just as valuable. Do you see what Elisha was saying with this "sacrifice" he offers? There is no turning back. He is all in.

And notice what he is signing up for. He's going to be Elijah's helper. Elijah was the guy who had been living on bread and water provided by a penniless widow for the last three years. He gave everything so that he could follow the Lord.

That was not easy - but what God calls you to is no less severe. You see, God calls you to be "all in" for him, to take that walk of faith, that dangerous walk of really arranging your life according to God's priorities - doing the work he has called you to.

And the problem is, sometimes we can't even see our cards. God tells us that he's got it all under control and asks us to go all in, but we don't always see it all under control. And Satan wants to convince you that you holding a losing hand, just like he had convinced Elijah earlier in chapter 19.

That's why Jesus came. He came to show you God's hand - to show you God's love and power and care. So he performed the miracles proving his power over nature, over Satan, over every enemy of God. He showed God's care, reaching out to the ones no one else wanted to touch. And he showed God's love, giving his life to pay for your sins. And now he connects you to those things in his word, through his gift of Baptism, through the Lord's Supper. God gives you the power to be "all in."

So, now that you're all in, what does that mean? What is God asking you to do today? My guess is Elijah isn't going to burst through this door and tell you your next job. God is not going to whisper in your ear some amazing feat that he has in store for you. He is a God who has hidden himself in his word. It's in Scripture that you get your call. And what does he say?

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind."

"Love your neighbor as yourself."

That is your calling. Go all in! And when you do, you'll find plenty of ways for that love to play out - in your own life as you prioritize your time all in for putting God first. Go all in for God's work. He's already gone "all in" for you.

Rev. Jonathan Scharf is pastor of Abiding Grace Lutheran Church in Covington. Worship every Sunday is at 10:30 a.m. Full sermons and more information can be found at

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