Sunday, October 30, 2011

Handsome Reward

Handsome Reward
Oct 31, 2011
Matthew 16:27 "For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done."

Who doesn't want a reward? Rewards are definitely a good thing, something desired by all. Rewards are different from earnings, however. Earnings or wages are clearly defined, something that is negotiated before the work is done. Those wages are earned when the work is performed and can be demanded by the worker, upon completion of his work. Rewards can also be earned for a service that is performed. You can't receive a reward by just sitting idly by the wayside. However, rewards are not necessarily clearly defined. Rewards are given by a generous benefactor who determines the value of the service earned. The worker cannot negotiate the value of the reward; he must be satisfied with what the benefactor determines as appropriate.

The word for "reward" appears over fifty times in the Bible, typically referencing something the Lord will be granting to His subjects for their service. In a few of the instances, the reward is defined as access granted into Heaven upon physical death. In a few more of the instances the Lord, Himself, is defined as the reward (as in a perfect relationship with the Lord in Heaven). But in most of the instances where the word for "reward" appears, it is very nebulous as to what the "getter" will get. It IS clear, though, that the Lord promises a reward for all the things done on this earth, some form of payment in exchange for our loyal service to Him and mankind. The reward will be a form of trophy or currency or status or honor. Some believe the reward will be jewels in a crown that can be worn (which we can then lay at the feet of the Lord as a gift). I have often wondered what He would do with a billion crowns; He can only wear but one.

I don't understand a reward at all, actually. Here on earth, where the human nature prevails, we are full of pride and selfishness. On earth, any form of trophy, currency, status, or honor is desirable because these things satisfy our sinful nature. We will not have a sinful nature in Heaven. If you take away the sinful nature, there would be no pride or selfishness. Then, no amount of trophies, currency, status, or honor will need to exist. Without a sinful nature in Heaven, a reward won't even matter. We won't care in Heaven if we have more fame or fortune than the next guy. It won't even be an issue. We cannot relate to this in our current state on Earth because each of us understands what it means to have more than someone else. Rewards satisfy our flesh.

If it won't matter to us in Heaven to have more "things" than someone else, then why does the Lord even suggest He will reward us? He has decided that all we do matters to Him, therefore He is willing to motivate our selfish nature here on earth if it means we accomplish His agenda. He speaks to us in terms we can understand, concepts that are familiar to us. The fact of the matter is, no mind can fathom what it will be like it Heaven. Our wildest imaginations cannot even compare to the Glory that will be revealed to us when we get there. Your reward, Christian, is promised to be great for all the things you have accomplished here on Earth for the Lord. You are to be motivated in service to Him, all the days of your life, in anticipation of what you will receive on the other side. The Generous Benefactor will determine your reward and He promises to reward you handsomely for all that you have done in His name. Only, don't try to guess what your reward will be; you are guaranteed to be pleasantly surprised.

Be motivated to do good here on Earth in anticipation of a future Heavenly reward. The Lord promises it will be worth it, no matter what the reward looks like.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Gen 15:1, Ps 62:12, Prov 13:21, Prov 14:14, Prov 19:17, Prov 25:22, Jer 17:10, Malachi 3:13-18, Matt 5:12, Matt 6:1, Mark 9:41, Eph 6:8, Col 3:24, 2 John 1:8

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Wrong Envy

Wrong Envy
October 24, 2011
Psalm 73:3 "For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked."

All of us have envied someone else's life. We want what they have, the life they lead. Their lives, though possibly not Christian-like, look so much more appealing. We see their houses, cars, and lifestyle, and long for their possessions. They may not have a relationship with the Lord, but they still have so much of what we want. It is natural to pine after their lifestyle; after all, it is a life lived in the flesh, satisfying the desires of self. Desiring someone else's life is not a modern phenomenon; this problem was written about thousands and thousands of years ago by a particular Psalmist. He went through a period of looking at the way others lived and truly coveted their lifestyle, despite how they gained it all. It seemed their ways paid off. They weren't God-fearing people, but they certainly lived a life of luxury.

Thankfully, the Psalmist thought it through, truly pondering the envy he felt. He went full circle through the emotions of desiring what others had and realized they had everything in life--except for the Lord. The godless might have fame and fortune, but if they don't have a relationship with the Lord, they don't have anything. We envy those who have a fortunate lifestyle, but seldom do we envy those who have an amazing relationship with the Lord. When was the last time you looked at someone and thought you might like to have their same level of intimacy with the Creator of the Universe?

When the Psalmist finally realized the error in his thinking (for envying the lifestyle of the godless), he called himself ignorant and stupid. He was then filled with thanksgiving when the Lord was still willing to have a relationship with him, despite envying the wrong things in this life. He came to the understanding that if he had the Lord, then he had everything he could truly want in life. The Psalmist said it was refreshing to be in the presence of a tender God who led him wisely and blessed his life with good things from above, regardless of how others lived.

Oh, that we would all come to the same understanding and realization in life. Knowing and believing that the Lord is all we need. A relationship with the Heavenly Father is all that we could ever want. The godless might have a luxurious lifestyle here on Earth, but they will die without the Lord. And after they are gone, their money and fame will not be able to redeem them from Hell. An eternity with the Lord is far more desirable than a few years of pleasure on this earth. While it is not good to desire anything someone else has, it IS good to desire a relationship with the Lord. Think it through and realize what others have, no matter how amazing here on Earth, cannot compare to the majesty of the Lord of Hosts (who, incidentally, wants to be yours on a personal level).

Read the words of the Psalmist in Psalm 73 and see if you can relate to his thinking. Then see if you can come to his same realization: that you already have EVERYTHING if you are in the presence of the Holy One. It will change your day, knowing you have all you need when you have Him. Spend the rest of the day in His presence and see if you aren't fulfilled.

(This Psalmist's name was Asaph, who was the director of music under King David. It is believed David contributed to the thought behind the text while Asaph put it to music.)

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Psalm 73

Sunday, October 16, 2011


Oct 17, 2011
Proverbs 18:24 "One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother."

The term "fair weather friend" is indicative of a friend who only sticks around when it's easy and everything is in his favor, when it benefits him. But when the going gets tough, those fair weather friends cannot be found. You've had this experience, when a friend leaves you at the first sign of difficulty. I've had friends and even family turn their backs on me during a course of personal difficulty. Times like that really show you who the true friends are; they are loyal no matter the situation. Loyal friends are few and far between, it seems. But it goes both ways (friendship and loyalty). You've been tempted, I'm sure, to walk the other way instead of treading though difficulty with someone else. Having been on both sides of the situation I'm impressed by one man's loyalty and integrity to stick with a relationship regardless of how tough the scenario. His name was Joseph.

If you read the story of Joseph in the book of Genesis, you see a young man sold into slavery by his brothers. His brothers were not loyal to him and it seemed the Lord was not, either. Joseph grew up fearing the Lord and did not deserve to be enslaved. The Lord allowed it though, for many, many years. It would have been very tempting for Joseph to walk away from his relationship with God, turn his back from serving the Lord. After all, it appeared the Lord had left Joseph, disowning him to an undeserved punishment of slavery and eventually imprisonment. Joseph didn't turn his back on the Lord during his season of apparent abandonment. In fact, Joseph had an opportunity to rise above his situation without the Lord's help, but chose the more difficult path. Joseph was seduced by a powerful woman who could have influenced his predicament, helping him overcome slavery. But Joseph declined the temptation saying, ". . .How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” Joseph was loyal to the Lord no matter how tough things got.

Things got worse for Joseph when the disdained and rejected woman lied, causing Joseph's prison sentence; he still remained faithful to the Lord. Joseph sat in prison for years when he had an opportunity to hear the perplexing dreams of two fellow inmates. Joseph said, "Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell me your dreams." This statement by Joseph suggested that he was not only loyal to the Lord, but close enough in his relationship to God so as to hear from the Lord secrets of the deep. Joseph could interpret the dreams because he had an intimate and personal connection with the Lord. Joseph remained loyal to the Lord and developed a deeper relationship with Him despite the opportunity for disharmony in their relationship. It was the Lord who allowed Joseph's imprisonment and yet Joseph remained loyal to his God.

You and I should take a few lessons from Joseph, staying true to the Lord despite whatever difficulty the Lord allows in our lives. Joseph didn't get mad a the Lord and blame Him; he drew closer to Him. But instead of growing deeper in our relationship with Him, we often let our circumstances drive a wedge between us, blaming the Lord for all that goes wrong in our lives, believing He has abandoned us. If Joseph can be imprisoned for years and draw closer to God, surely you and I can endure what the Lord allows, however difficult, and not let it hinder our relationship with Him.

The Lord promises to be a friend who sticks closer than a brother; we should consider the same in return. During unique times in your life, consider drawing closer to the Lord instead of blaming Him for allowing your circumstances, those situations in which He could have intervened but instead allowed them to happen. If the Lord is a friend who sticks closer than a brother, yet still allows bad things to happen to you, is it possible that those times are meant for your good somehow? Joseph declared that to be true towards the end of his life. He stated very clearly that the years of imprisonment where meant for good things, good things from the Lord. The Lord is loyal to His children, Christian, even in your life right now. Return the loyalty; you'll be glad you did.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Gen 39 & 40, Gen 50:20, Joshua 24:20, Heb 13:5, James 4:8

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Money's Motive

Money's Motive
Oct 10, 2011
2 Corinthians 9:7 "Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver."

You have heard that you reap what you sow. This is a reference to sowing seed into the ground, expecting a future harvest of fruit from that seed. This is true in all facets of life, both the physical and spiritual. The Lord says you'll reap rewards when you sow financially. He says, "Test me in this and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it." Sounds like a winning formula: put a small financial seed IN and get a huge financial crop OUT! The Lord was talking about sowing the full tithe, ten percent off the top, into His house. He made this promise of blessing because His people were being greedy and stingy with their money. They were keeping the tithe to themselves. There wasn't any generosity in their hearts; they weren't even giving out of obedience or compulsion.

The Lord set up the first rules of financial giving way back in the Old Testament. He instructed the Israelites to bring their tithes into His storehouse. The Lord was extremely specific; "bring your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, what you have vowed to give and your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks." It wasn't just a ten percent tithe; there were freewill offerings and special gifts, too. We rarely give a full ten percent, let alone an additional freewill offering or special gift. If we do give at special times, we usually count it toward our tithe, checking it off the list, getting closer to that ten percent. There are quite a few who don't give at all, which the Lord considers hoarding. If someone is hoarding his tithe, it is safe to say he probably isn't giving freewill offerings or special gifts, either. Stingy with tithes probably means stingy on all counts.

The Apostle Paul said that we should each give what we have decided in our hearts to give and do so with a good attitude. (His comment was made in reference to directing our special gifts and freewill offerings, by the way, not redefining the tithe as an optional ten percent.) Paul was advising that the heart should be involved when we give, or stated more clearly, having a spirit of generosity. He said directly that the Lord loves a cheerful giver. It is interesting that right before he talked about giving cheerfully, he also reinforced the lesson of sowing. Paul wrote, "Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously." Bring this "sow/reap generously" principle back full circle to the Lord's promise of testing Him with the full tithe and reaping a harvest so large there won't be room enough to contain it. You'll reap what you sow. If you sow generously you will reap generously. This is indicative of a heart condition, not an amount. You may out-give most people in your church when it comes to the dollar amount or even percent of income, but if your heart isn't in it (sowing sparingly), you will reap sparingly.

If God's promise of pouring out financial blessing doesn't seem to apply in your life, maybe the fault isn't in the amount you are giving, but the heart in which you give. If you give out of compulsion or with motive to get something in return, then you are probably sowing sparingly regardless of the amount. You will reap sparingly if your motive isn't out of a spirit of generosity. Sow with an attitude of generosity, regardless of the amount, and you are guaranteed to reap generously. Change your heart; the Lord loves it when you give out of a willful and glad heart. If your heart isn't in it . . . well, you'll reap what you sow.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Lev 27:30-32, Numbers 18, Deut 12:5-6, Proverbs 11:18, Malachi 3:6-10, 2 Corinthians 9:6-14, Gal 6:7-8

Sunday, October 2, 2011

What If I Doubt

What If I Doubt
Oct 3, 2011
Romans 11:23 "And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again."

It is a human tendency to have doubts. Doubting can be healthy when it keeps us safe from those who would take advantage of us. Having doubts can also create a determination to discover the truth, which can be eye opening. But doubting the Lord is not generally a good idea, though He often has patience with us when we doubt. Some people have a rough time with doubting the Lord; at times I have had the same tendency. If you are honest with yourself; you have had your share of doubts, too. A few of you might be super-faith-stars; the rest of us are human.

The Apostle Thomas is often called Doubting Thomas because he needed to see the scars in the hands of Jesus to believe He had risen from the dead. People criticize Thomas to this day because he wanted proof that it was truly Him, but given the same circumstances I'm sure you and I might may have a similar request. We want proof sometimes in order to believe the Lord. Yes, the Lord honors those who do not ask for proof, but for those who do, the Lord is often patient.

Listen to what Jesus said to Thomas regarding his need for proof. Jesus said, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe." Jesus did not deny him. If you read the original account, Jesus had appeared to the other disciples first and showed them His scars. Thomas was told second hand that Jesus was alive; he wanted the same opportunity the other disciples had been given. Jesus was patient with Thomas. Jesus didn't chastise him; He showed Thomas kindness when Thomas had doubts. Jesus met him without hesitation and without condemnation.

There are actually several instances in the New Testament when the Lord is patient regarding unbelief. One man knew that Jesus might be able to heal his son of an evil spirit. Jesus said it would be possible if the man believed. The man said, "'I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!'" Then Jesus honored the man's request and drove out the evil spirit. Jesus didn't chastise the man for his level of faith; Jesus worked with what the man had. Jesus met the man without hesitation and without condemnation.

Having doubts is natural, but living in a constant state of unbelief is not desireable. If you do have doubts, ask the Lord to reveal Himself to you. He will. If you have unbelief, come to the Lord with what you have and ask Him to help you overcome the rest.

He is willing to give you an opportunity to come to a decision regarding what you believe; just don't live a lifetime without seeking Him for the truth. There comes a time when you need to make up your mind, even though you might not have all the answers. He prefers faith without proof but He is willing to meet you where you are. If you have doubts, don't live in fear; ask the Lord for the clarity you need. It is better to ask the Lord for help than live a lifetime of duplicity, especially when Hell is at stake. I've never seen the Lord deny an earnest request for more of Him.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Mark 9:17-26, John 12:37, John 19:20-29, Romans 11:22-24, 1 Tim 1:13, Heb 3:19