Sunday, November 27, 2016

Sacrifice for Reward

Sacrifice for Reward
November 28, 2016
Matthew 16:26  "What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world yet forfeit their soul?  Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?"

In the typical rules of business, you only earn your money after all expenses are paid.  Everything that is left over is your profit.  You don't get a reward in business; you get  what you've earned and you don't get what you haven't earned.  You can work your heart out in business yet come home empty handed.  A few poor business calculations or bad decisions and your efforts can be wiped out completely.  Jesus, though not typically considered an economist, taught a good deal about money and surprisingly offered some business advice we seldom take.  He offered a solution so you could guarantee a  return on your efforts.  He said you could toil your whole life, end up having gained the world, and yet still be a loser if you lost your soul.  In this lies the advice we seldom take

You and I have heard this Scripture over and over again.  Not to worry, we both think, none of us are in jeopardy of gaining the entire world.  Jesus was giving the worst case scenario, suggesting the epitome of worldly richness wouldn't be worth the loss of your soul.  He was also saying all the money in the world could not purchase back your soul from Hell, given the opportunity.  Any amount wouldn't be enough.  While you may not be trying to gain the whole world, you are probably, like me, trying to gain YOUR whole world.  The Lord said this effort is more risky than not; saying it is a poor business decision that would end up with the antithesis of what you'd like to happen, akin to working yourself to the bone and yet having no profit to speak of at the end of the business deal after all the expenses were paid.  It isn't enough, though, to not seek the gain of the entire world or the gain of your whole world, Jesus gives the secret in the verse right before it and right after it.

The preceding verse says, "whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me."  This could not be more opposite of gaining the whole world.  Jesus said, not only do you have to forsake gaining and winning over your whole personal world, but that you should be willing to give it all up completely.  You and I might not be winning over our entire personal world, but are we willing to give every ounce, every last bit away for the sake of Jesus.  We read the Bible and says yes, but our actions, our check book of expenditures, say otherwise.  We don't really want to sacrifice anything for the Lord; few of us have ever done that.  This is extremism and surely the Lord isn't asking us to give it all up for Him.  Yes, it is and Yes, He is asking.  Do you deny your flesh every single day?  This isn't akin to going to work when you don't want to, just to pay the bills.  That doesn't count.  Jesus is asking if you have denied yourself today.

After Jesus said He is requiring you to deny yourself today, not working for control and gain over your entire personal world, He said one last thing (and this is what makes Him the greatest economist).  He said He will keep score and reward you for your sacrifice, for your loss.  Remember in business you don't profit unless you win.  Jesus said you can only win if you lose.  He said you will be rewarded exactly in direct correlation to what you have sacrificed on His behalf.  Whatever your lose intentionally, you will be rewarded for in direct or greater proportion.  It can't be an accidental loss, it must be an act of self denial.  This gives you an option.  You can work hard in this world, and maybe, just maybe, you might gain something temporal.  OR you can intentionally give up many things in order to work for Him and gain all, if not more than, whatever it is you've sacrificed.  It does not make sense to the natural world, but it is some interesting truths very few of us employ.  What to get rich?  Then give it all up, because in your great sacrifice there is great reward.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Matt 16, Mark 10:29, Lk 9:24, John 12:29

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Silent God

Silent God
November 21, 2016
Psalm 28:1  "To you, Lord, I call; you are my Rock, do not turn a deaf ear to me.  For if you remain silent, I will be like those who go down to the pit."

Have you ever prayed and it seemed like the Lord was silent?  Have you ever asked for an answer to prayer and He didn't say yes OR no?  Have you ever asked for wisdom and it seemed as if you had no idea what to do without leading one way or the other from the Lord?  Unless you're Jesus, my guess is you're like me and feel like He is more silent than He is anything else.  So what do you do when there is no answer from the Lord, no clear direction, no clear path, and the Lord seems silent?  The answer is more practical than you probably want to know and far less magical than you were hoping for.  The answer is already there.  When God seems silent, He has actually already spoken loud and clear.

The pale, trendy answer to when the Lord seems silent is that the Lord Almighty has already spoken to you through the Bible, leaving you the Holy Book to lean on if you'd just open the leafy pages or click on the app.  Without sounding heretical or rude, that is not sufficient enough of an answer.  The Bible does not always speak to your specific situation and sometimes the Lord is truly silent.  The Israelites realized this in the Old Testament.  Between the last book of the Old Testament and first writing of the New Testament, the Lord was silent for approx 400 years.  It was known as the silent period (how appropriate).  God chose to be quiet during that time and He chooses to be quiet during your lifetime, too.  During those 400 years, did the Israelites not need any answered prayer requests or wisdom for their lives?  They were human and needed Him just as desperately as you need Him now.

When the Lord seems silent, for your significant request, direction, or wisdom, there is actually an answer to your dilemma.  The answer is you should figure it out on your own, well, not really.  If the Lord has already answered it for you, He wants to see if you will trust Him with His last known response.  He doesn't tell you to never seek Him ever again.  He wants you to call on Him, but if He seems silent, here is your plan of attack.  The first and foremost thing to do is consult scripture.  If there is an easy answer there is an easy answer to apply.  If you want to know whether or not you should tithe or give to the needy, the answer is easily found in there without a smoke screen rising to Heaven for a sign.  If you want to know if you should marry such and such a person, well, that is not easily answered in Scripture (unless the person is not a Christian).  So, God asks you to apply the last known answer first.  He is not going to give you a new revelation on the fruits of the Spirit.  The last answer was sufficient.  Then He asks you to apply a sound methodology.

The methodology starts with where you stopped, and that is prayer.  Obviously, you're still praying and seeking, praying and seeking.  But if He still seems silent and there isn't an answer in Scripture, then you get to seek out the wisdom of your elders.  An elder isn't an old person, an elder is someone very mature in Scripture (who has demonstrated it with his or her own life).  But if that answer doesn't seem to satisfy, then pause and check your spirit.  Make sure your movement forward isn't accompanied with a stop sign in your spirit.  If you have a check in your spirit, then don't move forward.  But if there is nothing, and you still must move forward without an answer, then know the Lord has already equipped you with the answer, you're just being insecure about it.  The Lord is testing you, to see how you will respond, to see how you'll move forward.  A teacher in school is only silent during the tests.  A teacher has given instruction, plenty of practice, and then must be silent to see if the student is able to apply the knowledge on the exam.

While I am not suggesting the Lord is testing you, I AM suggesting the Lord is seeing how you'll respond and if you'll move forward in the wisdom He has already given you.  His goal is that you'd be a mature Christian, complete and wise, not living off milk but weaned from the infancy of your Christianity.  You can't be a mature Christian if you constantly depend on the Lord for your baby milk, after this long.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  1 Sam 3:1-10, 1 Kings 19,  Is 28:9, Is 30:21, 1 Cor 3:2, James 1:5-6, James 4:8, Heb 5:12-13  

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Don't Bless Don't Get Blessed

Don't Bless Don't Get Blessed
November 14, 2016
Matthew 6:8  "Don't be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him."

So much is misunderstood about blessing and cursing, praying for something and against something else.  The older I get and the more I try to understand Scripture, the more I realize I do not have the answer or the key to it all.  You've had days when it seems your life is so blessed and you've had days when it seems your life is so cursed.  You've had blessings fall into your life, the blessings that you prayed for, and you've had disaster hit you like a freight train.  Was the Lord present in the blessing and absent to protect you from the freight train?  Did you get a blessing you didn't pray for yet received a bad report when you prayed against such a thing?  Up, down, forward, reverse, it doesn't always make sense.  You remembered to pray for your child's good health but you must have clearly forgotten to pray that you wouldn't lose your job.  Isn't it a given, that you don't want to lose your job and He would know that?  Shouldn't the Lord just know that you want the good things and don't want the bad things?  Shouldn't the Lord just know how to take care of you best?

In reading Scripture, there are verses about blessings and curses, seemingly contradicting teachings in the New Testament compared to transactional circumstances of the Old Testament.  To be succinct, without going into too much detail, here is what I can say with certainty as backed by Scripture.  Don't pray harm would happen to anyone else, instead pray good things happen to them (even the people you don't like and of whom you happen to be jealous).  Pray the Lord protects you and keeps you safe, as well as your loved ones.  And that's about it.  Notice I did not mention anything about praying blessings for yourself.  Here is what I have found in Scripture about that.  You do NOT have to pray to receive blessings from the Lord.  You just don't.  The Lord is your father and He loves you.  A good father wants to naturally bless His Children.  The Lord will naturally bless you as you live for Him and live a righteous lifestyle.  Understand that the Lord is not willing to bless you when you are living in sin, living against His plan for your life, away from His will.  However, live the Life He has asked of you and blessing will naturally come from the Lord.  The Lord knows how to take care of you best; He is your good father.

Remember, here is the basic formula: don't pray harm on anyone else, pray blessing on everyone (even your enemies); pray for protection for yourself and others; live in His will for your life.

Take this one step further and understand He will not bless you if you are not praying for or actively seeking the blessing for other people (even the people you don't like and of whom you are jealous). The Lord is not likely to bless you when and if you are not willing/seeking for someone else to be blessed, if you are just indifferent of others.  This proves you are a selfish child and does not represent the life He has asked you to live.  If you do not have the blessing to which you are seeking, realize you don't need to seek it for yourself, but genuinely on behalf of others only, then just live a righteous life.  This is what He has asked you to do.  In doing what He has asked you to do, He will naturally take care of you, blessings included.  He can already see you and He knows what you need.  He also knows perfectly well how to bless you.  He also knows when you are being selfish and don't need that blessing.

I have several children and when I want to bless them I consider each one differently, according to what I know would truly bless each one.  One of my sons would appreciate tickets to a football game, while my other son would be so blessed by a model rocket.  One of my daughters would love a coloring book while another of my daughters would be blessed by a father/daughter date.  Because I love my children, I know them well and know exactly how to bless them.  They don't have to beseech me for a blessing.  When I'm ready to bless them, I will.  I will, however, not bless them in the middle of discipline or during their temper tantrums or during their insubordination.  I will not bless them when they care only for themselves, ready to receive but never willing to give.  If you don't bless other people, you certainly cannot expect a blessing in return.  You don't have to beseech Him for a blessing, when He sees you're ready to receive one you can rest assured it will be good.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Ps 109:17, Joel 3:1-7, Matt 5:44, Matt 6:8-15, Matt 7:9-11, Lk 11:1-13, Rom 12:14  

Sunday, November 6, 2016

The Next Government

The Next Government
November 7, 2016
Romans 13:1  "Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.  The authorities that exist have been established by God."

The Lord is in charge of anything and everything that matters and even the things that don't seem to matter.  He is in control and has never left His throne.  There is no one or thing that can usurp His authority or establish any government without His permission.  Nothing fashioned against Him will prevail and nothing comes as a surprise to Him.  If anything happens it is because He has willed it or allowed it to take place.  This was true ten thousand years ago; this was true last year and this will still remain true this next coming week.  No matter what happens this next coming week, the Lord has either willed it to happen or allowed it to happen as a direct result of our own choices, decisions, or behaviors.

Scripture says there is no government established on earth that has not been established (allowed) by the Lord your God.  Scripture further states we are to submit to that government, willfully submit.  This is your opportunity to demonstrate your Christianity, your willingness to follow the Lord your God.  Is the government in control over your life or is the Lord in control over your life?  Does the government's rule reign over you or does the Lord's rule reign over you?  Whom should you fear and respect more, the established government or the one who establishes the governments?  He is the one who establishes governments, the current government and the one to come, and the one far in to the future.

Does this mean you should lay down and roll over and let be what will be?  Absolutely not.  If something is within your power and authority then it is within your God-given duty to discharge that with excellence.  If you are in charge, then administer laws in service to the King of Kings.  If your only influence is the ability to vote, then vote as if you were voting on behalf of the King of Kings.  If you have significant influence or less than a you'd want, in either case you have the authority under Heaven and earth to at least pray.  Pray with all your might, for the government in power and the one that will be in power when your children become adults.  If you don't like the government, then submit to it's rule and pray.  If you've been granted the ability to change that government, then I suggest you change it for the Lord after you've prayed.  Then pray for it once it is established.

If you chose not to submit to your government,the government the Lord has established, then you've eliminated your option to complain about it.  If you didn't serve in changing that government when given the opportunity, then you've eliminated your option to complain about it.  If you didn't even exercise your ability to vote or pray for it, then you've eliminated your option to complain about it.  Actually, if you are a Christian, you've eliminated your option to complain about it.  Whatever happens to the government, the one established this week or in the next ten years, submit to the Lord, then submit to the government.  The Lord is still in control, over your life and the government that is over your life.  He is still on His throne, both now and for eternity.

The next government is the one established by the Lord. 

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Josh 1:9, Ps 23:4, Ps 27:1, Ps 139:5, Pr 21:30, Pr 29:25, Phil 4:6, Is 9:6, 1 Peter 3:14, 1 Peter 5:6-7