Who’s Keeping Score?

December 11, 2018

Sometimes it can feel like our best efforts are not yielding any positive results.  We do the best we can, but it often is simply not enough, or at least, not enough to make a difference.

We sometimes pray for individuals and see no visible results.  We even visit hospitals to find the patients we went to visit have either been released or have been moved.

We give to the homeless and less fortunate, but seldom see the results of our efforts.  We give words of encouragement, but are not really sure if they made any impact, or changed anything at all.

We say, “Thank you”, to the checker for giving us our receipt and change, but they’re typically too busy or distracted to take notice.

We help the little old lady to carry her groceries to her car, or open the door for her.

No one is seeking reward for these things, and we often do these things, and many more, not for the thanks, but just because it is the right thing to do.

But, on occasion, it is normal to ask, “Is anyone keeping score?”, or are my words and actions without meaning or significance?

The answer is, yes, there is a score keeper, and He keeps very fine details.  There is nothing that goes unnoticed by Him, no matter how large, or how small.  There is a small catch, though….

You are not likely to see 90% of the results of your efforts, prayers, or giving in this lifetime.  In other words, the vast majority of the results of your words, actions, and prayers will not be fully seen until the Great Accountant tallies up your final score card.

In fact, the things that are done without show or visible reward, will receive direct compensation from God Himself.  You are gathering ‘treasure’ that is stored and waiting for you in heaven.

Of course, we’d like to receive all the benefits now.  And we do receive some benefits now, but the vast majority is laid up in store to be given by God Himself at the proper time.

The scripture tells us that Abraham looked for a city, whose builder and maker was God.  However, we seldom discuss the fact Abraham never found that city while he was alive.  But, rest assured, Abraham was not disappointed, and will live forever in that city built by God.

The real question is do we believe, or is it only the things we can see with our physical eyes that we believe in?  Remember the words of Paul the Apostle – “the things which are seen are temporary, but the things that are not seen are eternal”.

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How Do You Spell Greatness?

October 25, 2018

It’s not that hard to search out ‘great’ figures.  They are famous, or wealthy, or have achieved great things.  They may be political figures, or they may be philanthropists.  They may be business tycoons, royalty, or movie stars.  It’s not really hard to determine who is ‘great’ or who is ‘small’, right?

Of course, it is not that simple.

The way the world views individuals is quite different from how God views them.  And in the end, when all is said and done, isn’t His view the one that will count?  All the greatness the world has to offer will pale in comparison to who God honors.  The finest houses, gold, diamonds, and fancy clothes will appear as dirty rags in comparison to the glory that God bestows on those He chooses to honor.

There are going to be some reversals, which is clearly revealed to us in the scriptures.

“The first shall be last, and the last first..”

or

“he who would be greatest shall be servant to all”

These, and other passages, make it clear that what we think is ‘Great’ may actually be ‘Small’, and what we think is ‘Small’ may be ‘Great’.

Of the poor widow woman who had only two mites to give in the offering plate the Lord said, “she has given more than them all.”

Greatness does not come from position, wealth, or fame – at least what God considers ‘greatness’.  John the Baptist never performed a miracle, and yet Jesus said of him, “Of those born of a woman, there is none greater than John the Baptist.”  What made John so great?

I believe it was simple obedience.  Not once, not twice, not once in awhile, but every day, every week, every month, and every year.  He did what God had required of him, and was accounted as ‘great’ because of his obedience to the call.

It is not clear, at least in the present time, to determine who will be bestowed with high honors from God, but it is something to strive for, for even if we fail wouldn’t the result be worth the effort?

 

Is Our Thinking Too Narrow?

October 22, 2018

As Christians we sometimes think too narrowly about who God accepts, who He rejects, and what He allows or disallows.  I say this with some caution, as God is not ‘loose’ in His expectations for us.

But, consider this…

In the Gospels we can gain a wider understanding of what God’s focus is, not only by what Jesus said and did, but what He didn’t say and didn’t do.  For example, He did not separate people by what jobs they performed, or what their station in life was, or how much money they made.  He did not single people out for how righteous or unrighteous they were.  He did not make a big deal over whether they were were a ‘small’ sinner, or a ‘big’ sinner.  His approach was much simpler than that.  There were more important things to focus on.

As a further example consider this – when Jesus was giving final instructions to Peter, He said simply, “Feed my sheep”, and “Feed my lambs.”  What about all the instructions about how to run the church, and to ordain new bishops, and church discipline, and how to organize things?  Why didn’t He cover those things?

Jesus accepted people who were not really qualified.  Many of the ones Jesus took into the fold knew nothing of how to live righteous.  Some were harlots, some tax collectors, some Jewish rulers, some unlearned fishermen, and some scholars.  Entrance to this club was easy, with no lengthy questions or forms to fill out.

But, sometimes we make things hard for those wanting to get closer to God.  We expect them to live up to our own code or standards.  We expect them to talk, dress, and act like we think they should.  But, if a person is accepted by God who are we to condemn or say they are unjust?

This is not to say God is lax, or doesn’t care.  On the contrary, He is a strict God.  However, His strictness is designed to be custom-fit for each individual.  In other words, what He demands of me, may not be the same thing He demands of you.  His rules on me depend on my ability to understand and comprehend those rules.  My comprehension, though, may be more limited than yours.  Therefore, His requirement on you may be more demanding than on me.  God does not expect you to do more than you are capable of.  His plan fits every living soul on the planet, from those with IQ of 25 to those whose IQ is 180, or beyond.  His requirement is custom-made for each individual.  A careful reading of the Gospels will clearly reveal this truth.

Or we might simply quote – “to whom much is given, much is required”

Growing Is Not Your Problem

October 3, 2018

One of the difficulties these days in Christian ministry is understanding our role and responsibilities correctly.  If we attempt to take on those things that are not our job then we can expect problems to follow.

One area that has received a lot of attention is in the area of ‘growth’.  How to grow your church body, or how to grow your ministry group, or how to grow your bible study group, on and on.

Actually, ‘growth’ is not our problem or responsibility.  ‘Growth’ or ‘increase’ is God’s domain.

Paul explains this best in 1 Corinthians 3:4-8, which is simply summarized as:

We plant, we water, but God gives the increase.

This concept is further explained in the parable described by Jesus in Mark 4:26-29.  It is clear from this parable there is a ‘mystery’ concerned with how things ‘grow’, but no mystery in understanding God is responsible for that part, and we in turn handle the rest – planting and harvesting.

So, instead of spending time trying to figure out how to grow things, we might want to concentrate more of our time on planting, watering, and harvesting, and let God handle the ‘growing’ or ‘increase’ part.

Is God Frivolous?

September 16, 2018

Recently, as I was making my way through traffic, I spied a bumper sticker, “JESUS NEVER FRILS”.  I was immediately intrigued and fascinated by this slogan, and tried hard to get my head around it.

I finally came to the conclusion that this is a very powerful and insightful concept expressed in three little words.  As I got closer to the vehicle, however, I noticed the lettering was not “R”, but an “A” instead, that looked a lot like an “R”.  This made the bumper sticker, “JESUS NEVER FAILS”.  Ahhhh, I laughed at myself for misunderstanding, but the original thought persisted, and as you can see resulted in this blog posting you are now reading.

The concept, “JESUS NEVER FRILS”, is really just as powerful and important as the correct rendering, “JESUS NEVER FAILS”.  We serve a Lord and God who is not frivolous or careless.  If He was, there would be chaos and disorder throughout the earth and universe, to the extent that our tiny little planet would not be able to sustain life as we know it.

If God was frivolous, no doubt we would all be in significant trouble.  It would indicate He didn’t care, which is absolutely untrue.  If God was frivolous, then how would we ever know when He was serious?  The very act of being frivolous would mean things we consider to be important might not be that important to Him.  How sad would that be?

In writing these blog postings I never know what God intends to accomplish with my meager writing skills, but hopefully this will minister to someone’s need, and get them a little further down the path.  It is important to know that He never ‘fails’ and He never ‘frils’ either.

 

The Perfect Evangelist

September 7, 2018

This post could talk about perfect teachers, ministers, pastors, and other Christian leaders.  But, the question would be the same, “what would it look like if they were perfect?”

well, we could put away such things as dress, style of clothes or shoes, hair color, of if they had hair, if they are male or female, of if they are married, or single.  We could dismiss if they were rich, poor, or anywhere in between.  We could dismiss nationality and language.  We could also dismiss if they were beautiful or ugly, tall or short, fat or skinny.

there is really only a single measure that is meaningful in this exercise and that is how Christ-like are you?  Do you love the way He loves?  Do you talk the way He talks?  Do you conduct yourself the way He conducted Himself?  Do you have the faith He has?  Are you as obedient to the Father as He is?

being a perfect minister is not about preaching a “knock-down” message where everyone was shouting and slain in the Spirit.  It is more about delivering message under the guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit.

but, even greater things than messages can be delivered.  How do you live?  How do you solve problems?  How do you treat others?  Are you able to forgive,or do you hold grudges?  Are you able to treat people without favoritism?  Can you love those who are unloveable?

what are you willing to give up in order to accomplish God’s will for your life?

what dreams will you lay aside in order for God’s will to be perfected in your life?

thr measure of these questions and your answers will largely determine how close you may come to being the “Perfect Evangelist”, pastor, teacher, leader, etc…

Chances for Success

August 9, 2018

Generally, when faced with a challenge or problem we might think, “I wonder what my chances for failure are?”

And, no doubt, with any challenge or problem there is always a chance for failure, either through unforeseen circumstances, forces out of our direct control, or our own limitations or mistakes.  But, what about the chances for success?

It is built into our human nature to worry about problems, and to sometimes assume the worse.  For some, this is a self-protection mechanism – “I don’t want to be surprised, if things go badly.”

Problems, though, can provide their own opportunity for success.  It may not always be apparent or clearly understood, but often they are there.  Sometimes the successful solution only becomes clear after you get further into working a problem.  Sometimes the ‘benefits’ of a problem only become apparent sometime later, when we have a chance to look back and assess the situation and outcome.

There is generally a positive and negative side of every situation.  Take as a simple example David and Goliath.  We take it for granted that this was a giant victory for both David and Israel, and it was.  But, also embedded in David’s victory over Goliath were the seeds for jealousy from King Saul, Abner, and others.  In other words, not everyone was pleased with David’s victory.  There were some negative results from this event.

So, does this mean that David’s victory over Goliath was bad?  No, certainly not.  This only illustrates that with any action or effort there is not only the chance for failure, but also there may be some negative results to go along with the success and positive results.  However, this should not dissuade you from taking the steps to perform what is right and proper.

It is interesting to note that during Jesus’ three and one-half years of ministry, He focused on teaching, healing, feeding, and restoring people physically, mentally, and spiritually.  But, even with that success record there were people who wanted to see Him dead and removed from the earth.  What crime did He commit, that would warrant death?  That’s right – none.  It becomes clear that even with doing good, some people may hate you, despise you, and want to see you come to harm.

With every action or effort there is a chance for failure, but there is a bigger chance for success.

One should note, that success is not always measured in volume, numbers, or dollars.  There are other measures for success that are more meaningful.  How many people have you helped?  How many people have you encouraged?  How many people have benefited from your being in this place and time?  Those are more significant measures of success than merely numbers or dollars.

The chance for failure should not keep us from also viewing our chances for success.  It might even be said, that the only failure is in not trying at all, and that as long as a person tries they cannot be labeled a failure.

When Emotions Collide

August 8, 2018

We know when we are happy, sad, or somewhere in-between.  But, what happens when we are both happy and sad at the same time?  This can be a very strange state, but is not really that unusual in life, and probably happens more frequently than we think.

Let’s look at some examples of when a person can be both happy and sad at the same time:

  1. When a son or daughter leaves home for the first time.  Sometimes they are going off to college, and sometimes just moving into their own place.  Sometimes they leave home to get married.  Whatever the reason – we are both happy and sad.
  2. When a loved one dies.  Even when we know they will be in the arms of Jesus we are often happy for them, but sad for us.  We want them to be free from the pain they may have suffered in their body, but we really don’t want them to go away.

Those are just a few, but there are many more.  Leaving a secure job to take up a new job with increased pay, benefits, and position can be both a happy and sad event. All at the same time.

Now, someone may say this is not what God intended – that is, for us to be both happy and sad at the very same time, but I think the scriptures show something different.

I see several places where Jesus was both happy and sad, but perhaps the most notable was when he raised Lazarus from the dead.  There was no doubt this situation made our Lord sad.  But, since He knew that Lazarus would be brought back to life, why would He be sad?  Although many reasons have been put forth for why Jesus wept, I think at least one of these was to show that God understands our feelings when we lose a loved one.  At the time Jesus wept we have to remember that Lazarus was still dead.  After Lazarus was raised then we can be happy.

When Moses was called to ministry from the burning bush it is clear he was not completely thrilled with God’s plan.  So, it was with mixed feelings Moses headed back to Egypt.  There were feelings of apprehension, some fear, confidence, and purpose.  There must have also been a feeling of recovering what had been lost 40 years prior.

While having mixed emotions can cause to feel slightly ‘off-center’ and unbalanced, it is a normal part of our life experience.  We do our best to make plans, and to execute those plans, but many things can come into our lives that change or even erase those plans.  We then have a new plan.  Some detours have a way back, and some do not.  Some course changes will forever alter our life path.  But, rest assured – God knows what He is doing.

So, if you feel both happy and sad at the same time do not think it something unusual or unnatural.  It is a part of life, and God understands.

Understanding End-Time Prophecy

July 2, 2018

The Bible is full of prophecies, some already fulfilled, and many yet to be fulfilled.  There are also many authorities on this subject, and I’m not one.

Some prophecies are easy to understand, especially if they have already been fulfilled.  But, prophecies that are yet to be fulfilled are not so easy to interpret.  This doesn’t stop the ‘experts’ from trying, though, and there are quite a few tons of books written which will tell you exactly what they mean.  Of course, there is also a lot of disagreement.

And, of course, I have my own opinion about prophecies and their purpose.  It’s doubtful the experts will agree with me on this, but I suspect the primary purpose of biblical prophecy is to assure us that God has a plan, and that He is executing His plan.  This would seem to be more important than the specifics of the prophecy itself.  Do I really care if the prophecy in Revelation depicts helicopters shooting weapons of war?  I suppose to some people this is really important, but it is a distraction.  What is more important is to understand that God’s plan for His creation includes a final chapter which will be played out just as depicted in the book of Revelation.  I’m not so sure it is important to understand if the destruction depicted is from a nuclear explosion or some other source.

I understand this posting flies in the face of those who are deeply involved in prophecy interpretation.  But, the simple fact is this – concerning the prophecies that were set forth for the first coming of the Messiah we missed the mark badly, and only a very few were able to put the prophecies concerning Christ together correctly.  What makes us think we are smarter than they were?

That’s right – prophecies are best understood in hindsight.  Does this mean they should be ignored, or that we cannot search to understand them?  Of course not.  But, we should understand there are aspects of prophecy that probably will not be completely understood until they are fulfilled, or about to be fulfilled.  So, speculating about the the weapons of mass destruction depicted in Revelation is fairly meaningless, at least in my view.  What is important is to understand that God’s plan for this world includes such destruction, and that there is a literal Great Tribulation as depicted in Revelation.  That is important.

So, what is my point?  Let’s not get sidetracked and distracted by the various interpretations of the prophetic Word.  Let’s embrace the ‘big picture’ which is to acknowledge God’s plan and power at bringing the prophecy to fulfillment.  That’s more important than determining if there is a helicopter or atomic bomb described in Revelation.  At least, in my humble opinion…

What Will Be Our “Glory”?

June 6, 2018

There can be no doubt that our biggest ‘glory’ will be to spend eternity with our Lord and Savior.  But, I’m looking beyond that at the accomplishments of our life or entire lifetime here on this earth.

Of course, I don’t know exactly what our ‘glory’ will be in that regard, as much of what we achieve is not visible to us, at least not while we are still alive.  The people we have helped, witnessed to, lead to Christ, etc…  Those things, and the associated rewards or ‘glory’, are mostly hidden from our view at this time.

But, I do think there might be something we can discuss in this area.

You see, I doubt the size of your achievement will really matter too much.  What will matter is what you have done with what you have been given.  Size is relative, at least according to the scriptures and the teachings of Jesus.

In the parable of Lazarus and the rich man, it appears that Lazarus never accumulated any wealth or personal possessions.  He died in the same shape he lived – in poverty, want, and sickness.  This should cause us to reevaluate what it means to be ‘successful’.

You won’t be measured by what you didn’t have.  You won’t be measured by the opportunities that passed you by in life, and landed on someone else.  You won’t be measured by your wealth or poverty.  But, you will be measured by what you did with what you were given, whether it be little or great.

Whether we are rich or poor we all face difficulties, disappointments, grief, sorrow, and setbacks.  Some have many, and some have few.  But, regardless, our glory may be measured not by the size of the difficulties we face, but in how we face them, and overcome them.

In the case of Lazarus we can gain some insight into the fact he never gave up.  According to the parable he was at the gate of the rich man every day until he died.  He didn’t just stay home, which might have been far easier.  He was engaged.

So, instead of wishing our problems and difficulties would go away, maybe we should be looking for a way out, or a way to overcome.  With every difficulty there is a purpose.  We may not fully understand what that purpose is, but there is a purpose.  In many situations God will give us the ability to work our way through.  In others, only God can perform the work required.  But, in all cases, there is usually something that is required of us.  God wants us to be a participant, not a spectator.

Understand, there are some life situations that cannot be solved with simply applying effort or courage.  But, there is always something to be gained.  And, the glory belongs to those individuals who refuse to give up, to sit in defeat, or get their hands dirty.  The glory belongs to those who are grimy, face covered with sweat and mud, and who live according to the grace given to us from God.  Those are the victors, and will receive their ‘glory’ in due time.