Monday, November 28, 2016

The Christian Reward(s)

Definition:  Reward = something given in return for service, work, faithfulness, or good deeds.  Not to confuse rewards with all the grace that comes from God.

On one hand, in the Greek, the word for reward was used primarily of wage, payment, compensation for work done.
However, in the New Testament, carries the idea that the service was NOT mandated, but 1) voluntarily performed and 2 voluntarily rewarded (beyond wages)

Heb. 6:10   Eph. 6:8   Matt. 16:27

Remember - rewards not to be confused with gifts of salvation (forgiveness, cleansing, reconciliation, adoption, eternal life, heavenly home)

His rewards appear somewhere between wage and gift  - (extra, additional compensation ... for a job "well done".)

I.  The Promise of Reward(s) - throughout the scriptures
Appears from Gen. 15:1 - Amplified - "I am your abundant compensation and your reward shall be exceedingly great"

to..... Rev. 22:12

II.  What are we rewarded for?

III.  What are we rewarded with?
Rewards are available to anyone who wants to serve Him, work for Him.

Rewarded for?  - Matt. 6:1 - umbrella = "acts of righteousness"
Examples = 1) generosity - Matt. 6:2-4
                   2)  prayer - Matt. 6:5-6
                   3)  fasting - Matt. 6:16-18

New Testament = rewards for faithfulness, obedience, service, righteous living, faithful witness, hospitality!!!  Matt. 10:40-42. (The bulk of scripture refer to rewards that come after death.)

Rewarded with?   language is often symbolic (therefore, illusive)
Example = the 7 churches in Revelation.
"to him who overcomes I will give.......
Rev. 2:7 - the right to eat of the tree of life
Rev. 2:11 - that he not be hurt by the second death
Rev. 2:17  - some of the hidden manna
Rev. 2:26 - authority over the nations
Rev. 3:12 - make him a pillar in the temple of God
Rev. 3:21 - the right to sit with Christ on His throne

Question:  Are these literal?  symbolic?  Clearly they are precious rewards given for faithfulness!!!

CROWNS" - James - "crown of life"
                      Paul - "crown of righteousness"
                      Peter - "crown of glory"
                      Paul - a victor's crown "that will last forever"
Note:  Rev. 4:9-11 led to idea to "Casting Crowns" - Christian group

Whatever else may be - Rewards clearly include:
1)  Recognition of our Service (to Christ) - He won't forget
2) the Praise of Christ (for that service) - is an awesome thing that the Creator would praise us!
Illustration:  Matt. 25:19-21 - Talents - KJV - "enter thou into the joy of thy Lord"

With the promises ALSO come warnings - 2 John 1:8, Heb. 10:35-36, Rev. 3:11
Vividly described by Paul --- 1 Cor. 3:10-15, 2 Cor. 5:10

Question:  Is the desire, anticipation of reward(s) acceptable motivation?? (to serve, work, etc.)
MRP answer = probably!!  Because 1)  Jesus is the One who "dangles the carrot" (of rewards) - His teaching, His promises
and, 2) we are human (are we capable of pure, unselfish motives?)

Nonetheless, seems clear what should be our motivation: 
ie:  LOVE - for Christ (reverence, gratitude, appreciation)
 -  for our fellow man ie:  (good Samaritan)
 - for the Kingdom - here and now, as well as there and then
Col. 3:23-24

Question:  can a person serve Christ before accepting, recognizing Him?!
MRP experience/testimony = I did (OR at least attempted to!!)

Point = some here who believe ...
                             who want to honor Christ
                             who attempt to serve Him .....
BUT - hesitate to take the final step!!

Challenge - IF you know .... IF you are sure ... WHY WAIT?
Why not .... Make it final ... make it Public?

For all of us --- 1 Cor. 15:58

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Thankful for Grace

Today = rubber band day - reminder to be "thankful for grace" - to stop and give thanks

Grace = unmerited favor, unearned blessing, undeserved kindness.

But, today we are talking about the grace of God:

General grace - to all people.  examples:  beauty of fall, cool temperatures, color, etc.

Personal grace = specific from God to an individual
1)  By grace you exist (have life by the grace of God - not because we deserved it)  - Psm. 139:13-14
and you exits with purpose!!! - Jer. 1:4-5 - not just apostles and prophets that God has a purpose for.
Paul - "in Him we live and move and have our being"

2)  By grace you live in 21st. Century America
Why not --- 1300's - Europe/Black Plague - 50% of the continent's population died;  80% of local populations died
             ---- 1980's -- Ethiopia - famine, upheaval = 1 million people died
or         ---- 2016 - Mozambique - life expectancy = 39 years (1/2 of yours)

By Grace ---- were born into a nation with 25% of the world's wealth, with extensive resources, beauty, with freedom of religion, speech, opportunity - example:  elections
We have an incredibly blessed time to live in and be in.

These blessings alone = enough ti have us standing in AWE of His graciousness.

At this time of the year, many acknowledge that:
92% of Americans plan "a special family gathering for a meal"
83% offer "a special grace of thanksgiving at that meal"
It is inherent to recognize the blessings of God.

BUT, are many additional reasons to be "thankful for grace".

Personal blessings with spiritual connotation that come when we are a child of Christ (Christian)

3)  By grace you are called, ie:  chosen, selected, summoned - 1 Thess. 2:11-12 - extends the invitation
And, that by grace!!! - Gal. 1:6, 15 - called because He's good!

4)  By grace you are saved - Eph. 2:8-9 - by grace you received all that comes with salvation - forgiveness, cleansing, reconciliation, adoption - AND inheritance!!!  Rom. 8:15-17

By Grace you are saved OR can BE!! - Gospel message

5)  By grace you are kept - Jude 25, Jude 24   John 10:27-29

6)  By grace you are gifted ----
     A.)  with special abilities, talents - have a certain makeup that allows you to manifest Christ to others -
1 Cor. 12:7 - the evidence of God's Presence in your life
And B)  with opportunities to use those talents to manifest Christ, to touch lives, to Make an Eternal Difference for other people

7)  IN GRACE YOU STAND - Rom. 5:1-2 - happens not just once in a while, but are in grace all the time!

Response to Grace??  (general and personal)

#1.  Acknowledge Grace (both the gift and the giver) - contrast Rom.1:21-22 - would not acknowledge God's grace.

#2.  Give thanks - which is more than be thankful!!  (in Scripture, for every one reference to attitude of thanksgiving, we find nearly 50 references to the ACT of thanksgiving.
Attitude is commendable but the action is what is needed.

which leads to -----
#3 - Worship - through words, songs, life style, hand raising, etc.

#4 -  Serve - because we declare His worth" with actions, lifestyle, service - when we serve others.

#5.  Share BOTH - material blessings, and knowledge of Christ -
example:  Jesus to the 12 - Mat. 10:7-8

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Every Christian's Ally

Series = Christian Journey - from born again to death.
Goals of the journey?  
1)  a worthy walk - live a worthy life, respond and act like a Christian   Eph. 4:1
2)  personal development leading you to become Christlike (molding character, heart, hands)
3)   Kingdom promotion - Matt. 28:19-20, 6:10
The goal is NOT heaven, but your walk in this life.

As you journey  and if you attempt these goals:
I.  Expect opposition, active resistance, personal attacks - not just talking about obstacles here.  The degree to which you attempt to attain these goals for your Christian life can have a large effect on the degree of opposition you will face.
In the form of:  A)  Satan  Rev. 12:17 & his minions
                       B)  Self - Rom. 7;21
                       C) Society (the world, current philosophy, way of thinking) - John 15:18-19
Jesus made it clear that we will run into opposition as He did, but also made it clear that:
II.  Expect Divine Assistance  ie:  The Holy Spirit - Prior to Jesus betrayal and death - John 14:15-18, 25-26, 16:5-7, 12-13 (unto all truth...)

The word ParaKlete comes from the Greek para - (alongside), plus Kaleo (to call) - meaning one called alongside to help
The use of this word = very significant.
Examples of para - para....medic,,  para....ministry

Compare 1 John 2:1 (same word) - in the Amplified Version = "One who will intercede for us with the Father"  - One = paraklete  Also, see "fruit of the spirit"
Other titles (& synonyms):
The Comforter
The Counselor
The Helper - to assist in time of need

The Interceder
The Advocate
The Standby
(terms used of a family attorney)

The One who Encourages
The One who Consoles - in times of deep sorrow and pain
The One who Strengthens

Many synonyms:  to aid, assist, support, HELP!! 
to console, comfort, ease grief and pain
to strengthen, enable, encourage
to guide, direct, illuminate
to remind, teach, convince
Note:  Rom. 8:26

The list goes on and on!!  A catch all verse?  a practical synonym?  Luke 24:48-49 - "Power"
(the necessary strength, the necessary ability) to do what He calls you to do - Phil. 4:13
Power often thought of as might, here means strength and ability.

Something we as Christians have that the old Testament saints did not have:
Not only promised to be with us, also promised to be IN us - John 14:17, 1 Cor. 3:16
(which = ever present, ever available to help!)

This is:  1) the Spirit of God - 3rd. person of the Trinity
            2) the Spiritual Presence of Christ (in His physical absence) - literally, really

Our (human) problems with this =
#1.  The Holy Spirit is not Physical (hence - not always evident... in Presence, in Activity) - we're accustomed to what we can see, feel, touch with our five senses because we ARE human.

#2.  He acts according to His wisdom (not yours or mine) (hence He doesn't always do what I think He should do)

#3.  this whole idea is incomprehensible - Col.1:27
(Omnipotent Creator God within me????)
IF I accept the words of Christ, I MUST accept this "mystery", ie: Holy Spirit working ..... IN me, ON me, THRU me!!
Very easy to comprehend, very difficult to execute but the difficulty does not make it untrue!

So, How to take full advantage of His Presence?  Appropriate?  maximize? 
#1.  Surrender - it's not getting more of the Spirit, but Him getting more of you!! - don't get more of the Spirit, either have Him or not!

#2.  Obey (what your know) "quench not, grieve not"
We don't need more of the Spirit's movement when we already have the Word

#3.  Be Available 

#4.  Work - 1 Pet. 4:10 - regardless whether we experience or sense the workings
#5.  TRUST HIM WITH THE OUTCOME - we don't turn the spigot, we don't control what's dispensed, we don't determine how it's received, and the outcome.  2 Cor. 6:1

Receiving the Spirit - not based on our merits or goodness, if are born again, we have the Holy Spirit.

Monday, November 7, 2016

The Need for Balance

Tuesday = elections!!
Many bemoan:
1)  the state of, direction of, leadership of our nation.

Christians also bemoan:

2) the loss of Christian influence (ideals, morals)
3)  loss of religious freedoms 

Therefore:  there is a need to balance 
On one hand -  legitimate concerns, anxiety fear of what's ahead, with
on the other hand - Christian hope, confidence, expectation

So:  Some history:  Jer. 26:1-11 roughly 606 BC
People's answer to Jeremiah - "Jerusalem CANNOT fall because = God's nation (people)
                                                                                                       God's city
                                                                                                       God's temple."

"the fall of Jerusalem would = the end of our faith and of God's (earthly) Kingdom!!!"

JUMP AHEAD 20 years!!!   Jer. 52:12-14, 24-27

Note:  Jeremiah was a prophet but also a patriot!!   He loved Jerusalem, Israel, the people, the temple.
Hence, his next writing = Lam. 1:1, 5

BUT -- the (great) loss of all that did not mean the loss of hope for Jeremiah.
Lam. 3:19-24 - his hope was not in the nation or the temple.  It was in GOD!!!

JUMP AHEAD - 70 years!!  New empire, new King!!  Ezra 1:1-4 - A pagan King!!  told them to "return, rebuild, restore"

POINT:  God's Kingdom is not dependent on any place, people group, city, nation to accomplish His work.

JUMP AHEAD 500 (more or less) years - Jesus' day
Jerusalem = great city, great temple, center of the Jewish faith.  Pride and joy of all Israel  (at home and dispersed)

Matt. 24:1-3 - Disciples' reaction:!!!   - "fall of the temple = end of life as we know it!!"

No Biblical account of this, but much historically recorded (Josephus - lived through this).  Same message and same response as was that of Jeremiah.
AD 70 - Titus came in - total destruction of the city, temple, nation!!!

Transition here - ie:  from Judaism to Christianity.
However - the FAITH MOVED FORWARD!!!!  
Because - God's Kingdom is NOT dependent on any place, people, city, nation!!!

JUMP AHEAD 200 years! - in spite of state sanctioned persecution of Christians, Christianity expanded, grew, spread, multiplied!!  Until it touched Constantine - who converted in 312 AD.   Edict of Milan in 313 AD = Christian religion no longer to be persecuted.

Christianity now = 1) legal  2)  preferred!!   Over next 100 years -
A) grew from 5% to 50% of the Empire!
B) found its' SEAT in the city of Rome!!  (former place of persecution!)

Aug. 24, 410AD
- world's largest city  (800,000)
- center of the Christian church
- not conquered in more than 800 years - known as the Eternal City.
FELL IN 1 DAY!!  to the Germanic (VIS) Goths

Many Christians throughout the world = stunned!  sorrowful!  afraid!!
Because (their view) "As Goes ROME, so Goes the FAITH!!"

In response, Augustine of Hippo wrote "The City of God" - (22 books in 1 volume)
"though earthly empires fail, .... the city of God will triumph"

POINT = strive for balance!
On one hand, #1.   We have good reason to be concerned. 
These things are important.  They shape man's history (child's future)!!
Should be brokenhearted over these - as was Jeremiah, as was Jesus -  Matt. 23:37-38

However, #2.  We also have good reason for hope!!
Because, while it may shape man's history, - does NOT CONTROL God's eternity!!
Dan. 2:31-45   Matt. 16:13-18

Should have great hope (expectation),  BUT
#3.  Hope should not translate into passivity - Matt. 5:13-16  (is never a time for Christians to stop trying to Make A Difference!!  M.A.D.)  Yes, God can get it down without us, but He wants to work through us!

#4.  should also recognize that Our failing does not limit God's ability  Rom. 8:28  "God works...."

So --- look for scriptural) balance between - concern (for what we see might be) and confidence in what will be)

#5.  Christian hope is not generic - ie: some vague notion of confidence in a benevolent Being.  Our hope is in Jesus Christ!  John 14:1 - not enough to have faith in a benevolent God - John 14:6 - Jesus said,  "I am the way....."