Thursday, July 31, 2014

What Does Scripture Say About Christ's Coming Again? Part 2

I began this on Tuesday, so go back and read Part 1 if you've not read it yet.  My main point in understanding the coming of Christ is that it must be tied to the Message of the coming of the Kingdom of God.  In fact, Jesus himself said in Matthew 24:14... 

"And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come."

The reality is that the Kingdom of God is come in Christ's rule, authority, upon the earth and in the Church.  This is how I ended Part 1....

We must realize we are living RIGHT NOW as citizens of Christ’s Kingdom.

Colossians 1:13 (ESV)
13  He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,

Revelation 1:5-7 (ESV)
5  … Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood
6  and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

That is the Right Now aspects…and then John quickly adds…
7  Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.

OK, now Part 2:
The Kingdom Is Our Future Hope of Jesus’ Coming Again
Peter wrote two letters at the end of the New Testament…
In his second letter he begins by talking about faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, godliness and love as qualities to be developed.  THEN

2 Peter 1:10-11 (ESV)
10  Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.
11  For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Here’s the Key, the Kingdom is NOW upon the earth, and we enter into it through faith in Christ Jesus – this is what it means to be born again by the Spirit…but that is just a precursor to our entering someday into the Kingdom in Heaven… SO, it’s the NOW and The NOT YET.

1 Peter 1:3-5 (ESV)
3  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
4  to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,
5  who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

The Reality is that for us, there is a truth that we hold onto…Jesus will come back and take us to himself.  Whether that is in our death, or at a time in the future when that occurs.
Two Basic Questions For Us To Ask:
1.    
      Do We Have an Assurance of Jesus’ coming again?

2 Peter 3:4 (ESV)
4  They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.”

John 14:3 (ESV)
3  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

John 17:24 (ESV)
24  Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

Acts 1:6-11 (ESV)
6  So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”
7  He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.
8  But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
9  And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.
10  And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes,
11  and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

The scripture is clear… “yes, I believe the word…I don’t know when, but I do know He will”.  

Not knowing when isn’t the same as not expecting. 

We've all seen videos of soldiers returning home and surprising their families... THey are amazing because the families knew their parent or spouse was coming sometime, but didn't know it was going to be that day!

Here's the point:  The fact that we don't know WHEN Jesus will return does not mean that we don't expect that He WILL return again.  

Lastly, because of Grace not yet affrimed, we can understand in part Why Jesus has not returned Yet?

2 Peter 3:9-10 (ESV)
9  The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
10  But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed
.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

What does the Scripture say about Christ's Coming Again? Part 1

Hi again.  Last Sunday (and this next Sunday) the Potpourri summer series turned towards the subject of Jesus' return, and this next week, what it will be like to die and go to heaven.  I find it interesting to "muse" over, and though you might think it a walk in the park when it comes to what to say, I diidn't.  So, here's the beginning of this teaching...part 1

Matthew 24:1-14 (ESV)
1  Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple.
2  But he answered them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”
3  As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”

There is no question that Jesus spoke of his coming again, and the disciples were asking because they wanted to know.  And, down through Church History, Christians have always wondered IF MAYBE THIS GENERATION IS THE ONE. 

A lot of books & Movies have been done on this subject.  When I first came to Christ, Hal Lindsey’s “The Late Great Planet Earth” was the book every Christian I knew read.  Later in the 90's the “Left Behind” series became very popular among Christians.  Whatever your opinion of the book series, I would caution:  It’s a fictional novel and I wouldn't look at it as theology.

Lately, I have done very little teaching on the return of Christ, but Iknow it's still a very popular subject and some have listened, read and studied this from various authors and speakers. 

Personally, I taught on this a lot in my early years of ministry.  My first Bible was the Schofield Study Bible and it was written as a guide to the Pre-Millennial Return of Jesus.  About 1985, I stopped speaking about Jesus return in terms of a Rapture and Pre-Milliannialism.  Why?  

My own understanding of Christ’s coming changed over time as I taught scripture and saw something else – the Kingdom of God.
Let’s start right here, with Jesus and as he began to preach at the age 30 he began to proclaim the Kingdom of God is now.
The Kingdom of God Should Guide Our Understanding of Christ’s Coming Again
Here’s the reason why:
3  As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”
4  And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray.
5  For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray.
6  And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet.
7  For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places.
8  All these are but the beginning of the birth pains…
11  And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray.
12  And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.
13  But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
14  And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

The key phrase is in vs 14 - "the gospel (good news) of the Kingdom".  A lot of people have heard the two - gospel and Kingdom - but have little understanding of how they fit together.  What we proclaim is the gospel - Jesus died for our Sins.  But how does the Gospel of the Kingdom enter into Jesus' proclamation that it will be declared and "then" the end will come?

The Kingdom of God is the realm of God’s rule.  It is his domain.  I live in Wisconsin.  I am subject to the laws of Wisconsin...I live in the domain of Wisconsin.  

When Jesus came saying, "The Kingdom of God is at hand", he was declaring what was known from the beginning of time.  God created and owns the whole earth.  The Kingdom of God lays claim to the whole earth…but it’s not a political Kingdom.

Jesus didn’t come announcing a militaristic campaign to take over the world.  He came declaring God's purpose to restore all of the earth to be His creation, without sin, decay and death.  This is happening...this will happen.
The RIGHT NOW of the Kingdom
John 3:1-5 (ESV)
1  Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews.
2  This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.”
3  Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
4  Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”
5  Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.

LATER

John 18:36 (ESV)
36  Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”

After Jesus’ death and Resurrection he appeared to his disciples over a 40 day period before he ascended into heaven.

Acts 1:3-8 (ESV)
3  He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.
4  And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me;
5  for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
6  So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”
7  He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.
8  But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

So when Jesus said to his disciples – and therefore to us – that the Gospel of the Kingdom is to be preached before he returns, we need to understand what he’s saying. 

Gospel = Good News.  The Good news is of the Kingdom of God.  That we are not merely living until we die, or even until Jesus comes back. 

Instead, we are living RIGHT NOW as citizens of Christ’s Kingdom.

Colossians 1:13 (ESV)
13  He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,
Revelation 1:5-7 (ESV)
5  … Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood
6  and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

That is the Right Now aspects…BUTthen John quickly adds…
7  Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.
 

THERE'S MORE....Tomorrow

Peace

Friday, July 25, 2014

Potpourri, Why People Who Don't Know God Seem To Prosper Just Fine, Part 3

Over the last couple of days I've posted teaching notes from a teaching that pertains to the question of "Why do people who don't know God seem to do just fine in life?"  I was asked to do that teaching as part of a summer long series that were often unrelated - hence, Potpourri.

If you haven't read parts 1 & 2, I'd suggest you go back and read them first.  Either way, this is the final part of the teaching, and in it I summarize WHY knowing God is essential, regardless of whether a person is "doing fine" in life or not.  

Picking up from where we left off yesterday....


Why seek to orient life around God, with faith in Christ, and a desire to follow his ways?  That’s worth thinking about…my primary point is simple:
God is Just and all of Life will eventually be Accountable to Him

The writer of Ecclesiastes hits the nail on the head…

Ecclesiastes 9:1-2 (ESV)
1  But all this I laid to heart, examining it all, how the righteous and the wise and their deeds are in the hand of God. Whether it is love or hate, man does not know; both are before him.
2  It is the same for all, since the same event happens to the righteous and the wicked, to the good and the evil, to the clean and the unclean, to him who sacrifices and him who does not sacrifice. As the good one is, so is the sinner, and he who swears is as he who shuns an oath.

Ecclesiastes 9:9-11 (ESV)
9  Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun.
10  Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.
11  Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to those with knowledge, but time and chance happen to them all.

Before the bumper sticker was ever invented, the writer of Ecclesiastes saw the reality – STUFF HAPPENS – So, enjoy life to the best of your ability, but don’t compare it with others, because that is not a based on knowing why things happen, or don't happen to us or others.

BUT, be assured of this…while there is no guarantees in this life, there is a sureness of accountability for life.

Ecclesiastes 8:12-13 (ESV)
12  Though a sinner does evil a hundred times and prolongs his life, yet I know that it will be well with those who fear God, because they fear before him.
13  But it will not be well with the wicked, neither will he prolong his days like a shadow, because he does not fear before God.

The issue isn't that we measure life on the basis of how good someone seems to have it, or how "not good" they seem to have it.  That is merely looking at life from the standpoint of the visible surface.  What is reality is that all of life must be accountable to God, and IS accountable to God.  Paul made this clear in Romans 2…

Romans 2:6-11 (ESV)
6  He will render to each one according to his works:
7  to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life;
8  but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.
9  There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek,
10  but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek.
11  For God shows no partiality.

What we should be clear on is that last sentence…God shows no partiality.

At the end of the day, it's simple, I wouldn’t worry about others, just focus on yourself.

What should we think then in terms of God’s view of people who prosper when they care nothing about him?

2 Peter 3:8-10 (ESV)
8  But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.
9  The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
10  But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.

God is good, kind, merciful and gracious.  He is always seeking to show humans the need for life in Him.  BUT...there is an end that will come someday.  

We go back to the Psalm that started this:

Psalm 73:11-13 (ESV)
11  And they say, “How can God know? Is there knowledge in the Most High?”
12  Behold, these are the wicked; always at ease, they increase in riches.
13  All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence.

That’s how some feel when it comes to issues of obedience, faithfulness, etc…What's in it for me?  Why try when others seem to get along fine without trying?  It seems so difficult to understand, but then the Psalmist gets a reality check.

Psalm 73:16-17 (ESV)
16  But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task,
17  until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end.

It's in this place of worship that we are called to “Think, Just Think”…Do we really believe a life without God is better?  Do we really believe that somehow we can live without seeking to know God and still be fine?  It's a foolish person who does not acknowledge God.  (Psalm 14:1)

What is our comfort in knowing God?  In knowing His Word?  In obedience and faithfulness to our commitment to Him?  Notice the words below...

Psalm 73:23-26 (ESV)
23  Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand.
24  You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory.
25  Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
26  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Psalm 73:27-28 (ESV)
27  For behold, those who are far from you shall perish; you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you.
28  But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.

This is the believers hope...not that life will always be great, that we will be materially "better off" than others, but instead that God is worth giving our lives to.  

In the end, here's a couple of Practicals to remember: 

>  Material Things Are not a Gauge of God’s Blessings.
>  In the end, it doesn’t matter that people who don’t care, who are evil, bad, prosper…they      have a free choice.  God is not going to coerce followers.
>  What we must do as believers is make sure  the shape of our own soul.

Matthew 16:24-26 (ESV)
24  Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
25  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
26  For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?

       At the end of the day, our relationship with Christ is all that counts. Everything else is temporary.

Peace


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Potpourri - Why People Who Don't Know God seem to Prosper Just Fine, Part 2

I began this blog last time, so if you haven't read Part 1, please go back before trying to understand what Part 2 is all about.

The problem stated comes from Psalm 73...and the Psalmist wonders out loud in similar ways that we do...

Psalm 73:1-15 (ESV)
1  Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.
2  But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped.
3  For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
4  For they have no pangs until death; their bodies are fat and sleek.
5  They are not in trouble as others are; they are not stricken like the rest of mankind…
11  And they say, “How can God know? Is there knowledge in the Most High?”
12  Behold, these are the wicked; always at ease, they increase in riches


That’s the dilemma.

A Lot of people walk faithfully with God, love Him, Obey Him, and Worship Him, but their neighbors are driving new cars, lots of toys and a big house, etc…and they don’t care at all about God.  Why do they seem to get along fine without God, and we not necessarily so?

Asaph’s dilemma continues:

Psalm 73:13-14 (ESV)
13  All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence.
14  For all the day long I have been stricken and rebuked every morning
.

What is Needed is a Biblical Perspective

First of all, there is an incorrect assumption about God and what people deserve. 
This assumption runs something like this:  If I love God, I will be blessed… And if I’m blessed then I’ll get God’s provisions.  While those who don’t love God will not be blessed and therefore won’t have God’s provisions.

Jesus had a couple of incidents that occurred that he reflected upon with his disciples.

Luke 13:1-5 (NIV)
1  Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices.

Pilate had killed these people even though they were trying to be faithful to sacrifice offerings to God.

2  Jesus answered, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way?
3  I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.

They weren’t judged by God…God didn’t order Pilate to do the deed…Pilate did it on his own and God had nothing to do with it.  

It’s a false assumption to make that people get what they deserve.

At the same time, the other assumption we need to deal with is that when people are blessed with abundant provisions that it means God is blessing them.

Matthew 5:44-45 (ESV)
44  But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
45  so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

God in general does not select who gets the rain and who doesn't.  It falls on all in the path of the rain storm, and therefore all are included.  
But, our struggle is not new…we can’t help but wonder why others?  Job did:

Job 21:7-19 (ESV)
7  Why do the wicked live, reach old age, and grow mighty in power?...
9  Their houses are safe from fear, and no rod of God is upon them…
14  They say to God, ‘Depart from us! We do not desire the knowledge of your ways.
15  What is the Almighty, that we should serve him? And what profit do we get if we pray to him?’ 17  “How often is it that the lamp of the wicked is put out? That their calamity comes upon them? That God distributes pains in his anger?

If were honest, we agree with Job. 
God doesn’t make sense at times when it comes to dealing with people who don’t care about him or want to please him..
Yet remember, in the end God rebuked Job’s arguments, as well as the arguments of Job’s so-called friends.  God told them that they lacked "PERSPECTIVE".
They all had a very limited perspective, and don't understand...

Isaiah 55:8-9 (ESV)
8  For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
9  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Psalm 103:8 (ESV)
8  The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

That’s all well and good, but we want that to be true for us, not for others… for them, we want them to get what they deserve.

Well, let's ask that previous question, what do we deserve? 

Lamentations 3:22 (NIV)
22  Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.

We forget that God is gracious in general…loving all.
The assumption that we must overcome is that when people go through difficult things that it means they are being punished by God…

John 9:1-3 (NIV)
1  As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth.
2  His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"
3  "Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.


There was that tendency to think that when bad things happened to people it meant God was judging them.  

Now, the question that needs to then be asked is:  "Why then choose to believe and follow God with faith?"  

Aahhh, now we're on the main issue...that next time.

Peace

Citizens of The Kingdom???

I've been reading a bit of Christian History...specifically about Charlemagne who was crowned as the first Holy Roman Emperor on Christmas Day, 800 a.d.  It's a fascinating read of a time when Church and Culture were as close as they could be.  A lot of Christians wished it could be true today, but once your realize what took place one cannot help but realize that it's a vision that is clearly not possible - simply because it fails to understand how human nature seeks a selfish end.

Christianity recognized a power to rule, but it was not a power to serve upwardly, but a power that sought to rule from above.   A power to rule "over" rather than "under".  The result was a culture - although steeped in the church - that was using power to control, rather than power to serve.  It's been an interesting read and lesson to learn, but it creates a question:

How do we then - as Christians - live within culture as citizens of the Kingdom?

Increasingly so, the culture has become more secular, even to the point of alienation from many aspects of Christianity's values.  We can't expect culture to embrace values it does not own.  But we must not embrace values that we know will ultimately ruin us and/or those around us.  

In an early Christian letter known as the Epistle of Diognetus (130 a.d.), Diognetus talks to his Christian audience about the push/pull of living for Christ in the Roman world - a world which was antagonistic to all things Christian.  He tells them to live Christ in the midst of their neighbors and love them:

"Christians dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners.  As Citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners.  Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers...They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven.  They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same surpass the laws by their lives."

I've been thinking about the Christians being expelled from their countries in the middle east - simply because they are Christians.  Since we live in a nation that is still allowing freedom for our faith we don't face what our brothers and sisters in Muslim countries are going through.  Yet be sure of this, we still must live as Citizens of the Kingdom first.  We must not be seduced by the thought that our political freedoms release us from living out lives that seek Christ first in all that we do.

Peace




Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Potpourri - Why Do People Who Don't Know, or Even Care to Know God Seem to Prosper Just Fine?

I've been teaching a Summer Series called “Potpourri”.  It’s a series of teachings based on topics, scripture, themes, our fellowship’s folk sent to me to teach on.

I’ve done four so far…and posted them previously.  
Last week we dove into this one on why people who seemingly don’t care about God do just fine in life, in fact, seem to do better than believers.

I have to say, I’ve thought about this a number of times in my own life.  It makes me aware of the recent teaching on jealousy and the subject we dealt with on “where is God when people suffer?”. 

We can’t help but wonder why God seemingly blesses those who don’t care and allows those who do care to go throw life with some difficult issues.
In fact, I would say some people argue that this is why they don’t believe in God – because there seemingly is no difference…

Well, that’s not the final issue, and that’s what we need to see… I'll begin this today and (hopefully) complete it tomorrow.

The issue is anchored in one of the Psalms

Psalm 73:1-12 (ESV)
1  Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.
2  But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped.
3  For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
4  For they have no pangs until death; their bodies are fat and sleek.
5  They are not in trouble as others are; they are not stricken like the rest of mankind…

11  And they say, “How can God know? Is there knowledge in the Most High?”
12  Behold, these are the wicked; always at ease, they increase in riches.

I gave my life to Christ when I was 20.  Went to Seminary after graduating from college – in Chattanooga, TN.  By the time I was done with Seminary I was 25.  I had a Master’s degree and school debt, and no church.
So, we came back to Wisconsin.  I got a job selling insurance.  I met 2 Christian farmers in the Randolph area while selling insurance and it was through them that I eventually began to pastor the Congregational Church in 1977.

What most people don’t know is that I tried to bargain with God to not Pastor, but instead to sell insurance.  Why?  Well, it was simple...I had worked all the way through Seminary, sometimes at three part time jobs.  IFor a time in Chattanooga, I was on the faculty of the school teaching in the college, but I still worked outside of that to make a living. The most money I had made through those school years was in 1974, and it was about $7000.

I came back in 1975 and I got the insurance job and I was given an area to sell, as well as a bunch of leads.  Selling insurance is a feast or famine kind of thing…but I was good at it.  In my first year I became “Rookie of the Year” in the company, and made over $25,000.  How much is that today?  With the price of inflation at 3%, it is about $112,000 today.  Not bad.

Everyone in our company did fine.  They owned their own homes, had a couple of cars, boats, golf, winter trips to warm places, etc…

SO…when Sam asked me to come and preach at the church, I said “Sure”…and then within a few weeks the elders asked if I would be willing to become the pastor of the First Congregational Church of Randolph.  The Pay?  $300/month and the Parsonage was rent free.  We paid the utilities.  $3600 then with inflation factored in is $16,000 today.  $112,000 or $16,000?   

I knew that this is what God wanted me to do…and so did Linda; and yet surrendering the good income was a difficult thing to do.  I even tried to bargain with God but ultimately I knew that selling and pastoring weren't compatible things to do.  So I stepped away from my insurance job.  I can still see the look on my boss' face when I told him.  He couldn't believe I would walk away from a job I was doing well in.

As a Pastor, trying to do God’s call never meant we’d be well off.  When our kids were growing we usually lived paycheck to paycheck.  
As our kids grew up the amount of income I made increased and we weathered those years.  

In all of the years we saw God’s faithfulness to us.  We didn't have a lot of money, but we made it and that is only described as being contented.

SO…is that the destiny of those who walk with God?  To live humbly without a lot compared to those around them who seemingly don’t care about God and do just fine.

I watched neighbors go on vacations, buy new cars, fishing boats, etc…and I certainly wished I had the money to do those things, but we never did.  My neighbors were - for the most part - not Christians.  They slept in on Sundays, read the newspapers, drank coffee, relaxed and did their own thing.  They didn't suffer, they had money, they lived happily - it seems.

That’s a dilemma that this man, ASAPH… a writer of the Psalms…faces when he begins to write Psalm 73…

Psalm 73:1-15 (ESV)
1  Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.
2  But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped.
3  For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
4  For they have no pangs until death; their bodies are fat and sleek.
5  They are not in trouble as others are; they are not stricken like the rest of mankind…

11  And they say, “How can God know? Is there knowledge in the Most High?”
12  Behold, these are the wicked; always at ease, they increase in riches.

That’s the dilemma.

A Lot of people walk faithfully with God, love Him, Obey Him, and Worship Him, but their neighbors are driving new cars, lots of toys and a big house, etc…and they don’t care at all about God.

Asaph’s dilemma is simply this:  Why does God allow bad people to prosper?

Psalm 73:13-14 (ESV)
13  All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence.
14  For all the day long I have been stricken and rebuked every morning


What is Needed is a Biblical Perspective....That's Next:

Peace


Monday, July 21, 2014

Judgments and Rewards, Part 3

Uughh...I'm getting terrible at remembering to finish these in a timely way...So sorry, please forgive.

I did this teaching on Judgments and Rewards and if you haven't read the two previous blogs you should see those first.  This is Part 3, and the final part of this teaching.  The last blog dealt with the first of the Crowns listed as belonging to believers.  There's a couple of more in scripture:



1.   The Crown of Life:  

James 1:12 (ESV)
12  Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.

The crown of life is awarded to all believers who sustain their spiritual growth in this life under pressure where growth of their faith is tested and refined in various trials.

1 Peter 1:6-9 (ESV)
6  In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials,
7  so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

By maintaining our faith in times of trouble, we show the world that we love Jesus Christ more than the world.

Revelation 2:8-11 (ESV)
8  “And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: ‘The words of the first and the last, who died and came to life.
9  “‘I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) ...
10  Do not fear what you are about to suffer... Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.
11  He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.’

2.   The Crown of Glory: 

The crown of glory corresponds to the virtue of love and is awarded to all believers who faithfully and properly fulfill the ministries assigned to them in life, but I love that in this section of scripture what Peter says.

1 Peter 5:1-4 (ESV)
1  So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed:
2  shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly;
3  not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.
4  And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.

Rewards are not the focus…service is.

Sen. Herb Kohl just recently sold the Bucks for several hundred Million dollars.  He sent out to every employee of the Bucks, from Ticket sellers, to those who swept the arena seats, to janitors, sellers in the food stands, to office people, a letter of thanks and a $500 check.  Now, it’s not a lot of money from the standpoint of what he got for the sale of the team, but it was a gesture of thanks for what they had done in serving the organization and not just the paycheck.

We gain reward for Love, based on Motives and Attitude…doing things in the right way for the right reason.

Philippians 3:8-14 (ESV)
8  Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ
9  and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—
10  that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,
11  that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
12  Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.
13  Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,
14  I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Lastly, remember this also -  there also was once a Crown of Thorns: 

We should remember that Jesus lived a life of perfect service, service to the point that He died on behalf of us all, and yet He was rewarded in this life by an ungrateful world with a crown of thorns even though He is was and still is, The rightful King.

What do we do with all of this teaching on Rewards?  How do we maintain a posture of loving obedience that is not motivated by anything other than love for Christ?

1 Corinthians 13:13 (ESV)
13  So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

The end of Christian love (which faith and hope support) is serving Christ’s Kingdom:

Galatians 6:9 (ESV)
9  And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

Whatever the task God has given us here on earth, we persevere knowing that this labor is not in vain in Jesus Christ our Lord.

This is how the Bible ends…when the story is complete:


Revelation 22:12 (NIV)
12  "Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done.