The Rewards of Service

All rights reserved: Photo by cscotchmer
via flickr

Someday you and I are going to stand in the presence of the holy Lord, and our life will be reviewed. At that time, our works will be judged, and we will be rewarded accordingly.
That is going to be a very solemn moment because some will suffer heavy loss, while others will receive great reward. I’m not taking about salvation here, because salvation is never a reward for services rendered—it’s simply a gift offered to everyone who receives Jesus as Savior. But rewards are different. They are tied to service.
In the Bible, Jesus had a lot to say about the rewards that we will receive for serving. He also used some very strong words to describe the man who hid his talent instead of working to invest it. In the parable, his master called him a “wicked, lazy slave” and proceeded to take away what had been given earlier (Matt. 25:26).
The Lord also gave us another warning: He cautioned us not to perform Christian service in such a way that others will be certain to notice. When that happens, He says we lose our reward in heaven(6:1-6). Whatever may have been set aside for our benefit will be lost, and our total gain is nothing more than the recognition of others.
The best way to serve is out of love. The better you know God, the more you’ll love Him and desire to serve Him. And the more you want to serve, the more He will honor your service. This leads to even greater love for Him, and the cycle will continue throughout eternity.


The Requirements of Servanthood

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Jesus washing a disciples foot

Over time believers should become increasingly like Christ. We’re never more like Him than when we are selflessly reaching out to meet somebody else’s needs.
As servants, we need to incorporate the following into our lives:
• Awareness. Jesus stopped under the sycamore tree because He was aware that Zaccheus was up there. How many needy people are “hiding in trees” while you walk by them without looking up?
• Availability. On spotting the tax collector, Jesus didn’t make an appointment to go see him a few weeks later. Being available was such a priority that He dropped whatever agenda He may have had and went right to Zaccheus’s house.
• Acceptance. Jesus did not wait until Zaccheus got cleaned up and straightened out his life. The Lord accepted him just as he was. We must never forget how Jesus embraced us, filthy rags and all.
• Abiding. When we are saved, we become grafted into the vine of Jesus Christ. Abiding in Him is the only way to find the resources to serve other people in the way that they need to be served.
• Abandonment. God calls us to abandon our selfish desires. Only in leaving behind self-seeking ways will we be free to truly serve others.
Jesus came, not as a superstar to be served, but as a servant who would give His life as a ransom for many (Matt. 20:28). He tells us to go and do likewise. When we’ve received Him as Savior and then yield to Him as Lord, our lives become a living expression of the One who came to be a servant to all.


The Landmine of Fear

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Humans have legitimate reasons to live  in fear—our world has many dangers. But although our environment is frightening, Christians are not to accept fear as a way of life. God’s awesome promises allow us to live peacefully in our surroundings.
For our protection, God has instilled some natural apprehensions in us, like a fear of snakes or deep water. Our instinctive concern teaches us to respect these things until we know how to survive an encounter with them. The Creator also gave us a warning system so we’d react quickly to danger. For instance, if a car speeds toward us, an instant reaction of alarm could save our life.
In other words, some fears protect us. But constant, all-consuming dread is unhealthy. While we may feel afraid if we spot a snake, most of us don’t worry much about having such encounters. Some people anguish over dangers that might occur—instead of entrusting loved ones to God, they anxiously imagine all the ways injury might occur.
As anxiety grows, uncertainty builds up until it hinders our relationship with God. Fears about the welfare of loved ones, financial well-being, or eternal security all result from doubt regarding the Lord’s provision. Then our attention is centered on our concerns rather than on the One who promises to hold us in His hand.
The Lord offers us strength because He understands how fear can torment us. Don’t allow worry to blind you to His promises and thereby deprive you of the help that He always has available. The Bible reminds us: “My God shall supply all your needs” (Phil. 4:19).


A Moment of Weakness

All Rights Reserved: By  xianrendujia via Flickr

We all face key moments of decision, when our actions can lead to lasting consequences. The issue is, will you be ready when such a time comes?
David wasn’t prepared for the moment of decision that suddenly faced him. At a time when he was restless, lonely, and preoccupied with worries, temptation and sin caught him unprepared. We can guard ourselves against these moments of weakness by remembering one simple word: H-A-L-T.
First, never allow yourself to get too hungry. When the body is weak from lack of food, poor decisions are likely to follow. Respect your body and provide the sustenance it needs.
Second, don’t permit yourself to get too angry. Anger can cloud judgment and lead to regrettable decisions.
A third caution is not to let yourself become too lonely. When you feel isolated, you may find yourself willing to do almost anything to feel accepted or loved.
Fourth, don’t allow yourself to get too tired. Sleep is essential for wise decisions. When you deprive your mind and body of its necessary “down time,” poor choices become probable.
Being wise in these four areas can prevent thoughts of “If only I hadn’t . . .” later on.
Commit now never to make important decisions when you are too hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. Instead, be honest at those times and admit you’re unprepared to make sound judgments. Then delay the decision until you can approach it with prayer, patience, and godly wisdom. 


How to Pray for a President

1 Timothy 1:2-5

As Christians, we have a responsibility to pray for those in authority over us—fathers, pastors, and leaders. When you talk to God about the President, ask that he will . . .

1. Realize he has been given that position by either God's choice or His permissive will.
2. Recognize his personal inadequacy for the task and look to God for the wisdom, knowledge, and courage to succeed.
3. Reject all counsel that violates spiritual principles and then trust the Lord to validate him.
4. Resist pressure from individuals or special interest groups that would have him act in violation of his conscience or godly principles.
5. Work at reversing destructive trends toward atheism and humanism that try to dethrone God, deify man, and lead to an ungodly society.
6. Be ready to forsake his political career and personal ambition for the best interest of the nation.
7. Rely upon the Word of God as his source of strength and key to success.
8. Bring dignity, honor, trustworthiness, and righteousness to the office of the presidency.
9. Be a good example, especially to the fathers and sons of the nation.
10. Be reminded daily that he is accountable to Almighty God for his attitudes, actions, and motivations while in office.

Leading a country is a very important, demanding job. The President and other elected officials need our prayers. But to be effective, our requests must be more specific than “Lord, bless the President” or “God, help our leaders do a good job.” The above list is a good way to start.


The Determination of God's Will

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Ephesians 1:1-14

Believers who feel frustrated by the Christian life lack two critical pieces of knowledge: an understanding of God’s will and an awareness of the steps to discover His plan for our lives. Over the next couple of days, we will look at the nature of God’s intentions and how to access them.
Let’s begin by taking a look at the “determined will” of God, which includes His unchangeable plans for the world. As the sovereign ruler, He is in total control— no government rises to power and no physical ailment occurs unless He allows it. He is determined to carry out the plan that He developed long before creation.
The Lord reveals very little of His determined will to mankind. We can anticipate only those events He has disclosed, such as Christ’s return and the great white throne judgment. (Rev. 19:11; 20:11-15) Much of the knowledge we have comes from our experience and Bible reading. We know, for example, that the Lord has given us limited free will and that He has a plan for redeeming us from the sin in our life.
The Lord will have His way, whether we believe in His sovereignty or not. His plan is far bigger than we can grasp, and it was designed in a way that will glorify Him while revealing our need for Him.
God’s purpose is His glory. Because our limited human perspective sees only the evil of crime, disease, and war, people wonder how He can allow these. But we know “God causes all things to work together for good” (Rom. 8:28). Just look at the cross—God’s greatest expression of good and glory!


How Do You Listen to God's Word?

Though it contains essential information for every human life, people approach the Bible very differently. Today’s passage identifies four types of listeners:
• Closed mind. This does not exclusively describe unbelievers. Christians, too, can listen passively, without intending to apply what they hear. The seed can’t germinate because the soil’s surface is too hard. Such believers remain shallow until they decide to pay attention to God and obey.
• Clouded mind. Represented by rocky soil, the clouded mind will hear God’s Word and get excited. But then the person doesn’t take time to study, grow roots, and let the truth sink into his heart. With little doctrinal foundation or knowledge of God’s promises, he has difficulty withstanding the harshness of life.
• Cluttered mind. The worries of life are to the Christian heart what briers, thorns, and thickets are to a garden. A preoccupied mind has little or no room for God’s Word to sprout and thrive.
• Committed mind. God can do great things through someone whose mind is like fertile soil. The most intellectual person in the world, if not teachable, will miss the truth of the gospel, whereas even a young child who is willing to listen and learn will be transformed.
All of us would like to have the blessing described in today’s reading—a huge return for what is sown. For that to be true of our life, we need to take an honest look to see if we approach biblical principles with a teachable Spirit. As Jesus said, “He who has ears, let him hear.”


God's Viewpoint about Money

God knew how obsessively the issue of money would occupy our minds, so He placed special emphasis on it in His Word.
Did you know there are some 2,350 verses about money—more than any other topic? And did you realize more than half of Jesus’ parables use money as object lessons? Knowing where our greatest interest and temptations would be, God spelled out what we would need to know in order to handle our resources with His wisdom.
The Lord is personally interested in the details of our life, including our financial security. That is why His Word includes instructions about giving and attitudes He wants us to have. We are to give . . .
• Generously. Most likely, you have what some would view as blessing beyond measure. Many who have abundance succumb to a temptation to hoard. Honor God with your first fruits—right off the top—and then bless others with your abundance.
• Cheerfully. We should put the Lord’s monetary principles into effect joyfully, not under compulsion or guilt. Remember that He knows your heart and motives.
• Confidently.God keeps His promises. Malachi 3:10 tells us that when we give to support the Lord’s work, He will open the windows of heaven and impact every area of your life.
See what Scripture has to say about money and its usage, and put into practice biblical principles for handling treasure. God wants His children to take steps to follow Him. When He sees that you are being faithful in small ways, He will trust you in greater ways.
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