Saturday, April 28, 2012

Where are your talents?

Read Matthew 25:14-30

In this parable, we see a master and his three servants. Each servant is granted responsibility over a portion of the master’s treasure. All three servants know that their master is one who demands results. While all three are in the same situation, we see two very different responses.

Two of the servants decide that they are going to put themselves out there and use this opportunity to further their master’s estate. They face personal risk in doing so, but they know what their master expects and want to deliver so that he will be pleased.

The third servant is focused on self preservation. He is determined that he will avoid the cost of failure by not venturing out at all. He chooses to hide his treasure that he may return it when called upon with no risk to his own hide due to loss.

The master returns and calls his servants to account for their actions. The first two are rewarded, for they have put forth an honest effort and increased the holdings of their master. The third has done nothing. He has hidden his treasure. It was too precious to him to risk. He kept it close. Even an investment without risk, such as a deposit to earn interest, is more than he is willing to do. This man is punished. He is ordered to give what he has to one who will do something with it and is ordered to leave his master’s presence.

How many of us are like this third servant? We have our treasure, be it in possession or ability, and we keep it hidden. It is something that has been given to us and we don’t want to let anyone else see it or touch it. We want to keep it safe where nobody can break it or lose it. We keep our talents hidden where nobody can laugh at us or tell us we aren’t good enough. We don’t want to put our treasures at risk. They are too precious for that. As a result, we sit stagnant, gaining nothing for our covetous nature.

Matthew 6:19-21
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. For where you treasure is, there your heart will be also.

We need to break free of this stagnant pool where we have chosen to abide. Think on these words. For where you treasure is, there your heart will be also. I don’t want to bury my heart in the ground. We are called to be different. If you really care about something, you are willing to invest in it. We know that Jesus is Lord. His command to us is to go out and further the kingdom. It is His will that the gospel be preached to every living soul. We are to feed, clothe, and minister to the lost and the weary. We are to heal the sick, and share the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. This is where our treasure should be. Our time, talents, and resources have been given to us to further His kingdom. Are our hearts in His hands, in His kingdom, or are they buried in a hole in the ground?

Perhaps you say, “I have invested in the kingdom, and I have seen that investment make a good return. I am happy, and content with what I have gained.”

Revelation 3:15-18
I know your deeds, that you are neither cold or hot. I wish that you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm –neither hot nor cold- I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and a salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

God calls us to constantly seek after Him. He calls us to take every opportunity to further His kingdom, not to push to the point where we are comfortable with our success. Every time we see our treasures multiplied from our investment, we are to sew them right back into the kingdom, and do our part to aide in making it truly “on earth as it is in heaven.” Are we so blind and pitiful to believe that we can ever afford to let this investment opportunity slip us by?

Yes, it costs us our time, money, energy, and pride. Yet think of what we gain. Think of who we have the privilege to serve. We serve the King of Kings, and His kingdom is eternal. That kingdom is the one where we will find our reward. That is the place where we will be called to come and give account for how we have handled our talents, our treasures.

2 Corinthians 4:8
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Consider this for a moment. Where is the risk? We give up something temporary, something we are going to lose anyway in the end, and gain something eternal, something we can never lose. We were created to love and serve the Lord. Doing so is a win / win situation.

Think on it. Pray on it. Act on it.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Are you the real deal?

It happens to everyone at some point. We set out with the best of intentions, and try to present an honest and heart felt testimony of Christ’s love to others. Then, we face the “after effect.” The comments made on the sly while speaking, or out right challenge and contradiction once we have gone, are an attack on our character, and there is nothing new about them. Consider this from Paul.

2Corinthians 10:10
For some say, “His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing.

This sort of attack can be hurtful to the individual, and down right harmful to the ministry calling that person is trying to fulfill. The amount of harm can be limited and sometimes prevented all-together if there is more to our honesty than a presentation. We must truly live the words that we speak, and the message that we share. God’s word is not just something that we pass on with a pen stroke or lip service. These are directions, warnings, and safeguards for life, and they must be adhered.

2 Corinthians 10:11
Such people should realize that what we are in our letters, when we are absent, we will be in our actions when we are present.

2 Corinthians 11:6
I do not think I am in the least inferior to those “super-apostles.” I may indeed be untrained as a speaker, but I do have knowledge. We have made this perfectly clear to you in every way.

We have nothing to fear from naysayers when we are able to respond in a similar fashion. The only way that we can enable ourselves to do this is by living in truth. We have to walk the walk, or someone will call us on it. People will only listen to lip service for so long before they want to see a living example of the life that Christians are called to. If they can’t find that example in the person speaking to them, they will often leave discouraged.

There will always be those who speak out against us, but if there is no weight to their words, they will be soon forgotten. Truth stands in the end. We must always be sure that our words and deeds are reflecting our message. When the truth comes out, let it be something to strengthen your ministry, and further the kingdom, rather than a hindrance.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Rod of Correction

Someone at some point has said to you, “Spare the rod and spoil the child.” None of us liked hearing this as children, and some of us still aren’t all that fond of it as parents. What does the bible actually say about this topic?

Proverbs 29: 15-17

The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to himself disgraces his mother. When the wicked thrive, so does sin, but the righteous will see their downfall. Discipline your son, and he will give you peace.

There it is, right here in the bible. These are the proverbs of Solomon, the man who, when offered anything he desired from God, requested wisdom. God’s wisdom, through Solomon, gives us clear instruction in this matter. If simply knowing is not enough to motivate us in this area, take a look at the following.

1Samuel 3:11-14

And the Lord said to Samuel, “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears of it tingle. At that time I will carry out against Eli everything I spoke against his family- from beginning to end. For I told him that I would judge his family forever because of the sin he knew about; his sons made themselves contemptible, and he failed to restrain them. Therefore I swore to the house of Eli, ‘The guilt of Eli’s house will never be atoned for by sacrifice or offering.’”

Now, we know that all sins are forgiven through the blood of Jesus Christ. This is good, as we all make mistakes from time to time and would rather not experience the pain of death or the eternity in hell that would follow. Praise the Lord, that the burden of this punishment has been taken from our shoulders through the death and resurrection of Jesus.

What this does not mean, is that we are excused from our responsibilities as parents. We have to stand firm on the principles laid out for us in the bible. This is the Word of God. We don’t get to change it, or pick and choose what we are going to follow. God said it, and we have to do it.

We are not to “pick” at our children and drive them to frustration. Read “Who’s the Boss?” for more, on that matter. What we are to do is keep our children in line according to His word. God’s direction to them is clear in the fifth commandment and is echoed in Colossians with a little something extra for the parents.

Colossians 3:20-21

Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not embitter your children or they will become discouraged.

Parents, remember that it is our job to instruct and correct our children. We want them to grow up to be strong and upright. Our children are the arrows in our quiver that we have been given to shoot at the enemy. We want those arrows to be straight rather than bent and crooked. These are the children of the Lord and should be raised as such.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Get to work

We have all heard the phrase, “faith without works is dead.” This is a quote from James 2:26. While true, it is also often twisted to mean something very different than intended.

As Christians, we all share some things in common. The most important of these is the fact that there was a point in our lives where our eyes were opened and we accepted Christ as our Lord and Savior. We, at that moment, claimed our salvation in the blood of Jesus. From that moment we have been able to deal with life in a new way. We know without a doubt that our victory is assured through our faith in Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 1:7
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.

Ephesians 2:8-9
For it is by grace you have been saved, though faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast

Our salvation is complete in and of itself. We were saved very moment we surrendered ourselves to the Lord. That is it, the price is paid. Nothing more is required.

This being said, take a look at the very next verse.

Ephesians 2:10
For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do

There is that work that drives everyone to frustration and confusion. We find ourselves asking questions. What is this work? If my salvation is complete, then what is this all about?

We are now going to revisit that famous quote. Only this time, read the verse in context. Read James 2:14-26 Yes, pull out your Bible. It’s good for you. I promise.

This verse we often hear quoted does not speak of works as a prerequisite for qualifying faith. Your place in heaven is already assured, purchased by the blood of Jesus. What this does tell us, is that our lives should be different after we are saved. We have accepted Christ as the Lord and Savior. It is time to start acting like it.

Consider these definitions for “work”.

- an act or deed
- a sustained physical or mental effort to overcome obstacles and achieve an objective or result
- a specific task, duty, function, or assignment often being part or phase of some larger activity

Our first task is to take our salvation seriously and make a change. In John 8:11, Jesus tells the adulteress to go and leave her life of sin. She is forgiven. Romans 12:2 tells us that we are to no longer conform to the pattern of this world. We are to be transformed.

Think about this for a moment. Yes we are called to more. As we grow in faith, the nature of our “work” will grow and expand. God has a calling for each and every one of us. At the beginning of our walk in the Lord, our work is all the same. This portion of our work never goes away. It is the challenge every day as a Christian. We are to put forth an effort to be different. We are to strive to please our Lord and Savior by keeping His commandments. It is a work of love and faith, not a need to prove anything. Is our work evidence of faith? Yes. Does God need this evidence to know our hearts? No. Remember though, in Christ we are more than conquerors. It would be good if we would get to the task.

Romans 8:37
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

We have been called to more. It is not a check in the box to make sure we “make it” into heaven. It is the privilege of all citizens of heaven, to take advantage of our time here one earth to make our lives, and through them, this world, resemble our future home. We are to live our faith. This is our work.