Rewards Based Upon The Right Motives…

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Luke 14:12-14 (KJV)

12 Then said he also to him that bade him, When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompence be made thee.
13 But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind:
14 And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.

Some Christians think it’s wrong to want rewards, but our Creator knows people are motivated by incentives.

In fact, He made us that way, which is why His Word makes exciting promises for those who walk in His way.

Some of these benefits are available here on earth—like fulfillment, joy, and good favor—whereas other blessings will be bestowed once we are in heaven.

As followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, we need never fear judgment (Rom. 8:1), for we are clothed in righteousness through His blood and will not face divine wrath.

To help us understand this, the Bible describes several crowns.

First, the crown of life is granted to believers who stand firm and endure trials without giving up or losing heart (James 1:12).

The second crown, called imperishable, is given to those whose great desire is to walk obediently before God (1 Cor. 9:24-27).

Through struggles and even failures, they continue to die to their flesh and follow the Spirit.

Next, the crown of righteousness is bestowed upon those who long for Christ’s appearing and live righteously through Him (2 Tim. 4:6-8).

Lastly, God will give the crown of glory to those who share His Word with others (1 Pet. 5:2-4).

As Scripture tells us, we will be awed by Jesus’ magnificence and honored just to lay our crowns at His feet.

The supreme reward is for us to manifest God’s glory throughout eternity.

We will experience joy in His presence forever, but we don’t have to wait: We can invest today by serving Him obediently and humbly.

Done with the right motive, service blesses us now and in the future.

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Feelings of Inadequacy…

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2 Corinthians 2:14-17 (KJV)

14 Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place.
15 For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish:
16 To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things?
17 For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ.

No one likes feelings of inadequacy, but they are something we must learn to handle, as none of us can avoid them permanently.

Tragically, though, many people live with a cloud over their head because in their thinking, they never measure up.

For some, this may be due to childhood experiences that negatively affected their self-image.

For others, the problem stems from a lack of success related to work, relationships, marriage, parenting, or any number of things.

The area Paul deals with in today’s passage is our Christian life.

He asks a question that points to a common insecurity: “Who is adequate for these things?” (v. 16).

Have you ever avoided serving the Lord in ways that challenge your comfort zone?

If so, you’ve probably missed a tremendous opportunity to overcome feelings of inadequacy. He’s promised to lead us “in triumph in Christ,” (v. 14) but unless we believe Him and step out in faith, we’ll never experience the life He has planned for us.

Feeling inadequate is not a sin, but using it as an excuse is.

When the Lord challenges you to do something that you feel is beyond your abilities, you have two options.

You can focus on Christ and proceed in triumph or focus on yourself and withdraw in defeat.

It’s really a matter of faith.

God would never ask you to do something without empowering you to accomplish it.

This doesn’t necessarily mean you will do it perfectly, but each step of obedience is a victory.

The alternative is to play it safe, but then you’ll miss out on God’s best for your life.

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When Divine Resources Meet Human Needs…

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Hebrews 6:10 (KJV)

10 For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.

In His grace, God freely gives salvation to those who believe His Son Jesus died on the cross for their sins.

We cannot earn this gift, nor do we deserve it.

Our Father does notice our good works, though, and He promises to reward us accordingly.

Genuine service occurs when we cooperate as the Lord works through us for His glory and honor.

True ministry takes place when divine resources meet human needs through loving channels.

Revelation 22:12 encourages us, “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done.”

Whether large or small, service done in Jesus’ name will be blessed.

We must be careful, though, that our actions are for Christ’s glory and not our own.

If our motives are self-serving, the only benefit we receive is the praise (if any) that we hear from people in this life.

And we know that man’s approval is not satisfying or lasting.

While some rewards will be given in heaven, other blessings can be experienced here on earth. For example, we know great joy when God blesses others through us.

And there is deep satisfaction in realizing that we are pleasing Christ.

In addition, there’s a profound sense of fulfillment when we lead a person to Jesus and teach him or her how to walk by faith.

Serving others is both a great benefit and responsibility for Christians.

We should prayerfully consider our motives to make sure that our goal is to glorify Christ.

Only then will we receive God’s full blessings—rewards given not just in eternity but here on earth as well.

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Commitment, Diligence, and Perseverance…

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Philippians 3:7-14 (KJV)

7 But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.
8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,
9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:
10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;
11 If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.
12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.
13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

What three goals would you set for your life if you knew that you could achieve them?

Would any of them be spiritual in nature?

The apostle Paul was one of the most goal-oriented people in the Bible, yet he understood which pursuits were the most important.

His chief ambition was to know Christ, His resurrection power, and the fellowship of His suffering (v. 10).

We’d all do well to adopt these goals, but they sound so broad.

How do we put them into practice?

First, it’s important to comprehend that a goal is a purpose or direction toward which we work. This concept is fairly easy to understand when we’re talking about specific objectives like going to bed earlier or losing ten pounds, but what steps would you need to take in order to achieve spiritual goals like Paul’s?

Success requires choosing steps that are specific, reasonable, and measurable.

For example, if you want to know Christ more intimately, you might commit to spending 30 minutes each day praying and reading His Word.

After developing your plan and the steps to accomplish it, put your desire into action.

If you don’t take the necessary steps, it will simply remain a wish.

No one develops intimacy with Christ through good intentions; it takes commitment, diligence, and perseverance.

If you feel as if your faith is lacking vitality, it may be that you’ve become spiritually lazy.

No one intends to slip into complacency.

But unless you set some specific goals and work to achieve them, you’ll drift through life and miss the greatest accomplishment of all–learning to know Christ intimately.

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The Power to Change Your Life…

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Mark 9:17-27 (KJV)

17 And one of the multitude answered and said, Master, I have brought unto thee my son, which hath a dumb spirit;
18 And wheresoever he taketh him, he teareth him: and he foameth, and gnasheth with his teeth, and pineth away: and I spake to thy disciples that they should cast him out; and they could not.
19 He answereth him, and saith, O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him unto me.
20 And they brought him unto him: and when he saw him, straightway the spirit tare him; and he fell on the ground, and wallowed foaming.
21 And he asked his father, How long is it ago since this came unto him? And he said, Of a child.
22 And ofttimes it hath cast him into the fire, and into the waters, to destroy him: but if thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us.
23 Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.
24 And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.
25 When Jesus saw that the people came running together, he rebuked the foul spirit, saying unto him, Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee, come out of him, and enter no more into him.
26 And the spirit cried, and rent him sore, and came out of him: and he was as one dead; insomuch that many said, He is dead.
27 But Jesus took him by the hand, and lifted him up; and he arose.

In today’s Scripture passage, a father brings his demon-possessed son to the Lord.

Nothing is more important to this father than to see his boy healed, and he believes that Jesus has the power to do it.

When he finally reaches Jesus, however, the father experiences a slight hesitation in his faith.

We can detect it in the way he words his request: “If You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!” (Mark9:22, emphasis added).

Jesus, sensing the man’s subtle doubts, replies, “‘If You can?’ All things are possible to him who believes” (Mark 9:23).

At once the father realizes the disparity between his words and his actions, and he cries out, “I do believe; help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24).

What an odd statement! What are we to think—does this man have faith or not?

Yet when we look closer, we realize that this father is crying out in complete, unashamed honesty to the Lord.

He knows that there is no point in attempting to “puff up” his faith before Jesus.

Instead, he humbly admits that while he does in fact believe in Jesus’ saving power, some things—such as parental concern for his son—can still interfere with his faith in God.

Scripture says that the Lord is sovereign over all things (Ps. 103:19).

Do you believe He has the power to change your life?

Do you allow outside influences to affect your trust in Jesus Christ?

If so, be honest with God about your fluctuating faith, but always remember that His power does not ebb and flow along with our confidence in Him.

Regardless of how we feel, God is always in control.

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An Unshakeable Dwelling Place…

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Hebrews 12:25-29 (KJV)

25 See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven:
26 Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven.
27 And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.
28 Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear:
29 For our God is a consuming fire.

The Lord is always moving toward the climactic moment when this world will be replaced by a new heaven and earth.

Toward that end, He strips away whatever is counterfeit and ungodly from nations and individuals.

According to the Bible, this process will accelerate as the last days near.

God will remove everything unstable so what remains will be the things that cannot be shaken (Heb. 12:27).

Believers have an unshakeable dwelling place.

When we first chose to trust in the Savior, we were born into God’s kingdom and given a new safe position referred to as being “in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 6:11).

Outside forces can disrupt neither the kingdom nor the relationship.

Even though life will at times entail suffering and tribulation, the followers of the Lord are secure.

For what power can stand against our sovereign Lord Jesus Christ?

Everything that exists must submit to Him. Even as wars rage, injustice spreads, and governments fail, He remains in absolute control.

People are allowed to exercise wickedness so that the content of their hearts will be revealed, as will their great need for a Savior.

Even the most despicable tyrant has the opportunity to repent.

But those who refuse grace will be destroyed along with everything else that violates God’s perfect order.

We live in unsettling times.

The more conditions worsen, the easier it is to see why Scripture refers to God as a consuming fire (Heb. 12:29).

He is burning up all that displeases Him.

And He will continue until the only ones who remain are the righteous who stand under the lordship of Christ and await His kingdom here on earth.

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Reaching the Lost…

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1 Peter 2:2-3 (KJV)

2 As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:
3 If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.

Did you ever watch an infant take a feeding?

Hungry little ones clutch the bottle, smack their lips, and make soft contented noises. They thoroughly enjoy their nourishment.

But there comes a time when milk isn’t enough to satiate baby’s appetite anymore.

That’s when a whole world of culinary possibilities opens up.

Comparing new believers to babies, Peter said that they “long for the pure milk of the word” (v. 2).

You wouldn’t feed a newborn steak and spinach, would you?

Well, baby Christians must sip scriptural truths that they understand. Then, like a growing child, they shoot up as they feast on Bible passages, gradually taking in more and meatier principles and topics.

Believers are not left alone to make sense of Scripture any more than babies and young children are expected to get their own meals.

The Holy Spirit, who indwells God’s followers, illuminates the Word.

That is, He makes the meaning clear to those who seek to understand.

Moreover, according to Ephesians 4:11-16, God has given gifted Christians to the church to act as pastors and teachers.

They are charged with equipping the saints for service (v. 12). These leaders instruct, clarify, and motivate people to grow in their personal faith and to fulfill the church’s purpose of reaching the lost.

God’s Word is a feast for our heart, mind, and spirit.

This is one banquet table where there is no such thing as taking too much.

In fact, the advice many parents give their children at the dinner table applies to the Christian life as well: “Eat up! Scriptural food makes you grow strong.”

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A Purpose for Allowing Upheaval…

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Haggai 2:6-9 (KJV)

6 For thus saith the Lord of hosts; Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land;
7 And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come: and I will fill this house with glory, saith the Lord of hosts.
8 The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the Lord of hosts.
9 The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the Lord of hosts: and in this place will I give peace, saith the Lord of hosts.

God has ways of shaking the world when He is up to something big.

For example, He literally caused the ground to quake when Jesus died on the cross and also after Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit emboldened Christ’s followers to spread the gospel (Matt. 27:51; Acts 4:31).

There was nothing coincidental about the seismic activity that accompanied those two events.

They were none-too-subtle messages from God: Pay attention because important things are happening!

Today, the ground may not physically move, but the Lord is certainly doing some shaking.

Political alliances, financial systems, and ethical standards are all being allowed to wobble.

We are seeing the flimsiness and decay of structures upon which we’ve based our national pride and hope.

Even personal lives are not immune to shock waves.

Families are in crisis, and many marriages are buckling.

Sadly, people have too often built lives on the weak cornerstones of their human wisdom, goodness, and ingenuity. But there is only one secure foundation: Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 3:11).

God always has a purpose for allowing upheaval in His ordered creation.

Among other things, He is shaking the church out of apathy and self-focus, reminding us not to trust in the temporary structures of this world.

Rather, we are to rest upon the firm foundation of God’s steadfast love and salvation.

As the Lord’s ambassadors on earth—and the only ones standing on firm ground—we have a responsibility to offer real hope to those whose foundation is unstable.

No job, government, or even religion can give a person long-term security. A relationship with Christ is the only lasting refuge.

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