Thursday, February 27, 2014

Deferred Payments

Growing up on the farm I was used to my Dad hauling grain into the town elevator.  There, he would dump his load and then go and see the elevator agent who would weigh the amount of grain and then ask if Dad would like to have payment now or 'defer' it to a later date.  Often Dad would choose to defer it so that there would be money for future use.

It didn't seem like a big deal to me then, but as I think about it, to choose to defer a cheque is actually pretty significant.  Why?  Because we live in a culture that desires everything 'now'.  We want to enjoy the benefits as soon as possible--even if it means sacrificing our future. 

Dad probably didn't know it at the time, but he was teaching me a very important lesson by telling that elevator agent to defer his grain payment.  And this came clear to me as I read this passage from Colossians 3:23-24:
"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.  It is the Lord Christ you are serving."

What this tells us is that as we live our lives, we should do so with passion, excellence and dedication to Jesus.  We should invest ourselves in the life He has given us, and we should recognize exactly what He his telling us here:  that we might not see all the benefits of living as a servant of God right now.  In fact, a big chunk of the reward, or 'payment' has been deferred for a future time.

That doesn't sit well with people most of the time--including me!  In my worldly way of thinking, I want to be able to enjoy all the benefits of my life investment now.  And it seems doubly hard sometimes in serving the Lord because we don't easily see Him in our daily lives--it is a life of faith--of things not seen.

And yet, as I think about my Dad standing in the grain elevator, I am struck with the truth of this statement from God in Colossians:  I will "receive an inheritance from the Lord."  My future is secure in Him, and the investments that He has made in me will come due one day.  On that day I am convinced that I will look back and realize more clearly than ever, that it was all worth it.

So for today, I want to encourage you to allow God's word to dwell richly in your heart.  Remember that any sacrifice that is asked of you today, in service to Jesus, will be repaid more than you can imagine at a future date when you receive the inheritance that has been set aside just for you.

It's good to know that we are in good hands.


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

A Double Edged Sword

Hey Everyone,
Today I was thinking about relationships and how they can be a double-edged sword.  What I mean by that is they can be some of the most challenging things we ever engage in but they are also the most rewarding and beautiful--all at the same time!

Have you ever noticed that the best things in life are often the hardest to achieve?  Yeah, me too.

I believe that it's God's wonderful plan that we, as human beings, are given this deep-seated desire to live in meaningful relationships, whether it's family or friends.  And I also believe that He understands better than any of us that these precious relationships will challenge the core of our being.  Why, do you ask?  Because at the end of the day, there is a 'bent' toward selfishness--we can try as hard as we want, but sin in us causes us, in subtle and overt ways, to try and live for ourselves.  God, in His infinite wisdom, knows that selfishness is ultimately destructive, and so He creates this things called 'relationships' that serve as a framework to provide us opportunity to live selflessly.

Again, the best things in life are often the most challenging.

I think it's true for most of us to look at challenging relationships with an attitude of wanting to avoid or at least distance ourselves from them.  And there is some wisdom in accurately discerning which relationships are healthy and which ones can be toxic.  But, at their foundation, relationships with others is something God gave to us as a gift--and we should treat them as such.

There is a word from Romans 15:5-6 that may brighten your day.
"May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."

You see, God knows the challenges we face.  He knows that we need to be given endurance in order to live out this amazing thing called relationship.  He knows it's hard.  He knows we can struggle with selfishness (I know I do!).  And He knows that others will not always treat us as well as they should.  But, He wants us to trust Him to provide what is needed in order to make manifest the beauty of this thing.  He asks us to do 2 things:  1.  Don't give up.  Stay the course and believe that it's worth it.  Why would He want to empower us with endurance if He didn't want us stick around and persevere with those we are in relationship with?  2.  He wants us to trust Him to provide this very needed resource, even when we want to cut and run.

But He doesn't just provide endurance, because if that's all there was, then it would paint a pretty bleak picture of what we could expect.  Just enduring implies that relationship is nothing but work, and it most certainly isn't.

He also gives encouragement.  Do you know what that means?  The encouragement that comes from living in genuine and meaningful relationships comes to us out of those relationships. It is in the gift of relationship itself that we receive that blessing from the Father.  We can experience God's pleasure as we live our lives together with our eyes all pointed toward Him.

"With our eyes all pointed toward Him. . ."  This is the last important aspect of relationships that we need to be aware of.  It says in our Romans passage, "so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."

In living out the relationships that God has given to us, trusting in Him for endurance and encouragement, we put ourselves in a position to be weaved together by God as one.  We become united.  We sense that we belong to something bigger than ourselves.  We glean meaning and purpose through this journey of living together, and we glorify God in the process.

Jesus' had a perfect relationship with His heavenly Father, and His life on earth reflected that relationship in a way that brought, and brings hope to all people.  Including you and I.  Jesus lived selflessly, and then invites us to do the same. 

The payoff is huge!

So if you are facing relationships today that are challenging, and everything in you is screaming to run away and ease the pressure, I want to encourage you to read and reread Romans 15:5-6.  Ask for God's endurance and encouragement;  choose to stay the course and you will discover that He will bless you for honoring Him.