God does not accept false worship. You know, the kind of worship where you are watching the clock and waiting for it to strike high noon. Just as he was upset with the Israelites about performing sacrifices only for tradition’s sake, He doesn’t like halfhearted worship. He wants our full attention and He deserves it. God inhabits the praises of His people. But not that shallow stuff. 3 songs, prayer, collection, sermon, prayer and we are good for the week. Not so, my brothers and sisters. God has something to say to us, give Him your time and your full attention. He is looking at your heart. Have you falsely accused? Have you caused someone else to have to carry a part of your load? Have you encouraged anyone today? Have you given any charitable donations or worked in a local ministry to feed or clothe the poor and needy? If not, then God does not consider that you have worshiped Him properly. Humble yourself before the Lord and ask Him to show you where he needs you to work in His kingdom. Practice this and you will look forward to meeting with the Lord anytime, anywhere. Then the joy of your salvation will be restored.
19 For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. 20 But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. 21 To this you were called,because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. — 1 Peter 2:19-21 NIV
As we look back and honestly assess the hard times in our lives, we can attribute most of them to bad decisions that we have made. Those decisions may have involved unkind words that we spoke causing ill feelings and anger between us and others. The decisions may have been based on our fleshly desires and caused us to commit acts that we should not have committed. The decisions could have been bad financial decisions we made because we did not want to wait until we were able to afford certain things. We get no credit or praise for enduring those times that were brought on by our own wrong doing. I cannot recall one time in my life when I had to suffer because of a good deed that I had done. I read the horror stories of our brothers and sisters being abused and persecuted for the good deeds they have done and are doing and I pray for them. Those events seem so far away and foreign to me. And I wonder what my reaction to that kind of treatment would be. Would I stay faithful to God and endure the pain? We are called to and warned to be ready for such acts. We have the examples of those in the Bible and in our daily news of those who do endure. They are the ones who make up the “cloud of witnesses” that surround us. I shed tears of grief as I listen to their stories and I feel so small and unworthy knowing that the tears they are shedding as they tell their stories are tears of joy, the joy of sharing in suffering with our Savior.
“The Gospel has come to you because it’s on its way to someone else.” – Anonymous
The rich man who had refused to comfort Lazarus was sent to Hades (the place of the dead). From there, he was allowed to look into Paradise where he saw Lazarus sitting with Abraham. Realizing how wrong he had been in not showing mercy to Lazarus when they both lived on earth, he began to beg for mercy. “Just allow Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and bring it to me”. But Abraham reminded the rich man that he had had ample opportunity to help others with his riches while he lived on the earth. The rich man realizes that the reason he has ended up in this place of torment is because he refused to accept Jesus and his teachings. Since there is now no hope for him, he remembers his brothers and asks Abraham to send Lazarus back from the dead to witness to them.. Abraham tells the rich man that it wouldn’t make any difference, if his brothers won’t believe Moses and the prophets, they won’t believe just because someone returned from the dead. We find this statement proved to be true over and over since so many refused to believe when Jesus was raised from the dead. Even now, with all the proof we have of His Resurrection, there are those who still refuse to believe. Since we don’t know who those believe are, we still must witness to everyone that God puts in our lives. When we don’t share the Gospel with those around us who desparately need it, we are as guilty of withholding our riches from them as the rich man was in withholding his riches from Lazarus. Our part is to share the Gospel with everyone, God takes care of the results.
10 Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generouson every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. 12 This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. 13 Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. — 2 Cor. 9:10-13 NIV
Starting today, we need to prove to God that we are truly thankful for all the blessings He pours into our lives. We can do that by sharing those blessings, whether they be talent or time, words or worth, things or thoughts.
Someone you see today and every day needs a kind word, Take a second to smile and greet them. Someone you see today and every day needs someone to just listen to their story. Stop and listen, really listen. Someone you see today will be hungry and/or homeless. Feed them, naturally and spiritually. Someone you see today is feeling worthless and unloved, take the time to assure them of their worth and value in God’s scheme of things. If we make it a habit to do these kinds of things daily, we will not only be proving to God that we are truly thankful, but the world will know that we have been with Jesus. When we share our blessings, at the end of the day, each of us will find that we are the one who was truly blessed and received the greatest blessing.
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ — Matt. 25:40 NIV
27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28 And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 31 Now eagerly desire the greater gifts. –1 Cor. 12:27-31 NIV
Paul, using the comparison of the physical body to the Spiritual body of Christ, continues to emphasize over and over, the importance of each part. The parts of the Spiritual body are the gifts that the Holy Spirit has placed in each of us. Each smaller body of Christ, the individual congregations, must have the parts to function in unity. All of the gifts are given to edify the complete body. Each congregation must have those with gifts of leadership. But not everyone can be a leader, so there are other positions to fill. God has given each of us a specific gift that is necessary for the body.
10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. — 1 Peter 4:10 NIV
Each of us should study, meditate and pray so that we might know our gift and use it effectively. The gifts are not given to us for our own possession, but for the benefit of the whole body. Unless we share the gift, it is of no value to us or to our congregation. The gifts are given to each of us to share with others.
33 “No one lights a lamp and puts it in a place where it will be hidden, or under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, so that those who come in may see the light. — Luke 11:33 NIV
7 Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink the milk? 8 Do I say this merely on human authority? Doesn’t the Law say the same thing? 9 For it is written in the Law of Moses: “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.” Is it about oxen that God is concerned? 10 Surely he says this for us, doesn’t he? Yes, this was written for us, because whoever plows and threshes should be able to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest. 11 If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? 12 If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more? But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ.13 Don’t you know that those who serve in the temple get their food from the temple, and that those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar? 14 In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel..—1 Cor. 9:7-14 NIV
Paul continues to expand on the things that he could require the people to do for him. Isn’t it normal for the person who is being served to expect to pay for the service? We pay the soldiers who protect us, the vintner is free to partake of his grapes and the wine he makes, the shepherd keeps some of the milk for himself. Paul refers them to the Law of Moses and the expectations of the plowman and the threshers. If we are being spiritually fed, then we need to expect to pay those that spend their time in preparing the spiritual meals. But, says Paul, I will put up with any amount of lack as long as I can preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. A full time pastor deserves to be paid enough to support his family. It should be more than just enough for them to “get by”, they have wants just as we and our families do. (And, just in case you are wondering, no, I am not a pastor).