Confirmation Bias; April 4, 2021

Luke 24:11 But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.

What a very human, common thing! We fail to receive valid information because it fails to meet our preconceptions. The flip side of that is called confirmation bias, when we accept things that agree with what we already thought, even if they aren’t actually true. That is going on at a huge rate right now, with polarized “news” sources spouting opposite views of the same events. At least we know from this story that the problem isn’t new! However, it really is a problem when it keeps us from taking in what God wants us to know, as in this verse. We aren’t to be gullible, swallowing things because we want them to be true or rejecting them because we want them not to be true, but we are to seek God on these things, allowing Him to show us what is true. Occasionally that flies in the face of observed circumstances, but that is rare. Miracles are called miracles for a reason! “Trusted sources,” even, are to be confirmed, since they too may be deceived. The point is to be so familiar with the Bible that we recognize its tone, and so intimate with the Holy Spirit that we can hear Him under any circumstances. None of us are there 100%, but that is the goal. In line with that, we aren’t to despise any messenger. In the culture of the day it was automatic that the word of women was discounted, which probably contributed to the apostles’ response, and there are many such unconscious biases that blind our eyes and stop our ears. I think it was very deliberate on God’s part to give the news of Jesus’ resurrection first to women, to combat this very thing. God keeps working in every generation, every individual, to transmit His truth so that we may be set free. (John 8:32)

I need to be as careful of this as anyone. I am grateful to have been given a high IQ, but I have encountered a lot of “intelligent fools.” Just because I think something “sounds right” doesn’t mean it necessarily is. As Solomon so wisely recorded, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6) I am grateful to have been taught about news bias as early as Middle School, with a class in college specifically on Persuasion, which taught me how to recognize various tricks that are used constantly. I recognize that I am wired for confirmation bias, choosing sources that agree with me. That doesn’t mean that I’m to subject myself constantly to fabricated “news,” but it does mean that I am to be humble before God and seek to let Him show me what is true and what is not. As in what the women told the apostles, somethings something that seems absurd may turn out to be the absolute truth!

Father, thank You for this reminder. It’s one I need to keep in my mind constantly these days. Thank You that this is Easter Sunday, and that we’ll be going to a Sunrise Service shortly. Thank You for all that You have planned for today, whether it agrees with our plans or not. I pray that the weather would be as You desire, whatever has been forecast. I pray that each person You want to participate in the church activities would do so, and that we would all be touched by Your Holy Spirit in the process. Thank You. Praise God!

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God’s Plan of Salvation; April 3, 2021

John 19:30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

It has always struck me that Jesus’ death was a deliberate act on His part. That said, it certainly was not suicide! It was exactly as He Himself had said: “The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life–only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.” (John 10:17-18) He could have done what the Jewish leaders, the soldiers, and even one of the men crucified with Him, had taunted him Him to do, calling angels to rescue Him. (Matthew 25:53, Luke 23:35-37) However, He knew why He was on that cross, and He wouldn’t let anything keep Him from fulfilling His purpose. Sometimes we take “finished” to mean simply, “over,” and think that Jesus was just saying He didn’t have to suffer any more. The Japanese, however, is much more definite, and accurate, by using a word that means “completed.” In that moment, Jesus completed the salvation of all mankind. That’s not to say that everyone is automatically saved, as much as we might like that to be the case, but that salvation is available to everyone who will repent and believe, without any exceptions. The devil does all he can to hide that fact from people, because it is at the same time his total defeat, but it is our glorious privilege to proclaim it to all who will hear and receive it. There is nothing we can do to add to that salvation, but our grateful, faithful obedience will add to our rewards, as Jesus expressed in the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30) and is mentioned in many more places in the Bible. However, every bit of the “heavy lifting” was accomplished for us by Jesus on that cross.

This reality is fundamental to all mankind, and I must not let my familiarity with it blind me to its magnificence. That’s the grave danger of the psychological reality of familiarity breeding contempt. Not only at Easter but throughout each year, each day, each minute, I need to be aware of what Jesus has done for me and respond appropriately. I have a long way to go to meet that goal fully. Like Paul, I need to “press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” (Philippians 3:12) Tomorrow I will have a special opportunity to proclaim the message of salvation, and I need to make full use of it. Rain is forecast, so I have no idea how many children, and perhaps their parents, will come for the program and Easter egg hunt we will be having in the afternoon, but we will be having the Facebook Live broadcast of the morning service, and one of those who regularly receives a CD of the service is not yet a baptized believer. I don’t know how God might use the words He speaks through me, but I’ve got to be fully available and submitted to Him, so that as many as will may be saved.

Father, thank You for Your plan of salvation, and for including me in it. Thank You that in Your economy it was indeed completed 2000 years ago on Calvary. May I be a joyful, useful instrument in that, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!

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Salvation; April 2, 2021

Luke 23:42-43 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. ”
Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

This is of course a very famous incident, but what strikes me right now is how informal the man’s confession of faith was. Not only was he never baptized in water, he never “said the right words,” by the standards of many churches today. However, speaking of someone who was nailed to a cross “coming into their kingdom” was a very high level of faith! Don Francisco created one of his very moving narrative songs about this, speaking of the man being grateful for the privilege of dying beside the Christ. When we create formulas for salvation we can miss out in both directions. Many would say that someone who did no more than this man “couldn’t possibly be saved,” whereas a sad number of people who have been through the formula actually aren’t saved at all, because they haven’t committed their heart to Jesus as Lord. We’ve got to remember that God looks on the heart, and externals tend to mean very little.

I find this both challenging and encouraging. It’s challenging because formulas are far easier to deal with than heart commitment, and so much easier to confirm! It’s encouraging to realize that some of the people to whom I’ve ministered, though they didn’t go through the formula, may well have made an internal commitment that God will deem sufficient for their salvation. I’m reminded of a vision I had at the time Emperor Hirohito was dying. I was at a Charismatic prayer meeting in a Catholic home with a dozen or so people, and we were praying for him. I knew that he had heard the Gospel many times, and I knew that his daughter-in-law Michiko was a genuine believer, even though hemmed in by the Imperial Household Agency. It was a very brief vision, but I saw, and heard, Hirohito say, “Michiko, you were right.” Immediately I felt God saying, “That’s enough.” I cannot be definitive, but I will not be surprised to find Hirohito in heaven, despite all the atrocities of WWII for which he bore some real responsibility. I’m also reminded of someone I knew who had tried to commit suicide by hanging, but the rope broke. He said that at the moment he stepped off the chair, he cried out, “Jesus!” in his heart. He never attempted suicide again, but he was certainly convinced that suicide was not an unforgivable sin. I am not to ignore the Biblical indicators of saving faith, but I am not to be formulaic. I am to offer myself as a tool of the Holy Spirit, so that He may work in people’s hearts and minds to bring them to repentance and faith for salvation. What that is going to look like is up to Him.

Father, thank You for this reminder. Thank You for all You are doing in and around me, and even through me. On this Good Friday may I genuinely meditate on all that You have done, for me personally and for all mankind, in sending Jesus to the cross and then raising Him from death, so that Your grace may be fully operative in and through me, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!

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The Lordship of Christ; April 1, 2021

John 19:15 But they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!”
“Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked.
“We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests answered.

Here, the priests were being honest! In a way it was like the Israelites insisting to Samuel that they wanted a human king, rather than letting God be their King. They were actively rejecting the King of kings, knowing full well that He had declared Himself to be the Son of God. (verse 7) Today, with democracy, people feel they can choose their own “king,” and many are just as vehement as these Jews in rejecting God’s governance. Right now America has a puppet, shadow government, because the titular head is obviously incapacitated by senile dementia. Who is actually pulling the strings is a topic of legitimate debate, but the fact that strings are being pulled is more and more obvious. The only real answer is a return to King Jesus, brought by genuine repentance and a commitment by God’s children to stand up against the tide of evil. When we seek political solutions to the world’s problems we forget that politics is generated by people, so the real issue is human hearts. If we genuinely want God’s name to be honored as holy and His kingdom to come, we’ve got to start with our own hearts. Only then can we be His instruments to draw other hearts to Him so that His will may be done on this earth.

This of course applies to me as much as it does to anyone. I am certainly upset at many things going on in the world, and God assured me personally quite a few years ago that He’s not happy about them either. However, He’s got a plan, and He sees the end from the beginning. I am personally to be submitted to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in every area of my life, offering myself as His instrument for however He wants to use me, but not insisting that He use me, either. That last is something I have realized only in recent years. I have been all too prone to insist on how God was to use me, and that hasn’t done me or anyone else any good. It was back in 2010 that God told me to rest, relax, and rejoice in Him. I can’t do that without submission and obedience to the Lordship of Jesus Christ! I am not to draw back from anything He indicates I am to do, but I am not to dream up things on my own whereby to “fix the world” by my standards. It doesn’t belong to me, it belongs to Him, and I am to trust Him, and myself, to Him.

Father, thank You for this reminder. Right now You’re indicating that we are to get going with a children’s ministry, for the first time in many years. Frankly, that’s pretty anxiety-producing! It will certainly be training in delegation and equipping others, and that’s been a weak area for me. Help me indeed rest, relax, and rejoice in You, allowing You to use not only me, but also others to do Your will. I believe You are going to bring harvest workers, (Luke 10:2) but You also want to use whose who are already here. Help us all be fully submitted to the Lordship of Christ and filled with Your Spirit, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!

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False Witness; March 31, 2021

Matthew 26:60-61 But they did not find any, though many false witnesses came forward. Finally two came forward and declared, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.'”

I was struck as I read this at how the devil’s tactics haven’t really changed over 2000 years. This particular “testimony” is proof that more than just the 12 apostles were hearing Jesus when He talked about His death and resurrection, but what they reported was twisted just enough to make it seem false. Some of what Jesus had said might have been taken exactly as these men reported it, but in context, it is clear that he was talking about His own body, and not the architectural temple. Exactly the same thing is done today. The example that jumps out at me is Donald Trump’s “very fine people” remark in talking about the Charlottesville incident in 2017. In context, he condemned the white supremacists, but the Press edited his remarks to make it seem that he was praising them, and it was used as a major weapon against him. That’s not in the least to put Donald Trump on the level of Jesus, but it is to say that the devil has always used, and will always use, twisted “facts” to try to pull people down. I think most people have experienced committing a sin and having the devil jump on it and issue a blanket condemnation, saying, “Since you did that, you have no right to call yourself a Christian and you might as well give up.” It’s no accident that “satan” means “accuser.” In contrast, the Holy Spirit will shine light on our sins, but He’s always quite specific as to what needs to be repented of, and never issues blanket condemnations.

This is something I deal with frequently. I’ve experienced it myself, and as a pastor I couldn’t count how many times I’ve tried to help people understand this in their own situation. I haven’t run into this particular case, but I’m reminded of the story of the pastor who was counseling someone who had grown up in a Christian home but had gone far afield, and was distraught that they had “committed the unforgivable sin.” That pastor very wisely said, “If you’re worried about the unforgivable sin, then you haven’t committed it.” One strong memory from my childhood was when the pastor of our church (after my father had turned it over and was focusing on his school responsibilities) came before the church to report on one result of his prison ministry. He had been visiting the Fukuoka Penitentiary, and had been allowed to minister on death row. One condemned murderer had responded in repentance and faith, and though prison rules did not allow for the physical contact involved in baptism, he had written out his confession of faith, and the pastor read it to the church. We voted unanimously to accept him as a member of the church, a brother in Christ. Japan has a very interesting policy of not publicizing executions until after the fact, and indeed, the prisoner is not informed until that very morning. However, in a distinct departure from that, the pastor was called to be at the prison very early one morning, and was allowed to see the prisoner and shake his hand before he was put into the van to take him to the place of execution. I have absolute confidence I will be able to meet that man in heaven. The devil uses elements of truth in his accusations, but God’s grace in the cross and resurrection of Christ is greater than it all.

Father, thank You for this strong reminder. I hadn’t thought of that incident with Pastor Kishida for a while, and it’s a very moving memory. Help me be an effective instrument of Your truth and Your grace, so that the lies of the devil may be exposed and defeated and many set free to receive Your full salvation. Thank You. Hallelujah!

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Judas; March 30, 2021

Matthew 26:49-50 Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him.
Jesus replied, “Friend, do what you came for.”

The Japanese has Jesus saying, “Friend, why have you come?” which the NIV gives as an alternative translation in a footnote. In either case, it is undisputed that Jesus spoke to Judas as a “friend.” I think we would have trouble doing that, knowing as Jesus did what Judas was doing. Jesus knew that Judas had been embezzling money that had been given to the ministry (John 12:6) and here he was making the ultimate betrayal, but He still called him, “Friend.” I’m sure it broke His heart that Judas was making these choices. After all, Jesus had a younger brother named Judas! (We usually just call him Jude.) That Jesus didn’t expel him from the group much earlier is an illustration, I think, of Jesus’ parable of the weeds in the wheat field. (Mat­thew 13:24-30) Even Jesus wasn’t going to rip Judas out of the group ahead of time, so to speak. Also, Jesus knew that Judas was an integral part of the fulfillment of several Scriptures about the Messiah, and He wasn’t about to interfere with that. Judas is in many ways an enigma. We can’t grasp how someone could be that close to the Son of God and yet betray Him in this way. That said, we too are prone to betray Him in countless smaller ways, failing to speak up when others use His name in vain, failing to obey when He is urging us to do something, doing things that we know are not pleasing to Him. There is no indication that Judas availed himself of God’s grace, since he took his own life rather than throw himself on the mercy of God, but I am convinced the option was still there up to the last minute, and he could have been saved had that been his choice. Judas is an extreme example of the conflict between predestination and free will. Some would say that he was predestined to do what he did, since it had been prophesied in detail ahead of time, but at every step it was his free choice; God just knew what he would choose, and told prophets about it ahead of time. This is also the ultimate example of God using vile evil for incredible good. (Romans 8:28) There was nothing good about what Judas did, but the result was salvation made available for all mankind.

I think I realized a long time ago that Judas was no more human than I was, and that I am capable of just as much evil as he was. I am to keep watch over myself, asking God to keep me in line and striving to be obedient as He does so. I am to rejoice that He calls me, “Friend,” as well, (John 15:15) but never to take that for granted or presume on it. After all, He called Judas, Friend. As the old chorus goes, “I love Thee, I love Thee, and that Thou dost know, but how much I love Thee my actions will show.” I am to live like the friend of Jesus that He calls me to be.

Father, thank You for this reminder. I hardly ever think of Judas except during Passion Week, but he is a good object lesson. May I continue to grow more and more to be like my Lord, and less like His betrayer, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!

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Weakness; March 29, 2021

Matthew 26:41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”

The last half of this verse is quite famous. It was actually used as a test sentence back in the early cays of computer translation software. The American researchers were going between English and Russian, because the Cold War was going on and translation from Russian was a priority. They ran it through both directions, first from English to Russian, and then ran that result back into English. What came out was, “The vodka is good, but the meat is rotten.” When we have such trouble between human languages it’s no wonder we have trouble understanding God sometimes! It has always struck me about this story of the Garden of Gethsemane that Jesus didn’t condemn His disciples for their weakness. He was humanly disappointed, yes, but He knew whom He had called. He had just informed Peter that he was going to disown Jesus three times, and Peter was one of the three at this moment. It has also struck me that even though they went to sleep, they obviously heard and remembered at least some of what Jesus said as He prayed. Luke records that “An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.” (Luke 22:43) Whoever saw that at the time probably thought they were dreaming, and only later realized that it had actually happened. What strikes me most about the whole Gethsemane story is that Jesus’ suffering didn’t begin when He was arrested, but before that with the awareness of what was going to happen to Him. Even Jesus multiplied His own suffering by anticipating it ahead of time! The awareness that He was going to be cut off from His Father, even for a moment, was probably the worst of it all. However, our sin cuts us off from God, so He had to take that on Himself to redeem us. God gave Paul a special revelation about weakness, when Paul had some sort of physical problem. “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:8-10) It is when we acknowledge and accept that we have no strength apart from God that we allow His strength to flow through us. It is precisely when we think we are strong on our own that we are the most vulnerable. (1 Corinthians 10:12) We aren’t to condemn ourselves, but we are to repent, asking and receiving God’s forgiveness and cleansing. (1 John 1:9)

As I have written many times, conceit has been an enduring problem for me. I’m sure that in a number of ways it has kept me from accomplishing much more than I actually have, because my strength and wisdom can’t begin to compare to that of God. Like Paul, I need to boast of my weaknesses so that Christ’s power may rest on me. I like to be “the one who knows.” Instead, I need to be at peace with not knowing, but rather trusting the One who knows everything. That’s not to say that I’m not to use the intellect I’ve been given, or seek to gain useful information, but rather to be at peace with the fact that in some ways it’s like an ant trying to grasp quantum physics. I’m reminded of the actual meaning of the word, “sophomore.” We currently use it to mean a second-year student in a four-year curriculum, but the Greek root means “wise idiot.” In other words, they’ve learned a little and think they know a lot, not knowing how much they don’t know. As I’ve grown with the Lord, I’ve learned more and more how much I don’t know!

Father, thank You for this reminder, and for Your continuing, overwhelming grace toward me. Help me indeed not trust my flesh in anything but lean totally on You, for Your strength and wisdom to be manifested through me for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!

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King Jesus; March 28, 2021

Matthew 21:4-5 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:

“Say to the Daughter of Zion,
‘See, your king comes to you,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.'”

Jesus was very explicitly declaring His Kingship here, knowing it would trigger His arrest and crucifixion. He had already fulfilled many prophecies, only a few of which He acknowledged at the time, but here He is deliberately initiating the fulfillment. Many in the crowd recognized the prophetic allusion, which is why they hailed Him as “The Son of David.” (verse 10) However, they were looking for a political and military king, which was exactly what the chief priests and scribes were afraid of (verse 15), knowing that it would bring the wrath of Rome down on them. Jesus had just raised Lazarus from the dead, (John 11) so talk of His supernatural power was going around. However, Jesus wasn’t the kind of king the people thought they needed. We often blind ourselves to things God has for us by insisting how they should be, rather than letting God do what is best. Jesus is indeed King, but right now submission to His Lordship is strictly a matter of faith and choice. The day will come when that will no longer be an option, and every tongue will confess His Lordship. (Philippians 2:11) However, if the choice hasn’t been made before then, that confession will be bitter indeed. Right now, confessing Jesus as Lord is a matter of faith that brings salvation (Romans 10:9-10), but when He returns as King and Judge, it will be a confession of guilt before sentencing. Today we see many people denying the Lordship of Jesus in no uncertain terms. Those who hold to Biblical standards are pilloried as “homophobic bigots” and the like. That is currently on public display in reaction to the ascent of Oral Roberts University in the area of college basketball, with some insisting that their stated moral code of behavior “disqualifies” them from being acknowledged as successful. Dark is becoming darker and the light all the brighter in contrast, and that is no reference to race. Believers have the privilege of proclaiming the Lordship of Jesus Christ to all who will receive it, so that all who will receive it may be saved while there is still time.

I have dedicated my life to proclaiming that Jesus is Lord, but the question always remains of my own submission to His Lordship. As He Himself said, “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46) I am to be submitted to Him in order to resist the devil (James 4:7) and walk in His victory. The spiritual battle is intense, and I cannot afford to be lax. (It just hit me that LAX is the international code for Los Angeles International Airport, which is the nexus of an incredible amount of anti-christian rot!) If I am to operate in His authority, I must be submitted to that authority. Thankfully, the power is in Him and not in me. As Paul said, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13) In this “graveyard of missionaries” I can proclaim Christ and bring many to repentance and faith, for their salvation and the glory of God.

Father, thank You for this powerful reminder. Thank You for all that You are doing, in and around and even through me. Thank You for the message You have given me on “King Jesus” for today, Palm Sunday. I pray that it would produce Your results, in those present and those participating electronically, for the defeat of the enemy and the salvation of many, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!

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Servant Leadership; March 27, 2021

Matthew 20:18-19 “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!”

Jesus could not have been more explicit and clear than He was here, yet the disciples were still in total shock when these things happened. We have a strong tendency to not really hear and process things we don’t want to accept. It’s like a little child being told not to take a cookie, but then “deciding” that “they didn’t really mean that.” I think there was a rising sense that things were coming to a climax, which would explain the timing of Zebedee’s wife coming to ask for special positions for her sons in Jesus’ kingdom. As Jesus told them, they didn’t know what they were asking, even though Jesus had just been very clear. (verse 22) I would imagine it was emotionally exhausting to Jesus for His disciples to be so dense, when He had been teaching and training them for three years, but He used it as another teaching opportunity anyway. I would have been very likely to have chewed them out! In a sense that’s what He did, but He did it very gently, for the benefit of the whole group. To me this is one more example of Jesus placing His Father’s will first, His disciples second, and His own emotions and convenience a distant third. As He said, putting a point on what He was teaching them, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28) That’s the example He set, that we need to follow.

This couldn’t be any more applicable than it is to me, because I am in a position of leadership. I am to be a good steward of my body and resources, but I am never to place myself ahead of serving my Lord and those to whom He sends me. Yesterday I had a call to help one of the more needy members of this church. I frankly wasn’t excited about it, but it was possible, and was taken care of fairly simply. It would have been easy to slough it off, but I did have the time, and God knew it. I am to plan my days for productivity, but I am never to close the door to God’s appointments, whether they agree with my plans or not. Frankly, I am lazy and like to move at my own convenience, but that’s not the way to real satisfaction, not to mention reward. I desire to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” (Matthew 25:21) but that won’t be the case if I listen to my flesh instead of to my Lord.

Father, thank You for this clear Word. Right now we are facing ramped-up busyness, with a large group expected Sunday, Easter activities the next Sunday, and then the prospect of restarting children’s ministry, which we haven’t had for several years. My flesh thinks it’s a good time to retire! Help me rest, relax, and rejoice in You, just as You have told me to do, even as I fulfill each of the responsibilities You assign to me, on Your schedule for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!

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The Believer’s Reward; March 26, 2021

Matthew 19:29 “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.”

You could call this verse, “The Missionary’s Reward.” However, it’s not at all limited to those who go to far-off lands to serve God. In many places in the world, and recently even in America, serving God can be very costly. Countless people have been estranged from their families, or even legally disinherited, because they have chosen to follow Christ. In America these days, standing up for Biblical principles can get you ostracized in various ways, cost you your job, get you sued, or even jailed. In a way that’s a good thing, because up until recently, in the US being a Christian came with a number of social perks, and as a result there were many who were Christian in name only. You won’t find that in China, for example. Talking with Dennis Balcombe, he told me that people committing to Christ in China do so with the expectation of at least being harassed by the police, and those accepting pastoral ministry do so with the expectation of jail or even martyrdom. (He himself has been arrested many times.) Just before His crucifixion Jesus famously told us, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) Just before that He said, “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.” (John 15:20) The cost of following Christ is real, but the rewards are disproportionately enormous. As Paul noted, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 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.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18) As someone has said, “God’s retirement plan is out of this world!”

As a missionary, born and raised of missionary parents, this verse has always been very real to me. I have known several people who were disowned by their family for becoming Christians, as well as many who could have had much more lucrative careers had they not committed to follow Christ wherever He led them. At the same time, the rewards for obedience are by no means limited to heaven. When people expressed admiration to my mother for “leaving so much to be a missionary,” her response was that the only thing she felt she had left was physical proximity to family. I grew up with relatives being “those people on the other side of the ocean,” but at the same time I felt closeness to other missionary families as well as to a number of Japanese Christians. I don’t think I ever felt deprived! God has met my needs, and I don’t think I have experienced active persecution for my faith. In any case, I don’t serve God for the reward, but because He is the only One worthy of my devotion.

Father, thank You for Your gracious faithfulness. Help me respond to You fully, whatever the seeming cost in this world, not to “gain points” but because Your kingdom and Your righteousness are worth more than all the rest of it put together. Thank You. Praise God!

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