August 1 “Loss”

Profit

Ledgers are known to have two sides, one column for profits and one for losses.
As our consideration of the Parable of the Talents continues, we must look to the losses column. Remember this key factor: in the parable, some of those trusted with considerable funds to invest hated their employer. Hate is a most unprofitable emotion. Seldom does it lead to benefits either for the individual or the company. Such was certainly the case with this nobleman-turned-king and those he entrusted with both work to do and the means to do that work. His last words of instruction were these:

“Do business till I come.”

Excuses, Excuses
The hate-driven servant put on his best false-face (as if his master could not tell the difference!) and bowed deeply before his boss. He justified his non-profit report with flattery, thinly veiled accusations of corruption.

“…I feared you, because you are an austere man.
You collect what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.”

This hateful man had the nerve to plead his case for laziness based on the reputation of his master. His stupidity reached a whole new level of lame. The boss was neither flattered nor indicted—He was angry.  He knew the truth: this unprofitable servant hid the money he was supposed to invest in a cloth like discarded tableware. All he had to present to the nobleman was the original sum, nothing less but certainly nothing more.

Final Accounting
Fundamentally unimpressed by everything the servant said and did—attitude, excuses, laziness, stupidity—the nobleman took the man’s one talent, (perhaps 3000 shekels of silver!) and gave it to the servant who had ten times that much. His words were as devastating to the servant as was this divestment of funds.

“You knew that I was an austere man, collecting what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow.”

All the snark and snivel drained from the servant’s face. Perhaps he actually thought the safety of the funds was the master’s true goal. Amazing! He should have known the Master was more interested in the increase of his holdings than the safety of his funds. The question had to be put:

“Why then did you not put my money in the bank,
that at my coming I might have collected it with interest?

As further justice, the newly crowned king ordered the execution of all the rebels.

“Well done, good and faithful servant…”
The lesson of this parable should be more than clear. God has given each of us work to do and resources to use in the doing of it. There will be an accounting before the face of Jesus someday.

“…to everyone who has will be given; and from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him…”

Imagine, after the judgement of our works, hearing Jesus say,

“Well done, good and faithful servant! Enter in…”

Our lives are not a parable; they are real. We have been entrusted with assets from which the Kingdom of God is built. The King is coming back! Today, we must hear his words to us—

“Do business till I come.”

Scriptures:
Luke: 19:20-27
NKJV
“Then another came, saying, ‘Master, here is your mina, which I have kept put away in a handkerchief. For I feared you, because you are an austere man. You collect what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.’ And he said to him, ‘Out of your own mouth I will judge you, you wicked servant. You knew that I was an austere man, collecting what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow. Why then did you not put my money in the bank, that at my coming I might have collected it withinterest?’ “And he said to those who stood by, ‘Take the mina from him, and give it to him who has ten minas.’ (But they said to him, ‘Master, he has ten minas.’) ‘For I say to you, that to everyone who has will be given; and from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. But bring here those enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, and slay them before me.'”
Revelation 22:12-13 NKJV
“And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, thank You for Your investment in my life. I will serve You because I love You and not because I fear You as heathen folk fear their hostile little gods. I know You are good and merciful. If You have given me work to do, I know I can do it with Your help! I will serve You out of love, confidence, and faith in you. My highest goal and the dream of my heart is to hear You call me name and say, “Well done!” This will be the moment that births my eternity. Today I will do business for You. Amen.

Song:
I Will Serve Thee

Words and Music: Bill and Gloria Gaither

I will serve thee because I love thee
You have given life to me
I was nothing before you found me
You have given life to me

Heartaches, broken pieces
Ruined lives are why you died on Calvary
Your touch was what I longed for
You have given life to me.

I will serve thee because I love thee
You have given life to me
I was nothing before you found me
You have given life to me

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.

July 31 “Profit”

Profit

As Zaccheus happily went to divest himself of his tainted wealth, the subject of profit and loss came into focus.
As Jesus neared Jerusalem, interest grew in the nature of His coming Kingdom. If money was earned only to be given away, what kind of economy would that be? To illustrate, Jesus told the parable of the talents, called “minas” in the version of scripture we are using—this was a sizable sum of money measured by weight in silver or gold.

The Parable (Part One—“Profit”)
A “certain nobleman” travelled to a distant county for a promotion to the throne of that land. The man was wealthy, holding many opportunities for profit as well as many dangers of loss. Certain servants were summoned before him and given significant sums of money to invest in his name and toward his purposes.

However, the nobleman was not loved by all his people. Something in his organization inspired hostility in some of his people. The rebellious sect actually sent a delegation to the nobleman making their intentions clear—they did not consider him their leader.

When the time came for the return of the nobleman, now the king of a distant land, it was a time of reckoning. The loyal servants reported profits and were promised reward. We will pause in the parable until tomorrow when we will deal with losses; today’s subject is profit.

“Talents?” a Flexible Term
The KJV used the word “talent” to refer to the sum of money given each servant. This has invited personal and even artistic interpretations.

  • The term, “hidden talents,” has become proverbial in warnings to individuals not to waste the abilities God has given them.
  • For creatives, the term is more specific: “Do not bury your skill!” If you can sing or act or write or paint or dance or whatever art God has given you the ability to learn to do, get busy!

These things are proper applications of the story even if based on a sort of a pun of the English language.

Profits in the Kingdom of God
Whether money, artistic ability, or personal giftedness, the point is well-taken—when God gives, He expects a return on His investment.

  • We must be careful not to confuse these profits with eternal salvation. This is always and only a free gift of grace granted the believer by repentance and confession of Christ. It is the gift of God and could never be earned by any works we could ever do.
  • However, once we are in this Kingdom of Grace, there is much work to be done.

The Bible is exceedingly clear on this! From the Sermon on the Mount to this parable to the letters of the Apostles to the church, the admonitions are many and explicit—we each have a calling, an anointing, a life’s work which the Lord Himself has given us to do.

If He has given us much, much will be required of us! Meanwhile, we do this work faithfully in the power of the Spirit—a mysterious and joyful combination of human effort and divine blessing. Paul called the Spirit a treasure and he called us the earthen vessel containing the treasure. Why? So that we would know that the power to do the work was of God and not of us. We are His handiwork, created to do good works which God has laid out for us to do since before time began!

Talents? To be sure! Treasure? To be even more sure! Profits? If we are faithful to “do the work!”

Scriptures:
Luke: 19:11-1
9 NKJV
Now as they heard these things, He spoke another parable, because He was near Jerusalem and because they thought the kingdom of God would appear immediately. Therefore He said: “A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and to return. So he called ten of his servants, delivered to them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Do business till I come.’ But his citizens hated him, and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We will not have this man to reign over us.’ “And so it was that when he returned, having received the kingdom, he then commanded these servants, to whom he had given the money, to be called to him, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading. Then came the first, saying, ‘Master, your mina has earned ten minas.’ And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant; because you were faithful in a very little, have authority over ten cities.’ And the second came, saying, ‘Master, your mina has earned five minas.’ Likewise he said to him, ‘You also be over five cities.’
Matthew 5:16 NKJV
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
Luke 12:48 NKJV
For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.
2 Corinthians 4:7 NKJV
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.
Ephesians 2:8-10 NKJV
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, Your grace in my life is so powerful and so multi-faceted. I cannot count Your blessings but I want to see that You receive a profit on every one of them! You have shown me mercy so I will be merciful to others. You have showered me with grace so I will be gracious to others. You have blessed me with talents and the opportunity to develop those talents into skills. I will do the work! I will walk this pathway of blessing and opportunity You have laid out for me, taking all the steps this blessed day requires. All for Your glory, Lord!

Song:
Give of Your Best to the Master

Words: Howard B. Grose; Music: Charlotte Alington (Claribel)

1. Give of your best to the Master;
Give of the strength of your youth;
Throw your soul’s fresh, glowing ardor
Into the battle for truth.
Jesus has set the example,
Dauntless was He, young and brave;
Give Him your loyal devotion;
Give Him the best that you have.

Refrain:
Give of your best to the Master;
Give of the strength of your youth;
Clad in salvation’s full armor,
Join in the battle for truth.

2. Give of your best to the Master;
Give Him first place in your heart;
Give Him first place in your service;
Consecrate every part.
Give, and to you will be given;
God His beloved Son gave;
Gratefully seeking to serve Him,
Give Him the best that you have.

Refrain

3. Give of your best to the Master;
Naught else is worthy His love;
He gave Himself for your ransom,
Gave up His glory above.
Laid down His life without murmur,
You from sin’s ruin to save;
Give Him your heart’s adoration;
Give Him the best that you have.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.

May 25 “Kingdom”

Kingdom

Jesus is King, not president.
Those of us who are blessed to live in Western democracies do not relate very well to kings. A king is a sovereign lord. Others may reason with him but no one commands him. His word is law with no debate or recourse. The army is his army and as are the naval and air forces that protect his country. The education system teaches his version of truth. When the king enters a room, his music plays and all stand and bow before him until he is seated on the throne. In his hand He holds a scepter, the symbol of absolute authority. Americans threw off the trappings of royalty and chose a president to lead us but this in no way reflects the truth about our leader—King Jesus! An elected president He is not. He will never be unelected and there are no term limits. No one will depose Him and take His throne. It is our business to serve Him, to find our place in His Kingdom and fill it.

The King Is Coming!
In two parables and a significant lecture Jesus spoke to the nature of His Kingdom. We must remember that He instructed us to pray, “Your Kingdom come. Your will be done as it is in heaven.” How is that?—instantly, thoroughly, and without hesitation or question.

The Parable of the Wedding Feast
According to the customs of the day, representatives of the village held vigil through the night awaiting the Bridegroom. Ten young women gathered for this purpose. All of them brought lamps: five of them brought extra oil for the lamps and the other five did not. The Bridegroom was long in coming and the five foolish ladies ran out of oil and sought out merchants. While they were gone, the Bridegroom arrived. The five wise ladies were invited into the feast and the other five were excluded. Lesson? Be more than ready, for the King is coming and we don’t know when.

The Parable of the Talents
A king went on a long journey leaving the business of his kingdom to servants. Each servant was supplied with varying amounts of capital to invest while the king was away. When the king returned he held each servant responsible for the funds. Most of the servants were wise and the king profited from their work. He blessed them calling them “good and faithful” and inviting them to enjoy the kingdom. One servant was fearful and unwise. Instead of risking the king’s capital, he buried it. When he had to give an account, he had gained nothing for the king. The king was furious, calling the man “wicked and lazy.” He took the small amount in the poor man’s account as punishment. Lesson?—take what God has given you and make it count in the Kingdom.

“When the Son of Man comes in His glory…”
As Jesus explained His Kingdom, He made it personal. We do not serve at a distance—we serve at His side. When He comes, He will separate the false servants from the true and reward accordingly. Deeds will be important, but more important will be the motivation behind the deeds. Jesus placed Himself in the center of our service. When we do deeds of mercy, we are really doing them to Him. Servants with motivations other than this will be cast away and the King will declare them unknown to Him.

Jesus is King, not president.

Scriptures:
Matthew 25:1-46
“Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish. Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. “And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’ Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.’ And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut. “Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ But he answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming. “For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey. Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. And likewise he who had received two gained two more also. But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord’s money. After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them. “So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, ‘Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them.’ His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’ He also who had received two talents came and said, ‘Lord, you delivered to me two talents; look, I have gained two more talents besides them.’ His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’ “Then he who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.’ “But his lord answered and said to him, ‘You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents. ‘For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’ “Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You are the Sovereign Lord! I praise You for You will never be deposed. Your Kingdom is forever and ever. Thank You for inviting me to serve You. Let me touch others in Your name, knowing that as I do, I am touching You. Give me courage to dig up any talents that lie buried and put them to use for You. Give me oil in my lamp and keep me burning through this long, dark night. When You come back, I want to be ready! Amen and Amen.

Song:
Shall I Empty Handed Be?
Words: Neal A. McAulay and Maud Frazer; Music John P. Mills

1. Will I empty-handed be
When beside the crystal sea
I shall stand before the everlasting throne?
Must I have a heart of shame
As I answer to my name,
With no works that my Redeemer there can own.

2. When the harvest days are past,
Shall I hear Him say at last,
“Welcome, toiler, I’ve prepared for thee a place?”
Shall I bring Him golden sheaves,
Ripened fruit, not faded leaves,
When I see the blessed Savior face to face?

3. When the books are opened wide,
And the deeds of all are tried,
May I have a record whiter than the snow.
When my race on earth is run,
May I hear Him say, “Well done,”
Take the crown that love immortal doth bestow.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.