August 5, “Rewards”

Rewards

Confession time:

  • I like winning better than losing.
  • I am more fond of good outcomes than bad ones.
  • When dreaming big dreams leads to accomplishing great things, I really like it.
  • I love it when there is progress to report in a progress report.

To work well but without reward is the definition of misery.

The Craftsman’s Rewards
I have a life-long friend from my college and teaching days named Dennis who is a wonderful singer, actor, teacher, choral director and Christian gentleman. In his retirement he works with wood producing, among other things, beautiful wooden cases for clocks. I visited his shop one summer and found it to be full of rewards. I don’t mean trophies and plaques on the wall. I mean precision equipment of all kinds and stacks of expensive, beautiful wood from the best of trees. A case for a clock was in the works with smooth wood and careful craftsmanship. Another couple of clocks, as yet undelivered, could be seen here and there. I knew that his sharp mind contained plans for the next creation.

Where were the rewards? I saw them!

  • A proven record of past achievements,
  • the presence of a current project, and
  • the promise of future work were his rewards.

Work and reward; work and reward.
It is the rhythm of life. God, the some Creator who said “It was good” at each stage of a grand project eons ago, made us this way.

Science calls this the Law of Cause and Effect. The Bible term is the Law of Sowing and Reaping. It is not at all complicated—we reap what we sow. If we do “this thing,” this “other thing” will be the result. This is one of the first things we learn in life—“Don’t touch the stove top!” “Get away from that electrical outlet.”

If we do not learn this law:

  • We will gain weight when we eat too much an exercise too little.
  • We are likely to stress over debt when we misuse our credit cards?
  • We will find it difficult to be pure in heart if we constantly feed on impurity.
  • Our children may walk away from God, if we do not walk with Him before their eyes.

On the other hand—while we are thankful—we should not be surprised when the rewards for sowing good things come our way:

  • Except for the prospects of disease or injury, healthy living leads to long life.
  • We can be generous on all occasions because it is more blessed to give than receive.
  • We can live unspotted in this wicked age, because we feed on the good things of God.
  • We can successfully hand deliver the True Faith to the next generation.

Best of all is the reward when we stand before Jesus and give an account.
We can hear Him say,

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.’

There is no greater reward than this!

Scriptures:
Psalm 91
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High, abides under the shadow of the Almighty. He shall say to the Lord, “You are my refuge and my stronghold, my God in whom I put my trust.” He shall deliver you from the snare of the hunter and from the deadly pestilence. He shall cover you with his pinions, and you shall find refuge under his wings; his faithfulness shall be a shield and buckler. You shall not be afraid of any terror by night, nor of the arrow that flies by day; Of the plague that stalks in the darkness, nor of the sickness that lays waste at mid-day. A thousand shall fall at your side and ten thousand at your right hand, but it shall not come near you. Your eyes have only to behold to see the reward of the wicked. Because you have made the Lord your refuge, and the Most High your habitation, There shall no evil happen to you, neither shall any plague come near your dwelling. For he shall give his angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways. They shall bear you in their hands, lest you dash your foot against a stone.You shall tread upon the lion and adder; you shall trample the young lion and the serpent under your feet. Because he is bound to me in love, therefore will I deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my Name. He shall call upon me, and I will answer him; I am with him in trouble; I will rescue him and bring him to honor. With long life will I satisfy him, and show him my salvation.
Revelation 22:12-13 NIV
“Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.
Galatians 6:7-10 NKJV
Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.
2 Corinthians 9:6-7 NIV
Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.
Matthew 25:21-22
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.’

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You are fair in all Your ways. Your promises, so ancient in their words, still ring true today. We will reap if we faint not! When we sow in tears, this will bring a harvest of joy! From creation’s season to this one, You have blessed the cycles of this earth: seed time and harvest, the seasons of the year, and rhythm of the work week and the Blessed Sabbath, a day to rest from sowing and tending and even harvesting. You are with me in the fields reminding me of Your promises. You are coming soon and Your reward is with You. Thank You, Lord of the Harvest! Amen.

Song:
Bringing in the Sheaves
Words: Knowles Shaw; Music: George A. Minor

1.Sowing in the morning, sowing seeds of kindness,
Sowing in the noontide and the dewy eve;
Waiting for the harvest, and the time of reaping,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

Refrain:
Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves,
Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves,

2. Sowing in the sunshine, sowing in the shadows,
Fearing neither clouds nor winter’s chilling breeze;
By and by the harvest, and the labor ended,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

Refrain

3.Going forth with weeping, sowing for the Master,
Though the loss sustained our spirit often grieves;
When our weeping’s over, He will bid us welcome,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

August 4, 2017 “Fields”

Fields

“Field” is an extremely useful noun.
Literally, there are corn fields, hay fields, bean fields, and cotton fields back home. There are football fields, baseball fields with infields and outfields, and there are soccer fields. Tragically, the list of literal fields must include battlefields.

Figuratively, there are fields of study, fields of medicine, law, and science, fields of influence, mission fields and fields of personal interest. Ironically, all of these figurative fields can also be playing fields, fields of produce, and battlefields.

The Poet reports that in his day the enemies God had plans to steal, “The Fields of God.” This is still true and it is no limited strategy for the fields of God are wide and varied. God created human beings to be productive people with many fields to till and harvest.

Just What Is the Father’s Business?
Perhaps we have been too narrow in our understanding of God’s business, that business that sent the 12 year-old Jesus to the Temple to interview the priests. Some might say this, with the intention of shutting down the conversation, “The business of God is souls.” This is absolutely true beyond any “fear of successful contradiction” as a pastor I knew liked to say. Do we really think “souls” is the sum total of God’s business? Does the Lord have just this one field?

The Lord had many fields.
Many years ago I did some teaching on ministry through the arts. I talked about bearing fruit in terms of creating beautiful works of art. Unknown to me, the pastor’s secretary was a painter. She had never connected her art to the concept of bearing fruit for God. “That was always just winning souls!” She told me. Her field of interest was painting and it was God’s field, too.

Dramatically, Jesus calls us to the harvest fields in these last days. Exactly which fields are they?

More than the traditional concepts of witnessing: going door-to-door, passing out tracts, presentational services and events, the Fields of God are where He has planted us! Our interests, our vocations and avocations, our callings and skills, our craftsmanship and creativity, our planting and harvesting, our hobbies and games, our arts and endeavors, our passions and our compassion—even our battles and competitions can be the Fields of God.

  • Many have been successfully stolen by the enemy—let’s take them back.
  • Others have been corrupted by sin—let’s reform them by the Book.
  • Some fields have grown fallow and unused—let’s plow them up and plant them again.
  • Dusty and dry, some of our own fields need a fresh rain—let’s ask the Lord to send rain.
  • Here and there one of our fields may suffer from neglect—let’s pay attention and do the work!

Then, like the word, “field,” we can be extremely useful to God.

Scriptures:
Psalm 83
O God, do not be silent; do not keep still nor hold your peace, O God; For your enemies are in tumult, and those who hate you have lifted up their heads. They take secret counsel against your people and plot against those whom you protect. They have said, “Come, let us wipe them out from among the nations; let the name of Israel be remembered no more.” They have conspired together; they have made an alliance against you:… Who said, “Let us take for ourselves the fields of God as our possession. O my God, make them like whirling dust and like chaff before the wind; Like fire that burns down a forest, like the flame that sets mountains ablaze. Drive them with your tempest and terrify them with your storm; Cover their faces with shame, O Lord, that they may seek your Name. Let them be disgraced and terrified forever; let them be put to confusion and perish. Let them know that you, whose Name is Yahweh, you alone are the Most High over all the earth.
John 4:34-38 NIV
“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. Do you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the reaper draws his wages, even now he harvests the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”
Malachi 3:10-12 NIV
Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit,” says the LORD Almighty. “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the LORD Almighty.
2 Corinthians 10:13 NIV
We, however, will not boast beyond proper limits, but will confine our boasting to the field God has assigned to us, a field that reaches even to you.
1 Corinthians 3:5-9 NIV
What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe — as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.
Hosea 10:12 NIV
Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the LORD, until he comes and showers righteousness on you.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I am headed out into the fields today! You have called me to work in these specific fields. I will sow good seed in them. I will water and care for the young plants. I will tend the vines in Your Vineyard You have given me to tend. I will gently harvest the fruit of these fields. Every day is an adventure in Your fields of labor! I will be joyful in the tilling, patient in the toiling, and fluent in the telling. I will not become weary in all this well-doing for I know I shall reap bountifully if I sow bountifully and do not give up! O Lord of the Harvest, thank You for calling me into the fields! Amen and amen.

Song:
The Call for Reapers
Words and Music: James Oren Thompson

1. Far and near the fields are teeming
With waves of ripened grain;
Far and near their gold is gleaming
O’er the sunny slope and plain

Refrain:
Lord of harvest, send fir reapers!
Hear us, Lord, to Thee we cry.
Send them now the sheaves to gather.
Ere the harvest-time pass by.

2. Send them forth with morn’s first beaming;
Send them in the noontide’s glare;
When the sun’s last rays are gleaming,
Bid them gather everywhere.

Refrain

3. O thou whom the Lord is sending,
Gather now the sheaves if gold;
Heavenward then at evening wending.
Thou shalt come with joy untold.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved