Payday Doesn't Always Come on Friday

Ever wondered how payday works in the kingdom of God? I hear sermons all the time about “rewards in heaven” and “jewels in your crown” and sometimes wonder about my heavenly paycheck. 

I got a glimpse of how God rewards us recently when I mentally scrolled back through my earthly employment history. My first job paid $2.50 an hour. Employed by a grant-funded program to provide summer jobs for underprivileged youth, I worked in the Bristol Town Hall running errands. 

When I graduated from Dental Hygiene school in 1984, my first professional position netted me a whopping $8 an hour. That was enough money to buy my first car—a 1982 Toyota Starlet. 

Thirty years later, I still work as a dental hygienist, but I’m also a freelance writer. On a good day, freelance writers get paid about $2.50 an hour. Funny how life comes full circle. 

Some publications I write for pay me “on acceptance.” This means as soon as they accept my article, I receive a check—SWEET. Not much lag time between my effort and my reward. 

Other publications pay “upon publication.” This means I receive a check shortly after the article appears online or in print. Not bad if I’m writing for a current issue, but sometimes I submit a seasonal piece that won’t be published for three to six months. 

And finally, I write for one devotional that pays upon publication, and they solicit submissions TWO YEARS in advance. By the time I receive a paycheck from them, I've long forgotten the article they're paying me for.

God's economy is a lot like the freelance writing world. 

Some of the work I do for the Lord reaps instant rewards. I bring a meal to a sick church member and receive a smile and a grateful thank you. Other work, like discipling a new believer, takes a little longer to see the fruit. Two or three months down the road she might decide to get baptized or share her faith with someone for the first time. 

I do other labor for which I wonder if I’ll ever receive a reward—the “upon publication” work that often takes years, if not decades, to come to fruition. The money I donate to mission projects to evangelize people I’ve never met. Or the thousands of early morning prayers I pray for the salvation of my loved ones. This type of labor is “soul sweat,” the work I do with little or no visible results. 

When I struggle to persevere, Hebrews 6:10 comforts and encourages me: 

“God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.”

If you’re wondering today if working for the Lord is worth it, remember that we walk by faith, not by sight. And though God kindly encourages us with glimpses of how he is using our kingdom work, we won’t see the full results of our toil and tears until we get to heaven. 

But oh, when we see it. It will be worth it all. 

"His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!’” (Mat. 25:23). 

If you're reading by email, and can't see the video "Thank You," by Ray Boltz, click HERE to watch it on YouTube. And when you do, remember to pray for Ray.

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What Painted Pottery Taught Me about God's Care

“Good luck getting them home,” Emily said as I showed her the painted plates I found in Seville. “Everyone who comes to Spain falls in love with the pottery and tries to take it back in their suitcases. No matter how carefully they wrap it, it always breaks.” 

“What if I put bubble wrap around them?” I asked. 

“Tried it.” 

“Wrap them in clothing?” 

“Tried that, too.” 

“Surely there’s some way I can get these home?” I insisted. 

“The only way they’ll make it intact is if you carry them,” she said. 

So that’s what I did. 

I wrapped them in bubble wrap, tucked each one between several layers of clothing, and hauled them halfway across the world in my carry on suitcase. 

When a TSA agent tried to lift my little suitcase onto the screening belt, I did it myself. When a flight attendant offered to stow it under the plane, I declined. When another volunteered to place it into an overhead bin, I refused. On every plane, I gently tucked my carry on beneath my seat where I knew it would be safe. 

I wheeled my suitcase from Jerez to Madrid, from Madrid to Dallas, from Dallas to Charlotte, and from Charlotte to home. Six thousand, six hundred, and eighteen miles. 

But Emily was right. My pretty painted plates arrived safely. Now they hang in my kitchen as a beautiful reminder of my trip to Spain. 

“Why would you go to all that trouble?” my husband asked when I described what I’d done. “Were they very expensive?” 

“Not really,” I told him, “but I like them. They make me happy. They’re valuable to me, and I think they’re beautiful."

My plates remind me of Spain, but the trouble I went through to get them home reminds me of the way God cares for me. Isaiah 40:11 paints a beautiful word picture to describe how God relates to his children: 

“He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.” 

He carries them in his bosom. Carefully, like objects of great value. Gently, like precious, fragile heirlooms. Lovingly, like a most treasured keepsake. 

When we by faith place our trust in Jesus Christ as Savior, he commits to carry us all the way through our lives. But unlike the checked luggage that I sent on ahead of me under the plane, God doesn’t just promise to get us there. He promises to carry us every step of the way. Because he loves us. And values us. And thinks we’re beautiful.

“Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you,” he promises. “I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you” (Isaiah 46:4). 

If you’re feeling devalued today, I pray this simple metaphor will help you realize how much God treasures you. May you feel God’s tender arms beneath you, hear the beat of his loving heart, and rest in the comfort and safety of his embrace. You can rest in the confidence that he won’t let you go until you’re safely home.

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Remembering the Plagues - What Suffering Teaches Us

It was appropriate, we thought, for this non-Jewish congregation to commemorate the crucifixion of our Lord by celebrating the Passover. Our leader was a Messianic, or completed Jew. As he read from the Haggadeh, the book that retells the story of the exodus from which the Passover Seder is conducted, he lifted the second cup. 

“This is a cup of remembrance,” he said. “And one of gratitude.” 

“As we list the plagues God sent through the hand of Moses,” he said, “it is customary to dip one finger into the glass, then onto the plate, leaving one drop to symbolize each plague.”

Slaying of the Firstborn. 

“It is a cup of remembrance, lest we forget the power of God . It is a cup of gratitude, lest we forget his mercy and deliverance,” our leader said. 

I’ve never thought to list the plagues God has allowed into my life. Frankly, I prefer to forget them. And list them for the purpose of expressing gratitude? This, too, is a strange concept. Strange, yet very biblical. King David the Psalmist embraced this practice. 

“It is good for me to be afflicted,” he wrote in Psalm 119:71, “that I might learn your decrees.  I know, O LORD, that your laws are righteous, and in faithfulness you have afflicted me.” 

Remembrance and gratitude. The rear view perspective of a man who has suffered, survived, and now has the ability to see how God has used his affliction to make him better. 

With this in mind, I dipped my finger into my cup. And while the others recited the plagues of old, the list in my head sounded much different. 

Unsaved family members. 
Broken relationships. 
Wasted opportunities. 
Doubt and discouragement. 
Broken hearts. 

Unlike the plagues of the Exodus, these plagues weren’t limited to the unbelieving Egyptians. God, in his sovereignty, allowed them into my life. Not out of cruelty, but out of a bigger, greater, more God-glorifying plan than I can ever conceive. Most of the time I can’t see his purposes, but every now and then I catch a glimpse, for we walk by faith, not by sight. 

Thank you, Lord, for disease, for it has taught me that health is a gift to be treasured and protected. 

Thank you, God, for unsaved family members, for they remind me that nothing is too hard for you. 

Thank you, Father, for unemployment, for it demonstrates that you are my provider, not my job. 

Thank you, Lord, for broken relationships, for they remind me that you will never leave me nor forsake me. 

Thank you, God, for wasted opportunities, for they prove you can restore what the locust has eaten. 

Thank you, Father, for prodigals, for they have allowed me to experience your heartbreak when I sin against you. 

Thank you, Lord, for doubt and discouragement, for they cause me to seek comfort in your arms. 

Thank you, God, for broken hearts, for they show me that you are everything I need. 

Thank you, Father, for betrayal, for it allows me to enter into your earthly suffering. 

Thank you, Lord, for death, for without death, there is no resurrection. 

As you list your own plagues, and lift your cup of suffering, may you also raise a psalm of praise to God, in faith. May you trust that he who walks with you every step of the way will redeem every moment of your suffering for his glory. 

“May your unfailing love be my comfort, according to your promise to your servant. Let your compassion come to me that I may live, for your law is my delight. (Psalm 119:76-77). 

“You are good, and what you do is good; teach me your decrees” (Psalm 119:68). 

Now it’s your turn. What “plague” are you trusting God with today? It would be my honor to pray with you for God to use it for good in your life. Leave a comment below and join the conversation.

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Easter Praise from the Mouths of Babes

Several readers let me know that the link for the video I reference below was omitted in their email. I don't want you to miss this, hence the second email. Enjoy, and Happy Easter. He is risen!

"But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple area, "Hosanna to the Son of David," they were indignant. 

"Do you hear what these children are saying?" they asked him. 

"Yes," replied Jesus, "have you never read, "'From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise'?" (Mat. 21:15) 

This poignant, beautiful version of "Gethsemane," by 3-year old Claire Ryann will make your heart soar and your eyes weep. 

Rejoice, and happy Easter.

 If you're reading by email and can't see Claire Ryan's version of Gethsemane, click HERE.

 If you're reading by email and can't see Claire Ryan's version of Gethsemane, click HERE.

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Are You Suffering from Spiritual Affluenza?

There’s a new disease in town.

Like many illnesses that have mutated from their original nasty strains, this sickness puts a 21st century spin on a centuries-old malady. Some victims contract it and are cured. Others struggle with it all their lives. Only the hyper-vigilant manage to completely avoid its destructive effects.

The disease is called Affluenza. Merriam Webster loosely defines it as “the unhealthy and unwelcome psychological and social effects of affluence.” Although the online dictionary doesn’t address the spiritual component of affluenza, it’s very real. And regardless of our bank accounts, all Christians are at risk.

The first documented case of spiritual affluenza occurred in Israel, even before the Israelites had inherited the Promised Land. On the eve of their entrance into the land “flowing with milk and honey” (an Old Testament description of wealth and prosperity), God, through Moses, warned his people:

“Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery” (Deut. 8:11-14). God knew the Israelites’ vulnerability to affluenza. Sadly, 21st century Christians are no different.

When money is tight or our marriage is struggling, we pray often and fervently. When we’re seeking insight into how to help our wayward children or addicted family member, we make church attendance a priority. When we’re lonely or sick, we welcome the support of God and his family. 

Affluence, however, can derail healthy Christians faster than a stomach virus in a daycare. When money is plentiful and our jobs are secure, we don’t often ask God for our daily bread. When family relationships are strong and our kids are making wise life decisions, we don’t spend as much time in prayer. When we’re surrounded by friends and enjoying good health, we spend more Sundays traveling and sleeping in than going to church. Like the Israelites, we often sideline God when he blesses us.

How lame is that? God fills our lives with good things, and like spoiled, ungrateful brats, we grab the gifts and gallop off with nary a backward glance.

God saw it coming and tried to warn his people: Don’t forget me. And certainly, “don’t say to yourself, ‘My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me’” (Deut. 8:16).

If you recognize some of the symptoms of spiritual affluenza, you’ve taken the first step toward healing—admitting you’re sick.

The second step is to avail yourself of the cure. God, the Great Physician, wrote a three-part prescription on the pages of Scripture. Thankfully, there’s no expiration date on this tonic, and the refills are unlimited.

First: Remember. “Remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth” (Deut. 8:17). Every day we should acknowledge that it is God who provides the opportunity, ability, and means to live the life he’s placed before us. He gives us the breath in our lungs, the strength in our bodies, and the creativity and perseverance to make a living for ourselves. Without God’s sustaining touch, every heartbeat could be our last.

Second: Praise. “When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the LORD your God for the good land he has given you” (Deu. 8:10). We should also glorify God whenever and wherever we can for his provision. As we enjoy the blessings of food, fellowship, friends, and family, we should be quick to acknowledge the bountiful hand that provided them.

Third: Pray. “ . . . give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, 'Who is the LORD?' Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God” (Pro. 30:8-9).

The psalmist recognized the danger that exists on both ends of the wealth spectrum. Jesus said it would be difficult for the rich (and we are all rich compared to much of the world) to admit their need for a Savior. He also acknowledged that while extreme poverty can prompt people to cry out to God as their only hope, it can also push them to commit desperate and godless crimes. The psalmist eloquently prays for a healthy balance between the two extremes. Asking God to provide our needs without giving us more than we can physically, emotionally, or spiritually handle is wise and biblical.

I don’t know if you’re struggling with spiritual affluenza. I know I sometimes do. I don’t want to be a greedy recipient of God’s goodness. Instead, I want to be a grateful one who never forgets that “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights” (Jas. 1:17).

Now it’s your turn. Has affluence drawn you closer to or farther from the Lord? What do you do to combat it? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.

Father, I don’t want to be an ungrateful recipient of your goodness. Help me recognize how everything good in my life comes from you. Let gratitude bubble up in my heart and express itself in praise and thanksgiving. Help me pursue a healthy balance between poverty and wealth and honor you in everything I do. In the strong name of Jesus, I pray. Amen.

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