May 18

Today's Bible Readings
     Numbers 27
     Psalms 70-71
     Isaiah 17-18
     I Peter 5
''And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away." (I Peter 5:4)
      It has always been my desire as a preacher of God's Word to finish well. I was blessed in that God called me to preach at a very young age; therefore, I've had the privilege of preaching the Word of God for many years. My heart has been broken on many occasions when I've seen some of God's men fall by the wayside and fail to finish well. God has made a special promise to His servants who finish well.  He has promised the crown of glory that does not fade away.
The reward for which the pastor labors is one that will only be presented when the Chief Shepherd appears. There are, of course, many wonderful rewards for the pastor in terms of changed lives and the privileges associated with the preaching of the Word.
      The ultimate reward for the preacher is the one provided by the Chief Shepherd; in fact, there is an observable contrast between the “dishonorable gain” of verse 2 and the Chief Shepherd's reward in verse 4. The gain in verse 2 is temporal and thus subject to decay; it is limited and is provided by men. The reward of verse 4 is eternal, incorruptible, unlimited, and it is provided by the Savior.
      The drift of the entire passage is that the pastor is not to be preoccupied with earthly profit, but is to labor for the heavenly reward. This will be provided when the Chief Shepherd, an obvious reference to Jesus, shall appear. Five words are frequently employed in the New Testament to describe the return of Christ. The word used here is phaneroo; elsewhere, parousia (I Corinthians 15:23), epiphaneia (II Thessalonians 2:8), apokalupsis (I Corinthians 15:23), or erchomai (Hebrews 10:37) will be used. The general meaning is the same though there is a distinction in emphasis. All of them refer to the coming, or the glorious unveiling, of the Lord Jesus Christ. Notably absent from this terminology is the frequently used modem phrase, “second coming”. This phrase is never employed in Scripture. The closest approximation to it is found in Hebrews 9:28, which says that “Christ will appear a second time” It is probably best to refer to the First Coming as the Incarnation, and the Second Coming as His Return.  When He does return, it will be with great glory and great splendor.
      This is the event which Peter and all genuine shepherds eagerly await, when the Arch Shepherd is disclosed; then faithful shepherds will receive crowns of glory which never fade. Two kinds of crowns are mentioned in the New Testament - the diadema, or diadem, is the kingly crown worn by Christ (Revelation 19:12). Stephanos, or victor's crown, is that which is awarded to the servants of Christ at His Coming. Five of these are mentioned by name in Scripture.
            A crown incorruptible - given for discipline (I Corinthians 9:25)
            A crown of rejoicing - for those who win people to Christ (I Thessalonians 2: 19)
            A crown of life - for those who suffer tribulation (James 1:12)
            A crown of righteousness - for those who love His appearing (II Timothy 4:8)
            A crown unfading for faithful shepherds (I Peter 5:4)
      The point here is not to become preoccupied with the subject of rewards or crowns, but we are to be more interested in pleasing the Lord than in the crown that He will give us. The work of the faithful shepherd, however, will be performed against the backdrop of the return of Christ and the unfading reward that He shall bring.
      The world's largest country, extending across eleven time zones between the Baltic and the Pacific is the Russian Federation. This nation no longer has the influence and power that it once had. Its infrastructure is falling apart, and its economy is in shambles. The population now is approximately 150 million people, and is a population of massive decline.  An estimated 30 million lost between 2000 and 2050 is likely. One of its states, Siberia, has one of the lowest population densities in the world.
       I visited Russia many times, and urge you to pray for a people who are in great depression, not only economically but socially and morally. God has answered many prayers on behalf of Russia with its spectacular collapse of Communism and the breakup of the Soviet Union. Now, there is religious freedom, and the Bible is freely available. Now with the resurgence of communism and a corrupt Orthodox Church, evangelicals are finding it increasingly difficult to function and grow.

''I hope I shall always possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man.'' George Washington