Sunday, March 18, 2018

The Both/And Life

March 18 (Colossians 1:28-29)

Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.  (ESV)

Jesus is both divine and human, yet He is one person.  God Himself eternally exists as three persons, yet one essence, meaning we worship one God, not three.  In other words, everything we know about God involves both/and.  Is it any wonder, then, that we, who are created in His image, must also live both/and lives?  Is it any surprise, too, that Satan tries to wreck our lives by getting us to think in either/or terms?

Take, for example, how we go about our daily existence.  Some tend to do it all on their own, whereas others want to do nothing and let Jesus handle everything.  Now look at how Paul approached the most important work of his or any Christ-follower’s life.  His job was to proclaim the gospel of Jesus, to warn and to teach, to present back to God everyone he met as a mature Christian.  How does he do it?  He works hard at it.  He toils and struggles, but he does so with the energy that God Himself was using to bring that very toil and struggle to fruition.  He lived a both/and life.

One of the most difficult aspects of being a Christian is to live the both/and life.  It is a tension, but it is a beautiful and mysterious tension, one that causes us to keep our hands stretched in two different directions, which is an incredibly hard thing to do.  Just ask Jesus about His experience at Calvary.

Jesus, the more I go along in this life of following You, the less I seem to understand.  I used to think I had it all together, but then I realize that I’m just kidding myself and others.  Help me not to overthink things.  Help me not to force my faith into a formula or try to do it all on my own.  Help me to live the both/and life, toiling and struggling with all the energy that You powerfully work in me.  Amen.

Copyright © 2018 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Where Do You Put Your Trust?

March 11 (Psalm 20:7)

Some trust in chariots and some in horses,         but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.  (ESV)

We often tell teenagers to begin building a good resume.  We tell them to get involved with sports or music, to serve in the community, and to take part in extracurricular activities so they will have a resume that looks good to scholarship committees and college admission boards.  I would ask what in the name of God we are doing, but whatever it is, it is not in the name of God.  We are training our children at an early age to put their hopes for the future in their accomplishments today.  We are teaching them to trust in chariots and horses.

It is true, of course, that a high G.P.A. can help a student gain admission to college just as surely as your high productivity last quarter can help you secure a promotion.  This is the way the world works.  Yet when we begin to live and die first by our transcripts and then later by our profit and loss statements, we go quickly astray, and at the end of the day, deep in your heart of hearts, you know that such things really do not matter.  They really don’t.

When you approach a task with confidence, is it confidence based on your resume or on the character of your Lord?  When you fear what is coming toward you, is it because you don’t think you have what it takes or because you don’t think God does?  A good look at our confidence and our fear will show us where we actually put our trust.

It amazes me sometimes, Lord, how much I am actually depending on my own strength and abilities rather than on You.  Honestly, most of the day I live as if everything were up to me.  Help me to rely less on my talents, even though You have given them to me, and more directly on You.  I ask it in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

Copyright © 2018 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, March 4, 2018

What Is A Fruitful Life?

March 4 (Mark 4:18-19)

And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.  (ESV)

What do you think it means to be fruitful?  I have always taken this to mean being productive.  We don’t want things getting in the way of our doing things for God.  It is true that we don’t want to be distracted or deterred from our mission, but there is more to what Jesus is saying here than that.

Rather than take a modern definition of fruitfulness, and in my case one that fits very well with my driven personality, consider a biblical understanding.  Galatians 5:22-23 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.  Now put those two passages together.  The worries and cares of the world, to say nothing of our desires and pursuit of ungodly things, keep us from bearing the fruits of the Spirit.  You may be doing a great many things, even good things for God, but is your life bursting forth in love?  What about joy and peace?  How are you with patience these days?  You see where this is going.

You can force yourself to do a good deed, but you cannot muscle up and will kindness into existence.  You simply cannot dig down deep and make any of the fruits of the Spirit a reality.  They have to grow and develop on their own.  The only thing you can do is make sure the soil of your life is free from the thorns that would choke them out.

Dear God, You wrecked me with this.  I have so often thought that running around and doing more good things was what it meant to live a fruitful life, and I know that You have given me good works to perform.  Yet I also know that what You want most is for my life to be a rich garden in which the seeds that You plant can flourish and bring forth fruit.  Help me pull out the weeds and thorns of distraction and worry so that nothing may interfere with YOUR work.  In the name of Jesus, my Savior, amen.

Copyright © 2018 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, February 25, 2018

You Are An Evangelist

February 25 (Romans 10:13-14)

For “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”  But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him?  And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him?  And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?  (NLT)

No one wants to be a Benedict Arnold in a relationship or a Hitler at work, and everyone would like to be an Einstein when it comes to math.  Some names will forever be associated with certain things, and when it comes to evangelism, the name that forms the standard in the modern era is Billy Graham.  He died last week, although in his own words he would say that he merely changed addresses.  Few people lived their faith as boldly and consistently as he did, and some have remarked that we are unlikely to see another evangelist like him.  And you know what?  We will never see another evangelist like you, either.
God gave Billy Graham certain gifts.  What made him so special was that he developed and used those gifts to the full.  God has given you your own gifts, but His purpose is the same.  He wants us to use our gifts to glorify Him by helping to build His kingdom, and we do that by sharing the good news about Jesus with others.  It is our calling, just as much as it was Billy Graham’s, to let people know that true life, eternal life, can be theirs through a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Paul spoke challenging words to the Romans.  Imagine him challenging you.  How will your co-workers, your neighbors, and your family call on Jesus for salvation and come to believe in Him unless someone tells them about Him?  You are the evangelist God has called to their lives, and you have work to do.

Lord, I owe You everything.  I owe you my life from birth and my eternal life from my rebirth in You.  Open my lips and free my tongue from whatever fears and hesitations have ever prevented me from telling others of Your amazing love.  Help me to be the evangelist You have called me to be in the lives to which You have sent me.  I ask in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Copyright © 2018 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Godly Indifference

February 11 (Luke 22:42)

Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.  (ESV)

We often find ourselves going out to eat with several families after one of our son’s basketball games.  If it were up to me, we would head to a pizza joint nine times out of ten, and the tenth time it would be to a burger place.  The choice, however, is not up to me alone, and quite often we end up at Chik-Fil-A.  Don’t get me wrong.  I can scarf down a chicken sandwich with the best of them, especially when I get about a hundred packets of sriracha sauce for my fries, but at the end of the day, it really does not matter that much.  What matters is that a bunch of families who are good friends get to spend time in fellowship.

This is what it means to be indifferent to something.  It is not that you do not care at all, but that you are more than willing to go along with something else.  Now, I know what you’re thinking.  That’s all fine and good when it comes to something insignificant like where to eat dinner, but surely, we can’t be expected to be indifferent when it comes to big things like our jobs or families.

Really?  This was precisely the posture of Jesus mere moments before He was arrested and led off to be tried and executed.  He was quite clear in His prayer.  He did not want to suffer what He was about to endure, yet He was fundamentally indifferent when it came to His own life.  The only thing that mattered was the will of the Father.

Lord, I pay lip service to wanting to do Your will and even pray the prayer Jesus taught us that Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  You and I both know that is not entirely true for me.  Show me those places where it really is more important to me that my will be done and my vision of life be accomplished, then help me surrender those areas to You.  In the name of Jesus, Who trusted You so completely that He could put His life into Your hands, amen.

Copyright © 2018 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Finding Your Heart In Jesus

February 4 (John 16:33)

 I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.  (NLT)

Sickness, heartbreak, and loss, to say nothing of fear, worry, and stress, are all a part of life.  This is true for the Christian and non-Christian alike.  Our suffering may be the direct result of spiritual attack, or it may be the consequence of our being alive.  And when we suffer, whether in large or small ways, we have but one desire, that the suffering end.

Here is where our faith runs smack into reality.  We want the suffering to end.  Period.  God says He loves us, we want our pain to end, and sometimes it does.  But sometimes it does not, and then we typically respond in one of two ways.  Some revert to their human reasoning, conclude God does not actually love them, and abandon their faith entirely.  Others try to reason spiritually, chalk it all up to an attack of the enemy, and vow to tough it out as a good, Christian warrior would.

Yet neither of these is the approach Jesus gives us.  He starts out by saying that all of His teaching is so that we may have peace in Him.  So get that straight first of all.  He wants you to have peace.  Then He acknowledges the truth of the matter.  We all have times of suffering.  But at that point you can just see Him smile as He looks you straight in the eye, a hand on your shoulder, and says, “But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”  He is telling you to look to Him, to keep your eyes focused on Him and the truth of His resurrected and glorious self.  Will your suffering end tomorrow?  Will it work out the way you hope?  Maybe, maybe not, but Jesus does not want you distracted by those questions any more than He wants you distracted by greed or temptation.  He wants you to take heart, to find your heart, to live out of your heart that has been transformed by Him.

Jesus, I need You to heal my blindness, for even though I read Your words, I still approach my problems in just about every way but what You would have me do.  Help me to see only You and your magnificent, loving grace, no matter what faces me.  May my gaze pierce through the dark mass of my problems as if they were as invisible as air that my eyes may filled with You.  Amen.

Copyright © 2018 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Anchor In A Stormy World

January 28 (Ephesians 4:14)

…so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.  (ESV)

“It’s new, so you should buy it!”  “It’s backed by the latest research, so you should believe it!”  “People smarter than you have come up with it, so you should accept it!”  Pretty much since the first person improved on the wheel by putting two of them on an axle and attaching them to a vehicle, people have sold and gone after the latest thing.  In the case of the smartphone, this has been a good thing.  Look at other items in your neighborhood garage sales and…not so much.

It’s one thing to spend money on the latest and greatest, but when we fall in with trendy thinking, we run the risk of serious damage to the way we live.  As Christians, people who have accepted the gift of God’s saving grace through Jesus Christ and are living transformed and transforming lives, we are blessed to have a rock of stability in the howling winds of our age, winds that blow all the more fiercely in this time of instant communication.  That rock is Jesus Himself.  He never changes, and through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, we have God’s words to us in the Bible.

It is natural to go after what is new, and after you have read the Bible, you may seek something else.  God does indeed inspire other Christian authors and speakers, and we can draw much from them, but we must always be anchored in the words of Scripture.  They are unchanging and keep us grounded in what can be a confusing age of ideas that sound good, but are false.

Dear God, sometimes I think life is just about You and me.  I forget that the faith I hold has been rooted in Your unchanging word for more than two thousand years.  Keep my mind from being distracted by ideas that seem good simply because they are new.  Open my heart to the eternal truths of Scripture so that I may remain unshaken in my service to You.  In the name of Jesus Christ, Who is the same yesterday, today, and forever, amen.

Copyright © 2018 by Steven R. Perkins