Sunday, November 18, 2018

Blessed When Ridiculed

November 18 (Matthew 5:11-12)

“God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers.Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.”  (NLT)

People may tell you that you are privileged as a Christian, especially if you are living in the West.  They will say that yours is the dominant religion, that vacations from work are often based on your holidays, and that the world of commerce is all about you, especially as we head toward Christmas.  Now, ask yourself this.  How comfortable do you feel talking about your faith?  Will you share the good news that salvation is found only in Christ and in no other religion or religious figure?  Will you speak against sins like abortion while sharing the love and forgiveness of God for those who have experienced it?

For most of us the answer is no, or at best a hesitant yes.  We see what happens to people in social media for speaking the truth.  Perhaps we have directly experienced mocking and evil comments.  And of course, we don’t want to ruffle feathers at work.  We have to show up tomorrow and work with these people.  What if our comments make that uncomfortable?

Friends, Jesus said that when we live for Him, which includes speaking His words, we will indeed make people uncomfortable.  They will lie and say all kinds of things about us, but guess what?  You are in good company.  The same, and far worse, has happened to the saints throughout the ages, to say nothing of our Lord Jesus Himself.  Hebrews 12:2 reminds us, “Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne,” and He promises that you have a great reward in store as well.

Lord, strengthen me against petty fear.  Grant me the boldness and courage to be Your faithful servant in all the works to which You call me.  In all things, my model is Jesus, who endured the horror of the cross for me.  Amen.

Copyright © 2018 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Soul Satisfaction

November 11 (Psalm 42:1)

As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.  (ESV)

In the sixteenth century, Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina composed a motet based on this verse.  It is called “Sicut Cervus” from the first two words of the Latin translation, and as one person commented on this recording of it on YouTube, “This might be the most beautiful three minutes in the history of forever.”  I agree, and it is certainly one of my favorite pieces of music.

Anyone can appreciate Palestrina’s composition and enjoy it thoroughly, but those who have tasted the pleasure of God know that there is something deeper and richer to it and to this verse.  There is a reason man’s relationship with God has inspired art and architecture, drama and dance and music that have become the crowning achievements of the creative aspirations of the human race.  That relationship, when rightly ordered through the grace of Jesus Christ, is satisfying at the deep level of our souls.  It is glorious, wonderful, magnificent, and filled with peace attainable nowhere else.  It is loving and welcoming.  It is home.

Do you know that?  Or rather, do you feel that?  If you have tasted even once that deep intimacy with God, you know there is nothing like it.  If, however, it seems like words on a page or something that others have experienced but not you, that may just be your soul’s longing for the one thing that can truly satisfy it.  And just as a deer always finds water to slake its thirst, so God will always be found by those who truly seek Him, for they will then know that He has been seeking them.

Lord, I need You more than water or sleep or food.  I need You more than the air I breathe.  Draw near to me as I draw near to You.  Fill my soul and restore it to life in a dry and thirsty land.  Amen.

Copyright © 2018 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Power To Walk In New Life

November 4 (Romans 6:4)

We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.  (ESV)

Guess what?  You don’t have to be afraid anymore.  2 Timothy 1:7 says we have been given a spirit of power, love, and self-control, not one of fear.  You don’t have to wonder if anyone loves you, or sit around convinced that no one does, because God has made it quite clear that He loves you.  Want proof?  Read Romans 5:8.  You don’t have to sin or remain stuck in darkness or run around in circles of confusion.  You really, truly don’t.

And yet so many of us do.  In one way or another, we are not walking in newness of life.  We sense that something is off, that something is just not right.  Let’s be honest.  No prisoner, having been pardoned from jail, will try to sneak back into his cell.  It is highly unlikely that you want to live in pain and suffering, apart from the renewed life that is your birthright as a baptized child of God.  It is, however, more than likely that God’s great enemy and ours, Satan, will try everything to lead you back into bondage.

God knows this and is at your side the moment you call.  In fact, in both the Old Testament (Joel 2:32) and the New Testament (Romans 10:13), He gives a powerful promise that everyone who calls on His name will be saved.  So, what are you waiting for?  You are a born-again child of God.  Why resort to old ways, why give in to habits you hope will make you feel better but never do, why be led astray by the lies of demons?  Cry out to your Father in heaven for help.  Weep and wail with Him.  Read the Bible verses that you know contain truth.  Walk in the newness of life that is yours.

Lord, may the Holy Spirit bring to my mind the lies that I have been accepting from the enemy as true.  As Paul taught in 2 Corinthians 10:5, I bring those thoughts captive to You.  Free me from their bondage that I may walk in the newness of life that is already mine in Christ Jesus.  In His name I pray, amen. 

Copyright © 2018 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, October 28, 2018

The Gift and Necessity of Rest

October 28 (Psalm 127:1-2)

Unless the Lord builds a house,

     the work of the builders is wasted.

guarding it with sentries will do no good.

      from early morning until late at night,

for God gives rest to his loved ones.  (NLT)

When are you at your best with God?  When are you at your best for Him?  If you are anything like me, it is not when you are doing a million things all at once.  And this probably means we are not at our best most of the time.  “Now here, now there, he darts from place to place.”  It is a line describing the Greek warrior Diomedes in the Iliad, but it also describes most of us today.

Why is that?  Why do we run ourselves ragged?  It is because we believe that we must build the house, metaphorically speaking.  We think it is all up to us.  Hard work is good, of course, and Paul had strong words for those who were lazy (2 Thessalonians 3:10), but nowhere does Scripture say we must do it all and kill ourselves in the process.  In fact, it says the opposite.

God loves you, which means, as this Psalm clearly says, He will give you rest.  Are you rejecting the gift?  Are you handing it back to Him because you know better what needs to be done?  Not only is that arrogant and insulting to God, but it is something we would not even do with a gift from an earthly friend.  He knows what is best, not your boss, not the family calendar, and not you.  Listen for Him, and when He is calling you to a moment of quiet with Him, eagerly accept the gift that He knows you need.

Father, help me to set aside regular moments each day to rest in You.  Help me to develop habits of rest in which I can hear from You and share with You my heart, in which I can grow in You and worship You truly.  I ask it in the name of Jesus, amen.

Copyright © 2018 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, October 21, 2018

The God Of All People

October 21 (Exodus 6:13)

But the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron and gave them orders for the Israelites and for Pharaoh, the king of Egypt.  (NLT)

The one true God Who has revealed Himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is the God of Muslims, Christians, Jews, and atheists.  He is the God of Australians, Americans, and those in the Amazon Basin.  He is the Lord of everyone on earth, whether they know it or not.  If that sounds odd, or even offensive, then it proves how much we have come to think of God in terms of private, religious, self-help principles rather than who He actually is.

When God spoke to Moses and Aaron, He gave them commands for the Israelites, His chosen people.  Most people today would have no trouble with that.  He was the God of the Israelites, so of course He spoke to them.  Yet notice that He also had commands for Pharaoh, who most certainly did not acknowledge Him as God of the Egyptians.  And that mattered to God not one bit.

You see, God knows Himself.  He knows that He created the atheist in his mother’s womb and knit together the limbs of the terrorist.  He knows the plans He has for the scientist who cannot accept anything she cannot measure, and He expects His followers, like Moses and Aaron, to know that, too.  We often hesitate to talk about God with others because we think we are imposing our private beliefs on someone else, but that is simply not the case.  God is Lord of everyone and He wants all of His children to be reconciled with Him.  That is why He sent Jesus to make that possible with His death and resurrection.  The next time you wonder whether you should talk about God with a friend, remember that God was not just the Lord of Moses and Aaron, but the Egyptians, too.

Lord, help me to live my life in You out loud.  Help me to take what can be a private faith into the marketplace and live my relationship with You as I do my relationship with family and friends.  Change my speech from one that talks of faith and principles to one that speaks of You in personal ways, and when You have a word for me to share with others, give me the courage to speak it.  Amen.

Copyright © 2018 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, October 14, 2018

You Can, With God's Help

October 14 (Exodus 3:11-12)

But Moses protested to God, “Who am I to appear before Pharaoh? Who am I to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt?”  God answered, “I will be with you.”  (NLT)

We all need encouragement when we think a task is too much for us, and chances are, you’ve offered encouragement to someone else in that situation.  The problem is, we usually do it all wrong.  We begin by telling people not to feel that way, we continue by assuring them they can do whatever it is, and for proof we trot out a list of their abilities and accomplishments.
Now, take a look at how God does it.  Moses doubts himself at the deepest level.  “Who am I?” he asks God.  In the human scheme of things, he is a nobody and he knows it.  Yet God does not say, “Come on, buddy!  You’re not a nobody, you’re a somebody!  Would I have picked a guy who couldn’t do this?  Think of how you stepped up when the Egyptian was beating one of my people (Exodus 2:11-12).  You can do this!”  Instead, God simply says, “I will be with you.”
God will not lie.  He will not pretend you are what you are not just to make you feel good, and sometimes He calls us to something that we, in our own strength, cannot do.  And you know what?  It doesn’t matter whether we can do it.  God can.  If He calls us, He is with us, and He will accomplish the task.

Father, I might as well be Moses for all the ways I have excused myself from doing what You have called me to do.  God, please help me to focus on You and not on my own weaknesses.  Help me not to over analyze and think things to death, but simply do what You call me to do.  In the name of Jesus, the very model of perfect obedience, amen.

Copyright © 2018 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, October 7, 2018

What Has Jesus Done For You?

October 7 (Mark 5:20)

So the man started off to visit the Ten Towns of that region and began to proclaim the great things Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed at what he told them.  (NLT)

It is hard to tell people about a place you’ve never been.  I can go on and on about Zion National Park in Utah, Turkey Run State Park in Indiana, and the beautiful city of Rome because I have spent time in all of them.  I can tell you a little about Australia from what friends have told me and something about Greece from what I have read in books.  Sadly, when it comes to evangelism, a lot of people find themselves in Australia or Greece.

Jesus had just healed a man who had suffered from a demonic attack that drove him mad.  The man was so happy to be calm and in his right mind that he wanted to go with Jesus, but Jesus told him to go home instead and tell people what had happened, and so he did.  He told everyone he knew what Jesus had done for him, and the people were amazed.

If Jesus came to you and said, “I want you to tell people what I have done for you,” what would you say?  Would you tell stories about what He has done for others?  Would you quote Scripture?  These are not bad things, but what would you tell people He has done for you?  1 Peter 3:15 says we must always be ready to explain our hope to people.  Spend some time recalling what Jesus has done for you over the course of your life.  Perhaps even start a list.  Three things are sure to happen.  The list will grow quickly, you will find yourself praising God with fresh joy, and you will develop a powerful story that God can use to bring others to Him.

Lord, over the next few days, bring to mind all that You have done for me, even revealing the things I was too blind or too in a hurry to see at the time as coming from You.  May the story of Your work in my life bring hope and encouragement to others and lead them to Jesus, in Whose name I pray.  Amen.

Copyright © 2018 by Steven R. Perkins