Sunday, November 25, 2012

November 25 (Psalm 119:81)

My soul faints with longing for your salvation, but I have put my hope in your word. (NIV)

It is easy to praise God in the good times, to be confident in our hope in Him. Where is your focus when year-end responsibilities are piling up and money is tight and schedules are packed and you are not sure what to buy for relatives or when you will even have time to go shopping? Do the words of Scripture and the praises of song come to your lips when relationships are going from bad to worse and illness threatens and surprise repair costs threaten a strapped budget?

Putting hope in God is the act of a warrior. When we hear others singing praise, we may even want to walk away. It may feel as if it would take a crow bar to open our lips, which have been shut with pain and grief. Do it anyhow. Sing through gritted teeth if necessary. Read that passage of Scripture even if you think you are getting nothing out of it and other thoughts are crowding your mind.

David wrote many of the psalms while under incredible fear and stress. The practices of the faith…prayer, study, praise…these are things that keep us strong. Never give up the work of putting your hope in God. Consider it an act of rebellion against the enemy who wants nothing more than to separate us from God, Who loves us

Father, it is difficult sometimes to go to You. I feel blocked, separated, overwhelmed. Restore to me the joy of my salvation. Create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within. By a great act of will, I choose to put my hope in You. In the name of Jesus, my Lord, amen.

Copyright © 2012 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, November 18, 2012

November 18 (Acts 7:54-55)

When they heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. (NIV)

A man named Stephen spoke the truth and became the first Christian martyr. By telling people what they did not want to hear, he incurred their wrath. They killed him, even as he kept his eyes fixed on the glory of God.

There have been and continue to be countless martyrs for the faith, those who are willing to die so that others may know the truth. I think of Polycarp, who in A.D. 155 was told by the government to renounce Christ and worship Caesar. This elderly man told the governor that if he wanted to find out what it meant to be a Christian, he need only pick a day and Polycarp would be happy to teach him. They burned him at the stake in the middle of the arena. On January 1, 404, a man named Telemachus made his way down from the stands of the Colosseum in Rome to stop a gladiator fight amidst the jeers of the crowd, who wanted their bloody entertainment to continue. He was murdered in the sight of thousands.

To what arena has God called you? There are many things that pass for normal, acceptable, and enjoyable that are repugnant to God. Christians who seek the will of God know the truth. Will we speak it? Would you be willing to lose a friendship or offend a family a member to share the truth in love? Would you risk losing your job? Stephen, Polycarp, Telemachus, and all those who lost their lives for the truth knew that such strength comes from God.

Father, let me not be swayed by fear when it comes to speaking the truth about You. Help me to share Your words boldly and with grace that others may know Who You really are and the life You want with them. In the name of Jesus, Who willingly died so I could be Your son, amen.

Copyright © 2012 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, November 11, 2012

November 11 (1 Timothy 4:7-8)

Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly.  For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.  (NIV)
Let us be quite clear.  Being godly is not natural.  It was once, but after that whole incident in the garden with Adam and Eve, things changed.  We may like to think that we are good people, but if we want to have any hope of that being true, we have some work to do.
The most natural thing in the world for me is to do what I want to do.  That is my default mode of living.  I have to make a conscious effort to not eat that fifth slice of pizza or to go to bed instead of watching a movie I have already seen countless times.  The same is true in my training for godliness.  I must choose each morning to read Scripture before preparing for my day.  I must choose to go to church, even when I do not feel like it.  I must choose to give of my time and my money to serve the purposes of God.
What is your training regimen?  Is the reading of Scripture a part of your daily life?  Do words of praise regularly come to your lips?  What would a look at your checkbook and calendar reveal about your life?  No matter where we are in our training for godliness, we must keep up the good work.  If we truly love our Lord, we will want to be like Him, and that takes work.
Father, thank You for Your grace for the times when I grow slack in my training to be like You.  Keep me on the right path, that one day You may say of me as You did Jesus, “This is my beloved child in whom I am well pleased.”  In the name of my Lord, Jesus, I pray.  Amen. 

Copyright © 2012 by Steven R. Perkins