Sunday, August 31, 2014

August 31 (1 Corinthians 2:2)

For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.  (ESV)

When our children were little, they had toy versions of various adult items like dishes or tools.  It fascinated me that, when given the opportunity to play with the toy version or the real thing, they went for the real thing every time.

It is easy to get caught up in various aspects of the faith.  We enjoy our favorite Christian bands, get excited over a new type of study Bible, or want a cross necklace for our birthday.  None of these things are bad, mind you, and I am right in the thick of all that.  Yet none of that, to say nothing of whether or not we liked the sermon or this week’s worship music, can be the center of our lives.  Every once in a while, it is good to put aside the things of the faith to focus on the One in Whom our faith is rooted.

In addition to sin and the general distractions of life, what good, even helpful things, may be drawing your attention away from Jesus?

Lord, I want to dwell so fully on You and You alone that I see everything through You.  May You be the lens through which I see the world.  In the name of Jesus, in Whom I live and move and have my being, amen.

Copyright © 2014 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, August 24, 2014

August 24 (Acts 20:20-21)

I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.  (ESV)

This is an amazing description of what true evangelism looks like.  It makes my milquetoast efforts laughable.  First, Paul was not embarrassed to say whatever it took if he thought it would help someone know Jesus.  Second, he did not hesitate to speak anywhere, both in public and in private.  Third, he was willing to talk with anyone, both his own people who knew him and had some background on which he could build and those who were strangers to him and knew nothing of what he was preaching.

Look at each of these in your own life.  Are there some things you are unwilling to say, even if you know they are right and would help a person, simply because they are unpopular?  Are there places where you will not talk about matters of faith, perhaps because you have been told that it is just not appropriate in such a circumstance?  Are there people with whom you will not speak about Jesus because you feel awkward or uncertain?

I could spend all day responding to these questions because I have so many answers to them.  Sadly, there is nothing I will not say about, nowhere I will not describe, and no one with whom I will not share my favorite pizza joint.

Jesus, I want so much to be like Paul.  Help me to grow up and be mature in the faith, even if it costs me some relational capital or embarrassment.  Give me the strength to live out Your call on my life.  Amen.

Copyright © 2014 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, August 17, 2014

August 17 (Ephesians 4:1)

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.  (ESV)

There are certain occupations for which we expect people to act a certain way.  People in those occupations may find it burdensome at times, but the simple fact is that we just do not like it when a teacher gets drunk in public or a senator fools around with a staffer, and while other occupations may be just as important in our lives, we do not have the same reaction to the misbehavior of our auto mechanic or garbage collector.

Consider now the calling on everyone who has become a new creation in Jesus Christ.  We walk on earth as the sons and daughters of God, heirs along with Jesus to the glorious riches of heaven.  Even the atheist knows that people who believe this to be true should act differently from those who do not.

Paul adds one other piece to this message.  He points out that he is reminding us of our duty from his position as a prisoner.  He is suffering precisely for walking in a manner worthy of his calling.  Go to Google images right now and search on the phrase “ISIS Christians.”  You will see what is happening to our brothers and sisters in Iraq.  Let their faces and mangled bodies stand in for Paul.  Let his words come from their mouths.

Almighty God, I am not worthy of the calling to which I have been called, but You have made me so through the blood of Jesus.  Forgive me, Father, when I fail to honor that call.  Give me the strength to live as You have called me to live, as Paul lived, as our martyred brothers and sisters are living today.  Bless those under persecution.  May their witness turn the hearts of their torturers and murderers to You.  In the name of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, I pray.  Amen.

Copyright © 2014 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, August 10, 2014

August 10 (Mark 8:35)

For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it.  (ESV)

Two and two equal four.  Your house is on fire.  What is the difference between those two sentences?  The first is mere information, but the second is news, an announcement.  You are free to keep information to yourself, think about it, act on it if you wish.  News, on the other hand, requires a response.  Not to act on an announcement is to betray responsibility to the message, its messenger, and its author.

The Greek word for “gospel” is sometimes translated “good news,” and this quite literal.  Euaggelion means a good announcement.  In other words, it is more like “your house is on fire” than “two and two equal four.”  It is news that demands to be shared from person to person, from one town to the next.  When it comes to sharing the good news of Jesus, evangelism is not an option.

Just ask the Christians in Iraq.  They are not just losing their lives for the sake of the gospel.  They are being butchered for it.  They are being crucified, beheaded, and cut in half for it.  And that includes their children.  While our Iraqi brothers and sisters are meeting the Lord by the most gruesome of means, are we willing to risk a bit of social awkwardness with colleagues, friends, and family, to tell them about Jesus?

Lord, protect those under persecution this day.  Strengthen them in their faith.  May their suffering and death be a witness to their killers of Your love and grace.  May their sacrifice motivate me out of my comfort zone into the battle to save lives by spreading the gospel.  In the name of Jesus Christ, Who suffered all for me, amen.

Copyright © 2014 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, August 3, 2014

August 3 (Acts 28:30-31)

He lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, proclaimingthe kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.  (ESV)

These are the last words in the New Testament about Paul.  The life of one of the most important people in establishing our faith ends with these words.  Think of them as his obituary or epitaph.

We always want to get the last word in a conversation.  The last word is the summary, the definitive statement.  If you know anything about Paul, then these verses in Acts seem entirely appropriate.  After his conversion, every act of his life was about proclaiming the gospel with boldness.  You probably know where this is going.

What would the final statement on your life say?  It is true that we each have our own calling and that not everyone is meant to do things the way Paul did them.  Yet sharing the good news of Jesus is what we are all about.  How we go about it is unique to each person, but that we go about it is not up for question.  Would the essence, if not the exact words, of these verses be appropriate to describe your life?

Father, of all the accolades and awards in my life, the one I truly care about is hearing You say to me, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”  Help me to do all and only that which You would have me do.  Give me the grace and strength to live the life You want me to live.  In the name of Jesus, Who with You and the Holy Spirit reigns as Lord of all, amen.