Sunday, December 27, 2015

A Plan For the New Year

December 27 (John 21:17)

Feed my sheep.

This is one of the most wonderful sentences that Jesus ever spoke.  On the night of his arrest, Peter had denied knowing Him, just as Jesus said he would do.  This was not the kind of denial that some of us put forth when we remain silent about Jesus in conversation with friends.  Peter actually swore and cursed.  Imagine a man shouting, shaking his fists, and using profanity as he violently denied something.  That is how Peter denied Jesus.

Now it is after the Resurrection.  Jesus is fixing a breakfast of fish on the beach, and Peter and the others pull up in their boats.  Peter is not cursing and loud now, but there is an awkwardness there.  Peter knows what he has done, and he knows that Jesus knows, too.  Jesus gives Peter a chance to make it right.  He asks Peter three times whether he loves Him, once for each of Peter’s denials.  When Peter has confessed that he loves his Lord more than anything, Jesus does not give him further hoops through which to jump.  He does not lecture him.  He does not put him on probation until he is good enough to join the disciples again.  He puts him to work.

You did some good things in 2015.  You did some bad.  You may have even gotten more wrong than you got right.  As you look to the new year, you can spend your time beating yourself for all your mistakes and making plans, purely human plans, for how you are going to improve.  On the other hand, you can be faithful, accept the love and forgiveness of your Lord, and listen for what He wants you to do.  One of these approaches has all the appearance of discipline and promises success.  The other actually works.

Lord Jesus, thank You for this past year.  Forgive me for the times when I have rejected You and picked up again my sinful nature.  Like Peter, I truly do love You more than anything and accept the love that You have given me.  What do you want me to do next?  I wait, your humble servant, in patience.  Amen.

Copyright © 2015 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Name In Christmas

December 20 (Acts 4:12)

And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.  (ESV)

Merry Zeusmas!  Have a great Thormas!  Hope you enjoy Bobmas with your family!  So, are you going anywhere special this Nancymas?

There is a reason no one says such things.  There is a reason that if someone did, we would think he was crazy.  Zeus, Thor, and their like are false gods, mere fictions, and Bob and Nancy are names of ordinary human beings.  In short, none of them has warranted such celebration as we see at Christmas, and for good reason.  Not one human being other than Jesus has the power to save, and certainly no god created by powerless humans can do it.

I recently read an article suggesting that people do not need to be Christians to celebrate Christmas, and this is certainly true.  It went on, however, to suggest that Christmas was really no more than a pagan holiday that had been viewed through a Christian lens and now, in the 21st century, is once again a time stripped of its Christian meaning.  To this I would simply say, look at the word.  We are not celebrating Ra or Buddha at Christmas.  Whether a person acknowledges it or not, Christmas, like the rest of life, is first, last, and always about Jesus.

Lord, as the days pass rapidly heading toward Christmas, help me not to get so caught up in holiday stress and year-end business that I miss the chance to pause and honor You, born as a human, just like me, but capable of saving me from the penalty of sin.  As I focus on this truth, help me to shine its glory for those around me, far brighter than any decorative lights I may hang.  In the name of the One Who is the way, the truth, and the life, even Jesus my Lord, amen.

Copyright © 2015 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Training In the Classroom of Praise

December 13 (Psalm 149:1)

Praise the Lord!  Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise in the assembly of the godly!  (ESV)

When we join in praise with other Christians, whether in weekly worship at church or in another venue, it is a glorious, happy, joyous, awe-filled, reverent, humbling, uplifting experience.  Have you ever considered it training for war?

I was thinking of this as we worshiped one weekend at our church.  There were hundreds of people praising the Lord in full voice.  They were happy and proud to do so.  There was no sense of embarrassment because we were all of one mind.  Yet what would happen when those same people went into their workplaces and neighborhoods?  Would talk of the saving work of Jesus Christ come so easily to our lips?

It is difficult, especially in the social climate of our current age, to talk about Jesus publicly, and yet that is what we are both commanded to do and should want to do.  Fortunately, God has arranged the perfect classroom in which to practice.  Talking about Jesus in Bible studies and small groups, praising His name in worship, and praying aloud with our Christian brothers and sisters equip us for our most important work.  As we grow comfortable expressing the matters of the faith in the assembly, we become bolder to do so in the world.

Lord, it is such a joy to praise You!  Help me to take the words that I speak in praise and prayer into the world so that my family and friends may know the same joy of walking with You through Jesus.  It is in His name I pray.  Amen.

Copyright © 2015 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Trusting God So You Can Answer His Call

December 6 (Philippians 4:19)

And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.  (ESV)

I recently had the opportunity to join a team of Christians with a particular ministry focus.  I was one of three new members, and as I listened to the team speak words of affirmation concerning the outgoing members, one thought thundered through my mind.  “You do not belong here.”  This was no false humility.  I found myself sitting with varsity level Christian leaders.  The faith, the humility, the love, the grace, the Christ-centeredness of these people and their unswerving commitment to the ministry left me feeling little more than a spiritual gate crasher.

I realized as never before that I was not part of this organization because of any certain skills of my own.  Whatever my role would be on this team, whatever I could contribute, it would be God working through me to accomplish His purposes.  I could do no other than to adopt a palms-up posture and wait to see what He would do.

Do you have certain talents and abilities?  Great!  Thank God for those and let Him show you how to use them for Kingdom purposes.  At the same time, realize that He may call you to situations that lie well beyond what you think you are good at doing.  In such times remember that He will supply all that you need to accomplish what He has called you to do.

Thank You, Lord, for calling me to opportunities where I can serve You with the gifts I know You have given me.  I also make myself available to You for any other purpose.  I am Yours.  Direct me where You will.  I will obey, confident that You will give me what I need to do all that You ask.  In the name of Jesus, the rock and foundation of my faith, amen.

Copyright © 2015 by Steven R. Perkins