Sunday, February 28, 2016

When We Lose Sight of Jesus

February 28 (John 15:5)

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.  (ESV)

Hundreds of people packed the gymnasium as teams from five states competed in a regional basketball tournament.  Our son was playing, but I had quickly given up trying to keep an eye on him as he hung out with his team either practicing or watching various games.  Instead I stayed close to my wife and daughter and several other families as we waited for our son to play.

And then it happened.  Our son’s team was about to take the court, families started moving toward the bleachers, and I lost sight of my wife.  I scanned the crowd, but could not find her.  I stepped out onto the court and looked every which way, and in that moment this verse flashed through my mind.  Would I feel so helpless if I could not find God?

How much of the time do we blunder and bluster our way through life without keeping our eye on Jesus?  Does a quick rush of panic run through us when we realize we have gotten ahead of Him and cannot see Him?  It should.  We should walk each day as if we were children, hand in hand with Jesus and scared the very minute we have separated from Him.  Can we humble ourselves enough to believe that what Jesus said in John 15:5 is true?

Lord, I remember times of walking so closely with You.  I remember what it felt like to follow hard in Your steps.  I also know what it is like to run breathlessly after my own plans, unaware that I have separated myself from You.  Help me to hear Your soft voice, to move when You move, to be still when You are still.  And when I stray, draw me ever back to You.  Amen.

Copyright © 2016 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, February 21, 2016

God Loves You No Matter What You Think

February 21 (Romans 8:38-39)

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.   No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.  (NLT)

God will not love me when I screw up again.  Yes, He will and He does.  God will not love me when I doubt His love.  Yes, He will and He does.  God will not love me if I am not reading my Bible as I should or am too tired to participate in that ministry at church.  Yes, He will and He does.  God does not love me because He allowed tragedy to strike my loved ones and me.  Yes, He does.  God does not love me because I hate him for not saving me from that deep wound that has wrecked my life.  Yes, He does.  God does not love me because there is no god.  Yes, He does.

These words that Paul wrote the Christians in Rome are among the most powerful that God ever put into the mind of any person to write.  His love is dependent on absolutely nothing.  It does not even depend on whether we believe He exists, although Satan would have us believe otherwise.  Our enemy will play on our fears, appeal to fallen human reasoning, and bring up our hurts and our wounds over and over again.  He will do anything he can every moment of every day to convince us that God does not love us.

I should know.  There is more evidence of God’s love in my life than I could list, but still that nagging thought returns.  God will not love me if….  Friends, when you are facing the darkness and everything…everything…in your physical senses, your emotions, and your intellect tells you that God does not love you, take your stand and proclaim these verses.  Whether you believe it in that moment or not, God does love you.

Father, I need to feel Your love right now.  I need to feel You close beside me.  In those dark moments when You seem so far away, turn my heart and my mind back to Your loving face through the words of Scripture and the sweet whisper of the Holy Spirit.  I know Your love is real because Jesus proved it with His life, and so it is in His name I ask this.  Amen.  

Copyright © 2016 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Believing Into Jesus

February 14 (John 3:16)

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.  (ESV)

Sometimes I like to think about what I want on my tombstone.  This is not morbid musing, but as a teacher of ancient history I know the importance of inscriptions.  I also like to think about nuances of grammar because I love languages and the subtleties they can convey.  So as our church has entered a series on what it means to believe in Jesus, I have had plenty to think about.

In that most famous verse, John 3:16, we read that whoever believes in Jesus will not perish.  Here is an instance in which English just cannot capture the full flavor of the Greek.  When I say I believe in gravity, I mean that have I accepted what others have taught me about it and go along with the idea that it works.  The phrase “whoever believes in him” is a translation of  (ho pisteuōn eis auton), which literally means “the one believing into him.”  It suggests a growing, deepening relationship in which His life and ours meld together to the point that we are indistinguishable from Jesus, which is so much different from simply believing IN something. 

And this is what I want on my tombstone.  I can think of no better way to be remembered than as one who spent his life believing into Jesus.  What about you?  Do you want to be known as someone who believes in Jesus the way you believe in arithmetic or the power of democracy?  Or would you rather be known as someone who believes into Him so that people see Jesus when they see you?

Jesus, I have enough head knowledge about You.  I want to grow deeper into You.  I want to know You with every fiber of my being, in my very flesh and in my soul.  May I be known as one believing into You.  Amen.

Copyright © 2016 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, February 7, 2016

A Warrior At Your Side

February 7 (Jeremiah 20:11)

But the Lord is with me as a dread warrior; therefore my persecutors will stumble; they will not overcome me.  (ESV)

Weak.  Slacker.  Lazy.  Fearful.  Coward.  These are not words we want to hear.  We would prefer words like:  strong, independent, go-getter, bold, aggressive.  The problem is that we get locked into an either-or mentality.  Either we are being weak or we are being strong.  On top of that, we define all these terms solely with references to our own selves.

There are times, however, when we need to be a bit smarter about the whole thing.  It makes no sense to tackle certain matters alone to prove our strength, nor would it be right to run from them.  In such circumstances, we need to remember that the toughest Green Beret-Spartan-ninja-robot armed to the teeth is a rag doll compared with God.  He is a dread warrior Who strikes terror in the hearts of His enemies and has in fact already won the war of which each of our daily battles is a part.

Where could you use a dread warrior right now?  Feel free to keep swinging your sword as long as you want, but when you are ready to enlist the help of God Almighty, remember that it is no sign of weakness.  It is simply the smart thing to do.

Father, I am worn out from the battles of life.  Strengthen me for the ones in which You want me to take the lead, show me where I should step back to let You fight, and give me the wisdom to turn over the sword.  In the name of Jesus, a warrior so fierce He conquered death and so loving that He shared His victory with me, amen.

Copyright © 2016 by Steven R. Perkins