Sunday, May 29, 2016

Pray or Complain?

May 29 (Matthew 5:44)

But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you….   (ESV)

A favorite sport for many people, including Christians, is to complain.  It is amazing how much more clearly we seem to be able to see issues than those who make the policies or rules that govern our lives.  If only we could be in a position of authority!  We would never make the decisions that others do.

To be fair, there are countless bad decisions made by those who rule our lives, from elected officials to leaders at work.  Poor leadership can be a motivator for us to bring about necessary changes.  Yet it should also inspire us to pray, even for…especially for…those leaders whose actions we think are most evil.

Why do we not pray for such people?  Is it because we do not really believe God can or will do anything?  Is it because we perversely enjoy complaining and would rather hang on to our sense of superiority?  If you are already praying for the leaders around you, keep doing so.  If not, ask yourself why.  You may first need to pray for something else…forgiveness.

Father, I confess that I enjoy talking about the poor decisions of others with those who think the way I do.  Help me to see issues clearly, through Your word, and to act appropriately, working to see Your will accomplished when it is in my power to do so and praying in all matters for You to intervene.  Forgive me when I choose to savor a sense of superiority by doing nothing more than speak ill of others or when I do not trust You to handle something.  In the name of Jesus, Who willingly suffered death at the hands of His persecutors for me, amen.

Copyright © 2016 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Accepting God's Discipline

May 22 (Lamentations 1:18)

“The Lord is in the right, for I have rebelled against his word….”  (ESV)

 It is Israel personified who speaks these words, but ask yourself this.  When was the last time you heard anyone or any organization say something like this?  After detailing various hardships and sufferings come the words, “The Lord is in the right, for I have rebelled against his word”…from the leaders of our country…from the owner of your company…from you.  This is a tough verse, and lest we think this is just Old Testament stern finger wagging, Hebrews 12:6 tells us that God disciplines those He loves. 

If you are anything like me, you avoid suffering at almost any cost and beg God to take away instantly even the smallest of pains.  While it would be a mistake to see every headache and hangnail as discipline from God, we do have to acknowledge when we have sinned against Him.  Children stand in front of the broken cookie jar and say, “It wasn’t me!”  Grownups take responsibility for their actions.

Is there something for which you need to take responsibility?  Do you need to own up and say, “That one is on me?”  It may be a relationship that you need to make right.  It may something in your team or organization that you need to correct.  Whatever it is, we need to be mature in our walk with the Lord, accept His discipline, and, simply put, do better.

Father, show me where I am not living the way You want.  Whether it is with my family, in my work, or in my private life, I want to be all that You want me to be.  Show me where I fall short and any place where I am rebelling against You so that I may repent and, with the strength of Jesus, go the right way.  In His name I pray.  Amen.

Copyright © 2016 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Lord of All

May 15 (Jeremiah 50:24)

I set a snare for you and you were taken, O Babylon, and you did not know it; you were found and caught, because you opposed the Lord.  (ESV)

You may not work for a Christian company, but the Lord considers it His.  You may not teach at a Christian school, but the Lord considers it His.  You may not live in a Christian nation, but the Lord considers it His.

Christianity is not a club that one can choose to belong to but that has no relevance to non-members.  It is the organized expression of the truth, that there is one God, eternally existing in three persons, the second of whom, Jesus Christ, in whom and for whom all things were made, lived, died, and rose again so that all might live forever with Him.  God did not care that Babylon was not Israel.  Babylon worshiped idols, opposed the one true God, and was therefore in the wrong. 

You may say that it is not fair to hold people accountable for worshiping and obeying a God they do not know.  Fair enough.  What are we doing about it?  If you know the truth about God and what He wants for and expects from His creation, is it really loving to keep that to yourself?

Father, too often I hold back from telling others about Your righteousness and Your love because, to be quite honest, I worry about how I will be perceived.  I worry more about being liked than about the relationship of my friends and family with You.  May Your unchanging truth, on every page of the Old Testament through the New, guide my actions.  In the name of Jesus, Who risked public ridicule and death for me, amen.

Copyright © 2016 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Becoming A Better Christian

May 8 (Romans 6:13)

Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness.  (NIV)

Imagine that you are a scholarship athlete.  For some of us, that may take quite a bit of imagining, but just go with me here.  Imagine that you are a scholarship athlete and that you just put in a less than stellar practice.  The coach calls you over and says, “That’s not going to cut it.  You have more talent than anyone else on the team, and you need to start acting like it.  We have some tough opponents coming up this season.  You have to become the athlete I know you are.”

What would you do?  Any serious athlete would get back in the gym, dig deeper, and give the coach what was being asked of him.  You would not get angry at the coach.  You would not think he was being mean or unfair or just trying to come down on you.  You would know that this is what a coach does, and since this is the sport you chose, you would want to get better.

Do you see where this is going?  Too many people think verses like the one for today are just about God wagging His finger like a stern, old grandfather.  God is not your grandfather.  He is not a cosmic killjoy.  He is the one Who knows the real you, what you were made for and what you can be.  When you chose to follow Jesus, God rejoiced.  And now He wants to get the best out of you.

Father, I want to be a better follower of Jesus.  Help me develop into the Christian You know I can be.  Where there is sin in my life, help me to be fierce in rooting it out.  Where I can be more loving, help me to develop the gifts You have given me to share the love of Jesus.  This day I choose to begin getting better in following You.  In the name of Jesus, Who is the model of what it looks like to follow You truly and fully, amen.

Copyright © 2016 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Using Scripture To Hear God

May 1 (Luke 4:3-4)

The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’”  (ESV)

It is true that God speaks through burning bushes and whispers and that we need to be attentive to any moment when He is trying to get our attention.  At the same time, we must be careful that what we are hearing is actually the word of God and not merely human ideas or, worse yet, a suggestion from Satan cloaking itself to seem like something God would say.

How we know what we know changes depending on the subject.  I know my children love me through personal experience, but I know that in geometry alternate interior angles are equal when two parallel lines are cut by a transversal because my teacher told me so.  When it comes to confirming that a word indeed comes from God, we do what Jesus did.  We use Scripture.  The Bible is our authority, and if we sense that God is telling us something that runs counter to it, we can be sure of one thing.  We are wrong.

How well do you know the people, the events, and the teachings of the Bible?  How much time do you spend reading it?  Do you see the events of your life and all that is going on in the world around you through the lens of Scripture?  Simply put, Jesus did.

Thank You, Lord, for giving us Your word, the Bible.  Reveal to me its truths and help me to understand it so I can use it as the foundation for how I go about my day.  In all things may I be faithful to the one it reveals, even You, my Lord and my God.  Through Jesus I pray, amen.

Copyright © 2016 by Steven R. Perkins