Saturday, July 23, 2016

Courage To Share The Gospel

July 24 (Philippians 1:20)

…it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.  (ESV)

Buttonholing someone against a wall as you recite Bible verses is not the best method of evangelism.  Then again, never sharing the truth of Jesus with family and friends is not exactly the way to go either.  Some people have indeed been hurt by overzealous evangelism, but too often we use this as an excuse to say nothing at all about Christ.  We claim that we do not want to hurt people, but I think there is something else.  We are afraid.

We say nothing at a family gathering because we do not want to upset someone and make the situation awkward.  We say nothing at work because we are afraid we will be shunned and no longer able to do our jobs.  We say nothing on social media because we fear the backlash.

Paul had a hope and expectation for himself not to be ashamed.  He expected of himself to be full of courage.  He felt this because God has the same hope and expectation.  As we read in 2 Timothy1:7, He has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and self-control.  Do you really want to be courageous in sharing the gospel, like Paul, or deep down are you afraid of it?

Lord, too often, in fact nearly all the time, I am more concerned about the opinions and comments of others than I am excited by and eager to share the good news of Jesus.  Strengthen me, O God, against my fears.  Make me strong and courageous that others may come to the true and eternal life in Jesus through the testimony of my life and words.  In the name of Him Who was not ashamed to die for me on the cross, Christ Jesus, I pray.  Amen.

Copyright © 2016 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Knowing That God Loves You

July 17 (John 21:23)

Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!”  (ESV)

One of the biggest challenges people face in accepting God’s goodness, His love, and His grace is the pain and suffering of others.  If I really believe that God guided my decision on something at work, how can I square that with His apparent absence in an atrocity where innocent people died?  Can I truly accept that He was involved in a small detail of my life but not in a far more significant matter of life and death?

I can only answer for the events of my own life.  You can only answer for yours.  We can use reasoning and logic with regard to free will and the fallen nature of mankind to try to understand horrific acts and God’s presence in them, but at the end of the day, I do not know why He does not reach in and stop tragedies.  The only thing I can do is look at what He has done in my own life.

And what do I find when I look at that record?  He has spoken to me countless times through Scripture, through the words of others, and in the depths of my heart.  He has guided me and provided for me.  He has heard my prayers and answered them.  He has saved me.  I cannot speak to anyone else’s experience of God, only to mine, and in the words of Joshua 24:15, as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord, because as Paul once said to Timothy, I know whom I have believed (2 Timothy 1:12).

Father, You know how difficult it is at times for me to accept that You love me.  Satan wants me to look at so many things to convince me that You don’t.  Yet when I stop and look at things clearly and calmly, I see at once Your immense love and grace for me.  Thank You, Father.  May I walk always in close and confident relationship with Jesus, Who more than anything or anyone, is the living proof of that love.  In His name I pray, amen.

Copyright © 2016 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, July 10, 2016

The Worth Of a Person

July 10 (Matthew 6:26)

Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?  (ESV)

John 3:16 declares that He loved us so much that He sent His Son to us.  Jesus Himself taught about the worth of human beings in the verse for today and again in Matthew 10:29-31 and Matthew 12:11-12.  Despite that it says in Genesis 1:26 that God made human beings in His image, it took the life and work of Jesus to get the world to understand that.  Ponder that for a moment in these words from the classic Christmas song “O Holy Night.”

Long lay the world in sin and error pining
‘Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth.

Worth does not stem from our ability to do something, as the verse for today clearly teaches.  Our worth is based on not one physical or mental attribute.  Your worth, my worth, and the worth of each person from conception to the grave is based solely on the declaration of God, a declaration made in the act of creation itself and the words and work of Jesus.

This means that you have worth in the eyes of God Almighty.  And so does your cousin.  And your neighbor at the end of your street.  The same goes for your colleague.  And the people with whom you disagree most passionately on the truly important issues.  And those with whom you disagree on the trivial stuff.  The lady serving at the food pantry?  She has value.   And so does the pornographer.  And the one who will blow up a building tomorrow.  And the ones who will hold the hands of the wounded and dying in the aftermath.  Those who look like you, and those who don’t.  And they…we…all have worth for no other reason than the simple fact that God made us and loves what He made.  No one has made that more clear than Jesus Christ, Who offers true and full life forever to anyone Who follows Him.

What an amazing gift of love You have shown us, O God, by proving to us our value to You through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.  May we be forever grateful, savoring it completely, and sharing it with others with the same love and grace we have received.  In the name of Jesus, amen.

Copyright © 2016 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Strength In God Alone

July 3 (Exodus 3:11-12; Judges 6:15-16)

But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?”  He said, “But I will be with you….”

And he said to him, “Please, Lord, how can I save Israel? Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father's house.”  And the Lord said to him, “But I will be with you….”  (ESV)

Moses and Gideon both questioned their abilities to accomplish the tasks that God had set them.  Welcome to the club, boys!  If they had put these doubts to their friends, their friends would likely have responded by pointing out all the things they were good at.  They would have talked about the college degrees that Moses and Gideon had, how long they had worked at their companies, and all the past awards and successes that lined the walls of their offices.

We do the same, and we even do it with ourselves.  When I am daunted by something, my first thought is to rehearse my own resume for encouragement to face the task.  Notice the difference in God’s response.  He does not replay the greatest hits of Moses and Gideon.  He does not even refute their claims to inferiority.  Instead, He says, “I will be with you.”

No matter how well padded our resumes, no matter how much life experience and talents we possess, we will always feel inadequate to some task.  That feeling may be a lie from our enemy to discourage us or it may the truth.  We may truly not be up to the challenge.  Either way, our strength to face it comes from none other than the Lord God of the universe.  Let that sink in.  God promises to be with us and He does not lie.  Surely that is worth more than all the mental and emotional bootstrapping we do in the vain effort to help ourselves.

Father, thank You for the abilities You have given me.  I am grateful for them and all that You have allowed me to experience in my life, both the good and the bad.  Yet I set all that aside and claim my strength and identity in You.  I am Your child.  Jesus is my savior and brother.  In You alone I have what it takes to face what You have called me to this day.  In the name of Jesus, Who looked to You even on the cross, amen.

Copyright © 2016 by Steven R. Perkins