Sunday, September 25, 2016

Turning Your Cheek

September 25 (Matthew 5:39)

But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.  (ESV)

Violence.  It has become the headline of the day.  We have shooting and murder rates in major American cities that make them seem like the centers of war.  Looting and the wanton destruction of property fill the images of our nightly news.  Sadly, much of the violence is seen as an attempt to balance the scales of justice.

What does not make the news is the vastly greater number of acts of quiet violence.  I am maligned by one person I know and cannot wait to get him back by savaging him in conversation with a mutual friend.  The boss institutes a foolish plan, one that I in my infinite wisdom would have known better than to try, so I cut her down to size with every colleague I can find.   And God help the poor person who posts something on social media that offends me, for I shall repost that comment laced with my own scathing commentary in the hope that person never again touches a keyboard.

We must, of course, speak out against what is truly wrong.  We must use the gifts God has given us and join Him in the work of seeing His kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.  Yet the vast majority of violence in our day, from large acts of chaos to personal acts of verbal vengeance, are not about that.  They are about slapping someone who has slapped us, and Jesus is quite clear on that point.  Don’t.

Father, grant me wisdom to see the difference between a personal insult that I should forgive and let go and a matter of genuine injustice that You call me to address.  May my words and actions be spent entirely in Your work and not in advancing my own agenda.  In the name of Jesus, Who suffered the greatest injustice of all by allowing my sin to nail Him to a cross, amen.

Copyright © 2016 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, September 18, 2016

No Place Like The Church

September 18 (Ephesians 4:11-12)

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.  (ESV)

There is no organization of human origin that can equal the church.  For redemption, salvation, healing, comfort, education, knowledge, truth, service, and restoration, there is no organization of human origin that equal the church.  There are human organizations that may address one or more of these things, but there is not one that addresses the totality of human need, both earthly and eternal.

Does that seem like a bold claim?  It is not.  Our individual churches may fall short of the mark, but the body of Christ on earth, the church, stretching across the globe and across two millennia, is unequalled, and the reason is simple.  The church is not an organization of human origin.  It is a divine calling of people established by Jesus Himself.  It began when Jesus said to Peter, “on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”  (Matthew 16:18)

So that leads us to consider the particular churches we call home.  Are we small but complete microcosms of the body of Christ?  Are we, as best we can with the gifts given to the people of our churches, doing all that God asks of us?  Are we imitating the works of the first churches?  If we are anything less than all God has equipped us to be, we not only fail the work of Christ, but we set a poor example to the world of what the church truly is.

Jesus, You have given me so many gifts.  I do not want to keep them in their package as I sit in my church seeking only to be fed with music and teaching.  Help me to use what You have given me with other brothers and sisters to make disciples of You and launch them into Your work in this world.  Amen.

Copyright © 2016 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Lord of Rebuilt Lives

September 11 (Acts 2:1)

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place.  (ESV)

Today, fifteen years after the devastating 9/11 attack, our church celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary.  Thousands of current members of our church and those who were former members and had returned from far away joined in an incredible celebration of all that God has done through this particular body over the last quarter century.

Why?  Why would so many people want to gather?  Was it just nostalgia, a chance to see old pictures and videos and recall fond memories?  I can tell you it was far more than that.  There was indeed reflection on the past, but the inescapable conclusion was one of excitement over what God has done during that time…the lives redeemed, the lives rebuilt, the lives set free, the lives healed, the lives sparked into full engagement in Kingdom work.  This, of course, forces us to ask another question, one that people have asked for two thousand years.  Just Who is this Jesus Whom people credit with such life change?

He is the One Who rebuilds that which has fallen.  We have a new building on the site of the twin towers in New York City, as well we should.  Terrorists will not keep us down.  Yet that building, like the ones it replaced, will one day fall.  Jesus even said in John 2:19 that the temple in Jerusalem would fall, and then He added that He would raise it up in three days, a reference to His resurrection.  When Christians gather to celebrate the Lord of rebuilt lives, it is like nothing else.  It is part of the reason that we must gather in both small and large groups as frequently as we can.  The next time you are with brothers and sisters in the faith, what memories will you be able to share about the ways in which Christ Jesus has rebuilt you?

Father above, thank You for the redemption that is mine in Jesus, my Savior.  Thank You for the gift of the Holy Spirit, Who dwells within me and continues the work of sanctification in my life.  May my reflections on all that You have done in my life be an endless source of praise back to You.  Amen.

Copyright © 2016 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Using Your Gifts As Intended

September 4 (Ezekiel 16:17)

You also took your beautiful jewels of my gold and of my silver, which I had given you, and made for yourself images of men, and with them played the whore.  (ESV)

What have you done with the gifts God has given you?  When Israel took the blessings of the Lord and misused them, He did not have kind things to say about it.  Oh, maybe He meant something else, you say.  Maybe God did not really mean to use…that word.

Consider for a moment what a whore does.  A whore, or a prostitute, takes certain abilities and traffics in them solely for the money, and in this regard, it is entirely possible for any one of us to prostitute the gifts God has given us, to use our talents and abilities solely for our pleasure and profit without any regard for their intent or the will of Him Who gave them to us.  This does not mean we cannot use those gifts to earn a living, but are we using them for no other purpose?  Are we selling ourselves to the highest bidder with no thought for how God wants to work through us?

God uniquely made you.  He did not give you the same gifts He gave me.  While He wants the same worship and devotion from all of us, He wants each of us to live out our amazing roles in His story according to the uniqueness of our nature.  I do not want to take the glorious gifts He has given me and sell them on the cheap for the quick thrill of money or promotion or fame.  I want to use them to their fullest, developing them and employing them ever more to His glory.  What about you?

Father, You have blessed me with physical and mental abilities, talents of creativity, and gifts of the Spirit.  Guide me in the use of all of them, not just a few, but all of them to serve Your people and draw them closer to You.  May all I do, say, and think be ever Your glory.  In the name of the risen Jesus, I pray.  Amen. 

Copyright © 2016 by Steven R. Perkins