Sunday, November 27, 2016

Finding The Way To Go

November 27 (Psalm 119:105)

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.  (ESV)

Our son and I recently spent a few days at one of our favorite spots on earth, Turkey Run State Park in western Indiana.  Filled with forested paths and trails that work their way through glacier-carved canyons, it is a hiker’s dream.  This trip we hiked a few trails that were new to us and several times were stopped by what seemed to be an impossible way forward.  A trail would seem to dead end or ascend through a dauntingly narrow and steep crevasse.  Each time we approached an apparent stopping point, the proper part of the trail came into view and on we went.

Does that sound familiar?  From where you stand it seems that there is no way forward.  You have tried everything.  You don’t know what else to do, but you know you must keep going, only it appears that you can’t. 

God will guide you and show the way.  Let me say that again.  God will guide you and show the way.  He may do it through the words of Scripture.  He may do it through an inspired word from a friend.  The Holy Spirit may speak directly to your heart.  What you can take to the bank, what you can absolutely count on, is that He will guide you where you need to go.  When he does, will you follow?

Lord, this will not come as a surprise to You, but I need to confess it.  Much of the stress of my life comes from trying to find or make my own way.  Help me see by the light of Your word the path I should take and strengthen me to follow wherever it leads.  In the name of Jesus, Who followed a path to Calvary and then to glory, amen.

Copyright © 2016 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Uncomfortable Love

November 20 (Mark 5:7-8)

With a shriek, he screamed, “Why are you interfering with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In the name of God, I beg you, don’t torture me!”  For Jesus had already said to the spirit, “Come out of the man, you evil spirit.” (ESV)

Most people do not want to seem rude.  We want to get along with others and for people to like us.  This natural tendency merges with the Bible’s talk about loving each other, and before you know it we have compromised biblical truth for conflict-free relationships.  We think we are “loving people to Jesus” when we fail to speak the truth.

When Jesus came upon a man possessed by multiple demons, He did not smile and accept his lifestyle.  He did not wish him well privately as he went on about His business.  His business, it turned out, was confronting the evil directly.  Did that cause the man discomfort?  Apparently it did, for he begged Jesus not to torture him.  He even invoked the name of God.  Had this happened today, he may well have said, “A real Christian wouldn’t make me feel bad about my condition.”

Of course, Jesus did not make the man feel bad about his condition.  In fact, Scripture says that He had addressed the evil spirit directly, not the man.  It is important when confronting sin, whether in the lives of friends and family or in ourselves, that we make a distinction.  Sin is evil.  Our participation in it is wrong.  The joy of forgiveness can belong to anyone who acknowledges this and accepts the healing grace of Jesus Christ.

Father, help me break the false identity that I am my sin.  Create in me that new heart capable of knowing, without a doubt, that I am Your child by the blood of Jesus.   Grant me the boldness that comes from walking in the Holy Spirit to confront sin with the truth and the true love of Jesus.  Amen.

Copyright © 2016 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Too Familiar With God

November 13 (Hebrews 2:1)

Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.  (ESV)

It is actually possible for a Christian to become too familiar with the things of the faith.   The Bible, worship, prayer, our relationship with God…it can all become run of the mill, routine, mundane.  This is when we need to take a more intentional, focused approach to our walk with Jesus.

Recently I asked myself what I truly knew about God.  I realized immediately that anything I could know about Him would be most clearly revealed in Jesus, and so I began to ask what Jesus truly shows me about the nature of God.  I wanted to avoid the quick and easy answers…God is loving, forgiving gracious, etc. ….not because those statements are untrue, but because I have said them so many times I had to be sure I knew what they meant.  I went to the book of Hebrews and have not left it now for two weeks.  I keep reading it over and over, slowly chewing on its statements about Jesus and pondering deeply what those statements actually mean.

Try asking something about God.  Does He love you?  Are you forgiven?  Does He have a purpose for your life?  How does He feel about those who do not know Him or have rejected Him?  What are His standards for our behavior?  Does He have anything to say about your family or your job?  Even if it is a question to which you know the accepted answer, ask it again as you read a book of the Bible.  Stay with that question.  Let its focus guide you as you read with greater intention and purpose.  The answers you have always given, perhaps out of habit, will take on new meaning as the living word of God speaks directly to you.

O God, I do not want to drift in casual relationship with You.  Guide me as I explore Your word with focus and intention, always seeking to know You more through Jesus, in Whom all Your fullness was pleased to dwell.  May the Holy Spirit direct my thoughts and my questions as I dwell in Your word.  Amen.

Copyright © 2016 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Wrestling With God

November 6 (Genesis 32:28)

“Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.”  (ESV)

Both of our children have loved wrestling with Daddy.  Our daughter used to make me sit in the middle of the living room floor so she could barrel down the hallway toward me to knock me over.  Our son still likes to wrestle me and try to hold me down, which is much more likely to happen now that he is a strapping young man!

None of this would happen if my children could not trust me.  If mine were a mercurial temperament, capable of flying off the handle in anger unpredictably, they would never take the risk of wrestling with me.  So what does it say when Jacob wrestled all night with God?  What does the give-and-take, back-and-forth relationship between Peter and Jesus say?  God blessed Jacob and changed his name to Israel, which means “one who wrestles with God.”  Jesus told Peter that He would build His church upon him.

If there is one thing we can be confident of, it is this.  God is good.  He loves us.  We can struggle with Him and hurl at Him our anger, our fears, our doubts, our worries, our concerns, and our confusion.  He is not afraid of anything we bring to Him, and He will respond in the rough-and-tumble, sometimes bold, sometimes frightening, but always and fundamentally good way of the Father Who loves us.  About what do you need to wrestle with Him today?

Father, sometimes I think You do not care, and so I keep my burdens to myself.  Sometimes I am afraid You will reject me, and so I hide my deepest needs.  Sometimes I am simply not sure if You like me, and so I withdraw from You.  Help me draw confidence from Jesus Himself, Who more than any other person or thing has revealed Your graceful, loving nature, for there is much about which I need to wrestle with You.  Amen.

Copyright © 2016 by Steven R. Perkins