Sunday, March 25, 2018

The Cosmic Import of Easter

March 25 (John 17:5)

And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.  (ESV)

Today is Palm Sunday.  Later this week Christians will celebrate the other holy days of Easter Week with Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday itself.  Yet celebrating days associated with a certain person can become routine.  We have days to honor Presidents and days to honor great public servants like Martin Luther King, Jr.  We honor mothers, fathers, and grandparents.  Then there are the wacky celebrations like National Hot Dog Day, which this year is July 18th, and National Sock Day on December 4th.  And let’s face it.  The year in, year out celebrations around Easter can numb us with their regularity to what is really going on.

The holy days of Easter do not mark important moments in a man’s life.  They acknowledge unparalleled moments in the history of human beings when God intervened and walked among us.  Consider the verse above, which comes from the last meal that Jesus shared with His disciples.  Scripture says that God knew us before we were born (see Jeremiah 1:5), but neither you nor I existed before the world began, and we certainly did not share in the Father’s glory.  The words Jesus uses here speak clearly to His divine nature.

Easter is about the awe-inspiring, indescribable work of God, Who is transcendent past all our understanding, yet became one of us that we might know Him fully.  These are days of truly cosmic import, for the Greek word used for “world” in this verse is kosmos, which indicates all of the created order, the entire universe.  There have been many good people who have done wonderful things, and we put their names on buildings and dedicate days to their remembrance.  The days of Easter are about so much more than that.  We set them aside to enter once again into the mysterious interaction of the divine and the human, the heavenly and the earthly, when God Himself was man and changed our experience of reality forever.

O Lord, as the poet John Donne once wrote, You were immensity cloistered in Your mother’s womb, You Who created Your mother and then were born through her.  The very thought of You expands my heart and soul and mind past all the feelings and wisdom and knowledge of this world.  May Your praise be ever on my lips and Your worship the very fabric of my life, both in these days of the Easter season and in all the days of my life.  In the name of King Jesus, my risen Savior, amen.

Copyright © 2018 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, March 18, 2018

The Both/And Life

March 18 (Colossians 1:28-29)

Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.  (ESV)

Jesus is both divine and human, yet He is one person.  God Himself eternally exists as three persons, yet one essence, meaning we worship one God, not three.  In other words, everything we know about God involves both/and.  Is it any wonder, then, that we, who are created in His image, must also live both/and lives?  Is it any surprise, too, that Satan tries to wreck our lives by getting us to think in either/or terms?

Take, for example, how we go about our daily existence.  Some tend to do it all on their own, whereas others want to do nothing and let Jesus handle everything.  Now look at how Paul approached the most important work of his or any Christ-follower’s life.  His job was to proclaim the gospel of Jesus, to warn and to teach, to present back to God everyone he met as a mature Christian.  How does he do it?  He works hard at it.  He toils and struggles, but he does so with the energy that God Himself was using to bring that very toil and struggle to fruition.  He lived a both/and life.

One of the most difficult aspects of being a Christian is to live the both/and life.  It is a tension, but it is a beautiful and mysterious tension, one that causes us to keep our hands stretched in two different directions, which is an incredibly hard thing to do.  Just ask Jesus about His experience at Calvary.

Jesus, the more I go along in this life of following You, the less I seem to understand.  I used to think I had it all together, but then I realize that I’m just kidding myself and others.  Help me not to overthink things.  Help me not to force my faith into a formula or try to do it all on my own.  Help me to live the both/and life, toiling and struggling with all the energy that You powerfully work in me.  Amen.

Copyright © 2018 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Where Do You Put Your Trust?

March 11 (Psalm 20:7)

Some trust in chariots and some in horses,         but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.  (ESV)

We often tell teenagers to begin building a good resume.  We tell them to get involved with sports or music, to serve in the community, and to take part in extracurricular activities so they will have a resume that looks good to scholarship committees and college admission boards.  I would ask what in the name of God we are doing, but whatever it is, it is not in the name of God.  We are training our children at an early age to put their hopes for the future in their accomplishments today.  We are teaching them to trust in chariots and horses.

It is true, of course, that a high G.P.A. can help a student gain admission to college just as surely as your high productivity last quarter can help you secure a promotion.  This is the way the world works.  Yet when we begin to live and die first by our transcripts and then later by our profit and loss statements, we go quickly astray, and at the end of the day, deep in your heart of hearts, you know that such things really do not matter.  They really don’t.

When you approach a task with confidence, is it confidence based on your resume or on the character of your Lord?  When you fear what is coming toward you, is it because you don’t think you have what it takes or because you don’t think God does?  A good look at our confidence and our fear will show us where we actually put our trust.

It amazes me sometimes, Lord, how much I am actually depending on my own strength and abilities rather than on You.  Honestly, most of the day I live as if everything were up to me.  Help me to rely less on my talents, even though You have given them to me, and more directly on You.  I ask it in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

Copyright © 2018 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, March 4, 2018

What Is A Fruitful Life?

March 4 (Mark 4:18-19)

And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.  (ESV)

What do you think it means to be fruitful?  I have always taken this to mean being productive.  We don’t want things getting in the way of our doing things for God.  It is true that we don’t want to be distracted or deterred from our mission, but there is more to what Jesus is saying here than that.

Rather than take a modern definition of fruitfulness, and in my case one that fits very well with my driven personality, consider a biblical understanding.  Galatians 5:22-23 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.  Now put those two passages together.  The worries and cares of the world, to say nothing of our desires and pursuit of ungodly things, keep us from bearing the fruits of the Spirit.  You may be doing a great many things, even good things for God, but is your life bursting forth in love?  What about joy and peace?  How are you with patience these days?  You see where this is going.

You can force yourself to do a good deed, but you cannot muscle up and will kindness into existence.  You simply cannot dig down deep and make any of the fruits of the Spirit a reality.  They have to grow and develop on their own.  The only thing you can do is make sure the soil of your life is free from the thorns that would choke them out.

Dear God, You wrecked me with this.  I have so often thought that running around and doing more good things was what it meant to live a fruitful life, and I know that You have given me good works to perform.  Yet I also know that what You want most is for my life to be a rich garden in which the seeds that You plant can flourish and bring forth fruit.  Help me pull out the weeds and thorns of distraction and worry so that nothing may interfere with YOUR work.  In the name of Jesus, my Savior, amen.

Copyright © 2018 by Steven R. Perkins