Sunday, April 22, 2018

I Don't Believe God Loves Me

April 22 (Hebrews 11:1, Mark 9:24)

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.  (ESV)

“I believe; help my unbelief!”  (ESV)

For the person who does not believe that God loves him, there is little in Scripture that can help.  Oh, there are plenty of verses that speak of God’s love toward us, but the person who is struggling to accept that love will likely not take much comfort in them.  At best they form a foundation for logical acknowledgment.  I am a human being.  God loves human beings.  Therefore, God loves me.  That is hardly the sort of thing we reach for in the blackness of despair.

A person cries out to God, “Do you love me…ME?”  She wants to know she is loved because God sees her and knows her and loves her, not because she is loved by her default status as a member of the human race, and this requires faith.  Faith is assurance and conviction even in, especially in, the face of overwhelming feelings or evidence to the contrary, and if we’re already doubting God’s love, such faith can be rather difficult to muster on our own.

So, what do we do?  We cry out with the man to whom Jesus had said all things were possible for those who believe.  “I do believe, Lord, but help my unbelief!”  We hurl our doubts and fears and frustrations at Jesus.  We fling them at Him angrily, because, if we are honest, we are angry with Him.  We want to feel His love so badly, something is blocking that, and we are just tired, worn out, and…well…angry.  Where are You, Lord?  This is not a time to theologize that what is blocking our experience is sin or Satan and that we really should be angry at ourselves or at the devil.  Jesus will take care of all that in due course.  For now, take it all to Him in tears and rage.  His love will not come, for it has always been there and always will be, and because that is true, He will help you experience it again.

Jesus, I don’t know where to begin.  I need You.  I need to feel and know Your love as never before.  That much I do know.  I don’t need a platitude or empty words.  I need You, Jesus.  Today, right now, I need Your love.  Help my unbelief and restore me to a place of confidence and assurance in You.  Amen.

Copyright © 2018 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Power To Speak

April 15 (Acts 2:4)

And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.  (ESV)

The last words of Jesus before He ascended into heaven were that His disciples were to go into all the world and teach all that He had taught them (Matthew 28:19-20).  He told them they would receive the power of the Holy Spirit to accomplish that mission (Acts 1:8).  And guess what?  He told the truth, for that is exactly what happened when the Holy Spirit filled the disciples with the power to speak in other languages so that everyone could understand the good news.

As we talked about this recently with the second through fifth graders at our church, the children began talking about the super powers they would like to have.  I was squarely in the camp of those wanting super speed or the ability to fly.  Yet notice that when God gave the power of the Holy Spirit to His people, it was not to accomplish a comic book feat of heroism.  With all the power of God Almighty, what was it they were able to do?  They were able to speak so that others could know about Jesus.

Of all the wonderful things you may be able to do, things that please God because He gave you the ability to do them, nothing pleases Him more than when you tell others about His love for them through Jesus Christ.  That’s it.  That is what the first disciples did when the power of the Holy Spirit came upon them.  They started talking.  And as one disciple told someone and that person became a disciple, too, the conversation has never stopped.  If you are a disciple of Jesus Christ, then you, too, have the same Holy Spirit living in you, and God has given Him to you for the same reason, so that you may have the power to tell others about Him.

Lord, I often ask You for more of this or that, but when it comes to being equipped to tell others about the love, forgiveness, and redemption available through Jesus, I already have all that I need.  May I use this amazing power so that every single person who knows me may know the love You have in store for them.  I ask this in the name of Jesus, Who has commanded me to speak.  Amen.

Copyright © 2018 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Stopping God

April 8 (1 Corinthians 2:13)

[W]e speak words given to us by the Spirit, using the Spirit’s words to explain spiritual truths.  (ESV)

Do you realize how much power human beings have?  We can be laid low by a cold or a papercut, but we are so powerful that we can actually stop God from accomplishing His will.  We only have to say no.

Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit, and so He did.  The Holy Spirit lives within us and, among other things, He speaks to us the words of God.  When we need to offer a word of encouragement or rebuke, when we need to explain or teach a matter of spiritual significance, God does not leave us on our own.  He speaks through the Holy Spirit and gives us what we need to say.  Yet unbelievably we thwart this divine guidance with our second-guessing.  We waffle, we reconsider, and we hesitate.  We become Prufrock, the pathetic character in Eliot’s poem, for whom “in a minute there is time/For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.”

Bold is the life lived in Jesus Christ.  When we are fully surrendered to Him, when we see everyone and everything through His gaze, we can speak and act confidently in this world, for it will not be we who speak and act, but rather God working through us.  Yet we can always resort to weakness, and with fear and timidity halt the very plans of God.

Lord, may every inspiration of the Holy Spirit find its fulfillment in my words and deeds.  May I die to myself so that, fully alive in You, I may be Your willing servant on earth.  When I pray as You taught, that Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven, may I be Your good instrument and never an obstacle to the working out of that will.  In the name of Jesus, Who was obedient even to the cross, amen.

Copyright © 2018 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, April 1, 2018

A Final Word

April 1 (Matthew 28:30)

And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.  (ESV)

There will come a day when I will eat my last slice of New York style pizza.  It is a melancholy thought, but that day will come, as will the day I listen to a favorite song or watch a favorite movie for the last time.  It is likely I will not realize my enjoyment of a particular activity is indeed my last, but when I have died, people can identify that final pizza, song, and movie for what they were.  And the same will be true for Scripture.

Many of us have our favorite parts, and the final words of Jesus at the end of Matthew’s gospel are cherished by countless Christians.  We know them by heart, but we love to hear and read them again and again.  Yet there will come a time for each of us when we will read those final words of Jesus for the final time, and then the Word Who was made flesh and dwelled among us, Jesus Himself, will speak those words back to us, but perhaps with a slight change.  “I told you I would be with you always!”  I can imagine Him saying it with a broadening smile, a twinkle in His eye, and arms outstretched.

The things of earth will grow dim and vanish for every person.  Our prized possessions will pass into another’s keeping, and while the paper and binding of our Bibles will not go with us from this life to the next, the words of their truth will carry us on and open into truth as we have never experienced it, for then we will know even as we are known.  We will no longer read and listen to our favorite words, but will be in the presence of the One Who is the Word, our risen Lord Jesus, waiting for us in proof of His final word.

Thank You, Lord, for the words You have spoken in Scripture and directly to my heart.  May they continue to nourish me with Your promises until the time they are promises no more, but my everlasting reality with You.  Amen.

Copyright © 2018 by Steven R. Perkins