Sunday, July 29, 2018

Getting To Jesus

July 29 (John 10:14)

I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me.  (ESV)

Not long ago we were at church talking with a friend just back from her mission trip when two other ladies of about the same age as our friend joined us.  Suddenly a little guy, not much more than a toddler, started making his way through the crowd.  He was the grandson of our friend, and I watched to see what he would do.  With his eyes fixed on his grandma, he wove his way through the aisles, passed right in front of the other ladies, and joined the one he sought.

Grandma knew grandson, and he knew her, and he was not about to be deterred by all the other adults in between.  He did not for a moment pause with other ladies who, at least in age, may have seemed like his grandma.  They were not, and there was no fooling him.

Oh, friends.  How often do we get distracted by that which seems helpful but really isn’t?  How many times do we go after what we think will love us but never will?  A sheep knows its shepherd, and a grandson knows his grandma.  Are we really more distracted than a sheep or a little boy?

Jesus, I am embarrassed by the number of times I let other things get between us.  Worse than that, I go after them even though You are in sight.  Help me to be as innocent as a lamb and seek only You, my loving shepherd.  Amen.

Copyright © 2018 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Using Your Brain With The Bible

July 22 (Matthew 16:11)

How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread?  (ESV)

One day Jesus used a metaphor and told His disciples to watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees.  The disciples immediately began arguing with each other because they hadn’t brought any bread.  “I told you to bring bread!”  “What, you didn’t bring it?”  “I thought John picked it up before we left for the day.”

Can’t you just see the incredulous look on Jesus’s face as He snorts and shakes His head?  “You’ve seen me feed five thousand and then four thousand people with next to nothing,” He tells them.  “How do you not get that I’m not talking about actual bread?”

Jesus expected His disciples to know when He was speaking literally and when He was speaking metaphorically.  He expected them to use their brains.  Sometimes the Bible reports facts, sometimes it records prophetic visions, sometimes it presents poetry, sometimes it speaks in metaphors.  A reasonable person, that is, one who uses reason, guided by the Holy Spirit, can usually discern what is going on in a passage and what God is saying.  And if not, there are plenty of others who can help.  They are called the body of Christ, the church.  This is not just the church on the corner, but the body of believers across the world for the past two thousand years.

God, when I pick up the Bible, I will start with the belief that You are speaking to me.  I know that it contains history, but You were not just speaking to people of long ago.  With that in mind, I will seek understanding using the intellectual gifts You have given me, my education, and the resources of other Christians, always submitting it all to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  May all of my reading draw me closer to You and equip me for doing Your will.  In the name of Jesus, amen.

Copyright © 2018 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, July 15, 2018

The Immediacy of Jesus

July 15 (Matthew 8:10)

When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith.  (ESV)

One day a Roman army officer, a centurion, came to Jesus to ask Him to heal his servant.  Jesus said He would go to the centurion’s house, but the officer replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed.  For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

We often focus on the humble, straightforward faith of the soldier, but look at Jesus’s reaction.  He smiles and laughs, “I like this guy!”  Jesus deals directly and likes it when others do the same.  He is face to face, eye-level with people.  He is immediate, meaning there is nothing in the middle, nothing to get in the way between us and Him, which is only right since He is our mediator, the one who connects us with God the Father.

How often do we play it subtle?  How often do we go for the backdoor, roundabout, non-direct way of doing something?  We weigh options, consider consequences, balance plusses and minuses.  Now, be honest.  Doesn’t that get wearisome?  Seriously, how many of our interactions with others and even with God Himself could be described as plotting and scheming?  Jesus is immediate, and He wants us to be the same.

There is no point in sugarcoating this, Lord, because You know it all anyway.  I spend way too much time figuring the angles.  Help me to approach life and the people in it…help me approach You…in a straightforward way.  I want to be more like that centurion.  I want to be more like You.  Amen.

Copyright © 2018 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, July 8, 2018

One Who Truly Knows

July 8 (Matthew 7:29)

for he taught with real authority—quite unlike their teachers of religious law.  (NLT)

We all know blowhards and braggarts.  They are the ones who like to give us the scoop, the real deal, the skinny on how things actually are.  They have been there, done that, and are more than willing to give us all the answers.  Then there are those who have expert opinions on everything because they have studied it all.  They have the ins and outs, the trivia and the minutiae about anything you want to know.  Yet there is something about the knowledge and advice from both types of people that rings hollow.

And then there are the people you just know are telling it like it is.  They may say it differently than others and maybe even in opposition to the policy manual, the company line, or the official statement, but there is just something in what they say and the way they say it that makes you know they are giving you the truth.

That was Jesus.  He spoke with authority.  He cut through all the layers of this, that, and the other thing and got straight to the point.  Others may have talked about God, but He was God and actually knew what He was talking about.  Once people heard Jesus speak, they knew He was telling the truth and wanted to hear more.  They didn’t want to hear from anyone else, which leads to the question…why would you?

Jesus, with so many voices coming at me from newspapers and books and radio and television and websites and social media, to say nothing of friends and family, it is easy to accept things that are not true.  Help me to hear Your voice and listen to what You have to say, for Peter was right.  You have the words of eternal life, and I have come to believe and know that You are the Holy One of God (John 6:68-69).  Amen.

Copyright © 2018 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Don't Worry...Really?

July 1 (Matthew 6:32)

your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.  (NLT)

Don’t you hate it when people tell you not to worry about something?  Telling someone not to worry is often something we say when we really do not know what else to say.  It’s like saying, “How are you?” to someone at the grocery store.  We aren’t really interested in the response and certainly don’t want to get into a long conversation.  We just want to get the milk and get home.

Part of the reason being told not to worry can seem irritating is that the person saying it cannot help us with what worries us, and we both know it.  Jesus, on the other hand, offers us no mere social nicety.  He does not give us a platitude.  In Matthew 6:25-34, He tells us not to worry, He points out how God cares for the needs of His other creatures, and then He makes it quite personal.  He looks His disciples in the eye and says, “Your Father in heaven knows what you need.”

Do you honestly think your Father does not know what you need as well?  This isn’t about sucking it up and pushing your worries down so deep no one well ever know just how scared you really are.  This isn’t about blithely saying, “I’m a Christian, so I guess things will work out.”  This isn’t about a system of faith or religion at all.  It is about a person.  God is a person.  He is your Father.  He knows you…yes, you.  He knows what you need.  He is aware of your situation.  And He is the one telling you not to worry.

Father, help me to keep my focus on You and Your promises when I grow nervous about the problems and demands that face me.  Help me to look not to my own resources or even the kind assurances of others.  I know You work through such things, but it is always You providing the actual help and answers.  And thank You, Jesus, for reminding me of that.  Amen.

Copyright © 2018 by Steven R. Perkins