Archive for the 'Mark Perry' Category

Summer Vacation Meditation

Perhaps this summer finds you and your family loading up the car and driving off in search of pristine scenery and family memories. As you travel across our beautiful land, many striking sights meet your eye: forested hills, sandy beaches, vast plains, rugged mountains, deep canyons, and pounding surf. What do you see when you look at these beautiful sights?

God’s splendor in creation should provoke our worship.

Worship isn’t just something that happens for an hour and fifteen minutes on Sunday morning; it is giving God the honor and glory due him. It is recognizing who he is and what he has done. David’s meditation on God’s greatness and goodness in Psalm 8 is a great pattern for our thoughts. As we view God’s creation, we can’t help but feel very small. Yet God cares for us in an extremely involved and loving way! Such undeserved kindness!

God’s spectacular universe demonstrates his power and “God-ness” (Rom 1:20). The unrelenting power of the ocean, the silent immensity of the atmosphere, the undisturbed tranquility of mountain peaks and ocean trenches make it very clear that we are out of our league. Man is easily crushed, lost, exhausted, or even killed in his attempts to explore God’s vast creation. Only an omnipotent God could create and maintain such a universe!

God has created a beautiful world that, although marred by sin’s curse and man’s sinfulness, still causes the regenerate heart to resonate with the beauty of God’s greatness. A Christian should be able to appreciate the beauty of creation far beyond any scientist, astronomer, or geologist simply because we understand the greater significance of creation. It does not exist “just because”; it exists because God created it for his pleasure and to accomplish his will (Rom 11:36).

Many of our hymns echo this truth. Listen to these words penned by George W. Robinson in 1876 from the hymn “I Am His and He Is Mine.”

Heav’n above is softer blue,
Earth around is sweeter green!
Something lives in every hue
Christless eyes have never seen;
Birds with gladder songs o’erflow,
Flowers with deeper beauties shine,
Since I know, as now I know,
I am His, and He is mine.

Allow your summer vacation to be a time of worship as you meditate on our great God!

July 2010

Faith, Leading, and the Will of God

“I’ve been ministering in this church for three years and have seen no fruit. Most days I feel like I’m banging my head against a brick wall, but I’m never going to quit because I have faith God wants me to be here.” Maybe you’ve heard a testimony like this from a missionary or Christian worker and walked away encouraged by their resolve and spirituality. But maybe the conversation went like this: “We have tried everything we can think of for three years. We have prayed, we have worked, and we have prayed some more. God is leading us to another ministry.”

Which person was actually doing God’s will, the one who stayed or the one who left? Is there any objective way to find out? How do I know what God’s will is when I am faced with a similar situation?

Continue reading ‘Faith, Leading, and the Will of God’

Let There Be Light!

Categorical rejection often meets the proclamation of the gospel. Over time, this kind of opposition can breed discouragement. Who hasn’t walked away from a slammed door or brusque refusal and wondered why it seems nobody wants to listen?

In 2 Corinthians 4, Paul addresses this very problem by pointing out the obvious: God’s mercy in the gospel has reached us! Remembering we are “Exhibit A” of the gospel’s power encourages us not to give up (v. 1).

However, a very real dilemma faces us: should we change our message or our tactics? Many ministries have done this very thing in the vain attempt to avoid the world’s rejection. Paul’s answer could not be stronger. We refuse to deceive our hearers or distort our message. Instead, we clearly and precisely articulate the gospel (v. 2).

But why do unbelievers reject the gospel? Why doesn’t the gospel seem to “work” sometimes? Paul makes clear that the gospel is rejected because of the hearer, not on account of the message or the messenger. The glorious gospel is only hidden to the lost (v. 3). They do not see the life-changing truth of the gospel because they are blind (v. 4)! Imagine leading a blind friend to the rim of the Grand Canyon with your hands over their eyes. When you reach the lookout point, you pull away your hands in a grand flourish and ask them what they think of the canyon’s immense scope and magnificent colors. They, like the unbeliever, cannot appreciate the glory and splendor before them. We can describe it all we want, but what we need is supernatural intervention!

We proclaim the gospel as we praise the glory of Jesus Christ, eternal God who took on humanity, lived a perfect life, and died in our place (v. 5). But our words do not affect the spiritual blindness of a lost person. They cannot see Jesus of Nazareth for anything more than a teacher, a good man, or a prophet.

But when God in his grace sweeps the scales from those blind eyes, the overwhelming brightness of God’s glory dawns on that soul. This marvelous act of God rivals the first moment of human timekeeping when God’s voice thundered, “Let there be light!” Just as light flooded the universe at God’s command (Gen 1:3), so God’s gracious salvation causes the blazing glory of Jesus Christ to dawn on the darkened and unbelieving heart (v. 6).

When we are discouraged by rejection of the gospel, we must remember that we too, once rejected the lordship of Jesus Christ. We strained to no avail to see him with our blind eyes, but when God commanded, “Let there be light,” we basked in the light of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ.

December 2009

Church Membership: Who Needs It?

feature-article.gifTalk about church membership and people start to bristle.

Perhaps some have been “burned” by a ministry in the past and fear repeating that scenario. Others cite a lack of perfect agreement with church policy or personnel. Still others are “just looking,” and plan to continue doing so indefinitely. Most simply resist the idea of committing to a long-term relationship with an assembly of believers, preferring the cafeteria-style approach of “take it or leave it.” Choosing a place to worship for many falls into the same category as selecting a wireless phone carrier: avoid long-term contracts and get the best service for the cheapest price.

It doesn’t take long before somebody challenges, “Where in the Bible does it say ‘Thou shalt join a church’?” While no Bible verse explicitly commands church membership, there are several reasons every Christian should want to become a member of a sound, Bible-believing assembly of fellow believers. The question the New Testament leaves us with is “Why wouldn’t you want to join a local church?”

Continue reading ‘Church Membership: Who Needs It?’

Biblical Advice for Difficult Situations

Sound Words graphicNot surprisingly, people often turn to the Bible for help when life is difficult. In the face of a bitter divorce, the unexpected death of a loved one, or crushing financial pressure, people look to God’s Word for relief. Peter writes his first epistle to Christians who are suffering terribly—he calls their ordeal a “fiery trial” (4:12). Often times our difficulties are our own doing, but these believers’ only crime was trusting Jesus Christ. Peter’s response is rather unexpected: he offers no sweeping assurances of brighter days ahead, no programs of financial aid for victims of persecution, and no empathetic pity. Rather, he repeatedly points the suffering readers to Jesus Christ and his suffering (1:11, 19; 2:4, 21–24; 3:18; 4:1, 13; 5:1).

As he sums up an extended discussion of Christian suffering, Peter offers this conclusion: “Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good” (1 Pet 4:19). Here I see three lines of advice for difficult situations.

Your suffering is God’s will.
The fact that suffering is “according to God’s will” fairly jumps off the page. Although his readers were suffering severely and unfairly, Peter assures them that difficulties do not take God by surprise; rather, he has ordained and designed them so that the glory of Jesus Christ will radiate from our lives (cf. 4:13). While we commonly assume that God’s will is for every Christian to be healthy, financially secure, and emotionally carefree, Peter says that his readers’ suffering is God’s will.

Your greatest need in suffering is to trust a sovereign God.
Since God is sovereign, Peter entreats us to place our entire lives in the hands of our faithful Creator. Many otherwise obedient Christians jettison all biblical principles, attitudes, and priorities when difficulty comes, as if God’s sovereignty works in “auto-pilot mode” but must be switched over to “manual control” for tricky situations. The same sovereign God who created the entire universe and maintains all things for his glory is perfectly capable of governing your life in chaotic times (5:10–11). Trust God with your life. Let God be God.

Your responsibility during suffering is to obey God’s Word.
But what are we to do? Surely trusting God does not mean we hide in our bedrooms with the shades drawn and the covers over our heads, does it? It does not. As we trust the sovereign God who has ordained our suffering, we should continue to “do good.” We ought to live holy lives (1:13–16; 2:11–12) that are obedient to authority (2:13–3:6) and marked by love for one another (3:8; 4:8–11).

Difficult times call for biblical measures. Trust God and do good.

April/May 2009

Reconciling Scripture and the Problem of Racism

feature-article.gifOne of our world’s current “hot topics” is racism. Corporations posture themselves carefully to avoid any allegation of racism. Politicians, media personalities, and sports stars have ruined their careers with racist remarks. Billions of dollars each year are poured into improving race relations. Churches and religious groups are uniting for the all-important task of “racial reconciliation.”

What do we mean when we talk about “racism”? What race of people are we talking about? What does the Scripture have to say about this problem?

Continue reading ‘Reconciling Scripture and the Problem of Racism’

Fear God. Honor the King.

Sound Words graphicPeter’s first epistle describes the need for holy living in persecution. Peter reminds believers that we are a holy people, a spiritual body, and God’s own possession (2:9–10). We must live as God’s people, refraining from sinful desires so those around us who desire to slander us will have no choice but to glorify God (2:11–12). As a heavenly people, we might suppose it is unnecessary to obey human laws. Peter answers this with two commands.

First, submit to every human authority for the Lord’s sake (2:13–15).
As Paul said in Romans 13, all authority has been put in place by God. Refusing to submit to human authority is refusing to submit to God. God’s will for us is that we silence the ignorance of foolish people by our blameless lives.

Second, demonstrate your fear of God by honoring the men set over you (2:16–17).
Someone might object that since we serve God we can ignore unbelievers in authority. However, Peter reminds us that although we have been freed from all human enslavement, we are still the slaves of God. Therefore, we must be respectful of all people, demonstrate genuine love toward believers, fear God above all, and respect the rulers He has set up.

January 2009

He Puts Down and Lifts Up

Sound Words graphicThe book of Esther illustrates God’s silent hand of providence working in ordinary ways, using everyday events, and accomplishing his will even through flawed individuals. In the first chapter, queen Vashti rebels against the king and is deposed. The second chapter, describing the king’s selection of a new queen, is a real-life illustration of Psalm 75:6–7. “For not from the east or from the west and not from the wilderness comes lifting up, but it is God who executes judgment, putting down one and lifting up another” (ESV).

After deposing his queen, King Ahasuerus began to have second thoughts (2:1). As a greedy and lustful man who desired female companionship, he set about acquiring a new queen. The king’s selection criteria were not very rigid—he simply had attractive girls brought to him (2:2). In his lustfulness and greed for power, he chose a new queen (2:3–4). How could God work here?

Since Esther apparently met the beauty requirements of the king, she was taken to the palace as one of the women from which King Ahasuerus was to choose (2:8). Esther does not seem to be a model of purity and conviction (compare her actions with Daniel’s, another Jewish young person in a pagan king’s court). When Esther went to the king, she won this pagan’s heart (2:15–16). He immediately called an end to the parade of women and proclaimed Esther queen (2:17).

Where is God in all of this? Even in what might appear to be random actions, God’s hand is at work, working through (and often in spite of) sinful people, using them to accomplish his will. God silently used a stubborn queen (Vashti) and a lustful king (Ahasuerus) to bring a compromising Jewish girl (Esther) to a position of power. Furthermore, in the first verse of chapter three, we find a treacherous man (Haman) elevated to the second highest position in the kingdom. The crisis Esther would be able to avert was not even on the horizon when she became queen, but God was working all things according to his perfect will.

As a side note, Haman certainly received his comeuppance, but not as a matter of justice or punishment for his wickedness. The king charged Haman with treason for plotting to kill the queen—but Haman didn’t know Esther was a Jew! Then when the king returned, he construed Haman’s actions as inappropriate advances—a total misunderstanding! God used even the king’s confusion to remove Haman from power. The book of Esther is the story of God’s providence, told without even mentioning his name.

Because of God’s sovereign providence, we can say with complete confidence that every person in authority is there because God placed him there.

December 2008

Four Small Things

In James 3:1–8, we find four examples of small things that have a big effect. James gives three examples that correspond to the fourth, the tongue, which is the theme of this chapter. All four seem relatively minor and insignificant, but they can have a tremendous effect, good or disastrous.

In verse three, the example is the bit in a horse’s mouth. The back of a Clydesdale can be up to six feet tall and the animal can weigh 1,600–2,400 pounds (as much as a small car). That’s a massive animal! But this huge animal is turned, stopped, and controlled by a small piece of metal in its mouth. Compared to the size of the horse, the bit is tiny; however, it makes a big difference! A little metal controls a huge and powerful horse.

In verse four, the second example is the rudder on a ship. A huge ship can be turned and guided by a relatively small rudder. Compared to the size of the boat, the rudder is not that big, but it affects the whole ship.

Now we might be tempted to think that these examples have to do with control: the bit controls the horse, and the rudder controls the ship, and so we should control our tongues. In fact, James speaks of “bridling” one’s entire body in verse two. However, James goes out of his way in verse eight to say we cannot control our tongues: “the tongue can no man tame.”

James’ point is not that we should control our tiny tongues; rather, the examples show the opposite: tiny things boast great results. The “punch line” is found at the beginning of verse five: “Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things.” Just like the bit is small but affects a huge animal, and just like the rudder is small in comparison to a big boat, so the tongue is small and seems insignificant, but it can have a huge effect.

James gives one more example: a raging fire. The second half of verse five speaks of a huge forest being set ablaze by a tiny spark. Out West, massive forest fires destroy thousands of acres every year. Are these fires started by gigantic fireballs or flamethrowers or huge explosions? Rarely. Usually they begin from a discarded cigarette or a campfire that somebody forgot to put out. That little spark or glowing ember seemed small, but it caused an enormous conflagration.

And, as James tells us in verse six, “The tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity.” The words we say may seem insignificant, but they can have a huge effect. They can destroy people. They can feed the fires of jealousy, greed, and lust. They can tear down a testimony that has taken years to build. We need to take our tongues seriously. They may be small, but they pack a big punch.

July 2008

Assurance of Salvation

If you listen to the salvation testimonies of Christian college students, you will quickly pick up an oft-repeated refrain. The story goes something like this: “I made a profession of salvation when I was small, but I doubted my salvation for years. I wondered if I was really saved and asked God to save me literally hundreds of times. It wasn’t until years later that I finally gained assurance of my salvation.”

This testimony could be repeated by thousands of Christian young people who have grown up in Christian homes, attended good churches, and gone to Christian schools. Why are these young people, who enjoy every conceivable spiritual benefit and should be growing spiritually like weeds, still struggling with whether or not they are saved? Furthermore, this epidemic of a lack of assurance is a relatively recent phenomenon, not seen previously in church history. What is the problem and how can it be corrected?

Continue reading ‘Assurance of Salvation’

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