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

Sunday, June 17, 2018

When Jesus Got In Satan's Face


June 17 (Matthew 4:10)


Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’”  (ESV)

We often read the temptation of Jesus as a story about the power of knowing Scripture and using it to fight temptations in our own lives.  This is a perfectly good way to read the story, and indeed Jesus does use Scripture to combat Satan.  Yet if Jesus really is God, the second person of the Trinity and the Lord of all, then there is another way to see this interaction between Him and Satan.
Picture it.  There is Jesus, exhausted in His humanity from forty days of fasting, and the smiling, oily, manipulating tempter approaches, challenging His identity as the Son of God by suggesting He turn stones into bread.  Jesus fills His lungs with hot, desert air and replies that man doesn’t live by bread alone (verses 3-4).  Satan tries again (verses 5-7) by suggesting He throw Himself off the top of the temple in Jerusalem.  This time there is fire in Jesus’s eyes when answers, “Don’t tempt the Lord your God!” Remember, He is not only a human quoting Scripture, He is also talking about Himself.  He is God and He is the Lord.  It is as if He is saying, “Back off, if you know what’s good for you,” for tempting God is exactly what the devil is doing.  And then the tempter shows his hand.  He wants to be God himself and commands Jesus to worship him.  This time there is thunder in His voice and lightning flashing from His dark eyes.  “Get out of here, Satan!  YOU will worship ME!”
This is not a story about a super nice guy at church who has a Bible verse ready for all occasions.  This is the story of your big brother stepping in between you and your enemy and getting in that enemy’s face.  And the natural response of any child, and we are all children before God, is to say, “I want to be just like Him when I grow up!”

Jesus, I do want to be just like You.  I want to be strong in the face of weakness and steadfast in the face of temptation.  Make the words of Scripture become my own flesh and help me to stand boldly against all that comes my way, just as You did.  Amen.

Copyright © 2018 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Experiencing The Glories of God

June 10 (Psalm 19:1)

The heavens declare the glory of God,
    and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.  (ESV)




Cities can be marvelous things filled with towering buildings, twinkling lights, and a wild array of colors, yet they are, at best, imitations of the glories of God.  No building, however wonderfully designed, can match the grandeur of mountains.  No electric lights can compete with the sparkling of stars.  No pigment or neon can match the palette with which flowers, deep sea creatures, and sunsets are painted.

Most of us live in urban or suburban environments.  Our is the world of sidewalks and pavement and electronics.  We think we have tamed the elements by controlling light and temperature so that we live in comfortable, well-lit rooms twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.  Perhaps instead our achievements have tamed us, made us pale imitations of the vibrantly alive creations we were made to be.  Ask yourself just how vibrantly alive you feel walking through your workplace or even your home.

So, go for a walk in the rain, without an umbrella.  Breathe in slowly the hot breezes of summer.  Look up and look out at the canopy of trees or the blanket of stars.  Even if skyscrapers block most of your view, you can, if you try, see a fleecy white cloud in an aerial sea of blue.  Stay with that cloud for a moment as you walk to your next destination.  Christians do not worship nature, but we join with it in declaring the glory of God.  Such declarations are the work for which your soul was made.

Thank You, Father, for Your magnificent works of creation.  Kindle again in me awe and wonder as I drink in the glories of Your hand, and from such inspiration may my gaze find You.  In the name of Christ Jesus, my Lord.  Amen.

Copyright © 2018 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, May 27, 2018

A Life of Purpose


May 27 (Psalm 144:4)


Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow.  (ESV)


John Cougar Mellencamp recorded a song called “Paper In Fire,” and the second verse goes like this.

He wanted love
With no involvement
So he chased the wind
That's all his silly life required
And the days of vanity
Went on forever
And he saw his days burn up
Like paper in fire


Ask any adult and he or she will tell you.  Life goes by more quickly with each passing year, and before you know it your whole life can seem as insubstantial and fleeting as a breath or a shadow.  Whether your life is indeed insubstantial, however, is up to you.  If your pursuit is of nothing more than pleasure without the entanglements of responsibility, then life can become quite silly and vain, and your days will certainly burn up like paper in fire.

Yet if you realize that your life is a gift and choose to make of it a life of purpose, that is a different matter entirely.  A life lived full tilt, passionately, and with the greatest use and development of its God-given talents, a life lived in pursuit of something greater than itself, will pass just as quickly as the one spent in vanity, but it will be rich and full.  It will carry the weight of deep satisfaction along with magnificent joys and unspeakable tragedies.  In short, it will be a life well lived.

Father, may my eyes ever be focused on the deep calling of my life.  May I not be sidetracked with silly and vain temptations.  And when I come to the end of my days, may I not realize that they have been wasted, but rather that they have spent in work that is pleasing and acceptable to You, o Lord, my strength and my redeemer.  In the name of Christ Jesus, I pray.  Amen.


Copyright © 2018 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Difficult, Freeing, Exhilarating Faith


May 13 (2 Corinthians 5:7)


For we walk by faith, not by sight.  (ESV)


Do you realize how difficult it is to walk by faith and not by sight?  You certainly do if you’ve ever tried it.  We cannot see God, but we have faith in Him.  His ways are not our ways, but we have faith that His ways are right.  We will experience suffering, but we have faith because Jesus said He overcame it all.  It is no wonder that people look at us and say, “Are you kidding?”

Let’s be clear.  Everything we do in our daily existence is based on our physical sensations.  We see a line of traffic and take a different route.  We hear about an interesting book and go to buy it.  We smell bacon frying and know the day is off to a good start.  Yet everything about our relationship with God is based on something else.  As the writer of Hebrews 11:1 puts it, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”  It is assurance.  It is conviction.  It is not namby-pamby, wishful thinking, but because it has nothing to do with our physical senses, which form the basis for how we interact with every other aspect of our lives, faith is a different way of knowing, and a difficult one.

Yet faith in God is the single most freeing force in the world!  Think about something that scares you, something that just terrifies the living daylights out of you.  Maybe it is standing on the diving board and looking into water that seems about a thousand feet away.  Maybe it is facing a job decision or the prospect of losing a job.  Picture that thing that gives you the sweats.  Now, what if you didn’t have to rely on your senses?  What if all the things that terrify you because you have seen them or heard about them or experienced them in some way just weren’t there?  What if you could ignore all that?  Would that not be the most exhilarating feeling in the world?  That, my friends, is faith.

Jesus, whenever You call me, I look around at the wind and waves the way Peter did and start to sink.  Remember that I am dust, Jesus, and prone to fear and weakness.  Help me to strengthen my faith so that I may operate more by it and less by my physical senses, for I truly do believe in You.  Amen.


Copyright © 2018 by Steven R. Perkins