Sunday, May 21, 2017

Courage To Be Faithful

May 21 (Acts 16:21)

They advocate customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to accept or practice.  (ESV)

The time is coming and may in fact be here in some places when speaking the truth and truths of God may be illegal.  It already breaks certain unwritten, social laws.  What will you do?

Paul had commanded a demon to leave a slave girl, and her owners claimed damage to their business and had Paul arrested.  Don’t focus on the demon or the issue of slavery.  Notice that business owners were claiming an act done in faithfulness to and in the power of Jesus Christ was bad for them economically.  Can you imagine the same thing being said today?  Of course you can.  Increasingly it seems that living as a follower of Christ is incompatible with work in schools, business, and government.  What will you do?

Paul did not think.  He did not weigh his decision or ask for the input of friends.  He turned around and commanded the demon to leave the girl and was thrown into jail for it.  Yet because of that, a jailer and his family were baptized into the family of God.

Father, give me the courage to be faithful.  In my work, with my friends, and in my daily interactions with people, may I be the salt and light that Jesus wants me to be.  In His name I pray.  Amen.

Copyright © 2017 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, May 14, 2017

A Mother Once Stood

May 14 (Luke 2:35)

and a sword will pierce through your own soul also…  (ESV)

A mother, grief stricken, just stood,
Eyes full of tears next to a cross
On which was hanging her son.

Through her soul, groaning and with him
Sharing his despair and grieving
A sword has already passed.

It is Mother’s Day in the United States, a day to celebrate all that mothers mean in our lives.  Mothers not our own have blessed us, too.  Mothers of friends, the mother of our spouse, mothers we will never meet who reared their children well to become the neighbors and co-workers we love…we are grateful to them all.

Yet no mother in the history of the world has given us more than Mary, the mother of Jesus.  As a scared young girl engaged to be married, she gave herself to the will of God to be the mother of His son on earth, and the angel said all nations would call her blessed because of it.  And then she bore what no mother should have to bear.  She stood beside the cross and watched as her son, her boy, willingly died for the sins of the world, including ours.

Today is a day for remembering mothers.  Take a moment and remember what one mother endured so God’s plan for your salvation could be fulfilled.  If you like, listen to the exquisite Arvo Pärt rendering of “Stabat Mater,” whose opening verses are above ( Words begin at the 4:05 mark).  We have much for which to be grateful to mothers, many mothers, not just our own.

Father, You have blessed me with many mothers, women who helped shape my life both directly and indirectly.  Thank You for their words and their work.  May You bless richly those who are still here and welcome with love those who have gone home.  In the name of Jesus, Who died and rose again for all mothers and fathers and children everywhere, amen.

Copyright © 2017 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Live Boldly In Christ

May 7 (Isaiah 50:7-8)

But the Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame.  He who vindicates me is near.  Who will contend with me?  Let us stand up together.  Who is my adversary?  Let him come near to me.   (ESV)

It is foolish to court trouble, but it is also cowardly and, dare I say it, unchristian to flee from it in fear.  You follow the Lord.  You have acknowledged before God and men that Jesus is your savior.  The Holy Spirit dwells within you.  That is a powerful biography, and it is yours.  So what does it mean?

For one thing, it means God is your helper and you will not be disgraced.  You can set your face like flint and be bold.  In fact, you can say to your troubles and fears, your obstacles and difficulties, “Bring it on!”  It means that you can face anything…anything…in complete confidence that you have the strength you need and it is not your own, but that of the Lord your God.

There are advantages in this life to following Jesus, you know.  The Christian life is not just about what happens in eternity.  Oh, you may be persecuted for it and suffer more mightily than those who revel in their sin, but unlike them, you have genuine power and a true reason for boldness.  So get out there and live like the son or daughter of the living God that you actually are!

Lord, I have lived too timidly.  Worse yet, I have sometimes confused timidity with humility and gentleness and mistakenly believed it was what You wanted.  Forgive me.  Help me to go forth boldly, contend with all that opposes me, and do all in the strength of Jesus Christ, in whose name I pray.  Amen.

Copyright © 2017 by Steven R. Perkins

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Sunday, April 23, 2017

Keeping Your Faith

April 23 (Isaiah 7:9)
If you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all.  (ESV)

One thing I have learned in a lifetime of walking in the Christian faith is that it is a daily thing.  Jesus was right (no surprise there!) when He said that we must take up our cross daily if we are to follow Him (Luke 9:23).  Day in and day out, sunny or raining, when you are happy and when you are bored out of your mind, when you feel on top of the world and when you are under the weather.  All.  The.  Time.

You will not always feel like being a Christian.  There will even be times when you slip back and behave as if you had never even heard of Jesus.  You will question the Lord’s love for you and perhaps even His existence.  These are the times that faith comes in.  We cling to faith when our fingers are too weak to cling to anything else.  We stand on our faith even when we look down and see nothing.  We proclaim our faith to drown out the voices, including our own, of unbelief.

You will fail to do all that God has required.  You will do the very things He has forbidden.  And yes, these will happen even after you have been baptized and confessed Him before all the world.  Yet if you are firm in faith, you will grow firm in your other weaknesses.

Jesus, today seems like just one more in an endless string that stretches behind and in front of me.  I have questions about so many things and answers to almost none of them.  Keep me strong in my faith, which is in You.  May I not waver or falter in that faith, for it is what keeps me anchored to You, my strength and my redeemer.  Amen.

Copyright © 2017 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Working Our Salvation

April 16 (1 Samuel 25:33)

Blessed be your discretion, and blessed be you, who have kept me this day from bloodguilt and from working salvation with my own hand!  (ESV)

Christ the Lord is risen today!  Alleluia!  This is the single greatest day in the history of the world…but why?  It is hard to understand in a do-it-yourself culture.  From the time we are children, we learn that we must work salvation with our own hands.  Do this so that you may get that.  Good grades keep you on the team.  The right transcript and references get you a job.  Fulfilling the boss’s desires leads to money that leads to possessions that leads to…that leads to…
David was set to murder a man when that man’s wife came to him and begged him not to do so.  David’s words to her, as with so much that David said, carried a message for us.  We do not work out our own salvation.  We cannot, for there is nothing God needs that we could provide to make right the sins of our lives.  We would indeed be in a most desperate state if the story ended there.  Praise be to God it did not!

There is no more important day than Easter for the simple reason that God Himself has worked out salvation for us.  He took all the sins of the world to the cross, and they crushed the life from Him.  And then He crushed death.  He rose from the dead and opened the way to true life, both now and in eternity, for all who choose to receive His gift.  Blessed is He Who has worked our salvation with His own blood-stained hands!

Father, I praise You!  Lord Jesus, I praise!  Holy Spirit, I praise You!  I praise You, one God, now and forever, amen!

Copyright © 2017 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Where Would You Be Without God's Love?

April 9 (Romans 3:23)

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  (ESV)

Spring is a time to think of life, not death, right?  It is a time of bright sunshine, not darkness.  Stay with the darkness for a moment and consider death…your own.  You can talk about its being unfair or just an ancient belief all you want, but the simple fact is that you, your sweet grandmother who never spoke an unkind word, and the toddler next door have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  Oh, and the consequence for each one is eternal separation from Him.

Everything in you rebels against that thought.  It just does not seem right.  We would never be so harsh or judgmental.  Okay.  I get that.  And a three-paragraph devotion does not have the space to discuss those reasonable objections.  Yet here’s the thing.  Stay with the anger and frustration.  Stay with the confusion and worry.  Now you are ready to appreciate the unspeakable glory of Easter.

Next Sunday Christians will celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  We celebrate because that event proved the love of God beyond all doubt and removed all of the sin and all of the punishment for each and every person who chooses to receive that gift of grace.  But you can’t come close to appreciating the enormity of that gift and the sheer magnitude of the love behind it if you don’t take a moment to ponder where you would be without it.

Father, I want to take some time to consider where I would be without Your love.  It is a scary proposition, but I need to be scared, at least a little, so I can fully appreciate what Jesus did for me.  O God, I want You to have my full praise as we move toward Easter.  Help me to see the full measure of what You have done for me.  In the name of Jesus, Who made it all possible, amen.

Copyright © 2017 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Serving When Frustrated

April 2 (1 Samuel 12:23)

Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you, and I will instruct you in the good and the right way.  (ESV)

Samuel had every right to be angry with Israel and he was.  He had faithfully delivered the words of God so that the people would know right from wrong, but they had demanded to have a king rule over them.  God Himself was frustrated and told Samuel to give the people what they wanted since they wouldn’t listen to Him.

For me this is where the story would end.  I tend to get stuck in my anger and frustration with people who won’t listen or do what is right.  Yet note Samuel’s final comment.  He will continue to pray for his foolish people.  He will continue to teach those who will not learn.  Why?  Because this is what God wants of him.  Whether or not the people listen and obey is on them.  He must serve the Lord according to his calling.

It is easy to get frustrated when our attempts to share the gospel or to be the hands and feet of Jesus seem to bear no fruit with family and friends.  And, if we truly care about the people we love, we will indeed become angry when they make poor decisions or turn a deaf ear to wisdom.  Keep praying anyhow.  Keep speaking the truth in love.  Keep serving.  Do not abandon the role and the field to which God has called you.  Your friends and family must answer for themselves, and so must you.

Lord, help me to dig a bit deeper and find my strength in You.  Help me to continue honoring You, day in and day out, by doing those things to which You have called me.  May I not look for success in earthly terms, but with regard to the only measuring stick that matters, faithfulness.  In the name of Jesus, my Savior, Who was faithful all the way to the cross, amen.

Copyright © 2017 by Steven R. Perkins