Sunday, December 26, 2010

December 26 (Luke 1:55)

…just as he promised our ancestors. (NIV)

It is typical at this time of year to think back over the past twelve months and to begin dreaming about the next twelve. We do this from a perspective of change rather than one from fulfillment. For most of us, we have things we did not get done, or would have preferred to do differently. These thoughts help us chart the course for what we want to change in the coming year.

In the final words of Mary’s response to the announcement that she would be the mother of the incarnated Son of God, she acknowledged a different perspective on time. She saw in the past the promises that God had made to her people, promises that were passed down through families, taught by rabbis, preserved in the sacred scriptures. So deep was she in the historical promises of God that she was able to see what was happening to her as fulfillment of those very promises, thus prompting her poetic praise.

Rather than think merely about the past or coming twelve months, consider the larger sweep of history, of which you are also a part. As you contemplate the promises of God and their fulfillment through Jesus Christ, both in the lives around you and in your own, your view of time will take on an entirely new and faithful perspective.

O Lord, my God, before Abraham was, You were. Draw me into an eternal perspective. May I see life as You see it, eternal, with purpose, and perfectly redeemed by Christ. In His holy name I pray, amen.

Copyright © 2010 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, December 19, 2010

December 19 (Luke 1:50)

His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. (NIV)

We do not like this statement by Mary, uttered when Gabriel announced that she would be the mother of Christ. We want it to say that the mercy of God extends to all. In a world that despises all authority and wants to put everyone on equal footing in every situation at all times, we have placed ourselves on the level of God Himself. How can we show fearful respect to one who is our equal?

Yet God is clear. We are to have no other gods before Him, including ourselves. While His mercy is available to all, it is accessible only to those who will humble themselves at the foot of a babe in a manger. It is accessible only to those who recognize God as their Lord and King, who drop to their knees in adoration at the Presence of His Son.

This was true before Mary and it remains true today, from generation to generation. As we head into the week that ends with Christmas, let us remind old and young alike of the proper posture before God. The babe whose birth we celebrate is not to be cooed over in saccharine sentimentality. He is to be worshiped with fear and trembling, for as the hymn rightly says, Jesus was Lord at His birth.

Almighty and merciful God, prepare my heart this week as I prepare to celebrate the birth of Your only Son. May my posture of humble adoration bring glory to You, my Savior and King. Amen.

Copyright © 2010 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, December 12, 2010

December 12 (Luke 1:48-49)

From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me— holy is his name. (NIV)

What on earth was Mary thinking? She thought she was blessed to have to carry around an increasingly difficult burden for nine months, only to deliver that burden in agonizing pain and then have to care for it, all while not knowing if her betrothed would believe such a cockamamie story about its paternity? If she had only known the kind of suffering her child was going to endure, so great that it could be compared with a sword piercing her own soul (see Luke 2:33), she surely would not have considered this a blessing, nor would she have praised the name of God.

Thus runs modern reason. Yet Mary knew that for however much suffering and work go into the life of a parent, a child is never a burden and can never be described as an it. She simply knew that God had picked her to play a role in His grand design, and for this she was grateful.

If we read her words closely, I think we can detect a bit of excitement, too. Do you remember what it was like to be young and capable of hearing the call of God as an adventure? As we grow older, we try to look too far down the road, to see every angle and consequence before deciding whether or not we will do what God asks. Mary was a young girl. She did not ask whether this or that would happen. She simply heard the magnificent call and accepted it with enthusiastic praise. It is no wonder that all generations have called her blessed!

Father, my life has become encrusted with attachments, burdens, and responsibilities that keep me from being free to follow You. Restore to me the childlike faith that would follow You anywhere. As I look toward the celebration of the birth of Jesus, may I be reborn with the enthusiastic faith I had when I first knew You. In the name of my beloved Savior, Jesus Christ, amen.

Copyright © 2010 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, December 5, 2010

December 5 (Luke 1:48)

…for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant… (NIV)

Mary truly understood what receiving the ultimate Christmas gift meant. After it had been revealed that she would be the mother of God in the flesh, she acknowledged that she had done nothing to deserve such a privilege.

We may become puffed up with our many accomplishments in the world, even with all the great things we do for God, but at the end of the day, we are merely servants. The truly great ones, of course, are those who do not think they are. Yet God remembers His servants in their humility. He knows each and every one of His children. He sees the one living in squalor and the one who inhabits the penthouse. He knows the labors of the custodian and the multi-million dollar deals of the executive. He is mindful of us all.

The incredible thing about Christmas is that not only is He mindful of us, He has deigned to give us the most extraordinary gift of all, His own Son. This is a gift greater than the humble could ever wish for, more wonderful than the great could ever hope to attain. Pause for a moment and realize with Mary that although you are truly nothing in and of yourself, yet God saw you from eternity and loved you enough to give you His son.

Glory to God in the highest! May Your name be praised forever in my heart and from my lips, Lord! May I never overlook the greatest of gifts, Jesus Christ, and the greatest of affections, that You would want to give this gift to me. Amen.

Copyright © 2010 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, November 28, 2010

November 28 (Luke 1:46-47)

And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” (NIV)

With these words Mary begins what has come to be known as the Magnificat, a praising of God so glorious that it has been set to music throughout the ages and has found its way into the ranks of the greatest choral music. Yet Mary did not come up with these words of praise on her own. The words themselves and the themes of her praise are drawn from the words of Scripture.

“The Magnificat – a portrait, so to speak, of her soul – is entirely woven from threads of Holy Scripture, threads drawn from the word of God. Here we see how completely at home Mary is with the word of God, with ease she moves in and out of it. She speaks and thinks with the word of God; the word of God becomes her word, and her word issues from the word of God. Here we see how her thoughts are attuned to the thoughts of God, how her will is one with the will of God. Since Mary is completely imbued with the word of God, she is able to become the Mother of the Word Incarnate”.

So wrote Pope Benedict XVI. As we move into Advent, the season that looks forward to the celebration of the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus, it is natural that we desire to bring the best offerings of praise to God. Yet He Himself has already given us the greatest praise songs in the Psalms and other songs and poems of Scripture. Does that written word of God live in our hearts as it lived in the heart of Mary? Do the words of Scripture come to our lips with the immediacy they came to hers? During Advent, when the rush of year-end and holiday activities press all around, spend even more time in the words of God. Let them sink into your heart and become your flesh. Let them issue forth from your lips in the greatest praise for our Lord, Who deserves the best.

Lord, plant Your word deeper into my heart where it may grow into great hymns of praise. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer. Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise. Amen.

Copyright © 2010 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, November 21, 2010

November 21 (John 6:26-27, 35)

Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.” Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (NIV)

In the classic novel Dracula, the insane man Renfield escapes from his asylum to the home of the infamous vampire. His caretaker, Dr. Seward, overhears Renfield begging Dracula for certain gifts and remarks, “He thinks of the loaves and fishes even when he believes he is in a real Presence.” How very much like this insane character we all are!

God has given us His Son, Who in turn has given us the Holy Spirit, Who dwells within us. We live in the real Presence of God, and that Presence lives within us, yet we concern ourselves too often only with the food that spoils. In other words, we focus far too much on the matter at hand rather than taking the long view of our lives. Yes, we need our cars to run and we need jobs to pay our bills and we need good health to accomplish our many tasks. It is not wrong to pray over such things, but if this is where our life with God stops, then ours is a shallow relationship indeed.

Jesus is the bread of life. We are called to an eternal and personal relationship with the God of the universe. For just a moment, put aside the immediate cares pressing in on your thoughts. Almighty God is your Father! What does your heart cry out to say to Him? What is He calling you toward? He will provide loaves and fishes, but our relationship with Him should be about so much more.

Gracious Lord, You provide all my needs according to Your riches in glory by Christ Jesus. Help me to move beyond worrying only about my daily needs and see life as You have intended it, an eternal life with You. In the name of my Lord, Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.

Copyright © 2010 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, November 14, 2010

November 14 (Psalm 85:8-9)

Do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah, as you did that day at Massah in the wilderness, where your ancestors tested me; they tried me, though they had seen what I did. (NIV)

Why do we continue to test and try the Lord? It is easy in the depths of our despair to cry out to Him as if challenging Him, daring Him to help us. Time and again we slip into believing that God really does not love us or have our best interest at heart.

Yet if we look back on our own lives, we can see countless examples of His love and provision. If I were to detail all the ways in which I have seen God working in my life, your Internet provider would truncate this email. It is important for us to read the psalms and the Old Testament histories and the letters of Paul and the lives of the Christians who have gone before us to be reminded of all that God has done for our people. We also need to take stock regularly of what He has done for each of us.

Make it part of your spiritual discipline to praise God each day for something He has done in your life. It will strengthen your faith for the times of doubt.

Father, You have blessed me beyond measure. Forgive my lack of gratitude. May I never fall into the false belief that You do not love me. Strengthen my faith by helping me to recall all that You have done in my life. To You be the glory for all things, through Christ Jesus, my Lord. Amen.

Copyright © 2010 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, November 7, 2010

November 7 (Psalm 147:11)

The LORD delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love. (NIV)

How wonderful God’s love for me must be, since it is infinitely greater than the love I have for my own children, a love that daily threatens to burst my heart! I truly delight in our children. Whether it is their voices saying “Good-bye” and “I love you, Daddy” as I leave for work in the morning or their enthusiastic hugs that nearly knock me over when I return, I find myself constantly smiling around them and thanking God for the privilege of being a parent.

I am delighted when they share some wonderful new discovery with me, and I get to see with fresh eyes one of the glories of the created order. It delights me when our little girl asks for help with a stuck coat zipper and when our son performs some task that signals his ever-growing skills. I delight when I watch them play with their friends or when they play alone in their rooms or in the backyard. I delight to hear their spontaneous songs sung only to their stuffed animals and God. I delight to watch them sleep.

I repeat, how wonderful must the love of God be for me, a love that transcends all my human emotion for my own children!

Father, I love You and indeed put my hope in your unfailing love! May what I do with the life You have given me always bring delight to You. In the name of my Lord Jesus I pray, amen.

Copyright © 2010 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, October 31, 2010

October 31 (1 Samuel 24:4)

The LORD forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the LORD's anointed, or lift my hand against him; for he is the anointed of the LORD. (NIV)

What heinous act had David committed against King Saul that he should immediately ask the Lord’s forgiveness? Had he poisoned the king’s wine or orchestrated an assassination plot? These would certainly have been understandable, given that Saul himself was trying to kill David and David had already been anointed as Saul’s successor. The outrageous offense that David had committed against the honor of the king and for which he immediately repented was…

He had cut off a corner of Saul’s robe.

How often in our over-worked, over-stressed, over-exhausted age do we look to complaining against the boss or the powers that be as an outlet? We slice and dice those who are over us for each policy with which we disagree and for every decision that we know we would have made differently. One of the most difficult things for us to understand is how to live under unjust, or simply incompetent, authority.

It is especially difficult for those who live in a republic founded on the rights of the people to change their leaders. We are indeed grateful to live in such a land and we must work within the framework of law and government to install the best leaders we can. Yet when we have done all that we should and our leaders still disappoint us, then we must ask for the grace of humble obedience. This flies in the face of our natural will, yet David, and his greatest descendant Jesus, who submitted even to the injustice of the cross, show us that it can be done.

Lord, help me to control my tongue and my actions. Help me to submit faithfully to the authorities that are over me, taking comfort that my life rests not in their hands, but in Yours, my loving Father. In the name of Christ Jesus I pray, amen.

Copyright © 2010 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, October 24, 2010

October 24 (Psalm 18:17)

He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me. (NIV)

A pastor at our church once used the expression, “confessing theist, practical atheist.” The phrase struck me because it seemed, painfully, to describe me. I am not just a confessing theist. I am a confessing Christian. I joyfully proclaim the truths of the Christian faith grounded in the lordship of our crucified and risen Savior, Jesus Christ, Who with the Father and the Holy Spirit reigns eternally as one God. Does my life, however, reflect my words?

I am a do-it-yourself kind of guy. I am hard charging and enjoy tackling multiple responsibilities and seeing them through to completion. Yet when my powerful enemies and foes mount their attack, my preferred response is to dig down deeper into my own strength and battle them on my own. If God plays little role in my moments of stress, pressure, and difficulty, I have to ask. Is mine a practical atheism?

David, who would become king of Israel and was known as a man after God’s own heart, was not too proud to admit that he had enemies stronger than he. Because of his humility, he could enjoy God’s grace. Where in your life is pride blocking God’s grace?

Lord, I thank You for how You have made me. I truly enjoy the gifts with which You have blessed me to live my life and fulfill Your calling. Help me not to take such pride in those gifts that I miss what is even greater, You. In the name of Christ Jesus, my Lord, amen.

Copyright © 2010 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, October 17, 2010

October 19 (Philippians 3:10)

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death…. (NIV)

While many of our brothers and sisters in Christ will indeed share in Christ’s sufferings, even to the point of torture and death, the vast majority of Christians in the West do not face physical suffering for the faith. How, then, can we join Paul in pursuing this kind of Christ-likeness?

We turn the channel when there are inappropriate images that prompt us to sin. We refuse to allow our children to watch inappropriate shows or play inappropriate games. We do not hesitate to speak the truth in love on social issues of our day. We let our light shine before men that they may see our good works and glorify our Father in Heaven. (See Matthew 5:16.)
Make no mistake. Ours is not a culture that supports this kind of life. Temptation lurks on every channel. Our children will be mocked. Our friends and co-workers will become angry with us, and it is not impossible that we will lose our jobs. Faced with such consequences, are you ready to say with Paul that you want to know Christ by sharing in His sufferings and becoming like Him in death?

Lord, grant me courage to be the Christian You have graciously called me to be. It is not easy where I live, but I know You will grant me the grace and strength to be salt and light. Help me to bear well my sufferings for the name of my Lord Jesus. In His name I pray, amen.

Copyright © 2010 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, October 10, 2010

October 12 (1 Samuel 16:7)

The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart. (NIV)

We are accustomed to reading this verse and thinking about others. We know that we cannot tell what is really going on with a person simply by looking at his or her outward appearance. Try applying it to yourself, however, and this verse might have a different feel.

God does not pay one bit of attention to the size of the Bible we carry. He does not care about the mere fact of our attendance at church activities. For that matter, He is not all that impressed with any of the great things we do. After all, He gave us the abilities to do everything that we do, from picking up a pencil to launching a rocket. God, as He sees through all our outward appearances and activities, looks directly into our hearts and sees our motives. He knows our thoughts and intentions.

Well. Ahem. Okay then. Suddenly this verse becomes a bit uncomfortable. A Sunday School teacher of mine used to say that you cannot con God. He knows exactly what is going on in our hearts. So take a look. Ruthlessly apply His holy and perfect standard to all that you think and do. When, not if, but when you fail to measure up, know that God already knows. Do not try to hide it, but confess your less than pure motives. He is faithful not only to forgive, but to guide you back on the path of becoming more like Christ.

Lord, I do not always want to look into my heart, for I fear what I will find. Grant me the courage to see what You see and to bring everything before You. Transform me into the likeness of Your Son, my Lord Jesus. In His name I pray, amen.

Copyright © 2010 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, October 3, 2010

October 5 (Philippians 3:20)

But our citizenship is in heaven. (NIV)

I recently had the opportunity to talk with a teenage boy about some rather serious matters. He is in the ROTC at his school and comes from a military family that has seen his older brother killed two years ago in Iraq. He wanted to talk with me about issues of war, and he began the conversation by saying he thought he knew where I stood politically. I replied that the more important thing for me than my political views is the fact that I am a Christian and that this, more than anything, shapes my views.

Examine your own beliefs, as evidenced by how you actually live your life. Among the various identities we have…Republican, Democrat, American, alum of a certain university, man, woman, older, younger, particular ethnicity, Christian…which one really shapes those beliefs and guides your life? It is easy to associate our Christian faith with other ideologies until we are convinced that thinking along those lines is to think as a Christian.

Paul puts it bluntly in his letter to the Philippians. We may pay taxes to the United States government and alumni dues to a particular university, but our true identity lies with Christ Jesus in heaven. This over all must direct everything we do, say, and think, from our most significant to our most momentous decisions.

Gracious Father, I am Yours by the blood of my Lord, Jesus Christ. May my status as Your redeemed servant direct all that I do, to the glory of Your holy name. Amen.

Copyright © 2010 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, September 26, 2010

September 26 (Acts 19:26, Acts 2:13, Matthew 26:74)

You see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that man-made gods are no gods at all. (NIV)

Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.” (NIV)

Then he began to call down curses on himself and he swore to them, “I don't know the man!” (NIV)

There is much trouble and scandal among Christians today, just as there has always been. Some of it is based on the truth, and we would not change it if we could. Just as Paul was attacked for speaking the truth about the false gods of the ancient world, so many Christians today are persecuted for speaking the truth about Christianity over religions such as Islam. Sometimes the accusations are false, as when Peter corrected the crowd at Pentecost. Accusations against Christians are not true simply because the mainstream media makes them. Finally, there has been and always will be trouble among Christians because Christians have actually fallen. Peter himself denied Christ with an oath and a curse. It truly does not get worse than that for a Christian scandal.

Yet none of this…not the accusations, not the scandals…has one bit of bearing on Christ Jesus. He remains what He has been since before the foundation of the world, God. He is the Savior for all who would accept His grace. This includes those who have misunderstood the Christian faith, those who have falsely accused Christians, and those Christians who have themselves strayed from the straight and narrow path. Despite the vagaries of the world, which will continue as they always have until our Lord returns, God remains faithful.

Lord, help me not to be swayed by all the trouble inside and outside the Church. Help me to speak truth when others are swayed and begin to doubt or slander You. May I always cling fast to the cross of Christ, for in Him I live and move and have my being. Amen.

Copyright © 2010 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, September 19, 2010

September 19 (2 Timothy 3:12)

…everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. (NIV)

It really does not get much more direct than this. If you follow Jesus, you will know the blessings of peace and comfort, strength to accomplish all that God sets before you, and the promise of eternal life with Him. Yet there will be areas and times of your life that will be worse than if you did not follow Him. To this day, people are arrested and murdered, have their homes and property destroyed, and lose their jobs and family members because they follow Jesus. For these people, none of this would have happened had they rejected Him.

It is easy for us who live in the lap of luxury to forget this or to romanticize it away, and make no mistake, if you are have four walls and a roof and food to eat, you are living in luxury compared with much of the world. When I think of what Paul suffered, which led to his advice to Timothy, I am embarrassed at how shallow some of my prayer concerns are.

The verse today should remind us of two things. We must live our lives passionately enough for Christ that it produces suffering for us. This is not to say we should become false martyrs, but if our faith is only a matter of convenience, then is it really the faith of our crucified Lord? Secondly, we must draw attention to, pray for, and assist however we can those brothers and sisters in Christ who live with the more violent persecutions. As Jesus said, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40, NIV)

Father, whether it is the sacrifice of time, money, or friendships, whether it is the loss of respect or even my job, help me to live my life in bold faithfulness to Christ, for indeed there is no other kind. Amen.

Copyright © 2010 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, September 12, 2010

September 12 (2 Chronicles 20:3)

And Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. (NIV)

There is much to learn from this one verse about the life of King Jehoshaphat. A large enemy comprised of many tribes had come to attack, and the first thing we read is that the king was afraid. Of course he was afraid! Pretending that you are not afraid when the bills pile up, when sickness strikes, when one more thing goes wrong with the car is not courage, but self-deception. As Christians, we know that we are not supposed to lie, and this includes to ourselves.

So what did this king do? He turned to God. Talk of turning to God in times of trouble is so common among Christians that we end up ignoring it. Slow down for a moment and consider. This king did not first call his war council. He did not make plans for attack, review his troops, or charge blindly into war. The first thing he did when confronted by more than he could handle was to go to the Lord. We must do more than pay lip service to this. We are not going to the Lord when we throw out a quick prayer in the midst of doing what we had already determined to do, and this is where the fast comes in. By ordering a fast for all of Judah, King Jehoshaphat caused everyone to slow down and wait for the guidance of God.

What are you facing this week? However frightful or nerve-wracking you claim it is, is it frightful or nerve-wracking enough for you to be quiet…really quiet…and wait for the guidance and blessing of God?

Father, You know what awaits me more clearly than I do. Still my heart, my mind, and my hands. Lead me into humble quietness that I may hear Your plans for me. Grant me then the quickness to fulfill Your will. In the name of Lord Jesus, Who reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever, amen.

Copyright © 2010 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, September 5, 2010

September 5 (Exodus 33:19-20)

And the LORD said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. … But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” (NIV)

Thanks to the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ, we can call God “Father.” We have the gift of eternal life with Him and are counted as brothers and sisters of Jesus Himself, Who calls us His friends. What extraordinarily intimate gifts! Yet we must never for one moment forget that God remains awesome and terrible.

On Mt. Sinai, Moses asked to see the glory of the Lord. God responded by saying that Moses could see His goodness and hear the divine name, but He warned him as well that there were parts of His nature that must remained hidden. How do we relate to a God Who calls us His friends and children and yet remains One before Whom we must live in reverent fear? (See 1 Peter 1:17)

We must be intimate with our Father, while never forgetting He is our Lord. We must go to Him in the moment of our needs, yet never address Him casually or with disrespect. We must approach our God with confidence in His faithfulness, yet humbly in acknowledgment of our weakness and His surpassing glory.

Almighty and glorious heavenly Father, thank You for the gift of being able to approach You any time, day or night, in any circumstance, through the intercession of Jesus Christ. Thank You, too, for the gift of Your Holy Spirit, Who intercedes when we lack even the words to speak. May my life be one of ongoing worship of Your majesty and grace. Truly, You are my Lord and my God. Amen.

Copyright © 2010 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, August 29, 2010

August 29 (Ephesians 2:8)

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. (NIV)

The mere fact that you believe in God, believing and accepting the saving grace of our Lord Jesus, is a gift from God. Think about that for a moment. You may have studied and read much about the Christian faith. You may have analyzed the arguments for and against its truths. Yet the ability to believe at all is a gift.

We do not know fully why God hardened the heart of Pharaoh. We do not know why some have the gift of faith and yet choose to reject it. For those who have it, however, and have chosen to use it, there can be only one response. It is sheer, absolute, overwhelming, humble gratitude. There is no room for spiritual pride among the followers of Christ. When we come to terms with the fact that our lives in all their full richness, both now and in the world to come, are the result of pure grace, our hearts burst with the desire to praise and thank the Giver of this grace.

We should be grateful for all the blessings of our lives. When was the last time you thanked God for your faith itself?

Father, I do not know why you have granted me the ability to believe, but I thank You from the bottom of my heart. Thank You, too, for all those You have put in my path to teach and lead me ever closer to You. May I serve likewise in the lives of those around me. In the name of Christ Jesus, my Lord, amen.

Copyright © 2010 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, August 22, 2010

August 22 (1 Corinthians 6:19)

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own. (NIV)

“It is my body, so I can do what I want with it. “It is my life, so let me do what I want to do.” Sound familiar? We hear these statements all the time from the halls of our schools to the corridors of government, from the nightly news to the so-called news of the entertainment world. The Christian response to any such statement is, “No, it is not.”

It is not your body and it is not your life. Life is a gift wrapped in a loaner package. Every breath we draw and the tiniest hair on our heads belong to God, whether or not we follow Christ. For those who do claim to follow Him, there is the addition of the Holy Spirit, Who transforms the gift and life we have from God into His very temple on earth.

So what are you doing with the temple of God that you actually are? Has it become a billboard to flaunt your sexuality in the way that you dress? Has it become the local dump where you toss fat- and calorie-laden junk made of high fructose corn syrup? Is it a place from which flows the love and grace of Christ? Is it a source of truth and love among those in its neighborhood?

Father, I am grateful indeed for the gift of life and the gift of the body that I have. Forgive me for the many times when I used these gifts for nothing more than my own pleasure and at times even for the intentional pain of others. May Your Holy Spirit flow from me in all that I do, say, and think. In the name of Christ Jesus, my Lord, I pray. Amen.

Copyright © 2010 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, August 15, 2010

August 15 (Matthew 6:10)

Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. (NIV)

For many Christians, this is a prayer of request for blessing. We are suffering in a particular way and are sure that this must not be the will of God, Who we are sure would want us to enjoy only a smooth, comfortable life. Therefore, we pray that His will be done, for in this we are confident that our situation will improve.

St. Cyprian, a third century Christian leader and writer, saw it a bit differently. He wrote that we do not pray for God to do what He wants, but that we may be able to do what God wants, for he rightly points out that no one can block the will of God. We, however, are often blocked by Satan and our own sinful nature. We need divine assistance to do what God would have us do. When we pray for the will of God to be done on earth as in heaven, we are praying that God will grant us the grace to be like angels, who without hesitation do His bidding. We are praying for the grace to be like Christ Himself, Who was obedient to the will of our Father to the point of death.

Father, forgive me when I have treated the riches of Your blessing as a storehouse of magical cures for whatever ails me. Help to focus not on my own sufferings, but on You and Your perfect will. May Your will be done through me, a ready and willing vessel made in Your image and purified through the blood of the Lamb for accomplishing Your good works. Amen.
Copyright © 2010 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, August 8, 2010

August 8 (2 Corinthians 7:1)

Let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God. (NIV)

I still wear my Vacation Bible School shirt from earlier in the summer, and when I do, I am quite conscious of it. I am aware that when I go out for a burger or to the home improvement store, I am wearing a shirt that has the name of my church on it, one that advertises my faith. I would like to think that I would act the same no matter what I wore, but I am keenly focused on my behavior when wearing that VBS shirt. Paul says we should think like this all the time.

We do not hear a lot of talk about holiness these days. It has become too associated with being holier-than-thou. Yet Paul teaches us that we must strive to perfect our holiness because we love and respect God, and he tells us how to do it. At the end of the preceding chapter of 2 Corinthians, he states bluntly that we are not to do what unbelievers do. We must purify body and spirit. We must not do what unbelievers do or think as unbelievers think. God makes a claim on every aspect of our lives.

So how do you look when you go out in public? Do you behave, talk, and think as a Christian? How do you look in the privacy of your home? Do you behave, talk, and think as a Christian? How do you look when there is no other human being around? Do you behave, talk, and think as a Christian?

Gracious Father, I stand convicted for not living the holy life to which You have called me. Too often I surrender to my base emotions. I ask forgiveness in the name of Jesus Christ and call upon Your grace through Him that by the power of the Holy Spirit I may live a holy life in honor of You. Amen.

Copyright © 2010 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, August 1, 2010

August 1 (Mark 1:35-37)

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!” (NIV)

Do you ever feel as if everyone is looking for you? You have responsibilities to your boss, to your spouse, to your children, to your extended family, to your friends, to your church, to your bill collectors…where does it end? All of those are important responsibilities, too. They are good responsibilities, and we must meet them well.

Yet not one, not one of them, is more important than the work that Jesus came to do. It does not matter who is waiting for that report at work or who has left that voice message demanding a call back. Jesus came to seek and save the lost. Nothing we have to do trumps that.

So what did Jesus do when everyone was demanding a piece of Him? He arose early, before the work of the day got started, and prayed. We all go through seasons of greater or lesser spiritual devotion. We need to be reminded every so often that this time of prayer and being with God is invaluable. To put it bluntly, Jesus had more important things to do than you ever will, yet He set aside time for His Father. Will you?

Father, I have grown lax in my relationship with You. It is easy for me to drift into other things, things I think are pressing and demand my attention. Help me to put every aspect of my life into a proper perspective, beginning with You at the center. Grant me the grace to discipline my life by spending time with You. In Christ, my Lord, I pray. Amen.

Copyright © 2010 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, July 25, 2010

July 25 (Hebrews 4:14)

…we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God…. (NIV)

When we were young, we wanted a friend to ask the teacher our question or to approach the person we liked sitting two rows away. As we grew older, we recognized the value of having someone to put in a good word for us when it came to getting a job or buying a house. To this day, my wife prefers for me to make certain phone calls for her or to answer the phone from an unidentified caller.

In essence, this is what a priest does. He speaks for us, on our behalf. As Moses learned, we cannot look directly upon the Presence of God. In our sinful state, we would be instantly consumed by the burning light of His perfection. Yet with Jesus, we have a priest Who pleads for us, Who argues our case, Who defends us against the slanders of our enemy.

This may not seem like much of a blessing in our do-it-yourself age. We want to be self-sufficient. We think we can do it all ourselves, but just how many failures do we need to experience to know that this is not true? I am a weak and incredibly needy person. I have to have someone who can present me before God, who can take the shabby and dog-eared pages of my resume and make me look good. How grateful I am that this someone is my Savior, my Lord, my Brother, Jesus Christ.

Lord Jesus, You know what I truly need, despite all that I babble about in prayer. Present the deepest needs of my heart to our Father. Draw me closer to Him. By Your grace, transform me ever more into Your likeness. Amen.

Copyright © 2010 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, July 18, 2010

July 18, 2010 (1 Chronicles 17:1)

After David was settled in his palace, he said to Nathan the prophet, “Here I am, living in a palace of cedar, while the ark of the covenant of the LORD is under a tent.” (NIV)

We are often so minimalist in our approach to the Christian faith that we think as long as people have access to a Bible, their Christian needs have been met and the work of God has been accomplished. Yet how much time, energy, thought, money, and resources do we put into our children’s sports teams, endlessly renovating our homes, or arranging for our entertainment? Are we doing all we can for our Lord if our churches cannot offer even cost of living increases to their staff, if the only Christian education in town is one hour a week on the weekend, or if counseling, poverty, and domestic problems are left to be addressed solely by government agencies?

We do not earn our way to salvation and we do not earn God’s love by doing good works. On the other hand, how much do we love Him if we are doing the bare minimum to serve His people? Would you really believe your parents, your children, or your spouse loved you if they did only enough to stay on your Christmas card list?

O Lord, You are so gracious to me, pouring forth blessings into my life beyond what I can imagine, and this on top of the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ. What would You have me do with the talents and blessings You have given me? Into what part of Your kingdom work would you direct me? I am ready to do all that You command. In the name of Jesus, Who gave all for me, I pray. Amen.

Copyright © 2010 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, July 11, 2010

July 11, 2010 (Isaiah 30:1, 2)

“Woe to the obstinate children,” declares the LORD, “…who go down to Egypt without consulting me; who look for help to Pharaoh's protection, to Egypt's shade for refuge.” (NIV)

We live in a world with various types of governments, and these are necessary. They serve a purpose and can be quite good in ordering life for their citizens. Yet no government is the source of all our needs, and we invite God’s anger when we look to human organizations as the source of our protection and refuge.

God is our rock and our salvation. He is the only good and therefore the only source of what is good and needful in our lives. Too often His people, the Church, have stopped living out their call to be salt and light in the world. Tasks that should be performed by the body of Christ have of necessity been picked up by governmental and other secular organizations. The result is that needs once served with the love and grace of our Lord are now provided in ways that do not acknowledge Him and at times bring more harm than good.

Think for a moment. What areas of your life are provided for by non-Christian organizations? What would it look like if you could receive those things through the Church? What talents has God given you to see to it that those things are in fact offered through the Church? What will it take for us to stop going to Pharaoh for our needs?

Lord, forgive me for living as if You are but one aspect of my life when in fact You are the very ground of my existence. Show me how to use what You have given me to build up the body of Christ so that it may truly be the light on the hill, able to welcome all who hunger and thirst. In the name of Christ Jesus, my Lord, amen.

Copyright © 2010 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, July 4, 2010

July 4, 2010 (Isaiah 30:1)

“Woe to the obstinate children,” declares the LORD, “to those who carry out plans that are not mine, forming an alliance, but not by my Spirit, heaping sin upon sin.” (NIV)

No one builds a house and then draws up the architectural plans. Even children know that you first have to open the freezer, then take out the ice cream, scoop it, and finally eat it. There is an order to doing things, and most Christians want the Lord to be part of that order. We go on the Internet to research the best places to stay, order our tickets, stop the mail, tell our neighbors we will be gone for a week, and then pray for the Lord’s blessing on our vacation. We think we are being faithful, when in fact we are closer to heaping sin upon sin.

God is not a genie in a bottle. He is not a magic talisman to be used when we need a blessing. Jesus taught us to pray that God’s will be done on earth as in heaven. This means that our plans must align with His. It may be His will that we travel to a certain place, make a certain purchase, marry a certain person. It may be His will that we do a particular thing for our children or enter into a particular business agreement. Yet we will not know if we do not seek His will before doing any of those things. We must align ourselves with His will and not try to strong arm Him into our plans.

Where is God in the order of things you have planned for today? If He is not first, then you have set yourself ahead of Him, and that is a dangerous place to be.

O Lord, my God, You are so gracious to me, heaping upon me grace and mercy beyond my comprehension or merit. May I seek Your will in all that I do. May my life be ever more conformed to that of my Savior, Jesus Christ. Through me, may Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.

Copyright © 2010 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, June 27, 2010

June 27, 2010 (Isaiah 30: 15)

For thus said the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” (RSV)

Reaching. Straining. Grasping. We are a yearning generation, yet we know not for which we truly yearn. We are on a mad dash through life grabbing everything we can to distract us from our pain and from our sin. We snatch games, sports, books, websites, television, movies, relationships, food, clothes, drink, cars, houses, pets, jobs, stuff, more stuff, and even more stuff. Sometimes it is the objects we seek that we hope will satisfy us. Other times it is the frenzied activity of snatching that we hope will dull the pain of life.

Now replace the word “we” with the word “I.” Each one of us gives in to this frantic lifestyle, some more than others. Yet the answer to being saved from the sin and suffering of life, the way to restore our strength is so much simpler. It is to return to the Lord. Another term for this is repentance. We return and rest in Him. We shut off the blooming, buzzing confusion and trust in Him. Jesus Himself confirmed this promise when He said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30, RSV)

Seriously, what are you waiting for?

Gracious and loving Father, I surrender my thoughts, my desires, and all my plans and activity to You. I long to sit at Your feet, knowing deeply in my soul Your love for me. Forgive me for when I have sought a cheap counterfeit in the things of this world. Restore to me the joy of my salvation in Christ Jesus my Lord. Amen.

Copyright © 2010 by Steven R. Perkins

Monday, June 21, 2010

June 20, 2010 (Mark 8:36)

What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? (NIV)

Most of us seem willing to forfeit our souls for much less. We neglect to tend our souls while in pursuit of academic or athletic trophies that sit on a shelf and gather dust. We compromise the integrity of our souls to sell more widgets in business or to gain the attention of an attractive person whose name we do not even know. Why do we do it?

There is not a lot of talk about souls these days. We focus exclusively on what can be seen, even in church sometimes. Yet there used to be a way of talking about people that referred to them as souls. A ship captain would say that he had two hundred souls on board under his care. Such a figure of speech kept the focus on the fact that we are a duality, neither pure spirit nor pure flesh, but a combination of the two. As surely as we tend the one, we must tend the other.

Father, Who sent Your Son, the eternal Word, into the world to take on human flesh, help me to remember that I am both a spiritual and physical person, created in Your image. May I not neglect to care for one part of Your creation in the pursuit of another. In the name of Christ, my Lord, amen.

Copyright © 2010 by Steven R. Perkins