Sunday, December 25, 2011

December 25 (Luke 2:11)

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.  (KJV)

There is no gift we will open on Christmas day as great as the one wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger.  There is no meal we will eat so sumptuous as the body and blood of which we partake in holy communion.  May we all live as grateful recipients of such costly blessing.

In the words of the heavenly host, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”  Amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, December 18, 2011

December 18 (Matthew 2:13)

And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.  (KJV)

Herod is the quintessential bad guy.  After all, who wants to kill a child?  The answer is you and I.  We may see Herod as the embodiment of evil, but we have all wanted to kill the baby Jesus.

God became flesh for the reason of our salvation.  By His death on a cross, we have been brought to life.  Yet He would never have needed to suffer that death had we not sinned.  The simple, unpleasant fact is this.  Every lie we tell, every act of greed we indulge, every lust we fulfill is grounds for the crucifixion of Christ.  When we sin, we are saying that we would rather the baby in the manger have suffered and died than that we should do what is right.

We rightly revile Herod and all who seek the death of innocents.  We do well to remember Herod each time we are tempted so that we do not do again what he did.

Father, I thank You so much this Christmas for sending Your Son to be my savior.  Strengthen me with Your grace that I may not sin against You.  In the name of my blessed Lord Jesus, Who with You and the Holy Spirit reigns as one God, now and forever, amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, December 11, 2011

December 11 (Matthew 2:11)

And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh.  (KJV)

What do you get a baby who has everything?  Shopping can be so difficult when you are trying to find the perfect gift for the King of kings!  The gifts of the magi were symbolic, and God continues to want this kind of gift.  He wants us to give in ways that symbolize and show our love for Him.

So what can you give Him for His birthday that fits this bill?  He has already given you whatever it is.  You see, He has given each of us certain gifts that He wants us to use in His service.  Are you an encourager or someone who can explain things clearly?  Do you have great gifts of patience or the ability to see needs?  Look past your resume and grade transcript for a moment.  What has God gifted you to do?

Pull back from the daily grind and consider where you could use the special gifts that God has given you to serve His people.  As you put those gifts to good use, you will be giving Him what He really wants, not just for Christmas, but for every day of your life.

Lord, what gifts have You given me?  Help me to see them clearly so that I may use them to Your glory.  In the name of Jesus, my Savior, Whose birth we all celebrate, amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, December 4, 2011

December 4 (Luke 1:13, 30)

But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias….  And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary….  (KJV)

There is not much to fear when we wish someone a merry Christmas.  More often than not, Christians are the ones who are afraid to utter the C-word in December lest someone be offended.  Yet when the angels appeared to announce the birth of John the Baptist and Jesus, they had to tell Zechariah and Mary not to be afraid.  What is going on here?

The word “angel” simply means “messenger.”  Messengers from God were fearsome beings, yet when they approached humans, they did not water down their message or do anything to disguise it or themselves.  They simply said, “Do not fear,” and proceeded to deliver the message.  They spoke with the authority they had been given by God.

We, too, are angels in the sense that we are messengers of God.  He has entrusted to us the Good News of Jesus and has given us the authority to take it to others.  We must never water it down or approach our task with embarrassed hesitation.  We must be bold and confident, for ours is a message that must get through.

O Lord, our God, You have given to weak creatures the awesome task of being angels.  Strengthen us for our calling.  May we boldly share Your love and grace and light and truth with a dark and hurting world, just as the angels did in the time of Zechariah and Mary.  In the name of our most holy Lord Jesus we pray.  Amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, November 27, 2011

November 27 (Psalm 1:2)

But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.  (KJV)

I once read a description of a teacher reciting a poem for her class.  She encountered the words like old, familiar friends.  Is this how it is with you and Scripture?  Do you read and re-read the stories and the teachings, coming back to them with welcome familiarity, yet always finding something new?

We have a great many study aids at our disposal.  We have study Bibles and specialty Bibles for different aspects of life.  There are countless Internet tools to help us understand the original languages and the geography of the biblical stories.  Yet what we need most sometimes is simply to read and re-read.  We need to savor the stories, dwell in them, and realize that they have not ended.  We are living the next chapters of the story that started with Adam.

As we approach Christmas, read that most familiar of stories again.  Reconnect with old friends like Mary and Joseph.  Consider reading a part of the Bible with which you are less familiar, not from the perspective of learning facts, but with a view to adventure.  What new delights await you in a lesser-known book?  Rediscover your delight in God’s word.

Lord, what a precious gift You have given us in the Bible!  Help me to see it with fresh eyes and to find my joy within its pages of poetry and drama, of which I am a part.  Amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, November 20, 2011

November 20 (Ruth 1:16)

And Ruth said, “Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.”  (KJV)

If you go to stay with a friend, even for a short time, there are certain things you can expect.  You know that you will eat at some new restaurants, see some new sights, and in general get a glimpse into how your friend lives.  Your own life will change as you adapt to sleeping in a new environment and following a different pattern of life.  The same would be true if a friend came to stay with you.

What would your friend see about your relationship with God?  When Ruth said that she would stay with her mother-in-law, Naomi, she also knew that her life would change, and one of the expectations was that she would follow Naomi’s God.  In the ancient world, religion was a defining aspect of a person’s life.  Is your relationship with God a defining aspect of yours?  Would a non-Christian friend experience life differently for spending time with you, or would you hide this aspect of your life in an effort not to offend?

More than our jobs, our ethnicity, or our favorite sports team, our relationship with God must be the single most significant defining aspect of our lives.  There should never be a question in the minds of our friends what to expect from us in this regard.

Father, I want my light to shine before others so that they may glorify You, just as Jesus commanded.  Help me to live faithfully to you at home, at work, and at play.  Give me the grace and courage to live for You when I am alone and in public.  In the name of Jesus, my Lord, I pray.  Amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, November 13, 2011

November 13 (Luke 2:49)

“Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?”

Our church has multiple worship times throughout the weekend, and we usually attend on Saturday evenings.  This weekend, however, I was out of town, and our son had a basketball function, which he attended with my wife and daughter.  What she called to tell me on my way home humbled me.  The basketball function let out just a bit earlier than they had expected, and our son, who is eleven, asked if they could go to church.

Mary and Joseph were surprised to find their son in the temple, but Jesus was surprised by their surprise, wondering why they did not know that He would be about His Father’s work.  Perhaps adults are astonished when children say such things because they have become a bit jaded about worship or doing the work of God.  For us, it may have become simply one more thing to do in a long and growing list.  God uses unlikely voices to remind us of the important things.

What gets in the way of doing your Father’s business?  Is serving and worshiping Him the most or least likely thing someone would find you doing?

Father, restore to me the innocent surrender of youth, that with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength, I may serve and worship You.  In the name of Jesus, Who never lost sight of His Father’s business, amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, November 6, 2011

November 6 (Genesis 18:23)

And Abraham drew near, and said, “Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked?” (KJV)

Life in Sodom had become so corrupt that God was intent upon destroying the entire city.  Abraham went to God and began to plead on its behalf.  We pray for ourselves and we pray for families and friends, but when was the last time you prayed for your city, your state, or your country?  Do you pray for your company and the school your children attend?

Not only is it not enough for Christians to wring their hands over the world’s woes, it is a waste of a powerful weapon.  We have the privilege of going to our Father in heaven at any time of the day or night, and Jesus encourages us that whatever we ask for in His name will be done (see John 14:13-14 and John 15:16).

What major problems of the day are you aware of, problems far outside your scope to address?  Are you bothered by the slaughter of abortion, a burgeoning porn industry, and anti-Christian sentiment?  Are you pained by the violence in foreign countries and our inner cities?  Jesus has invited each of us to do what Abraham did.  We can intercede in all these matters, confident that our Father will hear us.

Father, I come before You now with a heavy heart, burdened by the sins of our day.  As I lift these cares to You, inspire me with Your Holy Spirit to be Your hands and feet in the world.  I know that You will act in these areas.  Show me how I can help.  In the name of Christ Jesus, my Lord, amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, October 30, 2011

October 30 (Luke 9:62)

And Jesus said unto him, “No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”  (KJV)

There is only one God, Who has revealed Himself as Trinity.  This one God wants all of us…our thoughts, our words, and our deeds.  In the verse for day, we see that He wants us all the time.

Perseverance can be one of the most challenging aspects of being a Christian.  We think of Lot’s wife, who looked back at their home, despite being told not to do so.  We think of those disciples who followed Jesus only until His teachings became too hard for them (see John 6).  If you are reading this devotion, then you have put your hand to the plough to serve in the Kingdom of God and to follow Jesus.  What causes you to look back?  Is it fear or worry?  Are there temptations that are too enjoyable to give up?  Is it sickness, exhaustion, or just the daily grind?

God has not called us to a life that we cannot live.  If there are things that distract us from Him, He already knows what they are.  Ask Him to reveal those things to you so you can then surrender them to Him.  He will make you fit to the task of the persevering life in Christ.

Lord, I have such good intentions.  I want to do this or that for You, only to find myself distracted or falling back into old habits.  Help me to see nothing but You, Lord.  Give me the strength to live all of my life, every day, only for You.  In the name of Jesus, my Savior, Who persevered for my salvation all the way to Calvary, amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, October 23, 2011

October 23 (Mark 12:30)

And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.  (KJV)

Last week we looked at the exclusive nature of God, that there is only one God, and He has fully revealed Himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Should it come as any surprise that the one and only God wants all of us?

The people and organizations in our lives know that they must share us with others.  I want to give as much of myself as I can to my family, but during the hours of the workday, I am not giving directly to them.  They may benefit from my salary, but my boss has the right to claim my attention during those hours.  The same goes with the time I spend with friends, other relatives, and at the store talking with the clerk.  My time and attention are divided.

God says that when it comes to a relationship with Him, there can be no such divisions.  We are giving Him our heart, soul, mind, and strength in every circumstance.  He does not just get our attention during worship at church or during our private devotional time.  When I am working for my boss, I must do so in ways that please God.  When I am with friends and family, I am not away from God.  He wants all of me, and He wants me all of the time.

O Lord, forgive me for the times when I treat You as if You were merely another person in my life, one to whom I will give my attention when I can get around to it.  I want You to be my all in all.  Help me to give my all to You in everything that I do, say, and think.  In the name of Jesus, my Savior, I pray.  Amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, October 16, 2011

October 16 (Jeremiah 10:10a)

But the LORD is the true God, he is the living God, and an everlasting king.  (KJV)

Studies show that some people leave the Christian faith because of its exclusivity.  We live in a world that values all things, even when they are contradictory, and we are told to be tolerant of everything.  Churches that preach that the God of Christianity is the only God seem out of step with contemporary culture.

This is nothing new.  Those who follow God have always been out of step with their culture.  Ask the Jews in Babylon.  Ask the Christians in ancient Rome.  Ask the Coptic Christians in Egypt today.  That there is only one true God, revealed fully in Jesus Christ, is not something a fundamentalist church made up.  It is what the Bible teaches and Christians for two thousand years have acknowledged.

What is it about the Christian faith that is most uncomfortable to you?  Is it the mysterious nature of the Trinity, or the call to love your enemies?  Is it that there is only one true God, or that we must give our time and money to serve the poor?  Our faith will always be at odds with the world around us.  The call of Christ is a difficult one, but when you stop to think about it, would you want to follow anyone else?

O  Lord, help me to be strong in living out Your calling of me.  May I be a light to others, so that they may see Your truth.  May nothing about You be a stumbling block for me, but may I always be willing to follow You, even unto death.  In the name of my Savior Jesus, Who did just that for me, I pray.  Amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, October 9, 2011

October 9 (2 Timothy 1:7)

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.  (KJV)

Scripture tells us to fear God and that such fear is the beginning of wisdom (Psalm 111:10).  Yet worldly fears are crippling.  They usually start by believing a lie, such as that we are not good enough or that no one loves us.  From there the fear builds, and like a spreading vine, it begins to choke off life.  It leads to ever greater degrees of control as we seek protect ourselves from what we fear.  If left unchecked, it can produce death.

I know.  Not long ago, certain fears had begun to choke the life out of me.  Praise be to God, when I took those fears to Him, He showed me their roots, and when I laid those roots before Him, He took them away.  He freed me of fear and restored to me a spirit of power, love, and a sound mine, enabling me to see things clearly and as they really are.

What is it that troubles your soul?  Would you not like to be free of it?  Our Lord promises that a fearful spirit does not come from Him.  Lay before Him your worries and let Him restore you to peace by His grace.

O Lord, I could sing of Your love forever!  Truly, Your grace is amazing, and I thank You for restoring my soul.  Give me the strength in my weakness not to rely on my own strength, which is nothing but weakness, but to lean on Your strength, and so be truly strong.  In the name of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, I pray.  Amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Steven R. Perkins

Monday, October 3, 2011

October 3 (Jeremiah 23:1)

Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the LORD. (KJV)

When we hear of a church scandal or the sinful actions of a church leader, it is tempting to want a return to a purer time, when the faith was new and the Church was young.  Unfortunately, such a pristine state never existed.  Even in the days of Jeremiah, there were pastors who did more harm than good, and when you think about it, this makes perfect sense.

God works through human beings.  He built His Church on Peter, a man who denied he even knew Jesus.  It is foolish to think that those who serve God are perfect.  They are not.  They face the same temptations as the rest of us and, thanks to our shared sin nature, they will at times yield to that sin.

Claiming that the sin of a church leader is keeping a person from the Christian faith or being part of a church is a copout.  It is also being hypocritical, for why should we demand those around us to be perfect when we fall short ourselves?  We must always judge the Church and the Christian faith from the perfect standard of Christ and His word.  Our obedience must be to Him, no matter how much His servants may let us down.

Lord, may I never be an obstacle to anyone enjoying Your grace by my sinful actions.  Likewise, may I never doubt You because of the actions of another. In the name of my perfect Lord Jesus, I pray. Amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, September 25, 2011

September 25 (1 Samuel 8:22)

And the LORD said to Samuel, “Hearken unto their voice, and make them a king.” (KJV)

The people of Israel wanted a king. God said no. He instructed them to have judges, for He knew that a king was likely to become tyrannical. The people of Israel asked for a king. All the nations around them had kings. God said no. He had just led His people out of the land of Pharaoh, an oppressive ruler, and He did not want this for His beloved children. The people of Israel demanded a king, and God told Samuel to make them one.

What is going on in this story? Is this about badgering God until you finally get your way? Does it depict God as some kind of pushover? This is one of the most horrific and terrifying stories ever told, and today’s verse contains perhaps the most frightening words in the Bible. This story shows that when people are determined to rebel against God, He will let them.

Our loving Father knows what is best for us. He created us, knows all things, and loves us enough to let His Son die for us. If, however, we say that we do not want His gifts and reject His will for our lives, He will not use His mighty power to make us do what is right. He will simply let us go.

O Lord, my God, do not give me over to my worst impulses. Save me from myself. Help me to trust Your good and perfect will and to follow You all the days of my life. In the name of Jesus, Who was obedient even to the point of death, I pray. Amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, September 18, 2011

September 18 (Leviticus 20:23)

And ye shall not walk in the manners of the nation, which I cast out before you: for they committed all these things, and therefore I abhorred them. (KJV)

Christians work at gas stations, banks, and schools. We cheat, get divorced, and abuse alcohol. Some of us drive trucks, while others drive minivans. We use cell phones and drugs. In short, there are those who call themselves Christians who do the same things, good and bad, that everyone else in our culture does.

Where do you draw the line? Most of us enjoy our communities. I love the city and state where we live, and I am quite happy to be an American. Because I enjoy my communities, the large and the small, it is easy for me to think that the patterns of life in those communities are good. It becomes natural for me to think, act, and speak like those around me.

God reminds us in this verse that the ways of life of our workplace, our neighborhood, and our country are not the ways of life for those who follow Him. He has called us to be salt and light in the world (see Matthew 5:13-14). We must stop every so often to examine our lives. Are we representatives of God in the world, or are we indistinguishable from it?

Father in heaven, forgive me when I begin to adopt the easy ways of the world around me. Strengthen me for the life of Christian faith that calls me to walk against the ways of the world rather than with them. Help me to be the salt and light You have called me to be. In the name of Jesus, my Savior, I pray. Amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, September 11, 2011

September 11 (Psalm 33:12)

Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance. (KJV)

Today is a day for remembering. It is a time to recall heart-wrenching tragedy and loss along with heroic deeds. It is a time to tell stories of those who pressed on in the face of overwhelming grief and fear not only to continue living, but to forge a new life.

It is also a time to remember the events of September 11, 2001.

While the worst attack on this country in a generation and the heroism that followed demand our remembrance this day, even those events do not supersede the crucifixion of Christ Jesus and the faith that was forged by His followers. No genocide, no act of terror was worse than what your sin and mine did in causing the death of Christ. No deeds of bravery have produced more change in the world than those of the first disciples. As we honor the fallen and the heroes of 9/11, we must never forget that their stories and ours are part of a much larger story whose most significant chapter was written at Calvary.

Lord, we praise You in the midst of painful remembrance. As we recall horrific and heroic acts, may we see everything through the light of our Savior, Christ Jesus. Help those who follow You be lights themselves for Christ throughout our nation, that we might become a nation whose God is the Lord. In the name of the risen Christ we pray, amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, September 4, 2011

September 4 (Matthew 6:33)

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. (KJV)

Death. The economy. Job insecurity. Relationship difficulties. In which of these areas are you facing struggles? In which of these areas are you facing multiple struggles? As I think about my friends, family, and even my own life, I see that we all face challenges most of the time. There comes a point where we have to say with Scotty in the old Star Trek show that we just cannot give the engines any more.

Jesus knew this. He knew in the first century that we in the twenty-first would suffer the same challenges and difficulties that His friends and family were facing, and He gave us amazingly simply help. Look away. Stop looking at all that threatens you and turn your gaze upon God. Do not look seek a way out of difficulty and challenge, but seek first His kingdom and His righteousness. It is amazing what this change of perspective accomplishes.

Is this not being irresponsible? It is actually both responsible and irresponsible. It is responsible to the only One to Whom we owe a response and irresponsible to what should at best have a secondary claim on our lives. It is a proper ordering, or for most of us a re-ordering, of our lives.

O Lord, my God, black thunderclouds sit on the horizon and threaten to overwhelm me. Turn my eyes from the storm to the One Who is light from light, true God from true God, my own savior Jesus Christ. Help me to seek Your kingdom and righteousness, confident that You will supply all that I need. In the name of Jesus and in the power of the Holy Spirit, I pray. Amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, August 21, 2011

August 21 (Matthew 27:55-56)

And many women were there beholding afar off, which followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering unto him: Among which was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s children. (KJV)

Who was doing the laundry while these women were watching the crucifixion? Who was tending to the children, preparing the meals, or taking care of the homes? Women in first-century Judea were just as busy as anyone today, yet they had abandoned their duties for something more important.

Does this mean that tending to the basics of life is unimportant? Certainly not. It reminds us, however, that no matter how pressing we may think some things are, there are others that demand our immediate and complete attention to the exclusion of all else. What are the things that seem important to you? What are the tasks that occupy most of your time? Now ask yourself whether those are the most important. Even if they are not, it does not mean you will stop doing them. It does mean, though, that you can view them in a proper perspective.
For what would you be willing to set aside the typical activities of your life?

Father, thank You for the example of these women who saw what was truly important in life. Help me to see my life as You see it, understanding what is important, what is unimportant, and what is truly necessary. May I do all, but only, what You would have me do. In the name of Christ Jesus, my Lord, amen.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

August 14 (Philippians 1:6)

Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. (KJV)

What happens when you have gone some distance in your walk with Christ and begin to drift? What happens when you continue to fall into sin? What happens when the blazing joy of first knowing your Lord begins to fade?

One thing that does not happen is that God does not drop you like a hot potato. He does not finally, after giving you so much grace and so many opportunities, wash His hands of you. Whatever He has started in you, He will see through to the end, and Paul says we should be confident about this.

Pause for a moment and let those words sink in and then let the deep truth of those words penetrate your heart. It does not matter if you cannot see God from where you are. He can see you. It does not matter if the fire of your love has cooled. His love for you never wavers. It does not matter if you think you are making no progress in your spiritual life. Your loving, heavenly Father is the one Who will see you through to the end.

O Lord, my God, I am humbled when I think for even a moment about Your boundless love and unshakable promises. I stake my confidence on You, the author and perfecter of our faith, as I face what lies before me. In the name of Christ Jesus, my Savior, I pray. Amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, August 7, 2011

August 7 (Mark 1:35)

And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed. (KJV)

It is summer vacation, and I have been stuffing myself, just gorging on all my favorite things. I have been going hog wild doing all that I cannot do during the work year. For me this means spending as much time humanly possibly playing with our children, reading, and writing. These are certainly not bad things. In fact, they are quite good, and I have enjoyed going at them full bore, trying to do as much of what I love as I can for as long as summer lasts.

I have, however, allowed my prayer and devotional life to slip. Instead of following my normal schedule of rising early to pray and read Scripture, I have fallen back into praying here and there with no regularity. The same is true with reading the Bible, and I miss it. Or rather, I miss Him. I miss God and the times of intimacy with Him. He, of course, has gone nowhere, but I have drifted.

I am reminded of this verse from Mark, describing Jesus. He never got so caught up in the affairs of the day that He failed to remain in closest communion with His Father. I look forward this week to returning to my normal practice. I look forward to reconnecting with my heavenly Father. How about you?

Father, draw me closer in Your loving arms. Help me to slow down, be still, and know that You are God. In the name of Jesus, our Lord, I pray. Amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, July 24, 2011

July 24 (Nehemiah 8:3)

And he read therein before the street that was before the water gate from the morning until midday, before the men and the women, and those that could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive unto the book of the law. (KJV)

Can you imagine standing for hours, other than to get tickets for some event or to cash in on a Black Friday sale? I cannot imagine most of us paying any kind of attention to the books of the law, that is, the first five books of the Old Testament, without getting bored and skipping on to the more exciting parts.

What does it say that the Jews stood from morning until midday and did not just hear, but listened attentively to, the books of the law being read? It suggests only one thing. They believed in God. We may say that we believe in God, attend church, and do various Christian things, but pause for a moment. If we truly believed that there was a God at all and then believed that He had spoken, nothing would be more important to us. Nothing. For many of us, reading the Bible is just one other among a number of good things we try to do. It is on the list along with getting an oil change, having a six month dental check up, and paying our bills on time. Yet if this is our attitude toward the Bible, then we do not truly believe in God.

We are perhaps too enchanted with the advancements of the modern age. Blinded by smart phones, the Internet, and satellite movies, we would do well to be marveled again by God. There is no one and nothing like Him. He alone is omniscient, omnipotent, and worthy to be praised. He alone has spoken to each person on the planet individually and to all of us collectively, and what He has spoken lies between the covers of your Bible.

Lord, forgive my casual attitude toward the precious gift of Your words and at times even toward Your Word made flesh, my Savior, Jesus Christ. Restore to me the wonder and awe of You that our ancestors had. Fill me with delight in all that You have to say. In the name of Christ Jesus I pray. Amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, July 17, 2011

July 17 (John 2:9)

When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom. (KJV)

Why is it that some people can understand the acts of God for what they are, but others cannot? It is true that God can harden a person’s heart as He did with Pharaoh, but there can be a simpler explanation. Those that understand God have a relationship with Him.

In the story of the first miracle that Jesus performed, the servants were there for the whole thing. They listened to what His mother, Mary, said to them and then they followed His direction. The governor of the feast was nowhere around. When we know people well and have spent time with them, we understand the things they say and do far better than a stranger would.

Take a quick gut check. How is your relationship with Jesus? Are you close to Him, spending time talking with Him and listening to Him? Remember, He has never moved away from you.

O Lord, my God, I want to be closer to You. I want to see all that You have to show me, to hear Your words to me, and to follow all that You would have me do. I turn back to You today, Lord. Amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, July 10, 2011

July 10 (Ezra 3:2)

…as it is written in the law of Moses the man of God. (KJV)

At the beginning of the movie Gladiator, Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius speculates with his most trusted general about how the world will remember his name. Will he be known as the philosopher, the warrior, or possibly even the tyrant? Most of us do not ask that question, but it is good to consider. If you were to die today, how would you be remembered? Would it be for things that you had done, words you had said, relationships you had developed? Would it be for things you had owned? Most importantly, do you like the thought of the answer?

The verse for today is almost a throw away. It comes in a passage about building an altar to God and is not really about Moses at all. Yet the words jump out at us…Moses the man of God. Replace the name of Moses with your own. What phrase would most likely follow it? What would it take for you to be known as a man or woman of God?

Gracious heavenly Father, I know that we do not live for titles or to honored by others. Still, I would like to be known the way Moses was, not for the glory, but because I want my life to be so completely focused on You. Help me to weed out what is unimportant and distracting in my life and turn my eyes completely on Jesus, my Lord. It is in His name I pray, amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, July 3, 2011

July 3 (Daniel 6:5)

Then said these men, “We shall not find any occasion against this Daniel, except we find it against him concerning the law of his God.” (KJV)

If someone wanted to trick, trap, or harm you, how would he do it? Where is the chink in your armor? Is there a particular weakness or secret sin that could be the way to do you in?

When the leaders who served under King Darius of the Persian empire wanted to discredit Daniel, they realized that there was no way to do it. Their only hope was to set up a law opposing the law of God, for they knew that Daniel was so faithful he would obey God rather than the king.

I would love for that to be the case about me. I would love to live my life in such a way that it was completely honorable, with no crack through which someone could discredit me. On top of that, I would like very much to be known as a man that, if push came to shove, would obey God before anything else. Can what was true of Daniel be said about you?

Father, thank You for giving us examples like Daniel. May I follow in his footsteps, never surrendering to the culture around me, but always standing faithful to You. In the name of Christ Jesus, my Lord, Who was faithful to the point of the cross, amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, June 26, 2011

June 26 (Luke 18:13)

And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. (KJV)

This is the man whom Jesus lifted up as an example, a tax collector with a reputation for cheating people out of their hard-earned money. This man knew how to confess. He knew how to repent. We may know a great many things about technology and how to advance in the world, but do we know how to confess and repent in the way our Lord approves?

Humans are the pinnacle of creation, made in the image of God. Yet humans are sinners, and so am I. My life may have all the marks of success, but not a day goes by that I do not sin in thought or word or deed, and often in all three. I need to acknowledge who I am, a sinner redeemed by grace, and I cannot focus properly on the grace and give proper glory to God without first admitting that I am a sinner.

O Lord, my God, You know every thought that passes through my mind, yet I must confess to You my sins. I have not done the things I should, and I have failed to do what You command. Of my own merits, I deserve nothing but punishment. Thank You, heavenly Father, for allowing Your Son, my Lord Jesus, to take that punishment for me. Restore me to a righteous life, one that can bring true glory and honor to You. Amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, June 12, 2011

June 12 (Matthew 25:30)

And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (KJV)

Audio version available here.

Our children love to snuggle with both mommy and daddy. Even our son, who is all boy, loving swords and basketball and Legos, likes to be close to us. It is natural for children to want to be near their parents, and few things are as hurtful to a child as separation from a parent for any reason.

We learn in the first chapter of John that God is light. References to darkness, therefore, are about utter separation from God. Think about that for a moment. Try to imagine being separated from God forever and never feeling His presence or His love. Imagine knowing that there is nothing you can do to enter into His presence again and that the cold darkness will never end. Ever. Truly, there would be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

It is worth contemplating hell, if only because it causes us to run toward our Father, Whose arms are open and waiting for us. It is good for us to long for His Presence and to want to be ever closer to Him. It is, after all, what children do.

Father, I want to be closer to You today. I am deeply sorry for the things I have done that have pushed me away from You. I reject everything in my life that could separate me from You and run with my all my heart toward You. In the name of Jesus, my life and my light, I pray. Amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, June 5, 2011

June 5, 2011 (Ephesians 5:3)

But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints. (KJV)

Audio version available here.

It is increasingly difficult to distinguish a Christian from a non-Christian. Our language and behavior tends to mimic that of the culture we are in rather than stand out as a contrasting example of a better way. We want to be just enough of a Christian to enjoy the fellowship of church and get that warm, fuzzy feeling from doing good things for others, but when it comes to our private lives, that is another matter.

Yet, as the saying goes, Jesus is either Lord of all or He is not Lord at all. That means I cannot dress however I want. In a land of free speech, my speech is limited. There are things I am called to do and things I must not do, however much I and those around me may enjoy them.

We are entering summer, a time when many of us take vacations. While we take time for those activities that recharge our batteries, will we take a vacation as well from acting like the Christians we claim to be?

Father, it is easy for me to slide into behaviors that are not pleasing to You. Give me the strength I need to stand against all temptations. May my life be an example to others of what You want from Your followers. In the name of Christ Jesus, to Whose lordship I have surrendered, amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, May 29, 2011

May 29 (Luke 22:19; 1 Corinthians 11:26)

And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. (KJV)

For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come. (KJV)

It is right that we remember this weekend those who have died in the service our country, helping secure a place where we can be free. In no other place in the history of the world have people enjoyed a particular freedom that we have in the United States, the freedom of religion. We are free to practice our faith without interference from any agent of the government.

What does that mean for Christians? Among the many things, it means we are free to obey our Lord’s command without fear of reprisal. We can consume His body and blood in the form of communion without fear of being arrested for cultish or cannibalistic practices. And when we do this, it has an effect beyond our own blessing. As Paul reminds us, whenever we partake of this memorial meal that our Lord instituted, we are proclaiming to the world His death. In other words, when we remember Christ Jesus in the way that He instructed us to remember Him, we become the servants of His evangelistic message. The Good News is shown to the world when we remember Him through bread and wine.

Once again, God demonstrates His incredible love for us. Not only does He bless us through the celebration of communion, He uses this distinctly Christian event to bless those who do not yet know Him by giving them a picture of what He has done for them.

Gracious heavenly Father, how great is Your love for all mankind! We honor and praise You as we remember the sacrifice of Your Son at Calvary, a sacrifice necessary to secure our salvation and to send the Holy Spirit into our lives. We glorify You and Your Son, our Lord Jesus, along with the Holy Spirit, the one God of all creation. Amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, May 22, 2011

May 22 (James 2:15-16)

If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? (KJV)

This is part of the famous teaching on faith without works. It is so famous that perhaps it has suffered from the contempt that familiarity breeds. Christians are among the best at serving. We have outreach ministries at our churches, food pantries, and assistance programs. We collect clothing for children in foreign countries and we give of our time and money.

If we think that this has fulfilled the teaching of Scripture, however, we are mistaken. Pause for a moment and look at the people we often do not see, those closest to us. We may spend a Saturday at an inner-city home restoration, but what needs do our elderly neighbors and relatives have? We collect canned goods for the food pantry, but is there a co-worker going through hard times who could use a meal?

Of course we must not stop reaching out to those whose names we will never know. In doing so, we must not neglect those whose names we do.

Lord, it is so easy for me to get caught up in the fast pace of life that I fail to see those around me. Help me to see with the eyes of Jesus and to move quickly to serve anyone whose need would have caught His eye. Amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, May 15, 2011

May 15 (Psalm 68:5)

Audio version available here.

A father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows, is God in his holy habitation. (KJV)

With a word God spoke the blazing heat of stars into creation. With His breath He created the intricacies of the subatomic world. There is no human language capable of expressing the extent of His power.

What does it say, then, that He is a father to orphans and sees to the needs of widows? In the human realm, what kind of person does it take to parent an orphaned child? Can you imagine the care, love, and tenderness? For all of His vast and creative power, for all of His judgment of what is right and wrong, God is also a father of the fatherless and a judge for widows. Can there really be anything you are facing that He, as your Father, will not care about even more than you do? Is there anything that He will not help you with?

Father, I tremble at times to call You by that name. You are so awesome and mighty. I sometimes feel that You are too far from me to care about the troubles I face. Embrace me in Your love. Help me to know that You are indeed my Father. In the name of Jesus, I pray. Amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, May 8, 2011

May 8 (Revelation 2:4-5)

Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works… (KJV)

I can still remember what it was like when I first fell in love with Jesus. In the summer between 8th and 9th grade, I was baptized. In those years, and those that immediately followed, I was passionate about my faith. I loved reading the Bible. Christian music was all I listened to. My thoughts were constantly on God and how I could live a life faithful to Him.

Do you remember what it was like? Can you recall the white-hot passion you felt when your faith was new? How long has it been since you felt that way? In the decades that have followed my first love, my relationship with Christ has gone up and down. I have drifted, come back, drifted, come back. He, however, has never changed. He still stands at the door and knocks.

The verses for today are quite clear. If you have drifted, stop where you are. Remember what you once knew and felt. Repent and start again. Our Lord is always eager for us to renew our relationship with Him.

Lord, it has been some time since I was as committed about my relationship with You as I once was. Forgive me the adulteries of my heart when I chase after things that do not matter. Draw me once again into Your sacred heart. I long to burn with love for You. Amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, May 1, 2011

May 1 (Romans 8:26)

Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. (KJV)

What an incredible blessing this is! God the Holy Spirit lives within us. He prays for us when we do not know how or for some reason cannot pray.

Have you ever gotten to that point? Have you ever been so stricken with illness, so overcome with burdens or worries that words just will not come to your lips? The Holy Spirit knows. He dwells in our hearts and He knows. He will pray for you. Just as God the Son while on earth prayed to God the Father, so God the Spirit continues to pray for us. Think about that for a moment. God is praying for you!

Lord, there are times when I just do not know what to say. Too many burdens press in upon me. Hear the prayer of the Holy Spirit. Graciously accept the words of His intercession for me. In the name of Jesus I pray. Amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, April 24, 2011

April 24 (John 20:28)

And Thomas answered and said unto him, My LORD and my God. (KJV)
Christ the Lord is risen today! Alleluia! Easter is a day of celebration. It is time for dancing in the streets as David did before the Ark of the Covenant. Our sins have been forgiven and death itself has been conquered. We should arise with the sun and wear ourselves out until sunset with praise and celebration of Jesus.

We must also remember that this act of triumph over death was the act of our Lord and our God. Just how mighty must He be to reverse the irreversible? Just how powerful must He be to die, preach to those who were already dead (see 1 Peter 3:18-20), and ascend, first to earth and then to the right hand of His Father in heaven? As surely as our Lord was fully God and fully man, so our celebration and joy must also be humble and full of awe. There was never before a god like our God. There is not now and there never will be again. He Who created nature has reversed its laws for our sake. This is the God Who calls us to be His friends.

Copyright © 2011 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, April 17, 2011

April 17 (Romans 5:8)

But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (KJV)
It is quite easy to believe that when we sin, God will not love us. This reaction is written deeply into the human heart. A young child will burst into tears over a broken cookie jar, and adults will wonder why the extravagant reaction. Deep inside, the child knows he has done something wrong, something against the will of parents who love him, and now that love may be at risk.

This reaction does not go away, even for the mature Christian. Having lived in good relationship with God for a period of time, we suddenly stumble into sin. Suddenly we become the child with the cookie jar. We love our Lord so much and are, rightly, crushed that we have sinned yet again. Yet we must remember this powerful verse. We were sinners when Christ died for us. We never did do anything to earn His love and grace and were actually His enemies through sin when He reached out to us.

And the love and grace of Cavalry have not changed.

O Lord, my God, forgive me my sins, for I have continued to sin against You not only in what I do that I should not, but in what I fail to do that I ought. Help me to know Your grace and restore me to a right relationship with You. In the name of Jesus Christ, Your Son, my Savior, amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, April 10, 2011

April 10 (Psalm 44:1)

We have heard with our ears, O God, our fathers have told us, what work thou didst in their days, in the times of old. (KJV)

Do the stories of the Bible form the weave for the narrative of your life? Do the events of the Israelites or the episodes in the life of Jesus come to your mind and your lips as you think and talk about your own life? In order to understand something, we relate it to something else that we know. To what do you relate the circumstances of daily living? The Bible is our story, from the description of the Israelite exodus out of Egypt to the lives of the early Christians in Acts.

Yet it is not just for ourselves that we relate our lives to those of our biblical ancestors. We must do so as a way of preserving those stories and making them part of the living heritage of the next generation. We exert a small, but important influence on everyone with whom we come into contact. When our friends and relatives hear the biblical foundation in our casual speech, they begin to absorb the biblical worldview.

Of course, having the biblical stories as the foundation of our lives can only happen when we know those stories. Put aside the study guides and extra books for a moment and delve back into the Bible itself. Read the stories straight through as you would any other story. In the stories of our biblical ancestors you will find your story as well.

Father, it is so easy for me to relate my life to nothing more than my own preferences. Help me to develop a more historic and faithful view of life. Help me to see where my life fits into the grand story that You have been telling since Adam. In the name of Christ Jesus, my Lord, amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, April 3, 2011

April 3 (John 8:58)

Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am. (KJV)

Our fourth-grade son’s small group at church recently began a lesson on the divinity of Jesus. I asked them whether, upon discovering that I was actually the President of the United States, a king, or the richest man in the world, they would treat me differently. They immediately agreed that they would.

Jesus is indeed our friend (John 15:15) and a great teacher (John 13:13), and we will relate to Him in certain ways because He is those things. Yet if we do not grasp fully His divinity, then we run the dangerous risks of blasphemy and error. Failing to acknowledge the divinity of Christ keeps some from centering their lives around Him and giving Him the glory that is His due. It also leaves them open to embracing other beliefs, as if all religions were the same. Many religions teach similar principles, but the distinguishing tenets of Christianity stand on one fundamental truth, that Jesus is God. With this in mind, hear again the words of Jesus to His disciples.

But whom say ye that I am? (Matthew 16:15)

O Lord, my God, may my life ever be one of humble adoration before You. May I never lose sight of Who You are, the God of all Who humbled Himself to take on flesh and die in my place. Help me to live in a right relationship with You and thereby live in a right relationship with the world. In the name of Jesus Christ, Who with the Father and the Holy Spirit reigns as one God, forever and ever, amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, March 27, 2011

March 27 (Luke 9:23)

And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. (KJV)

The student council at the large public high school where I teach hosts Safe Decisions Week every year just before Spring Break. It is a week filled with posters and videos urging students not to drink while driving, not to take drugs, and to be sure to practice safe sex if engaging in sex at all. As good as the intentions are behind such a campaign, it is misguided on two levels. It presumes that the only reasons for not engaging in certain behaviors are the practical ones, e.g. you may die, you may get hurt, you may get pregnant. It also suggests, by emphasizing one week out of the year, that safe decisions are not something to think about the other 51 weeks.

The reason for not engaging in destructive behaviors is simply that they bring dishonor to God. By abusing our bodies, we abuse the temple of the Holy Spirit. To engage in premarital sex is to violate the will of God for our lives. These and many others are things we must think about not one week out of the year, not only as we make New Year’s resolutions, not only when we have a moment of conscience, but daily.

Make no mistake, following Jesus is a daily decision. We have been baptized once, but it is a daily choice to take up the cross of right living, the cross of rejection from society, the cross of humbly asking forgiveness for dropping the cross yesterday, and continuing to follow our Lord.

My Lord and my God, strengthen me to carry the cross that You have called me to bear. When I waver, hold me up and make me firm in my walk. If I stumble, help me to my feet. Grant me the grace necessary to bring You honor in all that I say, think, and do. In the name of Christ Jesus, Who bore the cross all the way to Calvary, amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Steven R. Perkins