Sunday, December 30, 2012

December 30 (John 21:3)

“I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them.  (NIV)

Christmas can be so much fun that when it is over, the letdown can be rather dramatic.  We have enjoyed some time off from work to be with family and friends.  Perhaps we have had a chance to reflect on what really matters in life.  The thought of going back to work and resuming daily routines may seem deflating.

The wonderful thing about the Christian life is that it is rooted in the daily and the ordinary.  If we think a bit of Christmas vacation is an emotional high, try living with Jesus for three years.  The disciples had experienced greater things than we ever will this side of heaven, and then it all came to a halt.  Jesus was dead.  What now?  Peter’s return to his job of fishing reminds us that life goes on and that this is a good thing.  The highs, the lows, they are all part of the great pageant of life, and of course, as we see a few verses later, Jesus is present in even the most mundane moments.

God has redeemed every moment of every day for His purposes.  As you return to the workplace and the patterns of everyday life, remember that the joy of Christmas is not contained in tinsel and lights.  It is grounded in the realities of life on earth, and the babe in the manger became the risen Savior who walks with us still.

Thank You, Father, for the days of rest and celebration surrounding the birth of Your Son, Jesus.  As I go back to the work to which You have called me, may I work to Your glory, doing all and only what You would have me to do.  In the name of Jesus, my Savior, I pray.  Amen.

Copyright © 2012 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, December 23, 2012

December 23 (Matthew 1:24)

When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. (NIV)

December 23 will always having a special meaning for me. It is my parents’ wedding anniversary. When I was a boy, I always bought them specialty coffee and found Christmas-themed anniversary cards. For me, Christmas will always be associated with the wedding of my parents.

While our attention is properly on Jesus, it is also important to remember that He did not grow up in isolation, nor did He appear fully grown and ready to work miracles. God saw to it that the One Who was to take on our sins first took on our complete humanity.

The marriage of Joseph and Mary is, therefore, vitally important to the Christmas story. This marriage provided for the divine Jesus all that was necessary for His growth and development as a human. He experienced the primal form of community, the human family, and He experienced the many facets of love, from the romantic to the sacrificial. In his parents He saw the extent of humanity, the very humanity He had come to save.

Father, thank You not only for Jesus Himself, but for the stories of His life. Thank You for the models we have in Joseph, Mary, and the disciples of how to live a life centered around Him. May our own lives likewise have Him as the focus. Amen.

Copyright © 2012 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, December 16, 2012

December 16 (John 11:35)

Jesus wept.  (NIV)

Where does one begin?  With thoughts of gun control laws?  With questions angrily hurled toward God?  With calls for security?  With outrage?  With confusion?  With fear?

It is hard to imagine anything more heinous, more evil than the slaughtering of innocent children in their classrooms just before Christmas.  It is a wrenching reminder that evil exists, not as an abstract concept for philosophical debate, but as a real force that manifests itself in murder, rape, theft, abuse, and destruction.  This is something easy to forget in a land of shopping malls and smart phones that offer up to us every whim of our hearts, treasures just for the asking.

In the unspeakable tragedy of the Sandy Hook slayings, we see the heart of Christmas.  God has never been under any illusions regarding the evil His children can willfully embrace.  For this reason, He sent His Son to enter into our pain and suffering, to take upon His innocent shoulders the just penalty for our atrocious acts.  We may blithely ignore evil, but God never has.  Yet He will not use violence to wrest from us our free will in an effort to rid the world of violence.  Instead, He sends His Holy Spirit into hearts, leading them gently toward love.  And when people reject Him to commit the most vile acts, His heart breaks along with ours.

O Lord, comfort those whose hearts are bleeding with unspeakable pain.  Breathe your grace into their lives.  Send them the peace and comfort of Christ, Who died in innocence and rose again that all of us might have life.  Amen.

Copyright © 2012 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, December 2, 2012

December 2 (Luke 2:1)

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.  (NIV)
Our family recently took in a Bethlehem Walk at a local church.  For years this church has set up a re-enactment scene in which visitors travel toward Bethlehem as part of a larger family.  We encountered angels singing praise to God, Roman soldiers who demanded taxes and identification papers, and all the sights and sounds of daily life in the ancient city.  What struck me the most was the encounter with the Romans.  They were harsh, and we had been warned to keep our heads down and not to make eye contact with them.
Many of our brothers and sisters in Christ could well relate to what Mary and Joseph had to experience.  They know the daily experience of living in a land of violence, where arrests, beatings, and death openly occur as a result of a person’s faith.  We had the opportunity to experience this in the most meager of fashions, as a historical re-enactment.  What if the very real threat of oppression hung over our Christmas preparations?
As you put out lights and decorate your home in proud declaration of the birth of Jesus, take a thought for our brothers and sisters in the faith who could be tortured or killed for whispering His name.  If you feel the Holy Spirit speaking to you about how you could be a blessing to persecuted Christians in our own age, visit, the website of Voice of the Martyrs.  For thousands of Christians around the world, persecution does not come in the form of a costumed re-enactor.  It hovers over them as a daily presence.
Father, bless Your children who suffer physically, emotionally, financially, relationally, and in any other way for their faith in Your Son.  Protect them from harm and bless their witness, that even their persecutors may come to know the One Who was born to die for them.  In the name of our precious Savior, Christ the Lord, amen.
Copyright © 2012 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, November 25, 2012

November 25 (Psalm 119:81)

My soul faints with longing for your salvation, but I have put my hope in your word. (NIV)

It is easy to praise God in the good times, to be confident in our hope in Him. Where is your focus when year-end responsibilities are piling up and money is tight and schedules are packed and you are not sure what to buy for relatives or when you will even have time to go shopping? Do the words of Scripture and the praises of song come to your lips when relationships are going from bad to worse and illness threatens and surprise repair costs threaten a strapped budget?

Putting hope in God is the act of a warrior. When we hear others singing praise, we may even want to walk away. It may feel as if it would take a crow bar to open our lips, which have been shut with pain and grief. Do it anyhow. Sing through gritted teeth if necessary. Read that passage of Scripture even if you think you are getting nothing out of it and other thoughts are crowding your mind.

David wrote many of the psalms while under incredible fear and stress. The practices of the faith…prayer, study, praise…these are things that keep us strong. Never give up the work of putting your hope in God. Consider it an act of rebellion against the enemy who wants nothing more than to separate us from God, Who loves us

Father, it is difficult sometimes to go to You. I feel blocked, separated, overwhelmed. Restore to me the joy of my salvation. Create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within. By a great act of will, I choose to put my hope in You. In the name of Jesus, my Lord, amen.

Copyright © 2012 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, November 18, 2012

November 18 (Acts 7:54-55)

When they heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. (NIV)

A man named Stephen spoke the truth and became the first Christian martyr. By telling people what they did not want to hear, he incurred their wrath. They killed him, even as he kept his eyes fixed on the glory of God.

There have been and continue to be countless martyrs for the faith, those who are willing to die so that others may know the truth. I think of Polycarp, who in A.D. 155 was told by the government to renounce Christ and worship Caesar. This elderly man told the governor that if he wanted to find out what it meant to be a Christian, he need only pick a day and Polycarp would be happy to teach him. They burned him at the stake in the middle of the arena. On January 1, 404, a man named Telemachus made his way down from the stands of the Colosseum in Rome to stop a gladiator fight amidst the jeers of the crowd, who wanted their bloody entertainment to continue. He was murdered in the sight of thousands.

To what arena has God called you? There are many things that pass for normal, acceptable, and enjoyable that are repugnant to God. Christians who seek the will of God know the truth. Will we speak it? Would you be willing to lose a friendship or offend a family a member to share the truth in love? Would you risk losing your job? Stephen, Polycarp, Telemachus, and all those who lost their lives for the truth knew that such strength comes from God.

Father, let me not be swayed by fear when it comes to speaking the truth about You. Help me to share Your words boldly and with grace that others may know Who You really are and the life You want with them. In the name of Jesus, Who willingly died so I could be Your son, amen.

Copyright © 2012 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, November 11, 2012

November 11 (1 Timothy 4:7-8)

Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly.  For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.  (NIV)
Let us be quite clear.  Being godly is not natural.  It was once, but after that whole incident in the garden with Adam and Eve, things changed.  We may like to think that we are good people, but if we want to have any hope of that being true, we have some work to do.
The most natural thing in the world for me is to do what I want to do.  That is my default mode of living.  I have to make a conscious effort to not eat that fifth slice of pizza or to go to bed instead of watching a movie I have already seen countless times.  The same is true in my training for godliness.  I must choose each morning to read Scripture before preparing for my day.  I must choose to go to church, even when I do not feel like it.  I must choose to give of my time and my money to serve the purposes of God.
What is your training regimen?  Is the reading of Scripture a part of your daily life?  Do words of praise regularly come to your lips?  What would a look at your checkbook and calendar reveal about your life?  No matter where we are in our training for godliness, we must keep up the good work.  If we truly love our Lord, we will want to be like Him, and that takes work.
Father, thank You for Your grace for the times when I grow slack in my training to be like You.  Keep me on the right path, that one day You may say of me as You did Jesus, “This is my beloved child in whom I am well pleased.”  In the name of my Lord, Jesus, I pray.  Amen. 

Copyright © 2012 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, October 28, 2012

October 28 (Mark 12:17)

Then Jesus said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” And they were amazed at him. (NIV)

As we near the end of the election season, many will be glad that it is over. From the national to the local level, many contests have been more contentious than any before. What is a Christian to do in the midst of such high stakes animosity?

One thing we must do is play our proper role as citizens. Jesus made it very clear in the verse for today. When it comes to taxes, voting, and other activities that support the structure of our society, we must do our duty. Yet we must always do that and every other duty from the position of those whose allegiance lies to another kingdom and another King. We must, even as we do our civic duty, give to God what belongs to Him.

What is it that God requires? The answer is simple. He requires complete surrender and submission to His will. A Christian must always vote not on what will give him a better life, but on what is consistent with the will of God. Nothing else should shape our political behavior. Nothing else should shape our lives.

Father, give us wisdom as we prepare to vote for the leaders of our land. What do you want us to see? What do we need to know to make decisions that will be pleasing to You? In matters of our government as in the rest of our lives, we pray that Your will would be done on earth as it is in heaven. In the name of our only Lord, Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

Copyright © 2012 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, October 21, 2012

October 21 (John 21:7)

Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. (NIV) Peter was one impulsive guy. Sometimes this was good, as when he was the first to acknowledge that Jesus was Lord. Sometimes it was bad, as when he sliced off the ear of a soldier who had come to arrest Jesus. Yet his heart was always the same. He loved his Lord and would do anything for Him. The moment he heard that it was the risen Jesus on the beach, he did not wait to row the boat to shore. He grabbed his shirt, jumped into the water, and started swimming. Is that how it is with you? Do you respond that quickly when you hear the voice of God? Evil people can get others to respond quickly out of fear. Peter responded with haste because he loved his Lord. He heard that He was near and could not wait to be with Him. Is that how it is with you? God speaks to us through His word, the Bible, and through the Holy Spirit, Who dwells within us. It is important to learn how to distinguish His voice and presence from the random thoughts of our own minds or the lies of Satan. If the voice makes you want to run toward it, you can be sure that is the voice of God. Lord Jesus, kindle in me the fire of Your love. Make my heart burn for You and for nothing else. May I, like Peter, be eager to follow You anywhere. Amen. Copyright © 2012 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, October 14, 2012

October 14 (Isaiah 58:13-14)

“If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the LORD’s holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the LORD, and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.” The mouth of the LORD has spoken. (NIV)

Many, if not most, of us shoehorn our time with God into our busy schedules. We pray in the shower, listen to Christian radio while driving to a meeting, and do our ten minutes of due diligence reading the Bible each day. On the one hand, this is good. Our time with God should be woven into the fabric of our daily lives. We should be communing with Him in the midst of our most mundane activities.

Yet when was the last time you gave a day to God? When was the last time you gave him a full hour of your time? A church retreat can provide the occasion for intimate, dedicated time with God, yet He Himself has invited us to just such a retreat once a week. Think for just a moment of what it would be like to spend a day not rushing around doing things you have to do or even cramming in all the activities you enjoy. Imagine a day not going your own way or doing as you please, but finding your joy in the Lord.

If that sounds good to you, it should. You and I were made for Sabbath rest with our Father Who loves us. He is waiting for you. What are you waiting for?

Oh, Father, I long to be with You, to spend even a few moments in the midst of a hurly burly life in Your presence. Lead me beside quiet waters. Make me lie down in Your green pastures, for my cup has run low. In the name of Jesus, I pray. Amen.

Copyright © 2012 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, October 7, 2012

October 7 (1 Corinthians 2:2)

For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. (NIV)

There are times when I think I really have it together. I am husband and father, a homeowner, and successful at what I do. I know how to handle car trouble and can do basic repairs around the house. All in all, I think I have a fairly good bead on things.

What a joke. I can become as frightened as a little kid and after decades of following Christ, I am still learning what it really means to be a Christian. For all the pride I like to take in my own abilities, I need to come back to nothing but Jesus Christ. I constantly have to strip away the false beliefs and misplaced confidence that seemingly grow up over night. Who am I, that God should be mindful of me?

Spend some time chipping away at the things that have encrusted your life. It may be activities, ambitions, or your interpretations of the Christian faith. Come back to Christ, and Him crucified. Let Him, and nothing else, lead and guide you once again.

Lord Jesus, show me the weakness in my imagined strength that I may stop living on what does not give me life and turn again to You. In Your holy name I pray, amen.

Copyright © 2012 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, September 30, 2012

September 30 (1 John 1:9)

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (NIV)

God wants everything to be clear and clean between you and Him. He wants your relationship to be perfect. In the book of Revelation, He speaks to different churches, affirming the good things they have done, but concluding with the one or two things that are wrong. Some may think God is just nitpicking here. Is it not good enough that we go to church, give to the poor, and read our Bibles? What does He want from us?

The answer is that He wants perfection. Of course, we cannot attain perfection on our own. This is why, out of His unimaginable store of love, He provides a way for us even when we fall. We must confess our sins to Him. He already knows them, but do we? Do we become complacent with our sharp or foul language? Do we become casual with our anger or lust? God wants us to confess to Him our sins. He wants us to be so close to Him and His perfect standard that we know what a sin actually is. Unlike a fellow human being, when we do confess how we have offended Him, He will not reject us. He will forgive us and purify us, restoring us to the perfect relationship with Him that He desires.

So what is your desire? Do you long to hear from God? Do you crave the close intimacy you once knew? Ask Him to reveal the places of sin in your life and with repentance confess them to Him. He really does want you back.

Father, a barrier has grown between You and me because of my sins, those things I should have done that I have not and those things I should not have done that I have. Forgive me, Father. I never wanted to separate myself from You. Draw me closer and restore a right spirit within me. In the name of Jesus, Who makes this grace possible, amen.

Copyright © 2012 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, September 16, 2012

September 16 (Luke 9:23)

Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." (NIV)
I hold the North American land speed record in two events, turning from God and sinning. I can turn from God in the blink of an eye, and I have been known to sin in a heartbeat. Make no mistake. I love God with all of my heart, soul, mind, and strength. When I am focused on Him, my heart burns with a love so hot it could dwarf the sun.

Ah, but there is the catch. When I am focused on Him. Like every person who has lived since Adam, I have spiritual attention deficit disorder. I know and believe that He provides for me, yet it is amazing how quickly I will resort to my own strength. I know and believe that He wants what is best for me, yet the speed with which I will do what I want would make your head spin.

Think about how much of the Bible is devoted to people returning to God. He constantly called the Israelites to stop what they were doing and turn back to Him. The whole mission of Jesus was to show people how they could be restored to God. Fortunately for us, God is even quicker to take us back than we are to leave Him.

Dear God, just when I think I am making some progress in my relationship with You, I slide back. I try to fight the world in my own strength. I give in to sin. Forgive me, Father, I pray. Once again, I surrender to You and take up my cross to follow Your Son, Jesus, in Whom I pray. Amen.

Copyright © 2012 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, September 9, 2012

September 9 (1 Thessalonians 1:4)

For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you. (NIV)

You do not have to be a follower of Jesus Christ. In fact, the chances are very good that you could be living a very different life right now. Somewhere along the way, you heard about Jesus. You learned of something called the Church and the Bible. You found out about baptism and communion. Your heart was inflamed with a passionate love for Jesus, and you chose to follow Him. It did not, however, have to be that way.

Can you think of anyone who grew up with you who does not follow Jesus? Do you know anyone who went to your school, works with you, or in any other way has a life similar to yours who does not serve Him?

I do not know why God allowed me to have the parents I did, parents who taught me the Scriptures from an early age and took me to church. I do not know why I was blessed with Sunday School teachers as a child and brothers and sisters in Christ as an adult who could guide me on the way. I do not know why I have been blessed with the gift of faith and a deep love for God. What I know is this. I am grateful, I owe Him everything, and it is a debt I am delighted to spend my life paying.

Dear God, thank You for blessing me to know You. Thank You for all those who have taught or guided me in the Christian faith. Knowing You is the greatest blessing of my life. Please show me how I can thank You with my life. In the name of Jesus, my Savior, amen.

Copyright © 2012 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, September 2, 2012

September 2 (1 Corinthians 1:23)

but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.  (NIV)
Some translations render the last part of this verse as "foolishness to the Greeks" because the Gentiles, or non-Jews, were largely Greek-speaking peoples thanks to the conquest of Alexander the Great.  In the ancient world, Greeks were synonymous with philosophers.  Even today when we think of philosophy, the first names that come to mind are Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle.
Think about that for a moment.  The centerpiece of our faith is not a philosophy.  It is not a collection of wise sayings helpful for living daily life.  We do not follow a philosopher.  We serve a crucified Lord.  Before His role as teacher or healer, Jesus Christ was God in the flesh.
I do not avoid wrong and do right because it is logical.  I do not help the poor because it is the ethical thing to do.  The actions of my life are shaped and judged wholly by a person, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, Jesus Christ.  I must never let my faith devolve into a set of dry and dusty rules to be followed as if I were the disciple of a school of philosophy.  I am a disciple of Christ.
Jesus, may my love for You burn hotter each day as I serve You, walk with You, live with You.  You are the author and perfecter of my faith.  In You alone I live and move and have my being.  Glory be to the Father and to You and to the Holy Spirit forever!  amen.

Copyright © 2012 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, August 26, 2012

August 26 (Deuteronomy 5:28, 29)

The Lord ... said to me, “Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always, so that it might go well with them and their children forever!

God loves you.  He wants things to go well for you.  He has given us all the directions so that this can happen.  It really is that simple.

Of course, a thousand and one other things come into the picture to ruin it, including other people who do not know God and our own cranky selves, but take a look at what these verse actually say.  They are a picture of God's extraordinary love for us.  He truly does care for us and want our best.  We may want to blame Him when things go wrong, but we really have no cause to do so.  He has turned our lives over to us, giving us completely free will whether to obey Him or not.  If He had His way, we would all obey Him all the time, and things would go well for us and our children.

When we pray with Jesus for the will of God to be done on earth as it is in Heaven, we are praying for our own blessing.  God's will is that we live in harmony with Him, for He truly does love us.

Father, it is easy to point to others, and even to You, when things go wrong in my life.  Help me to take a closer look at how I am living.  Show me if there is any place where I am not following Your commands.  I want to obey You in all things.  Amen.

Copyright © 2012 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, August 19, 2012

August 19 (Deuteronomy 1:32)

In spite of this, you did not trust in the LORD your God. (NIV)

The Israelites had seen with their own eyes how God loved them and cared for them. They had been eyewitnesses to His passing over their homes and sparing their children while claiming the lives of the first born among the Egyptians. They were there when He parted the waters of the Red Sea, allowing them to proceed safely on dry land. They had followed His pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night, which guided their journey. Yet when they were on the verge of entering the Promised Land, they balked, unsure of whether to trust the Lord's provision.

It is easy to mock such lack of faith from the long view of history, but how often do we also doubt His leading? Think for a moment. Where have you seen God at work in your life? Begin listing the things He has done for you, the things He has shown you. Now think about an area of life where you are hesitant to trust Him fully. Is the area of your doubt really so much greater than all His proofs of love and provision in your life, to say nothing of the countless proofs of His love and provision in the lives of those around you and in the pages of Scripture?
There was a consequence for the lack of faith among the Israelites. God allowed them to wander in their doubt for forty years until the entire generation had passed away. It would be the children of that generation who would inherit the land.

Father, forgive my lack of trust in You. You have shown me countless times how much You love and care for me. Help me to step out on my faith, a faith that is supported by Your strong arms. In the name of Jesus, Who trusted You to the cross and then to glory, amen.

Copyright © 2012 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, August 12, 2012

August 12 (John 21:17)

Do you love me?  Feed my sheep.  (NIV)

Do you enjoy getting caught up in singing praise to the Lord?  This is good, for He deserves our praise, and praising Him restores our souls.  Do enjoy getting lost in His word, in deep contemplation of His mysteries, or in heady discussion of His teachings?  This is good, for such things equip us for the work He calls us to do.  Yet if you truly love Him, there is one thing He asks of you.  Feed His sheep.

When Jesus reinstated Peter to relationship with Him after the resurrection, He asked him three times whether Peter loved Him.  Three times Peter said he did, and three times Jesus replied that he must feed and care for His sheep.  We do what our loved ones want because it makes us happy to be around them.  We do what they want because it pleases us to see them pleased.  We do what they want even when we do not feel like it simply because we love them.

Jesus has said it quite simply and directly.  If we love Him, we must feed His sheep.  However wonderful our praise and study may be, this is what He has called us to do, if we love Him.  If the measure of your love were to be based on your service to God's people, which includes those who do not know Him and those who outright reject Him, what would your love look like?

Jesus, I claim to love You more than anything, and I do.  Show me the areas around me where You are working so that I may join in that work.  I want to be closer to You and serve as You call me to serve.  Amen.

Copyright © 2012 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, August 5, 2012

August 5 (Acts 17:28)

For in him we live and move and have our being. (NIV)

I love watching the Olympics. I enjoy watching sports that I do not ordinarily get to see, and I thrill to the stories of athletes who achieve what no one has achieved before. Part of the pleasure for me is seeing the connection with the ancient Olympics and witnessing the grand play of history.

To be an Olympic athlete requires dedication, focus, and complete surrender to one thing. It requires an intensity most of us never know. This is unfortunate, for it is the kind of life proper to a Christian. In Christ Jesus we live and move and have our being. He is it. He is everything. He is our first and last thought at work. He is the reason we mow the grass. Our relationship with Him determines how we spend fifty cents at the discount store, why we choose a college major, and how we interact with strangers, family, and friends. He is the ground and goal of our being.

Is this how you live? For most Olympic sports there is an age after which one cannot hope to be successful. For the Christian life, there is always another chance. If your life does not reflect the kind of intensity implied by the verse today, what are you waiting for? Get into the game today.
My Lord, I love You more than anything or anyone else. May my life reflect my devotion to You in its smallest details and in its greatest acts. I want my life to be nothing but years of lived glory to You. Amen.

Copyright © 2012 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, July 29, 2012

July 29 (Matthew 14:30)

But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” (NIV)
Jesus beckoned to Peter to walk toward Him on water. Peter saw the wind and began to sink. We often look at this story as a reminder that we must not let distractions keep us from following Christ. Stop and think, though. Peter was already walking on water when he became fearful of the wind. It is true that the cares of the world may prevent us from even getting out of the boat, but sometimes, as in the case of Peter, we have been walking by faith for some time when the wind hits.

The challenge for many Christians is in keeping the faith. You may actually have been doing a great job for quite a while. You do not worry about finances. You give your cares to the Lord. You do bold things to serve the Kingdom, things that would be unreasonable in the eyes of the world. Congratulations! You have been doing just what God has asked of you.

If you find yourself floundering, however, flailing wildly just to keep your head above water, relax into the arms of our Savior. He will help you up and get you walking on water again. In fact, you are in a great position, because He can remind you of your experience in trusting Him already. Never for one moment allow the enemy to steal that experience from you. Trust in Him and what He has already enabled you to do and get back into the game.

Lord, I realize that I have let my focus drift, yielding to fears and worries that I once would have surrendered to You. You have always guided me to do more than I possibly could have on my own strength. I surrender again to Your might, Your love, and Your grace. Lead me on, even through restless waters. In the name of Christ Jesus, I pray. Amen.

Copyright © 2012 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, July 22, 2012

July 22 (1 Corinthians 9:24)

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. (NIV)
Christian musician Rich Mullins once sang, "Love's not a feeling. Oh, we've got to learn to get past our emotions to the meaning of the word." 1 John 4:8 tells us that God is love, but it is easy for us slip into a saccharine, emotional understanding of love. From there it is a quick step to lazy, careless Christianity.

Love is tough. It is strong. It is powerful. It was what held the arms of God to a cross on our behalf. Living this way takes serious effort and training. What do you need to do? Do you need to get back into a pattern of Scripture reading and study? Stop making excuses and do it. Do you need to pray more regularly, surround yourself with praise music, or exercise the muscles of servanthood by getting out and serving? Stop making excuses and do it. Complacency is not an option for a follower of Christ.

The Olympics are around the corner. How much time and effort do you think the athletes spend honing their skills? Do you think they are ever satisfied with their performance, no matter how many gold medals they have won? Why would we be content with an hour or two at church and a general habit of being nice? There is so much more we can be as Christians. Paul reminds us that we have to maintain our training.

Lord, I admit that I have grown soft. It is easy for me to think that I am living a good enough life, forgetting that You have called me to more than that. You have called me to be like Jesus. Give me the courage to live His kind of love. Train me to live and serve well. In the name of Christ Jesus, my Savior, amen.

Copyright © 2012 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, July 15, 2012

July 15 (Psalm 51:12)

Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. (NIV)

Can you remember what it was like when you first fell in love with Jesus? I was a teen, and it was a thrilling time. I listened to contemporary Christian music, read my Bible, and felt as if I could conquer the world with and for my Lord. How do the days of your first love compare with today?

No matter what your situation, things will come along to dim and dull your relationship with Christ. The heady days of your salvation blend into the days of paying the bills, racing to put gas in the tank on the way to church, searching for the remote control.

Would you like to recover the joy you had when your relationship with Jesus was new? You can, because on His end of things, the relationship has never changed. He is just as much in love with You as He ever was. His plans for You are the same, and He longs for you to enter the grand adventure of true life with Him. Perhaps you, like David, need to pray a prayer of restoration.

My Lord, I want to love You with the white hot intensity that I once did. I confess that my love has cooled. Forgive me for letting other things get in the way. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me. In the name of Jesus, whom I love, amen.

Copyright © 2012 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, July 8, 2012

July 8 (John 21:-21-22)

When Peter saw him, he asked, "Lord, what about him?" Jesus answered, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me." (NIV)

One of the most successful tactics Satan uses against us is persuading us that God is not good and does not love us. You may say this has never worked with you, but ask yourself whether fear, doubt, and worry have ever crept into your life. If they have, then it is likely you took your eyes off God, trusting more in your own ability because you did not fully trust His.

So why do we do it? One reason is that we begin to look at the suffering of others and think that if God did not love them enough to help their situation, He will not help us. When it comes to the suffering of others, however, no one can ever fully know the details and circumstances. We must not look to the life of someone else as our model of Who God is. As the old hymn said, we must turn our eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.

What is preventing you from seeing Jesus and nothing else? Can you dare, if even for a moment, to look not at that obstacle, but gaze into the face of the One Who loves you?

Lord, as You did with Paul, clear the scales from my eyes so that I may see You for Who You really are. Give me the grace to let go of those things that keep me bound in fear, doubt, and worry. I put my trust fully in You. In the name of Jesus, my Lord, I pray. Amen.

Copyright © 2012 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, July 1, 2012

July 1 (Matthew 7:11)

If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! (NIV)

Jesus does an extraordinary thing by using human parents as a point of comparison for understanding the nature of God.  I came to see this in a new way when our son attended a basketball camp at a major university.  My camera was out snapping pictures right and left.  Some were blurry or caught a boy in front of our son.  Others were sharp and showed him in action, ball leaving his hand and a look of intensity on his face.  As I thought about how I would arrange them in a movie when we returned home, I knew that I would discard the pictures that did not portray our son in the best light, retaining only the ones that showed him at his best.

If this is how an earthly father sees his child, think for a moment of how our heavenly Father sees His children.  When we are washed in the blood of Jesus, our Father no longer sees us in pictures blurred by sin.  He sees us in the warm, clear light of love.  Let that sink in.  God chooses to see you in the best possible light.  He loves you more than you can possibly understand and wants the best for you.  Understanding this at a deep and intuitive level will change every aspect of your life.

Father, thank You for Your love and grace toward me.  I am overwhelmed by Your goodness.  Your love humbles me and makes we want to serve You with all that I am.  Thank You, my Lord, my God, my Father.  Amen.

Copyright © 2012 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, June 24, 2012

June 24 (James 1:17)

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.  (NIV)

I go to church and sing songs of praise.  I get frustrated with a project at home and blow my stack.  I am sweet and loving to our children.  I descend into dark places of worry about my job.  I give to those in need.  I waste money on junk I do not need.  In short, I am a mixed bag of good and bad.  I try my best, but come up short.  In this regard, I am completely unlike God.

God does not change.  Think about that for a moment.  The God we worship as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is the same God who created the universe before human beings existed.  The God Who loves you when you do His will perfectly is the same God Who loves you when you commit the most heinous of sins.

It is His faithfulness, not ours, that transforms us and makes us holy.  Yes, we must strive to be like Him, but when that striving is from our own strength, it will fall short.  Neither you nor I have it in us, and it does not matter how much Scripture we have memorized, how many ministries we have served, or how much time we spend in church.  What a relief that is to know!

Father, I so much want to be like Jesus, perfectly loving, in humble submission to You, and serving Your will in all that I do.  You and I both know how far away from that goal I really am.  Thank You for Your unfailing love and grace.  Continue Your good work in me, I pray.  In the name of Jesus, my Lord, amen.

Copyright © 2012 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, June 17, 2012

June 17 (John 5:19)

I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. (NIV)

It is natural for children to imitate their parents, and for this reason, there is a huge burden and responsibility on parents to live their lives in a worthy manner. Like it or not, our children will do what we do.

No matter the relationship you have with your earthly parents, as you grow and mature in the Christian faith, you come to see that there is only one Whom you must imitate, your heavenly Father. Jesus Himself claimed that He did only what He had seen His Father doing.

So what have you seen your Father in heaven doing? What things has He done in your life? If you are not sure, then look to the pages of the Bible. They are filled with stories of His guidance, provision, love, power, grace, mercy, forgiveness, creativity...the list goes on and on. How can you be like Him?

Father, I want to be like you, for You created me in Your image. What part of Your life, Your work have You called me to? Grant me the grace and strength to grow in You so that, just as it was with Jesus, others can see You when they see me. In the name of Jesus, Who reflected You perfectly, amen.

Copyright © 2012 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, June 10, 2012

June 10 (Philippians 2:6-7)

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. (NIV)

General relativity and quantum mechanics are two of the most successful theories in physics. Their accuracy for describing the created order is unparalleled. The bad news is that these two theories do not work well together. General relativity is great when it comes to describing the universe, but it falls apart at the subatomic level. If you want to understand atoms, you need quantum mechanics, which is utterly useless when looking at outer space.

As scientists continue to search for a theory that would unify the very large and the very small, we can note that this unification has in fact already happened. No one can conceive the true vastness of God. The far-flung galaxies and the broad sweep of the universe are smaller than He. Yet the immensity of God entered into creation, becoming human in Christ Jesus. He diminished Himself still further by becoming not a human king, but a human servant, and one who died the death of a criminal at that.

This grand unification of glory and obscurity served one purpose, to restore you to a loving relationship with God. Is there any reason this would not prompt your undying allegiance, faithfulness, and service to Him every single day of your life?

Father, I tremble at what You have done for me. I am not worthy in the least that even one iota of Your glory should have been diminished. That You would suffer for me is more than I can bear. May my life bear witness in all that I do, say, and think to the incomparable gift that is the life, death, and resurrection of my Lord, Jesus. In His name I pray, amen.

Copyright © 2012 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, June 3, 2012

June 3 (Titus 1:6)

An elder must be blameless.... (NIV)
In the first chapter of his letter to Titus, Paul gives instructions for the qualifications of church leaders and begins with being blameless.  This might well be enough to cause many people to throw up their hands, stop reading, and move on.  Surely Paul is asking a bit much by requiring that leaders be blameless!
Not only does Paul say they should be blameless, but this is the baseline qualification.  He goes on from there!  Is it possible that we have become a bit lax?  We are right to acknowledge our failures and remind ourselves that the blood of Jesus is sufficient to cover all sins.  The problem is that we too often stay just at that point.  God's grace is also sufficient to transform us into what we were made to be.  God is not content to leave us in our state of failure.
Read back through the passages of Scripture talking about the Christian life.  They are challenging.  They may be describing something far out of our reach.  Do not give up.  Pray to God for the strength of His grace to achieve what He desires you to be.  Being blameless is not impossible for those whose lives are fully surrendered to Christ.
Lord, give me the courage and persistence to stay on the path, to reach the goal that You have set for me.  Help me to root out the sin in my life while developing the spiritual gifts and disciplines that will make me a fit servant in Your kingdom.  In the name of Jesus Christ, I pray.  Amen.

Copyright © 2012 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, May 27, 2012

May 27 (Luke 22:19)

And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them,
saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”

This is a weekend of remembrance. Most people take time to remember
those who have died, whether in military service or in other
circumstances. Such remembrance is an important part of the heritage
we pass along to the next generation.

In the ancient world, this was the extent of what one could hope for.
Being remembered by the future generations was the only sort of eternal
life that anyone could imagine. After Jesus, we know there is much,
much more. We know this because the Lord we remember every day of our
lives and whenever we join for worship not only died, but rose again.
His resurrection guaranteed not only that we would remember Him for His
extraordinary work, but that He would remember us.

On top of that, He instituted a practice by which every assembly of His
followers could be a memorial day. By sanctifying the bread and wine
of His last supper, He provided us with the means for an ongoing
remembrance of what we have to look forward to and why it is a most
reasonable hope.

Lord Jesus, may we never forget the tremendous sacrifice of Your death
and the glorious miracle of Your resurrection. May You remember us
when we call upon Your name, that we may have true eternal life with
You. Amen.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

May 20 (Luke 9:2-3)

[H]e sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.  He told them: "Take nothing for the journey—no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra tunic."  (NIV)
What does it take for you to do anything?  Most of us find it inconceivable to do our business without access to the Internet, usually via a smart phone and Wi-Fi.  Increasingly it seems that getting the news requires a computer, a worship service requires a Broadway production, and going for a walk requires ear buds and an iPod.
What trivial, meaningless, worthless task could Jesus have given his disciples that would have required none of these things, not even a walking stick, suitcase, food, cash, or a change of clothes?  It was nothing less than the greatest task anyone could ever have, to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.  Had He told any of us to go and do likewise, we first would have planned the trip to the last detail through Travelocity and taken along a tablet on which to blog the details.
Technology is not bad.  You are reading this devotion as an email.  Yet we have to pause and ask ourselves.  How much do we think we need to do tasks of lesser importance?  What is God willing to provide to do all that really matters?
Father, help me to clear out the noise that comes from the stuff of the world around me, that I may hear Your call more clearly.  Help me to set aside my reliance on things and cling only to You.  In the name of Your Son, Jesus, Who embraced the wood of the cross to set me free, amen.

Copyright © 2012 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, May 13, 2012

May 13 (John 19:26-27)

When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.  (NIV)

An unmarried young woman agreed to the terrifying news that she has been chosen to be the mother of the Son of God, and thus began the most wonderful Mothers Day story ever told.  Mary went through all the worries of any mother, including the time when Jesus seemed to be lost, only to be found in the temple doing His Father’s business.  She was there when her Son performed His first miracle by turning water into wine.  Naturally, she was there at the end, when Her Son died for you and me.

So beautiful, so wonderful, so sublime was the relationship between Jesus and Mary that it has been the subject of countless paintings, sculptures, and musical compositions.  We are drawn to the exquisite Pieta by Michelangelo and the incomparable Stabat Mater by Jacopone da Todi.  Apparently, Jesus thought His relationship with His mother was special, too.  There, while hanging on a cross and struggling to breathe, He made sure she would be taken care of after He died.

What is Jesus saying to you through His relationship with Mary this Mothers Day?

O Lord, thank You for allowing us glimpses into the intimate bond You shared with Your mother on earth.  Thank You, too, for our own mothers.  May we honor them, according to the commandment, as You honored Yours.  Amen.

Copyright © 2012 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, May 6, 2012

May 6 (Acts 1:4)

Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.  (NIV)

I never have to wait for anything.  In any moment when I could be waiting, I have a world of other options in my pocket thanks to my smart phone.  I can play games, check emails, update Facebook, send a tweet, see the latest headlines, get scores and updates for my favorite teams, or read just about any book ever published.  Hey, it sure beats circling the parking lot while my wife grabs something at the grocery store!

Then again, what are we missing when we fill every seemingly empty moment with activity.  I say that these moments are seemingly empty, for if we listened to the words of Jesus, they just might be filled with more than we can imagine.  They might be filled with God Himself.  Jesus promised the Holy Spirit to His disciples, but commanded them to wait for Him.  How do you suppose they waited?  Did they bury their noses in scrolls, checking the results of the latest chariot race?

Can you remember what it was like as a child to wait for your birthday or Christmas?  You could think of nothing else.  You counted the days and then the hours.  It was all you talked about.  Your eyes were firmly fixed on the anticipated event.  This is the kind of waiting Jesus asks of His followers.  It is why God promised in Jeremiah 29:13 that if we seek Him and search for Him with all our hearts, we will find Him.

Lord, I want You and nothing else.  I want to seek You and not be distracted by lesser things.  Draw me closer to You, o God.  I am here, and I am waiting.  In the name of Jesus my Savior and by the power of the Holy Spirit I pray, amen.

Copyright © 2012 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, April 29, 2012

April 29 (Romans 8:26)

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.  (NIV)

Imagine telling the teacher that you do not know how to answer a question on the test and the teacher then saying, “Just give it to me.  I will answer it for you.”  While that may be the dream of every student, I doubt it has ever happened.  Now pause for a moment and think about what God offers us through the Holy Spirit.

When we fall into the temptation of thinking that God is far removed from us or unwilling to hear us, we have missed an incredible blessing.  The Holy Spirit dwells within us, and He is God.  When we are overcome with a situation and words fail, it does not matter.  Even when we cannot pray, God prays for us.  Think about that.  God is saying, “I will pray to me for you.”

Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:8 that God knows what we need even before we ask.  What a loving God He is to pray for us when we cannot pray for ourselves!

Father, I love you.   You never cease to amaze me with Your love and grace.  Not only did You allow Jesus to die for my sins, You filled me with the Holy Spirit, Who pleads my case before You.  I adore You, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever.  Amen.

Copyright © 2012 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, April 22, 2012

April 22 (Psalm 119)

If you want the text for this week’s devotion, you will need to look it up in your Bible.  It just is not practical list all one hundred seventy-six verses here.

Seriously, read the entire psalm.  Read it in one sitting, start to end, without stopping.  Let the force of it carry you away.  This is the song of a person running hard after the heart of God.  It is the cry of one who truly wants to know Him better and to serve Him more faithfully.  It is the plea of one who feels pain at the injustice and immorality around him.  Let the powerful sweep of this poem wash over you.

Does it describe you?  If so, then draw the same comfort from the words and promises of God that the psalmist drew.  If not, then take heart and take steps.  When we cry out to God, He hears us.  Even when we are not faithful, even when we stray from the path He has set before us, He hears us.  He has also given us His word, which you hold in your hands.  If you want to draw closer to Him, it is as simple as picking it up and beginning to read.

Lord, my heart does indeed long for You.  Draw me closer.  Fill my heart that I may walk in Your ways.  Keep distractions from me.  Help me to put my focus on You.  In the name of Jesus, Who kept His eyes fixed on You even while on the cross, amen.

Copyright © 2012 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, April 15, 2012

April 15 (1 Corinthians 15:3-7)

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,  that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.  After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.  Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.  (NIV)

Here is a simple test.  Imagine a one-dollar bill.  Picture it in your mind.  Can you see both sides of it?  Now take out a one-dollar bill and put it on the table.  Which is better, the image in your mind or the six-inch piece of paper in front of you?  There is no question that the one on the table is better.  You can actually buy something with it.  No one is going to sell you a product based on the money you can picture in your mind.

The resurrection of Jesus is not just a wonderful story that lives on in our minds.  The Superman story is a wonderful tale that lives on in our minds, but we all know that Superman is not real and so we do not base our lives around him or his story.  Yet Jesus is truly alive.  This is no fairy tale.  Hundreds of people bore eyewitness testimony to the fact.

“Well, I have not seen Him,” someone may say.  So what?  We live our lives with perfectly reasonable confidence in knowledge of which we have no direct connection.  Seriously, have you worked out the equations that make the nanotechnology of your smart phone possible?  Jesus rose from the dead.  It is a fact with solid testimony.  How will that truth affect your life?

Father, thank You for the glorious resurrection of Jesus.  Thank You for the testimony of the early disciples and those who saw Him.  Thank You for the record of Scripture.  Thank you for the ongoing witness of the Church.  Thank You for the gift of the Holy Spirit, Who lives within me.  Thank You for such a sure rock on which to build my life.  Amen.

Copyright © 2012 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, April 8, 2012

April 8 (Matthew 28:5)

He has risen.  (NIV)

He has risen, and so I live.  He has risen, and so I can face my fears.  He has risen, and so I stand against the challenges, temptations, and pain in life.  He has risen, and so I have confidence for the future.  He has risen, and so I can love.  He has risen, and so I know the truth.  He has risen, and so I can forget myself.  He has risen, and so I can restore relationships.  He has risen, and so I stand in the winds of doubt.  He has risen, and so I give and do not need to receive.  He has risen, and so I receive all I need.  He has risen, and so I fall to my knees.  He has risen, and so I am healed.  He has risen, and so I know love.  He has risen, and so I am forgiven.  He has risen, and so I am forgiven.  He has risen, and so I am forgiven.

Glory to God in the highest, for Christ my Savior, in Whom I live and move and have my being, has risen today.

Copyright © 2012 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, April 1, 2012

April 1 (Matthew 10:31)

Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. (KJV)

God does not owe me an explanation for anything. He certainly does not owe me an explanation when He gives me a command, and it is for this reason that I find the fourth word in the verse for today one of the most wonderful expressions of love.

No, you did not miscount which I word I meant. I meant the humble conjunction “therefore.” Immediately prior to the command not to fear, Jesus had given a simple illustration and used it as the basis for an easy piece of logic. Sparrows are cheap, He had said. Our Father knows when even a sparrow falls to the ground. Do not fear, therefore, for we are worth more than many sparrows. Jesus could have given the command not to fear with no further illustration or line of reasoning. Yet He chose to put everything in perspective. He chose to show us how the reason not to be afraid flows logically from the natural order of things.

Years ago, my wife and I led a student trip to Italy. It was our first time to go, and I was quite comforted when a security guard at the airport in Rome spoke English to us. As I reflected later, and shared with my students, it was quite an honor to see my language on bilingual signs and to hear my language being spoken. I myself had done nothing to deserve such respect. Who, then, am I that God should explain His reasoning to me? According to Jesus, I am someone worth more than many sparrows.

Father, forgive me when I demand signs and proof upon proof before following Your commands. You so graciously have set forth Your will for me. May I, with the simplicity of a bird, live as You have called me. In the name of Jesus, I pray. Amen.

Copyright © 2012 by Steven R. Perkins