Sunday, December 29, 2013

December 29 (Luke 2:19)

But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.  (ESV)

Mary has just given birth to her first child.  She is filled with the exhausted joy of any new mother.  There has been quite a bit of media attention with this one.  Shepherds have come into town telling everyone of a miraculous visitation by angels telling them that the Savior of the world has just been born.

The people have begun to leave, one or two at a time at first, and then in small groups.  The shepherds are going back to their flocks.  It is just Mary and Joseph now, and a crying baby boy.  The energy and excitement are dying down.  It is just a mother and her thoughts.

How have you experienced Jesus this Christmas?  What things has He shown you for you to ponder in your heart?  Do not rush on to the next thing in life too quickly.  Stay for a moment with the new mother, and like her, ponder and dwell on the true things of God.

You never cease speaking to me, Lord, even through the hustle and bustle of Christmas.  I want to take a moment now and treasure Your words in my heart so I may not forget them in the hustle and bustle of life that is to come.  May the Holy Spirit lead me into all truth according to the promise of Christ Jesus, my Lord.  Amen.

Copyright © 2013 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, December 22, 2013

December 22 (Matthew 21:8-9)

Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.  And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”  (ESV)

This is the passage we usually read and think about on Palm Sunday as we prepare for Easter, but consider it for a moment as a Christmas story.  When Mary was about to give birth to her baby, the world did not know her or Joseph.  No one knew what was coming, apart from three wise men from the east.  You and I have the benefit of the long view of history.  We know Who this baby was and what He had come to do.  If the citizens of Bethlehem had known what we know, they would likely have responded as we see in these verses from Matthew.

We are excited by the coming of Christmas because it means time off from work and school.  It is a chance to get together with family and friends.  It means fun and music, lights and decorations, and of course, shiny presents.

What if we took our faith seriously?  What if we realized that what we are celebrating is the arrival of God on earth?  Ancient people knew how to celebrate the arrival of a king.  There was joy and festivity, much as we enjoy today, but without question, the celebration was focused on the king.

Alleluia, O Lord, my God!  Praise be Yours forever from the bottom of my heart!  May my whole life be one glorious work of unending praise to You!  You deserve my most enthusiastic and exuberant worship!  With my hands, my voice, my heart…indeed with my whole being I offer it all to You!

Copyright © 2013 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, December 15, 2013

December 15 (Revelation 5:5)

“Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered….”  (ESV)

Jesus is without a doubt a lamb.  Scripture says so.  He is the Lamb of God sacrificed on behalf of our sins.  Make no mistake, though, this lamb is also a lion, and as a lion, He is a conqueror.

There is a reason there are more songs, more plays, more movies, more books, more poems, more physical items created for the celebration of Christmas than for any other time of the year.  It is a celebration to honor the birth of a conquering king.  Unlike other kings, who may have conquered a fellow king for the sake of enlarging territory, Christ the King has conquered death itself in the most cosmic and mystical of battles.  He did it for the sake of His people and showers them with the greatest spoil of war, life itself.

What does your King want of you?  How does He desire you to celebrate Him?  Is it with the activities on your daily agenda?  Christmas is not a cultural holiday, whose rites and observances are dictated by tradition.  It is the celebration of your King.

O Lord, my God and King, how do You want me to celebrate the birth of the conquering Lion of Judah?  It is so easy for me to get caught up in practices without truly thinking about them.  Show me how to honor You.  In the name of Christ Jesus, the Lion and the Lamb, amen.

Copyright © 2013 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, December 8, 2013

December 8 (Revelation 1:8)

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”  (ESV)

We all tend to focus on Jesus as a baby at Christmas, but go the other direction for a moment.  Just try to grasp how big He is.  You will not be successful, but try it anyhow.

Jesus spoke reality into existence.  His word brought about the Higgs boson, quarks, and atoms.  He spoke, and there was gravity.  The pull of the moon that causes tides in our oceans, that was His creation.  Distance so great it can only be measured in light years is contained in His speech.  Unfathomable does not even come close to expressing the inadequacy of our words to describe the Word of God, Who chose to become flesh.

You think Christmas is about your card and gift list?  Turn off the noise of your life for a few minutes and stand next to the immensity of Jesus.  Let your body, mind, and soul become lost in Him.  Now you are ready to worship the babe in the manger.

All I am and ever hope to do and be is nothing compared with You, O Lord.  Yet I offer all that I am and ever hope to do and be as my gift to You, not because it is a gift of significance, but because in the light of Your majesty, I can do no other.  Amen.

Copyright © 2013 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, December 1, 2013

December 1 (Luke 17:11)

“Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.”  (ESV)

Ten lepers cried out to Jesus, but they used an interesting word for “master.”  Rather than use the typical Greek word kurie, they used epistata, a word that meant one who stands over, like a commander.  Indeed, Jesus does stand over all of creation.  He is the Word through Whom creation itself was spoken into existence.

Yet if we go back another level in the etymology, we see that the word means, at its root, one who stands near.  Jesus is the Lord and Master Who stands near us, Who is by our side even in moments of greatest suffering and need.

I don’t know about you, but for me, that is someone to cry out to.  I want to cry out to someone who is above me, someone who can actually do something to help.  I also want to cry out to someone who is with me, someone who understands because he is in the thick of it at my side.
Jesus, I need You.  I need You in so many ways I cannot list them all.  I need You in ways I do not even know, ways known only to You.  Have mercy on me, Epistata.

Copyright © 2013 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, November 24, 2013

November 24 (Psalm 69:30)

I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving.  (ESV)

I am thankful to God for the azure sky of fall, which forms the perfect canvas on which are painted the crimson, ochre, and gold of autumn leaves.  I thank Him for the orange, then pink, then deep purple of sunsets.  Praise the name of our God for stars that appear in familiar patterns at night!  Glory be to Him for the rainbows that appear in our kitchen when afternoon sun more than 92 million miles away casts its slant light through our window!  Thanks be to God for a cool drink of water.

Lord, I thank You for the blessing of friends and family, for hugs from my children, and for deep laughter over dinner.  Thank You for a job that allows me to serve You and provide for my family.  Thank You for a reliable vehicle that takes me to and from that job each day.

My heart pauses in gratitude for fingers that can type, eyes that can read, and a mind that can put words together.  I am grateful for eyeglasses that improve my sight, the doctor whose knowledge wrote the prescription for the lenses, and the development of technology that makes the grinding of glass possible.

From the simple to the sublime, how will you magnify God with thanksgiving?

Father, my heart overflows with gratefulness for all You have done.  When I think that on top of it all You have saved me through the life, death, and resurrection of Your Son, Jesus, I am overwhelmed and stopped in my tracks.  Glory be to You in and for all things!  Amen.
Copyright © 2013 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, November 17, 2013

November 17 (Numbers 14:24)

But my servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit and has followed me fully, I will bring into the land into which he went, and his descendants shall possess it.  (ESV)

The choice is really quite simple.  It is as simple as it gets.  Trust God and enjoy life or do not trust him and miss life entirely.  Moses had sent spies to check out the land that God had promised, and ten of them came back with knee-knocking reports of giants and the recommendation to forego the whole thing.  Despite what they had seen of God’s provision as He led them out of Egypt, they could not bring themselves to trust him now.  God’s response in Numbers 14:20-24 was pretty blunt.  “Have it your way, but none of you who doubt me are going to enjoy the Promised Land.  Caleb will, because he trusts me.”

I have a tendency to go the way of the ten who feared.  I have seen God’s provision and His hand of love more times than I can count, and yet I still fear.  I still doubt.  Fortunately, God will help with our fears and our doubts, too.   Where the ten spies went wrong was in staying in their doubt.  When we present our fears and hesitations to God, He will lead us through them, back to a place of trust.

As the old hymn says, there really is no way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey.  We can only trust if we truly believe God loves us.  If you can only risk this much faith, at least ask God to help you feel His love and trust Him.  He will come through.
Father, I am embarrassed, but You already know the truth of it, so here goes.  I need help believing Your love for me.  I need help to trust You.  I have a sense that if I could live out of this trust, my life would take off in amazing ways.  Help me to trust and obey.  In the name of Jesus, my Lord, amen.

Copyright © 2013 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, November 10, 2013

November 10 (John 3:16)

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.  (ESV)

They say that familiarity breeds contempt.  It certainly gives rise to neglect.  The most famous verse in the Bible is one we too easily pass over.  We know what it says so well that we do not really know what it says.  It has become the foundation of our theology, but what does it really mean?

First of all, it says that God loves us.  Even this we have linguistically dissected to the point where it is just so many word roots lying cut up on the operating table.  We have heard that the original Greek for “love” means brotherly love, and so it does, but did you know it also means to caress and to cherish?  We have made something so lofty of this verse, so out of reach that we have forgotten that love reaches down from on high to embrace us.  Take away the exalted, theological sentiment for a moment and think about good, old-fashioned love.  Remember what that is?  That is how God feels about you.

How does that make you feel?  Seriously, what do you think about that?  If this were the person you had longed to notice you, you know exactly how you would react.  You would be on the moon.

God, it is so hard for me to grasp that You love me.  Maybe it is the enemy getting in the way.  Maybe it is just too big for my mind to grasp.  Open my heart and bypass my mind so that I may be filled with the love You promise.  In the name of the One Who brings that love, Jesus, I pray.  Amen.
Copyright © 2013 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, November 3, 2013

November 3 (1 Chronicles 28:9)

And you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind….  (ESV)

“Know the God of your father,” said King David to Solomon.  David had walked and talked with the one true God.  He had known Him when he defeated Goliath and when his life was being hunted by King Saul.  He had danced before the ark of His covenant and had wept before Him because of his own transgressions.  David knew God intimately and wanted the same for his son.

Do you really want your friends and family members to know and serve your god?  Is your god in fact God?  Every once in a while it is good to stop and do a quick lifestyle check.  Does your life truly reflect a relationship with God that you would want others to have?  Have you let other things creep in and take up more of your time, more of your thoughts, more of your activity?

For a quick test, think of a typical day in the last week.  Would it have been clear to anyone that the God of David was also your God?  We do not worship God for the sake of others, but if no one can tell from our life that the Lord is our God, then we have some adjustments to make.
Lord, help me not to get so caught up in the details of life that I forget You as I try to live life on my own.  Help me to be like David.  Whether in joy or in sorrow, I want You to be my everything.  In the name of Jesus, I pray.  Amen.

Copyright © 2013 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, October 27, 2013

October 27 (1 Chronicles 22:5)

For David said, “Solomon my son is young and inexperienced, and the house that is to be built for the Lord must be exceedingly magnificent, of fame and glory throughout all lands. I will therefore make preparation for it.” So David provided materials in great quantity before his death.  (ESV)
This is one of my favorite verses.  It is tucked away in a larger passage about building the temple, and it is easy to focus on all the verses describing its magnificence, but take a closer look at this verse.  All the verses that talk about the collection of wood and silver and gold are the fulfillment of a father’s desire to provide for his son.
Many parents think that providing for their children means making sure they have enough food and clothes and a good education.  It means taking them to sports practices and arranging for birthday parties.  David knew there was more to it than that.  Being a parent means providing for a child’s call from God.  David knew that his son would be the one to build the temple, so he made sure Solomon had what he needed.
If you are a parent, are you preparing materials in great quantity for your children to fulfill their calling?  This may not take the form of stockpiling silver and gold.  It may mean training them for service by taking them to serve along with you.  It means making sure they know how to pray, how to worship, and how to study the Scriptures.  It certainly means making sure they know how to hear God’s voice.
Father, You have blessed me through so many people to do what You have called me to do.  I want to be about the business of equipping others for service.  Show me what those around me need to do the work You have given them, that I may help them accomplish it to Your glory.  In the name of Christ Jesus, my Lord, amen.

Copyright © 2013 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, October 20, 2013

October 20 (Hebrews 12:1)

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,  (ESV)

I need all the encouragement I can get to live this Christian life, but then again, I get all the encouragement I need.  Hardly a day passes in which I do not see the hand of God moving in some gracious way.  Imagine that!  Here I am, a simple husband and dad, and I get to see the action of the Almighty!  Surely that would be enough to bear me up when I struggle, when I fear, and when I doubt.

On top of that, I have the stories of countless saints.  Scripture is filled with them, as are the annals of history.  These are the men, women, and children, the great and the small, who have tales of encouragement to share from their own direct experience with the same God I love and Who loves me.

May I suggest something?  When you are feeling overwhelmed and the pressures are building like a thunderhead, just stop.  Stop for a moment.  Shut everything off and out.  Reflect on what God has done in your life, likely that very day.  Contemplate the stories of those who have gone before.  You will feel strength rushing back to allow you to finish your race.
O Father, You have given me so much.  Day after day you guide and provide.  You give me more than I need to be what You want me to be.  Today I will draw my strength from You and all You have done.  In the name of Jesus, my Savior, amen.

Copyright © 2013 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, October 13, 2013

October 13 (Galatians 1:6)

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—  (ESV)

I must be an Israelite.  I can experience the love of God in the most direct and wonderful way, and then question whether He really loves me the very next moment.  I can see His hand of provision, and then wonder whether He cares for me.  I can feel His strength guiding and supporting me, and then I try to go it alone.  It is the familiar pattern of the Israelites throughout the Old Testament.

Actually, it is not so much that I am an Israelite, but that the Israelites and I are all human, and so are you.  There is not one of us who experiences a powerful worship service, a divine moment during private devotions, or something surprisingly transcendent in the midst of the ordinary who then does not go right back to business as usual, a way of life filled with fear and our own attempts to make things right.

If that describes you, and it does, if you are honest, then try this as a first step.  Stop beating yourself up over it.  Amnesia is part of the fallen human condition.  We all forget the glories we have tasted.  We are all, as one old hymn puts it, prone to leave the God we love.  Our Father knows this and still loves us.  His arms are always open to receive us back.  His Spirit is always there guiding us toward home.

Father, just for today, keep me close to You.  I do not want to drift, to wander, to forget.  I will pray this prayer again tomorrow.  In the name of Jesus, amen.
Copyright © 2013 by Steven R. Perkins