Sunday, December 28, 2014

December 28 (Matthew 1:13)

Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.”  (ESV)

There was the joy of that miraculous night.  There was the star, the wise men, and the love that all new parents know, a love that shuts out everything else as the world contracts to the one tiny baby in front of you. Then the rest of the world came crashing in upon them.  Someone was trying to kill their baby.  Joseph did not have time to savor the moments surrounding the birth of Jesus.  He had to get down to the work of being a father.  He had to protect his wife and baby boy.

Christmas is over now.  Many people are still on vacation.  We need this time every year to celebrate the birth of our Lord and to be reminded of the miraculous gift of God.  Yet our great enemy is still trying to destroy Him.  Of course, he cannot hurt Jesus directly, but he attacks his followers.  The next verse says that Joseph did not even wait until morning, but escaped with Mary and Jesus to Egypt in the middle of the night.  I hope always to be so on guard that I answer God’s call the moment it comes.

Lord, keep me focused on the truth about Christmas after the lights have been put away.  Make me quick to serve others in the name of Jesus, Whom we have all celebrated.  May I give no thought to my own safety, but only to the Your call.  Amen.

Copyright © 2014 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, December 21, 2014

December 21 (Luke 2:11)

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  (ESV)

This is what it is all about.  Every single one of us needs a savior.  We are born needing one, and we have either accepted that Jesus is that savior, or we have yet to do so, but the fact remains that the savior of the world, Christ the Lord, was born on Christmas Day in the city of David.  Do you need a reminder of what that means?

He has paid the price for your sins.  You will live forever in glory with God.  The Holy Spirit now lives in You, guiding you and leading you toward all truth.  Your friend and brother is God Himself.  He listens to you and knows your every need.  Do I need to go on?

Sometime in the days ahead, get away by yourself and ponder all that Jesus is…to you and to the entire world.  Let the monumental truth of His identity and the meaning of His birth fill you and let that become the source for how you go about all the activities surrounding Christmas.

Jesus, it is impossible for me to conceive all that You are, all that You have done, and all that You continue to do.  May every word from my mouth, every action I make, every thought that crosses my mind bring You glory.  May my life do nothing but honor You.  Amen.

Copyright © 2014 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, December 14, 2014

December 14 (Psalm 86:11)

…[U]nite my heart to fear your name.  (ESV)

There is so much to do as Christmas approaches.  There are gifts to buy, cards to write, foods to bake, trips to arrange, houses to clean for guests, shows and parties to attend, and all the other things to do that you did not do the rest of the year and now feel the pressure to do before the year ends.  Sound familiar?

Many, perhaps all, of those things are good enough, but not one of them involves awe, and I am pretty sure that celebrating the birth of God in the flesh is an awe-filled event.  Awe requires absolute, single-minded focus.  Its proper expression is a dropping to the knees and bursting out, “My Lord and my God!” because your mouth has no choice in holding back the words.

This cannot happen when our hearts are divided, and that is why I love this verse.  It is a simple prayer that I need to pray often.

Lord, unite my heart to fear Your name.  In the midst of all that I must do, help me to see You.  In fact, give me the courage to drop anything, no matter how urgent or good it may seem, to praise You with all that I am.  Amen.

Copyright © 2014 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, December 7, 2014

December 7 (Luke 2:11)

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  (ESV)

Bear with me for a moment.  I am going to reference a song by Led Zeppelin.  In 1970 Led Zeppelin recorded what has become the most famous version of a centuries-old tale.  In their version of the song called “Gallows Pole,” friends and family bring gifts to the hangman to save a beloved young man.  The hangman takes all the gifts, but in the final verse laughs as he prepares to hang the young man anyway.

Every human being who draws a breath is under a sentence of death.  We are born with a sin nature, and given the opportunity, we will live up to that nature every time.  As a result, we are separated from the pure perfection of God.  We deserve to die, and there is nothing we can give God, not gold or silver or good works, that can save us.

Enter Jesus.  It is God’s law that says we must die, yet it is God Who provided the way out.  He sent His Son to be born our Savior.  His laughter and joy fill the heavens when we accept this and surrender our lives to Him.  We do not celebrate Christmas because a cute baby was born.  Many cute babies are born each day.  We celebrate Christmas because our Savior has come.

Father, words cannot express how grateful I am that You sent Your Son to take my place in death.  I was born to die, yet You had already prepared a way for me to live.  Praise be unto You, O God, now and forever!  Amen.

Copyright © 2014 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, November 30, 2014

November 30 (Galatians 5:25)

If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.    (ESV)

This may not seem like a verse suited for the first Sunday in Advent, but consider for a moment the last time you even thought about Advent.  If you are part of a more liturgical church, Advent may play a more prominent role, yet for most of our culture it plays no role at all.  Even many Christians get caught up in the stress of year-end activities in the mad rush toward Christmas.

Advent is a slower time.  It is about the build up toward and the expectation of the birth of God in the flesh.  It points us toward Jesus, and that is precisely the role of the Holy Spirit.  He is the quiet member of the Trinity.  Sadly, for many, He is the forgotten member as well.  Yet He dwells within each person who has been redeemed by the blood of Christ, directing them gently toward all truth and helping them lead a life worthy of Jesus.

I have known Jesus my entire life, but it has taken that entire life to learn how to walk in step with the Holy Spirit.  I need this verse every day, and especially at this time of year.  How about you?  Would it not be nice to follow the gentle leading of God the Spirit rather than running from the lash of the demands of this, that, and the other thing?

Father, thank You for sending Your Spirit to dwell within me.  I want to live by His strength and with His guidance.  I surrender myself to Your will that I know through Him.  In the name of Jesus, my Savior, I pray.  Amen.

Copyright © 2014 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, November 23, 2014

November 23 (John 1:3, Matthew 5:17, Revelation 21:6)

All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.  (ESV)

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.  (ESV)

I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.  (ESV)

Is there even one issue facing the world, our government, your state, your place of business, your community, your family, or yourself that could not be answered or solved by Jesus Christ?  I am serious.  We sing our praise songs and then go right back to purely human reasoning to approach the issues of our day.  As I listen to plans and ideas and grand designs for handling this or that, I have to shake my head.  Much of what I hear is based on speculation of what people think will work, when the true solution stands available, yet ignored.

Jesus is it, folks.  As the verses above testify, He is the whole deal.  Approaching anything…from war and taxes to family challenges…without appealing to God and being guided by His Holy Spirit is ultimately a waste of time.

Thanksgiving is this week.  Families will gather, and talk will turn to politics and jobs and the issues in our lives.  When the armchair philosophies have all been exchanged, will those who follow Christ speak the truth?

Father, it is so tempting to follow the logic of others and to engage in conversations on purely human terms.  Help me to speak the simple truth in love.  Give me the words that You would have me say.  In the name of Him Who is the way, the truth, and the life, Jesus my Lord, amen.

Copyright © 2014 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, November 16, 2014

November 16 (Matthew 2:18)

“A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”  (ESV)

This verse leapt to mind as I heard the news that a fifth Westerner has been savagely executed by the terrorist organization known as ISIS.  This young man, a humanitarian worker in his mid-twenties, was a recent graduate of the high school where I teach.

There are no words in the face of such savagery, such brutality.  Anger and well-intentioned platitudes are equally pointless.  Such events do, however, remind us that we live in a world at war.  There is darkness that wars against light, and so it will be until the One Who is Light from Light, true God from true God, even Jesus Christ our Lord returns.  He was born into just such a world, and savagery and brutality sent Him from it.  The bedrock of our hope is that He triumphed over such evil.  The wickedness of today is the same wickedness of Cavalry, but as Christ’s resurrection showed, that evil was foiled, for He took death and turned it into life for all who would accept the offer of His grace.

As the old hymn sings, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’s blood and righteousness.  I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’s name.  On Christ the solid rock I stand.  All other ground is sinking sand.”

Father, forgive all of us, for we know not what we do.  In acts of heinous murder and in moments of the casual lie, we stand accused before Your holiness.  Thank You for the grace of Jesus that extends to all sinners.  Comfort and bless those who suffer loss at the hands of evil.  We eagerly look forward to the return of Your Son and our Savior, Jesus, in Whose name we pray.  Amen.

Copyright © 2014 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, November 9, 2014

November 9 (Psalm 62:1)

For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation.  (ESV)

Is this true?  Don’t jump to the end of the verse and start talking about how you believe in Jesus as your Savior.  I’m talking about the first part.  Do you wait for God?  Is He your sole focus so that you are not expecting anything else, like your own strength or some earthly program, to save you?  Do you wait on Him in silence?

I am struck over and over again by how much of a frenzy my life is.  I am much more like one of the Greek warriors in the Trojan War, about whom Homer said, “Now here, now there, he darts from place to place.”  I want to work out my own salvation.  I do not mean my eternal salvation, but I want to make things work out for me in the here and now.  I try to make it happen, and when I do pray, it is not a period of waiting in silence.  I hurl my to-do list at God and say amen.

David was a man after God’s own heart.  God Himself said so.  He must have known something about living a godly life, and unless I miss my guess, this was anchored in a quiet waiting upon God.

Lord, I know I must seem silly running around trying to accomplish things on my own.  This day I commit to slowing down.  I am also not going to ask You for anything, at least not with the anxiety of my mind.  You know the true needs of my heart.  I am simply going to wait on You in silence.  Amen.

Copyright © 2014 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, November 2, 2014

November 2 (Galatians 3:3)

Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?  (ESV)

If you have grown up knowing how to swing a bat, hit a golf ball, or perform any other athletic feat, only to have a coach or trainer instruct you in a new and better way, two things will happen.  You will experience success with your new method and at first, and then you will start to perform poorly and not know why.  You may find yourself frustrated, but your coach will quickly spot the problem.  You have reverted to your old way of doing things.

This is true of anything, including our walk in faith.  Our natural tendency is to rely on our own strength.  We hear the call of Jesus and begin to walk by faith.  We are in step with the Holy Spirit, and then all of a sudden, we find ourselves weak, exhausted, and frustrated from trying to move mountains with our own two hands.  We have gone back to living life on our own terms.

Or maybe I am the only one who does this.  I will have days where it seems I am floating, just flowing through life in the smooth grace of God, and the next moment I am swinging away like King Kong swatting at the planes that buzzed his head.   Oh, you, too?

Jesus, I really do not want to live by my strength, which is nothing more than weakness compared with the power of Your Spirit living within me.  Help me to slow down and get back in step with the Holy Spirit, Who guides me as You promised He would.  Amen.

Copyright © 2014 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, October 26, 2014

October 26 (Romans 10:11)

For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.”  (ESV)

What things shame or embarrass you?  It is usually something like realizing you have gone out with two different socks, calling someone by the wrong name, or thinking that the party you are supposed to plan for your friend is next weekend only to look at your calendar and see that is in ten minutes.  In other words, we are embarrassed when some aspect of our life for which we had responsibility has fallen apart.  We have dropped the ball, and there is no one else to blame for it.  Blush!

Paul tells the Romans that if they will trust in God, they will not be ashamed.  No matter what happens as a result of the decision to trust God, shame and embarrassment are not among the consequences.  We can trust Him, absolutely and without qualification.

When was the last time you trusted God like that?  Come on, now.  You are not at church.  There is no need to put on your Perfect Christian mask.  It is just you thinking about your life.  So when was it?  Yeah, I can’t really remember the last time, either.

Father, I want so much to trust You.  In my head, I know the words of  Scripture about Your faithfulness are true, yet it feels like jumping off a cliff with no parachute.  Strengthen my faith so that I can live a life of confident abandon, trusting really and truly in You.  In the name of Jesus, Who trusted You in all things, I pray.  Amen.

Copyright © 2014 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, October 19, 2014

October 19 (Romans 1:16)

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes….  (ESV)

It is a simple story, really.  God loved the people He made in His image so much that He sent His Son, Jesus, to them.  Jesus revealed the true nature of God and went on to stand in the gap between life and death for us by dying in our place.  He rose again to prepare a place for us with God our Father.  Oh, and He sent the Holy Spirit to live within us, reminding us of all this and constantly redirecting us to Him.  What is there to be ashamed about in a story like that?

“Well, you just don’t understand.  I have co-workers who aren’t religious.  Some of my relatives have been hurt by the church.  Who am I to say that my private faith has to apply to everyone?  I don’t want to push my religion off on someone else.”


Lord Jesus, do not let me get caught up, swept in, and pulled under by misguided human reasoning.  Help me remember the simple, yet world-transforming power of the gospel.  May my life and my words at every moment of every day in every situation with every person I meet reflect the love of God that You have shown me.  Amen.

Copyright © 2014 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, October 12, 2014

October 5 (Joshua 1:9)

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.  (ESV)

When we encourage someone, it is often like a Dixie cup of water offered to a parched marathon runner.  When God encourages someone, it is like a shot of nitrous oxide to a muscle car on the drag strip.  We want to encourage, but we don’t want to be too forceful.  We tell our friends to hang in there and not to worry, but we may as well add “pretty please” for as much power as our words sometimes carry.

Now look at how God encourages Joshua.  In nine verses He repeatedly tells Joshua to be strong and courageous.  He tells him what is going to happen and the specific things Joshua needs to do, and then God ends this encouragement with a reminder.  “This is not an option,” He tells Joshua.  “I have commanded you.  This is an order, buddy.  I am not suggesting that you not be frightened.  I am flat out telling you, and the reason is that I will be right there with you the whole way.”

What would it be like to receive that kind of encouragement from God Himself?  Because the words of Scripture are living words, we are in fact receiving the same encouragement that Joshua heard.  Of course, that can be a sobering realization.  Since God Himself is telling us to get up off the mat and face the world with Him at our side, we really do not have much choice but to do it.

Father, I often feel overwhelmed by the world around me.  I would say thank you for these strong words of encouragement, but I know You well enough to know that You do not just want to hear my words of gratitude.  You want me to get out there and live, strongly and courageously, with You.  That is what I am going to do.  Amen.

Copyright © 2014 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, September 28, 2014

September 28 (Psalm 38:5)

My wounds stink and fester because of my foolishness.  (ESV)

King David has increasingly become one of my favorite people in the Bible.  He does great things and sins mightily, often from one minute to the next, and lays everything, both good and bad, before God.  How brutally honest is this verse?  No wonder God called him a man after His own heart.

Tired?  Beat down and stressed?  Fearful, filled with anxiety, or overwhelmed with worry?  Be honest for a moment and ask yourself just how much of all that is the result of your own foolishness.  I know half…okay, scratch that, seventy-five percent…oh, whom am I kidding, darn near all of the stress and pressure in my life I put there myself whether through sin or foolish lack of faith in God.

So what does David do in a situation where we all find ourselves sometimes?  He confesses his fault to God.  He lays it right out there and begs for help.  Read the rest of this psalm and you will get an idea of how a flawed man after God’s own heart lives a faithful life.

Jesus, I am worn out with the stupid way I live my own life.  I live foolishly and, yes, I yield to sin time and again.  Restore me, Lord.  Heal me.  Grab hold of my head and turn me to face You.  Truly, You are all I ever want.  Amen.

Copyright © 2014 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, September 14, 2014

September 14 (Exodus 3:14, John 8:58)

“Say this to the people of Israel, I am has sent me to you.’”  (ESV)
Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”  (ESV)

Pulitzer-winning author and professor of cognitive science Douglas Hofstadter has spent his career exploring analogies.  He has observed that all of our thinking comes down to saying this is that.  He and many others have determined that when we look out our window, we do not just see tall, brown, and green.  Our brain processes these visual inputs as a tree.  Nothing ever just is.  Everything is always something.

This is indeed how you and I process our world.  It is central to who we are, and for that reason, these two verses about God are all the more extraordinary.  While it is true that God is loving, powerful, and good, at His core He simply is.  In this life I must identify myself as something.  I am a husband, a father, a teacher.  God is.  I am an American and I am a writer.  God is.  I am a Christian.  God is.

Do you see the difference?  We add more and more adjectives and nouns to our description, striving to get close to an identity.  God simply is, and for this reason, I can worship Him.  To worship anything else is idolatry.

Father, I cannot begin to comprehend You.  I can only accept You as You are, and when I do, I fall on my knees in joyful adoration.  You are, and I am Yours through Jesus, Who with You and the Holy Spirit, simply is.  Amen.

Copyright © 2014 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, September 7, 2014

September 7 (Revelation 3:15-16)

“I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot!  So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.  ESV

Statistics indicate that 25% of Americans fall into a category that makes no sense.  It is the category of casual Christians, those who believe in God, but consider faith a private issue.  Family and happiness are the most important things.  The culture around them shapes their morality more than Scripture or the Holy Spirit.

The phrase “casual Christian” is in fact a contradiction.  It is as logical as “hot ice” or “dry liquid.”  God was quite clear throughout the Old Testament as was Jesus during His earthly ministry, and He echoes that truth in these words from Revelation.  Be hot or cold, in or out.  Follow Him or don’t.  Just don’t deceive yourself into thinking that you have your spiritual life together by rolling into church now and then and wearing a cross around your neck.

It is easy to look at others and see them as lukewarm in their faith, but this is not about other people.  It is about you.  It is about me.  Your resume may show that you do some things for the community and that church is a part of your life.  God does not look at our resumes.  He looks at our hearts.  What does your life look like there?

Lord, I want to be sold out, on fire, passionate, engaged, 100% involved in Kingdom life with You.  I do not want to live a half faith, one that goes no deeper than the cover of the Bible I want people to see me carrying.  As the hymn says, “Take my life and let it be always, only, all for thee.”  In the name of Jesus, Who lived that better than anyone, amen.

Copyright © 2014 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, August 31, 2014

August 31 (1 Corinthians 2:2)

For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.  (ESV)

When our children were little, they had toy versions of various adult items like dishes or tools.  It fascinated me that, when given the opportunity to play with the toy version or the real thing, they went for the real thing every time.

It is easy to get caught up in various aspects of the faith.  We enjoy our favorite Christian bands, get excited over a new type of study Bible, or want a cross necklace for our birthday.  None of these things are bad, mind you, and I am right in the thick of all that.  Yet none of that, to say nothing of whether or not we liked the sermon or this week’s worship music, can be the center of our lives.  Every once in a while, it is good to put aside the things of the faith to focus on the One in Whom our faith is rooted.

In addition to sin and the general distractions of life, what good, even helpful things, may be drawing your attention away from Jesus?

Lord, I want to dwell so fully on You and You alone that I see everything through You.  May You be the lens through which I see the world.  In the name of Jesus, in Whom I live and move and have my being, amen.

Copyright © 2014 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, August 24, 2014

August 24 (Acts 20:20-21)

I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.  (ESV)

This is an amazing description of what true evangelism looks like.  It makes my milquetoast efforts laughable.  First, Paul was not embarrassed to say whatever it took if he thought it would help someone know Jesus.  Second, he did not hesitate to speak anywhere, both in public and in private.  Third, he was willing to talk with anyone, both his own people who knew him and had some background on which he could build and those who were strangers to him and knew nothing of what he was preaching.

Look at each of these in your own life.  Are there some things you are unwilling to say, even if you know they are right and would help a person, simply because they are unpopular?  Are there places where you will not talk about matters of faith, perhaps because you have been told that it is just not appropriate in such a circumstance?  Are there people with whom you will not speak about Jesus because you feel awkward or uncertain?

I could spend all day responding to these questions because I have so many answers to them.  Sadly, there is nothing I will not say about, nowhere I will not describe, and no one with whom I will not share my favorite pizza joint.

Jesus, I want so much to be like Paul.  Help me to grow up and be mature in the faith, even if it costs me some relational capital or embarrassment.  Give me the strength to live out Your call on my life.  Amen.

Copyright © 2014 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, August 17, 2014

August 17 (Ephesians 4:1)

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.  (ESV)

There are certain occupations for which we expect people to act a certain way.  People in those occupations may find it burdensome at times, but the simple fact is that we just do not like it when a teacher gets drunk in public or a senator fools around with a staffer, and while other occupations may be just as important in our lives, we do not have the same reaction to the misbehavior of our auto mechanic or garbage collector.

Consider now the calling on everyone who has become a new creation in Jesus Christ.  We walk on earth as the sons and daughters of God, heirs along with Jesus to the glorious riches of heaven.  Even the atheist knows that people who believe this to be true should act differently from those who do not.

Paul adds one other piece to this message.  He points out that he is reminding us of our duty from his position as a prisoner.  He is suffering precisely for walking in a manner worthy of his calling.  Go to Google images right now and search on the phrase “ISIS Christians.”  You will see what is happening to our brothers and sisters in Iraq.  Let their faces and mangled bodies stand in for Paul.  Let his words come from their mouths.

Almighty God, I am not worthy of the calling to which I have been called, but You have made me so through the blood of Jesus.  Forgive me, Father, when I fail to honor that call.  Give me the strength to live as You have called me to live, as Paul lived, as our martyred brothers and sisters are living today.  Bless those under persecution.  May their witness turn the hearts of their torturers and murderers to You.  In the name of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, I pray.  Amen.

Copyright © 2014 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, August 10, 2014

August 10 (Mark 8:35)

For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it.  (ESV)

Two and two equal four.  Your house is on fire.  What is the difference between those two sentences?  The first is mere information, but the second is news, an announcement.  You are free to keep information to yourself, think about it, act on it if you wish.  News, on the other hand, requires a response.  Not to act on an announcement is to betray responsibility to the message, its messenger, and its author.

The Greek word for “gospel” is sometimes translated “good news,” and this quite literal.  Euaggelion means a good announcement.  In other words, it is more like “your house is on fire” than “two and two equal four.”  It is news that demands to be shared from person to person, from one town to the next.  When it comes to sharing the good news of Jesus, evangelism is not an option.

Just ask the Christians in Iraq.  They are not just losing their lives for the sake of the gospel.  They are being butchered for it.  They are being crucified, beheaded, and cut in half for it.  And that includes their children.  While our Iraqi brothers and sisters are meeting the Lord by the most gruesome of means, are we willing to risk a bit of social awkwardness with colleagues, friends, and family, to tell them about Jesus?

Lord, protect those under persecution this day.  Strengthen them in their faith.  May their suffering and death be a witness to their killers of Your love and grace.  May their sacrifice motivate me out of my comfort zone into the battle to save lives by spreading the gospel.  In the name of Jesus Christ, Who suffered all for me, amen.

Copyright © 2014 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, August 3, 2014

August 3 (Acts 28:30-31)

He lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, proclaimingthe kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.  (ESV)

These are the last words in the New Testament about Paul.  The life of one of the most important people in establishing our faith ends with these words.  Think of them as his obituary or epitaph.

We always want to get the last word in a conversation.  The last word is the summary, the definitive statement.  If you know anything about Paul, then these verses in Acts seem entirely appropriate.  After his conversion, every act of his life was about proclaiming the gospel with boldness.  You probably know where this is going.

What would the final statement on your life say?  It is true that we each have our own calling and that not everyone is meant to do things the way Paul did them.  Yet sharing the good news of Jesus is what we are all about.  How we go about it is unique to each person, but that we go about it is not up for question.  Would the essence, if not the exact words, of these verses be appropriate to describe your life?

Father, of all the accolades and awards in my life, the one I truly care about is hearing You say to me, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”  Help me to do all and only that which You would have me do.  Give me the grace and strength to live the life You want me to live.  In the name of Jesus, Who with You and the Holy Spirit reigns as Lord of all, amen.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

July 27 (Acts 18:9-10)

And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent,  for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.”  (ESV)

Not many of us have the courage of Paul to speak the truth about Jesus in the face of deadly opposition.  I wilt like a sun-baked flower if I think people will not like me.  Yet even Paul needed encouragement from God, and how did the Lord strengthen him?  He reminded him that he was not alone, that there were brothers and sisters in Christ who had his back and would stand with him.

I experienced this not long ago.  At a conference of educators, I discovered that several were believers.  They did not wear this information on their shirts, but it came out in subtle ways, and when it did, I was encouraged to be bolder in speaking about my faith.

Draw strength from those in your work, in your neighborhood, in your groups who, like you, serve Jesus Christ.  Do not hesitate to speak the truth in love.  In addition to sharing the gospel with someone who needs to hear it, you may be encouraging other Christians who need support to be bold.

Lord, You were brave enough to face death for me.  Help me be brave to share Your love with those around me.  May my life be a light to those in darkness and encourage fellow Christians to be the same.  In the name of Christ Jesus, I pray.  Amen.

Copyright © 2014 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, July 20, 2014

July 20 (Psalm 8:3-4)

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?  (ESV)

Forty-five years ago today, Neil Armstrong became the first human being to walk on the moon.  It was an amazing achievement, and human endeavors in space have only gotten more incredible over the decades.  We have built vessels of unbelievable size, speed, and complexity to take people into space.  We have put satellites into orbit.  With telescopes like the Hubble, we have seen farther into the universe than anyone could ever have imagined.

Space exploration is important.  God made us with minds capable of such work, and we must do it.  And what do we find when we do?  A glorious creation that requires poets to describe it.  As we stand in awe of the breathtaking wonders of creation, it slowly dawns on us how small we are.  Then comes the realization of how much God must love the tiny creatures made in His image that He would provide for us to the point of securing our eternal place with Him through His own death.

Whether it is the glory of outer space, the deep seas, or your own back yard, let the marvels of nature be a constant reminder of God's unspeakable love...for you.

Father, words cannot express the joy I take in Your creation.  Not only have you crafted the most amazing universe, you have given me natural senses to behold it and a mind to explore its depths.  Glory be to You, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!  Amen.

Copyright © 2014 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, July 13, 2014

July 13 (Ephesians 2:10)

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.  (ESV)

What do you think of when you read the first part of this verse?  If it is anything other than an epic poem, a symphony, a handcrafted masterpiece, then you have missed something vital.  We may not think a lot about workmanship in an age in which we can buy the same product from the same store in a hundred different cities, but think for a moment of an artist, a poet, or a composer laboring over every detail of the piece he is creating.  The word for “workmanship” in this verse in Greek is poiema, the word that gives us “poem” in English.  Are you seeing the picture?

Stress and problems to solve do not define you.  A list of things to do does not define you.  Temptation and sin do not define you.  As Christian artist Michael Sweet once wrote, “You took this life and painted it with definition.”  You are defined by the attentive, caring hand of God, Who crafted you for works of true Kingdom significance.

How does the truth of this verse change your perspective on today or this week?  How does it cause you to see your relationships differently?  You are God’s poem, my friend, the lyrics to a celestial song.

Jesus, it is so hard sometimes to believe verses like this one.  It is much easier to believe the message of the world.  Give me the courage to live the life that You have created, even if it is more brilliant than makes me comfortable.  Amen.

Copyright © 2014 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, July 6, 2014

July 6 (Romans 8:5)

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.  (ESV)

The brain is a piece of meat.  It is surrounded by chemicals and electricity.  It sends signals that cause fingers to twitch and knees to bend, and many things influence how it acts.  How much sugar, how much protein, how much alcohol, how much marijuana, how much caffeine…all these and countless more affect the behavior of our flesh.

Living according to the flesh is always to live by the dictates of our electro-chemical makeup.  We do this when we feel angry and lash out at someone, when we want something and take it with no regard for others.  Living by the Spirit is to make choices about our actions based on God’s will.  We do this when we feel angry and choose not to lash out, when we want something and choose not to take it.  The more this happens, the more our flesh acts with the Spirit, and we experience less conflict between the two.

How do your actions weigh in the balance between flesh and Spirit?  Living by the Holy Spirit is not a matter of muscling up and trying harder.  That is still an act of the flesh.  Living by the Spirit means surrendering to His gentle guidance.

Jesus, thank You for sending the Holy Spirit to live among us and to dwell in my heart.  May I never run so hard and fast that I try to outpace Him.  May all I do, say, and think, bring glory to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever.  Amen. 

Copyright © 2014 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, June 29, 2014

June 29 (Acts 1:12)

Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day's journey away.  (ESV)

This hardly seems like a verse on which to base a devotion.  It certainly is no John 3:16 and seems to serve no more purpose than to give the setting for whatever is the really important message.  Yet in this verse is an important key to living the Christian life…obedience.

Go back and read the first eleven verses of Acts 1.  You will see that Jesus had appeared to the apostles after His resurrection.  In verse 4 He told them not to leave Jerusalem, explained some things about the Holy Spirit, and then ascended into heaven.  After this heavy hitting passage, the very next thing Scripture tells us is that the apostles did exactly as Jesus had told them.  They went back to Jerusalem.  They obeyed Him in this simple, seemingly trivial instruction.

We all want burning bush, Damascus road experiences.  We want grand messages from God.  Do not overlook the little things.  What simple thing has God asked of you that you were too busy to notice?  Jesus told the apostles to stay in Jerusalem, and they did.  That is the Christian life.

Lord, as I strain my eyes into the distance for some grand vision, help me not to miss what is right at my feet.  Quiet my spirit so I may hear truly from You.  Help me be quick to obey, even in the small things.  In the name of Jesus, Who was obedient even unto death, I pray.  Amen.

Copyright © 2014 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, June 22, 2014

June 22 (Matthew 12:49)

And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers!”  (ESV)

Our son and daughter have many nicknames around our house.  One for our daughter is “Sissy” because she is her brother’s sister.  Recently, she referred to my wife as Sissy, and this caused us to pause a moment.  With the patience of a nine year old who has to explain the obvious to rather dim adults, she said, “She is my sister in Christ.”

Our relationship with Jesus not only trumps all others, it redefines them.  Coworkers and strangers become family.  People who have hurt us become those we love.

If this is true, and it is, how would it change the way you look at others?  Think for a moment about that co-worker you do not really like.  Picture the politician you love to rail against.  Call to mind all those you avoid, gossip about, or malign.  Now think of all of them as brothers and sisters in Christ.  Ouch.  It makes a difference, doesn’t it?

Lord, You have called me Your brother and friend, yet I treat other members of our family, well, You know.  Help me to love as You do, Jesus.  It does not come easily to me.  In Your name I pray, amen.

Copyright © 2014 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, June 15, 2014

June 15 (Psalm 22:3)

You are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.  (ESV)

I was driving with our son recently, and we were listening to one of my favorite albums from back in the day, Steve Camp’s 1983 Fire and Ice.  When the song “It is Good” came on, I was struck by the huge contrast between secular and Christian music…once again.  The message of the song is to praise God even, or especially, when you don’t feel like it.  Contrast that with Elton John’s “Sad Songs,” which advises that when all hope is gone we should “tune in and turn them on.”

Don’t get me wrong.  I love plenty of secular music.  Yet this is a clear example of how differently the world looks at things.  When I am down I should listen to sad songs?  Really?  That may seem like the right thing to do, and praising God when you are down is certainly not intuitive and takes some work.  Scripture tells us, however, that God inhabits the praises of His people.  Does it not actually make more sense to have your loving Father with you when all hope seems gone?

Try it.  As Amy Grant sang, “Sing your praise to the Lord.  I can never tell you how much good that it’s going to do you.”

God, I will praise You when things are good and I will praise You when things are bad.  Your praise will be in my heart and on my lips when I awake and when I lie down.  May my life proclaim Your praise forever!

Copyright © 2014 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, June 8, 2014

June 8 (Mark 10:33)

See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles.  (ESV)

He says it in such a matter-of-fact way.  “We are going to Jerusalem.  I am going to be executed.  Be sure to pack extra socks.”  It is one thing to admire this from a distance, but put yourself in the place of Jesus for a moment.  Think about driving a few miles to a place where you know people are lying in wait to kill you.  Imagine the anxiety that would build into raw fear as you got closer and closer.

I don’t know how He did it.  I have no idea how He suppressed the natural, human desire for self-preservation.  Yes, Jesus was God, but He was fully human, too.  He had to overcome the most basic instinct to save His life in order to save ours.  And He had to overcome it again and again, with each and every step on the way to Jerusalem, knowing He could turn around at any time.

He did it for you and me.  With each one of those steps, He fought back the natural desire to go anywhere but Jerusalem.  He willingly walked a slow, anxious journey so that you and I could have immediate passage to a life we do not deserve.  Forget not knowing how He did it.  I cannot get my head around why.

Jesus, I really do not get it.  I cannot come close to understanding the how and why of Your love.  When confronted by the enormity of it all, the only thing I can do is accept it and say, “Thank You!”

Copyright © 2014 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, June 1, 2014

June 1 (Job 27:6-7)

[T]ill I die I will not remove mine integrity from me.  My righteousness I hold fast, and will not let it go: my heart shall not reproach me so long as I live.  (KJV)

This is how I want to live.  Job has suffered mightily, but he simply will not give up or give in.  He will not do anything that would damage his integrity and righteousness. 

My dad’s mother used to talk about the importance of a person’s good name.  What do people think of when they hear your name?  For more than two thousand years Job has been known for his patient suffering and unwillingness to sin in hardship.  His righteousness and integrity have survived intact.

Free will is a wonderful and terrifying gift.  We have the freedom to do what we want, but then again, we have the freedom to do what we want.  The choice is ours.  Whether it is suffering or temptation that confronts us, we can, if we want, stand with Job and hold onto our righteousness and integrity.  We can also throw it all away.

Dear God, give me the strength of Job.  I want to maintain the purity that is mine through You.  Jesus has cleansed me of my sin.  Help me say no to all the opportunities I have to stain myself with it again.  In the strong name of Christ Jesus I pray.  Amen.

Copyright © 2014 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, May 25, 2014

May 25 (Mark 9:24)

Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”  (ESV)

I love the old church songs, classics like “Borrow my life and let it be, sometimes, partially for thee.”  I well remember “Some to Jesus I surrender, I surrender some.”  Even little children know “Jesus loves me, I guess so.”

If we were honest with ourselves, those are the lyrics we would sing.  The originals, of course, are more certain, more convinced and convincing.  Sometimes, however, I do not want to surrender my entire life to Jesus and yes, even as a Christian, there are times when I doubt His love.  I am human, just like the man in the verse for today.  Yet unlike so many of us, who feel we need to save face and pretend a perfect Christian walk 24/7, he cried out in his unbelief and in so doing showed real faith.

If your Christian friends and family were not around, if it were just you and Jesus in the privacy of your heart, what would you say to Him?  Trust me, there is no hurt, anger, frustration, fear, doubt, hesitation, or question that He has not heard.  On top of that, there is not one of those that He does not already know you are hiding in your heart.

Jesus, I want to take off the fancy outfit for a moment and be real with You.  To be honest, I am a bit scared.  I am so used to maintaining this fa├žade.  Will You hear me as I share my heart now with You?

Copyright © 2014 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, May 18, 2014

May 18 (Matthew 28:17)

And when they saw him they worshiped him….  (ESV)

The early disciples were faithful, first to their Jewish religion and then to the truth that Jesus had taught.  They would never have worshiped a false god like Zeus or Minerva.  These few words tucked away in the last chapter of the book of Matthew reveal something of extraordinary significance.  When they saw the risen Jesus, they worshiped Him and they would never have worshiped anyone other God.  The conclusion is obvious.  They believe that Jesus was God.

Jesus is our friend.  He is our brother.  He is our savior and the lover of our souls, and each aspect of our relationship with Him is perfected by His being God.  Why can I count on Him when I cannot always count on human friends?  Because Jesus is God.  Why can I trust Him with every fear and doubt without worrying over how He will receive it?  Because Jesus is God.  Why can I have confidence that He knows what is best for me in this life and can secure my eternal future?  Because Jesus is God.

When you see the love and grace of Jesus in your life, thank Him as you would anyone else, but do one more thing, a thing you can only do with Jesus.  Worship Him.

My Lord and my God, my Savior Jesus, I adore You.  I lay my life before You and worship You.  You are my light and my salvation.  May every word from my mouth, every thought in my mind, and every action I take glorify You, my God and my friend.  Amen.

Copyright © 2014 by Steven R. Perkins