Sunday, December 27, 2015

A Plan For the New Year

December 27 (John 21:17)

Feed my sheep.

This is one of the most wonderful sentences that Jesus ever spoke.  On the night of his arrest, Peter had denied knowing Him, just as Jesus said he would do.  This was not the kind of denial that some of us put forth when we remain silent about Jesus in conversation with friends.  Peter actually swore and cursed.  Imagine a man shouting, shaking his fists, and using profanity as he violently denied something.  That is how Peter denied Jesus.

Now it is after the Resurrection.  Jesus is fixing a breakfast of fish on the beach, and Peter and the others pull up in their boats.  Peter is not cursing and loud now, but there is an awkwardness there.  Peter knows what he has done, and he knows that Jesus knows, too.  Jesus gives Peter a chance to make it right.  He asks Peter three times whether he loves Him, once for each of Peter’s denials.  When Peter has confessed that he loves his Lord more than anything, Jesus does not give him further hoops through which to jump.  He does not lecture him.  He does not put him on probation until he is good enough to join the disciples again.  He puts him to work.

You did some good things in 2015.  You did some bad.  You may have even gotten more wrong than you got right.  As you look to the new year, you can spend your time beating yourself for all your mistakes and making plans, purely human plans, for how you are going to improve.  On the other hand, you can be faithful, accept the love and forgiveness of your Lord, and listen for what He wants you to do.  One of these approaches has all the appearance of discipline and promises success.  The other actually works.

Lord Jesus, thank You for this past year.  Forgive me for the times when I have rejected You and picked up again my sinful nature.  Like Peter, I truly do love You more than anything and accept the love that You have given me.  What do you want me to do next?  I wait, your humble servant, in patience.  Amen.

Copyright © 2015 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Name In Christmas

December 20 (Acts 4:12)

And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.  (ESV)

Merry Zeusmas!  Have a great Thormas!  Hope you enjoy Bobmas with your family!  So, are you going anywhere special this Nancymas?

There is a reason no one says such things.  There is a reason that if someone did, we would think he was crazy.  Zeus, Thor, and their like are false gods, mere fictions, and Bob and Nancy are names of ordinary human beings.  In short, none of them has warranted such celebration as we see at Christmas, and for good reason.  Not one human being other than Jesus has the power to save, and certainly no god created by powerless humans can do it.

I recently read an article suggesting that people do not need to be Christians to celebrate Christmas, and this is certainly true.  It went on, however, to suggest that Christmas was really no more than a pagan holiday that had been viewed through a Christian lens and now, in the 21st century, is once again a time stripped of its Christian meaning.  To this I would simply say, look at the word.  We are not celebrating Ra or Buddha at Christmas.  Whether a person acknowledges it or not, Christmas, like the rest of life, is first, last, and always about Jesus.

Lord, as the days pass rapidly heading toward Christmas, help me not to get so caught up in holiday stress and year-end business that I miss the chance to pause and honor You, born as a human, just like me, but capable of saving me from the penalty of sin.  As I focus on this truth, help me to shine its glory for those around me, far brighter than any decorative lights I may hang.  In the name of the One Who is the way, the truth, and the life, even Jesus my Lord, amen.

Copyright © 2015 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Training In the Classroom of Praise

December 13 (Psalm 149:1)

Praise the Lord!  Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise in the assembly of the godly!  (ESV)

When we join in praise with other Christians, whether in weekly worship at church or in another venue, it is a glorious, happy, joyous, awe-filled, reverent, humbling, uplifting experience.  Have you ever considered it training for war?

I was thinking of this as we worshiped one weekend at our church.  There were hundreds of people praising the Lord in full voice.  They were happy and proud to do so.  There was no sense of embarrassment because we were all of one mind.  Yet what would happen when those same people went into their workplaces and neighborhoods?  Would talk of the saving work of Jesus Christ come so easily to our lips?

It is difficult, especially in the social climate of our current age, to talk about Jesus publicly, and yet that is what we are both commanded to do and should want to do.  Fortunately, God has arranged the perfect classroom in which to practice.  Talking about Jesus in Bible studies and small groups, praising His name in worship, and praying aloud with our Christian brothers and sisters equip us for our most important work.  As we grow comfortable expressing the matters of the faith in the assembly, we become bolder to do so in the world.

Lord, it is such a joy to praise You!  Help me to take the words that I speak in praise and prayer into the world so that my family and friends may know the same joy of walking with You through Jesus.  It is in His name I pray.  Amen.

Copyright © 2015 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Trusting God So You Can Answer His Call

December 6 (Philippians 4:19)

And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.  (ESV)

I recently had the opportunity to join a team of Christians with a particular ministry focus.  I was one of three new members, and as I listened to the team speak words of affirmation concerning the outgoing members, one thought thundered through my mind.  “You do not belong here.”  This was no false humility.  I found myself sitting with varsity level Christian leaders.  The faith, the humility, the love, the grace, the Christ-centeredness of these people and their unswerving commitment to the ministry left me feeling little more than a spiritual gate crasher.

I realized as never before that I was not part of this organization because of any certain skills of my own.  Whatever my role would be on this team, whatever I could contribute, it would be God working through me to accomplish His purposes.  I could do no other than to adopt a palms-up posture and wait to see what He would do.

Do you have certain talents and abilities?  Great!  Thank God for those and let Him show you how to use them for Kingdom purposes.  At the same time, realize that He may call you to situations that lie well beyond what you think you are good at doing.  In such times remember that He will supply all that you need to accomplish what He has called you to do.

Thank You, Lord, for calling me to opportunities where I can serve You with the gifts I know You have given me.  I also make myself available to You for any other purpose.  I am Yours.  Direct me where You will.  I will obey, confident that You will give me what I need to do all that You ask.  In the name of Jesus, the rock and foundation of my faith, amen.

Copyright © 2015 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Constant Care and Presence of Jesus

November 29 (Genesis 28:15)

For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.  (ESV)

Our son and I were hiking in a sandstone canyon carved by the melting of glaciers in western Indiana.  I had pulled out my phone to take a picture of one glorious scene when I surprisingly received a bit of signal, and text messages started pinging through.  My friend’s wife had just been diagnosed with cancer.

It had been easy to revel in the splendor of God’s creation and to feel His goodness and love as we hiked the snow- and ice-covered trail beneath a brilliant, crisp, November sky.  But now?  We stopped and prayed together for our friends, but we before continuing on the trail, we talked about how some people are crushed by the trials that come to all of us, Christian and non-Christian alike, and how they can be led to question God’s love and even His presence.  I recalled this verse and others, and we talked about the sureness of God’s care for us, even, or especially, in moments when we do not feel it.

Illness.  Accidents on the highway.  Incurable diseases.  Losses of any kind.  Yes, we want to focus on Advent and the approach of Christmas.  There are lights to be hung and holiday preparations to be made.  Yet the very reason we celebrate the birth of one baby in a way we celebrate no other is because He was living proof of today’s verse.  Is He the One you cling to when the twinkling lights go out and the pains of life set in?

Every word.  Every breath.  Every act.  Every step.  All my life.  In my death.  Jesus.  Amen.

Copyright © 2015 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Trusting The Love of God

November 22 (Psalm 13:5)

But I have trusted in your steadfast love….  (ESV)

The Bible is unrelentingly realistic and unrelentingly hopeful, and one of the most wonderful words in all of Scripture is the conjunction “but.”  Not one of our ancestors in the faith portrays a silly, pie-in-the-sky attitude as if everything is or should be rosy all the time.  To have such a view or expectation of life would be a special kind of ridiculous.  We have pains, challenges, and difficulties.  Just look at your last week or think of the week ahead.

But.  Too many people stay stuck in the problems that come to us all.  Those who truly know God can say, “But….”  From King David to Jesus, those who not only know about the love of God but who dwell richly in that love can say confidently, even in the midst of the worst tragedies, that they will trust in Him.

This is not a sappy self-help notion that you can read, nod at approvingly, and then go on doing things your own way.  Seriously, stop for a moment.  Acknowledge with the Father Who loves you the issues that are plaguing you or causing you fear.  Lay them before His feet and then boldly, as if shouting in the face of hell, proclaim that you will trust His love no matter what.

Lord, today I take charge of my fears and the problems that are before me by letting them go.  I place them in Your hands, confident that You have far greater ability to handle them than I do.  Whether they are dealt with today or I must pray this pray again and again, I am confident in Your love, a love that was proved forever by the work of Jesus, my Savior, in Whose name I pray.  Amen.

Copyright © 2015 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Jesus-The Hope of Paris and The World

November 15 (John 14:6)

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

I saw a meme on Facebook in the wake of the terrorist attack on Paris.  It urged people not to pray for Paris because religion was the problem.  Those of us who are ignoring this advice are not praying for Parisians because of religion.  We are praying because Jesus Christ is the only hope the people of Paris have.

There is a darkness in the world.  Because of it, many are blinded to the truth and have lost their way.  There are not multiple solutions to this problem, to be chosen from by whim or personal preference.  There is but one answer, one hope.  It is the only man in history Who is God...Jesus Christ.

It is always a time for love, whether we are living in the wake of a tragedy or going about our daily affairs.  And love, in its purest form, is Jesus.  Now, and always, it is time for those who know Him personally to share Him and His love, not a secular, diluted, and perverted form of Jesus and His love.  Such relational evangelism will, as it always has, transform lives.

Lord Jesus, comfort the afflicted, lead to repentance and restoration those who afflict, and inspire those who are neither to use the grace of their current circumstance to share the good news about You.  Amen.

Copyright © 2015 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, November 8, 2015

The Existence of God

November 8 (Romans 8:38-39)

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,  nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  (ESV)

I love falling in love all over again.  Today, for example, I saw my wife moving through the house and did a double take.  I couldn’t help embracing her and telling her how beautiful she is.  The same thing happens when I look at certain pictures of our children or gaze on them as they sleep.  I am overwhelmed with a renewed sense of what I have always known, that I love them more than anything.

Our pastor recently delivered a message about the existence of God.  Did I really need to hear that message?  I have committed my life to Jesus Christ and strive to follow hard after Him daily.  Was there any doubt in my mind about the existence of God?

The sad fact is yes.  Yes, I needed to hear that message because, yes, despite more evidence than would fit in a dump truck, I still allow the world’s pressures to cause me to doubt God’s love, His grace, His provision, and His forgiveness.  As our pastor walked us through what I already knew, the most wonderful thing happened.  I fell in love again.

Lord, You are more real than my own hand in front of my face.  Strengthen my faith so that I may see with the eyes of my heart, relying less on my physical senses.  Even in those moments when I become faith-blind and cannot see You, may I cling to the truth that nothing can separate me from You.  In the name of Jesus, Who bridged the great divide for me, amen.

Copyright © 2015 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Leaning On the Everlasting Arms

November 1 (Isaiah 46:4)

And even to your old age I am he; and even to hoar hairs will I carry you: I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you.  (KJV)

A glass of your favorite cold beverage on a summer day.  A mug of hot chocolate on a winter morning.  A steaming shower or bath after working your muscles to the point they ache.  Collapsing into your own bed after a long, exhausting trip.  There are just certain things that in restoring the body restore the soul as well.

When I read this verse recently, it had a similar effect.  Sometimes I just need to be reminded that God has me.  He was with me when I was a child, He is with me in middle age, and He will be there when I am old.  He made me, and because of that He will carry me.

Man, oh man, do I need to hear that.  If you are living in, oh, I don’t know, say this very year, then you are by default stressed and exhausted.  It comes with the territory of modern life.  What a gift to step back, just for one brief moment, and realize that the hubbub of daily existence can go take a long walk off a short pier.  God has your back, and that is the only thing that matters.

Father, thank You.  Thank You for Your loving arms that support me, embrace me, comfort me, guide me, protect me, and defend me.  I love just being in the warmth of Your embrace.  I love You.  Amen.

Copyright © 2015 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, October 25, 2015

A King's Response To Trouble

October 25 (Isaiah 37:14)

Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it; and Hezekiah went up to the house of the Lord, and spread it before the Lord.  (ESV)

What do you do when you get bad news?  When I learn of something tragic, a horrible illness striking close to my family, for example, I go straight to prayer.  When it is a problem with the computer or an issue at work, I tend to, as my mom used to say, run around like a chicken with its head cut off.  Perhaps the opposite is true for you.  You may give God your daily troubles, but fall apart over the big stuff.

King Hezekiah received a letter from the King of Assyria that threatened the kingdom of Judah in no uncertain terms.  To Hezekiah it must have seemed like turning around to find to find a hulking, ten-foot giant standing behind him about to drive him into the ground with a club.  So what did this king do?  Did he go first to his war council?  Did he run and hide?  Did he fly off to battle?  He laid the letter before the Lord and prayed.

There are certain things that cause you stress and distress.  They may be big or they may be small, but there are just certain aspects of life that throw you off your game.  When those things come your way, consider not responding to them at all until you have spread them before the Lord.  As a faithful follower of Christ, you will respond in good time, in God’s time, and your response will be so much better when it has been guided by the hand of the Lord.

Father, it is my nature to respond to things quickly.  I feel the demands of people and the pressures of life clamoring for an immediate response.  Today I give You each of the matters demanding an answer from me.  Help me to give no answer but what I hear from You.  Amen.

Copyright © 2015 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Seeing As Jesus Sees (4 in a series of 4)

October 18 (Matthew 28:19-20)

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.  (ESV)

For the past three weeks, we have looked at the absurdity of blaming non-Christians for not living as Christians and of thinking purely human solutions will ever bring lasting change to the problems of our day.  We also saw the Christian logic of Paul that led to the inescapable conclusion that we must tell others about Jesus.

Now let’s get personal.  I have gone out to eat at a restaurant not of my choosing simply because a friend wanted to go there.  When we are in relationships with people, we like to do the things that they want to do.  If we take Jesus seriously and if we take seriously our relationship with Him, then His final words to us must inspire all we do.  We must go out to those who do not know Him and tell them about Him.  We must teach His teachings.  We must baptize, both literally and by bathing everything we do, say, and think, not just in the privacy of our homes, but out in the world, in the reality of Who He is.

Our pastor frequently says that the world is dying faster than we are making disciples of Jesus.  It does not have to be this way.

Lord, I need courage.  Give me the boldness to share my faith in both word and deed.  Help me not to waste my life by keeping the greatest news of all time a secret.  In the name of Jesus, Who was not ashamed to die for me, amen.

Copyright © 2015 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Seeing As Jesus Sees (3 in a series of 4)

October 11 (Romans 8:14)

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?   (ESV)

It is easy to fault others for not living as Christ followers, but that is absurd when they are not, in fact, followers of Christ.  It is easy to reach for exciting solutions to the problems of our day, but that is absurd if those solutions are not rooted in the wisdom and strength of God.  What, then, are we to do?

It is not an option for Christians to sit back and throw stones at those who sin, but do not know God.  It is not an option for us to sit back and do nothing about the problems that plague our society and our world.  Paul lays out the only logical conclusion when confronted with these twin issues.  We must tell people about Jesus.

As much as I love Him, I often want to do the exact opposite.  I do not want to get drawn into an argument.  I do not want people to stop liking me.  I do not want…you name it.  This is nonsense, my friends.  As a follower of Christ, I have and should want no option.  I must tell people about the true life now and in the world to come that is available solely through Jesus Christ.  If I do not, then I cannot be frustrated by the sinful lives of those who do not know Him and I cannot be surprised when the human solutions to our world’s problems fail yet again.

Father, I know in my head what will help my friends and the world around me, their surrender to and relationship with Jesus.  Grant me the ability to ignore myself and all my fears and hesitations so that I may be a bold messenger for You.  In the name of my Lord, Jesus, Who hesitated for nothing, not even death, amen.

Copyright © 2015 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Seeing As Jesus Sees (2 in a series of 4)

October 4 (Isaiah 31:1, 3)

Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help; and stay on horses, and trust in chariots, because they are many; and in horsemen, because they are very strong; but they look not unto the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the Lord!  Now the Egyptians are men, and not God; and their horses flesh, and not spirit.  (KJV)

I want to get things done.  When I have a task in front of me, I just want to get it done now.  Right now.  I also have numerous broken items around our house showing the wisdom of that approach.  This is what happens when I rely solely on my own understanding and strength to accomplish things.

In last week’s devotion we saw it was a mistake to think that people who do not follow Christ will live as if they do.  It is equally a mistake to think that problems can be solved by purely human means.  For some of us, the only tools in our box are political efforts, financial resources, and government programs.  These are certainly good tools and can be used to accomplish much, but if these are the only tools we have, then we will never solve the problems that matter most.

Not a day goes by when we do not read about this or that effort to address this or that problem.  We must look at all proposed solutions to see if they are really just a trip to Egypt, a trusting in men and horses rather than in God.  If the solutions we are considering are purely human, they will have a short-lived effect at best.  If they are rooted in God’s strength and wisdom, they are guaranteed to produce the only kind of effects we truly want.

I read too much news, Jesus.  I get far too caught up in the ideas and plans of people.  Keep me grounded in You and Your word so that I may first of all discern clearly Your will and then be able to evaluate truly the solutions to the problems around me.  In Your name I pray, amen.

Copyright © 2015 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Seeing As Jesus Sees (1 in a series of 4)

September 27 (Ephesians 4:18)

They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.  (ESV)

When I was in fifth grade, I got glasses for the first time.  In those early, bespectacled days, I marveled at leaves on trees and all the other details of the world I could now see…and my parents were mortified.  Why had I not told them I could not see those things?  My answer was simple.  I had assumed everyone saw the world the way I did.

We often make the same mistaken assumption.  We are frustrated, angry even, when people around us do not live Christian lives.  Setting aside the whole speck in someone else’s eye issue, does it ever occur to us that the people behaving in unchristian ways may not be followers of Christ?  Paul makes it clear that there are many people who are separated from God.   They do not understand the truth about life.  Their hearts are hard and their minds are dark.

If we saw a man stumbling down the road, blind drunk, would we fault him for not making an Olympic time in the 800 meter race?  We would, hopefully, show him what he could do, explain what it would take to get there, and then help him accomplish it.

Father, thank You for helping me see the truth of life by the grace of the Holy Spirit.  When I see that someone is not living in You, help me not to write that person off because of his or her sin.  Help me to see that person clearly and do what I can to lead him or her to Jesus.  Amen.

Copyright © 2015 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Public Life of a Christian

September 20 (Matthew 5:14-15)

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.  (ESV)

You cannot be a Clark Kent Christian.  Clark Kent is the secret identity of Superman.  Christians do not have secret identities. They must live their lives outside, in full view of everyone.  It just is not possible to be a Christian at home, but not in the workplace.

Ouch.  Talk about uncomfortable.  We are living in an age in which it seems as if everyone wants people to keep matters of faith to themselves.  We can post amusing selfies all over Facebook, but watch yourself lose friends if you post a biblical conviction.

When you read these verses from the Sermon on the Mount, do not interpret them in the light of the present day.  Do not see them in terms of how this or that person has seen them.  Understand them in terms of the rest of Scripture.  Listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit.  What does it mean for you to live out these verses in the context of your life?  God knows, and He will guide you.

Father, I confess two things.  I would love to shine a brighter light than I do and I am terrified to do so.  Help me see clearly what You would have me to do and say among my friends, family, and coworkers.  In all things, may I represent You.  In the name of Jesus, Who took all the abuse of the world to the cross for me, amen.

Copyright © 2015 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Call and The Calling of Jesus

September 13 (Matthew 4:18-19)

While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen.  And he said to them, "Follow me, and I will  make you fishers of men.”  (ESV)

Jesus calls ordinary people to follow Him, and He calls them to use their natural gifts in new ways.  Satan would love to have us think that we are not good enough and that God will therefore not use us.  As is so often the case with the great deceiver, a half-truth seems entirely true.  It is true we are not good enough, but it is not true that God will not use us.

We do not have to worry about being good enough for God.  Jesus took care of that.  His blood washed us clean of our sins.  In His eyes, we are indeed now good enough, and as a result, He will call the plumber, the teacher, the senator, the scientist, the custodian, the artist, and the business executive to follow Him.

One of the great things about God is that He will not waste anything.  He will use the special gifts of each and every one of us in His kingdom.  What did He tell fishermen?  He said they will fish for men.  What do you do that you are really good at?  What is that thing that is as natural to you as breathing?  God will use that very thing, and other gifts you may yet discover, to build His kingdom on earth.

Father, thank You for calling me through Jesus.  Help me not buy into the lies of the enemy that would make me think I have no role to play in Your kingdom.  I want to use all that You have given me to serve You and bless those around me.  In the name of my Savior, Jesus, I pray.  Amen.

Copyright © 2015 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, September 6, 2015

When a Christian Sins

September 6 (1 John 2:1)

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.  (ESV)

I get it.  I am not supposed to sin.  I should not even want to sin.  Oh, but I do.  There are times when it just happens, almost without my thinking, and there other times when I am well aware of what I should do, but deliberately do the opposite.  What then?  My friends may not like me if they knew.  People who look up to me may look at me with less admiration.  What if I lose the opportunity to serve God as I really want to because people think I am not good enough when they learn the truth about me?

I am willing to be that some, or all, of those concerns sound familiar.  I hear that nagging voice of doubt almost every day.  Guess what?  That nagging voice can take a hike.  We have an advocate, one who will plead our case before God Himself.  Now, that is a pretty good deal right there, but wait, as they say on the infomercials, there’s more!  That advocate is none other than Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the second person of the Holy Trinity, the one true God Who walked the earth as a human and willingly died for me because He loves me just that much.

Do we really grasp that?  Jesus Christ defends us before God when we sin.  Naturally we should not make a habit of it, but when it does happen, Jesus has our backs.  As our pastor recently said, confess, repent, and get on with your life.

Jesus, thank You so much for the grace of Your forgiveness.  Thank You for Your love that heals and restores and catches me when I fall.  Help me to live from a place of confidence in Who You are and all that You have done and continue to do for me.  Amen.

Copyright © 2015 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Jesus With You All the Time

August 30 (Matthew 28:20)

And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.  (ESV)

This is a beautiful promise that Jesus makes in the very last verse of the Gospel of Matthew, yet the English simply does not capture all of it.  Greek word order is highly flexible, allowing it to express concepts both by the meanings of the words and by their arrangement.  The first part of our Lord’s promise actually reads, I-with you-I am.  Notice the position of the words.  Where is Jesus?  At the beginning and the end of the promise.  Where are we?  In the middle.  He literally has us surrounded, wrapped in his embrace.

As for the word “always,” well, that is a fair enough translation, but the Greek actually reads “throughout all days.”  Day in and day out, Jesus is with us.  When we get up in the morning, when we go to bed at night, and then again the next.  And again the next.  And again and again.

Now put all that together.  Jesus has you in his loving embrace and He will never let you go.  He is not just in the corner of the room watching.  He is intimately involved in every fear, worry, concern, joy, celebration, and hope that you have every single minute of every day of your life.  How about that for a promise!

Jesus, my heart leaps at the thought of how close You are to me at all times!  Thank You, my Lord and Savior, for such a beautiful and powerful promise.  I want to live a life based on this truth and nothing else.  I love You, Jesus!  Amen.

Copyright © 2015 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Freedom Without Condemnation

August 23 (Romans 8:1)

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  (ESV)

I am a driven person.  Everything, all the time, and to perfection…that’s how it is with me.  As a result, I do not take my failures very well.  Even something as simple as forgetting a trivial task leads to swift self-condemnation.  Perhaps you know the feeling.

This is, of course, pointless.  Jesus Himself offers no condemnation, none.  He is there with infinite love and grace to support us whenever we need.  We should have been condemned for our sins, but He took the punishment.  Our debt has been cleared.  Our slate is clean.

Can you imagine the freedom of living in the truth that you do not have to be perfect?  How wonderful would it be to realize that when your boss gets angry at you, when friends or family are disappointed in you, even when you want to condemn yourself for some shortcoming, Jesus does none of those.  He looks at you and says, “You are forgiven, my friend.  Let’s try it again.”

Jesus, help me to lose control of my life.  I want to live in the freedom that You offer me.  I need help, though.  It is so easy to grab the reins and try to direct everything myself.  Today I accept the glorious gift of grace without condemnation in You.  Amen.

Copyright © 2015 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, August 16, 2015

A Simple Piece On Good And Evil

August 9 (Isaiah 5:20)

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil,who put darkness for light and light for darkness,who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!  (ESV)

Some things are right.  They are right to think, right to say, right to do.  Some things are wrong.  They are wrong to think, wrong to say, wrong to do.  Unfortunately, even stating basic truths like these has become unpopular in our age and next to impossible in some contexts.  Before we can even hope to begin resolving some of our conflicts, we must once again embrace these simple truths.  Some things are right.  Some things are wrong.

We may agree on some of the big ones.  It is right to help someone.  It is wrong to kill.  Yet rarely is life that clear.  Is it right to help the person with a cardboard sign at the intersection?  What if that person is trying to scam me?  Is it wrong to kill an enemy in war?  What about a child in the womb?  And how do I determine right and wrong when what is legal and illegal may not be the most helpful guide?

Fortunately, we have a clear guide.  God, the Creator of the universe and the One Who established right and wrong, has given us both His words and His Word.  He has spoken to us through the words of the Bible and through the Word made flesh, our Lord Jesus, Who promised the further gift of the Holy Spirit, Who leads us into truth.  So we have the resources we need, which is good.  This verse from Isaiah reminds us that, equipped with reliable knowledge, we ought never to confuse what is right and what is wrong, what is good and what is evil, by exchanging God’s sure path to truth for a human way of seeing things.

Father, my friends and family do not intentionally lie, but we do disagree, sometimes on matters of deep importance.  Help me to discern when these are issues where different views can live in tension and where good must be identified and upheld over evil.  May I always stand firm on the true rock of our faith, Jesus, in Whose name I pray.  Amen.

Copyright © 2015 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Praise In Times of Trouble

August 9 (Job 1:21)

The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.  (ESV)

When my Internet goes down because of a storm, I want to cry out to the God of the universe, “Why, Lord?  Why?  Dost thou not know I must gain access to a file on my Google drive?”  Suffice it to say I do not always handle the little interruptions of life very well.  Now take a look at Job.  In the space of one day, he lost his entire livelihood and most of his family.  What is his response?  Read the verse above.

I really need to maintain a better perspective on things.  I want to be the kind of person who, even in the midst of calamity, puts all things in the hands of God and continues to praise Him.  I do not want to be just a sunshine Christian, one who praises God when times are good, but rails against Him for what I see as injustice when things go bad.  I want to remain firm in my relationship with and identity in my heavenly Father.

So what things have you shaking your fist at heaven?  You may not tell anyone else about them, but you know there are certain situations that leave you wondering if God really loves and cares for you.  How would your perspective change if you began your prayer of pleading for help with words of praise?

Father, You have already blessed me more than words can say.  In addition to giving me the free gift of eternal life that was paid for in the blood of Your Son, Jesus, You have guided my steps in this world.  May I never forget Your love, especially in times of trouble.  In those moments may I praise You, my loving and gracious God.  Amen.

Copyright © 2015 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, August 2, 2015

What To Do Today

August 2 (Ecclesiastes 12:13)

Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.  (ESV)

King Solomon, renowned for his wisdom, has just spent eleven chapters exploring the meaning of life.  It makes sense that people would want to flip to the end to see what his final discovery could be, and he does not disappoint.  Fear God, keep His commandments, the end.

Life is often filled with difficult decisions.  Which college should I attend?  Should I take the job with the higher salary that is farther away, or should I take the job closer to home and make a little less?  Do I pursue this relationship or bring it to an end?  These are not unimportant questions, but they and a host of others can consume our lives.  The next thing you know, you are lost in the weeds confusion, worry, and stress.

Living life based on Solomon’s conclusion will not necessarily make it easier, but it will make it right.  Unless our relationship with God is at the center of our lives, which means it shapes all our decisions and actions, our lives will quickly become a mess. 

Jesus, nothing is more important to me than my relationship with You, not my agenda for this day or my plans for the future.  Protect me from distractions that would draw my attention away from You and Your will for my life.  Amen.

Copyright © 2015 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Life With the King

July 26 (Psalm 47:7)

… God is the King of all the earth….  (ESV)

Earthly leaders have their proper role to play, but not one of them has ever been, is now, or will ever be King of all the earth.  All of Psalm 47 is a powerful reminder of Who actually sits on the throne of the world.  Do you suffer from a poor leader at work?  Do you worry about bad, even evil, leadership in the world around us?  Such people will lead only for a season, and even then, they do not control it all.

On top of that, you know the King of all the earth.  You know Him personally, and He knows you.  You enjoy what all those who seek audience with earthly powers will never know.  You have a bright, joyous, and loving relationship with the King.  He calls you His child (Romans 8:16) and He calls you His friend (John15:15).

So what are you waiting for?  If the conditions of life are bringing you down, take them to your friend, the King.  If there are things you simply cannot handle, fears that are reaching out for you, or more pain than you can bear, take them to your Father, the King.  There is not one person on earth who can ever love you the way He already does.

Father, I spend far too much time living as if I were not what I am, Your child and heir with Jesus to Your kingdom.  Help me to turn my eyes from both the threats of this life and anything that pretends to give me life.  You are my life, and I draw all my life from You.  In the powerful name of Jesus, I pray.  Amen.

Copyright © 2015 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Weed Pulling

July 19 (Matthew 13:27)

And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’  (ESV)

Our neighbors on either side of us are retired and keep immaculate lawns.  At this point, a weed would not so much as dare to grow in their yards.  At our house, weeds feel more comfortable.  In fact, they seem to invite their friends.  They undoubtedly feel welcome because we are not diligent about getting rid of them, spraying against them, and applying the proper lawn treatments at the right times of the year.

It had rained recently, and the soil was soft, so I took the opportunity to attack some of the weeds, carefully pulling them so they came out root and all.  It struck me that they came out much more easily when the soil was soft.  When the ground is hard, there is simply no pulling out a weed.  You can break off the stem, but you cannot pull out the roots.

The same is true in our lives.  When our hearts become hard, the habits of sin can take root, and it is difficult to remove them.  Our hardness causes us to think that we do not have a problem and that there is no need to address certain issues.  When our hearts are soft, however, we can more easily get down to the root of sins and habits in order to remove them completely.

Jesus, keep my heart soft with Your love and grace.  Busyness and the desire to do things my way make my heart hard.  With Your help, I want to remove all the weeds that threaten to choke out Your life in me.  Amen.

Copyright © 2015 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Monuments and Life

July 12 (Matthew 6:19-20)

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.  (ESV)

Our family loves history, and we recently visited the battle grounds of Antietam and Gettysburg and numerous sites in Philadelphia.  As we visited the cemetery that held the grave of Benjamin Franklin and other founders of our nation, I noticed something.  Just two hundred fifty years after they were established, many of the stones were so worn by the elements that they were illegible.  Once deeply carved notations of life had nearly vanished or had in some places disappeared.

I pointed this out to our children, and we reflected on these words of Jesus.  Monuments and memorials are important to help us celebrate and remember our history.  They serve a function for those who follow.  Yet for the people whose lives they mark, they hold no meaning whatsoever.  Stones crumble.  Metal rusts.  As hard as it may for us to conceive, even the names of Washington, Franklin, and Jefferson will one day be forgotten.

There is nothing like the fallen remnants of the past to remind us of the glorious future that can be ours in Christ Jesus.  Nothing can separate us from the love of God says Scripture, and nothing can diminish the brilliance of eternal life with Him.  That, and that alone, is worth the focus of our life.

Lord, do not let me get caught up in the honors and things of this world.  It is so easy to think that what my effort can accomplish and what my money can buy are of some sort of genuine value.  Help me to remember with every breath that my true honor rests with You.  In the name of Jesus, my Lord and Savior, amen.

Copyright © 2015 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, July 5, 2015

July 5 (Matthew 10:31)

Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.  (ESV)

I was washing our car in the driveway recently and really wanted to do a good job.  I used a soft, cotton rag for the cleaning and dried it with a chamois.  I spent a lot of time detailing the glass, the seats, and the dashboard.  As I worked, I could not help thinking about the comparison with how God loves us.  If I cared that much about an object that would not last forever and that I had purchased with money, how much more must God care about His children who will live forever and that He purchased with His own blood?

It was a wonderful reminder of two things.  First, there is the unfathomable love of God that beggars all description and dwarfs any of our emotions.  Then there is His constant teaching, which He often accomplishes through our mundane tasks.  The daily activities that make up our lives are filled with opportunities to see His hand at work.

Where can you see God working in your life?  It may be in something grand, but it does not have to be.  It may be in something perfectly ordinary and routine.  And when you do see some new facet of His love or His grace or His truth, what will you do about it?

Father, thank You for pouring out on all of us more love than we could ever comprehend.  Thank You, too, for communicating that love in every moment of every day.  Give me eyes to see and ears to hear, that I may know and serve You more and better.  In the name of Jesus, Who bought my life with His, amen.

Copyright © 2015 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, June 28, 2015

June 28 (John 1:22-23)

So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”   the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”  (ESV)

I love the answer that John the Baptist gave when he was asked the fundamental questions about his identity.  He did not say something about where he lived or what he did for a living or who his family was.  These are the kinds of answers we give.  Instead, he answered the only thing that truly mattered, who he was and what he was doing in relationship to God.

Think about that for a moment.  We meet people all the time and get similar questions.  What if we answered them the way John did?  “I look after God’s people in the emergency room of the hospital.”  “I help people steward God’s money at the bank.”  “I am a missionary for Christ in the local school.”  “I keep the cars that God has given people in good working order.”

God has equipped each of us with particular gifts to do jobs specifically designed for us to do.  Yet it is not the job itself, or the gifts, that define us.  Who we are is rooted in our relationship with God.  Our speech and our actions reveal just how much we realize that.

Jesus, it is so easy to fall into habits of work and family life that seem to exclude You.  My true identity in You becomes just one more compartmentalized fragment.  Help me to speak and live the truth, that I am Yours and living for You every minute of every day.  Amen.

Copyright © 2015 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, June 21, 2015

June 21 (Matthew 7:9-11)

Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent?  If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!  (ESV)

I love it when our children steal French fries from me at a restaurant.  Every dad does.  When my dad was still alive and our children were really little, he loved it, too, and as a dad I know he loved it when as a boy I did it to him.  We want good things for our children.  We want them to have a good life, and we will do everything in our power to help them achieve it.

And we don’t know the half of it.  We think we love our children, but it does not hold a candle to how our heavenly Father feels about us.  To be honest, I understand the Father’s love even less as a dad, because I know just how boundless is the love for my children.  I cannot fathom a love greater than that, yet Jesus tells us that His love is infinitely greater than mine.

So, what are you waiting for?  Whatever it is, share it with your Father in heaven.  Confess it, cry about it, excitedly show it to Him, ask Him for help with it, talk with Him about it.  He loves you more than any earthly father ever could.

Father, thank You for Your unending love.  Even as an adult, I need You, my Dad, to be with me in all things.  Thank You for the grace that allows us to have the best Father-child relationship imaginable.  In the name of Jesus, Who made it possible, amen.

Copyright © 2015 by Steven R. Perkins