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