Friday, December 23, 2016

A Lion At Christmas

December 25 (Revelation 5:5)

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

Many of us will see nativity sets under our trees today or on tables amid candles and cards.  Often those sets will have a sheep or two, for the shepherds were there to welcome their Lord as a baby.  The sheep are also a reminder of the gentle love of our Savior, Who is the Lamb of God.

Yet this Lamb is also a lion, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, spoken of in the last book of the Bible as the One Who has conquered.  And what has He conquered?  He has conquered everything…sin, death, separation from God…and every other ill that has sprung from the attempts of Satan to bring harm to God’s creation.

So what are you waiting for?  Laugh, celebrate, and sing loudly for joy!  Joy to the world, the Lord is come!  Let earth receive her king!  Let every heart prepare Him room, and heaven and nature sing!

Lord, I am so grateful to You this Christmas Day!  The gift not only of eternal life is mine through Jesus, but the gift of life to the full, as it was meant to be, with You.  Glory be Yours this day, Lord, from the depths of my heart and in all I say and do.  Amen.

Copyright © 2016 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Lamb of God

December 18 (John 1:29)

Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!  (ESV)

It is the central truth of the world.  Earth was visited by One not of this planet, yet this planet was of Him.  In fact, Earth is not only of Him; it is His.  And He did not come for sightseeing.  He came to redeem and to claim.  He came to take away the sin of the world.

If that is not the focus of our minds and hearts, our calendars and checkbooks, at this time of year, then we have let department stores and popular media shape our lives more than God.  Incredibly, God will let that happen.  The image of Jesus as a lamb has a twofold reminder for us.  He is the perfect sacrifice to take away our sin, but He is also humble and gentle.  He will not force the gift of His love and grace on anyone.  It is free to all, but He will not make us take it.

This week leading to Christmas will be full…full of last-minute tasks to complete and things to buy, houses to clean, food to prepare, emails and texts to make travel arrangements, excitement and anticipation about being with family and friends.  These are the moments to savor and with which we make the memories that form the beautiful tapestry of our lives.  Yet in our thoughts, our prayers, and our conversations, we do well to remember that this baby came to die for us.  We owe Him absolutely everything.

Jesus, You are my all and all.  You knew me before I was born.  You loved me, Your creation, enough to be born a helpless baby and to die for me.  Your love has continued my whole life, in moments I could see and in times I could not.  May You be honored this Christmas not by my decorations, but by my faithful obedience to You.  Amen.

Copyright © 2016 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Christmas Dragon

December 11 (Revelation 12:3, 4)

I saw a large red dragon with seven heads and ten horns, with seven crowns on his heads.  He stood in front of the woman as she was about to give birth, ready to devour her baby as soon as it was born.  (ESV)

Does the nativity set under your tree come with a dragon?  It should.  We focus a lot on gentle Jesus, meek and mild, but we rarely acknowledge the dragon that showed up at His birth.  We sing of the wise men and we talk of the shepherds keeping watch over the flocks that night, but the dragon is curiously absent from most of our Christmas stories, plays, and songs.  Then again, we do remember, at least sometimes, the threat of King Herod, so perhaps we are at least faintly aware that something serious, something dangerous is connected with the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes.

The birth of Jesus was both an earthly and a cosmic event, which stands to reason since He is both God and man.  As a result, His birth was opposed in both realms, by Herod on earth and by Satan in the heavenly places.  Make no mistake here.  Satan is not a cute Disney dragon.  He is the ancient serpent who deceived Adam and Eve and is the inspirer of abortion, genocide, racism, hatred, murder, lying, theft, abuse, and every evil we have ever experienced.  And that is the beast that stood ready to devour the Christ child.

It is a king you have represented beneath your Christmas tree.  It is a cosmic warrior who defeated death that is being portrayed by a plastic baby doll in the Christmas play.  It is the incarnation of more power and love and grace and truth than our small minds can comprehend that Satan wished to kill from the beginning and who looks today into your eyes as He says, “That one is mine.”

O Lord, my God, You have my allegiance and my life.  All that I am, all that I have, and all that I do is Yours.  Today I ask for nothing, but give to You once again my everything.  Amen.

Copyright © 2016 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, December 4, 2016

The Authoritative Words of Jesus

December 4 (Luke 4:32)

[A]nd they were astonished at his teaching, for his word possessed authority.  (ESV)

Do you take the first hit on the first page of a Google search, or do you go a bit deeper?  Is a .com or a .edu extension a better guarantee of accuracy?  One of the first things I do when reading a non-fiction book is to check the bibliography.  What sources does the author cite?  One of the biggest challenges in the Information Age is knowing which news source is telling the truth. 

With Jesus there is no question.  He speaks with authority because He is God.  He does not speak opinion, what is popular, or what He has heard from others.  He does not even speak what has been well researched and documented in peer-reviewed journals.  He is the great I AM and He needs no further credentials.

Is He challenging you to change some aspect of your life?  You should do it, for He has the authority to tell you right from wrong.  Is He calling you to serve the Kingdom in a particular way?  Don’t hesitate, for He has the authority to place claims on your life.  Is He telling you that, contrary to everything you have heard or have felt from others, God loves you…that He really and truly loves you?  Then fall back into those loving arms and rejoice, for He is telling the truth.

Lord, open my heart that I may hear accurately and speak truth to the deepest parts of my soul.  I stake my confidence on You and Your words alone.  In the name of Jesus, Who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, amen.

Copyright © 2016 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Finding The Way To Go

November 27 (Psalm 119:105)

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.  (ESV)

Our son and I recently spent a few days at one of our favorite spots on earth, Turkey Run State Park in western Indiana.  Filled with forested paths and trails that work their way through glacier-carved canyons, it is a hiker’s dream.  This trip we hiked a few trails that were new to us and several times were stopped by what seemed to be an impossible way forward.  A trail would seem to dead end or ascend through a dauntingly narrow and steep crevasse.  Each time we approached an apparent stopping point, the proper part of the trail came into view and on we went.

Does that sound familiar?  From where you stand it seems that there is no way forward.  You have tried everything.  You don’t know what else to do, but you know you must keep going, only it appears that you can’t. 

God will guide you and show the way.  Let me say that again.  God will guide you and show the way.  He may do it through the words of Scripture.  He may do it through an inspired word from a friend.  The Holy Spirit may speak directly to your heart.  What you can take to the bank, what you can absolutely count on, is that He will guide you where you need to go.  When he does, will you follow?

Lord, this will not come as a surprise to You, but I need to confess it.  Much of the stress of my life comes from trying to find or make my own way.  Help me see by the light of Your word the path I should take and strengthen me to follow wherever it leads.  In the name of Jesus, Who followed a path to Calvary and then to glory, amen.

Copyright © 2016 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Uncomfortable Love

November 20 (Mark 5:7-8)

With a shriek, he screamed, “Why are you interfering with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In the name of God, I beg you, don’t torture me!”  For Jesus had already said to the spirit, “Come out of the man, you evil spirit.” (ESV)

Most people do not want to seem rude.  We want to get along with others and for people to like us.  This natural tendency merges with the Bible’s talk about loving each other, and before you know it we have compromised biblical truth for conflict-free relationships.  We think we are “loving people to Jesus” when we fail to speak the truth.

When Jesus came upon a man possessed by multiple demons, He did not smile and accept his lifestyle.  He did not wish him well privately as he went on about His business.  His business, it turned out, was confronting the evil directly.  Did that cause the man discomfort?  Apparently it did, for he begged Jesus not to torture him.  He even invoked the name of God.  Had this happened today, he may well have said, “A real Christian wouldn’t make me feel bad about my condition.”

Of course, Jesus did not make the man feel bad about his condition.  In fact, Scripture says that He had addressed the evil spirit directly, not the man.  It is important when confronting sin, whether in the lives of friends and family or in ourselves, that we make a distinction.  Sin is evil.  Our participation in it is wrong.  The joy of forgiveness can belong to anyone who acknowledges this and accepts the healing grace of Jesus Christ.

Father, help me break the false identity that I am my sin.  Create in me that new heart capable of knowing, without a doubt, that I am Your child by the blood of Jesus.   Grant me the boldness that comes from walking in the Holy Spirit to confront sin with the truth and the true love of Jesus.  Amen.

Copyright © 2016 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Too Familiar With God

November 13 (Hebrews 2:1)

Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.  (ESV)

It is actually possible for a Christian to become too familiar with the things of the faith.   The Bible, worship, prayer, our relationship with God…it can all become run of the mill, routine, mundane.  This is when we need to take a more intentional, focused approach to our walk with Jesus.

Recently I asked myself what I truly knew about God.  I realized immediately that anything I could know about Him would be most clearly revealed in Jesus, and so I began to ask what Jesus truly shows me about the nature of God.  I wanted to avoid the quick and easy answers…God is loving, forgiving gracious, etc. ….not because those statements are untrue, but because I have said them so many times I had to be sure I knew what they meant.  I went to the book of Hebrews and have not left it now for two weeks.  I keep reading it over and over, slowly chewing on its statements about Jesus and pondering deeply what those statements actually mean.

Try asking something about God.  Does He love you?  Are you forgiven?  Does He have a purpose for your life?  How does He feel about those who do not know Him or have rejected Him?  What are His standards for our behavior?  Does He have anything to say about your family or your job?  Even if it is a question to which you know the accepted answer, ask it again as you read a book of the Bible.  Stay with that question.  Let its focus guide you as you read with greater intention and purpose.  The answers you have always given, perhaps out of habit, will take on new meaning as the living word of God speaks directly to you.

O God, I do not want to drift in casual relationship with You.  Guide me as I explore Your word with focus and intention, always seeking to know You more through Jesus, in Whom all Your fullness was pleased to dwell.  May the Holy Spirit direct my thoughts and my questions as I dwell in Your word.  Amen.

Copyright © 2016 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Wrestling With God

November 6 (Genesis 32:28)

“Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.”  (ESV)

Both of our children have loved wrestling with Daddy.  Our daughter used to make me sit in the middle of the living room floor so she could barrel down the hallway toward me to knock me over.  Our son still likes to wrestle me and try to hold me down, which is much more likely to happen now that he is a strapping young man!

None of this would happen if my children could not trust me.  If mine were a mercurial temperament, capable of flying off the handle in anger unpredictably, they would never take the risk of wrestling with me.  So what does it say when Jacob wrestled all night with God?  What does the give-and-take, back-and-forth relationship between Peter and Jesus say?  God blessed Jacob and changed his name to Israel, which means “one who wrestles with God.”  Jesus told Peter that He would build His church upon him.

If there is one thing we can be confident of, it is this.  God is good.  He loves us.  We can struggle with Him and hurl at Him our anger, our fears, our doubts, our worries, our concerns, and our confusion.  He is not afraid of anything we bring to Him, and He will respond in the rough-and-tumble, sometimes bold, sometimes frightening, but always and fundamentally good way of the Father Who loves us.  About what do you need to wrestle with Him today?

Father, sometimes I think You do not care, and so I keep my burdens to myself.  Sometimes I am afraid You will reject me, and so I hide my deepest needs.  Sometimes I am simply not sure if You like me, and so I withdraw from You.  Help me draw confidence from Jesus Himself, Who more than any other person or thing has revealed Your graceful, loving nature, for there is much about which I need to wrestle with You.  Amen.

Copyright © 2016 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Building Your House

October 16 (Psalm 127:1)

Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.  (ESV)

We have been in the midst of home renovation for quite some time, and this verse recently came to mind.  New flooring, new paint, new this, new that…none of it matters if Jesus Christ is not the foundation, the center, and the goal of it all.

How often do we attempt renovations that are based purely on cosmetic changes?  We buy something new, we paint something a different color, we change our hairstyle, we wear new clothes.  None of these things is bad in and of itself, but if that is what we think will make us happy, we are mistaken.  Like a sugar rush, we can get a quick high from these things, but it will vanish just as quickly.  Look at the things in your closets, think about their role in your life long after they were purchased, and tell me I’m wrong.

Do you move in Jesus?  Do you breathe in Him, walk in Him, see in Him, feel in Him, think in Him, speak in Him, act in Him?  If so, you have built your life well, and it will stand.

Lord, it is a familiar prayer, but I need to pray it again.  Help me not to chase after foolish things but to build my life on You.  I want my life to be solid and firm, and that can only happen when You are my everything.  Amen.

Copyright © 2016 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Turning Your Cheek

September 25 (Matthew 5:39)

But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.  (ESV)

Violence.  It has become the headline of the day.  We have shooting and murder rates in major American cities that make them seem like the centers of war.  Looting and the wanton destruction of property fill the images of our nightly news.  Sadly, much of the violence is seen as an attempt to balance the scales of justice.

What does not make the news is the vastly greater number of acts of quiet violence.  I am maligned by one person I know and cannot wait to get him back by savaging him in conversation with a mutual friend.  The boss institutes a foolish plan, one that I in my infinite wisdom would have known better than to try, so I cut her down to size with every colleague I can find.   And God help the poor person who posts something on social media that offends me, for I shall repost that comment laced with my own scathing commentary in the hope that person never again touches a keyboard.

We must, of course, speak out against what is truly wrong.  We must use the gifts God has given us and join Him in the work of seeing His kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.  Yet the vast majority of violence in our day, from large acts of chaos to personal acts of verbal vengeance, are not about that.  They are about slapping someone who has slapped us, and Jesus is quite clear on that point.  Don’t.

Father, grant me wisdom to see the difference between a personal insult that I should forgive and let go and a matter of genuine injustice that You call me to address.  May my words and actions be spent entirely in Your work and not in advancing my own agenda.  In the name of Jesus, Who suffered the greatest injustice of all by allowing my sin to nail Him to a cross, amen.

Copyright © 2016 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, September 18, 2016

No Place Like The Church

September 18 (Ephesians 4:11-12)

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.  (ESV)

There is no organization of human origin that can equal the church.  For redemption, salvation, healing, comfort, education, knowledge, truth, service, and restoration, there is no organization of human origin that equal the church.  There are human organizations that may address one or more of these things, but there is not one that addresses the totality of human need, both earthly and eternal.

Does that seem like a bold claim?  It is not.  Our individual churches may fall short of the mark, but the body of Christ on earth, the church, stretching across the globe and across two millennia, is unequalled, and the reason is simple.  The church is not an organization of human origin.  It is a divine calling of people established by Jesus Himself.  It began when Jesus said to Peter, “on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”  (Matthew 16:18)

So that leads us to consider the particular churches we call home.  Are we small but complete microcosms of the body of Christ?  Are we, as best we can with the gifts given to the people of our churches, doing all that God asks of us?  Are we imitating the works of the first churches?  If we are anything less than all God has equipped us to be, we not only fail the work of Christ, but we set a poor example to the world of what the church truly is.

Jesus, You have given me so many gifts.  I do not want to keep them in their package as I sit in my church seeking only to be fed with music and teaching.  Help me to use what You have given me with other brothers and sisters to make disciples of You and launch them into Your work in this world.  Amen.

Copyright © 2016 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Lord of Rebuilt Lives

September 11 (Acts 2:1)

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place.  (ESV)

Today, fifteen years after the devastating 9/11 attack, our church celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary.  Thousands of current members of our church and those who were former members and had returned from far away joined in an incredible celebration of all that God has done through this particular body over the last quarter century.

Why?  Why would so many people want to gather?  Was it just nostalgia, a chance to see old pictures and videos and recall fond memories?  I can tell you it was far more than that.  There was indeed reflection on the past, but the inescapable conclusion was one of excitement over what God has done during that time…the lives redeemed, the lives rebuilt, the lives set free, the lives healed, the lives sparked into full engagement in Kingdom work.  This, of course, forces us to ask another question, one that people have asked for two thousand years.  Just Who is this Jesus Whom people credit with such life change?

He is the One Who rebuilds that which has fallen.  We have a new building on the site of the twin towers in New York City, as well we should.  Terrorists will not keep us down.  Yet that building, like the ones it replaced, will one day fall.  Jesus even said in John 2:19 that the temple in Jerusalem would fall, and then He added that He would raise it up in three days, a reference to His resurrection.  When Christians gather to celebrate the Lord of rebuilt lives, it is like nothing else.  It is part of the reason that we must gather in both small and large groups as frequently as we can.  The next time you are with brothers and sisters in the faith, what memories will you be able to share about the ways in which Christ Jesus has rebuilt you?

Father above, thank You for the redemption that is mine in Jesus, my Savior.  Thank You for the gift of the Holy Spirit, Who dwells within me and continues the work of sanctification in my life.  May my reflections on all that You have done in my life be an endless source of praise back to You.  Amen.

Copyright © 2016 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Using Your Gifts As Intended

September 4 (Ezekiel 16:17)

You also took your beautiful jewels of my gold and of my silver, which I had given you, and made for yourself images of men, and with them played the whore.  (ESV)

What have you done with the gifts God has given you?  When Israel took the blessings of the Lord and misused them, He did not have kind things to say about it.  Oh, maybe He meant something else, you say.  Maybe God did not really mean to use…that word.

Consider for a moment what a whore does.  A whore, or a prostitute, takes certain abilities and traffics in them solely for the money, and in this regard, it is entirely possible for any one of us to prostitute the gifts God has given us, to use our talents and abilities solely for our pleasure and profit without any regard for their intent or the will of Him Who gave them to us.  This does not mean we cannot use those gifts to earn a living, but are we using them for no other purpose?  Are we selling ourselves to the highest bidder with no thought for how God wants to work through us?

God uniquely made you.  He did not give you the same gifts He gave me.  While He wants the same worship and devotion from all of us, He wants each of us to live out our amazing roles in His story according to the uniqueness of our nature.  I do not want to take the glorious gifts He has given me and sell them on the cheap for the quick thrill of money or promotion or fame.  I want to use them to their fullest, developing them and employing them ever more to His glory.  What about you?

Father, You have blessed me with physical and mental abilities, talents of creativity, and gifts of the Spirit.  Guide me in the use of all of them, not just a few, but all of them to serve Your people and draw them closer to You.  May all I do, say, and think be ever Your glory.  In the name of the risen Jesus, I pray.  Amen. 

Copyright © 2016 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Sharing Jesus Regardless of Consequence

August 21 (Ezekiel 2:7)

And you shall speak my words to them, whether they hear or refuse to hear, for they are a rebellious house.  (ESV)

When it comes to our sharing God’s word with people, it really does not matter whether they listen or not.  Oh, it matters, of course, with regard to their well-being, happiness, quality of life, relationships, outlook, calling, and eternal destiny, but it does not matter regarding whether or not we speak up and tell others what God has said.  That is a non-negotiable.  We are to do it and then let the chips fall where they may.

Jesus said the same thing.  In Matthew 10:5-15, He sends out the twelve apostles with the basic structure for evangelism.  Go out among people.  Do good works without asking for something in return.  Share the good news.  If people do not listen, shake off the dust from your shoes and move on.

If you have clicked on even one news website last week, watched one news program on television, or read one newspaper article, you know that almost all aspects of human society in just about every place on the planet are falling apart.  That is not an overstatement.  Don’t believe me?  Read even one more news article.  As followers of Christ, we know that the peace and restoration everyone is craving comes not from a government program or a school curriculum or any human philosophy.  What our hearts yearn for can only come from the hand of God.  If you would tell your friends about the special being offered at the grocery store, what holds you back from telling them about Jesus?

Father, You have blessed me not only with new life in Jesus, but You have given me a great and wonderful work to do in sharing that life with others.  Keep my eyes from distraction, that I may see those into whose lives You have led me.  Heal my ears from the deafness of unimportant noise, that I may hear the needs of my neighbors.  Loosen my tongue, that I may be quick to share the words that You wish to speak to those who hurt.  In the name of Jesus, Who saw and heard and spoke to me, amen.

Copyright © 2016 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Letting God Work In You

August 14 (Ezekiel 2:1-2)

And he said to me, “Son of man, stand on your feet, and I will speak with you.”  And as he spoke to me, the Spirit entered into me and set me on my feet, and I heard him speaking to me.  (ESV)

I imagine that if you heard God telling you to stand up, you would stand up, but that is not what happened with Ezekiel.  God told him to stand up and then God put him on his feet.  Notice that as God was speaking, the Holy Spirit entered him and accomplished God’s will.

This passage is like an oasis in the desert for those who are driven, high-energy, do everything all the time people.  God calls us to do this or that and then very often is quite willing to do that very thing through us.  Too often we hear a call from God, whether through Scripture or through a direct word in prayer or through someone else, and think to ourselves that it is too much, that it is just one more thing we have to do in an already burdened life.  Instead, God may simply be waiting to see if we will respond in the words of Mary, the mother of Jesus, “Let it be to me according to your word.”  (Luke 1:38)

What has God called you to do?  What have you put off because you thought it was beyond your means to accomplish?  It likely was indeed beyond your means, and that is why God is pleased to do it Himself through you.

Lord, I thank You for the gifts and abilities You have given me.  At the same time I want to stop relying on those gifts and abilities and rely directly on You.  Do with me and through me whatever You please.  In the name of my Savior, Jesus, Who modeled the perfect life of surrender, amen.

Copyright © 2016 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Pain And Faithfulness

August 7 (Lamentations 3:21-23)

But this I call to mind,    

     and therefore I have hope:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;    

     his mercies never come to an end;

they are new every morning;    

     great is your faithfulness.  (ESV)

For twenty verses the writer of Lamentations has gone on and on about suffering.  He speaks of broken bones, wasted flesh, and pain like arrows driven into his kidneys.  There are twenty verses of some of the most graphic pain descriptions.  And then come these verses.

Do you have twenty verses of pain?  Of course you do, which is why these verses feel like cool, soothing medicine.  It is why these verses became the basis for one of the great hymns, “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.”  Suffering is real, and it is a false religion or false philosophy that pretends otherwise.  Emotional and physical pain will be part of the world until Christ returns, “but this I call to mind….”

Can you call to mind examples of His love, not just in Scripture, but in your own life?  Can you call to mind examples of His mercy?  The incredible, wonderful, amazing thing is that even if you recall acts of God’s love and mercy toward you from yesterday, you will, for a fact, experience new ones today.

Father, great is Your faithfulness indeed.  Even when my faithfulness to You is weak or lacking, Your faithfulness and goodness toward me never cease.  Help me to focus more on the verses of Your grace than the verses of my pain.  In the name of Jesus, in Whom I live and move and have my being, amen.

Copyright © 2016 by Steven R. Perkins

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Courage To Share The Gospel

July 24 (Philippians 1:20)

…it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.  (ESV)

Buttonholing someone against a wall as you recite Bible verses is not the best method of evangelism.  Then again, never sharing the truth of Jesus with family and friends is not exactly the way to go either.  Some people have indeed been hurt by overzealous evangelism, but too often we use this as an excuse to say nothing at all about Christ.  We claim that we do not want to hurt people, but I think there is something else.  We are afraid.

We say nothing at a family gathering because we do not want to upset someone and make the situation awkward.  We say nothing at work because we are afraid we will be shunned and no longer able to do our jobs.  We say nothing on social media because we fear the backlash.

Paul had a hope and expectation for himself not to be ashamed.  He expected of himself to be full of courage.  He felt this because God has the same hope and expectation.  As we read in 2 Timothy1:7, He has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and self-control.  Do you really want to be courageous in sharing the gospel, like Paul, or deep down are you afraid of it?

Lord, too often, in fact nearly all the time, I am more concerned about the opinions and comments of others than I am excited by and eager to share the good news of Jesus.  Strengthen me, O God, against my fears.  Make me strong and courageous that others may come to the true and eternal life in Jesus through the testimony of my life and words.  In the name of Him Who was not ashamed to die for me on the cross, Christ Jesus, I pray.  Amen.

Copyright © 2016 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Knowing That God Loves You

July 17 (John 21:23)

Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!”  (ESV)

One of the biggest challenges people face in accepting God’s goodness, His love, and His grace is the pain and suffering of others.  If I really believe that God guided my decision on something at work, how can I square that with His apparent absence in an atrocity where innocent people died?  Can I truly accept that He was involved in a small detail of my life but not in a far more significant matter of life and death?

I can only answer for the events of my own life.  You can only answer for yours.  We can use reasoning and logic with regard to free will and the fallen nature of mankind to try to understand horrific acts and God’s presence in them, but at the end of the day, I do not know why He does not reach in and stop tragedies.  The only thing I can do is look at what He has done in my own life.

And what do I find when I look at that record?  He has spoken to me countless times through Scripture, through the words of others, and in the depths of my heart.  He has guided me and provided for me.  He has heard my prayers and answered them.  He has saved me.  I cannot speak to anyone else’s experience of God, only to mine, and in the words of Joshua 24:15, as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord, because as Paul once said to Timothy, I know whom I have believed (2 Timothy 1:12).

Father, You know how difficult it is at times for me to accept that You love me.  Satan wants me to look at so many things to convince me that You don’t.  Yet when I stop and look at things clearly and calmly, I see at once Your immense love and grace for me.  Thank You, Father.  May I walk always in close and confident relationship with Jesus, Who more than anything or anyone, is the living proof of that love.  In His name I pray, amen.

Copyright © 2016 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, July 10, 2016

The Worth Of a Person

July 10 (Matthew 6:26)

Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?  (ESV)

John 3:16 declares that He loved us so much that He sent His Son to us.  Jesus Himself taught about the worth of human beings in the verse for today and again in Matthew 10:29-31 and Matthew 12:11-12.  Despite that it says in Genesis 1:26 that God made human beings in His image, it took the life and work of Jesus to get the world to understand that.  Ponder that for a moment in these words from the classic Christmas song “O Holy Night.”

Long lay the world in sin and error pining
‘Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth.

Worth does not stem from our ability to do something, as the verse for today clearly teaches.  Our worth is based on not one physical or mental attribute.  Your worth, my worth, and the worth of each person from conception to the grave is based solely on the declaration of God, a declaration made in the act of creation itself and the words and work of Jesus.

This means that you have worth in the eyes of God Almighty.  And so does your cousin.  And your neighbor at the end of your street.  The same goes for your colleague.  And the people with whom you disagree most passionately on the truly important issues.  And those with whom you disagree on the trivial stuff.  The lady serving at the food pantry?  She has value.   And so does the pornographer.  And the one who will blow up a building tomorrow.  And the ones who will hold the hands of the wounded and dying in the aftermath.  Those who look like you, and those who don’t.  And they…we…all have worth for no other reason than the simple fact that God made us and loves what He made.  No one has made that more clear than Jesus Christ, Who offers true and full life forever to anyone Who follows Him.

What an amazing gift of love You have shown us, O God, by proving to us our value to You through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.  May we be forever grateful, savoring it completely, and sharing it with others with the same love and grace we have received.  In the name of Jesus, amen.

Copyright © 2016 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Strength In God Alone

July 3 (Exodus 3:11-12; Judges 6:15-16)

But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?”  He said, “But I will be with you….”

And he said to him, “Please, Lord, how can I save Israel? Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father's house.”  And the Lord said to him, “But I will be with you….”  (ESV)

Moses and Gideon both questioned their abilities to accomplish the tasks that God had set them.  Welcome to the club, boys!  If they had put these doubts to their friends, their friends would likely have responded by pointing out all the things they were good at.  They would have talked about the college degrees that Moses and Gideon had, how long they had worked at their companies, and all the past awards and successes that lined the walls of their offices.

We do the same, and we even do it with ourselves.  When I am daunted by something, my first thought is to rehearse my own resume for encouragement to face the task.  Notice the difference in God’s response.  He does not replay the greatest hits of Moses and Gideon.  He does not even refute their claims to inferiority.  Instead, He says, “I will be with you.”

No matter how well padded our resumes, no matter how much life experience and talents we possess, we will always feel inadequate to some task.  That feeling may be a lie from our enemy to discourage us or it may the truth.  We may truly not be up to the challenge.  Either way, our strength to face it comes from none other than the Lord God of the universe.  Let that sink in.  God promises to be with us and He does not lie.  Surely that is worth more than all the mental and emotional bootstrapping we do in the vain effort to help ourselves.

Father, thank You for the abilities You have given me.  I am grateful for them and all that You have allowed me to experience in my life, both the good and the bad.  Yet I set all that aside and claim my strength and identity in You.  I am Your child.  Jesus is my savior and brother.  In You alone I have what it takes to face what You have called me to this day.  In the name of Jesus, Who looked to You even on the cross, amen.

Copyright © 2016 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, June 26, 2016

There Is Only One God

June 26 (Isaiah 45:22; Acts 4:12)

Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth!  For I am God, and there is no other.

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)

There is only one hope for the world…every country, every business, every family, every single person.  That hope is not education.  It is not a government program.  It is not a vague, sunshine and daisies belief in abstract concepts like decency and fair play.  The one hope we have is God, and even that does not mean a generic concept of deity.  The only hope we have is in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, the one God fully revealed in the person of Jesus Christ.

Does that sound exclusive?  Does that sound mean for not acknowledging other paths?  First, let us be clear.  This is central to both the Old and New Testaments.  God has made His unique identity clear in countless verses.  This is not the invention of any particular church or religion.  It is what the one true God has revealed about Himself.  But is it really exclusive?  In fact, you cannot find anyone or anything more inclusive than God.  He calls to all the ends of the earth.  Everyone who wishes to be saved…from sin, from hurt, from loneliness…everyone can come to Him.

We do not have to worry and wonder and strive to find something or someone to help us.  Almighty God has opened His loving arms to every single person and said with a smile, “Come!”  Why would we even consider any other?

Father, thank You for Your boundless love!  Oh, how sweet and good it is!  I bask in the radiance of Your love and grace.  Heal the broken places within me and help me to become ever more like my Savior, Jesus.  Amen.

Copyright © 2016 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Seeking Jesus

June 19 (Song of Solomon 3:1-4)

On my bed by nightI sought him whom my soul loves;    

I sought him, but found him not.

I will rise now and go about the city,   

 in the streets and in the squares;

I will seek him whom my soul loves.   

 I sought him, but found him not.

The watchmen found me

 as they went about in the city.

“Have you seen him whom my soul loves?”

Scarcely had I passed them    

when I found him whom my soul loves.

I held him, and would not let him go    

until I had brought him into my mother's house,    

and into the chamber of her who conceived me.  (ESV)

Full-blown, 21st century, First World disaster recently struck our family.  We lost cell and Internet service in our part of town.  I was scrambling with frustration and anxiety as if the flood waters were rising.  A quick trip to Wal-Mart secured a cheap phone for our old land line as a backup so relatives could reach us.  A visit to McDonald’s allowed me to send emails and alert others that we would be riding out the storm.  Yet even in the midst of this modern nightmare, I could not help thinking.  Do I seek God with such passion when I lose communication with Him?

I love this beautiful passage of poetry from Song of Solomon.  A young woman desires her beloved but cannot find him, so she goes out to look for him.  She keeps on searching, even asking others if they have seen him, and when she finally does find him, she embraces him and will not let him go.

In addition to being a delightful love poem, these verses show us the model of love between us and Jesus.  We must seek Him, and as He promises us in Jeremiah 29:13, we will find Him.  Which would truly upset your life more, down Internet or distance from God?

Jesus, may I always seek You more than any other thing.  May I pursue Your wisdom more than any other knowledge.  May I yearn for and seek an ever deeper relationship with You than with any other person I know.  And when I have found You, as You promise I will, may I never let You go.  Amen.

Copyright © 2016 by Steven R. Perkins