Sunday, January 31, 2016

Some Kind of Wonderful

January 31 (Isaiah 9:6)

…and his name shall be called Wonderful....  (KJV)

It was a few minutes before the start our worship, people were coming in and finding their seats, and all of a sudden our praise team started up a song that was, well, unexpected.  It was Grand Funk Railroad’s “Some Kind of Wonderful.”  Our pastor waved everyone to their feet, as if that were necessary, and I was rocking out to the altered lyrics, “My Jesus, He’s all right.  My Savior, He’s clean out of sight.”  (The lyrics were changed by Grand Funk guitarist Mark Farner after he came to follow Christ.)

Why is Jesus wonderful, other than that the Bible says so?  Is He wonderful because He died so you would not have to?  Is He wonderful because He speaks to you?  Is He wonderful because He leads you through challenges, stays with you in dark times, and comforts you when and in ways no one else can?  Why is Jesus wonderful?  Is He wonderful because He set the world into motion?  Is He wonderful because He has created beauty in the depths of the oceans and in the far-flung reaches of space?  Is He wonderful because is the bridge for all people to be reunited with God?

Take a moment and think about it.  Why do you think Jesus is wonderful?  As the infinite number of reasons begins to unfold before the eyes of your heart, you will be drawn into worship.  You won’t be able to help yourself.  If you find yourself worshiping in a lukewarm way, or only rarely, or not at all, reflect on how Jesus has shown Himself to be wonderful to you.  You will be rocking His praise in no time.

Lord, I want to take some time right now to honor You by recalling what You have done in the world and in my life.  I spend too much time in my day and even in my prayers thinking about myself.  Call to my mind Your glory and Your amazing deeds.  I want my heart to be filled with nothing but You.  In the name of Jesus, my Savior, amen.

Copyright © 2016 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Children Need You

January 24 (Proverbs 22:6)

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.  (ESV)

He was not sure where to sleep because the previous night his home had been attacked with an automatic weapon using hollow-tip bullets.  She could not participate in class for grief over her grandmother and aunt who had been strangled to death over the weekend.    And when a teenaged boy comes to you in tears, you know something is wrong, so you listen patiently as he tells you about going to a local stress center and the myriad battles he faces both at school and at home.

Friends, these are real children.  They are students with whom I have interacted over a period of one week.  In many ways, childhood has always been a dangerous time.  Child labor, child soldiers, child prostitution…adults have preyed upon and used children since the world began.  We have a vision of what childhood should be, one of innocent exploration of a mysterious and wonderful creation.  It is a good vision, but make no mistake.  It is a vision of what can be and not necessarily of what is.

We all have children to rear.  They may be our own, they may be our students, they may be our grandchildren, the children in our youth group, or the players on the teams we coach.  They may be nieces and nephews or the kids down the street.  They may be the ones who go every day to the library or that we see sacking our groceries.  No matter your age or station in life, there are children in your orbit.  How will you help them in the way they should go so that when they are older they will walk with Jesus?

Father, it is so easy for me to become consumed with the issues that directly affect me and nothing else.  Open my eyes to all those around me.  Help me to be intentional in my interactions with them, whether in offering an act of love or a word of truth.  May everyone I encounter walk more closely with You because of the work of Jesus in my life.  In His holy name, I pray.  Amen.

Copyright © 2016 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Path To Joy

January 17 (Psalm 16:11)

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand arepleasures forevermore.

At a recent gathering of Christian leaders, we shared our wishes for the coming year, both for ourselves and for our church.  It was beautiful to see the hearts of so many people focused on Jesus and His mission for us in the world.  Yet when it came to what we wished for ourselves, more than just a few talked about the need for margin and the desire to walk more closely and intentionally with our Lord.

The interconnectedness of modern life, our ability to do so many different things in any given day, responsibilities and enticements…they wear a person down.  Complexity seems both the order and the burden of the day.  Now take a look at the words from this psalm.  God has made quite clear to each of us the path of life.  In His presence there is fullness of joy.  At His right hand is true pleasure.  That’s it.  There really is nothing more to it than that.

With our backs turned to Him, walking away from Eden, we have made a twisted confusion of life.  When we turn back to Him, we see Jesus, arms wide, welcoming us into the joy of God.  As it always is with God, the choice is simple, and the choice is ours.  In which direction will you walk?

Lord, I honestly do not know why I make some of the choices I do.  Help me to tune out the call of the world and the lies of the enemy and hear only the sweetness of Your voice.  I want to dwell in the joy of Your presence, not only for myself, but so that the light of my life may draw others to You.  In the name of Jesus, my savior and the true source of all life, amen.

Copyright © 2016 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Where Can I Find True Joy?

January 10 (Psalm 4:6-7)

There are many who say, “Who will show us some good?  Lift up the light of your face upon us, O Lord!”  You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.  (ESV)

It usually takes no more than the first new article of the day to have us crying out to God for something good.  We could debate whether the world is truly getting worse or we are simply more aware of the problems thanks to modern communication, but either way, it is a rare moment when we do not feel crushed and overwhelmed by our circumstances.

Of course, most of us have a lot of options for feeling better.  We have hobbies we enjoy, books to read, apps to play, friends to see, movies to watch, music to listen to, and sports to play.  Distraction from the pain and distress of life is a click away, and if the Internet is down or a friend is not home, there is always something else we can try.  And so life becomes an endless seeking after that something else, but the unending search itself becomes a burden.  Perhaps it is then that we reach for something stronger, something darker.

The simple fact is that God has already placed more joy in our hearts than we can fully savor in this world.  He lives within us and speaks to us, gently and sweetly, if only we would stop grasping for the clashing brass gongs of distraction and listen.  Do you think you can set all that other…stuff…aside for a few moments and let God reveal the joy He has given you?

Father, my search to find things to ease the pain of life is actually a display of ingratitude.  Rather than be content with what You have given and find joy in Your presence, I run after mere things and experiences.  Forgive me for treating the gift of Your joy with such contempt and restore to me my sense of satisfaction in You.  In the name of Jesus, amen.

Copyright © 2016 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Joy And Strength For 2016

January 3 (Nehemiah 8:10)

Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”   (ESV)

Those who know me well know that I am a huge fan of the metal band Stryper.  In the title track to their platinum-selling album To Hell With The Devil, lead singer Michael Sweet sings, “Well speak of the devil, he’s no friend of mine.  To turn from him is what we have in mind.  Just a liar and a thief, the word tells us so.  We’d like to let him know where he can go.”  This is where I am at the start of this year.

I read the news and begin to lose my joy.  I see and hear the problems in my profession and begin to lose my joy.  I come home tired from just another day of life and begin to lose my joy.  Enough of that!  When we experience a loss of joy, it is because our enemy is playing on our fears, playing on our exhaustion, and we are letting it happen.  There is a proper place for him, and it is not in my life.

Scripture is clear.  The joy of the Lord is our strength.  Read that again.  The joy of the Lord is our strength.  I want to start this year strong.  I want to reclaim the joy that is mine as a child of God.  I want this so much that I compiled for my family a list of Scriptures dealing with joy, and these will likely make their way into many of the devotions this year.  So what do you think?  Grim and weak or joyful and strong?  The choice is yours.

Lord Jesus, I turn my eyes to You, looking fully into Your wonderful face.  May the light of Your glory and grace fill me with joy and equip me to answer Your call on my life with strength.  Amen.

Copyright © 2016 by Steven R. Perkins