Sunday, June 18, 2017

Strength of Soul

June 18 (Psalm 138:3)

On the day I called, you answered me; my strength of soul you increased.  (ESV)

Strength of soul…what a great phrase!  It suggests something far more than physical strength.  Yet it is also more than mental strength or emotional strength.  Strength of soul is something much deeper.  It is strength at the fundamental level of who you are.

Recall a time when you just had to get something done.  It may have been pulling an all-nighter to make sure you were ready for the exam.  It may have been settling down to the weeks and months ahead of dealing with the aftermath of loss or tragedy.  Whatever it was, you had this sense of needing to dig down deep into a reserve of strength not usually tapped.  You needed strength of soul.

The beautiful, wonderful, amazing thing is that this deepest source of strength is yours for the asking.  David says that on the day he called to God, He answered him, and his strength of soul increased.  No one sits on the couch wondering why he does not get physically stronger.  It takes work.  It is simple work, but there is something a person must do to build muscles.  The same is true with strength of soul, and it is just as simple.  You call out to God in prayer.  You let Him speak to you through sustained, quiet time with Him.  You give yourself over to His word in the Bible.  I can testify along with David that your strength of soul will indeed increase.

Lord, I need the strength of soul that You gave David.  Whether I am facing a particular challenge or going through the daily tasks of life, I need more than my natural resources of brain power and physical might can accomplish.  Grant me that deep strength that I may meet victoriously all that lies before me.  In the name of Jesus, my Savior, I pray.  Amen.

Copyright © 2017 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, June 11, 2017

We Need A Mediator

June 11 (Job 9:33)

If only there were someone to mediate between us, someone to bring us together.  (ESV)

Job’s story is the classic example of a man who does not understand why his life is falling apart.  You may not suffer boils all over your body or the loss of all your livestock and children, but there are things in your life that you do not like, nor do you understand why they are the way they are.  Welcome!  You are a card-carrying member in the Society of Job.

Just as Job did, many people cry out to a deity when trouble hits, even if it is only to proclaim to God that this is the reason they do not believe in Him.  Yet in the midst of his grief, Job realizes something.  If only there were a mediator between God and man, someone who could act as a go-between….  Have you ever asked a friend in school to speak to the teacher on your behalf or asked a co-worker to go to the boss with you?  We all want someone who knows our situation, who has our best interests at heart, AND who has the connections to help us.

Enter Jesus.  He is the very mediator that Job longed for.  He sits at the right hand of our Father and, by His own words, He is with us always (Matthew 28:20).  So cry to Him.  Share your anger with Him.  Pour out your hurts to Him.  He knows the depths of your heart already, but He wants to hear from you, and He will take your deepest concerns to His Father and yours.

Oh, Jesus.  I hardly know where to begin.  Still the storm within my heart so that I may lay my worries and concerns before You.  I need somebody to help me, and although everything else is in turmoil, I do trust in You.  Hear my cares that I may move past them in victory and in You.  Amen.

Copyright © 2017 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Waiting In Faithfulness

June 4 (Habakkuk 2:3-4)

For the revelation awaits an appointed time;

     it speaks of the end

     and will not prove false.

Though it linger, wait for it;

     it will certainly come

     and will not delay.

See, the enemy is puffed up;
    his desires are not upright—    

 but the righteous person will live by his faithfulness.  (ESV)

“Are we there yet?”  It is a question every child asks when going on a trip, and it is a question we all ask of God.  We want something.  We pray about it and are convinced that God wants it, too, or at least is not opposed to it.  And then we wait.  Only the problem is that we do not wait.  If we have prayed at breakfast, by our midmorning coffee break we are upset that God has not come through for us.

A child who repeatedly asks how much longer the trip will be is focused solely on the destination.  He does not consider what else his parents have in store along the way and is incapable of understanding all that they know about making such a journey.  As adults, we think we know it all and can somehow discern the ways of God, but the problem remains the same.  We focus on the gift and not the Giver.

There is no word of God that will not come to pass.  Keep waiting in faith, which is easier to do if you keep your eyes on Him and not how you imagine His word will be fulfilled.  And truly, if your eyes are filled with Him, you will be filled with more joy than anything your own mind could conjure.

Lord, You know the desires of my heart.  I pray first that they are in line with Your desires.  If they are not, help me to abandon them.  As I wait for the fulfillment of Your good and perfect will, fill the eyes of my heart with Jesus.  May He be all I see.  Amen.

Copyright © 2017 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Joy In Hardship

May 28 (Habakkuk 3:17-18)

Though the fig tree should not blossom,

     nor fruit be on the vines,the produce of the olive fail

and the fields yield no food,the flock be cut off from the fold

     and there be no herd in the stalls,yet I will rejoice in the Lord;

I will take joy in the God of my salvation. (ESV)

It does not always work out the way we want.  Sickness comes.  Death takes a loved one.  Accidents happen.  Loss occurs.  Lies, betrayal, and pride take their toll on us, even when we have done what is right.  The Christian faith, more than any other program of thought or philosophy, is a realistic way to handle the inevitable setbacks and hardships of life.

Christians rejoice in the Lord and take their joy in the God of their salvation.  They do not ignore suffering or pretend that it is less painful than it is, but in times of sickness, we find joy in the Lord.  In death we rejoice in Him.  In every moment or extended seasons of distress, we praise Him and find our life and hope in Him.

How is that possible?  Why should we respond to difficulties in this way and not in the countless ways the world offers?  It is simple.  This is what Jesus did.  He faced execution for what He had not done, and yet He kept His gaze focused on His Father.  And He is the One Who came back from the dead and offers His power to all Who accept Him.  When it comes to tragedies of my life or even the daily discomforts, I am going to do what He did.

Lord, You are the source of my joy.  In You I live and move and have my being.  I can find life nowhere else, so help me to stop seeking it there.  May I be valiant in hardship because of You, the source of my salvation.  Amen.

Copyright © 2017 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Courage To Be Faithful

May 21 (Acts 16:21)

They advocate customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to accept or practice.  (ESV)

The time is coming and may in fact be here in some places when speaking the truth and truths of God may be illegal.  It already breaks certain unwritten, social laws.  What will you do?

Paul had commanded a demon to leave a slave girl, and her owners claimed damage to their business and had Paul arrested.  Don’t focus on the demon or the issue of slavery.  Notice that business owners were claiming an act done in faithfulness to and in the power of Jesus Christ was bad for them economically.  Can you imagine the same thing being said today?  Of course you can.  Increasingly it seems that living as a follower of Christ is incompatible with work in schools, business, and government.  What will you do?

Paul did not think.  He did not weigh his decision or ask for the input of friends.  He turned around and commanded the demon to leave the girl and was thrown into jail for it.  Yet because of that, a jailer and his family were baptized into the family of God.

Father, give me the courage to be faithful.  In my work, with my friends, and in my daily interactions with people, may I be the salt and light that Jesus wants me to be.  In His name I pray.  Amen.

Copyright © 2017 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, May 14, 2017

A Mother Once Stood

May 14 (Luke 2:35)

and a sword will pierce through your own soul also…  (ESV)

A mother, grief stricken, just stood,
Eyes full of tears next to a cross
On which was hanging her son.

Through her soul, groaning and with him
Sharing his despair and grieving
A sword has already passed.

It is Mother’s Day in the United States, a day to celebrate all that mothers mean in our lives.  Mothers not our own have blessed us, too.  Mothers of friends, the mother of our spouse, mothers we will never meet who reared their children well to become the neighbors and co-workers we love…we are grateful to them all.

Yet no mother in the history of the world has given us more than Mary, the mother of Jesus.  As a scared young girl engaged to be married, she gave herself to the will of God to be the mother of His son on earth, and the angel said all nations would call her blessed because of it.  And then she bore what no mother should have to bear.  She stood beside the cross and watched as her son, her boy, willingly died for the sins of the world, including ours.

Today is a day for remembering mothers.  Take a moment and remember what one mother endured so God’s plan for your salvation could be fulfilled.  If you like, listen to the exquisite Arvo Pärt rendering of “Stabat Mater,” whose opening verses are above ( Words begin at the 4:05 mark).  We have much for which to be grateful to mothers, many mothers, not just our own.

Father, You have blessed me with many mothers, women who helped shape my life both directly and indirectly.  Thank You for their words and their work.  May You bless richly those who are still here and welcome with love those who have gone home.  In the name of Jesus, Who died and rose again for all mothers and fathers and children everywhere, amen.

Copyright © 2017 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Live Boldly In Christ

May 7 (Isaiah 50:7-8)

But the Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame.  He who vindicates me is near.  Who will contend with me?  Let us stand up together.  Who is my adversary?  Let him come near to me.   (ESV)

It is foolish to court trouble, but it is also cowardly and, dare I say it, unchristian to flee from it in fear.  You follow the Lord.  You have acknowledged before God and men that Jesus is your savior.  The Holy Spirit dwells within you.  That is a powerful biography, and it is yours.  So what does it mean?

For one thing, it means God is your helper and you will not be disgraced.  You can set your face like flint and be bold.  In fact, you can say to your troubles and fears, your obstacles and difficulties, “Bring it on!”  It means that you can face anything…anything…in complete confidence that you have the strength you need and it is not your own, but that of the Lord your God.

There are advantages in this life to following Jesus, you know.  The Christian life is not just about what happens in eternity.  Oh, you may be persecuted for it and suffer more mightily than those who revel in their sin, but unlike them, you have genuine power and a true reason for boldness.  So get out there and live like the son or daughter of the living God that you actually are!

Lord, I have lived too timidly.  Worse yet, I have sometimes confused timidity with humility and gentleness and mistakenly believed it was what You wanted.  Forgive me.  Help me to go forth boldly, contend with all that opposes me, and do all in the strength of Jesus Christ, in whose name I pray.  Amen.

Copyright © 2017 by Steven R. Perkins

Special request!  If you would be interested in listening to Online Devotions as a podcast, please leave a message to that effect on this post.  Thank you!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Keeping Your Faith

April 23 (Isaiah 7:9)
If you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all.  (ESV)

One thing I have learned in a lifetime of walking in the Christian faith is that it is a daily thing.  Jesus was right (no surprise there!) when He said that we must take up our cross daily if we are to follow Him (Luke 9:23).  Day in and day out, sunny or raining, when you are happy and when you are bored out of your mind, when you feel on top of the world and when you are under the weather.  All.  The.  Time.

You will not always feel like being a Christian.  There will even be times when you slip back and behave as if you had never even heard of Jesus.  You will question the Lord’s love for you and perhaps even His existence.  These are the times that faith comes in.  We cling to faith when our fingers are too weak to cling to anything else.  We stand on our faith even when we look down and see nothing.  We proclaim our faith to drown out the voices, including our own, of unbelief.

You will fail to do all that God has required.  You will do the very things He has forbidden.  And yes, these will happen even after you have been baptized and confessed Him before all the world.  Yet if you are firm in faith, you will grow firm in your other weaknesses.

Jesus, today seems like just one more in an endless string that stretches behind and in front of me.  I have questions about so many things and answers to almost none of them.  Keep me strong in my faith, which is in You.  May I not waver or falter in that faith, for it is what keeps me anchored to You, my strength and my redeemer.  Amen.

Copyright © 2017 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Working Our Salvation

April 16 (1 Samuel 25:33)

Blessed be your discretion, and blessed be you, who have kept me this day from bloodguilt and from working salvation with my own hand!  (ESV)

Christ the Lord is risen today!  Alleluia!  This is the single greatest day in the history of the world…but why?  It is hard to understand in a do-it-yourself culture.  From the time we are children, we learn that we must work salvation with our own hands.  Do this so that you may get that.  Good grades keep you on the team.  The right transcript and references get you a job.  Fulfilling the boss’s desires leads to money that leads to possessions that leads to…that leads to…
David was set to murder a man when that man’s wife came to him and begged him not to do so.  David’s words to her, as with so much that David said, carried a message for us.  We do not work out our own salvation.  We cannot, for there is nothing God needs that we could provide to make right the sins of our lives.  We would indeed be in a most desperate state if the story ended there.  Praise be to God it did not!

There is no more important day than Easter for the simple reason that God Himself has worked out salvation for us.  He took all the sins of the world to the cross, and they crushed the life from Him.  And then He crushed death.  He rose from the dead and opened the way to true life, both now and in eternity, for all who choose to receive His gift.  Blessed is He Who has worked our salvation with His own blood-stained hands!

Father, I praise You!  Lord Jesus, I praise!  Holy Spirit, I praise You!  I praise You, one God, now and forever, amen!

Copyright © 2017 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Where Would You Be Without God's Love?

April 9 (Romans 3:23)

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  (ESV)

Spring is a time to think of life, not death, right?  It is a time of bright sunshine, not darkness.  Stay with the darkness for a moment and consider death…your own.  You can talk about its being unfair or just an ancient belief all you want, but the simple fact is that you, your sweet grandmother who never spoke an unkind word, and the toddler next door have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  Oh, and the consequence for each one is eternal separation from Him.

Everything in you rebels against that thought.  It just does not seem right.  We would never be so harsh or judgmental.  Okay.  I get that.  And a three-paragraph devotion does not have the space to discuss those reasonable objections.  Yet here’s the thing.  Stay with the anger and frustration.  Stay with the confusion and worry.  Now you are ready to appreciate the unspeakable glory of Easter.

Next Sunday Christians will celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  We celebrate because that event proved the love of God beyond all doubt and removed all of the sin and all of the punishment for each and every person who chooses to receive that gift of grace.  But you can’t come close to appreciating the enormity of that gift and the sheer magnitude of the love behind it if you don’t take a moment to ponder where you would be without it.

Father, I want to take some time to consider where I would be without Your love.  It is a scary proposition, but I need to be scared, at least a little, so I can fully appreciate what Jesus did for me.  O God, I want You to have my full praise as we move toward Easter.  Help me to see the full measure of what You have done for me.  In the name of Jesus, Who made it all possible, amen.

Copyright © 2017 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Serving When Frustrated

April 2 (1 Samuel 12:23)

Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you, and I will instruct you in the good and the right way.  (ESV)

Samuel had every right to be angry with Israel and he was.  He had faithfully delivered the words of God so that the people would know right from wrong, but they had demanded to have a king rule over them.  God Himself was frustrated and told Samuel to give the people what they wanted since they wouldn’t listen to Him.

For me this is where the story would end.  I tend to get stuck in my anger and frustration with people who won’t listen or do what is right.  Yet note Samuel’s final comment.  He will continue to pray for his foolish people.  He will continue to teach those who will not learn.  Why?  Because this is what God wants of him.  Whether or not the people listen and obey is on them.  He must serve the Lord according to his calling.

It is easy to get frustrated when our attempts to share the gospel or to be the hands and feet of Jesus seem to bear no fruit with family and friends.  And, if we truly care about the people we love, we will indeed become angry when they make poor decisions or turn a deaf ear to wisdom.  Keep praying anyhow.  Keep speaking the truth in love.  Keep serving.  Do not abandon the role and the field to which God has called you.  Your friends and family must answer for themselves, and so must you.

Lord, help me to dig a bit deeper and find my strength in You.  Help me to continue honoring You, day in and day out, by doing those things to which You have called me.  May I not look for success in earthly terms, but with regard to the only measuring stick that matters, faithfulness.  In the name of Jesus, my Savior, Who was faithful all the way to the cross, amen.

Copyright © 2017 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, March 26, 2017

God's Chosen Instruments

March 26 (Acts 9:13, 15)

But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem.”  But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.  (ESV)

The 1980s saw the heyday of hair metal music.  Bands like Stryper, Bon Jovi, and Whitesnake filled arenas, but few could rival W.A.S.P. for vulgarity, both in lyrics and stage shows.  So imagine my surprise when I read that W.A.S.P. lead singer and guitarist Blackie Lawless had surrendered his life to Christ.  He stated in a 2015 interview, “My faith centers on Jesus Christ and The Bible and nothing else,” and the band’s song “Golgotha” crescendos to a chorus line that cries, “Jesus, I need you now.”

Friends, this is just one of countless stories of lives transformed by Jesus Christ.  Pray for the owners and patrons of the adult bookstores and strip clubs that you drive by.  Pray for the politicians that you skewer in private conversations and social media.  Pray for the members of ISIS that are even this day “breathing threats and murder” as Saul once did.

Do you have the board game or the app “Holier Than Thou?”  I do, and I love to play it.  I love to shake my head with my friends as I lament this or that in our culture.  I love to make snarky comments in complete safety against the ills of our day.  It makes me feel as if I am doing something, a true soldier in the culture wars.  Nonsense.  You know what would really make a difference?  Hitting my knees in prayer.  Can you just imagine what would happen when some of the vilest, most violent people in the world cry out, “Jesus, I need you now,” with each and every one of us?

Thank You for saving me, Lord.  Thank You for healing and continuing to restore the broken places in my life even as You lead me toward eternal life with You.  Today I stand boldly before Your throne on behalf of those who are bringing death and destruction and sin to our world.  As their names and faces come to mind, I lift them to You.  Make them Your chosen instruments to carry Your name before the world.  In the great and might name of Jesus, amen.

Copyright © 2017 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, March 19, 2017

A Lie From Hell

March 19 (1 Corinthians 12:15)

If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body.  (ESV)

Be honest.  You really didn’t do anything to help, did you?  The rest of the team is just being nice when they say you played an important role, but we know that is not true.  It really would not have mattered if you had not been there at all.

Sound familiar?  It is the lie straight from the pits of hell that every single one of us hears.  It is the lie that says you are not good enough, do not do enough, and are unwanted.  Now look at that lie through the clear light of truth that we find in Scripture.  We are one body in Christ, and each of us has a role to play.  Just as it would be ridiculous for a foot to worry that it cannot grip a baseball the way a hand can, so it is needless for us to worry about our lives in comparison with others’.

Make no mistake.  This is not the feel-good message we hear in our culture, which is a narcissistic, self-idolizing attempt to make ourselves feel like number one.  You have worth because you are a child of God.  What you do with the gifts He has given you has value because they are His gifts, and He did not bestow them randomly or without purpose.

Father, I often hear that voice telling me that others are better or that I have not really done anything of importance.  Speak to me through the Holy Spirit and draw me back to the truth of Scripture whenever a lie from the enemy seeks to gain entrance into my heart.  Thank You for redeeming me by the blood of Jesus Christ and for equipping me to do what You want me to do in this life.  May my service always be pleasing to you.  Amen.

Copyright © 2017 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Thirsting For God

March 11 (Psalm 63:1)

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
    my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
    as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

Do you desire Him as you desire nothing else?  Do you long for Him?  Can you not wait to get into His presence?  I have tried many things to escape from the pressures and pains of life…movies, television, books, free phone app games whose appeal lasts for a couple of weeks before I need to find a new one.  Many have tried other, more destructive things.  There is nothing that satisfies like time in the presence of God.

How do I know that?  I know it for the same reason that the psalmist knew it.  He goes on to say in verse 7, “for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.”  He speaks from experience.  If even one time in your life you have experienced the help, the love, the support of Christ Jesus, then you have reason to sing for joy.  Chances are, you have tasted of those blessings more than once.

So, stop.  Right now.  Just stop for a few minutes and soak in His presence.  If you need help getting there, read all of Psalm 63.  Read it slowly.  Let Him speak to you.  Hear the words of Scripture or hymns or praise songs well up in your heart.  There is no self-medicating activity that comes close to restoring your soul.

Oh, Lord, You have been so good to me.  I have often strayed from You, but You have always been there for me, loving me, seeking me even when I was looking somewhere else.  Draw the eyes of my heart to Your glorious face.  I want to be filled with the holy presence of my Lord Jesus, in Whose name I pray. Amen.

Copyright © 2017 by Steven R. Perkins