Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Privilege and Authority To Witness

October 15 (Romans 1:5)

Through Christ, God has given us the privilege and authority as apostles to tell Gentiles everywhere what God has done for them, so that they will believe and obey him, bringing glory to his name.  (NLT)

Some friends and I were texting recently about the rapidly deteriorating state of culture and society, and I replied, “My friends, the world of man is coming apart at its weak and frayed seams.  We must go forth and know nothing among our brethren but Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.”  I was thinking of 1 Corinthians 2:2, but evangelism is more than just a good idea in troubled times.  It is what we have been called to.

It would be amazing news if scientists revealed tomorrow a cure for cancer, but it would not be greater than the Good News of what God has done for us through Jesus Christ.  Through Him God has made a way for us to avoid the punishment of eternal separation from Him through death.  This message and no other is the most important thing you and I will ever talk about with anyone.  It is our privilege to be called to the role of divine messengers of God’s grace, and we have the authority from God almighty to share it.

Does the work of Jesus make its way into your conversations?  Does what He has accomplished in your own life season your interactions with others?  When it does, those who need to know the true gift of God through Jesus, not the caricature of Christianity presented in social media, will come to believe and obey Him, and He will receive the glory.

Lord, open my lips and free my tongue to tell those in my life what You have done for them.  Cast out my hesitation, nervousness, and fear and make me bold in the Holy Spirit to speak on Your behalf.  May all that I do and say bring glory to my Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Copyright © 2017 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, October 8, 2017

The Light Of God's Grace

October 8 (Romans 8:1)

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

The eighth chapter of Romans may be the most beautiful, encouraging, life-giving passage you will ever read, and it begins with one sentence that captures the sum total of the human story.  It explodes from the page with the declaration that there is now no condemnation, but for the word “now” to be necessary, there is the implication that condemnation once existed for us.  Let that sink in a moment.  You deserved condemnation by the Lord God of the universe.  I deserved condemnation.  Every human being who has ever drawn a breath has deserved the condemnation of God.   That is our heritage thanks to the sin of Adam and Eve and compounded by our own daily acts of rebellion.

Go back to that fantastic adverb “now.”  Now, in the era in which you live, that is no longer the case.  The condemnation is gone.  It is taken away.  Is that true for everyone?  Well, the opportunity for it to be true exists for everyone, but to take advantage of the incredible offer of the removal of God’s condemnation, we must have our life in Jesus Christ.  We must have surrendered to Him.  We must have confessed our sins and sinful nature, repented, and been baptized in Him.  We must have become new creatures, allowing His nature to become our own.

Now, if that describes you, then read the rest of Romans 8.  When you do, the light of God’s grace will stream through the window of your heart and illuminate your very soul.  And if you know you have not surrendered to Christ Jesus, despite what others may think based on your good deeds, read Romans 8 to get a picture of what the true, real, and genuine life in Him looks like.  You will find yourself on your knees, crying out to Him for such a life, and He will rejoice to give it to you.

O Lord, Your grace overwhelms me.  Nothing is as beautiful.  Nothing means more to me.  I love and praise You with all that I am!  May my life reflect to others the light of Your glory and grace.  In the name of Jesus Christ, Who has given His life for me and to me, amen.

Copyright © 2017 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Staying True To The Call

October 1 (Luke 12:35-36)

Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks.  (ESV)

The class in the room next to the one in which I teach is a French classroom, and the teacher stands in the door each day during the passing periods holding vocabulary cards.  Her students must define one of the words before entering.  She was absent recently, and I was impressed with her students when I saw them taking her spot and doing what she always does.  They were holding the cards for their classmates to define as they came to class. 

I have no way of knowing whether Jesus will return while I am still alive, but if He does, I want Him to find me doing what He has called me to do.  I am glad for my call and want to fulfill it in ways that please Him.  I want Him to take joy that one of His servants has served Him well.

If He were to return tomorrow, where would He find you?  Would He find you using the gifts He has given you, developing them, and putting them to use in work for the kingdom of God?  If Jesus entered any aspect of your life, would He join you in what you were doing because He could recognize the work as His own?

Lord Jesus, I consecrate the work of my life to You.  In great works and in small, in my response to major callings and in my fulfillment of daily activities, may all I do, say, and think be to Your glory.  Amen.

Copyright © 2017 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Jesus The Light

September 16 (John 1:5)

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.  (ESV)

On a sunny day as light streams through the windows, it is impossible to see the light.  It illuminates everything.  You are surrounded by it, and because it is impossible to be apart from it, it is not possible to see it truly.  Now consider the brilliance of a star in space.  It blazes fiercely, defiantly against the darkness, and while the darkness may surround it, it cannot overcome the light, but rather retreats and dissipates as the rays press ever outward.

The oldest Christian hymn outside the Bible is Phos Hilaron.  It dates to just over 200 years after Jesus and opens by calling Him “O joyous light.”  Now think again about the stars in the far-flung galaxies of space.  Call up an image of the unending blackness and the lights that pierce it.  Jesus is the light that created those stars.  He traveled the infinite distance from heaven to become flesh and shine upon earth as no star could ever do.  And that supreme, powerful, creative light is a joyous one.

The word hilaron in the title of that ancient hymn gives us our word “hilarious.”  Yes, Jesus is the hilarious, wonderful, joy-filled light of everything!  Radiance, explosive radiance that literally takes over darkness…that is Jesus.  That is your Savior and God, my friends.

Oh, Jesus, I can hardly express my joy when I think of You, when I truly ponder all that You are.  In the words of another great hymn, “Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart.  Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.  Thou my best Thought, by day or by night, waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.”

Copyright © 2017 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, September 10, 2017

When You Can't Feel God

September 9 (Matthew 27:46)

And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  (ESV)

I have no faith that my wife loves me, nor that my children do for that matter.  At least I have no faith in their love when I am with them, for they make it abundantly clear in an infinite number of ways.  My faith in their loves kicks in when I am not in their presence, when I cannot see or hear them or feel their tight embraces.  It is rather like the lights on the instrument panel of my car.  When it is dark, those lights come on, but when there is sufficient natural light, they dim and go away.

I could hope that you would feel the love of God all the time, but you won’t.  Jesus Himself did not feel it as He cried out to His Father on the cross, so you can take it to the bank that there will be times when you cannot feel His presence or may even begin to think that He has abandoned you.  This is the time for your faith.  You keep going.  Yes, you keep going in the practices of the Christian faith even when it feels like one gigantic farce.  Yes, you keep praying and keep reading the Bible even when it feels like a waste of time.  Yes, you keep attending worship even you when feel like a fraud and are not even sure you really want to worship a God Who seems not to care about you.  That, my friends, is what it means to live in faith.

Even the challenging cry of “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me,” is a cry of faith, for though it may feel as if it is being hurled into emptiness, it is being heard on the far side of the dark.

Father, hear my prayer.  I am struggling right now, and it is hard to take even one more step.  I don’t even know what to ask of You.  I can only hope that You know my heart and know what is best.  I can only hope that You will direct my steps and bring me back into the light.  I long for Your presence, even as Jesus longed for it as He hung on the cross.  Restore me to life, Father, even as You did Him.  In the name of Jesus, I pray this.  Amen.

Copyright © 2017 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Unite My Heart

September 2 (Psalm 86:11)

unite my heart to fear your name.  (ESV)

We have become a new species.  We are no longer homo sapiens, Latin for “wise human being.”  We have become homo crazyicus distracticus, or “crazy distracted person,” itself a branch of homo modernicus, “modern man.”  In fact, talking about how distracted we are and weighing the benefits and the drawbacks of our tech-dependent, interconnected society, has become a commonplace.  You know it as well as I do.  Your heart and mind are like a glorious, stained glass panel that has been shattered into a million jagged fragments.

I need to pray this one part of Psalm 86:11 over and over again, for I am at my best when my heart is united and focused on God.  I long for those moments when it is.  I truly do.  Yet there are just so many things pulling at my attention, from genuine responsibilities to the blinking lights of distracted temptation.

Friends, many of us have entered a state where it is almost impossible to marshal our thoughts into anything like coherence.  We simply cannot slow down or shut out the noise.  Fortunately, help is just a cry away.  Pray the words of this verse and notice their purpose.  We cry to God to unite the pieces of our distracted hearts not just so we can have a few moments of peace, although that is a pleasant benefit, but to focus more clearly on Him.

Father, unite my heart to fear Your name.  I am struggling to do this on my own.  I want to be with You, to sit in Your presence, and to hear Your voice, but I just cannot shut out the noise of life.  Unite my heart to fear Your name.  I pray this in the name of Jesus, my Lord and Savior, amen.

Copyright © 2017 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Waiting For Jesus

August 27 (Matthew 1:1)

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.  (ESV)

The lights went down in the theatre and the opening of the movie burst onto the screen.  You had seen teasers and trailers for months, had read all the fan sites, and now could hardly contain yourself as the moment finally revealed itself.  The excitement and anticipation were palpable.

That is how it felt when, just a few days ago, I read the words of Matthew 1:1.  I had been reading through the Bible since January using a fantastic app called Read Scripture (  For nearly eight full months I had been in the Old Testament, and while it was the story of God and there was much to learn and be blessed by, I have to admit I could hardly wait to get to Jesus.  Yes, the Old Testament is about Him, too, for He is God, but as for the human beings in the story….  There was only so much of honor-serve-rebel-fall away-repent-honor-serve-rebel-fall away-repent I could take.  Would we humans never get it right and keep it right?  I found myself longing for Jesus as never before.  Knowing the end of the story, I could hardly wait to get to His redemptive chapter.

Do you long for Him?  Do you desire Him above everything?  If you heard He was coming to a town near you or thousands of miles away, would you drop it all and run to Him?  Whether I am alive on earth when He returns or called out of my grave, there is one thing I know.  I simply cannot wait to see my Savior, my King, and my friend.

Oh, Jesus!  I want to see You and hear You and spend time with You.  Fill my heart with Your Holy Spirit.  Speak to me through the living words of Scripture.  I cherish such moments with You, but to be honest, I cannot wait to see You in person.  May the desire burn ever hotter until it becomes reality.  Amen.

Copyright © 2017 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Gaining Understanding From God

August 20 (Psalm 73:16-17)

But when I thought how to understand this,    

     it seemed to me a wearisome task,

until I went into the sanctuary of God;    

     then I discerned their end.  (ESV)

There are many things it seems wearisome to me to understand.  They include everything from insurance to plans for our children’s future to evil in the world.  There is no end of things I can read claiming to help me understand them.  The Internet is full of resources multiplying by the minute.  Do you ever notice how the abundance things offering help can be a burden in themselves?  The sheer volume of help is daunting.

Whether we are facing the most mundane of problems or the most world-threatening, we need to enter the sanctuary of God for any hope of understanding them.  We need to enter the physical sanctuary of our church and sit in His presence and praise.  We need to enter the spiritual sanctuary of our hearts and sit in His presence and listen to His Spirit.  We need to enter the living sanctuary of His word, the Bible, and be still as He speaks to us.  When we do, we will discern the truth of what we must understand, and we will not be wearied with our own efforts at trying to figure things out.

It may actually be easier for us to do this when confronting the major problems of the world.  We know right away they are beyond our understanding, so we may be more inclined to seek God’s wisdom.  The fact is, it is not the major world problems that weary us the most.  It is figuring out our insurance and planning for our children’s futures.  What are some of the countless small things wearying you?  Will you take them with you into the sanctuary of God?

Father, I have too much on my plate right now.  Some of it I put there, and some of it has been placed there by others.  I need Your help in understanding the way I should go with all of it.  Still my heart and let me hear from You.  If I start to run before You have spoken, please stop me so I can discern truly Your will.  In the name of my Lord, Jesus, amen.

Copyright © 2017 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Seeing As Jesus Sees

August 13 (Galatians 3:27-28)

For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  (ESV)

There are times when distinctions among people matter.  When I pledge allegiance to the United States of America, it matters that I am an American, for I am grateful to live in this country.  During the NCAA basketball tournament, it matters that I attended Indiana University, for I will cheer for the Hoosiers and then for other Big Ten teams.  At many gatherings of our children’s friends and their families, it matters that I am a man, for the dads and moms will quickly separate to talk about things the other group could not care less about.  From the trivial to the important, there are many instances in which distinctions among people matter.

For those who have been baptized into Christ Jesus, however, those distinctions cease to have importance in a very fundamental way.  Regardless of your external characteristics or internal ways of seeing the world, I see you through the eyes of Christ.  Make no mistake.  This is not a choice on my part.  If my life has truly been transformed by the grace of Jesus Christ, then how I see you is no more a matter of choice than my seeing an apple as red.

Let me say that again.  Seeing people as Christ sees them is not a matter of choice.  It is not a matter of digging down deep and remembering some lesson learned in school.  And if we should ever invoke the name of Jesus Christ while seeing any person as worthy of hatred, then we are lying about knowing Jesus at all.

If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.  But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:6-7, ESV)

Copyright © 2017 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, August 6, 2017

God My Everything

August 6 (Psalm 62:7)

My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge.  (ESV)

God wants to be your everything.  He is your salvation, eternally through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and on earth as He guides you through the Holy Spirit.  He is your mighty rock, the place where you can stand firmly in truth and the knowledge of what is right, no small gift in an age that is losing the very notion of truth.  He is your refuge, the place where you can find comfort and protection amid the emotional, relational, and physical storms of life that would otherwise sweep you away.

He is also your honor.  Your honor, your glory, your nobility depend solely on Him, and because of that, you are noble, glorious, and honorable indeed, regardless of outward appearances to the world.  Your identity as a son or daughter of the Lord God of the universe is secure, untouchable, and shining throughout eternity.

Do not make your relationship with God through Jesus Christ a small thing.  Do not make it less than it is.  Do not minimize it.  It is the sum total of your existence and essence, for God is your everything.

O Lord, my God, when I ponder You but for the slightest moment, I am overwhelmed with awe and love, with gratitude and fierce devotion.  May all that I am and all that I have and all that I think and all that I say and all that I do reflect to the world the state of my relationship with You and bring You all the glory possible.  By the power of the Holy Spirit and in the name of my Savior, Jesus Christ, amen.

Copyright © 2017 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, July 30, 2017

A Heart Of Pain Or Healing

July 30 (Matthew 12:34)

For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.  (ESV)

Much, if not most, of what many, if not all people do comes from pain.  Somewhere along the way we have received deep wounds to our hearts, and we have learned how to respond to diminish the pain.  We become the life of the party or we lash out to hurt others.  We control every aspect of our lives or we avoid all responsibility as we hide in addictions.  Much that is good and much that is bad stems from the damage to our hearts, our core selves.

Perhaps this is why God talks so much about the human heart.  Throughout the Bible God calls us to love Him with all our hearts.  He wants to create in us new hearts, ones that are healed from the wounds out of which we try to live life on our own terms.  It is why He is not interested in all the good things you may do if the reason for doing them is not pure.

This is not an excuse, of course, for sinful behavior, but can give us pause when others are acting in ways we do not like.  They may well be acting from a place of deep pain.  At the same time, we must look at our own hearts to see how much of what we do on a daily basis stems from brokenness or from healing.  If the essence of who you are is proceeding from a response to pain, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the wounds that caused it and then take them to Jesus.  He knows what it is like to be wounded, both physically and emotionally, and He can make you whole again.

Jesus, I have learned so many ways for dealing with the pain in my life, yet I am tired of seeking and taking my own medication.  Show me the deep wounds of my heart, Lord, that I may present them to You for healing and restoration.  Restore my heart and fill it with Your love and grace so that all I do and say comes from You and not my pain.  Amen.

Copyright © 2017 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, July 23, 2017

God Our Ransom

July 23 (Psalm 49:7-9)

Truly no man can ransom another,

     or give to God the price of his life,

for the ransom of their life is costly

     and can never suffice,

that he should live on forever

     and never see the pit.  (ESV)

I cannot die to save you, and you cannot die to save me.  We can do many things to serve each other and may even rescue each other’s life on earth, but you cannot ransom me, and I cannot ransom you from eternal death.  Each of us is too valuable for that.

Are some dots starting to connect?  Stay with the logic here.  If no human being alone can ransom another human being, yet Jesus ransomed us with His life so that we might indeed “live on forever and never see the pit,” then Jesus was not merely human.  He was God in the flesh.  Now let that one sink in.  Jesus is God, which means He always was God, is God right now, and always will be God.  Jesus is God.

Jesus is not a self-help guru.  He is not the author of some really neat motivational quotations.  He is God.  Jesus is not your magic genie to grant each wish.  He is not one more good teacher among many.  He is God.  He could snap His finger and all of creation would be on its knees.  Instead, He suffered and died so you could live forever.  It is no wonder that Thomas cried out, “My Lord and my God!

Lord Jesus, may Your praise ever be on my lips, my life a living sacrifice to Your glory.  May I seek to praise You more than seek something from You.  May my life’s work be your honor.  Amen.

Copyright © 2017 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Can You Live Your Faith By Hiding It?

July 16 (Matthew 25:25)

[S]o I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.  (ESV)

In one of his standup routines, comedian George Carlin talked about how he plots an exit path on an airplane in case of an emergency.  He said he identifies the people he can step on, knock over, and push out of the way so he can get out and help others.  The humor, of course, comes from the absurdity of doing something bad just to have the opportunity to do something good, yet how many of us live life this way?

Perhaps you have found a way to serve God with the talents He has given you.  As time goes by, however, you find that you must keep quiet about certain issues or lend your support to that which is not Christian just to be able to do what you had thought was so good.  At what point do you become like the comedian, participating in that which is wrong in an attempt to do what is right?  When do you become like the man in the parable of the talents that Jesus told, effectively burying your gifts and your calling in the ground?

Each moment of every day, you face a choice to do one thing or to do another.  Stop turning your life into a chess game in which you are trying to determine what to do right now by looking twelve moves into the future.  Do what God is calling to you at this moment and let Him worry about the next move.  Jesus Himself said not to worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow has its own decisions for you to make.  Do what is right and what is right in front of you right now.

Father, help me to live my faith out loud, not as a show, but as a light and witness because I cannot see anything else with my eyes fixed unwaveringly on You.  Help me to cease being afraid of my passion for You unleashed, but rather help me to yield fully to it.  In the mighty name of my Savior, Jesus Christ, amen.

Copyright © 2017 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Bold As A Third Grader

July 9 (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.  (ESV)

He is one of the cutest little boys in the group my friend and I shepherd at church.  His face is full of animation, and he loves to talk about basketball and play air hockey in the youth room.  He is about to enter third grade, and his response to our discussion about obedience blew me away.  As we talked with the boys about obeying God in different situations, including telling others about Jesus, this young man offered what for him was clearly the last word on the matter.  “If people don’t believe in God, they will go to the devil place.”

I loved it!  He stated the truth in the bold, matter-of-fact, bottom-line way that only a child will use.  Yet it did give me pause.  What happens to muddy the waters for adults?  Why do we shy away from bold declarations?  It is no wonder that Jesus asked that adults bring little children to Him and proclaimed that it was to such that the Kingdom belonged (Luke 18:6).

Of course, that is the key.  It is not that only children have the qualities Jesus is looking for, but only those with the perspective of a child.  Children seem to understand clearly that if X is right and Y is wrong, you should tell people about X to avoid Y.  It really is that simple.  There is no greater right than Jesus Christ, and there is no greater tragedy than spending eternity in hell separated from Him.  Do your friends and family know that?

Lord, help me to cast off the foolish social concerns of adulthood.  Create within me a childlike innocence and passion for what is right.  Make me as bold as a third grader when it comes to telling people about the offer of life in Jesus Christ, through Whose name I pray, amen.

Copyright © 2017 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, July 2, 2017

The Fire of Jeremiah

July 2 (Jeremiah 20:9)

If I say, “I will not mention him,

     or speak any more in his name,”

there is in my heart as it were a burning fire

     shut up in my bones,

and I am weary with holding it in,

     and I cannot.  (ESV)

Your relationship with God is personal, but it must not be private.  People will tell you that it is fine for you to believe whatever you like in private, but your beliefs must not make their way into the workplace or the public square.  This, however, is impossible to achieve.  If you believe that you must not talk about Jesus in public and therefore do not, you have just brought that belief into your public life.  If you know that you must talk about Him openly and do, then that is the belief that guides you.

Jeremiah spoke much that was unpopular with the people of his day.  They rejected his message and rejected him, even putting him in prison.  Yet Jeremiah says that if he decides enough is enough and will not speak of God further, there is a fire in his heart and in his bones that will not let him remain quiet. 

If you are a follower of Christ, you have no choice but to share His good news with others, nor should you want to do otherwise.  If you truly believe that His love and sacrifice have resulted in your eternal life with God, if you truly believe that the Holy Spirit within you guides and leads you, why would you even want to keep that to yourself?  The very opposite of being rude and insulting, it would be selfish and monstrous not to share what you know to be true with everyone you meet.

Lord, kindle in me the fire of Jeremiah.  I am hesitant sometimes to talk about You with others for fear of offending someone.  May I be led more by Your love than I am by fear.  May the fire Jeremiah felt blaze in my heart and in my bones so that I have no choice but to share Your good news with everyone in my life.  In the name of Jesus, Who was not ashamed to die in my place, amen.

Copyright © 2017 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Imitating Jesus

June 25 (1 Corinthians 11:1)

Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.  (ESV)

James Dean spawned a legion of young men who tried to look tough by adopting his signature look.  Girls did the same thing with Madonna’s fashions in the 1980s.  Countless athletes try to mimic their favorite sports figures.  This is why companies want celebrity endorsements.  They know that we all imitate others, and if the ones we imitate wear certain clothes, drive certain cars, or eat certain foods, their followers will do the same.

Paul invited the Corinthians to imitate him, which in his case meant imitating Christ Jesus.  So what does that mean?  First of all, it means studying Him closely.  Ardent fans can tell you the most obscure details about their favorite stars.  What do you know about Jesus?  What kind of man is He?  What are His interests, His personality, His desires?

Me?  I’m a music lover, and nothing gets me more pumped than seeing a favorite artist perform live with the hope of maybe getting to meet the person and catching a selfie with him.  You start finding out who Jesus is by reading about Him in the Bible, but then you need to meet Him in person.  You see, He really did rise from the dead.  He really does live today.  He invites each person into an intimate relationship with Him.  If you want to imitate Him the way Paul did, you have to get to know him.

Jesus, I want to know You better.  I want to know You more personally.  At times I have considered You just one more historical figure rather than my living brother, friend, and savior.  Show me Who You really are because I want to be more like You.  Amen.

Copyright © 2017 by Steven R. Perkins

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!