Sunday, December 31, 2017

Who Was And Is And Is To Come

December 31 (Revelation 4:8)

“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!”  (ESV)

On the last day of the year, it is normal to think about what was, what is, and what is to come.  All three can lead to both positive and negative thoughts as we mull over achievements and failures, goals and disappointments, and our mood is largely determined by which ones tip the scales.

Now ponder a bit something on a cosmic scale, a transcendent truth.  Jesus Christ, Who was born on earth as a fully human baby, is also God, of Whom alone it can be said that He was and is and is to come.  This eternally existing triune deity existed in the past and therefore created everything, including you.  He exists at this moment and is with you whether your mood is dark or hopeful.  And He is coming again.

My friends, I don’t care what your plans are for the new year, and I certainly have some exciting ones myself, there is nothing, nothing that compares with the fact that He is coming again.  And He is that same God Who has existed from everlasting.  He is the same God so filled with love that He created reality and peopled it with creatures made in His image to enjoy both it and Him.  He is the same God Who so loved that very world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him would not perish, but would have eternal life.  Now there is something to get excited about in the New Year!

Lord, may my eyes be steadfastly fixed on You, for You have been with me all the days of my life, are with me even now, and have promised to return to bring me into Your glory.  I enter this new year clutching firmly to the truth of Who You are.  In the name of my Savior, Jesus, amen.

Copyright © 2017 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Why Christmas Is A Day Of Joy

December 24 (Psalm 30:5)

Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.  (ESV)

Tomorrow is Christmas Day.  Popular songs, to say nothing of experience, tell us that children will find it hard to sleep as they anticipate the gifts and pleasures to come.  Guess what?  That should be you, too.  Tomorrow may include travel and family and cooking.  It may involve gifts and laughter and lights.  Yet tomorrow is so much more than all that, and the merest thought of it should keep you awake with excited anticipation, for you see, joy comes with the morning.

Tomorrow is the day when the world acknowledges the birth of God in the flesh.  To be sure, many of the world’s celebrations are misguided, and many who celebrate do not know God as anything other than a word of profanity to be invoked when they want to condemn something.  Yet celebrations will take place, and whether those who celebrate fully understand it or not, it is because of unspeakable joy.

We humans wrecked everything in the Garden of Eden and have continued to make a mess of things ever since, hence the weeping.  God looked into that mess with the eyes of love and sent us His Son to comfort us, to guide and support us, and to redeem us with His blood.  So get excited!  But not with visions of sugarplums dancing in your head, but with the image of Jesus Christ, born to die so that YOU could truly live.

What joy, Lord, it truly is to think about the life, death, and resurrection of Your Son, Jesus!  In my celebration of Christmas with family and friends, may that joy, the joy that comes with a life redeemed by Him, radiate from all that I do.  Thank You, Father, for the greatest gift of all!  Amen.

Copyright © 2017 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, December 17, 2017

When Jesus Speaks Your Name

December 17  (Revelation 3:5)

The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels.  (ESV)

What do you want this Christmas?  And don’t say, “Peace on earth,” or some other answer that you think sounds appropriate for a Christian.  Seriously, what do you want?  When I read this verse recently, I was overcome with how much I want this.  I want to hear Jesus speak my name to God our Father and to stand before Him in a white garment that shows I am one of His own.

Every day we face the temptation to turn away from Jesus.  We are tempted to try life on our own rather than relying on His provision.  We may even be tempted to reject Him outright, whether through fear of embarrassment around others or in a fit of pique because we think He has not done for us what we need or want.  The one who conquers is the one who stays true to the end, the one who clings to Jesus faithfully rain or shine, through thick or thin.

And what a reward is waiting for that person!  Try to picture it.  There you are, clothed in white.  You are trembling with nervous excitement.  Your faith convinces you that this moment is going to happen, but still, you want and need to hear those words.  Jesus looks at you with a smile and turns toward the Father.  “I want to present to You one who has known me for a long time,” He announces.  And then He says your name.

O Jesus, I long for You to announce my name to our Father!  I want more than anything to be found faithful and true.  When I grow weak, make me strong.  When I stumble, please pick me up.  Help me to run my race and fight my fight with the victory that can only be found in You.  Amen.

Copyright © 2017 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Christ's Changing Of Life

December 10 (Hebrews 12:3)

Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.  (ESV)

Why does nearly every store and business you enter have decorations at this time of year?  It is because the birth of Jesus Christ changed everything.  Not one aspect of life remained the same after God took on flesh and walked among us.  The stores and businesses may treat this season as a time to make more money or simply to engage in culturally expected celebrations, but Christians know that, with all sentimentality laid aside, this season is about acknowledging the fundamental change in reality that came with the birth of Jesus.

Read this verse from Hebrews.  Jesus took incredible abuse from his own people and from foreigners alike.  He was mocked and rejected.  He was thought to be a liar and a charlatan.  He was beaten, subjected to injustice in the name of the law, and was executed.  Now, apart from securing eternal life for those who accept Him, He also endured all that to change how we handle adversity.

Everyone has something to complain about.  We all have reasons to be angry and upset.  Yet the follower of Jesus has an even better reason not to give in.  Our brother, our friend, and our Lord suffered even more, and when we do endure hardships for doing what is right, we can take comfort in knowing that we are, if in a very small way, imitating Him.

Lord, may my celebrations this Advent and Christmas be filled with the joy that can only come from realizing all You have done.  You have transformed my life and the very nature of what human life can be, both on earth and in the world to come.  May every interaction I have with others bear witness to this amazing and wonderful truth.  Amen.

Copyright © 2017 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Reminders Of God's Provision

December 3 (Philippians 4:19)

And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.  (ESV)

I recently highlighted this among some of my favorite verses in the Bible about God’s provision, and then I stopped to realize yet another way God provides for us.  Have you ever considered just how many verses there are about God’s provision in scripture?  The mere fact of the number of times God has spoken about His care for us is but one more instance of that very care and concern, for He does not want us to worry.

Has God promised provision for our physical needs?  Yes, He has (see Matthew 6:31-33).  Has He promised to care for our emotional needs?  Yes, He has (see Psalm 30:5).  Has He promised to care for the state of our souls?  Yes, He has (see Romans 6:23).  Yet pull back from all this just a bit and see that He has also provided so that you do not have to question or worry about His provision by stating over and over again in the words of scripture that He will, in actual fact, take care of you.

Now, here’s the thing.  Our Father knows His children and He knows full well that we are going to worry and fret.  We do not need to, but we will, and that is why He reassures us.  If there is one thing we must do, it is to read the Bible, not just for knowledge, but to take hold of the great promises and comfort of God.  If we do not, it is like ignoring one of the best gifts under the tree as we bustle about, upset by the all the wrapping paper that litters the floor.

Father, thank You not only for Your amazing provisions, both for this life and the next, but thank You for reminding me so often of Your care for me in the words of scripture.  May those words, Your words, sink into my heart and mind, coloring everything I see in the world.  In the name of Jesus, Who made the promise of life a reality, amen.

Copyright © 2017 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Rest In A Busy Season

November 26 (Matthew 11:28)

…I will give you rest.  (ESV)

Now begins the final push of the year.  Students push toward final exams.  Stores push year-end sales.  With a sudden burst of anxiety-fueled energy, we push to accomplish all the things we think we must as the year shrinks to weeks and then days and then minutes.  Wouldn’t you just like to tell the lot of it to talk a long walk off a short pier?

Jesus knows that the deepest desire of your heart, the deepest need of your soul right now is for peace.  And He knows you will need it again tomorrow and the next day as the busyness of the world like a riptide tries to pull you under.  That is why when He offers rest to all who come to Him for it, the Greek word literally means “I will stop you again.”  Jesus does not always want to advance your plans.  Sometimes He wants to stop you because He knows that is what you need most.

And why do you need that?  Because of the truth of a verse like this.  “Be still, and know that I am God,” Psalm 46:10.  So accept that in this season of high demands it can all wait.  Truly, it can.  Then go to Jesus and ask for His rest, which He promises to give you.  Not only will it bring restoration to your mind, body, and spirit, but you will come to know God even more.

Jesus, please help me keep my eyes on you.  From the things I want to the things I feel forced to do, there are so many demands on my attention, and I am not strong enough on my own to hold them off.  Stop me, yet again, and let me rest in You.  Amen.

Copyright © 2017 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, November 19, 2017

True Thanksgiving

November 19 (Colossians 2:6-7)

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.  (ESV)

There are many things for which we give thanks as we gather with family and friends on Thanksgiving Day, yet none is more worthy of our gratitude than the gift of life from God through Jesus Christ.  Are we grateful for the nation in which we live?  Yes, but our citizenship in heaven is more to be prized.  Are we grateful for material blessings?  Yes, but of greater value are the treasures that moth and rust cannot corrupt and that thieves cannot break in to steal.  Are we grateful for the relationships that form the fabric of our lives?  Yes, but no relationship is closer than the one we have with our heavenly Father through Christ Jesus, by whose blood we are His adopted brothers and sisters and co-heirs with Him in glory.

Friends, reflect on these blessings of immeasurable value when you are with others this week.  If they, like you, have become new creatures in Christ, they will join with you in thanksgiving for that which matters most.  If they do not know Jesus, it is an opportunity for you to testify to all He has done for you.  And would you not be deeply grateful if by this time next year they joined you in that same thanksgiving?

Lord, my deepest thanks go to You.  I could never list all the individual blessings of my life, both in this world and in the next, but I can acknowledge their source.  May the words of my mouth, the actions of my hands, and the thoughts of my heart be ever directed in thanks to You, my Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Copyright © 2017 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Our Hope, God's Pleasure

November 12 (Psalm 147:11)

But the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him,

     in those who hope in his steadfast love.  (ESV)

God wants you to trust Him.  He wants you to put your faith and hope in Him.  He wants you to look to Him all the time and for everything.

This is utterly contrary to how we truly think.  We can recite this verse and nod in agreement all we want, but we live our lives as if it said, “But the LORD takes pleasure in those who work hard and do everything for themselves, in those who don’t bother Him and prove their love for Him by getting all their tasks done perfectly and on time.”  You can pretend around others, but is that not how you often think?

Now here is the part that makes my heart soar.  God loves it when you trust Him!  He takes pleasure when you put your hope in His steadfast love!  Do you want to please God?  Stop fearing the things of life and putting your hope in your money, your abilities, and the systems of this world.  Put all your eggs into one basket and focus entirely on God.  He loves it when His children do that!

Father, You know how much I need to trust You and how often I put my hope in other things.  I am coming to You now with my weakness.  I try to do and control it all.  You know I can’t, and I know I can’t, but I try just the same.  Break the grip I have over my life so that I may offer it up to You with open hands.  In the name of my Lord, Jesus, the perfect model of trust and obedience, amen.

Copyright © 2017 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, November 5, 2017

The Center of Our Faith

November 5 (1 Corinthians 15:19)

If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.  (ESV)

Does God help us in our daily struggles?  He most certainly does, and it is Jesus Himself who teaches us in the Lord’s Prayer to ask our Father for our daily bread, but there is much more to Jesus and His work than that.  Too often we treat Jesus as little more than a genie in a bottle, a cosmic magician to make all the bad stuff go away or a divine Santa Claus to give us the stuff we want.

If this is the be-all, end-all of our faith, than our faith is pretty shallow indeed.  Our hope in Jesus is not merely that He will help us get through the day, although we do hope that, but that we will be raised to new, eternal life with Him after we have died.  And yes, friends, we are going to die.  It may be easy to forget that or not to think about it in the modern world where countless painkillers line the shelves of the store and we have sufficiently tamed the forces of nature to live comfortably most of the time, but we will die, and our hope in Jesus is for resurrection.

Isn’t that thought amazing?  Doesn’t it pull your head up from the stack of bills to be paid, the homework to be done, and all the frantic getting and spending that consumes our lives?  You can live forever along with and by the power of the resurrected Jesus Christ.  That is the true center of our hope and faith.

Jesus, You have blessed us beyond measure with the gift of eternal life.  Forgive me when I am interested in You only for what You can do for me right now.  You truly are much more to me than that.  May the promise of life forever with You be the center of my faith and therefore of my life.  Amen.

Copyright © 2017 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, October 29, 2017

The Joy of Forgiveness

October 29 (Romans 4:7-8)

“Oh, what joy for those

     whose disobedience is forgiven,

     whose sins are put out of sight.

Yes, what joy for those

     whose record the Lord has cleared of sin.”  (NLT)

Do you get that you are supposed to die?  Do you get it that all of the nice things you do for people do not amount to squat?  Friends, in the eyes of God, you and I deserve to die, and we don’t even have the right to be offended by that.  God does.  He created us to be the crowning glory of all His creations, but WE turned on HIM.  If anyone has a right to be angry at the state of human affairs, it is God.  That realization should put us in a pretty humble position.

But oh, what joy for those whose disobedience has been forgiven!  What joy for those whose sins have been put out of sight!  Do you also realize that the blood of Jesus has washed you so thoroughly of your sins and disobedience that God Himself does not see them anymore?  He looks at you and sees the glorious creature He intended.

King David originally wrote those words in Psalm 32:1-2, but Paul quoted them in his letter to the Romans.  David had some sense of God’s forgiveness, but after the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, we have a greater understanding of the work of God’s grace.  Friends, take some time to let that sink in.  You deserve to die and be eternally separated from God, but that will not happen thanks to the work of Jesus Christ.

Lord, what a gracious and amazing gift You have given us!  Thank You for the blood of Jesus and what it brings, for the words of Scripture and Your servants that have taught me of Your forgiveness, and for the grace that has allowed me to accept it so that the Holy Spirit might dwell within me.  All praise and glory be to You, my Lord and my God!  Amen.

Copyright © 2017 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, October 22, 2017

What Faith In Jesus Means

October 22 (Romans 3:22)

We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.  (NLT)

Romans 1:5 says that we have the privilege and authority to tell people what God has done for us, and Romans 3:22 makes it perfectly clear what that is.  We are made right with God, not by following rituals or procedures or trying really hard to be good.  We are made right, justified, with God by putting our faith in Jesus.

So what does that mean?  People talk about it all the time, but what does it actually mean?  Just a few verses later in Romans 3:25 we get the answer.  “People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood.”  We must believe that Jesus Christ voluntarily sacrificed His life for us and that He shed His blood as a sacrifice to cover our sins and make us pure and holy in God’s sight.  That’s it.  That is what it means to place our faith in Him.  That is what it means to be made right with God.  That is what it means to accept the gift of eternal life.

And as the verse for today concludes, this is true for everyone.  It is true for Jews and Muslims.  It is true for people who live in the country and people who live in the city.  It is true for those who grew up in Christian homes but never really believed and for those who have not once heard the name of Christ.  The offer is there for every single person…either to accept or to reject.

Father, thank You for sending Your Son, Jesus Christ, to pay for my sins with His own life and blood.  There is nothing that could possibly repay such a gift, so may my life be a fulfillment of Jesus’s command to take this message everywhere.  In His holy name I pray.  Amen.

Copyright © 2017 by Steven R. Perkins

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