Sunday, January 29, 2017

Without God I Am Nothing

January 29 (Genesis 32:10)

I am not worthy of all the unfailing love and faithfulness you have shown to me, your servant. When I left home and crossed the Jordan River, I owned nothing except a walking stick. Now my household fills two large camps!  (ESV)

Read chapters 29 through 32 of Genesis.  Jacob worked hard for many years.  Scripture tells of at least fourteen years that he worked for Laban, building his flocks and family, but when you start figuring in the number of children he had during that time, it would have been even longer.  Hard work over an extended period of time.  That is the recipe for success, isn’t it? 

Yet in this verse Jacob gives full credit to God for his achievements and takes none for himself.  Think of the things for which you have worked hard over time…a college degree, advancement within your work, a health and fitness goal, financial stability, owning a home, having children.  These are things for which people take great pride and for which we congratulate each other.  How often is our response in moments of celebration over personal achievement to turn the praise immediately to God?

Stop and think about that for a moment.  Will you thank God for your ability to make the money you are spending at the gas station you are blessed to have nearby as you fill the tank of the car He has helped you purchase?  Will you praise Him for the running water with which you brush your teeth you have been blessed to entrust to a dentist gifted by God to treat and care for?  You see where this is going.  There is not one thing in all our possession or achievement that we own or have done apart from God.

Lord, I owe it all to You.  I owe to You all that I have and all I have achieved.  Call to my mind the things I have overlooked.  Develop in me such an awareness of Your hand in my life that my days are filled with praise and thanksgiving.  I begin now with glorifying my Savior Jesus, Who is quite simply my all in all.  Amen.

Copyright © 2017 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Meditating On The Bible

January 22 (Joshua 1:8)

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.  (ESV)

A deep, wonderful, and supremely nerdy experience recently proved the truth of this verse to me.  I had been wrestling with this and that, and even though the thought of reading Scripture should have brought me comfort, my thoughts were scattered.  I began to explore a particular verse in one translation, but it seemed rather flat, so I went to a different translation that was much more dynamic.  This led me to consult the Greek translation of the Old Testament, known as the Septuagint, and I found that the more dynamic translation was the more accurate.

What struck me most at the end of this time of study was how much more calm I felt.  I had spent about an hour reading, thinking, and writing, and my chaotic thoughts had settled into place.  I had not simply glanced at the Bible and moved on, but I had meditated on it, and that made all the difference.

What can you do to slow down in your engagement with the Bible?  Note that I did not say “in your reading the Bible.”  We can read something in a flash and promptly forget it.  Engagement is a different matter.  Try reading the same passage in different translations and noting the differences.  Ask God what He is saying in the passage.  Take notes on it in a journal.  Talk about it with a friend via email, text message, or over coffee.  When you actively engage with the Bible, it will take on a much richer meaning than if you merely read a bit and check it off your to-do list.  You will have moved into meditation on God’s word, and that will truly change how you go about life.

Lord, I ask You in these words of Thomas Aquinas, “Pour forth a ray of Your brightness into the darkened places of my mind; disperse from my soul the twofold darkness into which I was born: sin and ignorance.  Grant to me keenness of mind, capacity to remember, skill in learning, subtlety to interpret, and eloquence in speech. May You guide the beginning of my work, direct its progress, and bring it to completion.  You Who are true God and true Man, who live and reign, world without end.  Amen.”

Copyright © 2017 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Raw And Honest With God

January 15 (Psalm 143:4, 6-7)

I am losing all hope;

     I am paralyzed with fear.

I lift my hands to you in prayer.  

          I thirst for you as parched land thirsts for rain.

Come quickly, Lord, and answer me,    for my depression deepens.

    Don’t turn away from me,    or I will die.  (NLT)

We all need to be reminded of God’s love, but we also need to be reminded of something else.  We put on so many pretenses with others, acting as if things are okay when they really are not.  It’s just the way we get through the day, but we don’t have to do that with God.  You don’t have to do that with God.

The man writing these words was David, the greatest king in Israel’s history, a person described as a man after God’s own heart, and an ancestor of Jesus.  Think about that.  This is the same man who flat out admits he is losing hope and is paralyzed with fear.  Have you ever felt that way?  He begs for God to come quickly because of his deepening depression.  Have you ever been there?  He knows that if he does not see God, he will die.  Sound familiar?

If you have ever felt like this, you are in good company.  If you are surprised to find this in the Bible, then perhaps your image of God and a relationship with Him is skewed.  We cannot admit every private challenge and emotional struggle at work.  Sometimes we have to put on a happy face that masks the truth.  We never have to do this with God.  We can lay out the pain and the ugliness in the most blunt possible way with Him.  Try it.  Call out to Him with your true heart.  Write to Him in your journal with words you would never use in public.  You do not need to impress Him.  He loves you and wants to hear from you, the true you.

This week’s devotion does not conclude with a prayer from me.  It needs to conclude with a prayer from you.  Avoid the churchy language.  Get real and raw with Him.  There is nothing so shameful or painful that you can say that He does not already know.  He wants to help.  Go to Him.

Copyright © 2017 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, January 8, 2017

God's Loving Guidance

January 8 (Psalm 143:8)

Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love,

     for in you I trust.

Make me know the way I should go,

     for to you I lift up my soul.  (ESV)

Do you ever need some advice or encouragement?  You aren’t going to ask a stranger for it and you certainly won’t go to someone you don’t trust.  I would rather muddle along with my own confusion and feeble efforts than to open my heart to someone I am not absolutely certain is wise and truly cares for me.

I need to hear each morning how much God loves me.  Fortunately, there are ample statements of His love throughout the Bible.  I can turn to almost any page and find references to His steadfast love.  Armed with confidence in the love of God, I can then trust Him.  I can lay my questions and confusions and worries and doubts before Him and can ask Him the way to go.  In short, I can lift my very soul to Him.

My relationship with God, however, has to proceed in the right order.  I can pay lip service to trusting Him, but I am not going to seek His guidance for the things that matter most if do not believe in His love.  It has to start there.  Once I am convinced of this, and I need to be convinced again every morning, I will run to Him with my every need.

Father, thank You for evidence of Your love…in the Bible, in the countless examples throughout my own life, and in the whisperings of the Holy Spirit deep in my heart.  There are so many things I need Your help with, and I bring those before You now.  Show me the way I should go as I lift my soul to You.  In the name of Jesus, I pray.  Amen.

Copyright © 2017 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, January 1, 2017

When Life Gets In The Way

January 1 (Romans 8:38)

Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.  (NLT)

I hope the new year brings the prospect of joy and renewed dreams for you.  That is certainly what we tend to focus on…goals, plans, looking ahead with the fresh eagerness of embarking on a new adventure.  Yet let’s be honest.  For some of us, the prospect is simply holding old fears at bay.  In fact, the barbarians of anxiety may already be massing at our gates.

I confess that I have always read this verse by focusing on the first and last parts.  I read it as a verse that spoke mostly about the end of my days and the confidence I could have in facing death.  But look more closely.  It also says that life cannot get in the way, “neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow.”

When we speak of life getting in the way, we usually mean the buildup of daily responsibilities that keeps us from doing what we want.  The day-to-day activities of our lives often separate us from family and friends.  They cannot separate us from God.  In fact, He is right there in the midst of everything, our dreams and our fears.  What an amazing thought!  Our dreams for the new year are not ours to accomplish alone, and our fears are not terrors we must face by ourselves.

Jesus, I need You at the start of this year.  There is much that lies ahead, both good and bad, things I can see, things I can only imagine, and things I fear and hope will never happen.  Help me to walk closely with You through it all.  May my confidence to face life this year be based on the fact nothing can separate me from You.  Amen.

Copyright © 2017 by Steven R. Perkins