Sunday, August 12, 2018

When A King Thinks Of Others

August 12 (Matthew 22:4)

Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.”’  (ESV)

A king was giving a wedding feast for his son, yet when he sent his servants to gather those who had been invited, the guests blew off the event.  They had other, and obviously in their minds better, things to do.  That is simply stunning.  How do you blow off the king?  And how many kings have you ever heard of who would take such a snub lightly?  A typical, even reasonable, royal response would have been, “I am your king!  Get yourselves to the party right now!”  A different response might have appealed to the emotions of his subjects.  “It would really mean a lot to my son and me to have you there.”  Yet that is not what this king does.

This king sends his servants out a second time to remind the guests of all that has been prepared for them!  He wants them to know what they will be missing if they do not attend.  Unbelievable.  In the face of inconceivable rejection…royal subjects are actually defying their sovereign…this king is still thinking about what is best for his people.

And Jesus tells this story as an illustration of what the kingdom of heaven is like.  The king in this story is no earthly ruler.  Indeed, for no human would ever act so graciously.  No, this king represents God.  Even when we reject Him, His first thought is for us and all that we will miss if we are not in a right relationship with Him.  If you think God is out to get you for each mistake, think again.  He truly does want what is in your best interest, and that it is for you to be in the closest relationship with Him.

Father, I so quickly tell others which political candidate or elected official is best and give them a list of reasons why.  May I be even quicker to tell others of Your amazing love for them and how You have loved me beyond merit or measure.  In the name of Jesus, Your Son and my Savior, amen.

Copyright © 2018 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, August 5, 2018

All In For Jesus

August 5 (Matthew 21:43)

Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits.  (ESV)

No coach worth his or her salt will put up with star athletes not showing up for practice.  It doesn’t matter how talented they are, they will lose their spot on the team to those willing to put in the time and do the work.  The same goes for business, and, it would seem, for the kingdom of God.  From the parable of the tenant farmers (Matthew 21:33-41) to the parable of talents (Matthew 25:14-30), Jesus makes it quite clear.  God expects us to use what He has given us to accomplish His will.

But wait.  Aren’t we saved by faith and not by works?  Yes, but this isn’t about salvation.  This is about what should be normal life between the God Who loves you and Whom you claim to love.  It’s a pretty shallow relationship with anyone if we are just in it for what we can get out of it.  If we really do love God, we will want to be involved in our Father’s work.

What are you good at?  What do you enjoy doing?  Do you realize that God gave you those talents and that passion for a reason?  He wants you operating at the max in joy and freedom as you serve His kingdom purposes in the ways that only you can do.  I know, I know.  You’ve got bills to think about and deadlines and…, but just stop for a moment and dream the way you used to.  What would it look like if you went all in for God the way you were meant to do?

Father, I get a thrill of excitement when I think about throwing myself headlong into Your kingdom work.  And then the voices of so-called reality start calling me back.  Help me to ignore the lies of the world and listen only to Your clear voice in Scripture and the true voice of the Holy Spirit.  May all I do…all of it…be in the name and to the glory of my savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Copyright © 2018 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Getting To Jesus

July 29 (John 10:14)

I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me.  (ESV)

Not long ago we were at church talking with a friend just back from her mission trip when two other ladies of about the same age as our friend joined us.  Suddenly a little guy, not much more than a toddler, started making his way through the crowd.  He was the grandson of our friend, and I watched to see what he would do.  With his eyes fixed on his grandma, he wove his way through the aisles, passed right in front of the other ladies, and joined the one he sought.

Grandma knew grandson, and he knew her, and he was not about to be deterred by all the other adults in between.  He did not for a moment pause with other ladies who, at least in age, may have seemed like his grandma.  They were not, and there was no fooling him.

Oh, friends.  How often do we get distracted by that which seems helpful but really isn’t?  How many times do we go after what we think will love us but never will?  A sheep knows its shepherd, and a grandson knows his grandma.  Are we really more distracted than a sheep or a little boy?

Jesus, I am embarrassed by the number of times I let other things get between us.  Worse than that, I go after them even though You are in sight.  Help me to be as innocent as a lamb and seek only You, my loving shepherd.  Amen.

Copyright © 2018 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Using Your Brain With The Bible

July 22 (Matthew 16:11)

How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread?  (ESV)

One day Jesus used a metaphor and told His disciples to watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees.  The disciples immediately began arguing with each other because they hadn’t brought any bread.  “I told you to bring bread!”  “What, you didn’t bring it?”  “I thought John picked it up before we left for the day.”

Can’t you just see the incredulous look on Jesus’s face as He snorts and shakes His head?  “You’ve seen me feed five thousand and then four thousand people with next to nothing,” He tells them.  “How do you not get that I’m not talking about actual bread?”

Jesus expected His disciples to know when He was speaking literally and when He was speaking metaphorically.  He expected them to use their brains.  Sometimes the Bible reports facts, sometimes it records prophetic visions, sometimes it presents poetry, sometimes it speaks in metaphors.  A reasonable person, that is, one who uses reason, guided by the Holy Spirit, can usually discern what is going on in a passage and what God is saying.  And if not, there are plenty of others who can help.  They are called the body of Christ, the church.  This is not just the church on the corner, but the body of believers across the world for the past two thousand years.

God, when I pick up the Bible, I will start with the belief that You are speaking to me.  I know that it contains history, but You were not just speaking to people of long ago.  With that in mind, I will seek understanding using the intellectual gifts You have given me, my education, and the resources of other Christians, always submitting it all to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  May all of my reading draw me closer to You and equip me for doing Your will.  In the name of Jesus, amen.

Copyright © 2018 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, July 15, 2018

The Immediacy of Jesus

July 15 (Matthew 8:10)

When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith.  (ESV)

One day a Roman army officer, a centurion, came to Jesus to ask Him to heal his servant.  Jesus said He would go to the centurion’s house, but the officer replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed.  For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

We often focus on the humble, straightforward faith of the soldier, but look at Jesus’s reaction.  He smiles and laughs, “I like this guy!”  Jesus deals directly and likes it when others do the same.  He is face to face, eye-level with people.  He is immediate, meaning there is nothing in the middle, nothing to get in the way between us and Him, which is only right since He is our mediator, the one who connects us with God the Father.

How often do we play it subtle?  How often do we go for the backdoor, roundabout, non-direct way of doing something?  We weigh options, consider consequences, balance plusses and minuses.  Now, be honest.  Doesn’t that get wearisome?  Seriously, how many of our interactions with others and even with God Himself could be described as plotting and scheming?  Jesus is immediate, and He wants us to be the same.

There is no point in sugarcoating this, Lord, because You know it all anyway.  I spend way too much time figuring the angles.  Help me to approach life and the people in it…help me approach You…in a straightforward way.  I want to be more like that centurion.  I want to be more like You.  Amen.

Copyright © 2018 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, July 8, 2018

One Who Truly Knows

July 8 (Matthew 7:29)

for he taught with real authority—quite unlike their teachers of religious law.  (NLT)

We all know blowhards and braggarts.  They are the ones who like to give us the scoop, the real deal, the skinny on how things actually are.  They have been there, done that, and are more than willing to give us all the answers.  Then there are those who have expert opinions on everything because they have studied it all.  They have the ins and outs, the trivia and the minutiae about anything you want to know.  Yet there is something about the knowledge and advice from both types of people that rings hollow.

And then there are the people you just know are telling it like it is.  They may say it differently than others and maybe even in opposition to the policy manual, the company line, or the official statement, but there is just something in what they say and the way they say it that makes you know they are giving you the truth.

That was Jesus.  He spoke with authority.  He cut through all the layers of this, that, and the other thing and got straight to the point.  Others may have talked about God, but He was God and actually knew what He was talking about.  Once people heard Jesus speak, they knew He was telling the truth and wanted to hear more.  They didn’t want to hear from anyone else, which leads to the question…why would you?

Jesus, with so many voices coming at me from newspapers and books and radio and television and websites and social media, to say nothing of friends and family, it is easy to accept things that are not true.  Help me to hear Your voice and listen to what You have to say, for Peter was right.  You have the words of eternal life, and I have come to believe and know that You are the Holy One of God (John 6:68-69).  Amen.

Copyright © 2018 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Don't Worry...Really?

July 1 (Matthew 6:32)

your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.  (NLT)

Don’t you hate it when people tell you not to worry about something?  Telling someone not to worry is often something we say when we really do not know what else to say.  It’s like saying, “How are you?” to someone at the grocery store.  We aren’t really interested in the response and certainly don’t want to get into a long conversation.  We just want to get the milk and get home.

Part of the reason being told not to worry can seem irritating is that the person saying it cannot help us with what worries us, and we both know it.  Jesus, on the other hand, offers us no mere social nicety.  He does not give us a platitude.  In Matthew 6:25-34, He tells us not to worry, He points out how God cares for the needs of His other creatures, and then He makes it quite personal.  He looks His disciples in the eye and says, “Your Father in heaven knows what you need.”

Do you honestly think your Father does not know what you need as well?  This isn’t about sucking it up and pushing your worries down so deep no one well ever know just how scared you really are.  This isn’t about blithely saying, “I’m a Christian, so I guess things will work out.”  This isn’t about a system of faith or religion at all.  It is about a person.  God is a person.  He is your Father.  He knows you…yes, you.  He knows what you need.  He is aware of your situation.  And He is the one telling you not to worry.

Father, help me to keep my focus on You and Your promises when I grow nervous about the problems and demands that face me.  Help me to look not to my own resources or even the kind assurances of others.  I know You work through such things, but it is always You providing the actual help and answers.  And thank You, Jesus, for reminding me of that.  Amen.

Copyright © 2018 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, June 17, 2018

When Jesus Got In Satan's Face

June 17 (Matthew 4:10)

Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’”  (ESV)

We often read the temptation of Jesus as a story about the power of knowing Scripture and using it to fight temptations in our own lives.  This is a perfectly good way to read the story, and indeed Jesus does use Scripture to combat Satan.  Yet if Jesus really is God, the second person of the Trinity and the Lord of all, then there is another way to see this interaction between Him and Satan.
Picture it.  There is Jesus, exhausted in His humanity from forty days of fasting, and the smiling, oily, manipulating tempter approaches, challenging His identity as the Son of God by suggesting He turn stones into bread.  Jesus fills His lungs with hot, desert air and replies that man doesn’t live by bread alone (verses 3-4).  Satan tries again (verses 5-7) by suggesting He throw Himself off the top of the temple in Jerusalem.  This time there is fire in Jesus’s eyes when answers, “Don’t tempt the Lord your God!” Remember, He is not only a human quoting Scripture, He is also talking about Himself.  He is God and He is the Lord.  It is as if He is saying, “Back off, if you know what’s good for you,” for tempting God is exactly what the devil is doing.  And then the tempter shows his hand.  He wants to be God himself and commands Jesus to worship him.  This time there is thunder in His voice and lightning flashing from His dark eyes.  “Get out of here, Satan!  YOU will worship ME!”
This is not a story about a super nice guy at church who has a Bible verse ready for all occasions.  This is the story of your big brother stepping in between you and your enemy and getting in that enemy’s face.  And the natural response of any child, and we are all children before God, is to say, “I want to be just like Him when I grow up!”

Jesus, I do want to be just like You.  I want to be strong in the face of weakness and steadfast in the face of temptation.  Make the words of Scripture become my own flesh and help me to stand boldly against all that comes my way, just as You did.  Amen.

Copyright © 2018 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Experiencing The Glories of God

June 10 (Psalm 19:1)

The heavens declare the glory of God,
    and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.  (ESV)

Cities can be marvelous things filled with towering buildings, twinkling lights, and a wild array of colors, yet they are, at best, imitations of the glories of God.  No building, however wonderfully designed, can match the grandeur of mountains.  No electric lights can compete with the sparkling of stars.  No pigment or neon can match the palette with which flowers, deep sea creatures, and sunsets are painted.

Most of us live in urban or suburban environments.  Our is the world of sidewalks and pavement and electronics.  We think we have tamed the elements by controlling light and temperature so that we live in comfortable, well-lit rooms twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.  Perhaps instead our achievements have tamed us, made us pale imitations of the vibrantly alive creations we were made to be.  Ask yourself just how vibrantly alive you feel walking through your workplace or even your home.

So, go for a walk in the rain, without an umbrella.  Breathe in slowly the hot breezes of summer.  Look up and look out at the canopy of trees or the blanket of stars.  Even if skyscrapers block most of your view, you can, if you try, see a fleecy white cloud in an aerial sea of blue.  Stay with that cloud for a moment as you walk to your next destination.  Christians do not worship nature, but we join with it in declaring the glory of God.  Such declarations are the work for which your soul was made.

Thank You, Father, for Your magnificent works of creation.  Kindle again in me awe and wonder as I drink in the glories of Your hand, and from such inspiration may my gaze find You.  In the name of Christ Jesus, my Lord.  Amen.

Copyright © 2018 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, May 27, 2018

A Life of Purpose

May 27 (Psalm 144:4)

Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow.  (ESV)

John Cougar Mellencamp recorded a song called “Paper In Fire,” and the second verse goes like this.

He wanted love
With no involvement
So he chased the wind
That's all his silly life required
And the days of vanity
Went on forever
And he saw his days burn up
Like paper in fire

Ask any adult and he or she will tell you.  Life goes by more quickly with each passing year, and before you know it your whole life can seem as insubstantial and fleeting as a breath or a shadow.  Whether your life is indeed insubstantial, however, is up to you.  If your pursuit is of nothing more than pleasure without the entanglements of responsibility, then life can become quite silly and vain, and your days will certainly burn up like paper in fire.

Yet if you realize that your life is a gift and choose to make of it a life of purpose, that is a different matter entirely.  A life lived full tilt, passionately, and with the greatest use and development of its God-given talents, a life lived in pursuit of something greater than itself, will pass just as quickly as the one spent in vanity, but it will be rich and full.  It will carry the weight of deep satisfaction along with magnificent joys and unspeakable tragedies.  In short, it will be a life well lived.

Father, may my eyes ever be focused on the deep calling of my life.  May I not be sidetracked with silly and vain temptations.  And when I come to the end of my days, may I not realize that they have been wasted, but rather that they have spent in work that is pleasing and acceptable to You, o Lord, my strength and my redeemer.  In the name of Christ Jesus, I pray.  Amen.

Copyright © 2018 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Difficult, Freeing, Exhilarating Faith

May 13 (2 Corinthians 5:7)

For we walk by faith, not by sight.  (ESV)

Do you realize how difficult it is to walk by faith and not by sight?  You certainly do if you’ve ever tried it.  We cannot see God, but we have faith in Him.  His ways are not our ways, but we have faith that His ways are right.  We will experience suffering, but we have faith because Jesus said He overcame it all.  It is no wonder that people look at us and say, “Are you kidding?”

Let’s be clear.  Everything we do in our daily existence is based on our physical sensations.  We see a line of traffic and take a different route.  We hear about an interesting book and go to buy it.  We smell bacon frying and know the day is off to a good start.  Yet everything about our relationship with God is based on something else.  As the writer of Hebrews 11:1 puts it, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”  It is assurance.  It is conviction.  It is not namby-pamby, wishful thinking, but because it has nothing to do with our physical senses, which form the basis for how we interact with every other aspect of our lives, faith is a different way of knowing, and a difficult one.

Yet faith in God is the single most freeing force in the world!  Think about something that scares you, something that just terrifies the living daylights out of you.  Maybe it is standing on the diving board and looking into water that seems about a thousand feet away.  Maybe it is facing a job decision or the prospect of losing a job.  Picture that thing that gives you the sweats.  Now, what if you didn’t have to rely on your senses?  What if all the things that terrify you because you have seen them or heard about them or experienced them in some way just weren’t there?  What if you could ignore all that?  Would that not be the most exhilarating feeling in the world?  That, my friends, is faith.

Jesus, whenever You call me, I look around at the wind and waves the way Peter did and start to sink.  Remember that I am dust, Jesus, and prone to fear and weakness.  Help me to strengthen my faith so that I may operate more by it and less by my physical senses, for I truly do believe in You.  Amen.

Copyright © 2018 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Yes, But...

May 6 (John 6:28-29)

Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”  (ESV)

Yes, but….  The non-believer says no to the call of God, and the believer who says yes often falls into the pride of the Pharisee who thanked God for not being like others (Luke 18:11).  If truth were told, however, the yes of the believer is often conditional.  We say yes and then hurry on to an objection.  “Yes, yes, I get it, Lord.  You want me to believe in Jesus.  But what do you really want me to do?  Shouldn’t I be out there saving the world with the wonderful talents you have given me?”

Belief in Jesus leads to following Him, and following Him leads to acts of service through which He does indeed change the world.  Yet when we rush to the acts of service and forget Jesus Himself, we fall prey to pride that we are the ones actually making the difference.  We begin to believe that it is all up to us, and this turns into a deadly perfectionism that leaves us exhausted from carrying burdens we were never meant to carry.  Remember, it was Jesus who said that His burden was light (Matthew 11:30).

Are you experiencing the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control that are the fruits of the Spirit?  If yes, then thank God and savor the true life in Christ.  If not, don’t double down on your own efforts to force those fruits into existence.  That is likely what you are doing anyhow and is the cause of the problem.  Instead, turn back to Jesus.  Let Him become once again your all in all.  When you let Him become your life, you are truly doing the work of God.

Jesus, pry my fingers from the tight grip I maintain on life.  Open my hands so that I may receive You.  May You direct my paths and not my agenda, however many good things it may contain.  Amen.

Copyright © 2018 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, April 22, 2018

I Don't Believe God Loves Me

April 22 (Hebrews 11:1, Mark 9:24)

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.  (ESV)

“I believe; help my unbelief!”  (ESV)

For the person who does not believe that God loves him, there is little in Scripture that can help.  Oh, there are plenty of verses that speak of God’s love toward us, but the person who is struggling to accept that love will likely not take much comfort in them.  At best they form a foundation for logical acknowledgment.  I am a human being.  God loves human beings.  Therefore, God loves me.  That is hardly the sort of thing we reach for in the blackness of despair.

A person cries out to God, “Do you love me…ME?”  She wants to know she is loved because God sees her and knows her and loves her, not because she is loved by her default status as a member of the human race, and this requires faith.  Faith is assurance and conviction even in, especially in, the face of overwhelming feelings or evidence to the contrary, and if we’re already doubting God’s love, such faith can be rather difficult to muster on our own.

So, what do we do?  We cry out with the man to whom Jesus had said all things were possible for those who believe.  “I do believe, Lord, but help my unbelief!”  We hurl our doubts and fears and frustrations at Jesus.  We fling them at Him angrily, because, if we are honest, we are angry with Him.  We want to feel His love so badly, something is blocking that, and we are just tired, worn out, and…well…angry.  Where are You, Lord?  This is not a time to theologize that what is blocking our experience is sin or Satan and that we really should be angry at ourselves or at the devil.  Jesus will take care of all that in due course.  For now, take it all to Him in tears and rage.  His love will not come, for it has always been there and always will be, and because that is true, He will help you experience it again.

Jesus, I don’t know where to begin.  I need You.  I need to feel and know Your love as never before.  That much I do know.  I don’t need a platitude or empty words.  I need You, Jesus.  Today, right now, I need Your love.  Help my unbelief and restore me to a place of confidence and assurance in You.  Amen.

Copyright © 2018 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Power To Speak

April 15 (Acts 2:4)

And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.  (ESV)

The last words of Jesus before He ascended into heaven were that His disciples were to go into all the world and teach all that He had taught them (Matthew 28:19-20).  He told them they would receive the power of the Holy Spirit to accomplish that mission (Acts 1:8).  And guess what?  He told the truth, for that is exactly what happened when the Holy Spirit filled the disciples with the power to speak in other languages so that everyone could understand the good news.

As we talked about this recently with the second through fifth graders at our church, the children began talking about the super powers they would like to have.  I was squarely in the camp of those wanting super speed or the ability to fly.  Yet notice that when God gave the power of the Holy Spirit to His people, it was not to accomplish a comic book feat of heroism.  With all the power of God Almighty, what was it they were able to do?  They were able to speak so that others could know about Jesus.

Of all the wonderful things you may be able to do, things that please God because He gave you the ability to do them, nothing pleases Him more than when you tell others about His love for them through Jesus Christ.  That’s it.  That is what the first disciples did when the power of the Holy Spirit came upon them.  They started talking.  And as one disciple told someone and that person became a disciple, too, the conversation has never stopped.  If you are a disciple of Jesus Christ, then you, too, have the same Holy Spirit living in you, and God has given Him to you for the same reason, so that you may have the power to tell others about Him.

Lord, I often ask You for more of this or that, but when it comes to being equipped to tell others about the love, forgiveness, and redemption available through Jesus, I already have all that I need.  May I use this amazing power so that every single person who knows me may know the love You have in store for them.  I ask this in the name of Jesus, Who has commanded me to speak.  Amen.

Copyright © 2018 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Stopping God

April 8 (1 Corinthians 2:13)

[W]e speak words given to us by the Spirit, using the Spirit’s words to explain spiritual truths.  (ESV)

Do you realize how much power human beings have?  We can be laid low by a cold or a papercut, but we are so powerful that we can actually stop God from accomplishing His will.  We only have to say no.

Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit, and so He did.  The Holy Spirit lives within us and, among other things, He speaks to us the words of God.  When we need to offer a word of encouragement or rebuke, when we need to explain or teach a matter of spiritual significance, God does not leave us on our own.  He speaks through the Holy Spirit and gives us what we need to say.  Yet unbelievably we thwart this divine guidance with our second-guessing.  We waffle, we reconsider, and we hesitate.  We become Prufrock, the pathetic character in Eliot’s poem, for whom “in a minute there is time/For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.”

Bold is the life lived in Jesus Christ.  When we are fully surrendered to Him, when we see everyone and everything through His gaze, we can speak and act confidently in this world, for it will not be we who speak and act, but rather God working through us.  Yet we can always resort to weakness, and with fear and timidity halt the very plans of God.

Lord, may every inspiration of the Holy Spirit find its fulfillment in my words and deeds.  May I die to myself so that, fully alive in You, I may be Your willing servant on earth.  When I pray as You taught, that Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven, may I be Your good instrument and never an obstacle to the working out of that will.  In the name of Jesus, Who was obedient even to the cross, amen.

Copyright © 2018 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, April 1, 2018

A Final Word

April 1 (Matthew 28:30)

And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.  (ESV)

There will come a day when I will eat my last slice of New York style pizza.  It is a melancholy thought, but that day will come, as will the day I listen to a favorite song or watch a favorite movie for the last time.  It is likely I will not realize my enjoyment of a particular activity is indeed my last, but when I have died, people can identify that final pizza, song, and movie for what they were.  And the same will be true for Scripture.

Many of us have our favorite parts, and the final words of Jesus at the end of Matthew’s gospel are cherished by countless Christians.  We know them by heart, but we love to hear and read them again and again.  Yet there will come a time for each of us when we will read those final words of Jesus for the final time, and then the Word Who was made flesh and dwelled among us, Jesus Himself, will speak those words back to us, but perhaps with a slight change.  “I told you I would be with you always!”  I can imagine Him saying it with a broadening smile, a twinkle in His eye, and arms outstretched.

The things of earth will grow dim and vanish for every person.  Our prized possessions will pass into another’s keeping, and while the paper and binding of our Bibles will not go with us from this life to the next, the words of their truth will carry us on and open into truth as we have never experienced it, for then we will know even as we are known.  We will no longer read and listen to our favorite words, but will be in the presence of the One Who is the Word, our risen Lord Jesus, waiting for us in proof of His final word.

Thank You, Lord, for the words You have spoken in Scripture and directly to my heart.  May they continue to nourish me with Your promises until the time they are promises no more, but my everlasting reality with You.  Amen.

Copyright © 2018 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, March 25, 2018

The Cosmic Import of Easter

March 25 (John 17:5)

And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.  (ESV)

Today is Palm Sunday.  Later this week Christians will celebrate the other holy days of Easter Week with Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday itself.  Yet celebrating days associated with a certain person can become routine.  We have days to honor Presidents and days to honor great public servants like Martin Luther King, Jr.  We honor mothers, fathers, and grandparents.  Then there are the wacky celebrations like National Hot Dog Day, which this year is July 18th, and National Sock Day on December 4th.  And let’s face it.  The year in, year out celebrations around Easter can numb us with their regularity to what is really going on.

The holy days of Easter do not mark important moments in a man’s life.  They acknowledge unparalleled moments in the history of human beings when God intervened and walked among us.  Consider the verse above, which comes from the last meal that Jesus shared with His disciples.  Scripture says that God knew us before we were born (see Jeremiah 1:5), but neither you nor I existed before the world began, and we certainly did not share in the Father’s glory.  The words Jesus uses here speak clearly to His divine nature.

Easter is about the awe-inspiring, indescribable work of God, Who is transcendent past all our understanding, yet became one of us that we might know Him fully.  These are days of truly cosmic import, for the Greek word used for “world” in this verse is kosmos, which indicates all of the created order, the entire universe.  There have been many good people who have done wonderful things, and we put their names on buildings and dedicate days to their remembrance.  The days of Easter are about so much more than that.  We set them aside to enter once again into the mysterious interaction of the divine and the human, the heavenly and the earthly, when God Himself was man and changed our experience of reality forever.

O Lord, as the poet John Donne once wrote, You were immensity cloistered in Your mother’s womb, You Who created Your mother and then were born through her.  The very thought of You expands my heart and soul and mind past all the feelings and wisdom and knowledge of this world.  May Your praise be ever on my lips and Your worship the very fabric of my life, both in these days of the Easter season and in all the days of my life.  In the name of King Jesus, my risen Savior, amen.

Copyright © 2018 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, March 18, 2018

The Both/And Life

March 18 (Colossians 1:28-29)

Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.  (ESV)

Jesus is both divine and human, yet He is one person.  God Himself eternally exists as three persons, yet one essence, meaning we worship one God, not three.  In other words, everything we know about God involves both/and.  Is it any wonder, then, that we, who are created in His image, must also live both/and lives?  Is it any surprise, too, that Satan tries to wreck our lives by getting us to think in either/or terms?

Take, for example, how we go about our daily existence.  Some tend to do it all on their own, whereas others want to do nothing and let Jesus handle everything.  Now look at how Paul approached the most important work of his or any Christ-follower’s life.  His job was to proclaim the gospel of Jesus, to warn and to teach, to present back to God everyone he met as a mature Christian.  How does he do it?  He works hard at it.  He toils and struggles, but he does so with the energy that God Himself was using to bring that very toil and struggle to fruition.  He lived a both/and life.

One of the most difficult aspects of being a Christian is to live the both/and life.  It is a tension, but it is a beautiful and mysterious tension, one that causes us to keep our hands stretched in two different directions, which is an incredibly hard thing to do.  Just ask Jesus about His experience at Calvary.

Jesus, the more I go along in this life of following You, the less I seem to understand.  I used to think I had it all together, but then I realize that I’m just kidding myself and others.  Help me not to overthink things.  Help me not to force my faith into a formula or try to do it all on my own.  Help me to live the both/and life, toiling and struggling with all the energy that You powerfully work in me.  Amen.

Copyright © 2018 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Where Do You Put Your Trust?

March 11 (Psalm 20:7)

Some trust in chariots and some in horses,         but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.  (ESV)

We often tell teenagers to begin building a good resume.  We tell them to get involved with sports or music, to serve in the community, and to take part in extracurricular activities so they will have a resume that looks good to scholarship committees and college admission boards.  I would ask what in the name of God we are doing, but whatever it is, it is not in the name of God.  We are training our children at an early age to put their hopes for the future in their accomplishments today.  We are teaching them to trust in chariots and horses.

It is true, of course, that a high G.P.A. can help a student gain admission to college just as surely as your high productivity last quarter can help you secure a promotion.  This is the way the world works.  Yet when we begin to live and die first by our transcripts and then later by our profit and loss statements, we go quickly astray, and at the end of the day, deep in your heart of hearts, you know that such things really do not matter.  They really don’t.

When you approach a task with confidence, is it confidence based on your resume or on the character of your Lord?  When you fear what is coming toward you, is it because you don’t think you have what it takes or because you don’t think God does?  A good look at our confidence and our fear will show us where we actually put our trust.

It amazes me sometimes, Lord, how much I am actually depending on my own strength and abilities rather than on You.  Honestly, most of the day I live as if everything were up to me.  Help me to rely less on my talents, even though You have given them to me, and more directly on You.  I ask it in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

Copyright © 2018 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, March 4, 2018

What Is A Fruitful Life?

March 4 (Mark 4:18-19)

And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.  (ESV)

What do you think it means to be fruitful?  I have always taken this to mean being productive.  We don’t want things getting in the way of our doing things for God.  It is true that we don’t want to be distracted or deterred from our mission, but there is more to what Jesus is saying here than that.

Rather than take a modern definition of fruitfulness, and in my case one that fits very well with my driven personality, consider a biblical understanding.  Galatians 5:22-23 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.  Now put those two passages together.  The worries and cares of the world, to say nothing of our desires and pursuit of ungodly things, keep us from bearing the fruits of the Spirit.  You may be doing a great many things, even good things for God, but is your life bursting forth in love?  What about joy and peace?  How are you with patience these days?  You see where this is going.

You can force yourself to do a good deed, but you cannot muscle up and will kindness into existence.  You simply cannot dig down deep and make any of the fruits of the Spirit a reality.  They have to grow and develop on their own.  The only thing you can do is make sure the soil of your life is free from the thorns that would choke them out.

Dear God, You wrecked me with this.  I have so often thought that running around and doing more good things was what it meant to live a fruitful life, and I know that You have given me good works to perform.  Yet I also know that what You want most is for my life to be a rich garden in which the seeds that You plant can flourish and bring forth fruit.  Help me pull out the weeds and thorns of distraction and worry so that nothing may interfere with YOUR work.  In the name of Jesus, my Savior, amen.

Copyright © 2018 by Steven R. Perkins