Sunday, October 21, 2018

The God Of All People

October 21 (Exodus 6:13)

But the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron and gave them orders for the Israelites and for Pharaoh, the king of Egypt.  (NLT)

The one true God Who has revealed Himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is the God of Muslims, Christians, Jews, and atheists.  He is the God of Australians, Americans, and those in the Amazon Basin.  He is the Lord of everyone on earth, whether they know it or not.  If that sounds odd, or even offensive, then it proves how much we have come to think of God in terms of private, religious, self-help principles rather than who He actually is.

When God spoke to Moses and Aaron, He gave them commands for the Israelites, His chosen people.  Most people today would have no trouble with that.  He was the God of the Israelites, so of course He spoke to them.  Yet notice that He also had commands for Pharaoh, who most certainly did not acknowledge Him as God of the Egyptians.  And that mattered to God not one bit.

You see, God knows Himself.  He knows that He created the atheist in his mother’s womb and knit together the limbs of the terrorist.  He knows the plans He has for the scientist who cannot accept anything she cannot measure, and He expects His followers, like Moses and Aaron, to know that, too.  We often hesitate to talk about God with others because we think we are imposing our private beliefs on someone else, but that is simply not the case.  God is Lord of everyone and He wants all of His children to be reconciled with Him.  That is why He sent Jesus to make that possible with His death and resurrection.  The next time you wonder whether you should talk about God with a friend, remember that God was not just the Lord of Moses and Aaron, but the Egyptians, too.

Lord, help me to live my life in You out loud.  Help me to take what can be a private faith into the marketplace and live my relationship with You as I do my relationship with family and friends.  Change my speech from one that talks of faith and principles to one that speaks of You in personal ways, and when You have a word for me to share with others, give me the courage to speak it.  Amen.

Copyright © 2018 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, October 14, 2018

You Can, With God's Help

October 14 (Exodus 3:11-12)

But Moses protested to God, “Who am I to appear before Pharaoh? Who am I to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt?”  God answered, “I will be with you.”  (NLT)

We all need encouragement when we think a task is too much for us, and chances are, you’ve offered encouragement to someone else in that situation.  The problem is, we usually do it all wrong.  We begin by telling people not to feel that way, we continue by assuring them they can do whatever it is, and for proof we trot out a list of their abilities and accomplishments.
Now, take a look at how God does it.  Moses doubts himself at the deepest level.  “Who am I?” he asks God.  In the human scheme of things, he is a nobody and he knows it.  Yet God does not say, “Come on, buddy!  You’re not a nobody, you’re a somebody!  Would I have picked a guy who couldn’t do this?  Think of how you stepped up when the Egyptian was beating one of my people (Exodus 2:11-12).  You can do this!”  Instead, God simply says, “I will be with you.”
God will not lie.  He will not pretend you are what you are not just to make you feel good, and sometimes He calls us to something that we, in our own strength, cannot do.  And you know what?  It doesn’t matter whether we can do it.  God can.  If He calls us, He is with us, and He will accomplish the task.

Father, I might as well be Moses for all the ways I have excused myself from doing what You have called me to do.  God, please help me to focus on You and not on my own weaknesses.  Help me not to over analyze and think things to death, but simply do what You call me to do.  In the name of Jesus, the very model of perfect obedience, amen.

Copyright © 2018 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, October 7, 2018

What Has Jesus Done For You?

October 7 (Mark 5:20)

So the man started off to visit the Ten Towns of that region and began to proclaim the great things Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed at what he told them.  (NLT)

It is hard to tell people about a place you’ve never been.  I can go on and on about Zion National Park in Utah, Turkey Run State Park in Indiana, and the beautiful city of Rome because I have spent time in all of them.  I can tell you a little about Australia from what friends have told me and something about Greece from what I have read in books.  Sadly, when it comes to evangelism, a lot of people find themselves in Australia or Greece.

Jesus had just healed a man who had suffered from a demonic attack that drove him mad.  The man was so happy to be calm and in his right mind that he wanted to go with Jesus, but Jesus told him to go home instead and tell people what had happened, and so he did.  He told everyone he knew what Jesus had done for him, and the people were amazed.

If Jesus came to you and said, “I want you to tell people what I have done for you,” what would you say?  Would you tell stories about what He has done for others?  Would you quote Scripture?  These are not bad things, but what would you tell people He has done for you?  1 Peter 3:15 says we must always be ready to explain our hope to people.  Spend some time recalling what Jesus has done for you over the course of your life.  Perhaps even start a list.  Three things are sure to happen.  The list will grow quickly, you will find yourself praising God with fresh joy, and you will develop a powerful story that God can use to bring others to Him.

Lord, over the next few days, bring to mind all that You have done for me, even revealing the things I was too blind or too in a hurry to see at the time as coming from You.  May the story of Your work in my life bring hope and encouragement to others and lead them to Jesus, in Whose name I pray.  Amen.

Copyright © 2018 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Fierce and Loving

September 30 (Mark 1:25)

But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!”  (ESV)

A man with an unclean spirit accosted Jesus in the synagogue one day, and Jesus flared up and commanded the spirit to leave.  Most translations read that He rebuked the spirit, and this is a fair rendering of the Greek verb, but the earliest translation puts it even more strongly.  In the Latin version from the late fourth century, it says Jesus threatened the spirit.  Either way, we see Jesus with fire in His eyes and thunder in His voice setting this man free.

Now go on just a bit more to verses 29-31.  As soon as He left the synagogue, He went to Simon Peter’s house, where Peter’s mother-in-law was ill with a fever.  And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them.  Can you imagine a more tender, loving scene than this?  There is no fire or thunder or rebuke this time, just a gentle act of love.  She was lying in bed with a fever, and Jesus carefully gives her His hand and helps her up.

Friends, this is Jesus.  He is the one you want when the demons and the monsters come to call, for He is afraid of nothing and will stand up to the dark forces, fiercely and authoritatively sending them back where they belong.  He is also the one you want when you are breaking and shaking and at your wit’s end, for He will gently and lovingly help you to stand.

Jesus, I need You.  I need You to fight my battles and to help me stand.  Sometimes I am too scared even to list all the ways I need You, so I ask the Holy Spirit to intercede on my behalf, knowing You are all and only what I need.  Amen.

Copyright © 2018 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, September 23, 2018

No Place I'd Rather Be

September 23 (Psalm 84:10)

A single day in your courts    is better than a thousand anywhere else!I would rather be a gatekeeper in the house of my God    than live the good life in the homes of the wicked.  (NLT)

Most people who claim to be Christian would say that Jesus is wonderful and the Bible is great, and they could go on to list many other things about their faith that bring them joy.  Now, stop and ask yourself this.  If you had nothing else but Jesus and God’s word…no music, no Internet, no car, no job, no sports, no family, no house, no whatever that thing is that is your favorite in all the world…would that be enough?

I love my family more than anything else on earth, and I love a lot of stuff on earth.  Music and poetry and the natural wonders of state and national parks thrill me.  I take genuine pleasure in such things, and am grateful to God not only for His creation and what He has inspired through others, but for the eyes and ears with which to appreciate them.  And my family, well, I sometimes become downright giddy with joy over them.  My foot taps the accelerator a bit harder on my way home after work.

But when I take time to enter into the presence of God, when I sit with Him in prayer or ponder His words in Scripture, then I know that there is truly nothing I prefer to Him.  It is not that I enjoy the pleasures of life or love my family less, but that I desire Him more.  Such desire burns brightly when I turn my heart to Him, but it will only burn that way when He, and nothing else, is my heart’s focus.

Lord, thank You for the endless blessings of this life.  Even in times of illness and suffering, You have poured out on us more blessing than we could possibly comprehend.  Yet today I turn my focus from the things You have given me directly to You.  May You and You alone fill my mind and heart and be all that I desire.  I pray in the name of Jesus, amen.

Copyright © 2018 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Best News Ever

September 16 (1 John 2:1-2)

My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous. He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world.  (NLT)

You will not read anything better today than these two verses.  Absolutely nothing.  Take them apart bit by bit and see what I mean.  First, the Bible gives us guidance so that we will not sin.  This itself is pretty good news, because no matter how smart we think we are, we are not always going to get things right.  Proverbs 14:12 makes clear what our own experience has proven time and again.  We may think something is right, but in the end we are proven wrong, often disastrously so.

Yet even when we know right from wrong, we will still sin, and when that happens, all is not ruined.  We have someone who will plead our case with God, and that someone is Jesus.  Now, Jesus is not going to say, “Father, cut her some slack.  She was just having a bad day.”  He won’t say, “Don’t count this sin against him, Father.  His own family acted that way, and he didn’t have any good role models.”  No, Jesus will go before His Father and ours and say, “This one is one of mine.  This one had a perfect lamb to cover all sins with its blood, and I was that lamb.”

The other day I was reading those verses and could not take my eyes off those words.  Just sit with them for a few moments.  Don’t read anything else for a moment and let the incomprehensible, monumental, reality-changing truth of the gospel of Jesus wash over you and penetrate deep into your heart and soul and mind.  This is the essence of the Christian faith, my friends, and there is nothing…nothing…even remotely like it.

O God, when I read the words of Your promise to forgive my sins and when I think of the blood of Jesus that made that possible, my heart is so filled with radiant love from You and for You that I can think of nothing else.  My face can do nothing but smile, and my mouth can do nothing but declare Your praise.  May the glorious light of my transformed and transforming life point others to You.  In the name of Jesus, my Savior, I pray.  Amen.

Copyright © 2018 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Nice or Called?

September 9 (Mark 1:37-38)

When they found him, they said, “Everyone is looking for you.” But Jesus replied, “We must go on to other towns as well, and I will preach to them, too. That is why I came.”  (NLT)

Jesus had been healing many people, and suddenly everyone was looking for Him.  Wasn’t that a good thing?  It was, but it wasn’t why Jesus had come, and He was not going to let anything get in the way of His mission, not even good deeds.  As important as the direct healing of sick people was, His principal work was to share the good news that the kingdom of God was at hand, that God was actually on earth making reconciliation with Him possible for all people.
You probably do many good things for those around you, but ask yourself this.  How much of your life is spent doing what you were called to do?  Now, don’t get this wrong.  No one is saying to ignore a need in front of you just to do something you think is grand and important.  But seriously, how much of your life is taken up in nice, pleasant, even beneficial activities that are keeping you from what God sent you and only you to do?
And do you even know what that is?  Jesus had a clear sense of His mission.  He knew what the Father had sent Him to do.  Do you?  If you do not spend time with God, listening to what He has to say to you, you will spend your life in a flurry of activity, much of it good, but will miss the unique calling He has for you.

Father, rather than asking You to bless my efforts, I come to You today asking what Your will for me is.  Show me the tasks to which You have truly called me, and may I be quick to perform them.  I ask in the name of Jesus, amen.

Copyright © 2018 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, September 2, 2018

What Does It Mean To Repent?

September 2 (Mark 1:15)

“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe the Good News!”  (ESV/NLT)

Children will tell their parents that they are really, really sorry when they’ve done something.  They mean it, but that is not repentance.  People faced with an addiction will promise themselves and others that will really, really try harder not to do it again.  They mean it, but that’s not quite repentance, either.  When Jesus says to repent, He is giving a life-transforming command like no other.

The Greek verb here is metanoeite, and it carries the sense of changing one’s way of thinking and seeing the world.  Now, we seem to have no trouble imagining science fiction scenarios, so try that now.  Imagine an alien ship hovering over the earth broadcasting the message, “The time has come!  The kingdom of the Xarbellians is at hand!”  It would change absolutely everything you thought you knew about the universe and your place in it.  Now you have the sense of metanoeite.

And how does Jesus tell people to see the world in place of how they have been seeing it?  He tells them to believe the good news!  Instead of seeing life as “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing,” we are to give ourselves fully to the good news that we are God’s masterpieces, made new in Jesus to do the wonderful things He planned for us to do (Ephesians 2:10).  Instead of believing that God is out to get us for our mistakes, we are to embrace the incredibly good news that God loved the world so much that He gave His own Son for our redemption (John 3:16).  Now, if you truly believed all that, wouldn’t you live your life differently?  That is the meaning of repentance.

Father, I repent today of all the ways in which I have thought about You and gone about life that are false.  The lies about You, my sinful habits…I renounce all of it now and turn to embrace the fullness of life that You offer through Jesus.  When people look at me, may the see what it looks like when the good news is lived out.  In the name of Jesus, Who makes all things possible, amen.

Copyright © 2018 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Jesus The I Am

August 26 (Mark 6:50)

They were all terrified when they saw him. But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage! I am here!”  (NLT)

I have yet to find an English version of the Bible that translates this verse literally.  When Jesus walks on the water, and His disciples are quaking in fear, He does not say, “It is I.”  He says simply and directly, “Have courage.  I am.  Don’t be afraid.”  Even the New Living Translation, which comes as close as any to the actual Greek of the verse, adds the adverb “here.”
When Jesus comforts His friends with “I am,” He means something far more than what people usually mean when they say, “Don’t worry.  I’m right here.  I’ve got this.”  He is announcing His presence as God.  He does not need to say anything else about Himself.  He doesn’t need to add that all will be okay or that He has everything under control.  Like a clap of thunder in the midst of the storm they were experiencing, His “I am” is a declaration of sovereign authority in their midst.  
And it is an earth-shaking declaration in the middle of your life, too.  Too often we take our own ideas of what it means to be meek, mild, and loving and transfer them to Jesus, which results in our seeing Him as something less than He is.  Instead, we must see that Jesus the Almighty, Who can stop the forces of nature with a word, chose to confine Himself to the weak body of a human being so that He could do what all of us never could with all our collected might, turn back the very force of death itself.

May my prayers come to You in faith, Lord, confident that You are the Almighty, the One Who can handle all my fears.  In the name of all-powerful Jesus, amen.

Copyright © 2018 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Bad, Mad, or God

August 19 (Matthew 26:28)

For this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.  (ESV)

It has long been noted by philosophers and theologians that there are only three possibilities when it comes to Jesus.  He was either bad, mad, or God.  In other words, He either knowingly lied in the statements He made, was utterly insane, or was in fact God.  After taking only a quick glance at the many loving acts He performed, most people readily dismiss the claim that He was bad.

But was He insane?  Imagine what would happen if you or I sat with friends at dinner, poured wine for everyone, and then said, “Oh, by the way, the wine you are drinking is my blood.  I am going to give it up as a sacrifice to cover people’s sins.”  Someone would start calling 911 under the table.

Yet we know that the words He spoke at the last meal He shared with His friends on earth were true.  Shortly after He would be arrested and executed.  His blood would indeed be poured forth, and when He returned alive to those same friends and many others, He confirmed what He had been saying all along.  Instead of being the raving of a madman, the words of this verse are perhaps the most beautiful and powerful of any ever spoken, for they state boldly and succinctly the gift of life that Jesus offers to all, a gift that could only be offered by God.

Thank You, Lord, for the gift of life in Jesus Christ!  There are no words to express adequately my gratitude and awe.  Your death and life have made my life possible.  And since words are insufficient, may my actions serve instead, as I seek always to do only what You call me to do.  In the name of Jesus, my risen Lord, amen.

Copyright © 2018 by Steven R. Perkins

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