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