Sunday, December 30, 2018

Making All Things New

December 30 (Revelation 21:5)

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”  (ESV)

It does not matter how well things went for you this past year, there is no one who would not breathe a sigh of relief to hear these words.  Do you remember playing some game at recess and getting a “do over?”  Seriously, who would not want a “do over” in one, or perhaps many, parts of life?

There are two wonderful aspects to God’s “do over.”  First, He is willing to help you start over as many times as necessary.  Did you fail at something last year, something you should have done but did not, or something you kept on doing but wish you could have stopped?  Welcome to the club!  God is ready and willing to make all things new with you, if you will let Him.

The second, and even greater aspect to the divine plan of renewal is that there will come a day when all is made new forever.  Even when we stumble and start over again, we can look forward to the time that is coming when all things will be made new.  Injustice will become justice, hatred will become love, decay will become life, and a new heaven and earth will replace what we see today.  Surely that is a thought worth taking into the new year!

Lord, I need a fresh start.  I have developed so many habits and patterns for dealing with life, and many of them lead me in circles or away from You.  In this new year I give You my mind and my heart, my thoughts and dreams and wishes.  I give You everything so that I can become everything You want me to be.  In the name of Jesus, my Savior, amen.

Copyright © 2018 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, December 23, 2018

For All People of All Times

December 23 (Luke 1:55)

As he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.  (ESV)

Mary concludes her words that came to be known as the “Magnificat” by acknowledging the eternality of what God was doing in and through her.  God had singled out Israel as His chosen people generations before Mary herself was born.  He had spoken of salvation to Abraham and continued to speak of it through the prophets.  The messiah was something all Israelites were expecting, and now that messiah would be born in the flesh.

Yet Mary observes that God’s words were not just for Abraham and those who had come before her.  Time was not coming to an end with Mary and her child.  God’s words, and the Word that was becoming flesh, were for all people forever.

As you celebrate Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with family and friends, take a moment to ponder the truth that you are part of a much larger story than you may have realized.  As a child of God whose veins now flow with the blood of Jesus, you are part of an eternal story, one that stretches from everlasting to everlasting, and that is truly something worth celebrating.

As a special feature this month, each devotion will include a link to one of the many glorious, musical versions of the “Magnificat.”  Each one includes the Latin text as well.  This week’s selection can be found here.

Lord, we thank You for becoming one of us in the person of Jesus Christ.  He fully understands all our trials and temptations and without sin surrendered Himself to the punishment that should have been ours so that we might enjoy eternal life with You.  This day and every day, our souls magnify You, and we rejoice in God our Savior.  Amen.

Copyright © 2018 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, December 16, 2018

The Humble Exalted

December 16 (Luke 1:51-52)

He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate.  (ESV)

When Mary spoke the words of the poem and song that would come to be known as the “Magnificat,” she could not have fully understood all she was saying.  Like the prophets of old, she spoke of things that would come to pass as if they were already accomplished, for indeed, in God’s time, they were.

The birth of her son, Jesus, would scatter the proud and bring down the mighty.  It might have seemed just the opposite that day on Calvary’s dark hill, where the ruling powers of the world conspired to bring about the death of an innocent man, but little did the Romans and Jewish leaders know that the one they crucified would use his cross as the sword to conquer death itself.  In the triumph of Christ over sin and death, our Lord raised up all those sunk under their weight who would accept His gift of salvation.  Exalted to sit at His right hand with our Father in heaven, we no longer live in the low state of despair.

Is this what Christmas means to you?  Do you recognize it for what it truly is, the inbreaking of God into His own creation, to become part of it in order to redeem it?  Christmas is glorious indeed, but only because it is the pivotal turn in the cosmic story that ends with Easter.

As a special feature this month, each devotion will include a link to one of the many glorious, musical versions of the “Magnificat.”  Each one includes the Latin text as well.  This week’s selection can be found here.

Father, thank You for giving me an everlasting seat with You through the blood of Your Son.  I try to achieve many things through my own efforts, but truly my highest honor was won for me.  I thank You for the greatest of all gifts this Christmas, true life now and forever in Jesus.  Amen.

Copyright © 2018 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, December 9, 2018

The Mercy of God

December 9 (Luke 1:50)

And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.  (ESV)

The song that Mary wrote after receiving the joyous news that she would be the mother of Jesus continues by acknowledging God’s mercy, but notice the two aspects of that mercy.  It is for those who fear God and it is always available.

When the Bible talks about fearing God, it does not mean the sort of fear that a child, worried about creatures under the bed, experiences in a darkened room.  It is does not mean the fear an adult faces while waiting for results from a biopsy.  It is the awe-filled respect and honor that is proper from humble creatures toward the infinite and majestic God who created them.  And God’s mercy is for all those who are humble before Him.  Those too arrogant and proud to fear Him would never think they needed His mercy in the first place.

Mary also says that this mercy extends from generation to generation.  It was available not only to her but to people of the third, fifteenth, and twenty-first centuries as well.  It is available to every nation and culture on the planet.  Perhaps it is time for you to quit trying to make life work and simply and completely throw yourself upon the mercy of God.  If you do, you will find rest and restoration for your soul as never before.

As a special feature this month, each devotion will include a link to one of the many glorious, musical versions of the “Magnificat.”  Each one includes the Latin text as well.  This week’s selection can be found here.  This is a lager work by Monteverdi, and the “Magnificat” begins at the 1:09:34 mark.

Lord, I need Your mercy to get through this day, to say nothing of this week, and all that lies in store for me.  From temptations my flesh is too weak to resist to demands I do not have the energy to fulfill, I need Your help.  I do not come asking You for anything based on my own merits, but rather ask for Your mercy.  In the name of Jesus, Who showed the greatest of mercies by taking my death to the cross, amen.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

God Notices You

December 3 (Luke 1:46-48)

My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.  (ESV)

After the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would be the mother of Jesus, she visited her cousin Elizabeth, who confirmed the miracle by telling Mary that both she and her unborn child were blessed.  And what did Mary do?  She spoke words that would become known as one of the most glorious poems and songs in the history of the world, the “Magnificat,” so called from the opening word in the Latin version of this passage.

She begins by praising God and acknowledging His greatness in noticing a humble girl like her.  In His unspeakable majesty, God is always looking down.  He sees the humble and the downtrodden.  He hears the cries of those with nowhere to go.  He knows what you are facing, and perhaps more than anything, it is this that makes Him great.

As we head toward Christmas, keep these opening words of Mary’s song in mind.  God sees past all the lights and glitter and celebrations, past all the falsely happy faces to the broken hearts they hide.  He is looking past all of that…at you.

As a special feature this month, each devotion will include a link to one of the many glorious, musical versions of the “Magnificat.”  Each one includes the Latin text as well.  This week’s selection can be found here.

Father, I need to know that You see me.  I need to know that when others are rushing past, You see the deepest needs of my heart.  Because I know that You do indeed see me and care for me, I add my voice to that of Mary, magnifying You and rejoicing in God my Savior.  Amen.

Copyright © 2018 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Representatives of Jesus

November 25 (Colossians 3:17)

And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.  (NLT)

Cut someone off in traffic?  Tell a dirty joke?  Waste your money on things you don’t need?  Do it all in the name of Jesus.  Visit certain websites?  Watch certain movies?  Share certain things on social media?  Do all that in the name of Jesus, too.

Are you becoming uncomfortable yet?  You should be.  It would be the pinnacle of blasphemy, and in some instances sure indication of demonic activity, to do certain things in the name of Jesus Christ.  Your pet sin may not be on that list, but whatever it is, call it to mind right now.  Does it not make your skin crawl to think of saying, “I am about to do this in the name of the Lord Jesus?”

Yet, for those who have surrendered their lives to Jesus, that is what we do each and every time we do or say anything.  We are God’s ambassadors on earth.  There is nothing we can do or say or even think apart from that reality, and it makes a useful test for us when deciding whether or not engage in a particular activity.

Jesus, when I look at my life for what it is, Your representative on earth, I am filled with shame and grief over all that I have done and all I have not done.  It also makes me even more grateful than ever for Your love and forgiveness.  Help me not to move carelessly through life, doing and saying whatever comes to mind, without first realizing that all I do reflects on You.  Renewed by the power of Your grace, may I be the true salt and light You have called me to be.  Amen.

Copyright © 2018 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Blessed When Ridiculed

November 18 (Matthew 5:11-12)

“God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers.Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.”  (NLT)

People may tell you that you are privileged as a Christian, especially if you are living in the West.  They will say that yours is the dominant religion, that vacations from work are often based on your holidays, and that the world of commerce is all about you, especially as we head toward Christmas.  Now, ask yourself this.  How comfortable do you feel talking about your faith?  Will you share the good news that salvation is found only in Christ and in no other religion or religious figure?  Will you speak against sins like abortion while sharing the love and forgiveness of God for those who have experienced it?

For most of us the answer is no, or at best a hesitant yes.  We see what happens to people in social media for speaking the truth.  Perhaps we have directly experienced mocking and evil comments.  And of course, we don’t want to ruffle feathers at work.  We have to show up tomorrow and work with these people.  What if our comments make that uncomfortable?

Friends, Jesus said that when we live for Him, which includes speaking His words, we will indeed make people uncomfortable.  They will lie and say all kinds of things about us, but guess what?  You are in good company.  The same, and far worse, has happened to the saints throughout the ages, to say nothing of our Lord Jesus Himself.  Hebrews 12:2 reminds us, “Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne,” and He promises that you have a great reward in store as well.

Lord, strengthen me against petty fear.  Grant me the boldness and courage to be Your faithful servant in all the works to which You call me.  In all things, my model is Jesus, who endured the horror of the cross for me.  Amen.

Copyright © 2018 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Soul Satisfaction

November 11 (Psalm 42:1)

As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.  (ESV)

In the sixteenth century, Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina composed a motet based on this verse.  It is called “Sicut Cervus” from the first two words of the Latin translation, and as one person commented on this recording of it on YouTube, “This might be the most beautiful three minutes in the history of forever.”  I agree, and it is certainly one of my favorite pieces of music.

Anyone can appreciate Palestrina’s composition and enjoy it thoroughly, but those who have tasted the pleasure of God know that there is something deeper and richer to it and to this verse.  There is a reason man’s relationship with God has inspired art and architecture, drama and dance and music that have become the crowning achievements of the creative aspirations of the human race.  That relationship, when rightly ordered through the grace of Jesus Christ, is satisfying at the deep level of our souls.  It is glorious, wonderful, magnificent, and filled with peace attainable nowhere else.  It is loving and welcoming.  It is home.

Do you know that?  Or rather, do you feel that?  If you have tasted even once that deep intimacy with God, you know there is nothing like it.  If, however, it seems like words on a page or something that others have experienced but not you, that may just be your soul’s longing for the one thing that can truly satisfy it.  And just as a deer always finds water to slake its thirst, so God will always be found by those who truly seek Him, for they will then know that He has been seeking them.

Lord, I need You more than water or sleep or food.  I need You more than the air I breathe.  Draw near to me as I draw near to You.  Fill my soul and restore it to life in a dry and thirsty land.  Amen.

Copyright © 2018 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Power To Walk In New Life

November 4 (Romans 6:4)

We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.  (ESV)

Guess what?  You don’t have to be afraid anymore.  2 Timothy 1:7 says we have been given a spirit of power, love, and self-control, not one of fear.  You don’t have to wonder if anyone loves you, or sit around convinced that no one does, because God has made it quite clear that He loves you.  Want proof?  Read Romans 5:8.  You don’t have to sin or remain stuck in darkness or run around in circles of confusion.  You really, truly don’t.

And yet so many of us do.  In one way or another, we are not walking in newness of life.  We sense that something is off, that something is just not right.  Let’s be honest.  No prisoner, having been pardoned from jail, will try to sneak back into his cell.  It is highly unlikely that you want to live in pain and suffering, apart from the renewed life that is your birthright as a baptized child of God.  It is, however, more than likely that God’s great enemy and ours, Satan, will try everything to lead you back into bondage.

God knows this and is at your side the moment you call.  In fact, in both the Old Testament (Joel 2:32) and the New Testament (Romans 10:13), He gives a powerful promise that everyone who calls on His name will be saved.  So, what are you waiting for?  You are a born-again child of God.  Why resort to old ways, why give in to habits you hope will make you feel better but never do, why be led astray by the lies of demons?  Cry out to your Father in heaven for help.  Weep and wail with Him.  Read the Bible verses that you know contain truth.  Walk in the newness of life that is yours.

Lord, may the Holy Spirit bring to my mind the lies that I have been accepting from the enemy as true.  As Paul taught in 2 Corinthians 10:5, I bring those thoughts captive to You.  Free me from their bondage that I may walk in the newness of life that is already mine in Christ Jesus.  In His name I pray, amen. 

Copyright © 2018 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, October 28, 2018

The Gift and Necessity of Rest

October 28 (Psalm 127:1-2)

Unless the Lord builds a house,

     the work of the builders is wasted.

guarding it with sentries will do no good.

      from early morning until late at night,

for God gives rest to his loved ones.  (NLT)

When are you at your best with God?  When are you at your best for Him?  If you are anything like me, it is not when you are doing a million things all at once.  And this probably means we are not at our best most of the time.  “Now here, now there, he darts from place to place.”  It is a line describing the Greek warrior Diomedes in the Iliad, but it also describes most of us today.

Why is that?  Why do we run ourselves ragged?  It is because we believe that we must build the house, metaphorically speaking.  We think it is all up to us.  Hard work is good, of course, and Paul had strong words for those who were lazy (2 Thessalonians 3:10), but nowhere does Scripture say we must do it all and kill ourselves in the process.  In fact, it says the opposite.

God loves you, which means, as this Psalm clearly says, He will give you rest.  Are you rejecting the gift?  Are you handing it back to Him because you know better what needs to be done?  Not only is that arrogant and insulting to God, but it is something we would not even do with a gift from an earthly friend.  He knows what is best, not your boss, not the family calendar, and not you.  Listen for Him, and when He is calling you to a moment of quiet with Him, eagerly accept the gift that He knows you need.

Father, help me to set aside regular moments each day to rest in You.  Help me to develop habits of rest in which I can hear from You and share with You my heart, in which I can grow in You and worship You truly.  I ask it in the name of Jesus, amen.

Copyright © 2018 by Steven R. Perkins

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