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