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