Saturday, October 17, 2015

Dependence or Independence? That is the Question.

 

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD and depart from evil. (Proverbs 3:5-7 NKJV)

Consecration is a personal thing, a transaction between two persons, the Lord Jesus Christ and you. Following that, the Holy Spirit will commence a great work in you; for the work of the Lord Jesus Christ for us needs to be followed by the work of the Holy Spirit in us.  JOHN PRITCHARD

Harrison, Nick (2010-12-21). His Victorious Indwelling: Daily Devotions for a Deeper Christian Life (p. 370). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Meditation

The original sin in the Garden of Eden was man's decision to become independent from God. Satan's words to Eve were, "For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." When Eve and then her husband Adam chose to partake of it, thus taking control of their lives, the trouble began. And evil has reigned in the lives of human beings ever since. We live in a world that chose to turn its back on its Creator and live independently by their own standards since then. And the end result has been chaos and destruction. We live in a society of people that has gone mad and is even now threatening to self-destruct. We cannot take back control or change the destiny of the world. Only God Himself can do that but He has not chosen to intervene yet. Why?

The simple answer is that He created us with free will and He has chosen not to violate that freedom. Had He not made us with that free will and instead made us like the birds that have no choice as to whether to fly south for the winter, we would have been incapable of choosing to love Him. By choosing to love Him we can enter into a relationship with Him which is what He desires for us to do above all else.

The good news is that we can still choose to do that. God the Father sent His Son Jesus Christ to the earth to pay the penalty for sin so that we can enter the relationship with Him that we were created for. By trusting in the Lord with all of our heart and not leaning on our own understanding, we can depart from the evil of independence from God. We are free to choose to live in harmony with Him as we were created to live. Then the world will cease to be chaotic and paradise will be restored.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.  (Revelation 21:1-3 ESV)

Questions for Personal Reflection or Discussion

1. What was original sin in the Garden of Eden and how has it continued until the present time?

2. Why did God create us with free will and why will he not violate it?

3.  How does God desire us to live?

Responsive Prayer

Father God, Your wisdom is higher than the heavens, Your thoughts and Your ways are higher than mine. Help me, I pray to escape the futility of leaning on my own understanding and teach me to trust fully in You. I confess that I have given way to my flesh too often and reaped the consequences of this folly. Thank You for sending Your Holy Spirit to direct my steps and for giving me the opportunity to depart from the evil independence from You. Amen

 


"Freed In Christ",

Sunday, October 4, 2015

To Forgive or not to Forgive?

 

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

"For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:14-15 NKJV)

Meditation

The Pharisees were concerned with outward appearances, while Jesus Christ was more interested in condition of one's heart. He said that the world would identify His true disciples by their love for one another. The apostle John said, "If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?"(1 John 4:20 NKJV) Satan on the other hand often disrupts the harmony of the church by causing schisms among the brethren, seeking to steal, kill and destroy our Christian fellowship.

Often times our anger against a brother or sister in the Lord is founded on misconceptions or an incomplete understanding of all the facts in a given situation. I have heard it said that to harbor a spirit of bitterness or resentment is likened to "drinking a glass of poison and waiting for the other person to die!" Or there is the old adage that "unforgiveness does much more damage to the vessel in which it is stored than to the object on which it is poured!"

The person who is unable to forgive is the one who doesn't truly grasp the significance of God's forgiveness of themselves. So when we don't understand how much God has forgiven us we don't see the need to forgive one who has offended us. We become easily offended and harbor a superior attitude of pride over our offender. Jesus is saying here that if we aren't convicted of our own sinfulness and need for God's mercy, our heart condition might be indicative of the fact that we ourselves are unregenerate and doomed to suffer the fires of Hell. That is a matter that deserves serious consideration.

For those coming out of a life dominated by sin, bitterness and resentment are open doors that can lead to relapse. We might once again find ourselves captive to the bondage that once held us in slavery. This is a serious enough threat to cause Jesus to say, "This is how I want you to conduct yourself in these matters. If you enter your place of worship and, about to make an offering, you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has against you, abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to this friend and make things right. Then and only then, come back and work things out with God." (Matthew 5:23-24 MSG)

 

Questions for Meditation or Discussion

1.     How is it that our treatment of our brothers and sisters in Christ is a reflection of our love for God?

2.     What do we need to consider in forgiving others for offences committed against us?

3.     Why is harboring resentments against another so dangerous for those coming out of bondage to life dominating sin?

 

Responsive Prayer

Heavenly Father blessed be Your Holy Name. Thank You for price that You paid for the forgiveness of my sin against You. I know that nothing that another human being does to me could ever compare to that. Grant me the grace to forgive those who have offended me, so that I can continue to walk in fellowship with You. Amen

 


"Freed In Christ",

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Pacing Ourselves

 

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

"I waited patiently for the LORD; And He inclined to me, And heard my cry." (Psalms 40:1 NKJV)

What you do, do well. Work faithfully in My vineyard. I will be your reward. Write, read, sing, mourn, keep silence, pray, and bear hardships like a man. Eternal life is worth all these and greater battles. Peace will come on a day which is known to the Lord, and then there shall be no day or night as at present but perpetual light, infinite brightness, lasting peace, and safe repose. (Emphasis mine)

Thomas à Kempis. (1996). The Imitation of Christ (p. 194). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems.

Meditation

Waiting and patience never seem to come easy for us. That is not surprising because a person driven by the flesh to achieve great things is naturally anxious to see results. But the person who in traffic passes our vehicle at great risk to himself and everyone else only to be waiting at the next traffic signal, demonstrates the futility of going through this life at breakneck speed. So as we grow older, the Spirit of God within us helps us to better understand the need to pace ourselves for a healthier life. We learn that although there appears to be so much to do, everything doesn't have to be done this instant, or by ourselves alone.

Now in saying all of that, there are some people that are very difficult to wait for because we are uncertain of whether they will ever get the task we are waiting for accomplished at all. We can be grateful that waiting for our Heavenly Father is not like that at all. What He has promised in His word will be accomplished for certain. There is absolutely no doubt about it at all. The plan that He has for our lives is part of a much bigger plan for the entire universe. We can be sure of that because He put it in writing in His book, the Bible, and had it preserved down through the ages. Even at that, intellectual knowledge is not sufficient, we need more. And He knows that so He has given us His Holy Spirit to confirm it in our hearts. We need personal affirmation and so our Father provides that affirmation along with all of our other needs.

For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, "Abba, Father." The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. (Romans 8:15-17 NKJV) (Emphasis mine)

So as we wait patiently we never have to wait alone or wonder if our waiting will be in vain.

It will not do for the believer to simply say, "I rest upon Scripture, and upon the Word of God." He must not be satisfied without experientially having the comfort of the Holy Spirit. ….And is not the Holy Spirit to be, to the believer, the evidence and witness of our new place and of the actual relationship in which we stand to God our Father? Of course. The Holy Spirit feeds the new creation, comforts him, minister to him, and unfolds the beauties and glories of Christ to him. These things are to be known, and if you do not know them, you have need to know them.  W. T. P. WOLSTON

Harrison, Nick (2010-12-21). His Victorious Indwelling: Daily Devotions for a Deeper Christian Life (p. 350). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Questions for Personal Reflection or Discussion

1.     Why is waiting patiently such a difficult thing for most of us to do?

2.     How is waiting on God different from waiting on men?

3.     What is the role of the Holy Spirit in the waiting process?

 

Responsive Prayer

My Father in heaven, my God in Whom I trust, blessed be Your Holy Name. I confess that there are times that I find the waiting process to be a difficult one, especially when I am walking in the flesh rather than walking in the Spirit. Grant me the patience, by Your grace to glorify You in the process of waiting, knowing that my future in Christ is certain.  Thank You for Your Holy Spirit Who comforts and affirms Your Presence and assures my inheritance in Christ. Amen

 


"Freed In Christ",

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Affirmation of a Father

 

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

"And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him." (Luke 15:20 NKJV)

Meditation

As I advance in years, my curiosity increases about what it will be like to see Christ face to face and be welcomed home. I am so grateful that Jesus Christ, the only one to ever live in heaven with God the Father before coming to earth, gave just a picturesque description of what that meeting will be like.

When He walked as a man on this earth He, in His humanity, like you and I, longed for the affirmation that every person wants from their father. At a key moment in His life, as He was preparing to undertake the ministry that would cost Him His human life, His Heavenly Father showed up in a unique and emphatic way to affirm His Son.

When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." (Matthew 3:16-17 NKJV)

That affirmation is something that a person never outgrows their longing for. And God the Father, knowing that that need can never be fully satisfied by human resources, longs to meet it Himself for you and me as well. When the prodigal son in Jesus' story arose and decided to make the journey back to his father, he had his expectations and fears, much the same as you and I. He conjured up a deal that he could propose to his father in order to regain his acceptance. But as the story unfolded he wasn't able to, and he didn't need to use it anyway. The father was so glad to see him and welcome him home that he never got the speech completely out. The father didn't need to be bargained with or convinced. The son was filthy and smelled of pigs, but that didn't matter because the father had been anticipating his son's return for a long time.

Jesus told this story so that you and would know how the Father feels about us coming home to Him. Now we can stop mentally justifying our behavior and having imaginary conversations about what we will say when we get there. God loves us and is willing to cover our filth with the robe of Christ's righteousness. It's not about what we have done or promise to do for Him in the future. He loves us for who we are, not what we do. If you have strayed from Him and long for His affirmation, He is waiting even now for your return and will greet you with open arms.

"God is asking me, the unworthy, to forget my unworthiness and that of my brothers, and dare to advance in the love which has redeemed and renewed us all in God's likeness."

Manning, B. (2009). Abba's child: the cry of the heart for intimate belonging expanded edition. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.

Questions for Personal Reflection or Discussion

1.     What was it that made Jesus more qualified than any other man that ever lived to describe that character of God?

2.     Why is it more meaningful to gain affirmation from God than anyone else?

3.     How does God the Father deal with the filthiness of our past?

 

Responsive Prayer

My Father in heaven, my God, thank You for sending Your Son Jesus Christ to show me the way home to You. I confess that my search for affirmation has taken me into some dark places. I also am guilty of trying to justify myself in my imagination, composing speeches and believing lies. Thank You for welcoming me home today. Amen

 

 


"Freed In Christ",

Monday, September 28, 2015

Cooperating with the Holy Spirit

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

With the merciful You will show Yourself merciful; With a blameless man You will show Yourself blameless; With the pure You will show Yourself pure; And with the devious You will show Yourself shrewd. For You will save the humble people, But will bring down haughty looks. (Psalms 18:25-27 NKJV)

Meditation

Our Father in heaven is gracious in that He meets us where we are at in the moment. I've heard it said that "He loves us just the way we are but too much to let us stay that way!" He is indeed causing all things to work together for good in shaping us into His image, as we were initially created to be. As the author and finisher of our faith, our Father uses other people and the circumstances of this world to conform our character into the image of His Son Jesus Christ. And rather than grumbling and complaining, which can often times be our fleshly tendency, we can choose to be grateful and in all things give thanks.

But I see another application in this scripture that until today, I hadn't seen. In dealing with others as a spiritual director (the Holy Spirit is always the Counselor) I must align myself with what He is doing in the lives of others. When we perceive a person to be in one of the categories in these verses, it is only reasonable that we align ourselves with what the Holy Spirit is accomplishing in their lives. In cooperating with the Holy Spirit we can help further their progress rather than hindering it. A merciful person needs to be dealt with mercifully and a devious person needs to be dealt with shrewdly. This presents a challenge for most believers in giving counsel and assistance to others. To treat the devious mercifully would be to hinder the work of the Spirit in their life and actually interfere with God's discipline. So we must not allow our spiritual condition to influence us in how we minister to them. This requires selflessness in our lives along with the spiritual gift of discernment. Ultimately God saves the humble, but for most of us the Holy Spirit must first bring us to a place of brokenness. May we seek never to hinder the Spirit's work in the life of another believer, but to minister with the wisdom God provides to do so.

 

For You will light my lamp; The LORD my God will enlighten my darkness. (Psalms 18:28 NKJV)

Questions for Personal Reflection or Discussion

1.     How is God using people and circumstances to conform you into the image of Christ?

2.     Have you helped or hindered the work of the Spirit in the lives of others?

3.     What is God using in your life to bring you to a place of brokenness so He can bless you?

 

Responsive Prayer

My Heavenly Father in heaven, my God, how blessed am I to know You as my Redeemer, Savior and friend. Day by day You open my eyes to the truth contained in Your Word. You have given me Your Spirit as the author and finisher of my faith and caused all things to work together for my good. I confess that too often I view life through a fleshly perspective and don't see what You are trying to accomplish in my life and the lives of those I minister to. Help me I pray to have clarity of vision in seeing Your will and helping to accomplish it. Amen

 


"Freed In Christ",

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Home Lighting

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

"You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.                         (Matthew 5:14-16 NKJV)

Meditation

Being the light of the world is a significant calling, especially in a world of ever increasing darkness. The Holy Spirit as the source of light and for that matter our very life shines like the beacon of a lighthouse on a dark, clear night. Jesus says here that would be easier to conceal an entire city built on a hill under a basket. So we must ask the questions, "What impact does our life have on the people around us? When we walk into a crowd of people are their spirits lifted or weighed down?"

But perhaps the more relevant question here is what impact does our life have on the people in our own household? Who we are in the privacy of our own homes is as important if not more important than who we are in public. In fact if who we are in private is different from who we are in public, we are hypocrites. Jesus also had a lot to say about hypocrites and most often it was directed against the Pharisees. These were those who tried to be the most religious. There are some who know just enough about God's Word to be dangerous!

In contrast Jesus' religion and His life was genuine. He loved children and He loved people, all kinds of people. He didn't love only the rich and influential people, but He love the lost, the weak and the sinful hurting people. This is proven by the fact that He loved you and I. While we were yet sinners, He died for us.

The light that emanates from a lamp cannot bypass an object and shine on the area behind it. It originates with its source and illuminates everything in its path. The love of Christ within us must do the same thing. Beginning with those of our own household, we must let our light shine so that the love of Christ will illuminate the whole world beginning with those closest to us.

"For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have spoken in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have spoken in the ear in inner rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops." (Luke 12:2-3 NKJV)

Questions for Meditation or Discussion

1.     Why is the life and light of Jesus Christ within us impossible to conceal?

2.     How was Jesus' life and light different from those of the Pharisees?

3.     What hinders you from letting your light shine brightest on those closest to you?

 

Responsive Prayer

My Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, blessed be Your Holy Name. You have placed Your love and light within me that it may illuminate the darkness of this world. I confess that too often I struggle to allow that light to shine in my own household. Grant me the grace to love those that seem to others to be unlovable. May I never forget the love that You showed me when You saved me from the path of eternal damnation. Amen


"Freed In Christ",

Friday, September 25, 2015

“Running Home to the Father”

 

 

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

But the transgressors shall be destroyed together; the future of the wicked shall be cut off. But the salvation of the righteous is from the LORD; He is their strength in the time of trouble. And the LORD shall help them and deliver them; He shall deliver them from the wicked, And save them, because they trust in Him. (Psalms 37:38-40 NKJV)

Meditation

Psalm 37 can be a fortress in the life of a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ who is undergoing trials. It is more than the chapter of a book, or written words upon a page. King David faced a nine foot, nine inch giant who probably weighed about seven hundred and fifty pounds. He ran from a spear chucking king that had gone mad. And even more traumatic than that, he had to come to grip with the depravity of his own flesh, and the consequences incurred when he committed adultery and had the woman's innocent husband murdered. And through all of this and probably much more that wasn't recorded in scripture, he still found safety. "Trust in the Lord and do good" he writes in verse three of Psalm 37. So, it's that simple. In fact because it is that simple, you and I have sometimes have trouble believing it. So David spends the rest of the Psalm explaining it to us. Wicked men may flourish, but they still fade away as fast as the green grass. Righteous men are in distress, but their adversity will turn to prosperity. The just are of little means, but that is better than the riches of the wicked. The righteous fall, but are not utterly cast down. All of these apparently terminal situations have a resolution, so the seemly hopeless really have hope.

But being human we still tend to ask the question, "Why?" Today's verses, the conclusion of that wonderful Psalm, answer that question. The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord. We are righteous only because we trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for our salvation, both in this lifetime and in the next. And it is because we trust in Him that we are delivered. It is not because we are smart or because we try harder, but because we trust. It is because somewhere along the way our trials have brought us to the end of own self-reliance. We have come to the end of ourselves like little children we ran to our daddy for help because we He is the only One who can save us. And save us He did! That's the Gospel. By grace we have been saved through faith. Faith is the channel that the grace flows through.  

"And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him."  (Luke 15:20 NKJV)

Questions for Meditation or Discussion

1.     What is the "Goliath" that you are facing today?

2.     Where only does our righteousness come from?

3.     How has coming to the end of our own self-reliance brought running home to our Father?

 

Responsive Prayer

My Lord and my Redeemer Jesus Christ, You have proved to be an ever present help in all kinds of trouble and Your faithfulness has never wavered. I confess that there have been times when I thought that I needed to take matters into my own hands and the results have sometimes been catastrophic. Thank You for the adversity in my life that has caused me to come running home to You. May I never stray far from home again. Amen 


"Freed In Christ",

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Chosen by Him

 

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, (Ephesians 1:4-5 NKJV)

Meditation

When we were young boys one of our favorite pastimes was playing baseball on the vacant lot in our neighborhood. Two of the older guys would step up and volunteer to be team captains and pick sides. The rest would stand by attentively as one by one the best players were chosen first, followed by those who were younger or less skillful. The last ones chosen were usually more of a liability than an asset, but everyone got the chance to play. If you were one of these it was somewhat disheartening, but a necessary part of life. It was just natural to want to be chosen.

The good news for us today as regenerated followers of Jesus Christ is that not only have we been chosen, but we have been chosen by God Himself. Not only that we have been chosen for a specific purpose – to be holy and without blame before Him in love. It isn't about our size or our talents compared to others because He chose us before the foundation of the world, before Genesis 1:1. He didn't choose us to be a nameless, faceless part of a crowd of people, but to be adopted, accepted and part of His family. He didn't have to do this, He did it according to the good pleasure of His will, because He wanted to!

And just as being part of an earthly family brings with it rights, responsibilities and privileges, so does being part of God's heavenly family. We cannot just walk away and pretend it didn't happen or that we aren't part of the family, as some foolishly attempt to do. Oh we may stray as the prodigal son did in Jesus' parable, but if we do life will eventually become hard. Hopefully we will come to ourselves and return to our Father's open arms. The important thing to remember is that because we were chosen before the foundation of the world, we never earned our right to sonship. Because we had no part in procuring it we can't nullify it. I personally have seven children and ten grandchildren who didn't choose to be born into my family, they just were. And although they may stray far away and make poor choices in their lives, they will always be my children and grandchildren. My love for them will not waiver, not because of their choices or actions but because they are mine from birth. If my love is that binding I know my Father's is even more so.

If you then, with all your human frailty, know how to give your children gifts that are good for them, how much more certainly will your Father who is in Heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!" (Luke 11:13 WNT)

"The wise lover regards not so much the gift of Him Who loves as the love of Him Who gives."  (Thomas à Kempis. The Imitation of Christ)

 Questions for Personal Reflection or Discussion

1. Why is it the desire of every child to be chosen first?

2. What was it that inspired God to choose us as believers to be adopted into His heavenly family?

3. How do we know that we are secure in our standing as part of God's family?

Responsive Prayer

My Father in heaven my God, You are the Father to whom every family on earth owes its Name. Thank You that before the foundation of the world, before Genesis 1:1, You chose me to be adopted into Your heavenly through Your Son and my brother, Jesus Christ. Thank You that You never disown or abandon Your children and one day Your entire heavenly family will be reunited in heaven with You. Amen

 


"Freed In Christ",

Monday, September 14, 2015

Seeing Life in it's Proper Light

 

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.                                         (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NKJV)

Meditation

There is a saying that we need to view things in their proper light. And it is true that to do anything well we must have the correct lighting. Certainly this applies to living our lives in this world. The source of all light is God Himself according to scripture. In Genesis 1:2 in narrating the creation of this world, which no man has personally witnessed, it says; "The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters." Verse 3 goes on to say, "Then God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light." Can you imagine living in a world where there was never any daylight?

Yet there is a major portion of society that lives without intellectual light as we ourselves once did. We are fortunate that God has brought us out of the darkness and into the light of His marvelous love. Not only did He accomplish this when we were regenerated, but He continues to do so on a daily basis. His word has become a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. The lamp that is referred to here is comparable to a flashlight that illuminates each individual step that we take. The light is a spotlight that shines far into the distance ahead, a beacon of sorts that enables to make profitable decisions concerning our future. Can you imagine having such a tool and never using it? And yet there are times when we neglect to allow it to shine wisdom into our hearts as we chart the course of our lives.

The Psalmist speaks of the blessed condition of those who consult Gods Word regularly when He says: But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper. (Psalms 1:2-3 NKJV) There are a lot of self-help books on the shelves and experts giving advice on TV, but there is no reason that we need to go to them when we have the Author of Light, illuminating our lives personally with His Word.  

The entrance of God's Word into the mind by the power of the Holy Spirit gives us light as to ourselves, our sin and our danger.  Charles Spurgeon

The entrance of Your words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple. (Psalms 119:130 NKJV)

Questions for Meditation or Discussion

1.     What has been your experience in struggling to accomplish a certain task without the proper light?

2.     How is God's Word like the low beam and the high beam on a car?

3.     Why is it more profitable to trust the Source of Light rather than human resources for living out our life on this earth?

 

Responsive Prayer

My Father in heaven, my God, You are the Source of Light that faithfully causes the sun to rise and shine on a daily basis. You have given us the light of divine wisdom in Your inspired word. I confess that it is too often the last place that I look when I have decisions to make. Help me I pray to make prayer and meditation the first resource in making decisions, that I too may be like a tree planted by streams of water, and everything that I do shall prosper. Amen


"Freed In Christ",

Friday, September 11, 2015

50/20 Vision

 

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (2 Corinthians 5:16-17 NKJV)

Meditation

As human beings we have a tendency to get stuck and getting stuck prevents us from moving forward. We tend stuck in the sense that we have great difficulty in not evaluating ourselves and others through Christ's eyes rather than our own.

In Genesis chapter 50 verse 20 Joseph when confronted by his brothers who once sold him into slavery, calms their fear of retribution when he says to them, "But as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good," Joseph chose to view his brother's actions through God's eyes rather than his old human eyes. I like to refer to that as having 50/20 vision after the address of this verse.

Paul in the verses above is encouraging followers of Christ to do the same thing. He had phenomenal natural talent and worldly credentials because of his former lifestyle. But he chose to be identified by what Christ had done for him and in him. We in turn may feel the same way as Paul. We desire others not to see us as who we once were in the world or for what we once did, but as new creations in Christ.

So my question then would be for you today is, if we desire that from others, how then do we ourselves see them in Christ? When the sinful woman anointed Jesus feet in the midst of a social gathering in the house of Simon the Pharisee, the host became indignant over the intrusion. Jesus turned to Simon and asked a very pointed question when He said, "Do you see this woman?" I don't believe Simon ever did. I believe that Simon saw an interruption to his agenda and a public embarrassment, but I don't believe he ever actually saw the woman. Jesus on the other hand saw a repentant former sinner, and a daughter of His Father in heaven who was about to be radically transformed. So I would ask you, when you see your fellow believer, how do you identify them? Do you visualize where they came from or who they are in Christ? We must utilize 50/20 vision in seeing them as we would desire them seeing us!

Questions for Meditation or Discussion

1.     How have preconceptions about your own identity and the identity of others kept you stuck?

2.     Why did Joseph's view of his brothers past actions probably surprise them?

3.     Who in your life have you been looking at with old eyes instead of God's eyes?

 

Responsive Prayer

My Father in heaven my God, what a wonderful Father You are to all of Your children. You have placed us all in Christ and given us a new identity, a new hope and a promising future with You in heaven and on earth. Thank You that we are no longer who we once were, but instead are new creations. Help me I pray to see my brothers and sisters in Christ with Your eyes rather than my own. Amen


"Freed In Christ",

Thursday, September 10, 2015

More Than We Can Handle (Alone)

 

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us, (2 Corinthians 1:8-10 NKJV)

Meditation

The Christian life is not hard, it is impossible! When a person first comes into faith in Christ and is regenerated we may find ourselves feeling invincible. We suddenly have great ambitions of what we will do for Christ in return for what He has done for us. And while this naïve, exuberant mindset may be exhilarating, especially around Christians who have lost some of their own personal zeal, it can be deceptive as well.

Even the Apostle Paul, who accomplished great things for the kingdom of God in his lifetime had to learn the insufficiency of fleshly effort. There is a saying that goes, "God will never give us more than we can handle." But the reality is He will allow us to experience trials, much like the one written about here, that we cannot handle, at least without His help. Part of the sanctification process that brings us closer to God, is dependent on God allowing us to come to the end of ourselves. Paul accurately described the purpose of this particular trial when he said, "we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God..." The Apostle Peter learned this when after his heartfelt vow not to deny Christ, he denied Him not once but three times in front of a mere servant girl. God couldn't use Peter mightily until Peter wept bitterly. Jesus in His humanity said "Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself…"

One of the most difficult lessons to learn and yet an essential one, is that followers of Christ must learn is that failure is not the end of God's plan for our life, but an integral part of His process. Actually it is usually a stepping stone to take us to the next level of spiritual maturity. As we are transformed by the renewing of our minds, we must be mindful not to think more highly of ourselves than need be but to think soberly. We can do all things, not in the flesh, but in Christ Who strengthens us.

 "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith." (Romans 12:2-3 NKJV)

Questions for Meditation or Discussion

1.     How have the circumstances and challenges of this life tempered your enthusiasm for God?

2.     Why does God sometimes allow us to be tried and even to weep bitterly?

3.     What has helped you to realize that failure is not the end of God's plan for your life?

 

Responsive Prayer

My Lord and my Redeemer Jesus Christ, You are the author and finisher of my faith and I am confident that You are working all things together (even personal failure) for my good and my continued spiritual growth. I confess that there are times that I need to experience failure and the inadequacy of my flesh that I will trust more fully in You rather than myself. Thank You Lord for allowing me to be placed in situations that are greater than my ability to handle that I might know the sufficiency of Your grace. Thank You Lord that You never fail me or forsake me. Amen


"Freed In Christ",

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Nothing But the Truth

 

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, (Colossians 3:9-10 NKJV)

Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. (2 Corinthians 4:16 NKJV)

Meditation

Coming out of the darkness that we were in because of our past, and the sinful condition that we were born in requires that we get completely honest. Comparatively speaking we need to change into a whole new set of clothes as we put off the old man and put on the new. In his letter to the Corinthian Church the Apostle Paul calls the old man the outward man and the new man the inward man. This can be misleading because just as the character of the old man permeated our entire being so the character of the new man needs to do the same. When David wrote in Psalm 51 that God desires truth "in the inward parts," he was speaking of where the truth originated, not where it was manifested.

When a person is truly being transformed by the renewing of their mind, the process encompasses their entire being. It is a misnomer when a person claims that their religion or relationship is a private matter. Jesus Himself said that to hide our new man from view would be like trying to hide a city under a basket, which means that it would be totally impossible. When Christ enters our life as the Person of the Holy Spirit the change in us will be blatantly obvious. One of the most evident characteristics of a transformed life is the fact that we stop being intentionally deceptive or lying to one another. Once we truly get honest with ourselves the natural progression is that we get honest with each other.

Putting on the new man is not an matter on our part of trying harder, but it is accomplished by allowing the Holy Spirit to have His way in our lives. The Bible assures us that if we walk in the Spirit, or allow ourselves to be controlled by the Spirit, we will no longer fulfill the lusts of the flesh. In other words lying to another person will no longer be our natural inclination. We will be free to live as the new creation that God created us to be.

But I say, walk and live [habitually] in the [Holy] Spirit [responsive to and controlled and guided by the Spirit]; then you will certainly not gratify the cravings and desires of the flesh (of human nature without God).  (Galatians 5:16 AMP)

 

Questions for Personal Reflection or Discussion

1. In what way is putting on the new man like changing our clothes?

2. Where does the transformation process in a person take place?

3.  How is life transformation accomplished?

Responsive Prayer

Father God, the renewal that You are doing in each believer is indeed a good work that You have begun and promised to complete. I confess that I am too often the one that hinders that work by allowing my old man to rise up from the grave and show himself in my actions. Grant me the presence of mind to recall throughout the day my need to surrender completely to You and to allow Your Spirit to accomplish Your good work in my life. Amen

 


"Freed In Christ",

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Crippled by a Fall

 

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the LORD Forever. (Psalms 23:5-6 NKJV)

Meditation

David felt at home with God the Father, no matter what circumstances life presented to him. Even the very presence of his enemies, God provided generously for David by spreading a table of bountiful provision in front of him.

This passage brings to mind the account of King David's treatment of one of his disposed enemy's relatives. King Saul tried for years to kill the future anointed king- David to no avail. The common practice of a newly crowned king in those days was to kill all of the former king's relatives in order to ensure that they would not rise up in rebellion to retake the kingdom. So when David called Mephibosheth into his royal court one day, Saul's young grandson feared the worst. But instead of executing him, David gave the young man who was crippled by a fall a seat at his own personal table. He did this because of a promise given to Mephibosheth's father Jonathan, before Jonathan's death. There at the kings table Mephibosheth was able to hide his crippled feet from sight and enjoy the royal bounty. This invitation was not merely for a meal but for his lifetime.

We, like Mephibosheth were crippled by a fall, the fall of Adam in the Garden of Eden. As a result of our heritage we were declared enemies of God and sentenced to death. But because of God's Son, Jesus Christ we were invited instead to sit at the King's table where the infirmity of our sin is hidden from sight and we can dine for eternity.

It is speculation on my part but perhaps David was thinking of Mephibosheth when he wrote these verses. "You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;" David understood firsthand, as we can know also, the blessing of being welcomed back to the King's table because our relationship with Jesus Christ. The significance of this abundant blessing is not diminished in any way because of evil people or unfavorable circumstances. It does not expire over time but is eternal. There is truly no better place to dwell than the house of the Lord and to do so forever.

And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away." (Revelation 21:3-4 NKJV)

 

 

Questions for Personal Reflection or Discussion

1.     What was young Mephibosheth's fate before he was called by King David?

2.     In what ways did our condition mirror Mephibosheth's?

3.     How does the change in your final destiny impact your gratitude toward God?

 

Responsive Prayer

My Father in heaven, my God thank You that You have invited me to come and place my crippled feet under Your table because I am now in Christ Jesus Your Son. I know that I went from being under a death sentence to sitting at the Kings table. Thank You for me to dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Amen

 


"Freed In Christ",

Monday, September 7, 2015

Free to Obey

 


Sitting with the Shepherd

 

But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. (Romans 6:17 NKJV)

Meditation

We who have come to faith in Jesus Christ have received a new life, a new identity, and a new nature have so much to be grateful for. And the rightful recipient of that gratitude can only be God Himself. He is the One Who created us and as such is the only One Who could recreate us in Christ Jesus.

Especially those of us who have been set free from life dominating sin are extremely grateful. But realistically speaking the power of sin dominates everyone's life when they are born with an unregenerate fallen spirit. And sin is a cruel taskmaster. It takes us farther than we want to go, keeps us longer than we want to stay, and cost us far more than we ever wanted to pay! Since all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, we all need to be delivered from that bondage. And according to Paul's words to the church in Rome, we have been set free.

That precious deliverance only came when we became obedient from the heart. Paul is not speaking of white knuckled forced compliance with a set of do's and don'ts. He is referring to a genuine heartfelt desire born out of love that supersedes any lesser selfish, fleshly desire. Love is the power that enables us to live in true freedom.

The form of doctrine spoken of here is the Gospel as it is presented in the Word of God/ Jesus Christ came and accomplished what we could never accomplish on our own. He reconciled us to the Father. When He returned to His heavenly throne and sat back down at the right hand of God the Father, He sent His Spirit to live inside of us. In doing this He imparted His Holy spirit to live inside of us. All of the things that we could never became possible.

But our freedom is not to be taken lightly as some think. We have gone from being slaves of sin to being slaves of righteousness. We are obligated to continue to obey that form of doctrine which caused us to be delivered, and to do so from an obedient heart. And an obedient heart is a joyful heart.     

 

Questions for Personal Reflection or Discussion

1.     What do we as believers have to be grateful for that others don't?

2.     How has sin proved to be a cruel taskmaster in your life?

3.     What is the difference between forced compliance and heartfelt obedience?

 

Responsive Prayer

My Father in heaven, my God thank you that I am no longer a slave of sin but now am free to live as a slave of righteousness. Thank You that my Victory was won at the cross and I am free to walk in that victory every day. May the Spirit of my Risen Lord Jesus Christ be manifest today and every day of my life into eternity. Amen

 


"Freed In Christ",

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Coming Home to the Father

"And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him." (Luke 15:20 NKJV)

Meditation

As I advance in years, my curiosity increases about what it will be like to see Christ face to face and be welcomed home. I am so grateful that Jesus Christ, the only one to ever live in heaven with God the Father before coming to earth, gave just a picturesque description of what that meeting will be like.

When He walked as a man on this earth He, in His humanity, like you and I, longed for the affirmation that every person wants from their father. At a key moment in His life, as He was preparing to undertake the ministry that would cost Him His human life, His Heavenly Father showed up in a unique and emphatic way to affirm His Son.

When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." (Matthew 3:16-17 NKJV)

That affirmation is something that a person never outgrows their longing for. And God the Father, knowing that that need can never be fully satisfied by human resources, longs to meet it Himself for you and me as well. When the prodigal son in Jesus' story arose and decided to make the journey back to his father, he had his expectations and fears, much the same as you and I. He conjured up a deal that he could propose to his father in order to regain his acceptance. But as the story unfolded he wasn't able to, and didn't need to use it. The father was so glad to see him and welcome him home that he never got the speech completely out. The father didn't need to be bargained with or convinced. The son was filthy and smelled of pigs, but that didn't matter because the father had been anticipating his son's return for a long time.

Jesus told this story so that you and would know how the Father feels about us coming home to Him. Now we can stop mentally justifying our behavior and having imaginary conversations about what we will say when we get there. God loves us and is willing to cover our filth with the robe of Christ's righteousness. It's not about what we have done or promise to do for Him in the future. He loves us for who we are, not what we do. If you have strayed from Him and long for His affirmation, He is waiting even now for your return and will greet you with open arms.


"God is asking me, the unworthy, to forget my unworthiness and that of my brothers, and dare to advance in the love which has redeemed and renewed us all in God's likeness."

Manning, B. (2009). Abba's child: the cry of the heart for intimate belonging expanded edition. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.


Questions for Personal Reflection or Discussion

1.     What was it that made Jesus more qualified than any other man that ever lived to describe that character of God?

2.     Why is it more meaningful to gain affirmation from God than anyone else?

3.     How does God the Father deal with the filthiness of our past?

 

Responsive Prayer

My Father in heaven, my God, thank You for sending Your Son Jesus Christ to show me the way home to You. I confess that my search for affirmation has taken me into some dark places. I also am guilty of trying to justify myself in my imagination, composing speeches and believing lies. Thank You for welcoming me home today. Amen


"Freed In Christ",

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

What Must We Do?

 

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

John 3:16 NKJV 

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

John 6:28-29 NKJV 

Then they said to Him, "What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?"  (29)  Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent."

Meditation

John 3:16 is perhaps the most frequently quoted verse of scripture in the Bible. So we have to be careful not to just skip over it as something that we already know, and therefore requires no further contemplation. The love of God is all inclusive and deeper than the deepest ocean. Paul prayed that someday his followers would "be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge." (Ephesians 3:18,19)

Our part in the eternal equation known as the Gospel is to simply believe. This will mean becoming so confident in the sufficiency of His love that we will entrust ourselves completely into His care (believe.) Jesus Himself told His followers this directly when they asked Him what they must do.

Why is it that we have to complicate it by immersing ourselves in fleshly efforts to please Him and require others to do likewise? It is true that when we decide to follow Christ we must repent, obey and we must commit. But these acts are accomplished as a result of our faith or genuine belief. It was by faith we were saved and not of works. It is by the same faith that we can surrender and allow Him to live through us unhindered by our efforts. Like Mary the younger sister of Martha, we must simply sit at His feet until we understand that.

Galatians 2:20 NKJV 

I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

Galatians 3:2-3 NKJV 

This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?— Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?

 

Questions for Personal Reflection or Discussion

1. What is your first impulse when someone makes reference to John 3:16?

2. Why is it that we must contemplate God's love rather than take it for granted?

3.  How can you better accomplish the work of God that Jesus spoke about?

Responsive Prayer

My Father in heaven, Sovereign God of this universe thank You for Your love that compelled You to send Your Son to redeem my life from imminent destruction, and usher me into the Kingdom of God. For this I am eternally grateful. I confess that too often I presume upon Your love and take it for granted rather than appreciating it for the magnificent force that it is. I confess that I am deceived at times into thinking that I need to work harder rather than believe deeper. Grant me the grace to better comprehend the width and length and depth and height of Your love that I may be filled with it to a greater capacity and that it may overflow into the lives of those around me for Your glory, honor and praise. Amen

 


"Freed In Christ",

Monday, August 31, 2015

Homeless No More!

 

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

John 14:1-2 NKJV 

"Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.  (2)  In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you."

John 14:23 NKJV 

Jesus answered and said to him, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him."

Meditation

There is a lot of talk about the mansions that we will live in when we get to heaven. Much of it is speculation about whose mansion will be the biggest. It is only natural to want to know where one will live for eternity. The word that is rendered "mansion" in some translations and "rooms" in others is monai which is the plural of monen, a word that is translated "home" in John 14 verse 23. These are the only two places this word is used in the New Testament. So rather than focus on where we will spend eternity, something that we have little or no control over, let's give our attention to where Jesus will live today.

I imagine that Jesus, much like you and I, would not choose to live where He is not welcome. So He makes it clear that He and His Father desire to come and return the love of those who truly love them. That only stands to reason. Obedience to Jesus' words is more than just a requirement, as some would see it, but it is the natural outflowing of the love in one's heart. 1 John 5:3 says "For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome." And isn't it true that the greatest obstacles that are overcome and the greatest achievements that are accomplished are done in the power of love? Jesus is not saying here that you have to earn the right to have Him and His Father to come and make their home with you. No He is saying if you love Him it will be evident by your obedience.

There are people who say that they are willing to die to be with Jesus in heaven, but aren't living for Him on this earth. They imagine that they have received a "Get Out of Hell Free" card but no significant change of heart has ever taken place. I've heard it said that "a sinner in heaven would be as out of place in heaven as a fish in a tree." If we are to spend eternity in heaven with Jesus it is only logical that our heart will be a suitable home for Him here on earth.

Luke 17:20-21 NKJV 

Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, "The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, 'See here!' or 'See there!' For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you." 

"God is especially present in the hearts of his people, by his Holy Spirit. Indeed the hearts of Christians are truly temples; and, in type and shadow, they are heaven itself. For God reigns in the hearts of his servants: there is his kingdom."

Harrison, Nick (2010-12-21). His Victorious Indwelling: Daily Devotions for a Deeper Christian Life (p. 312). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.   

Questions for Personal Reflection or Discussion

1. What are your thoughts about the mansions in heaven?

2. Does Jesus come with the Father to live in us because of our obedience? Why or why not?

3.  Why would a sinner not be at home in heaven?

Responsive Prayer

My Father in heaven, my God how truly amazing You are. Your words are like soothing balm to a troubled soul. In Your presence there truly is fullness of joy. Thank Lord Jesus Christ. Thank You Father God. Thank You Holy Spirit. Thank You Holy Trinity for making Your home in my heart. Amen

 


"Freed In Christ",