Saturday, February 28, 2015

My Hiding Person

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

 "I will say of the Lord, "He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust." Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler And from the perilous pestilence." (Psalm 91:2–3, NKJV)

Meditation

The world that we live in today can frighten even the bravest of human hearts. As much as we hate to admit it, we are finite human beings and will never arrive at a place where we can handle the dangers that threaten our earthly existence. Terrorism, persecution, violence and crime threaten Christians and unbelievers alike. None are exempt. Natural disasters and disease can come upon us in an instant and at a time when we least expect them. As disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ there is a cause to much of what threatens us from without. He is the supreme terrorist who has declared war on all who choose to serve God and give their allegiance to Him. The Bible declares that he walks about like a roaring lion seeking whom he can devour. The psalmist discovered that true refuge and safety is found not in a place but in a person. His Name is Jesus Christ. Emphatically he states, as can you and I, "My God, in Him I will trust."

 

Questions for Personal Reflection or Discussion

1.     What is the one threatening thing that makes you tremble a little inside when it is mentioned?

2.     Disciples of Jesus Christ have an enemy who walks about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. How has this affected you personally?"

3.     What is it that you have yet to fully trust Christ with so that you can enjoy true security?

 

 

 

Responsive Prayer

My God in heaven Whom I am privileged to call "Abba Father" blessed be Your Holy Name. I confess that this world that we live in can be frightening and I can find absolutely no security apart from you. I thank You that even though threats to my life are many and my enemy fierce, "greater is He Who lives in me than he who lives in this world. Thank you for being my God Whom I can trust.    Amen

 

 

 

 

 


"Freed In Christ",

Friday, February 27, 2015

A Great Place to Call Home


Sitting with the Shepherd

 "He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, "He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust."" (Psalm 91:1–2, NKJV)

Meditation

Who is this one that dwells in the secret place of the Most High? Is it not the one who is deeply appreciative of the opportunity to fellowship intimately with his Father through the consistent cleansing of the blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ? Is it not he who keeps short account of his sin and lives in such a way not to grieve the indwelling Holy Spirit? Oh to be a member of the "elect of the elect" as Charles Spurgeon says. Living in that daily presence brings such confidence and security. Every one of God's children can choose to enjoy this ongoing intimacy with the Shepherd, but few actually choose to do so. Will you choose this day to take your place among them?

Questions for Personal Reflection or Discussion

1.     Why do you think that the psalmist refers to this intimacy with God as the "secret place?"

2.     Have you ever attempted to abide in another person's shadow? What is required to do so?

3.     What is keeping you from being part of the "elect of the elect?"

Responsive Prayer

My dear Father in heaven to dwell in Your secret place would be a most blessed experience. And although I know that You offer this privilege to all born again believers few are the ones who come in. I confess that I have been negligent in this and as a result been dependent upon my own resources. Cleanse me, I pray by the precious blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ from any and all sin that would separate me from You. Make me aware as the psalmist has sad that "in Your presence is fullness of joy." Amen.

"Freed In Christ",

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Free at Last !!!

 

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. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. (Romans 6:17-18 NKJV)

Meditation

To understand the concept of living as a slave would be extremely hard for anyone living in the "Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave." But to the person in bondage to a life dominating sin, having no choices is more realistic. When we are beset with cravings that come seemingly out of nowhere at unlikely times obedience isn't always an option. That condition is in itself a form of slavery. And to tell someone who is in that condition to simply say no is ludicrous. When we receive Christ as Savior and as our very life, we realize that we have been in fact crucified with Christ and that bondage is broken. The person that we once were has died and Christ Himself in the Person of the Holy Spirit is now living inside of us. When we accept this "form of doctrine' by faith it becomes the truth that sets us free. The fact that we have escaped the bondage that once held us captive is cause for great joy and gratitude. And I have found to live in a state of thankfulness is truly a blessed way to live. When I remain cognizant of my deliverance to the slavery that once held me captive and submit to the righteousness that was once so elusive to me, I can allow Him to live His life in me. Only then will the daily struggle with sin has greatly subside. Now I am free to walk in the victory that He won for me at the cross.

"Every man is the servant of the master to whose commands he yields himself; whether it be the sinful dispositions of his heart, in actions which lead to death, or the new and spiritual obedience implanted by regeneration."   Matthew Henry

 

Questions for Personal Reflection or Discussion

1.     What sins have held the greatest power over you?

2.     What is the significance of the fact that we have been crucified with Christ?

3.     When was your victory won and how do you walk in it today?

 

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",

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Cultivating a Gentle Spirit

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

"And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth,"                                          (2 Timothy 2:24-25 NKJV)

Meditation

"And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all….. Of all the qualities that I would like to see the Holy Spirit manifest in my daily life, "gentleness" is nearest to the top. Unfortunately when I am challenged by an authority or coworker, I have a tendency to react in the flesh and "gentleness never enters the picture. As I came across this scripture this morning I was reminded that as a servant of the Lord I am to avoid quarrels and seek to be gentle to all. The next challenge is the admonition to be patient. Again this personality trait is in the words of an old poem, "a virtue that is seldom found in women and never found in men!" As I have been meditating on this verse and the ones in the beginning of the book of James I am reminded that patience often learned best through trials and testing. As a servant of the Lord I must learn to embrace hardship as the pathway to peace. As I face opposition in my daily life I must carefully ascertain what it is that others are opposed to. If it is God the scripture teaches that it is HE who must grant them repentance. If it is me maybe I need to give my right to be right. After all it is written, "If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men." (Romans 12:18 NKJV)

 

Questions for Personal Reflection or Discussion

1.     As a servant of the Lord, what character qualities is God cultivating in you?

2.     When do you find it most difficult to demonstrate the Christ like quality of humility?

3.     When you encounter opposition, what is the question that you need to ask yourself?

 

Responsive Prayer

My Father in heaven, my God blessed is Your Holy Name. Thank You for allowing me to be used by You as a servant in Your kingdom. I confess that in my flesh I frequently fall short especially in the area of gentleness. Help me I pray to cultivate the character qualities of gentleness, patience and discernment in the realm of opposition. By Your grace may I be swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to wrath, that You will be glorified in my life.


"Freed In Christ",

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

To Flee or not to Flee

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

"My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing." (James 1:2-4 NKJV)

Meditation

Two of the things that have been repeatedly taught and even drummed into my head since becoming a Christian over twenty years ago are, "Flee from temptation" and "Never pray for patience." While fleeing from temptation is certainly sound biblical counsel, fleeing seems sometimes to come far too easy for me. I am tempted to flee from hardship and trials as well. In this passage trials and testing are reflected in a positive light and are beneficial to the ones being trained by them. So rather than fleeing from trials and testing I am called to embrace them as part of the sanctification process that the Father is overseeing in my life.

The second admonition that I am referring to which is, "Never pray for patience," implies that God is somewhat vindictive and he will administer harsh circumstances to one who does so. I must take issue with that implication. I trust that the Holy Spirit's discipline in my life, while not pleasant but painful will produce the fruit of righteousness. Rather than fleeing from trials, which I am somewhat prone to do, I must accept and even embrace them as a necessary part of my Christian life. God is in effect, disciplining me by His grace. I am confident that God as the author and finisher of my faith who has begun a good work in me will indeed complete that work so that in my Christian character, I will lack nothing. That is the reason that I can, as James emphatically states, "count it all joy!"


"In temptations and trials the progress of a man is measured; in them opportunity for merit and virtue is made more manifest.

When a man is not troubled it is not hard for him to be fervent and devout, but if he bears up patiently in time of adversity, there is hope for great progress."

Thomas à Kempis. (1996). The Imitation of Christ (p. 22). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems.

 

Questions for Personal Reflection or Discussion

1.     How has God used trials and testing in your life to develop patience?

2.     What situation in your life is God using to develop your Christian character?

3.     How can we as Christians count as joy the circumstances that unbelievers avoid as undesirable?

 

Responsive Prayer

My Father in heaven, my God blessed is Your Holy Name. Thank You dear for giving me life, and giving it more abundantly. Thank You Father for allowing me to be tried by various circumstances in my life that I may grow by them especially in the realm of patience. I trust Your Holy Spirit to lead me along the path of life for Your Names sake. Thank You dear Father for beginning a good  work  in me and promising to finish it until the day of Christ Jesus.


"Freed In Christ",

Monday, February 23, 2015

Running into His Presence

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

"Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me!

For my soul trusts in You;

And in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge,

Until these calamities have passed by."  (Psalm 57:1 NKJV)

 

Meditation

Some of us have spent our whole lives on the run. Our destinations may have varied from time to time, but escape has been our method of operation for coping with difficulty. Whether we ran into isolation, into a bottle, a human relationship, a fleshly pursuit, or a geographic change, the bottom line is that we ran.

The psalmist realizes, as should we, that failure requires mercy from the only One who can truly give it. Knowing himself as he does, he repeats his request twice. Knowing God as he does, he trusts in his Father to pour it out. He recognizes the shadow of Gods wings as the only safe place to be.

This morning I awoke with many burdens on my heart, but in reading the scriptures I was reminded that they aren't mine to carry alone. Jesus said, "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28 NKJV)  So today the only place that I will be running is into my Savior's arms!


Questions for Personal Reflection or Discussion

1.     What are some of the places of refuge that we have sought rather than turning to the Living God? (could be places, substances or behaviors)

2.     How can trusting God in times of trouble be a building block of our faith?

3.     What are the burdens in our hearts that are too heavy for us to carry alone?

 

Responsive Prayer

Lord Jesus thank you for inviting me into your presence. I have run into many other forms of refuge in the past, but today the safety of Your loving arms is most welcome. Your word convicts me of the fact that not only have forsaken You, the fountain of living waters, But I have hewn out cisterns—broken cisterns that can hold no water. May I return this morning to You the Fountain and partake freely of the Living Water that only You can offer. Amen

 


"Freed In Christ",

Sunday, February 22, 2015

A Slightly Sloppy Attitude

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

But if I partake with thanks, why am I evil spoken of for the food over which I give thanks? Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:30-31 NKJV)

Meditation

Paul was speaking here about the matter of eating bread sacrificed to idols. The insinuation in verse 30 is that as long as I eat it with the proper intention and attitude, what difference does it make what others think? Paul corrects this perception by saying that it does matter, because in all things we are to glorify God. If we knowingly cause a brother or sister to stumble, it is in direct defiance of the greatest commandment to love the Lord our God with all of our heart and love others as we love ourselves. To do this is clearly not glorifying God.

My mistake in all of this is a failure to glorify God in my daily eating habits when I find myself getting sloppy. What I mean by that is I harbor a lackadaisical attitude about what ingest into my body. The problem with this is that when this happens I become lax in other areas of my life. Although I don't want to spend my life on edge or walking on eggshells, I must find a healthy medium. Today His Spirit is convicting me of the need to be more deliberate in what I do. The whatever in this verse includes my diet, my spending, my response to temptation, and how I use my time. I personally see myself honoring God a lot more when I am deliberate or disciplined in my daily activities. There was a time when gluttony was among the seven deadly sins and those who practiced it were admonished not to do so. But that time has passed and I can say that in my twenty plus years as a Christian I have never heard it addressed from the pulpit. Our culture has grown to be indulgent and somewhat "sloppy." Unfortunately the church has been beguiled into following suit. So as I said, as a result of the Holy Spirit' s conviction I intend to be more careful to glorify God today in all that I do.


"The beginning of all temptation lies in a wavering mind and little trust in God, for as a rudderless ship is driven hither and yon by waves, so a careless and irresolute man is tempted in many ways."  Thomas A. Kempis


Questions for Personal Reflection or Discussion

1.     In what areas of your life are you tempted to become lackadaisical?

2.     How does this tend to spill over into other areas of your life?

3.     What steps can you take today to further the measure in which you glorify God in your body?

 

Responsive Prayer

My Father in heaven, to You alone belongs all glory, honor, and praise. You have given me life and indeed given it more abundantly. I confess that there are times when I become sloppy in my daily habits and fail to glorify you as I should. Help me please in the power of Your indwelling Holy Spirit today to overcome this tendency and live today in a way that will give you the glory honor and praise that You deserve. Amen


"Freed In Christ",

Saturday, February 21, 2015

You Must Love the Lord Your God with ALL Your Heart

 

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

And the disciples were astonished at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, "Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." And they were greatly astonished, saying among themselves, "Who then can be saved?" But Jesus looked at them and said, "With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible."        (Mark 10:24-27 NKJV)

Meditation

Jesus' closest followers were according to this passage, astonished. The word astonished is written twice to add emphasis. And Jesus Himself addresses them as children perhaps because of their elementary level of spiritual perception. Why is this?

When we refer back to the context of the passage, we read about Jesus encounter with the one referred to elsewhere as "the rich young ruler." He was turned away from the kingdom by Jesus because his heart wasn't fully surrendered. I don't believe that in our culture this would ever happen, in fact taking it one step further, we would probably say it was preposterous. Why just think of how much money he could contribute to our ministry! And his influence? He would attract his rich young friends to join our cause and further our agenda. And such a righteous man? His testimony would be phenomenal. Yet Jesus turned him away. Why? Because without a surrendered heart, all of the effort in the world is totally inadequate. And in the end there is only One that can change the human heart. That One is God. It is only the indwelling Holy Spirit that can equip us to be used of God to further the kingdom. Even in our weakness and human frailty He can do that because "with God all things are possible."  

 

Questions for Personal Reflection or Discussion

1.     What was your initial reaction to Jesus request of the rich young ruler upon first reading this story?

2.     How does looking at our gifts and talents change when we adopt a biblical perspective?

3.     What is the one thing in your heart that keeps you from coming to a place of full surrender?

 

Responsive Prayer

My Father in heaven, my God, blessed be Your Holy Name. Search me and know my heart. Try me and find out if there is any offensive way in me. I confess that I am not always perfectly aware of my own affections and emotions. I understand Father from this passage that anything less than a fully surrendered will fall short. Create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me. Amen

 


"Freed In Christ",

Friday, February 20, 2015

Just Passin Through

 

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation. (1 Peter 2:11-12 NKJV)

Meditation

This world is not our home, we are merely passing through. Peter calls his fellow believers "beloved," because he is deeply concerned with their wellbeing. And rather than simply suggesting they heed his counsel, he begs them to do so. As a called people, highly favored by God we have made an enemy in the "ruler of this world." His desire is to steal, kill and destroy the abundant life that God has given us in Christ Jesus.      "The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly." (John 10:10 NKJV) And to do this he lures us into temptation not merely from outside but from within. "But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed." (James 1:14 NKJV) I have heard that temptation is not a sin but rather a call to battle. As believers in Jesus Christ, we must not be lured into a struggle that we cannot win, but we must instead walk in the victory that Christ won at the cross. Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. (Galatians 5:16.) One day the war will be over and we shall see our God face to face so until that time remember, we are just passing through.

"SO LONG as we live in this world we cannot escape suffering and temptation. Whence it is written in Job: "The life of man upon earth is a warfare." Everyone, therefore, must guard against temptation and must watch in prayer lest the devil, who never sleeps but goes about seeking whom he may devour, find occasion to deceive him."

Thomas à Kempis. (1996). The Imitation of Christ (p. 20). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems..

 

Questions for Personal Reflection or Discussion

1.     How has the ruler of this world sought to use the desires of your fallen flesh to lure you away from God?

2.     What is the significance of remembering that we are sojourners and pilgrims in this world?

3.     Why is it no longer to struggle against the desires of sin within us?

 

Responsive Prayer

My Father in heaven, my God, blessed be Your Holy Name. Thank you for reminding me today that I am among the beloved, a select group of individuals called out of this world into an eternal kingdom. Thank you for giving me abundant life in Christ Jesus Who defeated my enemy at the cross. Empower me to walk in that victory today that I may not fulfill the lust of the flesh. Amen

 


"Freed In Christ",

Thursday, February 19, 2015

God's Will for Your Life

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

"For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor," (1 Thessalonians 4:3-4 NKJV)

Meditation

The key word in this passage is sanctification which is repeated twice. God's entire purpose and intent for us is not to make us happy, famous or influential, but simply to impart the righteousness and holiness of Jesus into our lives. Since this is the will of God or His intended purpose for us and He has given us free will, we have the option to cooperate with Him or resist Him. Much of the turmoil and heartache in our lives is the result of our resistance to our Creator's will or intention in favor of our own agenda. The most important fact to take into consideration is that He is God and I am not! He is the Potter and I am the clay. For the clay to tell the Potter what to do is preposterous and futile at best. Whether the word vessel refers to my body or the body of the wife that He has given me, I am not sure. But either way I know that I am to conduct myself in a way that glorifies Him. To glorify Him is to give the correct opinion of who He is by allowing Him to manifest the life of Jesus Christ in me by the power of His indwelling Spirit. This is not something that I accomplish, but rather something that He accomplishes in me. Knowing that allows me to cease from strive and simply live for Him.   


"The designs of God, the good pleasure of God, the will of God, the action of God, and the gift of his grace are all one and the same thing in the spiritual life. It is God at work in the soul to make it like Himself. Perfection is nothing more or less than the faithful cooperation of the soul with this work of God. This work begins, grows, and is completed in our souls secretly and without our knowledge."

de Caussade, Jean-Pierre  (2012-02-01). Joy of Full Surrender (Paraclete Essentials) (Kindle Locations 257-259). Paraclete Press. Kindle Edition.

 

Questions for Personal Reflection or Discussion

1.     How have you personally sought to discern the will of God for your life?

2.     In what ways have you resisted the will of God in conforming you into the image of Jesus Christ?

3.     Why is striving to accomplish sanctification in your own strength a futile endeavor?

 

Responsive Prayer

My Father in heaven, my God, blessed be Your Holy Name. You Word assures me that all things work together for good for those who are called according to your purpose, which is to conform us into the image of Jesus Christ. Thank you that I cannot and do not have to accomplish any of this in my own strength. May YOUR will be done and Your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. Thank You for imparting into me the righteousness of Jesus Christ in the Person of the Holy Spirit.  Amen


"Freed In Christ",

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Social Drinking a Biblical Perspective

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

"Wine is a mocker, Strong drink is a brawler, And whoever is led astray by it is not wise." (Proverbs 20:1 NKJV)

Meditation

Wine is the basis of a pleasant social experience that includes gaiety and laughter. At least at first it does. By lowering one's inhibitions it enables them to relax and drop their guard temporarily. But for those prone to sin and given to fleshly lusts as fallible human beings are, this is not as harmless as it may seem. Many have taken these first steps to embark on a journey that they never intended to travel. Sin takes you farther than you want to go, sin keeps you longer than you want to stay, and sin costs you far more than you ever intended to pay. In the end we are mocked and ridiculed by our own choices and frivolous behavior. Strong drink by its very nature is more aggressive. One may start out intent on drowning their sorrows by consuming a substance will numb them by anesthetizing the emotional pain. But it doesn't eliminate it, it simply drives it farther underground. It allows our inner frustrations (which are manifestations of the fallen flesh) to simmer until they finally boil over causing us to become angry and confrontational. The Bible simply states in this verse that every person that has ever reaped these consequences of being "under the influence," is not wise. We start out using the substance and end up having the substance use (or control) us. You need not be an alcoholic to realize that!

"For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, And hewn themselves cisterns—broken cisterns that can hold no water." (Jeremiah 2:13 NKJV)

 

Questions for Personal Reflection or Discussion

1.     How has alcohol affected your life or the life of someone you love personally?

2.     What is the value of consuming alcohol that outweighs the consequences?

3.     At Americas Keswick Colony of Mercy the answer to addiction for 117+ years has been a life sustaining relationship with God the Father through Jesus Christ. How have you found that to be true in your personal life?

 

Responsive Prayer

My Father in heaven, You alone are my Fortress and Strong Tower, an ever present help in times of trouble. I confess that in the past I have hewn out other cisterns that would not hold water and turned my back on You. May that never be the case again. Thank You for redeeming my life and restoring the years that the locusts had eaten. Amen


"Freed In Christ",

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Forgiveness is not an Option

 

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

Trespasses can be defined as offences or violations of moral standards, and they can be committed against men or God. There is a popular sign that reads, "Trespassers will be shot. Survivors will be prosecuted." While not many would actually carry out a threat like that, people identify with the words because they reflect the attitude of their hearts. What Jesus is saying here is that since we have been forgiven so much by God already, it is wrong to condemn others who are fallible human beings like ourselves. In fact one who is unable to forgive probably doesn't truly understand how much they have been forgiven by God. The forgiveness spoken of here is relational rather than judicial. We received judicial forgiveness when we received Christ as our Savior and nothing we can do or say can rescind that. But when we hold a grudge against another human being the consequences are relational in that they impact our relationship with our Father. How can we say we love God and hate our brothers and sisters who are His children? To forgive is not to say the offense never happened, it is just saying we are giving up our right to get even. To accomplish that we must rely not on our own strength but on God's empowering grace. Jesus is reminding us here of our right to choose our actions, therefore determining the consequences we will incur.

"Forgiveness means not merely that I am saved from hell and made right for heaven (no man would accept forgiveness on such a level); forgiveness means that I am forgiven into a recreated relationship, into identification with God in Christ. The miracle of Redemption is that God turns me, the unholy one, into the standard of Himself, the Holy One, by putting into me a new disposition, the disposition of Jesus Christ."

Chambers, O. (1986). My utmost for his highest: Selections for the year. Grand Rapids, MI: Oswald Chambers Publications; Marshall Pickering.


Questions for Personal Reflection or Discussion

1.     What are the hardest offenses for you to forgive?

2.     When you consider the forgiveness that God provided for you at the cross, which sins are you the most grateful to have been forgiven for?

3.                 Is there anyone whom you have neglected to forgive and are you willing to do so now in gratitude to Your Father for His forgiveness.

 

Responsive Prayer

My Father in heaven to Whom I cry Abba, blessed be Your Holy Name. You have washed away the filth of my iniquities and forgiven all of my offences at a great cost to Yourself. Thank You for Your amazing grace and grant that grace to me in forgiving _______________. Thank you that I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me.  Amen

 


"Freed In Christ",

Monday, February 16, 2015

The High Cost of Discipleship


 

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

"If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple."  (Luke 14:26 NKJV) 

Meditation

Jesus' words here are very clear, almost too clear. While some are shocked when they read that He is calling us to hate our closest relatives, others are highly offended. But Jesus is not instituting a prohibition on us to stop loving those dearest to us, He is merely refusing to accept competing loyalties. In actuality Jesus has two kinds of followers as He did in the first century. There are those who believe in Him to the place of regeneration and there are those who choose to emulate Him and learn His way of life. The latter are "disciples." Jesus is emphasizing the fact that you cannot be His disciple if there is someone in your life that is more important to you than Him. These competing loyalties can come in the form of other people or as Jesus states "your own life." Often times it is this life, our soul life that is our biggest loyalty. We are called to deny self so that Jesus can assume His rightful place of Lordship in our life. Unless we fully surrender to Him we will not be able to be His disciple.

 

"Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ.… [Grace] is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: "Ye were bought at a price," and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us."   Dietrich Bonhoeffer

 

Questions for Personal Reflection or Discussion

1.     What are the competing loyalties to Christ's Lordship in your life ?

2.     What is the difference between a believer and a disciple?

3.     According to Bonhoeffer grace is not cheap. Explain this in your own words.

 

 

Responsive Prayer

My Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, You call men to take up their cross and follow you. I confess that my loyalty to ___________ has kept me from doing so. I see that the price that You paid for my life was great. Grant me the willingness to forsake all and follow You that my life will be a testimony of God's amazing grace.  Amen

 

"Freed In Christ",

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Who Am I That You Even Care?

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

"When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained,  (4)  What is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that You visit him?"  (Psalms 8:3-4 NKJV) 


Meditation

The one sin that seems to stand as the root of all others is pride. Pride is what caused Adam and Eve to think, or should I say imagine that they could actually be like God knowing independently from Him good and Evil? And most people alive today labor under that same illusion. But in these verses as the Psalmist considers the works of God in creation, he was humbled to his proper place in the universe. We can be so proud, and yet there are so many things in life that we have absolutely no control over. These things include the weather, our health, other people and the day of our departure from this life. And yet our heavenly Father loves us so much that not only does He consider us, but He invites us into an intimate personal relationship with Himself through His Son. Jesus Christ Himself demonstrated the quality of humility by becoming functionally subordinate to the Father and dying on the cross so that we could be with God eternally.

"Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross."  (Philippians 2:5-8 NKJV)


"Blessed are the simple in heart for they shall enjoy peace and abundance." Thomas A. Kempis


Questions for Personal Reflection or Discussion

1.     In which areas of your life have you chosen to set your own standards of right and wrong rather than adhering to God's?

2.     How does the example set by God the Son impact you personally?

3.     Are there ongoing situations in your life today that might be resolved by humbling yourself? Are you willing to try doing so in order to find out?

 

 

Responsive Prayer

My Father in heaven, my God, Great, Wonderful, Almighty and Sovereign over all creation, blessed be your Holy Name. Who am I that You even consider me? And yet Abba I confess that there are times that I consider myself to be far greater than I really am. Help me, I pray, to gratefully and humbly accept my place in this universe. Thank You for sending your Son Jesus Christ to die so that I might live. Amen

 


"Freed In Christ",

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Those Who Groan

 

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

"Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered." (Romans 8:26 NKJV)


Meditation

The one word that stood out above all others in this familiar verse this morning was the word "groan." Perhaps that is because I did a lot of it this past week. So I looked at the context and discovered that I am not the only one who groans. The Bible says that the whole creation groans, as do we ourselves. And the Person of the Holy Spirit in us makes intercession for us with groanings. Further research of the word in the Greek Lexicon revealed that the word groan means "to express oneself involuntarily in the face of undesirable circumstances," or to "sigh" or "complain loudly." Ever since the Fall of Man we have reason to groan in our humanity. Other people have been the main cause of my groaning this week. They disappoint, deceive, and disobey which cause unfavorable circumstances to themselves and those associated with them. But then again, we cannot escape the fact that we too have been a source of other's groans in the past including those of the Holy Spirit within us. How grateful we can be that God the Father remembers that we are dust and doesn't treat us as we deserve. We would do well to be mindful of that in our dealings with other imperfect flawed human individuals like ourselves.

"He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor punished us according to our iniquities... As a father pities his children, So the LORD pities those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust."  (Psalms 103:10-14 NKJV)


Questions for Personal Reflection or Discussion

1.     How have other's actions been a cause of your groanings lately?

2.     How have your actions been a source of other's groanings lately?

3.     What can we do to be more mindful of God the Father's great mercies on our behalf as we deal with other fallible human beings like ourselves?

 

 

Responsive Prayer

My Father in heaven, to Whom I cry out Abba, blessed be Your Holy Name. Thank You that You have not treated me as I deserved, but instead You have shown great mercy in atoning for my sins at great cost to Yourself. Thank You not only for forgiveness, but also for the total cleansing that I have received by being washed in the blood of Jesus Christ my Savior. May I be mindful of these great blessings as I deal with other fallible human beings like myself this week. Amen 

 

 


"Freed In Christ",

Friday, February 13, 2015

Completely Empowered for Every Good Work

 

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

"But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." (Acts 1:8 NKJV)


Meditation

In this verse Jesus was promising to empower His disciples for a ministry that would change the world, one life at a time. As His followers today, for us to attempt any of this work in our own strength would be sheer futility. Waiting upon the Lord is a daily exercise for those who are called into ministry. And in a sense every believer is included in that category. We were all commissioned by Jesus to let our lights so shine before men, that they may see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven. We are told elsewhere in scripture that "we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for goo works, which God created beforehand that we should walk in them." Our Judea and Samaria begin at home and continue everywhere life takes us in the course of a day. God needs missionaries in our workplaces, hospitals, stores and public places, so He sends us. The power that Jesus spoke of here is in the Person of the Holy Spirit who indwells every believer. Our prayer is that when people look at us they will see Him instead.   

"Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus." (Acts 4:13 NKJV)


Questions for Personal Reflection or Discussion

1.     How have you been allowed to see the inadequacy of your efforts in trying to accomplish something for God in your own strength?

2.     Where is calling you to let your light shine today?

3.     In what way does realizing that Jesus in the person of the Holy Spirit lives in you give you confidence to let your light shine in this darkened world?


Responsive Prayer

My Father in heaven, my God, thank You for creating me and molding me into you image, so that through me Your light will shine. Thank You for the person of the Holy Spirit living in me and empowering me to accomplish the good works that you have created for me to do before the foundation of the world. I know that as Jesus Himself could accomplish nothing apart from You, neither can I. Show me the ones whose hearts You have been preparing, so that I can share the Gospel that I am carrying in this earthen vessel. May You dear Father receive all of the glory, honor and praise.  Amen

 

 


"Freed In Christ",

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Fear Not, Neither be Afaid

 

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV)


Meditation

I can remember a time that my spirit was very fearful on a regular basis. That is not surprising, because human beings are fearful by nature. In the New King James Version of the bible the phrases, "do not fear," and "do not be afraid" are used collectively nearly one hundred times. Often the fear that we face is of a common origin, such as fear of the future, or of what might happen to us, financially, physically or relationally. But after 24 years of Christian living, I have discovered that most of the things that I was fearful of never actually materialized, so my worst fears were unfounded. What I have learned is that God the Father is faithful and He has delivered me repeatedly from danger. Oh I tried to put my faith in people or organizations, but usually they came up short. In contrast, my God has never failed. Not once! In our weakness He demonstrates His strength. He pours His love into us in such great measure that He enables us to love others, often those that the world has cast aside as unlovable. In the end he has restored to us a sound mind, a mind that can play a part in furthering His kingdom interests. Of all men and women we can consider ourselves most blessed.

And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:8 NKJV)


Questions for Personal Reflection or Discussion

1.     What situation or aspect of your life causes you to be afraid?

2.     When has fear caused you in the past to spend time worrying about something that never actually materialized?

3.     In response to the answers to the first two questions, what is it that you need to turn over to the care of Your Heavenly Father?


Responsive Prayer

My Father in heaven, my God, I realize in retrospect that I have wasted much of my life worrying about things that never materialized or were resolved by You before they could harm me. In Your word You have promised never to leave or forsake me so even though men and worldly organizations have let me down, I chose to honor You now by believing You. When the enemy comes in hard like a flood with fear and racing thoughts I will seek refuge in You and You alone. Amen

 

 


"Freed In Christ",

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

What's Love Got to Do with It?

 

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

"As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love. (John 15:9-10 NKJV)


Meditation

My first thought upon reading these verses is that I want to cuddle up and warm myself in God's love. It's kinda like a big old worn out sweater that I got from my dad before he passed away nearly twenty years ago. But then I remember that the Fathers love for His Son included the cross, it wasn't all peaches and cream or warm fuzzy feelings. God the Father has a purpose for everything and that purpose isn't to make me happy and carefree. His purpose is to reconcile mankind to Himself in His image, as we were created in before the fall. And for everything worth having there is a cost. For Christ the Father's love included the cross. And while I have yet to experience anything as horrendous as that, I am called to die a thousand little deaths (to self) every day. But in the midst of them all, I must remember that God the Father still loves me, and I cannot waiver from the path that He has ordained for me. Ultimately, as the next verse points out, this will result in great joy, His and mine.

"These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full."  (John 15:11 NKJV)

 

Questions for Personal Reflection or Discussion

1.     What comes to mind initially when you think of God's love for you?

2.     How has His love taken you down roads of trial and suffering that you didn't expect to travel?

3.     In what ways have you experienced increased joy as a result of persevering faithfully through these difficulties?


Responsive Prayer

My Father in heaven, my God, in Your Presence is fullness of joy. In the midst of many sorrows, my heart cries out to You. I don't know if it is comfort that my soul longs for, or if it is the security of knowing down in my heart that it is all ok  because I am deeply loved. Thank You that when I come to You, I receive the affirmation that I need. Thank You for the words of scripture and Your Holy Spirit Who quickens then to come alive in my heart. May I continue to abide firmly in Your love no matter what the day ahead holds. Amen

 

 


"Freed In Christ",

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Out of the Darkness and Into the Light

 

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

But when He, the Spirit of Truth (the Truth-giving Spirit) comes, He will guide you into all the Truth (the whole, full Truth). For He will not speak His own message [on His own authority]; but He will tell whatever He hears [from the Father; He will give the message that has been given to Him], and He will announce and declare to you the things that are to come [that will happen in the future ].  (John 16:13 AMP)


Meditation

      The Spirit of Truth is the person of Christ speaking truth into our heart. He has come to indwell all born again believers, but He speaks more clearly to those who are attentive to His voice. We need someone to guide us because we have been born into a world that is deceived, and has been deceived since the fall. Also like blind men moving forward, we need direction. The unbelieving world puts its trust in fortune tellers and psychics, while we honor the Father by listening to His Son in the person of the Holy Spirit.


From "The Christian's Secret of a Holy Life

            I have been thinking a lot about the subject of guidance, and I am convinced more and more that it requires great simplicity of spirit to be able easily and clearly to discern the Voice that speaks so gently in our hearts. We must be in the hands of God, as Madame Guyon says, something "like a toy in the hands of a child" used or laid aside just as He pleases, brought out to be admired, or hidden away on the shelf, made to serve pleasant uses, or applied to disagreeable ends and, like a toy, careless of our own hopes of judgments, must desire nothing but to fulfil all the good pleasures of His will!

No doubt, if the toy were able to reason, it would often feel that it was used for very useless purposes, and would feel that it could arrange far better for itself but the end of a toy is to give pleasure to its possessor and it is of no consequence how this end is attained. So our end, dear Abby, is to please our Lord and Master, and to bring glory to His Name, and we have no need to trouble ourselves as to how He brings this about. The realization of this will save us a lot of anxious questioning. Moment by moment we will hang upon His leading, never stopping to reason as to why we should do this or that, never troubled if it seems to produce results, not even anxious if it seems to have been a mistake concerned still only for one thing, and that is to please our Lord now, in the present moment. And having pleased Him, we have nothing more to do with that act.

Smith, H. W., & Dieter, M. E. (1997). The Christian's secret of a holy life: the unpublished personal writings of Hannah Whitall Smith. Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

 

Questions for Personal Reflection or Discussion

1.     Have you ever tried to find something in a dark room and gotten totally frustrated before turning on the light, only to discover that it was right in front of you the whole time ?

2.     When you are confronted with a decision on how to move forward with your life, what is the first resource that you turn to for help?

3.     How has the Holy Spirit directed your steps in the past?

 

Responsive Prayer

My Father in heaven, I thank You that You have promised to send Your Spirit to guide my steps. In a world that is growing increasingly dark I am blessed to have you as a source of wisdom and light. May I be attentive to Your voice and eager to comply with Your will. I pray in the Name of Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen

 

 

 

 

 

 


"Freed In Christ",

Monday, February 9, 2015

The Very Best Defense

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

My defense is of God, Who saves the upright in heart. God is a just judge, And God is angry with the wicked every day. (Psalms 7:10-11 NKJV)

Meditation

    We live in a culture that seems to be going from bad to worse. The things that society once considered perverted and shameful are now "tolerated" and publicized. Purity and godliness are mocked and looked upon as foolishness. As God's children, holy and accepted in the Beloved, we can tend to feel alone and overwhelmed. The psalmist felt that way a long time ago when he lamented saying, "Behold, these are the ungodly, Who are always at ease; They increase in riches. Surely I have cleansed my heart in vain, And washed my hands in innocence." (Psalms 73:12-13 NKJV) But like the psalmist here, we can boldly proclaim, my defense is of God! Elsewhere in scripture it says, "If God is for us who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31)The truth is that one day good will prevail over evil no matter what the current circumstances appear to indicate. So those who have chosen to conduct their lives in a godly manner and maintain an upright heart need not be afraid. In fact the ones who need to be afraid are the wicked that have said in their heart that there is no God. Our God is very really and anger at the wicked every day!  

Questions for Personal Reflection or Discussion

1.     In what area of our culture do you think is the biggest degradation of good moral values?

2.     Has it ever seemed to you like the battle will be won by the strong rather than the upright or heart? Why is that?

3.     How can being reminded of Gods intended outcome of human history and your life as an individual strengthen your heart today?

 

Responsive Prayer

My Father in heaven, blessed be Your Holy Name. Thank You that by Your grace alone we will be saved by the destruction of this wicked world of which Satan is the ruler. Thank you that Your anger is never directed toward Your children but toward those who persecute the upright in heart. May Your Kingdom come and Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  AMEN   

 


"Freed In Christ",

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Day of the Living Dead

 

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

"And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins,… But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)," (Ephesians 2:1, 4-5 NKJV)


Meditation

    There is a popular movie called the "Night of the Living Dead." It is a horror movie about dead people who come out of the grave possessed by demon spirits to torment the inhabitants. As born again believers we could say that we are similar but diametrically opposed. Perhaps our movie could be called "Day of the Living Dead!" According to Paul's words in Ephesians, we were once dead in trespasses and sins. But everything changed on those two words, "But God." Now we are alive and possessed by His Holy Spirit. While many Christians pray to experience a miracle, we realize we already have experienced one when we were resurrected into newness of life. "Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." (Romans 6:4 NKJV) Far from being a horror story, ours is a love story that we, when we grasp the full impact of it, will be compelled to tell the whole world!

"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)


Questions for Personal Reflection or Discussion

1.     What was your existence like before you were in Christ and raised from the dead?

2.     How has God empowered you by His Holy Spirit in newness of life ?

3.     Who do you know personally that would benefit from knowing about your personal miracle?

 

Responsive Prayer

My Father in heaven, blessed be Your Holy Name. I was once dead in my trespasses, a sinner in need of new life. Your literally resurrected me to newness of life in Christ and changed my identity to that of a saint! Blessed be Your Holy Name. You have placed Your treasure, the Gospel, in this earthen vessel and You have given me opportunity to share my miracle with others. How could I do anything less? Bless me with the opportunity to share my light with someone lost in darkness today for Your glory. AMEN   

 

 

 

 

 

 


"Freed In Christ",