Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Who Do You Work For?

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

 "Arise, O Lord, Confront him, cast him down; Deliver my life from the wicked with Your sword, With Your hand from men, O Lord, From men of the world who have their portion in this life, And whose belly You fill with Your hidden treasure. They are satisfied with children, And leave the rest of their possession for their babes." (Psalm 17:13–14, NKJV)

Meditation

Ultimately our life will be judged by God. For believers it will not affect our salvation, but our eternal rewards. What appears to be of enormous value in this lifetime will be counted as mere refuse in the next. Men are deceived into believing otherwise and so they pursue hollow goals with no eternal value. Perhaps they work at leaving a great legacy by making a name for themselves. The reality is that all of these things are passing away and only that which is accomplished for the Lord will last. Blessed is the man who is nourished as a tree by streams of living water, who gives all in the service of the Lord because his rewards will be great in the heavens.

The salvation that we have received in Christ is not by our works and is eternal, unchangeable in nature. But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, (Titus 3:4-5 NKJV) Hence, those believers whose Christian works are not approved by the judging Lord and who suffer the loss of reward will still be saved. God's salvation as a free gift to all believers is for eternity, whereas the Lord's reward to those (not all) believers whose Christian works are approved by Him is for the kingdom age. The reward is an incentive for their Christian work.

Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. (2 Corinthians 5:9-10 NKJV)

 

Questions for Personal Reflection or Discussion

1.     The bible says that there will be a judgment of men in heaven. How will this affect unbelievers and believers in different ways?

2.     What are some of the goals that men pursue in this lifetime to make a great name for themselves?

3.     What does it mean to you that only that which is done for the Lord will last? (see 1 Corinthians 3:10-15)

 

 Responsive Prayer

My Father in heaven, You are the Eternal God and Supreme Judge of this universe and all that is in it. One day every man will stand before You and give an account for what we have done in this life. So many things that the world including myself holds dear will be burned up as useless. May I learn to see the work of my life as through Your eyes that it may be of eternal value for Your glory, honor and praise.

 


"Freed In Christ",

Monday, March 30, 2015

Peacemaker or Peacekeeper?

 

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.  (James 3:17-18 NLT)

Meditation

As part of my preparation for a men's bible study this week I have been reading a lot about what it means to be a peacemaker. There is a difference between being a peace maker and being a peace keeper. While peace keeper passively avoids conflict at any cost, a peace maker one must often expose and acknowledge strife and conflict. That is not easy. We are assured by James that those who sow in peace will reap a harvest of righteousness.

But in order to sow seeds of peace we must approach life armed with the wisdom that comes from God. Christ Himself was and still is the ultimate peace keeper and He desires to do His work through us in situation. Too often when we encounter hostility and disruption we allow our emotions to escalate in order to try and cope with it. Rather than alleviate the situation we inadvertently escalate it instead. Christ should not have handled it that way nor should we. Instead we must allow the Holy Spirit in us to produce the fruits of u, kindness, and the willingness to yield mercifully to the feelings of others. We must also be merciful and willing to do good even when it costs us. In essence we do not tolerate evil but allow Christ to permeate the situation until the anger and selfishness of others is diffused. When we are able to accomplish this in His strength the reward will be a harvest of righteousness, and the privilege of being called the "sons of God" by our Father.

"Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God." (Matthew 5:9 NKJV)

 

Questions for Personal Reflection or Discussion

1.     What is the difference between a peacemaker and a peace keeper?

2.     Why is it imperative that a peace maker be of good moral character?

3.     How does being a peace maker require courage?

 

Responsive Prayer

My Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, You are the Prince of Peace and the ultimate peace maker. Those who are referred to as sons of God must follow in Your footsteps. I confess that there are times that I would rather avoid conflict than pursue peace at all costs. Grant me the courage to be the person that You have called me to be.  Amen

 


"Freed In Christ",

Friday, March 27, 2015

Time Out

 

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, (2 Peter 1:2-3 NKJV)

Meditation

We live in the age of information and there is so much of it that we have to reduce the amount that we take in at any given time. Conversations that normally take place in human relationships have been reduced to "tweets" "texts" and "instant messages." Rather than making time to see others in person we track them on Facebook or YouTube. In short we are no longer living in relationship as God intended but we are "connected" electronically. As a result of this or attention spans have dwindled down to almost nothing. Focusing our attention on any one thing for more than a minute or two has become increasingly difficult. Unfortunately these character traits have a negative impact on our relationship with God.

The Apostle Peter in writing to fellow believers informs them that grace and peace are multiplied, (not added) in knowing God the Father through Jesus Christ His Son. In this intimate knowledge we possess all things that pertain to life and godliness. This is a sizable blessing. The problem is that we need to slow down and focus long enough to receive that knowledge in the context of an intimate relationship. And that takes time.

This morning I am being convicted that my quiet times with the Lord lately have lacked intensity. I have allowed myself to resort to a diet of spiritual junk food, not allowing the Holy Spirit to impact my heart with His Word. The cause is simple. I have allowed myself to lose focus. I have it referred to as the tyranny of the urgent when seeming import tasks replace the really necessary ones. When that happens and we find ourselves missing Him, rather than substituting a substance or behavior, we need to return to Him and quiet our hearts in His presence. Then He will have opportunity to pour His Living Water into me so that it can overflow into the lives of others that I encounter during the course of the day.   

"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. And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.' "But the father said to his servants, 'Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' And they began to be merry.  (Luke 15:20-24 NKJV)

 

Questions for Personal Reflection or Discussion

1.     What is your perception of the character of God? Is He angry, judgmental or welcoming?

2.     How has your inability to keep from sinning separated you from your Father who longs to see you come home?

3.     Jesus told His followers that in seeing Him they had seen the Father. How can knowing His character change your perception of God the Farther?

 

Responsive Prayer

My Father in heaven, Almighty God, blessed be Your Holy Name. I know that You have been waiting for me to return home to You for a long time and it was not You but My faulty perception of You, that kept this from happening. Thank You for offering the robe of Christ's Righteousness to cover my sinful flesh. May I remember this and never allow myself to become estranged from You again. Amen

 


"Freed In Christ",

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Running To God Rather than From Him

 

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

He shall judge the world in righteousness, And He shall administer judgment for the peoples in uprightness. The LORD also will be a refuge for the oppressed, A refuge in times of trouble. (Psalms 9:8-9 NKJV)

Meditation

A lot of people, especially those caught up in life dominating sin, are afraid to approach God because in knowing all the wrong that they have done, they fear condemnation or the same rejection that they have encountered from people in their past. They are fearful that God is simply looking to judge them harshly and punish them. The psalmist in writing this passage knows better. He speaks of Gods judgment of the world as being administered in righteousness and uprightness. You see, God knows our frame and He remembers that we are dust. So when we come to Him with a truly repentant heart He clothes us with the righteousness of His Son, Jesus Christ and then judges us on that righteousness rather than any we may hay imagined we had for ourselves. Instead of being a source of condemnation, He becomes a refuge for the oppressed. Even when everyone else forsakes us He will take us in. All other doors in this world may close but His remains open. Think about this; when Adam and Eve sinned, they were the ones that hid from Him. He actually went looking for them, and with his question invited them back into the relationship that they had just violated. Because of His righteousness, He couldn't ignore their sin, but He made provision for it that we don't have to stay estranged from Him eternally. In their shame and nakedness, He clothed them. Perhaps today you find yourself oppressed and hiding from trouble. You don't have to run from God but can instead run to Him. Allow Him to cover you with the robe of Christ's Righteousness so that you can be safe and live with Him.

"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. And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.' "But the father said to his servants, 'Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' And they began to be merry.  (Luke 15:20-24 NKJV)

 

Questions for Personal Reflection or Discussion

1.     What is your perception of the character of God? Is He angry, judgmental or welcoming?

2.     How has your inability to keep from sinning separated you from your Father who longs to see you come home?

3.     Jesus told His followers that in seeing Him they had seen the Father. How can knowing the character change your perception of God the Farther?

 

Responsive Prayer

My Father in heaven, Almighty God, blessed be Your Holy Name. I know that You have been waiting for me to return home to You for a long time and it was not You but My faulty perception of You, that kept this from happening. Thank You for offering the robe of Christ's Righteousness to cover my sinful flesh. May I remember this and never allow myself to become estranged from You again. Amen

 


"Freed In Christ",

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

A Masterpiece or a Piece of Work?

 

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10 NKJV)

For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago. (Ephesians 2:10 NLT)

Meditation

As I grow older and deal on a daily basis with the physical infirmities that come with doing so, I feel less and less like God's masterpiece or workmanship. In fact, the truth be known, I feel more like "a piece of work!" But although or bodies are wasting away our spirits are being renewed day by day. (2 Corinthians 4:16)

The word translated workmanship literally means masterpiece. We are literally God's masterpiece created in Christ Jesus for good works that God created beforehand. We are His poem, or His work of art. And as the Master Artist, He has promised to finish the good work that He began in us.

While many members of the body of Christ are intent upon or even caught up in the work that they are engaged in for God, we can miss the fact that His main interest is in the work that He is doing in us. I have heard it said that "God doesn't call the equipped but rather He equips the called." When He gave us the gift of salvation, He did so for a reason that goes beyond our personal happiness. He is equipping us to participate in the work of the Kingdom. And just as He is preparing us for a good work, HE is preparing a good work for us to do. There is no one whose life has been recreated in Christ Jesus that needs to be idle. We are truly blessed to be able to live out our days on this earth with meaning and purpose.

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. (Philippians 1:6 NLT)

Questions for Personal Reflection or Discussion

1. In what ways is the Holy Spirit working in you to transform you into the person that God can use in ministry?

2. How does it feel to know that you are God's masterpiece?

3. What good work is God calling you to participate in for the Kingdom?

Responsive Prayer

My Father in heaven my God, blessed be Your Holy Name. Although I was once dead in my trespasses and sins You gave me new life in Christ Jesus. Thank You that although my old man is wasting away, my inner man is being renewed day by day. Thank You for a new day with new mercies and new opportunities to serve You in various way, Grant me please the grace to do so. Amen

 


"Freed In Christ",

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

All of Him, Not of Me

 

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9 NKJV)

Meditation

One of the most persistent enemies of my spiritual life, one that I battle on a daily basis, rain or shine, and one that consistently tries to exalt itself above God is none other than me, myself and I. Yes our fallen flesh is very intent on ascending to the throne of our lives and usurping the throne that belongs to God alone.

Perhaps this is why the greatest spiritual battles are fought on the heels of the most prominent victories in my spiritual life. I cannot say that I enjoy times of duress and hardship any more than you, but these are the times that I draw closer to God and trust in Him alone for my spiritual well-being. It is often during these times of testing that God allows me glimpses of my own inadequacy and the total depravity of my fallen flesh. The Apostle Paul put it this way; "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," (2 Corinthians 1:8-9 NKJV) Although no one enjoys being in this position we need to e reminded by the Holy Spirit of who we are apart from Christ so that our total reliance will be on God and not self. We tend to forget that we were one dead in our sins and trespasses and unable to rectify our hopeless estate in life. But God stepped in and rescued us from sin and despair. I once asked of my wife, who was faithful to me during years of the insanity of my bondage to alcohol, "It wasn't that bad was it?" She merely rolled her eyes as if to say, "You've got to be kidding me!" It was that bad and if I fall back into self-reliance it could get that bad again and much worse, quickly.

The reality is that my fallen flesh, over all of the years that I have been a Christian has never gotten any better than it ever was in my past. There is no such thing as self-help. I am as powerless in the flesh now as I have ever been, and in times of great spiritual achievement and my greatest victories I need to be reminded of that. If I should ever fall back into relying on myself the results would surely be catastrophic. So in order to maintain my spiritual heath I remain cognizant of the fact that it was by grace alone and the faith that He gave me that I am standing today. I cannot boast or take any credit. That is the Gospel.

"But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me." (1 Corinthians 15:10 NKJV)

 Questions for Personal Reflection or Discussion

1. What has the Holy Spirit shown you about your flesh in times of trial?

2. How have you personally minimized the effects of sin in your past?

3. How has God demonstrated to you personally your need to depend on Him?

Responsive Prayer

My Father in heaven my God, It is only by Your grace that I stand today, a new creation in Christ, alive from the dead. Thank You for giving me the measure of faith that I needed to come to Christ and receive this grace. May I rejoice in the gift of my salvation today.  Amen

 


"Freed In Christ",

Monday, March 23, 2015

No Coincidences!

 

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

The Jews then complained about Him, because He said, "I am the bread which came down from heaven." And they said, "Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How is it then that He says, 'I have come down from heaven'?" Jesus therefore answered and said to them, "Do not murmur among yourselves. No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. (John 6:41-44 NKJV)

Meditation

There was a time in my life before I knew Christ when I thought that a lot that happened in my life was merely coincidence. My purpose in life was to figure out how to link all of those coincidences together facing them the best that I could and somehow making sense of them all. Since coming to know God and understanding more about His universe, I have learned that my life is mapped out by Him, and that there is no coincidence. That being the case, I can walk through life with Him and understand His purposes.

The God of the universe created us in His image and as our Father desires to have us live in relationship with Him. He has been watching over us since we were formed in our mother's womb and will continue to be with us into eternity. When the Jews were His chosen people and He saw them wandering in the wilderness, He sent a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night to guide their path on a daily basis. He was cognizant of the fact that they would get hungry, and so He provided sustenance in the form of manna every day. Not only were they nourished physically but they learned of His faithfulness in not missing one day the whole time that they were in the wilderness.

In today's passage the religious leaders were questioning Jesus about just who He was and where He came from. Because of their doubts concerning His true identity, they were caught murmuring among themselves. Jesus identified Himself as the "Bread of Life" that came down from heaven from the Father to make provision for our lives. Just as we have guidance through His indwelling Holy Spirit on a daily basis, so we have the person of Jesus Christ as our provision from God to satisfy our hunger. All of this originates from a Sovereign God who as a loving Father loves His children and is faithful to provide for them. But like the Jews of old, some of us are prone to question, wander and at times even murmur. So God Himself must draw us to Jesus. And when our earthly journey is over, Jesus promises to take us home to live with Him. Truly there is no coincidence in that!  

  "Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. 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. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also." (John 14:1-3 NKJV)

 Questions for Personal Reflection or Discussion

1. What is the significance of knowing that there are no coincidences, but rather all happens for a reason?

2. How is Jesus Christ likened to the manna that God supplied faithfully to His children in the wilderness?

3.  In what way can you more fully partake of the Bread of Life today?

Responsive Prayer

My Father in heaven my God, You have created me and day by day You make provision for my life in the Person of Jesus Christ. Thank You that I never have to worry about anything that happens in this life to ma as being a coincidence, but know that it is part of Your plan. Thank You that when this earthly life is over I am coming Home with Jesus to be with You. Amen

 


"Freed In Christ",

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Coming Home to God

 

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

He shall judge the world in righteousness, And He shall administer judgment for the peoples in uprightness. The LORD also will be a refuge for the oppressed, A refuge in times of trouble. (Psalms 9:8-9 NKJV)

Meditation

A lot of people, especially those caught up in life dominating sin, are afraid to approach God because in knowing all the wrong that they have done, they fear condemnation or the same rejection that they have encountered from people in their past. They are fearful that God is simply looking to judge them harshly and punish them. The psalmist in writing this passage knows better. He speaks of Gods judgment of the world as being administered in righteousness and uprightness. You see, God knows our frame and He remembers that we are dust. So when we come to Him with a truly repentant heart He clothes us with the righteousness of His Son, Jesus Christ and then judges us on that righteousness rather than any we may hay imagined we had for ourselves. Instead of being a source of condemnation, He becomes a refuge for the oppressed. Even when everyone else forsakes us He will take us in. All other doors in this world may close but His remains open. Think about this; when Adam and Eve sinned, they were the ones that hid from Him. He actually went looking for them, and with his question invited them back into the relationship that they had just violated. Because of His righteousness, He couldn't ignore their sin, but He made provision for it that we don't have to stay estranged from Him eternally. In their shame and nakedness, He clothed them. Perhaps today you find yourself oppressed and hiding from trouble. You don't have to run from God but can instead run to Him. Allow Him to cover you with the robe of Christ's Righteousness so that you can be safe and live with Him.

"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. And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.' "But the father said to his servants, 'Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' And they began to be merry.  (Luke 15:20-24 NKJV)

 

Questions for Personal Reflection or Discussion

1.     What is your perception of the character of God? Is He angry, judgmental or welcoming?

2.     How has your inability to keep from sinning separated you from your Father who longs to see you come home?

3.     Jesus told His followers that in seeing Him they had seen the Father. How can knowing the character change your perception of God the Farther?

 

Responsive Prayer

My Father in heaven, Almighty God, blessed be Your Holy Name. I know that You have been waiting for me to return home to You for a long time and it was not You but My faulty perception of You, that kept this from happening. Thank You for offering the robe of Christ's Righteousness to cover my sinful flesh. May I remember this and never allow myself to become estranged from You again. Amen

 


"Freed In Christ",

Saturday, March 21, 2015

A Voice That Transcends Miles

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

  "I cried to the LORD with my voice, And He heard me from His holy hill. Selah  (5)  I lay down and slept; I awoke, for the LORD sustained me." (Psalms 3:4-5 NKJV)

When I read verse three this morning, I was reminded of how attentive a mother is to the voice of her child, especially when that voice is in the form of a cry. The baby can be in another part of the house but intuitively the mother senses something is wrong and stirs in response, suddenly aware that her child needs her attention. As believers our prayers to Father God take on different forms. We may feel the need to have another believer or group of believers lift their voices in order to assure us that we will receive a speedy response. According to the psalmist, that is not the case at all. In spite of the fact that the dwelling place of God or the heavens are infinitely higher than the earth, our childlike cry does not fall on deaf ears. Instead it is heard by our attentive Father who responds in love intuitively to the cry of us His children. As the psalmist paused to consider what he had just written as indicated by the word, "Selah" he gained the confidence to lay down and sleep, secure in his knowledge that his fathers would stand watch over his affairs. His confidence was affirmed when he awoke to the realization that the LORD sustained him. Upon rising his first thought was of his father to whom he owed his safety.

The bible informs us that this was the case of Jesus Christ Who took on flesh and walked among us. After working into the night healing the sick and casting out demons it is written that He sought fellowship with His heavenly Father upon waking.

"Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed." (Mark 1:35 NKJV)

Questions for Personal Reflection or Discussion

1.     What is your first resort when you feel the urgent need for prayer?

2.     How do you respond when a child cries out to you for help?

3.     When God responds directly to your prayers, what is your usual reaction?

 

Responsive Prayer

 

Father God I am truly blessed to know that my cry transcends miles to reach Your listening ear. Thank you that as the sovereign God of this universe You are never to busy of far away to hear my cry. Thank you that I can close my eyes and sleep tonight fully confident that when I awake You will still be with me.


"Freed In Christ",

Friday, March 20, 2015

The Long Way Home

 

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

"Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow ie s the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.              (Matthew 7:13-14 NKJV)

Meditation

In twenty years of serving in the addiction recovery ministry, I have seen many people inquire about help in overcoming life dominating sin. Jesus Christ Himself is the ultimate prodigal Son. He never sinned but He did leave His Father's home, travel to a far distant land, become destitute by choice and then made His way back to the Father. Like Jesus we cannot find a suitable dwelling place apart from the Father. I have often pondered over that fact that so many hear the Gospel and yet having ears they do not really hear. But I think I know the reason that that happens. Here is an illustration. My wife often becomes frustrated with me because no matter how lost I get stopping and asking for directions isn't an option that I choose. As a result I spend a lot of valuable time and effort driving around on the wrong roads until I stumble haphazardly onto one I recognize.

Jesus Christ knows the way home to the Father because He has made the journey. He offers to show all who come to Him in honesty sincerely desiring to know the way. In fact He Himself said "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." (John 14:6 NKJV) The majority of the human race has been deceived into believing that all roads lead to the same place. The bible identifies those people as the many who are travelling the wide road to destruction. There was one time in my life that I actually asked for directions. I asked Jesus to show me the way to live and He showed me. So if you desire to join me on the road with Jesus Christ today we can be two of the few who travel the narrow road leading to life.

 Questions for Personal Reflection or Discussion

1. Where did God the Father first call you from to return "home to Him?"

2. Who was the person or persons that you found me most helpful in showing you the way home?

3.  Is there something that is keeping from completing the journey? What would it take to remove that obstacle?

Responsive Prayer

My Father in heaven my God, blessed be Your Holy Name. You have shown me the pathway to life and allowed me to share it with others who truly desire to know You. Once I wandered in a desolate way but in Christ today I not only have life but have it more abundantly. Continue to lead me along the path of righteousness for Your Names sake. Amen

 



"Freed In Christ",

Thursday, March 19, 2015

True Riches

 

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

"The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness.

If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness! "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. (Matthew 6:19-24 NKJV)

Meditation

It has been said that the human heart, which is the seat of our affections, is fickle and I have found out in my own life just how true this is. The heart seems to attach itself to many different idols, one f the most common being money. To the poor as well as to the rich, money is prone to becoming an idol. In the United States we live in a very materialistic culture that places extreme emphasis on money as the answer to all of life's problems. The enemy of our souls has deceived us into thinking that if we just win the lottery or achieve personal success all of our problems will disappear. History proves that theory wrong as lottery winners frequently commit suicide and die penniless. Those with the greatest wealth often find their lives empty and void of meaning and purpose. How can a person be happy when they have to constantly think of ways to protect their perishable treasure? It is not merely the thief that they have to be wary of. There is also clever advertising that seeks to convince them to buy products that they imagine that they can't be happy without. And yet shortly after obtaining the coveted possessions they lose their glitter and appeal.

Jesus offers something that is far more valuable. It cannot decrease in value or be stolen. It will not wear out, break down, or lose its appeal. It is the illusive treasure that the human heart truly longs for and will be satisfied with. It is an intimate relationship with God the Father. To be loved and accepted and to live a life of meaningful purpose and fulfillment is a treasure worth possessing. Money cannot purchase it but it is freely given to those who choose to receive it. The catch is according to today's passage is that we cannot have both. Riches and material wealth can be a lure offered to us to distract us from pursuing God with an undivided heart. Satan the ruler of this world offered Jesus Christ all of the kingdoms of the world if Jesus would just fall down and do an act of worship to him. He attempts to entice you and I with the same bait. Beware of false treasures when the real treasure is within your grasp. A relationship with God the Father through His Son Jesus Christ is the only treasure worth having.

Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life. (Proverbs 4:23 NLT)

 Questions for Personal Reflection or Discussion

1. How has experience show the futility of attempting to find satisfaction in things other than God?

2. What are the things that your heart tends to attach itself to today?

3.  Do you believe that religion or the bible itself can become an idol that usurps the affection of your heart toward God? Explain

Responsive Prayer

My Father in heaven my God, in Your presence is fullness of joy. I confess that I have searched for purpose in life and true satisfaction elsewhere to no avail. Empower me today by Your grace to guard my heart from competing affections that I may instead love You with all of my heart, as I receive Your love for me. Amen

 


"Freed In Christ",

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Testing the Boundaries

 

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. (Galatians 6:7-8 NKJV)

Meditation

The world around us is, has been, and always will be given to satisfying the flesh. The bible warns that the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life are all pitfalls of a world that is passing away. The law of planting and harvesting applies to everyone. The Apostle Paul warns us not to be deceived because our natural human tendency is imagine that we are exempt from the consequences of sinful behavior. We tend to "push the envelope" so to speak or "see how close we can get to the edge of the cliff without actually falling off." The problem is that when we do this we are testing God's patience with us. How many times have we gotten away with something over and over until all of a sudden the hammer dropped and we were facing dire consequences that could not be undone? Some consequences such as the ones King David faced after his sin with Bathsheba, can last a lifetime. When we presume on the mercy of God pushing him to the limit we are in essence mocking God and the outcome cannot be favorable.

This passage reminds us that if we continue to gratify the fallen flesh we will reap corruption. This corruption infected the human race in the Garden of Eden when Adam chose to sin against God by joining his wife in her sin. God's forgiveness is assured to all who have received Christ and heaven is the secure culmination of our life here on earth. But we still need to sow to the Spirit that our earthly existence will bring Him glory and we will enjoy His favor.

I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.(Galatians 5:16-17 NKJV)

 Questions for Personal Reflection or Discussion

1. What have been the consequences of your past sinful behavior?

2. How has God's mercy been evident in your life?

3.  What are the areas of your life that you have been testing God's patience in at the present time?

Responsive Prayer

My Father in heaven my God blessed be Your Holy Name. Thank You for the blood of Jesus Christ that has covered all of my iniquities. Thank You for Your longsuffering and mercy in my life. May I live to bring You glory today. Amen

 


"Freed In Christ",

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Misdirected Zeal for God

 

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. (Romans 10:1-3 NKJV)

Meditation

The Apostle Paul like many of us was grieved over the spiritual condition of his family. His desire like many of ours was that they would be saved. And it wasn't that they didn't want to do what was right, they were simply like the famous popular singer, Frank Sinatra, who sang "I did it my way." The hardest people to share the Gospel with are not the ones who do not believe in God they are the ones who "have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge." They have been deceived by the enemy into thinking that they can earn God's favor by religious acts of self-righteousness. (Isaiah 58) The Gospel teaches that while we were yet sinners and totally powerless to commune with God, Christ died for us. There was absolutely nothing that we could do to earn the right to be accepted into heaven by God, except place our faith in the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ. The problem now and when Paul penned these word is that our fallen flesh, in an attempt to placate itself imagines that it can accomplish something to earn God's favor. Paul's people had "a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge." Rather than merely accepting God's righteousness they sought to establish their own. A similar situation occurred in the Galatian church were after receiving salvation by faith, believers sought to be made perfect in their own strength. Paul wrote; "O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? 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?" (Galatians 3:1-3 NKJV) Likewise we as believers today tend to after becoming saved, climb back up on our performance treadmill and try to earn approval in the flesh. The Gospel teaches us that we are totally incapable of making Father God love us anymore than He already does. His love for us is wider, deeper, and stronger than we can know, think, or imagine already. There is nothing that we can or need to do to improve on it. That brothers and sisters is good news indeed!

"The greatest displays of God's power are not necessarily shows of force, mighty acts, or creative splendor. Rather the supremacy of God's power is seen in the ways He accomplishes His purposes through mere vessels of clay made mighty because He has infused them with His life."   Spirit Filled Life Study Bible

 Questions for Personal Reflection or Discussion

1. What has been your experience in trying to witness to people who were deceived but thought they knew the all of the answers already?

2. In what ways have you sought to earn God's approval?

3. What exactly is the Good News (Gospel?)

Responsive Prayer

My Father in heaven my God blessed be Your Holy Name. Thank You that in my inadequacy You are totally sufficient. Thank You that although I am totally incapable of making You love me more, You already love me more than I can know, think, or imagine. Use my life as a living testimony of Your grace today. Amen

 


"Freed In Christ",

Monday, March 16, 2015

An Eternal Marriage to Christ

 

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another—to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God. (Romans 7:4 NKJV)

Meditation

In the world that we live in today where the institution is not nearly as sacred as it once was, the option of living together out of wedlock or getting is often determined by the financial ramifications. And when the decision is to marry, there is sometimes a contract drawn up to stipulate who will get the money when the divorce happens, making it sound like it is almost inevitable. Marriage is rarely viewed as a lifetime commitment.

Unfortunately the decision to receive Jesus Christ as one's Savior and Lord has become to some a casual and somewhat hollow commitment as well. Some choose to "pray the Prayer," or raise their hand in a religious gathering just to placate a friend or loved one. Such is not the case with God. Marriage according to Him is entered into as a lifetime commitment that can only be broken under extreme circumstances. Likewise the commitment to receive Christ as Lord and Savior involves far more than an emotional or superficial response to someone else's prompting. It's not that it requires effort or achievement on behalf of the participant, it's just not something that can be entered into lightly. It is the gateway to total life change and not something that God will allow someone to walk away from casually. Just as saying, "I do" at the altar changes one's future dramatically, receiving Christ as Lord and Savior has a significant impact on everything that happens afterward. A successful marriage requires absolute faithfulness to one's mate, and failure to accomplish that doesn't invalidate the original agreement. Marriage to another, like marriage to Christ means placing oneself under the protection and loving care of another. When someone or something takes the place in our heart ahead of the person of Jesus Christ (not a religion or way of life) it develops into spiritual adultery. On the other hand a continually increasing passion for the one we married results in the freedom to love as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it.

 "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her," (Ephesians 5:25 NKJV)

 Questions for Personal Reflection or Discussion

1. How have you seen the commitment to marriage change in your lifetime?

2. Have you ever seen someone or tried yourself to walk away from God? How did that work out?

3. What is the benefit of spiritual faithfulness in your relationship with Jesus Christ?

Responsive Prayer

My Lord and my Savior Jesus Christ according to this verse when I committed my life to You I became married to You.  I confess that there have been times that my affections have strayed, but my intention is to honor You with my faithful love. Amen

 


"Freed In Christ",

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Spiritual and Physical Healing

 

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. (James 5:14-15 NKJV)

Meditation

We live in a time of fierce independence and as a result there are many believers that identify themselves as Christians and are not part of God's visible organization on earth, the church. It's not that being determines whether or not you are a Christian, because it doesn't. I have heard it said that "being in a church doesn't make you a Christian any more than sitting in a donut shop makes you cop!" But on the other hand it is difficult to live the Christian life, serving God faithfully and fruitfully, without being part of a strong supportive community of believers. It's kind of like being a great football quarterback without playing on a team. It just doesn't make sense.

There are times in everyone's life when they get out of sorts or out of step and encounter circumstances that are difficult to navigate. That is simply part of the human condition. There are sicknesses that are the result of sin and others that are pure physical. When we are actively involved in a church we have the opportunity to call upon the elders for counsel and prayer. These are mature believers anointed by God to help us navigate the storms of life. Once they help us to see areas of our life where our personal sin is causing pain, we have the opportunity to confess that sin and be forgiven. John tells us that, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9 NKJV) If the sickness is purely physical they can lay hands on us to invoke the power of the Holy Spirit to bring healing. What a blessing it is to know that we need never be alone in facing the difficulties of this life!

Then behold, they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, "Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you." (Matthew 9:2 NKJV)

 Questions for Personal Reflection or Discussion

1. What is the necessity of belonging to part of the body of Christ in a visible organized church?

2. How can the elders come alongside of a believer who is struggling in this life?

3. How did the faith of others lead to healing in the life of the paralytic?

Responsive Prayer

My Father in heaven, my God, thank You for the provision of mature men in the body of Christ who can offer godly counsel and prayer for the sick. Thank you also for your promise to cleanse me from all unrighteousness when I confess my sin. Thank You for your Holy Spirit Who dwells in me and gives me power over physical and spiritual infirmities. Amen

 


"Freed In Christ",

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Going to the Good Doctor

 

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

O LORD my God, I cried out to You, And You healed me. O LORD, You brought my soul up from the grave; You have kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit. (Psalms 30:2-3 NKJV)

Meditation

I often wonder when I think about the pioneer days in this country, during the opening of the western frontier, about the strength and stamina of those who went west to settle in uncharted lands. Living out on the prairies or up in the mountains they were often miles away from cities and commerce, so going to the store was a rare occurrence. Although herbs and spices were used to treat various physical illnesses there was little alternative but to pray. We have so many alternatives in the form of doctors and medicines that our first instinct is too often not to pray but to run to manmade remedies and college educated doctors instead. Not that those things are bad in and of themselves but they shouldn't be our first recourse for healing. Charles Spurgeon puts it this way; "If we must have a physician, let it be so, but still let us go to our God first of all; and, above all, remember that there can be no power to heal in medicine of itself; the healing energy must flow from the divine hand. If our watch is out of order, we take it to the watchmaker; if body or soul be in an evil plight, let us resort to him who created them, and has unfailing skill to put them in right condition." It is not that we cannot benefit in some cases from a physician's skill or knowledge of pharmaceuticals, it's just that our first recourse should be the Great Physician, Jesus Christ. In our hearts and in our prayers we must acknowledge that ultimately all healing comes through Him.

That David's illness was no significant one can be ascertained by the fact that in verse three he emphatically states that, "You have kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit." Death is an enemy that we all will face one day should the Lord not opt to return before our time on this earth is finished. There is no one who desires to die because the scriptures state "Also He has put eternity in their hearts…" (Ecclesiastes 3:11 NKJV) But just as our Father is sovereign over our life He is sovereign in our death. Any suffering that we face has been allowed by Him so we must view it as an opportunity to glorify Him. The purpose of suffering is salvation and just as Jesus' suffering resulted in our salvation, how we glorify God in our suffering can result in another's salvation. I say this because it is usually in the times of greatest duress that others can see Jesus Christ living in us.

Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator. (1 Peter 4:19 NKJV)

 Questions for Personal Reflection or Discussion

1. Where is it that you turn to initially when you get hurt or become ill?

2. How has God demonstrated His faithfulness to You in past occurrences of sickness and suffering?

3. Have you ever been blessed to see Jesus Christ in another person by the way they handled adversity? Explain.

 

Responsive Prayer

My Father in heaven, my God, thank You for the measure of health and well-being that You have given to me today. Thank You for the number of days that I have been given by You on this earth. Thank You that even though I may face suffering and death, You will give me the grace to bring You glory in the midst of it. May others see Jesus Christ in me that they may be blessed and come to know You through Jesus Christ as I have. Amen

 


"Freed In Christ",