Thursday, April 30, 2015

Power for Day to Day Skirmishes

 

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. (Ephesians 6:10 NKJV) 

Meditation

In his letter to the church in Ephesus, the Apostle Paul has affirmed the plethora of spiritual blessings poured out on all believers by God in Christ. Paul has admonished them to walk worthy of their calling after being made alive from the dead, spiritually speaking. And now he prepares them for the warfare that will surely come, as an attempt to dissuade them from walking in the victory that was won at the cross.

Finally after all is said and done, brethren (common believers not super saints), you will need strength for what lies ahead. We are in danger here of trying to overlook the day to day skirmishes in preparation for the major battles. We have a tendency to rely on our own strength in the daily routine challenges thinking that we can handle them. It's just the big stuff that we need help with. This is another deceptive tactic of the enemy.

The Gospel is not just for yesterday or tomorrow, but it is for today. Jesus Himself said that apart from the Father He could do nothing. If He as the Son of God in His humanity could not accomplish anything on His own, how much less can we? The power of God spoken of in this verse is miracle working power, a strength beyond normal. We need that power as much in daily pressures, in strained human relationships, and in physical challenges. Thank God that our Father knows that we are dust and in Christ, He empowers us to do all things through Christ Who strengthens us.

Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:11-13 NKJV)

 

Questions for Personal Reflection or Discussion

1.     Which spiritual blessings are you the most grateful for?

2.     What is our tendency when we prepare ourselves for spiritual warfare?

3.     The Gospel says that Jesus came and died that we could have the power of God to do through us that we could not. How is that truth applied in your daily life?

 

Responsive Prayer

My Blessed God and Father, thank You that greater is He Who is us than he who is in the world. I confess that in my own strength I cannot accomplish anything worthwhile. Thank You Father God that I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me. Impart to me the righteousness of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit that You may be glorified in me eternally.  Amen

 


"Freed In Christ",

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Who Are You Listening To?

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!*

In order to receive the guidance that God offers we must trust Him and learn to distinguish His voice from the voice of the enemy. In order to do that we need to pray for the Father to put mature men of God in our lives as spiritual directors.

Remember your leaders who taught you the word of God. Think of all the good that has come from their lives, and follow the example of their faith. (Hebrews 13:7 NLT)

*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",

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Serving Our Families in Love

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.           (Matthew 23:11-12 NKJV) 

Meditation

Humility and servanthood are two of the reoccurring themes of scripture. In this passage Jesus is instructing His disciples not to aspire to greatness or to rule over others. And while the concept of servant ministry is an imperative mindset in ministry, there is another aspect of life where it is extremely applicable. That is our homes.

As we grow older we may envision ourselves as empty nesters enjoying the serene atmosphere of dwellings as life becomes increasingly uneventful. Experience may prove radically different. We may encounter increasing opportunities day by day to practice the godly virtues of humility and servanthood.

We must begin with the way we interact with our spouses in times when we are alone and no one is watching. Before coming to the Lord I was verbally abusive, controlling and in the throes of alcohol addiction. The Holy Spirit brought me to a place where I was convicted to the point of utter brokenness. Unfortunately I could not go back and relive the past so I vowed to make every day of my wife's life as good as I could make it by loving her as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it. When we do allow Christ to love and serve our spouse through us there are great rewards even in this lifetime. These blessings include pleasant companionship, increased fruitfulness in our spiritual walk and a deeper more fulfilling intimacy with Christ and our spouse.

But we can also practice the godly art of humanity and servant leadership with our children and grandchildren. While there may be times in the context of a larger family where one must lay down the law (in a loving manner), there are far more occasions to deny self and allow the love of Christ to manifest itself in our actions. I praise God for the times when we can put self aside and allow Christ to love others through us. When this happens we are able to know God more intimately and receive His great love ourselves. That brothers and sisters is the greatest gift of all!

"Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death," (Philippians 3:8-10 ESV)

 

Questions for Personal Reflection or Discussion

1.   How did Jesus' instruct His disciples concerning the matters of greatness and leadership?

2.             2. What blessings/rewards can we enjoy when we practice servant                        leadership in our marriage?

3.  How do we need to exercise humility in dealing with our children?

 

Responsive Prayer

My Father in heaven, my God blessed be Your Holy Name. All I have received, I have received from You. Any gifts, talents and abilities that I have are from You as well and I cannot boast in any of them. Grant me the courage and grace to exercise humility and servant leadership in my home with my wife, my children and my grandchildren remembering that these are all Your children first and foremost. Help me to love them and give myself for them as You gave Yourself for me.   Amen


"Freed In Christ",

Monday, April 27, 2015

Know Him to Trust Him

 

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

"And those who know Your name will put their trust in You; For You, LORD, have not forsaken those who seek You. Sing praises to the LORD, who dwells in Zion! Declare His deeds among the people."  (Psalms 9:10-11 NKJV)

Meditation

To truly know God is a compelling factor in trusting Him. The problem is that most of us spend far too little time getting to know Him personally, and we rely too much on what we have learned, and what others say. Knowing Him intimately is essential to living a life that is pleasing to Him. One of the difficulties in doing this is that Satan has blinded the minds of the unbeliever (and to some degree the believer also.) He has attempted, over the last two thousand years to deceive the entire human population and it is frightening to see how well he has succeeded. Those of us who have attempted to minister to people caught up in life dominating sin can attest to that. When the serpent said to Eve, "Has God indeed said, 'You shall not eat of every tree of the garden'?" he was insinuating that God was holding back something good, therefore he was slandering God's character. This lie has been perpetrated down through the ages and most people believe that trusting God to the point of obedience will cause us to miss out on a full life. But if we truly "know God's Name," we understand who He really is and how much He loves His creation. Kind David knew God intimately in all seasons of life, good and bad, success and failure, joy and sorrow. As a result of this inspired understanding he was intent on seeking out other believers and praising God publically. If you opt to understand the true nature of God, I assure you that you will not be disappointed.

Oh, give thanks to the LORD! Call upon His name; Make known His deeds among the peoples! Sing to Him, sing psalms to Him; Talk of all His wondrous works! Glory in His holy name; Let the hearts of those rejoice who seek the LORD! Seek the LORD and His strength; Seek His face evermore! Remember His marvelous works which He has done, His wonders, and the judgments of His mouth,             

(1 Chronicles 16:8-12 NKJV)

Questions for Personal Reflection or Discussion

1.     In what areas is your understanding of God's character inadequate?

2.     How does this keep you from fully trusting Him?

3.     What things has God done recently that inspire you to trust Him and praise Him?

 

Responsive Prayer

My Father in heaven, You are the Giver of every good and perfect gift from up above. How could You who didn't even hold back Your mist precious gift in the Person of Jesus Christ, hold back anything of lesser value? Thank you for allowing Yourself to be found by those who diligently seek You and call upon Your Holy Name.  Amen

 


"Freed In Christ",

Saturday, April 25, 2015

SHOW Instead of TELL!

 

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. For "WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD THAT HE MAY INSTRUCT HIM?" But we have the mind of Christ.             (1 Corinthians 2:14-16 NKJV) 

Meditation

We live in a world today that is becoming more and more hostile to one another and especially to Christians. It is emotionally unsettling to hear about the persecution of Christian brothers and sisters around the world. It is mentally disturbing to read the verbal attacks in the social media against our Lord, His word, and those who follow Him. Even though Jesus warned us that if they hated Him they would hate us also, so we should expect it, it isn't any easier to experience it personally.

For those of us who are finding true freedom in Christ from the bondage of self and the bondage of life dominating sin, there is a childlike excitement about our new life. Our first impulse upon receiving something this good is to share it with others. We know that we have become new creations, but when we try to share it with others, especially unbelievers they can't understand. So when we are ridiculed and mistreated we need to pray like Jesus, "Father forgive them because they know not what they do."

But what is more difficult is when we try to explain to other believers about our new found freedom and our new identity as liberated children of the Most High God. As fellow Christians we expect them to share our excitement and they don't get it either? Notice Paul's words to believers in Corinth; "Dear brothers and sisters, when I was with you I couldn't talk to you as I would to spiritual people. I had to talk as though you belonged to this world or as though you were infants in the Christian life. I had to feed you with milk, not with solid food, because you weren't ready for anything stronger. And you still aren't ready, for you are still controlled by your sinful nature. You are jealous of one another and quarrel with each other. Doesn't that prove you are controlled by your sinful nature? Aren't you living like people of the world?" (1 Corinthians 3:1-3 NLT)

Sometimes even other believers cannot understand the freedom of the Abundant Christian Life, and we can't be upset at their inability to do so. We must simply allow the light of Christ's life in us to shine into the darkness around us.

"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 Meditation or Discussion

1.     How have you noticed personally the increasing fervor of anti-Christian rhetoric in the world around you?

2.     What difficulties have you faced in sharing the freedom that you have after dying to self and allowing Christ to live through you?

3.     Why is it important not to involve ourselves in doctrinal arguments but instead let our lights shine into the darkened world around us?

 

Responsive Prayer

My Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, blessed be Your Holy Name. You lived in this world and walked among men so You understand fully the opposition that we face on a daily basis. We were once as the people around us, unable to discern spiritual truth. Thank You that You placed Your Spirit in us and now we have the Mind of Christ. Help us to be tolerant of those around us who cannot understand so they may instead see the light of Your love shining in us. Amen

 


"Freed In Christ",

Friday, April 24, 2015

Our Travelling Companion

 

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalms 16:11 NKJV) 

Meditation

Like a mariner sets sail in the vast expanse of ocean, fully dependent on a compass to determine the set of his sail, so are we as human beings born into life. With a myriad of opportunities to consider and many choices to make, the journey can easily become overwhelming. Ah, but we are not alone because others have gone before us. In fact we have a personal guide who has walked in this world that we now find ourselves in and He offers to lead the way.

He is not just a guide, for to travel a great distance with any companion we need to be compatible or the journey will soon become intolerable. No, He is our Creator so He knows us better than we know ourselves. He is compassionate in accepting our human limitations and weaknesses. He is also patient with us knowing that we will stumble and fall along the way. He comforts us when life is harsh and challenges us when we are complacent. He grieves with us when we grieve and rejoices with us when we rejoice. In fact He is such a worthy companion, we don't want to stray far from Him so we grasp His right hand to stay close, as He reaches out to help us.

And for right now He is more concerned with the journey than He is the destination, because He is confident in where He is taking us. He has prepared a place that He knows we will love because He has lived there before. It is in His Father's House. In fact we can say that He is His Father's Son, so if we love being with Him we will most certainly love being with His Father. Since He is in control of this world and everything in it, we need not fear the fact that one day we will arrive safely with Him. Once we arrive we will never want to leave, nor will we ever have to do so. As this verse says, we shall "have pleasure forevermore."

"God is very near to each one of us. Though we see Him not, yet is He nearer than the very air we breathe; for our very being and living and moving is in Him. He is very near unto us, and all our thoughts and desires are open before Him, who is the searcher of our hearts."     ADOLPH SAPHIR

Questions for Meditation or Discussion

1.     What is the most intimidating aspect of this life for you?

2.     How has God demonstrated His reliability and compatibility as your personal guide on this journey?

3.     What is the hope that we as believers have for eternity?

 

Responsive Prayer

My Father in heaven, my God thank You that You have not left me in this world to fend for myself alone but given me a guide in the person of the Holy Spirit. Thank You for sending You Son Jesus Christ to rescue me from imminent destruction at the hand of the enemy. Thank You for sending Your Spirit to dwell in me and lead me along the path of righteousness for Your name's sake. Thank You for the joy I am experiencing now and will experience forever. Amen


"Freed In Christ",

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Our New Father

 

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

Therefore "COME OUT FROM AMONG THEM AND BE SEPARATE, SAYS THE LORD. DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN, AND I WILL RECEIVE YOU." "I WILL BE A FATHER TO YOU, AND YOU SHALL BE MY SONS AND DAUGHTERS, SAYS THE LORD ALMIGHTY."         (2 Corinthians 6:17-18 NKJV) 

Meditation

We live in a sinful world, and because of that most of us have experienced less than perfect parenting. As a result of not having sufficient affirmation in our lives we seek the approval and acceptance of others. The fact that we depend on other people for our sense of value and self-worth causes us to live in bondage to the opinions of other human beings who are just as fallible as we are. The truth is that we are already accepted in the Beloved. "just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved." (Ephesians 1:4-6 NKJV) That doesn't negate the fact that as human beings we still have the need for a father. The good news is that the Lord Almighty offers here to step in and fill that role Himself.

First though, He calls us to step away from the filth and defilement of the world that we live in. The biblical term "holy" simply means to be separated from or set apart. Because our God is unlike any other, and Himself set apart, it is only reasonable that we should be also. As He is Holy He calls us to be Holy. Our initial response might be that it is virtually impossible that we could ever do that. But with our God all things are possible so when we come to Him, stinking from the filth of the world, He welcomes us with open arms and clothes us with the robe of righteousness. This is the righteousness of Jesus Christ imputed to us as a covering for all of our sin. He also feeds us, not with the pods that we once desired that the pigs ate, or even with the bread earned by the hired hand, but with His very best, the calf fattened in preparation for His most important guests.

Notice the end of the passage. When we receive any invitation the determining factor of its worth is who it is from. This invitation we receive to be sons and daughters comes from none other than the Lord Almighty. It doesn't get any better than that!

Questions for Meditation or Discussion

1.     In what ways and from whom do you find yourself seeking acceptance?

2.     Why is it impossible to find it there?

3.     How is possible for us to be holy enough to join God's family?

Responsive Prayer

My Father in heaven, my God, You alone are the Lord Almighty, the Sovereign God of this universe. You have called me out of the darkness and into the light of Your marvelous love. Blessed is Your Holy name. And blessed indeed am I to know You as my father and be totally accepted by You on the basis of Christ's imputed righteousness. I confess that there are times that I act more like an orphan than a son. Thank You that when I confess my sins You are faithful and just to cleanse me from all unrighteousness. Amen


"Freed In Christ",

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Darkness and Light Just Don't Mix!

 

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

Don't team up with those who are unbelievers. How can righteousness be a partner with wickedness? How can light live with darkness? What harmony can there be between Christ and the devil? How can a believer be a partner with an unbeliever? (2 Corinthians 6:14-15 NLT) 

Meditation

There five sentences in this passage, one is a statement and the other four are questions. It is as if the writer knew that we would struggle with accepting the statement so he appeals to our logic with the questions.

The Apostle Paul is speaking to believers in Jesus Christ and followers of "the Way," as Christianity was called in his day. The initial obstacle to our understanding and acceptance of his statement is our lack of comprehension of the term believers. Believer is not in this case referring to someone who simply acknowledges something to be true, but someone who is so convinced of something that they are willing to entrust their entire life to it. It is in fact, a change of allegiance. Jesus Himself taught that you cannot serve two masters, you must hate one to love the other. And in a culture that strongly promotes "tolerance," as they define it, we who are in this world and not of it, find that hard to do.

The key to accepting this biblical mandate is not to see it as prohibitive, but to understand that it cannot happen. Righteousness is directly opposed by nature to wickedness. Where there is light, there can be no darkness. It simply cannot happen. Christ and the devil are not simply incompatible, they are archenemies. All of that being said, logically speaking, a believer cannot team up with or be a compatible partner with an unbeliever.

There are some who speak of "breaking God's law," but we cannot literally do so. Oh we can ignore it but it will continue to be true. As I write this I am sitting on a fourth floor balcony overlooking the ocean. If I were to attempt to break God's law by jumping off, the consequences would be catastrophic. So instead it is wise for me to respect God's law as a standard for my actions. Just as a father desires what is truly best for his children, God the Father desires the best for us. Notice Paul's heart in the verses preceding this admonition; "Oh, dear Corinthian friends! We have spoken honestly with you, and our hearts are open to you. There is no lack of love on our part, but you have withheld your love from us. I am asking you to respond as if you were my own children. Open your hearts to us! (2 Corinthians 6:11-13 NLT)

Questions for Meditation or Discussion

1.     In what areas of life do you find it hard not to partner with unbelievers?

2.     Why is it important to accept the fact that we cannot really "break" God's law?

3.     What is the value in understanding God's heart in this matter?

Responsive Prayer

My Gracious Heavenly Father, blessed be Your Holy Name. Thank You for adopting me into Your family as a true believer and son. Thank You that Your love for me is greater than I can even comprehend. Help me I pray to receive this biblical admonition as a matter of fact, not a mere preference.  Thank You that Your intended purpose for me is always good. In fact it is not just good but it always the best. I love You Father God. Amen


"Freed In Christ",

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Journey Home to the Father

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

"For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit,"  (1 Peter 3:18 NKJV) 

Meditation

In his book, "The Return of the Prodigal" Henri Nouwen described Jesus Christ as the ultimate prodigal. Though He never sinned, Jesus left His Father's home, travelled to a far distant land, became totally desolate and found His way back to the Father's side. The way that He accomplished this, according to Peter, in today's verse was by being put to death in the flesh and being made alive in the Spirit.

Such is the trek of the newly converted believer as he begins his lifelong journey into the arms of Father God. This lifelong journey is being led by the Holy Spirit through the wilderness of this world, and back to the Promised Land of God's blessing. And we in a sense also, following the path of our Redeemer, must be put to death in the flesh that we made be made alive in the Spirit.

The carnal Christian is the believer full of self, operating under his own power, and directing his own steps. He is the Peter in all of us, boasting that he will never deny Christ simply by an act of personal resolve. And until we like Peter weep bitterly over our own failure and inadequacy, God cannot use us mightily. So my brothers and sisters if God is showing you today, your own utter weakness and the insufficiency of your own fallen flesh, you are no longer lost, but on your way home!

"We must be taught of God, and teaching is sometimes very gradual, and even slow; but "He will guide us into all truth," and "perfect that which concerneth" our education and preparation for His work and will; and the mind that the Holy Spirit quickens and uses shall accomplish results for God which all the brilliancy of human genius and the scholarship of human learning can never approach." A. B. SIMPSON

"Learning is very real work, and there is no maturing without it, and I do not believe that anyone matures brilliantly who does not learn sufferingly. Easily got—easily gone, is never so true as in the highest things." J. B. STONEY

 

 

Harrison, Nick (2010-12-21). His Victorious Indwelling: Daily Devotions for a Deeper Christian Life (p. 144). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Questions for Meditation or Discussion

1.     How has a life lived in the flesh caused you to become desolate and travel to a distant land?

2.     Why is it important for the Holy Spirit to show you the depravity and insufficiency of your fallen flesh?

3.     As God brings you to the end of self and causes you to be made alive in the Spirit, what is the work He is preparing you for?

 

Responsive Prayer

My Father in heaven, my God Your grace is amazing and never so evident as in the light of my insufficiency. Your arms open wide at my approach and the robe of righteousness is more attractive than any garment designed by man. There is no counselor so wonderful or guide more competent than Your precious Your Holy Spirit. As a pilgrim once totally lost and now found I pray that You will lead me along the pathway of righteousness for Your Name's sake.   Amen


"Freed In Christ",

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Holy Spirit, the Person, Not Just a Power

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

"For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.  (11)  If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish?  (12)  Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?  (13) If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!"   Luke 11:10-13 NKJV 

Meditation

Jesus is speaking here, and He knows more than anyone the character of the Father, because He came to earth after living in heaven with God the Father. He also knows the heart of man and is fully qualified to judge a man's ability to love his children.

But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man. (John 2:24-25 NKJV)

Even in his sinful unregenerate condition a good father is capable of giving his children good gifts. Even those of us who come out of a life dominated by sinful behavior, desire to have a good relationship with our children. In fact for some this is the first relationship that we work to restore. Having known the Father, Jesus is using a parable to epitomize His great love for believers that have been adopted into His heavenly family. With this in mind He is encouraging us to go to the Father with childlike expectation, knowing He loves us and wants to hear and respond to our prayers.

Before His sacrifice on our behalf believers had to ask for the Holy Spirit, but after Pentecost 33CE we receive His Spirit into our hearts when we are regenerated. "But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His." (Romans 8:9 NKJV) The problem that we have today is that some mistakenly believe that the Spirit is a power rather than the third person of the Trinity. They mistakenly pray for more of the Spirit when the actuality is you can't have more or less of a person. You either have Him or you do not. But the Holy Spirit can have more of us which will give Him greater influence over our daily life. This is dependent on our degree of surrender. Having the person of the Holy Spirit living inside of us in the person of Jesus Christ is "Christ in us the hope of glory!" This is the "Exchanged Life" that Hudson wrote about or the "Deeper Christian Life" referred to by Andrew Murray. So the gift of the Holy Spirit spoken of by Jesus Christ here is eternal life to be possessed by all true believers.

"I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." (Galatians 2:20 NKJV)

Not only does the Lord Jesus live in us, but He becomes the motivating Object of our life as Christians. The law is no longer our motive or rule of life. It is entirely displaced by a Person, and that Person is "the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." Henceforth, the soul has a new center and source—it is no longer self-centered, but Christ-centered. C. A. COATES

Harrison, Nick (2010-12-21). His Victorious Indwelling: Daily Devotions for a Deeper Christian Life (pp. 142-143). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Questions for Meditation or Discussion

1.     How has love for your natural children taught you about the love of God the Father for you?

2.     Why is it important to see the Holy Spirit as a person rather than just a power?

3.     What is it that you need to surrender in order to allow the Holy Spirit to have more influence in your life?

 

Responsive Prayer

My Father in heaven what a wonderful Father you are to me. You not only gave Your Son to die that I may one day live with You in heaven, but You sent Your Holy Spirit to dwell in me that I may experience eternal life today! Thank You for the greatest gift that was ever given. May I express my gratitude by offering You full surrender today in return.  Amen


"Freed In Christ",

Friday, April 17, 2015

Freedom to Stand

 

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness,  (Ephesians 6:11-14 NKJV)

Meditation

This passage seems to revolve around one key word, "stand." It is found four times in these four verses and although it often refers to a passive condition elsewhere, here that cannot be the case. This is made evident by the fact that in the process of standing we are called to wrestle against some formidable opponents. We must defend ourselves with the armor that God provides for us.

I am reminded of the time when young king David was offered King Saul's armor to face off against the giant, Goliath. He couldn't use it because in spite of it's superior quality, it just didn't fit. In contrast the armor that God has provided us is perfectly suitable.

The enemy here is clearly formidable and no mere figment of our imagination. But the battle belongs to the Lord and it was already won at the cross. We must now actively defend our position. The problem is that many of us have spent our lives running away from everybody and everything. If we weren't running geographically, we were hiding in a bottle, a substance, or a compulsive behavior.

One of the greatest lessons that we can learn in our Christian life is that we no longer need to run away from anybody or anything. While it is true that we are called to surrender our will to God, we never have to retreat from the enemy. Instead we are to abide in Christ, wearing His armor, standing shoulder to shoulder with our Christian brothers and sisters. Not having to ever run away again even in the face of great danger and formidable opposition is one of the greatest freedoms we can possess. That freedom can only be found in Christ alone.

 

Questions for Meditation or Discussion

1.     Why is standing in our own strength not an option?

2.     What are the ways that you have retreated in the face of danger in times gone by?

3.     What are the enemies, practically speaking that you need to stand against today?

 

Responsive Prayer

My Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, blessed be Your Holy Name. You came to earth and fought a battle for me that I could have never won on my own. Thank You dear Lord that one day You will return for me, not as a babe in a manger or a sacrificial lamb, but as a Warrior King clothed in the garb of a Conqueror. Thank You for the freedom that I have to stand in the face of opposition and walk in the victory that You have provided.   Amen


"Freed In Christ",

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Facing The Day Ahead

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

As for God, His way is perfect; The word of the LORD is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him. For who is God, except the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God? It is God who arms me with strength, And makes my way perfect. (Psalms 18:30-32 NKJV)

Meditation

There are days when we wake up wondering just how we can ever handle the responsibilities on our plate in the day ahead. It is on those days that our need for help is most evident. Some of us have sought that help from other people or in substances that we thought would get us through, all to no avail. "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) Sometimes the consequences of trusting those false gods proved catastrophic!

King David was a valiant man, a man's man, a warrior, and a king. He faced Goliath, a half mad insane king named Saul, and a power grabbing son named Absalom among other things. He made his mistakes as we all well know, proving that he was human and fallible just like us, but overall he led a triumphant victorious life.

While our enemies are different in character than his because we live in a different time, they are no less intimidating. The passage quoted from Psalms came this morning like a soothing balm on an open wound. God's way is perfect. There are no dead ends or wrong turns. He Himself is a shield that protects us when we trust Him enough to stand behind Him. He is uniquely qualified and totally sufficient. Who is God except the Lord and who is a rock except our God?

This passage is the essence of the Sitting with the Shepherd Devotional Series. It is the answer to fears, doubts and uncertainties about the day ahead. It is Mary sitting at Jesus' feet before busying herself with the chores of the coming day. Being in His presence is rich, satisfying and strengthening, preparing us for whatever lies ahead.

 

"The Israelites were to gather the manna every man according to his eating (Exodus 16:16). The appetite, then, governed the amount collected. How strikingly true this is of the believer! We have as much of Christ as our desire—no more, and no less. If our desires are large, if we will open our mouth wide, he will fill it…On the other hand, if we are but feebly conscious of our need, only a little of Christ will be supplied."    EDWARD DENNETT

Harrison, Nick (2010-12-21). His Victorious Indwelling: Daily Devotions for a Deeper Christian Life (pp. 139-140). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Questions for Meditation or Discussion

1.     How have you sought strength and direction from people or things other than God? What were the results?

2.     What are your Goliaths today?

3.                 How has being in the Shepherd's prepared you for the days challenges?

 

Responsive Prayer

My Father in heaven, my God, all of Your ways are perfect, all of Your paths are proven. In Your presence is fullness of joy. I confess my fears and doubts that grew like noxious weeds in the night to you. May they be uprooted and cast into the fire by Your word. Thank You that Jesus Christ is the solution to every problem and the answer to every question that I will encounter today.  Amen


"Freed In Christ",

Facing The Day Ahead

 

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

As for God, His way is perfect;                                                                             The word of the LORD is proven;                                                                             He is a shield to all who trust in Him.                                                                    

For who is God, except the LORD?                                                                             And who is a rock, except our God?                                                                             It is God who arms me with strength,                                                                    

And makes my way perfect.

(Psalms 18:30-32 NKJV)


Meditation

There are days when we wake up wondering just how we can ever handle the responsibilities on our plate in the day ahead. It is on those days that our need for help is most evident. Some of us have sought that help from other people or in substances that we thought would get us through, all to no avail. "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) Sometimes the consequences of trusting those false gods proved catastrophic!

King David was a valiant man, a man's man, a warrior, and a king. He faced Goliath, a half mad insane king named Saul, and a power grabbing son named Absalom among other things. He made his mistakes as we all well know, proving that he was human and fallible just like us, but overall he led a triumphant victorious life.

While our enemies are different in character than his because we live in a different time, they are no less intimidating. The passage quoted from Psalms came this morning like a soothing balm on an open wound. God's way is perfect. There are no dead ends or wrong turns. He Himself is a shield that protects us when we trust Him enough to stand behind Him. He is uniquely qualified and totally sufficient. Who is God except the Lord and who is a rock except our God?

This passage is the essence of the Sitting with the Shepherd Devotional Series. It is the answer to fears, doubts and uncertainties about the day ahead. It is Mary sitting at Jesus' feet before busying herself with the chores of the coming day. Being in His presence is rich, satisfying and strengthening, preparing us for whatever lies ahead.

 

"The Israelites were to gather the manna every man according to his eating (Exodus 16:16). The appetite, then, governed the amount collected. How strikingly true this is of the believer! We have as much of Christ as our desire—no more, and no less. If our desires are large, if we will open our mouth wide, he will fill it…On the other hand, if we are but feebly conscious of our need, only a little of Christ will be supplied."    EDWARD DENNETT 


Harrison, Nick (2010-12-21). His Victorious Indwelling: Daily Devotions for a Deeper Christian Life (pp. 139-140). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.


Questions for Meditation or Discussion

1.     How have you sought strength and direction from people or things other than God? What were the results?

2.     What are your Goliaths today?

      3.     How has being in the Shepherd's prepared you for the days challenges?

 

Responsive Prayer

My Father in heaven, my God, all of Your ways are perfect, all of Your paths are proven. In Your presence is fullness of joy. I confess my fears and doubts that grew like noxious weeds in the night to you. May they be uprooted and cast into the fire by Your word. Thank You that Jesus Christ is the solution to every problem and the answer to every question that I will encounter today.  Amen


"Freed In Christ",

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Happiness is......

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. (James 1:13-14 NKJV) 

Meditation

Desire is the mother of sin according to James. We cannot be tempted by something other than that which we desire. The heroin addict is not tempted by pornography and the alcoholic is not tempted by chocolate cake. It's all about what we desire more than anything else including God. Addiction can be described as a worship disorder. The addict is simply worshipping the wrong god. Addiction defined biblically is idolatry and God hates it.

The thing that keeps people stuck in addiction is the lie that the idol of our heart, whatever that is, will make us happier than God will. This lie was originally perpetrated in the Garden of Eden when the serpent asked Eve if it was true that God wouldn't allow them to eat of every tree of the garden. His insinuation was that God was holding back something good. Adam was deceived into choosing his relationship with his wife over his relationship with God, by joining her in her sin.   Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, "Has God indeed said, 'You shall not eat of every tree of the garden'?" And the woman said to the serpent, "We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.' "Then the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. (Genesis 3:1-6 NKJV) It is the same principle today as the alcoholic who listens to the voice of the enemy saying, "Really you can't just have one beer?" so he chooses addiction over a relationship with His Father because in his heart he believes that it will make him happier.

Scripture teaches us that our longing soul can only be satisfied in a relationship with God the Father through Jesus Christ His Son. As long as we believe that a substance or behavior will make us happier, we will be subject to temptation. We are tempted by our own desires. When we see the lie that they will never make us truly satisfied, we will know the truth that will set us free!

"Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness, And for His wonderful works to the children of men! For He satisfies the longing soul, And fills the hungry soul with goodness."  (Psalms 107:8-9 NKJV) 

    

 

Questions for Personal Reflection or Discussion

1.   Identify the idols of your heart past and present?

2.              2How have these idols have failed to bring you true satisfaction and                 brought you pain instead?

3.  What is the truth that will truly set you free?

 

Responsive Prayer

My Father in heaven, O Lord You are the giver of every good and perfect from up above. Nothing that is worth having in this world comes from anyone but You. You desire the best for me as Your child and as my loving Father never hold back that which is truly beneficial for my well-being. I confess that I have sought satisfaction in other people, places and things. Thank You that You have never stopped pursuing the relationship with me that will truly bring joy and satisfaction to my life.   Amen

 


"Freed In Christ",

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Love Conquers ALL!

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

Blessed is he who patiently endures trials; for when he has stood the test, he will gain the victor's crown--even the crown of Life--which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. (James 1:12 WNT)

Meditation

The admonition to count it all joy when we fall into various trials seems incredulous to believers at first glance and that is precisely where this chapter in James began. But knowing that God allows these trials for our spiritual growth enables us to accept them from a loving Father for our own benefit. This verse is the logical progression of that.

To be blessed is to be spiritually prosperous and comes as the result of enduring temptation and trials. Satan tempts us so that we may fail, but God allows it so that we can grow. The metamorphosis is the process that takes place in the life of a caterpillar as it struggles to escape its cocoon to emerge as a beautiful butterfly. Without the intensity of the struggle the caterpillar would fail to develop and emerge deformed and weak instead.

The key to endurance and eventual triumph through trials is not sheer strength or rigid accountability. It is love, the one force that conquers all. In movies, fairy tales and real life, love is the motivation that empowers the greatest of victories. What James is saying here is that our love for God the Father is the motivating factor here as well. These trials are allowed by a loving Father to transform us into the image of Christ. The crown of life may refer to something that we receive after we die, but it also includes the abundant life given to us in Christ today. Our love for Him motivates us to follow Him through the trials of this world and endure.

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)

 

Questions for Personal Reflection or Discussion

1.     How has Satan tried to tempt you the hardest in order to try and cause you to stumble?

2.     How has God used those very same trials to bring you to a deeper understanding of both your own weaknesses and God's strength?

3.     In what ways has God shown you glimpses of the abundant life today?

 

Responsive Prayer

My Heavenly Father in heaven, to Whom I cry "Abba," blessed be Your Holy Name. You O God are the author and the finisher of my faith and every trial that I have ever endured was allowed by You for my benefit. Thank You that Your strength is made perfect in my weakness and that Your grace is and always will be sufficient to sustain us through even the most difficult trials. Thank You for the crosses in my life that lead me to You. Amen

 


"Freed In Christ",

Monday, April 13, 2015

Liberated to Love

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF."  (Galatians 5:13-14 NKJV) 

Meditation

The effects of addiction or bondage to life dominating sin in a person's life are devastating, not only to the person himself, but to those who love him. While the world erroneously defines addiction as a disease, those who live by the word of God define it as sin, specifically idolatry or spiritual adultery. It is a worship disorder. One of the common effects of sin in general according to theological textbooks is self-centeredness. Those ensnared by it come to a place where they lose the ability to relate to others, including those that love them the most. Those of us who have been to that place can attest to the fact that it is a deep, dark dungeon of despair.

In his letter to the Galatians, the Apostle Paul reminds them that their new found liberty from the bondage of sin should not be used as an opportunity to revert back to self-gratifying indulgences of their fallen flesh, but as an opportunity to care for others by serving them. This service to others cannot be forced or mandated but most be motivated by love, because that is not the way that love functions. Being compelled to serve pales in comparison to serving out of a heart of love. Jesus Himself told His followers that their righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees.    "For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:20 NKJV) By this he meant that they needed to act out of a deeper motivation than compulsion to follow a set of rules.

True liberty is being able to move beyond selfish motivation and being free to serve others, loving them with the same love that God has for us. This means putting their interests ahead of our own is something that cannot be commanded or mandated. It is empowered by the grace of God who loved us while we were yet sinners and gave us His very best. It was motivated as the joy that was set before Him.

"Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." (Hebrews 12:1-2 NKJV)

 

Questions for Personal Reflection or Discussion

1.     What have been the effects of sin in your life related to your relationships with others?

2.              2How has your freedom from the bondage of sin impacted those       relationships?

3.     Who is it in your life that YOU can serve today with the love of Christ?

 

Responsive Prayer

My Father in heaven, my God blessed be Your Holy Name. I realize in reading Your word today that the only thing that makes me capable of loving others is the love that you have and continue to lavish upon me. Fill me afresh with Your Holy Spirit that I may love those who love me as well as those who don't today. May all of those whom I come in contact with today see Jesus in me.   Amen


"Freed In Christ",

Friday, April 10, 2015

Serving Those We Love Most

 

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.           (Matthew 23:11-12 NKJV) 

Meditation

Humility and servanthood are two of the reoccurring themes of scripture. In this passage Jesus is instructing His disciples not to aspire to greatness or to rule over others. And while the concept of servant ministry is an imperative mindset in ministry, there is another aspect of life where it is extremely applicable. That is our homes.

As we grow older we may envision ourselves as empty nesters enjoying the serene atmosphere of dwellings as life becomes increasingly uneventful. Experience may prove radically different. We may encounter increasing opportunities day by day to practice the godly virtues of humility and servanthood.

We may begin with the way we interact with our spouses in times when we are alone and no one is watching. Before coming to the Lord I was verbally abusive, controlling and in the throes of alcohol addiction. The Holy Spirit brought me to a place where I was convicted to the point of utter brokenness. Unfortunately I could not go back and relive the past so I vowed to make every day of my wife's life as good as I could make it by loving her as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it. When we do allow Christ to love and serve our spouse through us there are great rewards even in this lifetime. These blessings include pleasant companionship, increased fruitfulness in our spiritual walk and a deeper more fulfilling intimacy with Christ and our spouse.

But we can also practice the godly art of humanity and servant leadership with our children and grandchildren. There may be times in the context of a larger family where one must lay down the law (in a loving manner), there are far more occasions to deny self and allow the love of Christ to manifest itself in our actions. I praise God for the times when we can put self aside and allow Christ to love others through us. When this happens we are able to know God more intimately and receive His great love ourselves. That brothers and sisters is the greatest gift of all!

"Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death," (Philippians 3:8-10 ESV)

 

Questions for Personal Reflection or Discussion

1.     How did Jesus' instruct His disciples concerning the matters of greatness and leadership?

2.     What blessings/rewards can we enjoy when we practice servant leadership in our marriage?

3.     How do we need to exercise humility in dealing with our children?

 

Responsive Prayer

My Father in heaven, my God blessed be Your Holy Name. All I have received, I have received from You. Any gifts, talents and abilities that I have are from You as well and I cannot boast in any of them. Grant me the courage and grace to exercise humility and servant leadership in my home with my wife, my children and my grandchildren remembering that these are all Your children first and foremost. Help me to love them and give myself for them as You gave Yourself for me.   Amen

 


"Freed In Christ",

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Anchor of My Soul

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

"My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and give praise. Awake, my glory! Awake, lute and harp! I will awaken the dawn."                                                                                               Psalms 57:7-8 NKJV

 

In the midst of trial and calamity, the main thing that I struggle with is my emotions. That is what the psalmist is speaking about here when he refers to his heart. The heart can be defined as the inner self, emotions or intellect and that is where the turmoil seems to rise up. Like him, I must sometimes speak comfort deliberately to my heart. So I rise up early, before the dawn, the distractions, and the day's challenges, to set the anchor of my soul in God.

My natural inclination is to try and fix myself to make my heart what it should be, but that is a self-defeating exercise, because it causes me to focus on the problem (me) rather than the solution (God.) If instead, as the psalmist did, I turn my attention to Him in praise and adoration, the anchor of my hope becomes God.

This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, (Hebrews 6:19 NKJV)

                                                                                              

Questions for Personal Reflection or Discussion

1.     Do you like the psalmist ever have the need to speak encouragement, truth or comfort into your own heart?

2.     What scriptures are especially dear to you that you can use to remind yourself of the Shepherds love?

3.     Where and when can you go to be intimate with your Heavenly Father?

 

 

 

 

Responsive Prayer

          My dear heavenly Father, God of all comfort, Your word assures me that men cannot live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God." To often I listen to everyone's voice but Yours. Help me to open your word and focus on your voice rather than my own fears and anxieties. You calmed the raging storms when You walked on the earth, so I trust You can speak peace to my troubled heart when the storms of life are raging around me. Thank You Lord for being an ever present help in times of trouble. Amen


"Freed In Christ",