Friday, May 29, 2015

Harmony with the Spirit in Ministry

 

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

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

Meditation

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

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

 

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

Questions for Personal Reflection or Discussion

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

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

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

 

Responsive Prayer

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

 


"Freed In Christ",

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Simply Content

 

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, "I WILL NEVER LEAVE YOU NOR FORSAKE YOU." (Hebrews 13:5 NKJV)

Meditation

In the United States of America, contentment is a countercultural concept. It goes against the grain of everything that we are being indoctrinated by the media to believe. And yet contentment is not a concept at all, it is a condition of the heart. It is the peace of enjoying what we already possess overriding the human tendency of greed for more. Now greed may seem like a harsh word, because the truth is that it is harsh and unsettling. It is an insatiable desire for more fleeting illusive pleasure. When a rich man was asked after amassing a huge stockpile of riches the question, "How much is enough?" his answer was, "a little more than I already have." The Bible accurately states, "A lover of silver is never satisfied."

The serious nature of covetousness is the due to the fact that greed is insatiable. As a result, one given to greed comes under its control and becomes driven like the addict searching for another fix that won't satisfy him any longer than the last one did.

In contrast to the man driven by greed, the greatest man that ever walked upon this earth as God incarnate, Jesus Christ, had very few possessions. His life among His creation was relatively short and yet He made a greater impact than men that lived an entire century. Again His possessions were few, not even having a home. And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head." (Luke 9:58 NKJV) Although He could have had everything He chose to possess nothing. And yet He gave more than the greatest philanthropist. He had what most of us inwardly need more than anything else. He had peace. While many human beings sacrifice their health to gain wealth, and then spend their wealth trying to regain their health, Jesus didn't fall into that trap. He was at peace. The one thing that He had is the thing that we need the most. He actually offers to give it to us. "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." (John 14:27 NKJV) He also promises in Hebrews 13:5 to never leave or forsake us. Perhaps it is time for you to forsake the futile pursuit of material gain and come to Jesus to know genuine peace and contentment.

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 Meditation or Discussion

1.     How have you found the compelling desire to attain more to be a hindrance to you relationship with God?

2.     What can we learn from the manner that Jesus Christ chose to live His human life?

3.     Why is it essential to believe that Christ will never leave or forsake you?

 

Responsive Prayer

My Lord and my Savior Jesus Christ, Thank You for coming down to this earth and walking among us that we may know the character and heart of God the Father. Although You were rich, You became poor and showed us a peace that surpassed all understanding. Thank You that You offer that exact peace to those who choose to freely accept it. Thank You for a gift that is worth more than anything that money can buy. Amen

 


"Freed In Christ",

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Chosen First

 

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

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

Meditation

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

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

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

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

"The wise lover regards not so much the gift of Him Who loves as the love of Him Who gives. He regards the affection of the Giver rather than the value of the gift, and sets his Beloved above all gifts."  (Thomas à Kempis. The Imitation of Christ)

 Questions for Personal Reflection or Discussion

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

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

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

Responsive Prayer

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

 


"Freed In Christ",

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Blessed Afflictions

 

Sitting with the Shepherd

And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: "MY SON, DO NOT DESPISE THE CHASTENING OF THE LORD, NOR BE DISCOURAGED WHEN YOU ARE REBUKED BY HIM; FOR WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE CHASTENS, AND SCOURGES EVERY SON WHOM HE RECEIVES." (Hebrews 12:5-6 NKJV)

Meditation

      The admonition given here is intended to encourage God's children when we go through trials. While the citizens of this world seek safety, comfort, unbridled pleasure and happiness, we as true followers of Christ need to be more realistic. Jesus Himself assured us that we will have trouble. But that He has gone before us and defeated our enemies. We can now walk in the victory that He won for us at the cross, but not without struggles.

       James counsels us to count it all joy when we encounter various trials, knowing that spiritual fruit will ultimately be produced. He goes on to say that rather than being baffled or overcome with despair we need to ask of God what He is trying to teach us. In doing this we can embrace our trials and learn what it is that our Father is trying to teach us through them.

       Knowing in our heart the goodness of God and the fact that He is sovereign over all helps us to have peace even in the worst of circumstances. He has a plan. He has a purpose. And that includes conforming us into the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. And being part of the plan although it may not always feel good at the time is not a sign of His anger, but proof of His genuine love. That in itself is a cause for great joy!

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you, says the LORD, and I will bring you back from your captivity; I will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, says the LORD, and I will bring you to the place from which I cause you to be carried away captive.

(Jeremiah 29:11-14 NKJV)

Questions for Personal Reflection or Discussion

1.     How do trials affect God's children different that those of the world?

2.     What fruit has God produced personally in your life through trials?

3.     How does understanding the goodness of God help you endure trials?

 

Responsive Prayer

My Father in heaven, I thank You that You are the author and the finsher of my faith and that You have begun a good work that You have promised to complete. Thank You for the opportunity to know You, because in knowing You I can be confident that that Your sovereign grace will only allow good in my life. May all the things I do and say today bring you glory, honor and praise. Amen

 


 

 

 

 

 

 


"Freed In Christ",

Monday, May 25, 2015

Total Dependence

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

A Psalm of David. The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. (Psalms 23:1 NKJV)

Meditation

David himself was a shepherd, so he knew what it meant to be a good shepherd. He was not a hireling, one who was driven by material gain, but he owned his sheep and genuinely cared for them. He was with them 24/7 in good times and bad. He was fully aware of their weaknesses and their inability to fend for themselves. He was probably much more cognizant of the threats to their well-being than even they were, and being so he was totally committed to their safety. If it meant fighting mountain lions and bears with a slingshot, he was there. They needed protection and they belonged to him so he protected them. David knew what they needed to survive, so he sought out those provisions and guided them safely there. He knew what was healthy for them to eat as opposed to what was noxious and would make them sick, even when they didn't. He found green pastures with plenty of green grass that were free of weeds. He knew they also needed clear clean water to drink, so he found sources of that and lead them partake. David knew that when they went astray, he needed to seek them out. Not only did he need to see that they returned, but he needed to discipline them so they wouldn't continue to their destructive behavior and possibly lose their lives.

So when David made the statement "The Lord is my Shepherd," he wasn't simply making a statement, he was boasting. He was boasting like a young boy who says with swelling pride about his earthly father, "My dad is bigger than your dad!" And David was right.

Throughout the ages this psalm has probably comforted more people than any passage in scripture. Those who have trusted in its validity and humbly placed themselves under the care of the Good Shepherd have found that they have lacked nothing that they actually needed in this lifetime. In fact most often they found that they had more than enough. So along with David they could say, "The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want."

As we consider this familiar passage of scripture today we must not write it off in our minds as redundant, but take it to heart. Then we too can boast with countless others, that the Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want either!"

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

Questions for Meditation or Discussion

1.     How does the life of the sheep depend entirely on the character of the shepherd?

2.     What experiences in life lead King David and now you to have reason to boast of the Good Shepherd's faithful care of your life?

3.     Why does knowing God firsthand equip us to inspire others to trust Him?

 

Responsive Prayer

Father God thank You for Your unwarranted faithfulness in my life. Thank You that through my relationship with Jesus Christ, I have come to know as the very best of the best. May my life be an open book of dependence on You liberally illustrated with grace. Thank You for bringing me safely this far and promising never to leave or forsake me. I love You. Amen


"Freed In Christ",

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Truth or Tolerance?

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

"You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." (John 4:22-24 NKJV)

Meditation

There is a lot of confusion in the world today about the existence of God and how He should be worshipped. We hear the word tolerance frequently, even seeing it advertised on bumper stickers. We also hear the statement made that "All roads lead to heaven." The Samaritan religion in Jesus' time was a corrupted form of Judaism and Jesus made it clear that it was inadequate when He said, "You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews." The only road to God the Father then and now is through the Messiah, Jesus Christ who came through the family lineage of Abraham. That is the truth, a reality concerning human relationships with God.

The statement that God is Spirit is the reality of His true nature. That being the case we must transcend the physical realm in order to worship Him. That can only be accomplished through Jesus Christ. He is THE way, not A way. Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." (John 14:6 NKJV) (emphasis mine)

The most exciting aspect of this discourse is that "the Father is seeking such to worship Him." Those who are lost and hurting, such as this Samaritan woman have an opportunity to become sons and daughters of the Most High God, part of the elect. When this sinful woman realized that she was in the presence of the long awaited Messiah and that He actually cared for her in a way that no man ever had she was amazed. In fact John chapter 4, verse 28 says that she left her water pot, the very thing that she had come to the well to fill, and ran into the city to tell others what had just happened. It is speculation on my part but I believe that it was probably the only men that she knew, those who used and abused her! Her past no longer mattered now. What did matter is that was that she had found salvation and the only logical response to receiving a blessing that good is to find someone to share it with.

How do you feel about your salvation? Are you excited about the fact that the Father is seeking those who will worship Him in spirit and truth and you have been included in that group? If you are the only logical response is to share it with others. That is evangelism in its truest form.

 

Questions for Meditation or Discussion

1.     How does God's word clearly contradict the concept that there are many roads leading to heaven?

2.     Why does knowing that God is Spirit impact how we worship Him?

3.     What is the natural response to receiving a tremendous blessing?

 

Responsive Prayer

Father God thank You for seeking me out by sending Your Son Jesus Christ to confront me about the sin in my life and show me the need for a Savior. I confess that there are times when I don't appreciate my salvation as much as I should. I choose today to repent of this and worship the Father in spirit and truth. I love You Father God. Glorify Yourself in me today.  Amen

 


"Freed In Christ",

Friday, May 22, 2015

Worshipping God With a Clean Heart

 

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, 'Raca!' shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, 'You fool!' shall be in danger of hell fire. Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5:22-24 NKJV)

Meditation

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

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

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

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

 

Questions for Meditation or Discussion

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

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

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

 

Responsive Prayer

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

 


"Freed In Christ",

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Truth About Our Need for a Savior

 

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me. Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom. (Psalms 51:5-6 NKJV)

Meditation

How often do we hear someone referred to as "not a Christian but a good person?" According to God's Word that is not true. In fact Jesus Himself said, "No one is good but One, that is God." We were born flawed, imperfect, and unable to please God. So our fleshly efforts to gain acceptance by our works will always be futile.

And yet like any loving father, God desires truth in us as His children. Charles H. Spurgeon in his Treasury of David describes this truth as reality, sincerity, true holiness and heart fidelity. So the truth is that we are morally incapable of being what God desires us to be. We must understand that about our fallen flesh before we truly understand our need for Jesus Christ. God doesn't want us to become overwhelmed or discouraged by the depravity of our flesh, He just wants us to be cognizant of it so that we will accept His solution. That solution is the person of Jesus Christ Who wants to come and make His home in us, exchanging His life for ours. As we become receptive to allow this by having the Person of the Holy Spirit indwell us we will know wisdom, not the wisdom of the world that is faulty and would ultimately lead to our demise, but divine wisdom that leads to life, peace and joy.

This is what Thomas A. Kempis says in the Imitation of Christ subtitled the Voice of Christ; "MY CHILD, walk before Me in truth, and seek Me always in the simplicity of your heart. He who walks before Me in truth shall be defended from the attacks of evil, and the truth shall free him from seducers and from the slanders of wicked men. For if the truth has made you free, then you shall be free indeed, and you shall not care for the vain words of men."

So let us vow to do just that, to walk before Him in truth and simplicity of heart, assured that we are in Him and fully accepted in the Beloved.

He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?    (Micah 6:8 NKJV).

Questions for Meditation or Discussion

1.     Why is it impossible for someone to be a good person but not a Christian?

2.     What is it that makes it necessary for me to occasionally see the depravity of my flesh?

3.     How is the wisdom of the world different from the wisdom of God?

 

Responsive Prayer

Heavenly Father blessed be Your Holy Name. Thank You for the turmoil and tribulation in my life that has taught me the truth about my own insufficiency and my desperate need for You. I confess that apart from Christ nothing good dwells in me, but as I abide in Him and Him in me Your fullness becomes evident. Amen

 

Thomas à Kempis. (1996). The Imitation of Christ (p. 101). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems


"Freed In Christ",

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Looking Ahead Instead of Behind

 

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight— That You may be found just when You speak, And blameless when You judge. (Psalms 51:3-4 NKJV)

Meditation

A year previous to writing this King David had committed adultery with another man's wife and had him killed to cover it up. When Adam and Eve sinned by eating the forbidden fruit, they did exactly the same thing. They actually tried to hide from God. It reminds me of when my young grandchildren try to hide from me by simply covering their eyes. I guess the logic is that if I can't see them, then they can't see me. To hide from the One who saw us when He formed us in our mother's womb, before we were even born is a total impossibility. And yet we try. In fact it is our first impulse when we sin. The problem with doing this is that as we turn our focus inward it separates from the only One who could help us. At least in our own mind it does.

Denial is an exercise in futility. It won't work. It never has and it never will. It didn't work for David and it won't work for us. He tried his best for a year and finally acknowledged here that in not dealing with his sin it was always before him. It was all he could see and he couldn't get past it, so he finally confessed. And because he knew his Creator intimately he had to admit that he had hurt Him. David's sin separated him from his Father and it hurt Him and it hurt David.

David came to the place where he was in full agreement that whatever consequences God deemed appropriate would be fully justified. As a result the baby born out of this adulterous affair died. And there would be sexual turmoil in David's family for rest of his earthly life. But more important than those things was the fact that David was reunited with his loving Father. The repentant sinner had come home!

A couple of things came out of this, big things. Number one was that David's sin no longer held him in its relentless grip. He accepted God's forgiveness and was able to put his sin behind him and move forward. The second thing was the fact that there was great rejoicing in heaven. God was not angry, as we in our humanity might expect He will be. Instead He was rejoicing with the heavenly hosts.

I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance…Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents." (Luke 15:7,10 NKJV)

Perhaps it is time for you to come home also?

Questions for Meditation or Discussion

1.     Why is hiding from God an exercise in futility?

2.     What is it that keeps you from agreeing with God about your sin and coming out of hiding?

3.     Why is it so important to put our sin behind us instead of keeping it ever before us?

 

Responsive Prayer

My Father in heaven, my God, thank You for never giving up on me even when I was in denial for so long. Thank you that in coming home to you I can put my sin behind me as it has been covered by the blood of Jesus Christ. Help me I pray to keep short accounts with sin and never deliberately allow anything to separate us from You my dear Father. Amen


"Freed In Christ",

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Coming Home is Always an Option

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

"And I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants. And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him." (Luke 15:19-20 NKJV)

Meditation

In this parable Jesus is addressing sinners and Pharisees alike and educating them on the true character of God the Father. There are many of us who lack the intimacy of a father/son relationship with Father God because our perception of Him is distorted. Those who have made a profession of faith and then fallen back into the bondage of life dominating sin are fearful that they have lost their salvation, or maybe were never saved to begin with. This parable teaches otherwise.

The sinner here is identified clearly as a son in the beginning of the story. He affirms his identity when he requests to be treated as a hired hand acknowledging that he is really more than that. The father's love has never wavered and Jesus is giving modern day prodigals assurance that they can come home to a compassionate reunion. Many who fear that they have gone too far causing an invisible boundary of which there is no crossing back, can take heart. While we might stray into the darkness and depravity of sin as the prodigal did, we don't lose our son status. We do however sometimes loose our assurance of it. There was never a point in the father's mind that the prodigal ceased to be his son. The son himself stopped behaving like a son and in doubting himself began to doubt his father's love. The father's reaction upon the son's return home says otherwise. He threw off all restraint and held nothing back in welcoming his once lost, spiritually dead son home. We can rest assured

 

Questions for Meditation or Discussion

1.     What do you think is the difference between a Pharisee's and a sinners perception of God ?

2.     Have you ever come to a place in life that you thought you had gone too far? How were you able to move past it?

3.     What about this parable is the thing that gives you the most hope? Why?

 

Responsive Prayer

My Father in heaven, my God, thank You that Your love never wavers even when my faith does. Thank you for your assurance from scripture that no created being (including me) can separate me from Your great love. May I never be afraid to come home no matter how far I wander. Amen


"Freed In Christ",

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Greatest Book of All Time

 

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

The entirety of Your word is truth, And every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever. (Psalms 119:160 NKJV)

Meditation

We are very blessed in the United States of America to have access to numerous copies and translations of God's Word. We have Bibles, Study Bibles, Bible Commentaries and Bible Dictionaries. All of these are useful in gaining a deeper understanding of that which our Creator intended us to know about Himself and His plan for the human race. But even in countries where copies of the Bible are scarce, to possess even a small portion of the Bible can be a blessing. The wisdom and truth contained in the Word of God is deeper than all of the wisdom of man. We will need the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and all of eternity to come to a complete understanding of it.

The problem today is not that we don't have access to the spiritual truth which gives us wisdom and understanding, it is that we don't apply that wisdom to our daily lives. If you want to fill a church parking lot with truth seekers all that you need to do is advertise a seminar on knowing the will of God. But mid-week prayer meetings and small group bible studies are diminishing rapidly because few are committed to apply the truth taught in scripture to their daily lives.

Then there the unregenerate opponents of God's Word who cannot comprehend the truth in scripture but consider themselves qualified to debate it. This is what God's Word has to say about them; "But the natural, nonspiritual man does not accept or welcome or admit into his heart the gifts and teachings and revelations of the Spirit of God, for they are folly (meaningless nonsense) to him; and he is incapable of knowing them [of progressively recognizing, understanding, and becoming better acquainted with them] because they are spiritually discerned and estimated and appreciated." (1 Corinthians 2:14 AMP) But throughout the history of the world God has preserved His truth and kept opponents from destroying it. So in spite of all that opponents and critics say about the Word of God, it stands tall.

But the greater question for those of us who have greater access and literary helps, is just what will we do with the truth we already have? The saints of old used to take their worn copies of the Bible out into the woods, find a stump to place it on, and lay it down and kneel before it. Then they would humbly ask the Spirit of God to quicken their hearts so that they could receive and comprehend what their Creator was saying to them through it. As God answered their prayers their lives would be transformed and so would the lives of those whom they ministered to. My question to you today is what will you do with the truth that you have received from God through His Word?

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12 NKJV)

Questions for Meditation or Discussion

1.     What practical tools has God given you to understand and apply His Word to your daily life?

2.     Why is it pointless to debate scripture with unregenerate scholars?

3.     How can you allow God to impact your heart towards transformation with what you already know about Him through His Word?

 

Responsive Prayer

My Father in heaven, my God, You are the author and the finisher of my faith. Thank You for those whom You inspired to write down Your thoughts in the Holy Bible. Thank You for those who gave their lives protecting it down through the ages. I confess that I don't always appreciate the Bible for the treasure that it really is. May I commit today to not being merely a hearer or reader of You Word but a doer that I may be transformed into the image of Your Son for Your glory, Amen


"Freed In Christ",

Friday, May 15, 2015

A Father's Cries to the Father

 

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. (Acts 20:24 NKJV) 

Meditation

Paul is coming to the end of his earthly life, as we are, and there was great controversy over what he would face in the next phase of his journey. But as a follower of Christ, Paul was surrendered to whatever God had ordained for him. The truth is that none of us know exactly the time and date our earthly journey will end. So the time of surrender if we are to finish well is right now. Some might contest that they don't know how to surrender, but surrender is not a task to be checked off of our to-do list. It is an attitude to be cultivated in our heart. We have a Savior Who has identified Himself as the Way, and He has invited us to allow Him to lead us along the path of life as He invited the Apostle Paul to do on the road to Damascus.

His invitation goes like this; "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30 NKJV) The yoke He refers to here is the race that Paul refers to when he says, "that I may finish my race with joy."

Perhaps you are wondering where the joy part comes in because you are certainly not feeling it right now. Your race feels like pain and suffering. Jesus is using that pain and suffering to draw you into a deeper intimacy with the Father. Even He went through death to get to life. So when He reveals Himself to you in a new and powerful way, He shows you the pathway to peace. Afterwards you will be able to testify about the sufficiency of His grace that brought you through the trials that you are now enduring.

The writer of Hebrews said "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 12:2 NKJV)

May you too, like the Apostle Paul receive the same comfort and peace knowing that the journey that you are on is intended to lead you into the very throne room of GOD!

 

 

Responsive Prayer

My Father in heaven, my God blessed be Your Holy Name. You are bringing me through the darkness and into the light of Your magnificent love. The pain that I am enduring is far more favorable that the tragedy of never coming to know You intimately as my Divine Husband and experiencing the joy of Your intimate presence. May Your grace sustain me as my human strength fails. The gospel has proven to me personally that Your strength is made perfect in my weakness. Thank You that even when men fail me and presecute me Your love never fails. Thank You for assuring me that You will never leave or forsake me. Even though I may be rejected and scorned by men, I am fully accepted in the Beloved. Hold me close Lord and lead me into the very presence of God where You Yourself dwell. Amen


"Freed In Christ",

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Disciplined By Grace

 

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",

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

“Alone With My Father”

 

Sitting with the Shepherd

Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed. And Simon and those who were with Him searched for Him. (Mark 1:35-36 NKJV)

Meditation

Jesus was busy, very busy. The context of these verses tell us that in the evening after the sun had set they brought to Him all who were sick and those who were demon possessed. And the whole city was gathered at the door. We claim to be busy today, but there are few who can equal the pace that Jesus kept. And in His humanity, He was subject to the same fatigue as we are. When reading these biblical accounts of Jesus' earthly life we must never downplay His human limitations.

For those who are busy, morning presents the most favorable, and often times the only feasible time to be alone. And even then, in Jesus' case after He had arisen a long time before dawn and departed to a solitary place, they still came looking for Him demanding His attention.

Now today some of us have a favorite spot in our homes to meet with the Lord. It may be a room, a porch or even a study. Perhaps we have a favorite chair surrounded by books, pictures and a warm cup of coffee or tea. In Jesus case those were luxuries that simply didn't present themselves. Even so, He went far away, early, and by Himself for a reason. He wanted to be alone with the One He loved the most, His Father.

"Prayer is essentially the practice of His presence. True prayer is talking to God. It is claiming audience with God. Resolute in the purpose not to neglect prayer, nor yet to use it merely to get something from God, we need to seize upon it with renewed avidity, as the opportunity to commune with Him, to school our spirits in responding to His Spirit, to practice His presence." NORMAN B. HARRISON

 Harrison, Nick (2010-12-21). His Victorious Indwelling: Daily Devotions for a Deeper Christian Life (p. 170). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

"Blessed is the soul who hears the Lord speaking within her, who receives the word of consolation from His lips. Blessed are the ears that catch the accents of divine whispering, and pay no heed to the murmurings of this world. Blessed indeed are the ears that listen, not to the voice which sounds without, but to the truth which teaches within. Blessed are the eyes which are closed to exterior things and are fixed upon those which are interior. Blessed are they who penetrate inwardly, who try daily to prepare themselves more and more to understand mysteries. Blessed are they who long to give their time to God, and who cut themselves off from the hindrances of the world."     Thomas à Kempis.

Thomas à Kempis. (1996). The Imitation of Christ (p. 93). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems.

 

Questions for Personal Reflection or Discussion

1.     What are the seemingly urgent things that prevent you from spending time alone with God?

2.     What time of day do you find it best to be alone with Him?

3.     Why is a daily time of fellowship with God not an option for you?

 

Responsive Prayer

My Father in heaven, my God blessed be Your Holy Name. Thank You for the times that we get to spend alone in intimate fellowship. I confess that there are times when I allow seemingly urgent matters to interfere with our special times of fellowship. Thank You that You are never too busy to meet with me. I love You.   Amen


"Freed In Christ",

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Stop Running and Just 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 its superior quality, because 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",

Monday, May 11, 2015

Risen From The Dead

 

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, (Ephesians 2:1-2 NKJV) 

Meditation

There are many well documented and published accounts about people who supposedly experienced death and went to heaven only to return and write books about it. How credible that is I don't really know, but in a sense every born again believer has the opportunity to experience life after death today.

What I mean by that is that we were once dead spiritually according to God's Word at one time and now have been made alive. To be dead literally means to be cut off or separated. Although we were alive physically and emotionally, able to connect with other people on those levels we were dead spiritually. This meant that we were unable to connect with God so we were cut off and separated from Him. Those who take no thought to rectify their condition will remain separated from God eternally.

But although a person is able to connect with God after spiritual rebirth, not all take advantage of the opportunity. Some continue to remain to a great degree cut off by their own complacency. Although Jesus made the offer of abundant life to everyone not all experience it this side of heaven's gates. The reason for that is that they fail to understand or appropriate the death of their old man and the life of Christ now living in them. That old man continues to hold sway over their daily life and it hinders Christ from living through them. Charles Solomon is noted for holding what he calls "white funerals." Because until we reckon ourselves dead to sin and alive to Christ we will lack the joy and victory intended for those living the abundant life.

"What an infinite pleasure it is to lose ourselves in Him, and being swallowed up in the overcoming sense of his goodness, to offer ourselves a living sacrifice always ascending unto him in flames of love. Never does a soul know what solid joy and substantial pleasure is, till once, being weary of itself, it renounce all propriety, give itself up unto the Author of its being, and feel itself become a hallowed and devoted thing, and can say, from an inward sense and feeling: "My beloved is mine."  HENRY SCOUGAL    

 

Questions for Personal Reflection or Discussion

1.     What does it mean that we were dead in our trespasses and sins?

2.     How to we move from complacency to abundance in our Christian life?

3.     Who is it that dies in a "white funeral?"

 

Responsive Prayer

My Lord and my Savior Jesus Christ, blessed be Your Holy Name. Thank You for helping me to reckon myself as dead to sin and alive to You. Thank You for the abundant resurrection life that You bought for me on the cross. I confess that too often after offering myself as a living sacrifice I tend to crawl off the altar. May I remain dead to self that You may freely live through me. Amen

 


"Freed In Christ",

Friday, May 8, 2015

Into The Promised Land or Not?

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.                            (1 Corinthians 10:11 NKJV) 

Meditation

There are some who would write off parts of the bible as irrelevant for us as Christians because they were written before the sacrificial death of Christ on the cross. Such is not the case. Their Father, who disciplined them by grace is our Father Who disciplines us as His children today. The Holy Spirit Who guided and instructed them is the same Holy Spirit Who guides us today. And because basic human nature hasn't changed since Adam, our tendencies are similar to theirs.

The crossing of the Red Sea to escape the bondage of Egypt was a monumental event in human history and has been immortalized through the ages in both films and written form. And as it was such a dramatic deliverance, it seems that it could hardly be forgotten. But the Israelites not only forgot the power of God, they lost faith shortly afterward and failed to enter the Promised Land when they saw the giants that opposed them there. So the majority of them never entered God's rest. Lest we become too critical, we must look at ourselves. Some of us have had dramatic conversion experiences, but regardless of how dramatic they were or were not, every one of us who have experienced the new birth in Christ have experienced a miracle. We were delivered from the bondage of this world (Egypt) and slavery (sin.)  

Jesus said that He came to give us abundant life (our Promised Land) and yet some of us have failed enter into that life. Maybe we just got tired or lack the faith to face the giants in our lives. But the writer of Hebrews reminds us that the promise of rest (from self-effort) still remains to those of us who choose to move forward. Perhaps as in times past, few will enter in although the reward is great. But those few that follow their modern day Joshua (Jesus Christ) will cross the Jordan River (identification by faith) and enter into the Promised Land (the abundant life.) We can choose to be among them today.

There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience.  (Hebrews 4:9-11 NKJV)

Questions for Meditation or Discussion

1.     What is significant to you about your conversion experience?

2.     What are the giants that are keeping you out of the Promised Land today?

3.     How can your modern day Joshua lead you in victory over them today?

Responsive Prayer

My Lord and Savior Jesus Christ thank you that as the conquering general You lead Your children today. Thank You Lord for bringing me out of slavery in Egypt and giving me the hope of the abundant life. Give me today the courage to face the giants in my life that I may not only enter the promised land personally but help others to find the way as well. Amen


"Freed In Christ",

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Joy in the Journey

Sitting with the Shepherd

And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: "MY SON, DO NOT DESPISE THE CHASTENING OF THE LORD, NOR BE DISCOURAGED WHEN YOU ARE REBUKED BY HIM; FOR WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE CHASTENS, AND SCOURGES EVERY SON WHOM HE RECEIVES." (Hebrews 12:5-6 NKJV)

Meditation

      The admonition given here is intended to encourage God's children when we go through trials. While the citizens of this world seek safety, comfort, unbridled pleasure and happiness, we as true followers of Christ need to be more realistic. Jesus Himself assured us that we will have trouble. But that He has gone before us and defeated our enemies. We can now walk in the victory that He won for us at the cross, but not without struggles.

       James counsels us to count it all joy when we encounter various trials, knowing that spiritual fruit will ultimately be produced. He goes on to say that rather than being baffled or overcome with despair we need to ask of God what He is trying to teach us. In doing this we can embrace our trials and learn what it is that our Father is trying to teach us through them.

       Knowing in our heart the goodness of God and the fact that He is sovereign over all helps us to have peace even in the worst of circumstances. He has a plan. He has a purpose. And that includes conforming us into the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. And being part of the plan although it may not always feel good at the time is not a sign of His anger, but proof of His genuine love. That in itself is a cause for great joy!

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you, says the LORD, and I will bring you back from your captivity; I will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, says the LORD, and I will bring you to the place from which I cause you to be carried away captive.

(Jeremiah 29:11-14 NKJV)

Questions for Personal Reflection or Discussion

1.     How do trials affect God's children different that those of the world?

2.     What fruit has God produced personally in your life through trials?

3.     How does understanding the goodness of God help you endure trials?

 

Responsive Prayer

My Father in heaven, I thank You that You are the author and the finisher of my faith and that You have begun a good work that You have promised to complete. Thank You for the opportunity to know You, because in knowing You I can be confident that that Your sovereign grace will only allow good in my life. May all the things I do and say today bring you glory, honor and praise. Amen

 


"Freed In Christ",