Friday, July 31, 2015

CHANNELS OF BLESSING

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

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. As it is written: "HE HAS DISPERSED ABROAD, HE HAS GIVEN TO THE POOR; HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS ENDURES FOREVER." Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness, (2 Corinthians 9:8-10 NKJV)

Meditation

God is described in scripture of the Giver of every good and perfect gift from up above. We all at one time or another been the beneficiary of His gifts. Unlike human sources of supply, we are need not be concerned that His supply will ever be exhausted. His love is a prime example of this as scripture says that He lavishes His love upon us. To lavish means to pour without measure. And since love is the greatest gift of all and never runs out, all other gifts are within His ability to provide as well.

If we as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ are to be used effectively in the work of the kingdom, then we need to accurately mirror the character of the One Who commissioned us to this work. Paul is admonishing us in our scripture passage above not to be weak and miserly in our giving for numerous reasons. One is that there is no need to be. We have His full assurance that His well will never run dry. The second reason is that we need to be an open channel of blessing, so that His provision can flow through us into the lives of those whom He is trying to reach through us. And finally because if we sow sparingly hoarding the seed rather than planting it, we will reap a less bountiful harvest of righteousness.

God's desire is to impart the righteousness of Jesus Christ into our once perverted and sinful lives. In order for that to happen we need to allow His Spirit to flow through us unhindered. As we allow Him to bless others through us we can be assured that His blessings to us will never run dry.

Questions for Personal Reflection or Discussion

1.     Why are Gods blessings better than anything known to the common man?

2.     What do we need to do in giving to mirror the character of our Father God?

3.     How does the law of reaping and sowing apply in our ministry for God?

 

Responsive Prayer

My Father in heaven, my God thank You indeed are the Source of every good and perfect gift from above. You have already blessed me far beyond what I ever hoped, expected or imagined. I confess that in spite of your faithful generosity in times past, I entertain feelings of doubt about tomorrow. I call the enemy to stand down and desist in the Name of my Victorious King Jesus Christ. It is in His Name that I live and pray, Amen


"Freed In Christ",

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

His First Choice

 

Sitting with the Shepherd

 

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

Meditation

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

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

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

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

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

 Questions for Personal Reflection or Discussion

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

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

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

Responsive Prayer

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

 


"Freed In Christ",

Monday, July 6, 2015

Keeping the Main Thing as the Main Thing

 

Sitting with the Shepherd

"Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? (Matthew 6:25 NKJV)

For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. (Matthew 6:32-33 NKJV)

Meditation

This is Jesus speaking directly to you and I through the inspired Word of God. He is basically telling us that we need to get our priorities straight. He knows. He actually knows us better than we know ourselves. He understands the world that we live in. He lived here Himself. We are by nature, fearful people. We get anxious. That is why the admonition, "Fear not," is written so frequently in so many books of the bible. That is also probably why we are identified as sheep. Sheep are by nature very skittish and unsettled. They won't even lay down to rest unless they know everything is ok. Jesus is saying to us here, "It is ok." I know the Father personally, and He has got all of this taken care of." When was the last time you worried about whether the sun was going to come up in the morning or not? He is the same One that takes care of that. Or as a child raised in a reasonably stable home, when did you worry about if you were going to have anything to eat for breakfast, or clothes to wear for the day? Most likely you never did. Why? Because your parents took care of these things. They knew what you needed. What Jesus is saying here is simply, "My Father is greater than all of them and He's got it!

All of this is so simple that it shouldn't be an issue. And yet it is. We get so caught up in the insignificant issues that we lose our focus and miss the most important issue of all. Jesus is in the process of gathering together a select group of people to live with Him forever in an eternal paradise. And He is not doing it alone. He has invited us to be a part of it. He is coming back to get us, and when He does all of the insignificant things that seemed so important really won't even matter anymore. They won't matter at all!

So what shall we spend the time and measure of health on that we have today? We have a choice. It's called free will. We need to make the decision to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and live for His glory. If we keep our priorities straight, our lives will be full of purpose and value.

Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:5-7 NKJV)

Questions for Personal Reflection or Discussion

1.     Why is Jesus qualified to tell us to live our lives, other than the fact that He is God?

2.     What are the seemingly pressing matters that are occupying your thoughts right now?

3.     How would God like to use you to further Kingdom interests today?

 

Responsive Prayer

My Father in heaven, my God, You are the giver of every good and perfect gift from above. You have created us and even chosen us before the foundation of the world. You have promised us that one day all of this will be over and that You will be back to get us. What a glorious day that will be! I confess that too often I forget that and get caught up in the things that are really irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. Help me, I pray by Your grace to seek first the Kingdom of God and Your righteousness knowing that my Father will handle all of the rest of it just fine. Amen


"Freed In Christ",

Friday, July 3, 2015

Free to Obey

 


Sitting with the Shepherd

 

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

Meditation

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

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

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

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

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

 

Questions for Personal Reflection or Discussion

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

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

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

 

Responsive Prayer

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

 


"Freed In Christ",

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Supreme Decision to Love

 

Sitting with the Shepherd

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)

"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! (Matthew 23:37 NKJV)

Meditation

The Pharisees were highly regarded as respected religious leaders in Jesus' day. They went to great lengths to study the written word of God and teach it precisely as is was written. Their zeal for God and their desire to honor and obey Him was commendable. But somewhere in their zeal, their hearts became hard, hard enough to blind them from seeing Christ the Messiah when He stood right in front of them. And because they didn't recognize Him as God they went to the other end of the spectrum and made Him their most hated enemy.

Jesus on the other hand, while living His entire life to honor and obey His Father, never allowed His heart to become hardened against any man, including those that would eventually kill Him. When He looked down upon Jerusalem and saw in that city those who violently opposed Him along with the prophets that God sent before Him, He grieved over their lost spiritual condition. Rather than focus on what they were doing to Him, He longed to do more for them, realizing that the end results of their sinful conduct would be punishment enough. For those who failed to repent and turn from their sinful ways, eternal damnation was imminent.

So how can we apply that in our day. For those of us who are facing growing opposition by misguided individuals who seek to destroy us and our current way of life there are only two options. One is to allow their conduct to harden our hearts causing us to become bitter and alienated from the One we love and follow, Jesus Christ. The second is to recognize that even if they get their way, their sin will never make them happy and the eternal consequences are far more significant than anything you or I could do or say.

If our righteousness as born again Bible believing Christians is to exceed that of the Pharisees as Jesus said it must, we have no choice other than to love our enemies and bless them that curse us.

"You have heard that it was said, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (Matthew 5:43-45 NKJV)

Questions for Personal Reflection or Discussion

1.     Do you believe that the Pharisees were intrinsically bad people? Why or why not?

2.     What was the attitude of Jesus' heart toward those who persecuted and crucified Him? What other scriptures can you cite to affirm this?

3.     How are empowered to do what Jesus did?

 

Responsive Prayer

My Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, blessed be Your Holy Name. You lived a selfless human life obeying and honoring the Father in all things. You saw the human race as redeemable. You were never willing to write anyone off as unreachable, and because of that many are serving You faithfully today. Empower me I pray to love the unlovable and bless those who hate me and persecute me, that I will be more like You and less like the Pharisees. Amen

 


"Freed In Christ",