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February 2, 2018

Providential Crossings

by Robby Higginbottom

...Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, "Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza." This is a desert place. And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. And the Spirit said to Philip, "Go over and join this chariot." So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, "Do you understand what you are reading?" And he said, "How can I, unless someone guides me?" And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this:

"Like a sheep he was led to the slaughterand like a lamb before its shearer is silent,so he opens not his mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth."

And the eunuch said to Philip, "About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?" Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, "See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?" And Philip said, "If you believe with all your heart, you may." And he replied, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God." And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he preached the gospel to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.

Acts 8:26-40 (https://pcpc.us1.list-manage.com/track/click?u=eba67192d3a27da52e93fefb8&id=2e58878a57&e=82a9a8f89)

God uses Philip in a providential crossing to bring the Ethiopian eunuch to Jesus Christ. God speaks to Philip and asks him to leave a thriving ministry and go to a place he doesn't know, to a person he doesn't know, for a reason he doesn't fully understand. And Philip obeys! What would we have done? As we reflect on what could seem like a strange detour for Philip, we should consider how we relate to interruptions in our lives. In Spiritual Leadership, Oswald Sanders shares a story to illustrate.

One busy man told me how he mastered the problem of interruptions. "Up to some years ago," he testified, "I was always annoyed by them, which was really a form of selfishness on my part. People used to walk in and say, 'Well, I just had two hours to kill here in between trains, and I thought I would come and see you.' That used to bother me. Then the Lord convinced me that He sends people our way. He sent Philip to the Ethiopian eunuch. He sent Barnabas to see Saul. The same applies today. God sends people our way.

"So when someone comes in, I say, 'The Lord must have brought you here. Let us find out why He sent you. Let us have prayer.' Well, this does two things. The interview takes on new importance because God is in it. And it generally shortens the interview. If a visitor knows you are looking for reasons why God should have brought him, and there are none apparent, the visit becomes pleasant but brief. So now I take interruptions as from the Lord. They belong in my schedule, because the schedule is God's to arrange at His pleasure."

If we believe in an Almighty God who advances His church through providential crossings, shouldn't we reconsider the way we think about the detours, interruptions, and "chance" meetings we have every day? Shouldn't we believe that the Lord still sends people to us, and still sends us to people, even when we don't know the who, the where, the why, or the how? Today, will we wrestle to hold onto control-which is an illusion!-or will we surrender to the providential direction of our gracious God who is building His church? What if He really intends to use us today to extend His kingdom? As another author writes, "What if our interruptions are in fact our opportunities?"

About the Author

Robby Higginbottom
Assistant Pastor of College Ministry
Park Cities Presbyterian Church

Robby Higginbottom was born and raised in Dallas, Texas. As early as high school, he sensed the Lord calling him to pastoral ministry. Robby is a graduate of Highland Park High School, Duke University, and Redeemer Seminary. Through the years, he has worked with high school students, college students, and young adults at PCPC. Robby currently serves as an assistant pastor. He is married to Ann, and they have two children: Will and John Harper.

 

 

January 19, 2018

Prison Break

by Mark Fulmer

The Apostles Arrested and Freed

"...But the high priest rose up, and all who were with him (that is, the party of the Sadducees), and filled with jealousy they arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison. But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, "Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life." And when they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and began to teach.

Now when the high priest came, and those who were with him, they called together the council and all the senate of the people of Israel and sent to the prison to have them brought. But when the officers came, they did not find them in the prison, so they returned and reported, "We found the prison securely locked and the guards standing at the doors, but when we opened them we found no one inside." Now when the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these words, they were greatly perplexed about them, wondering what this would come to. And someone came and told them, "Look! The men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people." Then the captain with the officers went and brought them, but not by force, for they were afraid of being stoned by the people.

And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, saying, "We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man's blood upon us." But Peter and the apostles answered, "We must obey God rather than men.

The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him."

When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them. But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in honor by all the people, stood up and gave orders to put the men outside for a little while. And he said to them, "Men of Israel, take care what you are about to do with these men. For before these days Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. After him Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and drew away some of the people after him. He too perished, and all who followed him were scattered. So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!" So they took his advice, and when they had called in the apostles,
they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.

Acts 5:17-42 (https://pcpc.us1.list-manage.com/track/click?u=eba67192d3a27da52e93fefb8&id=c08a6106c3&e=82a9a8f891)

 

At the beginning of his message on this passage, our pastor Mark Davis asked, “Have you ever been arrested?” My pulse went up, my breathing got shallow, and I was seconds from a cold sweat. “No!” thought I. “Never!” Now, don’t get me wrong. There have been a few times when maybe I should have been, but just the thought of being locked up does its deterrent work on this generally law-abiding citizen. (Speed limits are not just suggestions, right?)

For the folks in the New Testament church, arrest was a common and dangerous reality. Accompanied by beatings, stonings and civic expulsion, arrest was an ever-present threat for Christians and often only a short-term formality preceding execution.

But why? Being a Christian wasn’t against the law. There was no Roman rule that said following Jesus was illegal. That bit of legislation wouldn’t come about for several decades. Yet the first followers of The Way often found themselves on the wrong side of the dungeon door, usually because of the ire they had caused the religious establishment in town. They were imprisoned because they kept telling everyone who would listen that Jesus was alive and that he was The Messiah.

So there they sat. Imprisoned for preaching the Gospel, the apostles were in a seemingly silenced, hopeless predicament. And you know what happened? An angel showed up in the middle of the night and set them free. I wonder if they thought they were dreaming. Maybe they were so scared they thought they had hallucinated their release. But the punch line of the account is that the angel didn’t just “turn them loose,” but also gave them instructions. “Go and stand in the temple, and speak to the people all the words of this Life.”

What? They had been arrested for preaching, freed by a direct miracle of God Almighty, walked past sleeping guards, and then told to go back to the center of town…and preach some more! But this time the audience would be different. They would wind up preaching the Gospel to the very leaders who had attacked them in the first place. They were beaten, roughed up for good measure, and then released.

How did they respond? It’s remarkable. They offered praise to God because they had been counted worthy of suffering for Christ. “And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.”

And that’s the way with the followers of Jesus, isn’t it? God is building His church in and through His faithful servants. God’s Kingdom will prevail, empowered and emboldened by the same Holy Spirit that empowered Peter and the others. Who will you tell today?

###

About the Author

Mark Fulmer

Elder
Park Cities Presbyterian Church

Mark Fulmer is an elder at Park Cities Presbyterian Church, and along with Steve Vanderhill, teaches the New Creations Sunday School class.

 

January 13, 2018

Every Thought Captive, a weekly devotional from Park Cities Presbyterian Church (PCA) January 12, 2018

We Are Beggars; This Is True

by Matt Fray

The Lame Beggar Healed
Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. That is, 3 p.m. And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, "Look at us." And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, "I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!" And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong.

And leaping up he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God, and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

Peter Speaks in Solomon's Portico
While he clung to Peter and John, all the people, utterly astounded, ran together to them in the portico called Solomon's. And when Peter saw it he addressed the people: "Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk?

Acts 3:1-12(https://pcpc.us1.list-manage.com/track/click?u=eba67192d3a27da52e93fefb8&id=31a2371858&e=82a9a8f89)

On February 18, 1546, Martin Luther died. In his pocket was found a piece of paper with this statement written on it: “We are beggars; this is true.” These words might have seemed mysterious at first, but those who knew Luther well quickly realized that he was not describing material poverty, but spiritual poverty. In other words, in God’s sight, we are so spiritually weak and needy that we are like beggars before Him. While most of us would agree that Luther is a credible source of great wisdom, we all must agree that Jesus is the one from whose lips we receive divine wisdom itself. And Jesus, too, promotes the truth of our lowly spiritual condition.

Amazingly, Jesus goes even further than Luther. Jesus not only affirms the truth that we are people of great spiritual need, but that is a good and even happy reality. We see this as Jesus begins his most famous sermon, The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). Jesus’ opening words in this great sermon are commonly known as the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:2-12), a description of the attributes and attitudes that should characterize us as Christians. Both counter-cultural and counter-intuitive, the Beatitudes present a vision of the good life that is marked by humility, need, and even mistreatment. In the Kingdom of God, those things which the world despises as weak and pitiable, God exalts as strong and enviable. And Jesus begins the Beatitudes with perhaps the most surprising attribute and attitude of all, saying, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of God (Matthew 5:3).”

What does it mean to be poor in spirit? To be poor in spirit means having an attitude that reflects our attribute of spiritual poverty. This attitude is not mere pessimism or self-pity; it’s origin is not from our own heart or mind. Rather, it is an attitude of abiding humility that takes root in our souls when we learn the uncomfortable truth of who we are before God. In God’s eyes, we are not merely imperfect, but altogether unrighteous (Romans 3:10). Before His holiness, we are not only guilty, but condemned to the punishment of death (Romans 6:23). To be poor in spirit is to not only see these realities, but to feel in our bones the tragedy and humility of them personally.

Why does Jesus say it is a good and happy thing to be poor in spirit? Because it is only when we see our poverty that we can see and receive the riches of Jesus’ grace by faith. It is only when we feel the weight of hell’s justice that we, in turning to Jesus, can inherit the Kingdom of Heaven. This is the upside-down, inside-out nature of the Kingdom of God: abundant provision in Jesus Christ for those who see, feel, and openly acknowledge their need of Him. So while many of us try to keep our deep sense of spiritual weakness, corruption, and need hidden, Jesus calls us to own it and to bring it into the light of His glorious grace.

To possess a genuine attitude of spiritual poverty, we must turn away from our natural inclination to compare ourselves to other people and, instead, compare ourselves to God. Or to put it more accurately, we must stop looking at ourselves with the world’s mirror and look at ourselves with God’s mirror; we must see who we are in God’s holy sight. This is what led to the great expressions of spiritual poverty found in the Bible on the lips of people like Isaiah (Isaiah 6:5), Mary (Luke 1:46-48), and Paul (Philippians 3:8-9). As the famous English preacher Martyn Lloyd-Jones said,

"The way to become poor in spirit is to look at God. Look at Him, and keep looking at Him. And then say to Him, 'Nothing in my hand I bring; simply to Thy cross I cling.' Empty, hopeless, naked, vile. But He is the all-sufficient One: 'Yea, all I need, in Thee to find, O Lamb of God, I come, I come.' (Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, p. 52).”

May we who are poor look to Jesus who is rich and feed on Him in our hearts by faith as we anticipate the glories of the Kingdom of Heaven.

 

About the Author

Matt Fray
Assistant Pastor of Spiritual Formation
Park Cities Presbyterian Church

Matt grew up in South Florida and first sensed a call to pastoral ministry while a high school student at Park Cities Presbyterian Church (PCA), in Dallas. After graduating from St. Mark’s, Covenant College, and Westminster Seminary in California, he spent four years serving as the assistant pastor of a PCA church in Savannah, GA. In 2014, he returned to serve at PCPC as the Assistant Pastor of Spiritual Formation.

Matt and his wife Erin have three children: Lydia, Hudson, and Samuel.

 

God's Holy Fire from Heartlight

God's Holy Fire is a daily devotional about the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
  • Nothing Else Matters!

    [Jesus said,] "The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you — they are full of the Spirit and life."

    John 6:63 NIV

    Key Thought

    The apostle Paul said essentially the same thing as in today's verse when he wrote, "I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him..." (Philippians 3:8-9). Paul was saying that everything is nothing without Jesus. So much of what we pursue — what I have pursued — really counts for nothing. Economic meltdowns, which invariably happen, are reminders that the only investments that last, that are sure, are investments in Jesus and his kingdom. So we are called to turn our hearts to Jesus, to be shaped by his words, guided by his Spirit and conformed to his character. Jesus' words are lasting, eternal, and life-giving. Better yet, there is someone lasting and eternal and life-giving in his words — the Holy Spirit. That is why one of the ongoing works of the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, is to bring to our minds the words of Jesus (John 14:26). So read the Gospels — Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. But more than reading the words, ask the Holy Spirit to be alive as you read and are shaped and given life through the words of the Savior!

    Today's Prayer

    Holy God, I praise you! I thank you, Father, for sending the Son to die for our sins and for showing us the way home to you. I thank you, Jesus, as Son of God, for sending the Holy Spirit as my Advocate and Comforter, to be your presence within me and to bring me life through your words. I thank you, Holy Spirit, for living within me, and I ask that you conform me to Jesus and produce your holy fruit in me. Amen.


    Ⓒ 1996-2018 Heartlight, Inc. This material may not be reproduced in part or whole for commercial use without written consent. The Thoughts and Prayer for God's Holy Fire are written by Phil Ware.

    Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

    Scripture quotations marked MESSAGE are taken from THE MESSAGE, copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

  • Must!

    [Jesus said,] "But the time is coming — indeed it's here now — when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth."

    John 4:23-24 NLT

    Key Thought

    "Must..."! That is a hard word when spoken by Jesus! So we should pay careful attention when the Lord uses it. Our actions must conform to his words. "Must..."! Yet this "must" is not one we can do on our own. The requirement to worship God acceptably cannot take place because of our effort — not because we do it right, say the right words, do it in the right place, or follow the right procedures. God is Spirit. We cannot worship God without the Holy Spirit! In other places, we are told that true worship is worship in the Spirit (Philippians 3:3; Ephesians 5:17-21 — notice "pray/praying in the Spirit" in Ephesians 6:18 and Jude 20). More than engaging our minds and our bodies, we need the presence of the Holy Spirit to help us worship acceptably. We need the Spirit for at least two reasons. The first is that the Holy Spirit facilitates our communication with God by giving us access to the Father (Ephesians 2:18), interceding for us (Romans 8:26-27), and enabling us to cry Abba Father to God, spirit with Spirit to God (Romans 8:14-17; Galatians 4:6). The second reason is that the Spirit is at work conforming us to be like Jesus (2 Corinthians 3:18), empowering us to put to death the misdeeds of the body (Romans 8:9-13) and to display the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). This influence of the Spirit is why being born of water and the Spirit is so important (John 3:3-7; Titus 3:3-7). Without the Spirit, true worship will not happen. We MUST have the Spirit to worship in spirit and truth!

    Today's Prayer

    Father, thank you for sending Jesus to reveal your truth and for sending the Spirit to make that truth come alive in me. May my life be a living and holy praise to you! In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.


    Ⓒ 1996-2018 Heartlight, Inc. This material may not be reproduced in part or whole for commercial use without written consent. The Thoughts and Prayer for God's Holy Fire are written by Phil Ware.

    Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

    Scripture quotations marked MESSAGE are taken from THE MESSAGE, copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

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