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September 8, 2017

My Soul’s Refuge

by Robby Higginbottom

Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me,
for in You my soul takes refuge;
in the shadow of Your wings I will take refuge,
till the storms of destruction pass by.
I cry out to God Most High,
to God who fulfills His purpose for me.
He will send from heaven and save me;
He will put to shame him who tramples on me.

God will send out His steadfast love and His faithfulness!
My soul is in the midst of lions;
I lie down amid fiery beasts—
the children of man, whose teeth are spears and arrows,
whose tongues are sharp swords.
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!
Let Your glory be over all the earth!
They set a net for my steps;
my soul was bowed down.
They dug a pit in my way,
but they have fallen into it themselves.

My heart is steadfast, O God,
my heart is steadfast!
I will sing and make melody!
Awake, my glory!
Awake, O harp and lyre!
I will awake the dawn!
I will give thanks to You, O Lord, among the peoples;
I will sing praises to You among the nations.
For Your steadfast love is great to the heavens,
Your faithfulness to the clouds.
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!
Let Your glory be over all the earth!

Psalm 57:1-11 (http://pcpc.us1.list-manage.com/track/click?u=eba67192d3a27da52e93fefb8&id=c0d2cef867&e=82a9a8f891)

Psalm 57 wasn’t written in a vacuum. This prayerful song rises from a real person and a certain moment in time. As you read the passage, imagine being David. The Lord has told you that you will be the king of Israel. You’re thrilled by the prospect, but the succession plan has all kinds of kinks in it. The old king (Saul) is not excited about the transition and would rather kill you than give up his job. So here you are, the Lord’s anointed, running from a man obsessed with your death, hiding in a cave. When you think about the threats around you, you can say “my soul is in the midst of lions” (Psalm 57:4). But from the lion’s den, a note of confidence rings. You declare to God, “In You my soul takes refuge” (Psalm 57:1). The threat of destruction is constant, yet you feel safely hidden in the shadow of God’s wings. You know your soul’s refuge.

In Psalm 57, the Lord commends to us the benefits of making Him our refuge. Like David, we live in a moment with real dangers, and we cannot help but seek refuge somewhere. Just in the past month, we have lived beneath the gathering clouds of political turmoil, racial division, natural disasters, and nuclear war. If the external threats were not enough, we face the perpetual conflict with sin that clings so closely (Hebrews 12:1). We feel the pull to find refuge in possessions, pleasures, politics, places, and people. But none of these compares to the security and strength we find in the Lord Jesus Christ. The hymn reminds us, “On Christ the solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.” As our soul takes refuge in Christ, we begin to see every other shelter for what it is: fragile and faulty, unable to withstand the storm. When we see that our makeshift refuge is like a cardboard dwelling in a hurricane, will we forsake it?

Only in Christ do we have a shelter stronger than the wages of sin and the waves of life. There are countless blessings that flow from the security of being hidden in Christ. Even in the dark caves of life, the Lord gives us confidence that He will fulfill His purpose for us (Psalm 57:2). Because Jesus has overcome the darkness and destruction of the cross, we know that He is working all things together for our good and His glory. With this confidence, we can sing with David in the cave and with Paul in prison. The song of a steadfast heart pleases us, but it also perplexes those who have yet to make the Lord their refuge. When saints sing through their suffering, the worth of Christ is on full display.

If we have made the Lord our refuge, what kind of joy should be evident in our lives? For we know that in Christ we are loved, and nothing—not sickness, not persecution, not war, not even death—can separate us from His love. Storms are here, and storms are coming. But we have a refuge full of mercy, strength, faithfulness, and love. A refuge sovereign and eternal. He is Jesus Christ, the God man sent from heaven, the risen Lord who reigns in heaven, the returning King who promises to make all things new. As the battle rages, can we sing the song of our soul’s refuge?

About the Author

Robbie Higginbottom Robbie Higginbottom

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.

 

September 1, 2017

Under Mercy's Care

by Mark Fulmer

There were some present at that very time who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And He answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

And He told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’”

Luke 13:1-9 (http://pcpc.us1.list-manage.com/track/click?u=eba67192d3a27da52e93fefb8&id=1b5de4712f&e=82a9a8f891)

The outcries begin almost as soon as we can speak. Hang around any playground in any land and you'll hear them soon enough. "Justice! I want justice!" Now at that early stage, the protests may have a more ordinary ring. You may hear the shouted declaration, "It was my turn and he grabbed it. Make him give it back!" Or a plaintive, "She broke it, and it was new." Though they may seem but pediatric pleas, those cries for justice are fundamentally the same as all others. We have a deep, life-long yearning for things to be set right, a need to know that good will prevail and evil will be punished. The plotlines of countless epics depend on that longing.

The fellows who accosted Jesus with their made-up tale of treachery were also depending on it. They intended for the Rabbi to react boldly in righteous indignation, to cry out for justice, to call for the overthrow of Rome. But Jesus stunned them, and held up a spiritual mirror to their souls. He made them consider if justice was really what they wanted after all. The hatred and deceit that had fueled their ploy was evidence of judgment warranted, not justice deserved. He reminded them that justice, in fact, requires judgment. No one can bear the scrutiny of their own motives and jealousies and wickedness. Jesus made plain, again, that there is no one righteous, not even one.

Then He told them a story. And He invited them to consider their desperate need for mercy. With His winsome agrarian parable, Jesus described the breathtaking patience of God, shown even to those who hate Him. But the story also makes clear that God's patience is not a fool's game. He makes clear that there is both: judgment and mercy. God's patience is infinite, but not endless. Will the fig tree actually make figs?

This overheard conversation happened as Jesus was on His slow, unwavering journey to the only place in history where perfect justice and perfect mercy are met together. At the cross, the Lord would hang crucified, unjustly captured, tried, and executed. All of the righteous judgment of God against your sinful rebellion and mine would be meted out on the Son of His love. And in that very same moment, God's great mercy is poured over the souls of those whom He gave to that Son before the foundation of the world. Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages He might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:4-7).

 

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.

 

August 25, 2017

Take Up Your Cross

by Robby Higginbottom

And He strictly charged and commanded them to tell this to no one, saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.

And He said to all, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when He comes in His glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. But I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God."

Luke 9:21-27 (http://pcpc.us1.list-manage.com/track/click?u=eba67192d3a27da52e93fefb8&id=7f2d57692e&e=82a9a8f891)

It was sophomore year, and I needed to register for an elective. The teacher came highly recommended, and the subject seemed practical and helpful, so I enrolled in Intro to Financial Accounting. Despite my noble intentions, my adventure in accounting led to the lowest grade of my college career. However, I did learn a valuable lesson: accounting is not as simple as it seems. That reality is even more evident as we consider the “accounting” we do in life. We are constantly counting the cost: the cost of buying a home, having children, eating healthy, treating an illness, pursuing a relationship. But our accounting often neglects the other side of the equation: the cost of not buying the home, not having children, not eating healthy, not treating the illness, not pursuing the relationship. These few examples illustrate what we often struggle to see: the cost of not doing something is often far greater than the cost of doing it.

In Luke 9 and several other passages, Jesus offers an intro to accounting in an upside-down kingdom. As the crowds gather around Jesus, He gives a strange invitation. “If anyone would come after Me,” He says, “let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” For us, a cross may be a beautiful piece of art in a sanctuary or on a necklace, but for Jesus’s audience, they would have known exactly what He meant. A cross is an instrument of torture and execution. Jesus just invited us to follow Him to our death. The marketing experts may hate the pitch, but Jesus understands what’s at stake in our accounting. If we refuse to follow Him, we can go on living however we want. That seems like life, but at the end, will gaining the whole world mean anything if we are lost for eternity? What is the cost of turning our backs on the Author of Life? Underneath Jesus’s call to die is an invitation to live, to share in His sufferings that we might also share in the power of His resurrection. In the upside-down kingdom, we must die to live. We must lose ourselves to find ourselves. For those with ears to hear and eyes to see, the cost of non-discipleship is far greater than the cost of discipleship.

The question is not if but how we have been guilty of questionable accounting. Have we lived like forgiveness costs more than bitterness? Like rest costs more than busyness? Like generosity costs more than greed? Like serving the Lord costs more than serving ourselves? How have self-fulfillment, self-promotion, and self-sufficiency afflicted our lives? As we see our selfishness, we have a beautiful opportunity to see our Savior. Jesus Christ knew the cost of taking up His cross – “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me” (Luke 22:42). But thanks be to God! He knew the cost of not taking up His cross – “Nevertheless, not My will, but Yours, be done.” Do we realize that our self was crucified with Him, and that we have been raised with Him, with new hearts and new eyes? Brothers and sisters, may the Lord help us to see the staggering cost of non-discipleship. No matter what crosses come our way, can we count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of
knowing Christ Jesus our Lord (Philippians 3:8)?

About the Author

Robbie Higginbottom Robbie Higginbottom
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.

 


God's Holy Fire from Heartlight

God's Holy Fire is a daily devotional about the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
  • Pray in the Spirit

    Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.

    Ephesians 6:18 NLT

    Key Thought

    "Pray in the Spirit...!" Paul is asking believers to pray consciously recognizing that the Spirit given them when they came to Christ (Ephesians 1:13) gives them direct access to God. That access allows them to pray what is on their hearts (Ephesians 2:18; cf. Romans 8:26-27) and to ask for knowledge, power, and boldness for others (Ephesians 1:17; Ephesians 3:16; Ephesians 6:18-20). In other words, the Spirit lives inside us and empowers our prayers, interceding directly to the heart of God and enabling our prayers to have powerful results! Our prayers are so much more than the words we say. We pray, consciously, alertly, and persistently, speaking to the Creator of the universe, assured we are heard, knowing that God will respond with power and grace in the lives of those for whom we pray!

    Today's Prayer

    O Father, thank you for your incredible gift of the Holy Spirit who makes my prayers much more than my words. Thank you that I can pray in the Spirit, speaking to you spirit to Spirit, knowing that I am heard and understood and that the Spirit conforms my prayers to your will. Thank you that such intentional praying brings powerful blessings for those for whom I pray. In Jesus' name. 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.

  • Be Filled with the Spirit

    Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

    Ephesians 5:18-21 NIV

    Key Thought

    When people are drunk, we say they are "under the influence." When a person is a follower of Jesus, he or she should be under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Paul lists five ways that we fill ourselves with the Spirit. Four we would normally identify with community worship — speaking to one another in song, singing, making music in our hearts, and giving thanks to God. Paul adds a fifth way to turn the Spirit loose in our lives: submitting to one another as part of our worship of Jesus. I don't know about you, but there are times when I have not wanted to do each of these things. However, in doing them with a genuine desire to honor the Lord, I find myself blessed and empowered in ways I would never have expected. We shouldn't be surprised: The Bible tells us that when we do these things, God's Spirit fills us!

    Today's Prayer

    Loving Father, thank you for entering into me through the Holy Spirit. I am going to try to do all I can to worship you with my words and with my relationships, trusting that you will empower me with your Holy Spirit. Please help me see your presence and power in my life as I do these things in today's verses. 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.