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July 21, 2017

Casting All Your Anxieties on Him

by Matt Fray

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

Psalm 23:1-6 (http://pcpc.us1.list-manage.com/track/click?u=eba67192d3a27da52e93fefb8&id=7621e264e3&e=82a9a8f891)

Psalm 23 is one of the most familiar passages in the Bible, and its pastoral imagery shapes our expectations for the Christian life. Once God becomes our Shepherd, we are ready for a good, safe, cup-running-over, sleeping-by-the-stream kind of life.

But for most of us, the days when the Christian life feels like that are few and far between. Everything from work, to relationships, to our physical bodies, to the practice of our faith itself exists in a state of dysfunction and disappointment. And while advancements in learning, organization, technology, and financial planning might give a small measure of distraction or relief, nothing we have or do can restore our souls to the way of life we expected our Shepherd to give us.

How do we make sense of the gap between God’s promise and our experience? Perhaps our Shepherd isn’t good or powerful enough to help us overcome these valleys and enemies? Or perhaps we as His sheep simply aren’t deserving of the tranquil life we once hoped for. Or perhaps there is another explanation for all of the valleys and enemies we encounter in this sojourn.

It may sound odd at first, but throughout the Bible we learn that our wise Shepherd regularly leads us through valleys and before enemies. He does this not to punish us, but to purify us. While we may be busy looking for ways of escape, He is busy teaching us the way to Himself. Chad explained it this way in his sermon, “Your anxieties, your fears, and your burdens are not obstacles that you have to overcome in order to connect with God. It’s just the opposite. They are opportunities in your life to grow in intimacy, love, and connection with God Himself.” Or as the psalmist puts it, “I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and staff, they comfort me (Psalm 23:4).”

The day will come when we experience the lush comfort, rest, goodness, and mercy in all of its fullness in the new heaven and earth. Until that day, we rest in the promise that our Shepherd is good, powerful, and wise with us and for us in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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.

 

Peter's Great Mistake

by Robby Higginbottom

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Then He strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that He was the Christ. From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord! This shall never happen to You.” But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a hindrance to Me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

Matthew 16:13–23 (http://pcpc.us1.list-manage.com/track/click?u=eba67192d3a27da52e93fefb8&id=9714d973dd&e=82a9a8f891)

Have you ever had an amazing day and a terrible day—all in the same day? Imagine getting a new car and then having an accident on the way home. Or acing one test only to bomb another. How would Peter remember the day he confessed that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16)? It was the day when Jesus said, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah!” And it was the day when Jesus said, “Get behind me, Satan!” Peter learned that we can be right about Jesus, and still be wrong. We can make a sound profession and still oppose Jesus’ plans. Even after the Lord opens our eyes to see Jesus for who He is, the renewing of our minds remains a lifelong journey.

After this rollercoaster of a day, it seems that one line stuck with Peter. Jesus said to him, “For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man” (Matthew 16:23). Like a younger Peter, our minds are often fixed on something other than the Lord. From time to time, our passion comes out in the same ready-FIRE-aim style that we see in Peter’s life. But after years of growth, Peter invites us to cultivate a prepared mind, a sober mind, and a mind oriented toward the hope of Jesus Christ’s return (1 Peter 1:13). That mindset is the opposite of the rash, hasty, shoot-from-the-hip Peter that we see in the Gospels. Here is an older man who grasps the significance of setting one’s mind on the things of God. None of us drifts into a renewed mind by accident. Peter and Paul both highlight the struggle, empowered by the grace of God, to set our minds on the Lord.

“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.” Romans 8:5

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind...” Romans 12:2

“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”
Colossians 3:1-2

As we journey together as the people of God, where are we setting our minds? Do we realize all that Jesus Christ has given us through His life, death, and resurrection? We rejoice in His forgiveness and grace, but do we revel in the gift of a new mind? “We have the mind of Christ,” Paul writes (1 Corinthians 2:16). But how do we prepare our minds for action? Peter issues the invitation: “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good” (1 Peter 2:2). At the center of our mind’s renewal is the Word of God. Have we tasted that the Lord is good? If so, that holy hunger should keep us feasting on the Word that reveals our Savior and renews our minds. By God's grace, what will do today to set our minds on Him?

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.

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

June 30, 2017

Peter's Humility—Life on and in the Water

by Mark Fulmer

Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you.

1 Peter 5:5-6 (http://pcpc.us1.list-manage.com/track/click?u=eba67192d3a27da52e93fefb8&id=0fa550d55c&e=82a9a8f891)

The photographs are breathtakingly poignant. Captured by the expert eye of the prize-winning photographer, they evoke memories no one still has and moments of greatness long evaporated. The book is titled, What Is Left Behind. It's a collection of pictures of exactly that, the leftovers of life now for purchase at estate sales. They are hard to look at. They are frightening in the simple truth they declare. All of the things we have, all of them, will someday belong to someone who doesn't revere them; sold at a discount to no one who cares.

It's truly a humbling experience to be mesmerized by those images—humbling precisely because they call to mind our own rush to pride, our own self-created sense of worth, and value, and meaning. We cry out like Solomon, "Vanities of vanities, says the Preacher, vanities of Vanities! All is vanity. What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:2-3)."

And it is just that humbling reality that Peter himself had experienced. Betrayed by his rough accent as he stood by the fire, he surely felt his self-sufficiency and bravado waft away with the smoke. Peter was the one who had declared he would never forsake his Lord. And Peter was the one who now caught the eye of Jesus as the guards jostled Him away to the cross. He had nothing left but memories no one wanted. Peter was undone by his pride.

Days upon agonizing days would pass before that welcoming and restoring breakfast on the beach. Peter would say, "Yes, Lord, You know I love You," without a hint of bravado. At last he knew the full reality that everything that was worth anything was found in knowing the love of Jesus. Peter had learned about humility that grows in self-insufficiency and flowers fully in the sufficiency of Christ.

So when Peter writes to the churches on the fringe of the Roman Empire, he calls the believers to be people marked by humility— humility owned and humility shared. Even as ridicule and violence began to overtake them, Christ's Ones were to forsake self-sufficient pride and walk humbly with the Lord.

That's Peter's message for us as well. Knowing that we have been saved, and loved, and restored by Jesus, there is no room for self-centeredness, no need for the hollow trappings of importance. Indeed, "Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace!"

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.


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.