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July 13, 2018

Always Pray and Never Give Up

by Robby Higginbottom

And He told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to His elect, who cry to Him day and night? Will He delay long over them? I tell you, He will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?”

Luke 18:1-8 (https://pcpc.us1.list-manage.com/track/click?u=eba67192d3a27da52e93fefb8&id=1cf9fe82bf&e=82a9a8f891)

What can we learn from a strange story about a wicked judge and a hopeless widow? Jesus presents a judge without a moral compass and a widow without a righteous advocate. This judge can be bought, but this woman has neither the power nor the possessions to play the game. In the end, the wicked judge grants the widow her request for justice because she keeps bothering him, and he’s tired of it. The parable leaves most of us shaking our heads: “Wait, Jesus, what did you just say?” On the surface, it seems like the key to prayer is our persistence. If we just keep knocking, eventually God will be so annoyed that he’ll open the door and give us what we want. “Wait Jesus, I thought you said you were willing to teach us to pray. Is this really how it works?”

Before we punt the parable, let’s be honest. Do we ever think that God isn’t doing the right thing in our lives and in the world? If so, we may be viewing the Father as an unrighteous judge. Do we ever feel like we are hopeless and alone, without an advocate to plead our case? If so, we may be viewing ourselves as widows instead of the bride of Christ. Do we ever live like the answers to our prayers depend on us? If so, we may be underwhelmed by the Spirit who intercedes for us. In the parable Jesus actually exposes our inadequate views of God and our misdirected approaches to prayer. The widow persists, and the judge yields, but the power of the parable lies in the contrast between the characters in the story and the God who tells it.

First, God is not an unrighteous judge. His justice is not capricious. He has a moral compass. He is the compass. The Lord is True North. His justice does not wait for His people to bother Him until He gives in. No, His justice rolls down like waters in His perfect timing. His justice is not impersonal or unloving. What could be more personal and loving than the cross? “For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). When we pray, we’re approaching a God who is holy, righteous, and loving. We shouldn’t feel like we’re wrestling Him for something that we care about but He doesn’t. He is our Creator and our Redeemer, and He has promised to make all things new. How would our prayer life change if we truly saw God as a loving Father and not a wicked judge?

Second, we are not widows! If we are in Christ, we are His beloved bride. We are not orphans either! If we are in Christ, we are beloved children of our Father in heaven. Though we may not feel it, we are never alone. He is always with us. And though we may doubt it, we never lack an advocate. Jesus Christ lives to intercede for us. When we see the contrast between the characters in the parable and the relationship believers have with the Lord, we should be greatly encouraged. So what is Jesus saying? If this widow can get justice by bothering a wicked judge who doesn’t love God or people, how much more should God’s beloved people expect to get justice from Him? He loves us. He wants to hear from us. He wants to answer us. He intends for His kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven. Prayer is not about us and our persistence. It’s about the Lord and His presence, promises, and power. As we embrace who He is and who we are in Him, we will persist in prayer, and we will do so with the right motive. Because of who He is and what He has done for us, we should always pray and not lose heart.

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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.

July 1, 2018

Trust

by Matt Fray

...He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Luke 18:9-14 (https://pcpc.us1.list-manage.com/track/click?u=eba67192d3a27da52e93fefb8&id=bbaf9a4f7a&e=82a9a8f891)

 

Jesus is a master storyteller, and the parables are among His best. The settings and characters are earthy, but they reveal heavenly realities (Matthew 13:34-35). They are brief, but then linger in our minds (Mark 4:30-32). The plots seem familiar at first, but the endings always surprise (Luke 15:11-32). In the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector, we see all three of these features on display. But it is the surprise ending to this parable that makes it the best of the best.

To appreciate the surprise ending, we must read the parable as a whole, and pay close attention to what happened after the men leave the temple. The surprise ending comes, as it should, in the last verse of the parable. Jesus concludes the story by revealing something otherwise invisible and unknown: “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other.” For the sake of clarify, we can fill in the specific identities of the men in this way: “I tell you, the tax collector went down to his house justified, rather than the Pharisee.”

There are two aspects to the surprise ending contained in Jesus’ divine pronouncement.

First, Jesus’ words reveal that it was the tax collector who received favor from God, rather than the Pharisee. Like Jesus’ original audience, we tend to assume that it is the outwardly good and openly religious who please God. But Jesus surprises us; He upends our assumptions and exalts the outcast sinner who humbly prays for mercy. Jesus doesn’t ignore or normalize the tax collector’s professional or personal sins, and He doesn’t suggest the Pharisee’s concern for holiness is worthless. And this parable certainly does not teach us to pray, “God, thank you that I am not like this Pharisee!” Instead, through this parable, Jesus shines a light on the necessity and beauty of humble dependence on God’s gracious initiative to save us.

Second, and most surprising of all, Jesus’ words reveal that the tax collector received far more than he asked for. He asked for mercy: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” In his earnest pleading, the tax collector begged God to withhold the just punishment he deserved as a sinner. But the tax collector did not merely go down to his house unpunished; he went down to his house, “justified.” This is the word the Bible uses to describe being in a perfectly right relationship to God. The tax collector wasn’t begrudgingly treated by God as not guilty; he was positively accepted by God as perfectly right in His sight. How could a just and holy God treat such a sinful and guilty man with such obviously unfair grace? Not by ignoring the tax collector’s sin, but by giving His own Son as the substitute.

The genius of this best-of-the-best parable is that it quietly but powerfully directs our attention to the storyteller, Jesus Christ Himself. The only way the tax collector could go down to his house justified is by Jesus coming down out of heaven to take his place. The themes of humility, justification, and the work of Jesus that we see swirling in this story are organized for us in Philippians 2:5-8.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Jesus did this in love (Philippians 2:1) so that we, like the tax collector, may receive the righteousness of God that comes through faith in Christ (Philippians 3:8-9).

Both those who struggle with a spirit of pride before God and those who struggle with a spirit of unworthiness before God find their struggles strongly rebuked, tenderly quieted, and faithfully overwhelmed by this parable of gospel grace. This best of stories has come to life in us who wholly lean on Jesus’ name! In Christ, God has given us far more than we have asked and far more than we dare hope. And so we all can join in singing:

Great Father of mercies, Thy goodness I own,
And the covenant love of Thy crucified Son.
All praise to the Spirit, whose whisper divine,
Seals mercy, and pardon, and righteousness mine.
—John Stocker, “Thy Mercy My God is the Theme of My Song” (1776)

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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.

 

 

June 22, 2018

Home Address

by Robby Higginbottom

"Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.

And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it."

Matthew 7:24-27 (https://pcpc.us1.list-manage.com/track/click?u=eba67192d3a27da52e93fefb8&id=6ba3bcd704&e=82a9a8f891)

Dear home builder,

I see that you’ve been given a plot of land, and it appears that you’re starting to build on it. That’s true for all of us around here, so I just wanted to reach out as you move forward with construction. I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but there are lots of ideas floating around about how to build a great home. Your friends and family members have opinions. The rich and famous love talking about the homes they’ve built. These days, so many are concerned about windows, kitchens, bathrooms, and curb appeal. I’m not saying these aren’t important, but I want to remind you of something crucial that doesn’t tend to “sell” houses. Foundations. We take them for granted, they’re hidden, but they’re essential. Many have experienced that sinking feeling of buying a beautiful home, only to have an inspector inform them that the foundation is a disaster. The seller makes everything look great above ground, but we can’t see beneath the floorboards. When we’re confronted with the truth,
what are we going to do? We’re already emotionally invested. The Master Builder tells us that it’s folly—like building a sandcastle by the sea—but still, these places go up and sell every day.

You may be thinking: “Why all the doom and gloom? Just let me build this thing how I want! Nothing’s going to happen.” But I want to tell you. It rains around here. The kind of rain that falls sideways—and an umbrella won’t help. You never know when the flash floods are coming, and they will sweep you away. We get wind here, too. Wind that bends your trees, breaks your windows, and blows you over. I can’t tell you when the storms will come, but they will come. The Master Builder says so. And when they come, your landscaping, brick color, and fixtures won’t matter much if your foundation is faulty. Here’s the scariest part: You may not know the true condition of your home until it’s too late.

But there is a better way. It starts with giving up the thought that you can build your own home or trust someone else to build it for you. There is only one Master Builder. He has the power and the tools to build us a solid foundation. He only asks us to trust Him and to do what He says. His houses look different—not necessarily on the outside. They seem to radiate from within, even when the materials are rather plain. And that’s never more obvious than when the storms come. Did you know: The Master Builder has never seen one of His homes destroyed? We think His building codes restrict our freedom and kill our joy, but the truth is, He loves us more than we know, and He knows what makes a happy home. In fact, He paid the price Himself to guarantee that His homes will be filled with joy forever. Have you heard about the Master Builder? If you’re interested, I’d encourage you to read more about who He is and what He has done around here. He’s always at work, putting up model
homes all over the place. Rumor has it He has something even more amazing planned. I don’t want you to miss it.

Forgive me for the long note. I get excited about this stuff. Can’t wait to meet you.

Welcome home,
Your new neighbor

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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.

 

 

God's Holy Fire from Heartlight

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

    [Jesus:] "I tell you the truth, all sin and blasphemy can be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven. This is a sin with eternal consequences." He told them this because they were saying, "He's possessed by an evil spirit."

    Mark 3:28-30 NLT

    Key Thought

    What was the power behind Jesus' ministry? Some critics say it was deception. Some skeptics say it was people's imagination. Some even attributed his power to demons and the devil. It's one thing to disbelieve. It's another to believe in spiritual power and then attribute Jesus' spiritual power to the evil one. Jesus had great power. So where did he get that power? He got it from his identity as the Son of God. He referred to this source of power as the Holy Spirit — the Holy Spirit that would be present in the heart of everyone who is a true believer in him. This power is holy, from God, and a manifestation of God's very real presence. To assign this power to the source of evil is to blaspheme and cut ourselves off from our only true source of power, grace, and forgiveness!

    Today's Prayer

    O Almighty God — righteous Father, obedient Son, and transforming Holy Spirit — I praise you for the power shown in Jesus' earthly ministry. I praise you for defeating death and bringing power to life by sending the Holy Spirit. I am humbled and awed at the demonstration of your powerful presence in Jesus during his earthly ministry. In Jesus' name, I offer you my praise! 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.

  • Sent by the Spirit

    The Spirit then compelled Jesus to go into the wilderness, where he was tempted by Satan for forty days. He was out among the wild animals, and angels took care of him.

    Mark 1:12-13 NLT

    Key Thought

    Jesus' time in the wilderness was not an accident. It was not an afterthought. Jesus was compelled to go into this time in the wilderness. He had no place to hide in this wild and rugged place. In this wilderness, a harsh place we call the desert, God's Son had to depend upon God for his survival. In the desert, God's Son had no apparent companion to help him in his fight against evil and temptation. Isn't this how we sometimes feel? Do we wonder how and why the Holy Spirit led us into a decision or situation when there is trouble and trial? Yet as we follow the Spirit's lead, we find that we are not alone and we realize that God's special grace, the presence of the Spirit and the angels, is there to sustain us in ways we could never imagine or design.

    Today's Prayer

    Father, help me to see the leading of your Spirit and to receive the ministry of your angels as I face my times of trial, temptation, and trouble. Lead me to a better place and use my life to bring glory 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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