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May 12, 2018

The Gospel in a Secular Age

by Mark Fulmer

Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols. So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, "What does this babbler wish to say?" Others said, "He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities"—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, "May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean." Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.

So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: "Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, 'To the unknown god.' What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man.

Nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for

"'In him we live and move and have our being'

as even some of your own poets have said,

"'For we are indeed his offspring."

Being then God's offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead."

Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, "We will hear you again about this." So Paul went out from their midst. But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.

Acts 17:16-34 (https://pcpc.us1.list-manage.com/track/click?u=eba67192d3a27da52e93fefb8&id=a43ea7e045&e=82a9a8f891)

It must be a culinary lesson from some business school or management curriculum. I've certainly been served plenty of them in the hospital world. The famous "bad news sandwich" finds itself on meeting menus of all sorts. You know what I mean—a piece of good news, followed by the weightier, unpopular news, then another slice of good news or affirmation. All the parts are true, but the tough, stringy section in the middle is made easier to swallow.

Remarkably, the Apostle Paul takes exactly that approach as he preaches the Gospel to the intellectual Athenians. They were a curious bunch, those philosophers, with time on their hands and spirituality on their minds. All day long, they feasted on whatever was novel, whatever was the tasty idea of the day. But Paul had the eternal weight of Glory to proclaim. So he served them a fresh, culturally prepared "bad news sandwich!"

"I see that you are religious." Paul begins. His audience was hooked, and probably thought, "Pretty observant chap, this Rabbi fellow. And we're smart too!" Paul agreed with them and pointed out that their city was filled with idols of all sorts. He even complimented them by mentioning their thoroughness. They had an idol to "an unknown God" just in case there were bases they had accidentally left uncovered.

"What you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you." The God of the universe, the one true God, creator of heaven and earth has made Himself known. This God does not dwell in a temple made by man, and does not need anything from man. He has given life and breath to all who live, and He has planted a hunger for worship and a longing for heaven in every human heart. But there will be a day of judgment! Now here's the "bad news" part. Your idols of silver and gold, your lifeless relics will not save you. Your empty worship and worldly philosophy does not bring about the righteousness God Almighty requires.

But God is patient, and He is rich in mercy. He has made a way for the righteousness of one man to stand in for you! You will be declared righteous based on the righteousness of the One whom God appointed. This glorious promise God has punctuated and sealed by the indisputable display of life-giving power. He raised Jesus from the dead! There is life. There is freedom from guilt. There is hope!

Paul preached the resurrection to the Athenians. And that feast of truth is for us as well. We too are called to turn from the idols we worship. We too must repent, and turn in faith to the one true God. And based on the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God the Son, we too can receive the assurance that Paul promised to the spiritually starving skeptics on that hilltop in Athens.

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! (2 Corinthians 9:15)

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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.

 

MAY 5, 2018

Pregnant with Hope

by Robby Higginbottom

For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Romans 8:22-25 (https://pcpc.us1.list-manage.com/track/click?u=eba67192d3a27da52e93fefb8&id=421d142c0d&e=82a9a8f891)

For a pregnant woman, groaning is not difficult. It’s the default. Her groans reflect a simple reality: she is not satisfied with the way things are, and she longs for what is yet to come. For nine months, a pregnant woman lives with the tension between a painful present and a joyful future. In Romans 8, Paul reminds us that pregnant women are not alone in their groaning. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies (vv. 22-23). Ever since the Fall, groaning has been the default for creation. It should be the default for humanity. But for many, it’s not.

Why do we not groan? We don’t groan because we lose touch with the way things are. We turn away and pretend that slavery, addiction, racism, and violence are not crushing realities in this broken world. We don’t groan because we’re comfortable enough in this world that we don’t long for another. In the words of C.S. Lewis, we are “like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” We don’t groan because we forget all that the Lord has promised that is still yet to come. In the midst of all that’s old and broken, we struggle to imagine how God could make all things new (Revelation 21:5). We don’t groan because the desire for our little kingdom eclipses the desire for “Your kingdom come”. Actually, we never really stop groaning. Godly groaning simply morphs into selfish complaining about our circumstances.

If pregnancy is so difficult, so full of groaning, why do women go through with it? Among many answers to that question, consider one: the joy of holding her child is both the reason behind and the fulfillment of all the groaning. When a mother is finally united with her child, it is an indescribable joy. We must remember this, especially when we’re tempted to choose an easier life free from groaning. If life in Christ is so full of groaning, why would we go through with it? We press on because we are not satisfied with the mess or the mud pies, and we long for what is yet to come. We press on for the joy of seeing the Lord Jesus Christ face to face. We press on for the joy of gathering around the throne with His redeemed people from every tribe and nation. We press on because when we are finally united with the Lord, it will be the fulfillment of all our groaning…and His. We press on because we are His beloved children, pregnant with hope.

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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.

 

April 29, 2019

Red Light Green Light

by Matt Fray

...As they went on their way through the cities, they delivered to them for observance the decisions that had been reached by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem. So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily.

And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, "Come over to Macedonia and help us." And when PaulGreek he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.

So, setting sail from Troas, we made a direct voyage to Samothrace, and the following day to Neapolis, and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of theOr that district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city some days. And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, "If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay." And she prevailed upon us.

Acts 16:4-15 (https://pcpc.us1.list-manage.com/track/click?u=eba67192d3a27da52e93fefb8&id=375bf3292b&e=82a9a8f891)

One of the most noticeable features of the book of Acts is the significant role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the early church. As we read, we see the Holy Spirit is promised by Jesus (Acts 1:8), comes to dwell in believers (Acts 2:4; 8:17; 9:17; 10:44; 15:8; 19:6), fills those preaching and praying (Acts 4:8; 4:31), sustains those persecuted (Acts 7:55), comforts the Church (Acts 9:31), appoints leaders for the Church (Acts 13:2; 20:28), and as we see in this and many other passages, the Holy Spirit guides the apostles in their missionary journeys by giving them either a “red light” to stop (Acts 16:6-7) or a “green light” to go (Acts 10:19; 13:4; 16:9-10; 19:21; 20:22; 21:4). One simply cannot encounter these stories without concluding that the Holy Spirit was the one establishing, ruling, and growing both individual Christians and the Church as a whole.

Perhaps one of the reasons why the role of the Holy Spirit in Acts is so striking to us is that the Holy Spirit seems less present in our lives today. But make no mistake—the Holy Spirit is just as real and active today as He was in the days of the early church. Just as Jesus promised, the Holy Spirit is with us permanently (John 14:16-17) in order to point us to Jesus (John 14:26; 16:13-15). And just as the Apostle Paul commanded, we are to be led by the Spirit (Romans 8:14) in order to bear the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-26). So as J.I. Packer puts it, our question should not be, “Do I have the Holy Spirit?” but instead, “Does the Holy Spirit have me?” In other words, each of us must ask whether we are being established, being ruled, and growing by the Holy Spirit like those in the book of Acts.

If you are a believer, you likely long for the Holy Spirit to have this kind of influence in your life. But for many, the actual process of being, hearing, and following the Holy Spirit seems mysterious, perhaps even intimidating. Driving in response to actual red lights and green lights is one thing, but living in response to the Holy Spirit seems like a whole other ballgame.

So how does the Holy Spirit speak to us? And how do we know what the Holy Spirit is guiding us to do?

In the book of Acts, two principles quietly and consistently emerge.

First, the book of Acts shows that Holy Spirit speaks to us through God’s Word. We know this is true in a general historical sense; as Peter says, it was the Holy Spirit who “carried along” the men who wrote God’s Word (2 Peter 1:21). But in Acts, the apostles point out that the Holy Spirit also speaks to specific present issues through God’s Word. Peter refers to the Holy Spirit speaking about Judas’ death and the Jews’ opposition to them through the book of Psalms (Acts 1:16; 4:25). And Paul refers to the Holy Spirit speaking about the Jews’ rejection of Jesus through the book of Isaiah (Acts 28:25). God’s Word is living and active, and so the Holy Spirit not only illumines the timeless truths of God’s Word, but also the particular bearing of God’s Word on our lives today. If we want to hear God speak to us, the first thing we should do is open our eyes and read our Bibles, for there is no greater gift for our faith or message for our lives than God’s Word illumined by the
Holy Spirit!

Second, the book of Acts shows that the Holy Spirit guides us through Christ’s Church. What the Holy Spirit speaks to us through God’s Word He then guides us to apply through our brothers and sisters in the Church. Whether in matters of obedience (Acts 5:3-8), doctrine (Acts 15:28), or mission (Acts 21:4), the book of Acts shows us that the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the guidance of the Church go hand-in-hand. While human beings are fallible and are subject to God’s Word, the Holy Spirit regularly guides us by wise counselors (Proverbs 5:7-14; 15:22) and godly leaders (Hebrews 13:7; 1 Peter 5:5). If we want to be led by the Holy Spirit, we must emerge from isolation and engage in the community of the redeemed in Christ’s Church, where the Spirit Himself unites us for the good of all (1 Corinthians 12:4-13).

In closing, consider the question asked earlier: “Does the Holy Spirit have you?” Does He have your ear? Are you listening to Him speak to you through God’s Word? Does He have your life? Are you being guided by Him through Christ’s Church? May the Holy Spirit have us, and like the early church, may He then give us green lights to carry the good news of our risen Christ down every road to every nation.

1. J.I. Packer, Keep in Step with the Spirit, pp. 77-78.

Holy Spirit, living Breath of God,
Breathe new life into my willing soul.
Bring the presence of the risen Lord,
To renew my heart and make me whole.
Cause Your Word to come alive in me;
Give me faith for what I cannot see;
Give me passion for Your purity.
Holy Spirit, breathe new life in me.

Holy Spirit, from creation’s birth,
Giving life to all that God has made,
Show Your power once again on earth;
Cause Your church to hunger for Your ways.
Let the fragrance of our prayers arise.
Lead us on the road of sacrifice,
That in unity the face of Christ,
Will be clear for all the world to see.

Keith Getty and Stuart Townend, “Holy Spirit” (2006)

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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.

 


God's Holy Fire from Heartlight

God's Holy Fire is a daily devotional about the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
  • No Match!

    None of [the people arguing with Stephen] could stand against the wisdom and the Spirit with which Stephen spoke.

    Acts 6:10 NLT

    Key Thought

    Stephen had been selected as one of the seven special servants of the church in Jerusalem to help make sure the widows were given the proper care. He was chosen because he was full of the Holy Spirit, faith, and wisdom. The Holy Spirit within him not only helped him in his service to the widows, but the Spirit also empowered him to speak God's truth boldly. When men opposed him, they found that they could not stand up to his teaching because of the power of the Spirit and the wisdom with which he spoke. Let's continue to pray for God to give us leaders today with these qualities and for us to be able to recognize these leaders and call them into service to the kingdom. Also, let's seek to be people who are full of faith, wisdom, and the Holy Spirit in our own lives!

    Today's Prayer

    O Almighty God, I continue to pray for your church. We desperately need leaders of faith and wisdom, leaders who are full of the Holy Spirit. Father, I want you to be at work within me through your Holy Spirit so that I am molded into the kind of person you can use to lead and bless your people. 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.

  • Full of Faith and of the Holy Spirit

    [The apostles to the church in Jerusalem concerning ministering to the widows:] "Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty."... And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch.

    Acts 6:3 ESV, Acts 6:5 ESV

    Key Thought

    At this crucial moment in the life of the early church, the people agreed to look for servant leaders to help take care of the needy widows among them. While the task appears to be a physical task — taking care of hungry widows, the men chosen to take care of this task had to be spiritual men. Spiritual in this context means "men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom." Let's see this situation as a reminder that all of God's work is spiritual and all who serve need to be spiritual as well!

    Today's Prayer

    O Father, forgive us for segmenting our lives into spiritual and secular categories. Deep in our hearts, we know that all of our lives are to be lived under the influence and guidance of your Holy Spirit. Help us be discerning as we try to find those to lead and serve. As your people, we want what we do and how we do it in every area of our lives and the lives of our servant leaders to reflect your holy character and your gracious compassion. 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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