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June 16, 2017

The Shepherd’s Shepherd

by Robby Higginbottom

So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.

1 Peter 5:1-4 (http://pcpc.us1.list-manage1.com/track/click?u=eba67192d3a27da52e93fefb8&id=6d07e9ae25&e=82a9a8f891)

On Sunday, we had the privilege of ordaining and installing a group of men who have been called and confirmed to serve the church as elders and deacons. We believe the Lord has called these officers to “shepherd the flock of God” (1 Peter 5:2). As we focused on Peter’s exhortation to the elders of the early church, we considered the challenges of being a shepherd. Whether we are officers or not, many of these challenges apply to all of us as we love and serve one another. Some are called to ordained offices in the church, but we all are called to shepherd somewhere—in our families, friendships, neighborhoods, and workplaces. What must we remember as we seek to shepherd others?

Throughout our study of the life and letter of Peter, we have been reminded that it is absolutely essential for us to embrace our primary, permanent identity as beloved children of God. Jesus Christ, “the chief Shepherd,” has lived, died, risen, and ascended to bring all of His wandering sheep home. The Good Shepherd became a Lamb who was slain so that His lost sheep could rest in the security of His loving embrace. We should always be more impressed with what the Lord has done for us than what we are doing for Him, but we are prone to wander away from green pastures and quiet waters. We are tempted to try on other identities, and finding our meaning in serving the Lord is an alluring one. Oswald Chambers warns us, “Beware of anything that competes with your loyalty to Jesus Christ. The greatest competitor of true devotion to Jesus is the service we do for Him.” When the secondary becomes primary, we are on the road to idolatry. When serving Jesus supplants abiding in Jesus, the shift seems subtle, but it’s significant. We begin to see ourselves primarily as shepherds, not sheep, and the weight of ministry shifts from the Lord’s everlasting arms to our own fumbling hands. Defining ourselves as people who do this or that for the Lord may seem noble, but rejecting the identity we have in Christ and seeking to find it in our ministry performance is ultimately a picture of pride.

As we pray for our elders and deacons, we should also pray for every member of the body of Christ. We are all tempted to make secondary things primary, to find our life in good things, just not in Jesus. So may the Lord always remind us that we are sheep before we are shepherds. May we trust that Jesus Christ will continue to shepherd us until He returns to gather His flock. As we seek to feed others, will we remember that we ourselves are hungry? Augustine says, “I go to feed myself so that I can give you to eat. I am the servant, the bringer of food, not the master of the house. I lay out before you that from which I also draw my life.” Can we rejoice in the humbling reality that we are sheep whose lives are constantly dependent on the Shepherd?

 

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.

 

Empowered

by Mark Fulmer

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested[a] on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?”

Acts 2:1-13 (http://pcpc.us1.list-manage2.com/track/click?u=eba67192d3a27da52e93fefb8&id=af0ec32a6c&e=82a9a8f891)

The "vacation" included 1,720 highway miles back and forth across Interstate 70, the asphalt cummerbund of the country. Strapped into their safety seats like tiny cosmonauts were an insatiably curious four-year-old boy and his ebullient three-year-old brother. There are lots of questions to ask in 29 hours on the road! And in western Kansas, the horizon is punctuated by crops of enormous windmills. They stand over 260 feet tall, with wingspans of nearly 250 feet. Turning slowly in the Mid-American wind, they beckon those questions like mesmerizing sirens of the prairie.

"Why are those there, Grandpa?" "They make electricity from the wind," I answered, foolishly thinking that would do it. "How?" Then came my ridiculous soliloquy about generators, and magnetic flux, and wire coils, and other mumbo-jumbo that didn't even make sense to me. What I should have given the boys was the observation and not an explanation. The powerful, invisible wind turns those blades. And the wind's power is changed into visible things like light and movement. But the light and movement began with the blowing wind. Exactly how that happens is hard to understand, but it's easy to see the results.

That's how Peter talked on that Pentecost morning when the power of the Holy Spirit blew across the early church. Something amazing happened, something frightening and mysterious. And when the stunned crowd asked the church's spokesman for an explanation, he gave them the observation. He told them that they were witnessing the one, true, invisible God making Himself visible through the changed hearts and actions of His followers. God had sent His Son to be the exact representation of the Father, said Peter. And now, the breathtaking, awe-inspiring reality is that God has sent the Holy Spirit to indwell His people. And why? To make His glories known, to make Himself visible in the lives of the "Christ's Ones." At last, the gathered people of God will live out their purpose—to bear God's image in God's world. They will be the body of Christ. We have seen it, said Peter, and so have you.

So what happened to the believers? When the wind of the Spirit blew into their hearts and transformed them, what characterized them? What was the visible outcome? They became a united people, empowered by God and characterized by, "...glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people." May we live out the powerful reality of God the Holy Spirit at work in our lives to make our Savior seen.

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.

 

Vacancy

by Matt Fray

The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To Him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

1 Peter 4:7-11 (http://pcpc.us1.list-manage.com/track/click?u=eba67192d3a27da52e93fefb8&id=d7748eb115&e=82a9a8f891)

It may sound cliché, but we have much to learn from the early church, from those who embraced the Christian message and lifestyle in all of its freshness and force. When we read the New Testament, particularly books like Acts and the life and letters of Peter, we see a clear and vibrant commitment to worship, prayer, evangelism, and the Holy Spirit. In varying degrees, many of those commitments have been emphasized throughout the history of the church and continue to be valued today.

But this past Sunday we considered a commitment of the early church that for various reasons has fallen by the wayside, at least in the contemporary American churches. In his book, Thirty Years That Changed the World, scholar Michael Green notes that it was hospitality that was one of the hallmarks of the lifestyle of the early church. He writes, “Hospitality is one of the greatest joys in life, and the early Christians used it to the full; but it is undeniably costly. It costs time, effort, trouble, money. Yet the first Christians found it absolutely central to their mission. Their hospitality to strangers was legendary…This love, this cohesiveness, this hospitality is no less vital today.” The hospitality Green describes, and which Peter commends in 1 Peter 4:9, is the practice of welcoming people into one’s home, not only for a few hours of talking and eating, but for an extended time of living as guests.

Countless dynamics of our culture push back against the idea of practicing this type of hospitality. Many of us have become too busy, too individualistic, too fearful, and too dependent on institutions to consider hospitality possible, much less normal. Sure, there may be some younger “radical” Christians who could take the disruption of hospitality in stride, or maybe some older “empty nester” Christians who might even enjoy the hustle and bustle of it for a season. But if Peter only knew the pace and pressures of our lives, he might back off the idea of hospitality as a universal Christian commitment, right? Probably not. In fact, he might just consider that question itself a form of “grumbling” (1 Peter 4:9).

It’s worth noting that hospitality is the first example Peter gives of what it looks like to “love one another earnestly (1 Peter 4:8).” If hospitality is an act of love, there’s little room for opting out. In fact, if hospitality is an act of love than it is one of the most essential duties of our lives as Christians. Remember how Jesus described the most important commandments? He said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 22:37-40).” To show loving hospitality, no matter how counter-cultural or disruptive it may seem, is basic to Christianity.

By God’s grace, in Jesus Christ we have a perfect model of and motivation for hospitality. In the most unexpected and selfless acts of history, the Son of God left His home and sacrificed Himself so that we, His enemies, would be shown eternal welcome in heaven as His family. As we consider together how God is calling us to show hospitality to one another, may God dissolve our objections and fears with the power of His loving hospitality to us.

##########

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 by Heartlight

New Life Through God's Holy Fire
  • How Foolish Can You Be? (Jun 24th)

    Verse

    How foolish can you be? After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort?

    Galatians 3:3 NLT

    Thought

    Try harder! Be better! Achieve more! Seek perfection! These are all messages that we hear every day in our competitive world. In fact, these admonitions can help in many areas of our lives. However, there is one area that they do not help: becoming holy like God! Yes, we need to obey God. Yes, we must offer ourselves to God for his service. Yes, we should yearn to be holy as God is holy. However, without the work of the Holy Spirit, we will never become like Jesus. The Spirit convicts us, purifies us, gives spiritual gifts to us, empowers us, and transforms us to become like Jesus. Effort alone cannot do this; we must depend on the Spirit's work to accomplish all these. While this dependence on the Spirit may feel counter-intuitive to our pursuit of Christ-likeness, this trust in the Spirit is an indispensable element of God's grace. The Father delivered us from sin and death through the gift of his Son. We become like Jesus as we offer ourselves to God through the gift of the Holy Spirit. Our own efforts, our own power, and our own attempts at perfection will always fall short of God's holiness and majesty. Only the "Holy Gift" within us can transform us into the very nature of Jesus (2 Corinthians 3:18).

    Prayer

    O Father, I do want to be holy as you are holy. I do want to live with your righteous character and your gracious compassion. So I offer myself — my life, my gifts, my time, my money, my all — to serve you. But I know, dear Father, that these things will fall far short of your perfection and glory, and so I ask for your Holy Spirit to do his work in me. In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.

    Devotional provided by Heartlight®
    © 1996-2017. All rights reserved.

  • How Did You Receive the Spirit? (Jun 23rd)

    Verse

    I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard?

    Galatians 3:2 NIV

    Thought

    Most of us love lists. We can check things off our lists and show we've completed our tasks. If we don't complete our list, we feel like we deserve what we get. The Holy Spirit, however, is not something we deserve. The Spirit is a gift Jesus gives to those who believe in him — those who trust in and share with Jesus in his death, burial, and resurrection through baptism (1 Corinthians 15:1-5; Romans 6:3-6). Paul was reminding these Galatian Christians that no list, not even one given in the law, can bring the Holy Spirit to them. They received the Spirit because they fully believed in Jesus who poured out this gift upon them (Titus 3:3-7). No wonder Jesus talked about the Holy Spirit as one of God's greatest gifts (Luke 11:11-13).

    Prayer

    O Father, thank you for the gift of your Son who died for my sins and was raised from the dead to give me the victory over sin and death. I also thank you, dear Father, for the gift of the Holy Spirit who is your presence that lives in me. May my life be to your glory, O God. In the name of Jesus, I offer you my deepest thanks! Amen.

    Devotional provided by Heartlight®
    © 1996-2017. All rights reserved.