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Expectantly

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-manage1.com/track/click?u=eba67192d3a27da52e93fefb8&id=443b44f39e&e=82a9a8f891)

Every time our church celebrates the Lord’s Supper, we hear these beautiful words: “These are the gifts of God for you, the people of God.” The gifts are the bread and the cup; tangible symbols pointing to the reality of God’s saving love for us in Jesus Christ crucified. To those who know the depth of their sin and who feel the weaknesses of their faith, these gifts of God provide relief and stability. These gifts also motivate various responses from us, such as worship, evangelism, and obedience. But there is another response that we too often miss: service.

In a way, all of us like service; we like to be served, and we even like the idea of serving others. But few if any of us are naturally inclined to the actual task of serving others. So we may have felt some internal resistance when heard these words on Sunday, “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another (1 Peter 4:10).”

Sin and the culture of self we sojourn within may threaten to draw us inward, but the gospel of Jesus Christ always drives us outward. Embracing God’s gift to us in Jesus is the key to extending our gifts to serve one another. When we understand and believe Jesus came not to be served by us but to serve us by breaking his body and shedding his blood on the cross, the Holy Spirit initiates a radical reorientation in us. Our old resistance to serving one another shrinks, and our new desire to serve one another grows. That reorientation is not instant or perfect, but it is steady reality in the Christian. As Donald Whitney testifies, “One of the clearest indications that a person has truly believed the gospel of Jesus is that their selfish desire to be served is overcome by a Christlike desire to serve.”

While our spiritual gifts and avenues of service to one another may vary, our central motivation to extend them in service to others is always the same: Jesus Christ – the gift of God for us, the people of God. May we feed on Him our hearts by faith this week, and may we grow to be a people who serve one another in love and gratitude.

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.

New Commitment 

by Robby Higginbottom

He entered Jericho and was passing through. And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass the way. And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried and came down and received Him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Luke 19:1-10 (http://pcpc.us1.list-manage.com/track/click?u=eba67192d3a27da52e93fefb8&id=3647f05692&e=82a9a8f891)

How far are you willing to go to see something great? Have you made the trek to the Grand Canyon or another national park? Have you climbed a high mountain? Have you seen the sun rise over the ocean? Have you stood before a majestic waterfall and felt its power? Have you gone across the country for your favorite band or team? Have you hopped on a plane to surprise someone you love? Maybe you haven’t seen or done some of these things, but the mere mention of them stirs your desire. Most of us aren’t content with a postcard from the Grand Canyon. We want to go. We want to see. And when we see something great and glorious, it changes us. The life that made sense suddenly feels inadequate. The priorities that seemed right suddenly appear trivial. Sometimes we see something that changes everything. Or like Zacchaeus, we see Someone who changes everything.

Imagine what Zacchaeus had seen. He was not just a tax collector. He was the chief tax collector, and he was rich. He had tasted the pleasures of power and wealth. He had seen the best that the world had to offer, yet he was still looking. “He was seeking to see who Jesus was.” But Zacchaeus had two problems: he wasn’t popular, and he wasn’t tall. The crowds that followed Jesus were not kind to vertically challenged tax collectors. But Zacchaeus was willing to go far to see something great. The little tax man ran ahead of the crowds. He found a low-hanging branch and started to climb. He ignored the shame for a shot—a shot to see Jesus. Zacchaeus was looking for Jesus, but he suddenly realized that Jesus was looking for him. The seeker had been sought; the lost had been found. Seeing Jesus changed the way Zacchaeus saw everything else. Everything that had been great for Zacchaeus faded in the presence of the glory of Christ. Zacchaeus’ use of power was no longer desirable, but despicable. His hoarding of wealth was no longer gratifying, but gross. In a moment, by the power of God, Zacchaeus was becoming a new person in Christ. That radical transformation quickly overflowed into a new commitment to radical generosity. Zacchaeus had hurt others by taking, but now he would help others by giving. All because he saw Jesus, and he knew that Jesus had seen and loved him.

Perhaps we’ve gone to great lengths to see something beautiful at some point in our lives. But how far are we willing to go to see Jesus? When we’ve seen the best the world has to offer, and we’re still looking, will we seek to see Jesus? Do we realize that the crowd around us—no matter who they are—can make it difficult to see Him for who He really is? What would it look like for us to get above the crowd and see Jesus? As much as we would love to control the process, Jesus flips the script. He makes the first move. He comes to our place. He sees us, and if we really see Him, He must have opened our eyes. So before we think about extending ourselves, we must consider how Jesus extended Himself. How far did Jesus go to see the greatest sight—the glory of God in the joy of His redeemed people? He left His home so that we would be brought home to God. He was torn so that we would be mended. He was poured out so that we would be filled. He was disfigured so that we would be
beautiful. He was hated so that we would be loved. He closed His eyes in death so that we would open our eyes and share in His resurrection life. Have we seen this Jesus? If we have, it should be our joy to extend ourselves in new ways. How far are we willing to go to see something great? To see Jesus and to help others see Him? Will we stop and climb above the crowd? Will we look and listen for Jesus in His Word? And will we follow wherever He leads?

When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast, save in the death of Christ my God:
All the vain things that charm me most, I sacrifice them to His blood.

See from His head, His hands, His feet, sorrow and love flow mingled down:
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet, or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.

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.

 

New City

by Robby Higginbottom

For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.
Hebrews 13:14

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
Revelation 21:1-5

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

--Matthew 5:14-16

http://pcpc.us1.list-manage.com/track/click?u=eba67192d3a27da52e93fefb8&id=b1167c2ecc&e=82a9a8f891

What do we see when we look at our city? Do we see beauty or ugliness? Soaring skyscrapers or dilapidated dwellings? Do we see light or darkness? Harmony or discord? Righteousness or injustice? Do we see opportunity or despair? Promise or hopelessness? Do we see riches or poverty? People thriving or people wasting away? Signs of life on the outside or signs of decay on the inside? Do we see laughter or tears? If we have eyes to see, when we look at our city, we see it all. This place is beautiful and broken, glorious ruins, like the people who inhabit it. God made us for Himself, to bear His image, to reflect His creativity in ordering chaos and building civilization. But ever since the Fall, we are drawn to building for ourselves instead of building for God’s glory. Like the bricklayers of Babel, we are tempted to make a name for ourselves and defame the Name of the true Builder. And the higher our worldly ambition reaches, the farther the Lord has to “come down” to see it
(Genesis 11:5). The reality of God’s common grace explains many of the beauties and benefits of living in a city, and the reality of sin explains much of the danger and devastation that dwell here, too. How we live in the midst of all these tensions truly reveals how we see God, ourselves, and our city. Are we here for ourselves or for the Lord? Is the city here for us or are we here for the city? Are we parasites or blessings to this place?

God’s Word offers us a corrective dose of realism as we think about our city. “For here we have no lasting city,” the author of Hebrews writes. If we’re honest, evidence of this fact is all around us. We see it in the ruins of history’s greatest cities, now reduced to rubble and tourist attractions. We see it in the unending construction around us. Roads, bridges, and buildings are falling apart. We’re tearing down perfectly functional homes to build new homes that will immediately start to decay. We’re longing for a place that can withstand the relentless forces of time and nature. Left to ourselves, however, we try to make heaven on earth, just not in God’s way. We seek the perfect paradise in a home or a backyard or a vacation, but the ache for permanence remains. So the author of Hebrews reminds us that “we seek the city that is to come.” The longing is not an accident, for the Lord is building a city that will satisfy it. Ironically, if we want to build a life and a city that lasts, we must first embrace the fading futility of what we see with our physical eyes. Then, with eyes of faith, the Lord can begin to give us a vision for the city that is to come, and we can begin to pray with new vigor: “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Are we willing to surrender our counterfeit kingdoms and scrape our Babel-ish buildings in order to embrace God’s dream for our city?

If we are, God’s Word also offers us a spectacular hope. John’s vision in Revelation 21 should cause our hearts to burn and our imaginations to soar. John sees “the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” Just as Jesus came down from heaven to dwell with us on earth, the City of God will come down from heaven to earth. And as beautiful as the new creation will be, the defining characteristic of the place is the Lord’s presence. “And the name of the city from that time on shall be, The LORD is there” (Ezekiel 48:35). The dwelling place of God will be with us; we will be His people, and He Himself will be with us as our God. In that place, God will ruin everything that ruins our cities: tears, death, mourning, and pain. The former things will pass away in the presence of Him who is making all things new. How does a heavenly vision affect our lives on earth? If we are citizens of this city that is to come, we should begin to relate to our earthly city in new ways. We can embrace that we are the light of the world, a city set on a hill, the first rays of light heralding the coming warmth of the rising Son. We can celebrate that God Himself is with us, when we gather as a church family and when we scatter to every corner of the city. We can engage with the brokenness in our own lives and in our city with new urgency and fresh hope. We can no longer exploit or avoid the city. Following a Savior who died for His enemies, we must lay down our lives to love this city and its people. Wherever injustice, racism, wealth, or poverty are obscuring the abundant life of Christ, we must extend ourselves, to be and to bring the transforming presence of the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ. What did Jesus see when He looked at the City of Man? He saw a beautiful, broken place full of people He loved and longed to redeem. And He gave everything He had to that mission. What do we see when we look
at our city, and by God’s grace, what will we do?

 

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 by Heartlight

New Life Through God's Holy Fire
  • Stubborn People (May 23rd)

    Verse

    [Stephen, in his defense before the Sanhedrin:]  "You stubborn people! You are heathens at heart and deaf to the truth. Must you forever resist the Holy Spirit? That's what your ancestors did, and so do you!"

    Acts 7:51 NLT

    Thought

    Stephen was empowered by the Holy Spirit and spoke with wisdom. He knew that there was great opposition to the Jesus he proclaimed and the truth that he spoke. He also knew that this kind of opposition was nothing new. God's own people had consistently opposed his servants in every age even though those servant leaders had been inspired and empowered by the Holy Spirit. The people's stubbornness made their hearts hard and their ears deaf to the truth of God. The words of Stephen and the prophets were not what the people ultimately resisted: they resisted and rejected God and thereby rejected his Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 4:8). Let's be different than they were. Let's humbly ask God to use his Spirit to convict us where we need to be changed, fortify us where we need to be strengthened, instruct us where we are ignorant, and bring hope to hearts when they are broken.

    Prayer

    O Father, with the words of King David, I pray: "My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise." I ask, dear Father, that you cleanse my heart of sin and purify my motives as I seek to serve you and that I never resist the influence of your Holy Spirit within me. I pray this in the name of Jesus, my Lord. Amen.

    (The quotation in the prayer is Psalm 51:17.)

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

  • No Match! (May 22nd)

    Verse

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

    Acts 6:10 NLT

    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!

    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.

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