United & Planted in Christ

 

For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we will certainly also be united with Him in a resurrection like His. For we know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.”
Romans 5:6-7 (NIV)

Are you a follower of Jesus Christ? Do you believe that He is the Lord and Savior of your life? If the answer to those questions is yes, then ask yourself, “How do I show each and every moment of my life that I am united with Him?” This is a question that has become close to my heart lately and it is one that has taken me to the true understanding of what the Scriptures mean when they say we are united with Him.

Romans 5:6-7 says that we have been united with Christ in death and in resurrection. The NIV and NASB versions use the word united. However, the KJV uses the words “planted together.” When we consider the word “united” with the word “planted,” we get a deeper meaning of Romans 5:6-7. To plant means to place (a seed, bulb, or plant) in the ground so that it can grow. We are united with Christ for a purpose and that purpose is to grow! In Christ’s death, we are united meaning the sins in our lives should be seen as dead—not alive in our lives. But wait, as we continue in this Scripture, we see that there is also unity with Christ in His resurrection. What does this unity bring? Life! And with life comes the opportunity for growth. When we recognize that sin is hindering our growth, we must begin to see that we need our Lord Jesus to help us overcome that sin.

How do we do this? By realizing the awesome power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Realize what all God’s Spirit has done for you. His Spirit indwells all believers (1 Corinthians 6:19, Romans 8:9). As a believer, His Spirit was poured into your heart (Romans 5:5). This same Spirit is the One who inspired the Word of God which is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness so that followers of Christ may be equipped for every good work. WOW! It is powerful to be united with Christ! In that unity, He has given us His very own Spirit that penetrates our lives thoroughly; and as Jesus said in John 16:13-15, He (the Holy Spirit) will guide us in the truth, bring glory to Christ, and take what is Christ’s and declare it to us.

When it comes to sin in our lives, many times we are misusing precious resources. I pray that you will submit yourselves to the Holy Spirit and you will see not only the powerful gift God has given you, but how His Spirit can penetrate your life fully. I pray that you will see that your resources are the tool God has given you to use for His good works which He so long ago prepared for you to do in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:10). May we realize how Christ’s death and resurrection has united and planted us in Him so we live by faith and do not shrink back. For we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved! (Hebrews 10:39).

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Am I a steward of my own monies?

15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”  Colossians 1:15-17 (NIV)

As the Treasurer of a church I attend a monthly finance meeting. We begin each meeting of the finance committee in prayer asking the Lord to give us wisdom to be good stewards of His monies. This doesn’t seem to be an unusual prayer for a church finance committee meeting. However, what about our own personal finances? Should we be praying this in our personal lives as well? Absolutely!

First, let’s look at the definition of a steward. A steward is someone who is employed to manage another’s property, especially a large house or estate; or a person whose responsibility it is to take care of something. So in our own personal finances we may think, “I’m not a steward of my personal finances because my monies belong to me and I am not managing it – I own it.” This may be the understanding of our own finances according to the world. And with this thought process in mind, we don’t need to consider ourselves stewards of our own finances, but let’s consider this . . .

The above verses state that Jesus (the Son) is over all creation. All things were created through Him and all things are created for Him. They also state that in Him all things hold together. Ultimately, these verses express that all things are Christ’s and should be used for Him. Now the question that we each must ask ourselves is, “Do we believe that all means ALL – including our own personal monies?” This farm girl was raised to take a person’s words as meaning what they say. My parents taught me this by showing to me that God’s Word is clear if we seek the Speaker of the words and seek for true meaning as to what He says. God tells us clearly here through Paul that all means ALL. EVERYTHING that is in heaven and on earth was created for and is to be for Christ. Therefore, to me, my own personal monies belong to Christ and I have been blessed with the opportunity to be a steward of those monies.

How does this understanding change my attitude about my finances? It makes me more aware as I sit in front of our family’s accounts that I must be on my knees as well. My husband and I must seek God in prayer and supplication for every little resource He places in our hands to manage. I’ve literally planned my grocery list before and asked the Lord to remove the items that are not needed. I’ve looked at our household finances before and asked the Lord to please bless us with a luxury and I found out later that His answer was no because those monies needed to be sent to someone in need. But then, there have been times when my husband and I knelt before our checkbook and asked the Lord to relieve our stress and He would show us monies to spend for our family to enjoy a getaway. Don’t be afraid to take your monies—ALL your monies—before the Lord’s throne. Instead of finding restrictions you will find blessings! You will be given opportunities to minister and do good works (2 Corinthians 9:8) if you place your monies in its proper place – under the hands of its owner, Jesus Christ!

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Seek and Set

by Kelly T. Dixon

1Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.”
Colossians 3:1-3 (NASB)

In this reading from Colossians it states we should keep seeking the things above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Then it continues to say that we should set our mind on things above, not on the things that are on earth. For a few weeks after encountering this reading of God’s Word seek and set filtered through my mind. It sparked these questions in my heart: Am I seeking things above? Am I setting my mind there?

During that time my laptop computer’s hard drive crashed. It gave me one warning that it was about to do so and when it did I praised God for the warning and began to back up the files that I needed. Many of us like to think we are good at backing up our hard drive. In reality, we are not – at least I am not. Right in the middle of the backup process my computer froze and I had to reboot . . . well it didn’t reboot . . . it was gone. Now immediately my heart sank as I thought of files, like pictures, that were lost, but it didn’t linger. I began to recall Colossians 3:1-3 and filter through my mind the words seek and set. “Seek the things above and set your mind there” were the words I spoke to myself. I will have to admit that in times past I would be in panic mode. But I wasn’t. As a matter of fact, when I discovered the fate of my computer I was in my office and a co-worker walked into my office at that time. My words to her were, “My hard drive just crashed and I have lost everything. But the Lord knows what I need and He will provide.” As if someone else was speaking, I knew by verbalizing those words that my mind was set on things above.

Why do I share this story with you, it is by no means to brag about my response. Instead it is to boast in the Lord. Because it is His working through our hearts that we can respond to life situations in such a manner. When we seek the Lord with all our hearts, He will be found. (Jeremiah 29:13) The peace that I experienced came from the Father. It is a peace that we all can experience through the trials of this life. He is the One who can carry us through. BUT He can’t do so if we do not allow Him to do so. If we don’t seek Him and set our minds on things above, then we are hindering His peace from blessing our lives. Placing into practice God’s principles that He has set up in His Word is how we can enjoy the bountifulness of His fruit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

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Setting Goals Changes Wants into Wills!

By Kelly T. Dixon

Have you ever wanted to accomplish something in your life but it never seemed to happen? As we watch the calendar days turn into months and then into years, frustration becomes despair and feelings of hopelessness creep into our thoughts. Ultimately, our attitude changes toward actions of giving up on accomplishing whatever it is we desire. What is it that brings on this tumbleweed of frustration and ultimately not accomplishing our desire? Not setting goals. Yep, it is that simple! When we want to accomplish something in our lives, we must set goals to change our “want to” to a “will do!”

The verses I consider in regards to this are ones many don’t think of when it comes to goals, but they are worth considering. They are Matthew 7:7-8 . . .

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

I have been a goal setter for many years. Actually, I can’t accomplish my tasks as a wife, mother, Bible teacher and writer without setting goals. One thing I have noticed about setting them is that when the Lord presses upon my heart something I need to accomplish, then I need to ask Him for the ability to accomplish it. I must seek Him in finding out how to accomplish it. Finally, I must “knock” by putting into action what I have learned when I have sought after Him. This is when I set my goals. Setting a goal is an act of obedience. It changes me from wanting to do something, to actually saying to the Lord, “I will do this for You, Lord, and I will accomplish it by this time.” Now, let’s be clear, we know the Lord’s timing is perfect and He will direct our paths, so remember that seeking Him first is what takes priority. When I set the goal after I have sought direction from Him, then I am putting into practice what He has laid on my heart to do.

What has the Lord laid on your heart to do that you have not accomplished? Has your desire to accomplish the task been diminished because you haven’t set a goal? Go before the throne of God and ask Him to reveal to you the answer to this question, “In what way am I frustrated and feel hopeless about accomplishing this in my life?” When you seek His direction in finding out your frustrations, then you will find what goals you need to set in order to accomplish what He has laid on your heart. Our Father is just waiting for you to knock and He will open the door for you!

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Finding Contentment

by Kelly T. Dixon

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will He not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. ” Matthew 6:28-33 (NIV)

What does it mean for YOU to be content? I remember when the Lord first laid it on the heart of my husband and I to home school our children. That decision alone was going to make a shift in not only our home life, but our finances as well. I would have to take a huge pay cut. You can imagine the questions my husband and I often asked ourselves and each other – “How are we going to make it? What are we going to have to cut out of our lives? What will our children do without those things? How content are we going to be without those things?” The last question rang in my mind for many months. Contentment, what was it and how do we get there?

Then one day the Lord led me to a familiar verse that I had to share with our family during our devotional time. Matthew 6:33, “Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” This soon became our family verse and the way we face each decision in our lives.

What does seeking God first have to do with contentment? EVERYTHING! I have finally realized that I do not know how to measure my own contentment. Paul tells us in Philippians 4:12 that he had learned the secret of being content in any and every situation. Then he states in the next verse, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Learning to be content changes as the circumstances surrounding our lives change. Therefore, as followers of Christ, to find contentment we must lean on Christ for strength and seek God’s kingdom and righteousness in all we do. Contentment isn’t something you arrive at one day and have for a life time. Contentment is something you learn to enjoy as you seek God first in your life.

Today I stand as a wife and mother who looks daily at a checkbook that is blessed. Not with a lot of money, but with inflow and outflow directed by the Lord. In learning to be content, the Lord has shown us how to sacrifice so we can give more to His kingdom. He has shown us how to be good stewards of not only our finances but ALL the resources He provides. And it is amazing to me as we seek Him first how the worries of necessities have faded away. I look out upon God’s creation and I see how He takes care of them and it makes me marvel. I am so amazed by our God each and every day. His provision for our lives is overwhelming. From the vegetables in our garden to the clothes and shelter we enjoy, we find there is contentment. We are content to be nurtured in the arms of a loving Father by drawing strength from Jesus Christ our Savior and seeking first His kingdom. Thank you, Lord, for continuing to teach us in all things to be content.

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A Refreshing Action

By Kelly T. Dixon

“A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.”
Proverbs 11:25

Do you want to be loved? Then love others. Do you want to be blessed? Then bless others. Do you want to be refreshed? Then refresh others. But wait, this sounds like I am doing what I want to have done to me – wouldn’t withdrawing from the bank and not depositing anything in make me bankrupt on love, blessings, and refreshment. Yes, in regards to the worlds standards, but when it comes to God’s truths – no! Why? Because you aren’t the depositor, He is!

When we give like God gives, we become a reflection of His bountiful love for all of us. He will reward us as we give freely by freely giving back to us more than we can imagine. This is, again, the “you can’t out give God” principle. Many times this is only referred to in regards to money, but the same is true for all our blessings. When we are blessed, we should bless others. You are loved by God. Therefore, you should love others. Ultimately God will overflow what we need back into our lives as we give it out to others. He will open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so many blessings that there will not be room to store it. (Malachi 3:10). He will continue to overflow to us as we outward flow to others.

There is a song we sing called Fill My Cup Lord written by Richard Blanchard. The first verse says,

  Like the woman at the well I was seeking. For things that could not satisfy; 
And then I heard my Savior speaking: “Draw from my well that never shall run dry”. 
Fill my cup Lord, I lift it up, Lord! Come and quench this thirsting of my soul; 
Bread of heaven, Feed me till I want no more–Fill my cup, fill it up and make me whole!

 There is a little play on words I like to do when I sing this song.  Instead of singing “Feed me till I want no more,” I sing it “Feed me till I overflow!” You see, to me, I don’t want to cut off the blessings the Lord has in my life. I want Him to overflow Himself past my own satisfaction into the lives of others. Why? Because I have experienced the Lord refreshing me as I have refreshed others. And this isn’t only in the ways of giving monetarily. As I give more of myself, He gives more to me. As I give my talents and skills to His glory He gives me more opportunities to bless others with my talents and skills. As I give my time to serving others for His Name sake, He gives me more time to do the things He has purposed me to do. Wow! What a refreshing God we serve. The more we give the more He continues to overflow into our lives. Now that makes me want to sing one more song that I sing with my girls . . . “What a mighty God we serve! What a mighty God we serve!” (come on sing it with me and it’s okay to get up and do the motions too!!) “Angels bow before Him Heaven and earth adore Him. What a mighty God we serve!” . . .

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A Goal to Press Toward

by Kelly Dixon

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:12-14

What goal are you pressing toward? This is a question I began asking myself when I was a junior at Florida State University. By this time I had changed my major from law to business and eventually to computer science. The journey had taken a toll on my body. I developed a stomach ulcer from bacteria and the ulcer was taking much longer to heal than the doctor expected. By the time I recovered from the ulcer I had missed so much school that my doctor gave me a letter recommending excusal from my classes for the remainder of the semester. Even though there were medical reasons for my “dropping out,” I was devastated! My life was not going the way I planned and to make things worse, I was taking longer to accomplish what the world said I should accomplish in four years. I remember sitting in my car after I realized I was going to have to drop out of school for that semester. I felt like a failure. Sure, it was medically excused and the school wasn’t going to hold it against me, but I still felt like a failure. That is when God pressed this question on my heart and redirected my thoughts to what I was to value most. From that point on, I continue to use this question in evaluating my walk with Him – “What goal are you pressing toward?”

It was in the middle of reading Paul’s words in Philippians 3:12-14 that the Lord laid this question on my heart. I thought at that time, “That is a good question, Lord, and one I don’t know the answer to.” I have to admit that it took me many years to develop a Biblical basis to answering that question. However, at this point in my life, I can look back and really say that the Lord has shown me a different goal that I SHOULD be pressing towards; a goal that is not worldly but one that pleases Him. He showed me that the one and only way that I can please Him is to obey His Word – to obey Christ! You see, if I obtain all the degrees this world offers and I don’t obey God’s Word, then I have obtained nothing. If I press towards the goal of all the knowledge that this world has to offer and even share that knowledge with the world, but do not share the most important thing – the gospel of Jesus Christ – then I have shared nothing! But if I press on and take hold of that for which Christ Jesus has taken hold of me – then I win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. The knowledge of this world will fade away and in many ways already has, but fulfilling the upward call of telling others about Jesus will never fade away.

So I ask you, what goal are you pressing toward? Are you viewing your life as one that needs to obtain all the knowledge of this world or are you seeing that Christ wants you to obtain much more in Him. Yes, He does want you to learn as much as you can here on earth, but He does not want you to forget the great commission in the process. Our Father has called all Christians to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ and no earthly goal should replace this!

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Christmas Hearts (part 4 of 4)

Download as PDF                                                                          Lesson 3 of Christmas Hearts

The Wisemen’s Seeking Hearts

Christmas Hearts Logo (Web)

Christmas shopping during the year of 2003 is one that I will not forget. Tickle Me Elmo was the toy my husband and I were on the search for our oldest daughter. She was then 13 months old and Elmo was the character that made her eyes brighten when he came on the screen. We wanted to make sure she had the latest from the Elmo products and felt like this one would be easy to find this year as the year before, 2002, people were trampling over each other to get to the Elmo toy. My husband and I searched everywhere. I guess a character like Elmo continues to keep his fans throughout the years. I remember that I was about six weeks pregnant with our second daughter at that time and I was exhausted just from God using my body to knit her together in my womb. However, the search had to go on. We had to find this special toy for our dear daughter and finally we did.

Over the years of being a mommy of two little girls the search has changed from that special toy to mommy being the search engine in the family. See if these sound like familiar quotes in your house.

Mom, where are my shoes? Mom, where is my other shoe?

Mom, I can’t find my jacket. Do you have it? (Okay, side note here: why would I have a child’s jacket? Yes dear, I was just wearing it – Really!  I haven’t fit into that size since I was . . . well, a child.)

Mom, where’s my library book? It’s due today.

Mom, why can’t I find the hair brush?

Mom, I just had my socks, where are they now?

Then hubby doesn’t like to feel left out . . . Honey, where did you put my camouflage jacket? (Okay, another side note here: you know he really didn’t say Honey, but notice the blame being placed on me for him not being able to find his jacket . . . yeah, that is real AND again – Really!)

We all have had to hunt for items in our households and usually moms are the only ones who know their location. I wish that was true! God did give us the memory to see items and program them in our mind for future reference. So if we have seen it in the past, we might have a chance of locating it. He also gave us the ability to move items as we search! I think that is something you develop after either marrying or having your first child. I don’t think many men have developed that ability!!

Searching for things in our life is an ongoing venture. We search for love in all the wrong places; joy in the empty material things in life; peace from the world’s security; and happiness from others who cannot provide it. Thinking back over my life, I recall many unfruitful trips down lanes that led towards empty findings. It was not until I realized my need for Christ in my life that I understood more of how to search for the things I desire. The Lord over the years has taught me how to focus my search engine towards Him. He has taught me to seek Him first and let Him take care of the desires of my heart. And the amazing thing is that He does know where to find all that I desire. Why wouldn’t I go to Him?

As we look at the heart of the wise men, who traveled a long distance to find the Christ Child, let’s think of how our heart searches for the Lord. Open your mind and heart to experience what the Lord wants to teach you about searching for Him.

Deepening the Walk

Begin this study by reading Matthew 2:1-12

MV_Lesson_4Who were the magi, those gift-bearing wise men from the east so central to the traditional telling of the Christmas story? The Bible tells us very little about the magi. Their story appears but once, this account of the gospel of Matthew. It is almost like they are mysterious visitors “from the east” who come to Jerusalem looking for the child whose star they observed “at its rising.” These men were searching based off of their knowledge of the stars and their knowledge of Jewish prophecy. It also seems they were searching for the truth as they had a purpose for coming, “to worship him.” There were many magi during that time who were not searching for truth. In fact, many of them were wrapped up in being magicians or sorcerers. In the Greek of Matthew 2 the magi are referred to as “magoi.” We see this same word used in the form of “magos” in Acts 13:16 where it talks about the Jewish Sorcerer. From this we see that these were not ordinary magi, but ones who were seeking more than knowledge. They were seeking truth.

A seeking heart is one that searches for truth. On many occasions I have to stop and ask myself this question, “Am I seeking the truth?” This seems like a simple question to answer, but with the deception of the spirit of Satan in the world, it is hard for us to tell at times. We may get so wrapped up in our own desires that we stray away from the truth that God has in our lives; The truth of Jesus being our Savior and also our life.

What does Jesus say about Himself in John 14:6? In what ways does this apply to your life today?

In 1 Corinthians 3:18-23, Paul is correcting the church about choosing sides of human leaders. How does he describe the wisdom of the world in God’s sight? In what ways have you allowed the wisdom of the world to take you away from the truth in God’s wisdom?

As we seek for truth in our lives, what does Matthew 7:7 tell us we must do? What does Matthew 7:8 promise will happen if we do this?

As believers, we all have been given the Holy Spirit. What kind of guidance will the Holy Spirit give us according to John 16:13?

The truth we seek is in Jesus Christ. He is the truth and the only way we can approach the Father. His redeeming blood and acceptance of His sacrifice is what gives us access to the wisdom of God. This is a wisdom that the Father has chosen to give to us through His very own Spirit – the Holy Spirit.

After meeting with King Herod, who feigns an intention to worship the child but actually plans to destroy him, the magi follow the same star to Bethlehem. In other words, they continue on their journey. We see that King Herod has ulterior motives for the magi to continue their search, but we must realize at this moment the magi had failed in an attempt to find the “king of the Jews.” There travels took them to Jerusalem because that would be the logical worldly wisdom answer as to where the king of the Jews would be born. However, that was a futile end because the child was not there.

Realize that at the moment of not finding the child in Jerusalem they could have given up. However, a seeking heart does not give up when it is in search of truth. What does Galatian 6:9 tell us we will receive if we do not grow weary in doing good?

According to Ephesians 6:18, how should we seek God in prayer?

What does Hebrews 6:10-12 tell us about God and our labor of love? What do these verses encourage us to do? To not do?

Perseverance is a key element in our Christian walk. As we seek God, our enemy the devil does not want us to find Him. Therefore, he will throw up many obstacles in our way. However, we must always keep in mind the Lord’s promise in Deuteronomy 4:29, “But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul.”

Upon seeing the baby Jesus and his mother Mary, the magi kneel down and worship him, presenting him with their three famous gifts—gold, frankincense and myrrh. After being warned in a dream, the magi did not report back to Herod but instead departed for their homeland via another route. An encounter with Christ is one that we will leave us not wanting to return to our ways of error. A true repentance of the heart is shown by one turning around and going in the opposite direction of the error or sin in their lives.

One who has a seeking heart desires true repentance and to please the Lord. Ephesians 5:10 tells us to, “find out what pleases the Lord.” To please the Lord we must live our lives through Christ. What does Galatians 2:29 tell us as to how we can do this?

The magi brought gifts to the Christ Child. We can bring a gift as well. What are we encouraged to do in Romans 12:1-2? How have you done this lately in your own life?

In what ways should we bring God glory according to 1 Corinthians 10:31?

Our desire to have a seeking heart is one that will empower us as we deepen our walk with Christ. God’s love for us has overflowed into our lives and we respond with a love for Him. We love Him because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). This is a love that we show through our desire to please Him and obey all He has commanded. This obedience begins by presenting ourselves as a living sacrifice and renewing ourselves in Him. When we encounter Christ, we no longer see the world as something we want to conform to, but instead we see the truth shining through a Savior that has changed our life forever!

Do you have a seeking heart? Is it seeking the truth of who God really is in your life? Don’t shy away from God thinking that you can’t find out more about Him. He desires for you to seek Him. He desires to change your life through Christ!

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Christmas Hearts (part 3 of 4)

Download as PDF                                                                          Lesson 2 of Christmas Hearts

The Shepherds’ Servant Hearts

Christmas Hearts Logo (Web)As I have worked within my own church and in another church’s office, I’ve noticed many servant hearts over the years. There are many servants of the church who do things on a regular basis; things that many of us enjoy having done, but don’t think about how or who does it. Some of these are:

    • Straightening the sanctuary after services in preparation for the next service.
    • Sweeping the front stoop of the entry and taking out the trash before it begins to smell.
    • Cooking and cleaning up behind themselves for a weekly lunch to feed the community.
    • Changing the message on the sign near the road so those who drive by would get a glimpse of Christ and His Word.
    • Counting money after service while their tummies are ready for that great Sunday dinner.
    • Getting a dead animal out from under the sanctuary so it wouldn’t smell and ruin service.
    • Washing the side of the fellowship hall building on someone’s day off from work.

This list can go on and on. It is amazing how those who have a servant’s heart work in the backgrounds. You never really know who they are because they are usually the ones who are doing it out of their love for Christ and in following His leadership they are humble in their service.

My father is one of these servants that I have observed. On Sunday mornings he sweeps the front stoop of our Sunday School building so that it looks presentable for those who come to Sunday School. Over the years that stoop has changed from a small stoop to a drive thru concrete slab, but still he makes sure it is clear of debris. He folds the bulletins and inserts whatever anyone has for him to insert without complaining. I have noticed that even if he is complete and someone comes in with a new insert (that is usually me), he doesn’t complain. Then he hands out the bulletins at the beginning of each service as a greeter. I have visited many churches before, but I have never seen a greeter like my father. He certainly has the gift of greeting. I have seen those who are walking into church service with their heads hanging and all the worry of the world on their shoulders. Once they reach the church door and see my father’s face their spirits are lifted immediately. You can see the countenance on their face change from drag to brightness. It is usually the greeting that they receive that makes them brighten, “Good Morning, Jane, so glad to see you here this morning. You sure are looking pretty!” That is a regular greeting you will receive from my father. It doesn’t matter how you feel or really how you look, he’s glad you came and sees you how Christ’s sees you – as beautiful!

In seeking to have a humble servant’s heart, I have asked the Lord to reveal to me the characteristics of a servant of His; characteristics that please Him for the service that is performed. He has revealed to me that a servant is willing to serve no matter what the task may be and whatever the time they are called. I have seen how servants are so willing to rearrange their own schedules to do the Lord’s work. This alone amazes me how much they put the Lord first in their lives. Without complaint, they get to work on the task at hand. They have a joyful and jubilant spirit about them. They are eager to serve and usually seek where they can serve and desire for you to ask them to serve. And this is the most important characteristic I have picked up from those who have a servant’s heart: They can see beyond what the world sees and look through Christ’s eyes. Viewing through the eyes of the perfect servant, they see what needs to be done . . . a little sweeping, a little folding, or a little encouraging . . . they see the need and they fulfill it as Christ would have it fulfilled.

In looking at the story of Jesus’ birth, I see this same servant heart in the shepherds. They were willing to serve the Lord and trust in Him as they followed His lead. As we study their steps, let’s seek to have a servant’s heart so we too can please Christ in fulfilling the needs He sees in this world.

Deepening the Walk

Begin this study by reading Luke 2:8-20

MV_Lesson_3

It was a clear night and the sky was beautiful. The field was quiet and all the sheep had settled down. The shepherds had 

done their job. They had led them to the waters to drink and cleared the path for them as they traveled the mountainous terrain to this location. It seemed to be shaping up to a quiet night as all the sheep and even the lambs seem to be satisfied. None of them seemed to want to wonder away and no predators seemed to be in sight. This was the kind of night the shepherds enjoyed. It was a peaceful night when you can look at the sky and enjoy God’s creation as you watched over the flocks. This story starts off by telling us that the Shepherds were abiding (or living) in the field. Now one might think that this was the shepherd’s job to abide in the field. However, when we consider the heart of one who desires to be a shepherd, we will see that a servant’s heart is evident. A servant’s heart is one who abides in the service that is in need. Many times this may mean there is a need for them to change their lives so they can abide. Let’s look at what Jesus has to say about abiding in Him.

Read John 15:1-17. In this Scripture Jesus talks about how important it is that we abide (or remain) in Him. What do these particular verses describe as a reason or benefit for abiding in Christ.

John 15:4 ~

John 15:5-6 ~

John 15:7-8 ~

According to John 15:10-11, what is the way we can abide in Christ’s love? What is the benefit from this way of abiding in Christ’s love?

What does Jesus say we are to Him if we do what He commands? (John 15:14-15)

Don’t you just love how Christ’s describes what He means by abiding in Him? He doesn’t leave it up for us to guess. He tells us explicitly that if we are to abide in His love than we must obey. How many times have you tried to abide in Christ love, but you didn’t want to obey Him? Abiding in Christ means we are to obey and in that obedience there is a joy that overflows into the love that He desires for us to experience.

The night soon changed from tranquility to uncertainty. All of a sudden the sky was overshadowed by light and an angel appeared. The shepherds were terrified not knowing what to think or what to do next. They trembled in fear. Can you imagine if you were one of these shepherds how you would have felt? I think I would have been just as terrified and probably hiding behind one of my sheep, the biggest one I could find near me. Thankfully, the angel immediately goes into the message of good tidings. I’m sure they were still terrified, but the message was worth settling down to ponder. The thing that amazes me the most is that the shepherds didn’t sit and ponder this message long. Instead, they went on their way to find out what the angels were talking about. Have you ever wondered if they left the sheep behind or if they took them along? I know we see many scenes where there are actually sheep with the shepherds at the manger scene, but was that really the case? Or did they trust the Lord to take care of the sheep while they were gone? Regardless, they had to trust the Lord if they were taking them or not, because they had to go and see about this news that was just told to them and they had to go right at that moment.

A servant’s heart is not one that procrastinates. They hear the news of something the Lord has done or of something the Lord needs to get done and they move forward immediately.

The Bible refers to those who procrastinate as being “sluggards.” According to Proverbs 13:4, what is the difference in the sluggard and diligent person’s appetite or desires?

According to Ephesians 5:15-17, why should we make the best use of our time? (v. 16)
What does the wise person do? (v. 17)

Many times we procrastinate in doing what the Lord has called us to do because we have too many other priorities in our lives that are overshadowing the Lord’s call. According to Matthew 6:33-34, what is the answer to this problem? Why is it important that we take care of each day’s troubles on the day they appear?

Procrastination is a huge problem in many lives of Christians. And many times it is because we are too busy with our own desires that we don’t want to take the time to do what the Lord has called us to do. Even in writing this study, I have experienced this problem and have been fighting against the struggles of life. However, the Scriptures are clear that we must put God first in our lives. He will direct our paths and He will show us His will. This is what the servant heart of the shepherd’s displayed as they eagerly got up to see what the angels had told them about.

After the shepherd’s had seen baby Jesus, their hearts were overflowing with a joy to tell the world about what they had seen. They glorified and praised the Lord everywhere they went. A servant’s heart is one that not only displays God’s love through their actions but through the praises of their lips. I can’t tell you how many conversations I have had with those who serve the Lord who can’t wait to tell what all the Lord has done in their lives. You see, it is in the midst of serving God that He reveals more and more miracles in your life; miracles that you can’t wait to share with the world.

As Christians we know that we are supposed to fulfill the great commission (Matthew 28:19). However, how many of us realize that the fulfillment of that commission is many times done in the living of our lives? When we proclaim God’s goodness in our own lives we are telling others that He loves us and He loves them as well. What does Psalm 16:8-11 tell us about setting the Lord before us? What does it do to our hearts, whole being, and flesh?

Write below the promise that is proclaimed by the psalmist in Psalm 16:11?

Christ is who leads us in triumphal procession as we go through this life. What does 2 Corinthians 2:14 tell us that He does through us as we proceed in life?

The message of Christ is powerful. It has been powerful in many lives. According to Romans 1:16, why should we not be ashamed to proclaim the gospel?

As the shepherd’s did when Christ was born and as we can proclaim today, Christ, the Messiah, has come. He has come to redeem His people. There is no better message we can speak about in our lives.

Are you striving to have a servant’s heart? Do you abide with Christ and seek His word to dwell in your life? Do you desire to produce His fruit in the world? Or are you procrastinating in producing His fruit and you would rather produce your own? It is a good thing for us to realize we are procrastinators and have not been fulfilling the Lord’s desires in our lives. In realizing this we can ask the Lord to strengthen us in overcoming the obstacles that we have allowed to get in the way of us proclaiming His message of love to this world. Don’t sit in regret over what you have not done in the past, but look to the future as a fresh opportunity. Look to the future through Christ’s eyes and see yourself as the servant He is calling you to be.

Posted in Christmas Hearts

Christmas Hearts (part 2 of 4)

Download as PDF                                                                            Lesson 1 of Christmas Hearts

Joseph’s Heart of Compassion

Christmas Hearts Logo (Web)“That wasn’t very compassionate!” These words were streaming through my mind as I drove away from a fast food establishment one day. It was one of those days when I couldn’t believe my behavior and my mouth that went along with it. I was immediately convicted by the Holy Spirit and it didn’t feel good at all. Let me share the story.

It was a beautiful day. I had just come from teaching a Bible study class where we talked about pride and how it was the root of sin. The class was great. The students were engaged. The Holy Spirit used me to express His message about pride and how it can sneak up on you. When I left I was basking in God’s blessings of a nurturing lesson in my heart and the hearts’ of my students.

I was hungry so I thought I would pull through a drive-thru somewhere. I was taking a different route home and didn’t know what was in the area. So I was glad to see a familiar restaurant. I pulled up to the speaker, ordered and pulled through to the window. The clerk was friendly and gave me my order. I asked for a particular condiment which they usually give free at another location of this same named restaurant. The clerk said there was a charge for the condiment. Now, remember how the Lord said pride would sneak up on you . . . well . . . it did! I couldn’t accept the fact that this location would not give me this condiment for free. I quickly and very curtly replied, “The location across town gives it to me free. I can’t believe you won’t.” The clerk in a calm voice said, “My manager will not allow me to do that.” That is when the anger emotion of pride kicked in because I knew by the way this particular clerk was dressed compared to the others behind him that he was the manager. I looked him in the eye and with a look of disgust exclaimed, “Well, I will never come back to this location again!” and drove away.

I would have been happy in my prideful fit if it wasn’t for those windows that reflect like a mirror. Yep, those were the windows they had in that restaurant. As I was driving away I saw the reflection of the “Ladies for Jesus” sign I have on the side of my car. It was a glimpse of my sign that made me realize in my prideful fit I was not being the compassionate Christian I was called to be by Christ. I pulled out of the parking lot of the restaurant with my head hung low and I couldn’t even enjoy my meal. Just that quickly pride had turned my soaring soul from the blessings of God’s teachings to the weight sin placed on me. Did I turn around and tell the clerk I was sorry? No, because as normal prideful fits go, when you are convicted, there is an arguing within yourself that you had some rights to act the way you did. The struggle lingers for a while as your sinful nature tries to hold onto a part of your character. However, I did ask for God to forgive me for disgracing His name by my behavior.

Have you ever found yourself in a situation like this? Maybe the scenario is not the same, but you understand the hold pride can have on your life. All of us can relate because we are all born with a sinful nature and sin is rooted in pride. I think that is what attracted me to begin admiring the heart of Joseph when he heard the news about Mary’s pregnancy. His heart was one that immediately responded with compassion and was not driven by pride. A heart that was willing to not disgrace Mary while at the same time knowing her pregnancy could make him look like he was hiding something. He chose to be compassionate and for that I believe the Lord was glorified and Joseph was blessed.

Deepening the Walk

Begin this study by reading Matthew 1:18-25; 2:13-23.

MV_Lesson_2Can you imagine the feelings Joseph had as he heard the news that his betrothed was pregnant? Questions probably rapidly fired through his mind. What!?! How could this be? Not my beloved Mary. She would never do such a disgraceful thing as this. While it settled into Joseph’s mind, he probably began to wonder how things could have changed so quickly. They were just planning their happy lives together. Everything was going to plan and they were getting closer to being together as one. He probably had just finished working on final plans for their new home and they would begin work soon. This news wasn’t part of the plan and definitely hit his pride on a level that was unbearable and would disgrace any man. But Joseph had a heart of compassion that the Scriptures describe first of all as being righteous. Joseph sought to do the right thing even though it meant he must detach from his beloved Mary.

Psalm 106: 3 tells us, “Blessed are they who observe justice, who do righteousness at all times!” I don’t know about you but each time I see that one is blessed for behavior I want to see how I can adapt that behavior in my life. Blessings are an overflow of God’s grace from when He is pleased with us and I want to please God. Righteousness is not just something we are requested to do by the Father. It is something He requires of us as our character of being a redeemed saint. Could this Psalm been one that Joseph was thinking of as he pondered his situation? The Scriptures are filled with calls for God’s people to be righteous. Let’s take a look at some of them.

What does 1 John 2:28-29 reveal to us about the Source of our righteousness?

1 Peter 3:13-16 tells us if we are eager to do good, even if we suffer we are blessed. What does verse 15 of this passage tell us is the beginning of these acts of doing right?

What does 2 Thessalonians 1:3-5 tell us is the evidence of God’s righteous judgment? Are these prevalent in your life today?

We are unable to be righteous on our own. It is only through the accepting of the blood of Christ that we may obtain Christ’s righteousness in our lives. For Joseph’s life, he was looking forward to the Messiah to come and his actions for doing so was to follow the law God had given Moses. However, to follow that law Joseph had to make sacrifices as well. We will see that in our next section. Through Christ’s righteousness, we can do the right thing in our lives and obtain God’s blessings by pleasing Him. A righteous life is one worth seeking even through our suffering for doing so.

Joseph’s heart of compassion is exemplified in the fact that he did not want to disgrace Mary. A heart of compassion takes into consideration how others will be affected by their actions. For us to fully understand Joseph’s sacrifice in having this heart of compassion toward Mary, we must understand the traditional Jewish wedding during Biblical times.

There were three stages to a traditional Jewish wedding. The first stage was the “ketubbah” contract which was signed by the husband and the bride’s father. Once this was signed the couple was 100% married but did not have sex yet. This was the legal binding document of the marriage and three copies were made; one for the husband, one for the bride’s father, one that was filed at the temple. During this stage and before the next stage, the husband had to fulfill a “dowry” to the bride’s father; pay the “bride price,” which was usually set at 50 shekels of silver; and an inventory of the bride’s estate – what she was contributing to the marriage – was taken. The second stage was the “chuppah” which was the consummation of the marriage. This stage usually happened within one year, however, it could take up to 7 years. The final stage was the wedding feast. At the conclusion of the wedding feast the couple had concluded the traditional Jewish ritual of marriage.

When the Holy Spirit came upon Mary and Christ was conceived, Joseph and Mary had completed only the first stage, “ketubbah,” of the Jewish wedding. This meant they were legally 100% married and to legally end the marriage Joseph had to divorce her. However, Joseph had a choice in how he would divorce her. He had great grounds to divorce her by claiming she was unfaithful and no longer a virgin. The pregnancy alone would be his evidence. If he did it in this manner, then the dowry and bride price would be returned to him. This choice, however, would harm Mary’s reputation. Joseph’s second choice, and the one he had made, was to secretly divorce her without cause. This would harm Joseph’s reputation and he would not be given the dowry and bride price back. In addition, he would have to pay an additional 100 shekels of silver for divorce without cause.

In looking at what Joseph had to sacrifice we see that his heart of compassion still overshadowed the suffering he would have to endure. He considered Mary’s reputation above his own and in doing so this pleased God. Scripture shows us ways that we can have this same heart. Look at the following verses and write down the behavior it tells us we should have if we are to be compassionate.

Ephesians 4:29-32:

Galatians 6:1-2:

Colossians 3:12-14:

Now review these verses again and write below the One who is described in each as the example we should follow.

To have a compassionate heart we must follow the example of Christ. These Scriptures describe behaviors of a compassionate heart. However, to fully display these behaviors in a Christ-like manner we must look to the Holy Spirit to guide us in all we do.

Joseph’s heart of compassion was courageous and willing to take risks to do the right thing even when it meant his own pride would be trampled upon. We see this heart even more when reading how he was obedient to God’s Word in Matthew 2:13-15. This obedience was one that fulfilled the words the Lord had given the prophets in the Old Testament. In addition, we see in Matthew 2:19-23 that Joseph’s heart walked closely with the Lord and followed directions. Overall, showing us how Joseph’s heart displayed righteousness and how he pleased the Lord in his actions.

Can the Lord describe your actions as righteous? Are you obedient to Him? Do you seek to please Him in all you do? Is your obedience evident by the fulfilling of God’s promises in your life? Consider how you can adapt the compassionate heart of Joseph by seeking to please the Lord and by seeking to do the right thing in your life – even if it means you will suffer.

Posted in Christmas Hearts