Let praise revive your heart

God’s Hope for Your Heart from Psalm 69

LET PRAISE REVIVE YOUR HEART

But I am afflicted and in pain;
let your salvation, O God, set me on high!

I will praise the name of God with a song;
I will magnify Him with thanksgiving.

This will please the Lord more than an ox
or a bull with horns and hoofs.

When the humble see it they will be glad;
you who seek God, let your hearts revive.

For the Lord hears the needy
and does not despise His own people who are prisoners.

(Psalm 69:29-33)

Pain is no respecter of persons.  There is no “free pass” to forever avoid sorrow and suffering, and sometimes the night can seem so long that it simply drags us down.

That’s when praise is most powerful.

Whether for encouragement or forgiveness, the healing of old wounds or soothing of fresh ones, praise is the answer.  Whether our spirit has been brought low by the reality of hard circumstances or the deception of our enemy, praise is the answer.

We can choose to dwell on our sorrow, or we can choose to praise God for His salvation.  We can choose to focus on our hurt, or we can choose to praise God for our hope in Christ.  We can choose to listen to the voices of despair, or we can choose to speak and sing the truth of God’s deliverance, and when we do, we will discover something incredible.

It is when our hearts are broken that God’s healing lifts us up.
It is when our souls feel empty that His presence fills our cup.
It is when the night seems longest that we most need day to start.
Oh, but our God hears the needy, so let praise revive your heart.

-Pastor Phillip

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Jesus is your Savior everyday

God’s Hope for Your Heart from Psalm 68

JESUS IS YOUR SAVIOR EVERYDAY

Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears us up; God is our salvation. Selah.  (Psalm 68:19)

Every day brings its own host of challenges.  Every day has its own hardships and trials.  Some days may find us in victory, while others may leave us in defeat.

Each day is different, but through them all one thing stays the same: the love of God for His children.

He is not a one-time-only Savior.  He is not an absentee Father.  He does not abandon His children to fate and chance, but actively assists us as we look to Him!

Whatever you may face today, make this your hope and prayer.  “Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears us up; God is our salvation.”  When you do, you will discover that Jesus is your Savior every day.

-Pastor Phillip

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Sitting Shiva

Sitting Shiva

I’ve never seen this grill before.

I’m sitting on the worn striped seat cushion of an old metal chair.  Along with its three blue wire-frame counterparts and matching table, this chair has kept watch over my grandparents’ patio for years.  In front of me sits a new shiny new grill with a dozen settings and easy-turning knobs and the kind of clean appearance that comes from not being used nearly enough.

My family made the trek from Fort Myers to Austin to join our relatives in commemorating my grandfather’s passing from time into eternity.  He is with Jesus today, and we are with each other, preparing fresh homemade fajitas for our first all-family meal without him.

My uncle was out here tending the grill by himself, so rather than sit on the couch and watch the cousins tumble on each other, I decided to come out and keep him company in the Texas heat of a spring afternoon.

We don’t say much.

I can smell the southwest-seasoned chicken as it simmers on the bottom rack of the metal machine.  The patio door creaks and swings open as a cousin bursts out with a plate of freshly prepared buttered garlic bread—Texas toast as we call it.  Each slice is carefully placed on the top rack where it will warm and brown, getting just toasty enough to crisp but not enough to crunch.

I look around at the hand-crafted stone of the house wall in front of me and the pebble-and-concrete floor of the deck beneath.  I turn in my seat to gaze at the long wooden fence and the scrub grass yard that looks a lot smaller than it used to.  My grandfather built this place, and from the shed in the corner of the back yard to the pecan trees in the opposite corner of the front, it will always bear his memory.

We still haven’t said much.

I remember my grandfather’s laugh, loud and hearty, and how his head would go back and his eyes would sparkle when he was amused.  I remember his arms, strong burly arms that had hoisted elevators in the old days, built two houses with the help of his family and lovingly toiled for years on various woodworking projects in the garage.  I remember how he loved his old green truck with no air conditioning, how he enjoyed recordings of the mariachi music of his youth, and how he cherished my grandmother until the day he died.  They made it 62 years together.

My uncle and I still haven’t spoken beyond a little bit of catching up, and suddenly I realize something.

That’s just fine with me.

There is a tradition in Jewish life called “sitting shiva.”  It’s a multi-faceted mourning ritual with many beautiful parts to it, but the one that stands out the most to me is the silence.  In the tradition of the visiting friends of the Biblical Job, those who would comfort the grieving will come to the family home and just sit together.  While talking is not prohibited per se, it’s understood that this is not the time to offer hollow sentiments or even well-meaning condolences.  It’s not the time to try and make sense of the why’s or try and remember the good ole’ days.

This is a time for silence.

It makes me wonder if maybe what we all need in times of grief really isn’t a trite phrase or even a tender word, but just to have someone sit with us in silence so we know we’re not alone.  It makes me think that if my grandfather were here, he’d probably be just fine with the silence, too.

It’s still quiet, with only an occasional insect chirp to disturb the soft sizzling of the new grill.  As my uncle and I sit in silence, I smile, thinking of my grandfather as fajita-scented smoke collects briefly in his rafters before wafting out into the bright blue Texas sky.

-Pastor Phillip

In loving memory of my grandfather, Papa Marcelo Gonzalez

Papa Marcelo and Grandmama

God wants to make an example of you

God’s Hope for Your Heart from Psalm 67

GOD WANTS TO MAKE AN EXAMPLE OF YOU

May God be gracious to us and bless us and make His face to shine upon us, that Your way may be known on earth, Your saving power among all nations.  (Psalm 67:1-2)

The God of the universe has one primary goal above all others: the display of His glory.

Through His works in creation, He displays the glory of His power.  Through His offering of redemption through Christ, He displays the glory of His grace.  Through His blessings to His children, He displays the glory of His love.

Your life was redeemed and positioned for blessings because God loves you, yes.  However, the reasons for His grace go much deeper, and your life has much greater purpose than just passively receiving.  God has chosen you to actively display His glory to the rest of humanity!

Let your heart and mind and hands and mouth be devoted to telling and showing the glory of God to the world around you.  Let your life be focused on bringing Him glory in all things, and watch what will happen.

Your Heavenly Father will bring all sorts of blessings in to your life so the world will see His glory, because God wants to make an example of you.

-Pastor Phillip

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God has blessed you by bringing you near

God’s Hope for Your Heart from Psalm 65

GOD HAS BLESSED YOU BY BRINGING YOU NEAR

Blessed is the one You choose and bring near, to dwell in Your courts! We shall be satisfied with the goodness of Your house, the holiness of Your temple! (Psalms 65:4 ESV)

Distance is a disheartening thing.  In any relationship, the farther away from each other you are —physically or emotionally— usually the harder it is to maintain closeness and intimacy.

The same is true with God.  Those who are far from Him have little if any relationship with Him, and that is a frightening thing.

Yet, God was not willing that we should remain distant and cut off.  In His great love, He made a way, so that “now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” (Ephesians 2:13)

That means if you are in Christ, you don’t have to be distant from God anymore!  If you feel far from Him, you were the one who moved, not Him, and He is right there waiting and hoping for you to come back where you belong.

Let this promise bring you hope and courage to stay close to your heavenly Father.  If you’re in Christ, God has blessed you by bringing you near.

-Pastor Phillip

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Stillness Brings You Clarity

Stillness Brings You Clarity

The backwater lake shimmered in the light of the mid-morning sun.

Ripples danced through the water like figure skaters on ice, making chaotic patterns interspersed with brief moments of circular perfection where the fish poked up for a bite to eat.

Across the water was a stand of cypress trees, their ghost-white forms stretching high into a cobalt and cotton-ball sky, with only their thick layers of spanish moss weighing them down.

It was a place of peace.

As I sat there in the quiet, a thought occurred to me.  Looking at the rippling lake, it was very easy to distinguish between the reality of the trees and their reflection in the water.  While the water echoed the image, it was imperfect, incomplete and unstable.  To see what the trees were really like, I would have to stop looking down at the reflection and look up at the reality.

The same is true about the way we see our lives.

The Apostle Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 13 that “we see through a glass darkly,” and that as much as we’d like to, we can never truly see things with total clarity on this side of heaven.  As much as we would like to look up and see the world as it really is, we can’t.

So what can we do?

Looking back at the lake it occurred to me how much more clearly I would be able to see the reflection of the trees if the water were still.  Without the restless surface activity, it would be simply to see with greater clarity.

So it is with life.

There will likely never be a time when there isn’t a ready supply of responsibilities and diversions to keep us occupied.  Our whole culture is built on the idea that busyness is a good thing, and that the more you DO the more successful you ARE.  Yet, without regular moments to rest and reflect, it’s doubtful we’ll ever be able to see as clearly as we would if we made the time to simply stop and be still.

As you look at your life, take the time to plan in moments of quiet.

Have the courage to get off the treadmill of life and just sit for a while.

When you do, you may find that whole new worlds open up to you, because stillness brings you clarity.

-Pastor Phillip

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