In Christ, God’s judgement will bring you joy

Scripture Notes on Psalm 96

He will judge the world in righteousness, and the peoples in His faithfulness.  (Psalm 96:13b)

Most people don’t think of God’s judgement as a happy thing.  We get images in our minds of the great throne of God, of all the people of the earth being brought before Him for their lives to be weighed in the scales of justice.

This is an accurate picture.

The Bible says that one day all people will stand before God’s throne to be judged.  He will measure our lives against His standard of complete justice.  He will decide our fate based not on whether or not we were “a pretty good person,” but on whether or not we met His standard of perfect righteousness.

He does not give free passes; all debts must be paid in full.

He does not accept excuses; all sins must be atoned for completely, no matter what.

He does not grant exceptions for extenuating circumstances, all people will be judged fairly and justly, period.

Here’s why this is such good news.

If you’re in Christ, that means that when God looks at your life to judge you, He will see only Jesus’ life instead, and Jesus’ life is perfectly righteous!  If you’re in Christ, God will judge you according to how Jesus obeyed, to how Jesus was faithful, to how righteous Jesus is.

This means that if you’re in Christ, there is no exception or technicality that can convict you – you are totally righteous in God’s eyes.  No sin can come back to haunt you on judgement day – you are totally clean!

Because Jesus gives you His righteousness, in Christ, God’s judgement will bring you joy.

-Pastor Phillip

God will never abandon you

Scripture Notes on Psalm 94

For the Lord will not forsake His people; He will not abandon His heritage.  (Psalm 94:14)

Have you sinned and felt the sting of consequences and the weight of guilt?  Be at peace, God will never abandon you.

Have you failed to live up to expectations, yours or God’s or someone else’s?  Be at peace, God will never abandon you.

Have people you trusted let you down, and people you relied on left you hanging?  Be at peace, God will never abandon you.

It may feel sometimes as if God is not there.  It may seem sometimes that heaven is closed to you and your prayers return unanswered.  Even so, be at peace.

It is only a season.

It is only for a time.

It will not last forever.

You see, if you’re in Christ, you belong to Jesus as His treasured possession, no matter what!  That means you can have peace in this simple truth.

God will never abandon you.

-Pastor Phillip

RADIO – 03 If They Only Knew [My Name Is…]

Podcast-graphic-[My-Name-Is]Almost all of us have something in our past (or present) that we’re not proud of.  Whatever it is, we wonder and worry about how the people around us would react if they only knew.

If you know what that feels like (or even if you don’t) join Pastor Phillip Gonzales for a word of encouragement from the Scriptures.  After all, you know that thing you hope nobody finds out?  God already knows about it!  The question is, will you trust Him enough to hear what He has to say?

NOTE: This teaching was broadcast on “The Heritage Hour,” the weekly radio program of Dr. Mark P. Gonzales.  It airs in Fort Myers, FL at 8:00am on Saturday mornings on WJYO, 91.5fm.

Don’t Let Go of Wonder

Don't Let Go of Wonder

The sky was ablaze with a spray of orange and gold, like heaven itself was breaking through to earth.

The air was thick and still, filled with the wet-blanket silence of a humid Florida evening; that special kind of silence that settles when a rainstorm is just gearing up to go all out.

And there was the two-year old, taking it all in with wonder.

He hadn’t learned yet to be concerned that usually the bigger and more beautiful the sunset, the greater the coming thunderstorm.

He hadn’t learned yet to be annoyed and distracted by the mosquitoes scoping out his soft, sock-free ankles for an evening snack.

He hadn’t learned yet to be worried about property damage from the storm, to be bothered by the stifling humidity, to be anxious about finishing his responsibilities before the day is through.

He simply got to enjoy the show.

When was the last time you were stopped still in your tracks by something beautiful?

When was the last time you let yourself set aside your concerns about something and simply enjoy the experience?  When was the last time you let your guard down and really trusted something or something to actually be as wonderful as you hoped?

When was the last time you embraced wonder?

I’m sure you have good reasons to be cynical; we all do.  I’m sure you have plenty of stories of how things and people have failed you in the past; we all do.  I’m sure you have painful memories of times when you were underwhelmed by unmet expectations or overwhelmed by the riptides of life; we all do.

But don’t let go of wonder.

You were created in the image of a creative God.  You were given a spirit and a soul and a body that were made for far deeper things that just paying your bills and trying to get places on time.  You were made to matter, and to let beautiful moments matter to you.

So, the next time you take a bite of a favorite food or hear the first notes of a favorite song, don’t let them pass by without noticing.  The next time you get to see a sunrise or sunset or take a walk in the cool of the day, don’t let those moments slip away without savoring.

Stop.

Taste.

Listen.

Feel.

Breathe in the beauty of the moment, and breathe out your troubles for just a moment more.  Let those moments remind you of the presence and the goodness of a God who is “able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think.” (Ephesians 3:20)  Every chance you get, take the time and have the faith to drink deep from the cup of life with the open mind and thirsty heart of a child.

Don’t let go of wonder.

-Pastor Phillip

 

God is stronger than your struggle

Scripture Notes on Psalm 93

The floods have lifted up, O Lord, the floods have lifted up their voice; the floods lift up their roaring.
Mightier than the thunders of many waters, mightier than the waves of the sea, the Lord on high is mighty.
(Psalm 93:3-4)

Think of the storm surge of a hurricane. Think of the tidal wave of a typhoon. Think of the rising waters of an unseasonal thunderstorm that just won’t quit.

Do you ever have troubles that feel like that? Ever find yourself in a season of sorrow that just won’t quit, facing a struggle that keeps knocking you flat on your back or making you fall your face?

Here’s good news: God is stronger than that!

Maybe you feel you can’t overcome this issue, but God can.

Maybe you feel you can’t make it through this season, but God can.

Maybe you feel you can’t handle this trial, or come out of this depression, or break this addiction, but God can.

Even if your problems look as vast as the ocean and as unstoppable as the tides, find hope in this truth.

God is stronger than your struggle.

-Pastor Phillip

Jesus is your shelter and your rest

Scripture Notes on Psalm 91

Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. (Psalm 91:1, NLT)

The storm is raging outside, wild, loud, full chaos and danger, but you will be safe in here.

The battle is fierce outside, brutal, ceaseless, without respite or mercy, but you will be secure in here.

Your shoulders are drooping, your back is bent and your load is heavy, but you will find rest in here.

Your mind is weary, your heart is heavy and your soul is troubled, but you will find peace in here.

Do you need it? Do you want it? Is your spirit yearning for a place like this?

Then come, and take heart. You will find it in Christ, because Jesus is your shelter and your rest.

-Pastor Phillip

RADIO – 02 Family Matters [My Name Is…]

Podcast-graphic-[My-Name-Is]Do you ever have “issues” with your family?  Join Pastor Phillip Gonzales for a message of hope about what family can look like in the Kingdom.

NOTE: This teaching was broadcast on “The Heritage Hour,” the weekly radio program of Dr. Mark P. Gonzales.  It airs in Fort Myers, FL at 8:00am on Saturday mornings on WJYO, 91.5fm.

The Vine Does Not Define You

The Vine Does Not Define You 3

The dry, withered vine hung like tentacles from the branches of the aging pine.

Once the vine had tried to seize control of the tree.  It had threatened to overtake the pine and strip it of life until only the vine remained.  Left unchecked, the vine would have grown so much that it would have obscured the tree almost entirely, hiding the beauty of what was supposed to be there behind a façade of something that didn’t belong.

But the vine was dead now.

The vine no longer threatened the life of the tree.  The vine was only an echo of a time long past, and the tree was free to grow as it was intended to.  The only reason the vine was still hanging on was because no one had yet taken the time to remove it so the beauty of the tree could shine through.

Your life is like that.

If you’re in Christ, the Bible says you are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).  It says that once sin was like that vine, toxic and spreading, sucking away your life and leading you to destruction (Romans 6:23), but not anymore!

If you’re in Christ, the Bible says old things have passed away and all things have become new, and that means no matter what patterns of sin used to define you, they don’t have to anymore.  Whatever patterns of dysfunction used to command you, they don’t have to anymore.  Whatever habits or addictions or compulsions used to control you, they don’t have to anymore!

Jesus makes all things new, and that means you can be free of those things that used to hold you back as you trust and obey the One who is calling you forward.

Cast aside those old remnants of sin and shame!  Throw off those leftover patterns of thought and behavior that don’t line up with who God made you to be!

In Christ, you have a new life now, and the vine does not define you anymore.

-Pastor Phillip

 

God has the best view of your life

Scripture Notes on Psalm 90

For a thousand years in Your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night.  (Psalm 90:4)

God has the greatest perspective of all.

Think about it.  The long slow sequence of events that happened in your life to bring you to this moment?  He sees it all at once.  The results and repercussions of the choices you’re considering?  He sees them all right now.

There is no “history” or “future” with God, because He is eternal.  This also means that He alone has the fullest and clearest perspective on your life.  This is great news, because He loves you!  He wants to speak to you through His word and His Spirit, so that you can flourish and be filled with joy!

Because God sees the bigger picture, He knows how to guide you to the best results, and because He loves you in Christ, He wants to do just that.

The question is, will you listen?  Will you trust Him?  Will you obey or keep pretending that your perspective is the most valid and important one of all?

Whatever you’re facing, let God lead you to the right decision, because God has the best view of your life.

-Pastor Phillip

God still loves you when you sin

Scripture Notes on Psalm 89

If his children forsake my law and do not walk according to my rules, if they violate my statutes and do not keep my commandments, then I will punish their transgression with the rod and their iniquity with stripes, but I will not remove from him my steadfast love or be false to my faithfulness. (Psalm 89:30-33)

You are not powerful enough to change God’s feelings towards you. Nothing you do or don’t do, say or don’t say can make Him stop loving you. It’s impossible.

Why? Because God’s love for you is based on His promise, not your performance.

In fact, His love for you is so great that He sent His own Son to be punished with the rod in your place. He let His own Son receive stripes from the lash in your place. He sent His own Son to die on the cross in your place, for your sins, so that you could be reconciled to God for eternity.

Jesus paid all of that price -and more- because He loves you, and so no amount of failure on your part can outweigh the grace on His.

Does God discipline His children so they will learn and grow? Like any good father, yes. But does God turn away from you in anger when you sin? Does He hold out on you as punishment until you get your act together? Absolutely not!

Because of Jesus’ finished work on the cross, if you’re in Christ, God still loves you when you sin.

-Pastor Phillip

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