God is your passionate protector

God’s Hope for Your Heart from Psalm 7

GOD IS YOUR PASSIONATE PROTECTOR

My shield is with God, who saves the upright in heart.
God is a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation every day.
(Psalm 7:10-11)

What makes God angry?  What makes Him indignant?

Is it when you sin and come up short of His perfection?  Is it when you struggle and stumble and fall?  Is it when you fail to live up to His expectations of you, or don’t live out His commandments to you?

No.

If you’re in Christ, then Scripture promises that all of these things are completely covered under the blood of Jesus.  In fact, when God looks at you, He sees the perfection of His Son, and He is filled with joy and delight in you because of Christ!

What makes God indignant is when evil comes against you.

The Psalmist writes, “Oh, let the evil of the wicked come to an end, and may you establish the righteous…” and that’s exactly what God wants to do.

If you’re in Christ, then when God gets angry, it is not a reaction of wrath that motivates Him to punish you.  It is an upwelling of passionate love that leads Him to protect you!  He desires to come to your rescue, to leap to your aid, to defend you against the lies and attacks of the evil one and keep you safe in Him.

Yes, there will be trouble in this life, but if you’re in Christ, you can have confidence in this.  Even in times of trial, God is using your suffering to perfect you and protect you from eternal things that are far worse than whatever you might experience here and now.

He is working out all these things for good in the end, and though the road may not always be smooth, the One walking with you is strong, and you can have hope in this truth: God is your passionate protector.

-Pastor Phillip


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Jesus is worth the sacrifice

God’s Hope for Your Heart from Matthew 21

JESUS IS WORTH THE SACRIFICE

They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and He sat on them.  Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road…  (Matthew 21:7-8a)

Most people in Jesus’ day didn’t have a lot of extra clothes.  Most only had one cloak, the outer garment they wore to protect them from the elements.

Yet, here they are, a whole crowd of people that see in Jesus something so compelling that they spread out their cloaks for His donkey to walk over as a kind of royal parade.

They do this because Jesus is worth the sacrifice.

Look ahead in the chapter, how Jesus enters the temple and throws out the people who took advantage of pilgrims by charging high rates of exchange.  Look at how He welcomes in their place the blind, the lame, the little children, and how He touches them all.

This is what Jesus does.  He challenges the powerful and empowers the challenged.  He brings down the high and mighty and lifts up the lowly and the weak.

He is trustworthy.

He is faithful.

He is kind.

He looks after the needs of His people, and though His methods aren’t always what you might expect or prefer, He will always do what’s best for you.

So, what “cloak” is Jesus calling you to lay down?  What thing brings you more comfort than His presence, more security than His promise?

May you have open ears and a willing heart to hear and obey His call to you, and as you do, may you be encouraged with hope by this truth: Jesus is worth the sacrifice.

-Pastor Phillip


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Jesus is generous

God’s Hope for Your Heart from Matthew 20

JESUS IS GENEROUS

“…I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you.  Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me?  Or do you begrudge my generosity?”  So the last will be first, and the first last.” (Matthew 20:14b-15)

Sometimes when we read the story of the vineyard workers, it’s quite easy to identify with the frustration of the first group.  After all, who wants to work really, really hard only to see someone else get the same reward for only a fraction of the effort?  It’s not fair!

When we read the story, though, it’s absolutely critical that we remember one key thing.

We are not the first group of workers, we’re the last.

The Bible says clearly that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) and that “the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23a)  Oh, we are workers all right, but our work was in opposition to the desires of God.  That’s what makes the second half of Romans 6:23 so incredible: “but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

When you feel like you just don’t measure up to God’s standards on your own, rejoice!  Jesus does, and He is generous.

When you feel like other people should get what they deserve for not being as holy as you, repent!  Jesus is not impressed with your performance, but He is generous.

Whether you question how God could love “them” or how He could love you, rejoice!  His love only depends on the performance and worthiness of one person: Jesus, and Jesus is generous.

May you find peace with yourself and patience with others as you remember that the ground is level at the foot of the cross, and may you be blessed with hope as you walk in the light of this truth: Jesus is generous.

-Pastor Phillip


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You Can Count on God to Come Through

An Encouraging Word

YOU CAN COUNT ON GOD TO COME THROUGH

I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in His word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning,
more than watchmen for the morning.
(Psalm 130:5-6)

A soft glow is beginning to appear on the horizon.

It’s still early, well before sunrise, but I can see the subtle shift from black to blue already taking place in the sky.

It’s still dark, the velvet sheet of night making it difficult to see the road ahead, but I know morning is coming, because morning always comes.

There is a soft hope in my heart for things to come.  It lingers, fragile in my soul like a fresh deposit of dew on the grass in the wee hours of the morning.

Time threatens to trample it, to take it away, but I’m not afraid.

You see, I’m waiting on my God to come through and I’m waiting, “more than watchmen wait for the morning.”

I’m not afraid, because the sky outside is lighter now than it was before, because morning is on its way and morning always comes through.

So does my God.

If you’re in Christ, so does yours.

-Pastor Phillip

Jesus wants to free you from your idols

God’s Hope for Your Heart from Matthew 19

JESUS WANTS TO FREE YOU FROM YOUR IDOLS

A man came up to [Jesus], saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?’ … “All these [commandments] I have kept. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you posses and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”  When the young man heard this he want away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.  (Matthew 19:16, 20-23)

Once again, Jesus goes straight for the heart.

It’s easy to look at this story and the passage that follows and draw a quick conclusion that wealth itself is a bad thing.  However, that’s not at all the case here.  The deep idol Jesus is going after isn’t the man’s money; that’s just a surface issue.

It’s his self-sufficiency.

Look a little closer… The man asks, “What good deed must I do …”  He claims “I have kept all the commandments You talked about.”  He had great possessions, and in a parallel telling of this account, he is called a “ruler.”

This is a guy who is used to calling the shots, being in charge, and having his ducks in a row.  He likely works hard at his occupation, and definitely works hard at his morality.  He has strived and saved and secured his own sense of well-being by his own effort, but somehow he knows he’s not quite there yet.  He knows there is still something more he’s missing, but his ideas of how to get it are misguided, and tragically common for most of us today.

For him to sell all he has and follow Jesus is for him to let go of everything he counted on to secure his future and abandon himself completely to the mercy of God.  It is a supreme leap of faith, and a step of obedience he’s just not ready to take.

As you follow Jesus, He loves you too much to let you remain in slavery to your idols.  He will bring about circumstances and opportunities for you to let go of them, and each time you don’t, your full experience of freedom in Christ gets a little farther away.

But, each time you do, the eternal life that already awaited you when you die gets a little closer, and begins to fill the life you live in the here and now.

May you trust Jesus in a deeper way today, letting go of self-sufficiency and trusting in the all-sufficient grace of our God.  As you do, you’ll receive a fresh helping of hope as you walk in this truth: Jesus wants to free you from your idols.

-Pastor Phillip


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Jesus Loves You When You’re Weak

God’s Hope for Your Heart from Matthew 18

JESUS LOVES YOU WHEN YOU’RE WEAK

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?”  And calling to Him a child, He put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.”  (Matthew 18:1-4)

Do you ever feel like you just don’t have what it takes to be a “good Christian?”

You work hard to do what’s right but instead you fail.  You struggle to stand but you instead you fall.  You try and try but keep coming up short in your efforts to please God.

The Good News is, Jesus LOVES people like you!

You see, children don’t carry their own weight, they need help.  Children don’t do everything right, they need assistance.  Children simply must trust their parents to love and look after them, and to cover their bases when they fail.

And that’s exactly the type of person Jesus is looking for; people like you, and people like me.

If you want to live a victorious Christian life, YES, devote yourself to godliness!  YES, develop good habits and disciplines.  YES, act in wisdom and stay as far from temptation as you can.

But, remember that if you’re in Christ, God accepts you not based on religious knowledge or moral performance, but because of the perfect sacrifice of Christ on your behalf.

If you think you’re more loved than others because of your good behavior, if you think you’re on a higher level than “those people” because of your morality, then according to Jesus, you will “never enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”

On the other hand, if you stumble, if you struggle, if you slip and fall sometimes but look to Jesus for help, He says that if you’ll just trust Him, He’s got you covered.

So, if and when you realize you aren’t all you should be, may you rest in hope as you remember this truth: Jesus loves you when you’re weak.

-Pastor Phillip


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“Are You Sure” – Aretha Franklin [Music Monday]

Who knew prayer could be so soulful?

Quite a while ago some friends made me a mix CD with some songs they thought I’d like.

I put it in the other day and found myself filled with both gratefulness and groove as Aretha Franklin’s “Are You Sure” reminded me of this…  Sometimes when I think God’s holding back on answering my prayer, it’s because He already has, just more creatively than I expected.

If you’ve been asking God why He hasn’t answered your prayer, maybe it’s time to ask yourself the same…

http://youtu.be/6zwWcZNVmEc

God is well pleased with you

God’s Hope for Your Heart from Matthew 17

GOD IS WELL PLEASED WITH YOU

[Jesus] was still speaking when, behold, a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him.”  (Matthew 17:5)

Do you look at your life and see things that don’t measure up to God’s standard?  Do you have areas of action or attitude that you feel God isn’t happy with?  Do you ever feel that God is disappointed in you?

Nothing could be further from the truth!

Yes, there may be actions and attitudes that God wants to change in your life.  There may be behaviors that break His heart because He loves you and wants what’s best for you.

However, if you’re in Christ, then your performance is never the deciding factor in how God feels about you.  When God turns His thoughts towards you, He sees you clothed in the perfection of His Son, Jesus.  He regards you, chooses to treat you, based solely on the righteousness of Christ and nothing you do can ever change that.

Christian, when your enemy tries to make you feel condemned because of your less-than-perfect behavior, may this truth strengthen your heart with hope: If you’re in Christ, God is well pleased with you.

-Pastor Phillip


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Jesus makes you qualified for favor

God’s Hope for Your Heart from Psalm 5

JESUS MAKES YOU QUALIFIED FOR FAVOR

For You, Lord, bless the righteous one.  You surround him with favor like a shield.  (Psalm 5:12)

God’s Word says He delights in showing favor to those who are righteous, and He is always true to His Word.  Yet, both the Bible and life itself show plainly that “no one is righteous, not even one.” (Romans 3:10)

But Jesus changes everything.

If you are in Christ, then you are qualified to receive all of the inheritance He deserves!  He is not just a good teacher or great example, He is “Jesus Christ the righteous one.” (1 John 2:1)

That means that if you’re in Christ, God sees you as righteous, too, and what does He love to give to the righteous?

Favor.

Don’t look at your own merit today to try and determine if you’re worthy of God’s help.  Look to Jesus, and let hope fill your heart as you meditate on this life-changing truth: Jesus makes you qualified for favor.

-Pastor Phillip


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A PRAYER OF RESPONSE

Lord Jesus, thank you that You have qualified me to receive favor from you through your finished work on the cross.  Thank you for making it available to me, and now I ask you to help me position myself to receive all you have prepared for me.

Help me make wise choices that prepare my heart to respond to your leading and my hands to receive more of your love.

Strengthen my character by whatever means necessary so I may be a good steward of all you desire to entrust me with.

Sharpen my spiritual sight to see clearly the purpose you have for me, and above all else, I ask this.  Help me keep  my eyes fixed firmly not on the gifts, but the giver, and keep my desire always for your glory above all else.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Jesus heals for the glory of God

God’s Hope for Your Heart from Matthew 15

JESUS HEALS FOR THE GLORY OF GOD

And great crowds came to him, bringing with them the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute, and many others, and they put them at His feet, and He healed them, so that the crowd wondered, when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled healthy, the lame walking, and the blind seeing.  And they glorified the God of Israel.  (Matthew 15:30-31)

Jesus loves to heal!

We see this all throughout the Gospels, as again and again we read that when people brought their sick and hurting loved ones to Jesus, He healed them all.  But Jesus’ first priority isn’t healing.  It’s the glory of God.

Jesus loves people!

We see this in the compassion He showed for the hungry, the hurting and the lost.  He provided food and fresh hope to many people.  But Jesus’ first priority isn’t people.  It’s the glory of God.

Jesus loves you!

Throughout the Scriptures we see that our God is seeking Savior, looking for and desiring that people everywhere be saved and redeemed.  Even though He dealt often with large crowds, Jesus repeatedly showed His love for individuals by spending one-on-one time with them in their hour of need.  But Jesus’ first priority isn’t you, and it isn’t me.  His greatest desire isn’t you, and it isn’t me.

It’s the glory of God, and this is a wonderful thing!  Why?

Because when we understand Jesus’ desire for the glory of the Father, it frees us from the weight of having to make sure we’re good enough to earn His healing compassion and love.

He’s not seeking to bless you for your sake, but for the glory of God, and that means the pressure’s off and you can simply receive the blessing.

As you wait for God’s perfect methods and timing for your healing, may you rest in hope as you remember that you’re off the hook of earning the right to be healed.  Why?  Because of this truth: Jesus heals for the glory of God.

-Pastor Phillip


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