Get Back on the Bike [An Encouraging Word]

“Why does this always happen to me?”

Bradley had fallen a second time on his bicycle, his 7-year old, 72-pound frame tangled up in steel and rubber with a handlebar poking him in the belly.  The injuries to his body weren’t serious, but the hurt in his heart was real.

He actually hadn’t been falling much at all.  In fact, other than two accidents that particular day, he had stayed upright just fine for most of our rides together.  He’d even begun to regularly muse out loud, “How can I be so good at riding a bicycle so quickly,” and “I don’t think there’s really anything else for me to learn about riding a bike.”

And that was his problem.

My son’s mental anguish at a second tumble wasn’t really about the frequency of the fall.  It was about the breakdown of his feelings of invincibility.  In that moment, my little boy’s greatest struggle wasn’t overcoming the pain in his tummy or the awkwardness of the twisted bicycle.  His greatest struggle was having to come to grips with this simple truth about life.

Everybody hurts.

He needed to know there was no grand conspiracy that made him fall, sometimes things just happen.  He needed to know this wasn’t a great failure on his part, just a part of the learning process.

Most of all, though, he needed to know that no matter how hard he tries, he is not invincible, and that’s okay.  He is not immune to trial and trouble, and that’s a good thing.

You see, to hurt is part of the human experience.  Falling is part of being fully alive.  This is why Jesus’ promise is so hopeful, “You will have suffering in this world.  Be courageous!  I have conquered the world.” (John 16:33b)  By acknowledging the inevitability of suffering, Jesus sets us free from feeling like a failure when we can’t avoid it, and gives us hope that He will see us through it.

How about you?

Have you felt the bite of rejection or the sting of failure?  Have you experienced the pain of loss or the drain of long-term struggle?  Have you ever found yourself asking, “Why does this always happen to me?”

Be courageous!

You and I need to remember there is a time to learn from our mistakes, and a time to accept that things just happen.  We need to remember there is a time to evaluate ourselves to grow, and a time to embrace the truth that sometimes God allows things for reasons we’ll never know.

Most of all, though, you and I need to remember that there’s a time to cry and hurt and grieve and retreat, but there’s also a time where we must receive the word I gave to my son after I comforted his heart and dried his tears.

It’s time to get back on the bike.

–Pastor Phillip

God calms the anxiousness of the humble

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.  (1 Peter 5:6-7)

Anxiousness creeps in when we take upon ourselves the burden of having to figure things out on our own.  Worry takes over when we dwell on all the circumstances beyond our control.

This is a subtle form of pride, and it is a cancer of the soul.

The cure is to humble ourselves before God, to think and act in a way that acknowledges and embraces this simple fact: God is in control, not us, and that’s a good thing.  Humility frees us from our addiction to control and instead, repeatedly and joyfully hands over the reigns to God.

This is why God can take away the anxieties of the humble, because they let Him.

Don’t hold on to your worries and fears.  Turn them over to Jesus and let Him give you peace through this glorious truth.

God calms the anxiousness of the humble.

–Pastor Phillip

Jesus shares His glory with the faithful

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.  But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed.  (1 Peter 4:12-13)

Trials are tests of our faithfulness.  They are a mechanism by which God gives us the chance to overcome earthly struggles to gain heavenly rewards.

This is the same road Jesus endured.  He was loved and cherished by the Father, yet was given a path to walk that was full of struggle.  But, it was that very struggle that qualified Him for the fullness of glory on the other side. (See Hebrews 5:7-10, 12:2)

Now Jesus offers the same to you, an opportunity to join Him in suffering so that you may also join Him in receiving glorious rewards.

This is not about salvation or eternal destiny.  That question was settled once and for all at the cross and made available by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.  This is about blessing and glory and the hope of reward for all who are faithful in following Christ.

Are you hurting because of your stand for Jesus?  Are you struggling because of your commitment to God?  Are you being persecuted because you choose to walk with Christ rather than follow the world?

Take heart!  Hang in there!  Stand strong, and as you walk in faithfulness, take courage in this hope-inspiring truth.

Jesus shares His glory with the faithful.

–Pastor Phillip

Serving and Sitting (Luke 10:38-42)

While they were traveling, [Jesus] entered a village, and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home.  She had a sister named Mary, who also sat at the Lord’s feet and was listening to what He said.  But Martha was distracted by her many tasks, and she came up and asked, “Lord, don’t You care that my sister has left me to serve alone?  So tell her to give me a hand.”
The Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but one thing is necessary.  Mary has made the right choice, and it will not be taken away from her.”  (Luke 10:38-42)

Working for God without spending time with God is a fast-track to frustration.  Taking time to listen and learn from Jesus is a pathway to peace.

Often we may seek to work for the Kingdom because it produces the immediate gratification of a job well done.  This is not a bad thing, but separated from quality time simply listening to the King, it’s not the best thing.

Don’t just work for Jesus, walk with Him, and in doing so you’ll not only be able to learn; you’ll also be showing your love.

–Pastor Phillip

God’s blessing goes beyond your suffering

But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed.  Have no fear of them, nor be troubled… (1 Peter 3:14)

The reality of suffering is one that many people don’t like to deal with.  Even many Christians, uncomfortable trying to reconcile God’s love with His allowance of pain, gloss over the harsh truth that pain comes to all people, in all places, no matter what kind of relationship they have with God.

Think about it…

Jesus was crucified.  The Apostle Peter was crucified upside-down.  The Apostle Paul was beheaded, and the Apostle John boiled alive in oil and then exiled when he didn’t die.

Throughout history and even to this day in countries across the world, countless millions have been and still are persecuted for their faith in Jesus, yet they continue to trust and praise Him through it all.  Why?

Because Jesus Himself is the greatest blessing of all.

The mighty presence of the risen Savior is a far greater gift than any change in circumstances could ever be.  The lavish hope of glory awaiting believers is a far greater pleasure than any removal of pain.  This is why generations of Christians have endured pain and suffering with smiles on their faces and joy in their hearts and praise on their lips.

Will you be one of them?

In the midst of whatever trial you’re facing, let the presence of Jesus bring you hope as you remember this powerful truth.

God’s blessing goes beyond your suffering.

–Pastor Phillip

Three Acceptances

To accept the world as it is without losing hope; this is the great journey of adulthood and maturity.

To accept people for who they are, not for who you wish them to be; this is the great task of love.

To accept that though disappointment and pain are part of our lot in this life, they are only a piece of the story and need not be the headline; this is the great aim of hope.

If I can fully embrace these three things, I believe the end result for me will be much greater peace and deeper joy.

Perhaps it can be the same for you.

–Pastor Phillip

Anniversaries and Expectations [An Encouraging Word]

Two years ago today, my wife and I said “I do,” and we’re not doing a thing to celebrate.

Why not?  First, we both work today, and second, we’re watching our finances, staying on-budget and paying off debt (you know, those boring details of married life that don’t get special days or cards or celebrations.)

For us, this is the best anniversary gift we can give each other, because by exercising restraint for the short term, we’re actually investing in our relationship for the long term…but that’s a topic for another day.

Third, because of our time and budget, we actually celebrated yesterday by driving around Southwest Florida and enjoying some of the simple (and inexpensive) pleasures we have in our own backyard.  We didn’t spend lots of money, but we did spend the whole day together, and that’s what made it special.

Yet, there’s another reason our modest anniversary plans haven’t been a bad thing for my wife and me, and it’s far deeper than schedules and spending.

I talk to people all the time that are disappointed the bright surface on their relationships faded, because they got together for the shine instead of the substance underneath.  It seems like many folks jump in to commitments expecting non-stop stellar moments, and then are dismayed to find it’s mostly just steady going.

For us, two whole years in (epic, I know), I’ve noticed something about our relationship that’s different from the ones I see in movies or the ones divorce lawyers see in their offices.  Through wise counsel, diligent work and the grace of God, we found a truth that makes sacrifices feel easier, or at least a lot more doable than they might be otherwise.

Here’s what we discovered: If you go in looking for the highlight reel, you’ll get out mostly disappointment, but if you expect the heavy lifting, then even little breaks will be a big delight.

You see, the fact that we didn’t get a whole weekend away in some exotic locale wasn’t a big deal, because that’s not why we got into this in the first place.  We committed to build a life, not just take a ride.  We devoted ourselves to seek the greatest good for each other, not just the most fun for ourselves.

For us, it’s not the mountaintops that bring us the most joy, but the moments in between, and that makes all the difference.

So, I don’t know what expectations you have for your current situation, but can I encourage you to try something?

Stop wishing for a never-ending string of weekends and welcome the rough, raw beauty of the daily grind.  When you learn to embrace it, you’ll find the little blessings that come your way won’t feel as much like drops of water in a mostly empty bucket; they’ll feel like diamonds in the dirt, far more precious and worth the wait.

–Pastor Phillip


Preconception and Revelation (Luke 9:43b-45)

While everyone was amazed at all the things He was doing, He told His disciples, “Let these words sink in: The Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men.”  But they did not understand this statement; it was concealed from them so that they could not grasp it, and they were afraid to ask Him about it.  (Luke 9:43b-45)

Jesus makes it clear that He wants the disciples to understand what He is saying, but the plain truth is too far outside their expectations to sink in.

Sometimes God may have something to say, but we are too focused on our own ideas to see and hear it.

All too often, only by removing our preconception can we receive God’s revelation.

–Pastor Phillip

God chose you to belong to His people

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.  Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.  (1 Peter 2:9-10)

You were created for belonging.  In the very beginning, God declared, “It is not good that the man should be alone,” (Genesis 2:18) and He meant it.

Yet, sin separates us not just from God, but also from one another.  Sin drives us deeper into the cave of lonely individualism, and tells us we can be just fine on our own.  Sin tells us we don’t need anyone else, that we alone have what it takes to live a full and meaningful life and have no need of other people.

Nothing could be further from the truth!

God is a relational God, and He created us as relational people.  Although sin separates, in Christ, God desires to bring together a people who have fellowship not only with Him, but also with each other.

Don’t believe the lie that you can experience full life with just you and Jesus. Jesus wants you to be a part of His body, His family, His people the church.  This is God’s will for you, not just to believe, but to belong.

You don’t have to be alone, so be blessed as you take action on this truth.

God chose you to belong to His people.

–Pastor Phillip

Waking up to Jesus (Luke 9:32)

Peter and those with him were in a deep sleep, and when they became fully aware, they saw His glory and the two men who were standing with Him.  (Luke 9:32)

Jesus’ glory was on full display, but His disciples almost missed it.  They were “weighed down with sleep,” and almost missed a chance to see Jesus for who He really is.

What causes you to feel “weighed down?”

What makes you want to keep your eyes closed, to sleep and retreat instead of standing and engaging?

Maybe your greatest encounter with Jesus is just around the corner, if you’d just be willing to do the work of waking up…

–Pastor Phillip


Let's do this together.