Vision, Distraction, and Expectations

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“So I sent messengers to them, saying, ‘I am doing a great work and cannot come down.  Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?’”  (Nehemiah 6:3)

Fulfilling a vision means being able to say no to the distractions of less important things.  It requires boldness and determination, and a willingness to hold the line even (and especially) in the face of criticism.

When it seems like everyone is pressing and everything is urgent, just remember this.  Don’t let the expectations of others derail the destiny God has for your life.

–Pastor Phillip

Why people flocked to John

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Then people from Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the vicinity of the Jordan were flocking to [John], and they were baptized by him in the Jordan River as they confessed their sins.  (Matthew 3:5-6)

Why did people flock to John?  Some came out of curiosity, to be sure, perhaps even many or most of them.  Yet, even they were drawn by something deeper, because their visit resulted in repentance.  Surely this can only be the result of the supernatural hand of God, stirring hearts in need of repentance towards a desire for repentance!

After all, John is not portrayed as a particularly eloquent or crowd-pleasing speaker, so the delivery wasn’t the key.  He was in the wilderness, not a lovely temple, so the environment wasn’t the draw.  He was dressed in rough garments, not in fine clothes that signified authority or appeal, so that wasn’t it, either.

No, it was simply a Spirit thing.

John served as a focal point for something God already wanted to do.  He was not the cause, only a catalyst, and even that was not because of his own noble choice.  It was because God called him.

So, here is the deep question for us today: if we want to see people come to faith in Christ and rally to repentance, what should we do?

Here are three suggestions…

  1. We should “Make every effort to make [our] calling and election sure” (2 Peter 1:10) by focusing on our personal walk with God.  It is doubtful John thought of making the desert his home base on his own.  Surely this must have been revealed through his intimate relationship with God.  This is why prayer is vital.
  2. We should pay attention to the times and seasons of the world around us.  What is God already doing?  How is He already stirring hearts and preparing them to respond to a catalyst?
  3. We must obey God when He tells us what to do, no matter how uncomfortable or unorthodox the instruction may seem.  I doubt locusts, wild honey, desert life and came-hair clothing would have been at the top of John’s list of goals for his life, but there he was, being faithful…

And God responded in amazing ways.

–Pastor Phillip

A Legacy of Faith

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I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure, dwells in you as well.  For this reason, I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.  For God gave us a spirit not of fear, but of power and love and self-control.  (2 Timothy 1:5-7)

For what reason does Paul remind Timothy to press on and increase in the power of God?  Because of Timothy’s godly heritage.

A legacy of faith is both an opportunity and a responsibility.  It provides a set of shoulders on which to stand, and a charge from God to rise to the occasion so that others may stand on your shoulders, too.

If you come from a long line of believers, may God give you strength and will to follow the path they started.  If you don’t, may He give you courage to blaze the trail for those who will come behind.

–Pastor Phillip

Walking in truth leads to multiplied joy

For I rejoiced greatly when the brothers came and testified to your truth, as indeed you are walking in the truth.  I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.  (3 John 1:3-4)

Sometimes it’s easy to start thinking that our walk with God is just between us and Him…but it’s bigger than that.

Sometimes, if we’re not careful, we can slip into believing that our beliefs are only a private matter…but they’re not.

Your life has an impact on more people than you know, and so your relationship with God is a profoundly important thing!  Since what you believe drives how you behave, you have the potential to help or harm the people around you, simply by how committed you are to the truth of God’s Word and the life of Christ.

Here’s some good news.  When you walk faithfully with Jesus, you are not just blessing yourself, and you’re not just blessing God.  You are blessing the world around you because your life is affecting it with the transforming love of Christ!

Let this reality encourage and strengthen you to keep moving forward on the narrow road of faith.

Walking in truth leads to multiplied joy.

–Pastor Phillip

God has granted you the ability to grow

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence…  For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith…”  (2 Peter 1:3, 5a)

God’s amazing grace is the most incredible gift imaginable.  It is His undeserved favor, His unbreakable love, His unstoppable redemption, and if you’re in Christ, it is His irrevocable gift to you.

But it gets even better than that.

God has not only given you right standing with Him, but also the power to stand for Him.  He has given you the ability to learn and grow, to increase your knowledge of His love and amplify your experience of His power.

God’s plan for you is not that you would become a weak recipient of spiritual welfare, but a strong participant in spiritual warfare.  His grace is not the enabling force for you to sit back and do nothing, but the empowering strength for you to stand up and do something that matters with your life.

Never forget that you have great power in Christ, and with it, a great opportunity and responsibility to follow Him in deeper and deeper ways.

Rest in His grace, then work for His glory as you are strengthened by this truth.

God has granted you the ability to grow.

–Pastor Phillip

Defending Jesus (Luke 4:29-30)

[The people] got up, drove Him out of town and brought Him to the edge of the hill their town was built on, intending to hurl Him over the cliff.  But He passed right through the crowd and went on His way.  (Luke 4:29-30)

Jesus has no need of a bodyguard.  He is not helpless and fragile, hoping someone comes along to bail Him out.

Neither has He any need of a Public Relations team to make Him cool, a Brand Strategist to make Him relevant, or a Salesperson to make Him desirable to the disinterested masses.

He wants witnesses who tell the truth about what they’ve seen and heard and experienced.  That’s it.

Apologetics certainly have their place, but if you really want to help the cause of Christ, don’t worry about defending Him.  Instead, focus on developing a vibrant relationship with Him that actually gives you something to say.

–Pastor Phillip

Prepare the Way (Luke 3:4b)

Prepare the way for the Lord; make His paths straight.  (Luke 3:4b)

John’s job was to ready the masses to receive the Messiah.  His task was to “make His paths straight,” not because Jesus wasn’t able to find His own way into people’s hearts, but because people always have barriers that prevent a clear view of who Jesus really is.

John’s job was to clear away any obstacles that might have kept people from seeing and responding to Jesus.

Now, that job belongs to you and me.

–Pastor Phillip

Jesus has given you a holy calling

Therefore, holy brothers [and sisters], you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession…  (Hebrews 3:1)

Jesus walked by the Sea of Galilee and called out to some fishermen.  “Follow me,” He said, and they did.

He’s calling you to the same thing.

To be a Christian means more than just accepting a truth.  It means responding to a call.  It means that your life now has a purpose and power unlike anything you could have on your own!  It means you’ve been set apart for something special, chosen for a holy mission from God.

What is this mission to which you’ve been called?  To be an ambassador of the Kingdom of God and a member of His body, the Church.

Don’t let the enemy of your soul make you believe your life has no meaning.  If you’re in Christ, nothing could be further from the truth!  Rejoice and respond to your part in the Kingdom, and as you do, rest in the hope of this truth: Jesus has given you a holy calling.

–Pastor Phillip

Jesus saved you to a life of purpose

God’s Hope for Your Heart from Titus 2

JESUS SAVED YOU TO A LIFE OF PURPOSE

Our great God and Savior Jesus Christ gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession who are zealous for good works.  (Titus 2:13a-14)

Part of the message of the Gospel is that Jesus saves us from sin, but that’s not all there is.  Many people may realize what Jesus rescued them from but forget that He also rescued them TO something special.

Jesus doesn’t just save and send you on your way.  He doesn’t redeem, you from sin and then abandon you to your own devices.  No, Jesus calls you from a life of sin to a life of powerful, purposeful living for the glory of God and good of others!

Are you in Christ?  Then rejoice!  You have been chosen as His ambassador for a mission of mighty good works.  Embrace this truth, and let it fill you with hope today: Jesus saved you to a life of purpose.

-Pastor Phillip

God chose you for glory

God’s Hope for Your Heart from 2 Thessalonians 2

GOD CHOSE YOU FOR GLORY

God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.  To this He called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.  (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14)

Christian, never forget that God chose you.

You did not draw His attention by your efforts; He simply loved you by His grace.

You did not earn His favor by your merit; He simply called you by His mercy.

You did not convince Him with your potential; He simply pursued you because He loves you.

This means that in Christ, there’s nothing to earn, nothing to prove, and nothing to fear!

Not only that, but God saved you for a good purpose and a great destiny. He chose you to become not a slave, but a son or daughter, not a laborer, but an heir of the Kingdom.

So, if you’re in Christ you can rest in this liberating truth: God chose you for glory.

-Pastor Phillip