More than Mary

As [Jesus] was saying these things, a woman from the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, “The womb that bore you and the one who nursed you are blessed!”  He said, “Even more, those who hear the word of God and keep it are blessed.”  (Luke 11:27-28)

Some traditions venerate Mary, the mother of Jesus.  They speak of the favor she had with God, the righteousness she had before God, and the blessing she received from God.

Yet, Jesus says that if you follow Him faithfully, hearing His words and obeying His commands, something incredible can be said of you.

You are more blessed than Mary.

–Pastor Phillip

For or Against

Anyone who is not with Me is against Me, and anyone who does not gather with Me scatters.  (Luke 11:23)

Jesus is looking for partners in His purpose, co-laborers in His mission, not curious bystanders who want to “try before they buy” but not make any real commitment.

You may think you can follow Jesus on a part-time basis, but He says differently.

You may think you can sign up for a short-term discipleship trial run, but Jesus says the opposite.

You may think that by delaying your choice to respond to the Gospel with wholehearted commitment, you’re somehow standing on safe, neutral ground.

You’re not.

–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

Who gets what? (Luke 6:19-20a)

The whole crowd was trying to touch Him because power was coming out from Him and healing them all.  Then, looking up at His disciples, He said…  (Luke 6:19-20a)

Jesus offers His healing power to all the people.  He uses miracles to draw them in, but look how He doesn’t expect every person healed to actually give Him a hearing.

He doesn’t make listening to His teaching a prerequisite for His touch.  Rather, He shows the lavish grace of God by healing all who come, and He shows the strategic wisdom of God by teaching only those who care.

Perhaps we would be wise to do the same.

–Pastor Phillip

Consistent Fruit (Luke 3:8)

Therefore produce fruit consistent with repentance.  And don’t start saying to yourself, “We have Abraham as our father,” for I tell you that God is able to raise up children for Abraham from these stones!  (Luke 3:8)

There’s no point in saying “Jesus changed my life” if your life hasn’t really changed.  Anyone can pray a prayer at a youth camp or an altar call and feel like they’re a brand new person.

True salvation is evidenced not by “feeling brand new” in our heart (though that’s a nice bonus), but by becoming brand new in the real world.

This doesn’t mean that if we aren’t instantly changed in every area that our salvation is a sham.  Rather, it means that instead of using Jesus as a free pass to live like we used to, we follow Him as an empowering example to live like we should.

–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

God reveals His blessings through community

God’s Hope for Your Heart from Philemon

GOD REVEALS HIS BLESSINGS THROUGH COMMUNITY

And I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ.  (Philemon 1:6)

When we hear the phrase, “sharing your faith,” we likely think about evangelism.  Certainly we should share our faith with those who don’t have it, in hopes that they might believe.  Yet, there is another kind of sharing that is vitally important, too.

We must share our faith with other believers, not in the sense of only telling them about our experience, but listening to theirs, too.

The greek word used here for sharing is “koinonia,” a word we often translate in english as “fellowship.” It’s a picture of the Christian life as a family potluck dinner.

So, here’s a question.  Can you survive by only eating what you cooked up yourself?  Sure, but you’ll miss the fulness and beauty of enjoying what other people bring to the table.

God’s plan for your life in Christ was never about you and Him in isolation together.  He has wired your heart in such a way that the only way you will receive the fulness of His blessings is by being in fellowship regularly with His people.

God uses people to accomplish His work, so as you structure your life and your schedule, let this truth direct your priorities: God reveals His blessings through community.

-Pastor Phillip

Jesus is worth it

God’s Hope for Your Heart from 2 Corinthians 11

JESUS IS WORTH IT

Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one.  Three times I was beaten with rods.  Once I was stoned.  Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.  And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.  (2 Corinthians 11:24-28)

The way of Jesus is filled with incredible joy and blessing, but also brings its share of suffering.  To follow Christ is to walk in the abundant favor of God, but sometimes His blessings come wrapped in packages of pain.

Your enemy will tell you it’s because God doesn’t love you, but that’s a lie.  Your enemy will tell you that you failed in your part or didn’t have enough faith for God to bless you, but that’s a lie.

The truth is, sometimes God’s greatest gifts come in surprising forms.  Even Jesus Himself came unexpectedly, in a way filled with difficulty and pain.

But Jesus is worth it!

The biggest blessing of all is not a comfortable set of circumstances, but a greater closeness to Christ.  The greatest joy of all comes not through God putting all the pieces of your life in the order you demand, but in His gracious drawing of your heart into a deeper relationship with Jesus.

Whatever sacrifices you’ve made to follow Christ, it’s worth it.  Whatever pain you feel as you choose to follow Him instead of the ways of the world, it’s worth it!

Don’t let Satan make you give up, and don’t let suffering bring you down.  No matter how hard it gets, may you be propelled towards Christ by the hope of this courage-building truth:  Jesus is worth it.

-Pastor Phillip


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Jesus wants to give you rest

God’s Hope for Your Heart from Mark 6

JESUS WANTS TO GIVE YOU REST

The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught.  And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.”  For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.  And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves. (Mark 6:30-32)

The Christian community applauds hard work.

Those people who do the most, who accomplish great things for God, who work diligently for good results in the Kingdom–they are the ones that we naturally look at and seek to be.

But Jesus wants you to rest, too.

To be sure, working hard for the Kingdom is a great thing, a glorious thing, but even the Apostles themselves needed to take a break.  The hand-picked, personally-chosen disciples of Jesus were first commissioned to go work, then commanded to come rest.

Maybe Jesus is calling you to do the same.

May you never be lazy in your commitment to building the Kingdom, serving others out of love and sharing Jesus wherever you can.  At the same time, though, may you be blessed by the hope that will come as you remember and apply this simple truth: Jesus wants to give you rest.

-Pastor Phillip


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God is With You in the Work

An Encouraging Word

GOD IS WITH YOU IN THE WORK

I found it amusing that my nose was running like a faucet, because it felt like my sinuses were stuffed with cotton.

It was a Monday, and it was one of those days where the space around my eyes felt compressed, my nostrils were raw from constant Kleenex use, and I was worn out from feeling like I’d been battling to breathe since I woke up.

Gotta love seasonal allergies!

Like I always do, I loaded up a regiment of green tea, local honey, Kleenex, warm salt water for gargling and my trusty neti pot to clear out my nose, and I got to work.  I knew that these treatments would help prevent the allergies from settling in to an infection.  I knew that these treatments would help me cleanse my system more quickly and get me back on my feet.  I knew that these treatments were exactly what I needed to do to ensure the best outcome for my situation, but that didn’t stop this one nagging thought from dogging me all day…

“I’m tired of this.”

Can I make another confession, a spiritual one?

Sometimes I get weary of the work.

Not the 9 to 5 day job work, but the work of walking the path of the disciple, the work of building the Kingdom.  Sometimes, even though I know it’s the right thing to do, it’s hard to take the high road and keep walking, keep believing.

You see, before I’m a Pastor, I’m a person.  I’m a person with hopes and fears, wins and losses, strengths and struggles just like everyone else, and in my more reflective moments I have to admit the deep, dark truth.  Sometimes I just get sick of it all.

Have you ever felt that way?

Have you ever felt that even though you know following Jesus is worth it, it’s also a lot of work?

Have you ever felt tired of doing the right thing, of walking the narrow path, of being a “good Christian” day after day after day?

If you have, I have good news.  You’re not alone!

Everybody gets weary from time to time.  Jesus Himself had to take time to withdraw and rest, and even with that, in the Garden of Gethsemane He still found Himself being honest with His Father that He really didn’t want to go through with crucifixion.  (Matthew 26:36-44)

If you’re not always chipper about doing God’s will, you’re in good company.

That’s not the only thing, though.  You see, God’s call to us always comes with a promise for us, and the greatest promise of all is found in this: “I AM WITH YOU.”

If He is with you, you can know your faithfulness matters.

If He is with you, you can know your journey of discipleship has meaning.

If He is with you, you can know He will bring a harvest at the proper time, and until then His presence will be with you all the way.

Yes, following Jesus is hard work and can sometimes leave you weary.  But, it’s a weariness that doesn’t have to remain forever, and that you don’t have to go through alone.

If you need strength and hope today, may you find it by meditating on these words from God.  As you do, remember that He is speaking them not just to “people,” but to you…

“Be strong, all you people of the Land,” declares the Lord.  “Work, for I am with you,” declares the Lord of hosts.  (Haggai 2:4b)

“Be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”  (Matthew 28:20b, NLT)

Walk on, my friend, because God is with you in the work.

-Pastor Phillip