God’s Word prepares you for God’s work

God’s Hope for Your Heart from 2 Timothy 3

GOD’S WORD PREPARES YOU FOR GOD’S WORK

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.  (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

God has a goal for all creation.  The universe was created to bring Him glory, and even though sin has stunted the process, His desire remains the same.

In order to accomplish this desire, God could have chosen to micro-manage the process, but He didn’t.  Instead, He chose His people to make it happen, despite our inherent lack of worthiness for the job.

But Jesus made us worthy.

Not only that, but God gave us a guide, a toolkit, an empowering resource that contains all the knowledge and power we need to accomplish all the assignments He’s given us.  What is that resource?  It’s His Word, inspired and illuminated by His Holy Spirit.

If you find yourself feeling unqualified for great things, turn to Scripture as your source.

If you find yourself feeling unprepared for good works, turn to Scripture as your supply.

No matter what your background may be, the Bible can give you the tools you need for Kingdom success.  So, rest in God’s provision and read God’s Word, and let this truth set your mind at ease: God’s Word prepares you for God’s work.

–Pastor Phillip

God will make sure you receive your reward

God’s Hope for Your Heart From 1 Timothy 5

GOD WILL MAKE SURE YOU RECEIVE YOUR REWARD

The sins of some people are conspicuous, going before them to judgment, but the sins of others appear later. So also good works are conspicuous, and even those that are not cannot remain hidden.  (1 Timothy 5:24-25)

Do you ever feel your faithfulness goes unnoticed?  Do you ever get discouraged, feeling like no one knows or cares that you’re doing the right thing?

God knows.  God cares!

Don’t let Satan tell you that you’re wasting your time.  Don’t let him convince you that your good deeds don’t matter.

Your Heavenly Father is watching you with joy and approval, so you can take heart in this truth: God will make sure you receive your reward.

-Pastor Phillip

Your reward is on the way

God’s Hope for Your Heart from Galatians 6

YOUR REWARD IS ON THE WAY

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.  So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.  (Galatians 6:9-10)

Sometimes doing good gets old.  Don’t pretend like you don’t know the feeling; you do.

You’ve been giving and giving but gotten little thanks in return.

You’ve been working and working but seen little fruit from your labors.

You’ve been praying and praying but nothing seems to change.

Don’t let the waiting wear you out!

Hang in there, your answer is coming.  Keep going, your work is going to pay off.  Hold on to hope, keep doing good, and be encouraged the hope of this simple truth: your reward is on the way.

-Pastor Phillip


AUDIO VERSION
[click here for today’s. | click here to subscribe via iTunes.]

God wants blessings to flow through your life

God’s Hope for Your Heart from 2 Corinthians 9

GOD WANTS BLESSINGS TO FLOW THROUGH YOUR LIFE

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.  (2 Corinthians 9:8)

God is not a stingy giver.  He does not like to hold back, play it safe or give His children only the bare minimum they need to get by.

No, He is generous!  He is lavish!  He is an extravagant giver, to the degree that you allow Him to be.

You see, God is also a wise Father.  He knows when the state of your heart is ready to receive abundantly, and when multiplied blessings would actually be turned cancerous by your own selfishness.

That’s why God has a purpose for His provision.  He blesses abundantly, so that you will bless others abundantly, too.

Why?  Because when you live with open hands towards others, you are free to receive even more from your Heavenly Father, because of this hope-inspiring truth: God wants blessings to flow through your life.

-Pastor Phillip


AUDIO VERSION
[click here for today’s. | click here to subscribe via iTunes.]


 

You can be Jesus to people in need

God’s Hope for Your Heart from Luke 14

YOU CAN BE JESUS TO PEOPLE IN NEED

“But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you.  For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”  When one of those who reclined at table with Him heard these things, he said to Him, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the Kingdom of God!”  But He said to him…  (Luke 14:13-16a)

Jesus has a way of making people feel uncomfortable.

Here He is at a banquet, and He proceeds to tell the man who’s throwing the party that what he really should do is host a feast for the less fortunate.  This is awkward not only because that’s obviously not what the man is doing right now, but also because as a leader among the religious group of the Pharisees, this man likely would have thought like many in his day–that the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind were that way because they were sinners.

Helpfully, another dinner guest attempts to change the subject.  “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the Kingdom of God,” he says, switching the focus of conversation off of the broken and on to the “good people” who are, conveniently, like most of the guests at the party.

But Jesus switches it back.

Jesus’ next parable emphasizes not only that God’s heart is for the broken and hurting and sinful, but that many of those who think they are “in” but have prioritized other things above the Kingdom are actually not “in” at all.

Why is this good news for you?

It’s good news because when you are broken and hurting and sinful, Jesus’ heart is for you!  It’s also good news because when you are not struggling so much, Jesus’ invitation is for you to be His ambassador to those who are, which means you have a mission and a purpose far greater than yourself!

Here’s the thing, though.  Does it make you uncomfortable to be around those less fortunate, less able, less educated, or less moral than you?  Does it make you uneasy to see how much here and elsewhere Jesus emphasizes God’s desire for you to help them?

This is the slavery of self-focused religion, and Jesus wants more for you than that!  He wants to give you the privilege of experiencing the joy of others-centered living, and He knows that works best when you serve those who cannot serve you back.

As you go about your daily life, may you receive the gift of God’s heart for the broken, and may you respond to His calling in practical ways that will lead to their life and yours.  As you do, you’ll discover the hope found in this truth: You can be Jesus to people in need.

-Pastor Phillip


AUDIO VERSION (Click here to subscribe to the daily podcast on iTunes.)


 

Jesus wants you to help the less fortunate

Scripture Notes on Luke 14

“But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you.  For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”  When one of those who reclined at table with Him heard these things, he said to Him, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the Kingdom of God!”  But He said to him…” -Luke 14:13-16a

Jesus has a way of making people feel uncomfortable.

Here He is at a banquet, and He proceeds to tell the man who’s throwing the party that what he really should do is host a feast for the less fortunate.  This is awkward not only because that’s obviously not what the man is doing right now, but also because as a leader among the religious group of the Pharisees, this man likely would have thought like many in his day–that the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind were that way because they were sinners.

Helpfully, another dinner guest attempts to change the subject.  “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the Kingdom of God,” he says, switching the focus of conversation off of the broken and on to the “good people” who are, conveniently, like most of the guests at the party.

But Jesus switches it back.

Jesus’ next parable emphasizes not only that God’s heart is for the broken and hurting and sinful, but that many of those who think they are “in” but have prioritized other things above the Kingdom are actually not “in” at all.

Why is this good news for you?

It’s good news because when you are broken and hurting and sinful, Jesus’ heart is for you!  It’s also good news because when you are not struggling so much, Jesus’ invitation is for you to be His ambassador to those who are, which means you have a mission and a purpose far greater than yourself!

Here’s the thing though.  Does it make you uncomfortable to be around those less fortunate, less able, less educated, or less moral than you?  Does it make you uneasy to see how much here and elsewhere Jesus emphasizes God’s desire for you to help them?

This is the slavery of self-focused religion, and Jesus wants more for you than that.  He wants to give you the privilege of experiencing the joy of others-centered living, and He knows that works best when you serve those who cannot serve you back.

As you go about your daily life, may you receive the gift of God’s heart for the broken, and may you respond to His calling in practical ways that will lead to their life and yours.  As you do, you’ll discover the hope found in this truth: You can be Jesus to those in need.

-Pastor Phillip

Your reward is on the way

God’s Hope for Your Heart from Galatians 6

YOUR REWARD IS ON THE WAY

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. (Galatians 6:9-10)

Sometimes doing good gets old. Don’t pretend like you don’t know the feeling; you do.

You’ve been giving and giving but gotten little thanks in return.

You’ve been working and working but seen little fruit from your labors.

You’ve been praying and praying but nothing seems to change.

Don’t let the waiting wear you out!

Hang in there, your answer is coming. Keep going, your work is going to pay off. Hold on to hope, keep doing good, and be encouraged by this simple reminder from God’s Word.

Your reward is on the way.

-Pastor Phillip

______________________________________________________________________________________________________

AUDIO VERSION
[click here for today’s. | click here to subscribe via iTunes.]

How to Have No Fear on Judgment Day

banner-theology-thursdays

As a pastor, I often get questions of a more theological nature. Thursdays are the day I like to post some on the blog. Enjoy!
—Pastor Phillip


Here’s an e-mail I received a few days ago about Matthew 22:1-14.

Would like any thought you have on this Scripture.
I have heard many things over the years and still do not feel
I understand all that was going on here.

As always, this is a great question, and let’s start with the context.

 

Four Conversations

Starting in Matthew 21:23, we see four interchanges between Jesus and the religious leaders of His day, the Pharisees.

They are all gathered at the Temple in Jerusalem, and in Matthew 21:23, the Pharisees start the sequence by challenging Jesus’ authority to teach and minister.  Jesus deftly beats them at their own game, and then launches into a series of three parables, all directed at them.

First, He tells of two sons whose actions don’t match their words, and He points out that what truly matters in God’s eyes isn’t what you say with your mouth, but what you do with your life.  He the comments that the “chosen ones of Israel” are not inheriting the Kingdom of God because they aren’t responding to Jesus’ message, but the “tax collectors and prostitutes” are being welcomed in because they are acting on the truth of the Gospel.

Second, He tells of a landowner who leaves his vineyard in the hands of tenants for management.  But, when he sends servants as his envoys to claim what is rightfully his, the tenants respond by abusing and murdering the representatives of the master, right up to killing his son.  The master responds to their unrighteous actions by destroying the tenants and giving the vineyard to others, to people who will obey the master by giving to him what is rightfully his.

Again, Jesus speaks directly to the Pharisees, telling them “the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits.” (Matthew 21:43, emphasis added)

Finally, we come to the parable that contains the passage at hand, the Parable of the Wedding Feast.

Once again, here is a story about a people who were chosen to be a part of something special, but squandered their opportunity by the way in which they lived their lives.  The original invitees to the wedding feast chose not only to make their own pursuits and careers more important than the call of the King, but also to directly mistreat those people who were inviting them to come to the feast.

The King responds, then, by sending out his servants once more, this time to invite not a select few but as many as they can find, “both bad and good.” (Matthew 22:10)

Now, it is after all the guests are gathered that we find this curious statement.

“But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment.  And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless.  Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’  For many are called, but few are chosen.” -Matthew 22:11-14

The question is, “What’s the deal with the wedding garment, and why is it such a big deal?”

 

A Future Feast

Most of the time when Jesus tells parables, they are made-up stories to make a point.   This time, though, His story is not just an illustration of an idea, but a presentation of an incident to come.

When Jesus speaks of the wedding feast, He’s telling us what’s going to happen at the end of all things.

Look at what the Bible says about this in the book of Revelation…

Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, 

“Hallelujah!  For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. 

7  Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, 

for the marriage of the Lamb has come, 

and his Bride has made herself ready; 

it was granted her to clothe herself 

with fine linen, bright and pure”— 

for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. 

And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”
-Revelation 19:6-9 (ESV)

There is a wedding feast, and wedding garments, and look at what the garments actually are…

“The fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.” (Revelation 19:8b)

Now, remember that when Jesus told His parable, it was the third in a series.  The first one was about two types of sons, and that those who inherit the Kingdom are those whose deeds match their words.  The second was about two groups of tenants, and how the Kingdom is given to those whose actions are in line with the will of the master.

Here we are in the third story, and we see two categories of guests who actually attend the banquet, those who have the right garments, and those who don’t.  It’s a continuation of the same theme that Jesus has been focusing on, that the people who inherit the Kingdom are the ones who are proved righteous by the way they live their lives.

 

The Best Things in Life Are Free

For many who hear this, the first thing that comes to mind is “Oh no, I’d better try harder to be righteous then!”  The point and message of Jesus’ parables then becomes, “Do more, do better, try harder and then maybe you’ll be good enough to get in.”

However, this is totally antithetical to the Gospel!  Not only that, but in Jesus’ day, there was NO ONE more dedicated and focused on “doing the right thing” than the Pharisees, and they were the very ones He was telling the parable against!

So what’s the deal?

Look one more time at Revelation 19:7-8.  “Let us rejoice and exult and give Him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.”

We know from 2 Corinthians 11:2, Ephesians 5:25-32 and other passages that the “Bride” is the Church, the people of God redeemed by the blood of Christ.  Look, though, at this key phrase from the passage above, “it was granted her to clothe herself…”  These righteous deeds of the saints, the “wedding garments” that God is looking for, they are not something that we tailor and toil for ourselves.

They are a gift.

This is the resounding message of the Gospel, and what makes the “Good News” so good!

This is why Paul rejoices in Romans 3:21-22 that, “Now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it — the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.”

This is the hope and confidence in which all believers in Christ can stand, that on the day of judgment when the Master of the Banquet comes to see who is properly clothed and who will be cast out, we will not be showing up to the feast in the raggedy garments of our own righteous acts.  No, we will be found dressed in the shining robes of the righteousness of Christ!

All of us who are in Christ will be found worthy of acceptance into the eternal Kingdom, not because of our own deeds done in the flesh, but because of the perfect life of Jesus, given as a gift to us in the Spirit.  And, as a result of His perfect righteousness being given to us, we have the joy and desire to give ourselves to righteous deeds, not to earn our ticket to the feast, but because in Christ we’re already welcomed at the table.

How to Know the Will of God With Ease

Do you ever struggle with “knowing the will of God?”

“[We pray] that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will (in all spiritual wisdom and understanding) so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, (fully pleasing to Him), bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” -Colossians 1:9b-10 (from the Amplified Bible, emphasis added)

Ask any Christian if they want to know “the will of God” for their lives and almost all will say yes.

Well, good news: here it is, the will of God, plain and simple.

What pleases God?  When His people “bear fruit” (produce tangible results) in “every good work,” AND when they “increase in the knowledge of God.”

That’s it.

What should you do in your work?  Take what you know and apply it to doing good to all around you as often as you can.

What should you do in your relationships?  Have a heart to see every interchange with another person as an opportunity to learn more about God and do more good for others.

What is a good use of your personal time?  Things that help you grow in your knowledge of God’s nature and goodness, and that help you share that goodness with as many people as possible.

Think about this: that time when you did something kind for a person who really didn’t deserve it, you were doing the will of God!  That conversation where you chose to really listen to what the person had to say because you understood they are made in God’s image?  You were doing the will of God!  That time when you woke up a little earlier to read the Bible and pray for just a little bit?  You were doing the will of God!

Finally, don’t forget that “every good work” also includes being good to someone many “good Christians” don’t thing about: yourself.  You were created to bring glory to God, not just through serving others, but by enjoying the world and the life He prepared for you!

When you spend time finding things that fill your spirit with joy and turn your heart towards Christ;  when you take advantage of opportunities to really enjoy the little things in life, you are doing the will of God.

 

Homeless in Fort Lauderdale

Sometimes what we need most is not easy answers, but deeper questions.

The other day, I watched homeless people being served by Christians.

From my perch high atop a parking garage in Fort Lauderdale, FL, I could see the crowd gather, hear the coordinator pray as she started the feeding time and watch as all of these people —with all of their various stories and backgrounds— came together for a moment, then went their separate ways, scattered around the park.

It was both moving and troubling to me.

Moving, because of the way I saw the Christians sincerely trying to help and show love in Jesus’ name.  Troubling because I couldn’t help but wonder how much real help was being provided.

How will this event help the homeless people for the long-term, and how will it make an impact in the lives of the Christians for more than a weekend?  Is this a one-shot deal or part of a bigger plan?  Is it sustainable?

Then I went to Starbucks and saw a similar pageant unfold, just with different actors and costumes and sets.

The people all gather, get what they need, then scatter to their own isolated corners.  Money is exchanged, of course, but there is still no lasting connection except the forming of a habit of consumption.

This is what people do.  We build our routines to feed our needs and stick with whatever works.

Here is what I found myself asking in both scenarios. How does Jesus transcend this, the human condition, to bring something greater than our needful routines? How does the Church provide a conduit for greater things, and how can we be a catalyst for change?

GET YOUR LAUNCH LIST BONUSES NOW!

Let's do this together.

WHAT TYPE OF ORGANIZATION IS THIS FOR? (Primarily)