God’s justice is a pathway to His mercy

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So the first angel went and poured out his bowl on the earth, and harmful and painful sores came upon the people who bore the mark of the beast and worshiped its image…  They were scorched by the fierce heat, and they cursed the name of God who had power over these plagues.  They did not repent and give him glory… and cursed the God of heaven for their pain and sores.  They did not repent of their deeds. (Revelation 16:2, 9, 11)

The escalating judgments of Revelation are pictures of the perfect justice of God and the total depravity of those who refuse to worship Him.

Like swimmers in a flood who refuse to accept life jackets and boats, these people refuse to repent, to turn away from their wickedness and thus be saved from the rising tide.  Like a person who provoked another to violence by repeated assault, then got angry at being hit back in return, these people curse God for allowing them to receive the consequences of their actions, and blame Him for the suffering they brought upon themselves.

Have you ever done the same?

Be very careful not to blame God for the pain caused by your own sinful and foolish choices.  Jesus is full of mercy and love and forgiveness for you, but it makes no difference if you don’t accept responsibility and come to Him humbly to receive.

God does not delight in your suffering, but in your salvation!  (Ezekiel 18:23; 1 Timothy 2:3-4)  Don’t push Him away when you think He’s being unfair.  Draw close to Him in humility, accept the fruit of your actions, and receive His forgiveness and restoration.

It is only when we grasp and accept the rightness of God’s justice that we can truly appreciate the beauty of His mercy.  So, be honest with yourself and let this truth lead you to peace.

God’s justice is a pathway to His mercy.

–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

Priorities [Luke 6:10-11]

After looking around at them all, [Jesus] told [the man with a paralyzed hand], “Stretch out your hand.”  He did so, and his hand was restored.  [The Scribes and Pharisees], however, were filled with rage and started discussing with one another what they might do with Jesus.  (Luke 6:10-11)

The religious leaders were more concerned about maintaining their protocol than experiencing God’s power.  Rather than rejoice that God showed His glory by making a man whole, they were enraged that He didn’t bow to their tradition.

These people were so hyper-concerned with practicing their religion “rightly” that they wanted to stop Jesus from changing a man’s life because it didn’t fit their box.

Some people still do.

–Pastor Phillip

Jesus’ first ministry: the WONDERS (Luke 4:42)

When it was day, [Jesus] went out and made His way to a deserted place.  But the crowds were searching for Him.  They came to Him and tried to keep Him from leaving them.  (Luke 4:42)

The people were astounded at the miracles Jesus did.  When He healed, it was authentic.  When He cast out demons, it was dramatic.  The people simply couldn’t get enough of it.

Those same people would feel very differently later on when Jesus began to call them to repent of their sins and selfishness and follow Him instead, but for now, they were transfixed and hungry for more.

Perhaps one reason we don’t see more people flocking to church gatherings is because we’ve emphasized the second part of Jesus’ ministry but nearly forgotten the first.

What do you think?

–Pastor Phillip

Service (Luke 4:39)

So [Jesus] stood over [Peter’s mother-in-law] and rebuked the fever, and it left her.  She got up immediately and began to serve them.  (Luke 4:39)

In the culture of Jesus’ day, it was customary and expected for a woman to serve as a hostess whenever guests were in her home.  So, the fact that Peter’s mother-in-law responded to her healing by serving is at one level simply a societal norm.

At another level, however, she is a perfect illustration of a proven truth.  One of the surest ways to tell if someone has been deeply touched by Jesus is their willingness to serve others.

How are you doing?

–Pastor Phillip

God builds brokenness into praise

God’s Hope for Your Heart from Psalm 51


For You will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; You will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.
Do good to Zion in Your good pleasure; build up the walls of Jerusalem;
Then will You delight in right sacrifices, in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings; then bulls will be offered on Your altar.  (Psalm 51:16-19)

God isn’t looking for showy sacrifices; He’s looking for humble hearts.

The outward forms of religion do nothing to purge the inner stain of sin.  Only repentance does that, and true repentance always includes brokenness.  It may not be the weeping repentance of a downcast heart, but those who are truly seeking God’s forgiveness must always know the brokenness of their life without Him.

However, God doesn’t want His children to STAY broken!

Yes, brokenness is the doorway to healing, but God loves to restore through the process of repentance because He loves His children.  Our Father is the Master Builder.  He creates new life out of dead hearts and restores broken things to better than they were before.

So, whatever pain or problem you’re experiencing right now, may you take heart and find hope in this truth: God builds brokenness into praise.

-Pastor Phillip

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The weight of performance isn’t yours to bear

God’s Hope for Your Heart from Acts 3


And when Peter saw it he addressed the people: “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk? … [Jesus’] name—by faith in His name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.  (Acts 3:12, 16)

When people saw a lame man healed right in front of them, they were astonished.  Naturally, they looked at Peter and John as “miracle workers” because they had, in fact, just demonstrated a miracle.

Yet, Peter was quick to deflect the praise and redirect the credit to the one to whom it really belonged–Jesus.

The more God uses us to bless people, the easier it is to slip into the snare of believing our own publicity.  In our celebrity-obsessed culture, it can be tempting to start taking the credit for good things we’ve done, rather than remembering and reminding others it’s the power of Christ within us.

The problem is, credit always brings with it the weight of future expectations.

If you are the one doing wonderful things, then you’re on the hook to keep it up.  If you are the miracle worker, then the world will keep looking to you to produce more and more, until the day when you don’t come through for them, and they turn on you.

Jesus doesn’t want that for you.

When you cultivate a proper perspective, you’ll be able to receive praise graciously but still make sure the credit goes to God.  It’s not that you downplay your role, but rather that you lift up Jesus.  The great thing is that as people are continually reminded that any great thing you do is because of Christ, it means that you’re off the hook because Jesus is on the job.

As you receive compliments, let people know that any good in you is because of Jesus.  When you do, you’ll find out just how much hope can come from this truth: the weight of performance isn’t yours to bear.

-Pastor Phillip

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God wants to take away your shame

God’s Hope for Your Heart from Psalm 34


I sought the Lord, and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears.  Those who look to Him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.  (Psalm 34:4-5)

Shame.  Sometimes it creeps in quietly, growing like an infection in our soul.  Bit by bit, every time we fail, every time we fall, every time we miss the mark, the shame just grows.

Sometimes, though, shame doesn’t creep, but crashes in to our lives all at once.  A horrible thing was done, either by us or to us, and the result is a gaping wound in our self-confidence and an ever-present feeling of being soiled, small, and alone.

Have you been there?

Here’s the thing.  Whatever the specific source of your shame, underneath it all is a fear that because you have been found wanting, you will be unwanted, and that the dark stain on your inner-self will make you ugly and unloveable.

Yet, it doesn’t have to be this way!

If you’ve ever felt any of these things, here is good news.  God can take away your shame!  When you look to Him in faith, His brightness will burn away your darkness.  When you trust in Him, His love will overcome your feeling of unloveliness.  When you come to Him just as you are, His healing will cure the shame of your soul, and make you clean, no matter what you have done or what’s been done to you.

May you look to Him and trust Him in faith today, and as you do, you’ll be able to rest in the hope of this truth: God wants to take away your shame.

-Pastor Phillip

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Jesus brings answers in unexpected ways

God’s Hope for Your Heart from John 5


One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years.  When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to be healed?”  The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.”  Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.”  And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.  (John 5:5-9)

This was not what the paralyzed man had prayed for.

For thirty-eight years, he had hoped, had tried, had failed to find an answer to his plight.  He had seen other people have their prayers answered and their efforts rewarded, but not him.  He had seen other people receive their miracle and walk away healed, but not him.

For thirty-eight years.

Then Jesus came along.  Jesus, with His love and compassion and His reputation for helping those who were down and out.  “Surely,” the man must have thought when Jesus approached him, “surely this man will help me into the pool so I may be healed.”

But Jesus didn’t help him into the pool at all.

In fact, when Jesus asked the man a question about the result he longed for, the man didn’t really answer.  Instead, he described the ritual he had tried and how it had failed again and again.  It’s as if over the long years of waiting, the man had gotten so focused on his disappointment over the failed process that he had completely forgotten the point.

Have you been there?  Have you felt the long wait for an answer turn into a longing that feels like it will be forever unfulfilled?  Have you prayed and asked for something, but felt like all you got was silence?

Jesus wants more for you than your expectations!

Don’t miss this important detail folded in to the story.  The man wanted someone to help him into the pool, because that’s the only paradigm he knew.  However, Jesus didn’t do that at all.  In fact, He told the man to go in the totally opposite direction from what he was expecting, not down into the pool, but up into the promise of a new life.  Jesus didn’t give the man what he wanted or what he asked for; He gave him what he had forgotten he really needed all along.

Maybe He wants to do the same for you.

As you pray and seek God for answers in your life, you may find the waiting long.  You may find the answers strange.  But, whatever your journey looks like, may you have the wisdom and courage to trust God for the best result in response to your prayer, not just the one you’re expecting.  When you cultivate this mindset of faith, you’ll discover the hope that comes from this important truth: Jesus brings answers in unexpected ways.

-Pastor Phillip

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God brings answers as you go

God’s Hope for Your Heart from Luke 17


As [Jesus] entered a village, He was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.”  When He saw them He said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.”  And as they went they were cleansed.  (Luke 17:12-14)

Sometimes Jesus heals while we just sit there.

Sometimes we pray, then wait, and Jesus responds with the answer we were looking for without us having to do anything.  We remain passive, and He takes the active role in making things happen without any involvement on our part.

But that’s usually not the case.

All throughout the Gospels, we see Jesus healing people, cleansing people, responding to people’s needs.  Yet, in so many of the accounts, we see that though all the power comes from Him, He loves to use human action as a catalyst for the divine miracle.

The Bible calls it faith.

Sometimes we pray for something and then sit back in our easy chair and expect God to act.  However, more often than not, there is some level of participation that Jesus is looking for from us.  It’s not about earning the answer, it’s about partnering with Jesus to bring glory to God through answered prayers!

So get out there!  Get going!  Start looking for opportunities to not just wait for God to move, but rather, to let Him move through you.  God’s not looking for you to prove yourself worthy for anything.  But He does love to give you the joy of participating in the miraculous.

As you pray and seek God for answers in your life, may you follow the practical steps He shows you and demonstrate faith through action.  As you do, watch and worship as you experience the hope of this unfolding truth: God brings answers as you go.

-Pastor Phillip

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