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

God lifts up the humble heart

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you.  (James 4:10)

So much in the Kingdom is counterintuitive.  To live, we must die.  To be free, we must become slaves of Christ.  To be exalted, we must humble ourselves.

This seems like exactly the opposite of what we should do, and it can seem so hard at times.  Yet, here’s the incredible blessing.

When you choose to let go of your desire to exalt yourself and instead humbly exalt Jesus, He is freed up to take you higher than you could ever go on your own!

When you let God handle the scope of your significance, you will find He is far more generous to you than you could have ever been to yourself.  Let go of your need to promote your own name, and be encouraged by this powerful truth.

God lifts up the humble heart.

–Pastor Phillip

Working Within the System (Luke 2:22-24)

And when the days of their purification according to the law of Moses were finished, [Joseph and Mary] brought [Jesus] up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord (just as it is written in the law of the Lord: “Every firstborn male will be dedicated to the Lord”) and to offer a sacrifice (according to what is stated in the law of the Lord: “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons”).  (Luke 2:22-24)

Of all the people in history, Joseph and Mary could have made the best case that the rules didn’t apply to them.

“Our baby is special; he doesn’t need to go through the system like everyone else does, and neither do we,” they could have said.

But they didn’t.

–Pastor Phillip

The weight of performance isn’t yours to bear

God’s Hope for Your Heart from Acts 3

THE WEIGHT OF PERFORMANCE ISN’T YOURS TO BEAR

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’s Kingdom is bigger than your perspective

God’s Hope for Your Heart from Luke 9

GOD’S KINGDOM IS BIGGER THAN YOUR PERSPECTIVE

John answered, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.”  But Jesus said to him, “Do not stop him, for the one who is not against you is for you.”  (Luke 9:49-50)

The disciples were convinced they’d found an imposter.  They were convinced there was just one way to follow Jesus, one set of interpretations, and one list of right methods: theirs.  They were convinced they were in the right and this other person was in the wrong because he didn’t “follow with us,” and so the disciples were sure he must not be following Jesus at all.

But Jesus disagreed.

Perhaps one reason for this can be found in a careful reading of the previous passage.  Luke 9:46-47 reveals the main motivation of the disciples’ desire to exclude anyone not like them.

“An argument arose among them as to which of them was the greatest, but Jesus, knowing the reasoning of their hearts, took a child and put him by His side…”

The disciples had just been rebuked for their self-centeredness and pride.  It was in response to this rebuke that “John answered.”  He was trying to justify himself.  He was trying to prove how right the disciples were by pointing out how wrong someone else was.

But Jesus disagreed.

Notice that when Jesus wanted to demonstrate the heart of the Kingdom, He didn’t choose a scholar.  He didn’t choose a priest.  He chose a child, because He is far more concerned with simple trust and obedience towards Him and sincere unity and love towards others than He is about our music, our dress code or our Bible translation.  (See Mark 10:15 and Luke 18:17.)

We know that Jesus is the only way to God because He said it Himself and Scripture is full of this truth.  However, the way in which we follow Him is more flexible than many like to believe.

Here’s why this is good news.

Because the Kingdom is bigger than just your point of view, you don’t have to worry so much about getting everything “right” all the time!  In fact, if you’re too focused on nailing down all the particulars, you might just miss the whole point: Jesus loves you; He has called you; He is with you, and He is for you.

As you let the main thing be the main thing, keep your focus on Jesus Himself, and you’ll be filled with the great hope that flows from this great truth: God’s Kingdom is bigger than your perspective.

-Pastor Phillip


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Jesus can rescue others through you

God’s Hope for Your Heart from Mark 4

JESUS CAN RESCUE OTHERS THROUGH YOU

And leaving the crowd, they took Him with them in the boat, just as He was.  And other boats were with Him.  (Mark 4:36)

The story of how Jesus calmed a stormy sea is a favorite of many.

Every children’s Bible, every Sunday School curriculum, every highlight reel of the life of Jesus features this account of how His disciples were in grave danger from a raging sea.  It tells of how they came to Jesus and He commanded the wind and waves to be still, rescuing the disciples and their boat and releasing them to continue on their journey.

But they weren’t the only ones on the water that night.

Scripture says there were other boats with Jesus, coming along for the ride.  Other boats with other fathers and brothers, maybe even children aboard.  Other boats without the same connection to Jesus that the disciples had, but still in the path of the storm.

What if the disciples hadn’t turned to Jesus in their hour of need?  What if they had stubbornly refused to ask for help, believing that they would just “figure it out” or “make it work” on their own?  How many of those people in the other boats would have perished?

But they didn’t.

The good news of this story is not just that Jesus rescued His disciples after they cried out to Him.  That’s important and good and usually the point we zero in on, but don’t miss this other key truth.  Because the disciples were humble and willing to ask Jesus for help (together, by the way; they weren’t afraid for others to see their weakness), the other boats were rescued, too.

When you cultivate the art of humbly looking to Jesus when times get tough, it’s not just your life that gets blessed.  Other people around you can and will be blessed by God because of the overflow of your life!

Don’t fall into the trap of self-sufficient stubbornness and try to show the world you can handle things on your own.  Instead, turn to Jesus first, because when you do, you’ll discover the hope that comes when you’re living this truth: Jesus can rescue others through you.

-Pastor Phillip


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God loves to exalt the lowly

God’s Hope for Your Heart from Matthew 23

GOD LOVES TO EXALT THE LOWLY

Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.  (Matthew 23:12)

Religious competition is alive and well today.  Bible knowledge, moral living, even service to those in need can easily be twisted into something we do simply to make ourselves look or feel better compared to someone else.

Have you ever seen that happen?  Have you ever done it yourself?

That’s what was going on with the Pharisees in Jesus’ day, but the Good News is greater than that!

Trying to make yourself look awesome is exhausting.  Trying to perform at the top all the time not only takes away your joy, but it risks taking away God’s glory, and He loves you too much to let either of those go on forever.

Don’t try to exalt yourself by your Christian performance.  It will only wear you out.  Instead, receive the acceptance of the Father though the work of the Son, and let Him lift you up instead.

Do your best to follow Jesus, but don’t fret about whether it looks good enough to the people around you.  Admit your failures.  Embrace your shortcomings.  Accept that God alone is truly awesome, not you, and as you do, God will lift up your heart to the hope found in this truth: God loves to exalt the lowly.

-Pastor Phillip


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God lifts up the humble heart

Scripture Notes on James 4

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you. (James 4:10)

So much in the Kingdom is counterintuitive. To live, we must die. To be free, we must become slaves of Christ. To be exalted, we must humble ourselves.

This seems like exactly the opposite of what we should do, and it can seem so hard at times. Yet, here’s the incredible blessing.

When you choose to let go of your desire to exalt yourself and instead humbly exalt Jesus, He is freed up to take you higher than you could ever go on your own!

When you let God handle the scope of your significance, you will find He is far more generous to you than you could have ever been to yourself. Let go of your need to promote your own name, and be encouraged by this powerful truth.

God lifts up the humble heart.

-Pastor Phillip

How to Think of Yourself in the Right Way

Do you ever get the feeling maybe you’re not seeing yourself accurately?

“For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.”  -Romans 12:3

The word Paul uses here for “Sober judgement” is the greek word “sophroneo.”  It literally means, “to be in one’s right mind.”

This same word is used in the Gospels for a man who was set free by Jesus after being possessed by a “legion” of demonic spirits.  In Luke 8, Jesus casts out the demons and the man is then described as being sophroneo, “in his right mind” (Luke 8:35).  Thus, the exhortation from Paul to his readers is not to view ourselves poorly or as lowly scum, but simply to think of ourselves with sanity, to see ourselves accurately.

The problem is, this can be a tricky thing.

Psychologists talk about something called the “self-serving bias,” a tendency most of us have to interpret our successes as being due to our own efforts and character, and our failures as being due to external circumstances beyond our control.

This is just the sort of thing Paul is warning against: taking credit that isn’t ours, and refusing responsibility that is.

Oh how we need grace to see ourselves rightly!  Understanding the reality of God’s grace helps us remember that we are special in God’s eyes, but not because of how great we are.

Rather, we are incredibly loved and valuable because of how great He is.

 

Grace is Your Antidote to Bitterness

Have you discovered how subtly bitterness can sneak in to your soul?

“Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.  See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.”  -Hebrews 12:14-15

Peace, holiness, grace and bitterness.  Four words; four massive ideas.

Peace-making may lead some to flirt with moral compromise in the name of “tolerance” or “not offending.”  Yet, God does not cease to be holy so others can have peace with Him.  Therefore, neither should we.

We must learn to still pursue a righteous life and admonish others to do the same, and the way this is possible is through the grace of God.

We must first receive His grace, “obtain” it, as the Word says.  Only after we have understood and acted on our own need for the grace of God will we be able to share it with others.

Receiving His grace protects and insulates us both from feelings of failure when we don’t measure up to God’s holiness, and feelings of pride when we do.  If we are not walking in His grace, then we will be a slave to our own moral performance, and will inevitably seek to put others under the same sentence.

This will almost always lead to bitterness, a deep seething resentment either towards God because we can’t live up to His standards, or to others because they can’t live up to ours.  From there it spreads and “many become defiled.”

O, may we learn to obtain that sweet and sure antidote and share it with as many as we can.

Let us walk in grace.

 

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