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

God will keep His people from true harm

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Then from the smoke came locusts on the earth, and they were given power like the power of scorpions of the earth.  They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any green plant or any tree, but only those people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads.  (Revelation 9:3-4)

As the world receives an end-times judgment of demonic attack, God gives the order that the only ones who may be harmed are those who are not His children.  So, what happens to those who are His children?

They are protected from the judgment.

Times and seasons of pain are inevitable for all of us, saints and sinners alike.  However, there is a crucial difference between the two.  For sinners, those who haven’t come to Jesus for salvation and forgiveness, their pain is harmful, serving as punishment for their sins in the end.  Yes, often God allows pain to wake us up to our need for salvation, but for those who don’t respond, pain in this life is a reminder that all that awaits them is eternal harm.

Believers, on the other hand, have a much different lot.  Pain in this life is our Refiner’s fire, cleansing and purifying us and drawing us closer to Him.  Not only that, but because a heavenly eternity with Jesus awaits us, we can have hope because we know it will get better.

How can we know this?  Because again and again in Scripture, we see this truth.

God will keep His people from true harm.

–Pastor Phillip

God is the avenger of injustice

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne.  They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”  Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.  (Revelation 6:9-11)

For those who live in comfort, it is hard to imagine what true persecution is like.   A hurtful word or an unkind action from an unbeliever is usually all Christians in the west might suffer for their faith, but it is quite different in much of the rest of the world.

All throughout history and even in modern times, people have been beaten, imprisoned and killed because of their stand for Christ.

Some may ask, “If God is so loving, why does He allow His children to suffer?  If God is so good, why does He let His children die?  If God is so righteous, why does He ignore injustice?”

He has not forgotten.  He is waiting for the fullness of time.

Make no mistake.  All sin, all evil, and all injustice will be punished.  God has a cup filled with holy and righteous wrath, and it is prepared for all who violate His law and all who harm His people.  The only question is, who will drink it?

Do not forget that the glorious truth of the gospel is that Jesus Christ, the only one with no sin of His own to pay for, has offered to drink the cup for all who trust and follow Him!

This means two things.  First, if you are in Christ, then the full measure of God’s wrath against your sin has been received by Jesus Christ, and there is no more left for you!  Second, when you see or experience injustice and persecution in this life, know that either it will be paid for in full as God’s wrath is poured out on the guilty, or it will have been paid for in full upon the cross of Christ.

Either way, when your soul cries out for justice as you see all the evil in the world, you can find peace in this truth.

God is the avenger of injustice.

–Pastor Phillip

Thoughts in the wake of a tragedy

They say it is the worst mass killing on U.S. soil, and it happened today.

Fifty people dead, and 53 more wounded, they say.

All across social media, people have one resounding question: WHY?

Some say religion is to blame, while others say things like “intolerance” and “hate.”  Some say the fault belongs to gun laws in our country (or the lack thereof) while some blame law enforcement for not acting on prior concerns about the killer.  Still others will claim this tragedy is “God’s judgment” on our nation, or even on a particular group of people.

May I suggest an answer that is far deeper, yet far simpler than any of these?

There is a violence that springs out of a sense of self-preservation, but this was not that kind of violence.

There is a violence that is birthed by a desire to protect people we love or things we care about, but this was not that kind of violence.

The kind of violence that causes a man to take multiple weapons into a crowded nightclub and open fire has its root in one simple thing: the devaluing of another human being, and there is one key belief that causes this behavior.

Self-righteousness.

I believe the reason fifty precious lives were extinguished is because one man felt he was above them in some way, which to him justified his heinous actions.  He thought he was better than them, therefore their lives were less important than his, and worth taking.

You see, when a person believes themselves to be morally superior to another, it’s only a matter of time before they stop seeing the other as a person at all.  They are something different, something less, some thing that has a name and a category, but isn’t the same as them.

This is when the broad brushes come out, and the self-righteous person stops seeing certain people as fellow human beings and instead sees “gays,” “Christians,” “Muslims,” “conservatives,” “liberals,” “fundamentalists,” “white people,” “black people,” “rich people,” “people on welfare,” and the list goes on and on.

And we all do it.

Maybe you’re feeling that way right now towards the killer, thinking of him as an “extremist,” or a “terrorist,” or a “fanatic.”  Maybe these labels apply, but here’s the deeper truth: he was a person, too.

I’m not saying he deserves pity, or that his actions were in any way right or justifiable.  I’m saying that for all of us, we would be wise to use caution as we ponder this incident, because if we’re not careful, our broad-brush statements about the kind of people who do this sort of thing have the potential to put us in the same boat as him, not as murderers with our hands, but as murderers in our hearts.

This is why the Gospel of Jesus is so powerful, because at its core is the truth that nothing you or I can ever do will make us better than anyone else.  No amount of rule-keeping or moral behavior can earn us the right to be called righteous; only Jesus can do that.  The best we can do is receive a gift we didn’t earn, and remember that all of us are broken and in need of grace.  Embracing this reality sets us free from the need to place ourselves on a pedestal for our performance, and releases us to truly love others as full equals in the human race, regardless of who they are or what they believe or what they’ve done.

Every human life is precious, valuable, and worthy of respect and dignity.  When you realize that you’re no better than anyone else, then whether you agree with their beliefs and behaviors or can’t stand anything they stand for, you can still choose to see them for what they are: a person just like you.

So, if you’re a praying person, pray for Orlando.  Pray for the victims and their families.  Pray for the people of the surrounding communities, and for the law enforcement and medical personnel who will continue to sort through the pieces in the days and weeks to come.  Pray for the killer’s family as they bear the shame and guilt for the actions of this man.

And pray for yourself, as well.

–Pastor Phillip

God’s promises are on their way

The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.  (2 Peter 3:9)

Sometimes it can seem as if our prayers go unanswered.  Sometimes it can seem as if God has forgotten us, or gotten distracted or delayed.  Have you ever felt that way?

Take heart!  Nothing could be further from the truth.

God’s promises are perfect, and so is the timing of their fulfillment.  If you’re not seeing them come to pass, it means that He is making sure everything is in its proper place so that when they do, it will be in a way that brings the greatest glory to Him and the most good for you.

This also means that for those who are not in Christ, God’s promise of judgment is sure to come, as well.  Yet, in His great love and mercy, He is giving more time to come home to Him and more opportunities to repent!

If you’re not fully right with God, let His kind patience move you to turn away from sin and turn to Him for salvation.  If you’re in Christ and waiting for His promise to you to be fulfilled, let His faithfulness move you to keep trusting, keep hoping and keep walking forward in Him.

In whichever position you find yourself, may you remember and be moved by this truth.

God’s promises are on their way.

–Pastor Phillip

Jesus has a crown of righteousness for you

Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.  (2 Timothy 4:8)

Judgment Day is coming.  Only God the Father knows the exact hour, but the time is approaching when all people everywhere will be repaid according to God’s heavenly record of their earthly life.

For some, this will be terrible as all of their sin is paraded out before the eyes of eternity and they then receive their just penalty.

But for those in Christ, it will be a different experience entirely.

Christian, on that day of judgment, the book will be opened and your life examined and this is what your record will say…

RIGHTEOUS, REDEEMED, AND TOTALLY CLEAN.

If you’re in Christ, your sins have been washed away by the blood of Jesus, and judgment day will have no punishment for you, only reward!

So, as you follow Jesus in gratefulness for His grace, let this truth spur you on with good cheer: Jesus has a crown of righteousness for you.

-Pastor Phillip

Jesus is your overflowing grace

God’s Hope for Your Heart from 1 Timothy 1

JESUS IS YOUR OVERFLOWING GRACE

And the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.  (1 Timothy 1:14)

Paul killed Christians, yet Jesus gave him overflowing grace.  Paul opposed the name of Christ as strongly as he could, yet Jesus gave him overwhelming mercy.

Why?  Because that’s the kind of savior Jesus is!

Is your faith weak?  Come to Jesus.

Is your love cold?  Come to Jesus.

Is your obedience lacking?  Come to Jesus, and let Him work His power in your life.

Whatever the state of your heart, Jesus can make it holy by His blood.  So, trust and obey Him today and let this truth be your motivation: Jesus is your overflowing grace.

-Pastor Phillip

God’s discipline is for your deliverance

God’s Hope for Your Heart from 1 Corinthians 5

GOD’S DISCIPLINE IS FOR YOUR DELIVERANCE

You are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.  (1 Corinthians 5:5)

It sounds so harsh.  It sounds so unloving.

“What about grace?” some might ask.  “You’re kicking someone out of your church because they made a mistake?”

Absolutely not!

What this passage is talking about is not someone who made a mistake, but a person who is continually and flagrantly violating some of God’s clearest and most basic instructions.  This isn’t a person who stumbled off the path.  This is someone who took a jackhammer to the path and is gleefully dancing in the rubble.

Here’s the thing.  The fact that someone would live like that is crystal clear evidence that either A) they have abandoned the life of Christ completely, or B) they never had it to begin with.  The frightening thing is that both scenarios lead to devastating results.

So, to simply allow someone to go on living like this without drastically intervening is not a gesture of love at all; it is a sign of indifference to their destruction, and indifference is the deepest form of hate.

This is why Paul is instructing the church at Corinth to send this person away, to “deliver him to Satan,” so that even though it will be painful for him, that pain will hopefully lead to repentance and the healing of his soul.

This action is not because the church doesn’t love this person, but because they do.  You see, church discipline is an example of God’s discipline, and God’s discipline on His children is always about restoration, not retribution.

So, when you find yourself in a place of pain or consequence because of your sin, may you turn to Jesus and take comfort in the hope of this truth: God’s discipline is for your deliverance.

-Pastor Phillip


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Jesus is generous

God’s Hope for Your Heart from Matthew 20

JESUS IS GENEROUS

“…I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you.  Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me?  Or do you begrudge my generosity?”  So the last will be first, and the first last.” (Matthew 20:14b-15)

Sometimes when we read the story of the vineyard workers, it’s quite easy to identify with the frustration of the first group.  After all, who wants to work really, really hard only to see someone else get the same reward for only a fraction of the effort?  It’s not fair!

When we read the story, though, it’s absolutely critical that we remember one key thing.

We are not the first group of workers, we’re the last.

The Bible says clearly that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) and that “the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23a)  Oh, we are workers all right, but our work was in opposition to the desires of God.  That’s what makes the second half of Romans 6:23 so incredible: “but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

When you feel like you just don’t measure up to God’s standards on your own, rejoice!  Jesus does, and He is generous.

When you feel like other people should get what they deserve for not being as holy as you, repent!  Jesus is not impressed with your performance, but He is generous.

Whether you question how God could love “them” or how He could love you, rejoice!  His love only depends on the performance and worthiness of one person: Jesus, and Jesus is generous.

May you find peace with yourself and patience with others as you remember that the ground is level at the foot of the cross, and may you be blessed with hope as you walk in the light of this truth: Jesus is generous.

-Pastor Phillip


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God wants to help you grow

God’s Hope for Your Heart from Matthew 13

GOD WANTS TO HELP YOU GROW

Matthew 13:1-50…

In Matthew 13, Jesus tells four parables about things that grow, three about sorting good results and people from bad, two parables about the great value and worth of the Kingdom of Heaven, and one about those who understand it.

So many stories!  So many applications!  Yet, there is a thread that runs through them all.

In the Kingdom, everything grows.

Those who know God and are known by Him grow in righteousness, influence and impact.  Those who don’t truly belong to the Kingdom grow in unrighteousness and hardness of heart.  Over time, the differences and distinctions between true followers of Jesus and those who are Christians in name only grow as well.

The more we observe the Kingdom and understand it, the more valuable it grows to us.  Then, as we seek understanding and keep walking in the footsteps of Jesus, we grow in our ability to share that value with others, too.

Maybe your walk with Christ or your life in general feels a bit stagnant.  Maybe it feels like not much has grown in you during this season.  Maybe you just stopped believing anything could.

If that’s you, then be encouraged today!  If you’re in Christ, then that means you are a part of the Kingdom of God, and He is the Lord of the harvest.  What does that mean?  It means that since He invests in the growth of His Kingdom, you can find hope in this truth: God wants to help you grow.

-Pastor Phillip


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