God’s justice is a pathway to His mercy

God's Hope for Your Heart Header

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 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

God’s heart is for the helpless

God’s Hope for Your Heart from Psalm 82

GOD’S HEART IS FOR THE HELPLESS

How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked?  Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. (Psalm 82:2-3)

All throughout Scripture, God has harsh words and strong judgments for those in authority who use their power to oppress.  The same is true for those who have the ability to help the needy, but refuse.

This is both a convicting and comforting thing.  Convicting, because this means He also wants you to help the hurting in some way.  Comforting because we all go through seasons of hurt.  If not right now, then eventually you will be weak and afflicted, and in that moment take heart.

God is for you, because God’s heart is for the helpless.

-Pastor Phillip

Jesus cleared your debt completely

God’s Hope for Your Heart from Colossians 2

JESUS CLEARED YOUR DEBT COMPLETELY

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands.  This He set aside, nailing it to the cross.  (Colossians 2:13-14)

Creditors do not simply give up on collecting debts that are owed to them.  Judges do not simply toss aside convictions because they feel like it.  No, consistency and justice in finance and the law are vital components to an ordered society.

This reality is a reflection of the character of God, because He is a God of order.  He is a God of justice.  He is a God who rightfully and righteously demands that all debts must be paid, and all sins must be punished.

Yet, God is also a God of compassion.  He is a God of mercy, the Lord of love who takes no pleasure in suffering and pain.

So, Jesus paid the price to reconcile all these things together.

Jesus endured the full wrath of God the Father, suffering the full penalty for sin.  He paid the debt that you and I owed for our own sin, so that our record could be made clean in Christ.

This is astounding news!

This means that if you are in Christ, you have no more debt to God for your failures and flaws.  Your sins have been forgiven, both now and forever more, and your wicked heart has been replaced with a clean heart that is spotless and new.

Nothing remains to be done, because Jesus paid it all.  So, be at peace.  When you see your imperfections, or Satan reminds you of your past, you can rest in the hope of this truth from God’s Word: Jesus cleared your debt completely.

-Pastor Phillip

God gives you options to use

God’s Hope for Your Heart from Acts 25

GOD GIVES YOU OPTIONS TO USE

“If then I am a wrongdoer and have committed anything for which I deserve to die, I do not seek to escape death.  But if there is nothing to their charges against me, no one can give me up to them.  I appeal to Caesar.”  Then Festus, when he had conferred with his council, answered, “To Caesar you have appealed; to Caesar you shall go.”  (Acts 25:11-12)

The heart of the gospel is spiritual, but the ways in which we live it out must be practical because we live in a physical world.  Each of us has been placed at a specific point in history, in a particular country, city, and system of government and economics.

Paul was in the same situation.  He did not stand outside the system of his day, but was an involved part of it.  God had placed him in the Roman empire as a citizen.  Because of that, he had options, and he used them.

Maybe it’s time for you to do the same.

Do you have situations in your life that are less-then-ideal?  Do you have relationships where wrong has occurred, or circumstances where a change needs to be made?

When it comes to trusting God and pursuing His purposes, don’t forget that while prayer is the most important thing you should do, it’s usually not the only thing you can do.  If there are practical options available in your situation, pursue them!  If there are tools at hand, use them!

You exist in a place and a time and a system because God put you there.  Even though it’s disheartening to have opposition, you can take heart and find hope in this truth: God gives you options to use.

Small-Graphic-[Counter-Culture]-Pastor Phillip

p.s. To learn more about resolving conflict well, check out message 02 from my teaching series, “CounterCulture.”  CLICK HERE to listen online.


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Don’t let politics derail your perspective

An Encouraging Word

DON’T LET POLITICS DERAIL YOUR PERSPECTIVE

Today my friend texted me in despair.

“I’ve given up on everything political,” he said.  “If things are going to change for the better, it’s going to happen by changing the hearts of men.”

How right he was.

Today’s landmark Supreme Court decision will forever alter the fabric of our society.  It will have far-reaching effects in our families, businesses, schools, churches and beyond.  It will impact our lives in ways we can’t see yet, affecting issues we haven’t even begun to imagine.

Even so, this thought gives me peace:
God is still on His throne.An-Encouraging-Word-WP-Logo-2015

“Of course He is,” you may say, “that’s why we need to __________.”  But maybe, just maybe, what we need to do most is simply breathe.

Government is neither a Messiah nor the Anti-Christ.  It never has been, and it never will be.  Both great and evil things can and do happen through political process.  It’s always been that way.  It will stay that way as long as humans are involved in the process.

But God is still on His throne.

If you rejoice in this decision and expect it to usher in a golden age of tolerance and diversity, it won’t.  If you mourn this decision and see it as the end of morality in America, it’s not.

This is simply a step.

For some it’s a step forward, to others, a step back, but it’s only a step.  It’s a big step, to be sure, but it’s only a step.

Don’t hear me saying this is not a big deal, because it is.  Don’t hear me saying there won’t likely be hard times ahead for the Church, because there will be.  I’m simply saying this…

God is still on His throne.

This decision changes everything for our country, but changes nothing for Christians.  Why?  Because the Christ we follow never commanded us to seek political solutions to spiritual problems.  Nor did He tell us to be disengaged, but rather to “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”  (Mark 12:17)

This means that all of us, whether we agree or disagree with the decision, have both an opportunity and an obligation to do what Jesus has always commanded us to do: deal kindly with those on “the other side” of our position.

It means as the sticky situations and uncomfortable conversations begin to increase, we must respond with wise and thoughtful dialogue, not foolish fear-mongering, name-calling, and doom-saying.

So, whether you feel elated or defeated by today’s ruling, take a deep breath today, and remember this:

God is still on His throne, so don’t let politics derail your perspective.

 

–Pastor Phillip

PowerPoint-Title-Card-[Counter-Culture]p.s. Do you want to engage helpfully on issues like these but aren’t sure how?  Join me starting tomorrow night at 6:00pm for an all-new outpostChurch teaching series called, “CounterCulture: navigating the war zone between culture and Christianity.”  We’ll explore what the Bible says about many hot issues of our day, and how Christians can respond well as we engage with the world around us.  (Can’t make it tomorrow night?  Listen or watch online at outpostChurch.org!)

God will bring you justice in the end

God’s Hope for Your Heart from Psalm 37

GOD WILL BRING YOU JUSTICE IN THE END

In just a little while, the wicked will be no more; though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there.  But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace.  (Psalm 37:8-9)

Have you ever looked at the world and thought, “This isn’t right; it’s not supposed to be this way!”?

Have you ever looked at your life and felt like you were being persecuted or treated unfairly?

Here’s good news: God’s going to take care of it!

Often it’s so hard to wait, so hard to stay patient.  It’s often difficult to maintain hope when the world looks dark, or to respond like Christ when we’re being treated unfairly, but for everyone who does keep their heart set on Jesus in humility, there is a two-fold promise.  “In just a little while, the wicked will be no more,” and “the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace.”

Are you willing to wait for the promise?

God is not asleep.  He is not on vacation.  He is not ignoring your calls or turning a blind eye to your calamity, but His timing isn’t always what we’d like it to be.

Yet, it’s always perfect.

May you have strength to endure today, and may you take heart and find hope in this truth: God will bring you justice in the end.

-Pastor Phillip


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Jesus sets you free from false dilemmas

God’s Hope for Your Heart from Luke 11

JESUS SETS YOU FREE FROM FALSE DILEMMAS

“But woe to you Pharisees!  For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God.  These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.”  (Luke 11:22)

Sometimes we put ourselves in false dilemmas.  We pit two things against each other that aren’t mutually exclusive at all.

Should I read my Bible or spend time with my family?  Yes.

Should I save for the future or help the poor?  Yes.

Should I have chocolate ice cream or mint chocolate chip?  YES!!!

Jesus doesn’t say there is anything wrong with tithing; He affirms it.  Elsewhere He’ll say the same thing about taking care of parents, honoring the Sabbath and other commands, affirming them each time.  He doesn’t say we must give up these things and concentrate on something else if we want to be faithful.

He says instead, “Don’t replace; combine.”

It’s a simple thought, and sounds like it should be easy to do.  Of course, then life gets in the way.  Bank accounts and busyness, schedules and schoolwork and stepping up at the office, all of these are important things.

But don’t let Jesus’ instructions get lost in the shuffle.

You see, the heart of religion is “What’s the minimum requirement for me to be saved?”  The heart of a real relationship with God is, “How much can I do for the One who did so much for me?”

As you journey with Jesus, don’t pit love and truth against each other, or frame grace and law as enemies.  They each have their place and purpose, and there is no need to reconcile things that aren’t really at odds if understood correctly.

It was never Jesus’ intention to take away from you the privilege and priority of obedience, but rather to empower you to pursue it without fear.  So, pursue it boldly and confidently, and as you do, embrace the hope found in this truth: Jesus sets you free from false dilemmas.

-Pastor Phillip


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God is the avenger of injustice

Scripture Notes on Revelation 6

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 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

And Justice for All (pt2)

How do we “reconcile” justice and mercy for those who hurt us?

From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. – 2 Corinthians 5:16-19

Years ago I owned a small business, and experienced first hand the long labor of constantly having to reconcile accounts. Looking at cash receipts and register tape, accounting software reports and bank statements, it was a process that demanded focus and patience, and there was a right way to reconcile the books and plenty of wrong ways, as well.

God is also in the reconciling business. We read this passage and typically think about individual relationships. We see “reconciliation” as the process by which two people are brought into harmony with one another as they should have been all along, and that is totally correct.

But there is another facet of “reconciliation” in God’s economy.

The Bible is clear that the blood of Christ is offered to all, freely, graciously, without respect to personal history or nationality. It says in this passage that “in Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them,” and we see that those who accept His offer are then “in Christ,” made new and made right with God. Their trespasses are not counted against them and they who were once in opposition to His holiness and justice are brought into harmony with it through the cross.

Those who refuse to be “in Christ” are also included in God’s reconciliation, but in a different way. They are in opposition to His holiness and justice, and must be brought in line with it. If the offer of Christ’s blood is refused, then God will reconcile them to His holiness through their own.

A desire for revenge and personal satisfaction has no place in the heart of a follower of Jesus. May we not lose sight, though, of the demand for justice from a holy God, and the privilege and right for His established authorities to be the ones to carry it out.

(Note: this post is part two of two. Read part one here.)