God still commands the chaos

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And the [first] beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months…  Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them…and by the signs that [the second beast] is allowed to work in the presence of the [first] beast, it deceives those who dwell on earth, telling them to make an image for the beast that was wounded by the sword and yet lived.  And it was allowed to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast might even speak and might cause those who would not worship the image of the beast to be slain.  (Revelation 13:5, 7a, 14-15)

Ungodly authority, violence and conflict, deception and false miracles, persecution, state-sanctioned murder: this is chaos.

As the book of Revelation continues to unfold the unraveling of human society in the end times, it seems like things are getting darker and darker, worse and worse, and it seems like for the people of God, everything is falling apart.

Does your life ever feel like that?

Take note, then, that even in the midst of such hardship and trial, there is a common thread running through this entire chapter: “it was allowed.”

We may never understand in this life just why God allows certain things.  We may feel we would do differently, or wish there would have been an easier way.  As we try to process the hard circumstances of our lives, this is a normal reaction and a natural place to start.  However, it doesn’t have to be the place we finish.

Christian, know this.  No matter how crazy things look down here, God is still in control, watching over your destiny from above!  No matter how dark things appear from your perspective, God is still overseeing and working all things together for your good in Christ.

So, in the midst of whatever turmoil you may be facing, this is God’s word of hope to you today, sent by the Holy Spirit through the prophetic pen of John.

God still commands the chaos.

–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 allows pain because you are precious to Him

Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.  Behold, I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him and he with me.  (Revelation 3:19-20)

Christian, do you ever wonder why God allows hard things to come into your life?  Do you ever feel like you’re getting knocked around and you can’t figure out what’s behind it?

Maybe it’s Jesus, knocking on your heart to get your attention.

Don’t miss the obvious truth of this passage, “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline.”  If God never allows any pain into your life, either you are sinlessly perfect in all your actions and attitudes, or God doesn’t really love you at all.

Yet, don’t miss the incredible encouragement here, either.

When God disciplines us, it is never because He wants to push us away, but because He wants to draw us closer!

His correction is not condemnation.  It is an invitation to greater intimacy with Him!

This is why the Psalmist David can exult, “Let the bones that you have broken rejoice” (Psalm 51:8), because every hurt is another chance to be touched by the hand of the Healer.

Don’t run from or fear the hand of God’s discipline.  Embrace it, and as you do, let this truth fill your heart with hope.

God allows pain because you are precious to Him.

–Pastor Phillip

God’s blessing goes beyond your suffering

But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed.  Have no fear of them, nor be troubled… (1 Peter 3:14)

The reality of suffering is one that many people don’t like to deal with.  Even many Christians, uncomfortable trying to reconcile God’s love with His allowance of pain, gloss over the harsh truth that pain comes to all people, in all places, no matter what kind of relationship they have with God.

Think about it…

Jesus was crucified.  The Apostle Peter was crucified upside-down.  The Apostle Paul was beheaded, and the Apostle John boiled alive in oil and then exiled when he didn’t die.

Throughout history and even to this day in countries across the world, countless millions have been and still are persecuted for their faith in Jesus, yet they continue to trust and praise Him through it all.  Why?

Because Jesus Himself is the greatest blessing of all.

The mighty presence of the risen Savior is a far greater gift than any change in circumstances could ever be.  The lavish hope of glory awaiting believers is a far greater pleasure than any removal of pain.  This is why generations of Christians have endured pain and suffering with smiles on their faces and joy in their hearts and praise on their lips.

Will you be one of them?

In the midst of whatever trial you’re facing, let the presence of Jesus bring you hope as you remember this powerful truth.

God’s blessing goes beyond your suffering.

–Pastor Phillip

Jesus will surely hold you up

[Jesus] is the radiance of the glory of God, and the exact imprint of His nature, and He upholds the universe by the word of His power.  (Hebrews 1:3a)

From starfish to stars, goldfish to galaxies, Jesus holds the universe together.  He is both Creator and sustainer of all things, and nothing slips by His notice or through His fingers.

Do you think He can handle your problems?

Make no mistake, Jesus did say those who follow Him would face hardship in this life, but He also promised you would never have to go it alone!

Right now, this moment, Jesus sees and knows and cares about your situation.  Not only that, but He is willing and able to sustain you through ’till the end.

Whatever you’re facing today, be encouraged by this truth: Jesus will surely hold you up.

–Pastor Phillip

Thoughts on working through a miscarriage

It was a Tuesday night around 9pm.

The doctor strode in to our room at the ER and announced to my wife and me, “I’m sorry, you’ve had a miscarriage.” Heather had already known; she had felt it in her body and her heart. I was holding on to hope, not wanting to believe, but with the matter-of-fact words of the doctor, the case was closed. It was over. We had joined the ranks of the 1-in-4 pregnancies that end in miscarriage.

She was ten weeks along, and though we had shared the news with a few people, we were waiting to let people know until we had ultrasound pictures to show. Now, instead of announcing the joyous prospect of new birth, we found ourselves having to share news of death.

In the wake of this shock, we knew we needed time to grieve, to process, to heal, but we didn’t know what to do. We felt we needed to get away, but didn’t have the money to do so. In God’s Providence, one of our congregation provided a Pastor’s Appreciation gift that enabled us to afford to drive to see family in Virginia, where almost the entire clan from my father’s side were visiting.

In the last sermon I preached before that fateful day, I shared this encouragement: “maybe your struggle is helping someone else grow strong.” Who would have guessed that that thought would end up being for me.

I never want to rush through something that God has allowed for a deeper purpose, and as I work through this new chapter in my journey, I wanted to share some thoughts God has put on my heart in the midst of this trial, in the hopes that they will encourage and strengthen you for yours.

– – –
I find myself alternating between strength and sorrow, between holding things together, caring for Heather and Bradley and the other facets of our life, and letting myself go into grief, embracing the ice-cold waves of sorrow as they rush without warning into my soul.

This back-and-forth experience is healthy, but it is hard. It is good, but gut-wrenching, this journey into the deeper layers of human experience in a broken world. For that is what this is, simply our turn on the merry-go-round of loss and pain, and like any merry-go-round, I know this, too, will come full circle in its time and bring us back to joy again.

I find myself frustrated because I know that grief is something you can’t simply rush through, but I have a family to take care of, a job to do, and a church to lead. In my more reflective moments, I have to admit that I don’t want to enter fully into the pain, because I am afraid of what it will do to me.

Yet, I have to face that fear. You have to face that fear.

– – –
I realize that for me, it’s still so early in the grieving process that right now I’m simply falling back on what I know to be true. I am clicking into auto-pilot to try and cope, and to hopefully bring something good out of this tragic moment.

Yet, at the end of the day, we are not the ones who bring light out of darkness, God is, and He will do so in His way, and in His time.

In the meantime, I cling to three things that give me hope. To share them with you doesn’t mean that I have it all together and figured out, but simply that I’m choosing to hang on to what I know is true, even as I realize that I’ve still only weathered the first few waves of grief in the onslaught of emotion to come.

– – –
First, Heather and I don’t blame God for visiting this pain upon us, nor do we believe He had nothing to do with it at all. Both of these extremes lead only to despair, and neither have any claim on the God of the Bible.

No, God did not cause our loss, but neither was He powerless to stop it. Instead, He stood by us and stands by us still in the midst of the pain. He has allowed us to go through this trial not because He doesn’t love us, but because He loves us enough to let us be tried and forged in the fire so that we might come out stronger and brighter than before.

Today we choose to not blame God.

– – –
Second, we don’t blame ourselves, because we know in the long history of a world marred by sin and marked by its repercussions, the day of heartache will come to us all.

In this world of death and loss and tragedy and pain, each of us is allotted a cup of suffering. Though we would nearly all choose to let it pass without partaking, that is not our decision to make. Rather, our choice is how we will drink it: with bitterness and resentment that God would dare allow pain into our lives, or with the strength and courage of Jesus, whose prayer in His hour of trial was, “If it is possible, let this cup pass from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.” (Matthew 26:39)

Today we choose to not blame ourselves.

– – –
Third, we remember the Gospel, because moments like these are precisely where the glorious light of the Good News shines through!

If Jesus has indeed conquered the grave, then though our hearts may hear its bitter laugh in this moment, we choose to weather the pain in hope because we know death will never have the last word, and we will get to meet our unborn child someday.

If Jesus has indeed completely atoned for the penalty of sin, then though the weight of grief is strong, we choose not add to it the weight of guilt that this is in any way our fault. This is not God’s punishment for some failure; it is His providence for our future, a gift wrapped in darkness that still contains a seed of light.

If Jesus has indeed secured our position of favor with the Father, then not only can we take courage in knowing that “this too shall pass,” but we can also take heart in the truth that the Almighty God of the universe is not only with us in the storm, but is working it into a grander story than we can possibly imagine, a story with a sweeter and more glorious happy ending than our mortal minds can conceive.

Today we choose to believe the Gospel.

– – –
So there they are. Three truths and three choices that help us cope with loss and suffering and pain. Three truths and three choices that are Biblically correct and spiritually sound.

And it’s really, really hard to actually live them out.

Please don’t think that because I share these things, I’ve fully figured them out and am doing just fine. I’m not. We’re not. We are angry and hurt and confused and knocked down – but not destroyed.

This is hard and painful and disorienting and just plain bad – but it is not the end.

Today we choose to trust Jesus and take it one day at a time, and so can you.

– – –
What does this mean practically? It means we take time away to heal. We do not rush through the hallways of the house of mourning, or else we may find ourselves circling back though them longer and later than we would like or need.

No, we take them at their own pace, each turn at whatever angle and speed it requires to truly move past it to the next. We write. We cry. We pray. We cry some more. We talk. We listen. We cry again.

We remember our past dreams and by faith begin slowly to build new ones, starting simply with the dream that someday, somehow, this blood-red thread in our life’s tapestry won’t be so prominent in our view, and will simply be folded in to the background as our life begins to feel normal again.

–Pastor Phillip

Jesus is your sovereign peace

God’s Hope for Your Heart from Colossians 3

JESUS IS YOUR SOVEREIGN PEACE

And let the peace of Christ rule in your heart, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.  (Colossians 3:15)

You never saw it coming.

It’s that phone call you never thought you’d receive, that news you never imagined you’d hear.  It’s that conversation you didn’t expect to have, that tragedy you thought could never happen to you.

But it did.

In times of shock and sorrow, it’s all too easy to surrender to the pain.  Despair creeps in, and fear rises up to take control of your heart.

But that is not what God wants for His children!

In Christ, God has promised that no matter what chaos goes on around you, you can experience His peace within you.  He has promised to never leave nor forsake you, so when darkness threatens to take control, you have a choice.

You can let fear rule your heart, or let faith take its place.  You can surrender to despair and let it drown you in sorrow, or surrender to Jesus and let Him lift you in His strength.

When tragedy strikes and you’re feeling overwhelmed, take heart.  Remember that God is still in control, He is still good, and He still loves you.  Fix your eyes on Jesus and let this truth give you power to press on.

Jesus is your sovereign peace.

-Pastor Phillip

In Christ, your pain has a purpose

God’s Hope for Your Heart from Galatians 4

IN CHRIST, YOUR PAIN HAS A PURPOSE

You know it was because of a bodily ailment that I preached the gospel to you at first, and though my condition was a trial to you, you did not scorn or despise me, but received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus.  (Galatians 4:13-14)

Paul was not well in Galatia.

Certainly he must have prayed for healing, but the healing didn’t come right away.  Surely he must have tried to rest and recover quickly, but the recovery was not immediate.

Did Jesus fail His servant?  Did Paul–this mighty man of God who healed countless others–simply not have enough faith for his own healing?

This same Paul would later be bitten by a poisonous snake but not be harmed.  He would even raise a young man from the dead, yet whatever sickness or ailment he had in Galatia, it was so bad that he had to cancel his travel plans.

Was he just having an off day, or did God have a far greater blessing in store for His beloved child?

Read again what Paul writes to the churches in the province of Galatia.  “It was because of a bodily ailment that I preached the gospel to you first.”  Not in spite of, because.

Paul realized something that we sometimes miss.  Sometimes God has a greater gift for you than the immediate answer to your prayer.  Think of how many hundreds, if not thousands of people were saved because of Paul’s ailment.  Think of how many blessings were released to them, and how many heavenly rewards were gained by him because of his unexpected time of recovery.

When you’re hurting in the midst of a trial and you can’t figure out why God doesn’t move to answer you right away, take heart!  God is working out a deeper blessing for you; you just need eyes to see it.

Keep praying and believing God for your deliverance and healing, and as you wait for His perfect timing, may you be encouraged by this hope-filled truth: in Christ, your pain has a purpose.

-Pastor Phillip


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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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God builds brokenness into praise

God’s Hope for Your Heart from Psalm 51

GOD BUILDS BROKENNESS INTO PRAISE

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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