About that sinking feeling…

You have not been left out.

You have not been left behind.

You have not wasted your life.

You have not failed your calling.

–––

You still matter to God.

You still have much to offer.

You are still valuable to the world around you.

The best is yet to come.

–––

Now get to it!

–Phillip


Image creditunsplash-logoPaul Bulai

Running Again

Running Again

(Or, “How the Worst Itch Ever Reminded me of the Best Fix of All”)

The itch was so bad I could barely stand it.

There I was, surrounded by the beauty of a fresh sunrise, sidewalk-jogging past a serene waterway and a meticulously trimmed golf course, and all I could think of was the fire under my skin.

It was my first time running in a while, and based on past experience, I knew exactly what this was: my blood vessels overheating because they simply weren’t used to that kind of throughput. The sensory result? Itch, itch, itch, itch, itch.

What made it worse was the fact that I knew a surefire solution that could stop the discomfort. I knew there was one simple action I could take that would completely stop the agony and return me to sanity: quit.

If I just stopped running, gave up on the whole thing and returned to a leisurely pace, the itching in my legs would go away.

Have you ever been there? Maybe not with jogging or physical activity, but have you ever been in a spot where you were in so much discomfort, so much pain even, that it seemed like quitting was your only option to make it go away?

The whole thing reminds me of a passage from a letter written by the Apostle Paul to a group of Christians in the city of Galatia. He knew that following Jesus in their day –as in ours– definitely brought with it an element of discomfort. Yet, this seasoned saint also knew that when it comes to our walk with Christ, the prize is always worth the pain. Look at what he reminded them…

“So we must not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up.  (Galatians 6:9)

There it is, a simple reminder with staggeringly powerful implications: don’t give up.

When the discomfort threatens to derail you, don’t give up.

When the struggle feels like it will sink you, don’t give up.

When the pain eclipses your perspective, forget about what you feel, and simply remember to DO this: Don’t. Give. Up.

It may seem like quitting is the only option to deal with the pain, but that would mean ditching the prize. It may feel like stopping is the only way to survive, but failing to finish would mean relinquishing the reward.

You see, in that itch-filled moment on the jogging trail, I knew that quitting might fix the discomfort, but I would have surrendered the satisfaction of a job well done. I also knew that if I kept at it, not only would the itch eventually fade away, but in its place would be the power of better blood flow and the pride of an accomplishment, a much better “fix” indeed.

So, what did I do that day? I kept going until I hit my goal.

Where do YOU need to keep going today?

Maybe you have a relationship that’s seen better days, but don’t give up.

Maybe there’s a workplace conflict you can’t seem to resolve, but don’t give up.

Maybe it’s a habit or sin or addiction that feels impossible to break, but whatever it is: Don’t. Give. Up!

If you’ll keep on pressing forward, I can’t promise your circumstance will improve right away, but I can guarantee you’ll receive a breakthrough in the one place that matters most…

Your heart.

–Pastor Phillip

Let’s Go (Luke 2:15)

When the angels had left them and returned to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go straight to Bethlehem and see what has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”  (Luke 2:15)

God gave a word of hope to these outcasts, these unwanted, low-society shepherds.  He gave them an announcement of better things, of blessing, of new possibility.  Notice, now, what the shepherds did NOT do…

They didn’t play the victim and say it was about time something good happened to them.

They didn’t show themselves to be lazy and dependent and ask someone else to bring the Messiah to them.

They didn’t make excuses or give reasons why they couldn’t get up and take hold of the promise.

Instead, they said, “Let’s go” … And they did.

–Pastor Phillip

Jesus will never give up on you

God’s Hope for Your Heart from Philippians 1

JESUS WILL NEVER GIVE UP ON YOU

And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.  (Philippians 1:6)

Jesus always finishes what He starts.

He didn’t begin creation only to get tired of it and abandon it halfway through.  He didn’t kick off His earthly ministry just to get burned out and go into early retirement.  He didn’t begin His journey on the road to the cross only to quit when things got tough.

Jesus always finishes what He starts.  So, if you’re in Christ, and still breathing, that means He’s not through with you yet!

He’s not tired of you.

He’s not bored with you.

He’s not quitting or abandoning you, and He never, ever will.  He is faithful, so have faith and take heart in this hope-filled truth: Jesus will never give up on you.

-Pastor Phillip

Your reward is on the way

God’s Hope for Your Heart from Galatians 6

YOUR REWARD IS ON THE WAY

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.  So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.  (Galatians 6:9-10)

Sometimes doing good gets old.  Don’t pretend like you don’t know the feeling; you do.

You’ve been giving and giving but gotten little thanks in return.

You’ve been working and working but seen little fruit from your labors.

You’ve been praying and praying but nothing seems to change.

Don’t let the waiting wear you out!

Hang in there, your answer is coming.  Keep going, your work is going to pay off.  Hold on to hope, keep doing good, and be encouraged the hope of this simple truth: your reward is on the way.

-Pastor Phillip


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Your weakness is a gateway to God’s strength

God’s Hope for Your Heart from 2 Corinthians 12

YOUR WEAKNESS IS A GATEWAY TO GOD’S STRENGTH

But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.”  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.  (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

The world says when you are weak, you are weak, but God says when you are weak, you are strong.

The world says when you can’t, you can’t, but God says when you can’t, you really can.

The world says when your strength stops, you stop, but God says when your strength stops, keep going!

What’s the difference?  Simple.

The world says what it says because it sees what it sees, just you, all alone in your problems.  God says what He says because He knows what He knows, that if you’re in Christ, it’s never just you in the midst of your problems.  Jesus is always right there with you!

When you can’t go on, Jesus can.

When you don’t have what you need, Jesus does.

When you are weak, Jesus is strong, and He makes all the difference.

So, no matter how you feel about your situation today, you can press on in faith because of this hope-filled truth: your weakness is a gateway to God’s strength.

-Pastor Phillip


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Jesus is worth it

God’s Hope for Your Heart from 2 Corinthians 11

JESUS IS WORTH IT

Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one.  Three times I was beaten with rods.  Once I was stoned.  Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.  And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.  (2 Corinthians 11:24-28)

The way of Jesus is filled with incredible joy and blessing, but also brings its share of suffering.  To follow Christ is to walk in the abundant favor of God, but sometimes His blessings come wrapped in packages of pain.

Your enemy will tell you it’s because God doesn’t love you, but that’s a lie.  Your enemy will tell you that you failed in your part or didn’t have enough faith for God to bless you, but that’s a lie.

The truth is, sometimes God’s greatest gifts come in surprising forms.  Even Jesus Himself came unexpectedly, in a way filled with difficulty and pain.

But Jesus is worth it!

The biggest blessing of all is not a comfortable set of circumstances, but a greater closeness to Christ.  The greatest joy of all comes not through God putting all the pieces of your life in the order you demand, but in His gracious drawing of your heart into a deeper relationship with Jesus.

Whatever sacrifices you’ve made to follow Christ, it’s worth it.  Whatever pain you feel as you choose to follow Him instead of the ways of the world, it’s worth it!

Don’t let Satan make you give up, and don’t let suffering bring you down.  No matter how hard it gets, may you be propelled towards Christ by the hope of this courage-building truth:  Jesus is worth it.

-Pastor Phillip


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It’s not over ’til God says it is

God’s Hope for Your Heart from 1 Corinthians 4

IT’S NOT OVER ‘TIL GOD SAYS IT IS

Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart.  Then each one will receive his commendation from God.  (1 Corinthians 4:5)

Have you ever tried to do something for God, maybe a ministry or service project, perhaps an event or program, but nothing really seemed to come of it?  It’s not over ’til God says it is.

Have you ever invested in another person, hoping to bless them and make an impact for good in their life, only to feel like you’re not making a difference at all?  It’s not over ’til God says it is.

Have you ever worked on something that mattered to you, a relationship, a calling, a child, a dream, but felt like nothing you did seemed to work?  It’s not over ’til God says it is.

Don’t be too quick to call the game just because of a little rain.  Don’t be too hasty to throw in the towel because you’re behind in the score.  Don’t be too eager to get out of the ring because you took a few hits or give up on the race because you fell a few times.

You see, only God knows how much impact you’re really making behind the scenes, so keep doing it!  Only God knows how the seeds you planted are going to grow, so keep planting!  Only God knows what sort of return your investment will bring, so press on!

Trust Him.  Seek Him.  Listen to the voice of Jesus, not the voices of failure and fear.  Hang in there, and keep going, and as you do, you’ll find hope in this empowering truth: it’s not over ’til God says it is.

-Pastor Phillip


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Nothing can cancel God’s plan for your life

God’s Hope for Your Heart from Acts 5

NOTHING CAN CANCEL GOD’S PLAN FOR YOUR LIFE

“If this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them.  You might even be found opposing God!”  (Acts 5:38b-39a)

The Jewish religious leaders were not happy with Peter and John.  These disciples of Jesus had blatantly disregarded the orders of the council to stop preaching in the name of Jesus, and more and more people were listening to them.

In the midst of a heated debate over what to do about it, an old and wise Pharisee named Gamaliel stood up and reminded them of other so-called “messiahs” who had come on the scene with a flash and faded away just as quickly.  What he told them, though, was not just the opinion of an old man.  It is the truth of God.

Gamaliel said, “if this is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them.”

He knew that no matter how great the opposition becomes, God’s plans are greater.  No matter how strong the adversity seems, God’s people are stronger!  No matter how unlikely success may be, if God is in it, victory is assured!

So, if you’re following Jesus and pursuing what He’s called you to do, you can press on in confidence today, because of the hope found in this truth: nothing can cancel God’s plan for your life.

-Pastor Phillip


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Jesus responds to persistence

God’s Hope for Your Heart from Luke 18

JESUS RESPONDS TO PERSISTENCE

And he cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” And those who were in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” And Jesus stopped and commanded him to be brought to him. And when he came near, he asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, let me recover my sight.” And Jesus said to him, “Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.”  (Luke 18:38-42)

Most of us don’t like to be bothered repeatedly.

Few parents encourage their kids to shout louder after they’ve heard them the first few times. Few friends encourage each other to keep calling again and again after the first conversation was finished.

But Jesus isn’t like that.

In the first part of Luke 18, Jesus tells a story to demonstrate how persistent prayers are a delight to the Father, and in the last part of the chapter He demonstrates the same heart by healing a blind man who just wouldn’t shut up.

The man had cried out loudly and the crowd told him to shut it, but he persisted. The man had been blocked by the crowd but he didn’t give up. The man wasn’t afraid to make a scene because he believed that Jesus could heal him and he showed his faith by his persistent action.

And Jesus stopped what He was doing, and responded.

No matter what your need looks like, may you have the confidence to continue asking for Jesus to intervene. May you have courage and diligence to keep praying, keep asking, and keep walking in faith, and as you do, may you find hope in this truth: Jesus responds to persistence.

-Pastor Phillip


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