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

Jesus understands your struggle

For because He himself has suffered when tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted.  (Hebrews 2:18)

Do you ever struggle with temptation?  Jesus understands.

Do you sometimes wrestle with desires to meet God-given cravings in ungodly ways?  Jesus understands.

The particulars of a temptation are not its most powerful element.  Underneath every specific draw to sin is a root cause, a deeper desire that drives it.  Comfort, pleasure, pride, accumulation of power or avoidance of pain; with all of these Jesus is quite familiar.

Yet, not only did Jesus have the strength to resist temptation, He also has an abundance of that same strength to share with you!

When you are tempted, turn to Jesus, be at peace, and find hope in this powerful truth: Jesus understands your struggle.

–Pastor Phillip

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 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

Jesus gives provision through the Church

Scripture Notes on Mark 10

“Jesus said, ‘Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.'” -Mark 10:29-30

Walking with Jesus always has a price, and sometimes it’s more costly than others.

We don’t follow a man who had everything going for Him, who was constantly adored and well-treated.  We follow a Savior who was homeless, who was poor, who was crucified.  But, just like on the other side of the grave was a glorious resurrection, on the other side of the price there is a great provision!

The first thought for many who read this will be, “Yes, a great provision awaits me in heaven if I can just get through this life on earth.” This is true, but it is not complete.  Notice how Jesus speaks of “a hundredfold now in this time…

This doesn’t mean that every believer who loses their home gets a hundred parcels of real estate down the street.  There simply isn’t enough land on the planet for that.  It doesn’t mean that every biological family member who rejects a believer is replaced with one hundred more.  All the adoption agencies in all the world couldn’t keep up with that.  So, what does Jesus mean?

He’s talking about the Church.

It is the plan and purpose of God that His Church should be a people who share with one another generously.  We share affection and commitment, support and strength, and even finances and a place to stay when needed.

All throughout history we see examples of how Christians understood that God called them to be a family to one another, and as they opened their hearts and homes to one another in obedience to Christ, they became the fulfillment of His promise.

How about us?

The American spirit is one of rugged individualism.  We pride ourselves on doing things on our own, on needing no one, on making things happen for ourselves, and when we do, on keeping as much for our selves and our own families as we can.

But that is not the Spirit of Christ.

May you and I be willing to second-guess the gospel of our culture and be obedient to God by being generous with one another.  May we be willing to sacrifice our preferences and pride on behalf of our brothers and sisters in Christ, because when we do, we’re not just being obedient to Jesus.  We’re laying a foundation for others to do the same for us, too.

-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.

 

Why Does “Growing Old” Bother Us?

Thursdays are usually geared towards answering theological questions I receive in my role as a pastor. However, today I wanted to share a piece that’s not quite “theology” as much as it is a meditation on the cross as an answer to our cultural perspective on the signs of aging. I pray it’s an encouragement to you.
—Pastor Phillip


Thoughts on the Signs of Age

Why is it that the particular signs of advancing age —graying hair, growing veins, wrinkling skin— are so often less desirable to us than the physical marks of youth?

Biologists would say we’re hard-wired to prize youth because of its reproductive viability.  Survival of the species depends on a ready supply of healthy individuals who are able to reproduce effectively and provide viable offspring.

Sociologists might point to a multi-layered cultural system that prizes sexuality above almost all else, and therefore magnifies youth as the embodiment of that desire.

Others might point to the idea that with the outward signs of aging comes the inescapable reminder of our own mortality and eventual death, such that the more we can surround ourselves with displays of youth, the easier it is to distract ourselves from the reality of our inevitable death.

Some would say that the outer signs of aging are an all-too-true mirror of the inward aging of the soul, and if one’s experience is of pain and toil and a growing sense of the loss of the “good ole’ days,” then any reminder of that is something to flee or mask, indeed.

Perhaps it’s the sense that the older we are, the less able we are to produce or accomplish, and in a world that often ranks a person’s value by their achievement, a lessening of that ability seems like a decrease in worth as a person.

Maybe the veins and the hair and the wrinkles are unwanted reminders of the growing loss of innocence, the increasing distance from a time when we were carefree and careless, before the crushing weight of the world took its place like a vulture on our shoulders.

Maybe we prize youth and dread old age, simply because it seems like everyone else does.

Perhaps it’s the fear of pain, sickness or suffering that drives us to close our eyes and mask the marks of growing old, as if we could stay well and safe simply by willing it to be so.

Likely a major reason we don’t desire the signs of aging is the sense that their presence will prevent other people from desiring us —for any of the other reasons— and no one wants to feel unwanted.

Look, now, at the cross of Jesus Christ.

Look on the agony, the injustice of betrayal, and hear the Word of Truth, “I did this for YOU, because I made you, and I desire you.”

See the nail marks and the blood stains, the rough splintered timber that received the lacerated back of a dying Savior, and hear the gentle reminder, “My suffering was great, yet my deliverance was sure, and so is yours.”

Think of the loneliness, the total abandonment of close friends and the jeering scorn of the crowd, and be strengthened by His lone voice crying out clear, “I hung alone for you so you could walk along with me.  The crowd doesn’t matter, only my love for you.”

Remember the promise of His blood, “This is my blood, poured out for the forgiveness of sins,” and hear it cry out from the muddy ground of Calvary, “You are innocent!  You are forgiven!  You are clean!”

See the hands of the carpenter, calloused and strong, now so cruelly nailed to wood he never wanted, bones splintering before the spikes, unable to work any more…for now.

Hear His cry from the cross, “It is finished!  It is done!” and be reminded that He did His final work to secure not just your final rest, but a life of rest even now.  Nothing remains to be earned or accomplished to secure the love of God —it is finished.

Look to the streets leading up to the hill of execution.  See the innocent man carrying His own cross for you, and hear His words to your weary soul, “Come to me, all who are weak and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”  Let His burden lighten yours and restore to you the strength of soul that slipped away so long ago.

Turn now, away from the hill of the cross and look towards the garden tomb.  See it there, its entrance stone rolled away, merely a vacant space now because HE IS NOT THERE and no more does death have the last word.

Hear His promise to those who believe, “I AM the life…if anyone comes to me, they will never die.”

He was released from His tomb in the ground.

Now through Him, may you be released from the tomb of the age of fear, and the fear of age.

Grace and Self-Image

It’s hard to see ourselves for who we really are.

“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

Paul realizes that the self-image called for here is only possible through and by the grace of God.  There are too many forces pulling us one way or another for us to do it in our own strength.

When we think of ourselves too highly, grace reminds us it’s all a gift.  When we think of ourselves too lowly, grace reminds us that the gift was given because in Christ, God loves us deeply.

Grace is the balance that keeps us steady in Him.  May you walk steady today!

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