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

Why people flocked to John

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Then people from Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the vicinity of the Jordan were flocking to [John], and they were baptized by him in the Jordan River as they confessed their sins.  (Matthew 3:5-6)

Why did people flock to John?  Some came out of curiosity, to be sure, perhaps even many or most of them.  Yet, even they were drawn by something deeper, because their visit resulted in repentance.  Surely this can only be the result of the supernatural hand of God, stirring hearts in need of repentance towards a desire for repentance!

After all, John is not portrayed as a particularly eloquent or crowd-pleasing speaker, so the delivery wasn’t the key.  He was in the wilderness, not a lovely temple, so the environment wasn’t the draw.  He was dressed in rough garments, not in fine clothes that signified authority or appeal, so that wasn’t it, either.

No, it was simply a Spirit thing.

John served as a focal point for something God already wanted to do.  He was not the cause, only a catalyst, and even that was not because of his own noble choice.  It was because God called him.

So, here is the deep question for us today: if we want to see people come to faith in Christ and rally to repentance, what should we do?

Here are three suggestions…

  1. We should “Make every effort to make [our] calling and election sure” (2 Peter 1:10) by focusing on our personal walk with God.  It is doubtful John thought of making the desert his home base on his own.  Surely this must have been revealed through his intimate relationship with God.  This is why prayer is vital.
  2. We should pay attention to the times and seasons of the world around us.  What is God already doing?  How is He already stirring hearts and preparing them to respond to a catalyst?
  3. We must obey God when He tells us what to do, no matter how uncomfortable or unorthodox the instruction may seem.  I doubt locusts, wild honey, desert life and came-hair clothing would have been at the top of John’s list of goals for his life, but there he was, being faithful…

And God responded in amazing ways.

–Pastor Phillip

Jesus is your faithful forgiver

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  (1 John 1:9)

If you betray someone you love, you will discover that a barrier begins to grow between you.  There may be no retribution on their part, but the closeness of the relationship will suffer.

Christian, so it is between you and God.

Make no mistake, the cross of Jesus Christ provides the full payment for the penalty of your sin.  There is no more punishment for you, only loving discipline.  God has no more wrath for you, only grace!  However, though God will not bring retribution on you now if you sin, you can still bring barriers into the relationship.

God wants more for you than that!

When you stumble off the path of righteousness, remember this.  In Christ, your legal standing before God is totally righteous and completely loved.  So, don’t let fear keep you from coming back into loving fellowship with your Heavenly Father.

He is waiting for you with open arms, longing for you to return with a repentant heart so that He can restore your closeness with Him.

Open your mouth and confess where you’ve strayed, and open your heart to be encouraged by this truth.

Jesus is your faithful forgiver.

–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

True Salvation (Luke 8:4-15)

The Parable of the Sower and the Soils

As a large crowd was gathering, and people were flocking to Him from every town, [Jesus] said in a parable: “A sower went out to sow his seed. As he was sowing, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds of the sky ate it up.  Other seed fell on the rock; when it sprang up, it withered, since it lacked moisture.  Other seed fell among thorns; the thorns sprang up with it and choked it.  Still other seed fell on good ground; when it sprang up, it produced a crop: 100 times what was sown.” As He said this, He called out, “Anyone who has ears to hear should listen!”

Then His disciples asked Him, “What does this parable mean?”  So He said, “The secrets of the kingdom of God have been given for you to know, but to the rest it is in parables, so that, “Looking they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.”

“This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God.  The seed along the path are those who have heard and then the Devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved.  And the seed on the rock are those who, when they hear, welcome the word with joy. Having no root, these believe for a while and depart in a time of testing.  As for the seed that fell among thorns, these are the ones who, when they have heard, go on their way and are choked with worries, riches, and pleasures of life, and produce no mature fruit.  But the seed in the good ground—these are the ones who, having heard the word with an honest and good heart, hold on to it and by enduring, bear fruit.  (Luke 8:4-15)

Some people “receive Jesus” with great emotion and tearful promises, but it seems Jesus is saying this is not evidence of genuine salvation.

Some people may journey for a time, being “good church people” until they grow weary or get wounded and ultimately walk away.  It seems Jesus is saying this “good start” is also not reliable evidence of a true resurrection of heart.

Jesus says the thing the Father desires and the evidence of a genuine faith is “fruit” displayed with faithfulness.

True salvation isn’t revealed by how quickly you turn to Jesus, but by how long you choose to follow Him and faithfully obey.

–Pastor Phillip

What kind of person…really? (Luke 6:45)

A good man produces good out of the good storeroom of his heart.  An evil man produces evil out of the evil storeroom, for his mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart.  (Luke 6:45)

“I know he’s done some terrible things, but he’s really just misunderstood.”

“Yeah, he cusses and yells and lies sometimes, but he’s really a good person.”

“Okay, so he cheated once and got violent a couple of times, but I know he’s got a good heart.”

Do you know what I think Jesus would say to all of that?

“That’s just silly.”

–Pastor Phillip

Jesus wants to free you from regret

God’s Hope for Your Heart from 2 Corinthians 7

JESUS WANTS TO FREE YOU FROM REGRET

As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting.  For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us.  For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.  (2 Corinthians 7:9-10)

Everybody has their scars.  As travelers in a broken world, nobody makes it out without some pain, some hurt, some mistakes.

But you don’t have to live there!

When we look at our lives and see clearly the wrongness of our sin, sometimes a sadness settles in and fills our hearts with guilt.  We are ashamed of what we’ve done.  We’re afraid of doing it again.  We are anxious that people might find out and turn us away.

But God has a different plan for His children!

When the Holy Spirit opens your eyes to see your own sin, His purpose isn’t for you to be frozen by regret, but for you to find freedom through repentance!

Worldly grief will drive you down into isolation, but godly grief will spur you up into the presence of God and motivate you to lay your burdens down to be forgiven and healed.

Godly grief will help you deal with your failures by moving you to bring them to the cross of Christ.  There, repentance will keep you from crucifying yourself over and over again for sins that Jesus already died for.

Don’t harden your heart and deny your sin, but don’t let the enemy use it to destroy you with regret, either.  Take it to Jesus.  Let Him redeem it.  Let Him restore you.  Let Him remind you of the forgiveness you have in Christ.

Run to Him in faith and surrender today as you walk in the hope of this truth: Jesus wants to free you from regret.

-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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God’s grace removes your burden

God’s Hope for Your Heart from Acts 15

GOD’S GRACE REMOVES YOUR BURDEN

“…And [God] made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith.  Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?  But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”  (Acts 15:9-11)

Jewish Christians in the first century were very concerned that the Gentile Christians weren’t “doing it right,” and they were quite vocal about it.  They were convinced that to truly be saved, there was a whole list of rules people needed to keep in addition to trusting Christ for salvation.

While they would talk about grace, their actions and attitudes were more focused on what people were supposed to do rather than what Jesus had already done.

However, grace with conditions isn’t grace at all.

Peter and Paul and the Jerusalem council agreed that to lay great burdens of rule-keeping on the necks of Gentile believers was antithetical to the Good News of grace.  They recognized, both in this instance and in letters written later, that following Christ does include pursuing a holy life.  However, they also strongly affirmed that making holiness a condition for salvation rather than a joyful response to salvation is not what Jesus intended at all!

Of course, the same debate continues today.

There are some who are so focused on “doing it right” that they miss the Gospel of grace.  They will emphasize all of the moral instructions and commands of Scripture and insist that anyone who doesn’t follow their particular understanding is certainly in the wrong.

Yet, Jesus didn’t come to bring burdens, but to relieve them.  He didn’t come to weigh you down with law, but to lift you up with grace!

Because of Jesus’ finished work on the cross, all who come to Him and put their faith in Him are called righteous and holy, and nothing can change that!  When He calls and commands you to pursue a life that’s in line with God’s Word, it’s not a beforehand requirement for His love and acceptance.  It’s a grateful response after you’ve received them by faith.

May your life be marked by a desire to follow God’s instruction in Scripture, but don’t let an endless burden of rules keep you from living in the beauty of grace.  Trust in the kindness of Christ today, and as you do, you’ll discover the hope found in this liberating truth: God’s grace removes your burden.

-Pastor Phillip


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