God gives life to those who are strong in Him

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.  To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.  (Revelation 2:7)

God is a God of victory, so His people can be, too.  God sent His Son as the ultimate overcomer, so His people can overcome, too.

As Jesus persisted and resisted sin through the power of the Holy Spirit, so we who follow Him can do the same, and not only can we stand firm in the Spirit, we must!

Through Christ, God has given you power and authority to conquer anything Satan throws at you.  So, as you receive His strength by faith today, you can take courage in this truth.

God gives life to those who are strong in Him.

–Pastor Phillip

Jesus is the anchor of your soul

We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf… (Hebrews 6:19-20a)

Of all the storms in this life, perhaps none is more troubling than uncertainty.  Bad news and hard times can at least be faced head-on and dealt with, but how maddening it is when you just don’t know.

Not only that, but what more painful uncertainty could there be than not knowing where you stand with God?

That’s why Jesus is such a great Savior!  Not only does He make righteous all who come to Him by faith, but He himself is the personal guarantee of your acceptance by the Father.

No matter what your past reveals, how bad your present circumstances are or how uncertain your future may appear, if you’re in Christ, you can find strength as you meditate on this truth: Jesus is the anchor of your soul.

–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

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 guard against all evil

God’s Hope for Your Heart from 2 Thessalonians 3

JESUS IS YOUR GUARD AGAINST ALL EVIL

But the Lord is faithful.  He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.  (2 Thessalonians 3:3)

Jesus warned we will have trouble in this life, but trouble and evil are not the same thing.  He told us we would surely face persecution, but persecution and evil are not the same thing.

If you’re in Christ, then you also have an enemy.  Satan wants to bring pain into your life so that it drains your hope and eclipses the glory of God.  This is true evil, not just pain, but pain that hinders the purposes of God.

Here’s good news, though.  In Christ, nothing can stop God’s purposes for you!  No suffering or setback can derail His desire to bless you with a meaningful life that brings true joy to you through bringing glory to God.

This means that in Christ, you may have pain, but it has deep and lasting purpose.  You may have sorrow, but it need not steal your hope.

In Christ, your life matters.  You matter, and no plan for evil can ever take away God’s plan for good in your life.

In whatever season you find yourself, take courage in this truth: Jesus is your guard against all evil.

-Pastor Phillip

Jesus is your power for the purposes of God

God’s Hope for Your Heart from Colossians 1

JESUS IS YOUR POWER FOR THE PURPOSES OF GOD

Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.  For this I toil, struggling with all His energy that He powerfully works within me.  (Colossians 1:28-29)

There is no greater purpose in all of life than to bring glory to God by proclaiming Jesus through our words and our lives.

Jesus matters more than your personal growth.

Jesus matters more than your family.

Jesus matters more than your money or material things.

Jesus matters more than your individual legacy or any program to make the world a better place.

The Bible describes Him with the word “preeminent,” meaning that He is in first place above everyone and everything else.

However, in a world that tries to focus our passion and priorities on anything but Jesus, this perspective can be hard to maintain.  In a life filled with so many demands on our time, such devotion can be difficult to sustain.  In light of the fact that hell itself wants to keep you from committing all things to Jesus, such a life may seem to require more energy than you can muster.

That’s why Jesus gives you power!

When you devote yourself to the cause of Christ, God Himself will empower you to stay faithful.  When you give yourself to being His worker and witness, Jesus Himself will provide the labor and fill you with His strength!

Don’t let Satan tell you that you don’t have what it takes for Jesus to do great things through you.  If you’re in Christ, let this hopeful truth inspire you to move forward to His call: Jesus is your power for the purposes of God.

-Pastor Phillip

God has provided for your protection

God’s Hope for Your Heart from Ephesians 6

GOD HAS PROVIDED FOR YOUR PROTECTION

Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. (Ephesians 6:11)

The armor of God is your defense against the attacks of Satan.

It includes the belt of truth and the breastplate of righteousness.  It is the shoes of the gospel of peace, the shield of faith and the helmet of salvation.  It is the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.

Look, now, at those elements one more time.  Truth, righteousness, faith, salvation, the gospel of peace and the word of God.  Which of these things did you work for?  Which of them did you earn?

None.

To be sure, the armor must be applied, but never forget that God supplied it to you freely because of His love and grace.  You didn’t earn it, so you don’t have to work to keep it, simply rest and receive!

No matter what spiritual opposition comes your way, be strengthened and filled with hope by this truth: God has provided for your protection.

-Pastor Phillip

 

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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God’s weapons will make you victorious

God’s Hope for Your Heart from 2 Corinthians 10

GOD’S WEAPONS WILL MAKE YOU VICTORIOUS

For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.  (2 Corinthians 10:4)

If you feel like you’re in a fight, it’s because you are.

Trials and temptation, disease and discouragement, conflict with others and conflict within ourselves; this is the fight of life.

The Bible tells us the struggle is not against the particular circumstances that bring us down, but against our enemy Satan, the one who brings these things against us.  The physical fight is just an echo of the spiritual war going on underneath.

But in this war, we have the upper hand!

We know the strategies of the enemy and we can see when he’s moving.  We have powerful defenses against his devices: the armor of God.

Not only that, but we have been given the gift of superior firepower.  The Word of God and the power of the Holy Spirit are our perfect arsenal for this persistent warfare!  These weapons are effective, empowering, and ever-present for the children of God.

Do not let your enemy dupe you into believing that you are a helpless victim.  If you’re in Christ, you are a heavenly victor!

Whatever level of spiritual warfare you’re facing right now, be strengthened in the fight as you receive the hope of this glorious truth: God’s weapons will make you victorious!

-Pastor Phillip


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God will hold you up

God’s Hope for Your Heart from Psalm 63

GOD WILL HOLD YOU UP

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water…
My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me.  (Psalm 63:1, 8)

David writes this Psalm while in the wilderness.  He is in a barren place, a lonely place.  He’s in a place where he finds himself weary and worn out from the journey.

Have you been in that place?

Maybe it’s a season of turmoil in a relationship.  You try and try but reconciliation seems out of reach.  Maybe it’s a season of dryness in your spiritual life.  You read and pray but it feels like nothing’s happening.  Maybe it’s a season of pain in your body or your mind, and you don’t know how much longer you can stand.

You’re not alone.

In this moment, your Heavenly Father is close at hand, closer than you know.  He loves you, and wants to meet your needs in the best possible way, in the best possible timing!

Yet, it’s not His answers that will bring you the deepest peace, but God Himself.  The greatest news of all is that when you seek God’s presence not as a means to an end, but as an end in itself, you’ll find that everything else will take its proper place.

No matter your circumstance today, turn your heart towards the One who loves you more deeply than you can imagine.  As you do, you’ll find hope in this truth: God will hold you up.

-Pastor Phillip


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