Jesus wants to fill your gaps

God’s Hope for Your Heart from Matthew 5


“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” -Matthew 5:17

In this passage, as in others in the New Testament, the Old Testament Law symbolizes the requirements of God and the things we are supposed to do. The Old Testament Prophets symbolize the promises of God and the things He is going to do (both blessing and judging).

Also in this passage, the word rendered “fulfill” is the Greek word “pleroo,” which has the literal sense of filling up a hollow space or cramming full an empty net.

So, think about this…

You know those areas in your life where you’re trying to live up to God’s standards but keep failing? Jesus fills in the gaps.

You know those things you’re believing God for but haven’t seen fulfilled yet? Jesus is getting ready to fill in the gaps.

Not only that, but when Jesus steps in to fill the empty spaces in your life, He doesn’t just do it a little. He doesn’t do just enough to get by. He loves to “cram the net full” with His goodness and grace, because He loves you!

Today, may you trust Jesus to cover your sin and shame. May you let His grace give you strength to walk in His righteousness. And, as you receive these good gifts, may you be filled with hope as you believe this truth: Jesus wants to fill your gaps.

-Pastor Phillip

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God still commands the chaos

Scripture Notes on Revelation 13

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 get 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?

Yet, even in the midst of such hardship and trial, note the common thread that runs 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 it 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.

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

God still commands the chaos.

-Pastor Phillip

God wants to lift you up

Scripture Notes on Psalm 146

The Lord sets the prisoners free. The Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down. The Lord loves the righteous.  (Psalm 146:7b-8)

Everybody gets knocked down sometimes. Everybody bears a burden at some point.

The question is not, “How can I keep from going down?”  The question is, “How will I get back up again?”

Will you try to get up on your own, to deal with your problems in your own strength? Will you seek restoration through your own self-effort and hard work?

God wants something better for you!

When you find yourself in a low place, yes use wisdom to see what things God might want you to change for the better.  However, don’t look to yourself as the source of true healing; look to the cross.  Don’t look to yourself as the answer to your problems; look to Jesus.

There may be seasons where you feel down, but in Christ, you never have to stay down when you walk in the light of this truth.

God wants to lift you up.

-Pastor Phillip

Jesus is your power to overcome

Scripture Notes on 1 John 4

Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.  (1 John 4:4)

False doctrine and deceitful spirits are constantly at war against the children of God.

There is a battle raging at all times for control of your mind and power over your heart. Sometimes it may feel like nothing is coming against you at all, and other times, as if all hell is breaking loose.

Have you been there? Have you felt the discouragement and distraction, the confusion and concern, the doubt, the defensiveness, the fear?

Take heart, Jesus wants to give you victory!

No matter what spiritual forces come against you, if you’re in Christ, God has provided an even greater spiritual power within you. It is not just a set of principles, but the active presence of Jesus Christ living in you that will enable you to overcome lies with truth and despair with joy.

So, when you feel the heat rising and the battle intensifying in your life, be strengthened by this truth.

Jesus is your power to overcome.

-Pastor Phillip

God gives you strength for your battles

Scripture Notes on Psalm 144

Blessed be the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle… (Psalm 144:1)

You are in a fight.

Christian, your life is part of a cosmic struggle between light and darkness, and though Jesus has guaranteed your victory in Him, there is still much to be done in the meantime.

That’s why He wants to strengthen you here and now!

As you read His Word and receive from His Spirit in prayer, God is pouring into you all the power you need to win the battles you face. He is building you into a warrior of righteousness, and as you continue to grow in Him, you will discover more and more victories ahead.

When you feel under attack, take courage in this life-giving truth.

God gives you strength for your battles.

-Pastor Phillip

Jesus is your guard against all evil

Scripture Notes on 2 Thessalonians 3

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

Only God can truly save

Scripture Notes on Psalm 108

Oh grant us help against the foe, for vain is the salvation of man! With God we shall do valiantly; it is He who will tread down our foes. (Psalm 108:12-13)

Pride says in every situation, “I can do this. I can fix this. I alone can save the day.” Yet, how truly we see again and again the truth of what Scripture reminds us, “Pride goes before destruction…” (Proverbs 16:18)

Foolishness says to every obstacle, “We can do this! Together we can fix this. With the right people, resources and education, no matter the problem, we can save the day!”

Positive thinking is a good and powerful thing. However, a life with a human-only focus is a living example of Scripture’s reminder, “The fool says in his heart, there is no God,” (Psalm 14:1a) and we are warned that “The companion of fools will suffer harm.” (Proverbs 13:20b)

How refreshing, then, how encouraging and filled with hope is this reminder: “With God we shall do valiantly; it is He who will tread down our foes!”

There is no obstacle He cannot help you overcome, no enemy He cannot help you vanquish. There is no struggle He cannot help you endure, no sin He cannot help you defeat.

Do not look to your own abilities in the day of trouble, and do not lean only on the aid of other people. Look to Jesus, your ever-present help, and let this truth keep your eyes on the true and faithful source of your deliverance.

Only God can truly save.

-Pastor Phillip

The Vine Does Not Define You

The Vine Does Not Define You 3

The dry, withered vine hung like tentacles from the branches of the aging pine.

Once the vine had tried to seize control of the tree.  It had threatened to overtake the pine and strip it of life until only the vine remained.  Left unchecked, the vine would have grown so much that it would have obscured the tree almost entirely, hiding the beauty of what was supposed to be there behind a façade of something that didn’t belong.

But the vine was dead now.

The vine no longer threatened the life of the tree.  The vine was only an echo of a time long past, and the tree was free to grow as it was intended to.  The only reason the vine was still hanging on was because no one had yet taken the time to remove it so the beauty of the tree could shine through.

Your life is like that.

If you’re in Christ, the Bible says you are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).  It says that once sin was like that vine, toxic and spreading, sucking away your life and leading you to destruction (Romans 6:23), but not anymore!

If you’re in Christ, the Bible says old things have passed away and all things have become new, and that means no matter what patterns of sin used to define you, they don’t have to anymore.  Whatever patterns of dysfunction used to command you, they don’t have to anymore.  Whatever habits or addictions or compulsions used to control you, they don’t have to anymore!

Jesus makes all things new, and that means you can be free of those things that used to hold you back as you trust and obey the One who is calling you forward.

Cast aside those old remnants of sin and shame!  Throw off those leftover patterns of thought and behavior that don’t line up with who God made you to be!

In Christ, you have a new life now, and the vine does not define you anymore.

-Pastor Phillip


Sometimes God’s Love Has to Take You Apart

“Why won’t this stupid thing work???”

I had been so blessed when my friends gave me their old Playstation 3 video game console, even though the disc drive didn’t work.  I’d heard that replacement parts were available online for cheap, and I’ve been known to do a bit of fix-up work on electronics before.

Maybe this time I could actually make it work!

Sometimes God's Love Has to Take You Apart

I ordered the replacements.  A neighbor and I disassembled the machine and removed the old parts.  The new ones arrived a few days later and I installed them with great anticipation.

I re-fastened the dark translucent plastic cover and plugged in the thick black power cord.  One switch, then the press of a button and viola!  At least I hadn’t broken the whole thing.

Then I put the disc in the drive.

Gears and springs and servos whirred and clicked, stirring my hopes of success.  A small green activity light flashed on the device, the progress icon on the television spun…and then froze.  No DVD screen popped up.  No amount of button-pushing made any difference on the menus.

There I sat, cross legged and nearly cross-eyed with frustration on the light gray carpet of my living room floor, pushing the eject button again and again… to no avail.

There was no denying it.  The disc was stuck.

Have you ever felt your life was like that?

Maybe you saw areas that needed to be different and you made big changes, only to discover things were still broken after your attempted repairs.  Maybe you took things apart yourself, only to put them together again with no improvement.

Maybe you waited and waited, tried again and again but no matter how many times you pushed the buttons, you didn’t get the results you so desperately wanted.

There was no denying it.  You were stuck.

For my Playstation 3, I knew only one thing to do — take it apart again.  I pulled the plug, pulled the screws, and piece-by-piece removed the barriers to the goal until at last the disc was free.

I fiddled a bit, jiggled a few pieces, put it all back together and prayed as I tried one more time…

And it worked.

It’s easy to give up on hope when we’re hurting.  It’s easy to give up on God when it seems He’s allowing our life to fall to pieces again when we’ve tried so hard to put things back together.

Here’s the thing: only He knows how to fix the problem.

A good doctor knows that sometimes you have to re-break an improperly set bone so it can heal correctly.  A good mechanic knows that sometimes you have to strip an engine down to rebuild it well enough for another go.  And even a terrible electronics repairman like me knows that sometimes the best thing to do for a machine is just to take it apart and put it back together again.

So it is with us.

Sometimes we may feel like God is angry with us because He’s allowing circumstances into our lives that hurt more deeply than we think we can stand.  We may feel He is punishing us for some failure by breaking into pieces those things we tried to rebuild.

But maybe the breaking isn’t a sign of His anger, but of His love.

As you look at the broken places in your life, may you not despair and believe that hope is lost.  May you know instead that if you’re a follower of Jesus, every season of being taken apart is done with this goal in mind…

To put you back together again in Christ.

-Pastor Phillip

My God Will Fight for Me

Ever feel like you’re in a fight you can’t win?

“Oh grant us help against the foe, for vain is the salvation of man!
With God we shall do valiantly; it is He who will tread down our foes.”

– Psalm 108:12-13 

I don’t know about you, but I’m amazed at how instinctively I run to my strategies and backup plans in the day of trouble, rather than go first to my Savior.  I am so quick to jump behind the wheel and try to steer myself to safety, yet I have been given a promise FAR greater than any plan I could conceive.

My God will fight for me.

You and I have a spiritual enemy who desires to destroy us, but for those who’ve trusted Christ for salvation, we have a heavenly Father who has promised to preserve us!  No matter how great the struggle, “With God we shall do valiantly [because] it is He who will tread down our foes.”

That’s good news!  I’m trusting Him today.  How about you?