God will keep His people from true harm

God's Hope for Your Heart Header

Then from the smoke came locusts on the earth, and they were given power like the power of scorpions of the earth.  They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any green plant or any tree, but only those people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads.  (Revelation 9:3-4)

As the world receives an end-times judgment of demonic attack, God gives the order that the only ones who may be harmed are those who are not His children.  So, what happens to those who are His children?

They are protected from the judgment.

Times and seasons of pain are inevitable for all of us, saints and sinners alike.  However, there is a crucial difference between the two.  For sinners, those who haven’t come to Jesus for salvation and forgiveness, their pain is harmful, serving as punishment for their sins in the end.  Yes, often God allows pain to wake us up to our need for salvation, but for those who don’t respond, pain in this life is a reminder that all that awaits them is eternal harm.

Believers, on the other hand, have a much different lot.  Pain in this life is our Refiner’s fire, cleansing and purifying us and drawing us closer to Him.  Not only that, but because a heavenly eternity with Jesus awaits us, we can have hope because we know it will get better.

How can we know this?  Because again and again in Scripture, we see this truth.

God will keep His people from true harm.

–Pastor Phillip

God allows pain because you are precious to Him

Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.  Behold, I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him and he with me.  (Revelation 3:19-20)

Christian, do you ever wonder why God allows hard things to come into your life?  Do you ever feel like you’re getting knocked around and you can’t figure out what’s behind it?

Maybe it’s Jesus, knocking on your heart to get your attention.

Don’t miss the obvious truth of this passage, “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline.”  If God never allows any pain into your life, either you are sinlessly perfect in all your actions and attitudes, or God doesn’t really love you at all.

Yet, don’t miss the incredible encouragement here, either.

When God disciplines us, it is never because He wants to push us away, but because He wants to draw us closer!

His correction is not condemnation.  It is an invitation to greater intimacy with Him!

This is why the Psalmist David can exult, “Let the bones that you have broken rejoice” (Psalm 51:8), because every hurt is another chance to be touched by the hand of the Healer.

Don’t run from or fear the hand of God’s discipline.  Embrace it, and as you do, let this truth fill your heart with hope.

God allows pain because you are precious to Him.

–Pastor Phillip

Thoughts in the wake of a tragedy

They say it is the worst mass killing on U.S. soil, and it happened today.

Fifty people dead, and 53 more wounded, they say.

All across social media, people have one resounding question: WHY?

Some say religion is to blame, while others say things like “intolerance” and “hate.”  Some say the fault belongs to gun laws in our country (or the lack thereof) while some blame law enforcement for not acting on prior concerns about the killer.  Still others will claim this tragedy is “God’s judgment” on our nation, or even on a particular group of people.

May I suggest an answer that is far deeper, yet far simpler than any of these?

There is a violence that springs out of a sense of self-preservation, but this was not that kind of violence.

There is a violence that is birthed by a desire to protect people we love or things we care about, but this was not that kind of violence.

The kind of violence that causes a man to take multiple weapons into a crowded nightclub and open fire has its root in one simple thing: the devaluing of another human being, and there is one key belief that causes this behavior.

Self-righteousness.

I believe the reason fifty precious lives were extinguished is because one man felt he was above them in some way, which to him justified his heinous actions.  He thought he was better than them, therefore their lives were less important than his, and worth taking.

You see, when a person believes themselves to be morally superior to another, it’s only a matter of time before they stop seeing the other as a person at all.  They are something different, something less, some thing that has a name and a category, but isn’t the same as them.

This is when the broad brushes come out, and the self-righteous person stops seeing certain people as fellow human beings and instead sees “gays,” “Christians,” “Muslims,” “conservatives,” “liberals,” “fundamentalists,” “white people,” “black people,” “rich people,” “people on welfare,” and the list goes on and on.

And we all do it.

Maybe you’re feeling that way right now towards the killer, thinking of him as an “extremist,” or a “terrorist,” or a “fanatic.”  Maybe these labels apply, but here’s the deeper truth: he was a person, too.

I’m not saying he deserves pity, or that his actions were in any way right or justifiable.  I’m saying that for all of us, we would be wise to use caution as we ponder this incident, because if we’re not careful, our broad-brush statements about the kind of people who do this sort of thing have the potential to put us in the same boat as him, not as murderers with our hands, but as murderers in our hearts.

This is why the Gospel of Jesus is so powerful, because at its core is the truth that nothing you or I can ever do will make us better than anyone else.  No amount of rule-keeping or moral behavior can earn us the right to be called righteous; only Jesus can do that.  The best we can do is receive a gift we didn’t earn, and remember that all of us are broken and in need of grace.  Embracing this reality sets us free from the need to place ourselves on a pedestal for our performance, and releases us to truly love others as full equals in the human race, regardless of who they are or what they believe or what they’ve done.

Every human life is precious, valuable, and worthy of respect and dignity.  When you realize that you’re no better than anyone else, then whether you agree with their beliefs and behaviors or can’t stand anything they stand for, you can still choose to see them for what they are: a person just like you.

So, if you’re a praying person, pray for Orlando.  Pray for the victims and their families.  Pray for the people of the surrounding communities, and for the law enforcement and medical personnel who will continue to sort through the pieces in the days and weeks to come.  Pray for the killer’s family as they bear the shame and guilt for the actions of this man.

And pray for yourself, as well.

–Pastor Phillip

Jesus shares His glory with the faithful

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.  But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed.  (1 Peter 4:12-13)

Trials are tests of our faithfulness.  They are a mechanism by which God gives us the chance to overcome earthly struggles to gain heavenly rewards.

This is the same road Jesus endured.  He was loved and cherished by the Father, yet was given a path to walk that was full of struggle.  But, it was that very struggle that qualified Him for the fullness of glory on the other side. (See Hebrews 5:7-10, 12:2)

Now Jesus offers the same to you, an opportunity to join Him in suffering so that you may also join Him in receiving glorious rewards.

This is not about salvation or eternal destiny.  That question was settled once and for all at the cross and made available by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.  This is about blessing and glory and the hope of reward for all who are faithful in following Christ.

Are you hurting because of your stand for Jesus?  Are you struggling because of your commitment to God?  Are you being persecuted because you choose to walk with Christ rather than follow the world?

Take heart!  Hang in there!  Stand strong, and as you walk in faithfulness, take courage in this hope-inspiring truth.

Jesus shares His glory with the faithful.

–Pastor Phillip

God’s blessing goes beyond your suffering

But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed.  Have no fear of them, nor be troubled… (1 Peter 3:14)

The reality of suffering is one that many people don’t like to deal with.  Even many Christians, uncomfortable trying to reconcile God’s love with His allowance of pain, gloss over the harsh truth that pain comes to all people, in all places, no matter what kind of relationship they have with God.

Think about it…

Jesus was crucified.  The Apostle Peter was crucified upside-down.  The Apostle Paul was beheaded, and the Apostle John boiled alive in oil and then exiled when he didn’t die.

Throughout history and even to this day in countries across the world, countless millions have been and still are persecuted for their faith in Jesus, yet they continue to trust and praise Him through it all.  Why?

Because Jesus Himself is the greatest blessing of all.

The mighty presence of the risen Savior is a far greater gift than any change in circumstances could ever be.  The lavish hope of glory awaiting believers is a far greater pleasure than any removal of pain.  This is why generations of Christians have endured pain and suffering with smiles on their faces and joy in their hearts and praise on their lips.

Will you be one of them?

In the midst of whatever trial you’re facing, let the presence of Jesus bring you hope as you remember this powerful truth.

God’s blessing goes beyond your suffering.

–Pastor Phillip

Jesus will surely hold you up

[Jesus] is the radiance of the glory of God, and the exact imprint of His nature, and He upholds the universe by the word of His power.  (Hebrews 1:3a)

From starfish to stars, goldfish to galaxies, Jesus holds the universe together.  He is both Creator and sustainer of all things, and nothing slips by His notice or through His fingers.

Do you think He can handle your problems?

Make no mistake, Jesus did say those who follow Him would face hardship in this life, but He also promised you would never have to go it alone!

Right now, this moment, Jesus sees and knows and cares about your situation.  Not only that, but He is willing and able to sustain you through ’till the end.

Whatever you’re facing today, be encouraged by this truth: Jesus will surely hold you up.

–Pastor Phillip

Jesus is your sovereign peace

God’s Hope for Your Heart from Colossians 3

JESUS IS YOUR SOVEREIGN PEACE

And let the peace of Christ rule in your heart, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.  (Colossians 3:15)

You never saw it coming.

It’s that phone call you never thought you’d receive, that news you never imagined you’d hear.  It’s that conversation you didn’t expect to have, that tragedy you thought could never happen to you.

But it did.

In times of shock and sorrow, it’s all too easy to surrender to the pain.  Despair creeps in, and fear rises up to take control of your heart.

But that is not what God wants for His children!

In Christ, God has promised that no matter what chaos goes on around you, you can experience His peace within you.  He has promised to never leave nor forsake you, so when darkness threatens to take control, you have a choice.

You can let fear rule your heart, or let faith take its place.  You can surrender to despair and let it drown you in sorrow, or surrender to Jesus and let Him lift you in His strength.

When tragedy strikes and you’re feeling overwhelmed, take heart.  Remember that God is still in control, He is still good, and He still loves you.  Fix your eyes on Jesus and let this truth give you power to press on.

Jesus is your sovereign peace.

-Pastor Phillip

God’s peace is greater than your problems

God’s Hope for Your Heart from Philippians 4

GOD’S PEACE IS GREATER THAN YOUR PROBLEMS

The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  (Philippians 4:5b-7)

“The Lord is at hand.”  Think on that for a moment.

God is not far from you; He is near.  He is not distant; He is close.  He is not disinterested; He is involved in the details of your life.

Now think about your problems.  The money isn’t there, or the sickness is.  The relationship is collapsing, or the growth barrier isn’t.  You have too much of one thing or not enough of another.

Your problems can seem so big when you are right up against them, so that is precisely the time God wants you to draw near to Him!

Praising Him and pleading for answers, bringing requests for Him to move and giving thanks for what He’s already done — these are ways we draw close to God.

The result, then, is this.

No matter how anxious your heart or how awful your situation, God has a promise for you.  Draw near to Him with a humble, prayerful heart, and you will discover the hope of this powerful truth: God’s peace is greater than your problems.

-Pastor Phillip

In Christ, your pain has a purpose

God’s Hope for Your Heart from Galatians 4

IN CHRIST, YOUR PAIN HAS A PURPOSE

You know it was because of a bodily ailment that I preached the gospel to you at first, and though my condition was a trial to you, you did not scorn or despise me, but received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus.  (Galatians 4:13-14)

Paul was not well in Galatia.

Certainly he must have prayed for healing, but the healing didn’t come right away.  Surely he must have tried to rest and recover quickly, but the recovery was not immediate.

Did Jesus fail His servant?  Did Paul–this mighty man of God who healed countless others–simply not have enough faith for his own healing?

This same Paul would later be bitten by a poisonous snake but not be harmed.  He would even raise a young man from the dead, yet whatever sickness or ailment he had in Galatia, it was so bad that he had to cancel his travel plans.

Was he just having an off day, or did God have a far greater blessing in store for His beloved child?

Read again what Paul writes to the churches in the province of Galatia.  “It was because of a bodily ailment that I preached the gospel to you first.”  Not in spite of, because.

Paul realized something that we sometimes miss.  Sometimes God has a greater gift for you than the immediate answer to your prayer.  Think of how many hundreds, if not thousands of people were saved because of Paul’s ailment.  Think of how many blessings were released to them, and how many heavenly rewards were gained by him because of his unexpected time of recovery.

When you’re hurting in the midst of a trial and you can’t figure out why God doesn’t move to answer you right away, take heart!  God is working out a deeper blessing for you; you just need eyes to see it.

Keep praying and believing God for your deliverance and healing, and as you wait for His perfect timing, may you be encouraged by this hope-filled truth: in Christ, your pain has a purpose.

-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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