Is it Really Love?

“Love does no wrong to a neighbor. Love, therefore, is the fulfillment of the law.” (Romans 13:10)

Love is a word our culture loves to throw around without definition. We use it in a way that seems to say the essence of love is “always be nice to me and never tell me anything that I don’t want to hear.”

This is why any talk of sin and conviction and repentance is often instantly branded by some as “unloving” and immediately shut down. But is it? If “love does no wrong to a neighbor,” we must know and think clearly about what “wrong” really is.

Is it wrong to not warn a friend about to drink that the milk has already gone bad? Is it wrong to let a teenager drive the freeway without ever learning how? Is it wrong to let a small child play with a firearm?

Is it wrong to let an alcoholic have “just one more” when you know what it will do to them, and what they will do to their family after that? Is it wrong to do nothing about the sexual harassment of a coworker, when you know the pain it is causing them and the problems it is creating for the whole company?

Is it wrong to say nothing while a friend pursues an affair, when you know what it will do to their spouse and their children not just now, but forever? Is it wrong to embrace and condone lifestyles and patterns of behavior that you know are not only unbiblical, but also scientifically proven to lead to problems, pain, and ruin?

Love does no wrong to a neighbor. Therefore, if your goal is simply to never offend, annoy, or cause pain, even at the cost of your neighbor’s well-being, perhaps by being “nice” you’re not really loving them at all.

God’s justice is a pathway to His mercy

God's Hope for Your Heart Header

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

More than Mary

As [Jesus] was saying these things, a woman from the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, “The womb that bore you and the one who nursed you are blessed!”  He said, “Even more, those who hear the word of God and keep it are blessed.”  (Luke 11:27-28)

Some traditions venerate Mary, the mother of Jesus.  They speak of the favor she had with God, the righteousness she had before God, and the blessing she received from God.

Yet, Jesus says that if you follow Him faithfully, hearing His words and obeying His commands, something incredible can be said of you.

You are more blessed than Mary.

–Pastor Phillip

Preconception and Revelation (Luke 9:43b-45)

While everyone was amazed at all the things He was doing, He told His disciples, “Let these words sink in: The Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men.”  But they did not understand this statement; it was concealed from them so that they could not grasp it, and they were afraid to ask Him about it.  (Luke 9:43b-45)

Jesus makes it clear that He wants the disciples to understand what He is saying, but the plain truth is too far outside their expectations to sink in.

Sometimes God may have something to say, but we are too focused on our own ideas to see and hear it.

All too often, only by removing our preconception can we receive God’s revelation.

–Pastor Phillip

God’s character is the sign of God’s wisdom

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.  (James 3:17)

Many people claim to be wise.  They have education and degrees, experience and lots of time invested in the field.  They may even have some good ideas.

But good ideas are not the same as wisdom.

True wisdom is not held by the clever or creative, but by those who reflect the character of God.  Input of true value comes not just from people who are experts in their field, but from those who have experienced the transforming presence of Jesus.

This can be great news for you!

Do you wish you had more wisdom but feel you don’t have the ability?  You do!  Ask God and access His Word, and it’s yours.

Do you feel you don’t often have a lot to contribute?  You can!  Cultivate the character of Jesus, and watch as He blesses the words of your mouth as a reflection of this truth.

God’s character is the sign of God’s wisdom.

–Pastor Phillip

God is your eternal security

God’s Hope for Your Heart from Psalm 49

GOD IS YOUR ETERNAL SECURITY

Be not afraid when a man becomes rich, when the glory of his house increases.  For when he dies he will carry nothing away; his glory will not go down after him.  (Psalm 49:16-17)

Have you ever been bothered by someone else’s success?  Have you ever seen someone do well that you felt didn’t really deserve it?  These aren’t the sort of feelings we like to admit to, but most of us have had them towards someone at one time or another.

It’s that less-than-honest salesperson who got an extra bonus.

It’s that inconsiderate boss who got a big promotion.

It’s that backstabbing friend who seems to have a great life in spite of their lack of integrity.

Have you felt it?

Sometimes when we see others succeed in areas we wish we did, it can be incredibly discouraging because it seems so unfair.  Sometimes we might feel afraid that they’ve taken “the good portion” and left little for the rest of us.  Sometimes we may worry that they’ve used up all the resources, and so we find ourselves feeling insecure.

But it’s only for a moment.

You see, over and over again in Scripture, God promises that whatever happens in this life, it’s nothing compared to eternity.  There may be frustrations here when we see the unrighteous rewarded and the faithful neglected, but it’s only a matter of time before the tables are turned.

That’s not to say that you should wish bad things for your neighbor, but rather that you don’t have to be afraid that your future is on the line because of their actions.

If you’re part of God’s family, it doesn’t matter what the people around you do or don’t do, He’s got you covered.  If you’re a citizen of God’s Kingdom, it doesn’t matter whether the nations around you rise or fall, because your destiny is certain.

Dwell on these things today, no matter what is going on with the world around you.  As you do, you’ll be filled with hope from this glorious truth: God is your eternal security.

-Pastor Phillip


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God will reveal your righteousness

God’s Hope for Your Heart from Acts 24

GOD WILL REVEAL YOUR RIGHTEOUSNESS

“So I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man.”  (Acts 24:16)

Paul was being falsely accused… Again.

Just like Jesus, he was on trial for going against the establishment and upsetting the religious leaders of his day.  Just like Jesus, he would eventually be executed by Rome, but not because he was guilty.  No, Rome would act according to what was best for them politically.  However, even so, Paul’s judges came to a definite conclusion about him based on his life.

Just like Jesus, they declared him innocent.

The world is not always a place of justice and truth.  There may be times when forces and purposes far larger than you may be at work in your life.  That’s why it’s such good news to know that this world is not all there is!

This world does not have the last word, Jesus does.

This world may be able to manipulate your life temporarily, but if you’re in Christ, it cannot break your legacy and it cannot halt your destiny.

God is watching over you and is so pleased when you stand firm in the midst of adversity.  Not only that, but the world is watching you, too, and will be impacted as you persist in integrity.

Hold fast today.  Stay strong.  Keep your eyes on Jesus and your life in line with His Word, and be assured that God will protect your legacy and reward your tenacity.

As you stand firm and do what’s right, no matter the cost, remember God is watching over you, to give you the hope of this truth: God will reveal your righteousness.

-Pastor Phillip


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Eternal perspective can set you free right now

God’s Hope for Your Heart from Psalm 39

ETERNAL PERSPECTIVE CAN SET YOU FREE RIGHT NOW

I was mute and silent; I held my peace to no avail, and my distress grew worse.
My heart became hot within me.  As I mused, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue:
“O LORD, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!”
(Psalm 39:2-4)

Sometimes we try so hard to be at peace with situations, but it just doesn’t work.  We try to have a good attitude, a right heart, but the more we try to respond rightly, the more frustrated we become.

Have you ever been there?

David finds himself trying so hard not to let the people and problems around him produce distress within him, and it’s just not working.  So, what does he ask for when he goes to God for help?

Perspective.

Ask anyone who has survived a terrible accident or been diagnosed with a terminal illness and they will tell you the same thing.  They will tell you that when you really grasp the truth of your own mortality, when you really know how fragile and fleeting your life is, it changes how you see the world.  When seen in the light of eternity, petty disagreements don’t seem to matter as much, and even major differences turn out to be not quite as earth-shattering as you thought.

That’s why David asks to be reminded of just how short his time is, so that his heart will have the proper perspective to use that time well.

May you be blessed today with that same reminder, because when you take it to heart, it will bring hope because of this truth: eternal perspective can set you free right now.

-Pastor Phillip


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Jesus is your voice of life

God’s Hope for Your Heart from John 10

JESUS IS YOUR VOICE OF LIFE

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.  I came that they might have life and have it abundantly.”  (John 10:10)

There is no “silver lining” to sin.  Yes, God works all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose, but that is completely based on grace and not at all on any redeeming value of the sin itself.

But your enemy likes to tell you otherwise.

“It’s not that bad,” says the thief, but he is only luring you in for the kill.  “Nobody has to know,” says the thief, and that’s exactly where he wants you: in the dark of secrecy where no one will hear you scream.  The thief wants only one thing for you: destruction.

Then there is the Shepherd.

“It’s so much better than this,” says the Shepherd, longing for you to come out of the alleyway into the sun.  “You don’t have to live like that,” says the Shepherd, holding out your ticket to greater joy and peace.  The Shepherd wants only one thing for you, too: abundant, glorious life.

Whose voice will you trust and follow today?

As you make decisions about the way you live your life, may you refuse to give in to the shouts of the thief, and choose instead to listen to the whispers of the Shepherd.  As you do, you’ll find hope in the results of this truth: Jesus is your voice of life.

-Pastor Phillip


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THE Truth will set you free indeed

God’s Hope for Your Heart from John 8

THE TRUTH WILL SET YOU FREE INDEED

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed Him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  (John 8:31-32)

In this passage, Jesus speaks to people who “believe” Him, but by the end of the conversation they are ready to stone Him to death.  It’s not that what He said changed their minds, but that His words revealed the truth of what they really believed all along.

Many people may “believe” in Jesus, but ignore His word.  Some may even say they have “accepted Him as Savior” but their life demonstrates they haven’t surrendered to Him as Lord.  Others may follow Jesus, but only as an add-on to other spiritual practices, revealing that to them He isn’t THE Truth, simply A truth to be included with all the others.

But Jesus doesn’t work like that.

If you want to really know the Truth, Jesus says the way to do that is to abide in His word.  To “abide” simply means to remain, to stay.  So, if you want to have eternal life and freedom, you’ll find it by believing and remaining in Christ.

Here’s the thing.  It’s not about trying hard not to slip up out of fear of being kicked out.  To abide is simply to continue to let Jesus be the center of your life, and for those who have been truly transformed by Him, that kind of lifestyle is simply the overflow of love.

That’s good news, because it means that true freedom isn’t about how hard you work for God, but how deeply you trust His Son.

May you respond to God’s love today, and abide in the words and ways of Christ, because as you do, you’ll discover the hope that comes from living in this truth: THE Truth will set you free indeed.

-Pastor Phillip


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