Serving and Sitting (Luke 10:38-42)

While they were traveling, [Jesus] entered a village, and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home.  She had a sister named Mary, who also sat at the Lord’s feet and was listening to what He said.  But Martha was distracted by her many tasks, and she came up and asked, “Lord, don’t You care that my sister has left me to serve alone?  So tell her to give me a hand.”
The Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but one thing is necessary.  Mary has made the right choice, and it will not be taken away from her.”  (Luke 10:38-42)

Working for God without spending time with God is a fast-track to frustration.  Taking time to listen and learn from Jesus is a pathway to peace.

Often we may seek to work for the Kingdom because it produces the immediate gratification of a job well done.  This is not a bad thing, but separated from quality time simply listening to the King, it’s not the best thing.

Don’t just work for Jesus, walk with Him, and in doing so you’ll not only be able to learn; you’ll also be showing your love.

–Pastor Phillip

Two Perspectives on Pull-ups in the Pool [An Encouraging Word]

The clock was ticking, and we weren’t getting anything done.

My son Bradley loves the pool, and this particular morning I had agreed to join him in “training” together, practicing laps to help us both prepare for the triathlon he wants to do with me in the fall.

Pull-ups in the PoolThere, in tepid waters of our little neighborhood pool, I started out by explaining the difference between “lengths” and “laps,” and we started swimming… but not for long.

Instead of doing significant training, we explored new ways to splash each other, played make-believe for a little while, and yes, got in a bit of exercise, though not as much as I would have liked.

Then, as our alotted time was almost up (I had to get to work), Bradley decided he wanted to get a little more exercise, not by swimming, but by doing pull-ups… in the water on the side of the pool.

Pull-ups in the pool.

To be honest, I didn’t quite know what to say. I’d already been a little annoyed at having done very little actual training, and while I’m all about encouraging physical fitness in creative ways, I was pretty sure doing pull-ups in the pool wasn’t actually doing anything!

Or was it?

Maybe the greater purpose of that morning before work wasn’t helping my son strengthen his body, but helping the two of us strengthen our relationship. Maybe the real value in those moments wasn’t found in the exercise, but simply the experience of us being together and him feeling like his ideas had value and worth.

Maybe I needed to adjust my priorities.

Another thought occurred to me in the water that morning. This one not about relationships, but effectiveness.

I wondered, what are the “pull-ups in the pool” that I’m doing right now in other areas of my life? What activities am I doing that keep me preoccupied, but don’t produce much progress? What things are giving me a busy schedule, but aren’t helping me build success?

Maybe I need to adjust my work habits.

How about you?

You see, when our relationships become all about productivity and progress, we can lose sight of the bigger picture. We need to remember that “pull-ups in the pool” are okay, because what matters most isn’t accomplishing goals, but cultivating hearts.

On the other side of the equation, when our work becomes more about routine than results, we’re out of balance there, too. We need to remember that “pull-ups in the pool” must be avoided at all costs, because life is too short to spend it doing things that don’t really make a difference.

Wherever you are right now, relationally or professionally, here’s my encouragement to you today.

Ask God for the clarity to evaluate your priorities and activities, and the courage to make the changes that lead to the result He wants for you: a flourishing life.

–Pastor Phillip

Running Again

Running Again

(Or, “How the Worst Itch Ever Reminded me of the Best Fix of All”)

The itch was so bad I could barely stand it.

There I was, surrounded by the beauty of a fresh sunrise, sidewalk-jogging past a serene waterway and a meticulously trimmed golf course, and all I could think of was the fire under my skin.

It was my first time running in a while, and based on past experience, I knew exactly what this was: my blood vessels overheating because they simply weren’t used to that kind of throughput. The sensory result? Itch, itch, itch, itch, itch.

What made it worse was the fact that I knew a surefire solution that could stop the discomfort. I knew there was one simple action I could take that would completely stop the agony and return me to sanity: quit.

If I just stopped running, gave up on the whole thing and returned to a leisurely pace, the itching in my legs would go away.

Have you ever been there? Maybe not with jogging or physical activity, but have you ever been in a spot where you were in so much discomfort, so much pain even, that it seemed like quitting was your only option to make it go away?

The whole thing reminds me of a passage from a letter written by the Apostle Paul to a group of Christians in the city of Galatia. He knew that following Jesus in their day –as in ours– definitely brought with it an element of discomfort. Yet, this seasoned saint also knew that when it comes to our walk with Christ, the prize is always worth the pain. Look at what he reminded them…

“So we must not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up.  (Galatians 6:9)

There it is, a simple reminder with staggeringly powerful implications: don’t give up.

When the discomfort threatens to derail you, don’t give up.

When the struggle feels like it will sink you, don’t give up.

When the pain eclipses your perspective, forget about what you feel, and simply remember to DO this: Don’t. Give. Up.

It may seem like quitting is the only option to deal with the pain, but that would mean ditching the prize. It may feel like stopping is the only way to survive, but failing to finish would mean relinquishing the reward.

You see, in that itch-filled moment on the jogging trail, I knew that quitting might fix the discomfort, but I would have surrendered the satisfaction of a job well done. I also knew that if I kept at it, not only would the itch eventually fade away, but in its place would be the power of better blood flow and the pride of an accomplishment, a much better “fix” indeed.

So, what did I do that day? I kept going until I hit my goal.

Where do YOU need to keep going today?

Maybe you have a relationship that’s seen better days, but don’t give up.

Maybe there’s a workplace conflict you can’t seem to resolve, but don’t give up.

Maybe it’s a habit or sin or addiction that feels impossible to break, but whatever it is: Don’t. Give. Up!

If you’ll keep on pressing forward, I can’t promise your circumstance will improve right away, but I can guarantee you’ll receive a breakthrough in the one place that matters most…

Your heart.

–Pastor Phillip

Jesus wants to set you free from works

So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from His.  (Hebrews 4:9-10)

Did God get tired and need a break after His work of creation?  Of course not.  He rested to set an example for us.

We know that we need physical rest after physical work, yet all-too-often we fail to receive the spiritual rest God desires for us.  We run around doing good deeds or feel guilty for not spending more time in prayer, all the while hoping we’ll do enough to please the Father.

But if you’re in Christ, God is already pleased with you!

If you’re striving and straining to earn God’s favor, relax, Jesus took care of that for you!  If you’re working and struggling trying to make God happy with you, relax, Jesus took care of that for you!

Today, let God’s love for you in Christ give rest to your soul and freedom to your mind, and let your heart be encouraged by this truth: Jesus wants to set you free from works.

–Pastor Phillip

Let’s Go (Luke 2:15)

When the angels had left them and returned to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go straight to Bethlehem and see what has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”  (Luke 2:15)

God gave a word of hope to these outcasts, these unwanted, low-society shepherds.  He gave them an announcement of better things, of blessing, of new possibility.  Notice, now, what the shepherds did NOT do…

They didn’t play the victim and say it was about time something good happened to them.

They didn’t show themselves to be lazy and dependent and ask someone else to bring the Messiah to them.

They didn’t make excuses or give reasons why they couldn’t get up and take hold of the promise.

Instead, they said, “Let’s go” … And they did.

–Pastor Phillip

Opposition is a gateway to God’s power in your life

God’s Hope for Your Heart from 1 Corinthians 16

OPPOSITION IS A GATEWAY TO GOD’S POWER IN YOUR LIFE

But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.  (1 Corinthians 16:8-9)

Opportunities and opposition often go hand in hand.  When a door is opened to do great things for the Kingdom, the enemy takes notice and sends a counterattack.

Yet, it is in precisely those times that the power of God has the most opportunity to shine!

Anyone can move forward if there is no challenge.  Anyone can do things that require only natural effort.

However, only the children of God can truly have victory against great opposition.  Only God’s people can walk in supernatural strength against impossible odds.

Are you discovering there are adversaries arrayed against you as you work to build the Kingdom?  Rejoice!  God is opening a door for you to receive greater power to overcome.

Are you encountering difficulties as you seek to follow Christ?  Rejoice!  He is making a way for you that will stretch you past your natural capacity and open you up to His supernatural strength.

When you find yourself weary in the midst of the battle, press on and take heart in the hope of this truth: opposition is a gateway to God’s power in your life.

-Pastor Phillip


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In the Kingdom, your labor is never in vain

God’s Hope for Your Heart from 1 Corinthians 15

IN THE KINGDOM, YOUR LABOR IS NEVER IN VAIN

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.  (1 Corinthians 15:57-58)

Do you ever get tired of sharing God’s love with others, or doing the things Jesus has called you to?  Do you ever grow weary in serving the church or doing the work of the ministry?  If you’ve ever been in that place, here’s some good news…

Your labor is not in vain, because God gives you the victory.

Your labor is not in vain, because Jesus is the guarantee of your success.

Your labor is not in vain, because nothing matters more than the Kingdom of God, and no other enterprise is closer to His heart.

Your labor is not about growing an organization, it’s about building a Kingdom.  It’s not about keeping rules, it’s about resting in relationship with Jesus and sharing that love out of the overflow.

Be encouraged, because if you’re in Christ, you are already victorious!  This means that you can rest in the hope of this simple truth: in the Kingdom, your labor is never in vain.

-Pastor Phillip


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God will take care of the end result

God’s Hope for Your Heart from 1 Corinthians 3

GOD WILL TAKE CARE OF THE END RESULT

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.  (1 Corinthians 3:6)

We live in a fast-paced, results-oriented world that prizes achievement above most everything else.  So, we go go go, push push push, trying to get ahead and get the results we need.

But the Kingdom is not like that.

In the Kingdom, we all have our own parts to play.  Some plant, some water.  Perhaps one could say some fertilize and others help with pest control.  However you see the analogy, though, one thing is sure.

God, not us, ultimately makes it grow.

This is great news because it takes away the pressure of the end product!  You’re not in charge of the final outcome, God is.  You’re not on the hook for the ultimate goal, God is.  Your responsibility is simply to do your best to serve with excellence in whatever way He’s called you, and leave the results to Him.

So, relax.  You can be free to serve with joy and peace because of the hope of this truth: God will take care of the end result.

-Pastor Phillip


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God gave you a greater calling

God’s Hope for Your Heart from Romans 1

GOD GAVE YOU A GREATER CALLING

Paul, a bondservant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the Gospel of God. (Romans 1:1)

The issue of calling is one we deal with throughout our life.  As we grow up, we try to find our calling, that thing that will be our specific niche in the world.  We’re searching for that thing we were born to do, the person we were born to be.

As we age, sometimes we look back and wonder if we fulfilled our calling well, or maybe we wonder if we missed it completely.  We’re wondering if we did what we were really supposed to do.

Paul had no question as to what his calling was.  It was this that brought power, focus, and clarity to his life.  Paul had been well-educated, but academics were not his calling.  He was a skilled tradesman who made fine tents, but his job was not his calling.  No, Paul’s calling was to be a servant of Jesus and an apostle of the Good News about Christ.

Simply put, Paul was sent by Jesus to serve.

Everywhere he went, with everyone he spoke, Paul had a mission to share and to serve by telling them about Jesus.  His training was secondary because Jesus called him.  His gifting was secondary because Jesus called him.

And, if you’re in Christ, Jesus has called you to share and serve, too.

Your purpose in life is not defined by other people or by any earthly pursuit, but by something higher.  More than your job, more than even your family, Jesus has sent you to share the good news wherever you go, and this is your greatest calling!

That means when the things and people of this world inevitably let you down, you can still have hope as you remember this truth: God gave you a greater calling.

-Pastor Phillip


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The Holy Spirit works through rest

God’s Hope for Your Heart from Acts 2

THE HOLY SPIRIT WORKS THROUGH REST

And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.  (Acts 2:3-4)

It is interesting how when the Holy Spirit first comes in power upon the followers of Jesus, He doesn’t overpower them.  He comes and rests on them.

In the midst of a crowded scene where the Spirit’s power is being manifested, Peter is able to calmly and rationally stand up and deliver an address to the crowd.  He’s not writhing on the ground or foaming at the mouth, but he’s not being left out, either.  He’s able to operate with both his spirit and his mind because the Holy Spirit is not there to overwhelm with power, but to overflow with peace.

To operate in the Spirit isn’t about having your mind overtaken by an alien force all of the time.  It’s about letting your heart be overjoyed by His presence, and letting that presence overflow into the world around you.

This is good news, because it means that true spiritual power isn’t measured by the ecstatic experiences of a moment, but by the enduring results of a godly life, and those results are available to any and everyone who will put their faith in Jesus and receive the Holy Spirit in their heart.

As you go about your everyday business, may you pay attention to how the Spirit works in your life.  And, may you learn to trust and surrender to Him without fear, because as you do, you’ll discover the hope that comes from this truth: the Holy Spirit works through rest.

-Pastor Phillip


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