Angels on I-40

MapAs a pastor for so many years, I love hearing stories of how God is working in the lives of His people. Whether it’s how He guides us along the paths of life in quiet, subtle ways, or interjects Himself in more obvious displays of His power, as I travel around the world, I hear so many stories of both natures. It is especially significant when I hear the stories from those in my own church, the the people to whom God has called me as shepherd. One such story happened last weekend.

Dana works in the media department of Abba’s House and Ron Phillips Ministries. He is also a long-time musician and worship leader, and as such, had made the decision to attend The Next Step Gathering, hosted by my friend, Ray Hughes. The event was in Asheville, NC, which is about 3.5 hours from Chattanooga. On the final day of the event, it began to snow in Asheville. Due to some previous commitments Dana had made, he felt he could not afford to get snowed-in in Asheville, and decided to head back early to Chattanooga. He posted his story on social media, and I’ll share some of it here…

I had been on the road for a little less than an hour when my daughter Maddie felt the urge to pray for me. She went into her room, and began to pray. Within minutes of her prayer, as I came out of a curve on I-40W, I was in the left hand lane, and was merging right when I inexplicably lost control of my vehicle (at first, I thought I had hit a patch of ice, but upon further review, it seems that something in the steering/suspension mechanism of my vehicle may have malfunctioned/failed). I completely lost control, crashed nearly head-on into a concrete barricade, and came to rest on the shoulder of the road about 150 feet from the point of impact. A couple of things of note are the fact that, had I broken through or flipped over the concrete barricade, I would have dropped about 150-200 straight down into the river below. Also, the front right of the vehicle basically folded up under the chassis. I am completely puzzled as to how the vehicle managed to roll another 150 feet. I am also amazed that, in spite of moderate traffic, no other vehicles were involved.

I walked away without a scratch.

Prayer2Wow! So why would a daughter nearly 200 miles away inexplicably drop what she was doing and pray for her father at almost the exact moment he was in trouble? How does someone lose control of a vehicle, crash into a concrete wall at nearly 50mph, and walk away without so much as a scratch?

We serve a God that operates and communicates with us through the power of His Spirit. It was the prompting of the Holy Spirit that directed Dana’s daughter in how to pray. When she acted in obedience to the Spirit, angels of protection were dispatched to that place on the highway to put a hedge of protection around her father. The prayers of His people are a sweet aroma in the nostrils of a Holy God. A simple prayer offered in faith is all it takes to activate angelic power in our lives.

‘Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.’ ~ Jeremiah 33:3

God is not looking for the smartest, biggest, strongest, or most talented. God is looking for obedience. He is looking for those who will be the Joshuas and Gideons of this generation. He is looking for the ones who will operate in “ridiculous obedience” to achieve the impossible.

The angels of Heaven are available to us as ministering spirits, and offer us guidance, protection, strength, and assistance. When we activate their presence through the power of prayer, great, mighty, and miraculous things can happen.

Pastor Ron

To Tell The Truth

Through The Looking Glass2

Who doesn’t want to be successful? Who doesn’t want to have some degree of notoriety, or leave some kind of mark on the world? We all have dreams and aspirations, but I am afraid we have forgotten what it means to be truly successful. We have become a culture of shortcuts. We have become a civilization that has become very un-civil. We see criticism as a bad thing, and as a result, we have devolved into mediocrity and passivism. Instead of holding others accountable and insisting on certain standards, we have opted for “peace through passing the buck”. With whatever excuse is convenient, we substitute placation for peace, and accolades for honesty. Comedian Bill Cosby once said…

“Every success story has a parent who says, ‘over my dead body.’ Every success story has an old person who walks up to you and says, when you’re acting the fool, ‘you know, I worry about you sometimes.’”

Whether wise parental guidance or a healthy mentoring relationship, we are seeing a foundational quality become a top 10 casualty on the endangered species list in our society…

Honesty.

We have confused healthy critique with harsh criticism. We have adults who would rather be pals than parents. We have refused to be honest in our assessments with others because of “how it might be taken.” However, in talking to the Ephesians, Paul discusses the importance and positive consequences of “speaking the truth in love.” So many misunderstandings and deep-seeded, long-term conflicts could be avoided if we would just learn to be honest in the first place. Sometimes the truth is hard to take. However, it does a lot less damage, and heals a whole lot faster than a deception shrouded in kindness that will eventually become unraveled, to the detriment of everyone involved.

Jesus didn’t just speak truth… He IS Truth. Let’s all decide today to follow His example, and operate in a culture of honesty and integrity. As parents, let’s understand that a gentle rebuke now can avoid a tragic lesson later. As friends, lets remember that a mild critique now may sting, but will ultimately become a solid foundation of love and respect. As mentors, let’s believe in the power of wise counsel instead of the illusion created by false hopes.

Just remember… Criticism and honesty don’t have to be negatives when they are done in love.

Make A Difference (Ducks & Martyrs… pt 2)

RPLast week on my blog, I discussed Ducks, Martyrs, & Suiting Up for the Wrong Fight, in which I talked about how many Christians in our society are using the power of social media to wage war against anti-Christian bias in pop-culture; namely, the recent controversy concerning Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson. While standing for solid Christian principles and against the “spirit of Antichrist” that exists in the media is commendable, it appears that we do so at the expense of very real, life-and-death persecution going on in other places in the world. To paraphrase one person that responded to my article, we as Christians can fight more than one fight at a time.

So… why don’t we? Why are we not more vocal about the plight of Christians elsewhere?

I understand that, when the media blacks-out such activity, such stories have a tendency to slip from our radar. However, with so many alternate media sources today, and limitless resources on the internet, there are many ways to, not just stay informed, but to actually make a difference. Paul had this to say in II Corinthians 10:3-6 (I like how The Message puts it)…

The world is unprincipled. It’s dog-eat-dog out there! The world doesn’t fight fair. But we don’t live or fight our battles that way—never have and never will. The tools of our trade aren’t for marketing or manipulation, but they are for demolishing that entire massively corrupt culture. We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity.

With that said, let’s looks at a few ways we can make a difference…

Get informed.

Sometimes it takes a little effort on our part, but by simply doing a Google search (Christian persecution 2013, killing Christians, Christians killed in ) you can find limitless stories about the plight of Christians around the world. While I understand that you cannot believe every single thing you read on the internet, there are many, many reputable resources that are telling the truth about what is happening to our Christian brothers and sisters around the world.

Pray.

As II Corinthians 10:4 says (NKJV):

For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds.

We must diligently fight the war against the forces of darkness in the place where we can do the most good… on our knees. We must commit ourselves to fasting and prayer for the toppling of governments that support the killing of Christians, the defeat of radical Islamic groups around the world (including on our own soil), and for the courage of our political leaders to stand up in the face of such activity and say that we will not support or aid any nation that participates in these atrocities.

Vote.

We the people have a powerful weapon against the abuses and apathy of those in the power-centers and decision-making halls of our nation… it’s called the ballot. It is time for we as a Christian nation to stand up and say to our elected officials, “We sent you to Washington to serve. You were elected on the assumption and promise that you were going to do what is best for our nation. If you are unwilling to do this, we’ll put someone in office that will.”
What is in the best interest of America is following the tenants of Scripture, and standing up in the face of tyranny, not just in our nation, but around the world. This includes suspending aid for governments guilty of participating in, or endorsing, the persecution and slaughter of Christians. This means demanding that our leaders hold accountable rogue and radical Islamic governments who violate the rights of Christians (and others).

Get involved.

You may be limited in what you can do as an individual or even a church. However, there are plenty of Christian and humanitarian organizations that are on the front lines, making a difference. Do what you can to support those that are “fighting the good fight” with your prayers and resources. Groups like Samaritan’s Purse, World Vision, Compassion International, and others do much to provide relief in countries hard hit by poverty, war, and persecution. Our own ministry (Ron Phillips Ministries) works among the poor in countries like Guatemala and the Dominican Republic.

Let your voice be heard.

Most of us have access to social media on a regular basis (Facebook, Twitter, etc). Use your influence to help draw attention to what is going on as you become aware. All it takes is a few well-timed posts to get the ball rolling, and to raise awareness in your corner of influence to what is happening across the globe. We hear reports about Christians being assaulted, raped, and murdered on a daily basis, and much of it comes through social media. We have but to open our eyes to find such reports, and raising awareness can be as simple as clicking a “share” button.

Not every person or individual can do the “big thing.” Not everyone can be in these far-flung places to be the hands and feet of Jesus. But ALL of us can do something, whether it is a comment on Facebook, a few dollars sent to assist, or a few minutes a day spent in prayer. In the end, the question will not be, “Why didn’t you do the BIG THING?” The question will be, “What did you do with what I gave you?”

Now… Go make a difference in your world.

Taking One for The Team

Through the Looking Glass

Well, it’s that time of year again.

With the football season once again wrapping up, and conference champions being decided, we are just a couple of weeks away from the big game – Super Bowl XLVIII.

Since the championship trophy is named after the great Vince Lombardi, I am reminded of a great quote by this legendary coach…

Teamwork is what the Green Bay Packers were all about. They didn’t do it for individual glory. They did it because they loved one another.

In this age of “superstars”, we see so many in search of the spotlight — in search of that thing that focuses attention on themselves. Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, when asked about this year’s AFC Championship meeting between he and Patriot’s quarterback Tom Brady said this…

Tom Brady has just been an outstanding quarterback … but the game next week is the Broncos and the Patriots. It will be a battle between two good teams — teams that have been through a lot, have overcome a lot to get to this point and that’s where my focus will be: trying to help the Broncos get a win against the Patriots.

Wow! Here is a guy who has had an amazing year, and is arguably one of the greatest players to ever play the game. If anyone deserves the “right” to toot his own horn, it would be Mr. Manning. Among other records he currently holds, he holds the records for the most passing yards, as well as most touchdowns thrown, in a single season. Yet, in spite of his accomplishments, Mr. Manning has not lost sight of the fact that football is a team sport…

You win as a team. You lose as a team.

And at the end of the day, for the true champion, it all comes down to two things: You love the game, and you love the guys on your team.

So how much more the Body of Christ?

In HIS body, there can be room for only One head, only One superstar. The Bible does not state that “they will know we are Christians by the size of our church, the popularity of our pastor, or the hipness of our worship team. Jesus “gave away the playbook” when He said…

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples,
if you love one another. ~ John 13:35

Following His playbook means a team “game plan” of love… no special formulas, no secret codes, no strategies named after cities in Nebraska… just love.

A love that puts the needs of others before our own needs.

A love that obeys the Master’s call for unconditional sacrifice.

A love that lays everything down for the sake of the Body.

To paraphrase what Paul stated in I Corintians 13… “Without love, we are nothing.”

The team built on the foundation of Christ’s love wins… every time.

It’s A Small World

Med2

RP1Currently, I am with a group of friends visiting Israel, the land of our Savior’s birth and life here on Earth. It never ceases to amaze me… the sights, the sounds, the people we meet. Whenever I travel abroad, the power and reach of media and technology always makes the world seem not quite so big. This trip is no exception. While we were visiting an Orthodox church in northern Israel, I was approached by the kind caretaker of the church. He told me that he recognized me from our television show, Ron Phillips from Abba’s House. Wow! Even in the most unexpected places, God continues to show me that what we do, and acts of obedience – regardless of how big or small – can change the world by changing lives.

Caesarea By The Sea2

Christ1Here are just a few pictures that some of my friends on the trip have taken. Hope you enjoy them, and can someday get to the Holy Land for yourself. It is a life-changing experience!

Shalom,
Pastor Ron

Megiddo3 Megiddo1 Mary Statue Church3  Church1 Church2

Saving the One

Arlington2 In the Academy Award winning movie, Saving Private Ryan, 8 soldiers set out across the French countryside in the days following D-Day. Their mission is to find one soldier, Private Ryan, deliver his discharge order, and get him back to safety and home. By the end of the mission, only two of the team members survived. Six of the men that originally set out to save Private Ryan sacrificed their lives so he would be saved.

Helmet2Jesus talked about the Good Shepherd, who left his ninety-nine sheep to find the one that was lost.

Some may say, “That’s crazy… to sacrifice many just to save one.”

It sounds crazy… unless you are that one.

We were all that one.

The Bible says that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

The theme song from our TV program, Ron Phillips from Abba’s House, has the following lyrics:

Wherever you’ve been
Or what you’ve been through
The Father is waiting for you

If any one of us as individuals had been the only one needing to be saved, Jesus still would have gone through the torture, the pain, the anguish, and the death… just to save the one.

Just to save you.

He thought you were worth it… and He still does.

Burning Ships

Across the Water

According to legend, when Spanish explorer Hernando Cortés came to the new world, upon reaching Veracruz, he had his men unload the ships. As they headed inland, those in the exploration party looked back only to see the entire fleet of ships on fire. Cortés himself had ordered the ships destroyed to make turning back an impossibility.

When the prophet Elijah called his successor – a farmer by the name of Elisha – Elisha asked his master if he could go home and say goodbye to his parents. Once there, Elisha himself proceeded to kill his oxen and burn his plows, thereby totally eliminating any chance of returning home. He committed himself wholeheartedly to the task God had called him to… turning back was not an option.

Here at the start of a new year, maybe you need to “burn down the ships” that have kept you in stagnant water. Maybe you need to “kill the oxen and burn the plows” that have kept you chained to defeat.

This is the year you need to allow radical faith to make a difference in your world.

This is the day you need to lay aside those things that are behind you – the things that have kept you bound to a life that is going nowhere – and start anew with the Father.

Pray… diligently seek the face of God concerning His plan for your life, and have the courage to say, as Jesus did, “Not my will, but YOUR will be done.”

Believe… prayer does little good unless it is accompanied by faith. Believe that God has your best interests at heart. Have confidence that He knows your end from the beginning. The psalmist wrote…

   Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.

Proceed… determine in your heart that you are going to follow the path He lays out before you. When He opens a door, go through it. If He closes one, trust that another will soon open. Allow your faith in His goodness to influence your decision-making this year. You have a Father in Heaven who is crazy about YOU, child of the Most High… Walk in that assurance!

The winds of change are blowing, so cast off the bow lines, set your gaze on the horizon, and follow the Son. This can be, not just the beginning of a New Year, but the beginning of a New Life as well!

Happy 2014!

Make it the best year ever!

Finding Focus

Through The Looking Glass2

Alexander Graham Bell recognized the value of being able to focus on a task…

“Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand.
The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.”

However, he also observed that it was not just about focusing on “a” thing, but on the “right” thing…

“When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”

Someone once said that “when God closes a door, He opens a window”. Sometimes, the door of opportunity closes, and when it does, instead of bemoaning what we perceive to have lost, we should be looking for the new opportunity that God is opening before us.

As we enter into the promise of a new year, this is the perfect time to regain our perspective for the tasks ahead. Success in anything requires perseverance and focus. Make sure your focus is on the prize God intended for you, and not an attractive distraction.

Happy New Year!

A Final Thought for Christmas

Christmas is tomorrow, and if your house is like ours, the excitement is building, children are getting more and more excited with each passing moment, and last minute presents are gathering under the tree. But before we tear into the presents, I’d like to give you one last Christmas thought that, hopefully, will be one we all consider into the New Year and beyond…

Peace on earth… good will to men.

It was the word given by angels to shepherds in the fields outside of Bethlehem over 2000 years ago. It was those words that accompanied the announcement that the Messiah had been born.

But we live in a world where peace is elusive. We live in a nation that has been mired in wars and rumors of wars for the majority of our existence. We live in a country that, for all of our advancement and progress, just doesn’t “get it”.

The promise of the Messiah came with some “fine print” we have ignored. Consider the words of Isaiah…

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulders: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. ~Isaiah 9:6

The government shall be upon His shoulders… The government was meant to rest upon His shoulders: His wisdom was meant to be the foundation of society and civilization. When we take ourselves out from under the authority ordained to lead us, failure is not just a possibility… it’s guaranteed.

His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor… If He is Counselor as the Scripture suggests, we might do well to heed His word. What is the purpose of having a Counselor that you refuse to listen to? Maybe… just maybe… His experience, purpose, and plan is better that yours.

… The mighty God, The everlasting Father… HE is the Almighty! HE is the creator! HE is everlasting to everlasting! When will we stop wasting our time looking to the foolishness of leaders who have no more integrity than sense, and whose lives are but a vapor – here today and gone tomorrow? When will we stop ignoring HE who is Almighty and Everlasting – whose name is Faithful and True???

… The Prince of Peace. A prince is a ruler, one of authority, power, and prestige. Our failure – as individuals, houses of worship, and a nation – to elevate Him to His proper place in our lives, churches, and nation has come with dire consequences. We have traded our birthright for a “mess of pottage”. We have sacrificed eternal hope and promise for fickle and temporary “comforts” that have only proven to lure us into a place of complacency, hopelessness, and despair. We have given up our place at the table of the eternal King (seated alongside the Prince of Peace) for a pile of table scraps outside the gates of the banquet hall. We have relegated the Child in the manger from a place of prominence in our lives, courthouse lawns, and town squares to the dark recesses of storage closets and basements, both in our homes and our hearts.

But there is hope.

The words of the great Henry Wadsworth Longfellow ring in my heart…

KS12480

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

As we enter 2014, let us determine in our hearts to make Him LORD once again. Let us do as Paul encouraged us, lay aside every weight, and the sin that so easily besets us, and run the race set before us. Let us determine, as we close another Christmas season, that the spirit of the Child in the manger will be alive in our hearts the other 364 days of the year.

May you and yours have a very Merry Christmas, and a blessed New Year!

P.S. Please join us tonight at Abba’s House for our Traditions Christmas Eve service. It begins at 5:00p.m. If you can’t be there, watch online here.