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

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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.

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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…

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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.

An Odd Beginning…

“Marley was dead: to begin with.”

KS12503With these words, Charles Dickens begins his classic tale of Ebeneezer Scrooge, who found life and redemption after living a life of greed and misery. A story that begins with death ends with life.

Kind of ironic, huh? Well, there is another story very similar…

It is the story of people who were born into death, with no hope. Yet, in their darkest hour, a baby was born with the power of life in His hands. A child was born who would become the Savior of the world.

It is our story… yours and mine.

It is the story of all of us who have found hope in the life, death, and life of a risen Lord. It is the story of all of us who have called upon the name of…

KS12499Yeshua…

Immanuel…

Jesus.

During this Christmas season, maybe you are looking for something the presents, songs, and sentiments of the season just can’t satisfy.

Jesus invites you to make Him the center of your holiday by making Him the Lord of your life. This year, give Him the greatest Christmas gift you can… your heart.

From our House to yours, may you have a Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year!

Wonderful!

Christmas_Tree_FarmsIn Shakespeare’s classic play, Juliet asked Romeo:

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

In spite of the sentiment in those words, the truth is that we are people, not plants, and our names carry great significance. Someone once said…

“The sweetest sound on earth is your own name spoken tenderly by a friend.”

A Good Name

In biblical times, a person’s name directly indicated his character. If we explore the pages of the Hebrew Bible, we find that the Hebrew word for “name” is shem, the name also given to one of Noah’s sons. This word comes from a root word meaning “to set a mark.”A child was often named according to something that “marked” the child.

Many times a name would become synonymous with fame, renown, and heroic reputation, such as in the case of David. God Himself blessed the name of David, saying,

“I have been with you wherever you have gone, and have cut off your enemies from before you, and have made you a great name, like the name of the great men who are on the earth.” (2 Samuel 7:9 NKJV)

Unfortunately, a name can also come to represent evil. After years of being under the rule of a fiendish queen whose wickedness caused heartache in the land of the chosen people, few Jewish families consider the name Jezebel for their baby girls!

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For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us, a Son is given…
And His name shall be called Wonderful…

Wonderful! Isaiah began his description with this word that comes from the Hebrew people, which refers to supernatural power, something that cannot be explained in terms of human planning.

A great evangelist of the 1900′s was a man named Rodney “Gypsy” Smith. Until his death in 1947, having ministered all over the world, he maintained a glow and an excitement about Jesus that were infectious. One day he was asked how he stayed so fresh in his life and preaching. He replied…

I never lost the wonder!

Gypsy Smith couldn’t get over the wonder of being touched by the God of the universe through the salvation given by Jesus. He often said, “I didn’t go through colleges and seminaries. They wouldn’t have me… but I have been to the feet of Jesus.”

So how about you?

KS12474Have you been to the feet of the baby in the manger who became the Savior of the world? Have you stood, as the shepherds and kings of old, in awe at the wonder of the One called Wonderful? If not, this Christmas season is a great time to start! What better gift to give to the One Whose birthday we celebrate that your own heart and life.

Merry Christmas!

— adapted, in part, from the chapter Call Him Wonderful by Ron Phillips from the compilation book, The Spirit of Christmas (©1999 Thomas Nelson Publishers)