Archives

The Lost Art of Reading Billboards

Motel SignBillboards have long been a fixture across the landscape of our country. Just drive down nearly any state highway or interstate, and you will be witness to massive advertisements for any number of businesses, products, services, or causes. From ads for fast food to political candidates to massive marriage proposals, people use billboards to communicate any number of products and ideas.

And in my 70 years on this earth, I don’t ever recall a single time I passed a billboard and witnessed an individual standing on the side of the road, screaming at that billboard while waving a picket sign. A billboard must meet certain community standards in order to be erected in the first place. I see any number of billboards on a daily basis that are advertising something I don’t necessarily agree (or disagree) with.

When I see these, I do what all normal people do… I just keep driving. I don’t stop and scream at the billboard. I stay in my car, maintain my speed, and have probably forgotten about it within a mile.

Wouldn’t it be great if people viewed what they see on the internet and social media the same way they view billboards?

It never ceases to amaze me, the time and energy people put into running something down that they disagree with on the web. In a letter he wrote in 1946, Albert Einstein said something almost prophetic…

“I believe that the abominable deterioration of ethical standards stems primarily from the mechanization and depersonalization of our lives — a disastrous byproduct of science and technology. Nostra Culpa (our fault)!”

Even in 1946 — long before home computers, digital technology, and the internet — Einstein saw technology “depersonalizing” our lives as individuals, and the way we interact with each other. Today we witness people say and do things on the internet — and when I say ‘internet’, I am including social media — that they would never have done even 25 years ago. We see “digital courage” on display on a regular basis; people hiding behind a computer screen, espousing their particular brand of hatred and vitriol from the safety of their bedroom… things they would never dream of saying to another person’s face.

Recently, our church had what we called All American Day. Our church has a long history of patriotic events, dating back over 30 years. I love this country, and I am thankful for the grace God has shown us over the last nearly 250 years. I believe the blessings of God on our nation are worth celebrating. This year, we invited former presidential candidate Governor Mike Huckabee to be our guest speaker. Subsequently, we did a little advertising on social media to promote the event. The text of the ad read…

Governor Mike Huckabee will be speaking this Sunday at Abba’s House in Hixson! Join us for patriotic music and an inspiring message by Gov. Huckabee! The service begins at 10:30am. Abba’s House is located at 5208 Hixson Pike.

No political agenda. No partisanship. No campaigning for a candidate. A former governor, who happens to be a Christian, was speaking about our nation.

What ensued over the next few days was a series of ill-informed, uneducated, judgmental, and even vile posts by people who disagreed with or disliked the idea Governor Huckabee was speaking at our church. While there were many posts that were positive and/or neutral, many crossed the line into absurdity and profanity that we would not even allow on the page. People launched into uninformed and unfounded personal attacks on Governor Huckabee. Others launched into attacks on President Trump. Still others became “Constitutional scholars”, and launched into arguments about the First Amendment, separation of church and state, and the Johnson Amendment (calling into question our church’s tax-exempt status).  I even had one person who proceeded to attack a speaker who spoke at our church several years ago (in an event that was not even sponsored by our church) who has no affiliation to politics, Mike Huckabee, or President Trump.

But what was probably the most disheartening were the attacks commentors made on other commentors, calling them childish and profane names, and belittling total strangers for being hopeful about our nation and our future.

Now normally I don’t respond to comments and criticisms, particularly on my blog. This “conversation”, however, goes to a bigger issue: Decency. I am used to criticism; I’m a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, so in a world that is hostile to Him, it comes with the territory. What gets me, though, is the way people instantly become experts about everything they disagree with, which amplifies the idea that, as a believer in Jesus Christ, trying to “fit in” in such a world is not possible.

Here are a few fast facts pertaining to these posts…

  • Former-governor Huckabee is no longer a political candidate. The fact is, before he was Governor Mike Huckabee, he was Pastor Mike Huckabee. More than a decade before he entered politics, he was the pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church. One of his former bosses, evangelist James Robison, once said of him…

“His convictions shape his character and his character will shape his policies. His whole life has been shaped by moral absolutes.”

  • The Johnson Amendment (regarding political speech from a pulpit), has to do with the endorsement of a political candidate. Since Mr. Huckabee is neither (at this writing) a political candidate nor endorsing one, this really was a non-issue. In fact, all one has to do is a simple YouTube search, and you will find a variety of politicians (and candidates) who have spoken in churches, from Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, to Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and President Donald Trump.
  • There were several comments about the First Amendment and “separation of church and state.” The fact is that the term “separation of church and state” is not in the First Amendment, or in the Constitution at all for that matter. The phrase separation of church and state came from a letter written by Thomas Jefferson to the Baptist Association of Danbury Connecticut. The actual text of the First Amendment of the Constitution reads as follows…

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Jefferson quote 1

While the First Amendment was never meant to keep the Church out of the State, but in fact, to keep the State out of the Church, liberal interpretations of the First Amendment, combined with a mis-interpretation (lack of context) of Jefferson’s words have led us to where we are today. The fact is, Jefferson’s own writings (as well as the writings of many of the founding fathers) bear witness to not only his belief in God, and to his belief that our liberties as a nation are a gift from God. Does it really stand to reason that we should eliminate, from our public life, the very God credited with making our public life, as we know it, possible?

 

“God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?”
~ Thomas Jefferson

 

  • In the social media posts, the word “hypocrite” was bandied about quite a bit. The fact of the matter is, hypocrisy is, by definition, the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not conform. The fact is, nearly everyone exhibits hypocrisy in some form or fashion (if you claim to be a law-abiding citizen, yet you speed, you are, by definition a hypocrite)Monitor 4But here again, for the believer in Christ, fighting against the labels the world attempts to put on us is an untenable position; if we stand unwavering on the tenants of Scripture, particularly with regard to issues of morality, we are labelled “intolerant, bigots, homophobic, judgmental,” etc. But the same people who use such terms to describe people who stand on their Christian moral standards and beliefs are as equally unforgiving of any Christian who appears hypocritical in any way, form, or fashion. Essentially the argument is, “You are going to criticize me if my Christian belief system is counter to your political, social, or moral ideology (ie: if I am NOT a hypocrite), but you are going to criticize me for being a hypocrite if I don’t live my life perfectly in keeping with what I claim to believe.” Are you seeing the absurdity here, in trying to please those who you are never going to please?

I could go on for days, but I would like to bring this all back to the bigger issue I alluded to…

Decency.

While there will always be critics and naysayers, regardless of the topic, there should be an understanding that such “dialogue” is not the acceptable norm. There should be a way, in civil society, that we can “disagree without being disagreeable”, and respond to each other with dignity and respect. It seems that the more tech-saavy we become, the less decent we act. We should be able to have public discourse without the need to go to verbal war. We should be able to have honest debate without vitriolic hate. In the Bible, James implores the believer…

So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. ~ James 1:19-20

In Proverbs, we find this truth…

A soft answer turns away wrath,
But a harsh word stirs up anger.
The tongue of the wise uses knowledge rightly,
But the mouth of fools pours forth foolishness. ~ Proverbs 15:1-2

Someone much wiser than me wrote that. It seems like pretty good advice for all of us. We can be uncompromising in our beliefs without being uncharitable in our speech. We should all strive to be passionate about our convictions without being profane in our words and attitude. It is possible to strongly disagree, but do so with unquestionable love, or at least civility.

Maybe it’s time to view social media the same way we view bilboards…

Read… and keep on driving down the road.

Have a great weekend!

Pastor Ron

Brother of The King

There was a little boy named Rick.

As a young child, his father abandoned his mother. With no income and unable to support her family, Rick’s mother had to put him and his brothers in an orphanage.

Some time later, Rick’s mother remarried a man whose name was Vernon. One day as Rick and his brothers were at the orphanage, a fancy car pulled up, and they were informed that they were there for Rick and his brothers. The car left the orphanage, and a short time later pulled up in front of a mansion…

Graceland.

As they passed through the gates of the world-famous home of Elvis Presley, the car came to a stop, and upon passing through the doors, they were greeted by “The King” himself.

“I always wanted a little brother, and now I have three”, they were told as the six-year-old Rick and his two brothers were met by their famous half-sibling. You see, Rick’s mother had married Elvis’s father.

The next morning, they discovered a yard filled with toys, bicycles, and gifts, and they ran with joy from one item to another, amazed to find themselves in such a home.

From an orphanage to the mansion of “the king”, this story reminds me of one we should all relate to — one of another King…

Jesus is “not ashamed to call us brethren.”  He is our Brother and Companion.  He has made us sons, and so all that He has is ours.  We are God’s children and are therefore recipients of His love.  All this is possible because He was willing to be a “perfect” Savior…

For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. ~ Hebrews 2:10

The perfect means “complete.”  Jesus was willing to do all that had to be done to give us complete salvation.  He came to lead a new family home to glory. All of the resources of Heaven are available to us as children of the King, and co-heirs of Jesus.

I don’t know about you, but I think that is Good News worth sharing!

This week…

I will be joining Pastor Ronnie Phillips, Jr. at the RPMI Wilderness Conference in Chatsworth, GA. I hope you will join us for this powerful event. Damon Thompson, Eric Clark, and other will be with us. It all starts tonight (4-27), and runs through Sunday night (4-30). If you can’t be with us in person, you can watch it online on the RPMI Facebook page.

​​

Resurrection Day Thoughts (Thank You)

The dust has finally settled from a very busy Holy Week, and things have finally slowed down a bit as I share a few thoughts.

Abba's House Wide

Easter of 2017 was  wonderful day! From spending time with church family (and seeing a lot of new faces) to spending time with family and friends as we worshiped together, laughed, ate, and celebrated with thanksgiving and grateful hearts the gift of salvation and the hope that resurrection brings, Easter was a very special day this year.

WorshipWhile we gathered to celebrate Jesus, and the victory that He won over the devil, death, Hell, and the grave, we were reminded that His victory did not come without cost or consequence. Courage, sacrifice, humility, meekness, and lowliness of heart are all attributes at the ready for all who would follow Him. While I am eternally grateful for the sacrifice He made — the only sacrifice by which we can hope to be saved — my gratitude runs deep as well for the people of God and the obedience and diligence which they exhibited on this most Holy day.

I would like to thank all of those who helped care for the dozens of children who came to the house of the Lord on Easter (and every Sunday); folks who forego the experience of worship and teaching in order to minister to the upcoming generation of infants, toddlers, and small children, and take care of their needs with joy and love.

I thank all of the men and women who greeted people with smiles and kindness, assisted visitors, gave directions to those not familiar with our campus, and who diligently walked the parking area throughout the service, making sure things stayed safe and secure.

Abba's House busI thank all of those who volunteered on the Abba’s House bus, and provided a reliable and safe way for the underprivileged of our city to get to and from church to hear the Good News of Jesus’ love.

Vol 3I thank the dozens of volunteers who sacrificially gave of their time during the weeks before Easter; making phone calls, handing out water bottles and invitations at ball games, recreation parks, and places of business, and giving a smile to a stranger in need — inviting friends and strangers to join us on Easter.

I want to thank all of the musicians and singers who led us in worship, and helped create an atmosphere in which the King of Glory was exalted and glorified.

I want to thank all those in our bookstore, who served with joy, and provided refreshments to let us feel just a little bit more at home.

I want to thank all of those who volunteered as support and technical staff, who kept everything running smoothly so the rest of us could see and hear, and enjoy His presence undistracted, not just in the House, but across the world.

I want to thank every member of Abba’s House for making a welcome and inviting place for our guests.

I want to thank our entire staff who worked tirelessly to provide all of our volunteers with the support they needed, and who worked as a team to make the day a very special one.

Abba's House Med WideI want to thank Pastor Ronnie Phillips, Jr for joining me on stage as we shared from our hearts the message God had given both of us for day, and who ministers beside me with an anointing and heart for people.

Last but not least, I want to thank all who joined us — if even for the first time — in the House or online. I hope you came with an expectation, and left with a sense of the greatness and glory of the Most High God. I pray that your life was touched for eternity through our time together, and that it will not be the last time; that you will choose to join us again and become a part of the family we call Abba’s House.

You are ALWAYS welcome at Abba’s House!

God bless!
Pastor Ron

Dancing In The Latter Rain

tn-wildfires2For those of us living in East Tennessee, last year made us understand why rain is so desperately important. From the Smokies to the Tennessee Valley, wildfires as a result of the lack of rain brought destruction and death to many in our region. While Chattanooga faced wildfires up in the mountains surrounding our city, in places like Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, and Sevierville, hundreds lost homes, businesses, possessions, and some their very lives.

Rain brings nourishment to plants. Rain provides protection against fire. Rain cleans the air and atmosphere, and provides clarity and refreshing — not just to our air alone, but also to our spirits. How many times have we all experienced the lifting of our spirits after a shower or storm, to go outside as the sun breaks through, revealing an earth refreshed and alive?

The Bible talks about “the Latter Rain” several times throughout its 66 books. Now, in the natural order, the latter rain was the second of two rains received in Israel for the harvest. The early rain prepared the ground and watered the seed, while the latter rain brought the wheat crop to maturity and prepared the vineyards and olive groves for the wine and oil harvests. However, in the spiritual dimension, the latter rain always has to do with Israel’s obedience, and the subsequent possession of their land.

We can see, even in our recent history, that there have been two latter rain movements in our world…

  • In the late 19th and Early 20th Centuries, The Balfour Declaration was a letter from the United Kingdom’s Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour to Walter Rothschild, 2nd Baron Rothschild, in which Balfour confirmed support for an Israeli homeland.

balfour_portrait_and_declaration

It was around this time that the Pentecostal Movement began to break out amongst Baptists, Methodists, and Presbyterians, being highlighted with such movements as Azusa Street.

  • Between 1948 and 1967. When the State of Israel was established in 1948, surrounding Arab nations and organizations mounted attacks over the subsequent years (the Arab-Israeli War, the Six-Day War, etc.). During those same years, as Israel took possession of their land, we saw social justice and civil rights happen under people like Martin Luther King, Jr. We saw revival happen under the likes of Oral Roberts, Billy Graham, and A.A. Allen. Events such as these became the forerunners and part of the Jesus Movement, adding names like Chuck Smith, Duane Pederson, Bill Bright, and others to the list of spiritual fathers to a generation.

Friends, we are in a latter rain period now.

kid-in-the-rain

So what does this mean to us? How should we respond to the positive (and negative) aspects of these Latter Rain times and Latter Days in which we live?

I invite you to join me this Sunday as I speak on The Promise of Change at Abba’s House in Chattanooga, TN. We are in ever changing times. With new leadership comes new direction, new policies and practices, and new hope. As our world changes, I will tell you what you need to be taking notice of with regard to Israel, the economy, and society as a whole. I hope you will join me Sunday at 10:30a.m. (EST)

If you aren’t in the Chattanooga area, please take advantage of our LIVE streaming at www.abbashouse.com/live

A Year of Change

FlagIn about two weeks, America will once again go through the pomp and ceremony of inaugurating a new president, meaning new leadership and new direction in our nation. While January 20 (and a few days following) will be filled with all manner of spectacles, traditions, and commentary, it will merely mark the beginning of an administration that came to power on promises of ending corruption, national security, and returning us to being a nation “of, by, and for the people.” President Trump will have his hands full, leading our country during a time of political unrest, social division, international instability, and unfettered terrorism.

So, “we the people”… what can we do?

First of all, we can pray. In I Timothy 2:1-2, Paul tells Timothy…

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—  for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.

Israeli Flag 1Prayer is not partisan. While I never voted for President Obama, and disagreed with him on much of his agenda, I prayed for him nearly every single day. I genuinely hoped and prayed that he would be a good and just president. My prayer is the same for President Trump. I pray that he will surround himself with Godly counsel, that he will listen to wise advisers, and that he will always put America’s best interests — spiritually, socially, and economically — first (this includes an unwavering support for Israel).

Second, I would encourage everyone reading this, regardless of what side of the aisle you fall on politically — give President Trump a chance. No man or administration has the ability to fix all that ails a nation overnight. Leaders rise and fall according to the will of God (Romans 13:1), and I believe that God has ordained President Trump for “such a time as this”. If you have honest disagreements with him or his policy, fine. I’m sure we all will at some point. There has not been a president in my lifetime that I agreed with 100% of the time. But honest criticism, reasoned viewpoints, and civil discourse should not fall victim to unbridled vitriol, (un)civil disobedience, and fake and deceptive news. If there is one thing I have learned with the popularity of social media, it is that you cannot believe everything you read.

Praying      Last, I would encourage all of us — as Americans — to be diligent in seeking after holiness, righteousness, and decency. Make a difference in your own circle of influence. Last year, I wrote a book called The Unraveling of America  in which I pointed to a number of political and social ideologies and entities in our world that have led to the systematic dismantling of our nation. With the advent of new leadership, all of these adversaries and ideologies are not going to mysteriously vanish. We must be diligent. We must be wary. We must hold our leaders to account for their decisions, actions, or lack thereof. We must follow the advice of Jesus who tells us to be “wise as serpents, and harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16).

It’s time for our nation under God to once again rise up and be the “shining city on a hill”, not because of our perceived greatness, but because of the goodness and grace of God that He shed upon us.

Pemmaquid PointAmerica! America!
God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea.

~ from America the Beautiful
Words by Katharine Lee Bates
Music by Samuel A. Ward

12 Choices for a Better New Year

Across the Water

   The future is before us in the form of a New Year, full of challenges, hope, blessings, and promise. Just like a new dawn on an open horizon, the possibilities are limitless. So, here is my formula for starting things off right and winning in 2017.

judas1. Forgive all who have hurt you and ask forgiveness of those you may have hurt.

image2. Commit yourself to the Church. Be a faithful attender and attend both Sunday and mid-week services.

 

 


Sprout 13. Pay any back tithes and offerings before this year ends. If you are able, sow a seed toward a harvest in the New Year.

 

Salvation Army4. Focus on someone or some family you could reach in the New Year.

 

DR15. Get active in a Sunday school class, LifeGroup, choir, as a nursery volunteer…. get involved sowing into the lives of others with your time and talent.

 

Coffee6. Set a plan to read Scripture and pray daily.

 

Chalk outline - cross7. Be open to the Holy Spirit and His leading in your daily life.

 


Gas Gauge8. Try to be proactive about health, diet and exercise. YOUR body is HIS temple.

 

Nica 69. Take joy where you find it and live thankfully each day… life is precious.

 

Worship10. Live focused on God’s vision and do not let the small stuff bug you.

 

Highway111. View life on earth as an exciting journey, not as a finish line.

 

Girls212. Take the risk of loving others unconditionally.

May you have favor and blessing in the coming year.

Happy New Year!!!
Pastor Ron Phillips

Merry Christmas!

Christmas_Tree_FarmsChristmas is upon us.

In just a few more days, we will wake to a day of family, friends. food, and gifts as we celebrate the Greatest Gift of all… Jesus.

 

 

 
KS12480As we bask in the warmth of the love of family and friends, let us take inventory of the goodness of God in our lives, starting with the Child in the manger, over 2000 years ago… the Hope of the world. Let us put aside the things that divide us, and draw near to the simplicity of that night, that angels heralded His birth, and Hope was given to a people lost in darkness. As the prophet Isaiah proclaimed centuries before that blessed night…

 

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. ~ Isaiah 9:6

Thank you for making us a part of your season and year, whether by television, radio, visiting our church in Hixson, TN, or reading my blog. My prayer is that you and yours have a very Merry Christmas, a Happy and Peaceful New Year, and that your life will be filled with the abundance and blessings of a child of the King.

If you are in the Hixson area, please come join us for our Traditions Christmas Eve Communion at 5:00pm on Saturday, then our Christmas Service at 10:30am on Sunday, Christmas Day.

From our family to yours… Merry Christmas!

Pastor Ron

rp-paulette-christmas