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All Things New at #AHouseofGrace

As you are reading this, we are in the process of returning from a great trip to Israel with a wonderful group of people. After 27 visits to Israel personally, it never gets old! To walk the places where Jesus walked, to travel in the footsteps of the apostles, to sail across the Sea of Galilee… no words or pictures can adequately describe the feeling of being in this land.

 

While we were there, we had the privilege of taking advantage of modern technology, and a few of us watched the first service of the year at Abba’s House, under the leadership of our new Lead Pastor, Dr. Ronnie Phillips, Jr. I am so grateful for my 38 years as Senior Pastor, but I am so excited to see our congregation moving into the future with the fresh fire and anointing of the next generation! Pastor Ronnie has an exciting vision for Abba’s House, and as I have just spent time traveling through this ancient land, and have traveled paths of old, I am reminded that we can learn from and honor the past, but we live in the present, and we hope for the future. We serve a God who makes all things new…

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. ~ 2 Corinthians 5:17

Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.” ~ Revelation 21:5

I am excited for the future! As I recently said, I’m not retired, I’m RE-FIRED! I’m fired up about what God has put on my horizon, and I’m fired up about the new life and new thing that God is doing in the life of Abba’s House with Pastor Ronnie Jr. and his team!

Watch this…

Check out the first service of 2018 with Pastor Ronnie…

To be a part of what God is doing through the ministry of Abba’s House — this House of Grace — visit… http://abbashouse.com/donate

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

A Christmas Story of Sorts

across-the-water3

There once was an old artist…

He lived in a small home in a setting that was picturesque: His property was wooded with a short hill that ran from his back door down into a vast, calm lake. Looking out over the water into the distance revealed a majestic mountain range. He had few human visitors, but enjoyed watching the fish jump and the ducks and geese gliding effortlessly across the surface of the water. It was not uncommon for him to be visited by squirrels, raccoons, and quite often, deer.

Snow 2JEvery morning (weather permitting), the old artist would walk down the hill from his house to the small dock he had built years before on the lake. He would take his easel and a small box of drawing and painting utensils, and spend hours sitting on the dock, painting and sketching. Often, he would paint his beautiful surroundings — trees, water, the mountains, the woodland creatures — but every once in a while, he would paint images from his mind, and what the serenity of that place inspired in his imagination. He started off just hanging the pictures in his small home but over time, the lack of wall space and the encouragement of a friend inspired him to sell his paintings at a local store. Every once in a while, his art would inspire him to accompany the painting with a poem from his own experience, and although he rarely wrote such poems, they were always filled with beautiful imagery, witty humor, and profound wisdom.

There came a day when a man from a large city visited the area, and stopped by the store for some supplies. The man owned a large publishing company, and upon seeing the art on display, was intrigued. He read a couple of the poems, and was beyond impressed.

“Who is the author of these masterpieces?” he inquired.

The shop owner gave him the old artist’s address, and he hurried away to find the artist. When he arrived at his destination, the old artist was down on the dock, feeding some ducks a little dry bread left over from last evening’s dinner. The publisher proceeded to introduce himself, and compliment the artist on his craft — particularly his poetry. He passionately  made the case that the old artist’s gift of poetry did not need to be hidden from the world, and that his work could reach thousands and millions of people if he would come to work for him. The publisher’s words made the old artist feel respected, needed, and guilty all at the same time. After a couple hours of persuasion, the publisher convinced the old artist to come to work for his company, and share his wonderful insights with the rest of the world. The old man agreed to a contract which required him to move to the city in which the publishing company was located.

bldg-in-philly2For the first six months, his work was incredible. The publisher was overwhelmed by the beauty of the old artist’s eloquent and witty poems and stories. Furthermore, he was overjoyed by the public reception of the old artist — letters and correspondence praising the writings as masterful and insightful. Readership was up for the first time in a decade, with a corresponding rise in revenue. Everyone at the publishing company was happy.

Everyone, that is, except for the old artist.

Over time, sales plateaued and began to fall away. The new readers who at first seemed so excited began to disappear, the praise began to subside, and what little correspondence there was was less than flattering. “Dry”, “passionless”, and “formulaic” were words that critics began to use to describe the writing they once called “fresh”, “genius”, and “inspirational”. The publisher, concerned about not just his company’s bottom line, but having also grown quite fond of the old artist as a friend, decided to talk to the man.

Meeting one evening at the publisher’s home, the publisher asked the old artist if he was alright; had something happened to cause him to lose his inspiration?

The old man replied…

“You became interested in me and my work because of my poetry. You saw it as beautiful and unique, inspiring and insightful. But I’m not sure you understood where it came from. Honestly, until now, I’m not sure I did.

But I do now.
You see, the beautiful poetry you love was always a by-product of the hours I spent alone with my art. Almost every morning (weather permitting), I would go down to my dock — the place you found me feeding the ducks — and paint or sketch what I saw, not just with my eyes, but with my mind and my heart.

The thing is, that art came from a place as well.

That place.

wintertree-charcoalThat place I call home. That place I knew since I was a young boy. That place I shared with the love of my life — my other inspiration — until her time on this earth was done. That place where the wind sings to my spirit, that holds my memories, my laughter, my tears, my joys, and my sorrows. That place that inspired adventure in a young man, and soothed the broken heart of a grieving and lonely old man.

When you hired me and I left that place, I left behind the art and inspiration that gave my poetry its real meaning. You gained the writer, but left behind everything that made the artist.”

Friends, how many times have we done that?

holly-paintingHow many times do we see someone for what they are, but we miss who they are? How many times have we — as friends, acquaintances, leaders, and employers — looked to someone to fill a role in our lives without considering what it is that makes them qualified or even necessary to fill that role? How many times have employers, for the sake of gaining an employee, forsaken an artist? We see how having the abilities of a person can benefit us, but what is that thing that inspires them, that makes them who they are, that makes them of benefit to everyone around them? While we may choose what a person’s assignment is, do we understand what their anointing is?

Well… God does.

He understood it when He told Jeremiah…

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you;
Before you were born I sanctified you;
I ordained you a prophet to the nations. ~ Jeremiah 1:5

His creative genius was clear to David, who wrote…

For You formed my inward parts;
You covered me in my mother’s womb.
I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well.
My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
And in Your book they all were written,
The days fashioned for me,
When as yet there were none of them. ~ Psalm 139:13-16

Paul recognized that God’s good and perfect gifts come without a return receipt…

For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. ~ Romans 11:29

KS12499This Christmas season, I encourage you — actually, I invite you — as we celebrate the story of the Christ Child, to find out someone else’s story. Find out what makes them tick. Look beyond the temporal and temporary exterior and find out about their experiences, dreams, and aspirations.

Look beyond the assignment and find the anointing.

Look past the grit and find the gift.

Solomon recognized the value of God’s gifts when he said…

A man’s gift makes room for him,
And brings him before great men. ~ Proverbs 18:16

This next year, let’s commit ourselves to recognizing the gifts and callings in those around us, and help to clear the path for that anointing to find its way to greatness.

In the Shadow of Terror

Last week, terror attacks in the beautiful city of Paris, France brought to the forefront the fact that Islamic-driven terror is still alive and well in the world. With the deaths of over a dozen people in three days of attacks, Paris was left reeling, and leaders from around the globe converged on the city as a show of solidarity with the people of France. While shock and sadness still remain, some see this as yet another wake-up call in a battle against this destructive ideology. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims, their families, and a city and nation in mourning.

As new leadership is beginning in our own halls of Congress, it is time for us to lift our voices and demand leadership on the subject of Islamic terrorism and jihad.

Over a year ago, I posted a blog entitled “The Buck Stops Here“, in which I talked about the infiltration of Islamic ideology in the highest levels of our own government, and some steps we can take to combat this enemy. I would like to share that blog once again today…

The Buck Stops Here

(Original post date: 10/2013)

Well, this seems to be the $17 trillion dollar question:

“What is going on in Washington?”

FlagIt is disturbing to witness the dismantling of our nation right before our eyes. What we are seeing taking place in Washington right now is nothing short of tragic. There is confusion, division, and unfortunately, deception.

LOTS of deception.

Mystery surrounds the “dismissal” of nearly 200 high-ranking military officers for reasons that range from “questionable” to “absurd”. Scandals continue to plague the NSA, the IRS, the State Department, the Pentagon, the Justice Department, and the White House. Questions go unanswered concerning the Benghazi attack, the mistreatment of our allies, and the assault on our Constitution. And as the inexcusable deception related to Obamacare is unfolding before our eyes, the influence and positioning of Muslims in seats of governmental power is slipping “under the radar”… unnoticed, unchecked, and unhindered.

To say “I am alarmed” by the Islamic infiltration of our government at some of the highest levels would be a gross understatement.

Consider, if you will, this case…

Many of you remember the moral scandal that brought down New York Congressman Anthony Weiner. What you may not know is that his wife Huma Mahmood Abedin, a Muslim, worked for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, serving as Deputy Chief of Staff. While Ms. Abedin was working for Hillary Clinton, she was simultaneously working for a journal promoting Islamic supremacist ideology founded by Al-Qaeda financier Abdullah Omar Nasseef. Her parents support and worked for the terrorist organization led by Sheik Yusuf-al-Qaradawi, the notorious Muslim Brotherhood jurist, who has issued fatwas calling for the killing of American military personnel and suicide bombings in Israel.

In light of these facts, how in the world did Huma Abedin get the kind of high-level security clearance she would have to have in order to work in the State Department, and with unfettered access to the Secretary of State of the United States of America?

Why has nothing been done about Muslim extremists? Why do the questions about Benghazi go unanswered? Why has this administration repeatedly and recklessly chosen to align itself with terrorist organizations such as the Muslim Brotherhood – at the risk of irreparably damaging our relationship with our #1 Middle-Eastern ally, Israel?

After 9-11, one would think that a long, hard look would be taken before appointing anyone remotely tied to Islam to a high-level government post. However, this administration has chosen to openly welcome Islamists into the upper echelons of U.S. power. Consider these…

Arif Alikhan – Assistant Secretary for Policy Development for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Mohammed Elibiary – Homeland Security Adviser.

Rashad Hussain – Special Envoy to the (OIC) Organization of the Islamic Conference.

Salam al-Marayati – Obama Adviser and  founder of Muslim Public Affairs Council and its current executive director.

Imam Mohamed Magid – Obama’s Sharia Czar, Islamic Society of North America.

Eboo Patel – Advisory Council on Faith-Based Neighborhood Partnerships.

So, what can we do? What must we do?

We must pray. We must commit ourselves to prayer and fasting for this nation to return to God. We must encourage our friends to do the same. This has gone far beyond “politics as usual”. This battle has long since crossed into the spiritual realm with the very soul of our nation at stake. We must heed the words of 2 Chronicles 7:14, humble ourselves before the Lord, pray, seek His face, and turn from our wickedness. Then, and only then, will we see the healing of our land.

We must stand for truth. We ARE still a nation under God. No amount of history revisionism can change our Judeo-Christian heritage and foundation. It is time for the church to once again be the church, and stop cowering in the corner of society, fearful of offending hand-picked, government-approved special interest groups dedicated to immorality, ungodliness, and the dumbing-down of Biblical values. It is time for the Billy Sundays, the D. L. Moodys, and the Jonathan Edwards of this generation to arise!

We must stand with Israel. While this administration has done its level best to marginalize and insult our best friend and closest ally in the Middle East, WE THE PEOPLE must never lose sight of the promise that God made to Abraham thousands of years ago when HE promised to “bless those that bless you.” We must pray for Israel, support it in any way we can, and never fail to hold accountable those in our government who fail to do so.

We must communicate with our representatives. It is high time that our elected officials be reminded that they are our representatives, not our rulers; that they were sent to the state house to serve the people, not to enslave the people. Whether Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Liberal, Conservative, or anywhere in between, these people must be held accountable for the decisions they make on behalf of the people, and understand that failure to act in the best interest of the people will result in their removal by the people.

buckstopsherefrontsmallPresident Harry S. Truman famously had a sign on his desk in the White House that read, “The Buck Stops Here”. It is time for our representatives to stop kicking the can of responsibility down the road to future generations and stand up for what is “true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy” (Philippians 4).

As I have said before, May America bless God once again!

3 Steps to Un-breaking Your New Year’s Resolutions

Ok… we’re now 8 days into the New Year. For most of us, the decorations of the season are packed up for another year, our regular work and school schedules have resumed, and life has returned to some semblance of “normal.”

So how are those New Year’s resolutions working out for you?

Sunlight thru trees-editedSome studies show that almost 90% of people that make resolutions fail to keep them, with over 20% of resolutions being broken within the first week. So what do you do when you made a resolution in the spirit of the season, and now it seems impossible to keep? How do you deal with the broken promises of a year so new that you are still having to white-out all of the times you habitually write “2014” on correspondence and checks?

Here are three simple things to remember when it comes to dealing with those well-intended — yet possibly already-broken — resolutions…

Realize what is at stake.

While some resolutions are made for our personal betterment (lose weight, stop smoking, etc.), and some resolutions affect those around us and our relationships (spend more time with your kids, be a better friend), still others have an impact on our relationship with our Heavenly Father (read the Bible more, spend more time in prayer, give up “hidden sins”). Regardless of where your resolutions fall, it is important to realize what the consequences are of not keeping them. I say this not as a way of encouraging you to beat yourself up for broken promises, but simply to get honest about your own situation.

A friend of mine had a heart-attack a couple of years ago. He has spent the last couple of years working out regularly and getting healthy. He says, “People think I love working out. I hate it! However, I hate being dead more.” The decision to live healthier (lose weight, stop smoking, exercise more) will only contribute to your well-being in a positive way. Giving up unhealthy habits can help you live longer, and operate in a better frame of mind. Decisions such as better money or time management can go a long way to giving you more peace of mind…

Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.
~ 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Spending more time with family and friends, being a better co-worker, helping others more, or volunteering more of our time to charitable endeavors can strengthen those relationships, as well as personally give us more of a positive outlook on life, and contribute to our own well-being…

Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. ~ Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

NO time spent drawing closer to the Father is wasted time. Spending time in His Word, in prayer and meditation, and in worship only serve to create a lifestyle of abiding in His presence. Giving up secret sins such as lust, greed, and dishonesty, etc. should not be just “insignificant resolutions” — they are imperative for living the Spirit-filled life. Remember, the concept of sowing and reaping has both positive and negative connotations…

Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. ~ Galatians 6:7-8

Stop making excuses.

Anything worth doing requires some degree of sacrifice. Stop looking for a way to avoid the unpleasantness of the process, suck it up, and get about the business of walking the narrow path that is going to move you forward as a person to a better place. The path of least-resistance is probably the path that got you where you are now — looking for (and needing) change.

Maybe you made your resolution in the midst of the euphoria of New Years?

So what???

If it is a resolution worth keeping, it doesn’t really matter why you made it. YOU DID! Now it’s time to show what you’re made of, Who you trust, and stick to it.

Remember: Failure isn’t final.

Most resolutions — like life itself — are a process. If you made a resolution to lose weight, gaining a pound or two on the Fourth of July weekend is not the end of the world. The year isn’t over, and you still have 5 months to lose what you gained and more. If you were going to spend more time with your family, but work is already demanding more of your time than you anticipated, start now managing your time and resources to stop the cycle, and keep your promise. Too many people stumble in their goal for the perfect “resolution record”, and throw up their hands in defeat the first time they trip along the way. Stop looking at the stumbling blocks, and start looking at the finish line. Set a goal, and keep your eyes on it, not the moments of weakness along the journey.

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified. ~ 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Trust in your Heavenly Father, and start NOW in making this year’s resolutions a success. Have faith in the One who “began the good work in you.”

Pastor Ron