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Got Favor?

Gas GaugeIn May of 2002, I was preaching a crusade in Nigeria. After about a week of wonderful meetings, it was time to once again climb aboard a plane and head back across the Atlantic. As we were about to leave, we were praying with our host pastor, Dr. Nick Ezeh, and rejoicing in what God had done in the meetings. After saying our goodbyes, we turned and walked into the terminal only to be confronted by these disturbing words on the flight schedule screen:

Flight #— to Lagos: CANCELLED

Now, in the U.S., this is not really a huge issue. When a flight is cancelled, most of the time, there is another flight within hours. However, since we were in Calabar, Nigeria, and not Cleveland, Ohio, this was not the case. If we missed our connection in Lagos, the next available flight was FOUR DAYS LATER!

At this point, our team shifted into overdrive, trying desperately to speak to someone who might have a solution to our dilemma. We quickly discovered that there was a flight to Lagos from another town called Port Harcourt. The flight was scheduled to leave in 3 hours and 45 minutes. Great, right? Except for one small problem…

Port Harcourt was 3½ hours away.

If we left immediately, we would have a fifteen minute margin of error. If we hit traffic, had any mechanical issues, or were in any other way delayed, chances were good that we would not make our connection, and would have to get comfortable for a four-day layover. Our team quickly gathered all of our gear, and got back into the vehicles for the long ride to Port Harcourt.

Now, one thing about Nigeria is that twice a year they shut down all of the oil refineries for a week or two for scheduled maintenance, thus creating shortages, rationing, and gas station shutdowns all over the country. It just so happened that that shutdown fell during our visit. The whole time we were there, we witnessed lines at gas stations that made the U.S. gas lines of the 1970’s look like the express line at Wal-Mart. About an hour into our drive, I glanced down at the gas gauge of our borrowed vehicle, and noticed that the needle was below empty. Our driver, a very nice Nigerian gentleman by the name of A.G. Bright didn’t seem too concerned. I leaned forward and asked him if the gauge was broken.

“No, my brother,” he answered, “but God will provide, for we prayed for mercy on this journey. Also, you and Dr. Ezeh are God’s men… He will surely see us through.”

It is difficult to admit this, but my faithless soul was not comforted. As we drove on, my mind was filled with visions of our stranded team, standing by our vehicles in the middle of the sweltering Nigerian jungle, or worse, being taken captive by rebels or robbers.

As my mind raced through the worst possible of scenarios, all of a sudden, I heard the sound of singing. Mr. Bright had started singing praises to God, and was quickly being joined by others in the vehicle. As the praises went up from our SUV, my faithless heart still continued to fret, expecting our engine to come to a grinding halt at any second. However, after another HOUR of unrelenting driving, we came to a crossroads, with a gas station that stood like an oasis at the intersection. As we pulled in, we questioned whether or not it was even open, since it was without the massive lines we had witnessed everywhere else. Upon discovering that it was open, we soon found out from the proprietor that the station had been closed for a week due to the fuel shortage, but that he had just received a shipment, and was actually re-opening his station AS WE PULLED UP!

A smiling A.G. Bright looked at me and said, “See, Pastor Phillips… God always takes care of His servants. You are in favor with God!”

While I originally told this story several years ago, it remains true today. Unlike the 3-month-old salad dressing in your refrigerator, truth does not have an expiration date. We face challenges on a daily basis. Turmoil in our financial markets, uncertainty and unrest about the state of our nation politically, and chaos and disquiet in various hot-spots around the globe make it difficult to have faith. Yet having the favor of God is not dependent upon who is king, prime minister or president. The favor of God does not hinge on “bull markets” or diversified portfolios. The favor of God is not even affected by our immediate circumstances… our job, our family, or even our gas gauge. The favor of God is about His goodness and His faithfulness. We receive God’s favor, not because we are good, but because HE is good.

Driving down those dirty, pot-hole infested roads of Nigeria that day, Mr. Bright became a shining example of how we get ahold of that favor.

Mr. Bright prayed… He prayed a prayer that said, “God, here is what I am expecting, and no one will be more surprised than me if You don’t come through.” (Contrast this with the prayer that many of us pray: “God, here is my need, and I will be shocked if You actually answer me.”

Mr. Bright walked by faith… He put his proverbial “money where his mouth was”. He had no choice but to move forward by faith, and he did it with gusto, literally driving into the unknown with nothing but a belief that God is true to His word and to His children.

Mr. Bright worshipped… He didn’t sit there and fret about the gas gauge. He opened his mouth and declared God’s goodness and faithfulness in advance.

What a powerful lesson! I want to be like Mr. Bright. I want to be the one who walks in favor, stands in favor, and lives in favor! I want to be the one whose life is centered in His presence, and in the blessing that God gave Moses for the children of Israel…

“The Lord bless you
and keep you;
The Lord make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
The Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace.
So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.”
~ Numbers 6:24-27

That is the kind of favor I want.

How about you?

Pastor Ron

On this Sanctity of Human Life Sunday…

img_7455As we pause to reflect on this Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, we recognize the holocaust that has taken place in our own nation since 1973:

60 million dead… victims of the abominable act of abortion.

But the decision to continue this barbaric practice will not be without cost. In God’s Word, we find a message of warning to pastors, leaders, the media, and politicians…

If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn unto death, and those that are ready to be slain;
If thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not; doth not He that pondereth the heart consider it? and He that keepeth thy soul, doth not He know it? and shall not He render to every man according to his works? ~ Proverbs 24:11-12

This holocaust is still being tolerated in America. This horror is called a civil right and a woman’s choice. Hundreds of thousands are marching for the cause of Life in Washington DC, yet only the Fox network is covering this event. Admirably, our President and Vice President have spoken in support of life for the unborn.

To pastors of all backgrounds, I say this: This is not political… it is moral. Hitler silenced both the German church and the Vatican. How did he do it? By saying that the genocide of Jews was a political argument, not a moral one. Jews were viewed by the Nazis as less than human.

Sound familiar?

If we are silent, we will give an account for our silence. If we refuse to speak out, we will give an account for our complacency. If we ignore and refuse to take a stand, we will give an account for our apathy.

The worship of Molech included the murder of newborn children by passing them through a fiery oven. Their screams could be heard in the valley of Hinnom.

img_7454God hears the silent screams of these murdered humans. Each child victimized by the act of abortion is precious in His sight. Their cries rise up before Him, and He has not forgotten a single soul.

Church… pastors… it’s time to speak out! Babies of all races are being slaughtered. This is not black, Hispanic or white. This is not Republican or Democrat. This is not political. This is right vs. wrong. This a moral, spiritual, and human rights issue.

The time for silence is past. The time to speak up is now!

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

Before Our Eyes: Israel

Historic events are unfolding in Israel this week. What is taking place in this tiny country has ramifications of Biblical proportions… literally.

Here’s Pastor Ron with some thoughts about was is happening before our eyes.

#GivingTuesday #GiveHope

 

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Around the world, Giving Tuesday (November 28, 2017) is the day set aside to focus on charitable giving. It is the day that we make a concerted effort to remember the less fortunate, and donate to non-profits like churches and charities that do much to help the poor. It is the day, in the midst of all of the hustle and bustle, that we stop to recognize that the season is not just about giving presents and hanging out with friends, but it is about reaching out to the less fortunate, and sharing with them from the bounty that God has abundantly bestowed upon us.

There are a lot of great organizations that do a lot of fantastic work for the poor and needy around the world. One such organization is the church I have pastored for nearly 40 years, Abba’s House. From medical missions in Guatemala, to feeding children at the Abba’s House Children’s Center in the Dominican Republic, to ministering to native Americans on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, to feeding the homeless in Chattanooga, Abba’s House does all of this and much more to minister the love of Jesus by being His hands and feet to those less fortunate.

On this Giving Tuesday, if you are looking for a place to make a donation that will make a difference in the life of another, I would encourage and ask you to give generously and joyfully to the work of Abba’s House. Here’s a #GivingTuesday link to get started.

Giving Tuesday- long

“But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round, as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!” ~ from A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

A Season of Thanks

“‘Tis the season.”

When we hear that phrase, our minds are usually drawn to images of Christmas trees, Santa Claus, gifts, and nativity scenes. In all fairness, this is reasonable, considering that the phrase comes from the Christmas favorite, “Deck The Halls”…

Deck the halls with boughs of holly
Fa-la-la-la-la La la-la-la
‘Tis the season to be jolly
Fa-la-la-la-la La la-la-la

For most of us, the jump to Christmas seems to come about the time the last piece of candy is handed out on October 31st. We can’t wait to deck the halls, don our Christmas sweaters and mittens, and break out the egg nog and Bing Crosby records.

Yet, in the shuffle from the ghouls and goblins Halloween to the wonder and worship of Christmas, something tends to get overlooked in the process.

Thankfulness.

thanksgiving cornucopiaSure, we recognize Thanksgiving – the Day. We meet with family and friends, stuff ourselves with turkey and dressing, and watch football for hours on end, but do we really get a hold of the meaning of the season that we have relegated to a single day? A time of thanks for the blessings bestowed upon us by a loving and merciful God. A season of reflection and gratefulness for life in its various forms, trials, and triumphs. To me, the season of Thanksgiving is the perfect and logical precursor to the season of Christmas — of thankfulness and gratitude for the love of a Holy God that took the human form of a baby in a manger.

So with the mess the world is in, what have we to be thankful for? I can only speak for myself, but here are just a few…

  • I’m thankful for my family; for a faithful wife of many years, wonderful children, and for our beautiful and healthy grandchildren. I’m thankful for the heritage of my Godly parents, and my extended family, scattered around this country.
  • I’m thankful for my church family, who I have been blessed to shepherd these past 38 years. I’m thankful for the friendships I’ve made, for the things — good and bad — we have gone through together, for the team we have built for to share the Gospel all over the world, and for faithful friends who, through service and sacrifice, make it possible for us to do what we do.
  • I’m thankful for this season of life as I transition into a new role, and watch the next generation at Abba’s House (under the leadership of my son, Pastor Ronnie Phillips, Jr.) move into a promising future.
  • I’m thankful I live in a country where I am free to worship the God from Whom all blessings flow.
  • I’m thankful for you, the person reading this right now. I’m thankful for allowing me into your life and home by way of this blog, so that we can be an encouragement to each other, even though we may never meet face to face.
  • But most of all…

  • I’m thankful for an Abba Father who has saved me and blessed me in so many ways, and molded my life in such a fashion that I have the opportunity to be thankful for all of these things.

Maybe you are having a tough time thinking of things to be thankful for. Maybe your life hasn’t worked out quite the way you planned. Maybe, through no fault of your own, your circumstances have not offered you the promise you thought your life would bring.

Well friend, as long as you are taking another breath, there is hope for a better future. As long as your heart is beating, there is a God who is listening to the cry of your heart. I can’t say how things will work out for you, but I can say this with confidence…

As long as there is breath in your lungs, there is hope, and as long as there is hope, you have a reason to give thanks.

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. ~ Phil. 1:3-6

From our family to yours… Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Pastor Ron

Blessing Israel

Israeli Flag 1

 

I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land. ~ Ezekiel 34:13 (NIV)

The month of November is a time of significance for the nation of Israel.

Balfour declaration unmarked.jpg

The Balfour Declaration, contained within the original letter from Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour to Lord Rothschild.

The anniversaries of two historical events in the founding of the modern State of Israel and the fulfillment of Bible prophecy are remembered in this month of November…

 

  • November 2 marked the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration – the British commitment to the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine.
  • November 29 marks the 70th anniversary of the United Nations’ Partition Plan, a resolution to divide Palestine into two states, one Jewish and one Arab.

Because these two anniversaries are so significant, I believe we can (and should) associate the entire month of November with the founding of the State of Israel. I believe that honoring Israel as not just a great ally of the United States of America, but also as God’s chosen people is something we should take seriously, participate in diligently, and teach our children and grandchildren to do the same. There is no “statute of limitations” with regard to how we treat Israel, and the promises of God, which are “yes and amen”, are as good today as they were thousands of years ago when He gave this promise to Abraham…

I will bless those who bless you,
And I will curse him who curses you;
And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
~ Genesis 12:3

So let’s all commit to take some time today, and for the rest of the month, and pray for the prosperity, peace, and blessing of Israel, recognizing that proper alignment with Israel, as individuals and as a nation, holds promise for the future.

Praying for the peace of Jerusalem,
Pastor Ron