The Life of Faith

You Are Extraordinary!!!

Through the Looking GlassIn the movie version of the C.S. Lewis classic, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, one of my favorite quotes comes from — of all people — a mouse. The valiant mouse, Reepicheep, tells the obnoxious Eustace Clarence Scrubb…

Extraordinary things happen to extraordinary people.”

A.W. Tozer put it another way…

It is doubtful that God can use any man greatly until He has hurt him deeply.”

We are all products of our individual pasts. How we allow those pasts to shape us is up to us. Bad things happen, but whether we choose to move forward in victory or sit on the garbage-heap of defeat is up to us.

Do we believe that negative events in life are merely stepping stones, not cornerstones?

Do we allow others to define us, or do we live up to the high calling for which God has ordained us?

The truth is… YOU are an extraordinary person!

God thinks so.

Maybe you should too.


For the Sake of a Friend

Someone once gave this little nugget of wisdom about friendships:

“Choose your friends wisely… you are who they are.”

Throughout my ministry and more times than I care to remember, I have spoken and counseled people who don’t believe the truth of that simple sentence. “It’s ok pastor. I know they are somewhat of a bad influence, but I don’t let that affect me”. That mantra can be seen written on prison walls and tombstones throughout history. If you don’t think who your friends are matters…

Tell it to the distraught mother whose son is now serving 5 to 10 years because he just happened to be with some “gangbangers” when one of them decided to break the law…

Tell it to the grieving parents who are picking out their daughter’s casket because she got into a car with a friend who had been drinking…

Tell it to the third of the angels who now sit condemned for following Lucifer (Satan) when he rebelled against the Most High God.

However, when we choose our friends based on solid, Godly principles, creative power can flow from that unity. We can find God’s image in the marriage bond between a man and a woman. We can experience His multiplied blessings when, instead of blessing “me” as an individual, He blesses “us”, as friends working together for His kingdom.

Still don’t believe me? Take Abraham for example…

In spite of moments of doubt and disobedience, at the end of the day (and in multiple places in Scripture), Abraham was referred to as “the friend of God”. Because of the friendships that Abraham made, favor and prosperity were released in his life. Abraham discovered the lasting qualities of friendship, and he applied them to his relationship with God.

Abraham discovered that there are friendships that are stronger than family ties. While God always intended for the family to be the ideal, the family is also where sin first entered the world. God called Abraham out from his father’s house (Genesis 12:1), and even at that, many of the problems that Abraham experienced were due to his selfish young nephew, Lot. But still, there are other examples…

We know nothing about Paul’s family, but we know who Barnabas, Silas, Aquila, Priscilla, and Phoebe were…

We know very little about David’s relationship with his brothers, but know a lot about his relationship with Jonathan…

You can probably name many of Jesus’ disciples. Can you name any of his brothers or sisters?

While I don’t mean to disparage the family unit at all, as Christians, we have another family: a spiritual one. Sometimes that family can provide us with the support a physical one cannot.

Abraham gave up a lot to follow Jehovah. Abraham knew that true friendships are worth sacrificing our own personal security. Archaeological excavations have shown that the land of Ur, where Abraham was from, was very beautiful and technologically advanced for its day (indoor gardens, stone houses, indoor plumbing, etc.). However, Abraham was willing to give it all up for the sake of his Divine Friend. Who is the Godly friend that you have that, if they called you up and said, “Let’s go fight Hell with water pistols”, you would say “I’m in!” – no questions asked? I have some friends like that… do you?

Abraham understood that trust is essential in deep, intimate friendship. He believed what God told him, and acted on it. If we are to enjoy real friendship with others, we must have friends we can trust. Words must be followed by integrity. Flaws must be covered by trustworthiness. Secrets must be safe so hearts can be an open book. Friendship is only as deep as the level of trust in a relationship. Abraham’s trust was more important to God than Abraham’s perfection. The Bible says that his trust in God was “credited to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6).

I recently heard a story about two young co-workers. As Sandy was leaving work, David was arriving. Sandy said, “You are not going to BELIEVE what happened today… I’ve got to go home and put this on Facebook!” David said, “What happened?”, to which Sandy just said, “Oh… you’ll have to read about it.” David said, “After that, I deleted my Facebook account.” David understood that, when things reach a point where we cannot communicate face-to-face, but instead hide behind text messages, emails, and social media pages, someone has to step up and say, “ENOUGH!” The greatest gift you can give someone else is yourself — live and in-person. Relationships cannot exist in memos and emails. Real friendship is what it takes to build a team… face-to-face and heart-to-heart. This is life’s greatest reward: building and maintaining friendships. Abraham Lincoln once said that, “The better part of one’s life consists of his friendships.”

In Genesis 15:1, God wanted Abraham to understand this when He said, “I am… thy exceeding great reward.” God shows us, through His relationship with Abraham, that friendship maintains open communication, that true friendship carries the highest value, and that the ultimate reward is to have an intimate relationship with Him.

So, with all of that said, what is the real test of friendship?

The real test comes when the relationship costs you something dear. In Abraham’s case, the ultimate test came when God told him to sacrifice his beloved son, Isaac (Genesis 22). Through Abraham’s willingness to trust that God knew what He was doing, and by surrendering to His command, Isaac was spared, and Abraham received the astounding message of the resurrection… a resurrection that happened when Jesus gave up His life for the sake of friendship with us. Jesus was the example of the friend who holds nothing back.

So… do you bring these qualities to your friendships? Will you seek to enrich the soil in your circle of friendship by fertilizing these positive character traits? A treasure chest of nourishment and reward is waiting to satisfy your desire for love and fellowship. Will you use these keys to unlock it?

There’s no time like the present to get started! What are you waiting for?

Through The Looking Glass

Through The Looking Glass – January 21, 2013


“Looking at culture, chronology, and current events through the eyes of faith.”

Making It Count

Consider this quote by Thomas Edison…

“Being busy does not always mean real work. The object of all work is production or accomplishment, and to either of these ends there must be forethought, system, planning, intelligence, and honest purpose, as well as perspiration. Seeming to do is not doing.”

That is so true. It seems that we latch on to every “get-rich-quick” scheme and promise of a quick buck, yet we don’t want to put in the time, the thought, or the perspiration to make our “busy-ness” really count.

The same can be said of the Church.

For all of our “wonderful” programs, are we ministering to the poor?

Are we saving the lost?

Are we making disciples?

Are we passing on what is important to the next generation?

After all, only what is done for Christ will really last.

So… are you burning bright, or burning out?

The Life of Faith

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!”

Now here we are in 2013, and we face challenges like never before. 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


The Monthly Grab-Bag

I want to thank all of you who are following my blog. Your response has been overwhelming, and I am excited about the opportunity to get to share with all of you through this wonderful avenue of blogging (if I had known it was going to be this much fun, I would have done it a long time ago).

My staff helped me come up with another way to help us say connected. Everyone likes “free stuff”, and everyone loves gifts, so here is what they came up with…

If you will click on the “Follow” button, and give us your email address, each month, you will be entered into a monthly drawing for gifts from our ministry. These gifts will include books, CD’s, DVD’s and a variety of other things to help you in your walk with Jesus. One name will be chosen per month, and the winner will receive an email notifying them that they won. Just respond to the email, and we will ship you your gift… it’s that easy.

Every month, we will announce the name of the previous month’s winner, as well as let you know what the “Grab Bag gift” is for the next month. Each month’s drawing will take place on or about the 10th of the month, so sign up to follow, tell your friends, and watch your email.


Through The Looking Glass – January 15, 2013

Sunlight thru trees2“Looking at culture, chronology, and current events through the eyes of faith.”

Senator Alan Simpson had this to say about integrity:

“If you have integrity, nothing else matters. If you don’t have integrity, nothing else matters.”

It is said that integrity is who you are when no one is watching.

Integrity is…

… the businessman who chooses to go the extra mile instead of making the extra buck.

… the athlete who plays by the rules, regardless of the outcome.

… the co-worker who gives you the credit you deserve, even if it costs him the promotion.

… the man who chooses to turn off the TV instead of being “turned on” by immoral programming.

Solomon said that it is “the little foxes that spoil the vine”. Temptation comes in many forms, but for most of us, it’s the little sins— the seemingly insignificant ones when no one is watching— that do the most damage to our walk with our Heavenly Father.

As C.S. Lewis once observed, “The safest road to Hell is the gradual one— the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”

New Year

Faith, Philippians, & Fleetwood Mac

Happy New Year!

As with each New Year, for most of us, this one probably started with watching the crystal ball drop in Times Square (we miss you, Dick Clark), a kiss from a loved one, and a string of well-intentioned New Year’s resolutions:

“I’m going to lose that elusive 40 lbs”.

“I’m going to finish that never ending remodeling project .”

“I’m going to quit smoking.”

The list can go on and on for most of us. A New Year is a time for new beginnings… a time at which we contemplate the person we would like to be – a thinner, kinder, healthier, more organized person. However, by the first couple of days into January, any failure to strictly adhere to our good intentions spells doom for the other 363 days. We begin to look at the big picture through the lens of our failure at keeping last year’s resolutions, and the spiral of defeat begins before the last of the spiral-sliced ham (and other Christmas leftovers) has found its way to the garbage can.

But hold on a second! Before you give up completely, and start looking for a yard stick and paper towels with which to construct the white flag of surrender, please allow me to throw a sound-bite of reason into your intellectual quagmire.

Fleetwood Mac.

Christine McVie of the band Fleetwood Mac put it this way…

If you wake up and don’t want to smile
If it takes just a little while
Open your eyes and look at the day
You’ll see things in a different way

Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow
Don’t stop… it’ll soon be here
It’ll be better than before
Yesterday’s gone, yesterday’s gone

Years ago, the news media was interviewing soldiers on the front line of Vietnam. It was the Christmas season and the reporter asked a question of a grisly, old Gunnery Sergeant.

“What gift would you like this season?”

The old soldier answered – “Tomorrow”.

Stop trying to bite off a mouthful that it is going to take 365 days to chew. Start with that one thing that this old soldier understood all too well…


In Philippians 3, the apostle Paul talked about how he approached the future…

Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do,
forgetting those things which are behind,
and reaching forward to those things which are ahead,
I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (v. 13-14)

Sounds like good advice to me. However, in spite of the blank page, uncharted waters, open doors, and genuine hope that 2013 offers us (which, incidentally, I am running with), many of you reading this right now have already resigned yourselves to defeat. Because of things such as personal problems, taxes and inflation, wars in the Middle East, and the uncertainty of the stock market, many of you have already decided that 2013 is going to be a bad year.

I, for one, haven’t. But let’s go with this line of thinking for a moment…

If you are bound and determined that this is going to be a bad year, here are several ways to guarantee that outcome:

Keep your eyes on the rear-view mirror.

John Maxwell says that there are four bridges that we all must burn if we want to have a better life.

  1. Wrongs done to us. Successful people let the past go. Ignore the little stuff… forgive the big stuff.
  2. The unfairness of life. Determine that, by the power of the Holy Spirit, you are NEVER going to live with a victim mentality.
  3. Bad habits. Break unhealthy patterns from the past.
  4. Our own stupidity. Become intimately acquainted with the phrase, “I was wrong”.

There is a story told of an old black man, age 85, down South, sitting on his porch one summer evening, slowly rocking in his rocking chair, with his pipe, blowing circles into the motionless air. A young hyperactive salesman approaches him and shouts from the sidewalk:

“Grandpa, I got a book for you here that will help you remember everything from your whole life. It costs only five dollars.”

The old man sat there in silence, reflecting, not saying a word as he rocked, and finally, after what seemed like an eternity, said:

“Sonny, I’ll give you a thousand dollars for the book that can help me to forget.”

A really great way to sabotage your year: Don’t pray – Worry instead.

In Matthew 6, Jesus says ten times, “Don’t worry”. The Apostle Paul encourages us:

“Don’t worry about anything, but pray about everything” (Philippians 4:6-7).

     So why do we? Why do we worry about tomorrow when it can do nothing but destroy our today? Dr. Charles Mayo of the Mayo Clinic said, “Worry affects the circulation, the heart, the glands and the whole nervous system. I’ve never known a man who died from overwork, but many who died from stress.”

Someone once said that, “Today is the tomorrow we worried about yesterday.” So what did all of that worrying gain you? What was it about today that had you so in knots yesterday? Was it really worth it, or do you think that a little less worrying and a little more praying might have given you, if nothing else, a little more peace of mind?

Remember: Nothing kills a good year like having a bad attitude.

“If you don’t think every day is a good day, try missing one.” ~ Cavet Robert

So, you walk into a room, and the very first person that speaks to you begins by sneezing in your face.

That is exactly what a bad attitude is like. It is a virus of ill-will that is spread every time you open your mouth. Just like passing a cold, a bad attitude has the potential to infect all of those it comes into contact with.

Life is full of things over which we have no control… where we were born, who our relatives are, what we look like, any physical limitations. The one thing in our life that we have TOTAL control over is our attitude. People cannot make you have a bad attitude. Your job cannot make you have a bad attitude. Your church or pastor cannot make you have a bad attitude.

Attitude is ALL up to you.

       “A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort.” ~ Herm Albright, Reader’s Digest (June, 1995)

     But if you are determined to have a bad attitude, then by all means…

  1. Be a fault-finder. Go out of your way to find fault with everything and everyone God puts into your path. Family, co-workers, church leadership… make no one exempt. For the true fault-finder, there are always plenty of targets. However, anyone who wants to be like Jesus will find potential, not pessimism. They will focus on the positive, not the negative.
  2. Kill your passion. You were created for greatness, but if you have your heart set on killing your God-given passion, it can be done. If you never question why you were created, avoid people with passion at all cost, or just shift the transmission of your creativity into neutral, that’s a good beginning to the end of passion. However, if you have a dream you can’t stop talking about, or a vision that excites you, it could be that God is trying to tell you something. As Nelson Mendela once said, “There is no passion to be found in playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living”.
  3. Blame others for your situation. This is the one that permeates society. There is never a shortage of people or circumstances to blame for our misfortunes. If your business fails, blame your downline. If you don’t like your looks, blame your parents. If your kids are a mess, blame the church for not raising them right. If you get a speeding ticket, blame the policeman for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. However, if you want to break the cycle that has made us a nation of “victims, crybabies, and fault-finders”, take responsibility for your life. If something is not working, be willing to change.

     “The greatest of faults, I should say, is to be conscious of none.” ~ Thomas Carlyle

Good intentions won’t carry the day (or year) if you don’t finish what you start.

Success in anything starts with a determination to finish what you started. No runner ever won a race by lying down on the track 20 feet shy of the finish line. Don’t let mediocrity weaken you… set goals, make a plan, then work the plan.

                  Write them down.
                  Embrace them by faith.
                  Give it your all.
                  Do not be afraid.

If you make your plans for “someday”, just remember this… Someday never comes.


A promising year will end in a big pile of nothing if you have all of the answers, and never listen to others.

It is what you learn after you know it all that really matters. No one knows less than the “know-it-all”. Be teachable… be humble.

Live out your year with an attitude of defeat… Never take the risk of faith.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” ~ Paul (2 Timothy 1:7)

“Greatness, in the last analysis, is largely bravery. Courage in escaping from old ideas and old standards and respectable ways of doing things.” ~ James Harvey Robinson

Taking the risk of faith begins quite simple, requiring just three things… power, love, and a sound mind.

Hopefully, in the process of reading this New Year’s blog, you’ve changed your mind, and have made the decision to make this the best year ever. The future is full of promise, and tomorrow is (as Annie sang) “only a day away”. Using Philippians 3:12 -16 as a model, we can have a simple formula for not just a great year, but a great life as well…

Stay Hungry“not as though I had attained”
Stay Focused“This one thing I do…”
Stay on Course“… forgetting… reaching…”
Stay Determined“I press”
Stay Disciplined“toward the goal”
Stay Open“God will reveal…”
Stay Together“be of the same mind”

So have a great year, my friend, and may faith and the favor of God find you wherever you are.

Pastor Ron