Tag Archive | freedom

A Reputation of Grace

Recently, I’ve been learning from God about grace. Among many things the Lord has taught me is that we have a tendency to restrict grace. In the story of the prodigal son, the words “far country“ and “great way off” are essentially the same in Greek. The father’s loving gaze and grace extended all the way to the place of wrong choices, waste, and ultimately to the pig pen. Our Father’s patience, grace, and loving welcome waits on the worst of us to come to ourselves and come home. How many of us can extend grace for the long wait? How many of us are willing to hang in their with a “prodigal” until the journey leads a friend home?

It’s easy to extend grace to someone we care about, love, and want the absolute best for. But is grace just for those we like and those who like us? Is grace prejudiced? Is grace for those who act like we think they ought to act?

Am I hearing a crucified Savior saying of His executioners, “Father, forgive them”? After all… Jesus scandalized the religious crowd by eating with sinners and being called a friend of sinners. Obviously, He had affection and compassion for those that society did not hold in regard. But to forgive and show grace to hypocritical religious types? What could Jesus have been thinking???

The apostle Paul may have hit the nail on the head when he said, “He made Himself of no reputation” (Phil. 2:7).  Jesus wasn’t worried about His reputation, about who He was seen with, or who He socialized with. He wasn’t interested in winning a popularity contest. He was concerned with winning the souls of men through grace, and pointing them to God, regardless of what that did to His reputation with the It crowd.

Wow…

For me, this grace thing is easy to talk about but hard to do.

How about you?

What limits do we put on grace? Sure, I know Romans 5:20 – 6:2a…

Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound.
But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound:
That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?
God forbid.

Maybe what Paul is reiterating is that only God has the right to set boundaries on grace. After all, it doesn’t say ”Ron forbid” — it says “God forbid”. Probably good advice for all of us.

Well, just some stuff I am learning at 70… grace to you and me!

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.

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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

Mike Huckabee is in the House for All-American Day!

Mike Huckabee

Anyone who knows me knows how much I care about this country. Throughout my 50+ years of ministry, I have desired for America to come back to God, and for revival to once again burn like a wildfire in our land. I know that, in order for that to happen, it takes the people of God getting up off of their pews, out into their communities, and sharing the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all who will hear.

img_0184Another thing that it takes for revival to happen is for men and women of God to stand in the public square, and to proclaim unashamedly that Jesus is Lord, that right is right and wrong is wrong, and to be champions of truth, the poor and the unborn, and to be a voice against the ungodliness that has leeched into the walls and halls of our government.

Governor Mike Huckabee is such a man.

This Sunday is going to be a special time at Abba’s House as we welcome Governor Huckabee for 🇺🇸AllAmerican Day🇺🇸. There will be stars and stripes, Patriotic music by our choir and orchestra, fireworks, and a special word for this hour by Governor Huckabee.

So join us THIS SUNDAY (July 2) at Abba’s House for 🇺🇸AllAmerican Day🇺🇸! I would love for you to be my special guest. Service begins at 10:30am.

P.S. If you can make it earlier, come at 9:15 and check out our LifeGroups. There’s always room for one more, and you’re always welcome at Abba’s House!

All American Day

Let It Go.

CSLContemplate, if you will, this quote by the late C.S. Lewis…

“Everyone thinks forgiveness is a lovely idea until they have something to forgive.”

Why do we find forgiveness to be such a difficult thing? Does it come from our need to be right? Is it born of our desire to “one-up” someone who has wronged us? What is it about a lack of forgiveness that makes us feel superior?

A friend once said that, “It was easy for me to be unforgiving until I was the one needing forgiveness”. In Matthew 18, Jesus is painfully clear what judgment awaits the person who does not forgive “from the heart”.

Unforgiveness is like being locked in a prison cell, with the keys sitting within your reach. Forgiveness unlocks the doors, and sets ALL of the prisoners free.

Is holding on to unforgiveness against the one who has wronged you worth sacrificing true joy?

Let it go, and find the freedom God has waiting for you.

Peanuts, Paranoia, and Conquering Your Fear

In the 1965 Charles Schultz classic, A Charlie Brown Christmas, there is a very famous exchange between Charlie Brown and his street-corner counselor, Lucy Van Pelt…

Lucy: Are you afraid of responsibility? If you are, then you have hypengyophobia.

Charlie Brown: I don’t think that’s quite it.

Lucy: How about cats? If you’re afraid of cats, you have ailurophasia.

Charlie Brown: Well, sort of, but I’m not sure…

Lucy: Are you afraid of staircases? If you are, then you have climacaphobia. Maybe you have thalassophobia. This is fear of the ocean, or gephyrobia, which is the fear of crossing bridges. Or maybe you have pantophobia. Do you think you have pantophobia?

Charlie Brown: What’s pantophobia?

Lucy: The fear of everything.

Charlie Brown: THAT’S IT!!!!!

Fear is a magnet to demons. Fear will draw in the enemy, and will bring to pass the thing you have spoken out of your mouth. You need to understand that fear is not only an emotion, it is a spirit. In 2 Timothy 1:7 we read, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and a sound mind.”

Friend, it’s time to recognize your fears.

What fears flood and bring failure to your life?  It is time to take a close look at your mind and see what fears may exist there.

Fearing Life

Every day I meet people who are afraid to live life to its fullest. This fear is one of the first to ever show its face in this world. Right after Adam and Eve fell into sin, God showed up to speak to them.  In Genesis 3:10 Adam admitted to God, “I heard Your voice in the garden, but I was afraid because I was naked and I hid myself.” He couldn’t even go through his normal routines there in the garden!

Perhaps you’re afraid that people will find out who you really are and then shun you.  You are afraid that some of the things that you’ve done that are between you and God may come out. You live in fear of the truth. However, if there is any place in the world that you ought to be able to live a transparent life, it ought to be in the church. You ought to be able to surface your difficulties and your failures and have them dealt with in safety there.

The impact of fear reaches beyond spiritual issues; it can also affect your job. Perhaps you are afraid to take the next step for advancement. Maybe you fear going into management because you’re afraid the responsibility will be bigger than anything you’ve ever known. The comfort zone is preferred over progress. Someone reading here may have birthed a wonderful idea but you won’t take a risk because you so deeply fear failure.

History tells us that Abraham Lincoln lost every election he ran in except for when he ran for president. What if he had quit? We would not have had one of our greatest presidents. There are those who are paralyzed by the fear of getting up in the morning and just going about the chores of life. I want to challenge you to break this spirit and believe that you can be everything God has created you to be and more.

Fearing Death

Hebrews 2:14-15 says that “Jesus was manifested that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject unto bondage.” Many people sustain a powerful fear of dying. I believe that’s why about 65% of our hospital dollars are going to give people tests for diseases they don’t have. Many people wake up nightly short of breath, and they actually are suffering from night terrors, a demonic attack on basic health.

If you are saved, why should you be afraid of dying? Philippians 1:21 should be the Christian’s boast, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Heaven is not a thing to be feared. I’ve heard people say, “You know, I want to go to heaven, but I’m not ready if there is a trip going out tonight.”  Well, I’m ready to go today. I would miss my family, and they would miss me terribly. But after Jesus died on the cross and then arose from the tomb, He lit up the corridors of death forever. I don’t have to be afraid. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me,” said David in Psalm 23. Even in death, we are not alone.

Fearing the Enemy

Psalm 31:13-15 should be the proper response when you are facing the enemy, “I hear the slander of many. Fear is on every side, while they take counsel together against me and scheme to take away my life, but as for me, I trust in you, O Lord. I say you are my God. My times are in your hand. Deliver me from the hand of my enemies and from those who persecute me.”

I don’t have to be afraid of the devil or his emissaries that wear skin here on the earth. Jesus spoiled principalities and powers.  He ripped the astro-deities from their thrones and exposed the enemy. I don’t have to be afraid of a tarot card, or a horoscope. I don’t need to call a psychic to find out what is going to happen tomorrow. I boast with the psalmist David in Psalm 31, “My times are in His hands.”

Fearing Man

This fear is a powerful one for many. Proverbs 29:25 says, “The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe.”  Is there somebody in your life that when you see them fear rises up in your spirit? Is there something in you that has you agreeing with people when you know they are wrong, simply because you are afraid of what they will think of you? Have you ever gone along with people and done things you know you shouldn’t do just because of fear that they might think badly of you?

This fear of man is something that really grips our young people today. Peer pressure, a fear of what friends think, can take over their lives. The fear of being different, the fear of what other people think—these can be so strong.  I’m not telling you that you ought to be obnoxious, but the honest truth is that it doesn’t matter what anybody thinks but God. Young people and adults alike need to quit allowing the fear of man to hinder what God wants to do in their lives.

Fearing Insignificance

People are afraid that their lives won’t count for anything. I think of Genesis 15 and the story of Abraham. Here’s old Abram, he has left fame and fortune in Ur of the Chaldees, left his beautiful home and is living in a tent. Out here, nobody knows who he is. In Genesis 15:1 it says, “After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision saying, ‘Do not be afraid.  I am your shield and your exceedingly great reward.’”

You said, “Well, I didn’t win ‘Employee of the Month’ even though I deserved it.” But God saw it, and He took account of your stewardship. You say, “Nobody has ever given me a plaque. Nobody appreciates what I do.”  I want to tell you, your great reward is God.

I remind you of the story of the woman who broke the alabaster box and wept over Jesus’ feet. Nobody really knows what her name is; some scholars believe it was Mary. What we do know for sure: Jesus appreciated what she did. We also don’t know the widow’s name that stepped up to the temple offering box and threw in the “widow’s mite”, all of her living, but Jesus knows her name, and she is significant and important to Him.

One day you are going to get to heaven and you are going to find out everything you sowed into this life is still over there. You sowed it into His work. Embrace the understanding that Jesus Christ is the one who can make your life last forever.

Fearing the Future

“I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace
and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” ~ Jeremiah 29:11

You don’t have to be afraid of what is going to happen tomorrow. Once you know the Lord Jesus Christ, the fear of the future can leave.

When my son, Ronnie, Jr. was a little boy, he loved to go with me on errands. Even when he was four or five years old, he would eagerly jump into the passenger seat even if it were a quick trip. Looking back, I think it is significant that not once did he say, “Daddy, do you have enough gas in the car?”  “Daddy, do you have any money with you?”  “Daddy, do you really know the directions to where are we going?”

You see, he didn’t have to ask those questions. He put his little hand in my hand, and that was all he needed. He was ready to go, because he trusted me. He knew that if he was with me, his needs would be met in abundance. Whether it was a soda from the gas station or a quick trip through fast food drive-through, he knew he wouldn’t go hungry on our trip. If he needed a restroom, Daddy would find one. And he could trust that Daddy would know the way back home when it was time.

I can’t predict to you what will happen in your future. But, I can tell you this, as a believer, what is waiting for you in eternity is wonderful and you don’t have to worry.

My co-host on Ron Phillips from Abba’s House, Angie McGregor, wrote this beautiful song about conquering fear. Listen, and let the fear melt away…

Today’s blog adapted from my book Everyone’s Guide to Demons and Spiritual Warfare Copyright © 2010 Ron PhillipsPublished by Charisma House Book Group

#HonorMemorialDay

For about 240 years, Americans have shed their blood for the cause of freedom.

From places like Lexington and Concord to Gettysburg to Appomattox Station, the blood of patriots has been shed on American soil, fighting for a young nation’s heart and soul.

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When the United States had established itself as a world power, our brave men and women were once again called upon, and shed their blood fighting against dictators and tyrants with
names like Mussolini, Hirohito, and Hitler.

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While American citizens enjoyed the safety and security of life at home in places like Wichita, Dallas, Boston, and Tacoma, American soldiers gave their lives in previously unheard of places with names like Chochiwon, Ia Drang, Haditha, and Kamdesh.

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On Memorial Day, we honor the sacrifice of these brave American heroes who saw the cause of freedom as something worth defending, worth their sacrifice. We remember those who gave the last ounce of devotion to the ideals and principles enshrined in documents
like The Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution.

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Today… we remember.

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…It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God,
shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people,
by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
~ Abraham Lincoln
November 19, 1863
from The Gettysburg Address

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With Liberty and Justice for All.

UTDDOA2

Freedom of speech is soon to be a thing of the past in America.

The recent incident in Garland, Texas where Muslims tried to murder a group of people drawing cartoons about Mohammed is blazing the trail for laws against so called hate speech. Even some conservatives are railing against Pamela Geller’s gathering in Garland.

As distasteful as what she did may seem to some..this is America.

KS77787As a believer in Christ, I obviously disagree with the majority of what Bill Maher has to say. However, I will defend his right to say it in America. People have the right to ridicule and criticize Christianity, Judaism, Islam, or any other religion or ideology they choose in America. The First Amendment was not adopted so we would all have the opportunity to agree, hold hands, and live in harmony. The First Amendment was meant to guarantee the right to worship as one believes, to have the right to have a dissenting and/or unpopular opinion, and to peacefully assemble and seek the help of the government without fear of retaliation or retribution. As believers in Jesus, we must remember that the same laws that give us the right to speak and worship freely also protect the rights of those who say offensive and abhorrent things in direct opposition to our faith. However, If we say some cannot speak freely no matter how abhorrent, it is just a matter of time before the government attempts to silence Christians. We are beginning to see it happen now. Yes… today our voice is free to speak out against gay marriage, immorality, and even poor government. However, that will soon be called hate speech as it is today in Canada and parts of Europe. Liberals and Islamic extremists believe only their opinions are protected. But while the voices of “intolerance in the name of tolerance” continue to force their agenda down the throats of the American people, we must be diligent in standing on our identity as Christians, and our rights as Americans. We must be wary of the schemes of the enemy to silence the Church through physical threats, legal intimidation, and popular opinion / mob rule mentality.

CoffeeFreedom of speech, like freedom of religion, protects the good, the bad, and the ugly. Some of my teachings are already unwelcome in certain venues. It is important that Muslims realize that the freedom that enables them to worship and speak in this country is because of our Judeo-Christian American heritage. Islamic nations restrict freedom of speech, religion, and women’s rights.

German theologian Martin Niemöller famously said…

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

This is America and we must guard freedom of expression for all.

Wake up America!

Pastor Ron