Tag Archive | Matthew

Staying Between The Lines

Highway1

For the better part of the last century, any person driving the roads of America (and most other countries) have experienced something every time they get behind the wheel. It is something that, although we often take it for granted, guides every mile we drive down the highways and byways…

The painted lines in the road.

Whether double yellow lines, dotted lines, white lines, or any other lines that the DOT has taken the time to paint, we look to those lines without even thinking, to guide us in our travels, and to keep us safe.

Seems kind of crazy, huh? I mean, think about it: We are expecting an assortment of painted strips and symbols on the roadways to guide and protect us from the hazards and pitfalls of driving. Without thinking much about it, we typically abide by what the paint instructs us to do, and travel about from place to place, heeding its direction. We speed down the roads in relative safety, assuming that everyone else on the road will do the same, and abide by the paint’s instruction.

We have faith that the little strip of paint on the road is going to keep the 20-ton semi hurtling toward us on its own side of the road.

While we may not understand why a road is designated “one way”, the paint on the road reflects that it is so, and we don’t question its validity… we just do what it says.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes, while driving down the road on a foggy night — when I can’t see the road ahead of me, or even the shoulder beside me — all I have to guide me is the reflection of my headlights off of the reflective paint on the road.

And through all of it, we are making a lot of assumptions. We assume the driver heading toward is alert, and is abiding by the same rules of driving etiquette we are. We take it for granted that, as we travel down that one way street, every other driver on the road recognizes the clearly stated flow of traffic, and abides by it. We hope and pray that, when we are driving slow and nearly blind on a foggy night, that the guys who painted the lines knew what they were doing, and didn’t dead-end the lines off the side of a cliff.

If you think about it realistically, what is keeping that other driver on his side of the road?

Absolutely NOTHING.

The vast majority of accidents on our roadways, in one way or another, are caused because someone didn’t follow the paint… someone didn’t stay between the lines.

“So, Pastor… what does this have to do with ANYTHING????”

I’m glad you asked.

God has painted lines on the road of human history that are intended to be followed. He gave us a driver’s manual called  “The Bible” that He meant to guide us along the journey. When we get into trouble — as individuals or as a society — it is generally because we have not stayed between the lines. We may not like the lines. We may not like the way they look, what they represent, or how they make us feel at a given time. We may not understand the logic, reasoning, or thought processes that went behind the formation of the lines.

But the lines are there nonetheless, and our wants, wills, desires, dreams, or intentions have no bearing on their existence… or the consequences of violating their borders.

Just as a 20-ton semi hurtling down the road, there is nothing there to stop us from crossing the lines God has drawn. Man has — from creation — been given a free will. Should we choose to go outside the lines of the laws of God, we do so at our own peril. Paul writes in Galatians 6…

 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.

We can decide to travel against the flow of history, and ignore natural law. We can choose to ignore the “One-Way” signs, and presume that there are many ways to God… that as long as we are earnest in our belief, we will one day reach Heaven. But just like the person going the wrong way down that one-way street, it won’t take long before we are proven wrong. Jesus said…

I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. ~John 14:6

It all comes down to faith. Following His lead, regardless of public opinion, political winds, or the fleshly yearnings of our own hearts. In Hebrews 11:6, Paul said…

But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

And in those times when we can’t see clearly, and are fraught with fear, doubt, and insecurity, God has given us fellow believers (Godly friends, pastors, teachers, etc.) to reflect His love and wisdom, and help guide us along the path when the thick fog closes in around us.

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. ~ Colossians 3:16

Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11

In a culture that is more and more running off the road and into the ditch of immorality and unGodliness, it is more important than ever for the Church of Jesus Christ to lift high His banner, proclaim His Word, and keep the lines clearly painted on the roadway.

 You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. ~ Matthew 5:14-16

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Lessons from an Eagle

How do you expect me to soar with eagles
when I’m surrounded by turkeys??? ~ Anon

Ever the symbol of nobility, eagles have, in our society, come to represent freedom, liberty, integrity, stature, loyalty, and strength. In Scripture, the eagle is alluded to many times, one of the most quoted being Isaiah 40:31…

But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.

So how do we “mount up with wings like eagles?” How do we rise up above the fray of “turkeydom”, and take our place in the heights as God intended? Here are three characteristics about eagles that may give you some insight into why this beautiful creature is held up as such a majestic symbol…

The Eagle Knows Commitment.

eagle_stare_down

Eagle Stare Down by Julie Gentry

A male eagle, when he sees a female, thrusts out his chest and struts. If she accepts his proposal, she soars thousands of feet in the air and he follows her. When they are way up high — thousands of feet — they interlock their talons and they begin to fall toward the treetops. He is stroking the back of her neck with his beak on the way down. Right before they hit the treetops they spread their wings and they go back up a second time. This time she strokes the back of his neck with her beak. They go way up farther the third time, and on the third drop they mate for life. Just before they hit the ground after mating, they spread those wings. They’ve set their course in that relationship. An eagle will stay with it’s mate until one or the other of them dies.

What a beautiful picture for the way God intended marriage to be. Jesus explained it this way…

 And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” ~ Matthew 19:4-6

The Eagle Exhibits Wise Use of Energy.

Eagle at the Beach by Debbie Waumsley

Eagle at the Beach by Debbie Waumsley

Unlike other birds that we see fluttering about our yards on a day-to-day basis, when eagles fly, they actually flap their wings very little. Eagles rise above, fly to grand heights, and utilize the atmosphere to simply spread their wings and soar. From that vantage point, the eagle can identify potential danger, food, and conserve its energy for hunting and defense against enemies.

In Matthew 6:34, Jesus says…

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things.
Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Learn to utilize your energy wisely. Don’t spend your time “flapping your wings” over things that don’t matter.

The Eagle Understands Humility and Dependence.

Although most do not live that long, eagles can live up to 120 years. After the 60th year, if it lives that long, the male eagle returns to the rock where it was born. The female, especially if she is younger, nourishes her husband because he strips all of his feathers off, he beats his beak off, and she tears every claw out of him. He is laying there helpless, a spectacle, humiliated, stripped of glory and helpless. The only thing you can see are the wounds of previous battles that now appear on his skin. He is taken by the mother eagle to the nearby rushing water and drinks the running water and allows it to bathe him. She brings him honey and he eats honey. He returns to the rock and is warmed by it. He remains there 30 days, protected by his mate. By the 30th day, all feathers, talons, and the beak grow back. The eagle never fully matures until he has been through this process. However, once it goes through it, the eagle is literally dead to what it had been before.

Now, let’s look at Isaiah 40:31 again…

But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.

Eagle headCan you see the eagle laying there 30 days with no feathers, no claws, totally defenseless, with only the female to protect him? Let me tell you, sometimes you’ve got to get defenseless and let the bride (the church) take care of you. But on that 30th day, you’re looking young again — strong again. They that wait on the Lord shall be like the re-molted eagle, shall be like the renewed eagle that’s been through the process of death, that’s been wounded, and hurt and broken, but is renewed and ready to mount up and soar to new heights.

Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God,
that he may exalt you in due time. ~ 1 Peter 5:6

 

So how about you?

Do you struggle with commitment?

Do you spend too much energy on the wrong things?

Are you in a season of humility and dependence?

Take a lesson from the eagle.

Alone In His Presence

CoffeeWe have fast food, as well as drive-thrus for almost every type of service: Instant banking, drive-thru pharmacies, laundry drop-offs — everything is prepared in a hurry for our convenience. Unfortunately in our “have-it-now” society, we expect spirituality to happen quickly as well. We want instant miracles, sudden break-throughs, and smooth, problem-free lives.

The call of Jesus in Scripture is not centered on our need, but on His presence.

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. ~ Matthew 11:28

He underscores this again in an account told by John…

On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. ~ John 7:37

These calls invite us to come to Jesus. As we love and worship Him, our needs are met, and necessary resources are released. The call of Jesus still rings across the centuries, “Come to Me.” However, this requires a discipline of time. Destiny comes to those who are not afraid to be alone with God.

One of the most powerful alone times I ever had with God occurred on a personal retreat several years ago.

I had set aside four days and three nights with God, in a sparse and simply furnished cabin. As I drove up nearby Dayton Mountain, an expectancy filled my heart. I had brought a CD player with worship music, along with my computer with Bible programs on it, and an unfinished book manuscript. I also brought a deep hunger and a serious need to know if I was moving with the spirit. My spiritual awakening, including tongues, had become common knowledge in my circle of acquaintances, and there was unrest among many of our traditional church members.
Once settled in the cabin, I prayed, worshiped, wrote, and finally went to bed. In the wee hours of the morning, I was summoned to the stairs of His presence. My small room became a cathedral as God awakened me to join Him. He spoke and said, “It is time for you to act!” Looking at the clock by my bed, it was 3:19 AM. I picked up my Bible and read Acts 3:19-21:

Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began.

I had a clear answer from God—He was up to something special in our church. He was refreshing us and drawing us into His presence. It was all God’s doing and not mine. Then I reread that prophetic word, and it shook me. Jesus Christ would not return until a mighty restoration took place. God would restore to the church all that she had lost. A colossal revival was beginning in the body of Christ!

I immersed myself in the rest of the book of Acts, worshiping and feeding. Soon I came across Acts 15:16-17:

After this I will return
And will rebuild the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down;
I will rebuild its ruins,
And I will set it up;
So that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord,
Even all the Gentiles who are called by My name,
Says the Lord who does all these things.

The passage shook me. I recalled how David’s tabernacle was brought up with dancing and praise. It was a precursor to Solomon’s temple. Scripture was clear here—Jesus was coming, but not until the restoration of real praise and worship was established. As David walked, sang, danced, and ruled in God’s presence, so will God’s people do in the last days.

I walked out of that cabin far enough to get service to my cell phone, and called my answering machine back in my office to pour the revelation word out. All that week, revelation continued to pour into my soul. Alone with God, my ministry direction was affirmed, strengthened, and challenged.

So, my question is this… Is God calling you to an alone time with Him? Is God calling you into a deeper place of abiding in His presence?

If He is, then heed His call. Listen to His voice. Allow His presence to permeate your life.

— Adapted from my book
Secret of the Stairs
Copyright © 2006 Ron Phillips Ministries
Published by World Publishing, Inc.

Hope for a “Lost” Generation

MLK Lives QuoteOne has only to watch the news for a few minutes to realize we, as a “civilized people”, are in great peril. As the world focuses on the threats facing our world on a broad scale (terrorism, radical Islam, North Korea, Russia, etc.), the unravelling of the fabric of our society on a local level flies “under the radar.” The seeming collusion of a left-wing media and liberal Hollywood have created the “talking points” of what is acceptable and politically correct, and what will not be tolerated.

While cities like Detroit, St. Louis, and Memphis are besieged by violence, we are told that the greatest threat facing us is “climate change”.

While escalating terror attacks against our allies across the globe are marginalized by our leaders, accusations of racism and anti-police rhetoric are carelessly bandied about by those in authority – with deadly consequences.

While more and more over-reaching regulations are proposed in the name of “public safety,” common sense and “unpopular” laws have become the casualties of those who would try to fundamentally change the core Judeo-Christian values of our nation.

LL ArmThese actions do not take place without consequences — intentional or not. The underlying message being sent is that lives (black, white, or otherwise) don’t matter, that morality is subjective, and that, if one disagrees with certain laws, it is acceptable to ignore and/or violate those laws as long as “diversity” is the goal.

I – for one – have not given up on America. However, in order for us to see a brighter future, we must return to the faith of our past. The Church must draw a “line in the sand” and take a stand for truth and righteousness. It is time that we stop living cowed in the corner of society, and honestly, passionately, and intelligently speak life into this culture of decay and death. Here are a few common-sense ways we can start that conversation…

Stop mis-labeling the problem.

If a person goes into the hospital with all of the symptoms of appendicitis, referring to that person’s condition as an ear infection will do little to treat the problem, and could possibly cost them their life. When we fail to properly label what is wrong with society, we do nothing to cure its ills, and run the risk of doing irreparable damage to the conscience of our Nation. As believers, we stand on the unchangeable, living Word of God. In 1 Peter 3:14-16, the apostle Peter admonishes us…

But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed.

Calling “sin” by its proper name is not politically correct in our society, but is necessary in diagnosing what is ailing us.

Abortion is not a “woman’s choice”… it’s sin.
Homosexuality is not an “alternate lifestyle”… it’s sin.
Adultery is not an “open lifestyle”… it’s sin.
Pornography is not “adult entertainment”… it’s sin.
Political corruption is not “the price of doing business”… it’s sin.

It’s not my label, or your label… it’s God’s definition. He made the rules, and He set the standards. As believers in Christ, we must be honest and faithful to His Word. However, we must also be sure to go beyond just pointing out the problems; we must share the reason for our hope, and offer a solution… the love of Jesus that has the power to change hearts, heal minds, and save souls.

Parents: Anyone can be your child’s friend; only YOU can be your child’s parent.

We have a generation rising that has the potential for either great good or great harm. While I do see good and decent young people being raised up, I also see a lot who are reckless, thoughtless, and out-of-control. There was recently a case in Texas of a 16-year old young man who got drunk, got behind the wheel of a pickup truck, and killed four people (also injuring two others). During his trial, a witness was put on the stand who testified that the boy was the victim of affluenza — which could be defined as “being the product of wealthy, privileged parents who never set limits or boundaries.” This tragic story can be repeated over and over again… parents who set no boundaries for children who grow into young people with no concern for right and wrong, and no regard for the consequences of their thoughtless and careless acts.

Family mealIn Proverbs 22:6, we read…

Train up a child in the way he should go,
And when he is old he will not depart from it.

That’s pretty good advice from the person considered to be the wisest man who ever lived. Parents need to stop delegating God-given responsibility of raising their children to schools, recreation centers, and churches, and start being the voices of wisdom, protection, instruction, and discipline that God intended them to be.

Church: Start being salt and light again.

Over these past many decades, the Church has become known more for what we are against than what we are for. In the ’50’s and ’60’s, we took stands against things like technology, only to later discover it was neither good nor evil, but actually had great value in the spreading of the Gospel. While the Cold War raged in the ’70’s, and we seemed on the brink of nuclear catastrophe, the Church was more concerned about the length of men’s hair, the length of women’s skirts, the “Ju-ju beat” in contemporary Christian music, and a plethora of other things that did little to bring souls into the Kingdom, and even less to open up a dialogue with a world on the fast-track to Hell. One thing (of many) I respect about Rev. Billy Graham, and now his son Franklin, is that, when confronted with a question about a social issue, political controversy, or cultural hot-topic, he always steers the conversation back to the Cross of Christ, and mankind’s need for a Savior.

Jesus called us to be salt and light in Matthew 5:13-16…

“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.
You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Do I think we should be like the world, and participate in sin for the sake of getting along and finding common ground? By no means. But we must be very careful in rightly-dividing the Word of God so as not to turn our personal preferences into God’s providence. We must let the world see the love of Christ in us, and be known for the God we love, Who changes lives, and not just be known for the petty and insignificant things we are against. Being a Christian will always put us at odds with a world that hates Him. However, the love of Christ in us — shown in practical ways — is what will silence the critics, bring healing and love to those who have lost all hope, and open the ears and hearts of the hungry, hurting, and desperate.

Remember that All Lives Matter.

All Lives MatterIn the wake of the tragic stories of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, the mantra “Black Lives Matter” spread like wildfire. The fact is that ALL lives matter. But how can we say with any conviction that any lives matter when we have allowed the wholesale slaughter of the innocent in our nation? How can we be so hypocritical as to bemoan the tragic deaths of a handful of individuals when, from 1973 to January of 2014, estimates of the number of aborted children have topped 50 million? To put it into perspective, this would be the equivalent of wiping out the populations of the following states combined: Kentucky, Oregon, Oklahoma, Connecticut, Iowa, Mississippi, Arkansas, Utah, Kansas, Nevada, New Mexico, Nebraska, West Virginia, Idaho, Hawaii, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Montana, Delaware, South Dakota, North Dakota, Alaska, Vermont, and Wyoming.

We must stop sending these mixed messages. If all lives matter, then we must put an end to this hypocrisy by putting an end to the holocaust of abortion in our nation. Then, and only then, can we put a serious emphasis on the value of ALL lives, and begin to heal the racial and gender rifts that are tearing our nation apart.

 There was a popular show on television called “Lost“, in which the characters were survivors of a plane crash on a remote island. As the series progressed, however, the level of danger and peril grew, and the island was more than it appeared to be on the surface. As I look into our society, I see a generation that is lost in the deception of self-interest, unaware of an enemy that is operating below the surface, feeding the fires of an ideology and mindset that are putting us as a nation more and more at odds with a Holy God. It’s time for the Church to step up and be the voice of truth, compassion, and hope that our world is crying out for.Blessed

A Time for Rest

Through The Looking Glass2

 

Nuggets of truth sometimes show up in unexpected places.

Back in the 80’s, the music group Chicago had a big hit with the song “Hard To Say I’m Sorry“. The song begins with the line…

Everybody needs a little time away…

No matter who you are, or how strong or resilient you think you are, everyone needs time to recover, recoup, and regroup. Oftentimes, we don’t realize how much we are in need of a break, until we make the decision, or are forced into taking one.

Thousands of years before Chicago ever recorded their first album, King Solomon penned these words…

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace. ~ Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (NIV)

A time to heal… a time to laugh… a time to dance… a time to mend… a time for peace. If Solomon, the wisest man to ever live, knew the value of these things, would we not be wise in following his lead?

In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul understood the importance of running the race of faith with endurance…

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. ~ 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (NIV)

As anyone knows who has ever run a race, three important parts of preparing to run are training, diet, and…

Rest.

Maybe today you are feeling the weight of the world bearing down on you like a barbell with a thousand pounds on it. Maybe you are feeling drained, and the abundant life you should be experiencing more closely resembles a life at the end of a rope you are barely hanging on to.  Like a runner who has not adequately prepared, maybe you are feeling the pressure of performing at a level you are not ready for. Jesus encourages you today…

“Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” ~ Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV)

So, weary traveller, take some time today— take a nap, read a good book, find a quiet place to get alone with Him, and leave your tired burdens there. By doing so, you might find it not quite so hard to say “I’m sorry”.

Better yet… by having a fresh perspective and positive outlook, you might find eliminate some of the reasons for saying “I’m sorry” in the first place.