2.14.2014

The best Valentine's Day message...EVER!

Of all the messages you'll receive today...some heartfelt, some manufactured, some honest, some fabricated...there is one true and clear message that you must hear. It comes from the Lover of your soul!

John 3:14-18
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

Romans 8:1
There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

Based on the above verses, fill your mind with these lyrics today:

"Not Guilty Anymore" by Aaron Keyes.
(You can click the link at the bottom to listen...beautiful song!)

It doesn't matter what you've done.
It doesn't matter where you're coming from.
It doesn't matter where you've been.
Hear me tell you, "I forgive."

You're not guilty anymore.
You're not filthy anymore.
I love you.
Mercy is yours.

You're not broken anymore.
You're not captive anymore.
I love you.
Mercy is yours.

Can you believe that this is true?
Grace abundant I am giving you.
Cleansing deeper than you know.
All was paid for long ago.

You're not guilty anymore.
You're not filthy anymore.
I love you.
Mercy is yours.

You're not broken anymore.
You're not captive anymore.
I love you.
Mercy is yours.

There is now therefore 
No condemnation
For those who are in Jesus.

You're not guilty anymore.
You're not filthy anymore.
I love you.
Mercy is yours.

You're not broken anymore.
You're not captive anymore.
I love you.
Mercy is yours.

You are spotless.
You are holy.
You are faultless.
You are whole.
You are righteous.
You are blameless.
You are pardoned.
You are mine.

You're not guilty anymore.
You're not filthy anymore.
I love you.
Mercy is yours.

You're not broken anymore.
You're not captive anymore.
I love you.
Mercy is yours.

You're not guilty anymore.
Not guilty anymore.

Click here to listen to this song. May your heart be overwhelmed with God's love today!


1.17.2014

Out With the Old

We love new - new toys, new clothes, new friends, new books, new projects, new seasons, new jobs, new houses...new years. All hold the promise of something exciting and fresh, and frequently offer closure from some old things - friends, projects, seasons, jobs, and years - that weren't so wonderful.

I especially love new crayons - sharp, unused, perfect Crayola® crayons. I love them so much that I don’t actually want to use them because the moment I do is the moment they begin their decline. Call it OCD, if you must, but I’m willing to bet that many of you have stocked up during school supply shopping season just as I have. A girl can never have too many boxes of brand new crayons, right? In fact, knowing I have a few extra boxes in the drawer helped to relieve some anxiety when I sat down to color with my niece this Christmas (God bless her 6-year-old, not-so-gentle grip) and when my 14-month-old nephew got a hold of what he must have thought were carrot sticks.

So as the Director of Children’s Ministry (a.k.a. authorized purchaser of brand new crayons), my New Year’s challenge to all of you is to throw out the old crayons! All of them! Who wants to start a new year anyway with all of those broken, dull crayons that are missing their wrappers so that you are not even sure you've grabbed black, midnight blue, or denim?

“But, wait!” you say, “I can melt the old crayons and make a candle with my kids.”

Ummm…right. Okay, go for it. But, your child will never be able to use the crayons for their intended purpose again…ever! And chances are, the basket in which you've been collecting the pieces has fallen over countless times in the craft/linen/toiletries closet, and you still haven’t purchased the wicks or collected all the baby food jars you need for the project…and your child is now 18.

“But, wait!” you try again, “Waste not, want not! We’ll just add them to the basket, and eventually all of them will get used up.” Seriously? When have you ever placed a basket of crayons on the table in front of a child and they've willingly chosen the fat ones with specks of other colors all over them, the ones with the wrappers torn down, or the ones that are so small they have to pick them up with their fingernails? I’m guessing…NEVER. And, let’s be honest, you've never chosen those either. Am I right?

 So let me say it again: Don’t save them, and definitely don’t throw new ones in with the old. Throw them away, and start with a NEW box!

In many ways, we view our salvation like a box of new crayons. We have been born again. The old is gone and we have become new. We are new creations. We have the new life of Christ. So beautiful. So perfect. 

Unfortunately, however, we also try to mix our new life with our old.

So how do we throw out the old? How do we live in this new righteousness that we now possess through the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-25)?

Let me share with you what has been working for me since I have embraced my new life. I confess I still have hurts that are easier to hang on to than to forgive, habits that are self-gratifying and addicting, and hang-ups that keep me from experiencing the fullness of the “abundant life” that Christ died to give me (John 10:10). So, I’ve taken one at a time and have experienced true freedom from them in this way:
  • I daily saturate myself in the Truth that I have been made new! Some days it takes more effort than others, and I listen to sermons online by preachers that are known for their new covenant teaching. Other times I call my mother, because she never forgets to remind me Who I am in Christ. Sometimes I go back and read portions of books that have changed my attitude toward righteousness, like this quote that I love from the book The Hurt & the Healer by Bart Millard (lead-singer of Mercy Me) and Andrew Farley (Best-selling author and pastor of Ecclesia, a church in Lubbock, TX):
God has done more than credit righteousness to our spiritual bank account. He has actually brought real change to our human spirit, the core of our being. His Spirit has come to live in us, and he has literally and actually made us new and righteous on the inside. We have undergone a change of nature. This is very different from God simply calling us righteous or looking at us “as if” we were righteous. It is a new birth, a regeneration, a DNA swap, a heart surgery, a literal transformation as we have been born of God’s Spirit (John 3: 6; 1   John 5: 4).
Farley, Andrew; Millard, Bart (2013-08-15). Hurt & The Healer, The (Kindle Locations 558-562). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

That means that these hurts, habits, and hang-ups are not me anymore. They are the old life that has been replaced, and I’m coloring with the new.
  • I have forgiven those who have hurt me, and have confessed my faults to dear brothers and sisters in Christ who pray for me and who check in on how I’m doing. I know, easier said than done, but there has to be a reason that the Hebrew author said, “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much (James 5:16, NKJV).” I have experienced this healing. It works! And in addition, I have been blessed with the added bonus of new and dear friendships. 
So, away with the pride that kept me using that dull red…or…ummm, orange red?…or maybe that’s scarlet…crayon!
    • Stop sinning. Again, you’re probably thinking, “Not so easy.” And you’re right. The web of deceit has entangled us, and it’s hard to break free. But what did Jesus say to the adulterous woman in John 8
    He didn’t say, “What were you thinking you horrible woman? You are not permitted into the temple again until you’ve confessed in front of the town, met for counseling with our head Pharisee, and gone through a Bible study about sexual immorality (which consequently may entice you to think about it more than you ever have).”
    Nope, in verse 11, Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” Basically, He said, “Stop. Here’s a new, whole, spotless, creamy white crayon. Don’t use the old speckled one anymore. ” 
    I have struggled with some very bad habits (shocking, I know). Let's just call them what they are...sins. Every time I am tempted, I have a choice. Because I now possess the righteousness of God through my belief in His Son, I have the power, the desire, and the ability to say no. I can even stop after initially choosing yes. I can gladly claim victory over these addictive behaviors. Jesus Christ can break the power of cancelled sin and set me free. It doesn’t mean the temptations have disappeared. The Enemy is too hateful to take them away. I am tempted often, but I look the other way, turn to another channel, and cry out to God as I step in the opposite direction. Don’t misunderstand me to say that sin is no longer a part of my daily battle. I still have flesh that gets tired, irritable, hungry, and craves immediate gratification. But I’m dropping my old crayons-one at a time-as I reach for the new ones I’ve been given.
    My prayer is that in this new year you will experience and embrace the newness that is “You in Christ.”

    So, out with the old! In with the YOU!

    ~Rebecca Phillips

    10.08.2013

    This Season


    Fall. Halloween. Football. Breast Cancer Awareness Month.These are just a handful of the seasons October brings. If you don't believe that these are all seasons, visit any store today and you'll find paraphernalia for all of them! And just like weather seasons, these items will soon be gone from store shelves and you'll be packing your own back in boxes to be replaced with your Christmas decorations.

    What came to mind as you read those words? I'm guessing that nostalgia was stirred from the deepest depths of your soul, maybe not when you read "football"...but...maybe.
    Fall makes me think of pumpkins, banana bread, hayrides, leaf tag, and sweatshirts. Halloween inspires jack-o-lanterns, pillowcases full of candy, my mother's rice and chili, spider webs, and headless scarecrows sitting in rocking chairs (I know, dark stuff.). Football did not become a part of my life until I started coaching cheerleaders, so the word doesn't conjure up team colors and tailgating recipes, although I'm learning that these are vital to my survival in the South, but I think of the "Star-Spangled Banner," megaphones, cowbells, bleachers, and...well...footballs. Breast Cancer Awareness Month causes tears to build in the corners of my eyes as I think about pink ribbons, 5K races, hats, bandannas, and Cherry Vanilla Bagels at Panera.

    I could have added a name or two with each of the items listed above. In fact, it's not the banana bread or the bandannas that stir the nostalgia, but rather the memories of people I love that shared these moments with me. In addition to countless childhood memories, I have shared bonfires, beach trips, birthday celebrations, white chicken chili, fall festivals, and football homecomings with dear friends...all in the month of October.

    However, despite the fond memories of Octobers past, the season also tempts a sadness that I won't see any of my family this month, I'll miss my nephews' first birthdays, and I don't have a husband and kids with whom to create any new nostalgia. The memories make me long for the past and for future moments to share with my family and friends.



    Ecclesiastes 3:1 reminds me,
    "To everything there is a season,
    A time for every purpose under heaven:"

    Whether the October season brings fond or painful memories or thoughts, God's purpose for these events in our lives is sure, and they come but for a season. As you reflect on past seasons while placing your newly "fundraiser-season-purchased" Caramel Apple Pie candles around your home, I pray that your thoughts toward your next season, whether joyful or sorrowful, will be filled with the confidence that God's purpose will far extend the existence of your freshly-baked pecan pie, and that it can be savored far longer than your Pumpkin Spice Latte.

    9.23.2013

    Confession Brings Healing

    I was six years old, but I can remember like it was yesterday. I had been reading a book from my 1st grade teacher's "special" shelf. It was a big book with chapters. To this day I can't tell you what it was about, because quite frankly I didn't like it, and I didn't finish it. However, that didn't stop me from making up the end of the story when my teacher asked me how the book ended. I was more concerned that she believe I'd actually finished the book than I was about whether or not she'd probably read the book and already knew how it ended.
    One night when my mother came to tuck us in for bed, I asked her-hypothetically, of course-the question that had been plaguing me for weeks, "If someone lies to someone else, do they have to tell that person, or can they just tell God?" I don't remember what my mother told me, but I do remember scheduling a time where I could go tell my teacher that I had lied to her. What a feeling of relief swept over me when I'd finally "...confessed my faults one to another (James 5:16)." I had told God countless times, yet relief, peace, and healing came when I confessed to my teacher.
    God was preparing my little heart at age six for a huge truth I wouldn't come to understand until I was 33! The truth that AFTER the cross, confession of sins is to each other. AT the cross, my sins were forgiven once and for all!
    Confession to one another allows relationships to be mended, private sin struggles to lose potency, and addictions to lose power. Hurts, habits, and hangups become distant memories that only remind us of God's grace, mercy, and power in our lives.
    May your healing begin today.

    8.26.2013

    Whole Wheat Bread



    I have a few friends who are unable to eat hot, fresh, whole-wheat bread regardless of its nutritional value. Dieters trying to lower their cholesterol and increase their fiber intake are encouraged to make the switch to this delectable treat, but it's poison to the Celiac. After years of tests and research, a friend's doctor finally diagnosed celiac disease. Immediately his diet had to change from the foods he'd eaten for 50+ years to a diet free of any gluten. You'd be surprised at just how many food products this includes, from the obvious bread to simple seasonings you might sprinkle on your chicken before grilling. Once he made the switch and began feeling great, he didn't even desire those foods. He remembered what they tasted like, and maybe for a split second thought about trying a bite, but knowing the consequences of even just a little gluten caused him to quickly dismiss those old desires.

    Religious law to a Christian is like whole wheat bread to a Celiac. It seems like such a good, spiritually healthy habit, but it's not! It's actually the opposite...it kills!

    2 Corinthians 3:4-6 (ESV) - "Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life."
    The Galatians, who had not been under the law...EVER...were listening to a little bit of "gluten" teaching, and it was affecting their entire perspective. In Galatians 5, Paul reminds the Galatians that they had heard and believed truth. He wants to know who's been telling them something different. Even it is just a little bit of "circumcision" talk, it's "leavening the whole lump (verse 9)." The gospel can contain no part of the law. In fact, in Galatians 5:2, Paul points out that it's either Christ or the law. And we all know that we desperately need Christ, because we've all failed the letter of the law already, so our efforts now are in vain and have the same end...death.

    My friend's health has made a 180* turn since he got rid of the gluten that was killing him. Let's take a 180* from the law or anything that resembles law - rules, legalism, checklists of religious behavior - so that we might have LIFE!


    I know you probably only had a wheat toast with peanut butter and cup of coffee's time to read this, but if you have a lunch break today, listen to this message by Dr. Andrew Farley. While I had the "gluten-free" thought on my own a month ago, I was so excited to hear him take the same concept and teach through Galatians 5. He gives much more background on the Galatians than I could give in a short article. Enjoy...you will not regret this spiritual meal!!

    7.01.2013

    Roots

    I've always resolved that I would never get "stuck" anywhere. I had the philosophy that staying in one place forever, especially in America, was a cop-out for going the "distance" with God. I wanted to please God by "going into all the world." Thing is...God didn't exactly tell me to do this, and I'm finding that my "staying in one place" is as adventurous and fulfilling as I ever thought living in a foreign country could be.

    I usually get a little restless every couple of years and think that it would be a great time for God to move me. I have visited Africa in hopes of finding that He'd send me there. I even tried to go to China...who wants to do that? Even small moves in the same country or city God has never directed.

    Oftentimes, we cling to Jeremiah 29:11 as a promise that will grant our wishes...okay, maybe you all never thought about it that way, but I believe that it was taught me from that perspective, that I would get all my hopes and dreams and be successful...unfortunately, my interpretation of one verse taken out of its context shaped years of discontent in my adult life. "Plans for your welfare, not for disaster" - Really? Broken engagement, tragic death of the love of my life, hmmm...pretty disastrous if you ask me. "Future and a hope" - For a while I was not in a job that I loved or felt was the best use of my skills and both of my sisters are married with children who are growing so quickly before I even have a prospect for a husband...hello, what kind of future is this?!

    Now, be honest. If this was your "life verse" as a senior in high school, didn't you think it meant that you were going to have a wonderful, beautiful, happy, perfect life? I'm so glad I finally read the rest of the chapter to see what was going on when God told His children that He knew the plans He had for them. They were in exile - okay, I can relate. It would be years - time is flying. He told them to build houses and live in them - oh, wait, you mean settle? He said to plant gardens and eat from them - really, grow roots? Then He says marry and have children - still working on that one. He says to seek the welfare of their location - you mean work hard to improve the place I reside/work/attend church? My prosperity is directly proportional to my input into my surroundings? And while you're at it, don't listen to the lies of false prophets - as if I had time for all of that!

    The point is, rather than always waiting for the end of my exile (job, singlehood, etc.), discontentedly searching for what I believed to be my hopes and dreams, God was telling me to grow some roots, to settle in. He was quietly, lovingly assuring me that I am where He wants me to be.

    "But God, I don't want to get stuck!"

    "You're not stuck, child. You're growing roots so that you can grow and produce."

    The cool thing about roots is that they can be transplanted. If God decided to move me tomorrow, I would survive, though it would be very hard to say goodbye. So I no longer feel stuck, but grounded. I am content to stay, though I will go wherever, whenever He says.

    But...I am CONTENT to stay.

    4.02.2013

    Most Fabulous Easter So Far Today

    If you have nieces and nephews, then you might just understand how completely captivated I am with mine! My sisters do a fantastic job of completely distracting me at any given moment of the day by sending pictures, videos, or summaries of overheard conversations. Easter weekend did not disappoint! In the midst of the cuteness, my oldest nephew's wise words for the day, "This is the most fabulous Easter so far today." It's possible that he was talking about the gifts he received from the Easter bunny, and he cleverly left possibilities open for the day to get better, but I believe his words ring truer than he realizes.

    I could take you on an internet journey of the origin of Easter and the hundreds of opinions about why and what we celebrate every year, and you'd probably find a story that validates your years of Easter memories, but I won't. I will, however, assume that most people reading this associate the Easter celebration with our celebration of Jesus' resurrection from the dead. 1 Corinthians 15 clearly teaches that without the resurrection all other teaching is in vain. It is the resurrection that we celebrate, because without it, we would not be raised to newness of life. Being dead to sin is one amazing part of the story, but if that were the end, it would be in vain. Jesus died, and I was crucified with Him (Gal. 2:20), but He didn't stay dead, and neither did I (Eph. 2:5-6). Because He lives, I live! Woo! That's some good stuff!

    It's as good as the shivers I still get when a congregation of voices bursts into "...UP FROM THE GRAVE HE AROSE..." after the soft, mournful verses about Jesus' crucifixion. I secretly wish we would sing it more than once a year, because believers have reason to celebrate the resurrection every day. The more I understand what Jesus did for me and in me, the more I can relate to my nephew's words. "This is the most fabulous Easter so far today!" And it just keeps getting better!