Plans for Hope

Recently I was reflecting again on this verse from Jeremiah 29:11 where the Lord reminds His people

Jer 29:11  ‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.’

This promise from the Lord was given to His people while they were in exile, held captivity in the land of Babylon.  They were in Babylon by the will of God.  They were there as God’s judgment for their generations of rebellion against Him.  And though they were experiencing the discipline and the judgment of the Lord, the Lord wanted His people to know that they had not been forgotten and abandoned.  God had plans to restore them to the land and to provide for their welfare and their future.  The Lord desired to give His people hope.

That is a good reminder for us as well.  There are many things that can hold us captive.  We may be in the grip of fear, doubt, grief or any other number of emotions.  We may be confined or constrained as a result of our actions or because of the actions of others.  We may be having to walk a path that we would not have chosen for ourselves.  In the midst of these difficult seasons, we can be assured that God has not forgotten us.  He still has plans for us – plans for our good and for our future that we might have hope!

I pray that you may know that God has not forgotten you.  I pray that you will be strengthened in the midst of whatever season you may be going through.  I pray that you will know that God has plans for you – plans for your well-being, plans for your future that you may have hope.

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Posted in Don't stop, God has a plan for you, God will help you, God's Strength, inspirational, ministry work | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Right There When You Need Him

My suit and tie in the 100 degree weather prompted a conversation with a fellow the other day in a parking lot.  He saw my attire and figured I must be a preacher.  As we visited, he told me about his wife of many years who is having some medical issues and how he is very concerned about her.  He teared up as he spoke of his love for her and about some of the things she is going through as she deals with her health problems.  He asked me if I would put her on our prayer list at church.  I assured him I would do that and I asked him if he would like to pray “right now.”  He said, “Could we?”  So we prayed together right then and there in the parking lot.  We asked for God for help, strength, mercy and comfort for all involved in the situation.  Later as I reflected on our meeting, I was reminded of what the Bible says in Psalm 46:1

Psa 46:1   God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

While it is a good thing to put our concerns on prayer lists, we don’t have to wait for a prayer meeting to share our cares and concerns with the Lord.  We can call upon Him anytime we need Him.  Our God promises to empower us and help us in our times of trouble.  He promises to be our refuge and our strength!  He promises to be right there with us when we need Him the most – even in the parking lot.

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Help in Times of Anxiety

A while back I checked on a friend of mine who was going through a difficult time and had been dealing with some anxiety.  I wanted to check in and see how they were doing.   They said they were feeling better, they said they had visited with their doctor about what they were going through and they said they found a Bible verse that ministered to them, Psalm 94:17 – 18.

Psalm 94:17   Unless the LORD had given me help, I would soon have dwelt in the silence of death. 18 When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your unfailing love, LORD, supported me. 19 When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.

We talked about the ways the verse had ministered to them and how they embraced the promise of the Lord’s help for those who trust in Him.  My friend came to the same conclusion as the psalmist in verse 22 “the LORD is my fortress; my God is the mighty rock where I hide.”  I pray that you know that you can also turn to the Lord Jesus Christ in times of stress and anxiety.  I pray that you also know that He will be your fortress, He will support you when you feel like you are slipping.  He will give you help in your time of need.

Posted in Being Blessed, can't go on, Christianity, Church, Don't give up, faith, God, God Answers Prayer, God will help you, Psalm 94:17 | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Along the Way

  

We have been doing vacation bible school this week and it has been a lot of fun.  It has been great seeing our people minister to the kids, teach lessons and share God’s word.  It has truly been a blessing.  I have been reminded of the passage in Deuteronomy 6:6 which says

Deu 6:6 “These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. 7 “You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.”

Every step of the way this week, at every station, whether it has involved songs, crafts, snacks or recreation games like the “Living Water relays,” members of our church have shared applications of God’s word with the kids.  And the kids have been receiving it so well!  They have been asking and answering questions and leading prayers.  This week has been a blessing!  Thank you for your prayers for our VBS ministry this year!  I ask that you would continue to pray for these kids and pray they would continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Until next time, stay strong in the faith,

Pastor Phillip Stephens

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Help in the Here and Now

I talked and prayed with someone in a parking lot recently who is going through a very busy season in their life and in their ministry.  We discussed some options they may have which will help them do all that they need to do.  We also talked about the encouragement we find in God’s word where God promises to help us do all that He has ordained for us to do.  One of the verses we discussed was 1 Thessalonians 15:58.  Paul reminds the church that Christ, who died for our sins and rose again will someday return and those who have trusted Him will be with Him forever.  There will be no more death and we will share in the ultimate victory.

Paul then encourages the church to not give up now by saying in verse 58, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.”  I love the  encouragement we find in God’s word.  And I love the fact that in Christ, we have hope for the hereafter and help in the here and now.

Posted in 1 Corinthians 15:58, busy schedule, can't go on, faith, God will help you, Help from God, Hope in Christ, ministry work | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Don’t Get Lost!

“I really think we should have taken that exit a few miles back.”  It was the third call in about 5 minutes that I received from my son-in-law Matt as we drove to Destin, Florida.  We had already been driving for more than 11 hours and had just about an hour left.  Matt had Lauren and the girls in his car and I had Marta and Eric and Amanda in mine.  I did my best to assure him.  I told him, “I’ve got this!  We are right on track.  I rechecked the GPS app I’m using and we’re good.”  He said, “Okay” and hung up but he really didn’t sound convinced.  And I can’t say that I blame him.  I am directionally challenged and I get lost pretty easily when driving in unfamiliar places.  Members of my family and members of the church can all share stories about misadventures and missed exits that happened when they followed me on the road.  But for the last few years I have been using a GPS app on my phone and it has helped immensely.  It lines out your route, notifies you of potential hazards and gets you back on track if you do take a wrong turn.

With the extra guidance and direction we were able to make it safely to our destination.  After a couple of days in Destin, we caravanned into town for some shopping and some dinner.  I felt comfortable enough with the town that I did not use my GPS on the way back to the condo after dinner.  Mistake.  I took a few wrong turns and an early exit on the way back.  My son-in-law Matt did not follow me this time and he and the girls beat us back to the condo by several minutes.  When we finally arrived, Marta asked our six year old granddaughter Haley, “How come you beat us back and didn’t get lost?”  Haley quickly replied, “Cause we didn’t follow you!”  From the mouths of babes.

The whole thing reminds me of what the Bible says in Proverbs 3:5, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; 6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”  That’s good counsel.  It’s good because I find that all of us can be directionally challenged in life sometimes.  We all need God to direct our path, to warn us of potential hazards and get us back on track when we take a wrong turn.  God wants to lead us and guide us.  He wants to keep us on the right path.  And He will do it if we let Him.

Posted in Christianity, Church, faith, God has a plan for you, God will help you, God will lead you, Proverbs 3:5 - 6 | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

It Will Be a Great Place!

Before long we will be going on our family vacation.  I can hardly wait!  We will be going to the Emerald Cost in Florida; a place we have never been before.  I hear it is beautiful, the water is clear and the sand on the beach is sparkling white.  Sure sounds beautiful.  In advance of our trip, Marta has been doing some research and learning about some different things that we might see and do while we are there – dolphin tours, beach parties, swimming pools and time with the family.  Like I said, I can hardly wait.  While I don’t think I can fully imagine what to expect until we get there, I am glad we will be informed ahead of time so that we can be ready to hit the ground running.

Somebody told me the other day that area is just like heaven.  And while I know they were just using an expression to describe the beauty of that area, it got me to thinking about what the real heaven will be like.  I know it is hard for my mind to fully comprehend it because Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 2:9 “Eye has not seen and ear has not heard nor has it entered into the heart of man, all the things which God has prepared for those who love him.”  It will be beautiful and glorious!   And while I know we cannot fully imagine what to expect until we get there, we can do some studying and research up front.  Christ says He is going to prepare a dwelling place for His followers, a place with streets of gold and other beautiful sights.   One of my favorite verses about what to expect is in Revelation 21:4

Rev 21:4  and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” 5 And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.”

No tears, no death, no pain and no sorrow – all things will be new.  I like the sound of that and I am glad the Lord is preparing a place for me so that where He is, someday I will be too.   And I will get to go there, not because of anything I have done but because of what Christ has done for me.

Posted in Be Prepared, Christianity, Church, faith, Know Christ, Paid for our sins, What is Heaven Like | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment