Making Right Choices

This week, I have been praying for some friends who have some decisions to make concerning school, jobs, and things of that nature. I have prayed for the Lord to lead them and guide them and help them make the “right” decisions. As I prayed for God to guide them and illuminate their path, a certain Bible passage came to my mind. In Genesis 2:15-17, the Lord placed Adam in the Garden and set a clear boundary in regard to the tree of knowledge but otherwise gave Adam many other options. “From any other tree in the garden you may freely eat” the Lord said. This passage reminds me that as long as we follow the boundaries the Lord has provided, we still have great liberty in regard to other choices we make.

And yet sometimes, we struggle with making choices and moving forward because we fear we will make the wrong choice.  We get stuck. We fear that we will displease the Lord and disrupt His plan, so we do nothing, or we hesitate until certain opportunities are lost. I think it is good to be reminded that when the Lord sets the table and places some godly options before us, He can bless whatever path we take. When we remain faithful to His word and walk within the counsel of His word, there is no wrong path, no wrong choice. We can move forward without worrying about displeasing Him or disrupting His plan. “From any other tree, you may freely eat.”

I pray that you will have a good week. I pray that you will know the depth of the love that God has for you. And I pray that God will strengthen you, encourage you, and help you to move forward with the godly choices He has placed before you.

Posted in doing the right thing, God has a plan for you, God will lead you, good choices | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sing to the Lord

In one of our chapel classes this week , our lesson was centered on Psalm 95:1 – 2. It is one of my favorites. The psalmist writes:

Psalm 95:1 O come, let us sing unto the LORD: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. 2 Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto Him with psalms.

This psalm is attributed to King David who had a gift for writing songs which praise the Lord. David invites the reader to worship the Lord with him. As part of our chapel service, we went around the room and shared with others the names of some of our favorite songs and hymns. A couple of people even sang portions of theirs. During our discussion, we all agreed that some songs are harder to sing than others. Some notes are hard for some of us to hit. Some of us haven’t hit a note yet. At least, I haven’t. I am so glad the Lord invites us to make a joyful noise to Him. Making noise the kind of singing I do best!

Just as we all agreed that some songs are hard to sing, we also agreed that on some days it can be hard to sing. Some days we feel downcast and discouraged. Some days we feel just feel tired and out of sorts and we don’t feel like singing at all. I have found that those days when it is hard to sing are the days when I need to sing the most. Lifting up a song in those days helps me change my perspective. Lifting up a song on those days helps me lean on the rock of my salvation. Lifting up a song on those days allows the Lord to strengthen me. My prayer for you is that today, no matter what kind of day it is, you will take the time to sing and make a joyful noise unto the Lord.

Posted in a good day, Being Blessed, Being Thankful, Christianity, Church, Draw close to God, faith, Psalm 95:1 | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Bedtime Prayer

This week I have been reviewing some old folders and trying to clean up my study a little bit. I came across this poem that I wrote about ten years ago. I thought I would share it with you.

A Bedtime Prayer

As I retire for the night,
I lift up this prayer with all my might,
“Most Gracious Father, Lord above,
Please watch over the ones I love.
Guide their path and keep them safe,
Let them know Your strong embrace.
Let them feel your love their whole life through,
And let them know I love them too.”

I hope you have a great week. I pray that God will watch over you, protect you, lead you and guide you and pour out His love and grace upon you and the people you love.

Posted in A refuge, Draw close to God, faith, family, God Answers Prayer, God answers prayers, God will lead you, God's Grace, God's Peace, Poem, poetry, prayer | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Forgiving Others and Ourselves

In our chapel class this week, our scripture focus was on Ephesians 4:29.  In that verse Paul exhorts Christians to not use unwholesome words but to only speak words that edify and encourage those who hear them.  Generally, when people hear that verse, they automatically think Paul is saying we should not use curse words.  And while that is true, it is also true that curse words are not the only words that can hurt others.  Even everyday words, pleasant sounding words can be spoken in such a way that they hurt and harm others.  As followers of Christ, our words should serve to bring healing not hurting. Our words should serve to encourage not discourage those who hear them.

As we discussed the impact our words can have on those who hear them, we took time to remember that the words we use also impact ourselves.  Sometimes, we speak to ourselves in ways that only serve to bring us down rather than build us up.  It can be easy to dwell on past mistakes and speak critically and harshly to ourselves.  “What were you thinking!  You are so stupid!  You will never learn!”  Although we can easily recognize the harmful impact such words can have on others; we may fail to acknowledge the harmful impact such words can have on ourselves.  And while it is good to admit and learn from our mistakes, it is not healthy to dwell on them and continually beat ourselves up because of them.  Paul says in Ephesians 4:32 that we are to “be kind, tenderhearted, forgiving others just as God through Christ has forgiven us.”  As we extend encouragement, kindness, and forgiveness to others, let us also extend encouragement, kindness, and forgiveness to ourselves.

Posted in Christianity, Church, Ephesians 4:30, faith, forgiveness | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Do Not Grow Weary of Doing Good

The latest Covid surge has really taken a toll on people who work in the healthcare and retail service industries. Many hospitals and other medical providers are having a hard time keeping up with the number of patients they serve not only due to the rapid increase of patients but also because several staff members are out sick with Covid too. My prayers go out to everyone who is sick and to everyone providing care in this environment. It is also a difficult time for those in the retail and service industry. There are a lot of people working in places that are understaffed right now and they are frequently on the receiving end of everyone else’s frustration. I know there are several people in that boat and the waters are pretty choppy. Those of you who care for and who serve others are in my prayers today. And as I have been praying, my thoughts keep going back to a passage of scripture in Galatians 6:9.

Galatians 6:9 Let’s not become discouraged in doing good, for in due time we will reap, if we do not become weary.

My prayer for each of you is that you would not become discouraged. I pray that you would know how much you are appreciated. And I pray that God will bless you with His strength, His comfort and His peace.

Posted in can't go on, Christianity, Corona, Galatians 6:9, God Cares for You, God's comfort, God's Strength | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Grace and Mercy? What’s the Difference?

This week, at the end of a chapel service, we took turns sharing our favorite Bible verses. When it was my turn, I mentioned that although I have a lot of favorite verses, this week the one at the top of my list is Hebrews 4:16:

Hebrews 4:16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

This verse speaks of how we are able to approach God with confidence because of our relationship with Jesus Christ. Through Christ, we have forgiveness of our sin. Through Christ, we are reconciled and restored to a right relationship with God. As a result, we are able to enter into the very presence of our holy and righteous Creator and obtain mercy and grace in our time of need. My sharing of this verse led to a discussion about the difference between mercy and grace. Although mercy and grace are very closely related, they are not exactly the same. Mercy has been described as “when we don’t get what we do deserve” and grace has been described as “when we do get what we don’t deserve.”

Both mercy and grace are found in Jesus Christ. Through Christ, God offers mercy, an escape from the penalty we rightly deserve for our sins. Through Christ, God also offers grace. God offers us the gift of eternal life in the hereafter and an abundant life in the here and now. Through a saving relationship with Christ, we can boldly and confidently approach our Heavenly Father and obtain mercy and grace in our time of need. We approach boldly, not because of who we are, but because of who Christ is for us. He is our Redeemer. He is our Savior. This week I pray that you will know and experience the riches of God’s grace and mercy.

Posted in Christianity, Church, Forgiven, God's Grace, God's Mercy, Hebrews 4:16, redeemed, religion | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Happy New Year

Happy New Year, I hope the New Year finds you enjoying the blessings, the peace and the joy of the Lord. I was speaking to someone this week and they shared with me how although it has been a long couple of years, the Lord has been comforting them through His word. They spoke of certain psalms they often read which have helped them experience God’s comfort, strength, and peace. One of the ones they mentioned was Psalm 91 and how they are comforted especially by verses 1 and 2.

Psalm 91:1 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. 2 I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, My God, in whom I trust!”

Those are indeed some good verses and I know they bring comfort to many people. Those verses remind me of the importance and the benefit of staying near to God. We can experience God’s strength when we dwell in His shelter and abide in His presence. It is a place of refuge, a place of peace, a place of joy, and a place of comfort. We enter into that place through a relationship with God’s Son Jesus Christ. He is the Lord; He is a fortress in whom we can find refuge and in whom we can trust. In this upcoming year, may we all continually dwell and abide in His presence.

Posted in A refuge, a stronghold, Church, Faith during hard times, God loves you, Psalm 91:2 | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

I was visiting with someone recently and they asked me what I was going to preach on this weekend. I gave them the scripture reference and a Cliff Notes version of the sermon and they shared some of their thoughts on the passage. We had a good conversation and as we parted ways, they told me, “Preach a good word!” I laughed and replied, “Well, I’m sure going to try!”

Our conversation got me to thinking about what it really means to “preach a good word.” In 2 Corinthians 2:12 – 17, Paul is writing to the church about an opportunity he has to share the gospel. Paul is mindful of the eternal difference it can make in a person’s life, and as Paul contemplates the task of sharing the gospel, Paul says in verse 16, “Who is sufficient for these things?” And the answer to Paul’s rhetorical question is that none of us are sufficient for such things. None of us in our own power are able to “preach a good word” that makes an eternal life-saving difference. Paul goes on to remind the church in the upcoming verses, that any adequacy to share the gospel comes from God. I like the way Paul said it in his first letter to Corinthians.

1 Cor 2:1 And when I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come as someone superior in speaking ability or wisdom, as I proclaimed to you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.

“To preach a good word” is a great goal. But preaching a good word is not based on the effort or the eloquence of the preacher. It will only be a good word if it is God’s word.

Posted in 1 Corinthians 2:1, Christianity, Church, Colossians 1:28, God's Strength, God's Word, ministry, ministry work, Preaching | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

His Sight is Better than Hindsight

I was talking to someone the other day about some annoyances I have been having with my eyesight. I have been experiencing several floaters in my right eye for quite a while now. Most of them are small but I do have a couple of larger ones that are constantly buzzing around my field of vision. I say “buzzing around” because quite frequently I mistake them for flies or bees and start ducking and quickly swatting at the air. So, if you see me ducking and dodging or wildly slapping at something that is not there…well, now you know the reason. I was telling a friend about it the other day and I said that I now have a greater appreciation for what it means in Genesis chapter 27 when it says that Isaac’s eyesight was growing dim. My friend tried to encourage by saying, “Well, at least your hindsight is still good.” He went on to say, “Hindsight is always 20/20…right?”

And while I appreciate the encouragement and while I am familiar with the expression that hindsight is 20/20, I don’t know that my hindsight has always been 20/20. I know that sometimes even when I look back on something that happened or something I did, I still look through the lens of my preferences and my perspectives. I don’t always see things so clearly or accurately, even when I am looking back. It reminded me that oftentimes, just like Paul in Acts chapter 9, I need the Lord to remove the scales from my eyes and help me see clearly. I need the Lord to give me better hindsight, I need the Lord to give me His sight. I like the invitation the Lord gives us in Jeremiah 33:3:

Jeremiah 33:3 “Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.”

What a great invitation. What a great reminder. It’s not helpful to look at things through the lens of my preferences and my perspective, I need to look at things through the lens of God’s precepts and His perspective. Hindsight is not 20/20; His sight is 20/20.

Posted in Christianity, Church, God Answers Prayer, God has blessed me, Jeremiah 33:3 | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dirty and Dusty

Here is a poem/song I have been working on this year. And while I don’t think I have finished it yet; I am going to share it anyway. The theme is birthed out of my sincere belief that just like God’s word says, every single one of us have done wrong things in our life. Every single one of us have “sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” And that sin, whether it is considered big or small, it creates a division between us and our Creator who is holy. Our fellowship with Him is broken. God, who is holy, is also loving. And in His love, God offers redemption and reconciliation through His Son Jesus Christ. If we confess our sin and call upon Christ as Lord, He offers to forgive us and cleanse us of all unrighteousness.

Dirty and Dusty

They say Moses’ face was shining
After he and God would meet,
The ground there was so holy,
He had to take the sandals off his feet.
His shoes were dirty and dusty
From the path that he had trod,
And you can’t track in the dirt of this world
If you want to stand in the presence of God.

Jesus took His twelve disciples
To the upper room to eat,
But before they had communion
The Savior washed their feet
Their feet were dirty and dusty
From the path that they had trod
And you can’t track in the dirt of this world
If you want to have communion with God

Someday we’ll all be standing
Before God’s Judgment seat,
And we’ll be sent away forever
If Christ hasn’t washed our feet,
We’re all dirty and dusty
From the paths that we have trod,
And we cannot enter Heaven
Unless we’ve been washed by the Son of God.

I hope that you know how much the Lord loves and cares for you. May God bless you and the ones you love.

Until next time, stay strong in the faith,

Pastor Phillip Stephens

Posted in 1 John 1:9, Christianity, Church, faith, forgiveness, God loves you, God's Grace, Poem, Song | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments