I Went to Heaven

He is Risen!  He is Risen Indeed!  Happy Easter!  What a wonderful and glorious day it is as we celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior!  This week I have been writing a song to capture some of my gratitude for Christ giving His life to me.  I am still working on it, but here is what I have so far.  It is called, “I Went to Heaven.”

“I Went to Heaven”

I dreamed I died and went to Heaven
And the angels were surprised
They scratched their heads and did a double take,
And some even rolled their eyes.

I heard St. Peter shouting
“The gate must be broke again!”
Yes, there was a lot of commotion,
When they saw me walkin’ in!

I said, “I know that you’re all thinking’
There must be something wrong.
I never was an angel
And I surely don’t belong!”

But Jesus gave His life to save me,
He forgave me of all those things!
It’s only by the Grace of Jesus
That I have earned my wings!

Jesus cleansed me and redeemed me,
He washed away my sin!
I’m only here in Heaven
Because Jesus let me in!

Yes, I dreamed I died and went to Heaven
And the angels were surprised
They scratched their heads and did a double take,
And some even rolled their eyes.

I heard St. Peter shouting
“The gate must be broke again!”
Yes, there was a lot of commotion,
When they saw me walkin’ in!

But Jesus cleansed me and redeemed me,
He washed away my sin!
I only got to Heaven
Because Jesus let me in!

Posted in Christianity, Church, Easter, faith, Forgiven, God's Grace, God's Mercy, salvation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What’s Outside of the Frame?

I hope you are having a good day and I hope you know how much the Lord loves you!  I have taken part in more many video conferences and been on camera more in the last 2 weeks than I have in my whole life.  And I have been noticing the backgrounds that everyone has for their home office.  I see nice pictures on the wall, I see a simple bookshelf holding a few books with some really academic looking titles.   And what I see in the picture frame looks so perfect.  And I think, how much cleaning up and decorating did they have to do to make their home office look like that?  How do I know they have been working hard to present just the right picture?  I know because I’ve been working pretty hard at it.  I’ve been working on “framing up” a real nice picture for everyone else to see on these video chats.  I try to have a nice backdrop of my diplomas, my best guitar and a few nice wall hangings.

But, what’s outside the frame?  What is there, what’s present that we don’t want the rest of the world to see?  Let’s look.  You can’t see it in the frame of the video I just shot, but over in the corner, just out of view I’ve got a total gym and a pair of stinky basketball shoes that I wear when I do my cardio sessions.  I’ve also got a dog bed over there, one that I tripped once while video taping a sermon.  I’ve got hats and paper and envelopes over here on this old TV stand.  I’ve got a TV tray that holds the guitar tabs and chord sheets for some songs that I’ve been working on.  I have the coat hanger on the wall that I use to hold the camera when I am recording a sermon.  There is so much stuff going on just outside of the frame, just outside of the picture that we present to everybody else.

All of us have a picture that we want to present to the world.  We work hard to “frame” things just right because we are afraid that if we don’t then people may not like us, they may not want to hear from us or be around us.  We work so hard to present the right picture.

I said all that to say this.  The Lord knows all the stuff that is outside of the frame.  He knows about all the stuff you try to hide from everybody else.  He knows all about you.  He has every hair on your head numbered.  He knows about the clutter, He knows about the stinky tennis shoes that you don’t let anybody else see.  He knows about the dog beds you’ve tripped over.

He even knows about the darker things; He knows about your sin.  He knows about the things you have done that you shouldn’t have.  He knows about the things you should have done that you didn’t do.  He knows all about you and He LOVES YOU!  He wants to fellowship with you.  He wants to walk with you and talk with you.  He invites you into a lifesaving relationship with Him.  In Matthew 11:28 Jesus says, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29 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.

Jesus knows that we need rest for our souls.  He knows that we need forgiveness for our sins.  He knows that we need help with the pains and problems we experience in this world.  He sees beyond the frame we show to others.  He knows all about us and He loves us and He wants to be our Savior.  I hope you know Him as your Savior.  If you would like to know more about what it means to know Christ as your Savior, send me your contact information in the comments.  I will be glad to discuss it with you and answer any questions you may have.

Thanks and may God bless you,

Pastor Phillip Stephens

Posted in Christianity, Corona, Draw close to God, faith, forgiveness, God loves you | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I Gotta Fight Corona

For the last couple of days, that song “My Sharona” by the Knak has been running through my mind.  I mean it has almost been a constant “badda dadda bump bump – bump bump” melody running through my head.  So, I added some words to more closely fit current events. For those of you who are too young and who missed out on the music of the 80’s, I apologize.  For those of you who fondly remember 80’s music, I apologize even more profusely to you.

I Gotta Fight Corona – by the Knak, sorta, and me

Verse 1
Oooh I have to work from home, stay at home,
Is there enough TP to fight Corona?
Oooh I need to make a run, a grocery run,
Go to HEB and stand in line Corona!

It’s never gonna stop, I need to shop, such a dirty line
But I really gotta shop, I need so much, for a clean behind
Mine, mine, mine, mine, mine, woo!
I gotta fight Corona

Verse 2
Come a little closer, huh, will ya huh,
But only if you sanitize Corona
It’s such a big mystery, where’s TP?
I’ve searched every single grocery aisle Corona!

It’s never gonna stop, I need to shop, it’s such a dirty line
But I really gotta shop, I need so much, for a clean behind
Mine, mine, mine, mine, mine, woo!
I gotta fight Corona
I gotta fight Corona

Verse 3
When you gonna set me free, and sell TP?
Is it just a matter of time Corona?
Is there a real scarcity, of TP?
Or is it just a game in my mind, Corona

It’s never gonna stop, I need to shop, its such a dirty line
But I really gotta shop, I need so much, for a clean behind
Mine, mine, mine, mine, mine, woo!
Mine, mine, mine, mine, mine, woo!
I gotta fight Corona
I gotta fight Corona
I gotta fight Corona
I gotta fight Corona!

Posted in Corona, hoarding, I Gotta Fight Corona, The Knak | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Social Distancing and the Christian

Due to the recent restrictions on gathering due to the corona virus.  We won’t be having traditional services at our church for the next couple of weeks.  Out of an abundance of caution and in obedience to the governmental authorities in our lives, we will be observing “social distancing.”  And I believe that is the appropriate and prudent thing for us to do at this time.  We wouldn’t want to cause any one any harm or get anyone sick simply because we failed to recognize the physical impact we can have on others as well as the physical impact they can have on us.

Social distancing in times like this, makes pretty good sense.  You know the Bible talks about social distancing as well.  Not from the physical aspect but rather from the spiritual aspect.  The Apostle Paul reminded the church of that fact in 1 Corinthians 15:33. Paul writes, “Do not be deceived, ‘bad company corrupts good morals.’”

We have an impact and an influence on those around us and they have an impact and an influence on us.  Not just in a physical sense, but also in a spiritual, moral and emotional sense.  It is true that bad company does corrupt good morals.  In this time of “social distancing” maybe we can spend some of our time reflecting on the overall impact we are having on others and the overall impact they are having on us.  Maybe we need to put a little more distance between ourselves and those who impact us negatively.  Maybe we need to draw closer to those who impact us positively.  I don’t mean to draw closer in the physical sense, but reach out in other ways.  Call someone and tell you appreciate them; let them know how much they mean to you.  Write a letter, send a postcard or some words of encouragement to someone.

It is important who we hang out with, who we interact with.  It can have a good or a bad influence on our lives.  My prayer for you is that you would be safe.  That you would know you are loved.  And that you would use this time of social distancing to draw closer to the Lord and to allow Him to impact someone in a positive way through you.

Until Next Time, Stay Strong in the Faith,

Pastor Phillip

Posted in 1 Corinthians 15:33, Choose to be happy, Christianity, Church, doing the right thing, faith, influencing others, inspirational | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

If You’re Going to Be a Bear…

I was thinking about my dad the other day; he passed away in 2006.  I was remembering some of the phrases and expressions he used.  One day he came to pick me up after football practice in high school.  He got there early and watched us practice for a pretty good while.  I guess he didn’t think I gave it my all that day because in the car on the way home, he began to talk to me about the importance of practicing hard so we can play hard.  He said to always give it your best when you are on the field – whether it is for practice or for a game.  Then he closed by saying, “If you’re going to be a bear…be a grizzly.”  That conversation with my dad trying to remind me to always do my best has stuck with me over the years.  I think that is what Paul was trying to tell the church in Colossians 3:23 -24.  Paul writes:

Colossians 3:23 Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.

I love that verse!  Our heavenly Father wants us to do our best in whatever role, whatever relationship, whatever job or task we find ourselves involved in.  We are to give it our best.  We should always walk and talk, work and serve and practice and play in a manner that brings honor and glory to the Lord.  It’s only right that we should give our best for the One who gave His life for us.  Still, I know that trying hard and giving it our best is not always easy.  But I also know that whatever the Lord asks us to do, He will help us to do.  The Lord will equip you and empower you to do all that you need to do today.  After all, ultimately, you’re doing it for Him.

Posted in All the right moves, can't go on, Christianity, Church, Colossians 3:24, Do Your Best, Don't give up, Don't stop, faith, Give it your best, God will help you, inspirational | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Let’s Work Out Together!

This morning I went to the gym to work out.  There is a small but not too small gym in our neighborhood community center next to the pool.  This morning I was there all by myself.  This is the first time since the first of the year that I have been the only one in there working out.  I am sure that the initial January surge was due to New Years’ Resolutions and people trying to work on their physical fitness and physical health.  No doubt many of them started out all excited and hit the ground running but now their enthusiasm has waned and other things seem more important.  Sometimes working out can be tough.

Whenever I think of working out, I am reminded of what Paul says in Philippians 2:12 “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling.”  When Paul uses the word “fear” he is not telling us to be afraid of God, he is speaking about having a great reverence for God and high respect for the things of God.  Paul is trying to encourage the church to take their faith seriously, to be concerned about their spiritual health and to work out and strive to conform to the image of Christ.  We are to study God’s word and grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ so that we can love others, forgive others and treat others with the same kindness, compassion and mercy that Christ has poured out on us.

If you started the year off striving to become more physically fit or spiritually fit, I encourage you to stick with it.  Don’t give up!  You will see some differences; your health will improve if you continue to work out.  I hope you have a great day.  And remember, it’s always a great day to exercise your faith.

Posted in Christianity, Church, Controlling our words, Don't give up, Don't stop, faith, Fear and trembling, God will help you, God's Strength, Philippians 2:12, Spiritual Fitness | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

That You May Be Comforted

The other day in Bible study we were discussing topic of pain and suffering and the lesson was centered on one of my favorite passages of scripture, 2 Corinthians 1:2-4.  As Paul is writing to the Corinthians, he seeks to encourage those who are going through a season of suffering and sorrow.  Paul writes:

2 Co 1:2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

I love this passage of scripture.  Paul greets the readers of his letter and expresses his desire that all of them would know and experience God’s grace and God’s peace.  And certainly, some readers of his letter needed to do just that.  Certainly, some readers of his letter were in the midst of some season of sorrow or some times of trouble.  And yet, even for those in the midst of dark and difficult days, Paul knew that God’s grace and God’s peace was available.  It was available because God is a God of mercy and comfort.

Paul knew that if those who were suffering would depend on the Lord and lean on Him, the Lord could be counted on to strengthen them and comfort them during their time of troubles.  Paul knew that those who trusted in God would later be able to comfort others with the same comfort of God that they had received.  Paul knew this personally.  In verses 8 – 10, Paul speaks of the despair that he and his missionary partners experienced in Asia.  They were “burdened excessively” and “despaired even of life.”   Paul and his friends were at the lowest of lows but God strengthened them.  Paul knew that God was available and able to strengthen the Corinthians too.

I really do love this passage!  God who strengthened and comforted Paul and the Corinthians is STILL the Father of all mercies and all comfort.  He stands ready to comfort you.  He stands ready to pour out His grace on you.   He stands ready to deliver you in the midst of your season of sorrow or time of trouble.  He wants you to know His peace.

Posted in A prayer for Peace, a stronghold, can't go on, Christianity, Church, Dealing with grief, enduring mistreatment, faith, God Answers Prayer, God Cares for You, God's Strength, Grace and Peace, religion | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Difference between Empathy and Sympathy

In a recent meeting at work, we were talking about providing good customer service and at some point, the conversation revolved around defining the difference between sympathy and empathy.  I have to say that sometimes the same words don’t always mean the same things to different people.  Someone says “goulash” and you picture a tasty dish of cubed steak, macaroni noodles and vegetables in a hearty pasta sauce.  You smile as you remember enjoying a nice warm bowl at grandma’s house.  I hear the word goulash and it brings an entirely different picture to my mind.  I picture myself as an 8 year old boy sitting in front of a bowl containing a mixture of too many onions, too little hamburger and big chunks of potatoes that are still raw in the middle.  Same word, different thoughts and different pictures entirely.

It’s true.  The same words might mean different things to different people.  But let’s get back to sympathy and empathy.  The dictionary defines sympathy as feeling sorry for someone’s situation or misfortune. Empathy is defined as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person.  The differences in definition are slight.  But the differences in experience can be great.  Although I still have some more studying to do on the issue, right now I would sum up the difference like this, sympathy says, “I am hurting for you.”  Empathy says, “I am hurting with you.”  Sympathy laments the fact that someone is cold.  Empathy lends them our ear and lends them our coat.  Sympathy shares our pity.  Empathy shares our presence.

I am reminded of what Paul said in Galatians 6:2, “Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.”  When we share our presence, it helps someone to know that they are not alone in their struggle.  It helps someone to know that they have not been forgotten.  It helps someone to hold up and hold out a little longer because someone is there with them.  And while we may not be able to verbalize the difference between sympathy and empathy, we certainly know it when someone is present with us, helping us bear our burdens.    I pray you will have a wonderfully blessed week.  I pray that you will know that you are not alone.  And I pray that every bowl of goulash you eat warms your heart, fills your soul and brings a smile to your face.

Posted in doing the right thing, Don't give up, Galatians 6:2, God is with Me, Love your brother, never cast out, Relationships, religion, the Golden Rule, Work Together | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Life to the Full

As I was working on my sermon this week, I reflected on the way the Lord desires to bless us and meet all of our needs.  I love the verse John 10:10 where Jesus says, “I have come that you may have life and have it abundantly.”  Other translations say, “…life to the full.”  Jesus is indeed the Good Shepherd who can be trusted to take care of us and meet all of our needs.  And yet so many times, we look only to the world and the people in it to meet all of our deepest needs.  When we do that, we are asking something from the world and from others that they are not designed to do.

I remember many years ago when motion detectors first began to be used on bathroom sinks.  I was in a restaurant and I wanted to wash my hands before I ate.  So, I went to the restroom to wash my hands.  As I stood in front of the sink, I was perplexed.  There was just a spigot and there weren’t any handles to turn the water on.  I looked at that sink for a minute and scratched my head because I couldn’t figure out how to turn on the water.  So, I leaned in to take a closer look thinking I would see a button or something to push or a lever to pull.  When I leaned in and put my face real close, I set off the motion detector and the water came on.  I jumped back and it stopped.  I leaned in again and it started again.  I finally figured it out.  There was a motion detector on the sink and it was designed to turn on whenever you put your hands near it.  Today, sinks with motion detectors are everywhere.  A while back I went into a different restaurant to wash my hands and I put my hands under the sink and nothing happened.  I started waving my hands in the sink and still nothing happened.  So, I moved them faster.  Still nothing, so I moved to the next sink.  I moved my hands but it didn’t work either!  But I kept doing it.  I kept waving my hands under that sink thinking that eventually it would give me some water.  I finally figured it out.  Those sinks didn’t work because there was no motion detector; you had to turn on the handle.  I was expecting something from those sinks they were not designed to do.

And we do that with the world and the people in it.  We look to others to perfectly love us, to perfectly care for us and to perfectly care about us.  And we have been let down because we have looked to this world and the people in it to meet all of our needs, and that is something that they are not designed to do.  But still, we keep moving our hands, looking for water.  And we move from sink to sink and never get what we need.  Jesus, says, “Come to Me, I will meet your needs.  Come to Me, I will give you living water.  I will give you life and life more abundantly.”  It’s true.  We can trust the Lord to meet all of our needs.  We can trust Him to give us life to the full.  We can trust Him to perfectly love us, to perfectly care for us and to perfectly care about us.  I pray that you will let the Lord meet your needs this week.  I pray that you will experience the abundant life that only Christ can give, life to the full.

Posted in Abundant life, Christianity, Church, faith, God loves you, God's Grace, John 10:10, Meeting our Needs | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Out of the Storm

This week I finished cleaning out the garage.  I had started cleaning it last summer and reorganized it a little bit, but I still had a lot of junk stored in there and I never finished the  job.  There was a big hail storm headed our way the other day so I got motivated to get my car in there.  I did some more reorganizing, some more throwing things away and I hauled some of the better stuff off to a local thrift shop that accepts donations.  And lo and behold, two cars can fit in a two car garage!  We have lived in this house for ten years and that’s the first time I have ever parked my car in this garage.  Now, I no longer have to worry about hail storms or ice on my windshield in the winter or someone trying to rifle through my glove box and my old Journey CD’s when my car is in the driveway overnight.  As I was thinking about how nice it is to have my car in the garage and in a safe and secure spot, I was reminded of what the Bible says in Nahum 1:7

Nahum 1:7  The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him.

It is good to take refuge in the Lord.  He is a safe place and a stronghold.  Christ offers not only to forgive us and deliver us but He also offers to equip us and empower us to withstand any storm that life may send our way.  It is good to take refuge in the Lord, to place ourselves in His presence.  And yet, sometimes it takes storms or the threat of storms for us to recognize our need for refuge in Him.  If you are facing a storm in your life, I pray that you would know that the Lord is good and that He is a safe place and stronghold in the day of trouble.  I pray that you would take refuge in Him.

Posted in A refuge, a stronghold, faith, Faith during hard times, God loves you, God's comfort, Nahum 1:7, religion, Safe place, Storms in Life | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment