Author Archives: drphilipnordstrom

About drphilipnordstrom

I am the Lead Pastor of Bethesda Christian Fellowship which is a dynamic growing congregation in Knoxville, Tennessee. I have an amazing wife, Melanie, two daughters, Natalie, and Kristiana, and a son, Noah. Nordstroms are passionate world changing Christ followers. We are educated with a Christian world view. We make godly decisions regarding friendships and marriage. We seek God's guidance for our life work and ministry.

A Final Hallelujah!

Friday
Revelation 19 concludes with some final Hallelujah’s because The Beast has been defeated.  The warfare image aptly describes my journey of faith.  There are beast without and beasts within that must be overcome before the consummation of all things.  As this year comes to a close I say with John the Revelator Hallelujah!  Those from Christ Communuity Church may recall that it was about this time last year that I began saying, “a year from now I sense that we won’t even recognize the church.  God is getting ready to do something big and something new!”  I can with complete honesty say that I never could have predicted the way that this “word” would come to pass.  I can say with a year later, however, that God did exceedingly and abundantly above all that I could have asked or could have imagined.  Between the word and the Hallelujah was a tremendous battle.  Little did I know that I would be a major part of the BIG CHANGE that was coming.  As you know, the Lord called us to leave our beloved church and friends in order to be pioneers and help relaunch a church in Tennessee.
Unraveling our entire social network and uprooting our family was the hardest thing I have ever done.  The love I have for Murphysboro and Christ Community was only confirmed by the pain of leaving.  We came willingly but we heavy heart and a great deal of trepidation.  A battle raged within my own heart and truthfully there are still skirmishes to fight.  God came through for Christ Community by sending a dynamic pastor and his family who are changing the face of Christ Community and they have brought fresh vision and energy which is already paying dividends.
In Knoxville, we are already on the grow and new friendships are being forged which don’t replace the old ones, but simply add to the tapestry of the beautiful destiny God has for us all.  I am more refreshed than I have been in years and I’m so excited about the new opportunities and challenges ahead.
It has been a joy to blog through the Bible this year.  This is my last CCC blog and I will retreat into the background and allow all of you to experience the great future God has for you under the leadership of your new pastor.  Pastor Rick has my full support and I promised him and you that I will never interfere or speak anything but positive things about the journey you are on together.
However, I will still be writing, blogging, preaching, proclaiming, discipling, and teaching until that last Beast has been defeated and we all begin our eternal hallelujahs together.  Continue to pray for us as we will be praying for you!
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Our Loss, Heaven’s Gain

Friday

Revelation 12: 7-12

7Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. 8 But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. 9 The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.10 Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:  “Now have come the salvation and the power  and the kingdom of our God,  and the authority of his Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters,    who accuses them before our God day and night,     has been hurled down. 11 They triumphed over him     by the blood of the Lamb     and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much     as to shrink from death. 12 Therefore rejoice, you heavens  and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury,  because he knows that his time is short.”

“Our loss, heaven’s gain,” is frankly a phrase that irritates me.  It’s one of those trite statements people make in the face of tragedy, suffering and loss.  One of the most irritating things I ever witnessed was after a child was killed in a hunting accident.  The caregiver who was trying to comfort the grief-stricken parents said  “God must have needed another angel up in heaven.”  I was incensed for the parents.  I thought that we needed that child on earth much more than God did in heaven.  In the wake of the Sandy Hook school shooting these phrases seem a little inadequate.

Having said that, Revelation 12 outlines for us the origin of this phrase.  In dazzling poetic language, John describes the war in heaven by which Michael and his angels fought against the dragon and prevailed so that Satan was kicked out of heaven and cast down to the earth.  That was truly earth’s loss and heaven’s gain.

As I reflect on this passage, I am glad that this war happened even if we have to deal with Satan on earth.  Much deeper than the issues of gun control and mental health issues which are legitimate issues to discuss, is that fact that we leave in enemy occupied territory.  There is a real Satan that is on the loose who seeks to devour us.  Thankfully, that is not the end of the story.  God has also invaded earth in the person of Jesus Christ and we have access to God and to the army of angels who originally defeated Satan.

The good news is that we only have to deal with him temporarily.  Heaven is the place that needs to be free of Satan because this short struggle on earth pales in comparison to an eternity that is free of Satan and free of evil.  Imagine dying and going to a war-torn heaven.  Because Satan has been defeated we look forward to an eternity where tragedy and evil will never reign again.  Therefore, our loss when Satan was unleashed on our planet was also our gain.  Satan is relegated to the realm of temporariness while God reigns for all eternity.

 

 


Will Batman Escape? Stay Tuned

Friday

Psalm 77

7″Will the Lord reject forever?
Will he never show his favor again?
8 Has his unfailing love vanished forever?
Has his promise failed for all time?
9 Has God forgotten to be merciful?
Has he in anger withheld his compassion?”

When I read these words, I hear the music to the theme of batman and I picture scenes from the end of each batman episode?  Will the Caped Crusader make it out alive?  Is this the end of Batman?  Will Gotham City  be under control of the Joker?  Stay tuned next week.  Same bat station. Same bat time.  Same bat channel.    I watched those episodes with wide-eyed wonder?  The situations all seemed impossible.  Surely this was the end of batman.  The more I watched, however, the more it dawned on me.  It’s not a matter of “if” he will escape, it’s a matter of “how” he will escape.

The same can be said of our relationship with God.  The history of the faithful is filled with impossible situations.  There is always a Joker, a Riddler, or even a Catwoman who will try to stop the inevitable victory of the kingdom of God.   Pharoah’s army is behind them and the red sea is in front of them.  An army of overwhelming force is bearing down and Gideon is down to 300 men.  Shadrach Meshach and Abednego are going the fiery furnace and there is no way out.

The Christmas story comes on the heels of one of these impossible situations.  It was a situation of utter despair.  The Romans are in control, a few faithful people like Mary and Elizabeth, Simeon, and Anna are holding out hope but God hasn’t been heard from in 400 years.  The Christmas story is God’s proof that His promises never fail.  Some of us are in tough situations this Christmas.  Jobs have been lost, health is failing, children are straying.  Advent tells us to stay tuned.  The last chapter has not yet been written.  Death itself cannot even impede God’s great march through history until its ultimate consummation in heaven.  Stay tuned.


You Ain’t Seen Nuttin’ Yet

Friday

“This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. 7 I will shake all nations, and what is desired by all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the Lord Almighty. 8 ‘The silver is mine and the gold is mine,’ declares the Lord Almighty. 9 ‘The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘And in this place I will grant peace,’ declares the Lord Almighty.”

This has been an amazing day for me.  I have been talking to coaches and mentors about the future of our church and I am overwhelmed with a sense that it is just a matter of time until God will surpass all our hopes and dreams.  I can feel the excitement at my former church as they embrace their new pastor.  I am beaming with a real sense of having heard from the Lord as I think about the McNeely’s being in Southern Illinois.  Frankly, sometimes it has been a little difficult to hear of the joy and excitement, because most of the growth we are experiencing in Knoxville has been below the surface.  I have nothing to complain about.  The people are wonderful and I have been received with open arms.  There is a rumbling in my spirit, however that says the best is yet to come.

This passage in Haggai speaks to the way I’m feeling today.  He is speaking to a people who remember the magnificence of Solomon’s temple and dares to say that the glory of the future temple will be greater than the former.  What kind of building could be built that would outstrip the golden age of the monarchy when David and Solomon reigned.  What could be more glorious?  Notice that it’s not the amount of gold or silver that will make it more glorious.  The glory will come because “the desired of all nations” (as one translation puts it) will come.  Whatever the limitations of your facilities and finance, the glory of the Lord wants to transform our churches into a a house where His presence is manifested.  The Presence of God can make a simple surroundings into a spirit enlivened life-giving church.  This is my advent hope.  I am believing that for all of us, our best days can still be ahead of us.  As we approach the new year and new seasons in our lives and churches, we say with Moses, “Show me your glory”


A Sober Look at the State of Christianity

Friday

2 Peter 2

New International Version (NIV)

False Teachers and Their Destruction

2 But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. 2 Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. 3 In their greed these teachers will exploit you with fabricated stories.

We were at the end of a rewarding but difficult two-week stretch of ministry in Kenya.  I had preached a dozen times in places with no electricity or indoor plumbing.  This was the reward at the end of the mission trip-a two day visit to a luxurious hotel in the middle of a national park in Kenya to observe the wildlife.  I was so tired and sore I didn’t even go out on the first day for the safari.  Instead I stayed back and took advantage of a massage at the hotel.  I engaged in small talk with the masseuse and told her I was a minister.  Her smile faded and I could quickly tell she was not impressed.  I asked her if she was a Christian and she said she was not.  She proceeded to tell me that some of the pastors in Nairobi were the most wealthy men in the country while much of the country lived in poverty.

She candidly shared with me that they learn the prosperity gospel from American Christian television and teach greed to the people.  Clearly she put me in the same boat.  I assured her that our ministry was different and that we were bringing the gospel as well as financial help to the places we ministered.  She was not a very open listener and I left her with my muscles feeling better but my sensibilities bruised.

To watch Christian tv, one might think that Christianity is winning.  We are not.  We are frightfully becoming like our friends in Europe who have rejected the church.  We see mega churches thriving before our eyes and sense that if all of us teach what they teach, we will get their results.  Like all pastors, I want my church to grow.  But at what cost?  What the world sees of Christianity is what is piped over the airways 24 hours a day 7 days a week.

This article is not an indictment against Christian television.  Television and the internet are a powerful tool by which the gospel can be shared and in many cases it is.  The exceptions, however, have a huge platform and they are marketing a distorted brand of Christianity that appeals to our baser instincts such as greed and the pursuit of pleasure for the sake of pleasure.

This unknown masseuse in Kenya is not my enemy, she is my friend.  She gave me a sneak peek into the way we are perceived by a watching world.  The statistics we never hear are the ones that suggest that while some churches are growing by teaching a distorted Christianity, they are poisoning the soil for people whose deepest longings cannot be satisfied by a gospel that only promises me health and wealth.  Something inside of many non-believers knows that there is no ring of truth in these claims.

I am now pastoring in the buckle of the Bible belt.  I read that there are over 600  Southern Baptist churches in my city alone.  There are churches on every corner.  The statistics you will not hear, however, is that half of our population doesn’t go to church.  These seekers are not my enemies.  They are my friends.  I am trying to learn to think like they think.  I have  great respect for non-Christians.  Many of them are this way because they smell something afoul in our watered down gospel.  And while I respect them, I whole heartedly disagree with them.  I still believe that Jesus is the answer to the world.  I also believe that between the resurrection and the second coming, the church is the selected vehicle that Jesus is using to call the world to himself.  I believe that the church is still the hope of the world.  For the sake of Jesus and the Apostle Paul and all the martyrs, let’s get back to the gospel which teaches us that the secret to the joy of life both now and eternal is in the giving of ourselves and taking up our crosses and following Jesus.

 


A Soft Heart and a Hard Head

Friday
Ezekiel 3:7-10
7 But the people of Israel are not willing to listen to you because they are not willing to listen to me, for all the Israelites are hardened and obstinate. 8 But I will make you as unyielding and hardened as they are. 9 I will make your forehead like the hardest stone, harder than flint. Do not be afraid of them or terrified by them, though they are a rebellious people.”10 And he said to me, “Son of man, listen carefully and take to heart all the words I speak to you. 11 Go now to your people in exile and speak to them. Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says,’ whether they listen or fail to listen.”The future of our church in Murphysboro Illinois was hanging in the balance.  I was young inexperienced and had a desire to please our new congregation.  While the majority of the church was excited we were there, a small minority of key members were neither young nor experienced and one of their favorite dinner dishes was fried pastor.  On one particular Sunday night I had just finished preaching and we had dismissed the service.  Three men approached me in the area right between the platform and the front pew on the left hand side.  One of the men was clearly the spokesman for the group.  They surrounded me and formed a triangle.  I’m sure that the Bermuda triangle is not more dangerous or terrifying than this triangle was to me.    “Some of us have been talking and we think you need to preach about ___________. The content was irrelevant.  It was not a friendly suggestion, but it was clear that demands were being placed on me.  These men were physically strong, influential, and frankly they terrified me.  When an animal is cornered its instincts are “fight or flight.”  I had nowhere to run so I had to stand and face the music.  It was one of those moments in which I feel like “the spirit gave the utterance.”  I firmly said,  “I came to the church speak the Word that God gave me to share with the congregation.  I will not be taking preaching orders from you or anybody else.  Now if you gentlemen will excuse me, I need to go be with my family.”The men looked started that I would react in such a way, but they stepped aside and let me pass.  When I got home I was shaking.  I may have sounded confident, but I was extremely insecure about what I had done and what the consequences would be.  One of my favorite song lyrics that describes my feelings are these:  “deep inside this armour, the warrior is a child.”  I am generally an easy-going guy and easy to get along with but something rose up inside me when my leadership was challenged in this way.  I downloaded with my wife.  Not long after, she shared this passage of scripture with me.   “I will make you as unyielding and hardened as they are.”  My wife told me that she felt God was saying to us that in order to accomplish our mission we were going to have to be more hard-headed that they were.  Our foreheads would have to become like flint.  She challenged me to be loving and gentle in the way that I present the Word of God to people, but that when confronted by heard headed people, my head would need to be harder.  This is a tough task for those of us who like to be liked and like Rodney King just want “everybody to get along.”

It takes a hear head to raise our children a culture that is antagonistic to God.  It takes a hard head to stand your ground in the face of opposition.  The lesson that  God and my wife taught me and are still teaching me is this:  In order to  fulfill God’s calling in your life it will take a soft heart and a hard head.


Remember Your Leaders

Friday
Hebrews 13:7  “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.”
     Hebrews 13 is a list of important things that the author wants the church to be mindful of.  The author moves from the importance of loving one another to showing hospitality to strangers, remembering the prisoners and honoring marriage.  Conspicuous in this list, however, is how much the author emphasizes the importance of remembering their leaders.  In addition to remembering the leaders, the church is told to “have confidence” in their leaders, “submit to their authority,” “pray” for them and finally to “greet” them.
    Last Sunday I was so blessed to be remembered by our church in honor of Pastor Appreciation month.  Instead of talking about the importance of remembering leaders, let me recognize a few of the pastor/leaders to whom I owe a great debt.
       First, I’m thankful for my father John Nordstrom.  I had a front row seat to his leadership during my formative years.  Thanks dad for loving mom so well and leaving me an example of what it means to be a husband.  Your sermons both informed and informed the person I am today.  Thanks for making our family a priority and living a consistent devotional life before me.  Mom, you were equally a leader in my life.  Your prayer life still speaks to me and your messages were always down to earth and practical.
     Thanks to my father-in-law Robert Bentley.  You gave me so many opportunities to minister when I was just a novice, and you were supportive of my early attempts at preaching.  You helped me build confidence in those early insecure days.  Thanks to my mother-in-law Judy Bentley for mentoring me as the assistant principal of your school and insisting on excellence.
     I am grateful for the ministry of Pastor Gerald Vittitow while Melanie and I were in seminary.  You also placed a great deal of confidence in me and gave me opportunities to speak into the life of your wonderful church.  You influenced me most by the love you showed Melanie and I while we were poverty-stricken students.  You bought us countless lunches on Sunday afternoons and made us feel like part of your family.  I’ll never forget a partucular Sunday when you had no idea we were broke and you took a special offering for us that sustained us through a difficult time.  You were the epitome of a loving pastor.  I loved making hospital calls with you and watching the way you tenderly cared for your flock.
    Thank you Pastor Jack Dabney for being a spiritual father to Melanie and I while we lived in Oklahoma.  You made us part of your family and your preaching blessed us during some of the most difficult years of our lives.  I’ll never forget you serving communion as a clown on retreat and the deep impact that made on my life.  You nursed me back to health when I was wounded and I will always be grateful.
    Thanks to Pastor L.H. Hardwick who had mentored me for the past 20 years from a distance.  You helped me find a church when I had a call on my life and no place to go.  You left your large church to come preach in our small church because you believed in me.  You spoke words that positively affected the destiny of Christ Community Church.
    Thanks to Paul Russel and Rick McNeeley for being my pastors while I was in Murphysboro.  Your wisdom and insight helped steer us through both calm and troubled waters.  Thank you Rick for falling in love with Christ Community Church as i did and coming to serve as their pastor.  You are going to a great pastor to the most wonderful church in the state of Illinois.
    Thanks to Paul Cowell for being a mentor, counselor and friend for the entire time I married into your family.  It is an honor to serve the church that you founded.  Finally, thank you Morris Bagwell for the legacy of love you and pastoral care that you left behind at Bethesda Christian Fellowship.  I stand on your shoulders and you get credit for all the good things that God is getting ready to do in our church.
     If some of you reading my post know any of these people, let them know I was talking about them.  For all the unnamed teachers, mentors, and colleagues who have been leaders in my life I say thanks.  I remember you, have confidence in you, submit to your authority, and pray for you.  My life has been shaped by your influence.