The Phil Files

Musings & messages on everyday worship, Jesus, and the stuff of life.

Archive for October, 2008

Colossians #10: In Christ alone

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Last Update 10.21.2008

“In Christ Alone” Colossians 2:6-15 for 10/26

Simple and well known songs and hymns about Jesus would be great for this day!
The formula for this Sunday is simple:  X + n < X  [How many good in Algebra? Math majors?]

Adding other religions or other religious agendas to Jesus only dilutes, poisons, or pollutes the simple message of Jesus. Anything added to Christ is really less than Christ! [Kinda like seeing a car with a dream catcher on the rear view mirror and an “in case of rapture” bumper sticker] But it isn’t just other religions that can pollute the pure message of Christ, it’s also making a religion out of following Jesus – loading it down with all sorts of stuff that Jesus never established! {We’re talking about syncretism and legalism as two different ditches we’re prone to fall into.}

Jesus Christ must be at the core of who we are so we will keep reminding folks to be in the Gospel of Luke. Jesus is our basis of salvation and our lives must be rooted in him. Call for us to keep our focus in the story of Jesus. Nothing can be added to this simple message – Galatians 1:3-9. If we add things, then the Gospel is less than the Gospel we substitute our “man made up” philosophies for God’s grace and what saves us.

While there is an element of exclusiveness that we need to emphasize here (remember the goal is for “everyone” used 3x in 1:28 and cf. Acts 4:12; John 14:6), there is also an element of liberation – we don’t need a bunch of other stuff, or teaching, or religion, just Christ.

We don’t have to be constantly looking to add some new religious practice or rite to the list of things to make us righteous, holy, and acceptable to God (we will cover more on this next week). Instead, we need to settle ourselves down into Christ and be rooted and connected to him – remember the Vine and the Branches in John 15 where Jesus says things like: “remain in me and I will remain in you” (v. 4)“apart from me you can do nothing” (v. 5). Also see John 14:15-23, where Jesus promises to come and live inside us through the Comforter, make His home with us, and reveal Himself to us. This is where fullness of life (cf. John 10:10 and Colossians 2:9-10) will be found!

I would love to have a video of one of our math professors/teachers doing algebraic equations and then they come up with the formula X + n < X

Preaching Ideas

Why isn’t Jesus enough? What makes us want to add more?

Peter said, “There is no other name given unto us by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
Paul said, “I preach Christ and Him crucified …” (1 Corinthians 1)
Paul emphasized that the Gospel by which we are saved is simply this: Jesus who was died according to the Scriptures, buried and raised from the dead (1 Corinthians 15; cf. Romans 6:1-6)
Paul strongly warned against any other gospel or adding to the Gospel (Galatians 1:5-9).
Paul declared Christ in us to be God’s mystery, our hope of glory (Colossians 1:27-2:3).
Hebrews insisted that Jesus is God’s fullest and clearest message (Hebrews 1:1-3).
John reminded us that no one as ever seen God, but that Jesus has made him known (John 1:1-18).

So Jesus must be our focus, our salvation, our message, and our hope. So we need to live with Jesus as our Lord and not add anything to that simple message. Jesus is more than enough!


The focus will be on why Jesus isn’t enough. This article summarizes is very well, Isn’t Jesus Enough? There will be a chorus or repeated phrase, “Jesus is enough” as we try to go over and over again the central core message, Jesus plus anything is less than Jesus!
The three points or commands that come out of Colossians 2:6-11 will be given as the final call of the message:

  1. Sink the roots of our hearts down deep into Jesus as Lord! Are you reading the Gospels?
  2. Let our hearts overflow with thanksgiving for what the Lord has done for us! [Offering]
  3. Let’s not let anyone take us captive by their newfangled religious experiences or their old demands of traditions and rules.  [Video on X + n < X – Christ plus anything is less than Christ!]


We will be doing cardboard testimonies at Refresh, so we will focus on the same message as Daybreak, but make it a bit more succinct and emphasize that the change, the transformation, the redemption we need in our lives is not going to come from religion, but from Jesus and our whole worship experience that follows, Cardboard Testimonies, Communion, Commitment to serve others, is a celebration and reminder of that. Point 1 will be driven home. Then we will respond to point 2 with the offerings. Point 3 will be driven home by the video which will lead us into the rest of the Refresh time.


What I was hoping we could cover would be the exclusive claim of Jesus on our lives as Lord. It comes, of course, out of Colossians 2:6-10.
I believe going to Galatians 1:5-9 and emphasizing that we can’t add stuff to that Gospel or leave that Gospel is crucial. Paul describes that Gospel in clear and dramatic forms in 1 Corinthians 15:1-6 and I always love to emphasize how this is directly reflected in Romans 6:1-14, esp. vs. 3-7. Paul says pretty much the same thing in Galatians 2:20 & 6:14.

LIFE Questions

Why is it so hard to believe that Jesus is not only enough for us, but that all fullness in life is found in Him?

What are the key points of Colossians 2:6 that you think could bless you most in your walk with Christ?

How can we live our lives in Christ, rooted and built up in Him?

Notice that we are commanded to “continue” (or “walk”) in Christ, but that as we do, our faith strengthened. How are we strengthened? (cf. 1:29; 2 Corinthians 3:18)

Why is thankfulness so important to us in this context?

How do we avoid what Paul warns us about in Colossians 2:7?

Written by phil

October 14th, 2008 at 3:47 pm

Posted in Colossians

Tagged with ,

Jesus’ Response?

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In my post today, “No Hidden Mystery,” I share the story of desperate housewife who goes to church looking for answers and really gets neglected because she doesn’t know the unwritten rules of church. She’s battled cancer, survived a tornado, and has a challenging family situation with friends who are a mess because of their bad and immoral choices. And I ask this question:

And what would Jesus have done with our desperate Housewife? I want to challenge you to go back to the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John in the New Testament) and take a closer look at how Jesus responded to folks — then share an answer or two with all of us based on What Jesus Did!

Oh, and I’ll share some of my response with you a couple of days from now on my blog if you will share yours!

Written by phil

October 13th, 2008 at 5:05 am

Posted in Heartlight

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Exclusive! High class!! Well to do!!!

Our plane flew over this area of the metroplex as we flew into DFW airport Monday night. The houses were massive, the lawns well manicured and the SUV’s and sedans were expensive. Yet in the fading light, the houses looked remarkably the same from the air.

Oh sure, there were more gables and more square footage on some than others, but they were still shingled covered boxes surrounded by grass. All that money for the prestige of a great location, the best schools, and privilege — but they were still only shingles on boxes surrounded by grass. And inside, well, I know about the inside — broken hearts, worried parents, struggling marriages, tight finances, confused romances, jangled nerves over 401k’s, and secrets rotting the hearts of their holders. And yes, some hearts seeking for answers, and some living out the answer. It’s a whole lot like a few miles away where there are fewer gables, smaller lawns, and fewer shingles. It’s been my theory that for the most part, most of us have the same amount of “disposable income,” we just have different house/rent payments.

Hmm. Makes me wonder what this stuff we work so hard and stretch so much to acquire — and what we so much fear losing when the economy turns down — it makes me wonder what it all looks like from God’s side of the view. This is not to downplay the obvious anguish of those who have lost their houses or retired couples living out of their cars because of retirement woes.

But so much of the driving force of our “modern economy” is built on sand — credit stretched to the limit to give us what we want. Seems like I remember Jesus saying something about a humpy back camel trying to get his big fat nose through the eye of a sower’s needle and exchanging our souls for something that falls short of real life. None of us is immune to the pressure and desires that move us in this wrong direction.

So I guess what it all comes down to is what’s in the hearts of the folks in those boxes covered by shingles and surrounded by grass — small, large, or just in between sized boxes.
Oh Lord, may the thought of my heart and the words of my mouth be pleasing to you … for You alone are my Rock and Redeemer — especially in times like these.

Written by phil

October 10th, 2008 at 12:54 pm


with 5 comments

In my article this week, “More than a Fork in the Road,” I talk about the term used widely in the by Jesus and the rest of the New Testament to describe leaders — the word is diakonos (and related forms) and it simply means “table servant.” For a chart giving an overview of the use of this term for servant, follow this link:

Jesus demonstrated it in the washing of his closest followers feet on the night he was betrayed (John 13:1-17) and then told them what the event meant so they would get over having to try to be “first” among his followers:

A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest.  Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves. (Luke 22:24-27 TNIV)

Why is it so hard for us to see the essence of church leadership as simply serving each other?

What makes it easier for us to view church as a service for us rather than a community where we are to serve others?

In Jesus’ day, a table servant was a low paid family servant, a woman or a child. Why do you think Jesus, and the early church after him, chose this term to describe its leaders?

Do you believe the following?

No matter how true the message and no matter how powerful the messenger, both messenger and message will not produce the results intended if the people who share it, receive it, and believe it won’t serve others like Jesus.

Written by phil

October 6th, 2008 at 4:53 am

Colossians #9: Leading Others to Jesus

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Last updated: 10.17.08

Colossians #9: Leading Others to Jesus (1:28-29) – 10/19

In many ways, this passage is Paul’s mission statement that reflects his internalization of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). Several key elements stand out in this presentation:

•    Jesus is the goal – leading everyone to complete perfection in Jesus (cf. 2 Corinthians 3:18).
•    This goal, bringing others to Jesus, is for everyone – emphasized three times in verse 28.
•    The power for Paul to meet this goal is not his own strength or efforts, although he clearly has given everything to make every effort as his imprisonment reference reminds us, but instead he relies on the power of that only God can give him

This will be our accompanying video — thanks Corbett!:

In a world of pluralism where every voice is given equal weight, Paul steps forward and reminds us that Jesus is the goal for everyone. His grace, His character, His compassion, and His holiness must be the goal of everyone! Jesus suggested this about Himself in several ways:
•    His “I am” sayings, especially the “I am the way the truth and life, no one comes to the Father except by me” (John 14:6)
•    “You have heard it said … but I say unto you …” (Sermon on the Mount)
•    “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth …” (Matthew 28:18-20)

But more than knowledge about Jesus, Paul’s goal is our “perfection” to Christ. The word is translated mature, complete and in other ways, but its core meaning is the “perfection.” What Paul wants to do is to take the “Christ in you the hope of glory” (1:27) and see Him come to full form in each disciple.

Our focus will be on sharing this simple message of Jesus and working to bring others to complete maturity in Jesus. This would be tied back into our own church vision statement about the front porch – INVITING people to know Jesus; INCLUDING people in the life of Jesus in our church family; and INVOLVING people in the mission of Jesus. Of course this fits in well with our Harvest Mission focus of sharing the message of Jesus.

Special Late Developing Note

I am looking at the possibility at one of the services of exploring what I would call “The Jesus Seed.” The goal is to have Jesus who is in us and is our assured “hope of glory” fully coming to maturity so that Jesus is seen in us. This organic way of viewing the message fits right along with other metaphors that Paul and Jesus use about spiritual growth — “I planted, Apollos watered, God gave the increase” and the parables in Matthew 13 and Mark 4.

Clearly, there are several crucial messages in these few short verses:

  • Jesus the only true Savior
  • Internalization of a mission statement (paraphrasing the Great Commission for our lives)
  • The Jesus Seed
  • The great mystery

Final update follows:

Christ in us is the assurance of our sharing in glory (1:27). But, the goal is for that “seed” to fully blossom till Christ comes alive in us (1:28-29). So helping Christ come alive in others must be our mission and our vision – “I [Paul] planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow” (1 Cor. 3:6) and “My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you … (Gal 4:19). This process is not immediate or automatic, but is a product on our focusing and reflecting Jesus in our lives as the Holy Spirit transforms us to be more like Jesus day by day (2 Cor 3:17-18). We must be willing to be used up to display and share Christ with others, trusting Jesus to be present and to empower us to do that. This is not just the goal for us, for believers, but the goal for “everyone” (3x in Colossians 1:28; cf. Matthew 28:18-20). But this planting of the seed doesn’t happen without our willingness to personally sacrifice to see it that it happens (Col 1:24-25; cf. John 12:23-24)

This is the Sunday to really focus on the call of God and the Great Commission of Jesus to reach all nations with the Gospel. A reminder of … “global economic crisis” and the “global conflict against terrorism” and the “global impact of oil prices” and the “flat world” reality that we live in because of satellites and the Internet – examples of prayer lists for folks like Robert Reagan. In times of crisis and fear and uncertainty, folks are most often open to God’s call in their lives and we can’t let this opportunity pass us by.

The key is to really tie the message of Colossians to our Harvest Mission campaign this week and emphasize the importance of living out the vision.

Ultimately, the issue is how do come to perfection in Christ – having Jesus fully alive in us and seen in all of our activities? That is the issue, Jesus coming alive in us fully so that we can fully come alive?


Focus on Jesus call to take His message to all of the world. The focus would be on this one message as the saving message the world needs. But the goal isn’t just baptisms, but the maturity of people to be the presence of Jesus in their every day worlds. As Jesus says it, “all who are fully trained will be like their teacher” (Luke 6:40).

Use the Great Commission as a Scripture read in the service as a point of emphasis – while we know the normal translations, The Message would be great here as a corporate reading – maybe do it the first time with TNIV, then with The Message, and have us all say it together at the end from The Message. Tie this also to any Harvest Missions announcement and reminders.

Emphasize the “global” term that used is over and over again in media – the global impact of … economy, gas prices, warming in the atmosphere, terrorism, outsourcing of jobs, food shortages …

And those “global” issues have an impact in our houses and apartments and dorm rooms. What we pay at the pump or have in our retirement or what we pay for our utility bills or how far we can stretch our fixed income …

But as things are tough and challenging, one of the interesting ironies is that folks have been historically more open to God during these times. Our own history the great burst of growth during the depression and post depression years (the Stamps Baxter songs that buoyed people’s spirits during these times).

So our faith in Jesus must have global implications as well!

One of the powerful things that Paul reminds us in Colossians is that hard times (1:24) are not a time to back off the commission (1:25) that Jesus gave us in Matthew 28:18-20, but to personalize that commission and live it with passion and power, power he will supply (1:29) because the grace of Jesus and Jesus coming alive in each of us is what is needed for everyone (1:28 everyone is used 3x).

So where do we start? What is our focus?
1.    Letting the Christ seed come alive in us! (Rob Video) Our focus on the Gospel of Luke and sharing the story of Jesus we learn for ourselves (Last week!)
2.    Personalizing the Great Commission for our own lives – what is God calling me to do, what is spiritual life job description? In other words, how do we let the “Hallelujah” come out in us?
3.    Encourage, sacrifice, and support the work of getting the good news to as many as possible (Harvest Missions)


Focus on Jesus as the only hope for all of the world. Emphasize the exclusivity of Jesus versus all other faiths and how that is more than just believing a message about Jesus, but Jesus coming to life in each of us.


Focus on exclusive claims about Jesus in other parts of the New Testament and how they fit with Jesus claims about himself, especially in the “I am” statements in the Gospel of John – cf. Acts 4:12; Revelation 1.

LIFE Questions

Is it close-minded to say that Jesus is the goal of everyone?

Why do you think it is so hard for folks to say that Jesus is the only way to God?

What are some passages of Scripture or stories that emphasize that Jesus is the only way?

Read Matthew 28:18-20 and then take the basic gist of that and use your own words to write a life’s mission statement for your life in Christ.

What is the difference between “perfection in Christ” in terms of our daily lives and just having lots of knowledge about what Jesus did?

Written by phil

October 4th, 2008 at 9:55 pm

Reflected Glory

without comments

I have always been moved by 2 Corinthians 3:1-18, as the apostle of grace is emphatic: a written code cannot save us, redeem us, change us, or make us like God. Clearly, Paul believes that the Law is good in that it shows us the holiness God expects of us, but he is emphatic (Galatians brings it home powerfully) that the Law — or any law for that matter — can only convict us of our failures.

Jesus is clearly the answer for our shortfall and sinfulness, but with Jesus comes more than just forgiveness and cleansing. With Jesus comes the freedom and power to be what we could not be trying to fulfill law’s demands to be right with God (Romans 8:1-4; 2 Corinthians 3:17-18). This power is not some impersonal force, but is God’s presence in us, the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). This glorious freedom the Spirit brings us, to be what the written code could never make us, means that all of our goodness is the reflected goodness that comes from our glorious God who provided Jesus as our sacrifice and Jesus who sent the Holy Spirit to us to complete God’s perfection in us. I have tried often to capture this concept visually, never to my satisfaction. However, the old image below with the text of 2 Corinthians 3:18 is a helpful reminder that any glory in us and on us and from us, is always the reflected glory of Jesus and the work of the Holy Spirit to make that reflected glory genuine in our lives.

We are but dim reflections of His glory!

We are reflections of His glory, but through the Spirit, that reflection grows brighter each day as we know Jesus more!

This image is available in 1024 x 768 size in several options on and can be used for any non-commercial use by churches, non-profits and individuals as longs as it is unaltered:

  1. Text Version — Like Above Image
  2. Title Version — “Reflected Grace”
  3. Plain Version — Ideal for PPT Backgrounds

For a list of hundreds of images check out Backgrounds Page and use the search window on the right.

Written by phil

October 1st, 2008 at 7:09 am

Posted in Heartlight,Images

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