The Phil Files

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

Archive for September, 2009

Dangerous

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Nothing is more dangerous than this prayer. Nothing is more powerful than this prayer. Nothing invites God into our world more completely than this prayer.

God is sovereign. He can choose to act or intervene or change or shake up or transform our worlds in any way He so chooses. Yet God frequently chooses to wait for us to ask … to pray this dangerous prayer!

“Your will be done!”

Don’t believe this is dangerous? Then go spend time with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 13:32-42). Don’t believe this is both dangerous and glorious? Then go read the words of one of the earliest hymns sung in the early church (Philippians 2:5-11)!

So today, as we say the Lord’s Prayer, let’s pay special attention to the words, “Your will be done!”

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us  today our daily bread.

And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.

And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.

For yours is the kingdom and the power
and the glory forever. Amen.

Now for some questions related to this theme taken from my Heartlight.org article, Beyond Slogans:

Why do we feel like we have to say something more than “I love you and will stand with you!” when someone faces tragedy, grief, and loss?

  • What are other more meaningful things that we can do besides offer folks slogans?

Do you think some of our slogans are intended to defend God when folks are hurt, angry, or feel abandoned by God in a crisis?

  • What should we do when folks feel this way toward God?
  • How can we help them in ways more important that talk?

What do you consider to be the most meaningful promise found in Romans chapter 8?

  • Does it help you understand our disasters to be reminded that we live in a broken world crying out for deliverance from its bondage to decay?
  • Why is it important that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us regarding matters that are too deep for words?
  • How are the promises of Romans 8:22-29 given power and meaning by the Christ hymn in Philippians 2:5-11 and the example of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 13:32-42)?

Written by phil

September 30th, 2009 at 10:42 pm

Please Deliver

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The Lord’s Prayer reminds us of our dependence and need for something, or really the great Someone, to step in change our situations when we cannot. Resting just beneath the surface of the prayer is the recognition that we face immovable situations more often than we like. Our prayer, in essence if not in substance, is a cry to God that he please deliver us from situations — whether large or small, frequent or infrequent, physical or spiritual — that we have no power to change. At the same time, we are asking God to align our hearts and actions with His work in the world through His reign of grace and glory, character and compassion.

As we pray today, let the act of prayer, the words of this prayer, and the essence of this prayer lead you back to dependence upon the Father and an humble recognition of the areas of your life where only God’s power can move you out of your stuck places and deliver you from your intractable ones.

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread.

And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.

And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.

For yours is the kingdom and the power
and the glory forever. Amen.

My Heartlight.org article this week, Ain’t Nothin’ New, deals with these ideas and some spiritual practices that can help us align ourselves with God.

Bottom line: Life comes at us “fast” — yes, I know the adverb should be quickly — and we often feel as if we can’t keep up and yet can’t change the circumstances. For me, this old clip from the I Love Lucy show is a humorous reminder of this reality:

A much heavier but relevant way to emphasize this can be found in the Igniter Media video, This Weight I Carry, which you can preview online. Both remind us of the many overwhelming things in our lives that put us in bondage, stick us in a rut, and leave us powerless without God’s intervention.

As we think about these kinds of things, several thought questions seemed relevant:

What is your favorite “God story” — a story about God being at work in the lives of everyday people in Scripture.

  • How did God “showing up” in their life change the situation?
  • What is your favorite “God story” in your life?
  • How did God “showing up” in your life change you even if the situation didn’t immediately change?

Think through the prayers you’ve prayed recently:

  • Were you honest with God about your current situation in life, your struggles, your sins, and your frustration?
  • Did you praise God for Who He is and what He has done in the past?
  • Did you thank Him for the good things and the blessings in your life?
  • Why do you think it is so important to be honest about our emotions in prayer with God?

Why do you think the Bible emphasizes that praise and thanksgiving are so important in prayer?

Who is a friend with whom you could share the deepest struggles of your heart?

  • If you don’t have that kind of friend, who would be blessed by having you be this kind of friend to them?

What group would benefit from you being a part of their team — what volunteer group at church, in the community, at the hospital?

Written by phil

September 23rd, 2009 at 10:46 pm

Posted in Lord's Prayer Everyday

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Our

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Growing up, I was taught that things always go better with friends. In Bible class, they taught us that Jesus sent out folks two-by-two, never alone. As I studied in grad school, I noticed that Paul was a little keg of dynamite, except when he was alone — he ran into trouble two times with feeling alone, once in Athens when he had to leave and came to Corinth (1 Corinthians 2:1-4) and near the end of his life when he was in prison and begged for Timothy to come join him (2 Timothy 4). While I believe we all need a little solitude, most of us do not do well with extended times of being alone.

The Lord’s Prayer teaches us that the journey of faith that we are individually taking is not supposed to be a solitary journey. Instead, it is to be a shared journey of faith. Notice the very first word in the Lord’s Prayer — “Our!” As you say the Lord’s Prayer today, notice the shared journey we are making!

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread.

And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.

And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.

For yours is the kingdom and the power
and the glory forever. Amen.

Over the years, the Lord has blessed me with many wonderful friends in Christ. Two that I am most thankful for today are Dan Garrett and Bill Wilson. They are brothers-in-law and my brothers in Christ. We have walked through the streets of Cologne Germany together (where Bill lives) and shared a two hour communion service together after a long day of fishing in Gustavus, Alaska. We have touched base at all sorts of places in between. Each of us has had very different journeys in our walk with the Lord, but we share a common destination. And, like a rag tag group of guys long ago, we are all three fishermen. More than the Three Amigos, we should more likely be called Three Anomalies. But I can tell you this, without these two brothers, life and faith and fishing wouldn’t be as much fun.

This is just a taste of the Three Anomalies — the weirdest of the three anomalies is behind the camera.

The journey is certainly a lot more fun with brothers like these!

Written by phil

September 19th, 2009 at 8:54 am

Off Target & More

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Yesterday I was practicing my archery and using two different kinds of points on the arrows I was using. At first neither was hitting the mark — they were both off. But as I began to tune in my aiming device, I began to get one of the types of points to hit spot on target, but the other points hit low and about 4 inches to the right. This is not a good sign and no matter how careful I was, I was still off target. I still had work to do on my sights, and even more importantly, on the tuning of my bow.

Interestingly, the term for sin means to “miss the mark” or, as the apostle Paul describes it, “fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Sometimes despite our best intentions, we miss the mark or fall short of where we need to be with God. On the other hand, there are other times when we rebel against God and willfully sin — we trespass against the will of God. The mess our world is in, the mess we often find ourselves in, is a result of either missing the mark or willfully transgress against what God wants for us (Ephesians 2:1-3).

Thankfully, God’s grace has triumphed over our sin through Jesus and gives us a new purpose in life as God’s special creation (Ephesians 2:4-10). So today, I am thankful for God’s forgiveness. I am thankful that the Father has forgiven me for the times I didn’t measure up, fell short, and missed the mark he set for me. Even more, I am thankful for the grace and forgiveness God has extended to me even when I’ve rebelled and trespassed against His holy will for my life!

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread.

And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.

And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.

For yours is the kingdom and the power
and the glory forever. Amen.

I am so thankful that God didn’t just forgive and cleanse me, but that He also has a purpose for me and a life to live that honors Him. I am not just saved from sin and death, I am saved for a life that reflects His character and compassion. He has called me to live a holy life.

Unfortunately, we often don’t associate the call to holy living as an act of God’s grace. In fact, many don’t talk about God’s call for us to live a holy life. In my Heartlight.org article this week, “God’s Twin Grace.” There, I say:

God’s searching love welcomes all who will come to Jesus for life and that love transforms us so we can live our life in ways that reflect His character and honor His sacrifice.

I have often wondered why we have such a hard time understanding this principle and embracing the transformation of our lives as part of that gracious gift from God?

Why do you think so many in Western culture seem to understand grace in terms of mercy and acceptance and ignore the call to transformation?

How can we talk about salvation if it does not change us now?

What is the hardest, yet most wonderful, transformation that God has accomplished in your life?

Written by phil

September 16th, 2009 at 10:51 pm

Community

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Jesus built community. He wasn’t about building a movement or a religion or a collection of individuals, but the Lord focused His efforts on building a new kind of community. The two key terms are kingdom and family. The first is the place where people’s hearts and lives are surrendered to the will of God and are working to see that lived out in their daily lives. The second is a place where people view each other as brothers and sisters because God is their Father.

We are reminded of both in the Lord’s Prayer:

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread.

And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.

And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.

For yours is the kingdom and the power
and the glory forever. Amen.

Great power is found in this family, this Kingdom where God’s character and compassion are seen. So in His ministry, Jesus was always trying to connect this new community with those who were outside it. Jesus was always working to bring outsiders into relationship with insiders. So Jesus shares meals with outsiders like Matthew and Zacchaeus. Jesus goes places, but always with His Kingdom family in tow. Life as a follower of Jesus was not lived in isolation. Much of the teaching of Jesus was done in and around the reality of human relationships in a family, a community. (For more on this, see my Heartlight.org article this week, For Insiders or Outsiders?

So how do we experience this kingdom family today?

How do we become the community of Christ today and then connect our friends with our community so they can experience the transformation of God’s power and grace in relationships with others following Jesus?

How could connecting your friends with Jesus’ community, His family, help you lead them to Jesus? How could it get in the way?

Can a follower of Jesus live in isolation, outside the influence of a community of other believers?

Does Jesus’ community exist for outsiders or insiders?

Can it function with both of these as a primary focus?

I encourage you to pray about and reflect upon these questions and then look at the people in your life — the circles of relationships into which God has purposefully placed you. Now, how are you going to connect those people to your spiritual family? How are you going to connect them to Jesus?

Here are two videos for you to reflect upon. They come from Worship House Media.

The first video is entitled simply, Community:

The second video is entitled, I Am Community:

Written by phil

September 9th, 2009 at 11:14 pm

Weird Neighbors

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Have you had some weird neighbors? Have you been a weird neighbor to someone else?

I’ve been both! I bet you have, too. And the Bible has some weird neighbors in back to back chapters. One of my favorite set of surprising Bible neighbors are the woman at the well in John 4 and Nicodemus in John 3. You would be hard pressed to find two more opposite people anywhere. Man/Woman. Rich/Poor. Connected/Abandoned. Respected/Outcast. Jew/Samaritan. Powerful/Powerless.  Night/Day. These are worlds apart and yet Jesus reaches them because He listens to their heart.

My Heartlight.org article, Strange Neighbors, is about this today. But even more, this whole thing has been on my heart since Monday morning. This strange neighbor combo that John gives us convicts me to my core. “How many folks who seem unlikely to respond to the message have I summarily dismissed?” I ask myself. Deep in my heart, I know that if God can turn the early church’s greatest persecutor into its greatest missionary (like God did with Saul/Paul), then what can he do with folks that I don’t think will ever respond to God’s invitation of grace?

In addition, as I try to speak and write to people on a regular basis, I find myself repeatedly in the shearing forces of extending grace to those who need it and calling people to holiness who know God demands it. It is a razor’s edge to walk and talk and write on. So frequently when emphasizing God’s holiness, I’ve hurt those who are broken by their sin but need to find their way back to God. And in frequently emphasizing God’s grace, I fear I’ve given permission to some folks to abuse grace and enter sin because they assume when they are done, God will take them back. Both directions wound people.

So how do we extend grace and mercy to the broken without sacrificing God’s call to holiness?

So how do we call for holiness and not find ourselves sacrificing God’s offer of grace to sinners?

To me, that’s the amazing thing about Jesus in John 3 and 4. He reaches both. But, He also do so by personally speaking to them. So that is part of the clue. But another part of it, at least in my mind, is that Jesus listens to their hearts and not just their words and certainly not just their external realities — man/woman, rich/poor, Jew/Samaritan, powerful/powerless, respected/outcast, connected/abandoned. He could speak to both.

One sleepless night as I grappled with my inability to do this, the following song from Jars of Clay began to play on my iPod. Tears formed and my heart was convicted. As far distant as Nicodemus and the Woman at the well were in their externals, they were closer in nature to each other than they were to Jesus. Yet Jesus bridged that gap. And if I am ever going to do that more effectively, I’ve got to let him tear my world apart and bridge that gap in me:

Jars Of Clay – Worlds Apart

What keeps us from being approachable by folks on each side of the grace/holiness gap?

Who have we recently dismissed as someone who might respond to the Gospel of God’s grace?

Is it someone who appears religious and we think already is connected to Jesus?

Is it someone who appears self-righteous and arrogantly religious that we don’t want to be identified with?

Is it someone who takes advantage of Christian charity and help for their own advantage?

Is it someone who has blown his or her life apart by poor choices?

Is it the person holding up the sign on the street corner?

Is it the person who left the syringe in your alley way?

When is the last time we have struck up a conversation with a wait person to really hear their heart?

How have we treated the person who came to the door to sell us something?

Do you know what the person in the convenience store you see each week really struggles with?

Yeah, Jesus, tear my world apart. I am on my knees. Give me the eyes of Jesus to see and the ears of Jesus to hear the heart of the people you place in my path each week!

Written by phil

September 3rd, 2009 at 10:25 am

Posted in BLOGSTUFF,Heartlight