Fridays with Phil

Life, family and unshakeable faith


July 2014

Every six minutes

A little distracted  (Photo taken on a family trip in Istanbul, Turkey last year)
A little distracted
(Photo taken on a family trip in Istanbul, Turkey last year)

If you are what’s considered an average smartphone user then you check your phone 150 times per day. That’s every six and a half minutes.

We are wired, habitually and socially, to connect with others from all over the world at any moment in time through media forums like facebook, blogs and email. In fact, right now I am speaking to you through one of those.

I just wonder if this type of conversation, now normal, inhibits us connecting with others beyond surface level and with God in a deep way. Perhaps, we have discovered how to be partly tuned into everyone while becoming less connected or tuned into anyone.

We have all become experts in the act of multi-tasking, that is, doing lots of things at once, but how good are we at “uni-tasking”, doing one thing at once?

How do you go focussing on one thing or one person and keeping out all the other noise?

A good way to gauge this is to think of whether you allow your phone at the table when you sit down to a meal or if you allow alerts to interrupt quality time with family and friends. Maybe it’s time you put measures in place to try some uni-tasking.

While there’s no doubt that conversations with one another are important to connect us relationally, the way we converse with God is perhaps the most important conversation of them all. I know it is in my life.

My conversations with God are allowed to be raw and real as I expose my heart and feelings with Him. To talk with Him is to acknowledge His presence and power whilst revealing my need for Him and ultimately my trust in Him. It’s simply prayer.

If you’re not sure how to pray today, Jesus shows us one way to have a conversation with our Creator recorded in Matthew 6: 9-13 as “The Lord’s Prayer”. This prayer gives us a blueprint for one type of conversation we can have with God but it is not the only kind. The important thing is that you are communicating with God.

Prayer inspires my very real, present day, dependence on God’s grace. I depend on God for strength to rise above daily challenges, confrontations and tragedies.

I have found that I never leave these conversations without hope. If I invite Him to, somehow, God communicates to my spirit and soul things that encourage and strengthen me. It’s personal. It’s tangible.

If you’re a busy parent then don’t fret, you can talk to God while feeding or washing kids. A business person can talk to God in the middle of a board meeting or travelling to and from work. I have even spoken to God when signing important documents or while doctors are inflicting painful tests on my body.

Conversations with God can take place at anytime and anywhere.

I encourage you, in light of the number of conversations and frequency of conversations we are all engaged in, let’s not neglect the most important conversation of all.


Worst Case

My niece practicing for the worst case on a recent cruise.
My niece practicing for the worst case on a recent cruise.

Last week I was glad to hear that my blog encouraged some conversations about real life and suffering.

Disability, sickness, bankruptcy, mental illness, burnout and divorce are all situations which can sometimes seek to isolate and disorient people. Many of us are afraid to talk openly about these things at all, even in a “preventative” sense.

However, I think that if we can settle the “worst case” scenarios of life, then we can move on to living life confidently and to the full.

Consider the fact that every lifesaving organisation in the world practices for worst case scenarios.  The helicopter rescue service, surf lifesaving, fire brigade, paramedics, air force, and the army all do it. I don’t think they ever hope that they will have to use the skills they practice, but they are ready if or when needed.

In the same way, wise people, businesses and organisations can prepare for uncomfortable scenarios, whether to prevent them or get through them, in the midst of difficulties they face.

It is possible to tackle real issues head on, without compromising hope and belief that the situations we prepare for will not eventuate.  Preparing for the worst case is separate and distinct from wishing it to occur or causing it to happen.

As a dad, when my kids were approaching their teenage years, I could have pretended that they would never get asked to compromise their values, but instead I talked about the possibility with them and asked them what they would say in scenarios if they happened.

We practiced for the worst case. They were ready to say “no” before the tough questions arrived. Preparation gave them (and me!) confidence and courage.

With my kids, as in life, if I prepare for the worst case and it never happens, I have lost nothing. If I don’t prepare and it does happen, I could lose everything.

Whilst we can’t prepare for everything, when it is in our power to prepare those around us for the worst case, then why wouldn’t we?

Think about your own home. I am sure you don’t hope it burns down, yet you install smoke alarms. I am sure you don’t hope it floods, yet you insure against flood damage. Real life requires real precautions and real preparations.

In my life, I face the challenge of what is classified as a terminal illness. If I don’t talk about disability, death and separation from my loved ones as one example of a worst case, I not only fail to prepare myself but I fail to prepare them. Have honest conversations that prepare the ones you love for life.

Check out the attitude of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego in the Bible. These guys were facing serious persecution for their faith and are about to get thrown into a blazing fire by King Nebuchadnezzar.

In Daniel 3:17-18, they boldly declare, “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods...”

They were confident that regardless of the outcome – best case or worst case, nothing would cause them to deny or stop trusting in God. They had settled the issue of “worst case” in their heart and were able to live freely in that.

I hope you can do the same.


Telling the truth

Why do you think what you think and believe what you believe? Are your thought patterns based on what you have heard your parents say? Are your beliefs based on a book you read decades ago?

Today, I want to challenge us to switch off the autopilot and not react to difficult questions based on yesterday’s understanding and beliefs.

Many of our reactive answers to complex challenges and ethical dilemmas come from the pressure to give an immediate answer. This is dangerous because it means we can neglect dedicating time to necessary research. Or even worse, we default to what past generations believed, based on what they knew to be true.

For example, there’s our stance on whether a sick person should be able to access medication not yet approved by our nation’s medical board or a terminally ill person’s decision to cease medical treatment altogether. How quickly we draw a conclusion “for” or “against”, but based on what?

I realise that some ideas and beliefs I hold to today I didn’t hold to yesterday. That’s ok. I’m willing to adjust my thinking if realising my error puts me back on the right path. And if necessary, I’m willing to say nothing at all.

There were days when make-up, jeans and voting were not acceptable for females. That seems absurd today. It makes me think, what are those things today that seem “uncomfortable” or even “wrong” but in a few decades from now, after a more considered approach, will seem “right”?

We say so easily, “how times have changed.” Really? Do “times” have the power to change wrong to right or is it ideas and our bias or preconceived ideas that have changed? Maybe over time, wisdom has had a chance to show its hand and directly influence our core beliefs.

Changing ideas does not suggest weakness or defeat. To the contrary, changing ideas suggests bravely confronting real issues that affect real people’s lives. As a Christian, if I fail to consider Christ’s perspective above all else on any given issue, then I miss out on knowing truth. After all, there is no man in history who has better exemplified grace and truth.

I believe in absolutes, but I also understand that we live in a world where I don’t have all the answers. There are certain situations that demand more thought and an open mind and heart.  I can’t afford not to respond to pain with grace.

While I believe in the absolute of divine healing, that God can, does and is able to heal, in the past that has stopped me being open to someone talking to me about their fear of death or their desire to talk to their loved ones about the possibility of not being healed. As if somehow God would refuse to heal those He loves because they discussed real life and suffering.

What I have realised in the midst of my own battle with disease, and mixing with others in similar battles, is that it’s important I don’t answer people’s questions of deep issues with cliché, off the cuff, unthoughtful answers.

What’s important is that I walk a mile in their shoes.

What’s important is that I allow love to direct my response.


Asking the tough questions

This week Lenore and I are thankful for Hillsong Conference.  We have positioned ourselves in the environment of this Conference spanning over 20 years. Each year, we have received something personal from God and many times it has been the catalyst for a major life change.

Yesterday, we had the privilege of being part of a panel discussing “navigating crisis”.

I was chosen because at this moment my body is suffering with Motor Neurone Disease, a disease that strips the body of all its muscle and leaves the sufferer gasping for breath until their last.  In the past year, I have also met and grieved the loss of friends with this disease.

I love that at such a significant Conference with 25,000 plus people in attendance, we talked so openly about real life crisis.

The bible is not scared to talk about crisis either.  In the book of Acts, we read about the death of James, the brother of John and one of Christ’s followers. It says in Acts 12:2, “Then he (Herod) killed James the brother of John with the sword.”

Imagine the painful separation his brother John faced, losing James at such a young age with so much to live for. They were clearly close: both were fisherman, working for their father, companions of Jesus, leaders of the church. Yet one lives and one dies.

Death can be one such crisis situation. You may be facing the death of a loved one at the moment or maybe life is just hard right now.  You could be wondering, why me? You may even feel judged or blamed for the difficulty you are facing.  I am aware that even in a faith-filled environment, you may feel alone because of the crisis you are in.

Take heart from this story.  Realise that crisis can touch us all, even the friends of Jesus.  Even though you may not feel like it in a hard situation, you are God’s beloved child, His “favourite”, in and out of crisis.

The love of Jesus Christ is as much a reality for those who are living life to the full and those who are experiencing the challenges of life and crisis.

I am also encouraged by John’s reaction to the loss and crisis he faced in losing his brother James.  It did not destroy his faith or stop his walk, it did not take his courage or hinder his calling.

Like John, let’s choose to press forward.  Let’s not allow crisis to cause us to step sidewards or backwards from God’s calling for our life.

In whatever season you find yourself in today, trust me when I say this, environments of love and faith like Hillsong Conference and like your local Church will only bless your life.  So please don’t stay away.  Even if it feels like the hard thing to do, it doesn’t mean it is not the right thing to do.


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