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Fridays with Phil

Life, family and unshakeable faith

Month

September 2014

Mad at God

This week I was poked and prodded, all part of regular check-ups to monitor the effects of Motor Neurone Disease on my body.

Throughout it all, I felt a strong sense of God with me.

I thank God that this disease, as bad and dark as it is some days, has not shaken my faith.

The strange thing is that in our humanity, we can sometimes allow our belief in God’s goodness and love to become weakened because of someone else’s trial or dark times.

I have witnessed people get mad at God on behalf of someone else and yet the person going through the bankruptcy, broken relationship, illness, or loss is not mad at God at all.

To the contrary, the person going through it is dependent on God’s presence and comfort in the midst of what they are going through.

Can I encourage you not to carry offence towards God on behalf of someone else?

Don’t take on offence because of what others are going through. Don’t make my trial your excuse.

It takes a strong person to be able to get close to another’s weakness, close to their mortality, and stay strong in their personal faith in God.

Let me say on behalf of all those in a trial, we need our friends to be strong, not mad.

Watching your strength gives us strength. Watching you become weak over our trial only adds to our trial.

I think of John, the disciple of Jesus. In Acts 12, we read that his brother James is killed by Herod as a young man. In the very next verses, we see that Peter gets supernaturally rescued by God. John’s brother dies while Peter is saved.

We see that not only does John stay the faith through this trial, he encourages and supports the growth of the Church through writing books that expound God’s faithfulness in trials.

In 1 John 1:5, he writes “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” And in 1 John 4:16, he writes, “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.”

This doesn’t sound like someone who, because of the trials of others, had become disillusioned, offended or bitter with God.

And so, whatever you are observing in another’s battle, please continue to have compassion, continue to care and support them. Fight for what is right and for justice but do not get offended with God because of someone else’s dark valley. God and us will be ok.

If you need God’s strength to be strong for someone else, I encourage you to get into His presence, spend time in His Word, ask Him for strength.

Keep trusting.

Phil

By the way, I’m doing a road trip in the USA with my good friend Steve over the next three weeks so for “Fridays with Phil” updates, follow my journey on Instagram (@pcamden).

Death, where is your sting?

My mate, Bruce. 27/07/1955 - 11/09/2014
My mate, Bruce. 27/07/1955 – 11/09/2014

On Tuesday, I officiated the funeral of one of my best mates and a fellow pastor, Bruce.

I also closely witnessed his last few weeks on this earth.

What struck me most in those last days was Bruce’s assurance of heaven and eternity. Each time I asked him “how are you in here mate?” pointing to my head, or “how are you in here mate?” pointing to my heart, he would answer “it’s all good buddy!”

And it truly was – he had a tremendous peace and unwavering faith.

I remember sitting there with him contemplating the terminal illness Bruce had and hoping other people I loved didn’t have to face what he was facing. I realise now we all have what he had: mortality.

Most people live this life like it will never end and prepare for the next life like it will never begin, but it comes to all of us whether we prepare or not.

We are all terminal but we are also all eternal.

This life on earth is short so we need to make it count by being present, by loving, being grateful for the little things, and forgiving. Talk to people about what matters, not what is the matter with life.

Bruce taught me that “this side” is so fragile and short and because of that, it is so precious.  Like many valuable things, life’s value is derived from the fact it is in limited supply.

Whether you like to think about it or not, we are all living in temporary accommodation, our skin gets a little more creased and our hair a little more grey or a little less full stop. It’s a confronting reminder that sooner or later, we will all be evicted from our bodies.

The question this raises is, what’s on the other side?

I appreciate that it’s hard for us to imagine the other side.

Some people just decide that there is nothing over there. But you do have to wonder why the rumours of the other side stay so persistent.

And so the human race wonders.

As a Christian, I believe that Jesus Christ has defeated the sting or darkness of death so that we can have real life today and eternal life on “the other side”. I believe that God has made a way for us to be with Him forever through faith in Jesus Christ.

From this side, for us, death can be a time of sorrow, loss and of separation. But from the other side, for people like Bruce, it is a time of release, reunion, rest and reward. It is the beginning of a bright new eternal life.

Heaven is a reality where there is no pain, no tears, and no sorrow. Gone will be the nights filled with terror, fear and violence. Hunger and thirst, not even a memory. Heaven will be a place of endless joy.

A little girl was taking an evening walk with her father.   She looked up at the starry night sky and said, “Oh, Daddy, if the wrong side of heaven is so beautiful, what must the right side be like!”

This one’s for you buddy, my mate Bruce, on the other side.

Phil

Deadline Ahead

Deadlines. This blog has one: every Friday by 6am.

Have you ever wondered where the word “deadline” comes from? The term was used in war times when prisoners could not be kept within structural boundaries or walls.

Captors would keep prisoners within an imaginary, real or painted line called a “dead line.” If the prisoners touched or crossed this line, they would be shot and killed.[1]

No wonder when our world is filled with deadlines, we can feel trapped and imprisoned by our own schedules to the point we feel dead to the life around us.

Can I encourage you to break free of deadlines by building margin into your life for the things that matter: time with loved ones, time with your creator, time of rest. Put it in your schedule and make it happen.

We live in a world that has the ability to rob us from the important while we are running around trying to finish the urgent. The urgent makes us busy but doesn’t give us the margin to live freely and spontaneously in the moment.

I have learned that the urgent things in my life mostly either arise from those around me who are not as disciplined with their important or where I have failed to take control of my own important.

As a pastor, I would encounter couples who needed to see me “now.”  They were desperate for help in their marriage which had unfortunately suffered neglect, causing an urgent situation.

If we put off the important, it soon becomes the urgent, and urgent means rushed and rushed means less than best. Instead, I encourage you to address the important, yours or someone else’s, before it becomes the urgent.

Remember that today’s urgent is yesterday’s important that didn’t get done because yesterday I was busy doing the urgent of the day before.

Iain Thomas wrote:

Every day the world will drag you by the hand, yelling, “this is important! And this is important! And this is important! You need to worry about this! And this! And this”. And each day, its up to you to yank your hand back, put your hand on your heart and say, No. This is what’s important.”

How do we live in the important and not be harassed by the urgent? A few ways:

  • Listen to your heart. Love that will direct you to the important things and people in your world, trust your heart.
  • Use your mind. Don’t just react to things but respond with wisdom and thoughtfulness with a focus on your values and what really matters to you.
  • Understand that every yes has a no attached and every no has a yes attached. When you learn to say no, it is a sure way of saying yes to the important.

There is enough time today to do all that is important. Choose wisely.

Phil

[1]Trial of Henry Wirz,” Report of the Secretary of War, Oct. 31, 1865.

There are little eyes upon you

Circa 1989.  Proud of my girls then, and now!
Circa 1989. Proud of my girls then, and now!

Like it or not, our fathers have an incredible impact on our lives: either for good or bad.

One of the best compliments I have received from a friend of my daughter was, “you are the first person she wants to call if she needs help.”

I like to think that it was my consistency towards my girls that caused them to see me as a safe place. They knew what they were going to get when they reached out to me. I was always there for them and I didn’t stuff it all up (by God’s grace).

James 1:17 says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”  God sets the ultimate example of a consistent Father for us all.

I truly believe that an inconsistent father robs children of security and confidence.

Sure, we all have mood swings, but how far do we let the pendulum swing in each direction?

Having consistency in mood does not mean keeping all emotions under wraps. No, our children need to see us being angry but not losing control over our words or actions, they need to see us being happy without going overboard and being foolish in our celebration.

Knowing what to expect from us emotionally will give them confidence to approach us.

Inconsistent fathers put their children on edge, wondering how Dad will react when he walks in the door. Living with an alcoholic father myself, and not knowing who or what I would come home to, that was my life and I didn’t want it to be my girls’ lives.

If I had a heavy day at work and didn’t feel I could be a great example to my kids, I would either keep driving until I had calmed down or sit in the car and get myself in a good space. But the moment I walked in the front door, I wanted to be present with them.

Being present is a sure sign of consistency.

Are you there for your kids? Really there? Or are you just going through the motions? For too many fathers, home is where they eat, sleep, and do their best to keep the noise level down.

I can remember more than one occasion when my girls would have to walk up to me and with two hands on my face turn my attention to them so I would listen to what they were saying. We all reap what we sow, so be present for your kids now or find that when your kids grow up they will have no time for you. I count myself blessed that still today my girls and I love hanging out.

And my final thought on consistency is consistently don’t stuff up.

Few things do more damage to children than fathers who spout moral absolutes and then live out a double standard. Our children are still watching to see if we “walk the talk.”

“Do as I say, not as I do” just doesn’t work when you’re raising kids. The flip side is “Do as I do” does work and you have the opportunity to model consistency to the generations.

And so with Father’s Day just around the corner, this blog is in honour of all the consistent dads out there.

Phil

“There are little eyes upon you.

And they’re watching night and day;

There are little ears that quickly

Take in every word you say;

There are little hands all eager

To do anything you do…”

– Author unknown

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