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Fridays with Phil

Life, family and unshakeable faith

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faith

Primary Colours

Here we are, the first Friday of February and my first blog of 2016.

I hope for you, the canvas of this year is beginning to fill with the colours of new things, plans realised, and dreams for the future.

Maybe you haven’t given it much thought and one year has seamlessly drifted into another. Or maybe, already this year you are feeling discouraged, even lacklustre, about what is to come.

Whichever filter you are looking out from, I would encourage you to see the unrealised months ahead as a blank canvas beckoning a masterpiece.

It was 26 years ago in London when I first began appreciating art.

With some free time on my hands, I visited the London Art Gallery. I was astonished by the beauty of the pieces and the way the artists could capture, not only the light, but also a precise moment and emotion.

About a year later, I was sitting in a teahouse in Morocco and saw a painting by Mohamed Toumi. I didn’t hesitate. After a lengthy negotiation, I left that day the proud owner of the piece I had admired (pictured above).

I love the way Toumi uses the primary colours of yellow, blue and red.

It makes me think, what primary colours will frame your year?

The bible talks about three elements that should permeate the life of a Christian: faith, hope and love.

Faith is our trust and confidence in God. It is a trust that brings victory in the midst of defeat. A trust that says, I may not understand but I lean on you God, I believe in you, I rely on you.

Hope is knowing that tomorrow is always better when heaven and eternity are a reality. It’s a hope that says, while the clouds may come and go, my hope is secure in a positive expectation that there is a better future beyond what I can see in my present day.

Love, rightly considered “the greatest of these”, is both unconditional and eternal. It is first received deep into our soul, but also finds expression through the way we live for others. Love is best revealed in the selfless sacrifice of Jesus on the cross so that we could live. Greater love has no man.

I wonder what shape this year would take if we offered up our faith, hope and love and placed it on the palette of the master artist.

Knowing God, He is well able to take what you give him and produce in your life something others would look at and marvel.  And not only marvel at, but would cause them to consider what their own life could look like with more of what you have: faith, hope and love.

I am at this moment taking drugs to try and help slow the advancement of a terminal illness, MND/ALS.  These drugs may or may not work. I hope they do. But, here is the thing, if they don’t, I will not lose my hope. Why? Because my ultimate and greater hope is in an assurance that heaven is a reality.  If I look up, hope will never die.  My hope is an anchor that all is well with my soul.

I can’t help but consider eternity when I consider life.  To think that one day, we won’t need faith or hope, but we will fully comprehend love. Not love as a feeling, an emotion, or commitment but love as a Noun, as a Name, as a Person. Love that is God Himself, love that is filled with light and life. Love that is Jesus.

On this side, we may look at the splashes of colour, the strokes that don’t make sense, the messiness of it all and not comprehend where the painter is headed or what on earth is taking shape. Indeed, if I look at Toumi’s painting, it was a mess before it was a masterpiece. Only when it is finished, we see the purpose of the individual strokes.

It encourages me to consider that we are God’s workmanship (Ephesians 2:10). The very wonder of life is that we are God’s masterpiece in the making.

We may question what God is doing but we must trust the Master’s strokes. The way He uses our faith, hope and love in our lives. The way He mixes those elements through our life and enhances other shades of beauty.

I pray this thought would cause others to stop and wonder and that it would inspire you to live life more fully and alive.

Phil

A decision not taken lightly

I have made my decision and it wasn’t one taken lightly.

It is with much thought, prayer, research, investigation and hope that I have decided to take a trip to Europe to have some tests and start a trial treatment that isn’t available here in Australia.

It’s not a cure, but it could slow down the progress of Motor Neurone Disease (MND, also knows as ALS) in my body. While I’m doing reasonably well, and have already outlived my initial prognosis, this is the time to act.  It’s a “sooner rather than later” approach.

With ALS / MND, it’s not like you wake up one morning and suddenly you can’t do something.  Instead, little by little, you lose your strength, some people faster than others.  I’m the only one who really notices that decline day-by-day.

In the past 76 years, since the famous baseball player Lou Gehrig was diagnosed with this disease, there has only been one drug approved for ALS / MND patients: Rilutek.  Rilutek was approved in the 1990s and is said to add 2 – 3 months of life to your prognosis.  In some parts of the world this drug costs up to $4000.00 per month.  In Australia, I pay only $37.50.

While I understand that there is more awareness, finances and scientists than any other time in history dedicated to finding a cure for this disease, I also understand that any new drug could take many more years to be released to the general community.  In that sense, the money we are raising now is for the next generation of sufferers.

Some people have inferred that I should just relax and wait for God to heal me.  My thinking is that when your daughter breaks her leg or your tooth needs filling, do you just pray or do you do what you can and leave the rest to God?

I’ve seen God miraculously heal people of cancer through divine intervention and I’ve seen God heal people through medical intervention.  I’ve also seen people experience their healing through entering into eternity.

I have always seen God move in my life when I do my part and leave what I can’t do to Him. 

Faith, trust, rest and hope are not couch potatoes, they are active and courageous as they approach the battle.

So for those who are praying, thank you, your prayers are effective and mean the world to me.  Be encouraged, I am also doing what I can do to partner with your prayers.

My treatment in Europe will cost in the many thousands of dollars per year, but it has also been known to add 3 – 4 years to a patient’s life.  Next week I go to Europe, hoping for the best, mainly because I want what you would want in my shoes:

I want more time with my wife.
I want to see my grandchildren go to school.
I want to be around long enough so they have some memory of me.
I want to hug my own children for as long as I can.
I want to be around to cheer them on in their lives and adventures.
I love this life.
I want to finish the race at the finish line, not mid-field.

And so, Fridays With Phil will take a short break. If you are interested in updates while I am away and post-treatment, you can follow me on Instagram (@pcamden) or Facebook.

I covet your prayers over this time,
Phil

The victorious life

We all want victory.  I don’t know anyone who is happy about losing or being defeated.

However, the truth is that if we are living at all, we will have experienced times of loss and defeat.  Does that mean we are not victorious?

I believe that although we may have times of defeat, we can still have a victorious life where the rhythm of our life is victorious and where the theme or banner over our life is victory.

We can live in such a way that our heart is not discouraged from a single defeat, but is courageous knowing victory is measured over a lifetime, not over one day.

Michael Clarke has retired as Australian cricket captain at the end of one of Australia’s biggest Ashes losses.  Yet Michael should be remembered as a great cricket captain, for his triple century in 2012, his 161 with a fractured shoulder, his century after the death of Hughes. He is not to be remembered for a single loss, but for many victories.

How do we keep our heart victorious in the face of defeat?

Here are some keys:

1. Remember the wins of the past.  

Think about what God has accomplished in and through your life to date.  Psalm 103:2 says it like this, “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.”

One of the traps of time is that the further we get away from the work we saw God do, the more we are tempted to make it not such a big deal or even worse give ourselves the credit, rather than God’s provision and divine help.

It is important that we remember what God has done for us if we are going to walk in continued victory.

2.  Win the private battles.

To have victory in public, we need to win some battles in our own soul and spirit. This is the hardest battlefield at time because it takes more courage to change ourselves than to find fault in others.

Finding fault in others only superficially gives us a sense of victory. That’s why some people gossip because it’s easier than having to look at themselves and see areas that need changing.

Maybe, it’s time to look for any rubbish that needs removing and “take out the trash.” Maybe it’s time to get off the gossip train!

3.  Let God in.

Many people have a concept that God is looking for an opportunity to punish them. Nothing could be further from the truth.  God is in fact actively looking for opportunities to show Himself strong in you and through you.  When we are ready to win battles in our own lives, then God is ready and willing to help.

Be encouraged today, you can win in the end. Victory can be your hallmark even in the face of loss and defeat.

Phil

Keep Calm and Carry On

What do you know about the man who carried Jesus’ cross?

History tells us his name was Simon. Presumably, he was a man just like you and me.

“A man named Simon, who was from Cyrene, was coming in from the country just then, and they forced him to carry Jesus’ cross.” (Mark 15:21)

By the time Simon was asked to carry the cross, Jesus had already suffered through scourging with whips made of leather and sharp bone. It’s no surprise that He was weak and physically unable to carry on.

Easter, then, is not only a story about triumph and victory, but also for those who at times find themselves too weak or too helpless to carry their own burdens.

It is for those of us who have been given more than we feel we can endure.

Do you know what that’s like?  The feeling of absolute powerlessness? To feel overwhelmed by what you are required to carry? Jesus does.

His body gave out.  He could not take another step in His own strength.  He literally sweated blood.

When you feel like you can’t take another step, or bear another thing, think on this: Jesus has been there and knows how you feel.

“He understands our weaknesses, for He faced all of the same temptations we do, yet He did not sin.” (Hebrews 4:15)

Whatever it is that we have to carry at this time: illness, weakness, pain, trials, temptation, Jesus will help you carry it.

Jesus came into this world to identify with the human race, to experience all that we experience.  He understands you. He knows what it is like not to be able to go on, and He will be there to give you strength in your time of need.

He could have saved Himself, just as He could have prevented Himself from being there in the first place.

He was there, not because He was the victim of circumstances beyond His control, but because He chose to lay down His life for the sake of the world. In fact, He was quoted as saying to the disciples:

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep… No one can take my life from Me. I lay down My life voluntarily.” (John 10:11, 17-18)

Jesus wanted to save you so He didn’t save Himself.

He was willing to die so that you can live and be reconciled to God.  That was a price He was willing to pay.

It has been said before: “it wasn’t the nails that bound Him to that tree; His love for you held Him there.

Remember God, victorious, this Easter and also remember God who knew suffering.  He was alone in His agony so that you would not be alone in yours.

I am posting this earlier in the week so that I didn’t miss the opportunity to extend an invite to you, your family and friends to get along to a Church for Good Friday & Easter Sunday services.

If you are looking for somewhere to attend, here is a link to service locations and times around the world of the Church I call home: http://www.hillsong.com/easter

Phil

You can’t handle the truth!

How do you handle the truth? Have you stopped to think about how you receive it and how you communicate it?

As important and beneficial as truth is to our relationships and society, like anything good, if used in the wrong way, it can be abused.

We all have a responsibility to know when and who to deliver the truth to or whether to deliver it at all. Learn when to speak it and when to keep it.

While it’s important for us to always tell the truth (be honest); it’s not always important to share the truth (spread it).

You see, truth needs to be delivered to the right people at the right time for the right purpose.

Truth shared with the wrong people at the wrong time or for the wrong purpose is often hugely damaging, and worse still, cheap gossip.

A sure sign that someone can’t handle the truth, is if they share what is said in confidence. Sharing truth with the wrong people is indicative of ambitious drive, a need for power or an unhealthy fascination with the tantalising.

Another sign someone can’t handle the truth is if they excuse hurtful or demeaning remarks with a flippant, “well, it’s the truth!”

In a world where we can communicate so much to so many so easily, we need to be careful that even when speaking truth, we exercise wisdom, integrity and love.

You want the truth? How do you handle it?

As in all things difficult to navigate, the Bible gives us some clear guidance.

In Matthew 5:21-26, Jesus encourages us that if we have an issue with a friend, we should go and make it right with that person.  He explains that words are powerful and have consequences.

I have found a good principle of thumb is that truth should be shared with the people immediately affected and someone who can do something about it: go upwards, not sidewards.

If someone offers to tell me something in confidence, I will often say, “You can tell me but depending on what you are about to say will determine who I will share the information with.”   More often than not, I redirect their truth-telling to the appropriate person or authority.

Proverbs 3:3 says, “Let not mercy and truth forsake you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart…”

We see here another principle found in the Bible is that if you need to share truth with people, make sure the motive is not power or ambition but mercy and love. In love, we need to learn to deliver truth with grace or mercy.

And finally, Ecclesiastes 3:7 says, there is “…a right time to shut up and another to speak up…”

Many times the best thing you can do with truth is keep it to yourself.  Sometimes the truth needs to stop at me because to go any further is to continue the gossip train. Some truth is just none of my business.

My encouragement to you today is to be a safe place when it comes to truth. Be someone who CAN handle the truth!

Phil

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