Category Archives: Inside Phipps

Partakers Of Eternal Life

weekly theme #23*

week containing the second Sunday of Easter

When Barnabas arrived in Antioch (Acts 11:23) he showed not a smidgen of self-focus.  He rejoiced in what others had done and encouraged them.  Then he went to get an expert for these kinds of situations – Saul (Paul).  Verse 24 of Acts 11 is a wonderful testimony of him.  “Barnabas was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and strong in faith.”  In a sense, God used Barnabas to resurrect Paul.  Paul was going through a personal, inner crucifixion – the death of his heart’s desire.  Because of Saul’s zeal for Jesus, the apostles had sent him to Tarsus for his own safety, and they seemingly had forgotten him.

Waiting can be a painful, suffering time.  Nevertheless, when my heart’s desire dies, it allows God’s desire to grow within me, and I am resurrected to his service.  I am also given the promise of life everlasting where all things are new – earth, heaven, my body, even my way of living.  I am unable grasp what everlasting life will be like, but I can believe in the concept of it. “That is why we live by believing and not by seeing.” (2 Corinthians 5:7)  Sometimes belief in the next life sustains me during this life.

I cannot expect a “good” life now, at least not if I’m a warrior in the battle between good and evil.  If I am on the sidelines, caring mostly for my own affairs, then I tend to expect a “good” life.   However, the fourth chapter of 2 Corinthians describes a life of spiritual war with terms like: pressed by troubles, perplexed, hunted down, knocked down, and suffering.  Yes, I can experience all these things even if I’m not in the war, but if I’m not in the war I will not share in the rewards of victory available to me now and in the future.  “So we don’t look at the troubles we can see right now; rather we look forward to what we have not yet seen.  For the troubles we see will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever.”  (2 Corinthians 4:18)

Sacrifices and suffering seem less intense, even ignorable, when they are for someone I love.  Moreover, love can move my fear out of mind.  (1 John 4:18)  If a loved one is in a burning building, I can look past the source of fear to the one I love.  It is love that propels me.  It is not fleeing from where I am, but running to my love.  The way through my crucifixion is not by more willpower or courage but by greater love for what is on the other side of what I fear.

*A Guide To Prayer by Job and Shawchuck provided the scripture references and readings that inspired these reflections.  I found this devotional to be the most heart changing of any I’ve used.  It truly lives up to its title.

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Christ Lives

weekly theme #22*

week containing Easter Sunday

Jesus’ resurrection was not possible without his death.  Nor can I have a new life without the death of my old life.  This death of my old life will involve pain and suffering, and I avoid those whenever possible.  That avoidance prevents the death of my old life.

Jesus said, “The time has come for me, the Son of Man, to enter into my glory, and God will receive glory because of all that happens to me.”  (John 13:31)  He made that statement just before Judas betrayed him.  It seems to me that Jesus was looking beyond his pain and suffering to what awaited him, a new reality, starting with the resurrection.  He wasn’t blind to the pain and suffering in this reality. “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death.” (Mark 14:34)  He lived in the tension of both realities.  I tend to focus on worldly reality, and that can lead to a lack of spiritual power and endurance.

I just read chapters 18 and 19 of John’s Gospel.  Jesus was taken through torturous hours that tested him in ways I do not even know, and he endured.  Yet he did more than endure – he taught, challenged, modeled, protected, and refrained from saving himself.  He remained true to his call.  How can I not be inspired?

I go to my Gethsemane to plead for an exception and to hide.  I do not willing surrender myself, but I resist, complain, and feel sorry for myself.  I have great zeal to protect myself from the crucifixion I so desperately need.  I’m seeing how my life, my carnal life, has repeating crucifixions on the road to holiness.  On this road, my mind must not be focused on the crucifixion’s pain and suffering but on the resurrection’s hope and glory.  Basically it amounts to this, as long as I crave the life on this side of crucifixion more than the life on the other side of crucifixion, I am my own opponent to reaching a new, resurrected life.

“Let heaven fill your thoughts.  Do not think only about things down here on earth.  For you died when Christ died, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.”  (Colossians 3:2-3)

*A Guide To Prayer by Job and Shawchuck provided the scripture references and readings that inspired these reflections.  I found this devotional to be the most heart changing of any I’ve used.  It truly lives up to its title.

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The Son Of God

weekly theme #7*

week containing the first Sunday after Epiphany

Mark 1:22 says, “They were amazed at [Jesus’] teaching, for he taught as one who had real authority – quite unlike the teachers of the religious law.”  I think it was more than his style or method of teaching that impressed those who listened to Jesus.  I believe it also held a depth that was only possible because of his communication and confidence with Father as well as his knowledge of the life beyond death.  I believe eternity will be more marvelous than I can imagine, and one of the highlights will be peace in all the relationships there.

Jesus said that he could only do what he saw his Father do (John 5:19), and he gave huge quantities of time to the relationship with his Father.  (Luke 6:12, Mark 1:35, Mark 6:46-47)  He filled himself with what the Father modeled and that bore good fruit.  What fills me determines my beliefs, then my values, then my behavior, and ultimately the fruit I bear.  My fruit indicates my filling.

I’m sitting in a room with several chairs scattered about, and one chair sits alone in the middle – facing my direction.  I imagined Jesus sitting there and asked him how I can balance all the things that beckon for my focus.  In a patient voice he said, “Focus on me.”  I cannot focus whole-heartedly on more than one thing, and nothing is more worthy of my focus than Jesus.  Only he can save me, and just as importantly, only he can improve me.  My best effort at improvement is cooperating with the LORD.  Thinking that I improve myself leads to pride and judgment of others.  I put myself on a pedestal to look down at others.

My call should send me to my knees, not a pedestal.  Jesus has trusted me to do his work, and I can only do his work if he possesses me.  “He will not crush those who are weak or quench the smallest hope.  He will bring full justice to all who have been wronged.  He will not stop until truth and righteousness prevail throughout the earth.”  (Isaiah 42:3-4a)  This is what Christ’s Body, the Church, is to do.  This is what I am to do.

When confronted by people who say, “Why doesn’t God do something?” I must honestly answer that he has.  He has empowered and commanded his followers to let him work through us, but we refuse to cooperate faithfully.  Honestly, I’m part of the problem when God designed me to be part of the solution.

*A Guide To Prayer by Job and Shawchuck provided the scripture references and readings that inspired these reflections.  I found this devotional to be the most heart changing of any I’ve used.  It truly lives up to its title.

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Chosen To Be God’s Children

weekly theme #6*

week containing New Year’s Day or Second Sunday after Christmas

“As we know Jesus better, his divine power gives us everything we need for living a godly life.”  (2 Peter 1:3a)  Jesus is the foundation of godliness. It is not my power that produces a godly life; it is Jesus’ power.  Isaiah 55 contains the phrases:

  • “Come to me with your ears wide open.  Listen, for the life of your soul is at stake.”
  • “Seek the Lord while you can find him.”
  • “My thoughts are completely different from yours,” says the LORD.

The Lord longs for me to seek him.  My efforts to bear fruit are of little value without him, for it is the LORD who redeems.

I am a child of God, and I seem to ignore the fact that it is Father, not me, who holds the wisdom in the family.  I am tempted by sin, sometimes seduced, but that does not separate me from my Father.  His love for me does not exist because of my merit; I am confident of that fact.  In a way, God needs me.  He has chosen to reveal himself to this world primarily through his children.  Even though he is constantly around us, most of us fail to perceive him.  (Job 9:11 and Genesis 28:16)  I, as his child, must communicate the character of God to this world by the way that I live and the words that I speak.

My current ministry aligns wonderfully with my gifts and bent.  Yet I still struggle with the effectiveness of it.  This week’s invocation contains two lines that are my prayer in this situation.  “Look upon my ministry and banish all barriers to effectiveness and faithfulness.  Fill my life and ministry with your Holy Spirit to the end that I may this day be led into paths of fruitful service.”

Verses 3 and 4 have caused me to pause each time I read Psalm 146 this week.  “Don’t put your confidence in powerful people; there is no help for you there.  When their breathing stops, they return to the earth, and in a moment all their plans come to an end.”  This seems to fly in the face of seeking widespread change through governmental, denominational, or organizational leadership.  However, I think verse 5 enlightens the broader application.  “But happy are those who have the God of Israel as their helper, whose hope is in the LORD their God.”  My source of hope and faith is the key.  Involving leadership is fine, but they are not reliable sources for long-term reliance.  God is.  Man alone cannot solve the conditions around the world.  In fact, we are helpless against ourselves.  We are our own enemy.  We need to submit to the will and power of our Creator.

*A Guide To Prayer by Job and Shawchuck provided the scripture references and readings that inspired these reflections.  I found this devotional to be the most heart changing of any I’ve used.  It truly lives up to its title.

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A Political 23rd Psalm

After Dad’s death, I was looking through his belongings and found something that I’m sure Mom cut from the paper.  I could not find a date on the clipping, but the reverse side was advertising ground beef for 39 cents per pound.  Take a look.

Society is my shepherd; I shall not work.
It alloweth me to lie down on a feather bed.
It leadest me beside the still factories; it destroyeth my ambition.
It leadeth me in the paths of a goldbrick for politics sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of inflation and deficit spending,
I will fear no evil, for the welfare agencies are with me.
Their generosity and their staff, they comfort me.
They prepared the requisitions that filleth my table,
By mortgaging the earnings of my grand children.
My head is filled with mirth that my cup runneth over without effort;
Surely, the taxpayers shall care for me all the days of my life,
And I shall dwell in the house of a parasite forever.

So it seems concern about government programs is an old issue.  But this “psalm” gives me concern.  I’m concerned that someone believed this sarcastic rewrite of the 23rd Psalm was the proper response to the poor.  In fact, to me, being “poor” means that I lack something, and we all lack something.  Usually people think being poor is lacking money or material goods, but I can also lack friendships, understanding, spirituality, listening skills, hope, self-esteem, humility, job skills, good health, and a hundred other things.  We are all poor, and we all need help.

I don’t see this song as helping anything.  It seems to judge rather than understand and redeem.  It seems to forget that we each can learn something from one another.  It seems to forget that each of us has some  kind of poverty, even if I deny it exists.  It ignores that I have little room to mock and degrade people who are poor in a different way than me.

I wager to say that most of us have some kind of poverty that seems to cling to us.  A kind of poverty that sucks the strength and hope from us.  We  try to fill that lack by hard work, wrong choices, determination, trying again, and failing again.  Getting out of poverty, all kinds of poverty, can be a struggle.  The struggle isn’t always just with ourselves, as this “psalm” implies.  The struggle may be with systems, lack of support, or no foothold to start the journey.   That’s where we all need to help.  Perhaps the worst kind of poverty is a lack of friendships.  My friendships have aided me in many a problem, and this aid started with my family.  Life can be  incredibly hard without a healthy, uplifting family.  Thankfully I only know that fact secondhand, many people know it up close and personal.

So the best thing I can do is to help those who are ready to help themselves and pray for those who aren’t.  If each one of us helped the other, I believe we would see less poverty of all kinds.  We would  have richer lives if for no other reason than that we would have each other.

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