Integrity and Wholeness

(Message given at Newberg Friends Church on February 1, 2015)

Do you ever look at a word, and stare at it, and then all of a sudden the letters just make no sense any more? It just looks weird and wrong?

Pageant. Pageant did that to me recently. Page ant. An ant that’s a page? Like a medieval knight attendant ant who gets stuff for you? Or origami, like an ant made out of a page from a book? Pay-gent. P-agent. Like an agent who gets paid? Look at it too long, and eventually all meaning just flies out the window.

Honestly, this is the perfect analogy for what seems to be happening to me at the end of the sermon on the mount. The harder I look at Jesus’ words, the weirder it gets and the more confused I am. This can cause problems, say, when you come home on a Friday night and try to talk about your day with your wife, while in the kitchen, say, and everything she might hypothetically say to try and help you out, you might hypothetically argue with Every. Single. Thing. she says.

“Pageant.” “BUT IT COULD BE PAGE-ANT!” “Pageant, a show, a gala, an extravaganza.” “IT COULD BE PAY-GENT!!!”

Hypothetically, this could be symbolic and illustrative. Continue reading

Distilling the Sermon on the Mount

(As part of today’s message, I tried to interpret and condense the Sermon on the Mount. Several people asked for a copy, so I’m putting it here on the blog. Read for yourself in Matthew 5-7 and see if it works for you.)

Here is my expression of what Jesus teaches:

Chapter 5

You poor ones, you lacking ones, you meek ones, you ones full of need and grief: you are blessed. You will be blessed! Blessing comes when you go “all in” with me, even if others attack you for it. When you go “all in” with me, you flavor the world. You light it up. A better way to say it is, you are the channel through which my flavor and my light get expressed in the world. I am the fruit that will come out of you, when you dig your roots into me.

I’m not throwing out all the rules and actions and instructions God gave earlier. In fact I’m calling you beyond the letter of the law to a higher standard of mercy and love. It’s a difficult call I am placing on you, one which will require sacrifice from you. But I’m going to offer the biggest sacrifice. I am going to out-give you, out-love you, out-grace you, out-forgive you. I’m setting the example and the standard and I’m inviting you not to just get by, not to just be better than other people, not to find a passing grade on the commandments. I’m asking you to be as giving and loving and forgiving as your heavenly Father is.

Chapter 6

But don’t do this stuff to impress others. Don’t try to impress me or God’s people with your resume of spiritual activities. Trust that God sees what you do and loves you– even if no one else notices. Talk to God. And when you do, put God in the rightful place; worship God, honor God’s name.

Ask for and learn daily dependence. Ask for and remember that God gives you what you need each day. Ask for the forgiveness God wants to give, and don’t hoard it for yourself…forgive others, too.

If you do all this stuff to get attention, or to prove yourself to me and to the world, it’s futile. All those good deeds on display will rust and get moth-eaten. But when you walk with me, set your attention on me, develop a life of dependence on me…that’s the lasting treasure.

There’s such anxiety when you pursue other things than me, other things which in reality rust and get ruined. Pursue me. Seek me. Know me. Learn from me. Receive from me all the gifts I want to give you. This is the key!

Chapter 7

If you’re trying to please other people or trying to criticize what they aren’t getting right, your judgment of others is keeping you from knowing me and receiving from me. Just come to me! Ask, seek, knock. I love to give! You don’t have to earn it. If you presume you’ve already got it…if you’re sure you’ve achieved and have done it all…well, you certainly won’t ask ME for help. I wish you would put down your credentials and just come to me, know me. Ask, seek, knock and enter.

I’m sad to say there are so many pursuits, so many doors, so many things that can keep you from knowing me and walking with me. There are even people who will try to keep you from me. Watch what comes out of them. Watch what comes out of the people who follow them, and see if it looks giving, loving, and forgiving like me. If not, don’t be fooled. It won’t last and grow.

In fact, there are people who will say all the right things and even do some amazing things, and they will be so confident and presumptuous that they deserve good treatment from God because of it. Please don’t fall into that trap! Remember how I taught you to pray: cultivate a daily dependence on our giving God. Not on your actions.

Cultivate a daily dependence on our giving God. Dependence isn’t presumptuous. It isn’t all talk and no follow through. Dependence is trust. It’s knowing and being known by God.

Trees and Fruit

(Message given at Newberg Friends Church on January 25, 2015)

Play a little game with me–one of these things is not like the other. Can you find the unique one?

SONY DSC il_340x270.539729461_3c8c Not-Like-The-Others-Owls one-of-these-things-is-not-like-the-other-lisa-phillips September-07-2012-20-31-40-jjjejekeke

Some of those were subtle, some really obvious. For me, after all these months we’ve spent in the Sermon on the Mount, and after reading today’s section many times in the past two weeks, these verses have felt like that red apple among the green ones. These verses have just screamed at me: we are different than the rest of the Sermon on the Mount. Continue reading

Who Makes it Narrow?

(Message given at Newberg Friends Church on January 18, 2015)

The two things Jesus teaches in today’s section of the sermon on the mount are pretty much at the core of the things I most often speak or write about. 

One is to reclaim an accurate view of God, countering years of church history which have led so many to think that God is only harsh, angry, and disappointed with us. And the second is to call us to what few people choose, the hard road of discipleship to Jesus. Continue reading

Finding Our Place

(Message given at Newberg Friends Church on December 14, 2014)

Can there be comfort in something as difficult as repentance?

Oh yes! It seems counter-intuitive in a world where we do about anything to hide our flaws, carefully curating one profile picture out of thousands taken…where celebrities hire publicists to manage their image…where putting on a mask is more normal than airing our dirty laundry.

Repentance raises issues and images for us as we think about God. Is God really loving, if God puts expectations on our behavior? Will I destroy my own sense of worth and value if I focus on sin and the need to repent? Continue reading

Justice

(Message given November 30, 2014 at Newberg Friends Church)

Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains would tremble before you!
As when fire sets twigs ablaze
and causes water to boil,
come down to make your name known to your enemies
and cause the nations to quake before you!
For when you did awesome things that we did not expect,
you came down, and the mountains trembled before you.
Since ancient times no one has heard,
no ear has perceived,
no eye has seen any God besides you,
who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.
You come to the help of those who gladly do right,
who remember your ways.
But when we continued to sin against them,
you were angry.
How then can we be saved?
All of us have become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;
we all shrivel up like a leaf,
and like the wind our sins sweep us away.
No one calls on your name
or strives to lay hold of you;
for you have hidden your face from us
and have given us over to our sins.
Yet you, LORD, are our Father.
We are the clay, you are the potter;
we are all the work of your hand. (Isaiah 64:1-8, TNIV)

Continue reading

Treasures in Heaven

(Message given at Newberg Friends Church on November 9, 2014)

  ‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
‘ The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
‘No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. (Matthew 6:19-24, TNIV)

I would like to “Oregon-ize” this section of the bible today.

We have a barn/shed/thing at our house. Half of it, while covered by a roof, is relatively open. It’s what used to be the “barn” side and is now sort of a carport/garage for us. The roof on this side is fairly leak free, but there are so many open sides that rain water blows in quite a bit. The other half is all closed in with two doors. We call it the “shed” side, and it’s used for storage.

Using it for storage was a very bad idea. It was my bad idea. The roof is leaky, and in one of those weird physics things I don’t understand, water can get in, but it just does not go out. The humidity is like 900% in there all winter long, and pretty much everything in there has been damaged or ruined.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures in your shed, where rain and moisture destroy, and where little field mice will chew up your high school letterman’s jacket.” Continue reading

Doors, Judgment, Love

(I had the opportunity to speak in chapel at George Fox University as part of Quaker Focus Week, on November 4, 2014)

Have you ever had a recurring nightmare?

I had one for years as a kid, and I hated it. Every time, I’d be walking on like this cobblestone pathway, nowhere else to go, forced to go from stone to stone. At some point, there would be this loud pop or gong, and I knew this was like the detonator. After the first time I had it, I knew what was going to happen. Everything was going to explode because I had set off the alarm. But I had to keep stepping forward, one stone at a time, usually with this maniacal laughter going on all around me…until the explosion and I would wake up. It was horrible!

That dream is the perfect representation of how I went through my “awake” life as a child. I was absolutely convinced that every step I took was an opportunity to mess up. I was so, so afraid of making mistakes, so afraid of the punishment or judgment that would come.It’s why I was seen as such a “good kid”– not so much because I always wanted to do the right thing, but because I was so afraid of what would happen if I did anything wrong.

This was a very anxious way to live life, let me tell you. Continue reading

Fasting

(Message given at Newberg Friends Church on November 2, 2014)

I don’t know how it happened exactly, but somehow I’ve gotten in the habit of digging into my past and blurting out the most embarrassing parts on Sunday mornings.

I’ve showed you pictures of me dressed as a cheerleader. I’ve shared some of my worst moments, like when I ignored a friend because she was reminding all my new “Christian” friends that we had once had fun on a youth group outing listening to Van Halen.

IMG_0393.JPG

This looks like a nondescript spiral notebook. Maybe it looks a little old and dated, but that’s because it is. Within these pages is a journal entry I wrote as a freshman in high school. Notice that I said “entry”, as in singular. This is because in high school I didn’t keep a regular journal. It wasn’t a practice, wasn’t a thing I did. But, in a moment I am not at all proud of, I once sat down and wrote one particular journal entry as if journalling was a normal thing that I did. And I didn’t write this entry to work out my feelings, or be able to remember something important.

Nope. I wrote this one journal entry with the specific intention of then sharing it with my on again, off again girlfriend. You know, so she would think I was being so vulnerable. So she would see that I was thinking about her. This stellar piece of prose is more than 30 years old, but I have to confess that it isn’t funny to read even yet. I still get a queasy feeling in my stomach when I read how passive aggressive and just yuck that this whole thing was. Continue reading