On Pressing Forward in 2016

 

We have moved into a New Year. It is a time when many evaluate their goals and make plans for change and moving forward for the year ahead. Time also is spent examining the impact and results of the past year.  Personally, 2015 was a year of many trials and difficulties. None of the trials have been devastating or severe but they have been persistent and draining. Some of them have been sudden and came with unexpected costs. My wife and I do have goals and desires for what is ahead but at times it gets overwhelming.  Since we have directions we are moving toward, my mind has been reflecting on moving forward and forging ahead.

As we moved on into the New Year, the Bible passage of Philippians 3: 13-14 has been on my mind. The passage reads: Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (ESV) There are three elements that are central to this passage that are worth reflecting on: the past, pressing forward, and the goal.  It is worth noting that the attitude described in this passage is referred to as the way mature people should think (Philippians 3:15.)

The first thought is about the past. The passage directs to forget about the past, to let it have no power or sway. In the verses preceding the passage, Paul, referenced all the thing in his past that were considered of value. He essentially says, what he did in the past is irrelevant to moving forward in his life as He follows God. The passage really does not mean we are not to address issues in our past and learn from the past. It is really about not holding on to that which is past, that in present moment, we are to be about what God has us doing.  We are not to keep mind focused on what has already occurred, but to engage in that which brings forward movement.  It is worth noting, that within scripture God often has called people to remember what he has done and set up places of remembrance. Even names of Cities and people are markers of things to recall. So, Paul is not suggesting a total avoidance of things in the past; good or bad. Rather, a focus off of the elements of self, as the good and bad of the past can easily become a center of focus and interfere with moving ahead.  We are to be about what God has called us to doing and to press forward.

The other element worth reflecting is to be pressing forward. It is moving ahead. It is imagery used in connection to running a race or engaging in a contest. Pressing forward is about persevering to completion with what you were called to do.  Pressing forward means facing difficulties as the come and dealing with them. It is about focus on the goal. As long as we are in this body and living this life, we are moving forward.  In my mind, whatever point we are in life, we are growing in some manner. Each day is the next day for the next step for moving ahead and facing obstacles.

The ultimate point though is the element of the goal. We are pressing forward, not related to our own self-directed goals or felt desire. No, we are pressing forward in what God has called us to, that which He has set forward. And what God has called us to, is found in Philippians 3: 8-10. It is what Paul referred to as gaining Christ. Our pressing forward depends on faith which allows for knowing God in all His persons and experience what God is able to bring alive even in the midst of great difficulties.  It is looking beyond any circumstances and pressing on in such away as we demonstrate that what happens as we press on is but temporary. We are citizens of heaven as seen in Philippians 3:20.  The call is doing what God has before us. It is making disciples. It is loving others. It is persisting through obstacles. It is focusing on God.  This is why it is a mark of maturity, for it is getting beyond self and living and serving as you are going in the course of your life.

So, take time to think about where God has you and what pressing forward in 2016 means? Is there things that are holding back? Are there good and bad things that deter from moving forward? Are your desires on things of self, or on God’s higher call?   Where is God moving in your life and what are the current areas where you are growing?  Ultimately, reflect on where God has you going and what steps you take to move forward while remembering that God is God and He is there with you as you press forward and forge ahead in 2016.

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Reflections on Brennan Manning: A Teacher of God’s Love and Grace

Today 4/13/2013 news that Brennan Manning left this life on 4/12/2013. He was a man of God, a disciple who now has moved on. Yet, he was a teacher of much controversy. The top of the controversy was that he taught “contemplative prayer” with use of things like emptying thoughts and repeating words. This controversy exists and is out there, yet, I have no question that in He was a true follower of Jesus the Messiah. His teaching and from what I understand even his life was fractured and flawed. He knew fully what it was to experience God’s grace. Yet, he is really know different than any other disciple of Jesus. He tought things wrong, he did things wrong, he was flawed. Yet, he knew what it was to be loved by God. He was a teacher and preacher of God’s love. His messages focused on deepening the understanding of God and His love. This is true for me.
I heard Brennan Manning speak at Church of the Open Door in Minnesota two or maybe three times. When he spoke his words and presence displayed and shown the love of God. His words touched to the very core. I do not remember his words or his teaching at that time. I do know what he taught and spoke of on those days changed me. He gave words that brought closer awareness to the love of God. He taught in such a way that got beyond the fractured images I had of God the Father and God used to touch hurt and pain and let God’s love in. God used this man. And for that I am grateful. He served and was used by God and he touch my life and many others. There are a great many quotes out there that demonstrate the truth he taught. It is important to note in God’s economy the words of Love and truth have far greater impact than the things we speak that are flawed, dangerous, or destructive. Truth and love always have greater effect. In closing this article I am posting some Brennan Manning quotes that demonstrate the Truth and Love that he taught that impacted so many.

“Define yourself radically as one beloved by God. This is the true self. Every other identity is illusion.”

“In every encounter we either give life or we drain it; there is no neutral exchange.”

“God is love. In human beings, love is a quality, a high-prized virtue; in God, love is His identity.“

“God loves you unconditionally, as you are and not as you should be, because nobody is as they should be.”

“My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ, & I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it.”

“Christianity was not some moral code; it was a love affair, & I experienced it first hand.”

“If we conceal our wounds out of fear & shame, our inner darkness can neither be illuminated nor become a light for others.”

Passion Week Musing: The Dangerousness of Jesus


Jesus was a dangerous.  Think about it. See he came to change things. His mission was to make things different. He posed risk to those that were in charge. He posed such risk that Herod the Great killed many infant males to try and kill one. He was so dangerous that the crowd tried to kill him on more the one occasion.  Most had hoped that his dangerousness would mean the end of Rome and re-establishment of Israel as a country and kingdom. However, that was not what yes was about. He did not meet those expectations. This also made him dangerous.  It was his dangerousness that led to his death. He lived God’s way. He was concerned for each individual. He loved and demonstrated concern for others over appearances of righteousness. He was so dangerous that they decided that He needed to die for the good of all. They considered Him so dangerous that the tried him at night, examining ultimately if He was one who is leading Israel astray and worthy of death. They decided He was and assured his death. Jesus was dangerous.

Jesus is a dangerous.  Think about it. He changes things.  Following him involves loss of control and submission. There is great risk in following Jesus.  If you truly follow Jesus your life is will be the same.  There is no one in history who unsettles people like even the name of Jesus does. Mention of the name can bring unease and unsettle others. See following Jesus involves trust and faith. It involves a belief without absolute certainty. It involves following a different way and going against the ways of the world. Jesus is dangerous.

Jesus will be dangerous. Think about it. There is a time coming when Jesus returns. It will be a time for those that do not follow him to fear for there will be wrath untold. The twisting on creation due to the impacts of life outside of dependence on God will be undone. All of creation will not go untouched. There will be wrath. There will be judgment. There will be making things right. Never before will there be any greater danger and no greater power unleashed.  Jesus will be dangerous

Now that you have done some thinking. Realize that to some the danger of Jesus is the making of a villan because there is great danger. He does not meet expectation. If you follow Him you are good, if not, an enemy. Either he is Lord and King or not.  See, there are many who want to live their own way. Many who think that they are good enough for they care about and try to look out for others and do other nice deeds.  How dare the creator of the universe be told to show self and come in such a manner? How dare He require complete surrender? Yet, Jesus brings forth life. He sets things right and in all that danger He alone brings true peace. For all the danger that is there, the danger only exists if you reject and turn away. And there are those who have thought about it, recognize it and follow Jesus, this ever so dangerous one. The letting go brings far more than any risk and true life and peace are gained.  So, yes, Jesus is dangerous, but in the end He alone brings about true health and wholeness. So accept the dangerousness and surrender. Once you do you will never be the same and it will be good.

God’s ways are not our ways

In the midst of the quietness of this blog God has been at work including within the life of this writer. The center point of the growth lessons comes down to some simple words that have great depth. 

 God’s ways are not my ways.

God states the fact that His thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways in Isaiah 55:8.  He establishes that there are differing perceptions and directions. God says he does what He does with His intent and purpose and that it differs from our own.  We can be convinced of something and pursue a direction. We can do what we think is right. We can have best intentions. Yet, God can have something else going on. In this writer’s life there was a moment where convinced that a small group of post college young adults could be turned into a ministry. It went the other way.  Perceptions differed and God worked as he did in that moment of time but not to create some bigger ministry.  In this writer’s life there have been ideas of going to “Christian graduate school” or work in “Christian environments” that did not happen, or at least not happen as thought. Yet, in it all God had  His ways and His thoughts and His intent.

 Now here is a piece of reality. Our own thoughts and ways are self-focused.  We get  wrapped up in our own thoughts and ways, in how we think things should be.  Even when following God and trusting his promises we get sidetracked by the ways of self.  If you read the Bible you will find countless stories of people going about their own way and having their own thoughts and not trusting God or trying to bring about God’s seemingly too long delayed promises on their own. See we turn to our own ways because we think we know best or think we have the best understanding of what is best for ourselves. We have time frames on when it should be accomplished. We often live in the moment of what is happening now without the full recognition of God doing what He intends.

See God always accomplishes what He intends. In Isaiah 55:11 it is made clear that God’s words, what He puts into being always accomplishes what He desires. God’s words do not return void, ever. What he sets in motion will not be stopped, ever.  Now sometimes it may take a long time. Sometimes it may appear differently than it is. We may not always see or understand how God is accomplishing His word and His way, but what God sets out to accomplish, He accomplishes.

Yet, we often miss those facts as we are focused on what we think is good for self. He have our plans or ideas. Even in following God we can try and achieve what God put forward by our own efforts and ideas.  Our ways and thoughts need to grow each day in aligning with God’s ways and thoughts. We need to trust God always does what He says. Always.  What is best for us in spite our own ways and thoughts and the leanings of our evil hearts is growing ever more in line with God’s ways and thoughts. Now, that is the truly difficult part because it involves giving up of self, of our ways and thoughts. We want to grasp on to what we think we need tightly. God tells us even the result of a grasping.  Luke 9:24 (ESV) For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.  What then is needed is the giving up, the letting go of our preferred directions and thoughts about the way things should go. We needs to simply look to be each day more in line with God’s ways and thoughts. This is ongoing, day to day, letting go of self.

Musing on Remembering Pentecost

Yesterday, Sunday May 27th, 2012, was Pentecost Sunday. Unfortunately, that is a fact that many people in the church were unaware of. In most churches during most years, Pentecost Sunday comes and goes without even a mention.  It seems that by a large, a good portion of the church has simply forgotten Pentecost.  It is a day that should never be forgotten and people need to wake up and remember.  The early church fathers I think would be appalled if they were to find that such an important day is rarely remembered.  We celebrate Jesus birth, we celebrate Jesus sacrifice and resurrection, but we fail to acknowledge God giving us the comforter, the one who empowers us.  The question is why do we forget?

The day of Pentecost falls on the Biblical feast day of Shavout also known as the Feast of Weeks or Feast of first fruits. It is a day very important to God, and it is one in which He has moved to give important gifts.  It is not only the day in which the Holy Spirit came to indwell those who have been redeemed, it is also the day he provided the Torah.  God has chosen on this day to give both His instruction and His empowerment. It is a day of sealing and cementing His promises and establishing connection with mankind. 

So the question is why do we forget something so important?  Why is the day not attended to?  One could post many theories but at some level the shift comes from a looking to God’s direction and moving in our own way.  God gave us guidance through Torah and the Holy Spirit, yet we all too often want to go our own way, do our own thing, and determine our relationship with God.  We may grow in knowledge of God and grasp varied orthodox understandings of God, but do we at heart, deep down have a God directed relationship. Others may embrace spiritual experience but the focus is on what feels good, feels powerful, or looks cool but lacks depth or growth.  Do we seek Him for guidance and empowerment or do we ask God to bless us as we go about doing our own thing?  Do we follow God, and surrender to Him or just do what we want to do?  I think in essence, it comes down to that question. Going the way of self or going the way of surrender.

So here is a challenge on this day of remembrance, take time to remember God.  Take time to examine where you have gone your own way versus walking in submission to Him. Let God bring to mind what He asks of you as you move ahead.  Each us will continue to have a choice. Follow God’s ways and surrender to Him. Grow in walking His path and let Him enable each step. The other choice is the way of self. Each of us need to wake up and remember.  For God and His ways have not changed, He has shown and provided a narrow way to walk in and given us the Holy Spirit to guide and empower us along the way. So wake up and remember for God is with us, every day.

Musing on Facing Threats and the Care of God

Personally things have been emotionally draining the past week. Emotions have been raw and anxiety has come easily. The reason for the anxiety is related to some current ongoing threats of loss. Things important to me are at risk. It does not really matter what the risks are, but they are there. However, the things that are at immediate threat are the potential loss to the state of Minnesota if politicians do not approve a stadium. The other threat is to our dog’s health and well being. She developed a cancerous skin tumor that most likely is benign. However, it is still a threat and anxiety producing. See, these are things that personally there are deep care and attachment. When what we care about is at risk, our emotions become volatile with anger and anxiety there easily. Questions come about whether these things that are cared for have too much importance or the care has reached the point of idolatry. Yet, idolatry comes when things cared for are things from which we draw life. They become so important that nothing else matters. God created us to love and care. He wired us to develop attachments. God has given us directions to deal with such threats. Psalms 55:22 (ESV) sates “Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.” And 1 Peter 5:7 (ESV) states
“casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” The verses shows a simple step. Turn over what we care about to God and trust him. God will see us through whatever the threat. God does not promise that there will not be loss. God promises to sustain us, and to look out for our welfare regardless of what happens. God simply directs us to present our request to him. Philippians 4:6 (ESV) states “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” We are directed to ask God about the things we care about but have an attitude of thanksgiving and gratitude. Thanksgiving is important here, because God gave us things to care about. Be it a pet, be it a sport team, be it family or whatever else we care about. God gave us these things. So whether there is loss or the ability to continue to care, we are to be thankful for what God has given and allowed. Loss may or may not happen, yet what God has given is good. Yet, God allows threats and difficulties. Life is an ongoing battle with pain, suffering, and loss constantly lurking. God directs us to stand firm and endure. He asks us to submit to Him, to acknowledge Him, to depend on Him. When we do so, he will sustain us and at the right time, raise us up, not because of anything of our own regard, but because we turn to Him. It is easy to get lost and distracted in the things we care for and we can easily make them more important than God in our life. However, the treats of loss are not related to anything out of proper alignment, rather such times allow us to evaluate and examine where our affections lie and what we look to for life and strength. Even when nothing is out of alignment, God still allows for loss and tests, for it draws us to Him and allows Him to work and show us His love for us, by working as He will in the matters that we care about. This is why God wants us to direct our request to Him and depend on Him, for it gives Him opportunities to demonstrate His love for us. Whatever the results God shows He cares for us. Romans 8:28 (ESV) states “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” God does not promise that everything goes according to our will, just that He works it all out for good. The good ultimately comes from God demonstrating His love and care in whatever way he will in the circumstances of life and what we care for. God works when we give him opportunity to do so, and that work is ultimately building us up in His love, whatever may occur. So, in my life there may be loss, or loss may be stayed. Yet, God will be faithful in all. That being said my requests before God is for the football team to remain in Minnesota and for my dog, Bella, to not have her life in jeopardy due to some cancerous skin cells. Yet, whatever happens God will demonstrate His love for me, because He does care for me, far greater than my care for a sports team and a pet.

Freedom House Update 2/1/2012: Progression with ongoing battle. Response of trust, obedience, prayer, and requests

The battle does continue with no resolution on licensing concerns at this point. However, there is a progression going on in the steps needing to be taken.  Currently one property has been approved for Board and Lodge license. The property that has not is a duplex. It is scheduled to have four per unit.  The city has stated that it does not meet requirements for licensure at that number.  The units are at that number at cities request according to zoning laws. Kingdom Pathways has sought to be submissive and obedient to all city requests.  Yet, they have refused licensure on that property due to the number per unit. The part that is hard to understand is that licensure law is written that is one building that has to be over four members not a part or unit, so it should meet requirement for being able to license the one property. However, the city has declined licensure and directed Kingdom Pathways to go through the appeals process.

The other end of things is the State of Minnesota Department of Human Services which requires funding in order to receive the Chemical Dependency treatment funds.  They have been insisting on the licensure for funds even though the city does not require the licensure.  Attempts are being made by the lawyer to negotiate with the state to take inspection reports in lieu of licensure but so far they have declined to accept that condition.  Please pray for a potential favorable outcome here and if not, pray for the movement in the process to those that will make a favorable decision in the appeals process.

It is worth noting that in the process Kingdom Pathways has sought to be obedient and submissive to authority. It has not sought to create publicity, nor find methods of exerting pressure by finding connected members in community to exert influence. Rather, the steps in the battle have been to obey, submit, and pray.

It is noteworthy that in the process, the six resident building has been approved for licensure by the city.  Also, Kingdom Pathways has received a U-Care insurance contract. There will be services starting.  The plan is to start staff receiving training and starting on February 23rd.

Now it is important to make people aware that the financial needs are ongoing. Director Jim Michaud has missed is own personal mortgage payment for the first time ever.  The family has literally given all and put total financial health at risk by taking on personal debt to keep buildings running.

In terms of need, there have been several mortgage payments missed on the two properties. Jim Michaud has been able to negotiate with the banks but payments are expected in February with no ability to hold back payments.  One building has a payment due of $1400 on February 10th. So donations are needed ASAP to be able to make this payment.  The other property has a mortgage due of $2200 dollars on February 20th.  Please go to http://www.kingdompathways.org/generosity.php and make a donation online.  You can also send donations to:

Kingdom Pathways
P.O. Box 4125
St. Paul, MN 55104

You can reach the director of Freedom House and Kingdom Pathways at info@kingdompathways.org.

If unable to give please pray.  Also feel free to send an email with any encouragement or connections to the Kingdom Pathways email. 

Please pray for the obedience and submission to be honored with a negotiated resolution to the licensing issues on the duplex property. Pray for God to bring in donations. Pray for other preparations to start with things becoming operational by the end of February.

If you have considered donating but are waiting for the end result of the licensing please do not hold  back.  There are resources in place to start that will enable beginning but the biggest need is the financial resources, in particular with full funding not being in place for both properties.

It is also worth noting that the plan is develop multiple funding sources, as money from government is often fickle.  Yet, those all take time and need operations to be active in order to obtain.  Yet, God can and will raise up people to meet needs. So currently the steps on the path are to walk in trust and obedience.  The obedience it to both God and man (the established authorities) as go through the due process. The response has not been to go the way of the world but to pray, make requests known, and to obey. Please consider how God wants you to be a part.

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For those awaiting new content that is not simply a Freedom House update, there will be a return soon to new content.  In the meantime please read an old post on God’s provision that is appropriate to this situation: https://peacebringer7.wordpress.com/2010/01/16/some-principles-of-god%e2%80%99s-provision-found-in-1-kings-17/