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.

Advertisements

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.

Personal Update and Prayer Requests

Yes, the blog has been silent. That is my error still and working in getting to a point of being re-engaged. It is not that God has me silent or lacking of anything to say. Just some how I still have gone into that place of retreat. I  do not know if it is a re-energizing or what.  Since I last posted there have been trials that occurred. One was missing a planned vacation. Now one more recent in my being “tagged” by a semi-truck on way home this week.  I know need to re-engage.  I also have failed to update on Freedom House/Kingdom Pathways progress. I do intend to restart posting and start the discipline of posting rather than being a blog that just simply fades into emptiness and stumbled upon.  I do need to update links as well.

Here are some prayer requests:

1: God energizing me to write articles and thoughts.

2: Recent accident, that my car is not totalled and if it is totalled for us to be able to find a way to manage it financially without too much owed.  I believe God has lessons for me here as well, so pray for wisdom and understanding.

3. Pray for Kingdom Pathways/Freedom House. Right now there is a need for 7000$ a month to hire more staff and take a lot of burden off the man doing most of the significant work. Also pray for healing and freedom for the men who come to get help there.

4. Pray that I am able to touch all who God brings my way and draw them toward healing and restoration in there lives.

There are probably more but the main point of this post is to actually to post and to ask for prayer. Let us see where things go from here.

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 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.

Resurrection Sunday Musing: God’s love shown in power demands response

Today, April 8th, 2012 was Resurrection Sunday, more commonly known as Easter Sunday. It is a central day to the Christian faith for it is the day we recognize the power of God. On Friday the focus is death, pain, and loss and the act of one in obedience in love meeting the demands of justice. One act engaged in to impact all of creation, making things right. However, that one act would be meaningless without what happened two days later. A tomb was found empty, death was overcome, and Jesus was alive. He rose again. Death meant nothing. God showed His power as his plan played out. A way was made. See God, up to that point could not interact face to face with mankind, for doing so he faced the twisting and distortion of His creation. He saw that which is good corrupted. Can you imagine looking at what you created and seeing the flaws? Knowing that there was much better that could have been in store. He real would be unbearable. So God did not just accept the corruption. He did not just wipe us all out. Sure, with a simple word, God could make all right. He could undo the curse and make everything as it should with a word. He could end pain and suffering in but a moment. No, he had a plan, one that would demonstrate His love and power. God made a way, so that which was corrupted can approach God’s thrown and interact with Him day to day. He had wanted Israel to hear his voice and listen, and they declined that option. Now, we have God with us, the Holy Spirit in residence when we turn to God in surrender. God’s plan is one that teaches and demonstrates His love and goodness. It allows us to learn and grow. It forces us to move one direction or another. God’s power demands response and action. One cannot be silent about something so powerful. One can accept what happened and submit for look for other explanations. See, there were stories and alternatives presented at the very beginning. For what God made a way. God did and what happened with the empty tomb throws everything in chaos. It forces a choice. Some say that incredible claims demand incredible evidence. There has never been any more incredible evidence than the empty tomb and lives changed, Lives standing for what happened through pain, death, and torture. Lives were changed and uprooted. Yet, people still just cannot believe, for it demand a choice an giving up of self and what one hold dear. God showed His Love and Power. The world changed that day and while the curse is still playing out every day God has a plan to make all things right, in due time. So while we await that great and powerful day, we live each day growing, learning, and enduring life amidst the curse. Yet, we do so knowing God’s love is amazing and we only get but a glimpse, yet each glimpse contains the fullness of God’s love and power impacting each of us day by day.