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.

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Post-Christmas Musing: Christmas Future- Keeping each day well

The Christmas Holiday has come and gone. Gifts have been given. Traditions have been followed. Interactions with family have occurred. It is the time for taking down the decorations, using or returning gifts, and returning to normal routine. The focus becomes on what is needed from day to day until the Holiday season returns. It is important to recognize that there is far more available than moving from one Holiday to the next. There is far more than “keeping Christmas well.”

The famous character grew to “keep Christmas well” by being exposed to past, present, and future relationships. He turned from being self-focused to “keeping Christmas well” by being concerned with others, being generous and engaging the relational. The turning point came with awareness of own mortality and no impact on others. His looking at Christmas future showed limitations and changed focus.

In thinking about Christmas future it does seem to be all about where is your focus and impact. Are you focused on concerns of self or is there priority to growing in relationship with God and others? Christmas ultimately is about the celebration of God’s gift of a reconciled relationship. It is all about God being accessible. It is about God demonstrating his love and our reflecting it by sharing what we have received with others.

Each day is a day where ones focus is needs to be examined. Are we living in such a way to connect and impact others? Are we growing in relationships? Do we take in consideration all of past, present, and future in our day to day existence? Such examinations and more are worthwhile for the choices we make now impact what is ahead and lead to “keeping each day well.” For each of us need to daily keep the Christmas focus on God with us with the result of engaged loving of God and others. Doing such results in moving beyond “keeping Christmas well” and touches all.

Biblical Holy Day Musing: Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot)- Sorrow turns to Joy.

Tonight is the start of one of the final fall festival in the Jewish calendar. Sadly, as with most of the Biblical festivals we know very little about this day and the experience of the Holiday, yet it is one that will be part of the experience to come (See Zechariah 14:6). This festival is not just a day but an 8 day party. This festival does not involve fasting or sacrifices. This involves celebration. It is not a somber time, it is a time to celebrate. Now, admittedly this writer does not have much understanding of the rituals, traditions, or symbolism of the days of this festival but in reading about the Holiday the concept of embracing Joy and Happiness in this time is central.

There is a distinct flow to the fall festivals. It starts with the alarm, the call, the trumpet, the awakening of Rosh Hashanah and the ushering in of the new. It is followed by ten days focus on change and repentance. Then comes Yom Kippor, the day of Atonement, or At-one-ment; it is the day of cleansing, of sacrifice and ultimately of judgment. It is a solemn day. Then five days later it is party time. Note that during the days preceding Sukkot there is much focus on change, self, and being right with God. In that there is much sorrow. When truly engaging in recognizing areas of change and then stepping into them, it is not easy. Leaving old ways for the unknown new is tough. There is grief involved in leaving the old behind, in turning to follow what God leads without knowing how it will play out. Yet, starting tonight and for the next eight days, God designated a party. So what is that about?

Well, one thing I have learned about the day in learning about the events of this upcoming week is the booths/tabernacles/shelters/tents. Hand-crafted shelters are made and lived in or at least meals taken in the temporary shelters. The imagery really points to the temporariness of the things of this life and even that, which is of our own hands. We live in dwell in the temporary but there is something greater: God and His love. Everything that God offers pales to what we depend on. It is in recognizing the fragility of self and own works and the greatness and fullness of what God gives. It is taking focus off of own life, pain, and sorrow and embracing joy, letting the feeling swell because of the goodness of God who has given all beyond measure. Such consideration turns sorrow into Joy. The changes lead to what God will do when the focus leaves self and turns to God. In such action does sorrow turn to Joy, in this does mourning become dancing, as recognition is given that God brings that which is beyond measure and lasts.

The whole focus is that beyond our circumstance to what God provides. He provides refuge and strength. We change not of own accord but obedience empowered by the Holy Spirit through obedience in faith. The little bit of reading about this celebration points to demonstrating the whole submission of self to God in faith. It points to complete surrender of self in every aspect and direction of life. In such surrender is sorrow turned to Joy. For the focus is on God and His Glory. It is a focus on the great things He has done. It is a time to PARTY.

So here is a challenge. Each day for the next 8 days take time to focus on what God is done. Celebrate. When you feel sadness, pain, or anxiety, take time to praise God. Something stressful happens praise God. Make concerted effort to bring your mind, heart, soul, and strength to focus on what God has done and celebrate. This is a time for Joy, let Joy envelope you to the core. May the Holy Spirit feel you with Joy beyond measure as you set aside all that burdens and turn all to God; for His ways are not our ways, and He always delivers what He promises. Beyond measure! So rejoice. Party! For God is Good and His Love Endures Forever!

Musing on Days of Awe: Repentance and the End of Self

For those that do not know right now in the midst of what is known as the “Days of Awe” (Yamim Noraim). It is the ten days between the Feast of Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah) and The Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur).   The focus of these days is on repentance for the day of meeting God and being cleansed was coming.  Now we have had the day of the great atonement, the once for all  sacrifice, yet I believe God still works in accordance with his time table.  Personally at this time God has led me to focus on some things He wants me to change.  Things that are not easy for met to let go of and turn from, but it is for me to follow and obey.  For me this stirring within and the choices that are being made are not some self motivated need to change. It is listening to God, looking at where I have been in past year and having to make changes.  Either follow as God leads and be blessed, or keep going with what pleases self and suffer the consequences.  If there is to be progress there is to be letting go and turning from that which holds back.  Actively walking in faith involves the “throwing off” of sin that entangles” (see Hebrews 12:1).  It is not easy.  For the things that need to be repented from are things that have let become engrained and perhaps deeply lodged.  God wants to set us free and lift us up to follow His ways. To do so takes actions of repentance. Actions of being freed from that which holds back, the areas of self and the idols that we turn to for life apart from God.  So if you do not have any area in your life being stirred during these remaining days, take time to pray and listen to God to know what God asks you to turn from at this time; then simply follow through. It will be a difficult thing but also truly healing as it is letting go of the ways of self and walking in step with the Holy Spirit. There is no better way.

post #wcaacc: Obstacles upon return

It was a difficult time of returning home today.  We face barriers and unexpected costs. It was an odd day.  The reason for the delays are hard to understand. It is one of those things where it is a “I don’t know” response. What happened were unexpected trials and difficulties.   It resulted in significant delay in returning home.

The obstacles did give more time for the Holy Spirit to speak and internal battles to go on.  For while today there were truly physical obstacles of delay, the obstacles that slowed me down and resulted some inertia and failure to effectively move forward come from myself. God is working in me and yes there are choices to make. The choices will not be easy for me. The changes that are being called for are things that deep down I don’t want to let go of.  But looking at it from God’s perspective in the light of truth, what is asked needs to be followed. 

Obstacles exist. Internal and external. But God is faithful. No matter what obstacle we face, when doing what God asks he will make a away. Yet, in that he may also ask for tough choices, choices that cost. Steps to take with unseen results. When God moves He oftens asks us to make choices. What choices do you need to make? Anything God is asking you to move toward or away from?   Whatever answers you may be looking for, whatever you are hoping or desiring what does God ask of you now in the midst?

#wcaacc: Day Two summary thoughts: Changing perspectives lead to actions that can change perspectives

Day two at the World Conference of the American Association of Christian Counselors was a day the provided challenge. The key words for me were that of being engaging in changing perspectives. Now of course the questions is what is the meaning in those words and how does it related to what God stirred within me today. These thoughts are ongoing musings that are not so much about any specific teaching but a bringing the thoughts together into a perspective on what God is showing me today.

The thoughts are that each and everyone of us see things from a perspective. God has worked and operated in our life and reveal Himself to us. We have understanding. Yet, our understanding of God, mankind, self, and relationship is partial and limited. We all have growth needed in one way or another. Some growth and healing from hurt and pain. Some growth in moving into what God has called and helping others move into what God has called. God has given each of us gifts and perspective. Our eyes and ears, and hearts and minds God has opened to certain views. We need to grow in what God has given us and ask God to open our eyes, ears, hearts, and minds to a broader view.

We can easily settle for what we think we already know. We can have a knowledge that can even develop into pride and arrogance if we let it. God though has ways of shaping us in particular seasons. What God does one day and in one persons story is not necessarily the way it is for the next. God engages as He does in our lives. And while God does not change, the relationship varies in accordance with the individual not in relativistic or pliable way, but in a relational way in correspondence with how He designed us. He knows our individual design intimately and what we need for growth.

Now here is the deal, God interacts with us in a relational manner. He gives us His love. We reflect what God does in us. We take what He has done and reflect it to those around us. “We let our light so shine before men that they may see our good works and glorify God in heaven.” The reflection is a simple small light compared to the brightness of God’s glory. An encounter with God brings weight and the vision is never the same. And each of us, regardless of where we are have a response to the weight and brightness of God’s glory. There is no way we can grasp it all at once, so He gives us different and varied perspectives and lets us reflect. Each of our lives and actions are a story of revelation much like those who came before.

So, in reflecting what God has revealed we in turn touch others. For we have no other choice but to do so, because an encounter with God and his interacting with us in ways that are relationally true, there is no other response but to engage others in love and truth with what God is doing. For the Love of Christ, how he has touched us pulls us to in turn share with and engage others. In other words, we are compelled by Christ’s love. We engage in being who we are in line with what God has done and gifted. We then become salt and light, answering Gods call where we are. Not for the point of some great transforming of this temporary world, but to draw others toward a change in perspective about God to the point where they may yet choose to surrender self and become a member of God’s Kingdom. Yet, not just a member but an adopted child. Blessed only because of who God is, which gives us the opportunity to draw others toward there own encounter with the great, mighty, and heavy God of glory.

#wcaacc Conference Day One: Re-establishing Focus

 

Today the start of the World Conference for the American Association of Christian Counselors was a day that served as a good start. God already has been at work showing me, reminding me, and teaching me what I need to know today. My story and journey here is unique as it will be for the 7000 other counselors and ministers of varying forms. Each situation and story is different and what God has to teach at some levels is the same but for each individual it is different, for he created us each unique. For me today, the day was about renewed focus.

 

My day started with Dr. E. John Kuhnley with a training related to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. So the conference started for me with examining those who at a core have a disorder in focus. It was interesting that in the course of the training the comparison was made to vision loss and the nature of “corrective measures.”

 

The journey of the day continued with a training sponsored by the Society of Christian Psychologists about the Problem of Evil and Suffering in Christian Counseling. It was a time focusing on the essence of dealing with the suffering around us and those we encounter. The lecture and conversation centered on who God is and how we impact others. An awareness of God being beyond our grasp and when interacting with others, we are not about the answers but the coming along side to encourage healing and growth. The thoughts that stuck with me are related to being okay with the “I do not know” followed by having a grasp of the function of suffering and what happens when we do face the suffering of this fallen world. So in other words, we may never understand the meaning of what happens to us related to the pain and suffering we encounter in our lives and in the lives of those around us. We don’t have to understand. Ultimately suffering serves a purpose in each of our lives. Each story is unique and different and of the course we learn what there is to learn and grow deeper from knowledge to understanding. As we walk the path in thing enduring faith, God brings to further clarity at times His calling and path. Something that path is different than expectations as dreams shatter. Yet, God works, as He wills and works, in each life, for each story.

 

 

 

The day wrapped up with the opening plenary session. Before either Dr. Tim Clinton or Lois Palau spoke worship was lead by Charles Billingsly. He made a statement “The world is all of us. The only thing that separates us is the blood of the lamb.” Dr. Tim Clinton then spoke on the growing importance of faith and spirituality in counseling. He touched on Colossians 1:27 with emphasis on the last portion of the first “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” He went on to state “It’s personal. It is all about you and what God wants to do through you.” He then challenged each of us to ask God to do something special which may be a renewed calling, a being strengthen to fight, to simply do what matters before God.

 

For me the night ended with Lois Palau talking about the mysteries of union with God, the human condition, and communion with God. The emphasis was about God being with us, within us. That each day we need to start with our focus on God and Jesus in surrender. We need to abide in Him. One profound statement was “That along as God is in us, we are the power of God wherever we go.”

 

 

 

So in summing up my thoughts on this day. For me it was renewed focus. We each can easily lose focus. We can lose sight of the basics. We live in a fallen world and have a fallen sin nature. We are no different than anyone else. We are all in the same boat. The difference that exists, exists because of what God did in suffering for us. He suffered and died so that we may be made free and lived. This freedom is not to do what ever we determine but to enter into God’s Kingdom and follow His way. It is only in being aligned with God that we are whole. God moves in each of our lives in ways beyond our limited understand. We all have a a unique story. It in involves joy and sorrow. Yet, in that each of us have a path and calling. We are enabled to walk the path God puts before us because of His strength, for He is with us. Whatever we do, whatever steps we take, whatever moving forward, comes becomes of God in us. And this is the focus. Whether in plenty or want that we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength.

 

Well those are my thoughts and summation for this first day of the conference and what God is doing. Take time to ask God to help your focus and see what He wants you to see. Accepted what you do not know and trust in God alone. For only in Him is there any strength.