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.

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.

Good Friday Musing: The center point of the fullness of God’s grace and justice

Today, 4/6/2012 is the day set aside to commemorate Good Friday. Today also happens to be full moon, a night of full reflection of the sun’s light. It is an interesting combination that really points to God’s fullness in operation on this day. Good Friday is always a day of fullness. It is a singular moment that has changed all to make things right. On this day we remember what God did in that one moment that is really the center of all that went before it and all that is to come regarding the story of God and mankind.

See, there was another singular moment, one that defines all that was to come, and that was the day mankind separated from God and want to define all for self. It is the day when that which was declared as “good” became twisted. It is the day when pain, sorrow, despair, and death became realities. It was a day that earth tilted on its axis and moving more and more off centered since. It was a singular moment that needed another singular moment, the one at center when God made the way to begin restoring that which was broken, starting with allowing people to interact with God and choose to follow His ways.

Today was both a wonderful and awful day. It was a day God showed all of who He was and showed His love. Sure, some do not see the love for what it was, for Jesus endured much. All of the pain, sorrow, and betrayal of life in the fallen world, He took on. The depths of human suffering Jesus endured. The most painful death mankind ever created, Jesus went through, out of love and to make things right. This center point in time, this action, makes it possible for all to turn to God. It is a choice that is given and received by all that receive. The fullness of God’s grace and justice happen at one point in time creating this singular moment and display love and setting the scene for all to be right. Take some time and think about this center point of God fullness. This point where God reveals fully His love, and it is shown to all. There will never be any other point in time similar. It is the center of God’s plan and everything that went before and all that follow are rooted at that one point on the tree when the words were declare “It is finished.” And that which was demanded was met. This point is a great, wholly wonderful, awesome, horrible, and tragic day. A day needed because of my own desire to run thing my way apart from God.

Now, there is another singular point in time coming, the time when all corruption will be no more. The time when all of creation will be set back in proper alignment and no longer twisting out of control. For Jesus will return and set all right. All will be under Him. The worst that is, will be undone and no more. All will be made new. But that day would not be coming, if not for that one fateful Good Friday. It was a day foretold after the other singular moment, after an act of sin set death and decay in motion. So the day coming where Jesus returns and the day of corruption are met at God’s center point of the cross where relationships with God and man and enabled to be made right and God’s plan and the story of God and man plays out in full course, in all fullness, love displayed and that center point. If you not, please meet God at that center point and take His gift of grace, for there never ever will be a more precious and costly gift, that cost all.

Christmas Day Musing: Christmas Present- Moments of Reflected Love

Today’s thoughts focus on Christmas in the present; the here and now of the celebration. It is the actively taking time to recognize God’s gift of coming to earth, the “God with us.” So, the day is spent celebrating love. We engage in loving others in varied ways as a reflection of God’s gift of love to us. It demonstrates the “we love because he first loved us.” This celebration of love is highly anticipated. How we demonstrate love towards others goes through moments of preparation, anticipation, and then celebration with fellowship. We identify how we are going to bless others in preparation. We love forward both to giving and receiving. Even children look forward to reactions to simple small gifts and parents and family then show love by showing appreciation for the simply things. We want to see others touched by our gifts of love. Then comes the actual moment of giving which comes with celebration and fellowship. We consider others and look forward to seeing how we touch them. Granted, many times we can swing and miss in the connection. Yet, no matter what there are special times in the present moment of Christmas. These moments can display God’s love, for He thought of each of us and gives a gift beyond measure if it that gift is received. We are able to enter in relationship to God rather than continue in the separation due to our own falters and twisted being apart from God’s ways has been repaired and reconciled if agree to accept the gift and let it change you. If not, then these moments are moments and that either gives you a piece of love or builds you up, or fall short. The moments that do touch and precious and each moment forward it is a part of you as it enters from the present into the past. So, this year, in the hustle, the bustle, and the interaction with loved ones. How were you touched with love? How did you touch others? Where did you get a taste of love? For even in the worst of times, the driest of years, God’s love and reflections of love are around. For always in the Christmas present, and every day, God shows His love. He shows by his own interactions, by the loving acts of others, and your loving actions. God takes whatever is now, uses it to draw you closer to Him. So embrace the moment and accept the love. In whatever the season: be it pleasure or pain, planting or harvest, drought or abundance, storm or calm, joy or sorrow. God will use whatever is, in this moment and His love is there to be found for always in Christmas present and beyond God is with us, there is peace on earth and goodwill to mankind.

Mother’s day musing: May all Mother’s be blessed

Today, Sunday May 8th, 2011 is a day in this culture set aside to honor Mother’s.  It is a day we set aside self focus and the demands often made on Mother’s to draw them honor and attention.  It is a day we let them know how much we care and appreciate who they are and what they do.  A mother is a very special creation of God’s. The role of mother reflects God’s love uniquely.  A mother is one that builds up and nurtures growth. A mother sees that daily needs are addressed and attended.  A mother is there to give comfort and attention when we are hurt or ill.  All and all a mother loves and therefore shows us part of God.  Sure, we live in a fallen world and the love of a mother is imperfect.  Yet, every mother uniquely reflects God’s love. So today, we take time to honor mothers. It is a day to show them God’s love and show gratitude.  Each of us in our own will spend time to uplift, serve, and thank our mothers in our own ways.  It is a day we share from our hearts to touch their heart.   It is a day we bless those who have so blessed us.

 

A Mother’s Day Blessing

For nine months you carried me, inside your womb.

It was you, me, and God. 

You carried me, nurtured me, saw to it that I bore life as God knit me together.

Many thanks to God and above and Blessings to you for giving of yourself that I may have life.

As you carried me, you felt pain ever increasing until the day I was born.

You endured great pain for the Joy of Life.

This pain no man will ever know the depth of but God knows it intimately.

In your pain was wrought life. 

Many thanks to God above and Blessings to you for all pain endured that I may have life.

As a baby you held me to your breast.

Providing nurture and attending to the helpless me.

You held me, fed me, held me close you your heart.

You introduced me to the world expanding and the creature known as Dad.

Many thanks to God above and Blessing to you for tending to the helpless me, nurturing me into greater life.

As a child you loved me, taught me, nurtured me, and disciplined me.

You saw to every need and met what you could, often at cost to yourself.

You saw that I wanted not and sacrificed much that I will never know.

Many thanks to God above and Blessing to you for all you gave to the growing me, training me up into who I was to be.

As an adolescent you steered me in the right paths.  You let go.

Through many tears, fights, and pains you endured, loving me every day.

We did not see eye to eye, yet you pointed me in the right path.

Pain was your constant companion as you had to let go.

Many thanks to God above and Blessing to you for your love and care as you set me on the path to become a man with pain and cost.

As a man, you love me still, from a far. There to listen, to guide, to love, to celebrate.

We walk each moment and it is a pleasure to share the joys and pains of life. 

Many thanks to God above and Blessing to you for the untold support you give as  I walk each day

And time comes, each day, as time works its way that small measures are repaid.

The ravages of age and this twist world, reduce you from what you once were

Yet, you are always mom, and any comfort aide and service required is but a drop

Compared to each day of love shown in this life.

So many thanks to God above and Blessing to you, for the live I live and the love I give could not happen with out you.

Many thanks and Blessings to all mother’s dear. May you receive back untold for all the love you give both in the now and in what is to come.

Many thanks to God above who has given us this taste of His love with Blessing each and every day with joy and pain, he gave us Mother’s so dear. 

Holy Week Musings: Good Friday and the Crux of the Cross.

The day of April 22nd, 2010 is Good Friday.  It is the day we focus on Jesus death on the cross as the sacrifice for our sins.  The very action taken on that day is really the fulcrum point of all of history. The cross and Jesus death as the eternal lamb is central.   Now in order to understand how essential and critical Jesus death was to the whole of history let us go back to the beginning of humanity and the first sin of man.

Back in the garden of Eden, Adam and Eve chose to disobey God.   In that disobedience, lies of being able to be able to determine right from wrong and elevate self to be “like God” was at the core.  It was a move out of being dependent on God, to being able to determine for self what is right and wrong.  This decision brought separation from God and resulted in consequences for the whole of creation. Those consequences entail the varied forms of suffering and the twisting of all creation.  The consequences that are suffering were designated by God, for apart from God, nothing is right, nothing is as intended.  It is a natural out-flow. When things are not in correspondence with how God intended to work, through dependence on Him, the result is pain.

Now recognizing that the pain and suffering comes as consequence to the initial deportation from depending on God, let us look a bit more closely at what Jesus death means.   Jesus came because of love. God had the plan ready to go when humanity chose to go on way.  The plan was for the innocent to take on the wrath for the guilty, but not just any innocent, a member of the Godhead himself,  Jesus the Son.  He left the full dynamic relationship with the Father and Holy Spirit, took on humanity, and took on all of suffering.  He lived perfectly, was wholly innocent, and suffered that we might live.  It was God’s plan, for there had to be away to redeem that which went another way.  Love dictated such an act.  The wrath of love dictated that the price be paid. So God paid it Himself. 

It is very important to grasp the depth of what it means that the Son of God came in the flesh.  Jesus, in whom “All the fullness of the Godhead dwelt in bodily form”(Colossians 2:9), came to earth, entered in to suffering all in order that we may be free.  All God actions prior to the cross pointed ahead to the event and after everything points back to the cross. It is the center point.   He endured the suffering of humanity. He took on the worst death humanity could conjure. He was betrayed, mocked, belittled, and scourged.  This all because He did not measure up to what humanity expected, that He make the immediate life more comfortable and undo the tyranny.  He came to undo a tyranny, but that tyranny was the consequences of humanities sin. Just as through one man, sin entered the world, so too by one action, a solution was provided and tyrants defeated.  Just not in accordance with human perspective. 
Jesus came, suffered, and died so that the justice demanded by human pursuit of self-determination and moving away from surrender to God was fully satisfied making the action on the cross the crux of God’s plan and His story for humanity.  

It starts with sin and God establishing the consequences as the whole of creation is twisted. God takes on humanity, takes on suffering, and dies.  Dies, rejected of men.  For the first time the relationship of the Godhead is broken as the Father turns away from the Son for he cannot look upon the sin, for it is too much.  Jesus takes it all on, willingly, following the fathers plan, always in perfect submission to His will.  It is noteworthy, that at the moment of the death there were many events testifying to the importance and crucial moment.  Storms, darkness, earth quaking, and the veil tearing in two.  There has never been a greater act of love.  For some the act is foolishness, how can a Father require a Son to die for those who reject the father and are in conflict?  What is not grasped is the Son was fully on board, always in surrender to Father’s will, for there was no other way to make things right.  No other way to undo the twist and the suffering that entered due to self-determination.  God took the initiative. One that demands response from all and one of which to all response will one day be given, some just with weeping and gnashing of teeth because they continued along the way of self-determination instead of surrender to the one who suffered all so that all can be freed.