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.”

Musing on the Days of Awe (Yamim Noraim)

Recently on this blog there was some reflection on The Feast of Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah) which has also been commented on in two previous articles one in 2008, the other in 2009. There has been little commentary on this blog regarding the days following Rosh Hashanah or on Yom Kippur. This year this writer is being stirred to comment on these as well. Starting with Rosh Hashanah and ending with Yom Kippur are ten days known as the ‘Days of Awe’ (Yamim Noraim) also known as the ‘Days of Repentance.’ Part of the reason these days have not been addressed is because of the perspective of doing something to get right with God to assure being in good standing and possibly reversing God’s judgment. The views is that the actions taken on the Days of Awe can alter what God had written on “The Feast of Trumpets” with the final judgment being cast on the day of Judgment. The viewpoint is that during this time a person can engage in one of three actions: “teshuvah, tefilah and tzedakah,” repentance, prayer, good deeds. There is also the focus on reconciling with those who you have done wrong as Jewish though based on the Talmud suggested that the Yom Kippur sacrifice does not atone for what you have done wrong to others. So,w hile the ten day focus on repentance and getting right with God is honorable, it is coming from a missing perspective.

As a Christian, the perspective of repentance is different, as we do not focus on whether or not we have to “earn God’s favor.” Nothing that we do makes us right before God, as we have been redeemed, covered by the blood of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Yet, if you take some time to examine and consider there is a Christian perspective on these days and it is certainly worthwhile to take time to engage in extended reflection on our relationship with God and others. Note, that these days start with the “trumpet blasts” of the Feast of Trumpets. The blasts are a wake-up call stating the time is now and time is left before the coming day of Atonement, the great day of judgment. The period between the “wake-up” alarm and the serious day of atonement may well be reflective of the tribulation period. God does nothing without meaning and what he established is a shadow of what is to come. So it is worthwhile to take these days seriously and reflect on repentance. On this blog up until Yom Kippur the article focus will be on various aspects of repentance. From a Christian perspective this is examining both what have done wrong and what am doing right. It is seeking God to know and learn what area of life he is refining toward change. It is a time to look at the things that have been left undone. It is a time to allow the Holy Spirit to work on our hearts and move through the ongoing sanctification. It is also worthwhile to consider or relationship with others and reconcile with those we have wronged and forgive those who have wronged us.

It is also important to be aware that for each of us this process should be a daily process. As being a member of the Kingdom of God and being made clean by the blood of the Lamb of God, every day is really a day of Awe. Every day is a day to consider our relationship with God: where we are missing the mark due to action or inaction. Daily we need to forgive and be forgiven. Daily we need to make right what we have done wrong. Yet, there is the time of the calendar between God’s established days that we can learn from. The majority of the Christian church has lost awareness of these days. Some parts of the church have taken the concept and used it for other extended periods of reflection such as Lent. Yet, God has set some days for His purpose and being aware and remembering what God has done and is doing is important. It is worthwhile to reflect on what God has done, what he is doing, and what is yet to come. As a believer in Messiah, God has made me clean and redeemed me. I am currently in an ongoing process of being cleaned known as sanctification where that which is unclean is being refined and done away with. There is a coming and future point where as a part of the body of Christ, we will be presented as clean before Jesus as the “bride of Christ.” For those who accept Jesus as Messiah, each has no fear of the day of Judgment for the position before God has been established. We await the great and future day of true great Awe and wonder as we await Jesus who will straighten out all of which has been made crooked and twisted and all shall be brought into proper account. So take time, reflect. Repent. Pray. Act in love toward others. These are actions of people in the Kingdom of God, not because they put us in right position with God, but because he loved us and we desire to serve and grow into a greater reflection of Jesus the Messiah. It is a day by day, step by step process.

Memorial Day 2010 Musing

Today was Memorial Day, which is a day to Honor those have died in battle serving the country and serve in the armed forces. It is understandable and respectful to honor and pray for those serving in the military. Yet for Christians the fact is we really do not belong to any country but the Kingdom of God and sometimes we can lose that perspective. Personally, it is a good time to reflect on those who have served the Kingdom of God well. Last year on Memorial Day some specific Martyrs were honored in this thread: https://peacebringer7.wordpress.com/2009/05/25/in-memoriam-christian-martyrs/. This year want to emphasize all those that have gone before us. It is a good time to remember the past and the great crowd of witnesses and use it to inform are present and let us prepare for what is ahead.

The list of those that have gone before us is long and great going back to Abel and way through various people. Many who are well known, many more who are not known. What do they all have in common, the stood firm, they abide in faith, and they serve God’s kingdom well. Take a read of Hebrews 11.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible. By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith. By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore. These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. By faith Isaac invoked future blessings on Jacob and Esau. By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the head of his staff. By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones. By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible. By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them. By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned. By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days. By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies. And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets– who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated– of whom the world was not worthy–wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.

 

The long list here in Hebrews 11 is just a small portion of the great crowd of witnesses, those who have gone first and stood firm in faith. They are all regarded to be people who walked by faith. They all believed that God exists and rewards. In other words believed God is who He says He is. Now it is important to note that in the list of these people of faith they had not received yet that what was promised. They stood pain, suffering, and torture. Sometimes delivered, sometimes they did not. Ultimately the focus of the faith is not on what they measured or felt but on the surety of God. It was not about what happened in the here and now on this tangible earth. It was not even about nations or places. It was about God. Learn from the great crowd of witnesses, for while they may have stumbled and faltered at times in their lives, they stayed the course.

Examining the great crowd of the faithful, we find encouragement to stand firm. We find direction that informs us of what it takes to stand firm in the faith, to persevere. In this day and age it is easy to get upset over God failing to meet some personal desire in a way or time of your pleasing. We can easily focus on things of self. The focus though needs to be on God and God alone. God does reward; God does provide; God loves us deeply. What helps us to stand firm, today is not losing focus that it is not about us, but about God. It is not about our own ideas, but God’s Kingdom. It will get difficult and hard times are coming. Any one of us is called and marked with a life as a Martyr, and even if not, we will all face pain and suffering. Difficulties are certain. But God’s faithfulness is more certain, for He will turn all things together for the good even if you do not see it.

So upon looking at the great crowd of witnesses and letting it inform our choices, when we look ahead we know that difficulty is coming. The great crowd of witness suffered much we will not be different. So right now it is a time of preparation. It is time to grow in faith and knowledge of God, for there is a time come soon of testing and trial. Deception will be at every turn. Darkness will grow and reign. Good will be called evil, and evil good. Yet, we are to stand firm. We are to be sober minded, alert, and clear. This comes from growing in God and growing faith. You grow in faith through growing in relationship with God. There are many obstacles that come, many traps set, and falling asleep is easy. But God’s call is for us to endure. Perhaps, before the time of trial and the seventh week some who are faithful will be removed and spared further trial, but do not focus on this hope. Prepare to endure till the end. Make your faith and calling sure. Test yourself and continue to root out and discard all that is untrue. Continue to let the Holy Spirit cleanse you and draw you more clearly aware of the ways you fall short in loving God and others in a pure and whole way.

So in summary, in the Kingdom of God learn from those who have gone before, the great crowd of witnesses. Let them shape your step and path today with a call to draw nearer to God and prepare for what is to come. God is in control but victory is already won. God is faithful and His reward is sure. It will be a privilege to receive His reward and then lay it back down at His feet (see a vision reported on this blog.) We serve in surrender to the Greatest commander: the God of Love. And if by chance you do not, now is the time, surrender to the King of Kings.

Prayer request: Remember Haiti as attention fades

Yes, the posts about stuff going on in Haiti have faded. There continues to be ongoing work and people being touched in amazing ways.  Please do go to http://livesayhaiti.blogspot.com/   and read some of the stories of God’s working to touch peoples lives with love and aid in the midst of crisis. 

It is even know more important than ever to pray for those in Haiti as the worldwide attention fade.  Sure there will continue to be stories and news accounts of what is going on down there, but the attention of the people of the United States and world will move elsewhere. Haiti as a new story that becomes entertainment and something folks talk about or spend time watching has passed the climax post and will fade more and more into background.  The search and rescue is over and other matters grab attention.  As attention fades, do take even more time to remember the people and struggle in Haiti.  Pray for the physical, psychological, and spiritual health of the people and those serving them such as the Livesay family.  Remember that as many orphans have or are in process of leaving Haiti, there are now countless more.  Remember a city was essentially destroyed.  So please take time and remember Haiti and pray.

Musings on Seasons

Life consists of a varied series of seasons. We know the obvious seasons of spring, summer, winter, and fall that are part of the regular ebb and flow of life. Yet, the seasons of life are more than the orderly flow of time. Even the flow of the seasons is variable. The Bible even indicates that in life there are many seasons in Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8 (ESV):


For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.

Many things come, go and are part of life. Often the things we enjoy and get pleasure from last too short. The things that hurt and are painful last too long. The lengths of season are variable and impacted by our perceptions of the season. Sometimes a treasured relationship ends abruptly; conflicts last too long. In the end, our time in life is but an instance. As James 4:14 (KJV) states: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.

Yet, many focus on capitalizing and focusing on pursuit the seasons of pleasure. We all like pleasure, yet when we encounter it, we do not savor it but rather often seek to engorge on the pleasure. For many, life is just moving from one momentary pleasure to the next. Yet, those seasons of pleasure fade, times of pain and sorrow always come. For many, life is about minimizing the suffering and maximizing the pleasure. There is another way. A way that looks beyond the constant shifting of seasons, there is something solid that stands up to the shifts. While seasons come and go, the Kingdom of God always stands. The rock of the Gospel is everlasting and un-shifting. It is not a momentary pleasure that last but awhile. It is the source of wholeness and completeness. For only in establishing right relationship with the Creator, which only happens not by self-effort but by, the redemption offered in the death and resurrection of Jesus. It all really comes down to where the focus of your life is. The continual pursuit of self and the temporary seasons of pleasure, or surrender to the King of Kings and accepting the gift of redemption allowing reconciliation and citizenship in the Kingdom of God.

    

Veteran’s day thoughts: Prayer and Thanks for persecuted Christians

Today in the United States is Veterans Day. It is a day the country sets aside to honor those that have served in the military of the United States of America.  It is also a day to remember those that died protecting this country.  Being a citizen under the authority of the United States of America, I offer my thanks and deep respect to those who serve and die in such fashion. 

, this article is about some other warriors that fight not a physical battle but a battle for the kingdom of God.  These are people who recognize that we serve God and find ways to spread the Gospel to those in need.  In particular this article seeks to give honor to missionaries in parts of the world that not only resist the Gospel but persecute those who have come to accept Jesus as Messiah. Particular honor is those who surrender their lives so that others may be brought into God’s kingdom.  There are missionaries in places in the world where they put their life on the line for the sake of sharing the Good News that they can have peace with God through Jesus Christ and enter into God’s kingdom.   Many end up losing their life or with ongoing wounds and scars for their service to God’s kingdom. And each of them would do so again. So on this day, these are the people I want to draw attention to with thanks and respect. 

Also want to ask readers to spend time researching places where people face persecution and stay up with the news.  Pray for those that are missionaries and reaching out to others with the Gospel in dangerous places.  Open Doors, a ministry founded by God’s Smuggler, Brother Andrew has compiled a World Watch list which is pictured below.  They also have compiled a prayer guide that can be downloaded: http://www.opendoorsusa.org/UserFiles/File/WWL%202009%20Prayer%20Guide.pdf.

In order to get ongoing news and information on the persecuted church there are several websites. 

Open Door: Founded by God’s smuggler Brother Andrew: http://www.opendoorsusa.org an affiliated blog can be found: http://spiritualcourage.wordpress.com/

Voice of the Martyrs: A ministry that provides both news and information and outreach to missionaries and Christian’s facing persecution and martyrdom. http://www.persecution.net/ and their related bloghttp://www.persecutionblog.com/.

There may be other ministries assisting those facing persecution but those are the two primary.  There are a couple of additional sources of news related to those facing persecution.  http://www.compassdirect.org/ and http://www.christianmonitor.org/.  I encourage you to monitor these sites and follow God’s lead regarding prayer or any other way God leads you to be involved.

world watch list

Cultural News Commentary: On Jimmy Carter disassociating with Southern Baptists

Back on July 12th, 2009 in a Guardian Observer article Jimmy Carter announced severing ties with the Southern Baptist denomination related to the unwillingness to ordain women. Now the point of this commentary is really not to get into the ins and outs of the place of women within the church. Rather, it is to take a look at what Jimmy Carter said in this article in the name of Christianity. However, it is worth outlining some initial thoughts on women in the church. There is much misunderstood and poorly applied within the various aspects of the corporate church. Many folks take and interpret scripture in accordance with their own views on male female relationships. It takes a much more thorough examination of male and female relating to grasp the intent. The lack of allowing woman in authority by corporate church is not about discriminating or devaluing women, rather it is following God’s design and elements that reflect things God intends us to learn. Now with those initial thoughts expressed this commentary will move on to examining the areas of concern with Jimmy Carter’s statements.

The first concern is that Jimmy Carter and the company he keeps, known as “the Elders,” basically are attempting to set forth what they consider to be the proper morality for the world. In his article Jimmy Carter referenced the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This declaration was declared by the United Nations back in 1948 (the year Israel became a nation.) It seems that the Jimmy Carter and the Elders are all about seeking to give voice to those UN declarations. Now that declaration and Jimmy Carter’s comments are taking that declaration and the underlying concepts and setting it is the standard of right and wrong. It is a declaration of rights and as such it is about stating that of which all of us are globally entitled. Anything that appears to deviate and appear to violate these declare rights are considered immoral and not benefiting the global community. Now the reader may state that those declarations are good and worth pursuing. However, that misses the point. This is humanity setting a declaration that all should abide. It is what comes first in the minds of Jimmy Carter and the elders. For Jimmy Carter the Holy Bible is viewed in relation to how it relates to these declared entitlements.     

Now not only do we have humanity declaring what are universal entitlements that shape universal morality but an overall view of humanity and religion. Jimmy Carter, the Elders, and the United Nations are about the agenda of Universality. Jimmy Carter’s statements are filled with concepts that embrace a multi-faith view that essentially express that what is important are the core elements found in each faith and view. This concept espouses the view that what one believes doesn’t matter and that all faiths are but a shadow and reflection of a mysterious whole. So, they point to the universal areas of agreement. This is displayed in Jimmy Carter’s following statement: “This is in clear violation not just of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but also the teachings of Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul, Moses and the prophets, Muhammad, and founders of other great religions – all of whom have called for proper and equitable treatment of all the children of God. It is time we had the courage to challenge these views.” This has absolutely no founding in the Bible or in Christianity. It is found simply on the way and wisdom of the world.

Ultimately the main concern is that Jimmy Carter expresses this view or morality and a universal religious viewpoint in the name of Christianity. He even throws out the name of Billy Graham in order to try and give strength to his support. However, the views of Jimmy Carter and the Elders are not surprising. They are expressing views they think will offer solutions to the ills of society. They are all about building the community of mankind. The community of mankind is the Kingdom of the World which stands in opposition to the Kingdom of God. Yes, there are good concerns that the likes of Jimmy Carter, the Elders, and the United Nation advocate. One needs to be aware that these things that appear to be good concerns with meaningful political answers are faulty and limited. These matters will have the appearance of wisdom and hope. Many people will agree with the find sounding principles espoused but they are all fool’s gold. It looks good but ultimately worthless.

Ultimately for this writer in reflecting the words of Jimmy Carter, the works of the Elders, the agenda of the United Nations the reality of Joshua 24:15 is all too clear. The verse reads “But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD. (NIV)” We each have two paths to choose from and only two paths. The path of the Kingdom of the World with temporary solutions to long lasting problems that are either rooted in or resulting from the sins of humanity or the path of the Kingdom of God which gives an eternal answer to the root of the problems that plague the world. So do you serve humanity or serve God?