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.

Video: Healthy Growth talk from 2/23/2012 @ New Joy Church

Back in February of 2012 I gave a talk at a Men’s breakfast at local church and had meant to post it and have it available for others to listen to and be blessed by. I neglected to post it but am doing so now. The theme of the talk was highlighting and overview of healthy growth from a spiritual perspective. I also put together a handout that outline the basis of the talk. You can find it here: handout. I hope you are blessed by the presentation. Fair warning I am not a polished speaker and the opening I say “from my heart a lot.”  There was also a moment in talk I lost track where I was, back tracked and repeated a segment. FYI, you will need to view this from a computer as it does not appear the video will show up if trying to view it by phone. If the video does not work for you, you can try directly viewing it at: http://www.dailymotion.com/f1354243611#video=xrn9vm

Post-birthday Personal Musing: On not shrinking back and moving ahead

On Wednesday June 1st, I turned 46.  For me, this day was one following and extended vacation and rest. Now usually the time before my birthday is spent in personal evaluation and examination.  This year it was simply just disconnecting and recharging. 

This was something definitely needed. Since last September I have been in a place of feeling stuck and trouble getting going again. There have been Blog posts about re-engaging, setting goals, and the like. Usually those efforts have been followed by a brief restart and then a sputter back into silence.

 Thinking things over there have been some key areas leading to the silence and retreat. One area is the ongoing concerns for those around me and the burdens for others.  I have faced my mother losing her vision, the death of step-mom to cancer, and the varied struggles the wife encountered including a period of intense hives. 

 The other aspect is the varied responsibilities. There are things and goals have set for professional development.  Yet, in those goals there is only so much time and energy I can put into things.  There are certainly also areas of fear and other elements that help facilitate reluctance and withdrawal. 

 Upon returning back, there is a realization that at some level all that is rationalization and an empowering self not to move ahead.  Each day is an important day to be moving toward that which God calls. Either I am being obedient in moving forward or looking after self and engaging in withdrawal.

 I know that there is a lot of responsibility ahead of me. God has specific things for me to engage in.  I can either shrink back and falter or move ahead.  These are the only choices, advancing or shrinking back which results in retreat. What is a head results in a lot of felt weight that was evident upon return.  There is also some real felt pain some of which is of self, and some in the weight of what others are going through.  My call is always to come along side and step in amidst the pain and encourage growth and change.  It all starts though with me.  And with that being said, the words God has for me is that I need to be engaged in moving forward each day in submission to God and attending to and meeting up to my responsibilities.

 A verse that kind of fits with what God is stirring in me is:

Hebrews 10: 32- 39 (ESV) 32 But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For, “Yet a little while,and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith,and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.

Just even know looking at those words and thinking about endurance the realization strikes me of there being at least two types on endurance. One of which is enduring the difficulties and hardships. Standing up in the midst and not giving in.  The other is that of perseverance. The moving a head in spite of weight, difficulties, or any perceived progress. Taking steps in faith to endure with what God leads until such time as God brings forth the fruit.  So it is clear God is pleased when we stand up under struggle and continue to move ahead. Pulling back, disengaging, and shrinking back does not please God.  It is response to fear and self then depending on God and acting in faith.  Sobering and challenging thoughts for me personally.

Holy Week Musings: The Ascent

Tomorrow 4/16/2011 is Palm Sunday.  It is the day of Jesus triumphant entry into Jerusalem with people proclaiming Him as King. A lot of time is spent remembering that day as it is celebrated in churches throughout the world.  How much time is spent thinking and talking about the approach to Jerusalem?   There are several events and teaching that transpire as Jesus approaches the city and the enfolding of His mission with the suffering that will soon follow.  Each gospel account references different things that happened as Jesus moved with purpose from Jericho to Bethphage to Jerusalem.  He approach the city knowing full well what was to come.  He did so faithfully without wavering.

Outside of the actions and teachings of Jesus leading up to Holy Week, my mind is going to what Jesus was experiencing during this time,  as He knew what was to come, that suffering, betrayal, and death awaited.  Here is one incredible thing, as he ascended to Jerusalem, to that which God set before him, He experienced a wide range of emotions and maintained his course. He did not shrink back, pull back, or hold back. He moved ahead.  Think for a minute Jesus focusing on Psalms 120 through 134 the Psalms of Ascent and knowing that what He was about to do created the help, peace, and salvation.  Jesus kept the focus and surrender and moved ahead, knowing what He knew, He still followed and surrendered.  Jesus knew the personal cost to him, but He also knew the purpose and intent of what He was to endure. He knew the victory and salvation it would bring.

Now in our life and call, we do not know the details like Jesus did, but we do know that there is victory.  We do know that God is faithful even when we do not understand what is before us.  If we follow God’s leading, we will receive His blessing in God’s time and in God’s way.  For we know that God is love and while there is pain, suffering, and threats untold, God is greater.  Sure, we may endure great suffering for a time, but as we walk the road God set before us and approach that which He has called us to, God’s purpose will be fulfilled always.  There may be great pain and suffering getting to where God calls, but His will and His love will always be served. Whatever are the evil intents, if surrendered to following God and His ways, He will always bring the victory.

Yet, folks do and will lose out.  The losing out happens when any one of us leave the path of ascent.  We when go down our own way and leave God’s path there are consequences. When we do not surrender, trust, and obey there is loss. Loss that can impact many more than just our self.  This is seen over and over in scripture as deviation and distrust bring choices that have great impact.  The choices is ours minute by minute, as we are all in the ascent, approaching that to where God want us, until we reach the final moment when “It is finished” for this life and we move on to New Jerusalem.