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.

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Rosh Hashanah: Celebration, Rememberance, and Renewal

Today is Rosh Hashanah, the Feast of Trumpets, also known as
the Day of Remembrance. It is the Jewish New Year.  The greeting for the day  was “may you be inscribed for a good year. A
good website for basic information on the Holiday if found at this website: http://www.hebrew4christians.com/Holidays/Fall_Holidays/Rosh_Hashannah/rosh_hashannah.html.

The article has two areas that bring thoughts to me find.
First is the thoughts of remembrance. It is a time to remember who God is and
what he has done.  Two aspects of God are
central for remembering today. It is that of God as creator. Today is thought
of as one that goes back to the “first day.” So, it is a day to reflect on what
God did in creating the world and us.
The second aspect of God to contemplate is that as God as King. Today is
also thought of as a coronation day. It is a day to think of the coming actions
of the King. It is a time to start reflecting on repentance and judgment. It is
the start of the King doing what he does to make things right.

One of the parts of Rosh Hashanah is the blowing of the
trumpets. The shofar is blown over about a 100 times on that day. The is a
combination of four types of trumpet blows. One type of blast signifies the
King’s coronation. One blast type announces a focus on repentance. A third is
about an awakening of the soul. The fourth time is a long blast that goes until
you cannot blow anymore.

These trumpet blow types signify to me a perspective that
goes well together. We start with God as King. We need to recognize and identity
and submit to what we need to change to be in line with the King’s will and
directive.  We need the basic elements of
who we are before God awakened and revived.  A blast of alarm is what does awaken each of
us if we hear it.  And finally there is a
giving all of self until reach the end of self: a total submission.

It is worth noting that all these elements are what today is
about. It is a time of rest, renewal, and celebration. It is a focus on God and
self. A time of renewing proper alignment and embark on what and he has ahead for
the New Year. So take time today to learn, reflect, and examine. Let God show
you what to remember and what to move forward into change. Celebrate God. Remember Him and His work in your life. Change course from where you left His will and be awakened to what He is directing and calling. For Today is the day. Celebrate. Repent. Awaken. These are the words for today. In this is found renewal.

Musings on the New Year: Digging Deep and Advancing

Well 2010 has came and went and 2011 is now here and under way. For me there are two words that have been resonating and seem central to what God is doing in my life. These words started even back during Rosh Hashanah the Jewish New Year but seem to be at an apex. The two words are deep deeper and advance. For me these are key to whatever change is coming in the year to come. For all those that read this blog want to challenge you do the same.

Now granted, some of you may be thinking “Um, Tim, your articles and musing can already get deep enough, you encourage going deeper?” Well, the answer is absolutely, for no matter the appearance of depth, compared to the greatness and awesomeness of God the depth is still shallow. Going deeper involves letting God’s truth sink to the depths of my heart and soul. It is drawing deeply from living water. It is being root and grounded at a deep level on God’s word and truth. No matter where we are there is more depth to be found. Take a quick look at Luke 6:48 (ESV)
he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built.
In all my time going over the verse, talking about it, even teaching on it the “dug deep” part is missed. We focus on the rock versus sand, but the rock is down “deep.” Here is the reality, sound and sure faith is one that is deep, for there is support and surety in depth. Whatever we do, whatever fruit we hope for, whatever may be ahead is only sure by becoming deeply immersed in God’s truth. So ask the Lord God to show you ways to grow deeper.

The other word that comes to my mind is advance, moving forward. This is key for me for there is much ahead. The past year was one of a lot of preparation complete with assorted trials in my life and those around me. But God calls not just to prepare and passively sit by. He does not call us to dig deep and rest. He calls us to move ahead, move forward. Again with the thoughts of advance, God leads me to some other words of Jesus in Matthew 11:12 (ESV)
From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. These words perhaps lose significant in the English for we may think in the terms of physical violence and force of will. But if you take time to consider the words, it really speaks to an intensity of moving forward and grabbing hold of that which God sets before us. It is true for walking into God’s kingdom and true for our moving about in the areas God directs us to engage. One way to put the phrase may be the Kingdom of heaven is “Wild” and those energized will seek to seize it. This involves no sitting passively by, it involves energy to grab hold of that which God puts forth, which is not predictable. Now scripture is filled with many action words and directions that entail the seizing such as “reap, sew, love, rise up, take up” and so on. This is a concept beyond “Carpe Diem” of seizing the day. God does call us to live in the moment, but the moment is saturated in Him and His will. And here is the deal, in the moving forward, in the advancing we need one another. We need support and encouragement. For it is easy to get twisted and deceived and there are many traps and we need others to speak us the truth and help us back on the path when we could no longer “grasp hold” and go flailing about on our own way.

My hope and prayer as you read these thoughts is God stirs in you awareness of areas to dig deeper and move ahead. Also please do feel free to check in with me related to my digger deeper and advancing. The starting point is what is God stirring in you. It is a new year, new day, new chapter, and a new beginning. Let God move you deeper and then seize what God has before you and then buckle up, for serving God is always a wild ride.

Post-birthday Musing: Forty-four years and counting

Yesterday was my birthday. It marked the start of my forty-fourth year on earth. Forty-three years have come and gone. Plenty of good, bad, and ugly have gone on those years. For me, the anniversary of my birth is essentially my personal New Year. It is a time to focus on God’s working in my life in the past, present, and future. As such it is a time of reflection, evaluation, submission, and thanksgiving.

    In terms of reflection, it is a time to look back to the changes that have occurred in the past year, the steps accomplished and the personal growth. It is a time truly to examine what it is that God has done in my life. The growth and progress in our lives can go un-noticed or seem insignificant unless time is spent looking back at how things have changed. Granted some years there seem to be more regression then progress but each year brings about change. In this past year though there has been definite growth in the spiritual, emotional, and relational level. The biggest area of growth is beginning to use and exercise the voice God has given me. Also and besides using the voice, my eyes, ears, and heart have been made aware of things previously ignorant or dismissive of in terms of the levels and layers of deception in the church.

    Not only is time spent reflecting on what progress have made in life but also time looking ahead at what areas still need work and what steps are needed to take to meet goals and vision. In doing an evaluation it is a good time to think about steps to take in year ahead and make plans for reaching those objectives. Certainly, in doing personal evaluation there are dangers. One danger is to start engaging in making comparisons rather than honest self-appraisal. At times it is hard to accept and recognize the differences in life. It is easy to look at folks my age who have children graduating from high school, for example. Another easy comparison is to look at where I am in my career and profession versus other people my age. The truth is God created each of us different and we do have different experiences be they good, bad, or ugly. How God shapes, guides, heals, and uses each of us is unique to our own personal journey and relationship. Yet, it is real easy to focus on what we think we lack. It is also really easy to focus on ways things may not have worked out as expected.

In terms of our agendas, plans, goals, visions, or objectives things often do not work out as we expect and it can be really easy to get caught up in our plans for bettering ourselves and engaging in our own plans and visions. As such, we need to constantly be evaluating whether we are pursuing our own plans or God’s plans. Ultimately such an attitude requires an evaluation of personal level of submission. A person’s birthday is a good time to take a hard look at self and renew submitting to God and serving his Kingdom versus our own. Granted, this is needed even day to day, moment to moment, but I find that a Birthday is a good time to commit the year ahead and any personal goals or plans to the King of Kings. It is a good day to renew the surrender of self.

Finally above all else, it is a time to be thankful before God for what he has done in your life, what is coming ahead, and what is going on in the moment. We need to remember whether we perceive progression or regression, if we are happy or unhappy, to be thankful. We are directed to rejoice in the Lord always, regardless of what else is happening. Our rejoicing really is not about our circumstance or what is happening but really about our surrender to Jesus the Messiah as King of Kings and His working in our lives to refine us. So whether the year was filled with many blessings or many trials, still rejoice for God is at work and He is the source of any peace or strength. Really after taking a step of surrendering self to God and submitting to him, the step of thanksgiving and rejoicing should be natural.

    In closing this article, I do want to simply encourage each reader to take time ask God to give me clarity and wisdom to see what he has ahead. Pray that I grow in my dying to self and practice greater moment by moment surrender of self. I have plans for the next year of my life, I have hopes that have yet to be fulfilled, but not as I will but as He wills. Above all my forty-fourth year of life is in God’s hands and I am thankful for whatever lies ahead.

A picture of Apostasy: Candle snuffing self out.

Last night on New Year’s Eve my wife, mother and I spent some time in prayer. We used candles and lit them for varied prayer concerns. The candles were simple table candles, nothing special. During the course of prayer, one of the candles snuffed its flame out with its own wax. After thinking it over and discussing it, it seem clear that a candle snuffing itself out is a clear picture of apostasy. Once a candle drowns its own wick in wax and snuffs out the flame, it is beyond redemption. The candle can no longer be an instrument of light. The same with any believer, who having been light with God’s Holy fire and turns from God and snuffs the light with own concerns, the light cannot be relight and no redemption is further possible.

The question is when does someone cross the line into apostasy? Clearly it comes when someone turns to something other than God toward something of self. It is an active ongoing choice. It is more than just a willful denunciation of God, for I have heard of people who have perform magic rituals against God that had not yet crossed a line into apostasy to where they were beyond redemption. Apostasy comes when some desire of self and soulish ideas take precedence over the truth of the Gospel. It is when the truth of God is exchanged for a lie, which is twisted from the truth. Apostasy is a willful choice and is based in blatant rejection of the truth for a lie to the point that the whole of self is submitted no longer to God, but rather the lie. It is not just seeking after other gods and willfully turning to them, it is rather reaching a state of disconnect from God and willful abandonment of the truth. There is a point at which a line is crossed and one moves away from faithlessness and is at the point of full disownment.

In thinking further about the candles and the prayer last night, there were many candles on the verge of drowning themselves out, yet remained lit. In the same sense there are many who have accepted deceptions and our following after self or other gods yet, the wick remains lit. They have come close to apostasy but have not yet crossed the line where the light is extinguished. There were other candles as well, some that burned quick, some burned slow, some with evident impurity, some that seemed clear but all still burned bright. So it is with those who have accepted the Light of the Messiah. We all have differences, yet all still shine the light. Our lives even continually reflect the light of the truth of the Gospel. And light did once shine from those that become apostate. There is evidence in their lives of when the light of the Gospel shown bright and the truth was reflected. Yet now the light shines no more. It is sad. Yet, in that sadness I am struck that only one candle out of thirty became self-extinguished. So while the bible promises that there will be a great falling away, those that become apostate are small in comparison to those who continue to let the light of the true Gospel shine.

The question is then where is the reader today? Have you accepted the light of the Gospel and turned from self? Have you accepted the gift of your most vile and selfish actions being wiped clean by the Cross? Have you let Jesus take on the consequences of your selfishness? If you have not, you still can. It involves simple acceptance of the gift and surrender to Jesus. It is a simple thing, yet very tough to do.

For those who have accepted the light of the Gospel? Where are you in your walk today? Are you walking in faithlessness and ever flirting with the border of apostasy and self-extinguishing the light of the Gospel? Please I pray for each reader to examine themselves before God and let God shine His light and expose the lies and impurities and all that needs to be turned from and cleansed. For while it is still Today and the light still shines, it is not too late.