Tune in for discussion on Friendship

I have an opportunity to join Parker J. Cole’s internet radio broadcast tomorrow.  We will be having a range of discussion on non-familial relationships. We will examine various aspects of friendship and healthy relationship. If you wonder what I sound like or care to tune in for a discussion on the topic please join us at: Parker J. Cole: Friends and Others at 1:00 PM central time.

 

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.

Love is all we need

All_We_Need_Is_LoveLove. It is a simple word. It signifies something we all so desperately want but it is also so very lacking.  Love is the most talked about subject within our culture and everything point to a significant relationship and subsequent children as the apex of love.  Yet, ultimately none of us get it. We fail to grasp love.  We all wanted be care for and are hurt when we are not.  We all desperately want to be loved and to love. It is at the core of humanity. It is why we take on pets for example, to love and be loved.

 Yet, ultimately we fail to grasp love and are really far from it. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NIV)Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves provides a definition of love: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” Our experience of love falls far of that definition.  Here is the reason. The definition involves no focus on self. It is looking outward toward the welfare of others. The essence of love is found in Philippians 2:3 (ESV) Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.   When we love we are emptying of self. We are giving of self. We are focused on the welfare not of self, but of others.  However, we are ever self-focused.

We are wrapped up in our perception of being loved and are quick to voice when we are not engaged in behavior that is perceived as caring or loving. When we get upset, we do so when someone else has failed to engage in looking out for our welfare and did or said something we find lacking.   Such a response is even followed suit in understanding and rejecting God.  Many who reject God look at pain and suffering in the world and their own lives and conclude that a loving God could not allow such.  So they reject God. Some in that rejection will push simply engaging in looking out for the welfare of others.  The refrain is “all we need is love.” Simply look out for others and make the best world today.  Yet, lost in it all is the day to day agony when that desire of love falters.

 The fact is God does look out for our welfare. He never fails.  The rest of us fall far short.  So, yes we all need love, and love is what we all need, but if you separate that love from the author  and source of love it is but illusion. God is the only one who provides full care and love. Yes, the love does provide limits and structures, not out of cruelty, but in understanding what we need and what hurts us. We see that every day with parents and children, choices made and limits set for their welfare often in spite of great protest. Sure, any one of us can demonstrate love to others. We can do good too others apart from God. We can make the best out of life. Yet, it is making the best of what we can. But that falls far short of a life submitted to God, the source and author of love. And none of us have a grasp on God’s love. Our understanding is limited.  Yet, as you grow in understanding God, love grow. Love for God, self, and others. It comes as you grow and as you understand and grow the wounds and hurts from the damages of living life heal and allow true forward movement that in turn demonstrates the care for others found in demonstrating true love. We need love. We need God. You cannot separate the two for God is love.  So yes, all we need is love and that need is only found in God, who is love. So God is what we all need, for God is love.

Musing on Remembrance

Today is a day marked of remembrance of a fateful day when two towers fell in New York city. On this day the memories of the darkness and the evil on man can inflict on another are prime. Remembrance is importance. This blog is not going to reflect on any aspects of that fateful day but rather discuss the ongoing importance of the act of remembrance. It is some God directs us to do and is important to any level of moving ahead and growing. Often we want to forget dark and painful things. Yet, there are important things to bring to attention, primarily the ways God moved.

God directed others over and over to remember. First of all to remember Him and His promises as we can often forget. We can become dull of mind and caught up in varied aspects of life and we can forget. God knows our tendency to forget. He directed Israel on several occasions to set up memorials and altars to remember what God has done. He established festivals in Israel such as Passover that focus on remembering what God has done. These things can be easily forget or even set aside off in some dusty corner of our lives and mind. We need to remember. There is restoration and healing in healthy remembrance. Any healthy remembrance is focused on what God did, is doing, and has promised to do. So take time, reflect and consider what God has done, is doing, and has promised. Look back on that fateful day eleven years ago and look at how God dealt with you then, where are you know, and where are you going. As you remember let God move in your heart and deal with whatever needs to be dealt with and surrender whatever comes to light to him. And when you do, when you remember, then praise God, for whatever has been gives chance for God to reveal Himself and each memory is an opportunity to give God praise and glory. Even in the darkest of memories and time.

Musing on Remembering Pentecost

Yesterday, Sunday May 27th, 2012, was Pentecost Sunday. Unfortunately, that is a fact that many people in the church were unaware of. In most churches during most years, Pentecost Sunday comes and goes without even a mention.  It seems that by a large, a good portion of the church has simply forgotten Pentecost.  It is a day that should never be forgotten and people need to wake up and remember.  The early church fathers I think would be appalled if they were to find that such an important day is rarely remembered.  We celebrate Jesus birth, we celebrate Jesus sacrifice and resurrection, but we fail to acknowledge God giving us the comforter, the one who empowers us.  The question is why do we forget?

The day of Pentecost falls on the Biblical feast day of Shavout also known as the Feast of Weeks or Feast of first fruits. It is a day very important to God, and it is one in which He has moved to give important gifts.  It is not only the day in which the Holy Spirit came to indwell those who have been redeemed, it is also the day he provided the Torah.  God has chosen on this day to give both His instruction and His empowerment. It is a day of sealing and cementing His promises and establishing connection with mankind. 

So the question is why do we forget something so important?  Why is the day not attended to?  One could post many theories but at some level the shift comes from a looking to God’s direction and moving in our own way.  God gave us guidance through Torah and the Holy Spirit, yet we all too often want to go our own way, do our own thing, and determine our relationship with God.  We may grow in knowledge of God and grasp varied orthodox understandings of God, but do we at heart, deep down have a God directed relationship. Others may embrace spiritual experience but the focus is on what feels good, feels powerful, or looks cool but lacks depth or growth.  Do we seek Him for guidance and empowerment or do we ask God to bless us as we go about doing our own thing?  Do we follow God, and surrender to Him or just do what we want to do?  I think in essence, it comes down to that question. Going the way of self or going the way of surrender.

So here is a challenge on this day of remembrance, take time to remember God.  Take time to examine where you have gone your own way versus walking in submission to Him. Let God bring to mind what He asks of you as you move ahead.  Each us will continue to have a choice. Follow God’s ways and surrender to Him. Grow in walking His path and let Him enable each step. The other choice is the way of self. Each of us need to wake up and remember.  For God and His ways have not changed, He has shown and provided a narrow way to walk in and given us the Holy Spirit to guide and empower us along the way. So wake up and remember for God is with us, every day.

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.

Freedom House Update: Standing in the midst as struggle continues

Sorry for the lack of update on the Freedom House situation. There is ongoing need for prayer. The struggle continues with the City of St. Paul over licensing and zoning in order to fully operate continues. In a strange turn of events two weeks ago the City of St. Paul fire department came with an order to shut down as claimed not in compliance with zoning. There are 2 properties that constitute Freedom House, 1038 Auroa and 426 Oxford. There was some initial miscommunication related to that 1038 Auroa property that seems to have been cleared. However, the 426 Oxford property is considered zoned as a duplex at this time rather than Transitional Housing which was the zoning answer negotiated through reasonable accommodation. However, there is an apparent zoning code that indicates a duplex property cannot be “transitional housing” that had previously been not referenced. Verbal approval has been given to operate but nothing has been placed in writing. Things have progressed in negotiations to the point where city staff are coming again to look at the two properties on 3/19/12 @ 1:30 pm.  So please pray for the facility at that time in particular. Also noteworthy is that there is a hearing before the St. Paul City Council scheduled for April 4th at 5:00 PM. There is hope for resolution prior to that meeting but if not, we are trusting for God to bring things to a full resolution at that time.

In the meantime the houses are serving gentlemen and underway helping others. Currently the program is being staffed with people volunteering their time. There is a current need for volunteers for overnight and weekend shifts until funding starts coming in and can pay overnight staff. Please pray for God to raise up such volunteers be it one for each night until funded or a couple people managing multiple nights.

Also donations of funds is also critical as Jim Michaud and family have given everything to see that people are reached. There are bills that need to be paid, please consider giving a donation at www.kingdompathways.org. You can also send a donation by mail to: Kingdom Pathways; P.O. Box 4125; St. Paul, MN 55104. You can also send questions to info@kingdompathways.org.