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.”

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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 the Tragic Death of Amy Winehouse

Well yesterday, 7/23/2011, the pop music artist Amy Winehouse died. Sadly, not one person is truly surprised at her death for she was living on borrowed time, long ensnared by addictions to drugs and alcohol. It was simply a matter of time. She continued to use and ultimately she died. Sadly, her one hit was the song “Rehab” which she essentially wrote and sang about her rejecting a plea for her to go to drug rehabilitation. Her is a fact, while Amy’s life and death was tragic and while many can easily sit in judgment over how sick she was and proclaim if only she would get clean, each of us are really no different. When it comes to making changes, we too often protest “No, no, no.” There are things we like, we enjoy that we really just do not want to give up. We resist calls to repentance with the reply “No, no, no.” It takes brokenness and a realization of the truth to move toward change. We all have choices to make. There are many paths to death and destruction beyond the likes of alcohol and drugs. We are selfish and walk paths even with full knowledge that it is not good. We all have trouble embracing changes and turning from the paths of death. Ultimately there is one choice each person needs to make and sadly the refrain there is too often “no, no, no.” And that choice is surrender to the Creator, to Jesus the King of Kings. All to readily the response is “They told me to submit to Jesus” and “I said no, no, no.” See, for the appeal of self-direction and choosing own life, even if well aware of the pain and emptiness with lack of true peace, is alluring. Any life that dies apart from surrender is tragic. It is the path of many, not just Amy Winehouse. It is a sad day that such a hurt and broken soul reached the death point. It is too late for Amy, it is not too late for you. Please do not cry out “No, no, no” any further. This is true even for those who have submitted to Jesus yet God is stirring you to change and let go of areas of sin in your life. Stop saying “no, no, no” and repent, for the rejection only brings more pain. Surrender, say yes, it is worthwhile!

Helpful Articles: Spurgeon Meditation-Beyond Circumstances

Friday, April 08, 2011

This Evening’s Meditation

C. H. Spurgeon

http://www.spurgeon.org/daily.htm

BEHOLD, how independent of outward circumstances the Holy Ghost can make the Christian! What a bright light may shine within us when it is all dark without! How firm, how happy, how calm, how peaceful we may be, when the world shakes to and fro, and the pillars of the earth are removed! Even death itself, with all its terrible influences, has no power to suspend the music of a Christian’s heart, but rather makes that music become more sweet, more clear, more heavenly, till the last kind act which death can do is to let the earthly strain melt into the heavenly chorus, the temporal joy into the eternal bliss! Let us have confidence, then, in the blessed Spirit’s power to comfort us. Dear reader, are you looking forward to poverty? Fear not; the divine Spirit can give you, in your want, a greater plenty than the rich have in their abundance. You know not what joys may be stored up for you in the cottage around which grace will plant the roses of content. Are you conscious of a growing failure of your bodily powers? Do you expect to suffer long nights of languishing and days of pain? O be not sad! That bed may become a throne to you. You little know how every pang that shoots through your body may be a refining fire to consume your dross—a beam of glory to light up the secret parts of your soul. Are the eyes growing dim? Jesus will be your light. Do the ears fail you? Jesus’ name will be your soul’s best music, and His person your dear delight. Socrates used to say, “Philosophers can be happy without music;” and Christians can be happier than philosophers when all outward causes of rejoicing are withdrawn. In Thee, my God, my heart shall triumph, come what may of ills without! By thy power, O blessed Spirit, my heart shall be exceeding glad, though all things should fail me here below.

On Ebbs and Flows: Musing on Seasons of Life Including Grief

Face, this life we live sometimes is very difficult, other times everything seems to work out right.  One minute we can be on top doing well, everything working out as hope. Next minute things are difficult, painful, and filled with pain and loss.  Good or bad, gain or loss, beginning or ending,  and happy or sad are all words used to describe the varied season of life.  The Bible tells us in Ecclesiastes 3:1 (ESV) “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:” So the ebbs and flows are part of the seasons of life. 

Here is the deal, while the seasons of life exist, while there is that which hurts and that which heals, it is all a result of living in a fallen world twisted by sin.  Of course, those at face value are simply words, words that do nothing to ease the difficult season such as when face any number of losses.  Now while sin created the twists that bring on the seasons and the resultant ebbs and flows there is an important note, God is still in control and at work.  Romans 8:28 (ESV)  “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”  It is a verse known and quoted whenever facing the difficult life seasons such as one of loss. Sometimes even the sharing of that verse though ends up as just words and not really touching the core.  The impact of these words sometimes can be missed.  

The point and impact is God is not passive.  If we are actively in relationship with the creator, whatever we do, he actively works to bring things in accordance with His purpose. So the question becomes what is God’s purpose that he brings all things into cooperation with? Is it no undoing that which has been twisted?  At the cross the path to being in right relationship with God, to be in a loving relationship with creator has been established.  His purpose is for use then to be more and more refined and cleansed.  As such, whatever happens in our lives, the ebbs and flows, serve the intent of making us grow more toward His intent for our lives in relationship with Him. 

There will be difficult seasons. There will be loss.  There will be ebbs and flows. This is a fact.  The fact is even outlined further in Romans 8 with a list of “negative” things that will happen to people in various seasons.  The fact is bad stuff happens. One way or another, the difficult seasons are related to the twists of sin; be it original  sin, our own sin, or the sins of others around us.  But we have a promise that for those that love God, we bring things inline with His intent. When we are in right relationship God is in the process of untwisting the twist.  And before God it is a finished state, yet we are in the ongoing process of getting to that finished state.  Before the promise just mentioned is the statement in Romans 8:25 (ESV)  “But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”  See, the God working things out for His intent is not what is always seen or perceived. What we know are the difficult things, the painful things, the things that trigger the ebbs and flows.  Much of what God does is beyond what we can perceive as he working in the midst and what God is doing also does not just resolve around one individual, but all of creation.

And with what God has done, the hope in Jesus as Lord and Saviour,  in the God with us, there is another promise.  Romans 8:37 (ESV)  “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”   See, in all the pain, in all the things that can come against and cause pain, in all of which is twisted and horrendous. In all, we are told that no matter what the appearance there is the assured victory, that all these things just are not defeated, but obliterated.  In Christ is all hope and the victory is an overwhelming blow-out.  And again, we can look at that and simply see the words.  But if let the word take effect in heart and life it change how manage the ebbs and flows.  They still come, but when the focus is not on the pain of the moment but in the faithfulness and surety of God’s love and purpose, one can find the joy and peace amidst the ebbs and flows.  So let the words of God sink deeply, beyond words, beyond the fickleness of the emotions in the ebbs and flows, into the peace that passes all understanding with the strength coming from the Joy in the Lord.

Labor Day Musing: True rest for those labored and burdened

This past weekend was Labor Day weekend with Monday being Labor Day in the United States. This is a time set aside to rest from our toiling at being productive members of the workforce and taking a day of ease and rest. For me today the verse Matthew 11:28 (ESV) has come to mind:

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

This simple statement is profound.  Jesus is giving and invitation to a difficulty many experience.  The statement contains three elements; the invitation, the invitee, and the result of accepting the invitation.  Those elements are worth more specific examination.

First, there is the invitation: Come to me. It is a simple request and formed in an imperative tone that is very direct and certain.  Jesus directs the invitee to come to him.  The word come is not a passive word. It sets a firm direction.  It takes an act of moving from one location to another. Here that direction is toward Jesus. Wherever one is, they need to change and move toward Jesus. Now it is interesting that the word in the Greek translated as me is μέ that encompasses all elements of self, I, me, and my. So in essence, Jesus is requesting and directing others to set their direction toward all of Him.  It is a request of a directed action, not a passive response. It is a movement away from whatever direction one is on, which in most cases would be that of a self-chosen direction, and a move toward Jesus.

Now the second element is the invitees. Here Jesus addresses a particular group.  The group he is addressing are those that are tired from the work they have engaged in and are weighed down with burdens they cannot bear on their own.  He is directing any that have come to the limits of their own effort and feel unable to go further to set their direction to him.  It is a call to cease the striving of self that drains energy and adds weight and to look and move toward one that can provide aid.  If one is at a place in life where there daily refrain is “I’m tired” or “I cannot take much more” Jesus invites to turn your direction to him and cease the striving. Jesus answer is quite different from that of the world.  The world points to need for constant effort and striving followed by momentary periods of relief in the varied offerings of momentary relief and pleasure.  Jesus rather, calls to actively head in a different direction. He does not direct toward the numbing actions of pleasure and distraction but an active turn in direction.

Jesus invitation comes with an exact and defined benefit.  Jesus states that the benefit of coming to him is rest.  He offers the opposite of the state of the invitees.  Those that are “tired” and “cannot take any more” can find rest by moving toward Jesus. The act of turning toward Jesus that brings the rest, rather it is what Jesus gives.  He gives the rest if you come to Him. Now, it is worth noting that the concept of rest here is far beyond what we consider rest.  It is not just a recharging of energy, but complete refreshment at deep levels.  The rest Jesus offers is more than a good nap or a good night sleep. It is even more than an extended vacation. It is a rest that brings one alive.  What Jesus has to give is beyond anything we can do for self. It is beyond our comprehension and what we experience in the short term is only but a taste of the rest that is to come, where there is no strife and no need to be tired or heavy laden.  And everyone does reach a point of being tired and burdened. Everyone needs rest. Even God himself rested. And by coming to Jesus, we are given God’s rest.

Coming to Jesus is not a onetime action.   Yes, we all need to come to Jesus to receive salvation, which is the starting point and initial gift of rest.  A ceasing of the striving of self.  We  need to continue coming to Jesus.  In this world, much is difficult and hard.  We can become labored and burdened without physical exertion.  Some of being labored and heavy laden comes in the looking out for self, in our own affairs. We get hurt, we have desires that go unmet, we struggle.  In fact, we all experience daily the impact of sin as the whole of creation has been impacted by sin.  The very act of coming to Jesus is at heart a turn from self-focus.  When you focus on being tired or burdened, it actually adds to the drain.  The more you focus on the state of self, the harder it becomes.  The very act of coming to Jesus changes focus.  Then when we actually surrender to Jesus and accept what He offers each of us, we are uplifted and refreshed.  Now the reader may state  “well tried that and there was no immediate relief.”  This can be true, for as Jesus will give us rest when we come, perceiving the rest is not always immediate but know that Jesus always keeps His word.  When you come to Jesus you will receive rest, in His time. He will give the rest if you come. This is fact. When you do not see or perceive it, trust this truth, for He who promised is faithful. When you come, He will give rest. Place you faith in this for it is assured!

Musing on the fragility and unpredictability of life

No matter how long we are in this world life is short. Life is filled with twists, turns, ups, and downs. There is good, bad, painful, difficult, ugly, joyous, beautiful, and painful as the Bible states in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 there is a time and season for everything. Recent life events have thoughts musing about the fragility and unpredictability of life on this earth. One day a person can have freedom the next a sudden acceleration can kill some people and a person can end up wrongly imprisoned as was the case of Koua Fong Lee who spent two years in prison but was recently released in light of the evidence of problems with Toyota’s and sudden acceleration. Joseph one day was serving Potipher the best he could and the next minute accused of trying to rape his wife resulting in many years in prison. The fact is difficult and extremely painful things can happen to any of us at anytime. They can range from minor irritations like viral infections to more severe forums of suffering.

It Matthew 5:45b (ESV) Jesus states: For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. The good and difficult things that happen in life, happen. The question for each believer is how we deal with both the good and bad. What does mean to be truly at peace and what can bring the perceived peace into question. It is during the difficult and tough times that test how we stand in pain when things are not going well. In the good times, when everything goes well the question is really is how much is the good taken for granted or seen as a byproduct of self? Paul stated in Philippians 4:13 (ESV) that the secret to any situation any season in life is: I can do all things through him who strengthens me. We can say it easily enough, but do we grasp what it means, or is it a nice phrase that can be put on a plaque on the wall?

So what does that phrase really come down to? Well examining the words a little closer it really comes down to the ability to be at true peace and wholeness comes not from our own effort but in surrender and dependence on the Messiah. It really points for the need to surrender. Times of plenty and times of pain are difficult times to surrender. One it is easy to place a lot of emphasis on self, the other to focus on the pain and suffering. Both can lead to a focus on self. Here it is really a true turning from self and resting in Jesus so that what God puts before us we are able to do regardless of season of life.

God only knows what will happen in each of our lives. We can face tests like Koua Fong Lee or Joseph with wrongful imprisonment. We can face choices to serve God and give up what appears to be good for self? We can be asked to give up what God has promised like Abraham. The fact is we will all face times of testing of one form or another. Some testing is short, some are longer, but when you surrender to God, he works to His good purpose. As the Bible states in Romans 8:28 (ESV)
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Now each of us may never know what was the good brought in difficult times. God simply asks us to surrender and trust him regardless. It is real easy to lose focus and sight of what God is doing. Honestly there are many times in my life where focus was lost. There are times of great anger and sin that came from circumstances in my life not matching my hopes and expectations and God not bringing things about according to my will. Ultimately the process becomes about bringing my will in alignment to his and living in surrender. For it is only in surrender of self and alignment of my will to God’s where there is any peace and wholeness.