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.

Post-Christmas Musing: The Essentials of The Way-Faith, Hope & Love

My mind has been going back and forth over what to write in relation to the Christmas Holiday this year.  The celebration has come and gone.  Now I recognize that the Christmas season is definitely a mix. By tradition and works of Church we celebrate the Incarnation alongside the celebrations of the world.  Boundaries get blurred, things get mixed, and perspective can shift from God’s Holy work to that which is of self and our own desires.  In fact at times, the season can be about getting what we want. The reality is that the focus should be to grow more and more in alignment with walking in what God wants, living in surrender.

As previously stated, this Christmas season has been a strange one for me and my family. There is an ongoing mix of grief and hope.  My sister-in-law suffered the loss of her mother in the past year.  My step-mother is quickly slipping away while hope remains that God will bring restoration of her health.   My mother continues to cope with her loss of vision, which continues to fade. My wife hopes to receive word on Monday of being promoted to a Service Manager position at her employer but prepared for the potential disappointment. And for me, there is my ongoing care and love for all of the above as well as thoughts, plans, dreams to transition to a functioning private practice.  In all these circumstances God is bringing the three essential elements of the Way to mind: Faith, Hope, and Love. 

It is worth noting that these essential elements are NOT about having desires met. Rather, it is about growing in each aspect through God-centered surrender.  It is always all about God, yet we can easily make it all about self. In each of the essential elements there is a risk, much like this season, can be a mix. There can be self-focused or Christ-focused faith, hope, and love. The key difference is where is the attention drawn, the actions or acts or benefit to self or the ongoing pointing to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Now that being said, let us examine each element of The Way a little closer. 

Faith: It is a word quickly spoken and easy misused.  There are many who make proclamations that faith is some self-actuated behavior that if the right words or thoughts are engage in, then what want will happen.  However, such thoughts are more about self-assurance and gratification then about growing in dependence on God.  Rather, Godly faith is faith that remains when all seems darkest. Godly faith is such that  “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him:” Job 13:15a (KJV).  Faith is keeping focus on God and His ways knowing that “He who promised is faithful.” Hebrews 10:23b (ESV). Faith is always keeping focus on what God has laid forth at all costs and without any visible evidence. Recently on December 21st there was a solar eclipse on the longest night of the year (in the Northern Hemisphere.) Now we know that the darkness will fade and morning comes but if we did not know that fact when the darkness comes and light is blocked, there would be much fear.  The struggle here is always to be focused on what God says even when things look worst, or things are very difficult.  Walking in faith is having full assurance in God, that no matter what the appearance, He will remain faithful.  And His faithfulness are not about the appearance in certain results or turning things to our desires in our time or fashion. Rather, it is always about His way, His time, and His actions that bring glory to Him. 

Hope: We all have hopes and dreams. We have desires. However, these hopes, dreams and desires can be for much apart from God and His will.  The true hope is when our hope is focused on the things of God.  Such hope is not easily swayed by the vagaries of life. Rather, such hope rests on the knowledge and surety of who God is.  Yet, we are always torn between having the hope  “built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness” and hope that all will fall in line with our desires while at the same time knowing we don’t always get what we want. Yet, when there is true hope, hope that is founded on Jesus blood and righteousness, hope that is based on the surety of God and his promises and plans, the hope always is right.  For God and his hope and faithfulness are not based on what is visible, what is seen as many have gone to their graves without seeing the fullness of God’s promise yet received and walked in it daily.  There is a great could of witnesses. So our hope, when in God never disappointments even if things to not appear to match how we think it will work out. As God does things His way which more often than not does not match what is expected, for what He does is far greater than any of our expectations for His ways are perfect.  So, the key is to have more and more our desires and our hopes to match what God is doing which is always about untangling the twists that come from a sinful world and being shaped and restored back to what God intends.  Ultimately, the true hope is to be fully restored and in line with God.  And, true hope is resting in knowing that God meet our desires and needs in his way. He knows us intimately so our hope can be sure that God will give from His abundance, in accordance with His will, as we walk His path.  And His ultimate gift, the ultimate hope, the ultimate gift is that which endures: His love.  In His love is all, and in His love is life everlasting. So whatever we hope for, whatever we want, whatever we desire the point of it all in God’s time and frame is drawing us closer to Him. For with God, all things are possible and He moves us ever toward that which is beneficial and draws us in alignment with Him.  And it is resting in the hope based on Him that can carry us through the dark times, knowing that God keeps His promises in His way and that His ways are not our ways.  True hope is hope in who God is and that regardless of circumstances for good or bad, God has the best in mind.

Love: Ultimately, we all long for pure love. We want to be valued, be safe, and secure. We want to know we matter.  Yet, in this life we can often focus on our lack of being loved. Fact is none of us live up to God’s standard of loving, and we all want to be loved as God loves us.  We all have hurts and pains that get us twisted up and in turn we act in ways that hurt others, in turn twisting them up. We lack being loved wholly, leaving us not only broken but resistant even to true love, for the pain results in fear.  So we grasp on to what we know. God’s love is beyond that which he grasp. God’s love is greater than the “something other than” love to which we cling.   God’s love always brings us to restoration and wholeness.  God’s love never changes.  God’s love endures forever. Yet, we often fail to grasp God’s love, twisted by the varied bits of harm that comes, concluding that love falters, but not grasping true love.  We exchange our limited love for limited love; self for self.  Yet, the love of God is shown in love for others.  The love of God is shown in giving up that which is adored and valued for the benefit of others.  True love comes with great cost.   True love is found in surrender to the point of surrendering our very lives.  Living in love is working to the good of others and pointing them to the truth, so the sins of self and others caused wounds and twists and distortions, can be made right.    Now it is important to note, that while our love is faulty and frail, every action we take that reflects God’s love results in lasting reverberations that have long lasting impact. However, that impact has it limits as our love in not ever enduring, but it lasts far beyond our scope or vision.  He action of moving beyond self, of considering others better than self points to the one True way which is Jesus.  He that set aside his divinity, became a servant and suffered in every way yet remained untwisted and whole, and set aside His life so that all who come may live.  Oh, what marvelous love that is beyond our perception in every way for we only really know limited, self-focused love that falters.  We can taste God’s love, know that it is good but our experienced is distorted and partial for God’s love is far greater than comprehension. 

Now taking these thoughts back to reality, back to life on this earth as currently know it.  Again pointing to surrender as watch those I love hope, struggle, heal, slip away, suffer, grow, and live whatever God has come their way.  There is one sure foundation in all, that no matter what happens and however what happens is perceived, that God is working to draw me into ever deeper understanding of Him and growing my ability to walk in true faith, hope, and love. And this is the essence of “I can do all things through Him who gives me strength” Philippians 4:13 (ESV) which is that God the enables what we are unable, so in all these circumstance the possibilities and direction belong to God and God alone.  Whether blessing or sorrow; mourning or dancing, it is all in His hands and for His will for no matter what, He is faithful and His love endures forever, blessed be His name. All Glory to the King of Kings! Hallelujah! Amen

Some principles of God’s provision found in 1 Kings 17

In a previous post, there was a requested direction of prayer for the missionaries in Haiti for God’s provision but natural and supernaturally. The article and request referenced Elijah being fed by ravens and the widow with oil and flour that would not cease. Those stories are found in the Bible at 1 Kings 17. The passage points to certain principles related to God’s provision in the midst of suffering. The suffering in 1 Kings was a drought that was brought on as a consequence of the spiritual condition of Israel and to draw the nation back to God. On examining the chapter, there are a few principles that are applicable to today.

The first principle is that everything starts with obedience to God. In order for God to provide, we need to have two things operating. We need to listen and obey. Before we can obey, we need to be able to know what God desires. Knowing what God desires involves listening to God. It is having a relationship with the Creator of the Universe. Interacting with the Creator cannot just be a once in a moment thing. It has to be ongoing, moment-by-moment. We need to have our ears and eyes attuned to attending to Yahweh. It is in that ongoing relationship that God does make his leading and will known. Once we hear from God, we need to obey. Elijah obeyed God in declaring the famine. He obeyed God in walking in faith and following God’s direction. If Elijah had not gone where God directed he would have missed the provision of being fed by ravens or the source of water that was provided by the brook. If Elijah had not followed God when the brook ran dry, then he would never have met the widow that allowed God to give supernatural intervention. It is also to note, that obedience was not just an action from Elijah. The widow also obeyed God at the risk of her own life. She could not see a possible way to survive if she gave to Elijah her last, but God did provide.

The second principle is that God’s provision comes in many ways. God sometimes works using the natural, sometimes the supernatural. God is capable of providing in ways far beyond what our mind can even imagine. For Elijah God used first natural provision. He provided by ravens and Brooke. Yet, the time of that was limited. When that provision ran dry, God led Elijah to a place where He would provide supernaturally in response to obedience. It is interesting to note that when God intended to provide for Elijah supernaturally, he did so not in a way that blessed not only Elijah, but also in a way that blessed others as well. God’s supernatural interventions are not just for the needs one individual. When God gives supernaturally, it is intended to be used beyond self-interest. His supernatural provision is always done for his greater will and to bring Himself glory and demonstrate His love to others.

It is interesting to note, that even in the midst of God’s supernatural provision events related to the tyranny of suffering connected to the fall of man occurred. The widow’s only son became sick and died. Neither the widow nor Elijah understood that in the midst of His supernatural provision that such suffering was allowed. The widow thought that God was be upset with some sin she had committed. Elijah’s response was to cry out genuinely to God as to why and plead for the child’s life to be returned. God did restore the child’s life. It was something beyond understanding, but God intervened for His glory. His love and provision do not return empty, even amidst appearances, what we can see or understand. There will be times when in obedience and receiving divine intervention that are beyond human understanding. But God is always at work and will bring glory to His name.

The third principle is really that through it all God is the source of life. Ultimately, God restoring the child’s life really demonstrates that God is the source of life. He provided the oil and flour. Yet, God is the source. Now God has frequently used oil connected to the Holy Spirit, and bread in connection to the word of God. We are led and fed by the Holy Spirit and by the Word of God. In our relationship with God, both these sustain us each day. In walking in genuine response to God’s love and reflecting that love to others, the Holy Spirit and God’s word will never run dry. They are fuel to living and interacting with God. God brings us life. In however God’s provides in our lives and for whatever period of time we must remember that God is the source of life.

The fourth principle see at work here, is God’s provision matches our needs. Scripture is filled with God providing at an equivalent to what the needs are at the moment. God’s provision is not over and above what is needed, but rather what is needed, when it is needed. God’s provision here was what they needed each day. The same is true for Israel in the wilderness. God gave them what they needed, when they need it. Too often people teach and look to God to provide in ways over and above the actual needs. The view is that obedience brings prosperity in this world. Yet, biblically the example is that obedience results in provision needed at the moment. Actually, there is a difference between God’s provision and God’s blessings. God’s provision is given but at times he also gives blessings over and above. When he does bless, he does so always to bring himself glory. Yet, more often than not, what we expect is blessing in return for following God’s lead. Blessings come as God sees fit according to His purpose. Often our response is to demand blessings to meet our needs and desires, rather than looking to what serves God’s will and purpose in our lives and the lives around us.

So in looking at those four principles, the basic foundation is that God provides in such a way that serves His will and purpose. We do not always understand or see what is going on around us at the moment. We can easily get wrapped up in self and even expect what is beyond what God intends. He works in ways that we do not understand. When He gets involved supernaturally, it is always for His greater purpose with scope beyond the interests of one individual. Everything starts and stops with God. It is important to stay in the moment and continue to be in relationship with the Creator, obeying and following His lead.   God will provide. What we need to do is respond in obedience and keep focused on God over even our own wants and needs.  It is a walk of faith  to things that we cannot even possibly see a way out.  It is an attitude that will give of our last.  It is an attitude even of receiving others sacrificial giving.   Personally, asking a widow to give of all that she has left would be confusing and hard to walk in obedience, yet both Elijah and the widow obeyed.  God provided at their moment of need with what they needed.  In their obedience suffering still occurred, but God is always in control and brings Glory to his name and turned that of death to life.  He does so  in all our lives, be it in tragic circumstances such as Haiti, or other more personal struggles in our own day to day lives.  God is the same in all circumstances.

Evaluating the “Fruits” of the so-called Lakeland Outpouring:

There is a lot of good information throughout the World Wide Web about Mr. Bentley and what has been proclaim as the “Lakeland Outpouring.” There is much conversation about how he is deceiving, glorifying self and angels, espousing and imparting New Age and occult teachings, and the probable source of the experience and healings (Kundalini). These are important things for a believer to know and spend some time at sites like http://www.deceptionbytes.com and you can learn much. However, I have yet to see a simple evaluation of what is actually occurring at Lakeland.
For me the question is simple. Is what is going on at Lakeland of the God and of the world. The things that are of the world are described in 1 John 2:16: “16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.” So for me it is worth examining the Lakeland outpouring to see if what is promoted there consists of what is described as “from the world.”
First let’s look at “lust of the flesh.” When I think of the category of lust of the flesh to me it all comes down to craving an experience or pleasure. It is about what stimulates the senses. When I think about this, the immediate things my mind places into this category are things such as gluttony and sexual immorality. In essence, the core of this category is all about the “experience.” When I examine what is going on at Lakeland, essentially it is all about “the experience.” The ongoing declaration at each session is always “Come an’ get some!” The experience is explained as being of God and being filled with the Holy Spirit, yet really comes down to experiencing the ecstatic. So when I examine the Lakeland outpouring I find part of the nature of the “outpouring” to be “lust of the flesh.”
Next let’s look at “lust of the eyes.” When I think about this, the immediate things my mind places into this category are things such as riches and possessions. In essence, the core of this category is all about the “wants.” When I examine what is going on at Lakeland, I find that it is essentially all about wants. The focus on healing alone is about “wants.” It is about wanting and expecting an “outpouring” that will result in “healing” of the physical. The fact that on the surface people seem to get there ‘wants’ addressed is even offered as ‘proof’ that God is at work. Ultimately to me it is about stimulating and feeding the “lust of the eyes.”
The third category is “the pride of life.” When I think about this, the immediate things my mind places into this category are things such as success, purpose, and self-evaluation. In essence, the core of this category is all about the promotion of self. When I examine what is going on at Lakeland, I find that ultimately self is promoted. I tuned into Mr. Bentley speaking one night for about ten minutes and he seemed to be trying to teach from Acts 2. However, what he emphasized was “great grace.” He challenged all to want to be brought into the “extraordinary.” I have witnessed Mr. Bentley emphasizing the “miraculous” and even fishing for connections of testified miracles. It is all about “the show” and what is happening at “Lakeland.” The message is that what is happening is so extraordinary that not only should you experience it, but you should receive an impartation so that you too can do the “extraordinary. In essence, you can become “special.” It is the essence of “the pride of life.”
So when I look at what is going on at Lakeland, in spite of things being claimed to be done in Jesus name, biblical examination to me results in declaring the “Lakeland outpouring” to be “of the world” and not “of the Father.” Lakeland outpouring is all about experience, wants, and elevation of self. True revival is about denial, surrender, and elevation of Jesus the Son of God come in the flesh.