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

Father’s Day Musing: On Honoring Fathers

Yesterday was Father’s day in the United States.  It is a day set aside for honoring our fathers.  Other places in the world also set aside a day just to honor their fathers, for example in Brazil it is on the second Sunday in August.  Honoring our fathers is something that should be an ongoing basis but there is one day set aside for special honor. 

Our father’s play an important role in our development.  A father influences his children with both good and bad.  The love of a father helps orient a child and his approach to the world.  The wounds a father creates through his own selfishness are significant for both boys and girls.  Generally fathers actions can fall into loving, helpful choices, neglectful absence choices, and sinful hurtful choices. There are some father’s who actively seek to harm and damage their children for  their own selfish and evil purposes and desires.  Yet, it is clear that fathers are to be honored regardless. Of course what honoring a father looks like differs dependent on the father and the choices taken yet generally compose of three elements: homage, devotion and reverence. 

Homage:  This involves both recognizing and praising a father for the contributions in your life.  This is a focusing on how a father has contributed to your development as a person socially, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually. 

Devotion:  This involves showing respect mingled with love or awe. It is displaying that you not only care for your father but that you also show that he is important to you by your words, actions, and deeds.  This includes things such as spending time with your father, helping your father as requested, and any other way that is an appropriate display of respect and love. 

Reverence: This involves  yielding or submitting to their judgment or preference out of respect. This is being willing to ask your father’s advice and listen to your father. This involves setting aside your own thoughts and ideas in deference.  This means that your father is always your father. 

Now granted as been stated our fathers are not perfect. They often have a mix of loving behavior, neglectful behavior, or hurtful behavior.  And some fathers even have done evil things to their children. Yet, we are still to honor our father’s.  So the question becomes how do we honor our fathers not just for the good that they do?  It is worthwhile to examine what the differences may be in honoring fathers who are loving, who are neglectful, who make hurtful choices, and who choose evil purposes.

Loving actions:It is east to honor a father who has engaged in primarily loving responses and builds up his children, teaches them the love of God, and generally attends to the child’s needs.  Yet, it can be tempting to focus on self and the errors that even the most loving father makes rather then the good he has done by faithfully doing what all father’s should.  So it is real easy to give such a father homage, devotion, and reverence and the only barriers to such come from our self. Giving a father honor who has been essentially honoring will certainly bring you benefit, for following his example your relationships benefit.

Neglectful Actions:Even the best father’s have moments where they neglect their children.  A father can easily get caught up in his own world of providing for family or other things that can get in the way.  It is important to note the some felt neglect is actual and some of it is simply a matter of perception. Regardless, neglect does wound, but let the wounds heal, don’t hold on them but forgive and release. It can actually be an honorable action to discuss with your father the felt and perceived wounds. However, this should not be done in an accusatory manner but rather with the intent to honor in mind.  Forgiving our father’s four their faults is key.  Showing homage, devotion, and reverence in spite of the wounds is true honor and loving behavior.  Now, it is real tempting to both focus on how a father has lacked and communicate that lack to others.  The incidents of real or only perceived neglect can become a focus point and even denigrate to the level of evil speech and such conduct is dishonorable.  Rather a person should find ways to honor their father inspite of the wounds.  True honor comes when it is not deserved.  

Hurtful Actions:  It is also true that most fathers at some point do things that are focused on self and are purposeful actions to hurt their children.  Such actions are usually temporary and not ongoing.  They are the times that your father simply made other choices rather then looking out for their child’s best interest.  Some common forms of ways father hurt their children are by criticism, inappropriate anger, attempts to control, attempts to manipulate, attempts to draw worth from child, failing to keep promises, and other self-directed choices that cause pain to their child.  Again, honoring a father hear involves a process of healing, forgiving, and letting go.  Sometimes directly discussing these wounds are appropriate and can bring honor. But sometimes working through the hurts is best done without direct engagement over the past wounds.  It can be a very honoring thing not to remind your father of his failures.  Ultimately the question should always be, what brings more honor to my father in terms of dealing with any past wounds be they from neglect or from selfish, hurtful actions.

Evil Actions:Now fathers who commit great evil against their children are the hardest to understand how to honor.  The men that abuse their children in the most selfish means for their own personal evil desires clearly do not deserve honor.  Yet, there are steps that can be done even to honor such men.  The apostle Paul wrote in Romans 12:21 “Do not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.”  This principle is key.  A person who honors an evil father can do so by at least praying for him.  Seeing that any physical needs are addressed can be a way of doing good.  Direct confrontation maybe appropriate if done so in an honorably confrontive manner.  Ensuring that the same actions are not followed can bring honor to an evil father.  Helping others who have been hurt by evil fathers also can be a way of bringing honor to your father.  Ultimately, forgiving any great evil done is a difficult but high form of honor toward such a man.  A person need not have a physical relationship with someone to honor them.  Rather, not putting an evil father in position to make further evil choices is a form of honor.

For any action of hurt or pain that we felt in relation to our father the key is to find a way to do good and bring them honor.  Honor can include to how we interact with others as well as our fathers.  Honor involves whether we hold on to the wounds or forgive and release the pain.  It is not always easy and often we may need the help of God the father. But if you find ways to honor your father, you will be blessed.  This is something God has promised and his promises are sure.  So I challenge the reader to examine their life and choices.  How have you honored your father?  Are you holding on to wounds of the past? Are you speaking ill of your father?  Do you appreciate the love your father has shown you?   Our relationships with our father impact us every day.  They also impact our relationship with God. The more we are able to walk in actions and attitudes of honor, the more we grow in knowledge of God’s love. And honoring the dishonorable that has occurred is a very act of worship that ultimately gives honor to God the Father, who is always honorable and worthy of praise.