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

Musing from 2nd day at #AACC National Conference: A matter of refocusing perspectives

Today at the AACC National Conference was a day that broadened perspectives. The workshops attended today were more focused on facilitating change toward particular problem areas.   Skills and knowledge were built upon. Yet, there a was a theme to the day for me.  It started from the first speaker of the day and moved on to the last.  The theme of the day was reviewing perspective.  The perspectives view are about our perspective with God, others, and self.

The thoughts on my perspective with God was a reminder of standing on the rock of God’s truth.  Abiding in His word. It is His word that contains the truth that sets us free.  His word is the foundation upon which we are to act.  It is knowing and acting on His word that gives us the only true and secure base.  Anything else will falter.  No matter what each of us is going through, God and His word are always secure.  So a question for each of us, is how is our attachment to God.  Or as Dr. Tim Clinton would put it, how is our “God Attachment.”  There is not one of us that is does not need to examine our perspective toward God. How is our vision and how can we grow deeper in the limits to our perspective of God. 

As to perspectives of others, the thought in my mind is about we need to at time refocus how we perceive those in our lives both in terms of our family, our community, and those brought to our lives. There are people like myself whose vocation is to help those hurting and needing help.  The starting point is to continually evaluate my own perceptions of those who come to me for help. It is easy to develop perspectives on clients that create negative mindsets. There are particular diagnoses that bring negative reactions and actual resistance to providing sound counsel.  So there has to be a perspective that no client is hopeless and all are capable of help and change.  Now there are ways to restrict clients to assure working with a particular class the generates a sense of productive help. It does take work and changing perspectives and finding solutions to help facilitate change.  And the goal is to facilitate change, which an also be related to helping people see things in their life differently. Finding different options other than doing things they have always done. This can involve building skills and helping them make changes to their perspectives.  In essence, changing perspectives is all about helping them find their way. What is there view of what life stressors and how to get them to view broader in ways not examined.  It is broadening and focusing perspectives ultimately that help generate change, as a person is ready.

Lastly, the thoughts went to focusing on my perspectives of myself.  What are the lies I hold to?  What are the distortions of God I hold?  How is my perspective limited? What do I oppose? What do I fear? Where is my faith? Is my perspective on this world or on eternal matters?  This challenging of the perspective of self comes during an interesting time. The Jewish calender has already started a several day celebration of Sukkot, “The Feast of the Lord.”  It is a day focusing on the ultimate victory and a move from the temporary to the permanent.  Is my walking in this temporary tabernacle one that is continuing on the path set before me or is the things that draw my attention and attract me to places dark. 

So today was about building up skill in part, but it really was a day of perception checks.  Where is the focus.  Tomorrow is the last day of the conference.  The progression as a flow to it so it will be interesting to see where my thoughts go tomorrow.  Yesterday it was about reviewing foundations and ultimately going deeper. Today it is about refocusing perspectives, tomorrow has yet to play out.  Praise God for the works he is doing, not just in the life of this man, but all who are here.

The best way to end this article is a quote from Dr. Ken Nichols of www.aliveministries.net “God’s word influences my perspective.  My perspective influences how I respond. My response influences the outcome of the situation. 100% of the time.”