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.

God’s ways are not our ways

In the midst of the quietness of this blog God has been at work including within the life of this writer. The center point of the growth lessons comes down to some simple words that have great depth. 

 God’s ways are not my ways.

God states the fact that His thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways in Isaiah 55:8.  He establishes that there are differing perceptions and directions. God says he does what He does with His intent and purpose and that it differs from our own.  We can be convinced of something and pursue a direction. We can do what we think is right. We can have best intentions. Yet, God can have something else going on. In this writer’s life there was a moment where convinced that a small group of post college young adults could be turned into a ministry. It went the other way.  Perceptions differed and God worked as he did in that moment of time but not to create some bigger ministry.  In this writer’s life there have been ideas of going to “Christian graduate school” or work in “Christian environments” that did not happen, or at least not happen as thought. Yet, in it all God had  His ways and His thoughts and His intent.

 Now here is a piece of reality. Our own thoughts and ways are self-focused.  We get  wrapped up in our own thoughts and ways, in how we think things should be.  Even when following God and trusting his promises we get sidetracked by the ways of self.  If you read the Bible you will find countless stories of people going about their own way and having their own thoughts and not trusting God or trying to bring about God’s seemingly too long delayed promises on their own. See we turn to our own ways because we think we know best or think we have the best understanding of what is best for ourselves. We have time frames on when it should be accomplished. We often live in the moment of what is happening now without the full recognition of God doing what He intends.

See God always accomplishes what He intends. In Isaiah 55:11 it is made clear that God’s words, what He puts into being always accomplishes what He desires. God’s words do not return void, ever. What he sets in motion will not be stopped, ever.  Now sometimes it may take a long time. Sometimes it may appear differently than it is. We may not always see or understand how God is accomplishing His word and His way, but what God sets out to accomplish, He accomplishes.

Yet, we often miss those facts as we are focused on what we think is good for self. He have our plans or ideas. Even in following God we can try and achieve what God put forward by our own efforts and ideas.  Our ways and thoughts need to grow each day in aligning with God’s ways and thoughts. We need to trust God always does what He says. Always.  What is best for us in spite our own ways and thoughts and the leanings of our evil hearts is growing ever more in line with God’s ways and thoughts. Now, that is the truly difficult part because it involves giving up of self, of our ways and thoughts. We want to grasp on to what we think we need tightly. God tells us even the result of a grasping.  Luke 9:24 (ESV) For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.  What then is needed is the giving up, the letting go of our preferred directions and thoughts about the way things should go. We needs to simply look to be each day more in line with God’s ways and thoughts. This is ongoing, day to day, letting go of self.

Musings on the Responsibilities of Fathers

Today, Sunday June 19th, 2011 is the day in the American culture set aside to give Honor to Fathers. We take time to let our Father’s know we care about the impact they have had in our lives. Perhaps we even take time even reflecting on what they have done in our life. The fact is that being a Father is a tremendous God-given responsibility. A Father plays a vital role in the development of children. Each Father is a reflection to their children of God the Father. And each Father ultimately falls short of measuring up to the full responsibilities. Some fail to measure up intentionally committing great evils, some are absent or neglectful, and others simply stumble; but all falter. Yet, it is important to note that what Fathers do and are responsible for is vital and weighty. In thinking about the responsibilities of Fathers there are four essential responsibilities that come to mind: Authority, Provision, Protection, and Education. There are probably other words that can be added but these four seem to be at the core. Lets briefly look at each.

A Father is to be the authority of the home. As such, a Father provides two elements of authority: leadership and discipline. A father is to be the final say, the one to set the course, provide the vision for the family. He is to consider what is good for each and every member of the family and is responsible to make decisions for the welfare of all. He also is to be the final authority, the one who establishes the boundaries and the consequences. Most of us have heard uttered either in our own families or in forms of cultural entertainment the statement “Just wait till your dad gets home.” A Fathers responsibility really starts with the provision of authority. Sometimes the things we get upset with our Fathers over are the ways we do not like how our Father operated in this responsibility but if we examine it from the view of the weight of responsibility thoughts can change from how our Fathers failed to measure up, to how they attempted to attend to the responsibility of authority.

A Father is the provider for the family. He is the one ultimately responsible to see to it that the needs are met of all in the family. Being the provider goes toward seeing that what is necessary is always address and what is desired at times can be provided, and when not able to be provided, explaining the lack. Sometimes as children we can get our wants and desire confused with what is necessary. We can also disagree with how what was necessary was provided. In general, most Fathers do their best with what they knew how to do to be a provider. Being responsible for the wholeness and well being of all in family is a immense responsibility.

A Father is also the source of protection in a family. He is the one who is to address and deal with any potential threats. Being a protector goes hand in hand with being a provider but is different. A Father needs to be alert for the dangers that could come. They are responsible to know the strengths and weaknesses of self and every member of their family. They are responsible to see to the safety of each family member physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Given that each one of us are created in very unique this responsibility is a unique challenge. The other part of the responsibility is when harm comes, to be able to encourage and build up those in family from the wounds of life and cope with the suffering. This responsibility is very tough and it is very easy to misunderstand or not even depths of what can happen in each family member’s life.

A Father is also responsible to provide education. A Father is responsible for building up all in their family and helping them grow. As such, a Father takes time to understand where their children are at and help them develop. This responsibility also requires a great deal of patience and understanding. It is an area where one can easily fall short, missing the way that best matches each individual. Each Father works at educating and easily falter, as no matter how wise the father, it is easy to miss the most effective way to pass on what needs to be taught and easily frustrated when the lessons go unlearned.

Now, here is the amazing thing. God the Father, perfectly meets each responsibility in our life. We may not always perceive that truth as we often have our views obscured by our perceptions of our earthly Father’s weaknesses. No matter what we lacked in our earthly Fathers, the Heavenly Father lives up to all Fatherly responsibilities perfectly. We may not always grasp, for God interacts with us for what is best for us individually. It may not always match, but He knows up perfectly, for He created us. Our earthly Fathers learn as they go, trying to do things differently than their Dad did and falling short in their own unique ways but most trying to live up to responsibilities in an honorable way. And those that do not try, there will be Justice, for our Heavenly father will see to that in perfectly demonstrating love and matching each responsibility perfectly.

Musings on Personally Perceived Strangeness of this Christmas Season

Many things are on my heart and mind and it is all in general very connected. We are at the time designated to celebrate God’s birth, His incarnation. The focus is on family and sharing love through gifts and fellowship. For me this time, this season is strange. Currently am moving in and out of feeling my own pain and connecting with the pain of those around me. Currently my brother and his family is in town. It is uplifting to spend time with them, knowing that they have come through a tough time with the death of my sister-in-laws mother from breast cancer and their issues with dealing with her father. They also are caring for their son, Anant, who embodies a joyful creativity even at four going on five years old. All this is rather normal. Here are the things that have gone to make this season strange.

If you are a follower of this blog you know that the central portion of the strangeness is the health of Janie Blake. When Cancer returned a few years ago, she reported having a word from God, “you shall live and not die.” Then she went on to engage the battle and appeared clear of cancer cells, only to have them reform to the point where her very life is in jeopardy. It was a shock hearing the news back in mid-October and even more shocking the rapid degradation of her health. Today is first I have seen her since stopping by to help the clean in preparation for her brother’s visit. The sight was heart breaking. For I really appreciate how God has used Janie in my life and the life of those I love. Yet, what God’s sees is even beyond what I see. He knows His will and His plan. He is always faithful to what He promises our job is to surrender no matter how things look. It means letting go of our will for His. He can heal. He can restore. He is the one that makes all things new. We submit to Him alone. I really want Janie around, but that is up to God alone. There is life here and greater life in His presence.

Janie’s health is not the only aspect of the strangeness of this year. There is my mother’s ongoing vision loss and going through a process of learning. She deals each day with great pain and loss while focusing on learning how to function without depending on vision. My mother has endured and survived through a lot of suffering in her lifetime. Now she faces this challenge. Yet, I know God is using this to strengthen her and use her in the lives of others. He has given her special moments one of which will eventually share on this blog, as it likely connects to all that has been going on. Now, my mom’s vision loss is nothing new. It has been ongoing. But it is one more dynamic to the strangeness of this year.

Now not all that is going on is dealing with health and illness. For my wife has been going through and interview process for a potential promotion to service manager. My wife really does posses natural talents that would make her a great manager. Her prayer has been for those interviewing her to see what God wants them to see in her. Her heart she simply wants whomever they promote to be someone that will build and strengthen the team. We know it is in God’s hands and the promotion would be a great blessing to us. As I am writing this, in my mind the elevation of Daniel standing out over all others in Babylon would fit, if that is God’s will for Liz. We simply await the answer, hoping one thing but surrendering to whatever the outcome.

In my own life, still am working through matters of reluctance and holding self back. Yet, my workload is increasing and there are things on the horizon, yet many obstacles still stand with my-self being one of the obstacles. There is the ongoing question as get busier whether I can take on more or how can I find ways to improve all together. There are lessons learned as always in this process. The key principle to all here is coming back to surrender. There is much we cannot see in terms of what is ahead. Some like my mother have to learn to operate without sight. My stepmother appears quickly headed to death. My brother and his family already faced loss, may face more, are loving and building up their adopted child who is God has made as one who is joyfully creative in the midst.

So it is a strange season, this year. There is hope of seeing God give blessings and doing amazing things. There is the need to move beyond the visible. Ultimately, it is surrender to God regardless of the outcomes, walking not by our sight, but depending on Him alone. For He alone is the Rock. He alone is our safety. By Him alone to we stay or go. By Him alone do we rise or fall. He is the one who gives life or takes it. Yes, our choices and actions play a role we can walk His path and walk his way or go our own. One leads to life, one to death. God allows us our choices and then simply calls for surrender and walk the way He leads even if it seems impossible. There will be barriers from inside and outside. We want to make everything about us, but it is always about God and His glory and purpose which ultimately is to show and reflect His love in pain, in sorrow, in struggle, in fear, in reluctance, in anger, in pain, in joy, in blessing, in hope and so on which is all in His life in us.

Seven ways a Father reflects God the Father

Father’s day is upon us. Father’s are a very important role and creation of God. A Father is a reflection of God the Father. A Father is one who demonstrates in this life aspects of the character of God. The purpose of this article is to examine what does a Father do that reveals an aspect of God to us. The areas examine in this article are demonstrated imperfectly because they are but a reflection and no earthly Father can match what our Heavenly Father demonstrates. There are seven ways that are central to how a Father interacts with his children in some very particular ways that are vital aspects of being a Father. Also it is important to note that these ways of interacting are not just about what a biological father does with his children but also to adoptive fathers and spiritual fathers.

Now before the seven aspects of Fatherhood, this article will focus on it is worthwhile to reflect on the definition of father. Father is someone who has contributed in procreation to bringing life to another that they will educate and raise. A Father is the leader and is responsible for the well-being and care of those under his authority. A Father guides and shapes the direction of his family and helps to encourage the life course of their children. A Father is one who helps others learn what they need to survive and thrive. Actually, the levels and layers of what makes up a Father can be examined extensively. Ultimately, the seven ways of a Father that will be outlined in this article are key to what it is that makes up and defines a Father.

What a Father does is vitally important but often times not fully recognized when effective Fatherhood is demonstrated, but rather in ways a Father fails. Many people have wounds and dysfunctions, which started with the faults of their Fathers. Yet, this article is not about those failures and the ways faulty Fathering create injury. Rather, this article is about discussion what are the essential ways and roles of a Father and how they influence their children and family. So let us look at the Seven Ways of a Father.

Love: This may seem a simple place to start, but it is the starting point. One cannot be a Father without having engaged in acts of loving another. Love is the starting point. A Father above all other ways needs to be actively engaged in loving those for whom he is responsible. In so doing, a Father puts the wants and needs of those under his care above his own. He does anything for those he cares for. The love of a Father is central to what a child learns. The love of a father affects every relationship and interaction that follows. A Father’s love is vitally important and it is the starting point of our understanding of God’s love. How a father interacts and cares for his family and demonstrates love is but a taste of God’s love for us. The more purely that love and can demonstrated, the greater the reflection and understanding of God’s love.

Provision: A father is the chief provider of a family. He is responsible for the well-being of those in his household. It is a God-ordained responsibility to be working for and ensuring the provision of those under his authority. This is a reflection of God being our provider. God has given each of us all we have, and a Father providing for his family reflects that care.

Safety: A true Father will do whatever they can to ensure the safety of those for whom he is responsible. This ensuring safety does not pertain to just the physical safety but rather the whole of the person. A Father is responsible for the emotional, spiritual, relational, and physical safety. This role is a reflection of God being one to provide our safety. There is no greater and nothing more moving than a father assuring the safety of their family and the expense even of his own life. The Pioneer Press has an article about one such father. A daughter is alive today because in a tornado her father covered her, sacrificing himself for her. God also made sure to provide for the eternal security of all who surrender by assuring a way to provide salvation and eternal security and enable a way to be part of His family and have God as Father.

Discipline: This is a vital role for a Father. A Father teaches his house and family the ways of God. He provides discipline when family members stray. The discipline of a father is that which teaches and shows a different way. It helps build the areas of weakness to strengthen those for whom he is responsible. There really is something about a Father’s discipline that lasts and has impact. The words “wait till your father comes home” has power for a reason. Ultimately, the discipline of a father shows his children what ways to walk in and demonstrates that each choice may have consequences. In the same way, God the Father, disciplines us, all to teach us and foster growth.

Training: A Father is one who is responsible for assuring his family and children know they skills they need to survive. A father will help his children recognize what they do well and help them learn and grow. A father shares his knowledge and helps those in his care learn about themselves. Now the training of a father is not often direct, but often will involve experiences that will ensure training. A father sets the course and determines the experiential training in addition to what he models and says. God is all about training his children in righteousness. God uses many means to teach us, including the experience in life.

Encouragement: A father is responsible for building up and encouraging those in his care. He is to find a way to touch the heart and when those he care for struggle, falter, or fail is there to redirect and help them not get overwhelmed with the struggles of life and learning. The words, actions, and behaviors of a father should work to build-up. Fathers are the leaders of their family and a leader is responsible for building up those he serves. The build even gives strong directives for fathers to not “exacerbate” their children. In other words, a father is not to tear down their children and give them cause to be angered or discouraged. A father looks to the welfare of his children and does all he can to ensure their well-being. This is very reflective of God working in our life, building us up in Him. God makes us strong in our weakness.

Blessing: A father is also responsible for actively giving gifts to his children that enable them to grow into who they are. A father will do all that he can to benefit his children. A father will be able to see the potential traps his children might fall in and show them the proper way. A blessing of a father touches the life of children deeply. A father’s blessing is best done by writing or speaking words over their children that will guide their way. God has done this for us. He has given up promises and spoken blessing. He has pointed out a way to walk. He gives us more than we can possibly imagine and enables us to succeed. Blessing is important as it touches all levels of the person with word. Note that God impacts us through His words in our life. The Bible is filled with examples of a Father’s blessing and is essentially God the Father’s words of blessing and instruction to us.

Hopefully in reading this article a greater awareness of the vital importance of what a Father does. Each way highlighted could be examined in a lot further detail. Each of these ways of a father clearly are ways of God the Father and how he interacts with us. We are impacted by our Father some in good ways, some in ways that he fell short.  The important thing worth noting is the actions a Father takes to positively impact his children far out last and have greater impact then the pains caused by the varied weaknesses and failures.  In terms of the ways of a father, in this fallen world fathers often will excel in some areas and falter in other. Selfishness can easily creep where a Father looks to his children for validation rather than being one to lead, guide, protect, and serve his family. Now if you are reading the list and spot dimensions of how your father faltered, there is healing and restoration available even in areas where you may have never experienced. Fathers fail, but God never does. So Father’s seek God to show you in what ways you need to grow as a Father. Examine yourself. We all have wounds, we all fail to live up to God’s standards, for we can only reflect God the Father and the ways we fall short create wounds. Guess what about wounds, God uses them to shape and discipline us, His children, to draw us closer to him.