2 Timothy 3:16-17: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

Denise Schmandt-Besserat is professor emerita of Art and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Texas at Austin and has explored the origin of writing and counting. She says:

“Writing may have been invented independently three times in different parts of the world: in the Near East, China and Mesoamerica. The cuneiform script, created in Mesopotamia, present-day Iraq, ca. 3200 BC, was first. The evolution of writing from tokens to pictography, syllabary and alphabet illustrates the development of information processing to deal with larger amounts of data in ever greater abstraction.”

Before the written word, there was “only” the spoken word. Verbal communication was king. God has a history with humankind. Early on, people who were touched by God told other people about their experience. Stories were told and retold and carried on to the next generation. And so God has been remembered all throughout time and He left His footprints everywhere. When people started writing, they also captured God’s story with man, which is His story, or if you put the two words together: History.

Our History with God eventually filled the Scriptures – a collection of verbal communication, especially the more dated books of the Old Testament. The New Testament books were written by authors who were already steeped in the culture of the written word and familiarized with abstract thinking. Paul, who wrote at least thirteen letters that are included in the New Testament, is a good example. His letters clearly go beyond story-telling digging deeply into the matter of truth-finding – although there are still enough people out there who do not exactly relish abstract thinking. For this reason I love the parables in the gospels; Jesus knew how to tell a good tale. We all can retrieve gold nuggets from His inspiring stories.

The bottom-line is that the Lord speaks to us – verbally and in writing. He is not known to be silent; God hasn’t stopped communicating because He loves us.

Ephesians 5:19-20: “Speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

What is so special about singing?

Well, I believe, that’s how music started. Our voice is the first instrument given to us for free. Everybody has a different voice. Voice recognition systems bank on that. Singing to the Lord is adding our fingerprint to the mix. All over the world people pray. All over the world people sing. Join the choir of angels. The song sung to the Lord exceeds radio waves. It goes out into the universe and touches the heart of our Creator. That’s the best reason to do it. And in nature, I’m sure, our creation silently sings too – or maybe not so silently if we think of the lion’s roar or some very loud birds. Some voices actually may sound a bit obnoxious. Not to worry – praise from the heart always sounds sweet in the Lord’s ears.

Silent praise is another beautiful gift. It’s the gratitude we feel in our hearts. “Have I told you lately that I love you?” – a song by Van Morrison – beautifully illustrates voicing a silent praise that has been ongoing in the heart of the lover. It’s good to voice your love from time to time, but silent praise, which is the devotion we feel, precedes our declaration of love. A devoted heart is the seedbed of praise.

Have you told Him lately that you love Him? How about putting that in a song?

Ephesians 5:21: “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

The definition of hierarchy according to the Oxford Dictionary is: “a system or organization in which people or groups are ranked one above the other according to status or authority.” Synonyms listed are: “Pecking order, Ranking, Chain of command.” Hierarchy is the holy grail of how things are run on planet Earth; whether it’s a country or an organization, someone has to be the boss. It is our understanding that the absence of one constitutes anarchy.

What about the Trinity? Is the Trinity a hierarchy as we know it? Are two members of the Trinity submitted to a third member, the “ultimate Boss of Creation” or does Trinity stand for the rule of Three, and none of the Three would rule without each other’s input and consent? It seems to me that by asking such questions we could potentially learn from the Trinity how divine hierarchy operates.

Paul wrote about submission in his letter to the Ephesians. He makes an interesting statement (Ephesians 5:21):

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

We learn submission from the Best, Christ. That is why Paul wrote in the same letter (Ephesians 5:1-2):

“Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

God Almighty submits to His own creation by respecting and working with the decisions His independent creatures make. His love is sacrificial. God’s Son Jesus gave His life for us. Following His example is walking in the way of sacrificial love, a love that serves and revives. The Lord is not interested in dictatorship; He is not even interested in democracy. Submission to one another is His mantra. This is how He rules.

Following the example of Christ we submit to one another regardless of gender, age group, race or position in society. God delights in our appreciation and respect for one another; this is how heaven operates and ultimately, this is God’s kingdom coming to earth, a kingdom that never ends. 

Psalm 40:8: “I desire to do your will, my God; your law is within my heart.”

King David prayed that God’s law of life would bring light into the shadowy corners of his heart and mind. It is God’s will that we be changed by the renewing of our mind; little by little the Lord transforms us into children of light when we walk with Him. On that note Jesus says (John 12:36):

“Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light.”

A heart devoted to the Lord brings heaven down to earth. The kingdom of heaven is among us whenever His will is being done.

A few years ago I attempted to build a gingerbread house. The end result was broken pieces scattered all over the floor. This project was probably doomed from the start because I lack the patience. Handicrafts are not my thing. Not unlike my failed gingerbread house this world is broken and hurts in many places, but it is still a world full of wonder and beauty thanks to the restorative power of the Holy Spirit. In the first chapters of the Bible we read about God’s Spirit at work. The beginning of the universe is described as chaos steeped in darkness (Genesis 1:2):

“Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.”

Thanks to God’s uncanny ability to see in the dark He envisioned galaxies and solar systems when there was yet nothing to be seen (Genesis 1-19):

“And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.’ And it was so. God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day.”

At the dawn of creation when everything was dark, formless and empty God took nothing and made something. Only the Lord is able to do that. He has perfect night vision. Think about it. This also means He is well-equipped to navigate us through life’s darkest hours. When we are lost in the dark and open up to the Lord, the story of our heart will be as beautiful as the story of creation.

Psalm 37:4: “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

The Holy One is extremely generous. We have a greathearted God who is excited about His children. He knows us so well! As we grow to love Him His plans for our life begin to take shape.

Some people have strong visions and they build their lives around it and fight to promote it. However, God is going to open doors that lead to the fulfillment of dreams beyond our imaginations. And even if we have stopped dreaming or don’t know exactly what our vision is – God who knows our hearts, knows our purpose.

I once had a dream. It was a dwarf of a dream. I dreamed that I could make music on the side. My daytime job however consumed me and didn’t leave much room for anything else. One day, out of the blue, I received a phone call from my doctor’s office at work. I was told to go to the emergency room where I had the first in a series of three open heart surgeries. As a result I had to quit my job. Finally I began devoting myself to the things I love doing. And as it turned out, music was only part of it. Once I did the first step more avenues opened up.

The Lord Almighty catches our dreams. Under His care this dream will take on shape, color, and flourish; and before we know it, this dream will turn into reality. Whatever your dreams are, God’s dreams are bigger. Personally, I think that our own dreams are sometimes detrimental to the things God has in mind for us and they can very easily turn into a horrible nightmare. How many people have dreamed to become rich and famous, and when their dreams came true they had lost themselves along the way.

In God we find meaning. He is the catcher of dreams – let Him catch yours too.

“Climb every mountain
Ford every stream
Follow every rainbow
‘Till you find your dream “ Oscar Hammerstein II

Hebrews 12:5: “And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, ‘My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you.’”

God does not change, but our perception of Him will over the years. That’s quite normal. In our walk with God we have seen days when He seemed so close He was almost tangible; and we have seen other days when the Lord seemed far removed from us. If we have lost our way we get further and further away from Him. We need to check our direction, adjust our course and return to Him. The ability to turn around and honestly say “I am sorry” triggers a world of good: as a result we grow closer to the Lord and people.

Mistakes will be forgiven when we ask the Lord – we can always count on the Lord’s compassion – however His mercies aren’t cheap and serious mistakes usually have serious consequences. We may be sorry for what we have done, but we will have to deal with the collateral damage too, and there is a good chance that we will feel punished in such situations. If that is the case, then it’s probably true: we are being punished for the pain we have caused. And now is the time to do whatever is necessary to undo the damage we have done. Probably not all damage can be completely undone, but that is beside the point. We do what we can to initiate healing, and this shows that we care.

The purpose of punishment is repentance. And genuine repentance initiates a different course of action going forward because we have had a change of heart. Punishment however gets old if it produces the self-loathing, self-diminishing persona. The foul odor that comes across is like a virus spreading, getting people to beat themselves up. Not a good thing! Others who smell this kind of condemnation from afar make a beeline into the opposite direction.

Similar to the world of photography where shades bring out texture and add the dimension of depth to an image, God’s discipline adds more depth to our relationship with Him and people. Working through our hang-ups is the crucible of any relationship but especially our relationship with God. We reap the most benefits when we are open-minded while He is working with us. Understanding this process as transformation rather than condemnation, we mature.

The Lord disciplines us because He wants us to grow. And spiritual growth has everything to do with learning to love – after all, it’s all about love in the kingdom of God.

Proverbs 6:6: “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!”

In the book of Proverbs we are asked to pay attention to ants and learn from them. Ants outnumber us. In New York City the ant population compared to human population is nearly 800 to 1. That’s almost 1.2 billion ants in a city with a population of 1.6 million people. They live off of the food that New Yorkers throw away. In the book of Proverbs ants are described as foragers (Proverbs 6:7-8):

“It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.”

Looking at the behavior patterns of these industrious critters, we find that they know how to collaborate, forage nutrients and create storage. While an ant colony may only eat ounces a day, it can harvest pounds destined for storage.

I am amazed by the sheer amount of work these tiny insects can accomplish, but I don’t believe our take away from ants is: ‘Let’s immerse ourselves in work.’ Sometimes we use work as an excuse to avoid important issues at home. Or we hide our stagnant faith behind charity work. Oswald Chambers calls this ‘spiritual sluggishness’ and writes: “Active work may be the counterfeit of spiritual activity. The danger of spiritual sluggishness is that we do not wish to be stirred up, all we want to hear about is spiritual retirement. Jesus Christ never encourages the idea of retirement”

In other words we never stop wrestling in our faith. That’s how we grow. And since ants are our role models, let us take a closer look at them. A couple of things I noticed as I studied them in more detail: one is collaboration, the other is separation.

  • Collaboration: It’s astonishing to see how millions of ants can work together so seamlessly. Ants communicate with each other using chemical signals, called pheromones. They use the soil surface to leave pheromone trails behind so that other ants can follow them to the food source.
  • Separation: Ants stay together to support their colony, however, to grow beyond one colony some ants must find new territory. Here is where wings come in handy. Only males and queens have wings, so it’s their responsibility to spread its kind; and for that reason they desert their home base when the time arrives.

While collaboration and separation seem mutually exclusive, they do go hand in hand. For obvious reasons we need each other – and yet, there will be times in our life when we have to separate to embark on the things God has in mind for us. The apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Ephesians (Ephesians 2:10):

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

We don’t want to be just busy but also productive. Metaphorically speaking we are fruit trees and the Lord wants to see us yielding a bountiful crop. We all have a job to do, a job that He has prepared for us.

Be encouraged to follow the Lord when He beckons you, even if this means you need to go out on a limb. Don’t be shy – spread your wings and fly! If ants can do it, you can do it.

Posted in Ant

Romans 9:16: “It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.”

Listening to the song “House of the Rising Sun” we get a little glimpse of the prostitutes’ plight. Jesus was well aware of their situation. Religious leaders of His time considered people who lived on the fringes of society a lost cause while Jesus sought them out. He sat down with prostitutes and held conversations with outcasts. As a result Jesus was invited to their homes and people clung to every word He said. He told them parables, beautiful little short stories of hope and mercy. The overriding theme of His tales: “Lost & Found”.

Perhaps we have read the Lord’s parables of “The Lost & Found Sheep”“The Lost & Found Coin”, and “The Lost & Found Son”.

In the first story we read about a straying sheep which gets separated from the rest of the flock. When the owner realizes that one of his sheep is missing he calls a search party. Once the lost animal was spotted, he is so relieved that he puts it on his shoulders to carry it back home. Overjoyed he celebrates with his friends and neighbors.

In the second story the main character is a woman who owns ten silver coins. One of them gets lost. She proceeds to comb through the whole house until she finds that coin. When she finally discovers it, she is so happy that she lets everybody know.

In the first two stories the object did not get lost by choice. The owners felt responsible and were compelled to do everything in their power to restore the lost object. – Let’s pause here for a minute and think of unspeakable tragedies where people are born into slavery, sold into prostitution against their will, violated, drugged and raped, without a home, without identity. Lost coins are unidentified objects dropped into the dark corners of this world and seemingly forgotten, but in all reality the Owner of the universe is reaching out day and night to get a hold of these precious coins. And like the characters in Jesus’s story, God is not known to give up easily.

In the third story we hear about two lost sons. The wayward son wants to get out and spend all his cashed inheritance while his brother stays at home but seems to begrudge his life situation. Maybe he is even envious of his brother. Both sons are lost in the sense that they are not with their father. One is geographically absent; the other one’s heart is absent. In the end the wayward son returns home after he had squandered all of his wealth. His brother does not want any mercy for him and also doesn’t seem to think that he himself is in need of mercy.

The common theme of the Lord’s Lost & Found Narratives is His astonishing compassion. Mercy is 100 percent His doing; it is not triggered by rituals or initiated by anything we accomplish. The Lord is merciful – that’s who He is. And only through His mercies can we be found.

“There is a house in New Orleans
They call the Rising Sun.
It’s been the ruin of many a poor girl,
and me, O God, for one.” 
(Georgia Turner and Bert Martin)

Psalm 77:19: “Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters, though your footprints were not seen.”

We all have lost something at some point in our lives. Grieving maybe the loss of our health, career, or a person dear to us – a common question keeps coming up: “Where is God in all of this?” I have spoken with grief-stricken people who expressed that they do not want to believe in a God who does not seem to care. According to the philosopher William L. Rowe, “agnosticism is the view that human reason is incapable of providing sufficient rational grounds to justify either the belief that God exists or the belief that God does not exist”. And a rough life without detecting God’s footprints can lead to such a world view.

The book of Ruth tells a story of a family struck by misfortune. Almost overnight Naomi lost her husband and both her sons while residing in a foreign country. Her late sons had married locals and now her two daughters-in-law was the only family she had.

Then Naomi decided to go back to Israel. She did not want to selfishly hang on to the young women and so she said to them, “You are young and beautiful and your whole life is still ahead of you. But I am an old woman and have no more sons to give to you. Why don’t you stay here and get married again?” – In Naomi’s mind these young women were better off staying in their home country rather than going along with her. And one agreed to stay behind while the other already had made up her mind. She wanted to migrate to Israel with her mother-in-law. Her name was Ruth.

Grieving Naomi may have lost all that mattered to her, but unbeknownst to her she still had a treasure, and that was her daughter-in-law. After their return to Israel Ruth married into Naomi’s next of kin and carried on the family name. She gave birth to a son, incidentally King David’s grandfather. As they were celebrating the arrival of the newborn whom they named Obed (Hebrew word for “worshiper”), Naomi’s friends and neighbors spoke up (Ruth 4:14-15):

“The women said to Naomi: ‘Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a guardian-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth.’”

Suddenly God’s footprints emerge. God does care. He holds us close when tragedy hits and sometimes this brings out the best in people as in Ruth’s case. Let us pray that the Lord opens our eyes so we can see His footprints in our lives.

“When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well, with my soul” Horatio Spafford

Job 33:4: “For the Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.”

Everything is interconnected. The Spirit of God has created everything and this commonality connects us. The Holy Spirit brings life – rich, reproducing, abundant life, the kind of life that swallows death – life that lasts forever. Take God’s Spirit out of the equation, and futility rules. Productivity without the Spirit of God inevitably leads to a dead end. On that note, Jesus observed (John 6:63):

“The Spirit alone gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes nothing. And the very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.”* Bible Version: New Living Translation (NLT)

Since everything has sprung from God’s Spirit there is a noticeable spiritual bond between God and His creation. Unfortunately, human beings cut themselves loose at some point, and they strayed far from heaven. It has been the Lord’s mission to overcome the apparent disconnection, and this is why Jesus came.

Interestingly, as I’m writing out these thoughts our internet connection went down. The worldwide web has revolutionized our culture and made information more readily available. Imagine today’s world without having this powerful tool. It is safe to say, the interconnectedness provided by various computer devices has accelerated problem solving. The ratio of human inventions went through the roof with the introduction of the personal computer, especially when the computer reduced in size and became a portable device. Power outage and loss of connectivity, even if it is only for an hour, creates havoc in the modern world. However, the repercussions of being disconnected from the source of all beings are intrinsically more serious.

The Holy Spirit is poured out globally and not unlike the Internet accessible everywhere. When people pray, the Spirit of God listens. This is what Jesus was referring to in His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:7):

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”

To be reconnected to heaven all we have to do is ask and the Holy Spirit will re-establish the lost connection; His breath revives us. Reconciliation with the Godhead is only a prayer away.

Psalm 62:1: “I wait patiently for God to save me; I depend on him alone.” *Bible Version: Good News Translation

The other day, I had to wait 50 minutes on the phone to get connected and speak with a representative. If someone tells me to wait, I know I have to equip myself with patience.

Technology has made worldwide exchange of information fast and efficient. We get to distant places faster, and we receive the latest news in a blink of an eye. Meanwhile, it’s no surprise that we have come to expect everything to be available on demand.

What about prayer? Do we feel we get God’s immediate attention when we pray? Well, it’s complicated since there is no such thing as button-pushing in the realm of prayer. It’s not like: prayers go out, God’s answers come in. We have to wait for His input and that puts us in the waiting room until we hear back from the Lord.

On one occasion I was looking for a professional change, but it just wasn’t happening. My husband and I kept praying for the issue. Then, one night I had a dream. I dreamed I was sitting in a car at a stoplight waiting for the light to change. When I awoke it felt as if the Lord was saying:

“Hang in there! Traffic light will change and you will be able to move on.”

It wasn’t long after my dream that circumstances began to change. One of my job applications was accepted and I was hired on the spot – a perfect example of an open door in God’s own good time.

Waiting on the Lord is an expression of trust. It is an opportunity to hit the brakes and grow in our faith. On this note Prophet Isaiah wrote (Isaiah 64:4):

“Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for Him.”

I remember situations where we simply had to wait things out for the sake of clarity. And we did see more clearly after the dust had settled and we took more time to think about the problem. Some decisions should not be processed overnight and we will find that the pressure is off once we stop pushing the issue. Submitting to the Lord we give Him control. For the sake of our peace of mind, that’s the thing to do. It will all work out and things will fall into place when we know how to wait on the Lord.

Proverbs 19:20-21: “Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise. Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”

My husband likes to make an informed decision, which is why he typically takes his sweet time investigating. His research of pros and cons (which he calls “vetting”) comes before his buying decision.

Buying a product is simple in comparison to making life-changing decisions. Do we get married? Are we going to have children? Should I have this surgery? In fact, such life decisions hardly fit the profile of vetting a product, or are we going to google the pros and cons of having children? Are we going to perform a background check on the person we want to marry? It’s not like that at all, but still, we will look for advice when we are smart. We will interview seasoned parents about the aspects of raising children, ask our trusted friends what they think about the person we are dating and regarding the surgery in question we will look for a second medical opinion.

We know that despite all our planning the unplanned still happens and we sail into situations that catch us off-guard. Life is full of surprises. Besides looking for traditional advice we are well-advised to seek God’s counsel since He alone knows the future. On a personal note, my faith has helped me through many bumpy roads, and through it all I have gained a deeper connection with both God and people.

The best way to look at things we have no control over – and we actually don’t have control over a myriad of things – is to trust the Lord’s promise that He has good plans worked out for us. That is why we don’t want to lose hope even though our own plans may have fallen through. We sometimes think we know our purpose – or we haven’t even thought about it yet. The Lord knows each person’s purpose and wants to translate that into reality.

We are all a diamond in the rough. Since diamonds are made of the hardest material in the world, only a diamond can be used to mechanically cut another diamond. Comparatively speaking, the Lord is the diamond who cuts us into shape. It is His desire that we shine. As long or as short our life story may be, it’s meant to be a blessing. Let us not fool ourselves into thinking that we have everything figured out. We need to stay humbly curious and seek the Lord in all matters. It is His pleasure to reveal the plans He has for us and the reason why we are here.

Genesis 31:1-3: “Jacob heard that Laban’s sons were saying, ‘Jacob has taken everything our father owned and has gained all this wealth from what belonged to our father.’ And Jacob noticed that Laban’s attitude toward him was not what it had been. Then the Lord said to Jacob, ‘Go back to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you.’”

Jacob chose to pack up and leave without telling his father-in-law Laban. The relationship with his father-in-law was complicated. On one hand Laban was the father of his wives and the grandfather of his children; Laban was family! On the other hand Laban was his boss who ran a profitable family business and had been taking advantage of Jacob. After 20 years of a working relationship Jacob fired his employer by not showing up to work one day and leaving without giving any notice.

The Exit Interview

Jacob must have known that it was not very likely for his father-in-law to let him go without an explanation – which is exactly what happened. In hot pursuit Laban went after him and caught up with his son-in-law in a week’s time. Extremely offended he got right to the point (Genesis 31:26-28):

“Then Laban said to Jacob, “What have you done? You’ve deceived me, and you’ve carried off my daughters like captives in war. Why did you run off secretly and deceive me? Why didn’t you tell me, so I could send you away with joy and singing to the music of timbrels and harps? You didn’t even let me kiss my grandchildren and my daughters goodbye. You have done a foolish thing. I have the power to harm you; but last night the God of your father said to me, ‘Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad.’”

In response Jacob said (Genesis 31:40-42):

“This was my situation: The heat consumed me in the daytime and the cold at night, and sleep fled from my eyes. It was like this for the twenty years I was in your household. I worked for you fourteen years for your two daughters and six years for your flocks, and you changed my wages ten times. If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had not been with me, you would surely have sent me away empty-handed. But God has seen my hardship and the toil of my hands, and last night he rebuked you.”

Laban saw that he had lost access to his daughters and grandchildren and that he could not control Jacob. His reaction was dismissive. He was not interested in restoring family relations by picking up on what Jacob said and apologizing; instead he now perceived Jacob as a threat and felt it necessary to protect his interests by establishing a non-aggression pact.

We all deal with bad relationships in the course of a lifetime. For various reasons we cannot always choose to simply avoid the person who is bothering us; it might be a work relationship or a family member. God does not take sides in the matter because He is for every person. However, we can count on God being against sin.  So, if someone is abusive and makes our life a living hell God’s intention is to take us out of the abusive situation.  Merciful as God is His heart always reaches out to all parties, so communication is God’s attempt to set the records straight and give each person the opportunity to repent – each person – because nobody is perfect. In Matthew’s gospel we read (Matthew 18:15):

“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.”

If we all come to the table and communicate with the intention to listen what the opposing party has to say, there is a good chance of reconciliation. If both parties choose not to listen to each other, then reconciliation is as good as impossible. In the end, all Laban and Jacob were able to accomplish was a non-aggression pact. In God’s eyes this was not the best outcome, and sometimes we too have to live with these kinds of situations.

In our crisis management let’s always raise the bar in that we stay humble enough to listen, strong enough to seek open communication, and mature enough to understand when it is time to move on and let go of a relationship. Some things won’t resolve on this side of heaven. However, peace is promised to us; and peace we receive from the Lord who understands all things and is with us.

Isaiah 43:11-12: “‘I, even I, am the Lord, and apart from me there is no savior. I have revealed and saved and proclaimed— I, and not some foreign god among you. You are my witnesses,’ declares the Lord, ‘that I am God.’”

There are many gods spelled in lower case. They sound a bit like this:

“I am god; I can do whatever I want and you just have to deal with it.”

It is our exposure to such gods that tricks us into thinking we have to appease the deity somehow to win him over. We have to crawl on our bellies, cater to his whims and follow his bidding. We think with this capricious god on our side we gain power and can dominate the world just like he already does. This flawed god-perception has done a lot of harm and feeds into the attitude of an abuser. We wreck a planet to cater to our needs, and we wreck relationships because we act like little gods.

This attitude, however, is foreign to the God spelled with a capital G. This God is often mistaken to be one of the gods in lower case. I call this a tragic misunderstanding, and it leads to a couple of problems:

  1. There are people who feel extremely frustrated with the gods and they rightly say: “I’m done with gods. We are better off without them.” Atheists have my vote, any time of the day. I too am done with gods, and the older I get, it seems, the less patient I become with those unpredictable beings with the god-complex.
  2. There is another group of people who cling to the gods tenaciously in hopes to better cope with everyday living. The hotter their god-pursuit, the more fanatical they become shedding a real awkward light on the real deal, the God with the capital G. God calls His competitors “foreign gods”, because they are foreign to His character.

To distinguish Him from the lower-case gods I will call God with a capital G “Original God” going forward. Over the millennia mankind has grown used to false gods to the extent that many people have a hard time imagining there is actually a genuine One. It’s confusing, isn’t it? So the question is how do we differentiate between counterfeit and original? There are several dead giveaways which stand in stark contrast to the brazen and noisy gods competing for our attention:

Original God is subtle.

We have to search Him to find Him. Unless we take a concerted effort, get quiet and listen we won’t hear His still small voice. Another clue is His commitment to free will, and I believe this must prove difficult for the Lord at times:

Original God does not abuse His power.

We are so used to being manipulated by false gods that it escapes us how the all-powerful and almighty God would refuse to simply enforce His good will. Yes, He could do that in a heartbeat. That way He could get rid of all the false gods, but the outcome, true to His divine nature, would be highly unsatisfactory. Why? Here it is:

Original God does not seek God-copycats.

Instead He seeks face-to-face encounters with independent minds. Original God, the real deal, seeks the real deal with us and a relationship unburdened with fear and manipulation. He wants honest opinions, raw feelings, and openness. The ensuing communication flow is more precious to Him than anything else.

What does Original God do to get our attention? He reveals Himself, He saves and He proclaims; and He has been doing these three things consistently to help us out. If you are a God-seeker, welcome to His mysterious heart! You are encouraged to dive deep and explore.

Psalm 63:1: “[A psalm of David. When he was in the desert of Judah.] You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water.”

In 2001 I moved from a rather cold and moist climate to Arizona. Soon I became an avid hiker of the local desert. We loaded up with plenty of water and usually hiked as a group. There have been known cases of inexperienced tourists strolling off into the desert with barely any water. After failed attempts to find their way back to the trailhead, they had to be rescued.

The human body consists of 65% water. The maximum time an individual can go without water is close to a week – three to four days is probably more typical and under desert conditions even less than that. One third of our global land’s surface happens to be desert. Less than one percent of our freshwater is located in lakes, rivers and swamps, which means 99% of freshwater resources is trapped underground. As a result we dig for water, which has been done since the beginning of human civilizations.

And digging we do – also in the spiritual realm. Sometimes we feel showered by the Lord’s blessings while sometimes we have to dig deep to get through to Him. Our soul gets thirsty for God just as much as our dehydrated body aches for water. It’s hard to understand the emptiness in our soul when we don’t know God, but it’s still real. Our soul has longings separate from our physical needs; and following the cravings of our soul will ultimately lead us to the Lord.

In the Lord we find everything our soul desires and King David knew that. His recorded prayers in the book of Psalms say it all (Psalm 23:1-3):

“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
He leads me beside quiet waters,
He refreshes my soul.”

In order to thrive we need to get back to our roots and access our spiritual trailhead. A dried-out soul is a very sobering experience reminding us how much we need the Lord. Only in God are we complete. He is our home; we come from Him, and to Him we must return.

“After two days in the desert sun
My skin began to turn red
After three days in the desert fun
I was looking at a river bed
And the story it told of a river that flowed
Made me sad to think it was dead”                 
Songwriters: Dewey Bunnell

Isaiah 26:4: “Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal.”

On the road of experience accidents are bound to happen – hopefully more happy accidents than bad ones – and yet whatever comes our way, it’s a good idea to take the time to sort through these things. Not everything happens for a reason. Your birthday cake that slid off the plate and plunged down to the floor is not necessarily a bad omen for the year to come. But some things are waiting to get our attention and we won’t notice, unless we slow down.

I have found that taking time for people is no lost time at all and making memories is a very rewarding activity. Ironically, if we are in the habit of rushing through life we don’t gain time. Not only could constant hurry create accidents putting us on hold indefinitely, we also miss out on people and relationships.

Slowing down has become a lost art. We stopped walking in pursuit of flying; and so we get to places quicker and get more things done. As a result, we are caught in a whirlwind of activities. Yesterday we were still kids waiting with baited breath for Christmas morning. Today we are adults and before we know it, our hair turns grey and we detect our first wrinkles in the mirror. If we meanwhile haven’t learnt to slow down, then our aging bodies will teach us the unwanted lesson.

Norman Milton Lear (born July 27, 1922), an American television writer and producer once said in an interview:

“How can you be jaded? Tomorrow hasn’t happened yet.”

In other words, the full scope of reality always escapes us. Unless we know the future, we just don’t have the full picture. The Lord on the other hand knows the future; He is timeless. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. He is the Creator of time, and so it makes sense to put all our time into His hands. He leads us through good and bad days.

Trust in the Lord more than you trust your own interpretations of life. Nobody knows what tomorrow will bring; knowing the One who holds our future, we all stand a better chance to be at peace.

“Slow down, you move to fast. You got to make the morning last!” Paul Simon

1 King 19:4: “Then he went on alone into the wilderness, traveling all day. He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die. ‘I have had enough, Lord,’ he said. ‘Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.’” *New Living Translation

In mankind’s story book, the Bible, we read about people in challenging life circumstances. In the book of 1 Kings we find a depressed prophet under a Broom tree. His name is Elijah. A Broom Tree is a desert shrub. In the Sonoran desert of the American Southwest a similar desert tree is called “Palo Verde”, which translated from Spanish means “Green Stick”. Broom Trees are similar to Palo Verdes growing leafless sticks and providing insufficient shade. Sitting under such a tree in the blistering desert sun, we can probably sympathize with Elijah’s misery.

In a previous public showdown Baal’s prophets were challenged by Elijah. Making a public spectacle of the ineffectiveness of their idols, Elijah demonstrated to the people that the God of Israel is real, awesome and above all gods. That did not go over well with the political powers in his day; hence he had to disappear for a while, which brought him to this place in the wilderness under the Broom Tree. Here he prayed to the Lord:

“Please take my life! I don’t want to live anymore. I’m done!”

Exhausted Elijah fell asleep under the tree. An angel woke him up twice and gave him food to eat and water to drink. The manna from heaven gave him a renewed sense of purpose and energy. And so the prophet made up his mind to travel to Mount Horeb, which was a long distance away. Traveling day and night he arrived eventually and spent the night in one of the mountain caves. And God asked him (1 King 19:9):

“What are you doing here Elijah?”

In an attempt to justify his long and arduous trip to the famous desert mountain he replied:

“I needed to come here. Everybody wants to kill me. There is nobody left who is on your side, Lord!”

And the Lord disagreed with the prophet, but He decided to give Him a little demonstration (1 Kings 19:11):

“The Lord said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’”

When Prophet Elijah stood at the entrance of his cave on the mountain, the Lord Almighty showed up. He was preceded by a windstorm, an earthquake and a raging fire. Interestingly, God was in none of these; instead He chose to be in a gentle whisper. And Elijah listened. He learnt that there was work left to do. And contrary to his opinion the Lord counted no less than 7000 people who were still on His side.

What is the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of a celebrity? Most likely all of the hearsay – however, if we had the opportunity to be with that famous person we would probably see a very different side, not advertised on billboards. The same is true with God. God’s billboard is worldwide. We can see His glory in Mother Nature; and as Job describes it, we can hear His voice in crashing, fearsome thunderbolts (Job 37:5-6):

“God’s voice thunders in marvelous ways; he does great things beyond our understanding. He says to the snow, ‘Fall on the earth,’ and to the rain shower, ‘Be a mighty downpour.’”

Thunder is awe-inspiring and gets people’s attention; nevertheless, if we want to grow closer to the Lord we need to tune into His still small voice, the gentle whisper in our hearts. To get a more realistic take on a situation we are encouraged to listen to Him, just as Elijah did. As depressing as everything may be, it is never as bad as it looks. Seeking the Lord and listening to Him, we will see that God makes a way in the desert and a trail in the wilderness – against all the odds.

Proverbs 27:17: “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”

Basic blacksmithing will straighten out crooked iron bars using a fiery forge, pliers, hammer, and an anvil. Inserting the steel into the heart of the fire, they hammer away while checking the color of the steel frequently. When scrap metal has reached the optimal working temperature, it will be colored between dark orange and bright yellow, almost white. In the process of fashioning a piece of metal, an experienced blacksmith employs different techniques such as tapering (making the end pointy), flattening, or bending. Basically, a blacksmith will turn a square bar into a round, a round bar into a square, or into whichever form he fancies for his piece of work.

Guess what: we are a piece of work – not a very flattering self-assessment, but with blacksmithing as an analogy, it’s pretty obvious that there are two parties involved: a skilled craftsman and a piece of metal. The Trinity as skilled craftsmen is known to work on some pretty stubborn objects, human beings. Iron is not easily moldable, unless high temperatures and a number of tools are involved.

God’s love is the hottest flame there is; and it straightens out our crookedness. We may not like the heat of temptations, or trials and tribulations coming our way; but as we experience twists and turns, ups and downs, mountain tops and deep valleys, our character is built. When Jacob, founding father of the nation of Israel, was interviewed by the Egyptian Pharaoh towards the end of his life, he too observed that life is no walk in the park (Genesis 47:9):

“And Jacob said to Pharaoh, ‘The years of my pilgrimage are a hundred and thirty. My years have been few and difficult, and they do not equal the years of the pilgrimage of my fathers.’”

If we trust our Creator enough to allow Him access to our hearts, we will be molded into something beautiful and see the Trinity at work in our lives; however, there is another important character-building factor and that is people. On this note, the book of Proverbs elaborates (Proverbs 27:17):

“Iron sharpens iron; so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.” *Jubilee Bible 2000

From a distance the face of a friend will be just a blotch in the scenery. Face-time is what we need to connect. A good friend will bring out the best in us. We find ourselves validated, uplifted, strengthened, encouraged, challenged, and sharpened.

So, if you have good friends, appreciate them today. If you have no friends, listen more closely to what others have to say. Who knows? You may make a friend today.

1 Peter 1:3: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. In God’s great mercy he has caused us to be born again into a living hope, because Jesus Christ rose from the dead.” *Expanded Bible

There are several ways to become a family member: one is to be born into a family, another is to be adopted into a family, and yet another is to marry into a family. When my husband Bill and I got married our family doubled in size because now we have in-laws. Naturally a family is not a temporary assignment. A family is for life. Unfortunately, in the real world family splits happen. Deep hurt has led to such frictions.

In God’s kingdom we essentially deal with family issues. We are all God’s creation, whether we are brought near to God’s kingdom or whether we have managed to stay away from it. The apostle Peter refers to the event of coming back together as “born again”. So does Jesus. According to Him, the kingdom of heaven consists of family members only and in order to be adopted into God’s family we have to be born again. In a conversation with a scholar named Nicodemus the Lord pointed out that rebirth is not referring to our physical but spiritual being. This is where Jesus completely lost Nicodemus. Dumbfounded he asked Him: “What do you mean?”

Some cultures ignore the spiritual aspect of our humanness altogether, while other cultures are sensitive to it; however I think we can all appreciate Nicodemus’s confusion. In response to that let’s just imagine every human to be a package that gets mailed. On our birthday the package arrives and what our parents and everybody else sees is our outward appearance; but also included in the package is our spiritual being.

The rebirth of our spiritual being could be compared to an awakening. While sleeping, we really have no idea what is happening around us. Similarly, when we are spiritually asleep, we cannot relate very well to God who is Spirit and we have trouble hearing Him. If you have ever tried to wake yourself up from a bad dream, then you know how difficult this can be. Waking up spiritually is even more difficult. We need a touch from the Lord to see His kingdom and hear His voice. He has been speaking to us all along.

Touched by the Lord, children of God are born into a living hope: eternal life. Eternal life implies living with Jesus – which starts in the here and now, to be continued when we cross over to the other side. Jesus was the First to rise and His followers shall rise too. And I believe heaven is a good place to wake up to.

Proverbs 29:25: “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.”

Why is it so dangerous to fall into a trap? If we could interview a rat, the answer would be: “It’s deadly!” Fearing people is dangerous, because when fear grips us it traps us. And when we are trapped, we are stuck. We are not going anywhere. People should not have that kind of power over us. In fact, God did not create people that way.

In the beginning, Adam was very much on his own. The second person that came into being was taken from his rib. Eve was part of him and as such part of mankind; so is every person born ever since. Mankind is connected and functions just like an organism. Unfortunately, when Adam and Eve disobeyed God mankind began to drift apart and also drift away from God. As a result death became part of human history.

The specific malfunction of an autoimmune disease identifies part of the body as a disease and tries to combat it; in a manner of speaking, this is exactly what we see happening in genocide: humankind kills part of itself.

Fearing people is a derivative of the autoimmune disease, because in fear we combat our own kind. This is so wrong! We should not be afraid of each other. We should love and respect each other. That’s how mankind was wired initially before we got stuck in the death trap of fear.

Jesus has set a precedent when He conquered death on the cross. He loves each and every person, but He hates the effects of the autoimmune disease. Here is what He once said in a public statement (Matthew 23:37):

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.”

All of humanity – not just Jerusalem – suffers from self-inflicted pain. Jesus offers us refuge under His wings. Indeed, under His wings we are at a place where we can deal with anything that comes our way. Most importantly, we are reconciled with God and set free to love; and there is absolutely no fear in love.

Matthew 5:11-12: “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Smear campaigns are an unfortunate attempt to ruin a person’s reputation. Such campaigns are triggered when people decide to fight dirty. Spreading half-truths and lies about a person is an offence that can be brought to the court’s attention. A plaintiff must show the false communication and prove that fault amounts to at least negligence to be able to garner some sort of retribution from the opposing party for the damage done. Such lawsuits are usually reserved to clear up the good name of a business. Slandering a person because of his or her political stance or personal beliefs is a different matter entirely.

Abraham Lincoln was the 16th president of the United States from 1861 to 1865. He led the nation through the American Civil War, the country’s greatest moral, constitutional, and political crisis and had to deal with a fair amount of slander and attack of his person culminating in his assassination in April 15, 1865. Lincoln said about reputation: “Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.”

When people disrespect us and say all kinds of nasty things into our face, we are tempted to sink to the same level and disrespect them in return. However, that is not the way of the Kingdom of Heaven. Even though they disrespect us, we are not going to humiliate them to gain some sort of satisfaction in “payback time.” It is to our gain to maintain our integrity and take pride in what we do no matter what other people say about us.

A friend of mine has been subjected to bad press because of his beliefs. One of the things that we discussed is his feelings about the opposing party who continue to talk negatively about him. He said: “The other day I was asking myself: ‘Do I hate them?’ and the Lord asked me some simple questions in return to find out if I did. The questions were: ‘Do you wish them harm? Do you want to see them suffer for what they’ve done? Would you be happy if something awful happened to them? If the answer is “no” then you don’t hate them.’”

In His Sermon on the Mount Jesus calls the victims of character assassination “Blessed”. He goes on to say that believers who are slandered because of their beliefs are in good company. Prophets from long ago were subjected to the same treatment. We are called blessed because our character cannot be killed with bad reputation. In fact the opposite is known to be true; through such challenges our character is built. Thomas Paine once said: “Reputation is what men and women think of us; character is what God and angels know of us” – and I believe he is right. Let us not lose sight of whose opinion counts most. It is the Lord who knows our heart and it is the Lord who sees us through.

Exodus 34:14: “Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.”

Browsing the internet I ran across an image the other day with a guy embracing two girls, subtitled: “This is the life” – maybe for the guy, probably not so much for the girls. “Ménage à trois” is not known to be a concept that works.

In his song “Jealous Guy” John Lennon wrote:

“I was feeling insecure
You might not love me anymore
I was shivering inside
I was shivering inside
Oh didn’t mean to hurt you
I’m sorry that I made you cry
Oh my I didn’t want to hurt you
I’m just a jealous guy”

In the realm of human relationships we run into jealousy.  The first thing that comes to mind is romantic relationships. However, there is also jealousy among siblings, jealousy at work, jealousy over physical appearance and talent, and the list goes on and on. So, it’s hard not to run into jealousy – one way or another we all have to deal with it. Some people are more prone to jealousy than others, but I believe everybody has felt it at some point – that twinge of anger rising up inside of us when we feel slighted.

Curiously, in the closing chapters of the book of Deuteronomy we read about a jealous God. What is that all about? Why would He be jealous, a God who can make anything, who has everything, the all-powerful, all-knowing and amazing God – why would He say: “You made me jealous!” to mere humans?

Actually, we should feel honored that God is jealous of us. If He wasn’t, we wouldn’t mean that much to Him. As it is, we mean the world to Him – so God gets angry when we are more interested in xyz than in Him. Never mind that He created xyz, and He could probably replace xyz in a heartbeat with another more dazzling creation. However, that is totally beside the point, because we matter to Him, and it’s our undivided devotion that He is looking for.

So, God is jealous because – yes, you have guessed it – He loves us with a passion.  That’s an important part of God to understand. Never forget, it’s the Passion of the Christ that led to the cross and His subsequent resurrection. Without passion there is really no Easter. Passionate as He is, God will be most offended by our indifference – and Jesus calls such attitude “lukewarm” (Revelation 3:16):

“So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”

– Spoken like a true jealous Son of God! His love is a hot burning flame and knows no compromise; and we know that such love is worth our trust.

Genesis 1:3-4: “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.”

The rainbow sits in the clouds; the sun, moon and twinkling stars are the jewels of the sky. We look up to see the light because our light sources generally come from up above, not from down below. In light of certain events, things can turn around and may look very different from what we’ve seen on the previous day. This is why we don’t give up hope: tomorrow has not happened just yet. Besides, being hopeless is never a good idea.

There are physical light sources, as mentioned above, and there is a spiritual light source. I believe that all light originates from the Trinity. God is light. He lights up the deepest darkness by bringing both physical and spiritual light into the world. Darkness does not bring about life and growth at all. That’s what light does. Light reveals while darkness keeps things hidden. Darkness does not have to be created. Darkness just is and represents the places where God is absent. Wherever God dwells, however, there is light.

When sunlight strikes a falling drop of water, it is refracted and creates beautiful rainbow colors. Life without light is not only dark, it’s colorless. If we look for the subtle differences in colors and hues, then we definitely need the assistance of light.

In the world of photography it is a commonly known fact that we owe depth perception and texture of two-dimensional images to the presence of shade in the picture. Darkness and light in tandem actually work as a great couple. The benefit of God’s separating light from the darkness is our ability to differentiate forms and textures of all things we see.

There is no reason to believe that we don’t need darkness at all. We welcome the nightfall at the end of a long working day. We all need a break. However, imagine there is no morning and the nightfall never ends. Darkness is only a blessing when we rest in the expressed hope that dusk is followed by dawn. If we stay with darkness too long, depression settles in. Darkness is not our friend, the Light of the World is.

Heaven is where we are headed when we keep looking for the Light of the World. Jesus emits light when we are in the dark; He is our GPS guiding us through the fog; and He is the reason why we are not losing it when all seems lost.

“If you’re lost, you can look and you will find me
Time after time
If you fall, I will catch you, I will be waiting
Time after time” Cyndi Lauper

1 Corinthians 2:14: “The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.”

A Penny for Your Thoughts

God’s wisdom is revealed by His Spirit. I find that fascinating. God’s mind is big and so it’s hard to imagine that human finite minds can understand His thoughts. Well, in general they can’t. Human minds can understand a number of things, but the thoughts of God are foreign to the natural human mind. If it wasn’t for His Spirit, we could not understand a word He was saying.

In my younger years I had a profound experience with the Bible. Growing up in an agnostic household, the Bible was considered to be a book like any other books. I personally liked to read King Solomon’s poetry whenever I cracked open the Bible. Over time I began to wonder if the biblical God was fiction or reality. Could He make Himself known to me if He indeed existed? And so I prayed. Nothing dramatic happened, except when I opened the Bible the next day the Word became alive and began to speak to me. God is alive and He communicates to us via the Holy Spirit. This was my first experience of His communication skills. Once our eyes are opened and we know that God exists we have the mind of Christ. Jesus knows and loves the Father like no other and I have been digging to discover more of God ever since.

I remember riding in the car with my grandfather when I was in my twenties. He was a quiet man and I was not very talkative either, so we rode in silence for a while until he asked me: “What do you think?” Looking back I notice that he asked me this question more than once, on various occasions. So I opened up to him and told him what was on my mind that day. “A penny for your thoughts”, you hear people say who want to see what is going on in your head. They won’t know unless they ask. The same is true with God. We won’t know what He thinks, unless we ask Him.

God is mysterious and His thoughts are deep, but this does not deter the Holy Spirit to probe into those thoughts. The apostle Paul wrote (1 Corinthians 2:10)

“The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.”

It is to our benefit that the Holy Spirit is so curious. He introduces God’s thoughts to us when we are inquisitive and want to draw closer to God. We ask questions just like my grandfather did when we were riding in the car together, by inquiring of the Lord: “What do you think?” God-willing, He will let us know. Thanks to His Spirit we understand God’s reality on earth, in our current lives and in the world to come.

Matthew 6:33: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

“First things first; secondary things second”, we say. – We all need a roof over our heads, clothes to wear and food on the table. Once our basic needs are covered we can focus on other matters, or so we think. How much food is enough? What type of roof will do? And which clothes fit us well? Before we know it our basic needs claim our entire attention.

The Lord’s approach to turn things around and let His Kingdom stuff be first and our basic needs second makes more sense if we think about it this way: Let Him take care of our basic needs so we can focus on the more interesting stuff: people; this world around us; our friendship with God.

At times it’s hard not to worry. Bills are like unwanted relatives, they stick to our shoes like gum. It’s that element of trust, however, that makes all the difference. And in an awesome way, trusting God sets us free.

By the way, the lifestyle of worrying does not add a single hour to our lives. If anything, worrying most likely shortens our lifespan. Worrying consumes and isolates us while trusting the Lord opens us up to care and touch other people’s lives.

Effective October 1, 2018, I have become self-employed. After some debate, my husband and I had decided to relinquish one of us from bringing home a regular paycheck. This was a leap of faith for both of us. Meanwhile, I have created a client base for music entertainment, specifically Memory Care facilities. To boost their memory, I sing old familiar songs to the patients. One of them is “Don’t worry, be happy” by Robert Jr. McFerrin. His song lyrics say it all:

“Ain’t got no place to lay your head
Somebody came and took your bed
Don’t worry, be happy”

It seems to me the last thing to worry about is having a bed to sleep on. If the bed is taken away, what else is left? Well, here is the thing: We can hold on to worrying until we take our last breath, or we can seek the Lord in all matters. The choice is entirely ours.

Hebrews 10:30-31: “For we know him who said, ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ and again, ‘The Lord will judge his people.’ It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

For all who think that revenge brings satisfaction of justice being served, let me burst your bubble: Taking revenge holds no blessing whatsoever. Payback time is a time of horror leaving destruction in its wake. It makes a new beginning impossible and therefore squanders all hope.

The sad truth is revenge brings nothing but gloom, doom and death. And to make matters worse, revenge does not end a bad situation once and for all. Quite the opposite is true: revenge heaps up more revenge. There is no peace to be found in paying back. Nobody gets what he or she deserves. In the end, we all overpay if we keep going down this road.

In His infinite wisdom God once said: “Leave revenge up to Me”. In other words: “Don’t go there!”

And yet, humanly speaking it’s hard to let go of the pursuit of revenge when we have tasted abuse, neglect, violation of basic human rights, even murder. “What are we supposed to do! Just sit there and do nothing?” is the outcry of the bullied, the ones taken advantage of, the people trampled upon. The cry for justice is the most basic human cry for relief. And justice we need, but the way to justice and peace is not by way of revenge.

Once we have gotten onto the bandwagon of retaliation the world bleeds out its color and all we see is black and white. We are convinced that we are right while the other party is utterly wrong and forget that we are not perfect either. God warns us not to fall into the trap of self-righteousness. Leading by example He shows us the blessings of mercy. Unlike revenge, mercy opens the door to a fresh new beginning. Debt cancellation is unfair, isn’t it? Apparently, we let someone get away with something. Well, yes – God’s mercy is outrageous and undeserved, but it is because of God’s mercies that we live.

We put the criminal justice system in place to pursue justice when rights have been violated. However, let’s not forget that this system we so heavily rely on functions as a Band-Aid and works only to a degree. The criminal justice system does not change people. Love alone is the true change agent. Love and mercy have brought us to the doorsteps of heaven – no chance in hell to get there through the pursuit of revenge.

God knows, there is no salvation in condemnation, but there is precious hope in mercy.

1 John 2:1: “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.”

In God we find a judge who is not judgmental. He can discern the truth of a situation like no other because He sees the whole picture. In one of his letters the apostle John wrote (1 John 3:20):

“If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything”

Whether it’s popularity, good or bad reputation, our own history or even as trivial as our current mood – it all affects us in some way and impairs our judgment. God on the other hand sees through all these things and understands perfectly where we come from. Our God is merciful.

King David was keenly aware of God’s abounding mercies. In the later part of his reign he ordered a controversial nationwide census that was clearly uncalled for and stirred up unrest in the country. It was a telltale sign that he had become less interested in God’s protection and started to behave like other kings who censored the population to determine the size of their army. After completion of the census the Lord sent Prophet Gad to the palace to challenge David with three distinct choices (2 Samuel 24:13-14):

“So Gad went to David and said to him, ‘Shall there come on you three years of famine in your land? Or three months of fleeing from your enemies while they pursue you? Or three days of plague in your land? Now then, think it over and decide how I should answer the one who sent me.’

David said to Gad, ‘I am in deep distress. Let us fall into the hands of the Lord, for his mercy is great; but do not let me fall into human hands.’”

David knew it was better to rely on God than on people for mercy, and he was right – although his assessment of the situation gives me pause. I believe God’s mercies serve as an inspiration to us all; especially His children are called to reflect the Lord and look at the world through the eyes of mercy.

God’s Son is full of mercy, and in Him we have an advocate in heaven fighting for us. All our regrets that we bring out in the open and confess to Him are in good hands. The Lord does not condemn us; He forgives and forgets; He is the reason why we have hope and don’t despair, regardless of what we have done and the collateral damage we may have caused along the way. In the last book of the Bible Jesus encourages us with these words (Revelation 21:5):

“He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’”

From a grammar standpoint, “I am making all things new” uses progressive tense which is appropriate because our renewal through Jesus Christ is progressive and ongoing. So let us not get discouraged when we seem far from perfection. We are a work in progress until the day we pass.

1 John 3:20: “For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart and knoweth all things.” The Bible, King James Version

John 8:36: “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

If someone has a bad reputation we usually stay away from that person. Have you ever noticed that God has a bad reputation in the eyes of people who don’t want anything to do with Him? Bad experience with religion can lead people away from God. I had such bad experiences and here is my story:

Growing up without a dad, every child reacts differently to an absentee father. For some reason it tricked me into thinking that I was inconsequential. To make matters worse I faced sexual abuse at age 15, unbeknownst to my mother. I became more and more withdrawn.

When God emerged on the horizon of my awareness, I used Him as an escape from a life that seemed scary to me. I was the perfect candidate for a cult. Barely 20 years old, I joined a community who lived in an old castle in Rheinbreitbach, Germany. I stayed there until I was in my thirties.

The cult was toxic to say the least. Used as a rule book, the Bible was abused to infringe on every aspect of freedom, especially freedom of thought. I honestly believed I would go to hell if I ever thought of leaving. Meanwhile the stress of living in a place I had begun to hate began to wear on me. I got sick, lost weight and sunk into a deep depression. Music helped me cope. Composing felt like a window in a cage. A melody emerges out of nowhere and evolves and you just roll with it. Music became my little freedom corner. However, a melody is wordless, and I had yet to learn to say what I think, rise out of the ashes and move on.

That day arrived when my brother came to see me. It was strongly discouraged to have any interaction with relatives (unless they were pro-cult), so I had not spoken with my family in years. I asked him one question: Would my mother be able to forgive me for pushing her away all this time? The answer was yes. So I jumped ship. I broke away from a community that claimed to be my true family but treated me like a slave.

I was set free from false religion, but to maintain my freedom I had to find my voice. I had to start believing in me. Believing in God is a two-way street. If we believe in Him we need to start believing in us also, because God believes in us. Our identity is tied with Him. Walking with the Lord through the highs and lows I have learnt to face a crisis instead of going into hiding; no more trying to escape, I live fully.

Slavery keeps us in a box. Jesus wants to free us from this box, unlock our true potential and live the surprising life of a follower of Christ. We need to take advantage of the redeeming qualities of God’s Son who can heal us and bring us to a place of peace where we don’t have to prove anything, start from scratch with God and abandon any tainted ideas about Him.

If marbles stand for preconceived notions, then we need to let go of our marbles to keep an open mind. And once we are freed from our box, we need to refrain from the nasty habit of putting other people or even God into a box. Holding on to Jesus He will defend our freedom like no other.

Romans 15:7: “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.”

God is the Creator of all things. It is one thing not to give Him any credit for His creation. It’s quite another to give Him credit but despise some of his creation – which happens when we reject each other.

Acceptance is no easy thing, and it starts with accepting oneself. Accepting myself has been a work in progress for me. I have realized that it is impossible to get close to other people without accepting myself. Self-acceptance is well-worth our attention since it enables us to accept others too. All good relationships are built on mutual acceptance and trust.

So, let’s take a closer look at self-acceptance. How have you liked yourself lately? How have you treated yourself recently? And what do you think of yourself secretly? Believe me: what you think of yourself is no secret. It’s more of an open secret. People can see it in your eyes, in your demeanor. It’s often the first impression people get when they see you walking up to them. So, you can hide a million skeletons in your closet, but you can’t really hide the fact whether or not you like yourself.

Accepting yourself comes before liking yourself.

It’s a funny thing that very young children, before they become self-conscious and self-aware, instinctively like themselves. I remember as a kid how much I liked that I was born a girl. “Girls are so much prettier than boys”, I thought, “I’m so glad I’m a girl!” Well, this innocent confidence was gone by the time I shifted into my teenage years. As a budding teenager I questioned the status quo – that’s what all teenagers do – and I also questioned myself, but not in a good way. Unfortunately, it took most of my adulthood years to snap out of a rather negative self-assessment. Self-critique is pointless if it has only one purpose in mind: to put oneself down.

Christ does not put us down. He lifts us up. He has created us – why would He not love His own creation? He loves who we are. We can find out who we are when we get to know Him. I can say that I have found myself in Christ. He has accepted me, and through Him I have learned to accept myself and others. That’s a blessing to the world – and I’m sure it makes God smile.

2 Corinthians 13:14: “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”

May the Trinity be with you” Paul wrote in his letter addressed to the people in Corinth, Greece – i.e. (2 Corinthians 13:14): “May the grace of the Lord Jesus, the love of the Father and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you” – what an amazing blessing! Since the days of the Messiah we know of the distinction between God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Unity in diversity is one way to describe the blessed Trinity.

King Solomon wrote about the power of two people agreeing, but added that a consensus of three is even greater. Here are his thoughts on the matter (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12):

“Two are better than one,
    because they have a good return for their labor:
10 If either of them falls down,
    one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
    and has no one to help them up.
11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
    But how can one keep warm alone?
12 Though one may be overpowered,
    two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

Godly unity feeds on freedom of expression and thrives on trust. A consensus of three is stronger than a consensus of two; hence the unity of the Trinity is supremely tight. Together the Father, Son and Holy Spirit tackled the creation of the universe. When the earth was formless and empty the Trinity went to work. The Father got the Word out saying (Genesis 1:3): “Let there be light”. Jesus put the Father’s Word into action and the Holy Spirit hovered over the surface of the deep gradually transforming chaos into beauty.

Naturally, we can detect God’s triune fingerprints all over His creation, starting with the elementary building blocks of life as discovered by the British physicist J.J. Thompson in 1897. He looked into the interior of an atom to crack the building code of matter. Curiously not one, not two, but three elements make up all matter there is: Neutrons, Protons, and Electrons. Matter is coded in triune style. None of creation was made to be alone, much less human beings who were created in the image of God.

When God is with us we are not alone. Living in community is a lifestyle invented by the Trinity. We thrive in community, we bless in community, we overcome in community, and we celebrate in community. Life is a direct derivative of community; so is love, and love is God’s essence.

Matthew 5:21-22: “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.”

Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody starts out with a haunting confession. Following is a brief excerpt of the lyrics written by the late Freddie Mercury:

“Mama, just killed a man
Put a gun against his head
Pulled my trigger, now he’s dead
Mama, life had just begun
But now I’ve gone and thrown it all away”

Make no mistake about it; every human being is capable of murder. Following the slippery slope of anger and hate leads to death. In His sermon on the mount, Jesus once said that we are held accountable if we are angry at someone. Anger should be taken as seriously as murder.

Towards the end of the book of Genesis, Jacob, a dying man, calls his children to his bedside for his last blessing. While he addresses each of his children individually, he puts Simeon and Levi on the spot with a harsh rebuke saying (Genesis 49:5):

“Simeon and Levi are brothers—
    their swords are weapons of violence.”

Jacob is referring to an incident that happened several years ago when they lived near the city of Shechem in Canaan. There he bought a parcel of land from the children of King Hamor. Other than having trade agreements with the people of the land, Jacob’s tribe did not mingle much with the Canaanites. That changed overnight when the shocking news transpired that one of King Hamor’s sons, Prince Shechem, had raped Jacob’s daughter Dinah. In his defense, the prince later proposed to marry Dinah, but Jacob’s family still was deeply offended; and with Simeon and Levi as ringleaders, Jacob’s sons took revenge for the rape, not only by killing the offender Prince Shechem, but also by wiping out the entire male population of the area. On his deathbed Jacob stood up to his sons and distanced himself from such cruel behavior exclaiming (Genesis 49:7):

“Cursed be their anger, so fierce,
    and their fury, so cruel!”

Nobody was really fighting for Dinah when Jacob’s sons took revenge. In their cruelty they destroyed all prospects of a good future for her, not to mention the bereaved Canaanite families who lost their providers in these senseless killings.

Speaking of cruelty, what about God’s anger? Wasn’t it devastating when He initiated the Big Flood wiping out most of mankind and killing an enormous of animals? Reading up on what God Himself has to say about His wrath, we find an intriguing statement in the book of Exodus (Exodus 22:24):

“My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless.”

That’s shocking to hear of course, but let’s check out what triggered this remark. Interestingly, the preceding verses say (Exodus 22:22-23):

“Do not take advantage of the widow or the fatherless. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry.”

Apparently, a major trigger stirring up God’s wrath is abusing the helpless. If we trample on the weak we are stepping on God’s toes. He is the defender of the poor. We cross the line when we disrespect them, and we will trigger God’s wrath when we abuse them.

Human temper tantrums have little in common with God’s anger. The former is an expression of our selfishness; the latter is God’s way of defending the defenseless. When God’s love spells w-r-a-t-h, we know that He intervenes. He intervenes so wrongs are righted and to help those who cannot help themselves. We are on God’s side when we have the best interest of the disadvantaged at heart.

Exodus 33:7: “Now Moses used to take a tent and pitch it outside the camp some distance away, calling it the ‘tent of meeting.’ Anyone inquiring of the Lord would go to the tent of meeting outside the camp.”

Desolate places are uncluttered and quiet. From the far distance you could see them coming – a seemingly endless stream of people traveling the Sinai desert. They were the descendants of Israel who had left Egypt and now were headed to the Promised Land. A pillar of cloud would lead the caravan by day and a pillar of fire by night.

Once the Sun sets in the desert it gets dark pretty quickly. In anticipation of dusk the caravan halted and the people began to spread out and set up camp. Tents rose up in clusters – tribal families camped together. But there was one man in particular who went outside the tribal formations and pitched a tent some distance away from the camp. His name was Moses and the tent he set up was called the “tent of meeting”. He was God’s designated leader of the people and His prophet. Whenever Moses went into the tent of meeting, the pillar of cloud would come down and stay at the entrance, an indicator that the Lord had a conversation with the prophet. There had been serious issues, and the Lord considered delegating His leadership to an angel of His choosing. He said (Exodus 33:2-3):

 “I will send an angel before you and drive out the Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. Go up to the land flowing with milk and honey. But I will not go with you, because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way.”

In the tent of meeting Moses fought for his countrymen in prayer. He said to the Lord: “If your Presence does not go with us, then don’t send us to the Promised Land! Remember that this nation is your people.” – Remarkably the prophet convinced the Lord to stay with His nation. Moses boldly added another request (Exodus 33:18):

“Then Moses said, ‘Now show me your glory.’”

The prophet stood inside the entrance of the tent of meeting when the Lord asked him to step outside and hide behind a rock before He would make His appearance. And so he did. As the Lord passed by He covered the cleft of rock where Moses hid with His hand. After the Lord removed His hand the prophet was allowed to see His back, but not His face, thus witnessing God’s glory from a close distance.

Although Moses had desired to see the face of the Lord, it had to have been an awesome experience to watch His glory pass by way back then in the Sinai Desert. However, 1400 years later his prayer was answered above and beyond his expectations. God sent His Son Jesus into the world so everybody could see the face of God (John 1:14):

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Today the Tent of Meeting still stands. God’s children have conversations with the Lord in the tent of their heart. Their heart is a holy meeting place where prayers are formed and input is received from heaven. I believe people of prayer are the heartbeat of their nation. Following God’s lead as His dearly loved children, they change history and bring hope into the world.

Genesis 28:16-17+19: “When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, ‘Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.’ He was afraid and said, ‘How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.’ He called that place Bethel, though the city used to be called Luz.”

A place in the Middle East called “Luz” became very special to a man named Jacob, so special indeed that he changed the name of the location to “Bethel”.  Here is his story:

Jacob was on the run because he had angered his brother Esau to the point that he was planning to kill him. And so he had to leave his childhood home in a rush and was now headed to his uncle Laban, who lived in Harran. It was a long trip and eventually he had to stop for the night. Camping under the stars and in lack of a pillow he chose one of the stones in the area and put it under his head. Probably not the most comfortable way to go to sleep, but since Jacob was completely exhausted he soon nodded off.

In his sleep he had a vision. He saw a stairway resting on the earth with its top reaching to heaven and the angels of God ascending and descending on it. Above stood the Lord and He affirmed Jacob’s faith by saying that He was with Him. He also promised him and his offspring the land on which he was lying and told him that His descendants will be many and bless all peoples on earth – a powerful prophesy that has been fulfilled in the nation of Israel.

What a surprise this must have been for Jacob to hear God speak. He probably felt bad about the family crisis he had caused earlier and couldn’t have imagined that God was with Him. But God is faithful and merciful and He gives us new beginnings and another chance. Jacob was deeply moved. When he awoke from the dream he exclaimed: “I have slept on holy ground. I had no idea that this place was the gateway to heaven!” So he got up and took the stone he had placed under his head, set it up as a memorial and poured oil on top of it. He called this place “Bethel”, “House of God” because he was visited by God there.

There is a stairway resting on the earth connecting us to God’s home. The Lord is closer to us than we might think. Often unbeknownst to us we are accessed by travelers from heaven who climb up and down this imposing ladder. Angels travel between worlds to draw us to God. When the Lord reveals Himself to us He will impact the way we see things. Jacob memorialized the place where He saw God. It is good to remember the Lord, especially when life gets overwhelming; He reminds us where we come from, where we are headed, and who we are.

1 John 4:16: “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.”

There is no such thing as stagnant love. Love is always on the move. A person who is loved will naturally spread love. To him or her it’s as natural to love as it is to breathe. We will love generously in as much as we receive love abundantly.

There is abundant love to be had – but the question is do we know that? And if we know it, do we receive it? God has always loved us; the problem is that we don’t always notice. God’s love is the big elephant in the room that some of us don’t care to acknowledge. Of course God is way ahead of us in the love-game. He has made up His mind about us a long time ago. He promises to love us forever and ever.

We won’t notice His love unless we believe in the Lord. So, in a way it’s a catch 22. But then, God is the One who knocks on our doors and who does all the work to get our attention. God is not known to be quiet. It’s actually pretty difficult not to notice Him. An Elephant in the room is pretty obvious.

We have our reasons for being reluctant with God. God is God, and we are not. How can we love God who is beyond anything we can imagine? The answer is simpler than we might think. In the book of Genesis we read (Genesis 1:27):

“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

We were made in His image. We have more in common with God Almighty than we are probably aware of. The bond that exists between Creator and Created is very real. God sees Himself in us, and we can see ourselves in Him. This does not mean we are God, but it certainly means we are from God. And related to God as we are, we can certainly learn to love Him.

If love is missing in our lives, we feel as good as dead. Loveless, we are aching to receive love and end up looking for love in all the wrong places. We may be estranged from the Godhead, but we are not too far gone. We can meet Him and get to know Him. Moved by His love we love others in return, and love moves the world.

Philippians 2:1-2: “Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.”

We recognize an auto immune disease when a body’s immune system goes bonkers and starts attacking and damaging its own tissues. We also recognize a family in trouble when family members won’t stop hurting each other. We all need unity and peace. Our bodies can’t function without it. Societies can’t prosper without it.

Jesus, aka the Prince of Peace, is the source of peace. Wouldn’t it behoove the Prince of Peace to eliminate global warfare? Curiously, ending military conflicts has never been the first on His agenda – His peace movement will eventually lead to that, but first and foremost Jesus is interested in bringing peace to the human soul. Wherever we are, whoever we are, His peace offer stands – if He finds you knocking on Heaven’s door, He will open it wide and let you in.

In the 66 books of the Bible peace is mentioned 249 times. Today’s world is riddled with friction, and this is probably the reason why the Bible emphasizes our need for peace. A disciple whom Jesus nicknamed Peter wrote in one of his letters (1 Peter 3:8):

“Finally all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude.” *New Living Translation

There is such a thing as a recipe for peace – according to Peter’s recommendations here are its listed ingredients:

  • Be of one mind – in order to be on the same page with another person we need to refrain from assumptions, ask questions to clarify and explain our own thought process.
  • Sympathize – walking in someone else’s shoes is generally an eye opener.
  • Love – treat every person with respect.
  • Be tenderhearted – empathy goes a long way and is a blessing for anybody facing life’s rough patches.
  • Be humble – humility brings people together; pride will drift us apart.

Nobody understands people better than God. When we have trouble understanding each other He is the best source of wisdom. Agreement, consensus and harmony require a lot of work, but believers are not without help. With the Holy Spirit in their midst God’s children have a very efficient means of communication. God’s Spirit will guide them into all the truth giving them understanding even in most perplexing matters. United in Spirit and in truth, the bond that connects believers goes deep. Loving one another and working together with one mind and purpose, God brings peace into this hurting world.

Psalm 116:5: “The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion.”

The Lord is loving and kind. If we know Him we have experienced His mercies on a daily basis. People who do not know the Lord are not aware of His kindness, but they can discover His love in His children. The Lord shows up through their compassion. I read about a remarkable example of compassion by a man who for the past two decades has made it his habit to visit with mourners in the aftermath of a catastrophe. Here is an excerpt of a CNN report about a man by the name of Zanis:

“Since 1996, when he found his father-in-law murdered, Zanis has built 26,680 crosses, he said on the drive. He would add nine names to his orange notebook after Dayton [Referring to the Dayton shootings on August 4, 2019], he said.

He estimates 21,000 are shooting victims. He’s also taken his white crosses to the aftermath of tornadoes and wildfires, bus and boat crashes, and to Martha’s Vineyard after JFK Jr. and his relatives died in a plane crash. He took five in February to the Henry Pratt Company after a shooting unfolded in his hometown.

Asked how he staves off sadness, he said he doesn’t.

“I break down. You’re going to see me cry. I don’t mind,” he said. “I hug victims all the time, and I try to be strong, but I’m really not. I’m OK with that. I feel so good afterwards because I’ve done something.”

In our lifetime there are plenty of occasions where we can show empathy. We don’t have to do much; we only have to show up and be there. Empathy even comes before action and practical help. People need to hear that they are not alone. Helping each other out is both the most human and divine thing happening here on planet Earth.

Philippians 4:4: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”

From the wilderness he came – Zechariah’s son John and cousin of Jesus traveled up and down the Jordan River in Israel preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Word had spread about his ministry and crowds began to show up. People were excited that there was a new prophet in town. The last recognized prophet in Israel had died 400 years ago and ever since it seemed that the heavens had been closed shut. God appeared to be silent. Within a short period of time John had become the attraction of the day and had risen to superstar status, something he was very wary of.

John stood in the Jordan River preaching to the crowd when out of the blue a man stepped into the water and approached him. John looked Him in the eye and recognized his cousin Jesus. He hadn’t seen Him in years but he knew from his mother that they were about the same age. She had told him the story of his Aunt Mary coming for a visit while she was pregnant with Jesus and the miraculous circumstances of her pregnancy. Now here they were 30 years later and John knew in his heart that he was in the presence of the Son of God the minute he laid eyes on Him. He was stunned.

“Who am I to baptize you?” John said to his cousin. “You should be the One baptizing me.” Jesus shook His head and said: “This is how it’s supposed to be. We should do whatever God says is right.”

So John went ahead and baptized Him. As soon as Jesus stepped out of the water He saw the Spirit of God descending on Him like a dove and a voice from Heaven said (Luke 3:22):

“You are my dearly loved Son, and you bring me great joy.” *New Living Translation

It is both touching and inspiring to see the Father’s love for His Son. He publicly announced to the world how much joy He brings Him. This happened right after Jesus had been baptized along with many other people in the Jordan River. Something stirred the Almighty to trigger this affirmation of love at this precise moment – maybe because Jesus didn’t think He was better than us. He did not need to repent and change His ways, so there was no real need to get baptized. But Jesus fully identified with the human cause. And by doing so He carried out His Father’s will.

Going through the deep waters of sorrow and pain we experience a different kind of baptism. Through highs and lows we are guided by the unseen hand. And if we follow the Lord we will have great joy which will stay with us – regardless the circumstances.

Psalm 121:1-2: “I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”

Looking up we can see the sky, but the sky isn’t the limit. Looking up we can see the Lord.

Seeing the Lord depends on our outlook. We can put our head in the sand and refuse to see anything. We can put our head in the clouds and keep on dreaming. Or we can be curious, open our eyes wide and discover the truth.

We can paint the world around us black and white and only notice our differences instead of seeing what brings us together. What is the magic bond connecting us? Here it is: We are all human and we are all created by one wonderful Creator.

Looking up comes natural. In our heart of hearts we know God is there. We want to connect with Him because He is the reason we are here. Who can understand the intricately woven fabrics of our hearts? Who can get through the maze of neurons firing up in our brains? Our thought processes are many, our shifting emotions multi-layered. None of us is one-dimensional. The more we understand this, the better we fare.

Looking up is a change in perspective. I believe one reason why people climb mountains is to get a better view. And a better view is what we crave when we temporarily step away from an overwhelming reality. We want to see the big picture, the grand scheme of things.

Looking up is talking with God and listening to His input. Listening to God expands our world view and shapes us into strong and patient human beings. What the world needs now, more than ever, is patience. Impatience successfully eradicates life. Patience, on the other hand, builds up and heals. Here is an illustration of God’s patience by the Prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 42:3):

“A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.”

We know what often happens to bruised people: They get more bruises. A smoldering wick needs to be rekindled, not thrown out and trampled into the dust.

Looking up, our heart is transformed and that changes the way we see things. We look at the world through eyes of mercy.

Isaiah 46:4: “Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.”

As a young kid I was oblivious to old age, oblivious in the sense that I did not see old age ever happening to me. It felt as if my grandmother had always been old – even though the old black and white pictures in her photo album told a different story. It didn’t cross my mind that I would look just like my grandmother if I lived to be 94. As youngsters we think we live forever.

If we are blessed with a long life we will experience how our body switches gear over time. It’s not pleasant to see physical features disintegrate. It is humiliating to lose our faculties. Aging is hard and none of us know what we will have to deal with. God knows it and He says that He will sustain and carry us when the time comes.

The “circle of life” is deeply embedded into the human psyche. If we have children we generally take comfort in the fact that our gene pool lives on past our death. When Jacob, aka Israel was reunited with his son Joseph he had believed dead, he was ready to pass on the torch to the next generation and die (Genesis 46:30):

“Israel said to Joseph, “Now I am ready to die, since I have seen for myself that you are still alive.”

The best we can hope for towards the end of our life is a sense of fulfillment. Israel had this sense of fulfillment when he embraced his son. Children can help us transition from this life to the next, but not everybody has children and not everybody has good relations with them. Probably we should not pin our hopes too much on people. God alone provides solid peace of mind.

Finding God is finding life. God’s Spirit is poured out all over the world. I hope every person on this planet hears His voice and does not walk alone. Following God’s Son Jesus is not the easiest thing to do, but it’s the best thing to do. If you have not met Him yet, pray to Him and He will welcome you. If you have encountered Him, hold on to Him. He will see you through this life and beyond the valley of the shadow of death.

We need God when we are young and strong just as much as we need Him when we are old and grey. However short or long our life turns out to be, walking with God we will leave a legacy.

I need thee every hour
Most gracious Lord 
No tender voice like thine
Can peace afford
I need thee oh I need thee 
Every hour I need thee
Oh bless me now my savior 
I come to thee

Songwriters: Annie Hawks

2 Corinthians 4:8-9: “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”

A flowering shrub named “Lantana”, very popular in desert climates, also grows in our backyard. Once a year we cut her down to the bare bones. All that is left are leafless twigs, quite a depressing sight for any gardener. But wait – if you come back in a week or so, then voilà: tiny new leaves show up on the sticks. I guess this could count as an example for: “struck down, but not destroyed.”

Praying to God will give us a different outlook. God will bless us with a vision when life resembles bare and leafless twigs. Opening our eyes, He lets us see the signs of spring in the middle of a long and dreary winter. We come across wintry situations everywhere in the Bible, probably because life’s dark seasons, as much as we hate them, happen to everybody; God encourages us to look up to Him in those situations, just as He encouraged Prophet Elisha and his servant.

In the second book of Kings we read about Prophet Elisha befriending King Joram who ruled Israel for 10 years, between 850-840 BC.  During his reign war broke out between Aram-Damascus and Israel. Regardless which way Aram-Damascus’s army turned, Israel seemed to anticipate every move and the battle stalled. The enemy camp investigated the matter and soon found out that thanks to Prophet Elisha their battle plans had been revealed to Israel’s king on several occasions. Once the enemy got wind of the situation, they threatened to kill Elisha. So, under night cover an army of soldiers closed in on Dothan, Elisha’s hometown, and in the morning Dothan was militarily surrounded with no way out. Terrified, Elisha’s servant addressed the situation with his master. Following is an excerpt of their conversation (2 King 6:15-17):

‘Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?’ the servant asked.

‘Don’t be afraid,’ the prophet answered. ‘Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.’

And Elisha prayed, ‘Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.’ Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.”

It is all a matter of perspective – of course there is no perspective at all when we are blind to the things that are actually working for us. In the end, we all need the Lord to remove our blinders, just as He did for Prophet Elisha’s servant.

God can take care of you and me in life’s bleak situations. When we are in the dark and can’t see the light, we need to pray to the Light of the World, Jesus. He will open our eyes and we will see the proverbial rose hidden beneath the deepest snows. To see that rose we must believe.

“Beneath the deepest snows,
The secret of a rose
Is merely that it knows
You must believe in Spring!” 

(Alan and Marilyn Bergman, Jacques Demy, Michel Legrand)

Genesis 8:21: “The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: ‘Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.’”

In the aftermath of the big flood, the sole survivors of the human race – Noah and his family – came out of the boat to build an altar and sacrifice burnt offerings to the Lord. In response, the Lord swore the rainbow oath saying that He would never again curse the Earth as He had done even though the human heart is evil from childhood (Genesis 9:13):

I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.

There are two camps judging the nature of the human heart: one is the self-loathing “I’m-no-good” camp, the other is the oblivious “it’s-not-my-fault” camp. At first glance, God’s judgment of the human race seems to support the “I’m-no-good” camp; but if we dig a little deeper we will find that God’s intention is not to condemn but to save. And He saves us by removing the one thing that could potentially destroy us (Psalm 103:12):

“As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”

There is a walking distance of 12,429 miles between the North and the South Pole. In absence of a West or East Pole the distance between East and West remains undefined and is thereby immeasurable. Metaphorically speaking, this is how far God has removed our sin – immeasurably far – to cleanse and restore us into mint condition.

Looking into the treacherous mirror of self-assessment, our evaluations are mostly tainted and manipulated by our ego or other people. Accepting God’s assessment of us instead, we are blessed indeed. The Lord wants to lift us up, not tear us down.

God sent His Son Jesus into the world to heal our brokenness. Discovering Jesus is similar to getting connected to God’s heartbeat. With our hearts belonging to Him He is able to turn our lives around; He wants to grow us similar to a Gardener tending the soil. Under His care we flourish.

Genesis 11:9: “That is why it was called Babel—because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.”

An ambitious building project came to a screeching halt. What happened?  In the 11th chapter of the book of Genesis we read how people got together to build a great city with an enormous tower. Their goal was to unify the world under one capital – incidentally the goal of many rising and falling empires in the history of mankind. With the introduction of foreign languages, however, God threw a mighty curve ball. People divided into their respective language groups to form tribes and nations. And so they began to scatter into the four corners of this world forever abandoning the construction project of the Tower of Babel.

With Babel came native and foreign tongues, and ever since we have been in dire need of translators to be able to communicate with people all over the world. “Babel” sounds like the word “confusion” in Hebrew. And the confusion is profound indeed – even among people speaking the same language. We have a hard time understanding each other and much less can we make sense of God’s Word. Consequently, God has been misunderstood, and in the realm of human relations people have been misunderstood.

We worship God in Spirit and in truth. Without God’s Spirit we don’t know how to worship the Lord. The same is true with studying the Word of God; the Spirit of God breathes life and meaning into the Scriptures and explains God’s thoughts to us. He could be seen as our interpreter from Heaven. Jesus introduced the Holy Spirit to His followers as an advocate and His representative before He left this earth to return to the Father. In John’s gospel Jesus said to His disciples (John 14:26): 

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” 

The gift of the Holy Spirit has become the powerful antidote to the Babel event. He opens the door to a better understanding between God and His children and naturally also between believers. The Spirit of God was poured out worldwide to teach us God’s ways and is currently knocking on doors of human hearts to bring all people back to God (Revelation 22:17):

“The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’ Let anyone who hears this say, ‘Come.’ Let anyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who desires drink freely from the water of life.”

Acts 17:26: “From one man he made all the nations that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.”

The book of Genesis starts out with the creation of a new species: mankind. And so the first human beings arrived on the scene. In the generations to follow human DNA diversified. Mankind became something like a variety show. We have different acts and different sets of actors. What we certainly don’t have is unity, even though we originally came from the same source.

The key to unity is to realize we are family. Family feuds are common but can be overcome. The way to oneness is respect. When we respect the otherness of the family member we gain access to resources that were previously unavailable – simply because of lack of communication. Defensiveness is such a waste!

Getting together from different angles and viewpoints is much more powerful than sticking together without venturing out. Unity does not require conformity. Agreeing to disagree is much more authentic than thinking alike. I believe the Trinity is a great role model for getting together authentically. Members of the Trinity are the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and they differ greatly from one another, however, their distinctiveness apparently is not driving them apart; if anything, the members of the Trinity are the glue of the universe. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit created us, carry us, know us, hear us, and love us dearly; last but not least: The Trinity saves us.

If we are coming from one man and are loved by one God, then unity is a possibility – actually better than a possibility and much more like a prophecy. The last chapter of the Bible talks about world peace, which is authentic peace as opposed to fake peace (Revelation 7:9):

“After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. “

God’s peace embraces different viewpoints and respects each individual. Embracing God we open ourselves up to widening our horizon. We learn to love like Jesus when we follow Him. His love is generous and unpretentious. The crowd of people worshiping God before the throne and before the Lamb comes from nations and tribes all around the world. Worshiping God in diversity is the future of mankind, made possible through the sacrificial intervention of the Trinity – because, let’s face it: if it wasn’t for God’s intervention peace would have remained an unattainable dream.

God has a dream, and we will live to see it. It will be better than our wildest imaginations. Best of all: we don’t have to wait for it; we can live this dream right here and now. We can, because God changes our heart if we give Him permission.

“Love is but the song we sing,
And fear’s the way we die
You can make the mountains ring
Or make the angels cry
Know the dove is on the wing
Though we don’t know why
C’mon people now,
Smile on your brother
Ev’rybody get together
Come on and love one another right now”                 
(Chet Powers)

Revelation 22:2: “On each side of the river grew a tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, with a fresh crop each month. The leaves were used for medicine to heal the nations.”

In the beginning God planted beautiful, fruit-bearing trees meant to be enjoyed. Sadly, one of the trees became deadly to mankind, namely, the ominous tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God issued a stern warning to stay away from that particular tree (Genesis 2:16):

“You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden – except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.”

We know how the story goes. The fruit of that tree was consumed anyway introducing death to creation. Thus it gained the bad reputation of a tree bearing the fruit of death.

Let’s pause here for a minute and think about what this tree stands for. Obviously it does not mean pursuing knowledge equals evil. There is a vast array of knowledge to be gained – not the least of which is getting to know people. Some English Bible translations employ the verb “know” when it comes to intimate relations between a man and a woman (Genesis 4:1):

“And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived and bore Cain, and said, ‘I have gotten a man from the Lord.’”

Children are born as a result of Adam “knowing” his wife. Another prominent example of knowledge pursuit in the Bible is King Solomon’s desire for wisdom and understanding. At the onset of his reign he asked God for discernment to govern the nation of Israel wisely and the Lord gladly granted his wish.

So apparently, there is good knowledge and bad knowledge. The opening chapter of the book of Proverbs, largely authored by King Solomon, says to this effect (Proverbs 1:7):

“Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true knowledge.”

Fear of the Lord puts God in the middle of all aspects of life. We love Him, we walk with Him and we explore with Him. God will reveal things unknown to us. I believe that all great scientific discoveries are based on divine revelation. Although knowledge in itself does not kill us, attempting to know better than the Lord unfortunately does. 

In the book of Deuteronomy the prophet Moses talks about the death penalty, specifically execution on a tree (Deuteronomy 21:22-23):

“And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God.”

The fact that God initiated a law to ensure proper treatment for people on death row shows that He cares for criminals and intends to protect their rights. Paying last respects to an executed person by providing a grave is an act of decency. But there is more.

I believe the Law of Moses requesting to remove a dead body from the tree was also written in anticipation of Jesus’s execution. Approximately 1400 years later the Son of God was killed, His hands and feet nailed to a wooden beam. A law-abiding Jewish citizen, Joseph of Arimathea made sure that the Lord was taken off the cross and placed into his tomb. Jesus emerged from there three days later – resurrected from the dead. He would become the one and only antidote to death, saving God’s creation from corruption. Jesus turned a tree of death, the cross, into a tree of life.

Metaphorically speaking we are like trees and if our roots dig deep to get to know the Lord we turn into the tree as described in chapter 22 of John’s book of Revelation. Growing on both sides of the river, we bear fruit in and out of season and our leaves are used to bring healing to the world – which is what God’s peacemakers are called to do.

Psalm 27:4: “One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.”

These days we provide animal sanctuaries for certain species when their kind is on the brink of distinction. When the people of Israel were camping in the desert near Mount Sinai God asked for a sanctuary. He said (Exodus 25:8):

“Have the people of Israel built me a holy sanctuary so I can live among them.”

God wants to move in – not to be protected from distinction, but to be near us.

We know how a place changes when somebody else moves in – whether it’s a newborn or a college student, sharing the home with someone new changes the living space. This can be good or bad depending on whether the person moving in is good news or bad news. What happens when God moves in? To answer this question we need to take a closer look at the sanctuary as described in the Old Testament.

The design of the sanctuary is the Father’s love letter to His Son indicating that His Son’s sacrifice is highly appreciated. For this reason the sanctuary is full of imagery of God’s Son Jesus. It contains:

  1. Ark of the Covenant containing God’s law; Jesus said about Himself that He is the fulfillment God’s law.
  2. Mercy Seat; Jesus is the embodiment of God’s mercy, and He said about himself that He came to seek and save what is lost. (Matthew 9:13): “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.
  3. The table for bread; Jesus said about Himself that He is the bread of life.
  4. The Golden Lamp stand; Jesus said about Himself that He is the light of the world.
  5. Incense, Olive Oil; incense always stands for prayer, and there was an olive grove in the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus submitted to the Father’s will and prayed: “Thy will be done”
  6. Bronze Altar; Jesus sacrificed His life and was the first to rise from the dead.
  7. Tabernacle curtains and veils; the veil hiding the Ark is decorated with Cherubim and is a reminder of the garden entrance of Eden guarded by Cherubim. Adam and Eve were not allowed back into the Garden after they sinned; but after Jesus’ sacrificial death these same curtains ripped apart indicating that now there is access back into God’s presence.

The people of Israel were still on their way to the Promised Land when God asked them to build Him a sanctuary. And so the first building of the tabernacle (Hebrew: Tent of Meeting) happened in the desert. After everybody chipped in and donated the raw materials needed to start the building project, the craftsmen went to work. The construction period of the tent of meeting is a faint reminder of the days of creation. God’s Spirit hovered over the surface of the deep and created the building blocks of today’s reality, the reality we call universe – all of time and space and its contents. God’s construction period was interspersed with evenings and mornings. Evening gave way to morning; darkness gave way to light; indistinguishable monotony gave way to hustling and bustling creativity; death gave way to life.

God creates order before moving in. That’s what He does.

Each human being carries a precious sanctuary – the sanctuary of the heart that is – and God wants to move in; are we ready for a change of heart?  If we accept Jesus’s sacrifice, our heart will become move-in ready; and when God’s Spirit moves into our heart He makes everything new.

Exodus 13:14: “In days to come, when your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ say to him, ‘With a mighty hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.’”

Customs and traditions become disembodied and meaningless when we don’t know the back story. Jewish heritage is rich in customs and traditions, and the purpose of these is to remember God’s faithfulness. After leaving Egypt the prophet Moses announced to the people of Israel (Exodus 13:3):

“Then Moses said to the people, ‘Commemorate this day, the day you came out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery, because the Lord brought you out of it with a mighty hand. Eat nothing containing yeast.’”

We can easily see that the custom of eating unleavened bread (bread without yeast) for seven days in spring would raise questions in following generations. These questions are encouraged because they serve as a reminder (Exodus 13:8-9):

“On that day tell your son, ‘I do this because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt.’ This observance will be for you like a sign on your hand and a reminder on your forehead that this law of the Lord is to be on your lips. For the Lord brought you out of Egypt with his mighty hand.”

Israel was forced into slavery by Egyptian kings for a time period of approximately 400 years. Leaving Egypt for good left these horrible memories behind; however, a seemingly endless journey through the Sinai wilderness made Egypt look attractive again. Time and again the Israeli refugees lost hope that they would ever reach the Promised Land; they figured their only chance of survival was to turn around and go back to where they came from.

We could say that the wilderness became a place of Israel’s identity crisis. Transitioning from an enslaved people group to a free sovereign nation is not an easy thing to do. Like a caterpillar morphing into a butterfly, a group of slaves evolved into a sovereign nation. It’s a miracle of God to be remembered.

Perhaps we have a similar wilderness experiences today and are going through an identity crisis of our own. In every identity crisis we can resort to some sort of survival mode, or we can embrace the Lord. He is faithful. If we have encountered His redemptive power in the past, then we know He will come through for us in present times as well. We need to remember who He is and whose we are.

“In the wilderness
In the wilderness
He calls His sons and daughters
To the wilderness
But He gives grace sufficient
To survive any test
And that’s the painful purpose
Of the wilderness”
– Michael Card

Isaiah 48:17: “This is what the Lord says— your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: ‘I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.’”

God’s history with the children of Israel is a narrative spun all throughout the books of the Bible. It’s a story of astonishing faith, but also a rather sobering example of human inconsistencies. The God of Israel says it in no uncertain terms: He hates competing with idols. We can see His response to human unfaithfulness in the book of Isaiah (Isaiah 48:10-11):

“See I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this. How can I let myself be defamed? I will not yield my glory to another.”

God has every intention to upgrade the covenant relationship with His children – and so He purifies the children of Israel by allowing all kinds of trouble. He is a jealous God who does not want to share His children’s affections. He won’t have it. It’s as simple as that. On that note the prophet Moses proclaimed the words of God to the people of Israel in the Sinai desert (Deuteronomy 32:21):

“They made me jealous by what is no god and angered me with their worthless idols. I will make them envious by those who are not a people; I will make them angry by a nation that has no understanding.”

I believe God is referring to the “heathen nations” when He says that He is going to make the people of Israel envious by those who are not a people. It is certainly not a very flattering statement to hear that the nations outside of Israel have no understanding. But here we are centuries later and faith in the God of Israel has spread all over the globe. This is the only good form of jealousy that I know: Envious to know the Lord.

The truth is the nations of this world have run into the same relationship issues with God Almighty as the people of Israel previously have. We are all frail human beings, prone to make mistakes. As a result we all go through a furnace of trouble to learn how to fully depend on the Lord. He wants to get our attention so He can show us the way.

The Lord knows what is best for us, so we can put our trust in Him – especially in times of trouble.

Psalm 51:17: “My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.”

Once we had a young pet, our little cat Malinka, who got involved in an accident, which left her with just a few more hours to live. She died in the course of the night before we could see our veterinarian. Malinka had crawled into a corner of our bedroom where she would breathe her last. Animals know when it’s their time to go.

Everybody is familiar with the concept of change, which requires saying goodbye to one thing to make room for another. This is always easier said than done, especially when we are not ready to let go. Goodbyes may hurt, but life is impossible to live without changes. If we cannot leave when it’s time to go then we end up being stuck.

When we are going through the motions because our life has been turned upside down we have to remember that garden soil too is turned upside down – and to what purpose? – We prepare the soil for the new seed. While going through tough times is all a puzzle to us, brokenness is no reason to give up, but to look up.

Among the 66 books of the Bible, the book of Psalms has always stood out to me. Similar to a cry room in a public building, where people take their babies or small children for privacy reasons, that’s how God’s children take their worries and cares into their personal prayer closet. Venting to the Lord is the best therapy when it comes to brokenness and pain. God has always been very close to the brokenhearted. As a matter of fact, He is closest when we are at our lowest. He is right there with us when we need Him most, whether we can feel His presence or not (Psalm 34:18):

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

Instead of trying to piece it all together on our own, let’s protect our sanity by letting God catch our broken pieces. We are safe in His hands. Let Him heal our wounds, work with us through our pain, and help us in our distress.  Broken in God’s hands, He can mend us so we can rise again and embrace a new tomorrow.

“Broken
Broken world
Broken dreams
Alone in the crowd
Unspoken
Unspoken fears
Unspoken anger
Just acting out
Can’t see the light in the night
Don’t understand the events of the day
But there’s the hand of the living God
Holding me in the midst of it all”               
(Basically Two, Bill & Evelyn Snyder)

Psalm 27:14: “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”

Nobody is born patient. Patience is best expressed in the ability to wait. For that, we all have to grow up. Imagine telling a crying baby to wait – food is just around the corner. A baby doesn’t understand. A baby wants food now! Whining on the freeway when there is an hour’s delay, we are all behaving like babies.

It takes strength to wait.

It sometimes takes guts to wait.

And at all times hope will help us out.

In fact, I don’t believe patience is possible without hope. We lose hope, we usually also lose our patience. The trick is not to nourish false hope. If we’re betting on the wrong horse, chances are, we’re going to be sorely disappointed. I believe one of the things the psalmist is getting at is not to wait for any old thing – but wait for the Lord.

I’m a pusher by nature. I work hard, want to get things done and thrive on accomplishments without dwelling too much on them because I’m already pursuing the next project. I may exhibit patience at work because I love to work. I’m into details. I’m thorough. So I may fool some people into thinking I have all the patience in the world. – Well, no, not really! I’m only patient with the things that I like to do. I have little to no patience with the things I hate doing, such as repairing my bike for instance. I leave that to my husband.

Does that make me an impatient person? Maybe! Or maybe we are all impatient at the core and we all have to choose to be patient.

Honestly, I think that patience can’t be learned, it has to be chosen every waking moment. I choose to be patient, because I know better. I choose to wait on the Lord because I know He will come through for me.

Choosing the Lord, we choose life. Choosing the Lord, we choose to wait on Him. Remember, we are not choosing our circumstances, but we can always choose the Lord.

“But those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint” – Isaiah 40:31

Genesis 1:26: Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

Since God has lived forever and nobody has created Him, there must have been a time when God was on His own so-to-speak. I know, “God on His own” sounds a bit awkward. What I am trying to say is that before the Trinity created anything it was just the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit conversing with each other. At some point in time the Trinity decided to become parents. God wanted to have kids – knowing full well (to put it mildly) that it would upset the apple cart. God took that chance, and so He created living beings with a free will, angels, humans, animals, complete with a very complex universe, a star system that we call space and a home planet that we call Earth. And the rest is history.

Why would God set Himself up for heartache and pain? Ever since He created living beings there has been nothing but trouble: A small group of angels attempted to overthrow the existing government of the Trinity. Heaven has never been the same. War broke out, the coup d’état failed, and approximately one third of the angel population left to create their separate empire. Last I’ve heard: The relationship between the fallen angels and the Trinity has not yet been repaired.

You would think that this experience had to have influenced God’s decision to not have any more kids, however, that’s definitely not the case. In the aftermath of the revolutionary war the Trinity made plans for a new species; God decided (Genesis 1:26):

“Let us make man.”

We know what came out of that idea. Mankind left the Garden of Eden and ventured out on its own. Today’s world has people on speaking terms with God and people who are not. If we had a chance to interview God, one of the questions would certainly be: “Why did you expose yourself to so much pain by creating living beings with a free will who would spite You in Your face and hurt the world around them?” What do you think His answer would be?

If you are a parent and have several kids, some of them turned out decent adults, maybe some of them (or one of them) not so much. Would you regret ever becoming a parent? I believe answering this question puts us closer to the heart of God. God chose to become a parent because even though love hurts, according to His assessment, it’s well worth it. The joy outweighs the pain. The joy of resurrection outweighs the pain of the cross. That’s why love is willing to suffer. That’s why love goes the extra mile.

As soon as we love, we suffer. Love hurts. Everybody who decided to have kids will agree to that. Or ask anybody who fell in love and it didn’t work out. Or talk to pet owners – with a few exceptions, we are very likely surviving our pets; that means, as soon as we decide on a cute puppy or take in a stray cat, we set up our hearts to be broken. However, would we want to have it any other way? How about never having kids to spare us the worries and heartaches related to raising them? We could avoid animal shelters and pet stores for the rest of our lives to not even be tempted to bring one home. How about deciding to stay single? Our hearts wouldn’t be broken, or would they? Loneliness is a high price to pay!

Even though it may be painful, love is worth taking the risk. If you don’t believe me, take it from the One who has loved His creation from the beginning.

“Love hurts
Love scars
Love wounds and marks
Any heart not tough or strong enough
To take a lot of pain, take a lot of pain
Love is like a cloud, it holds a lot of rain
Love hurts”                         Diadorius Boudleaux Bryant

Galatians 6:2: “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

We are born to be free – this sounds good in theory, but in all reality all kinds of issues infringe on our freedom. And what happens all too often, we slowly but surely get stuck in our own little world. Preoccupied, we do not even notice when someone else is challenged. If we do notice, we tend to look away because we could not bear another person’s burden on top of ours. We think that we must take care of ourselves first and then help others. Well, the apostle Paul disagrees and in his letter to the Galatians points to the law of Christ saying that we first take care of another man’s burden.

So what happens to our own burdens in the process? Obviously we have to set these aside for a moment until we are through dealing with the other person’s issue. Since this is the law of Christ, Jesus will remedy the situation. Do not underestimate the benefit of helping someone. We will feel good about it. Almost always we learn something. And probably there is a ripple effect and additional people will be blessed.

Here is the thing about our own burdens and responsibilities: We are not supposed to carry them in the first place. Carrying each other’s burden is the law of Christ, which means Christ Himself does not carry His own burden, no, He carries ours. And He invites us to carry His yoke, which He says is light.

We can truly contribute to this day and age when we are not weighed down or held back by our own problems and issues. This is why the law of Christ is such a blessing to our society. Unburdened, we look people in the eye and are fully present. Hospitals; charity work; animal shelters – all of the above and more is based on the law of Christ. Take all of this out of the equation, and we would live in a much colder world.

The kingdom of heaven runs on kindness and empathy. Angels will cheer us on as we get on board with the law of Christ, let go of our own burdens and help the person next to us.

“I’m gonna lay down my heavy load down by the riverside. Ain’t gonna study war no more” – Mark Braud