Romans 5:8: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

At age 17 I realized that God is real. It was wonderful to get connected to God and experience His love. However, to me, the Godhead felt a bit crowded.

“One God is plenty”, I thought. “Why Three in One?”

I did what I always do when I don’t get something: I focused on the things that I did get. I understood that I have a Father in Heaven who loves me and left it at that.

When we were dating, my future husband Bill and I started hanging out to get to know each other. After a while he introduced me to his family. Getting to know the Trinity reminds me a little bit of dating. As time progressed I could not help but notice that besides loving me, the Father dearly loves His Son. Isn’t that how it works? We get involved with one member of the Trinity, and pretty soon we get introduced to all three of them: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

The Godhead situation became pretty unique when the Trinity had to temporarily split. Jesus arrived on planet Earth! The Son of God was born into a human family and became one of us – a relative of ours! Think about that for a minute.

We celebrate Christmas because God became our relative.

We celebrate Easter because this relative of ours laid down His life for us.

We know that God is eternal. He has no beginning and no end. And yet, by becoming one of us, the eternal God, Author of life and Heartbeat of Creation, voluntarily submitted to mortality. His heartbeat literally stopped before He was returned to life and rose from the grave – all of that to rescue His creation from death.

Dying for us is one thing, but being martyred to death is quite another. Honestly, for the longest time I had trouble seeing why Jesus had to be punished so badly. It made me feel bad. Have you ever wondered why Jesus had to die the way He did – nailed to two wooden beams? If you have seen any of the quite graphic motion pictures showing Jesus on the cross, you too may have wondered about that.

Appalling as His manner of dying was, Jesus did not compete to die the cruelest death ever. Many criminals in the Roman Empire awaited the same fate. Nailed to the cross, people expired to satisfy Roman law. Jesus, however, did not die to satisfy Roman law. He definitely was no criminal. He did nothing wrong to deserve to be executed. Nevertheless, there’s a reason for Jesus’s willingness to submit to the Roman criminal justice system. His intention was to take the blame for every crime ever committed and to accept its punishment – including the crimes committed by the two criminals who were dying right next to Him.

Jesus and the two criminals were in the same boat. All three of them were nailed to the cross awaiting their death. Here is the unfolding conversation between the three dying men (Luke 23:39-43):

“One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”

But the other criminal rebuked him. ‘Don’t you fear God,’ he said, ‘since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.’

Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’

Jesus answered him, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.’”

We understand that there’s more to having a real conversation than just being physically present. A Native American proverb basically says that we’re not supposed to criticize people, unless we have “walked a mile in their moccasins”. Well, being crucified with the two criminals, Jesus was more than physically present. He walked in their shoes and literally felt their pain. That’s love going the extra mile.

How could a fire department accomplish a rescue mission without ever being on the scene of the accident? That doesn’t make much sense, does it? By the same token, God decided to go through hell to pull us out of hell. That’s redemption in a nutshell! If there was a different way of saving us, I’m convinced that God would have done it. As it is, He chose His Son to perform the biggest rescue mission ever – saving the world – by dying on the cross. Thank God that He did!

Birds have nest, foxes have dens, but the hope of the whole world rests on the shoulders of a homeless man.

Romans 10:9-10: “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.”

It was customary in the Roman world to declare that Caesar is Lord. To say and believe that Jesus is Lord went directly against the Roman Empire and what they stood for. People had to suffer the consequences for being outspoken. Courageous people died for their faith in Jesus back then, and it still happens today depending on the political situation of a country.

Courage is needed to stand up for what is right, but we also need wisdom to say the right things at the right time. There is no benefit in digging in our heels. This will increasingly isolate us from the rest of the world and further alienate us from people who question us. The goal is to find the language to express our thoughts in a way that people can relate to – just as Jesus did when He was questioned by His contemporaries.

To put Him on the spot, Jesus was asked in public to voice His opinion on paying the Imperial Tax to Caesar. Following is His reaction (Matthew 22:18-22):

“But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, ‘You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax.’ They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, ‘Whose image is this? And whose inscription?’

‘Caesar’s,’ they replied.

Then he said to them, ‘So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.’

When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.”

This is as straightforward as it gets. Jesus did not mince the words. He called the people asking Him this loaded question ‘hypocrites’; and at the same time His answer speaks to the hearts of all parties involved.

The goal is to never lose interest in other people’s opinions and to be transparent enough to be believable. Jesus had conversations with people from every walk of life. He was free from prejudice and preconceived notions. He spoke with the rich and the poor, the destitute and the well-to do, the religious experts, and the nobodies of His time. He addressed every person with tact and spoke in a language they all could understand.

It seems to be a human tendency to form clubs and create subcultures instead of stepping out to meet people where they are and keep the doors open for ongoing conversation. When opposing parties have stopped talking, the sound of silence can be deadly. On the other hand, keeping the dialogue going without defenses up and without trying to win the argument is a truly worthy objective.

Let’s ask God for empathy to be able to relate, for patience to hear people out and for plenty of wisdom to keep the communication flow up and running. This is exactly what Jesus did when He was on Earth – what better way to declare His lordship than by doing the same?

1 Corinthians 1:18: “[Christ Crucified Is God’s Power and Wisdom] For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

Saved is a state of being, not an end result. The fact that it is so hard to discuss the message of the cross intelligibly has everything to do with disclosure. The message of the cross has to be revealed by God’s Spirit. God Himself endorses this message and gives it its seal of authenticity.

The idea of God dying on the cross for us is just as mind-blowing as the idea of God becoming a human being – for real – not just for a week or so, no, the entire human experience. Jesus was born like any human baby; he grew up, went through puberty, became a man and ran his own business before He went into public ministry. All of that is part of the story of the cross. He didn’t just fall from Heaven and got martyred. The Son of God was a citizen, had a nationality and belonged to a family tribe.

Jesus didn’t fall from Heaven because there was more to conquer than death. He also came to redeem our lives by living the full cycle of the human experience. God got His hands dirty; He cried; He laughed; He got tired; He got sweaty; He got hungry; He got refreshed; He cracked jokes; He had parents; He built friendships; He was loved and He was despised. He was revered and he was ignored.

And Jesus prayed. I bet praying was a different experience for Him as a human being. Praying on Earth has its challenges. You have to really want it! Distractions are everywhere. I imagine if we pray in Heaven where God lives that’s a whole different story.

Then Jesus died publicly in front of everybody a very cruel death. Dying in itself is tough. Why He had to be humiliated and murdered that way is incomprehensible, but so is human brutality that happens on a daily basis. The point being Jesus came to redeem us from all of that. He came to save us from ourselves.

For some reason the message of the cross got some of us twisted into thinking that we’re to blame for Jesus’s death. It’s our entire fault that this glorious Son of God had to suffer so badly. This is only half the truth. The other part of the truth is that Jesus chose to bail us out because He thinks we’re worth it.

Let this message of the cross sink in as we go through another Easter season. Jesus’s greatest joy is to see our healing process as a result of His sacrifice. We accept the truth God whispers into our ear, and we shed off all the things that tie us down and hold us back. Being saved simply means we get to be real. Turning to God and allowing Him to heal us turns us into the person we’re designed to be.

Discover God and you’ll discover who you really are.

Romans 13:8: “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.”

Love is more than a feeling. We may have feelings for a person on a sunny afternoon, but then reality kicks in the following day and now we feel differently. Feelings are fickle. They come and go. And then there’s this aspect of: “I love you more”, when there is rivalry of any kind. Love is no competition. Love is a lifestyle.

“You owe me one!” we hear sometimes when somebody went the extra mile and did something extraordinary to our benefit. Imagine God said that to you and me: “You owe me one!” after He sacrificed His Son. How would we feel about that? Thankfully, God does not say or think that. This is not who He is.

God is extremely generous by nature. Pouring out His love is His daily habit. He simply goes above and beyond, which is why He owes us nothing. If we have trouble believing that, it’s mostly our perception of Him that gets us in trouble. A tainted view of God will taint our view of pretty much everything. We’ll also have a tainted view of love.

Looking at God’s habit of loving every person on this planet, that’s the love lifestyle Paul is hinting at in his letter to the Romans. God is love. So are His children. We owe it to the world that is largely loveless.

If we love like God does, then there are no checks and balances when it comes to loving people. To love is as natural as to breathe. Not to love is as unnatural as not breathing. Actually, not breathing kills us – just as much as not loving kills our spirit.

To love or not to love is really not a question. We just need to go for it. God’s Spirit will breathe meaning into this four-letter-word that has been misinterpreted and abused ever since there is people. Love is really not that complicated, but it’s sometimes hard to do. I don’t think it was easy for Jesus to love His enemies. But He did. Ultimately, it’s easier to keep on loving than to keep on hating, because if we hold on to a grudge we only hurt ourselves.

Love is a lifestyle choice, and God is all over it. It’s not hard to find God if we choose this lifestyle, and it’s not hard to love when get to know Him.

Romans 13:6-7: “Pay your taxes, too, for these same reasons. For government workers need to be paid. They are serving God in what they do. Give to everyone what you owe them: Pay your taxes and government fees to those who collect them, and give respect and honor to those who are in authority.”

Free as a bird! Wouldn’t it be nice if we didn’t have to pay for everything? We come and go as we please, we have no responsibilities, and we just live? In theory, perhaps! But in all reality, wouldn’t it be a lonely society if everyone just lived for his or her needs without needing anybody?

Our daily reality is ruled by our needs. We need to work to get food on the table. It’s simple. Workers deserve their pay. Withholding wages is withholding sustenance. We all need to eat, so we all need to get paid. There is no such thing as free lunch.

The kingdom of God works entirely differently. In this world, time is money. We get paid for our services. God on the other hand is timeless and He does not get paid. According to our world’s standards, God is poor. And there is really no room for God in the busy machinery we call life in this world. We couldn’t be more estranged from the ways of Heaven. So much so, that we can’t really imagine what Heaven is like, other than the absence of fear, loneliness, sickness and disease. – Well, we take all of that out of the equation, what is left to fight for? If there ain’t any issues, there ain’t any problems to solve. What kind of life is that? Are we going to be bored in Heaven?

The presence of Heaven is a sure indicator that there is such a thing as free lunch. Freedom from paid services on one hand, graciousness and generosity on the other is a way of life. Unfettered by money, unhindered by poverty, unencumbered by physical limitations we live the life of a citizen in the kingdom of God.

The essence of life in God’s kingdom is love. It’s the relationships that count. Life is rewarding because we have each other. And the beauty of it all: we don’t put a price tag on love, because love is priceless. We’re rich because God is rich in love. Love is the color of Heaven that’s dripping down on planet Earth; love is the secret agent on Earth that holds things together. Without God’s love this world would have fallen apart a long time ago.

Let’s remember that next time when we pay someone for his or her services. We don’t pay because we have to, but because we want to. This comes closer to God’s generous mindset who showers us with His blessings – not because He has to, but because He wants to!

Posted in Pay

1 Corinthians 15:1, 3-4: “Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.”

Death runs in the family. Everybody dies.

There are all kinds of issues arising from death. One is separation anxiety. Separation is a trauma we’re all dealing with at some point in our lives. For me it happened for the first time when I lost my Dad through divorce. When my parents divorced I was 2 years old. I couldn’t voice my confusion back then. If I could have, I would have said something like this: “Dad why did you leave me? I thought you loved me!”

My Dad really didn’t leave me. He was divorced from me.

Death does the same thing. Death divorces people from us.

Death divorced Jesus from the Trinity. For a while the Trinity was reduced to two. Talking about trauma here: It is one thing when families are torn apart; it is quite another when the Trinity is torn apart. Here is what Jesus prayed when He went through the agony of separation (Psalm 22:1):

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

God did not leave Jesus. He was divorced from Him.

The pain of separation has scarred all of creation. “It is finished” Jesus prayed shortly before His physical death on the cross. What is finished? Is Jesus finished? Obviously not, otherwise His last word would have been: “I am finished.” How about: Death is finished? Well, He is about to die, so that can’t be it. How about: My punishment is finished? Still, this doesn’t ring true because his punishment was the death sentence, and He was not dead yet. How about: My mission is accomplished? I believe that with all of my heart. Jesus finished what He was set out to do.

Our souls are housed in our bodies during our lifetime on Earth. Death eventually separates the two. A soul without a home is the greatest agony imaginable. Rootless, restless, hopeless, empty and lost our souls roam without a home. Divorced from God, our souls are drifting gypsies. But praise the Lord! – Jesus has saved us from homelessness. He is currently in heaven preparing a place for us.

God hates divorce and did everything in His power to overcome separation that goes beyond death. Reunited with our Maker, we beat futility. Life on Earth is not business as usual with Jesus in our midst. We get a foretaste of eternal life while we’re still here.

Yes, Jesus is in our midst because His expiration on the cross lasted less than three days. On the third day He rose from the grave. His mission is indeed accomplished. We now have a place to go to, and Heaven is waiting for us to come home.

John 12:24-25: “Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal.”

The power of the seed – farmers bank on it. They throw wheat kernels onto the tilled soil, and they are not surprised to eventually see new plants shooting up, each plant carrying multiple grains of wheat.

Now imagine you and me being a kernel of wheat. We’re sitting somewhere in storage and having a conversation. Our names are (for lack of a better idea) Kern and Vern.

“Hey Vern”, Kern says. “You awake?” – “Not sure that I want to be,” replied Vern. “Today’s the day we’re gonna die.” – “Yeah, I was awake all night. They’re gonna take all of us sitting here, high and dry, and burry us in the ground.” – Yes, replied Vern, and to make matters worse, they’re gonna pour water over us. No more high and dry. Try low and wet!” Kern and Vern sighed until they were interrupted by a raspy voice coming from a neighboring sack of grain that looked half empty. His name was Rascal. “Hey, you crybabies!” Kern and Vern were offended. “What do you mean crybabies?! Nobody broke the news to you? Today you’re gonna die!” – “Don’t you think I know that?” the raspy voice answered. “Last year I headed in the same direction, was going to be thrown out on what people call their seedbed, but for some reason they didn’t scatter all of us. We’re the leftover grain from last year. I’m telling you, don’t worry about it!” – “Oh come on!” protested Vern “You know we’re as good as dead. The fact that you got spared last year doesn’t mean you get lucky this year.” – “What you don’t know,” the raspy voice continued, “is what happens after we’re buried in the ground.” – “Yeah I know” defiantly Kern chimed in, “they’re gonna take the water hose and drown us in water.” “True”, Rascal said. “But that’s not what I’m getting at. Did you know that after a short while the dark ground opens up and releases beautiful big mother plants full of new grains, just like you and me? There are many new grains inside of you, and you don’t know it. You’ll release them once you’re buried in the ground.” – “No way!” Kern and Vern interjected. “Yes way!” Rascal said, and that was the end of their discussion, because they heard footsteps approaching, and everybody knew what that meant.

There are 50 kernels of wheat in one head of wheat. That’s the dynamic of one kernel falling to the ground to feed the hungry. One grain of wheat produces 50 times more grain. Jesus is a great illustrator. Instead of lengthy explanations He gives us the imagery of a seed that comes alive in a seedbed. Here is His piece of advice to all the Kerns and Verns out there: If you let go of your own little cozy corner and open up to the rest of the world taking a vested interest in the people around you, then life gets a whole lot more interesting. The more we give, the more we receive. And I know it makes no sense at all, but living the give-away lifestyle enriches and inspires us tremendously while the holding-on lifestyle leaves us empty and poor.

Be generous with your time and heaven’s generosity pours all over you!

Luke 9:23-24:”Then he [Jesus] said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.'”

One of the tell-tale signs that Jesus’ ministry on Earth was coming to a close were His early predictions of His upcoming arrest. He was on the road to Jerusalem where He knew He’d face certain death. Yet He kept on walking. His mind was made up. Approaching Jerusalem, Jesus addressed the crowd with the following words (Luke 9:24):

“If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for My sake, you will save it.”

Jesus walked the talk. He did not hang on to His own life; giving up His life He saved it as God resurrected Him on the Third Day; and by freely giving His life He ultimately saved the world.

When we departed from the Garden of Eden we left God and got further and further away from Him; God on the other hand did not leave us. Even though the human situation got really nasty, He still did not drop us like a hot potato. Instead, we experience the goodness of the Lord on any given day when He helps us out and leaves us gifts; He lets the Sun shine on the good and the bad. Some actually take offense to that and say: that’s not fair. Our God does not intend to be fair. Our God is extremely generous and very patient. Thank God that He is!

Our faltering attempts to live a good life on this planet have not gone unnoticed. God came to our rescue. Jesus’s death on the cross is a martyr’s death – He died the death of a criminal and didn’t deserve it. However, there’s more to the story: He died so we can live.

Similar to being caught in quicksand, our failures lead to yet more failures. Jesus broke this vicious cycle. He accepted the consequences of our shortcomings in our stead. The buck stops right there – at the cross. Jesus on the cross lived our pain, breathed in our brokenness and exhaled His last breath in death to save us from the repercussions of all our bad choices. Instead of punishment God’s open arms are wide, ready to receive us back.

Our heavenly Father loves to be gracious! Jesus is a hero in the Father’s eyes because what His heart wants most – extending grace to all His estranged children – is now happening on any given day. People realize one by one that they are loved by God and that the doors to reconciliation are wide open. Reunions take place. People find Heaven or Heaven finds them. Jesus’ sacrificial death enables grace upon grace.

The longer we live the more God’s belief in us strikes us. Yes, this is an astounding fact: God believes in us – so much so that He bet His Son’s life on it. He invests in us by withholding nothing and giving it all! If God so fully invests in us why wouldn’t we take a step of faith and invest in Him?

John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

1 Peter 2:24: “ ‘He himself bore our sins’ in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; ‘by his wounds you have been healed.’”

Healing is in God’s name, and there is a lot in this world that is broken and in need of healing. Healing brings order into chaos. Healing brings peace. Healing breathes the universal sigh of relief.

The Trinity has been working tirelessly to restore sick bodies and repair broken relationships. Like ointment the Holy Spirit was poured out on a hurting world. Jesus spilled His lifeblood for the same reason. And the Father cut through the chase, brought order into chaos and sacrificed everything near and dear to Him, not even withholding His Son. The visible part of the major repair work that has been ongoing ever since mankind messed up, is Jesus’s public ministry during His earth years. Now He is working behind the scenes sitting at the right hand of the Father tirelessly intervening on our behalf while the Holy Spirit tirelessly knocks on human heart doors.

Healing comes at a high cost, and each member of the Trinity believes we are worth every penny. The question is, do we think God is worth every effort on our part? Here is what’s dangerous about this question: it’s a common human error to think somehow and in some ways we have to pay God back for all He has done. I cannot emphasize this enough – no, that’s definitely not what God hopes for in a relationship. If we pay Him back, that puts God in the position of a wage earner, and we’re basically His employer (God forbid) deciding on His wages.

If we want to pay Him back, how much is it going to be? Will it ever be enough? Probably not. And where does our friendship with God go? Out the window I’d say! By paying Him back we have turned our friendship with God into a business relationship. Tit for tat – You gave me this, and I give you that.

So back to the question at hand: The Trinity gave everything to restore peace and bring healing to this world. What do we give in return? Nothing less than our heart! We are the heart of the matter in the Trinity’s passionate pursuit to heal the world. And for us, God becomes the heart of the matter because His love makes everything better; His love kisses us awake from death coma. Thanks to Him there’s eternal life, life beyond this mortal body.

God breathes immortality into mortality. Our relationship with God is built for eternity. God gives everything, and we give everything. Together forever! That’s what God’s healing is all about.

Romans 5:6: “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.

God is the author of time. For what it’s worth: He created the space time continuum. In this day and age, with atomic clocks everywhere, we couldn’t help but notice that time passes slower on a Space Shuttle than on Earth. So there’s Earth time, then there’s space time. It’s God’s time. Time is allotted to us, it’s a gift. Time is short, our lifetime is brief; we’ll get the most satisfaction if we use our God-given time wisely.

If we let God into our lives and spend time with the Almighty, time bends according to my experience. It is unbelievable how much meaning can fit in a second, or how much beauty can be created within a day or how much goodness can transpire within a lifetime, with God being in my life.

God is everywhere, but He can be absent too. We have that power. We can exclude God from our daily lives, we can expel His nourishing and life-giving Spirit, and we can reject the Son of God and turn our backs to all that is wholesome and good. Such behavior will backfire and negatively affect our lifetime on Earth. A godless life is an empty life. Time seems to shrink in His absence. It’s what we refer to as wasted time. Choosing a meager diet that excludes generosity, creativity and growth, we do not experience life in its fullness. Life is for learning. We are meant to experience the wonder of life while our hearts are beating; obviously there is an end to it when our hearts stop beating; our lifetime on Earth is a limited edition.

Can a circle be unbroken? I believe so. That’s why Jesus came. He came to restore a connection that what was lost a long, long time ago, when mankind and God separated. It’s an unnatural split. God and mankind belong together. We are only complete when we’re with God. God is the energy that created us. We are most alive in His presence.

We need to return to the Source of all being to be the best version of ourselves. No force of nature can keep us apart from God when we decide to return. God engineered His plan of salvation to welcome us back home. The table is set, the place is prepared, and everything is ready. Reconciliation with the Godhead is within reach for every person on this planet.

God’s timing is impeccable. He sent His Son at just the right time. It’s thought-provoking to imagine what would have happened if God hadn’t sent Jesus at the right time – which is any time other than the time He was born in Bethlehem. What would have happened, let’s say, if Jesus was born in the Stone Age or in this day and age? Just imagine Jesus on the evening news. There is a right time for everything, and there is a wrong time for everything. God who created time never misses a beat.

Where does this leave us? Get reconnected to God and stay connected, my friend, and your horizons continue to expand, your life is full to the brim, and your lifetime on Earth is special.

There’s no such thing as time to kill
Nor time to throw away
So, once for the bright sky, twice for the pig sty
Thrice for another day

Hebrews 1:3: “The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven.”

My great grandfather Walter Seelheim was a Jew and he married Augusta, who went to the protestant church. Neither my great grandfather Walter nor my great grandmother Augusta was actively engaged in their respective faith communities. As a result, my family is one of those families that ended up agnostic.

I was a teenager when I started looking for God. My assumption was, there’s a Creator who is responsible for all life forms and who also created me. If that was the case, if this Creator existed, I wanted to get to know Him. So began my quest to find God.

It turned out that God is not dead after all; God spoke to me as I was reading one of the books of King Solomon, the Song of Songs in the Old Testament, and I quote (Song of Songs 1:15):

“How beautiful you are, my darling!
    Oh, how beautiful!
   Your eyes are doves.”

At this very moment I realized that God addressed me with these words; for the first time in my life I felt God’s presence. From then on, I knew He was real. That’s how it went.

Can you imagine my shock when somebody told me a few days later that I wasn’t a believer unless I received Jesus in my heart? I can still recall the confusion over the matter.

I don’t know about you, but I had the hardest time coming to terms with God being Three. When I set out to seek God, I only looked for One not three. For the longest time I simply embraced the Trinity as part of the Christian doctrine even though I could not relate to it. I think my great grandfather wouldn’t have done it – certainly not my grandfather who was known to have shoved a visiting clergyman down the stairs with the advice to never return; and certainly not my mother who still has a deep-seated mistrust against all things “church”.

God compelled me to dig deeper though. This is the beauty of faith: it’s organic and it grows; so does our understanding of God. It took me a while, but I came to appreciate that the Trinity is an essential part of who God is. We call Jesus the Son of God, because that’s a good way to describe the close-knit relationship the Trinity has. We call God the Father of creation, because a parent is what we can relate to. We came from parents and at some point in our lives we fully depended on their parenting skills. We call God the Spirit or the Holy Spirit because we know it took a life-giving Spirit to turn our planet blue and green. And it’s thanks to His Spirit that I heard God speaking to my heart as I was reading King Solomon’s Song of Songs.

For many the hardest thing about God is His invisibility. Jesus solved that problem. He was very visible when He grew up in Nazareth and toured Israel to minister to the people. To this day, His teachings are very tangible because He walked among us.

The greatest hang-up though is probably our distance from God. We are born selfish and we will die selfish unless we accept the gift coming from the Son of God. His sacrifice happened in real time a couple of millennia ago and effectively removed the barrier between humankind and the Godhead. We have access to God’s throne room because Jesus made it happen. We are back to speaking terms with God because Jesus prays on our behalf as He sits in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven. That’s the power of the Trinity: Together they make things right for us.

God is truly amazing!

Romans 5:10: “For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!”

Nations have always competed against each other by using advanced weaponry to win the war. In this day and age, however, there is no winning the war without completely trashing our planet if we use all the resources we’ve got. Thanks to the invention of the atom bomb, nations keep each other in check by sheer threat of warfare. The goal is to never ever have to push the button!

Just as the atom bomb has changed the face of warfare, the story of the cross has changed the face of human history. Both Jesus’s death and resurrection have profound implications to creation in general and to you and me in particular.

Estranged from God, Heaven had become a faint concept. In our natural minds, we could not relate to the Godhead anymore. God was invisible to us and seemed a million miles away. So much so, that it was easier to explain Him away than trying to find Him.

And yet, without God, all we’ve got are our five senses. Without God, we’re the only ones in charge of our destiny. It’s up to us to determine what is best for us. We’re on our own navigating through the maze and trip-falls of life. Without our connection to God, the biggest challenge is loneliness. At the end of the day, we’ll find that our connection with other human beings is no substitute for knowing our Creator.

Then Easter happened, and with that our entire outlook on life has dramatically changed. Jesus’s death and resurrection removed the threat of being hopelessly lost. His death on the cross spells forgiveness for everything that went wrong cancelling the entire load of guilt and shame accumulated over the years and giving us a new chance to live life connected to God. Heaven is wide open!

In his letter to the Romans, Paul wrote about the wonder of Jesus’s death and resurrection. He basically said, if Jesus’s death brings blessing to mankind, how much more will His life! Dying on the cross, Jesus satisfied the Law. Rising from the grave, He conquered death once and for all. These are two major accomplishments by the Son of God: the former freeing us from guilt, the latter setting us up for eternal life – which Paul thinks is the best gift of all. The opportunities arising from our friendship with God are limitless!

No one is happier about the results of the cross than God Himself. He loves us so much! What a treasure trove to discover His heart and to dig deeper every day! More and more we’ll get to know Him, and one day we will see Him face to face.

Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Change of ID – this actually happened twice in the history of mankind. When God invented a new life form – us – we were inherently good. Things turned around with the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We got involved with that knowledge, and we came under the law. With that, our ID changed. No longer inherently good, things got really messy. Creation around us also changed its ID.

The age of the law ran its course, and at the right time Jesus came with the purpose of reclaiming our original ID. Jesus lived the life of a human being the way it was originally intended by our Creator. Jesus, the Son of God, is inherently good, just as we once had been. At the cost of His life He both satisfied the law and freed us from it.

We are now free to reclaim our original ID. We can leave the life under the law and instead live by faith in the Son of God, by believing in His sacrifice, in the power of the cross.

It’s easy to believe and it’s hard to believe. Unfortunately, the symbol of the cross has its hang-ups. We can get distracted by human history. There has been abuse of the name of Jesus – people claiming to do things in the name of Jesus, and Jesus never authorized it.

Still, it’s not impossible to get past all that and meet with Jesus, the original, not Jesus the counterfeit. Cutting through the chase of misconceptions and misinterpretations, we get to the bottom of the message of the cross when we turn our eyes to Jesus and understand why He did what He did. He dearly loves us. He didn’t die on the cross because He had to, He died because He wanted to. He wants us to be free. God missed us. In our prior life, in the Garden of Eden, we had a close relationship. The incredible gift of the cross is our opportunity of regaining that closeness.

The very first step in reclaiming our original ID is seeking Jesus out. When the message of the cross becomes tangible the core of our being changes. Praise the Lord! Let the healing begin!

1 John 3:16: “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.”

The ABC of love is to care. Jesus laying down His life for us shows that He cares.

It’s a beautiful revelation to realize that Jesus exists. It’s wonderful to experience His vibrant love. And yes, that’s worth celebrating! Heaven throws a party every time a human being gets the message and joins the kingdom of God. But this is not a Happy End. The beauty of the story of salvation is that the story never ends. The love we receive we give away, and then it multiplies. And on and on it goes, like a domino effect.

God’s love has been brought to light when the mystery of His salvation was unearthed with Jesus’s appearance here on planet Earth. How God saved the world is His privilege to choose. Our privilege is to choose whether or not we accept His salvation. If we do, our life story takes an important turn. We’re no longer on the sidelines watching or on the fast lane beating our competition. We’re on the road to Heaven, and we share this road with people we call our brothers and sisters. We’re coming from all walks of life, but we are all headed in the same direction.

The trip to Heaven is a one way trip – there’s no turning back. If we choose to go back, we will find that our old life is not the way we remembered it.

The trip to Heaven is a group effort. We will always see others in various stages of the journey. We can learn from them, we can share our joy and pain, and we can be an encouragement.

We’re all in the same boat, and Jesus is our captain.

Approaching Easter season, we celebrate the sacrifice Jesus made, and rightly so! Heaven remembers. Creation remembers. What Jesus has done is astounding, and we get to celebrate His life every Easter!

If we had an interview with Jesus, and we would ask Him what accomplishment He is most excited about, I think He would talk about the wonderful results of the cross.

While His death on the cross rattled the universe, and the shock waves of His resurrection are still in motion, I don’t believe that Jesus wants us to stop there. If Heaven gets excited about every single person embracing Jesus for the first time, then why would it be strange to think that our Savior is most interested in the people He saved? Heaven rejoices when our Savior finds one of His lost sheep. Maybe Heaven realizes more than we do how profoundly every child of God changes this world making the whole universe a better place.

Hallelujah, Jesus laid down His life for us! As we come under His umbrella, now we begin to look at the world around us with different eyes. Laying down our lives for our brothers and sisters is a direct result from the cross: Jesus’s love multiplied.

Hebrews 12:2: “looking away from all that will distract us and focusing our eyes on Jesus, who is the Author and Perfecter of faith, who for the joy of accomplishing the goal set before Him endured the cross, disregarding the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God revealing His deity, His authority, and the completion of His work.”

Recently, I started painting my sister’s dog Maple using a snapshot she took in the prior winter season. The image depicted Maple in the snow. Enjoying snowfall, she had the most adorable look on her little dog face. The following day when I walked into my studio to pick up where I left off I noticed that I got her legs all wrong! How did that happen? The answer is easy: I was so taken by Maple’s demeanor that I got carried away. Trying to capture the dog’s facial expressions I took my eyes off the original photograph. I ended up with a cute dog face and four crippled legs.

Well, here’s an analogy when it comes to our faith in God:

Take your eyes off the original Godhead and your faith goes south!

Look around you. Life has layers. Even the most simplest of microorganisms made of a single cell is complicated. If even tiny little things are multilayered and complicated, how much more is God who made them?

It takes an eternity to dig through the layers and get to know our mysterious God. This also means we need to keep at it every day by seeking His counsel and fully embracing the adventure of being alive. God’s outlook on life is very different from ours. The more we spend time with Him, the more are we able to tackle our issues with a fresh approach. Life can be tough. We need all the encouragement we can get!

Jesus is called the author of our faith, and rightly so. Jesus believed that He would be delivered from the grave. And so He was. He rose from the grave on the third day and conquered death once and for all. Jesus believed in His God-given mission. He believed we were worth saving. Jesus loved us so much that He saw His mission through all the way to the end. He walked by faith. Every step of the way He prayed and relied on the Heavenly Father.

As we move through life, let’s take a good look at Jesus. His thumbprints are all over our faith. Thanks to Him we’re God’s children. Thanks to Jesus we believe, and thanks to Him the kingdom of God has been established.

Matthew 20:17-19: “Now Jesus was going up to Jerusalem. On the way, he took the Twelve aside and said to them, ‘We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!’”

Death usually comes unannounced; however, some of us know when they’re going to die. People with terminal illnesses can relate to Jesus’s prediction of His own death. The only difference being: Jesus voluntarily signed up for the way He would die. It was a sacrifice He made.

Jesus didn’t die to prove a point. It was His gift to mankind and the greatest gift to give: the gift of freedom from slavery.

At some point in history people came up with a system that puts one group of humans above another group. Part of the human race was then considered subhuman. This mindset has never entirely left the human race, and it made the world a much colder place. One of the major dehumanization aspects of mankind is slavery. Slavery is a curse, a cancer that lashes back and grows tumors all over human society.
Disrespect reaps a bitter harvest!

How do we eliminate cancerous ulcers? Surgeons use the knife to cut out the cancer cells. More cancer treatments are applied to ensure those cancer cells won’t return. However, even the most radical approach cannot give us any guarantees that dormant cancer cells won’t reactivate.

Jesus died to remove the cancerous ulcers of slavery from humanity. He came to redeem us from ourselves and to reestablish human-kindness. And it worked. Nothing is impossible for God, except for one thing: God cannot betray His own values and enslave us to Him. God will never be a slave owner. God creates. In all creative pursuit freedom is mandatory. That’s why there is free press and free arts. It’s the freedom of expression that makes each art work unique. God gave us artistic license, and He will never take that back.

In the same fashion, even though Jesus died to set us free, God will never force freedom down our throat. By doing so we would no longer be free.

Freedom is a gift that keeps on giving, once we’re on board with God. Freedom redeems an unhealthy mindset. Freedom teaches us to respect other people’s boundaries. Freedom creates life, love, and laughter. Freedom awakes creativity. As much as slavery dehumanizes us, freedom makes us human. Freedom makes us thankful looking back. What a nightmare to be trapped! What a glorious awakening of our soul once we’re on the side of freedom.

Freedom of choice is where freedom starts. Choose life!

Isaiah 53:5-6: “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

It’s a difficult pill to swallow that an innocent man got brutally murdered to make things right for everybody. Things have gone wrong the more we got disconnected from our Creator. Our selfish tendencies and increasing self-absorption have been one of the major reasons why we’ve become strangers to Heaven.

We can’t help but think of us first and consider others second. However, the concept of putting ourselves first has thrown the world under the strain of endless disagreements and wars. Jesus came to show us a refreshingly different approach: Love your neighbor as yourself! He lived these words. Jesus loved everybody as He loved Himself. In Jesus’s eyes, we are family. In His mind, He is our big brother who bails us out. He willingly laid down His life for us.

Whether or not we accept His gift is completely up to us. God’s generous love includes people who don’t accept His gift.

I have opened God’s incredible gift and have accepted what Jesus did for me. Right now I cannot imagine living life without being connected to God. I know that I would feel utterly alone, restless and empty. Being disconnected from the Godhead is both the most horrifying and unnatural thing there is. To be reconnected to the source of all being however is the most striking experience there is. A beautiful mystery is being revealed when we become aware of God’s love.

Jesus’s healing of the broken relationship between us and our Creator will always be remembered. Jesus’s death and resurrection revolutionized the fabrics of all creation. In the new world to come, even animals will stop killing each other. The lion won’t have lamb for dinner. The lion will hunker down with the lamb and will no longer look through predator eyes. That is a safe world for our children and children’s children. The kingdom of God is the kind of place everybody wants to live in. It’s a wonderful world.

Isaiah 53:3-4: “He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted.”

Jesus was despised because we thought He was being punished by God.

That reminds me of the situation Job ran into, when He lost everything, including his health; and when he sat in the dust scratching the sores he had all over his body, his friends came and essentially said: “Everything’s your fault! God is punishing you for your sins.” Jesus experienced with Job how cruel and judgmental we can be, and of course, nothing could be further from the truth. Neither Job nor Jesus was being punished for his sins.

Whether we become witnesses of a sad scene, or we see someone at his or her breaking point, we should never jump to conclusions. In most cases our hasty conclusions are plain wrong, and the damage our snap judgment calls create may cause a lifetime of pain.

Who likes to hear that Jesus’s suffering on the cross is our fault? Well, unfortunately, it’s the truth. Jesus didn’t do anything wrong, so His pain is 100 percent our doing – but here is the good news: Jesus is not mad at us. He suffered greatly at our hands, but He suffered willingly. He wanted it that way, because His goal was to eliminate all judgment calls, whether they are inappropriate or justified. He took the blame and accepted all punishment there is. Now, what is left for us?

  • Peace – with nothing left to blame, punish, or judge;
  • Healing – coming from a Savior who has been in our shoes and has all the empathy for our cause that we can hope for.

Jesus was absolutely serious about accepting all punishment on our behalf. We can bank on that. Provided we believe that this is for real and accept His costly gift, we will indeed experience healing and wonderful peace. Jesus picks up our broken pieces and makes us whole again. It’s the beginning of a friendship that goes beyond our lifetime. And who does not want to be friends with God’s Son?

2 Corinthians 5:21: “For God took the sinless Christ and poured into him our sins. Then, in exchange, he poured God’s goodness into us!”

The human spirit is unfettered and free. Try to subjugate humans, eventually they will shake off the shackles and move on. That is why all dictatorships have an expiration date. I call dictatorship “Law on steroids”. In a dictatorship the dictator is the Law. Everything he or she says is to be followed. Discussions or different viewpoints are strongly discouraged; agreeing to disagree is not an option. There is no free press, there is no free thinking; consequently, there is no room for creativity, spontaneity and ingenuity.

Dictatorships are not meant to be. People were created by God to be free.

Initially we were created free from the Law. Then there was this tree that we were not supposed to touch, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Yeah, that tree! I call that tree “The Tree of the do’s and don’ts” – in other words – it’s the tree of the Law. God never wanted us to go down that road because He knew we would get lost in the Law. And so it happened! We ate from that Tree and we have never been the same; we became strangers to God, strangers to freedom.

Meanwhile, God has never abandoned us. He helped us out. He worked with us. He even gave us the Ten Commandments so that we could see firsthand that even the best of all laws with the best of intentions cannot bring peace to the world or to the human soul.

We have learnt the hard way. So when we learnt our lesson, God sent His Son to restore us back to the way things used to be, which is the life we can’t remember anymore – the life we had before we touched that Tree. So in a passage of rites, Jesus lets Himself get nailed by the Law, completely and utterly nailed – as in nailed to the tree – and dies – which is all the Law can do. There is no life in the Law.

The Law will outlive its usefulness. The age of the Law has expired with the arrival of the Son of God. Jesus’s death and subsequent resurrection started a whole new era; Jesus brought us the Kingdom of God, which is goodness on steroids – God’s goodness poured into us. We don’t become good by not sinning but by accepting Jesus’s wonderful gift. Plain and simple! Unless of course we don’t want it plain and simple, which puts us right back under that Tree.

I am a tree huger. I love trees, but I certainly don’t like the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. This tree has brought us nothing but grief! However, I realize, old habits die hard, and there are die-hard fans of the Law out there. They emerge anywhere regardless of nationality. They especially emerge in various religious pursuits. I strongly discourage this approach. Religious doctrine is not what Jesus had in mind for us. He came to save us from the Law and all its repercussions. He came to free us – and indeed He did.

Let freedom ring!

Oh, freedom, Oh, freedom
Oh freedom over me
And before I’d be a slave
I’d be buried in my grave
And go home to my Lord and be free

Psalm 62:7: “My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge.”

People from all over the earth grapple with the God-factor wondering whether He exists at all and if so how to approach Him. There is an endless array of protocol performed in all religions of the world. It’s the human cry for nearness to the Head of Creation that motivates any religion. To feel the need to connect with God is as old as humankind. Somehow we live on this planet called Earth with all its amazing resources, and yet we feel abandoned, sort of like Kevin alone in the house. The 1990 John Hughes blockbuster “Home Alone” depicted an eight-year-old troublemaker who is accidentally left home alone by his family during Christmas vacation.

Home alone – that’s our mantra. We cry out to the Creator of the universe and pray: “God, please talk to us. God come down to Earth and help us. God, please favor us. God, please protect us. God, please intervene!” These are universal prayers. All of creation sighs. In their language the birds in the air, the predators in the bush and the trees in the jungle cry out to its creator. All creation sings when the feet of the Lord God touch the Earth as written in the book of Psalms (Psalm 96:12):

“Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them;
    let all the trees of the forest sing for joy. “

There is a universal longing that God should come home and make things right. God on Earth is not a new concept. For example, the Egyptian Pharaohs of old are known to have established a government exclusively run by the Sons of God – at least that’s how they advertised it. Looking around, there are many religions advertising that God comes down in human form. We crave nearness. We don’t want God to be remote. We want to reach out and touch Him.

God has many names, the one I love the most is Emmanuel – translated from the Hebrew language: God with us. One of God’s finest features is His mercy. He just can’t help but reaching out to us. Around the world people are seeking to get in touch with the Almighty. Trying too hard, they are really breaking down an unlocked door. As a matter of fact, Heaven’s door is already wide open.

The name “Yeshua” (English: Jesus) means translated “God saves”. We are no longer home alone because God saves. He does all the dirty work. He is the One who restores the communication. He is the One who comes home. We are not contributing anything to make that happen. We may come up with clever methods and build elaborate temples, but all of these efforts are really show-offs – trying to break in Heaven’s door which is already wide open. God saves. God speaks. Our part is to listen up.

The Holy Spirit is poured out for us and God’s Spirit is at work everywhere. The secret to successfully navigating through life lies in receiving God’s signals and walking with Him.

Philippians 1:29: “For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him.”

Do you think a life free from trouble brings us happiness? I’m not so sure about that. There’s a German idiom that somewhat makes fun of the desire to live in a world without problems: “Friede, Freude, Eierkuchen!” which loosely translated means: “Everything’s just hunky-dory!” I have met people who picture heaven to be a rather boring place. Their concept of heaven is a conflict-free life with nothing else to do but sitting on a cloud and singing Kumbayah. I believe we don’t give God too much credit if we have such low expectations! I suspect that heavenly peace has a lot more substance to it than just sitting on a cloud. God’s peace comes to full fruition especially in times of trouble, which is why it’s known to surpass all understanding.

I believe problems ultimately are our friends! Times of trouble, vexing issues, and even heart-wrenching suffering are an unwanted but essential part of life. Suffering shapes us, especially if we include Jesus in the equation.

The way Jesus suffered has always baffled me. He wasn’t arguing, He wasn’t defensive, He wasn’t lashing back at those who made Him suffer, yet He was no doormat either. He suffered like a champion. He was the King in chains. Pilate took note of that when he saw Jesus in his interrogation room. Pilate asked Him point-blank (Luke 23:3):

“So Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?” “You have said so,” Jesus replied.”

Jesus took the bull by the horns and fully cooperated when He was apprehended by the Roman authorities. He knew it would happen, and He was prepared. So instead of being preoccupied with resisting His arrest and defending His case, His mind was free to look around and notice a need. Until He took His last breath He continued to make life better for the people around Him. Here is a list of things He did while on trial and even while dying on the cross:

  • He healed someone’s ear (Luke 22:49-51).
  • He made arrangements for His mother so she was taken care of after His passing (John 19:25-27).
  • He consoled the person crucified next to Him (Luke 23:42-43).

We too can take a different approach to our own suffering. As we’re trying to make sense of our bad situation, we might throw a pity party, or we might play the blame game and get angry. All these kinds of approaches are a waste of our time and energy. Whatever we’re going through, if we work through the issues instead of fighting them, our minds get freed up, and we begin to see the world around us with different eyes. We will suddenly take notice of people struggling with similar issues. And thanks to our resume of trouble we can now relate and become a blessing to them. Wouldn’t you consider this a blessing in disguise?

“What if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life
Are your mercies in disguise” Laura Story

1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

What is there to confess and why is God interested in us fessing up?

Lately, I’ve been doing some soul searching and dug up old issues that have been sitting on the shelf gathering dust and cobwebs. These issues were shelved a long time ago. They have not been properly addressed because I did not know how to voice them. When I finally sat down and wrote them into my journal it took me hours to find the words. However, once I went the extra mile and worded the agony and pain, assessed the wrong of the situation and my involvement in it something magical happened: By acknowledging my bad choices I gained a better understanding of myself. All of a sudden I could see why I did what I did; and by exposing the root cause of the problem the likelihood of repeating those bad choices was clearly diminished. I could finally let go of this portion of my past.

Not finding peace has a lot to do with hiding from ourselves. I kid you not, subconsciously we think we can lie to ourselves or hide certain aspects of our life by just by ignoring them. Well, every lie is an illusion. We can try to lie to ourselves, but deep down in our bones we know the truth.

Suppressed bad memories will somehow resurface. And unfortunately, as controlling as we think we are, resurfacing memories are out of our control. They will flood our dreams at night, they will initiate an emotional outburst – which will come across inappropriate, because people cannot read our memory banks and then put two and two together. Unaddressed issues become ugly issues. They can lead to physical abuse, suicidal tendencies, mental illness and /or any other kind of ailment. To spare us this nightmare, God asks us to confess.

Confessing is a blessing!

Remember how Jesus addressed His followers after He rose from the grave? He said (Luke 24:36):

“Peace be with you.”

The outcome of confession is peace. We accept what happened, allow ourselves to grieve, rise out of the ashes and move on while Jesus, the Son of God, speaks peace over us.

Wherever you are, go in peace! That’s God’s wish for every one of us.

Deuteronomy 30:16: “For I command you this day to love the Lord your God and to keep his commands, decrees, and regulations by walking in his ways.”

This is a picture of my husband serenading me as we were camping at Yosemite in California.  We’ve been married for more than a decade now. Time flies! Bill loves to think about stuff when he showers. He calls them his shower moments. He comes up with song ideas or a genius solution to a nagging problem. The other day another light bulb went off in his head and he shared it with me:

“Law without love is slavery. Love without law is still love.”

What he says makes perfect sense considering that there was no law at the beginning of mankind, but there always was and has been – love. I believe everything that came into being was conceived out of love because our Creator loves His creation. Deprived of love, we all die. Love is why we breathe.

Love preceded the law; people came first and the law came later – almost like an afterthought, so it seems. Nevertheless, God gave us a conscience.  It is common sense that stealing is harmful to human society. It’s no rocket science to figure out that cheating on your spouse will hurt any marriage relationship.  It is obvious that no one can replace the person who was just killed.  So, without being spelled out – the law has always been in place, and love is the key to obeying all these laws.  Apply love to the law, and the Ten Commandments look something like this:

Love has no other God but the Lord; Love does not idolize; Love does not abuse the Lord’s name; Love observes the Sabbath rest; Love honors the parents; Love does not kill; Love does not pursue sexual relations outside of marriage; Love does not steal; Love does not lie; Love does not covet.

Love – and we are home free. Isn’t that the truth? Bill would say: “Yepper doodle!” Here’s to you, Bill! Here’s to Love!

“And even though we ain’t got money. I’m so in love with you, Honey
And everything will bring a chain of love” Kenny Loggins

James 1:12 “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.”

A tempted person will say: more is more. Moving past the temptation the same person will say: less is more.

Everybody has weak spots. Mine is to fill up my calendar with a lot of meaningful things. In other words, there’s nothing wrong with the scheduled activity, it’s just the amount of activity that is scheduled on any given week that is a killer.

Less is more!

I am eating my own words now. My temptation is to over-commit my time. I don’t really think that more is more, but yet I’m tempted to commit to more than I can handle. I’m currently working on that – learning to say “No”.

We all have bodies with no lifetime warranties. We can ruin our bodies with an unhealthy lifestyle, or we can listen to our bodies and take breaks. Life is more than work and productivity. We have stood the test of time if we learned how to live well. We live well when we love well.

Love is all-inclusive, that’s why love is so big. We love God who made us. We love everything He made. We love ourselves and we love people. Living life in this fashion we’ll discover we don’t need more.

I bless the rains down in Africa Gonna take some time to do the things we never had”

Proverbs 1:7: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

When my Grandma’s sisters Theresa and Elsa both married into Jewish families in Nazi-Germany, the best thing they could do was to board a ship, cross the Atlantic Ocean and start a new life on the other side of the globe. War refugees in South America, they later moved on to the United States where they settled in California.

My Mom was my Grandma’s youngest daughter. Growing up in the aftermath of a lost war was tough. Germany licked its war wounds and went about rebuilding its bombed cities. New buildings rose out of the ashes. Food was scarce.

Meanwhile, Theresa and Elsa had established their businesses in California and were doing much better than the rest of the family. So they offered to vouch for any young family member deciding to join them in the US. My mother and her sister accepted their offer and arrived in California in the late fifties. Soon my mother met my Dad. They fell in love and got married. Unfortunately, their marriage didn’t last. Not long after I was born my parents divorced.

When I was almost three years old my mother made up her mind to move back to Germany. That was scary to me. It seemed that I had lost my Dad twice – first when my parents got divorced, second when we left California for good. The only connection left were his letters that came monthly with the child support.

Years went by in Germany and then my mother got married a second time. The male role model that moved in with us was a complete disaster. The marriage lasted five years. It was hell. As the physical abuse became life-threatening, my mother filed for divorce. I was twelve years old at the time, and I became more and more withdrawn. Guys were a red flag for me. I was afraid of them and had absolutely no intentions to go on a date.

Thankfully, I was able to overcome my fear of men in the course of time. Strange but true: I got rid of my fears by fearing the Lord. This may sound like one bad thing is replaced by another, but in all reality the tables were turned when God began to matter in my life. Meeting God has totally changed my perspective. Demons shrink in the sight of the Lord Almighty; self-erected walls break down; my world gets bigger and my fears get smaller. Case in point: In my late 30s I finally started dating and ended up marrying the kindest guy you will ever meet! Bill and I have been together for more than a decade now, and we love our marriage.

It’s a weird feeling at first when something that has bothered you for so long is gone. It leaves sort of a vacuum. I can say that the Lord has filled this vacuum with plenty of love and peace. The more love we let in the less fear we will have; actually, there is absolutely no fear in love. Love counteracts fear and drives it all out. Love rules! To quote Dolly Parton:

“I wish to you joy and happiness
But above all this, I wish you love!”

1 Peter 2:2-3: “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.”

In my teenage years I had issues. I was the eldest of four children and had just turned 19 when I moved out. I moved into the city where I enrolled in a foreign language program to become an interpreter. A couple of years later I joined an internship at a local mission, dropped out of language school and moved into a housing community with other young interns.

A brainchild of a middle aged married couple – she was a catholic and he a protestant – this young mission eventually turned into a formal brother and sisterhood. Sisters wore a habit, brothers wore khakis. Most of the members who weren’t married committed to staying unmarried. We lived in an old cloister-like building; in fact, everything in this faith community was a strong reminder of a Catholic cloister. Yet unlike Catholic practice, married couples with children were also welcomed into the brother- and sisterhood. We followed after the teachings of Martin Luther who set a precedent of clerical marriage. Luther was an ordained priest and married a former nun, thus paving the way for protestant clergy to marry.

I was 21 when I started wearing a habit and continued to live in this close-knit faith community for a decade. Initially this was meant to be for life. However, as the rules tightened and every aspect of my life was under a microscope I became restless. Estranged from family and friends and completely isolated from “the real world” I pulled the plug one day and moved out. Here I was, in my mid-30s with the horizon and experience of a young kid. I had to jump-start into adulthood, get a job, manage my own money, and move into my own apartment. It was wild. I suspect that a person who gets reintegrated into society after spending a decade behind bars has similar feelings of bewilderment.

Growing up is a natural thing, but sometimes there are growth problems. I was definitely stuck for a long time. We all can be stuck in various ways. Mine was probably an extreme case scenario, but the bottom line is, to grow up we need to spread our wings and fly. We have to stop relying on somebody else and become responsible for our own actions. In a way, that’s what spiritual maturity is all about. Children of God grow up to spread their wings. The wind of the Holy Spirit carries us through highs and lows in life. Through it all, we learn how to love, how to deal with pain, how to forgive, and how to be generous. We get to know God on a deeper level.

On the road of experience we can get lost. Looking back to the early chapters of my adulthood I now accept these twelve years of isolation to be part of my history. I don’t agree with the decisions I made, but it has contributed to the person I am today. Meanwhile, I have evolved and I am not done evolving yet!

Moved by God’s Spirit we keep on moving, we keep on growing until the day we die. Who knows what kind of growth potential awaits us on the other side of heaven? On to new horizons I say!

“You took a sparrow and let it fly with the eagles
I can see a long ways – I feel love again” Tony Joe White

Galatians 5:22-23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

A self-loathing, dissatisfied, angry individual is like a ticking time bomb. Any given opportunity, and the bomb will explode into a frenzy of criminal activity. Ironically, the law applied in those situations does not make the individual any better. Incarcerated, this person has not changed. It’s still the same self-loathing, dissatisfied and angry individual. The high percentage of recommitting crimes after incarceration speaks for itself.

Paul is writing about people who underwent a spiritual makeover and show all the telltale signs of joy, gentleness, kindness, and love coming out of their pores. No law needs to be applied in their case because to love is no crime. What this tells me is that God’s kingdom essentially does away with the law. Law becomes useless when it does not need to be applied. Indeed, God’s kingdom does not rely on the law. God’s kingdom entirely runs on God’s Spirit.

We all need a spiritual makeover to be part of God’s kingdom. We’ve got issues, and our hearts are clouded to various degrees. God’s Spirit unveils God’s beauty to us and based on our consent we are able to unburden our hearts and start the healing process in a moment’s notice.

Join the movement that goes around the globe! I dare say that people from all tribes and nations have been touched by God’s Spirit in some shape or form. The Holy Spirit is working tirelessly 24/7 to add individuals to the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God stretches worldwide, starts in the here and now and goes on in perpetuity.

Posted in Law

Romans 15:13: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Hope is paramount. At least in Paul’s eyes! As he wrote a letter to his Roman friends, he introduced God to them as the God of Hope. From Paul’s perspective, hope is God’s defining feature.

Hope is the fuel that runs the engine of life. Giving up hope is similar to suicide. Hope is the reason we keep on trying. Hope is the germ of optimism that keeps us going. My German grandma always kept her dry sense of humor in situations that weren’t funny. In World War II scenario she raised three of her five children mostly as single Mom – initially because her husband was engaged in the war, later because she divorced him. One of her sayings as her children sat around the dinner table:

“Alles da
Nur kein Papa!”
which translated means:

“Everything is there
Just no Dad!”

That was her way of saying: We’re doing pretty well without him. My grandmother had guts and spunk. She was one of those people we called in German “Stehaufmännchen” – a tumbler who always gets up when knocked down.

I learnt from my Grandma to always get up and to never give up hope. Yet contrary to her awareness we do have a Father. I found out in the course of my life that God is a parent. He is the One Jesus called: “Our Heavenly Father”.

We are not fatherless and we are not hopeless. God is our Father and He cares for us. We have a place in His heart, and we have a place in this life. To misquote my Grandma:

Everything is there
Especially Dad!

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. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.

The law is like a checkerboard. The law is painted black and white. Applying the law to life is what law experts do when they meet in court. The challenge lies in the nature of the beast – people are not black and white. They are not one way or the other.

Guess what: The Lord is no checkerboard. He could be seen as a law expert since He came out with the Ten Commandments. However, I don’t think we do Him justice to confine Him to being our Judge. If we do, our view of God is black and white.

David’s sigh of relief as he breathed his prayer is like a splash of color:

“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.”

Here is a challenge for you: Get to know the colors of the Lord. David could tell you all about it. He is no model citizen. If you look into his life story you’ll find he did many great and noble things, but he also committed murder in cold blood to protect his interests. Even in a situation like that when David got caught red-handed in a murder case, he relied on God’s judgment rather than on people’s judgment. People have a tendency to condemn. God doesn’t. God is a God of color and He understands the subtleties of a human being. God is our judge without being judgmental.

The best way to describe the effect God has on my life is like a fog lifting from the valley. When I became aware of God the fog slowly lifted. The first things I detected about God were His outlines, His do’s and don’ts. But as any friendship, my relationship to God has matured over the years. I see more than just His outlines when I look at Him now, and I study Him like a painting to see His nuances and subtleties. Life with Him is no walk in the park, but it’s definitely rich. The richness of colors, shades and hues is overwhelmingly beautiful. In His presence we don’t lack a thing.

Sticking to a world of black and white because it feels more secure, we’re definitely missing out. Walking with God, we experience a rainbow.

Colossians 3:15: “And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.”

If God’s peace is like a river, I want that river to take me wherever it leads, and in peace go wherever the Lord sends me.

Here is an aspect of God’s peace: We are called to live in peace with one another as opposed to being divided in hatred and strife; we are called to respect and appreciate our differences as opposed to being hostile and resistant to anybody who’s different from us.

Actually, if it makes sense to not put God in a box, neither do people belong in one. Let’s rather celebrate our differences instead of getting upset. This is a good rule of thumb that can be applied to any situation where we don’t have the same outlook on life. What if we don’t share the same political opinion? Praise the Lord for a wide variety of viewpoints!

How boring would the world be if we agreed on everything? Praise the Lord for open-mindedness! Could you imagine where we would be without curious and exploring people questioning the status quo? Let’s be thankful for those questions, thankful for conflict arising out of these questions and thankful to God who guides us through the mystery and gives us peace in the midst of the unknown.

You think the only people who are people
Are the people who look and think like you
But if you walk the footsteps of a stranger
You’ll learn things you never knew, you never knew

Acts 4:10,12: “Then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

Our blue planet would quickly turn into a dead zone if it ran out of water. No water, no life! Comparatively speaking, what water means to this planet is what the Spirit of God means to our souls.  Job wrote in his book (Job 33:4):

“The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life.”

The Hebrew Bible depicts the name of God in a particular set of consonants, called the tetragrammaton: YHWH (יהוה). The choice of consonants for the name of God is peculiar. Have you noticed how they carry a sound akin to breathing? Pronounce the “H” without a vowel and you know what I mean. It behooves the Creator of the breathing to have a name that sounds like breath.

Taking our last breath is a way of saying that we’re on the brink of death. Is it far-fetched to believe that breath-killing death has been counteracted by nothing less than the life-giving breath of the Lord Almighty, the originator of the universe? The One who breathed life into the first man is also capable of breathing life back into our dead bones and raise us from the dead. His given name, Breath of Life, identifies Him as our Savior.

When God breathes life into us, He wakes us up to eternal life. The Trinity went through extraordinary lengths in sending Jesus, a member of the Trinity, to planet Earth, in order to restore us. Salvation puts us right back to the Garden of Eden, back to speaking terms with God. That’s how we started out – and that’s where the cycle of life is complete.

“We are stardust
We are golden
And we’ve got to get ourselves
Back to the garden.”
               Joni Mitchell

2 Peter 1:5-8: “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Monsters and mountains – we have to conquer them. There’s no way around it. Try as we may, our avoidance of the elephant in the room is only a detour that will bring us right back to the place where we don’t wish to be. We need to face the facts and address the elephant in that room. We need to fight every step of the way to conquer that mountain. And we need to chase that monster instead of the monster chasing us.

Here is Peter’s nightmare: he probably never forgot that horrible night when he was too weak to stand up for his best friend, the night when he cowered by the fire, denied who he was, and betrayed a friendship. The one person he admired most, the precious person near and dear to his heart, the One to whom he defiantly said just moments ago: I will die for you – he betrayed Him. And the worst thing about it: His friend already knew. He turned around and looked him in the eye right about the time the rooster crowed. And Peter remembered. His friend had actually predicted his failure. How ashamed he felt that night, how miserable and worthless, nobody can tell. But the same person who predicted his failure also predicted his success. “Peter” was his nickname that his friend gave him because when Jesus looked at Peter, He saw his potential. He saw that Peter would become rock-solid and help ignite a movement that to this day is still moving.

Peter’s nightmare became his greatest triumph when he conquered his monsters. And he talks to us today asking us to do the same.

Yeah, let’s kick our monsters in the behind! What are yours by the way? Mine is being stuck, a claustrophobia nightmare of sorts. One of my bad dreams at night is sitting in the driver seat of a car approaching a stoplight. Instead of hitting the break I’m frozen. Last thing I remember before willing myself to wake up from this dream – I’m in a major car crash, and of course I’m unable to get out.

What do we do when a monster is in the room? We identify that monster and we chase it. If we duck, fear will rule our life, and that does not bode well for us.

Here is Peter’s tip: Add to your faith. In other words, grow. Never stop growing. Nothing stays the same, everything changes; so must our faith. Our faith matures. Our inability to accept change will keep our faith at bay. Our faith grows when we embrace change, face our fears, and move with the changing seasons.

God knows what we will find on the other side of that mountain. We know it must be good. Let’s go for it!

Romans 8:28: “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”

As long as there are people, we wonder: Is God real? Some see God involved in human history, while others insist that everything happens by pure chance.

If we look at a musical piece and detect arrangement and orchestration, generally we are curious who composed it. It wouldn’t cross our minds that a musical piece just falls from the skies. Somebody had to come up with it. Similarly, the world around us seems arranged and composed in the most intricate way; to me this is pointing to a Creator.

God works in mysterious ways. The mystery of God’s mingling in human affairs has been the object of many heated discussions. If we are on board with having a Creator, the next question would be: do we have a Creator who is interested in His creation? If so, He is part of our lives. If not, He has basically abandoned His creation.

The Creator of the universe is not in the business of providing proof of His existence. He gave us eyes to see and a brain to think. We can put two and two together and come to our own conclusions. However, when it comes to discovering God, we need help. God helps us. He is the one who opens our spiritual eyes. It takes faith to meet God. Those who discover His love will discover His mysterious ways and are struck by His ingenuity and care. God’s ways are amazing; in Him we find a caring Father and an extraordinary Friend.

God becoming a human being and living among us is yet another mystery to grapple with. Suffice to say that Jesus is God’s passionate way of reaching out to humankind on a larger scale. On a personal level, God is reaching out daily to you and me. He can – because He’s God. He reaches out to us because we are always on His mind.

On board a ship we need a compass to navigate. We certainly need a moral compass to navigate through life. Most importantly, we need love to live a good life. Everything will work out in the end if we have the courage to open the door of our heart and let God in. That’s the Good News in a nutshell.

Numbers 24:10: “King Balak flew into a rage against Balaam. He angrily clapped his hands and shouted, ‘I called you to curse my enemies! Instead, you have blessed them three times.'”

Don’t shoot the messenger!” is usually uttered in self-defense when bringing bad news to a displeased audience. The messenger bearing bad news here is Balaam the sorcerer; King Balak, King of Moab, had hired him to curse the Israelites. That definitely did not work out!

The Old Testament story starting in chapter 22 of the book of Numbers also features a talking donkey delivering a message to its owner Balaam. What is almost comical about it is Balaam’s reaction. Donkeys usually don’t talk, but that went straight over his head.

God has always had messengers. Sometimes the message is well received, sometimes not.  And sometimes God’s messengers are angels; sometimes God uses human beings; and sometimes God uses various species of the animal kingdom. Below is an inconclusive list of animal characters God has used to bring His message across:

A Talking Donkey (Numbers 22:28): “Then the Lord gave the donkey the ability to speak.”

Obedient Cows (1 Samuel 6:12): “And sure enough, without veering off in other directions, the cows went straight along the road toward Beth-shemesh, lowing as they went.”

Restrained Lions (Daniel 6:22): “Daniel answered, “Long live the king! My God sent his angel to shut the lions’ mouths so that they would not hurt me, for I have been found innocent in his sight.”

A Hungry Fish (Jonah 1:17): “Now the Lord had arranged for a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was inside the fish for three days and three nights.”

A Messenger Dove (Genesis 8:10-11): “After waiting another seven days, Noah released the dove again. This time the dove returned to him in the evening with a fresh olive leaf in its beak.”

A Devouring Snake (Exodus 7:10-12): “So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did what the Lord had commanded them. Aaron threw down his staff before Pharaoh and his officials, and it became a serpent! Then Pharaoh called in his own wise men and sorcerers, and these Egyptian magicians did the same thing with their magic. They threw down their staffs, which also became serpents! But then Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs.”

Donkeys, cows, fish, lions, birds, and snakes are making a point here. God can use anybody or anything to communicate His message. To this end Jesus replied to the Pharisees asking Him to silence his followers (Luke 19:40):

“If they [His followers] kept quiet, the stones along the road would burst into cheers!”

God can use stones for His purposes if He wants to. It’s a privilege that we’re also invited to bring His message across. And obviously we are in good company!

1 Peter 3:15: “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,”

Attending a women’s retreat, one day our speaker invited us to paint a picture while listening to her story. I painted a cross with the Sun rising in the background and a bunch of birds soaring in the skies. My drawing was about freedom. It was the first artwork I’ve done in three decades and I remember how good it felt.

I’ve always been artistic. At age 11 I picked up my first instrument. At school I majored in fine art. My art teacher encouraged me to do something with my talent. I couldn’t see how.

My life’s journey has a lot to do with getting out from underneath a pile of rubbish. The first ten years of my adulthood I basically went undercover. I hid behind the walls of a religious community that dictated every aspect of my life and separated me from family and friends. After 12 years behind walls I was fed up and got out.

Here I was, 35 years old with no professional degree or experience. I didn’t want to be a starving artist. So instead of pursuing the arts I became an administrative assistant and worked myself up to payroll management. That’s as far away from the arts as I could get. In my private life I found happiness when I married the love of my life, but professionally I felt miserable. Three heart surgeries later, I am no longer a payroll manager; I am now a self-employed artist.

Looking back, I can say that major life decisions, especially in my early adulthood, were fear-driven. A fear-driven world is extremely small. It’s a world full of limitations. I don’t believe that anybody wants to live in such a world. We are created for so much more! Our world has a lot more potential when we are connected to the Creator of the universe.

Thanks to God I am where I am today. I know He is the reason for the hope I have. Without Him I’d still be stuck under a pile of rubbish. Inspired by His Spirit, the sky is the limit, and I am free to thrive.

God’s world is so much bigger than ours ever could be … “and I think to myself: What a wonderful world!”

2 Timothy 1:9: “For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus.”

Holiness and grace go together like an old pair of shoes. Christ’s love covers all our wrong. Under His wings we can do no wrong. Under His grace we have room to fail. God’s grace gives us space.

In a particular movie scene of the 1998 movie “The Horse Whisperer” a horse trainer began training a severely traumatized horse. In a training session all of a sudden the cell phone of a bystander went off. The horse then totally lost it and broke away. The horse trainer decided to try another approach later. Meanwhile the horse stormed off into the wide open spaces of their Montana Ranch. They gave the horse space.

We too need space. God’s grace helps us back on our feet again after we’ve stumbled and fallen so we can get up and continue to grow, even though it’s sometimes two steps forward and one step back. Under God’s care we flourish and thrive. The bounty of spring we experience each year is a vivid reminder of that.

Be encouraged today to receive His love and rely on His grace.  God wants you to thrive – can you believe that?

Isaiah 55:8-9: “‘My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,’ says the Lord. ‘And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.'”

God is smart. He’s smarter than fast processing computers, smarter than His angels, certainly smarter than a 5th grader….. So what does this make us? Dummies? Not really – it simply means our view point has its limitations. Comparably speaking, flying birds have a higher vantage point and get a wider aerial view than crawling ants do.

God’s bird eye perspective is bound to view things a little differently from us. Naturally, His thought process is above our heads, which can be very frustrating at times. Let’s be honest – God’s uncanny timing is challenging when we’re dealing with all sorts of delays testing our patience to the breaking point.

Remember that God is on the side of all His creation. God simply does not favor one creation over another. Throughout the ages, deep-seated jealousy has had a devastating effect causing friction and pain. God does not love human beings more than His angels (or vice versa), and He certainly does not distinguish between human tribes by preferring one tribe over another. God has a great big heart. Don’t you think His heart is big enough to embrace us all? I certainly think so. I believe there’s plenty of room in His heart for each one of us!

Going through life’s many battles, it is important to realize that God is for us, and He’ll help us especially when we cry out to Him. However, He’ll do it His way. We have to give Him that. A friend of mine has Bob Marley’s song as a ringtone on her phone. Every time her phone rings she is reminded that everything is going to be alright. And it will be with God on our side.

Don’t worry about a thing,
‘Cause every little thing gonna be all right!

Rise up this mornin’,
Smiled with the risin’ sun,
Three little birds
Perch by my doorstep
Singin’ sweet songs
Of melodies pure and true,
Sayin’, “This is my message to you”    
            Bob Marley

Psalm 139:23-24: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.”

Rules are made to be broken – that’s one way to describe the human experience.

To counteract lawlessness we designed more and more rules and regulations. Our advancements in technology have linked us globally like never before. We can communicate with countries on the other side of the world in a moment’s notice. We even communicate into space (in case an alien life form detects our life form). Still, regardless of all our glorious achievements the world is still erupting in ongoing wars. At the time of this writing, there are 10 official wars and 8 active military conflicts recognized by the United States. There are also other violent conflicts involving 64 countries and 576 militias and separatist groups. Despite our progress we’ve not been able to stop the war machine. Ever wondered why?

I believe one of the answers is that rules don’t change people. Change is really God’s business.  God has mapped out a peaceful society for the future.  That society will not be based on rules but will be rooted in the Messiah. The deeper meaning of His title “Prince of Peace” is the fact that He is able to put an end to any kind of war – war between countries, war between people, even war between animal species.

No more killing, no more violence! “This is Utopia” we may say. Surprisingly, Utopia is already in the making – in the human heart, that is.  When asked, Jesus always talked about the kingdom of God in terms of small beginnings that would grow into something greater, like a little mustard seed becoming a tree; yeast permeating the dough.  The mustard seed has already been planted and the yeast of the gospel is currently permeating human societies all around the globe. The mustard seed of faith is planted inside of us when we hear and accept what the Holy Spirit has to say. On a personal level, my experience with God’s voice is a daily progressive conversation revealing bit by bit who He is.

Like a mustard seed, the tree of understanding grows.  The tree growing from God’s seed is not the tree of knowledge – we already ate from that tree, and knowledge has not brought about world peace – the tree coming from God’s seed is the tree of understanding, which binds us together and makes us one.

My heart is known to you

Isaiah 25:1:”Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done wonderful things, things planned long ago.”

Isaiah is stunned. Whatever happened in his life has put him in wonder and awe. He got a little glimpse of God’s workings behind the scene.

Maybe we haven’t realized until recently how God has His hand in current events. God has a great mind and things happening in our lives are premeditated. This is where it gets weird sometimes – if we expect something in particular, I can guarantee you, God does not necessarily act based on human input. He has His plan all along, which He will execute in His own good time. Another weird thing is to blame God for certain things that did or didn’t happen. I have long given up on the notion to see the devil behind every bush or to think everything is God’s doing.

We all wear blinders when it comes to the spiritual world. God is the One who opens our eyes so we can see more than just the physical world around us. He can move our hearts so we feel led to do something, or our minds open up and we have the answer to a riddle, or he opens a door for us that we haven’t been able to locate and a dream comes true, or He can make His presence known in such a way that it is tangible. All of that is based on God’s taking away the veil that is hanging right in front of our spiritual eyes. God helps us see. And that’s what got Isaiah excited. He saw something that God showed Him.

Whatever it is that God shows you, it’s a reason to celebrate. Thanking God for the wonderful things He does multiplies the blessings. And praising God, we are in good company: angels, prophets, not to mention Jesus who taught us in His prayer: “Hallowed be Thy name – may Your name be honored”.

Thanking God we honor Him, and honoring Him He honors us with His presence.

Whenever God shines His light on me, opens up my eyes so I can see! (Van Morrison)

Deuteronomy 6:4-5: “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.”

Mankind needs a hearing aid.

There are approximately 1700 references in the Bible for the word “hear”. In comparison, there are around 690 Bible results for the word “love”. This suggests that there’s distance between God and people hindering communication.

God’s message has been spread orally for the longest time until it was written down. The written word is a great invention. Besides hearing the message people are now able to read it too. With Jesus arriving on the scene He added yet another dimension. Better than just reading about God, people could now reach out and touch God by touching His Son. They’d have a conversation with Him. They’d invite Jesus over for dinner.

Jesus brought Heaven to Earth. This was wonderful, but this could not have gone on forever, because Jesus could not have lived on planet Earth forever.

The night before His death, Jesus gathered around Him His closest friends to discuss impending changes. The prospect of losing Jesus deeply disturbed them. When His followers panicked, Jesus explained to them:
You have to let me go and let me finish my mission! If you don’t let me go the Holy Spirit can’t come. Don’t be troubled – I won’t leave you stranded here all by yourself. God’s Spirit will come and explain everything to you.

With Jesus returning to Heaven, an important shift was going to happen: The public attention was turning from Jesus to His followers. Jesus was aware of that, so He reassured them that they were not left to their own devices. They would continue to hear from God through the intervention of the Holy Spirit.

Today God’s Spirit guides us if we invite Him. When we open our hearts to God we basically provide a residential address to the Holy Spirit. As we make room in our hearts for the Spirit of God, He takes up residency and His presence inside of us grows. With heaven inside of us, people around us get to be in touch with heaven. We can hear God’s heartbeat. Now the world around us will too. We are moved by Him. Now the world around us will be moved by the wind of the Spirit, God’s Spirit – the whispering gentle Breath of Heaven.

Joshua 1:9: “This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

There’s a first time for everything. And first times can be so scary! First time home buyers can tell stories about that. First time parents do too. Or do you remember your first day at a brand new school or your first day on a new job? The list goes on and on.

Whether you like it or not, life has always a new challenge for you around the next corner. The best way to meet challenges is to believe in a positive outcome. If you tend to be a worry wart, relax! The Lord your God is working behind the scene as we speak.

Have you ever noticed that God has His eye on the underdog? The Bible is full of examples. Take David and Goliath for instance – here comes Mr. Goliath, relying on his physical attributes and his killer weaponry. And how did his confidence pay off? We all know the story. David emerged as the champion and Mr. Goliath as the loser.

If God was a mechanic, He would be a Super Mechanic. If God was an architect He would be a Super Architect. We live in a complicated universe, and it runs smoothly because God pays attention – and each one of us plays a role. We all matter.

Trust in God’s vivid interest in your affairs. No vying for His attention is necessary because you’re already the apple of His eye. Here’s a secret: If you wait for God, He’ll come for you. As you walk out your door today, walk with God. Rely on Him as you navigate through life’s risks and perils. And guess what: The Lord your God will be with you wherever you go!

“If you wait for me
Then I’ll come for you
Although I’ve traveled far
I always hold a place for you in my heart”
     Tracy Chapman

Ecclesiastes 7:28: “While I was still searching but not finding— I found one upright man among a thousand, but not one upright woman among them all.”

A popular song of Neil Young’s: “I’ve been searching for a heart of gold” expresses how people are searching high and low for integrity. Apparently, so did King Solomon in his lifetime. He authored the book of Ecclesiastes, which he finished toward the end of his life.  To put his aforementioned remark into context: Based on his life experiences he came to the conclusion that it is very hard to find an upright person, especially an upright woman. The question is, why would King Solomon mention lack of righteousness and hone in on women in particular?

We can assume that when King Solomon wrote about people he wrote about the people in his life. Solomon lived in a palace. He was surrounded by his staff and his wives. Whenever he came in touch with people outside his realm it was either dignitaries from foreign countries or people who wanted something from him. It’s hard to find a true friend in situations like these!

Marriage celebrates the fact that two people are partnering up to tackle life together. The spouse is supposed to be the person who has your back. Well, how many wives did King Solomon have? According to historical records, the size of his harem was legendary. Marriage is simply not designed for more than two. Any added spouse devastates this covenant relationship. In King Solomon’s case, the more women he accumulated, the more his chances dwindled to find a true friend.

Offending women – or any human being for that matter – never remains an isolated incident. Abuse begets more abuse and soon rears its ugly head everywhere. It did not take very long until this kind of attitude carried over into King Solomon’s business affairs. He employed slaves to build two very extravagant and elaborate buildings: the temple and his palace. Turning people into slaves significantly reduces prospects of having good and worthy relationships. That’s just a general observation.

Treating people with respect, we ultimately reap decency. And it’s far easier to notice decency if we are in the habit of promoting it. We will run into upright people as we pursue righteousness. And we will find upright women if we treat women honorably.

Job 23:10-11: “But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold. My feet have closely followed his steps; I have kept to his way without turning aside.”

Dysfunction Junction – have you ever been there? Job was in this place, a place where the tides have turned against him. In the beginning of the story recorded in the book of Job everything seemed fine. But wait. What is this? (Job 1:4-5)

“His sons used to hold feasts in their homes on their birthdays, and they would invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. When a period of feasting had run its course, Job would make arrangements for them to be purified. Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, ‘Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.’ This was Job’s regular custom.”

Apparently, Job gave his children quite a bit of leeway. They threw parties and spent his money with little interference or parental input. All the while he intervened on behalf of his sons and daughters to make sure his family remained in good standing with God. That would be similar to bailing out our sons and daughters every time they came in conflict with the law.

Let’s take a look at the lady in Job’s life, the one he was married to for better and for worse, right? Wrong! Job’s wife loved the good life Job provided, she definitely did not appreciate Job minus his fortune. Here is her pep talk after all their children were killed and their material possessions were gone (Job 2:9):

“His wife said to him, ‘Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!’”

So on this terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day his wife showed her true colors. Job was left sitting in the dirt scraping his painful sores. Job had no family left, no money, and he was breaking out with a strange skin disease.

On top of that, his friends paid him a visit. “Nobody knows you when you’re down and out” could have been a blues written by Job because his friends truly did not know him. Here is their pep talk (Job 20:4-5):

“Don’t you even know the basics, how things have been since the earliest days, when Adam and Eve were first placed on earth? The good times of the wicked are short-lived; godless joy is only momentary.”

Job’s friends were not exactly subtle. They put it to him plainly that all the tragedies befalling him were his own fault. After their horrible and demeaning input, however, God came through for Job and set the records straight.

Sometimes everything has to be stripped away so that we can focus on the one thing that matters. Here is Job’s takeaway (Job 42:5-6):

“I admit I once lived by rumors of you; now I have it all firsthand—from my own eyes and ears! I’m sorry—forgive me. I’ll never do that again, I promise! I’ll never again live on crusts of hearsay, crumbs of rumor.”

As Job’s friends had misjudged him, Job had misjudged God. Job didn’t know God as well as he thought he did.

While nobody likes going through a crisis, the results are amazing. We‘re becoming more empathetic towards people facing similar issues, and we grow closer to God.  I’m sure Job would agree: growing closer to God is the best gift of all!

Psalm 73:25-26: “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

Once I was in the hospital with congestive heart failure. If there is such a thing as muscle memory, that memory is indelibly written into my heart muscle. My heart remembers and my body remembers. My body also remembers how it felt like when all my organs worked seamlessly, but this physical reality does not last.

Physical reality, here it is: nothing we build lasts. Everything eventually turns into trash. Recyclable trash hopefully, but trash nonetheless! Here goes Oscar the Grouch from Sesame Street:

“I have here a sneaker that’s tattered and worn
It’s all full of holes and the laces are torn
A gift from my mother the day I was born
I love it because it’s trash

Oh, I love trash!
Anything dirty or dingy or dusty
Anything ragged or rotten or rusty
Yes, I love trash”

Oscar the Grouch is right. We all love trash. We all love things that will eventually go away, don’t we? Not to mention people!

We can get a kick out of health and well-being while the hormone flow is just right, our brains function, we can articulate ourselves, we can move, we are unfettered by gravity. However, all these functionalities end up in dysfunction as we age. And what about people whose bodies feel like a war zone from infancy to adulthood?

The good news is: we are recyclable. Our souls live forever. Our being was not created to be thrown away. We are in for the long haul. Jesus came to restore us to functionality. Our bodies fall apart as we get older, but our being doesn’t. We’re still the same person we were when we were born, more experienced, yes, but still the same person. Death is a heartache all creatures on this planet have to go through. I still cry when I think of the moment when I held our senior cat in my arms watching her take her last breath. Death is a major dysfunction and we all suffer from it.

It’s faith that turns trash into gold. Futility and meaninglessness evaporates by the touch of His hand. Jesus is the resurrection and the Life.

My heart is set on eternity. I embrace the Almighty in my thoughts, and He gives me what nothing else in this world can give me: Life with a capital L: Life that defies death and futility and is filled to the brim with love.

2 Timothy 1:7: “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.”

What is holding you back? There is always something, isn’t there? Issues! We’ve all got issues. Paul wrote Timothy a letter and practically gave him carte blanche. His advice was: No holding back! Go for it! Reason being: The Spirit of God makes us bold. There is no timidity in God’s Spirit. One of the famous lines in the beginning of the Bible gives us a snapshot of the Spirit of God in action (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.”

If the Holy Spirit wasn’t bold I cannot imagine how He could have taken on the mighty task of bringing order into chaos. As a result, rising out of the ashes, a brand-new universe was born!

It requires boldness to be creative and do something new. It requires boldness to go to places where we’ve never been or to do things that we have never done before. It requires boldness to be a trendsetter. It requires boldness to redefine life. It requires boldness to defy the status quo. Last but not least, it requires boldness to become the person we are meant to be.

For very good reasons do we need boldness. Here is one in particular: It requires boldness to take advantage of the freedom God has given to you and me.

Freedom is a big word in the North American conscience. We have freedom written on our banners for as long as we can remember. Without standing up and fighting for freedom many of the refugees who came to the United States wouldn’t be here. The Statue of Liberty historically used to be the first thing immigrants saw before they entered the country. It goes without saying that without standing up and fighting for freedom the United States as we know it today wouldn’t exist.

Quality of life stands and falls with freedom of choice. Freedom is often misinterpreted as freedom to dominate, as in “uninhibited by any foreign power”. I don’t believe that this is the defining feature of freedom. Freedom of choice on the other hand is the original empowerment coming from the Trinity. God gave us the tools to make up our minds and choose. However, from Day One our freedom has been challenged.

Mankind was but a few minutes old, so it seems, when the Snake encroached on our freedom insinuating (Genesis 3:4):

“You certainly will not die!”

Unfortunately, we ended up losing Paradise believing a lie. And with it went the freedom we took for granted. Outside of Eden we are surrounded by bullies. Now we have to stand up for ourselves and fight for freedom. On the bright side though, outside of Eden we can learn to be bold. And the Spirit of God rising up inside of us will show us the way, the truth, and the life. He gives us the wherewithal to step on virgin ground. And in our lifetime we will go to places where we have never been, and we can become the person we are meant to be.

1 John 3:18: “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”

There is a difference between paying lip service and actually jumping on the band wagon. Love is more than just a word; it implies action. The Lord Almighty was the first One who dared to love. The result of His love is a hustling and bustling universe with planets and life forms and beauty and wonder. God’s love is real. He speaks and lives love every second of the day; His love leaves distinctive footprints wherever He goes – for us to discover.

If we trace His footprints we will be reconnected to the source of our being. Meeting God Almighty, we get to experience love in the first person. God’s very essence is love. Waking up to the reality of God’s love is wildly wonderful.

God helps us love ourselves. In a crisis, when we tend to put ourselves in a harsh light, we need to remember that God knows us better than we know ourselves. He is greater than our worried minds and will not condemn us. He puts our minds at ease and our hearts at rest.

Through shifting circumstances God’s love remains rock-solid. Bad times come and go, but His love does not go away. Every time we choose to love we choose life. Speaking out in love we’re speaking God’s language. Seasoning our actions with a grain of love we find ourselves close to His heart and as alive as can be!

Psalm 42:1-2: “As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God. I thirst for God, the living God.”

As the baby craves human touch so the human soul craves its Maker’s touch.  We need more than yesterday’s blessings. We need today’s blessings. And just like a baby cries for more than just food, the Psalmist here cries out to God for more than just water to quench his thirst for God.  He puts this human experience, the soul’s craving for its Creator, into words that have resonated with generations of believers going through a dry spell (Psalm 42:9):

“O God my rock,” I cry,
“Why have you forgotten me?”

The desert is a rather uncluttered terrain, which I personally find intriguing. Not an abundance of vegetation going on! Not much wildlife either! Therefore sounds and smells are clearly reduced. If your brain is reeling, you feel maxed out and overwhelmed with an impossible work load, picture yourself in the desert, with absolutely no clutter to go through, no decisions to make, no problems to solve, phone and internet connections stripped away, no people, no issues, just you and God. I suspect that’s why prophets of old loved to retreat into the desert or climb onto a mountain: to come to an undisturbed one-on-one with God. Sometimes this is what it takes – to remove oneself for a little while to find God and regroup.

I believe with all of my heart that finding God is finding oneself. And that’s not just a once-in-a-lifetime-event. It is no accident that we need fresh food every day.  Actually, old and moldy food would eventually kill us.  In the same fashion the soul needs a fresh touch from God. God knows how much we need Him!

Psalm 42:5: “Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again – my Savior and my God!”

Jeremiah 29:11-13: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.'”

Whether we want to establish a career or solve an ongoing problem – it’s great to come up with a plan. In a perfect world we tackle the issue and move right along without any further issues. In the real world we know that there’s this wildcard “life”. Life tends to happen with or without our consent and may overthrow all our neat plans. Expressing this sentiment in his song “Beautiful Boy”, John Lennon famously quoted Allen Saunder’s Reader’s Digest entry:

“Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans”.

Yes, life happens! It can be exhilarating, frustrating, or downright devastating, and we all have to deal with it. From time to time we may stop in our tracks and wonder: where is God in all of this?

The surprising news is, despite life’s randomness, God actually has come up with a plan for our lives. His hand in things is usually hard to detect. God happens to be subtle as a rule with exceptions of course. Angel visits for instance are not subtle, but let’s face it: a visual one-on-one with an angel does not occur on a regular basis.

God has written out a plan for each and every person, simply because He cares. Why? – you may wonder. Well, He handcrafted us. Why wouldn’t He? And the very fact that God has a plan for our lives strikes me as special. He wouldn’t have a plan, unless He was genuinely interested, somehow involved and actively engaged in our lives. God passionately pursues His creation. He has a vested interest in you and me. That’s just who He is.

Nobody but God knows us as deeply as He, which is why He is able to recognize everything that’s inside of us. So when He pulls out a plan, it’s usually something we could not have come up with in our wildest dreams. God thinks big. Naturally, His plans for you and me are God-sized.

God has plans of hope, plans that help us grow and bring us into a better tomorrow, plans that discover and develop our talent, plans that are custom-sized and tailored to our person. It’s something that fits us like a glove, something that we’re meant to be. Call it our contribution to humanity; call it our purpose; but whatever it is God has in store for us is something to get excited about.

God certainly has high hopes for our futures! However, for all of this to materialize we need to be on a quest to find Him. We need to seek Him in all things to discover how God thinks and to get to know Him better. Seeking God is a life style, a lifelong journey. While seeking Him out, we’re doing ourselves a huge favor. His elaborate plans coming to fruition are the best things happening in this random thing called life. Life maybe a wild ride, but through it all we can always trust Him and rest assured:

His plans for us are good – plans to prosper us and not to harm us, plans to give us hope and a bright future.

Proverbs 14:22: “Do not those who plot evil go astray? But those who plan what is good find love and faithfulness.”

Premeditated crime versus crime of passion – two entirely different ball games! In court, one of the determining factors of a murder case is to find out whether a person was killed accidentally or in cold blood. Plotting to kill a person makes for aggravated murder and, depending on court location, may lead to lifetime in prison and/or death row.

It’s the plotting that makes matters worse.

Evil scheming can do tremendous harm, but even more so, great ideas and loving forethought will do a world of good. It’s what occupies our minds that will change our world – for better or for worse.

Neuroscientists have discovered that habitual thinking patterns can be traced back in our brain. Establishing good habits can rewire our minds and set us up for greatness. Planning good things is a habit that not only blesses our world, it blesses our soul. We sow love and faithfulness across the border, and after a while we’ll find that love and faithfulness multiplies.

If your mind has been occupied with worries looking at difficulties from all angles, try to take a break from problem solving for a little while. If you have a chance to be kind today, be kind. A little kindness goes a long way and leads to more human kindness; it will also make you feel better. Habitual kindness has a great side effect: your problems seem to shrink.

Evil is disheartening, but love is inspiring. It’s a power to be reckoned with. I personally believe that love beats evil in no time flat. Love rules!

What has been on your mind lately?

Matthew 22:37-39: “Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

Love – Love – Love threefold is something extraordinary: The Son loves the Father, the Father loves the Son. The Son loves the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit loves the Son. The Father loves the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit loves the Father, and so forth. The Trinity’s eternal flame is the love they have for one another.

I know, the Trinity is a strange concept to the human mind. We’re so much more used to things that come in two: Mom & Dad, Bed & Breakfast, Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, you know what I mean.

In the realm of love, regular math simply does not apply. 1+1=2: right? Well, if two lovers come together the outcome will be multiplication not summation. When lovers mingle, they multiply. As physical reminders, offspring is coming out of such unions who also begin to mingle and multiply, and so the world population has grown exponentially ever since the Trinity erupted into their famous frenzy of activity, creating a great big universe. Love naturally multiplies.

On the other hand, in the realm of the Trinity, do One and One and One necessarily equal Three? Yes and no, so it seems. The Trinity is known as the “Three in One.” Put that in mathematical logical context, and then instead of an explosion you have sort of an implosion. No one is more “One” than the Trinity is. The Trinity are of one heart and soul, eternally fond of each other.

Love simply defies all concepts. Love just is and originates from the Trinity. The Trinity loves each other and loves everything and everyone they’ve created. All life forms are because of the Trinity’s undying enthusiasm and love. And as their byproduct, we are only truly happy if we love just as generously as them. This may seem preposterous – but in all reality we’re wired to love like the Trinity, as Jesus worded it so pointedly:

“You must love the Lord your God” (….) and: “Love your neighbor as yourself”

We love ourselves as the Trinity loves each other, and back it goes as we love God, the source of our being, and our neighbor with all of our heart, because it’s good for our heart – with all of our soul, because love is life to our soul – and with our entire mind, because love creates a sound mind.

Our existence is wholly based and only thrives on: love – love – love!

“Close your eyes, give me your hand, darling
Do you feel my heart beating
Do you understand
Do you feel the same
Am I only dreaming
Is this burning an eternal flame?”
      The Bangles