Psalm 119:130: “The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.”

Snuffing out the light leaves us in the dark. Darkness is great for sleeping purposes. However, if we want to get somewhere, we need to be able to recognize our surroundings.

Sailors sailing the seven seas and Nomads traversing the Sahara Desert traditionally have relied on StarlightThe North Star or Pole Star – aka Polaris – is famous for holding nearly still in our sky while the entire northern sky moves around it. This is essential for our orientation when the sameness of the endless sea or desert wasteland won’t give us any hint as to which direction we’re going.

Life can be compared to sailing – with winds of opportunity arising, a storm brewing or a nice easy breeze coming our way. We will get lost at sea if we drift anywhere the wind blows. Sailing through life, we all need direction. So, we look up; and instead of studying the stars in the sky we study God Almighty. He is the eternal flame, the Holy One – Creator of the universe. Everything evolves around Him. Depending on how close we get to the source of all light we’ll see more and more what life is all about.

King David prayed (Psalm 119:130):

“The unfolding of your word gives light.”

The depth of God’s communication is astounding; His Word has many layers. Studying His Word is similar to looking at a well-crafted piece of art from every possible angle. There is always something new to discover that we haven’t noticed before. God’s Word becomes more meaningful to us as we dig deeper. Giving us hope, His Word becomes our lifeline and provides us direction especially as we sail through stormy weather.

God’s Word sheds light – and light is what we need to see clearly.

Jeremiah 33:2-3: “This is what the Lord says, he who made the earth, the Lord who formed it and established it—the Lord is his name: ‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’”

New discoveries are exciting. Nonetheless, there are things no scientific effort will be able to reveal. God remains a mystery, and I think that’s beautiful. While the universe runs like well-crafted machinery, life is no machinery. Life is mysterious. So is love.

Personally, I think that a good portion of our discoveries actually stem from the innate relationship God has with each of His creatures. The driving force of our curiosity is like a river God leads into areas where we’ve never been. If you are a gifted scientist you’ll discover things you have never dreamed of. If you are a gifted musician you’ll bring a fresh musical breeze into the arena.

Our hearts and minds are like our fingerprints – unique. And God who made us understands us like no other. He chimes in from the inside. He can see what moves us – similar to watching a drama on a big movie screen He can read our thoughts and feelings. While it may come to us as a shock to realize that God knows absolutely everything about us, we do not need to be afraid of Him. He has no bad intentions. Mind control is so very much opposed to what He stands for.

All life comes from God. Approaching Him is life. Separating from Him means death. Death is no mystery. There is nothing to explore in death. Death is absolute nothingness while life is absolute everythingness. And God is in everything, which is why He relates to everything and can reveal in depth and at a capacity foreign to us.

Seeking God has many layers to it. The primal quest is reaching out for Love with a capital “L”, Love that embraces us completely as a person. God is excited about life, and He is excited about you. Discovering God is the mother of all discoveries.

1 Samuel 16:7: “But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Previously, King Saul’s son Jonathan had provoked their arch enemy, the Philistines, by attacking a Philistine outpost. Then the king had the trumpet blown throughout the land to summon his people to join the army at Gilgal. Meanwhile, Prophet Samuel instructed the king to wait seven days at Gilgal, and he would join them at that time to present the burnt offering and the fellowship offerings to the Lord before they went to war. So Saul and his men waited. When the prophet delayed and Saul’s army began to scatter the king got nervous and took matters into his own hands. He went ahead and offered up the burnt offering himself. And wouldn’t you know it, just as he finished making the offering, Samuel arrived. The prophet was not happy about what he saw and he said (1 Samuel 13:13-14):

 “You have done a foolish thing,” Samuel said. “You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. But now your kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him ruler of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command.”

So the prophet went back home and the king went to war. It wasn’t long thereafter that the Lord sent the prophet Samuel to Jesse of Bethlehem. His mission: to anoint one of Jesse’s sons to be the future king of Israel. He took a heifer with him and invited Jesse to join him for the sacrifice. Jesse had eight sons. When Samuel laid eyes on one of them, Eliab, he was impressed and thought to himself – “This must be the future king of Israel” to which the Lord replied (1 Samuel 16:7):

“Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

As it turned out the son the Lord had selected was not even present at the time. Jesse had left his youngest son David at home to tend to his sheep. So they sent for him and brought him in. And Samuel anointed David in the presence of his family.

The Lord looks at the heart and the king of His choosing has a heart of worship. A millennium later King David’s lineage would bring forth the King of kings Jesus who remarked in a conversation with a Samaritan woman (John 4:23-24):

“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.  God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

Without God’s Spirit we are doing things on our own like King Saul did – and he was rejected by the Lord. God is Spirit and only through His Spirit can we connect with Him. Listening to His Spirit we will find God. Worship inspired by His Spirit pleases Him. We are called to listen and follow the Spirit of God to worship Him in the Spirit and in truth.

James 1:22: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”

When we are born, the first thing we do is cry. Hearing that first cry, the mother is happy that her baby is alive and healthy. Crying out comes natural to us. We all want to be heard. Listening on the other hand, not so much! Listening takes a concerted effort. We have to get out of our own way to do so. Part of growing up is learning to listen.

Prejudice impairs our hearing. With preconceived notions we hear things we want to hear. Have you ever encountered a person who asks the same question in ten different ways, just to get the answer he or she wants to hear? That’s not listening for an answer, that’s suggesting one.

God Himself is a great listener. He listens to our heart all day long. And when He addresses us in person, the thoughts He has for us is something we need to hear; however His Word will only inspire us and build us up if we act upon it. The apostle James points out in his letter that we deceive ourselves if we know what God wants from us but don’t do it.

Well-received, God’s Word changes our heart. It’s fuel in our tanks. It builds our life, our relationships.

God’s input, while invisible, visibly shapes us.

Psalm 119:114: “You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word.”

From the Trinity flows eternal encouragement and good hope. And good hope is what we need. False hope or no hope is devastating.

Life can be quite overwhelming sometimes. My husband Bill and I have been out of work since the beginning of this year due to an economic downturn. Thanks to the Lord we are encouraged in a rather bleak situation. We have seen how He shields us from the storm, but beyond that He opens up new avenues. Presently Bill and I step out in faith by opening our own business.

God speaks to us and His Word revives us. Words we receive from God nourish the good hope inside of us and drive us forward. It is God’s good hope that lets us see beyond current circumstances and imagine a better future, a future worth living for, a future worth fighting for.

We need the Lord all the time, but especially when we are in distress – no doubt about it. The Lord is our refuge and strength in times of trouble and He is our vision in dark times. Hope is ignited when we embrace the Lord. The language of hope is prayer.

John 1:12-13: “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”

God’s name reflects who He is. So, what is His name? The prophet Moses asked this very question.  He was leading his flock near Horeb, the mountain of God, when he noticed a bush on fire that did not seem to burn up. As he approached the strange sight God called him from within the bush (Exodus 3:5-6):

“Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.”  Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” 

Notice that God introduces Himself as Abraham’s, Isaac’s and Jacob’s God – not by name, which is something Moses brings up as he is about to accept the mission the Lord had in mind for him (Exodus 3:13-14):

Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”

God said to Moses, “I am who I am and I will be what I will be. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”

When God revealed His name to Moses, His Son was yet to be revealed. Jesus was hidden in “I Will Be What I Will Be.” When the time came that His Son became flesh and lived among us, we saw God in human form. His Hebrew name Yeshua means Yahweh saves. God loves us so much that He saves us by giving us His Son.

God’s name is an open invitation to get to know Him. Knowing Him by name means we believe in Him. We believe that He indeed is who He is, has been and will be. As believers we are adopted into His family and “I Am” becomes the family name of God’s children.

God is who He is, and the children of God are who they are: a sign of God’s love and part of His mystery – visibly rooted on earth and invisibly connected forever to the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 5:13-14: “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.”

In the years of His public ministry Jesus drew a large following. News about Him spread beyond Israel’s borders all over Syria. The crowds that followed Him were a motley crew ranging from locals to foreigners from all walks of life. Intermittently people would ask Him questions; in the spur of a moment Jesus decided to sit down on top of a hill and give them His full attention, inspiring the Sermon on the Mount. The traditional location for the Mount of Beatitudes is on the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee.

Bearing in mind that Jesus talks to a multi-ethnic crowd but addresses His countrymen in particular, He resorts to word imagery throughout the sermon. Images are strong and translate well into different cultures. He picked salt and light to address some issues He noticed among God’s people. “When salt loses its flavor it’s no longer good for anything.” Jesus says; in other words a believer loses flavor when love goes out the window.

Not to mingle with the unclean had become a religious obsession separating the Jews from the rest of the world. Just as focused light develops into devastating wildfires destroying wildlife and vegetation in the process and just as salt landscapes are entirely sterile, that’s the kind of barren landscape the believers represent who do not mingle. Light and salt can only serve its purpose when spread.

Sitting on the patio at night with a light source, we know what happens after a short while. All kinds of flying critters will come straight toward the light. Light attracts. Regardless where we are from, there is a common denominator: we are all drawn to the light.

God is light. Whoever walks with God walks in the light. And whoever walks in the light is very noticeable and attracts other people. Revealing God’s mysteries and uncovering His unfathomable love as we mingle with others is the destiny of God’s children. Spreading light and salt they make this world a better place – and point to an even better world to come.

Psalm 119:93: “I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have preserved my life.”

Perishables need to be preserved. We pickle them, we freeze them, we dry them – that’s what we commonly do for food to keep it from going bad. A similar experience holds true for the core of our being. We go through the heat of temptations, experience dry seasons and are exposed to all kinds of negativity and adversity. Trusting the Lord as we negotiate life’s challenges will shape our integrity.

Seedbed of corruption is isolation from the Lord. And in that respect we are not unlike perishables. We disintegrate just like food that is exposed to bacteria. So here comes King David’s recipe. Quoting from his insightful prayers, we read in Psalm 119, the longest Psalm in the Bible:

 “I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have preserved my life.”

Walking life’s bumpy road without God’s guidance is like negotiating the desert without water. The conscience God has put inside of us will give us some direction, but we won’t make it through this life in one piece with just our moral compass. We need to connect with God and stay connected to not get lost.

Looking back, the Lord has carried me through many difficult seasons in my life and I am grateful for that. At the time of this writing the whole world is grappling with social unrest and a pandemic that has not been contained as of yet; the mortality rate has risen exponentially. Beyond our physical expiration date we have a heart and soul that lives on, and I pray that we all find the Lord at such a time as this. He knows how to preserve us. We are safe in His hands.

Hebrews 12:1: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

As entertainers, we love cheering crowds. My husband and I usually perform in small venues, so we certainly can’t speak of football stadium experience, but I’ve been told how exhilarating it is for a performer to have that kind of charged up audience. Well, here is an interesting aspect of the spiritual world around us: Call it the favorite reality show of heaven – we have been watched with fascination and genuine interest. Without us knowing it, we have been cheered on in our adventure called: “Life”.

Angels are part of this cloud of witnesses. They do much more than watching and cheering us on. They fight for us. The other portion of the cheering crowd is people of faith who have walked through life before us and understand our situation as we sweat, weep and sometimes bleed on the steep climbing road to heaven. And this is exactly what the heavenly crowd loves to see: they love watching us as we go by faith and not by sight.

Looking at this planet, we can see there is friction and unrest wherever we go. Clearly the odds are stacked against world peace. The world rallies around hierarchies, power, money and greed, a recipe for disaster. Going against the mainstream, believers follow the Light of Life in a world that seems to become darker every day. This requires every bit of their endurance and strength. Strangely enough, sometimes believers burden themselves with extra weight. Life as tough as it is, the last thing we need is adding stress. We need to shed the weight we are not meant to carry.

We have a crowd of witnesses cheering us on. Let’s tap into that as we walk by faith. As little as it seems, our steps of faith are big in the eyes of the Lord. And He is with us every step of the way.

Philippians 3:14: “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

Some of us get stuck in the past. The apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Philippians that he forgets what lies behind. He does not stake his confidence on his reputation – he was a man of influence in his day and age – but finds the only thing that stands the test of time is his faith in Christ.

Faith in Christ defines us much more than our accomplishments. We sometimes think that our gifts and talents represent who we are. “I am an artist.” “I am a parent.” “I am a landscaper.” “I am a teacher.” “I am a stock broker.” However, if our confidence is rooted in what we do, then all we need is failure to knock the wind out of our sails. We are indeed on a short leash if we need success and approval to feel confident. What if nobody sees our work? What if we never win a medal? Does this turn us into Mr. and Mrs. Nobody?

Faith in Christ is no human accomplishment; it is a gift from God. I know that I could not believe if it wasn’t for God opening my eyes. And we would not be here today if it wasn’t for Jesus and His precious gift to humanity. He came to earth to save the world, and He finished what He was set out to do. We on the other hand complete His mission when we believe in Him.

All of us have a calling: to be in heaven with Christ. The Spirit of God is at work everywhere in the world calling people’s attention. He is knocking on the door of our heart – and the door is ours to open.