Psalm 95:1-2: “Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.”

Harvey Mackay once said:

“It’s only lonely at the top if you forget all the people you met along the way and fail to acknowledge their contributions to your success.”

Thankfulness obviously is not humanity’s natural ingredient. Humans aren’t exactly born grateful. We like to look at the things we lack and unwittingly diminish the value of everything we’ve already been given. Despite our natural tendencies, however, we need to sit back from time to time and count our blessings.

Put yourself in God’s shoes for a minute – strictly hypothetical of course since these are big shoes to fill – and imagine all the people talking to you only want your attention because they want something from you. How would that make you feel?

I’m sure God loves to be addressed when we are in need. Life is no joke. Bad things happen to good people. And yet, if prayer is used only in times of emergency, then we really don’t know God very well. The apostle Paul wrote in one of his letters (1 Thessalonians 5:17):

“Pray continually”

Praying continually means that God is a genuine part of our lives. Our prayers have extended beyond emergency situations, and we have an ongoing conversation with Him. As we go through the day we share our thoughts with Him, which is the good, the bad and the ugly. God is with us when we are at our worst, and He is with us when we at our best. He is the best Friend we will ever have, and for that it is easy to be thankful for.

As a happy side effect, thankfulness is a great way of combating negativity. It’s easy to get depressed in times of trouble. We tend to focus on the dark side when we have problems. Gratefulness snaps us out of this way of thinking and turns our eyes to the bright side.

We need some joie de vivre especially in tough times. For our own sake and most importantly for God’s sake let’s be thankful!

“Always look on the bright side of life” Eric Idle

John 17:17: “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.”

Thanks to gravity we can walk the ground. Up is up and down is down, as simple as that. However, climbing into a rocket and pushing through Earth’s atmosphere, we experience things very differently. Where is up and down after loss of gravity? Our human experience is very much tied to our personal point of view. In fact, we can get so stuck in our opinions that it is hard to see the truth.

 “What is truth?” Pilate retorted after Jesus told him (John 18:37b):

 “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

Finding the truth can be as elusive an experience as trying to catch the wind. Pilate certainly thought so. At the time when Pilate met Jesus he seemed to have given up on finding the truth. “What is truth?” he asked. Not expecting an answer, he turned around and left Jesus.

So, what is truth?  

It is very human that our point of view evolves. What we believe to be true today may no longer hold true tomorrow. Pilate’s sarcasm would then be justified. Truth, however, is not truth if it can change overnight. Truth does not change. Unimpressed by shifting times and unimagined by any human mind it stands forever. We don’t dream up truth; truth just is.

It was Jesus’s mission to come into the world and share the truth with us. He testified to the truth, which still rocks our world. Interceding for all people, Jesus prays (John 17:17):

“Sanctify them by the truth” 

Learning the truth will change us for the better, or to use Jesus’s terminology: learning the truth will sanctify us. On a different occasion He said (John 8:32):

“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

The only way to learn the truth is to believe Jesus. Truth cannot be proven, but the results of truth-finding are very tangible. Attached to the Lord’s bird-eyed view, believers develop a much broader perspective. They become vested in the greater good and contribute to healing the world.

Truth is alive and breathing and has the name of God written all over it. When Jesus walked this Earth, He left indelible footprints. He said about Himself (John 14:6):

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

When Jesus turns our lives around, we start going into a completely different direction. The truth will set us free, and we will never be the same.

Psalm 119:105: “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.”

Life’s path is no eight-lane freeway. It’s more of a bumpy hiking trail. Plugging along, we always tread on unexplored ground. Nobody knows what to expect around the next corner.

Life’s pathway is a long journey. We better travel light or we’ll get stuck somewhere with our heavy load. Unburdened is the way to go.

Life is not a burden. Life is a precious gift. We realize that in moments when we hold a newborn baby. However, the thrill of being alive clearly wears off when we are in pain. In light of tragic circumstances we may even lose our desire to be alive. Especially when we feel lost in the dark, we are in desperate need of God’s light.

The light of God is different from any other light source we know. Regular light sources simply won’t hold up. Batteries go low; a camp fire won’t burn unless it’s fed; a candle will flicker and die once it has burnt through the candle wick. God’s eternal flame, however, burns independently without being fed. His light is always shining, which is why we fare a lot better in His presence. Close to the Lord, we are able to see through the dark. Leaning on Him, it is so much easier navigating through life’s highs and lows.

Times will change; God, however, is timeless. He is the Rock of Ages who quickly becomes our stronghold as we call out to Him. If we earnestly seek the Lord, we will find Him. Moses encouraged the Israelites with these words (Deuteronomy 4:29):

But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul.

God is hidden from the naked eye, and yet, He is very hard to miss. In fact, we have to be determined to ignore Him to not notice the brilliant Light that outshines the stars, the Moon and the Sun. Eventually, somewhere along life’s bumpy road, we will run into Him.

Life is no hide-and-seek game. God wants to be found; He wants to enlighten us; Heaven’s door is easily opened. All we’ve got to do is start knocking.

Psalm 119:18: “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.”

The Bible is a mysterious book. I remember as a young kid, I liked reading its poetic ancient texts. I loved “Song of Songs”, written by King Solomon. Reading his love poems I thought this is a remarkable piece of poetry.

Growing up in an agnostic household, nobody was really interested in reading the Bible with me. So I was on my own exploring it. When I turned 17 someone at our high school led a home Bible study and asked me if I wanted to come and join them. Accepting the invitation marked the beginning of a shift in what the Bible meant to me.

Not sure how else to put this: The Bible is alive. It breathes God’s Spirit. It reveals the truth. Translated into almost every contemporary language spoken on this planet, its message went all around the world.

This was my very first clue that God exists: the Bible spoke to me. That’s how God introduced Himself to me, and a piece of poetry all of a sudden turned into something more potent. I had been wondering whether or not God exists. The students who were with me at the time talked about a letter Paul wrote to the Corinthians; I don’t remember exactly what we were talking about. But all throughout the conversations happening on that wintry afternoon a small voice whispered deep down in my heart: it’s true. God is real.

The Bible unlocks and spreads the secret that God is alive.

Now that the secret was out, to me the Bible has become the most interesting book there is. I’ve been studying it ever since.

I think King David is smart in asking God to open His eyes. We have eyes that may be able to see the things around us; or we may be vision-impaired and have trouble seeing; or we may be legally blind and don’t see a thing. There is a second set of eyes that God has given us. Those eyes can see into the spiritual world. God is the only One privileged to open our spiritual eyes. Without His help we all are spiritually blind.

We pray with King David to open the eyes of our heart, and we will see things we have never seen before.

“Open the eyes of my heart Lord, I want to see you” Paul Baloche

Psalm 119:143: “Trouble and distress have come upon me, but your commands give me delight.”

King David loved the Lord, and He loved His law. In Psalm 119, he says (Psalm 119:62):

“At midnight I rise to give you thanks
    for your righteous laws.”

To be enthused with the law of God as much as King David professes it in his psalms strikes many of us as strange. Interestingly, the initial reaction at the time when the Ten Commandments were published was fear. Here is how people reacted as they witnessed God speaking from Heaven (Exodus 20:18):

“When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance.”

I believe fear can be a good thing if it keeps us from harm. The fear of getting hurt prevents us from touching fire. Kids learn that really quickly. Beyond that, however, we expect kids to grow into adults who can use fire to their benefit.

God is an eternal flame. He appeared to Moses in the form of fire, the burning bush. It seems that Moses had quickly grown past the fear of fire. A friendship developed between Moses the prophet and God Almighty that the Bible depicts as exceptional, although I’m not sure God wants friendship with people as an exception.

Life is more than just two-dimensional. Unless we want to live like cartoon characters, at some point in our lives we need to outgrow the idea that the world around us only falls into two categories: right and wrong; good and evil.

Ultimately, the Lord’s commandments, written in stone, represent the stepping stones towards God’s world that knows no commands and is entirely built on love. If we get hung up by His commands, then God’s law turns from stepping stones into a murderous weapon. A rigid, rule-driven life simply leaves us no room to breathe. God’s commands were not written to stone us, but to guide us. King David understood that profoundly. He didn’t lead a flawless life, but he is known to be a big believer in God’s mercies.

The law of God was written down to lay out righteous living. Stepping onto the building stones of human decency, we will step into God’s presence. And approaching Him, we’ll make a Friend for a lifetime.

1 Peter 3:18: “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.”

God’s Spirit brings life. Jesus was brought back from the dead when He was resurrected. Thanks to the Spirit of God He was revived and walked out of the tomb, never to return.

If Jesus needed to be revived, how much more are we in need of revival? And I don’t think we should wait for that experience until we pass. Unlike Jesus, we carry a dead human spirit inside of us that needs to come back to life. The Holy Spirit has the uncanny ability to open our eyes and help us see God. It’s like we were in a dream state before, and now we’ve woken up to reality. Jesus calls this experience rebirth, and it’s one of the great mysteries of God. What exactly happens as we get reborn, who can tell? From personal experience I know, life as a believer is as different from my prior life experience as day is from night. It’s the Holy Spirit who makes all the difference.

Our dead human spirit is one thing, the burdens we have accumulated over a lifetime is quite another. If there is anybody out there who has compassion for our cause, it’s God. God is not asleep, nor is He dead. He is in a pristine unpolluted environment called Heaven; His ears are not distracted by noise pollution, and His eyes are ever turned towards His creation. We have His complete attention, and His heart breaks over the things we are going through. God is love. He wants to effectively help us, not just put a Band-Aid over the situation. He wants to save us. That’s why Jesus came.

Jesus says (Matthew 11:29):

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

Jesus was publicly killed. After He was raised from the dead He went back to heaven. How can we learn from Jesus when He is no longer here? – Well, that’s where the Holy Spirit comes in. The Spirit of God who raised Jesus from the dead is the same Spirit who teaches us about Him. In fact, we will become friends with Jesus long before we actually see His face. There is still so much left to discover even after we have crossed over to the next life. Life is a journey that definitely does not end with our physical departure.

The Holy Spirit has a lot to say about God. If you are searching for answers, why don’t you ask Him to introduce God to you? That’s what I did, a long time ago, and the Holy Spirit is still not done introducing.

“Lean on me, when you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend
I’ll help you carry on
For it won’t be long
‘Til I’m gonna need
Somebody to lean on”
– Bill Withers

1 John 2:15-16: “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.”

If we love the world we’re part of a worldwide problem. If we love the people in the world then we’re part of the solution. When John wrote his letter he didn’t want to encourage its recipients to take an eternal leave of absence and become a recluse. He wanted us to engage in peacemaking.

What are peacemakers?

Let me begin to paint the picture by saying peacemakers are no doormats. Peacemaking has nothing to do with keeping our voice down and our eyes closed to avoid ruffling any feathers. Even though peacemakers love people, people may not love then. Some people do, some people don’t. It all depends on their attitude.

As peacemakers we will run into people who are devoted to money, success and power. If that happens, peacemakers will be considered a nuisance because in their presence those power-hungry people feel exposed for what they really are. It’s not going to be pretty, and it’s nothing new under the sun. I believe every generation has brought forth peacemakers who have dealt with this situation.

As peacemakers we invest ourselves. We are passionate about people and this planet. We fight to protect the weak and better the cause of those who cannot fight for themselves. We become advocates. We do the little things that few notice but make a huge difference.

It’s difficult to swim upstream. That’s exactly what peacemakers do, all the time. Don’t even think for a moment that peacemaking is something you can do on your own. Idealistic humanitarians usually get stranded. It’s a tragedy when something good is destroyed.

Here is something to think about: God’s goodness can’t be destroyed. God is good all the time, and we need His goodness to keep our hearts at peace. Jesus was the pioneer in peacemaking. He is called the Prince of Peace and rightly so. In Jesus we see all the classic symptoms of peacemaking. People were drawn to Him and at the same time people were highly offended by Him. Ironically, our number one peacemaker, Jesus of Nazareth, didn’t go peacefully. He was brutally murdered. A true peacemaker, He did not fight back to defend himself, and yet He did not back down or compromise when it came to standing up for what is right and good.

To become a peacemaker we embrace Jesus. That’s how we change the world.

Peacemakers write history. Peacemakers are ahead of their time. Thanks to peacemakers humanity has evolved and is still around. Thanks to peacemakers there is hope for the future.

Be part of the solution, not part of the problem – and join Jesus in the biggest peace movement the world has ever seen.