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.”

If we are blessed with good old friends, then we know how our relationships have progressed over time. We say that our friendships mature. Naturally, so does our relationship with God. In our friendships we go through ups and downs. We misunderstand people and people misunderstand us. Don’t you think that God can be misunderstood at times? You better believe it!

On a personal note, here is one of my great misconceptions: God and people. Of course I knew that God loves people, and I was delighted to find out that He loves me too. But it took me years until I drew the connection between God caring for people and me caring for them also. How could I possibly miss that? Not sure! I was not exactly a people hater, but I used to hold people at arm’s length. I couldn’t say when I started to switch gears, but I’m sure a lot has to do with the fact that I got married to a wonderful guy!

We feel we’ve been running in circles and finally we’re getting somewhere. Thankfully, we’re out of the rain, we’re high and dry on a mountaintop, and we get to see far into the distance. Freeze that moment in time in your heart’s memory because we are bound to move on. To reach the next mountaintop we’ve got to go through yet another valley. The worst thing we can do to ourselves is to stop moving. Once we stop moving, we stop growing and once we stop growing we’re joining the walking dead.

There is no way around change; we do so much better embracing our ever-changing seasons. Let’s take it all in, breathe deep, grow, and stay connected to God and people.

“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!