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Romans 12:10: “Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.”

In Queen’s rendition of the Bohemian Rhapsody we are presented with a murder case. The song powerfully expresses the contradictory feelings of a man who had just killed a person. Following is a brief excerpt of the lyrics penned by the late Freddie Mercury:

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

We sometimes forget that by proceeding down the slippery slope of anger and hate we’re all prone to kill someone. The best way to prevent this disaster from happening is to pursue the opposite direction: Investing genuine interest in other people and to love generously is the way to go. The trick is not to differentiate between people because God doesn’t. God loves humans indiscriminately, always has, and always will be. We’re supposed to follow His example once we jump on His bandwagon. Of course we have our reservations when it comes to loving everybody. Jesus had a conversation about this very topic with a teacher of the law.

Discussing the specifics of loving God and particularly our neighbors, a teacher of the law spoke up and asked Jesus: “Who’s my neighbor?” In an attempt to narrow down on the amount of people to be loved he asked Jesus this very loaded question. “Who is my neighbor?” really leaves a lot of room for individual interpretation, if you think about it. Basically, we pick and choose whom to love and whom to pass by. In other words, we categorize people, apply tags, and consider some of them not worthy of our love.

Well, Jesus’s answer is a classic. He told the story of an unnamed person who got mugged and left on the road to die. After having been conveniently ignored first by a priest and then by a Levite, a despised Samaritan finally came to his rescue.

After telling the story, Jesus answered the law expert’s question with a question of His own (Luke 10:36-37):

 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

God created no sub humans. Our job is to love everybody. How that works, I don’t know. I would say it’s humanly impossible. But we can start with the people right next door. And as we walk with Jesus, the Master in Human Relations, we can learn from Him. No doubt, loving people is a wild ride and it will break our hearts more than anything, but according to our Creator, it’s all worth it; love will eventually cut down on murder cases; and love most definitely will make the world a better place.

1 Corinthians 1:10: “I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.”

Human societies are run by institutions – governmental, educational, financial, and religious institutions; and the list goes on and on. While human civilizations are largely institutionalized, by contrast Heaven is not.

Have you ever pictured the Trinity as a hierarchy?  I know I have. We tend to think in these lines since this is what we are familiar with; and so we have trouble understanding how God operates. While God is everywhere and knows everything and potentially could run and rule every tiny little detail of His creation, He refrains from doing so. It’s very characteristic of God to delegate. A prominent example: His hands-off approach with planet Earth. He gave humans this planet as an assignment and made them chief administrators (Genesis 1:28):

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

It’s important to note that members of God’s kingdom see themselves as caretakers of this planet, not as owners. This attitude is entirely different from the common approach and rules out a seedbed of many wars and conflicts: human greed.

Church as an institution seems to be a rather poor reflection of God’s kingdom, reason being, today’s church is not a unit but more of a contradicting puzzle. I believe that church is not meant to be an institution but primarily a body of believers focused on loving God and people. In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul is asking his Greek friends to avoid division and to be of one mind in thought and purpose; living by this code will indeed deeply impact the world.

While throughout history human institutions have repeatedly failed, especially in the area of unity, God’s concept of peace has become very apparent with the arrival of the Prince of Peace, Jesus.

We know that eventually God’s kingdom of peace will come to full fruition. That’s why we pray the Lord’s Prayer: “Thy will be done, Thy kingdom come”. The good news is that we don’t have to wait for His kingdom to arrive; we can live in God’s kingdom now if we pursue peace. Jesus confirms in His sermon of the Mount (Matthew 5:9): “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.”

Proverbs 31:30: “Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised.”

Beauty is fleeting – at least that’s what we experience on planet Earth. A popular reference is flowers. They are known to be beautiful, and they are known to wilt. By the same token, human beauty won’t last. Our bodies wilt – against our will that is – and beauty industries take advantage of that.

The author of the book of Proverbs puts it quite bluntly: there is one thing that will outlast both beauty and charm: and that is our faith in God.

At first sight this doesn’t seem to make much sense, since technically our inner convictions have little to do with our physical appearance – or have they? – Don’t we find physically attractive people with no heart quite displeasing? So, beauty apparently has layers and does not stop at the surface level, and most importantly, genuine beauty always goes deep and has its roots in a kind heart. That’s a good thing to remember, especially as we age.

As nature has its seasons, so do we. Living past Spring and Summer we’ll be approaching the fall and winter seasons of our life. I believe we all struggle with the concept of a physical expiration date. Nobody really likes to expire. Ideally, we all want to stay fresh and young. On this note, there has been ongoing scientific research to raise human life expectancy to 150 and maybe 200 years – While this may sound wonderful we know that we only postpone inevitable death.

And let’s be honest: who wants to live on Earth as it is forever? Here is some interesting insight from the Bible with regards to human life expectancy (Genesis 6:1-3)

“When human beings began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of humans were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose. Then the Lord said, ‘My Spirit will not contend with humans forever, for they are mortal; their days will be a hundred and twenty years.’” 

The threshold of 120 years was set with the purpose to prevent us humans to go insane. Life on Earth has its great moments, but generally speaking we navigate through quite a bit of challenges throughout our lifetime. Try to imagine doing this for a thousand years and you would walk in Methuselah’s shoes (Genesis 5:27):

“Methuselah lived a total of 969 years, and then he died.”

Let’s face it: our loss in physical attributes is only temporary. We lose our beauty – so what?! I’m convinced that our wrinkles instantly disappear in Heaven. Eternal life with God is the real deal. If anything, life on Earth is our glorious test run! Fighting our limited lifespan is an uphill battle that we won’t win. Turning to the Eternal One is a far better concept.  As we handle our present life with care, let’s not forget that we are all made to meet our Maker.  He is our ultimate dwelling place and eternal home.

“Lord, you have been our dwelling place
throughout all generations.
Before the mountains were born
or you brought forth the whole world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.”   (Psalm 90:1+2)

Hosea 1:2: “When the Lord began to speak through Hosea, the Lord said to him, ‘Go, marry a promiscuous woman and have children with her, for like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the Lord.’”

The way God discloses Himself is unorthodox to say the least. Here He asks Hosea to marry a promiscuous woman. Why? He wants Hosea to get a taste of the crap He has to put up with in dealing with humanity. At first sight I thought this is some sort of punishment – “See what you did to me? Now get a taste of your own medicine!” But that just doesn’t fit God’s profile.

When the Trinity decided to create a universe God became a parent. And no doubt, God loves His creation! I believe He is especially partial to His angels and human beings. He created angels and people for the purpose of communication. He wanted them to think freely and act freely. The free will backfired, as we know, but here is God’s ingenious way of dealing with the woes of parenthood: When he created mankind He endowed them with the ability to procreate.
Again: “You think I’m a terrible parent? Have some kids of your own, and see how that goes!”
I’m detecting a pattern here, and I think it’s actually a compliment. God shares His experiences so we can understand Him a little bit better. In other words: He invites us to know Him just as much as He knows us, and how beautiful is that!

So next time we run into snags with our children, maybe we stop to think that we get to experience a fraction of what God is going through with His many children. Will this make us laugh or will this make us cry? I’m not sure, but maybe further down the road we will get a better picture of God’s way of thinking. As we want the best for our kids, so does He. Let’s not forget: God thinks like a parent and acts like a parent. At times we might not like His parenting, but at the end of the day it’s God who has our backs, and He is absolutely trustworthy. Once the eyes of our hearts have been opened we will notice His love and care, because the earth is full of His love.

“I’ve heard a thousand stories of what they think you’re like
But I’ve heard the tender whispers of love in the dead of night
And you tell me that you’re pleased
And that I’m never alone

You’re a good good father
It’s who you are
And I’m loved by you
It’s who I am”               Songwriters: Anthony Brown / Joseph Patrick Martin Barrett

Luke 19:10: “For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.”

Ever been lost in the wilderness or somewhere in a strange city? Typically we’re lost because we don’t know the area very well and lack an adequate navigation system. The easiest way to find our way in a strange environment is to ask a local.

Heaven, too, is a strange environment to us. We supposedly know our way around here on Earth, but Heaven? Heaven, the place where God and His angels reside, is just plain hard to imagine.

This is where Jesus comes in. He’s the local from heaven who came to Earth to show us the way. The way to Heaven may be paved with many good intentions, but in case you haven’t noticed, even our best intentions don’t get us anywhere near Heaven. Try as you may, there’s no human navigation system that gets us there, especially not good deeds and charity. The most common misconception of “paying our way to Heaven” simply does not work.

There’s many ways to get lost, and we’re pro’s! “Fifty ways to leave your lover”? This pales in comparison to the myriads of ways we can get lost. And if we’re expert losers, then Jesus is the expert Savior. There is no way that we can’t be found by Him. Jesus knows where to look and where to go. He knows us very well and incidentally, He knows how life on Earth works – He has been there, done that, growing up in the inconspicuous town of Nazareth, working His trade, traveling around the country, and ministering to the crowds. Most importantly, He has eternal life. He sacrificed His life only to get it back.  Resurrected on the third day after He was killed, He is the One to turn to for eternal life.

A trademark of being lost is our perpetual state of seeking. We’re tirelessly scanning the area to find any hints pointing us into the right direction, back to the trail-head. If we’re lost in the wilderness somewhere and we can’t find our way back it will be at the cost of our lives. By the same token, it’s crucial that we find our way back to Eden – the Garden of Eden where we had face-time with God. Thankfully, we’re not the only ones seeking. As a matter of fact, all our seeking and searching for lost paradise would be highly unsuccessful, unless a second seeker comes in. Jesus says of Himself that He came to seek and save the lost. So, as we are hunting for paradise in the wilderness of life, we will eventually run into Jesus, because He seeks us out. That’s what He does.

No matter who you are, where you are, or where you think you are going – the person who knows you like no other is Jesus, the Son of God, who wants to meet with you and who wants to show you the way home.

Homeward bound,
I wish I was,
Homeward bound,
Home where my thought’s escaping,
Home where my music’s playing,
Home where my love lies waiting
Silently for me.
                                         Paul Simon

Deuteronomy 16:1: “In honor of the Lord your God, celebrate the Passover each year in the early spring, in the month of Abib, for that was the month in which the Lord your God brought you out of Egypt by night.”

It was the night of the great killings. On the eve of Israel’s Exodus from the land of Egypt, yearling lambs were sacrificed and their blood spread on the door posts of their homes believing that the angel of death would pass them over. And so it happened. The angel of death entered countless homes in Egypt, including Pharaoh’s palace home, to kill their firstborn sons and daughters while passing over the Jewish homes marked by the blood of the lamb – that’s how the name “Passover” for the annual Jewish spring festival came about.

Do you think it was coincidence that Jesus’s last night on Earth was the night Jews celebrate their freedom from Egyptian slavery? Jesus did not think so. Here is what He said to His friends, at the beginning of the Passover (Hebrew: Seder) meal (Luke 22:14-16):

“Then, when the time came, he took his seat at the table with the apostles, and spoke to them, ‘With all my heart I have longed to eat this Passover with you before the time comes for me to suffer. Believe me,  I shall not eat the Passover again until all that it means is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.’”

Jesus was anxious to celebrate the Seder meal with His closest friends, the apostles, who had been with Him 24/7 for the past several years. He wanted to spend some quality time with them before He died.  While going through the rituals of the Seder meal something remarkable happened: As Jesus took the bread and wine He announced that His body was going to be sacrificed and His blood was going to be shed, thus taking on the role of the Passover lamb (Luke 22:19-20):

“Then Yeshua took bread and spoke a prayer of thanksgiving. He broke the bread, gave it to them, and said, “This is my body, which is given up for you. Do this to remember me.

When supper was over, he did the same with the cup. He said, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new promise made with my blood.”

Accepting the role of the Passover lamb, Jesus actually fulfilled the meaning of Passover. The blood of the lamb spread on the wooden door posts was an indicator of things to come, pointing to the blood of Jesus, shed on two wooden beams centuries later. The lamb was sacrificed and its blood shed to ward off the angel of death – and the angel of death will pass us over today if we believe in the sacrifice of Jesus. Rising from the grave, Jesus conquered death once and for all, especially death in the sense of separation from God.

Jesus’s death and resurrection wrote history, and nothing has been the same ever since. The nations of the world took notice by changing their calendars. The idea of counting years is not a new one, but the idea of syncing up where everybody starts counting definitely is. To have an international standard based on a traditional reckoning when Jesus was born (the A. D. and B. C. system) is a phenomenon which goes to show what a profound impact Jesus has made.  His precious gift which keeps on giving: our friendship with God.

“Why is this night different from all the other nights? That on all other nights we eat both chametz and matzah – on this night we eat only matzah. That on all other nights we eat many vegetables – on this night only maror. That in all other nights we do not dip vegetables even once, even once – on this night we dip twice. On this night we dip twice. That in all other nights some eat sitting and others reclining – on this night we are all reclining.” (Mah Nishtanah – Passover by The Maccabeats)

Genesis 18:1-2: “The Lord appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby.”

Desert dwellers know what “heat of the day” means. It’s the time of day when nobody wants to be outside. It’s the time of day when you hide from the outdoors and retreat into the cooler indoors. Or you jump into cold water to cool off.

Call me fastidious, but I find it interesting that the Lord visited Abraham during the hottest part of the day. Why not choosing the cooler morning hours for a visit? I like to think that if the Lord won’t avoid the heat of a day, He’ll less likely avoid us as we go through the heat of temptation. As long as we’re human we’re exposed to it. And asking the Lord for His intervention, we can expect help coming from not just One or Two, but Three. When the Lord came to see Abraham, three visitors arrived; the Trinity stopped by for a visit!

The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were one of the reasons why the Lord stopped by. He came to find out how corrupted they really were and what course of action to take. God decided to involve Abraham in the process. Here is a snippet of the conversation unfolding between the Lord and Abraham (Genesis 18:16+22-26):

Then the Lord said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do? The men turned away and went toward Sodom, but Abraham remained standing before the Lord. Then Abraham approached him and said: “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? (…) Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”

The Lord said, “If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”

Abraham certainly had God’s ear, and I believe that’s very good news for us. Have you ever wondered whether our prayers matter? You bet! God wants to hear what His children have to say.

One of His hallmark features, proclaimed throughout the ages, is God being One. Jews pray and proclaim God’s Oneness in the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4-9):

Hebrew
Sh’ma Yisra’eil Adonai Eloheinu Adonai echad.
Hear, Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One.

What a beautiful testimony to pray and proclaim!

There is a special feature to God’s Oneness, and that’s His being Three in One. Father, Son and Holy Spirit, differ from one another, and yet they are still a unit. God is diverse and He is One. Don’t we often seem to have a problem with diversity or see fault in it? In totalitarian systems for example oneness is thought to be accomplished by achieving (or by trying to achieve) conformity. Everybody has to think the same, dress the same, act the same. However, that’s definitely not the case in God’s Kingdom. God’s Oneness is based on love and respect, and that’s the kind of respect and love God would like us to adopt.

Not only is “Oneness in Diversity” possible, it’s a mantra in Heaven with God Almighty being the prime example. “Hear o world, the Lord our God is One.” Wouldn’t it be great to make this our international prayer? It would have an effect on how we approach otherness in the people around us, wouldn’t it?

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