1 John 5:12: “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.”

Jesus will have us any day, any hour. His welcoming heart makes it real easy to love Him. Not to love us is no option for Jesus. He loves us no matter what. He is endeared to us. His passion for us brought Him to planet Earth, right in front of our doorsteps. With our self-destructive tendencies, He came to save us from ourselves.

Endowed with free will, we can have Him or we cannot have Him; it’s completely up to us. The problem is, we will miss out on Life if we won’t have Him. Life is connected to His name. Life comes forth from His fingertips. Healer of broken bodies and broken hearts, one touch of His hands makes a profound difference. We need His touch to be whole. But then, as we reach out to Him, we touch His heart in more ways we know.

Jesus is touched by our love. Our love does not heal Him because He is whole. He does not need our love as much as we need His, but clearly, it means the world to Him. It’s a mystery to me how the Son of God, who has everything, seeks our friendship. Jesus proudly announced to the world (John 15:15)

“I shall not call you servants any longer, for a servant does not share his master’s confidence. No, I call you friends, now, because I have told you everything that I have heard from the Father.”

Being friends with the Almighty is the most thrilling experience I can think of. God does not run a staff of servants, but He surrounds Himself with friends. That is why Jesus had disciples whom He called His friends. And that is why His heart is open to welcome you and me today. His circle of friends widens with every person that will have Him.

Whoever has the Son has a Friend for life; whoever does not have the Son of God misses out on a Friend for life.

Genesis 41:51-52: “Joseph named his older son Manasseh, for he said, ‘God has made me forget all my troubles and everyone in my father’s family.’ Joseph named his second son Ephraim, for he said, ‘God has made me fruitful in this land of my grief.’”

The other day Joseph’s son accidentally ran into a stranger as he was running backwards to catch a ball. The stranger, clearly annoyed, yelled at him: “Hey you! What’s your name?” “I Forget” “No really! What’s your name?” “My name’s I forget” “You’re weird! How can you forget your own name?”

Of course I made this up, but couldn’t a conversation like this potentially happen if you apply names to your children that mean a lot to you but maybe not so much to your children? The names of the two brothers Ephraim and Manasseh represent his father Joseph’s life experience. And what a life experience he had! A roller coaster of events: from favorite son back home to slave in a foreign country; from a no-name slave in Egypt to Potiphar’s Personal Attendant; from Potiphar’s Personal Attendant to a forgotten prisoner in an Egyptian dungeon; from a forgotten prisoner to the Prison Warden‘s Assistant Manager; from the Prison Warden’s Assistant Manager to Pharaoh’s Second in Command. That’s Joseph’s story, and so he named his kids “Forget” and “Fruitful” because God made him forget the past and made him fruitful in a foreign country. His own name was changed from Joseph to Zaphenath-paneah as if to make the transition into his new life complete. A different name, a different life, a different identity!

Well, not quite! Joseph’s past would catch up with him when a worldwide famine brought his brothers to his doorsteps – the same brothers who sold him to teach him a lesson. The lesson they tried to get across to Joseph: “You may be Dad’s favorite but you’re not better than we are!” As it turned out, they too had a lesson to learn.

Lesson #1: You will be treated just the same way you’ve been treating others. 

Lesson#2: Lies will eventually catch up to you.

More than two decades went by when a time of testing came for both parties: Would Joseph bear a grudge? Would his brothers finally get real? The story fortunately ends on a happy note: his brothers confessed the ugly truth they had kept hidden from their father Jacob for so long; and Joseph completely forgave them. As a result the family was reunited, a dead relationship rekindled and his family saved from starvation in a seven-year drought.

Joseph lived up to his new name Zaphenath-paneah which loosely translated means: “God speaks life”, and Joseph certainly spoke life into a very bad situation! What kind of words do we speak over a hopeless mess? Do we pray to God who sees potential? When God speaks, life flourishes.  That’s His very nature.  We see the world around us as living proof. Connected with Him we become His life agents. We struggle with unemployment, our health, our finances, and we find that God is navigating us through very confusing times – if we dare to look up. Joseph put his trust in God when people meant to harm him.

The truth is, we do not need to be in control. Even though it’s quite unsettling to let things go, at the same time it’s a huge relief! We believe in the same God Joseph believed in, and our faith will transform into our very own life’s story and encourage more people than we’ll ever know!

Isaiah 43:2: “When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.”

Psalm 90:12: “So teach us to count our days that we may gain a wise heart.”

Have you ever asked God to teach you to count your days?

Learning to count our days to make our days count has everything to do with the brevity of life. Our souls live forever while our bodies, comparatively speaking, do not have as much time on their hands. As our first hours on earth turn into days, days into weeks, weeks into months and months into years, we must remember that our lifetime on earth is finite. We should use it to the best of our abilities.

We reap the greatest benefits from being generous with our time and our resources. We do not have to be rich to be generous. We all have something to give. As a matter of fact, the wealthy are considered dirt-poor in the eyes of the Lord if same people have stopped giving. The blessings of the giver always outweigh the blessings of the receiver. It may be counter-intuitive to live that way, but then, everything God says is counter-intuitive. Take His famous love commandment for instance (Mark 12:30-31):

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

It is not easy to love a random neighbor. And at times it is even difficult to love ourselves. Loving God adds the much-needed third dimension into our lives. Without God, love would just be two-dimensional – my neighbor and me. Include God into the equation, and we gain depth perception. With God comes love that outlasts us. He has loved us long before we even recognized Him.

Birds come with wings, and we can see their flocks traversing the skies. We too come with wings. Hidden beneath our skin, our souls soar when we love. Numerically speaking, love must be the biggest number in God’s kingdom. Growing familiar with His values, we come to understand what counts.

“Blackbird fly, blackbird fly
Into the light of the dark black night”

Paul McCartney / John Lennon