Genesis 3: “Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.”

Can a vicious cycle be broken? Can a broken circle of friends be unbroken? Which is easier: breaking out of an addiction or healing a broken relationship?  Jesus once posed the question (Mark 2:9):

“Which is easier, to say to the paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, and take your mat and walk’?”

Is it easier for Jesus to heal a man or to forgive his sins?  – In fact, in the eyes of God, healing a broken life, a broken body, a broken relationship comes with the forgiveness of sins. So, probably the answer to this question would be a “yes”. One is just as easy or difficult as the other. The two problems are really one and the same; and the moment the burden of sin is lifted from us, we get unstuck.

Since “sin” has become a somewhat loaded word, let’s put it this way: Stuck in our own selfish ways, subjected to a dictator called “ego”, Jesus speaks into this situation saying (John 8:36):

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

Everybody subconsciously or consciously yearns to be free. We don’t want to be bound to repeat yesterday’s failures. Nobody wants to capitalize on making big mistakes. Physically we’re all fighting an uphill battle witnessing our bodies deteriorate as we age, and eventually we die. God’s salvation addresses all of these issues; however, the key to salvation is our belief – whether or not we accept the way how God chose to redeem us: He chose to redeem us through His Son. In the gospel of John we read (John 1:12-13):

“To all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.”

In the end, our broken family ties with our Heavenly Father will be unbroken. We will be as tight with Him as we ever were; as tight as in the beginning, when Adam walked with God in the Garden of Eden. And maybe, just maybe, after all that we have been through, the terrifying separation, the isolation, the brokenness, the pain, and subsequently, God’s amazing interventions – who knows, we might be even closer to Him than we were before? What a prospect!

“Will the circle be unbroken by and by, Lord, by and by? There’s a better home a-waiting in the sky, Lord, in the sky!” (Ada R. Habershon)

Proverbs 27:17: As iron sharpens iron, so a person sharpens the countenance of his friend.

Basic blacksmithing will straighten out crooked iron bars using a fiery forge, pliers, hammer, and an anvil. Inserting the steel into the heart of the fire, they hammer away while checking the color of the steel frequently. When scrap metal has reached the optimal working temperature, it will be colored between dark orange and bright yellow, almost white. In the process of fashioning a piece of metal, an experienced blacksmith employs different techniques such as tapering (making the end pointy), flattening, or bending. Basically, a blacksmith will turn a square bar into a round, a round bar into a square, or into whichever form he fancies for his piece of work.

Guess what: we are a piece of work – not a very flattering self-assessment, but with blacksmithing as an analogy, it’s pretty obvious that there are two parties involved: a skilled craftsman and a piece of metal. The Trinity as skilled craftsmen is known to work on some pretty stubborn objects, human beings. Iron is not easily moldable, unless high temperatures and a number of tools are involved.

God’s love is the hottest flame there is; and it straightens out our crookedness. We may not like the heat of temptations, or trials and tribulations coming our way; but as we experience twists and turns, ups and downs, mountain tops and deep valleys, our character is built. When Jacob, founding father of the nation of Israel, was interviewed by the Egyptian Pharaoh at the end of his life, he too observed that life’s no walk in the park (Genesis 47:9):

“Jacob said to him, ‘My life has been spent wandering from place to place. It has been short and filled with trouble—only one hundred thirty years. My ·ancestors lived as an alien much longer than I.’”

If we trust our Creator enough to allow His access to our hearts, we will be molded into something beautiful and see the Trinity at work in our lives; however, there’s another important character-building factor, and that’s people. On this note, the book of Proverbs elaborates (Proverbs 27:17):

“As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.”

The countenance of a friend indicates proximity; from a distance the face of a friend will be just a blotch in the scenery. Face-time, however, is what we all need to reap the benefits of a thriving relationship. A good friend will bring out the best in us. We find ourselves validated, uplifted, counseled, strengthened, encouraged, challenged, and sharpened.

So, if you have good friends, appreciate them today. If you have no friends, listen more closely to what others have to say. Who knows? It may turn a leaf and open up a brand new chapter in your life.

“As ointment and perfume gladden the heart, so the sweetness of one’s friend comes from his sincere counsel.” (Proverbs 27:9)

 

Isaiah 2: 5: “Come, house of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord!”

What does “Walking in the light” mean? Answers to this question range from doing what is right at any time, especially when no one is looking, to following the example of Christ. Does this mean we are supposed to be nice? Is God nice? And what about God’s Son – Was Jesus a nice guy when He cleared the Jerusalem temple and kicked the money changers out?

I believe there is a reason why the Bible doesn’t state that God is nice, but instead emphatically reiterates that God is love. In fact, when I conducted a search on the word “nice” in all 66 books of the Bible, only one verse came up, namely in the book of Jeremiah, where it says (Jeremiah 12:6):

“For even your brothers – your father’s house – even they will betray you, even they will shout out after you. Have no confidence in them, even if they say nice words to you.”

Obviously, the Bible does not seem to have very much to say about being nice – but what about love? Conducting a search on the word “love” in all 66 books of the Bible, I came up with a whopping 588 search results.  588 to 1 – love definitely wins!

So if we walk in love we definitely walk in the light. Does that mean we walk on pink clouds all day? Actually, the opposite is true, and we know it. Parents raising children know it. People engaged in relationships know it. Love’s spectrum is wide. There’s easy love, tough love, jealous love, just to name a few.

I would venture to say that love shows its true colors when challenged. If you had a nice-looking car without an engine, wouldn’t you like to get rid of it? It’s the engine that keeps the motor running. Similarly it’s passion that keeps our love going. And since we all come from God, let’s look at the originator of love, God Himself, and we will notice that His love is multifaceted and expressed with a lot of passion. In the book of Exodus we read about a jealous God (Exodus 34:14):

For you are to bow down to no other god, because Adonai is jealous for His Name—He is a jealous God.

If we see a friend habitually promoting his firstborn while overlooking what his other kids bring to the table, then we understand their jealousy. Jealousy is an indicator that there’s preferential treatment going on, and preferential treatment is not OK. If the children of said friend didn’t care about their parents, then they wouldn’t be jealous and continuously fight for their attention. Jealousy is a hot burning flame that can undermine and destroy relationships, but it is a derivative of love. So from this vantage point it makes sense that God gets jealous if we overlook Him all the time and give our full attention to something or someone else. If we didn’t matter to Him He wouldn’t be jealous. His jealousy is His declaration of love to us.

Prophet Isaiah wrote about God’s anger (Isaiah 57:17):

“Because of the iniquity of his unjust gain I was angry; I struck him; I hid My face; I was angry—but he went on backsliding in the way of his heart.”

Anger could be an indicator that there’s abuse and injustice going on. If abuse and injustice happens right before our very eyes we should get angry. While anger is mostly known as violent and destructive, it can also be constructive and promote positive change. It’s passion for freedom that ignited civil war in the United States. Without going into details, we still need a lot of anger to eliminate all kinds of slavery on this planet. And this is why God gets angry. His anger might have a bad reputation, but look at the results. We’re still here. God’s anger initiates change and brings about a new beginning. A cardinal example was the new beginning after the big flood.

Since God loves full spectrum, let’s embrace this kind of love and do the same! Let’s be involved, interested, and passionate as we go about our business today.

“When He rolls up His sleeves He ain’t just putting on the Ritz

There’s thunder in His footsteps and lightning in His fists

And the Lord wasn’t joking when He kicked them out of Eden

It wasn’t for no reason that He shed His blood

His return is very close and so you better be believing that our God is an awesome God”

(Rich Mullins)

Titus 3:4-7: “When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. Because of his grace he made us right in his sight and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.”

We have a triune God!  This profound insight has been an open secret since the beginning of time, and it is a beautiful testimony that God is not operating as a “Lone Ranger”.  Instead, He chooses to work as a team.

We can discover divine teamwork in the realm of creation. The first chapter of the book of Genesis describes how the Holy Spirit was involved from the get-go:

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.” 

Hovering over something that was initially formless, empty, and dark, the Holy Spirit went to town – and the magic of transformation began! As the Spirit of God proceeded to cut through dysfunctional chaos, the universe as we know it came into being, and with it our home planet Earth, filled with wonder, color, and beauty.

Reading up on the creation story, we can discern a repeating pattern – the pattern of God speaking and things happening. Following is an inconclusive list of examples, all from the first chapter of Genesis:

  • And God said, ‘Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.’ And it was so.
  • “Then God said, ‘Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.’ And it was so.
  • “And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.’ And it was so.

In John’s gospel Jesus is introduced as the One who made things happen, the One who is ultimately responsible for the resulting: “And it was so” each time God spoke.  God forms a thought, communicates it, and Jesus chips in saying: “Consider it done!” So much so, that Jesus is nick-named “The Word” – because whichever Word comes out of the Father’s mouth, Jesus does it, and He does it very well! Incidentally, we read how Jesus, the Word, was successfully involved in the creation process (John 1:1-3):

“In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him.” 

When it comes to saving humans we see the same kind of intricate teamwork between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Paul describes the Trinity’s teamwork to a man named Titus (Titus 3:4-7):

“But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.”

We can see a circle of transformation happening, with:

  • The Holy Spirit hovering over humankind creating a new heart within us
  • While the Father graciously extends His welcome by giving us His Son
  • While Jesus advertises the Father’s kindness and love by sacrificing His life to save us.

As a happy result, spiritually dead humans rise up to be spiritually alive humans, ready to do God’s work – if they are so inclined. We are not saved without our consent, but if we believe, wonderful things are bound to happen.

God’s activities are ongoing, and He is inviting us to join His interesting projects. God’s nature is to be productive; and we know that a lot of great things happen when the Trinity is at work. So, here’s to divine team work – taking care of business! Would you like to get involved?

 “And we’ll be taking care of business – every day! Takin’ care of business – every way! We be takin’ care of business – it’s all mine! Takin’care of business and working overtime.” (Randy Bachman)

 

Philippians 2:9-11: “Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

There is a direct link between freedom and humility, demonstrated by the life of God’s Son.  Paul described Jesus in his letter to the Philippians, city dwellers in Eastern Macedonia. Here is what he wrote:

“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!”

Jesus knew the secret of relinquishing power and not holding on to any privileges. Although incarcerated and eventually put to death, his heart remained free because it was His choice to submit to a gruesome death penalty which nailed Him to two wooden beams. Nobody took His life from Him. He voluntarily gave it away.

There’s a huge difference between submitting because we have to, and choosing to submit even if we don’t have to. Gentle giants are that way, giants who could squash a person in a moment’s notice but instead choose to save this person’s life – as in Walt Morey’s story of “Gentle Ben”, featuring an adult bear helping a trapped man who moments ago was hunting him down. The bear didn’t have to help the man, but did so anyway.

Similarly, Jesus didn’t have to become human and go through the anguish of death by torture, but He did. And by doing so He opened the door to freedom. As trapped as we might feel, stuck in fierce self-defense to protect our selfish pride, there is a way out, and it is the way of humility.

Humility got a bad rep through false humility – however, wherever there’s fraud, the original is not very far, so all we need to do is keep looking! We sense false humility when we hear people describe themselves as doormats. That’s no humility, that’s spreading lies about oneself. Nobody is born a doormat, and nobody should become one either. When Jesus was asked who He was, He did not answer: I’m a doormat. He answered (all quotes taken from John’s Gospel):

I am the bread of life. I am the light of the world. I am the good shepherd. I am God’s Son. I am the resurrection and the life.”

As a humble person I know who I am, and nothing can change that – neither life circumstances, nor personal make-overs. I shall always remain the one-of-a-kind original God has crafted in my DNA, and nobody can replace me either. While this may sound outrageous and not at all humble, the same can be said about you. So my uniqueness is not better than yours.

Armed with humility nobody can take away our dignity because after all, we are who we are! With our spirits voluntarily submitted to the gentle giant, God, we shall remain free, even if the tides are turned against us.

In the book of Ecclesiastes we find the statement (Ecclesiastes 4:12):

A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are as tight as a cord of three strands can be, but this cord got broken when Jesus went through hell and laid His life on the line for all of humanity. The Trinity truly believes that we are worth the unspeakable pain. If the Trinity believes this, so should we.

We are highly valued. So is Jesus’ extraordinary sacrifice. When Jesus was reunited with the Father and became the first to be resurrected from the dead, honors have been heaped upon Him, as voiced in Paul’s letter (Philippians 2:10-11):

“At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

God’s generosity is absolutely amazing! Staying humble, we will live to see His incredible generosity played out in our own backyard – possibly in this life, but certainly in the life to come.

“When the dreams you’re dreaming come to you, when the work you put in is realized, let yourself feel the pride – but always stay humble and kind!” (Tim McGraw)

But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Here’s a two-fold blessing that we can be thankful for: It’s a blessing that God speaks to us, and it’s a blessing to have food that sustains us. We need both to live a good life.

While physical needs and cravings have a tendency to be on the forefront of our minds, the silence of not hearing from God is quite deafening, and our souls within us will eventually rebel against it. We are born with an innate need to communicate, and we want to be heard and understood. We crave profound connection.

Our souls wither in isolation while they thrive in adoration. The adoration goes both ways. We are adored by our Creator, and that does not depend on our performance; He loves us no matter what others say about us, no matter what we have done – good or bad – and our souls thrive on this kind of unconditional love! Just as much, our souls thrive on adoration and worship directed towards our Creator. If we direct our worship towards another human being we will suffer great disappointment. Guess what: nobody is perfect. One is: God is perfect, and our souls crave perfection.

Take adoration out of the equation, and we face an emptiness that will eventually break our hearts.

So, let’s not try to distract ourselves from these extravagant cravings of our souls. Let’s tune into God’s wavelengths and ask Him to break the sound of silence within us. God has a lot in store for you and me, and He has a myriad of ways to communicate.

In order to tune into God’s wavelengths the Holy Spirit is at work every single day. The Holy Spirit has the uncanny ability of a great interpreter. He explains God’s thoughts to us while He translates our feelings and what is on our minds to God. This is the connection our souls so crave. And this is the longing of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to commune with us humans. It’s His deepest joy when we actually tune in to receive what He has to say. So let’s do ourselves and God a favor – and tune in today!

“Hello darkness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence” (Paul Simon)

 

Philippians 1:6: “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”

God is an Artist. Just look around and notice that things are not purely functional in nature, they are also beautiful.

If you were involved in a project that was entirely yours – it could be anything from building a house, creating a garden, to cooking a dish, or painting a picture – have you ever noticed that for a while nothing seemed more important to you than to finish the project – especially when roadblocks are involved? Picture yourself in the middle of a project important to you; aren’t you at least a bit curious how the project will turn out? Are you anxious to see the results? Do you find yourself thinking about your project at night when you’re supposed to be sleeping?

Yep, that’s what artists do. They hover over their work like hummingbirds over their nectar-promising flowers. And this is what God does – He is hovering over you, because you are His work in progress that He is anxious to finish. And He is dead-serious about it too. It’s on His mind day and night. There’s no way He leaves anything unfinished. In human terms you could say that God is obsessed with His work – but unlike us human workaholics God is obsessed with the good work within us. He is passionate about bringing us to completion.

So, where does this leave us?

It leaves us dead-center in the Potter’s hands, God’s hands who simultaneously hold us, comfort us, and work on us. Here is an excerpt of the book of Jeremiah describing the work of the Potter’s hands (Jeremiah 18:1- 6):

“This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.

Then the word of the Lord came to me. He said, “Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does?” declares the Lord. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, Israel.”

Maybe we don’t like to be the clay. Maybe we don’t like to be worked on either. However, it seems reassuring to me that the Potter is never trashing the clay that didn’t turn out. He just starts over, comes up with an ingenious idea, and ends up creating something entirely different – in the spur of a moment! God’s way of dealing with the sons and daughters of Adam – Adam incidentally meaning dust of the earth – is simply fascinating. God is not only artistic with a highly individualistic approach for each of His pieces of art – every human being walking this earth – He also seems to have plenty of patience by not throwing the towel when some of His artwork comes out all wrong.

Putting ourselves into God’s hand is the wisest thing we can do for our lives. We know He is relentless until His work of art is very good. Read up on the creation story at the beginning of the book of Genesis, and you’ll get the gist of it. God is passionate about what He creates. He doesn’t stop until it’s very good. That’s the kind of passion God has for you and for me.

“You are the Potter, I am the clay

Mold me and make me” (Eddie Espinosa)