John 10:14-15: “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die.”

Not everybody is on board with the afterlife – assuming that once our bodies are dead, we are completely gone. Well, here is the good news: a person is way more than just a physical appearance (a good thing to remember if you happen to struggle with yours). The soul is the part of us that passes on, the body is the part that is buried in the ground.

If you are skeptical of the claim that there is an “eternal human soul”, then the terminology “spiritually dead” will probably make even less sense. Maybe it’s helpful to think of a spiritually dead person as a human being without a conscience. We all are born with one. If we succeed in overriding this God-given inner compass we’ll end up spiritually dead. Despite our physical heart still beating, we have no heart.

In matters of the heart, the Christmas story “How the Grinch stole Christmas” comes to mind. The author Dr. Seuss wrote about his main character, the Grinch:

“The Grinch hated Christmas! The whole Christmas season!
Now, please don’t ask why. No one quite knows the reason.
It could be his head wasn’t screwed on just right.
It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight.
But I think that the most likely reason of all
May have been that his heart was two sizes too small.”

A heart two sizes too small is bad news. We need to get a little love in our hearts – and not just around the Christmas season.

Without roots, a plant withers and dies; rootless, we as human beings will have a hard time. Our need for God is elementary. We came from God, that’s why we need to return to Him to be complete.

Jesus’s resurrection is an amazing milestone in the history of mankind. When Jesus was resurrected His body and soul were reunited, and He was restored to the Trinity; the same will happen to us when we believe in Him.

John 10:14-15: “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.”

Jesus portrays Himself in various ways.  In one of His “I am” statements He refers to Himself as the good shepherd.

One of the things that piqued my interest is the fact that Jesus does not refer to Himself as a sheep herder but as a shepherd.  There is a significant difference between the two:  Sheep herders drive their herds much like cowboys drive their cattle by pushing them from behind, while shepherds guide their flocks by leading them from the front. Also herds and flocks carry very different notions.  While herding associates with feeding and running together, a flock is meant to congregate in places or alternatively head towards a location. To put it bluntly: Jesus is no cowboy and God’s children are not mindless sheep driven by one. 

In Psalm 23 we put ourselves in sheep’s shoes (that is to say if sheep wore shoes) because King David wrote the lyrics of Psalm 23 entirely from a sheep’s perspective (Psalm 23:1-4):

“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. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

Psalm 23 could not showcase the relationship between sheep and shepherd more beautifully. I believe this is what Jesus is referring to when He says about His sheep (John 10:15):

“Just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.”

There is intimate knowledge, not just mere acquaintance, of all the parties involved. How special it is to know Jesus and to be known by Him!

John 10:7, 9-10: “Therefore Jesus said again, ‘Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.’”

A fence-less society is God’s for dream us, and this is definitely not a pipe dream. We will live to see a society built solely on love and mutual respect; a world where even animals will stop killing each other; a world void of crime and abuse; a world where we can devote our energies to build, create, invent, explore, interact, and inspire. – Welcome to God’s kingdom!

God has rolled up His sleeves and paved a way to fulfill His dream by sending us the Prince of Peace. Jesus is the door opener to God’s peace on Earth.

Whether we like it or not, we have an enemy to our soul. This enemy has many names and may look like the nightmare figure of a fairy tale, but his hate for us is very real. Satan has affected all of us one way or the other. Despite his vicious activities though, he will not bring us down if we trust in the Lord.

As part of His salvation plan, God chose to become powerless and relinquish Himself. This goes against everything we believe. We believe in warfare and conquering by force. How in the world could God save us by letting go of His power and submitting to human limitations? As puzzling as it may be, God’s method of salvation is clearly not ours to choose.

The devil mistakenly believed that by having Jesus killed on the cross he would emerge as the winner. Ironically, Jesus won the war by letting Himself get killed. Jesus upholds the principle of peace to His dying breath.

In a world full of fences and ongoing violence we are offered a different way of thinking and a new code to live by. Jesus introduces all mankind to this new world, the kingdom of God, starting in the here and now. Among all the gifts Jesus has given, friendship with God is His greatest gift of all.

John 8:12: “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’”

Bill and I have lived in Arizona for almost two decades now, and we have fallen in love with the local desert. Exploring the outdoors, nature trails are usually very uneven. Hikers keep their eyes glued to the ground to avoid tripping and falling. We have both done our fair share of hiking; I particularly like the early morning hikes.

In Arizona it gets light outside long before the Sun actually shows up on the horizon. The early light paints the awakening desert in pastel colors. Sunsets and Sunrises are quite a show around here.

Hiking before the Sun is up is magical, but can be a bit hazardous. On one occasion I forgot to bring my flashlight, BIG mistake! As a result, I stumbled more than I walked. Thankfully, the Sun rose in time before I got seriously hurt. Wilderness walks are unforgiving if we are not properly equipped.

We don’t need to be hikers to be able to relate to the wilderness experience. Life can resemble a wilderness walk, metaphorically speaking. Randy Newman’s song “It’s a jungle out there!” is a humorous way of putting it. God helps us through that jungle. The Light of the World has a way of seeing us through the most confusing times.

During the Christmas season it’s a custom in North America to decorate our homes, yards and streets with a myriad of Christmas lights; I believe this is one way of depicting Jesus bringing God’s Light into the world.

Jesus will change our fears and tears into hope and radiant joy, much like the sun shining through the drizzling rain will create a beautiful rainbow. The Lord dips our life in color. I know it because that’s what He has done for me. Walking with Him, we have the Light that leads to life.

John 6:35: “Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.’”

Our soul, similar to our physical body, is in need of healing after a traumatic event. Our Western culture has a tendency to overlook such things – probably because souls do not show up with physical evidence.

Imagine we could see each other’s soul-bodies and recognize how malnourished or wounded some of us are. The Lord certainly can. Connected with God, His children will become sensitized to the demands and longings of their soul.

There are countless references to the human soul in the Bible; one of the most prominent is to love the Lord with all your heart, mind and soul (Deuteronomy 6:5). In the book of Psalms our soul is encouraged to cry out to the Lord, to praise the Lord, to sing to the Lord. As the body gets hungry, so does the soul. The body craves physical food while the soul craves spiritual food; God has plenty of spiritual food in store for the longing soul. In Peter’s first letter we read (1 Peter 2:2):

“Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.” 

It is the Lord’s kindness the soul is after. No amount of fame or fortune can satisfy the extravagant cravings of the soul, not even the love we experience from other people. That is why Jesus says (Matthew 4:4):

“It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

On that note, when we pray the Lord’s Prayer: “Give us today our daily bread”, we request the physical and the spiritual bread, since we are in dire need of both.

Let us follow the urges of our soul and pursue God’s wonderful Bread of Life.

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
 Give us today our daily bread.
 And forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from the evil one.”
 (Matthew 6:9-13)

Hebrews 1:1-2: “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.”

Most of us are familiar with upgrades. Technology is constantly improving, and it has affected the way we communicate. The invention of the telephone (not to mention the wireless phone) has connected us globally and revolutionized human communication. Remember how long it took to get a letter from one continent to another? Letters had to be shipped, and if your letter happened to be on a ship that never made it to shore you would have to send another one. With the invention of the telephone and especially the computer we effortlessly bridge long distances today.

If cellphones and computers represent a major breakthrough in long distance communication, certainly our perception of God has been revolutionized when the Word became flesh and lived among us. It is so much easier for us to grasp God’s message of love by just looking at Jesus. Jesus walked the talk. In Him God’s Word comes alive.

We have a God who communicates. He has shared the truth with us for as long as there have been people. What God has proclaimed through His prophets in preceding centuries is now plain to see in His Son.

Good things are going to happen when we explore the life of Jesus. I know that my life has never been the same.

John 1:1-2, 14: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

A couple of millennia ago, God became a human baby. God Almighty, who has everything and does not need anything, turns into this bundle of joy, helpless without His parents.

Why did God become human and needy? Why would He put Himself in such a position?

I think we need to stop expecting anything conventional from the creative Godhead, the One who thought up the entire universe. It is in His nature to be extraordinary and solve problems with out-of-the-box thinking; our estrangement from God was developing a great divide between Him and His creation on planet Earth. This represented a major problem that needed to be addressed.

The problem was created a long time ago, when seeds of distrust were sown. A snake asked one simple question: “Did God really say?” This question threw us permanently off. We started assuming things about God that aren’t true. Ever since, there has been fear, misinformation, and a lot of superstition.

Death puts the stamp of futility on everything we hold dear. That’s quite a painful experience for us. Our eternal God, on the other hand, is untouched by death and decay – and this is why we commonly think He is out of touch with our reality. Well, quite the opposite is true. God empathizes with us, so much so, that He decided to walk in our shoes.

Actions sometimes speak louder than words. Here is one very loud action: the Word became human; the Immortal became mortal; God became one of us. God came to our home turf and lived in the neighborhood. We could literally touch Him. We could put a face to His name. Looking into His face, we could see the One whose name is ‘Yahweh saves’, also known as Jesus, the Messiah. He came to bridge the great divide.

“There He was to everyone’s delight in the middle of the night. What a beautiful wondrous sight!” – Basically Two