Psalm 112:5: “Good will come to those who are generous and lend freely, who conduct their affairs with justice.”

Psalm 112 describes a believer as a gracious, compassionate and generous person who pursues honesty and fairness in everyday affairs. All throughout his prayer, the psalmist counts a believer’s blessings (Psalm 112:2-3):

“Their children will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed. Wealth and riches are in their houses, and their righteousness endures forever.”

In other words: Be good and good things will happen to you.

“Be a good girl! Be a good boy!”– Or so we hear growing up; and a popular holiday tune “Santa Claus is coming to town” puts it like this:

“He sees you when you’re sleeping
And he knows when you’re awake
And he knows if you’ve been bad or good
So be good for goodness sake!”
                  

Make no mistake about it – trying to be good for goodness sake makes people miserable. Life ruled by the moral index finger is quite frustrating. Thankfully, this is not what goodness stands for.

We need to believe Jesus when He says (Mark 10:18):

“No one is good – except God alone.”

According to Him, all goodness comes from God. – Incidentally, the word “good” in the English language is actually rooted in the word “God”.

Goodness is God.

God is good.

Moral behavior does not make us good people – It is Lord who makes us good; but we need to let Him into our lives. He has loved us forever. And we are blessed when we love Him back.

Hebrews 11:1: “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”

Obeying God honors Him. Our blind obedience speaks louder than words and shows that we trust Him infinitely. Father Abraham is a wonderful example. He left home to travel to an unknown country – solely based on God’s instructions that came to him one night (Genesis 12:1):

“Go from your country, your people, and your father’s household to the land I will show you.”

In the course of a lifetime Abraham’s faith was tested multiple times. He certainly had his personal hang-ups and imperfections, but he followed through with whatever the Lord had called him to do. When we venture out in faith we too may falter in our steps, but God is not asking for perfection. All He is asking for is our trust.

Jesus had Peter’s back when He invited him to get out of the boat in the middle of a storm.  It was the night after Jesus had fed a large crowd with five loaves of bread and two fish. Sending His disciples ahead He stayed behind to pray. Suddenly a storm rolled in and caught their boat in the middle of the Sea of Galilee. It wasn’t long before the break of dawn that Jesus decided to catch up with His disciples and took to walking on the lake, towards the boat. When they spotted Him they screamed; everybody in the boat thought He was a ghost, but Jesus reassured them – it was Him. Then Peter had something to say (Matthew 14:28-31):

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.  But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

We may get wet as Peter did – trying to get out of the boat and walking on water – but we won’t regret it. We must continue to act on faith – otherwise we won’t have much faith left to speak of. Believers cause a ripple effect: every leap of faith, whether big or small, serves to inspire others.

Stepping out in faith we bless more people than we know and in the process we grow closer to God’s heart.

Psalm 119:57-58: “You are my portion, Lord; I have promised to obey your words. I have sought your face with all my heart; be gracious to me according to your promise.”

Psalm 119 is a very special prayer. Divided into 22 subsections, each one begins with one of the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet. The Heth-section of the Hebrew alphabet starts out with a profound statement (Psalm 119:57):

“You are my portion, Lord;”

Although the Lord gave us a big blue planet to live on, He is our portion, not the material world we live in. We are lost if we live in this world without realizing the love God has vested into His creation. Driving the point home at the end of the current paragraph, the Psalmist observes (Psalm 119:64):

“The earth is filled with your love, Lord;
    teach me your decrees.”

The earth is filled with God’s love. Sunrises and sunsets are like light symphonies He creates in the skies. None of these are the same. Depending on the amount of cloud cover and the angle of the Sun, the filtered light produces original artwork each day. Vividly displayed on the horizon we see color progressions from violet hues to pink, from orange to golden. Seems to me this is God’s love letter written in the skies.

Flowers growing in inhospitable places; fresh green grass pushing through scarred soil after devastating wildfires – the outdoors is like an open book where we can read up on our Creator. He is the Bread of Life that leaves bread crumbs everywhere. Following the trail of His bread crumbs we become seekers of the Lord. We will most certainly find Him when we look for Him because He wants to be found.

In a broken world with broken people we need to know that God does not change. He does not turn on us – He loves us the same as He always has and nothing can change that. Evil forces cannot turn the Lord. He is who He is and always will be: the light shining in the dark. We have seen the light when we notice Him.

We can distinguish the Lord in His children. God’s children are the light of the world because they stepped into His light. With every loving word spoken and each act of kindness as a token we experience God’s love all around us – a love that cannot be broken.

Matthew 19:14: “Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’”

Children are relentlessly human and live entirely in the moment. When they are hungry, they are hungry. When they play, they play. They are affectionate, they can be quite blunt, they are impressionable, and they quickly adapt to changes. They effortlessly learn, they pick up their mother tongue within a few years, and they believe in fairy tales. They are curious, test boundaries, and get dirty – a noisy ball of energy, as active as the days are long. To their parents’ delight they eventually get tired and fall asleep only to wake up in the morning and do it all over again.

To study children is to study humanity. When God created us, He created us as children first and adults second. I venture to say that our adulthood suffers when we didn’t have much of a childhood. I also believe that we experience a more successful adulthood when we stay in touch with our inner child.

Growing up and dealing with our responsibilities, there’s one thing that doesn’t change: we will always be sons and daughters. Even with our parents long gone, we are who we are thanks to our roots.

Estranged from God as we may be, we still come from Him. At the end of the day we are all rooted in the Creator of the universe. God fathered us. We are the result of His genius. It was His idea to create not only human beings, but an amazing array of astounding species that fills the universe today. What we see on Earth is just the tip of the iceberg.

Jesus says not to hinder the children to come to Him. Why? He goes on to say: the kingdom of heaven belongs to them. Faith is not complicated. We essentially accept what the Holy Spirit whispers in our heart, and we go for it. Embracing Jesus like a child would, we can rest assured that the kingdom of heaven is ours.

Matthew 16:15-16: “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah. You are the Son of the living God.”

Broaching this topic with His closest friends, Jesus asks “Who am I?” while they were traveling to the area of Caesarea, an ancient port on the Mediterranean coast of present-day Israel south of Haifa. He prefaces His question by asking His disciples what others think about Him, and the answers are quite diverse: Some saw in Him His cousin John, the Baptist. Others said about Jesus that He had to be a resurrected prophet of old, like Elijah or Jeremiah.

Identifying who Jesus is remains a controversial topic today. Who is He? Have you asked this question lately? I believe only the Spirit of God can provide the accurate answer. And inspired by the Holy Spirit Simon Peter rose to the occasion and declared (Matthew 16:16):

“You are the Messiah. You are the Son of the living God”.

Peter’s enthusiasm was palpable. He also emphatically spoke up when Jesus and His disciples had their Last Supper together. After the Lord broke the news to them that He was going to be apprehended by the Roman authorities to be executed, Peter said (Luke 22:33):

“Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.”

In response to these two public statements of Peter’s, Jesus said two very different things to him (Matthew 16:18 and Luke 22:34):

“You are Peter. On this rock I will build my church.” 

“Peter, you will say three times that you don’t know me. And you will do it before the rooster crows today.”

Obviously the apostle Peter is not the only person misjudging himself on occasion. We have a tendency to either over- or underestimate ourselves. Jesus on the other hand knows exactly who we are. He sees the good, the bad and the ugly inside of us, and the good news is: He still loves us. In fact, God gave us His Son because He loves us so much. And His Son Jesus gave His lifeblood to save the world. Believing in Him we are added to His tribe, adopted into His family and counted amongst the children of God. Whoever does not believe has no way of knowing that God loves us. And as long as we are oblivious to His love we don’t know who we really are.

Who am I? It’s an important question to ask. We have a lifetime to get to know ourselves and most importantly, we have a lifetime to get to know God. Further down the line we will discover that finding God and finding ourselves is closely related. God is love, in other words: Love – this is who God is, and loved – this is who we are. Unlocking this open secret, we will find our true identity.

Ecclesiastes 7:28: “While I was still searching but not finding — I found one upright man among a thousand, but not one upright woman among them all.”

A popular song of Neil Young’s: “I’ve been searching for a heart of gold” expresses how people are searching high and low for integrity. Apparently, so did King Solomon in his lifetime. He authored the book of Ecclesiastes, which he finished toward the end of his life. In the first six chapters of his book he discounts everything, one by one, as being meaningless: wisdom, pleasure, work, accomplishments, wealth and reputation. In chapter seven Solomon turns his attention to honesty, and here is what he wrote (Ecclesiastes 7:28-29):

“I searched and searched but found very little. I did find one honest man among a thousand. But I didn’t find one honest woman among a thousand. Here’s the only other thing I found. God created human beings as honest. But they’ve made many evil plans.”

To put his aforementioned remark into context: Based on his life experiences he came to the conclusion that it is very hard to find an upright person, especially an upright woman. The question is, why would King Solomon mention lack of righteousness and hone in on women in particular?

We can assume that when King Solomon wrote about people he wrote about the people in his life. Solomon lived in a palace. He was surrounded by his staff and wives. Whenever he came in touch with people outside his realm it was either dignitaries from foreign countries or people who wanted something from him. I have never been in a position of political power and influence, but I imagine that it is hard to find a true friend in situations like these.

Marriage celebrates the fact that two people are partnering up to tackle life together. The spouse is supposed to be the person who has your back. Well, how many wives did King Solomon have? According to historical records, the size of his harem was legendary. Marriage is simply not designed for more than two. Any added spouse devastates this covenant relationship. In King Solomon’s case, the more women he accumulated, the more his chances dwindled to find a true friend.

Offending women – or any human being for that matter – never remains an isolated incident. Abuse begets more abuse and soon rears its ugly head everywhere. It did not take very long until this kind of attitude carried over into King Solomon’s business affairs. He employed slaves to build two very extravagant and elaborate buildings: the temple and his palace. Turning people into slaves significantly reduces prospects of having good and worthy relationships. That’s just a general observation.

Everything God has created is wonderful and special but becomes utterly meaningless when we fail to draw the connection. I believe the first step to healing a distorted world view is acknowledging that we are God’s creation. We give glory to Him that way – and giving glory to God renders everything meaningful.

1 John 1:7: “But suppose we walk in the light, just as he is in the light. Then we share life with one another. And the blood of Jesus, his Son, makes us pure from all sin.”

When I was a little girl I lost access to my dad when my mother and I left the country. My dad saw us off at the airport. I was just a baby, but the sadness of his face was edged into my memory and stuck with me. And so, as a young kid growing up, I often imagined God’s face to be sad. Thankfully the priestly blessing the Lord gave to Moses says otherwise (Numbers 6:24-26):

“The Lord bless you
    and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine on you
    and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you
    and give you peace.”

God is light. His face shines. There is no darkness in Him at all. All life flows through Him, and He is forever connected to everything He has created. However, His connection to us is only a one-way-street when God is not part of our lives.

Suppose we say that we share life with God, but we have things to hide that we are ashamed of. Well, this does not work at all. Our life is an open book to Him. Whether we hide from Him or not, He sees us; but He will be extremely delighted to see us coming out of the closet and bring those skeletons along that we have been storing out of sight. Lies and deceit isolate us. There is no lonelier place to be. Our soul is made for fellowship, and fellowship does not happen in the dark. It only happens outside the closet, in the light.

The secret to intimacy is staying in the light. And when darkness creeps in, we openly admit to it. We don’t try to hide it. Jesus died on the cross on a hill in plain view. All the darkness was dragged out into the light for public display. That’s exactly how darkness gets beat every time: by pointing a spotlight right into the heart of it. Exposing darkness is overcoming darkness. And the blood of Jesus, God’s wonderful Son, seals the deal. The toxic effects of our failures and regrets are all washed away as we step into the light and trust His mercies that are new every morning.  

We are able to connect when we walk in the light. Sharing life with God and people, we will never be alone.

Isaiah 41:10: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Prophet Isaiah describes a case of worldwide panic in chapter 41 of his book (Isaiah 41: 5-7):

“Far-flung ocean islands see it and panic.
    The ends of the earth are shaken.
    Fearfully they huddle together.
They try to help each other out,
    making up stories in the dark.
The godmakers in the workshops
    go into overtime production, crafting new models of no-gods,
Urging one another on—‘Good job!’ ‘Great design!’—
    pounding in nails at the base
    so that the things won’t tip over.”   
*Bible version: The Message

With ongoing pandemic in 2020, Isaiah accurately describes what is currently happening all over the world. There is fear, there is confusion, there is hardship and people huddle together on social media, on phones, via video conferencing to help each other out. Since a highly contagious virus requires social distancing we cannot huddle together in our friendship circles like we normally would. This further adds stress to a strange situation that we simply have never encountered before.

The important first sentence after the above-quoted paragraph of disaster begins with the word “But”. “But” is going to make all the difference; “But” means “despite of”; “But” means there is something ruling in our favor. We need to listen closely every time the word “But” appears since it represents a crucial piece of information, and we don’t want to miss it. So here it is (Isaiah 41:8-10):

“But you, Israel, are my servant.
    You’re Jacob, my first choice,
    descendants of my good friend Abraham.
I pulled you in from all over the world,
    called you in from every dark corner of the earth,
Telling you, ‘You’re my servant, serving on my side.
    I’ve picked you. I haven’t dropped you.’
Don’t panic. I’m with you.
    There’s no need to fear for I’m your God.
I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you.
    I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.     
*Bible version: The Message

Even though nobody likes to go through a crisis, there is a benefit to it: A crisis reveals what is reliable and what is unreliable. We cannot rely on luck and good fortune charms or idolatry in any shape or form – nothing of the sort is able to resolve a disease wreaking havoc everywhere; we cannot rely on our jobs since millions of people are out of work right now; we cannot rely on friends and relatives since we are isolated from one another through quarantine.

If we are serving God, here is the good news: He is with us every difficult step of the way. He provides us with peace when the rug is pulled from underneath. However, if we don’t know the Lord, He still knows us and cares for us. We are encouraged to call on Him.

God is the only reliable Rock that makes sense. He is the One we cling to in hope.

Psalm 119:7: “I will praise you with an upright heart as I learn your righteous laws.”

Michelangelo’s “Creation of Adam” is one of the most replicated religious paintings of all time. The image of the near-touching hands of God and Adam has become iconic of humanity, probably because of the fascination of God and Adam intersecting. On that note, I like to call the book of Psalms the human-divine intersect. The psalms openly express how people feel about God. The joys and pains of their relationship with the Lord are all spilled out there.

Entertaining friendship with God, the Creator of the universe, is no minor thing. It’s everything. However, everybody can see that this relationship, this intersect has got to have its challenges. God is God and we are not. There is a natural home advantage: God who created us knows us like no other. The same can’t be said about us. We cannot know Him the same way He knows us. We did not create God, He created us. He will always know us better than we know Him. However, that does not mean we won’t get to know Him. If we want to, we will. He loves us – He wants us to find Him. The door is wide open.

There was a time in my life when all I would read was the book of Psalms. I did not discard the rest of the Bible, but I felt the heart of its message was hidden in the prayers of believers who preceded me. As human beings we struggle making sense of this life on earth. First thing we notice, we are not able to change ourselves. I believe this is the most frustrating thing we face in our lifetime. We may have tried to better ourselves by rolling up our sleeves and trying to be on our best behavior. Nine times out of ten, if we make a concerted effort in the moral department, we make two steps forward and one back – sometimes two, sometimes three steps back even. And backsliding has a very demoralizing effect on us.

King David’s Psalm 119 specifically mentions, by learning God’s righteous laws we praise Him with an upright heart. This goes to show that God changes our heart, and I truly believe only God can do that. That is why handing over our heart into God’s very capable hands is the single-most powerful thing we can do for ourselves.

The Lord is incredibly devoted to His creation, and nothing seems to make Him happier than to mingle with us. He delights in us. Hanging out with Him, we learn who God is. And learning who He is profoundly changes us. We learn to be the best version of ourselves by getting to know our Creator, and we will fall in love with the Lord the more we draw near Him.

Intersecting with the Lord is living life in its fullness. Loving life is loving God.

And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own,
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.
” – Austin Miles

Romans 1:16: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.”

In his letter to the Romans the apostle Paul says that he is not ashamed of the gospel. Gospel translated into English means “Good News” – and it is seriously THE best news the world has ever received.

The name of Jesus is written all over the story of the gospel. The Hebrew root “Yeshua” (Hebrew: ישע‎) in English translates into “Yahweh delivers”. To relieve the world from oppression, the Father gave us His Son. For His rescue mission no military weapons were used. The war against oppression culminated on the cross where Jesus died. On the third day He rose from the grave and returned to the Father while the Holy Spirit picked up where Jesus had left off – God’s Spirit was poured out on planet Earth and the gospel of Jesus Christ has been preached ever since.

The Trinity’s beautiful teamwork of salvation is legendary. God has fought a good fight for us and He has given it all. We are the reason why the Trinity is waging this epic battle; we are loved; we matter so much to Him – this is the heart of the gospel so amazing that it regularly stumps people.

Believing the gospel of Jesus Christ is a miracle, no doubt about it. It does not make sense, how could it make sense? Nothing like this has ever happened before. I believe this is the challenge Paul is indirectly referring to when he says: “I am not ashamed of the gospel.” Why is he not ashamed? He allowed the Holy Spirit to carve the story of salvation deep into his heart.

In his prior life, Paul was difficult to reach, hidden behind layers and layers of pride; and yet where God is involved there is always reason for hope. The Lord expertly knows our hearts and He has a way of reaching us. He definitely got Paul’s attention. The circumstances of Paul’s dramatic transformation are recorded in the book of Acts and is a wonderful example how God touches a human heart.

God has a way. The entire faith population of the past and present can tell us all about it. I highly recommend listening to God’s salvation story. It is no fairy tale, but has real implications for you and me. It opens heaven’s door to everyone who believes: to our Jewish brothers and sisters who were historically the first to embrace the gospel, followed by many other tribes and nations who did the same. Maybe you can too – God’s salvation story only has a happy ending when we believe.