John 10:7, 9-10: “So he explained it to them: ‘I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures. The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.’”

Imagine wide open spaces….imagine a fence-less society … hey, how about a fence-less world? “Yeah, dream on!” you might say. Well, it is dreams and hopes that keep us going, I think. John Lennon wrote in his song “Imagine”: “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us and the world will be as one.” – And I couldn’t agree with him more! Most importantly, that’s God’s dream for our world today. God rolled up His sleeves and went to work to pave a way to the fulfillment of this dream by sending us the Prince of Peace. He is the gate to this dream, and this dream 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. I rest my case.

Unfortunately, as we all know, our world today is quite different. While life certainly has its precious moments, we devote most of our energies to battle; just take a quick look at our country’s budget to see how much money actually goes into warfare.

On a personal level we’re battling too. There are lots of things competing for our attention, not all of them in our best interest. Whether we like it or not, we have an enemy to our soul. This enemy is somewhat mysterious and carries many different names: Lucifer, Devil, and Satan, just to name a few.  He may be mysterious, but his hate is very real and has affected all of us one way or the other. It’s on his agenda to bring us down, destroy us, and ultimately kill us. Thankfully, he got overwhelmingly defeated! That’s the reason why the dream of a world of peace is not dead. It will come true. We can bank on it.

God’s way of saving the world clearly has rubbed some of us the wrong way. We may think this is outrageous that God chose to become powerless and relinquish Himself. Letting go of His power and submitting to our limitations, how in the world could God save us this way? It just doesn’t make any sense! Yet, puzzling as this may seem, obviously God’s method of salvation is not ours to choose.

The Trinity then proceeded to select one of them, Jesus, to be the door opener to a new beginning for mankind. He conquered the devil by letting Himself get killed. Jesus upholds the principle of peace to His dying breath. That’s the principle of love, the kind of love that does not force, coerce, or take away. That kind of love beats evil. That kind of love brings about a fence-less society.

In a world full of fences and ongoing violence we are offered a different way of thinking and new code to live by. Jesus introduces us to this new world, starting in the here and now. He wants us to experience a meaningful life with a positive impact, a life that is a tremendous blessing, and friendship with God, which really is the greatest gift of all!

John 8:12: “Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, ‘I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.’”

If you’re visiting Arizona and one day decide to go on a hike, you’ll quickly discover that most hiking trails here are quite uneven. With boulders strewn all over the desert, hikers keep their eyes glued to the ground to avoid tripping and falling. I’ve done my fair share of hiking in the local deserts, and I especially love early morning hikes. Hiking before the Sun is up can be a bit hazardous as you may imagine. I once forgot to bring my flashlight, BIG mistake! To put it mildly, I stumbled more than I walked. Thankfully, the Sun rose just in time before I got hurt, and my faltering steps quickly turned into confident strides.

Witnessing how the horizon lights up long before the Sun actually arrives is quite a sight to behold! I think I’ll never grow tired of watching the Sun rise. As the Sun progresses higher and higher, the scenery is dipped in light. The world around me becomes distinguishable, and all the grey color tones slowly disappear and vanish into the morning mist. Dawn takes over. The early light paints the desert in soft hues of greens, yellows, reds and blues.

Since we’re all on a journey, probably more arduous than the toughest outdoor experience, we can all relate. In our wilderness walk through life we constantly need light, not just to see where we’re going but also to notice the different shades of color around us; life is meant to be colorful, and seeing that is to enjoy life in all its fullness.  No doubt, dark days and troublesome seasons continue to affect us, still, we can actually see in the dark when the Light of Life is walking right next to us. I think one of the reasons why Christmas lights so many candles – in our homes, in our yards, and in the streets of our towns and cities – is to celebrate the fact that Jesus’s foremost feature is being the Light of the world. He will literally light up our life if we let Him.

The Lord changes our fears and tears into hope and radiant joy, much like sunlight through the rain creates a rainbow. A life well-lived tends to have all the color hues of a rainbow. Jesus dips our life in color! That’s His specialty.

Walk with Him, and you will have the light that leads to life.

John 6:35: “Jesus replied, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.'”

The soul, similar to our physical bodies, gets hungry and thirsty; it can also get hurt and needs healing.  Our Western culture has a tendency to overlook such needs – probably because souls do not show up with physical evidence.

Imagine we could see each other’s soul-bodies and could recognize how malnourished or wounded some of us are.  God certainly can.  And as children of God we’re aware of the importance to address the demands and longings of our soul.  There are countless references to the human soul in the Bible, not the least of which is to love the Lord our God with all our 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, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment, now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness.” 

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):

“People do not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

On that note, when we pray the Lord’s Prayer: “Give us this day our daily bread” this request combines the physical with the spiritual bread, since we are in dire need of both. So let’s keep praying for God’s wonderful Bread of Life!

“Our Heavenly Father, may your name be honored; May your kingdom come, and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day the bread we need, forgive us what we owe to you, as we have also forgiven those who owe anything to us. Keep us clear of temptation, and save us from evil.” Matthew 6:9-13

Hebrews 1, 1-2: “Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he created the universe.”

Let’s be honest: there are times when we feel God is a million miles away, and during such times we’re not even sure He speaks into our lives. If we feel this way we need to remember that generation after generation God has never been silent. He is actually way too passionate about us to not try to get our attention. And He has done so in various ways. Yes, we have a God who communicates! He has shared the truth with us for as long as there have been people. And while times have changed, truth never did. Neither did God.

We are all familiar with upgrades. Technology is always improving, and it has affected the way we communicate. The invention of the telephone (not to mention wireless phones) connected us globally and revolutionized human communication. Remember the snail mail? 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 the harbor you had to send another one. Long distance communication was difficult to say the least.

If cellphones and computers revolutionized human communication, how much more did divine communication improve with the arrival of God’s Son on planet Earth? It is so much easier for us humans to grasp God’s message of love by just observing the life of His Son Jesus. Jesus walked the talk. He is called “The Word” for a reason. In Him God’s Word became flesh and bones. Whatever God has been trying to say through His prophets throughout the centuries is now plain to see in His Son. The difference in communication is like night and day – similar to shipping an important letter to a distant country versus using a telephone. The question is: have we picked up the phone yet? Do we give God the time of day and lend Him an ear? That’s for you and me to decide. However, if we do pick up the phone and let God speak into our lives, good things are going to happen. Our lives will never be the same.

God speaks to us through His Son. How wonderful is that!

John 1:1-2, 14: “In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son”

Isn’t it amazing that God, who made everything and is the source of life, recreated Himself in the form of a human baby? God, who was never born because He has always been, is now working Himself through His mother’s birth canal. God who has everything and does not need anything, turns into this bundle of joy demanding constant attention – food, shelter, clean up. All of you parents can probably relate. Not sleeping through the night because Baby needs food! Or Baby has other issues. Diaper needs changing, we can smell it! Oh boy, who is getting up now?

So God became human and needy. That’s just so odd and mind boggling! Why would God do such a thing?

Well, don’t expect anything conventional coming from the creative Godhead, the One who thought up the entire universe! It’s in His nature to come up with something extraordinary, something unexpected to solve a problem – and bridging the ever-widening gulf between the Godhead and His creation is a major problem.

It all began when the seed of distrust was sown, a long time ago, when the fateful words were spoken: “Did God really say?” Ever since there is fear, misinformation, and a lot of superstition. Death puts the stamp of futility on everything we know. The eternal God on the other hand is untouched by death – and seemingly out of touch for us humans.

Then a couple of millennia ago – boom! The Word became human. The Immortal became mortal; God became one of us, and if this is not bridging the great divide, then what else does? The God from way out there touched ground and lived on planet Earth, in the here and now. We could literally touch Him. We could put a face to His name. Looking into His face we see love, and we see glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son: Jesus.

“There He was to everyone’s delight in the middle of the night. What a beautiful wondrous sight!” (Christmas Bolero by Bill & Evelyn Snyder)

Psalm 100:4-5: “Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good. His unfailing love continues forever, and his faithfulness continues to each generation.”

We’re celebrating Thanksgiving because there’s many a reason to be thankful. We’re thankful to be alive, thankful for our friends, thankful maybe for any kind of material blessing, thankful for our health, and the list goes on and on. A major reason to be thankful, however, is the Lord. Thanks to Him we’re here. Thanks to Him we know love. Describing God in a nutshell in the Book of Psalms, we’re looking at three major features (Psalm 100:5):

“For the Lord is good. His unfailing love continues forever, and his faithfulness continues to each generation.”

The Lord is good. The Lord is Love. The Lord is faithful.

Speaking of His faithfulness: Yesterday I was practicing Billy Joel’s “Just the Way You Are” on the piano. I was just going through the bridge of the song when something in his lyrics got my attention:

“What will it take till you believe in me the way that I believe in you?”

It suddenly occurred to me that believing in God is a two-way street. Have you ever thought about the fact that God believes in us humans? If He didn’t, I’m sure He would not lift a finger for us. Instead He expressed His belief in us faithfully throughout human generations. Take Job’s story for instance. When Satan was badmouthing Job, God was undeterred in His belief that this man Job would not jump ship and abandon his faith after everything was taken from him. A truly fascinating story showcasing God’s faith in human beings! And what about all the sacrifices He made? What about Jesus, the Son of God who became the Son of Man? None of that would have happened without God’s firm belief in you and me.

What will it take till we believe in Him the way that He believes in us?

Maybe something to think about as we’re going through the Holiday season – Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Job 37:5-6: “God’s voice is glorious in the thunder. We can’t even imagine the greatness of his power. He directs the snow to fall on the earth and tells the rain to pour down.”

Thunderbolt and lightning very, very frightening! – A quote from the song that wrote Rock History: The Bohemian Rhapsody.

I’m just sitting on the porch listening to the waves crushing on the shoreline of the Pacific Ocean. I love that sound. Since the Almighty created everything around here and out there (looking at the night skies right now), I believe, that’s another sound representing God’s voice. These waves come steady, one after the other. So is the whisper of His voice when He speaks to my heart. It comes in waves. Sometimes I hear Him quite distinctively, sometimes I’m not listening. The sounds of God’s creation never stop, whether we listen or not. God’s creation is not silent, and neither is He!

God speaks. He has a voice. But sometimes, for various reasons, our heart is hard of hearing.

Take Jona for instance who had a job to do and ran away. In the belly of a fish he finally took note and prayed to the Almighty. If thunderbolt and lightning is frightening, how about being caught inside a fish somewhere in the deep sea? Jonah later said that prior to this frightening experience he had only barely known God. A mere acquaintance, so-to-speak. But inside the fish Jonah had a close encounter with Him.

What about Job who hears the glory of God’s voice in Thunder? Job went down in history as the man who lost everything over the devil’s bet with the Almighty that Job would renounce His faith after losing everything. To make a long story short: the devil lost his bet. And Job is happy to announce to the world what a glorious encounter He had with God.

Silence can be deafening. Maybe after not hearing from God in a long while and listening to the stupidity coming from his own friends, God’s Thunderbolt was a welcome relief to Job.

God writes it in the skies with lightening, for everyone to see and with roaring Thunderbolts for everyone to notice: God is very much alive, and He cares. He is not deaf, nor dead, nor asleep, nor indifferent. The one who needs to wake up to reality is actually you and me. We need to wake up and face the music! Sometimes that takes a fish belly or skysplitting lightening with crashing thunder.

What are we afraid of? What do we have to lose? We are all afraid of death. We are born afraid to lose our lives. God knows! And he does not want us dead. He wants us to be alive and well. And the good news is: He is the Only One who can save us. Jonah experienced it. So did Job and many other human beings.

We get closest to God when we see Him in action. Action speaks louder than words and louder than a Thunderbolt. Being saved from death, carried through disaster, seeing the light at the end of a tunnel, that’s when we see God in action, and that’s when we get to know Him in a very personal way. His love is no longer hidden but becomes as clear as day. It’s like Captain Obvious! “Wow! God does love me. I heard of His love, now I’ve experienced it”.
Thunderbolt and Lightening very very frightening? Not so much anymore! Armed with God’s love we can face the devil if we have to.

God is love. To know that is to know everything.