Thursday, January 31, 2013

La Liberté de l'Interieur - Freedom Within

I've seen this video for the first time awhile ago, and have gone back to it over and over again.  It's wordless, alphabet-less message of the transforming power of the Gospel never fails to move something deep within me.

Hope you enjoy it!

Freedom from Within

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Alphabet of Love - U is for Unity

I grew up under the communist slogan, “Brotherhood and Unity”.  Fast-forward few decades and what is left of it is enmity, bloodshed and unimaginable atrocities, the international community still trying to untangle the web of crimes, perpetrators and victims through its slow and woefully insufficient judiciary system.  What once was a country united doesn’t even exist on the map of the world any more.

What went wrong?  How did these noble ideals became a laughing stock of the generations that followed?

And even more importantly, is there any hope for true unity, genuine brotherhood among us?

The unity that is not forged on greed and self-interest or forced through fear and intimidation.

The unity that encourages diversity and creative expression rather than The Brave New World which sacrifices the individual on the altar of uniformity and ‘common good’.

In the letter to the believers living in Philippi, apostle Paul sticks his neck out on this very point.  But, what he sees as the basis for unity is quite different from the call of politicians and even religious leaders:

If there is any encouragement in Christ,
if there is any consolation of love,
if there is any fellowship of the Spirit,
if any affection and compassion,
make my joy complete
by being of the same mind,
maintaining the same love,
united in spirit,
intent on one purpose. Philippians 2:1,2

Never have I seen an appeal to unity put quite in this way.

If you find no encouragement in Christ, forget unity.  You need Him first. 

Haven’t been consoled in your afflictions and grief by His love?  Fill this cup before anything else. 

If ‘fellowship of the Spirit’ brings only the confused images of dark forests, goblins and hobbits, find somebody to talk to.

If there is no affection and compassion, if you don't even like each other, hold your horses on stampeding the world. Learn this first.

Then, and only then, please do make me happy…

By taking time to work thorough your differences and disagreements until you reach mutually satisfying solution, not just plastering a facade of unity while divisions and hatred on the inside simmers and reigns…

By guarding your love for each other and for the Lord …

United not in mere externals, but in what truly matters on the inside. Your hearts and souls at rest with each other, with yourself and with the Lord.

Any hope for true brotherhood and unity? You tell me...

The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me. John 17:22,23

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Alphabet of Love - T is for Three-in-One

We can debate it.  We can dispute it.  Or we can delve into this mystery. Father. Son. Holy Spirit.  One God.


A family! A family not altogether unlike your family and mine, where we get to experience nibbles of heaven on this side of it. Unfortunately, the flip side of this is true - nothing quite like family to effect hell on earth. Broken people mutilating each other in the name of... love?  Even the best families on the best day are just a fogged-up, cracked mirror of what we see as an uninterrupted flow of love and honor, truth and glory between Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The entry point for us into this flow, into this mystery - the cross of Christ.  The Cross is the  place of both shame and salvation where sinless Son of God was accounted as sinner in your stead and mine. It still boggles my mind...

Three days later, the tomb was empty. Father’s holiness and justice satisfied - one sacrifice. Once for all. 

What happened several weeks later is not nearly as advertised as Christmas and Easter, but it forever altered history AND our lives.  Before His suffering, Jesus gave a promise to His grieving disciples:

It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Comforter will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. John 16:7

There is something better than having Jesus with them?!!!

When the Holy Spirit finally arrived, He didn’t come as a celestial visitor.  He came as permanent resident, making Himself at home inside all those who  receive His gift of  life. God Himself, inside you!  Inside me?!!!

Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? I Corinthians 6:19

We are all homeschoolers here. One Teacher taking us from Kindergarten class of Faith until we graduate with honors (or not!) in the arms of Christ .

The Helper of all the Yelpers.

The Gentle Hammer - for He is the Spirit of Truth and truth hurts sometimes.

The Connector-of-the-Dots.

The amazing Baker of Soul Bread, like the Subway guy who converts my crumpled $5 bill into a foot-long yummy spicy deliciousness on crusty Italian, taking the words from the pages of my old, beat-up Bible and, Poof! turning them into life and and food - real food - for my heart and soul. How He does it? A mystery.

On those days I feel like the luckiest fool on earth, like I hit a jackpot - getting this Three-in-One deal for the taking.  Most other days I marvel how my grief, or pettiness, or anger, or weariness seems to swallow this incomparable Reality... and I am like a blind man groping in the fog... until I lay hold of Him... .  For I know, just one of them would have been enough - more than enough... but Three-in-One. Nothing stands a chance against that kind of love.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Alphabet of Love - S is for Son

The Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner. For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing John 5:19,20

Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God. Galatians 4:6-7

See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. 1 John 3:1

Becoming a parent revolutionized our lives in ways I can’t even begin to describe.  Overnight, I jumped from the world of being a child in a family, into a parallel universe of parenthood, now holding a child – a son – of my own! This role-reversal continues to send shock-waves through both my understanding of my past – especially my view of my mom and dad –my present, as well as how I see the future.  Not to mention how I view God and His family! When our daughter was born, the full scope of the complexity of family dynamics begun to dawn on us.  We went from two reasonably mature and responsible adults (or so we thought!) relating to a child, to two terribly immature kids relating to each other – mainly through the language of fists and bites, screams and scratches – and two frustrated parents, frequently tempted to resort to the same language – mostly trying to reason with and restrain the mayhem.  Ah, the joys of parenting!

Over the years I begun to notice more and more that our kids are both our mirror-images, as well as our amplifiers.  They don’t always do what we tell them to do, but they seem to be really good at mimicking what they see us doing, and repeating our words, unfortunately not always in the ways and at times we wish them to!

Having two pairs of impressionable eyes continuously watching me and then going off and broadcasting that to the entire world … it’s… well… both extremely humbling and insightful, to put it gently.  Dan Allender elaborates on some of these unintended consequences of parenting in his book, How Children Raise Their Parents. If he didn’t write this book, I would have done it.

Jesus, being the Son of God,  perfectly mirrored and amplified everything His Father said and did, and that in the same manner.  Not just what He said and did, but also in the same Spirit.  As a human, He was completely yielded to the Spirit of His Dad and did nothing that He didn’t see or heard His Dad doing.

God has given us the very same Spirit that filled the life of Jesus.  We are not His slaves, but sons and daughters. May we be attentive to the Spirit of His Son and mirror His love and compassion, His power and His liberating truth to the needy world around us… starting with our own household… where both children and parents are being raised to become fully grown children of God. 

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Alphabet of Love - R is for Rest

How incredible that we've never had more discretionary time on our hands, and yet rest still seems terribly elusive to many.

Rest is as much an integral part of our DNA as image-bearers of God as our work. I often wondered why God rested when He completed His work of creation.  It certainly wasn't because He was tired! Then, it occurred to me that there is more - much more - to God than what He creates, amazing as that is.  Consequently, there is more - much more - to us than what we do, what we create.  If it was important that God 'separates' Himself from His work, how much more it is important that we do the same?!!

This turns out to be harder than it appears. Our sense of worth is often tied up in our  incessant, frantic activity.  But, how much do we really accomplished of what really matters? And with everyone around us being so busy and stressed out, when we try to slow down, it feels it’s almost sin not to be busy!

But, it’s not just all the external activity that keeps us from experiencing rest.  It’s all the noise within… Quieting one’s thoughts, one’s tumultuous emotions, even as everything on the outside is peaceful and quiet can represent an impossible challenge.  In fact, some people may find it positively unbearable. With all this noise – both outside and inside – no wonder listening has become a dying art.

Be still…
Let go..
Cease striving…and
God.  Psalm 46:10

Regular times and seasons of rest – daily, weekly, monthly, yearly – are meant to help us restore our strength and endurance, renew our fraying perspective, re-create and bring into harmony our internal and external existence.  They are also a steady reminder that God is God and we are not.  Which we seem to forget on semi-regular basis. At first, learning to slow down and stop may feel like slowing down a runaway train.  But, once the rhythms are in place, it will become as natural as breathing.

Ways are endless in which we can separate ourselves from our regular work, and enjoy the vast diversity of the world God created for our enjoyment and enjoy the amazing Creator Himself. What works for me may not work for you.  What worked yesterday may not work tomorrow.

The point is that, each of us has a unique, God-designed way in which we need to come to Him and experience His rest and re-creational power in our lives. But, we must come to Him.  For, it’s in Him that we find this rest… or rather, He Himself is our rest.

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30

Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience. Hebrews 4:11

Friday, January 25, 2013

Alphabet of Love - Q is for The Question

It's hard to find anyone more real than Peter.  What you see is what you get.  Peter is also rough around the edges. One foot out of the mouth, only to make room for the other one to go in. Shoot first, aim later. He is a fisherman, so he also swears and curses sometimes.  Occupational hazard of some jobs.

Peter has quite a history with Jesus.  He dropped everything to follow Jesus. He recognizes Jesus for who He is – God’s Messiah, the Savior of the world.  Peter walks on water with Jesus. Peter declares that he is willing to go to prison with Jesus and to die with Jesus.  Peter defends Jesus with a sword.

If this is not love, I don't know what it is.

It's passion.

It's sacrifice.

It's risk.

It's revelation.

Then Peter gets really, really scared. And this guy doesn't get scared easily. He is so scared that he flees from Jesus. He leaves His master and friend alone. He hides. But, he also can't stay away...just can't stay away.

So he inches as close as he can get to Jesus while still trying to keep safe.

Have you ever tried that? Being close to Jesus while trying to stay safe?

It turns out it's not close enough...

And it turns out it's not far enough. 

So, Peter denies Jesus.  

Not once.  Not twice.  But three times.  

Jesus dies. Three days later Peter inspects the empty tomb.  Sees resurrected Christ again.  And again. .  … 

After all this, Peter decides he is not cut for fisher of men job.  He is going back to what he is good at - back to fish-fishing, and brings his fishing buddies along. It’s the dawn of the morning after their trip. They are coming back empty-handed. No fish. Peter remembers,  long, looong time ago another fishing night  like this...... Then he hears a voice shouting out from the beach.

A Stranger gives the experienced defeated fishermen simple instructions. Great catch.

The Stranger, of course, is Jesus.  He cooks the breakfast for the tired crew. Even though nobody is asking any questions, there is this big AWKWARD hanging over Peter.

In his head, he might have known that Jesus has forgiven Him.

But, could he forgive himself?

All those words, all those declarations... Imagine Peter's internal turmoil.  Imagine the questions swirling around his head and his heart...

Then, after they all ate, Jesus asks Peter a question.  Not once.  Not twice.  But three times.

Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?

Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?

Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?

... Do...



Thursday, January 24, 2013

Alphabet of Love - Q is for questions

Sometimes I feel like I live my life as if it’s all about declarations, propositional truths, summaries and memos.  I understand the need to exchange information.  I do it all the time.  And truth has certain content.

But the truth we need to know is contained not inside a book, or a document or even a blog post but inside a living, breathing person.

Now, that, for me, changes everything.  For, suddenly, I have to relate to this Person. And I find that a person is not a simple assortment of propositional truths organized by size, shape and color like a fruit stand in the farmer's market.  Person is heart and mind, thoughts and emotions. Love, dreams, fears, tears, choices, passions, wounds, hope, darkness, light... a mystery packed inside a body, sometimes strong, sometimes worn-out and weak, big or small, short or tall...

What we don't know is so much greater than what we know. Questions reveal the desire to go beyond what’s obvious... or what is assumed.

Besides the daily functional inquiries, like,  Mom, what’s for dinner?, or, Have you finished your homework? or, When is the birthday party? questions are invitations into deeper knowing, more intimate understanding…

What are you thinking?

How did that make you feel?

Probably the most common question we ask God is 



Why?  It’s our cry of despair as we try to reconcile what we know of His flawless character – His love, His goodness, His kindness, His power and authority – and the seemingly prevailing power of evil in our world. 

Why did God create mosquitoes? is how my children summarize this existential dilemma.

But, then, there comes the day when it’s not us who ask, but God.

Where are you, Adam? Genesis 3:9

Cain, where is Abel your brother? Genesis 4:9

Hagar, Sarai’s maid, where have you come from and where are you going? Genesis 16:8

God is omniscient - He never seeks new information when He asks us a question.  He hasn’t lost His GPS and is now scrambling to locate Adam’s, Abel’s or Hagar’s coordinates and needs their help. 

God's questions are an invitation to these individuals - which, in turn includes me and you - to re-calibrate our lives and align them to the Presence and Purposes of the Almighty.

God's questions are invitations to transformational living:

Son of man, can these bones live? Ezekiel 37:3

What is that in your hand, Moses? Exodus 4:12

How many loaves do you have? Mark 6:38

Why do you seek the Living One among the dead? Luke 24:5

But, it goes beyond this still…

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Alphabet of Love - P is for Peace

And they heal the brokenness of the daughter of My people superficially,
Saying, ‘Peace, peace’, but there is no peace Jeremiah 8:11

Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. Matthew 10:34

Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. John 14:27

These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world. John 16:33

There is peace… and, then, there is Peace.  

There is peace at all cost.  At the price of being intimidated into silence.  At the threat of submission to supreme authority. The band-aid peace over the deeply festering wound of animosity and hate. The peace treaties and the peace accords. The whitewash plaster on the crumbling wall. 

There are also soft words and false promises.  The peace of charades. The peace that soothes the cancer patient into negation and denial of reality.  The peace that says,

Everything is fine and nothing is broken.

The peace that sounds so good we desperately want to believe the deception, the lies.

The outcome of the surgery declared successful, while patient lies dead. 

And, then, there is violent peace of the crucified Prince of Peace.  The Peace purchased for us with the blood of Christ… for nothing else would suffice.  The Peace that sees and knows the worst truth about me and you,  and says,

I have already paid the full price for all this and more. You have no clue what you are doing. I don’t condemn you.  Go in peace.  And sin no more.

You can’t have peace and Peace. The two are mutually exclusive. Sooner or later, we all will have to chose.  What will it be?

(they) say to the prophets, 
'You must not prophesy to us what is right,
Speak to us pleasant words,
Prophesy illusions'. Isaiah 30:10,11

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 5:1

For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near  Ephesians 2:14-17

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Alphabet of Love - O is for Overcome

Right now I feel rather overcome by allergies. I keep telling my body to stop freaking out over the tiny particles floating in the air, but it’s hopeless.  For some reason, the only thing that it seems to listen is Zrytec ®.

My allergic reaction to pollen is not the only thing I can be overcome by. There is also fear; negative thinking; depression; pride; indifference; insecurities; guilt; escapism; …. The list goes on and on. The old me which buys lies in bulk on deception wholesale market.

But, that’s not who I am.  Or at least, not all that I am.  For, since Christ intercepted my life, there is also this new me.

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. 2 Corinthians 5:17

From the day of spiritual collision, I have been waking up every morning noticing that my New Me actually likes sleeping in, and the Old Stinker is usually up first. I hate it! But instead of being condemned to the life of old (using word ‘life’ very loosely here), I now I have an opportunity to rip the covers off and wake up the New: Rise and shine! Paul in Ephesians puts it in slightly different words:

In reference to your former way of life  lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. Ephesians 4:22-24

Sometimes this ‘laying aside’ of the old feels like peeling the skin off my body. Other times, it comes right off like dead skin.  Sometimes, the ‘putting on the new self’ feels like slipping into a pair of perfectly fitting jeans (which, by the way, I am still searching for).  Other times, I feel like the shoes are way too big and I can only swim in them (or rather drown?) – never walk or run.  There seems to be a bit of art and a bit of science and a large bag of mystery to all this, for you can’t quite put it into a formula, patent it and put it on the belt for mass-marketing.

But, each day, in fact, several times every day, I still am presented with a choice.  To be overcome… or to overcome.   The Old or the New? Which will it be?  

And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.  Revelation 12:11

Monday, January 21, 2013

Alphabet of Love - N is for New

We are only three weeks into January and this year already feels old. We discover again that the flip of the calendar page doesn’t magically transform old into new.  We may get an emotional boost at the beginning of the year, but few weeks into it, the emotions begin to evaporate like morning mist and we are faced with our old self.   

Old insecurities. 

Old fears.

Old string of failures choking us around our neck.

The older we get, the scarier it becomes to dream again, for fear of stacking more disappointments on the scales of faith.

How can a man be born when he is old? John 3:4

Make no mistake, old is not just a description of an aging body.  Old is the hardened way of thinking.  The unexamined habits of reasoning keeping me from seeing reality from another point of view. The crusty way of perceiving of the world, the people, and above all, God Himself. Squeezing Him into our little hard-set mold and expecting Him to speak and act according to our script and timing.

But, we can’t squeeze Him into a rut.  For even though His name is the Ancient of Days, He is not old.  We have a thirty-some young Eternal Son of God representing us before the Father.  He is like that perpetually new wine that requires fresh wineskins of our mind and heart, eyes and ears, a daily, moment-by-moment renewal. Unless we’ve grown old.  Unless we are satisfied with the old and it has become ‘good enough’. Unless we don’t wish for the new anymore.

And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled out, and the skins will be ruined. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. And no one, after drinking old wine wishes for new; for he says, ‘The old is good enough.’ Luke 5:37-39

But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. 

And I pray that the Lord Jesus would come
and pour His new wine of the Spirit
into this old bag of flesh and bones,
renewing what seems impossibly hopeless,
what calls for the weary compromise with the ‘good enough’ in me…
and in you.
Trusting that He will…
in His way…
in His time…
as He always does, according to His word…
and always saving the best…
for last. 

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Ticked off! ...Of Trees, Termites, Truth and Trust

Our local newspaper has a column, Ticked off! where people vent their gripes and complains at just about anything and everything under the sun.  It's a rather entertaining read - mainly because I could have written most of them myself. But seeing all this frustration spelled out on paper (or screen!) by somebody else, I always feel that little jab of conscience for I recognize again my pet peeves for what they are – not pets to be fed and nurtured but pests which need an exterminator. On the positive side, there is also an opportunity for the voicing of the Flip Side – where the recipients of random acts of kindness by benevolent strangers share their restored faith in human race dominated by fallen heroes, most recent being Lance Armstrong or Manti Te'o. 

Today the following response to an earlier Ticked off! contributor caught my attention:

To the person ‘ticked off’ over the removal of the tree behind the church:
An arborist examined the tree and recommended its removal. The tree was severely diseased and dying. It was also infested by termites and mold. As laurel oak, the tree has a ‘life expectancy’ of 40-70 years and had reached the end of its life.   It posed a danger to pedestrians and automobile traffic, and consequently the only prudent choice was its removal.

The thoughtful, thorough response of a concerned reader regarding the removal of an old tree took me, sadly, by complete surprise. Its gentle wisdom set it apart against the backdrop of explosive language and short fuses generally exhibited in the column. I could feel something within resonating deeply.

Please, don't be 'ticked off'. This wasn’t a random, careless decision.  The person who knows, loves and understands trees recommended the hard choice.  The tree was severely diseased. The disease could spread to other trees and decimate their population. It was infested by termites and mold. It’s something you may not be able to see from your car, driving by, but after careful inspection you would know there was no turning back. Plus, it has already lived its full, vigorous life, providing shade, oxygen, home for the birds and other animals, in addition to its restful beauty.  
Sometimes God has to make some hard decisions regarding our lives. Remove a majestic laurel oak with long history and glorious beauty.  We may only see the loss, the disappointment, the shattered trust.  The vast empty space it leaves behind.  But, He is like a loving Arborist who knows beyond what our eye sees.  None of His decisions are made lightly and thoughtlessly. We may not understand the danger this glorious tree has become, the threat to life and property, nor recognize the reality of inevitable end.   When the tree is gone, we can trust the love and the wisdom of our Heavenly Arborist even with a gaping hole left behind. 

And what if the hole is left as a reminder, a longing that nothing...  nobody on this side of heaven can fill or satisfy it but God alone?

When my heart was embittered and I was pierced within,
Then I was senseless and ignorant; I was like a beast before You.
Nevertheless I am continually with You; You have taken hold of my right hand.
With Your counsel You will guide me, and afterward receive me to glory.
Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth. Psalm 73:21-25

Friday, January 18, 2013

Alphabet of Love - M is for Meek... Even When It's Maddening

Most of us take meekness for weakness. Personally, I always saw it as a character flaw rather than virtue. Imagine my shock when I realized that not only my own value system, but the values of those I respected the most were the exact opposite of what God esteems as valuable.  Our values are at the core of who we are, our deepest identity.  How in the world do you change what you hold most near and dear to your heart?!!!  And why would I want to be a weak-willed, feeble-minded wimp?!!

To my strong-willed, independent nature, there was something intensely troubling when confronted with Jesus.  The hardest thing to swallow was His humility, this servant attitude, this careful attention for the people on the fringe, the poor, the despised, the rejected, the ‘unimportant’.  Why would He care so much about them? They are not movers and shakers.  They are not the influencers.  What a waste of time and effort when He could be so much more strategic and productive in leveraging His influence and power by working with the cream of the crop.

And yet, despite His carefree disregard of what was important to me, I had to admit I couldn't call Him a feeble-minded, weak-willed wimp. I must have missed something somewhere…

The apostle John gives us an insight into the source of Jesus’ ability to assume the most humble roles of a servant:

Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God, got up from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself. Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet. John 13:3-5

Jesus knew who He was.  He knew what He had, what has been given to Him by His Father.  He knew where He came from.  He knew His history – His pre-incarnate glory, the Incarnation, His life as a Jewish carpenter, the temptations in the wilderness, the compassion for the shepherd-less sheep.  He knew where He was going – the Cross, the Tomb, the Resurrection.  The Return.  He knew His destiny.  Armed with this knowledge, He didn’t need to cling to His privileges – either human or divine.  He had nothing to prove except His love for His own.  And He did exactly that.

Much of our lack of humility and meekness stems from our deeply seated insecurity about who we are.  Am I loved? Will I be accepted? What if I am rejected? What will be the outcome of my life?  How do I make a mark, leave a legacy to ensure I am worthy, valuable?  Our motivations fuel our actions.  For some, it’s fear and insecurity.  For some it's unpretentious fruit deeply rooted in the knowledge that we are loved and valued beyond expression.

Jesus found His value and worth not in what He did and accomplished, or what other people thought of Him, but in His relationship with His Father:

This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased. Listen to Him.  Matthew 17:5

That’s all that mattered. His meekness, His humility, His ability to serve and surrender His life even to the point of death didn’t come because He was weak and wimpy.  His gentleness was the fruit which was rooted in complete rest and security of His Father’s love and sovereign purpose. With love like that, we have nothing to lose, nothing to prove - finally free to love the way He loves us.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Alphabet of Love - L is for Love... Even When It Stinks

The following is a status update I read awhile ago on a friend’s Facebook page:

Thank you, cat, that you are a good hunter. But next time you get a mole, could you not hide it under Nico's bed until we smell it?

It might be that I am reading too much into and between these lines, but I see a wonderful love story unfolding here.

Nico obviously loves the kitty. She feeds her, scratches her belly, plays with her and lets her sleep on her bed. She even cleans the litter box after her. Kitty loves Nico back. She loves being fed, playing with Nico, the fact that she scratches her belly and lets her sleep on her bed. But, in kitty’s mind, this relationship is terribly one-sided. She really wants to scratch Nico’s belly in return but last time she tried it, her claws got in the way.

Clearly inter-species relationships require overcoming some grave communication challenges. The kitty would like to give Nico what Nico wants… the iPad mini, for example, but her paws here are tied. So, she settles for the next best thing – a mole! Nothing but the best for Nico! Not some garden lizard, or an ordinary house mouse, or even that annoying fat rat that lives in the garage. Catching a mole demands patience, planning, strategy and sacrifice. But, Nico is more than worth it! So, one day, when all the stars were aligned, the kitty puts one of her nine lives on a limb, takes the plunge, snags the prize, and lovingly leaves it as a surprise gift carefully tucked under Nico’s bed. The kitty waits and waits, already looking forward to the extra play time and some serious belly scratching as a reward for her gift. As hours turn into days and days into weeks, the kitty’s dismay becomes obvious.

What’s taking Nico so long? I think she doesn’t like me anymore...Yea, I noticed how she doesn’t play with me nearly as much as she used to…And last night she kicked me off her bed along with her covers! 
The tormented cat refuses to eat and chooses to sleep on the chair in the living room.

Finally, one day, Mrs. Nico’s mom goes into Nico’s room mumbling something, and then torpedoes out… screaming?!!! And these were not happy screams, mind you! Definitely NOT happy, grateful surprise screams. The kitty, both scared and offended, hides under the birou in the hallway until the commotion is over. That night she discovers a little note, in Mrs. Nico’s mom’s beautiful handwriting:

Thank you, cat, that you are a good hunter. But next time you get a mole, could you not hide it under Nico's bed until we smell it?

The kitty is confused. The note seems to send mixed signals. Even though she is admired for her amazing hunting skills (they do recognize, after all, how hard it is to catch a mole!), she still feels that her love gift is somehow unappreciated. In fact, that it downright stinks.

But, what is the cat to do?!!! How can a kitty show her love for her owner?!!!

Just then she hears Nico’s voice as she walks in, calling her name…

Hey, Kitty, Kitty! Come over here, Kitty Where aaaaare youuuu, Kitty, Kitty? C’mon, Kitty, let’ play! Let me scratch your belly, Kitty… Hey, Kitty, Kitty… Heeeey!

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. I John 4:10

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Alphabet of Love - K is for Know

He knows you better than you know yourself, I was told years ago when I was still very young, and my head was full of information and facts, data and statistics and my heart was a wounded tangle of hurts and insecurities.

That’s impossible, I thought, part of me terrified, Nobody can know me the way I know myself. I didn’t take very long for me to realize that there was A LOT more about me that I didn’t know, a lot I didn’t understand.  There still is.  But, what is more important is that there indeed is One who both knows me more than I can conceive, AND loves me as I am. 

To Be Known

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain. Psalm 139:1-6

But, this is not all.  For, not only does God know me and understand me better than I know and understand myself, He also desires me to know Him!  

To Know

Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. John 17:3

Thus says the Lord, “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the Lord. Jeremiah 9:23,24

What an amazing adventure life is.  To be known to the level of depth and intimacy as we are… to be understood even when we don’t understand ourselves…And to be invited into a life-long journey of knowing… God!  To take time to get to know Him, to listen to His heart as expressed through His Word.  To understand what He loves and what He hates, to become intimate with His ways, to relish in how kind, and smart, and surprising and funny and creative and laid-back, and easy-to-get-along He is… and how holy, and lofty and incomprehensible and mysterious and even terrifying He is… like a Lion and yet still like a Lamb…  And to have the promise that one day all our questions will be answered, all our fears silenced, our souls fully at rest in Him… for we will know as we are known.

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. I Corinthians 13:12

Monday, January 14, 2013

Alphabet of Love - J is for Jesus

It’s not a religion, it’s a relationship… relationship with Jesus Christ.  I was told during my atheist years.  The statement, of course, made absolutely no sense to me, but I could tell that these people thought it was really, really important.

I did not like Jesus at the time.  I did not like even the mention of His name.  I was positively infuriated by the fact that those Christians insisted that

… there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved. Acts 4:12

What infuriated me even more was that Jesus Himself said:

I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father but through Me. John 14:6

When I first heard the preposterous claim, my initial response was:

Who does He think He is to talk like that?!!!

Now, that’s a very good question.

Thus begun my journey of discovering the answer. The journey started in the summer of 1986 and still continues on to this very day and will go on not just until my last breath but throughout eternity. I have shared more of this journey in several posts beginning with You May Believe in God But I Never Will. As they like to say, The rest is history.

What I find peculiar at this time, is that we Christians seem to insist on Jesus at the commencement of our new-found relationship with God.  However, somewhere along the way, in our excitement to help Him build His kingdom we take charge, and Jesus gets shoved to the sidelines. Sad as this is, it shouldn't come to us as a complete shock. When we enter God’s family, we enter into such impressive heritage, such rich history, such diverse and fascinating community.  There is so much to learn, so much to connect, understand, realize. So much to do! Opportunities, especially in the age of technology, are practically endless!

Peter, James and John found themselves in a similar distracted frame of mind on the Mount of Transfiguration. 

Imagine finding yourself face-to-face with Moses and Elijah conversing with Jesus! Peter felt inspired, took initiative and… was stopped dead in his tracks. There is no confusion in God’s mind who’s who in His kingdom and who’s the One to listen to.

And lifting up their eyes, they saw no one, except Jesus Himself alone. Matthew 17:8

No one.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Alphabet of Love - I is for Identity

According to Merriam-Webster online dictionary identity is the distinguishing character or personality of an individual. It is what sets us apart from everyone else as a unique person with unrepeatable mixture of qualities, gifts, abilities and idiosyncrasies.  There was never in the history anyone quite like you or quite like me, nor there ever will be again.  What an astounding truth! What is even more amazing is how hard we try to be like someone else or to ‘become’ unique.  We don’t need to try – we already are!

Identity assumes continuity and sameness of qualities in a person over time and under different circumstances.  This can present a challenge in an unstable, changing world where who we are is defined by our nationality, our job or our cultural heritage.  When I moved to the United States, I had to wrestle with these issues on several different levels.  I lost the job that I loved, and I got a job that I hated.  People started assuming things about me based on the job that I was doing that wasn’t me.  I was extracted from the intricate network of family and friend relationships where people knew who I was and who I wasn’t, and placed in the relational context where rules, values and expected behaviors were vastly different from what I was used to. In the course of time, the country I used to belong to splintered and I found myself stranded as a resident alien, in a twilight zone of stateless people without a country and without citizenship. Simultaneously, I also morphed from Miss to Mrs, to Mrs. Mom.  Few years into the metamorphosis, my new boss dismissed me and my role on the team as not mission critical and another soon afterwards commented that I used to be somebody. I figured I was on my own. 

Who am I? I kept asking myself and God over and over again.

Who do You say that I am?!!!  The answer was far from being clear for months and years that followed. 

During that time I realized that there is a continuity in me that transcends the continents that I reside on.  There is a continuity in me that goes beyond my day job and whether my boss thinks I am mission critical or not.  There is a continuity in me beyond being a wife and a mother, neighbor and friend, beyond the citizenship and the culture.  All these have affected me on some profound level and made me the person that I am today, but there is me that is known, and loved, and nurtured beyond any human relationship I ever had or will ever have. 

Years ago, as a self-aware (or so I thought!) confident atheist, I was told that there is God who knows me better than I know myself and that our core identity is rooted in our relationship with Him.  To this day, I am re-discovering the astounding depths of this truth.  It is not who you or anyone else say that I am.  It is not even who I say that I am.  It is who He says that I am that truly, really, ultimately matters. In comparison to that, everything else, significant and important as it may be, is just a shadow, a husk, a vapor in the wind.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10

Friday, January 11, 2013

Alphabet of Love - H is for Hope

Hope is Faith’s twin sister (Hebrews 11:1). Both are rooted in the character of God, His goodness and His absolute ability to fulfill His promises (Romans 4:19-21). It’s confident expectation in the favorable outcome.

Of course, for most of us, hope is little more than wishful thinking, a good luck charm, as dependable and predictable as winning a lottery. We attach this wishful thinking, our feeling-lucky to circumstances, people, governments, religious systems, and ourselves.  We anticipate and predict the exact whens and hows of God’s carrying out of His promises, and attach our hope to those predictions.  Sooner or later, however, we find ourselves flat on our faces, our hope shattered. We are left hopeless, disillusioned and despairing in the world that appears to be randomly governed by fickleness of chance and blind fate.

This despair, this hopelessness might very well be the best thing that ever happens to us.  Its brutal reality forces us to be weaned from all other unworthy objects of hope, lofty and noble as they may appear to be.  This includes gods of our imaginations, genies in a bottle, vending-machine gods who deliver the products that we want when we want them, after pushing few select buttons.

In his letter to the church in Corinth apostle Paul writes,

we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead (2 Corinthians 1:9)

This is as hopeless as it gets, but there is purpose in such despair - so that we would not trust in…. you fill in the blank… but in God who raises the dead.

Impossible is God’s modus operandi.  When we exhaust all our resources, when all our human strategies fail, when we are left nowhere to go, nobody to turn to, at the end of the rope, without any hope, we are finally in a place where God who raises the dead – the God who raised Jesus Christ from the dead - can begin to work.  

I find this indestructibly hopeful.  How about you?

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Alphabet of Love – G is for God

Have you ever felt misunderstood? Well, you are in good company, for I don’t think there is a more misunderstood person in the universe than God.

Think of it - how in the world does the Invisible, Infinite, Eternal, Holy, Omnipotent, Uncreated One convey Himself to the visible, finite, temporal, sinful, weak, fickle, Made-in-Dirt dust mite like you and me, so the dust-mite can understand Him… even relate to Him?!!  And why would He even care to ‘communicate’ anything about Him, or of Him to us?

I see a problem here, and I am certainly glad that it’s not up to me to solve it. God’s problem solving-strategies, unorthodox as they may be, are much more effective than mine. God’s big secret is that He is … crazy about us. And this, to use Francis Chan’s phrase, crazy love makes Him passionate about communicating with us, hopeless as sometimes it may appear.

He is like an artist, revealing Himself through what He creates.  Through this symbolic yet powerful language of natural revelation, we get the glimpses of His beauty, majesty, wild sense of humor and creative joy.

His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made Romans 1:20

The crown of His creative revelation is us! Men and women of all colors, shapes and sizes, created to be God’s image-bearers, reflections, mirrors of His person in this world. 

God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Genesis 1:27

Of course, much of this image is distorted, the reflection marred since the mirror was shattered through sin.  Yet, there is still a unique representation of something of the nature of God in each human being that we can't explain any other way. 

He reveals more of Himself through His Word – what He loves and what He hates, His holiness, His passionate love for His people, His deep concern for their well-being, and uncompromising dedication to justice and righteousness.  Reading through the Law of Moses and the Prophets is a heart-wrenching journey of God calling people back to Himself and living that relationship out in loving and caring families and communities.  But outside of few rare examples, people en masse seem to consistently chose to go their own way!  One can’t help but wonder, What’s wrong with these people?!! Are they brain-damaged or what?, until one recognizes his or her own image in this mirror. As wonderful as the Law is, on its own it is powerless to impart life into dead people, nor was it ever intended to do so. It only points out how far we all fall short.

God’s by far the best and clearest act of self-disclosure was made when He became human in the person of Jesus Christ. All we need to know about God we find in this one package - ‘squeezed’ into a human life – without leaving behind any divine (except for omnipresence) and without crowding out any human attributes (except for sin). Jesus not only reveals God to us perfectly, but, by His perfect sacrifice, solves our unsolvable problem, paying the full price of our sin.

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power; When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.  Hebrews 1:1-3

You really want to know what God is like? Look at Jesus.

He who has seen Me has seen the Father. John 14:9

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Alphabet of Love - F is for Faith

And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. Hebrews 11:6

As an atheist, I always thought that faith is an equivalent to an intellectual suicide. A cop-out for the ignorant; an easy ‘band-aid’ for those who lack courage or industriousness to wrestle heartily with ‘real’ problems; a simplistic answer-all, incompatible with modern rational thinking.  I guess I was equating faith in God with blind faith.

But, blind faith is not necessarily the same as faith in God.  In fact, they may actually contradict each other.  For, in a sense, faith in God provides us with an extra eye so we can ‘see’ what is invisible.  It is said of Moses, for example, that he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen (Hebrews 11:27).  He focused his eye on what could not be seen.

Faith has more to do with letting go of the domineering influence of all things visible/tangible – including my emotions and ‘all-important’ point of view - and allowing the unchangeable, ultra-reliable truth of the existence and character of God to increasingly affect all areas of my life.  My foggy thinking and fickle emotions, my fast words and my furious actions, which of course spills into all my relationships - family and friends, Fed-ex guy and funny neighbors. Faith relates more to the 'functionality' of a garden and the fruit-bearing than the functionality of a factory which cranks out products.

In our lives, faith is daily played out on countless levels.  In our relationship with God, it is as a dynamic interaction between us and the Invisible Living God who initiates – speaks, invites, warns, calls, acts - and we respond. Our response – unless we are blind and deaf, which, for the most part, we ARE! – is usually some form of a ‘WOW!” or another.  The glimpses make us realize we really should be dead for we are standing on holy ground and like Moses was instructed, we take off our commonplace shoes (including our comfortable, well-worn religious platitudes) 

Of course, conversing with G-O-D sounds so preposterous, so outrageous that I am inclined to question both my hearing as well as my sanity.  Samuel (I Samuel 3:1-10) needed God to address him three times before he realized it was God who was speaking to him.  This gives me great hope. Also, since the beginning of history, those who chose to listen to the inaudible voice and live in the Presence of the Invisible One were often considered crazy lunatics and fools.  Even Jesus didn’t escape that kind of judgment. Well, I think I'll let you make up your own mind on this one. 

For all the fools, however, who chose to take God at His word, there is a reward.  Of course, that too (at least for now), is received by faith - being sure that God always holds His end of the bargain,  being convinced that when He promises something He will certainly fulfill it.

Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard,
And which have not entered the heart of man,
All that God has prepared for those who love Him. I Corinthians 2:9

Monday, January 07, 2013

Alphabet of Love - E for Empty

I love watching the TV show Undercover Boss.  It’s the classic The Prince and the Pauper with a reality-TV spin.  During a one-hour episode we are given a (carefully choreographed, I must add) peek into a life of a CEO of a successful company leaving behind his or her life of status and privilege for a couple of weeks, going incognito and becoming an entry-point, grunt worker in their own company.  Descending from the ‘ivory tower’ and mingling with, becoming one of the ‘commoners’ turns out to be quite an eye-opening and even life-changing experience for everyone involved.

Commendable as these individuals are, none of them come anywhere near to what the Son of God did when He clothed Himself with the ‘rags’ of human flesh and came down from His ‘ivory tower’ to live among us.

Born in a stable because there was no room for them inside the inn.  As a toddler, He became a refugee with a death warrant on His head. Most of His life He supported His family as a blue-collar worker.  When hungry, He didn’t use any of His ‘superpowers’ to feed Himself.  He didn’t try to attract crowds by some impressive stunt or miracles.  He washed His disciple’s filthy feet. He didn’t resist His arrest even though He could have summoned an army of angels to His defense. He was tired, hungry, thirsty, weary, grieved, angry; misunderstood, hated, persecuted, betrayed.  He surrendered to mocking, scoffing, beatings all the way to the shameful, painful death of a common criminal. His life of selfless service went on even while He was hanging on the cross.  His body was laid in borrowed grave (at least that was only for a short time!).  And after He was resurrected He continued with His humble service by doing what most mothers do for their children every mundane morning - He cooked breakfast for His disciples on a beach. All this (and much is left out, of course) breaks every conceivable mold of our idea of respectable Divinity.

Although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:6-8

By emptying Himself, by becoming one of us all the way through the cross, Jesus forever transformed our view and our relationship with God. His emptying became a way for us to be filled with all the fullness of God.  

His life on earth, His death and resurrection  also uniquely qualify Him to represent us before God the Father. He is the only one who truly understand us and the only one who knows how to fill our emptiness.

For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:15,16

For Further Reflection:

Do you feel empty?
 How do you try to fill up your emptiness?  Does it work? 
Do you see your emptiness as an invitation to go to Christ and ask to receive His fullness?

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Alphabet of Love - D is for Defeat of Death

Why do you seek the living One among the dead? He is not here, but He has risen. Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, saying that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again. Luke 24:5-7

Why do you seek the Living One among the dead?

Without the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Cross would have been yet another tragic death in the vast sea of tragic, senseless deaths. Without the resurrection, Christianity is no better than any other religion - in fact, it's worse because it presents us with impossible demands without providing power to fulfill them.

But, it didn't end with the cross and didn't end with the tomb. The resurrection of Christ is God's seal of approval on Christ's sacrifice for our sins.  The justice is satisfied. The Way back to God (John 14:6), the access to the Tree of Life (Genesis 3:24) are freely given to everyone who will receive Him.

We don't have to wait until we die to enjoy this amazing privilege and experience eternal life.  Eternal life begins right here, right now:

This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. John 17:3

Friday, January 04, 2013

Alphabet of Love - C is for Cross

The hinges of the door of history hang on the old rugged cross and the Galilean Rabbi who was nailed to it roughly two thousand years ago on a hill called Golgotha, just outside Jerusalem.  

This is a mystery that will take eternity to fathom. 

For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. I Corinthians 1:21-25

This is also a daily, moment-by-moment reality of all the foolish, weak, broken beggars of this world who cling to the Crucified Son of God, recognizing that this is where the full price for their crimes was paid by the innocent Lamb of God granting their forgiveness.  The Cross is eternally baffling cosmic stock exchange where the Innocent One was declared guilty and the guilty ones are set free.

Free from the sin’s power and punishment, from the accusations of guilty conscience (Hebrews 9:14) and relentless voices of condemnation (Romans 8:1; Revelation 12:10,11). 

Paid in full. 

It is finished. John19:30

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Corinthians 5:21

I look at this equation and can’t pretend to understand either sided, my feeble mind silenced by the mystery. I must enter both by taking God at His Word trusting that He knows what He is doing.

The cross is God’s awful, glorious declaration of His judgment against sin and His love for the sinners like you and me.  This is the only basis of forgiveness that the holy and just God can accept and still remain holy and just.

In our broken state, we grossly underestimate both seriousness of our condition and vastness of God’s love.

The sin? We excuse, explain away, justify, blame on circumstances and others. We call it many different names.  We cover it up, analyze it with our therapist, promote it in a book. When the guilt catches up, we negotiate, over-promise, offer our own sacrifices, lash out. The harder we try to run, the deeper we sink. 

The love of God?  We question, doubt, dismiss. We spiritualize it, make it vague and ethereal, all warm and fuzzy, boneless and skinless like chicken breast in Publix. But, there is nothing warm and fuzzy in the brutality of the death on the cross.  His bones were bruised for us.  His skin stripped off His back, pierced by thorns, by nails, by spear for our iniquities.  This makes me think,

If this is the remedy, how horrible the disease must be?

The Cross is the anchor where both justice and love of God are weighed in perfect balance and offered freely to all who would receive Him. The requirement of justice – paid in full.  The love of God – free to flow to all the undeserving wretches of this world foolish enough to believe.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Alphabet of Love - B is for Born

Jesus: Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.

Nicodemus: How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?

Jesus: Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.

According to this passage in John 3, as well as in many other portions of the Scripture, there is only one entry point into the kingdom of God for each of us – men and women, Republicans and Democrats, gay and straight, Christians and Muslims, Hindus and atheists. We must be born of God’s Spirit.  Without physical birth, none of us would be in this world.  Without spiritual birth, none of us can be in God’s kingdom.  And just like we didn’t do anything to earn or obtain our physical birth, we can’t do anything to earn or obtain spiritual birth. It is God’s doing from start to finish.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.  I Peter 1:3

When we are born, we are never born as full grown adults (thank God!), but as tiny babies.  Babies need milk to grow properly.  Mother’s milk is by far the best food for them. 

Like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation.  I Peter 2:2

There are many ‘formulas’ that are offered in our world as a substitute for the pure milk of the word.  If we want to feed the Spirit-life, the best food on the market is God’s living Word, spoken and interpreted to us by His Spirit.  No devotional, no blog, no book comes anywhere near to the Living God breathing, speaking His own life into us through His Word.  This will remain our primary source of nourishment for the rest of our lives. You never graduate out of it.

It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God’ Matthew 4:4

I am not saying that other books and blogs, discussions and devotionals don’t have a place our growth.  In fact, one of the many benefits of being born of God is the godly heritage and the godly community, the ongoing amazing His-story we enter as a result of our birth. As fascinating as this world is, however, it can never be a substitute for knowing and being known, for loving and being loved by our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.

For further reflection:

Have you been born of the Spirit of God?

If not, would you like to?

If yes, how have you experienced growth in your spiritual life?  What helps you grow?  What stunts your growth? 

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Alphabet of Love - A is for Abba

For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!”   Romans 8:14,15

The Almighty God, the Creator of the universe, the Alpha and the Omega is also our Abba, Daddy.  I admit that even though I have embraced this truth more than a quarter of a century ago, I still marvel at its amazing mystery.

We are not adopted into God family based on our genetic makeup, nationality or religion. Neither have we earned it by our excellent behavior, superior intelligence and flawless track-record of rule-keeping.  Nor do we attain it by the strength of our willpower and unwavering determination. The unfathomable privilege is ours solely on the basis of the death and the resurrection of God’s own Son who secured our adoption papers.  We enter into this life of amazing privilege by receiving the gift through faith.  I have 24-7 unlimited access to the Universe’s Oval Office because it is my Dad and my Brother who sit there?!!! I still scratch my head over this.

My earthly dad, my tata is one of the kindest, most patient man I know.  All my life I knew nothing but his day-in, day-out unconditional, sacrificial love for me, my sister and our family.  Even though my dad isn’t perfect, our relationship has made it easy for me to transfer that fearless trust, that adoring child-like confidence to my relationship with God as my heavenly Father.  My heavenly Tata.  

 I am fully aware that most people don’t share such positive experience with their earthly dads.  Some dads are impossible to please in their perfectionistic demands.  Some escape the responsibilities and stresses of life through alcohol, substance abuse, pornography or adultery.  Others avoid tumultuous family relationships by being absent either physically or emotionally, or both, immersing themselves in work, virtual reality or an all-consuming hobby.  Some dads, out of their own brokenness, sense of impotence, bondage and guilt  become violent and abusive - emotionally, physically, verbally and even sexually.  The damage that is done is truly incalculable.   

Our relationship with our earthly dads will color our perception of our heavenly Dad. Adoring trust. Avoidance. Absence. Abuse.  Some of us may need healing for the deep, deep wounds we experienced along the way.  All of us need daily renewal of our minds and hearts as God’s Spirit reveals though His Word the truth of His love and our adoption, until we confidently cry out, Abba! Daddy! Tata!

Lord Jesus, thank you for making it possible for us to call God our Abba, Daddy.  Open the eyes of our hearts to this mystery and transform us from the inside-out by its marvel.  Heal the wounds of those who have been brokenhearted through their father's (and mother's) absence, avoidance or abuse. May our 'filial imprinting' come from You and not from this broken world. Amen. 

For Further Reflection:

What is/was your relationship with your earthly dad like? How do you see it influencing your perception of God as your heavenly Father? Are there areas of brokenness that need to be healed and restored?

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

In the Beginning...The Alphabet of Love

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:1

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.  In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. John 1:1-5

What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life - and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us -what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete. I John 1:1-4

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” Revelation 1:8

When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. And He placed His right hand on me, saying, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades. Revelation 1:17-18

In the beginning – God.
In the beginning – the Word.
From the beginning – the Word of Life that became human being
Alfa and Omega
The First and the Last

What a relief to know when I open my eyes each morning, when I greet a new day, a new week, a new year – God is already there. It doesn’t start with me. Or you.  It starts with Him… we enter into His Story.  A story that is unfolding before our eyes.  A story with a purpose.  An Alphabet of Life, writing your story and mine.  The A and The Z. A as Abba.  A as... Atonement.  But, it doesn’t stop there.  It’s only the beginning that encompasses everything in between.

Including B – for Birth, and Betrayal.

C – for the Cross and the Crown.

D – for Death and Deliverance….

What story it will be as we open up this new chapter? W Let’s enter into His story with open hearts and open hands, looking expectantly to what He will write with the pen of our lives.