Yes, I know this is a commercialized holiday.
And yes, I know not everyone has their mother with them anymore.
But even if your mother has passed from this world, you still need to honor her.
You do that by speaking of her kindly and thinking of her kindly. You do that by honoring her presence if she’s still here on Earth, or by honoring her memory if she’s passed on.
If nothing else, Mother’s Day is a good reminder of the Commandment to honor your mother.
If your mother’s still alive, send her some flowers.
If your mother’s passed on, take some flowers to her grave.
It’s that simple.
Or send her some flowery words. Mothers like that kind of thing.
But whatever you do, and whether your mother’s still here or passed on, always speak kindly of her.
Always speak kindly to her and kindly of her, regardless of whether you feel you have reason not to.
That’s why God made honoring your mother a Commandment, because you might be tempted not to speak kindly on occasion, for whatever reason. You might be tempted to remember things that you should let go. You might be tempted not to honor your mother.
Don’t do that.
Every mother should sound like a superhero in the mouth of her child.
Always honor your mother, and God’s promised rewards will follow.
Spring is a curious thing: out of the seemingly dead ground, green shoots emerge; out of the seemingly dead branches, buds burst through. Birds build nests and fill them with their eggs. The combination of longer warmer days and the angle of the sun triggers this activity.
Or so the story goes.
God has hardwired into his earthly creation new growth out of old. Renewal is part of the life cycle. We can expect it and celebrate it and thank God for it: as long as there is life in a living thing, there will be cyclical renewal, whether based on the sun’s position or not.
We humans are no different. We are hardwired for physical renewal on a regular basis. Some Christians talk about renewing their faith, and I believe that the desire and ability for faith renewal is also hardwired into us – the desire to want a refreshing, a plumping and smoothing of our belief pillows.
But what isn’t hardwired into us is spiritual rebirth. Rebirth is a process that comes from without – from God. We can’t direct it; we can’t demand it; and we can’t plan it to happen: it is 100% organized and enabled by God as an “add-on” feature to the human experience.
Spiritual rebirth isn’t the same as spring: some people compare rebirth to the renewal of spring, but that’s not an accurate comparison. Spring is hardwired into God’s creation; spiritual rebirth is not. Jesus says the Spirit goes where it wills, not where we will it to go. Paul says we become a new creature at rebirth, so that we are no longer Greek or Roman, or Black or White, or male or female: We are no longer quite human. That part of us that was hardwired to want to reproduce is overwritten. That part of us that was hardwired to want to protect our own (through violence, if necessary) is overwritten. That part of us that was hardwired to want to accumulate the world’s resources into personal wealth is overwritten. We become, as Jesus says, eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven’s sake, enemy-lovers for the Kingdom of Heaven’s sake, and poor for the Kingdom of Heaven’s sake, and we do it all as if it’s our default, because it becomes our default when we’re reborn.
We are all born of the same Spirit at rebirth – God’s Holy Spirit – so born-again believers are all the same spiritual family and an entirely new spiritual creation. This family forms and inhabits God’s Kingdom on Earth. We humans have been hardwired in such a way that rebirth can be added to us, but our factory settings don’t include rebirth. That’s why most people never experience it.
We didn’t always have rebirth as an add-on option. It was launched with Jesus 2000 years ago. John the Baptist, according to Jesus, was the greatest of all people who were born of a woman, but even the least of those in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than John the Baptist. That’s because God’s Spirit inhabits born-again believers, whereas those who aren’t born-again can, at most, have only temporary visits from the Spirit. Not being born-again (Jesus’ sacrifice not yet having been made to enable it), John had only temporary visits from the Spirit; we born-agains have God’s Spirit with us full-time.
It’s God’s Spirit within born-again souls that makes those souls great, not anything they do or are on their own.
Born-again believers should embrace and welcome the cyclical renewal of the earth as well as of their own mind and body. But refreshing ourselves in God’s Spirit is something that should be done every day (or even several times a day, as required), not once a year. Every day we should be renewing our faith and re-examining our conscience. Every day we should be consciously in God’s Spirit, open to advice and encouragement and reprimand. What did I do wrong yesterday? How can I make up for it? How can I avoid doing that wrong thing today? What did I do right yesterday? How can I make sure I keep on doing it?
Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof, as Jesus tells us. We take our lives day by day, and learn and apply our lessons day by day. In the same way, we should examine our conscience and spend time with God and Jesus through God’s Spirit day by day. For born-again believers, our spring renewal comes every day through the spring of the Holy Spirit that is constantly welling up inside of us, as Jesus promised us it would. Even in the dead of our own personal winter, the Holy Spring is there within us, ever ready to wash away what doesn’t belong and to renew our faith and promises and set us firmly back on the road Home. This spiritual healing and rejuvenation we have access to every day, all day. It is a very great gift of God to his children, given to us at rebirth.
We must never forget that we have this gift of perpetual renewal and cleansing, and we must never let it go to waste.
Lucifer, as we’ve been told, was the most beautiful of all the angels. But when the angels and their followers fell, they became disembodied spirits. They fell into a spiritual void. Their state of disembodiment is precisely why they keep trying to possess bodies on Earth. They lost their heavenly perfected beauty of form and everything that goes with that supreme level of perfection.
That’s also why Satan had to appear in the Garden of Eden as a serpent. He had to possess the serpent, as he had no body of his own. In the garden, Adam and Eve spoke and interacted with animals just as people talk to each other, so Eve would have thought nothing of the serpent talking to her. We’ll be able to talk with animals again in Heaven – not like we do now (“Heel!” “Down, boy!” “Whoa!”), but full conversations.
In Heaven, everyone is beautiful. Not just the face, but the body as well. There are no flaws in anyone or anything in Heaven, and the state of perfection never ends. The perfected physical beauty is matched by athletic grace and skill that comes from a body in perfect proportions. For me, as someone who was born not beautiful and not athletic, these rewards in Heaven are a huge motivation. I don’t care if that makes me sound shallow. I would be lying if I said I didn’t want to be perfectly beautiful and perfectly athletic forever.
The physical perfection also translates to perfect pitch and perfect intonation. That’s why angels are such beautiful singers. If you make it to Heaven, you’ll sing like an angel, too, along with being beautiful and athletically gifted beyond anyone on Earth. All of your senses – hearing, vision, taste, etc. – will be perfected.
You’ll also have a beautiful speaking voice. The most beautiful voice I ever heard came from the heavenly spheres. I heard it while I was attending a church service in Toronto a few months after I was born again. Halfway through the sermon, I was suddenly struck by an intense pressure that pushed in on me from the outside while at the same time pushing out from the inside. I can’t describe it any other way. It threw me into a momentary tizzy, as I had no idea what was happening.
Then I heard the voice. It was beautiful beyond compare and spoke directly into my right ear (the one that doesn’t hear very well). The voice said: “Do not be afraid. I am with you.” I looked around, thinking there was someone behind me whispering directly into my ear, but there was no-one there. The pew to my right was empty, as were the pews several rows back.
The feeling of pressure disappeared as quickly as it had started and I was flooded with a glorious ecstasy. My childhood friend was sitting to my left. She was the only friend I had who was raised as a believer, so I’d made contact with her after I was born again. She had graciously invited me to stay with her and even looked after me financially for a while. I glanced over at my friend, thinking she must have heard the voice, too, but she just smiled at me quizzically. I smiled and nodded back, saying nothing.
What we know of Jesus during his time on Earth in a human body is that he was not good-looking. Isaiah says that Jesus had “no form or comeliness that we should desire him”. Being unattractive in a world that prizes physical beauty was part of his challenge in becoming the Messiah. Jesus chose this role knowing he would be unattractive, knowing he was handicapping himself right out of the gate. People wouldn’t follow him because of his good looks, but because they believed in him and knew he spoke the Truth.
Attractive people have a different experience of reality. I’m not particularly attractive, though I’ve learned how to create the illusion that I am. Some people in my family are model attractive, and I’ve seen up close and personal how differently the world responds to them than to me. I’m not jealous of their beauty, and in fact I used to use their looks to my advantage. They were my secret weapon. Their beauty and the social power it afforded them got me out of many scrapes when I was younger.
Beautiful people command respect without trying. People generally listen to them and do their bidding, and are more prone to giving them the benefit of the doubt. Their beauty gives them a natural authority that spills over into other areas like believing everything they tell you, even when it beggars belief. The most accomplished and successful liars I know are physically beautiful people.
Jesus did not have the advantage of beauty during his ministry years. If people listened to him, it was because of the Truth of his words. That same advantage – speaking God’s Truth – we can all have, regardless of how we look.
By the way, Jesus is beautiful now. He started gaining his heavenly body after his resurrection, which is why none of his disciples or followers initially recognized him. If and when we make it to Heaven and we stand with Jesus face to face, we will see his beauty in all its glory. I am certain that even in a place of perfect beauty, Jesus is still the most beautiful of all.
Trust is one of the most underrated character features, despite being the one that most people demand in others and the one that makes human societies thrive.
It’s not money that creates wealth in a society; it’s people trusting each other, and based on that trust, living and working together in good faith towards each other’s mutual benefit.
Without trust, there is no basis for a relationship, and without firmly based relationships, society falls apart.
I trust God and I trust Jesus, but I don’t really trust anyone else. When I say “trust”, I mean I trust them to keep their promises, I trust them not to trash-talk me behind my back, and I trust them not to do something that’s purposely to my detriment. I can’t say that about anyone else I know, which is a sad commentary perhaps more on me and the people I attract into my life than on humanity in general.
But why are so many humans so untrustworthy? Why do they betray each other?
God went out of his way to let us know that he would never leave us or betray us. He went out of his way to let us know that we can trust him. He commanded us to love him, but he went out of his way to let us know that we can trust him. He made it personal. He didn’t command us to trust him, but he made sure that we knew we could.
This is a very great gift and privilege to know we can trust God. If I had been alive 2000 years ago, trailing behind Jesus, I’m sure I would have trusted him, too, even before his resurrection. I would have known I could trust him because nothing he said or did was contradictory. He didn’t gossip or belittle people; he didn’t argue for the sake of arguing or twist words just to come out on top; and if he had a beef against someone, he told them outright – he wasn’t sweet to their face while trash-talking them behind their back. He showed, in his words and actions, a strength of character that was trustworthy to the core. How sad that someone so unconditionally trustworthy could be so betrayed by those closest to him.
We can’t know what goes on in people’s minds. We can ask them questions or hook them up to a machine and try to interpret their brain waves, but knowing for sure what they think about this or that or about this person or that person or whether or not they’re lying is beyond us.
But Jesus knew. By the power of God’s Holy Spirit, Jesus knew what people were thinking and what was in their hearts. And because he knew, he entrusted himself to no-one but God.
Think about that for a second – because Jesus could read people’s hearts and minds, he trusted no-one but God.
Maybe my experience of humans is not so far off the mark.
Even so, God wants us to trust people at least enough to do business with them, to use their services, to exchange pleasantries with them, and to live and move among them during the rest of our time on Earth. He doesn’t want his children to cloister themselves away, other than for occasional retreats. He wants them to serve even the untrustworthy.
Jesus was the prime example of how to serve. No cloistering, other than for the occasional retreat, though he still kept his thoughts mostly to himself. About the Kingdom, he was generous to a fault in sharing. He gave far more information about it than even most of us now are able to bear. But he didn’t wear his heart on his sleeve. And he didn’t reveal a lot of what God told him, because he knew it would be misunderstood and misapplied.
We can always – without exception – trust God and Jesus. As for everyone else, I’d recommend committing to serve them, but otherwise playing your personal cards close to your chest, like Jesus did.
FACT CHECK: When Jesus said that we cannot live by bread alone, he meant that we should put some butter and jam on it or maybe make a sandwich.
He actually meant that we should feed on every word that comes from the mouth of God. Jesus lived solely on “God food” for 40 days and nights in the wilderness before starting his ministry work, so he certainly practiced what he preached. To illustrate his point about the importance of thinking beyond earthly food, Jesus called himself the bread of life that needs to be eaten. He lost quite a few followers when he said that, as they didn’t understand what he meant.
Well, what did he mean? That we should cannibalize him?
Clearly not. The bread (that is, the life-giving sustenance) of his body was his Spirit, which in his case was God’s Holy Spirit. He was telling us that we need to feed on his spiritual substance, which is every bit as real as his physical substance. In fact, the spiritual substance is even more real, because it’s eternal. It lasts forever.
“It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you are spirit and are life.”
We feed in order to live. We can go without food for weeks, but past a certain point of food deprivation, our body will die. It needs to be fed. God made us like that. In just the same way, God made us so that our soul needs to be fed, and in fact we do feed it every day by what we choose to listen to and read and watch, which then becomes part of us.
Feeding on every word that comes from the mouth of God is obviously preferable to feeding on what the world spews at us. When we feed on Jesus spiritually – that is, when we chew on his teachings (or better yet swallow them whole) – we absorb his wisdom and advice, which then become part of us. In so doing, we live and grow spiritually in the way that God means for us to live and grow – his Way.
“It is the spirit that quickeneth…” – to quicken means to bring to life or make alive. We know that before we were reborn, we had the spirit of death in us. God exorcised that spirit at our rebirth and put his Spirit in us. That is the very definition of rebirth: replacing the spirit of the world with the Spirit of God. We are then spiritually alive for the first time in our earthly lives and we can hear the Word of God. When I say we can “hear” it, I mean it finally makes sense to us.
Jesus also likened his spiritual feeding to eating meat (that is, eating food in general, not just bread). In one passage, he tells his disciples “I have meat to eat that ye know not of”. Of course, they immediately assume he means he’s eaten a meal somewhere else without them. He corrects their assumption by clarifying: “My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.” Here, we see Jesus being fed not by feeding on God’s Word, but by doing God’s will. This concept – that you can feed not by consuming but by expending – is as revolutionary as “love your enemies”. Feeding usually involves bringing in substances to the body, whether physical or spiritual, but Jesus instead claims that doing precisely what God directs him to do is a form of food in itself – that by expending physical energy to do God’s will, he gains from it spiritually.
If Jesus can be fed by doing God’s explicit will for him, we can also be fed that way. Our meat can also be to do God’s explicit will for us. Isaiah 55 talks about bread that is so rich it makes your soul fat; this spiritually rich bread is free to all:
“Hearken diligently unto me and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.”
This is what Jesus did – he first hearkened diligently unto God by welcoming God’s Word into his soul, and then he fed on it by doing it. Hearing God’s Word is only part of the equation; the balance is to do what God directs you to do. When you not only welcome God’s will but do it, the heavenly bread of God’s Spirit melds with your soul through the alignment of Gods’ will with yours. The greater the melding (that is, the more aligned your will is with God’s), the greater the measure of God’s Spirit you’ll receive. This spiritual “fattening” of your soul leads to the further building of your faith, which is your own personal reserve of spiritual energy.
We should aim to be as spiritually fat as we can be. Jesus had by far the fattest soul of anyone either before or since him. Our souls may never be as fat as Jesus’ soul was during his time on Earth – scripture says he had the full measure of God’s Spirit at that time – but we can certainly do everything within our reach to fatten them up. We start by welcoming and absorbing God’s Word, and we continue by doing God’s will to the end.