Tag Archives: God

A New Year full of HOPE!

Yes! The lovingkindness and compassion from our Creator never cease and never fail!

Let us give thanks to the LORD for all His blessings throughout 2018, but also let us give thanks for all the challenges and difficult moments that we experienced, those were opportunities to grow and to understand that there is HOPE ahead, because God is certainly the source of HOPE!

And if you do not know God personally yet; this is a perfect time to open and give your heart to the lover of your soul, Jesus, the only true God and Savior. God is indeed your Creator but He also wants to be your Father. He sent His only Son, Jesus to offer Himself in perfect sacrifice for the sin of the world. When we were lost in our sin, God thought of us, and gave us hope by sending His Son to died on a cross to pay for our sin and to give us HOPE for a new life. God wants to embrace us as a loving father embrace and protect his little child, as His Word clearly says:

“and I [Jesus] give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me [Jesus], is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I [Jesus] and the Father [The Creator] are one.” (John 10:28-30)

Today could be the day of  your salvation!
If you want to learn more, contact us at Towards Excellence.

The Darker the Night, the Sooner the Dawn Arrives!

“Many times, in life, we see ourselves surrounded by dense darkness, and as we pass it through, we can hardly see dawn.”

 

The popular belief says so, although according to subject matter experts, that’s not necessarily the case. Anyway, what is true without a doubt is that after the thickest darkness of the night, we can always expect for the sunrise to come. Yes, we certainly can! Even in Antarctica where nights can last 24 hours.

But beyond a scientific analysis of this phenomenon, this leads us to meditate on the various circumstances we go through.  However, as sure as dawn approaches, when we walk along dreary times, we will surely see those sparkles of hope to light up our days and drive us with certainty to a new bright day.

Recently, I was on a plane for several hours flying back to my country. It was a night flight. So, while we were flying across the Atlantic, I witnessed the most spectacular night landscape…dense black clouds that made me think of a catastrophic storm coming right at us! But after a little while, through the distance I saw astonishing sparkles of light coming out of nowhere. Certainly, the first sunrays were showing up on the horizon. And the truth is that darkness, however dense it seemed, was brief and would soon be over. For sure, there was hope and dawn was getting closer.

What situation are you facing right now? Are you walking along a dense dark road where it’s just impossible to see the other end and it makes your heart feel invaded with fear and uneasiness? Do you feel lonely? Are you facing hard financial problems because you don’t have a job and you have nothing but tons of debts? Were you diagnosed with a disease with limited or very complicated probabilities of being healed by human means? Or are you going through a very painful family situation?

That’s life! There are sunny and bright days where we can feel affected by the heat despite the beautiful landscape around us. And there are also rainy and cold days where all we need is warm shelter and a hot drink. Of course, there are also those dark, freezing and hopeless nights; those times where our heart has a profound yearning for guidance from a caring and generous hand full of love.

I don’t know what you are going through right now, but if you’re walking across the dense and thick darkness of the night, I’m convinced that there’s hope and you still have the chance to suddenly see those sparkles of light that will lead you towards your very own sunrise.

In fact, someone already took that disturbing and densely dark journey before you and I did. There’s someone who fully understands what you’re experiencing today. Someone already went through all that and even more. That is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, God Himself; the One who loved us [humankind] “so that though He was rich, He became poor, so that through His poverty we might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). “Who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 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)

Has there ever been a darker night in the history of humankind?
The death of the Faithful and Just King for the lives of unfaithful and unjust people.                    The execution of the Holy One for the salvation of sinners.

But that night didn’t end there, and 72 hours later the dawn came with great power. The Righteous One rose again. He rose victoriously from death. Life defeated death!

Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth and Life itself; He has the power to take you from death to life, from discouragement to hope, from discontent to fullness, from anguish to peace.
You can test anything, but I can assure you that there’s no other way for you to find a brand-new and lasting dawn for your life. Jesus Christ is the only certain way. Jesus is the Bright Morning Star! (Revelation 22:16)

I invite you to open your heart, your soul to Jesus Christ today. He will put the breath of life in you and He will literally take you from death to life. He will fill you up with hope and He will keep you warm with His eternal love. And He will give you peace, the kind of peace that transcends all understanding in this turbulent world.

A popular adage says, “Don’t put off till tomorrow what you can do today.” In fact, “today is the day for Salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). So, cry out faithfully to the Almighty God, the Creator of the universe, the One who listens to your pleas and to every yearning of your heart. Invite Him today to be your only Savior and Lord.

God Almighty, I thank you for sending your Son, my Lord Jesus Christ, the One who died on the cross for me. Please forgive all my sins. I repent from the bottom of my heart because I have sinned against you and I have offended you. Cleanse me and purify me with Christ’s precious blood. I firmly believe that God raised Jesus from the death to give me eternal life. My beloved Jesus, please come into my heart. I welcome you as the only Savior of my soul and my life. Transform me and help me to live a life of obedience that will lead me to please you always. I pray all this in your Name, dear Jesus!

If you have any questions regarding the decision you made today, please contact our blog. We’re always glad to help you. And don’t forget that “today is the day for Salvation.”

 

Photos:

  1. Cecy Yepez
  2. Freepik License
  3. 123RF License

 

 

Excellence Stems from the Heart – Part 1

“Excellence stems from the heart of God, our Creator, who, by means of his eternal love for men and women, called this planet out of nothing…”

 

In the bilingual blog “Towards Excellence” and in honor of its name we begin to develop a series of articles with short reflections on the world of excellence, the depth of its meaning and why not, a forthright challenge to post-modern and post- post-modern society that we, in general, are living worldwide.

Submarine trip, Maui, Hawaii

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to venture a submarine trip in Hawaii. A short but surprising journey to the bottom of the sea, where the wonders of the marine realm only seen on the small and big screens, became a beautiful reality. This incredible experience simply confirmed me that wherever we are, we will always be surrounded by beauty and magnificence.

Let me invite you then, to take a look around you, your surroundings. What do you see? … And after a few minutes we will surely have very different answers. There will be those who describe extraordinary mountainous landscapes, others perhaps even the greatness of snow peaks on a sunny day, many others the beauty of its beaches and the vast sea, and probably some more, the exotic landscapes of a dense jungle.

And all this without considering the magnificent diversity of fauna and flora in each of the most amazing

An enchanting underwater world

An enchanting underwater world

places of our planet.

Our environment, our planet, in short, our home proves that we live in a world of excellence. From the summit of the Everest to the Dead Sea bordering Israel, the lowest point on earth, our gaze certainly delights with the “7 natural wonders of the world” and beyond.

Let’s take a look now, at the beginning of this planet. And for that purpose, if I may, I want to refer to the first chapter of the first book of the Bible, Genesis (Bereshit) in Hebrew, precisely means “In the beginning.”

In sum, Genesis 1 tells us how our planet, our home began, who built it and, in fact, how it was organized, decorated and filled with food, all of this before our arrival, the arrival of human beings.
I challenge you to read Genesis 1 carefully. You will be amazed about how wonderful this story is. However, and for the purposes of this article, I just want to highlight two aspects of this reading:

Dead Sea

Dead Sea

1. Throughout this chapter and while it mentions step by step the creation of our world…the light, the heavens, the earth, the waters, the sun, the moon, the stars, the grass, birds, fish; then God, our Creator, states 6 times: “And God saw all that He made, and it was good;” and a seventh time, after He created the animals and the human being, and He finished His creation, “ And God saw all that He made, and it was very good”.

Thus, one of the most important things that this text stands out is that the creation of God is definitely “very good.” In other words, the creation of our God, which of course includes us humans (Gen. 1:27, 31) was done with excellence, without imperfection, without mistake.

2. “He [God] has made [and still makes] everything beautiful in its time”, (Ecclesiastes 3:11); therefore,

Mt. Everest view from base camp (courtesy of Amosji Attaché Gorkhas)

Mt. Everest view from base camp (courtesy of Amosji Attaché Gorkhas, Nepal)

His heart is willing to do everything with excellence, because His essence itself denotes excellence.

If we look again around us, we confirm this Word; we are surrounded by a majestic nature that certainly delights our gaze and even more, our heart.

Excellence stems from the heart of God, our Creator, who, by means of his eternal love for men and women, called this planet, our world, our home into existence out of nothing, so we can dwell in it.

As parents prepare the best for their new baby to come, his room, his crib, her clothes, her toys and

everything the little baby may need; in the same way, our God, our Father the Creator prepared this world with everything to receive man and woman, creatures made in His own image.

Yes, God is our example of excellence!

Cape of Good Hope, South Africa

Cape of Good Hope, South Africa

“His wisdom is profound, His power is vast…

He alone stretches out the heavens
and treads on the waves of the sea.
He is the Maker of the Bear and Orion,
the Pleiades and the constellations of the south.
He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed,
miracles that cannot be counted.”
                                              (Job 9:4,8-10)

In our next issue, we will discover more about the bases and roots related to a life Towards Excellence. There is much more to discover! Coming soon!

Peace and Adversity, Beauty and Pain…just in one place?

“If there is a loving God who created us, then he ought to be distraught at the state of the world.”

                                                                                         Amber Van Schooneveld

Amber Van Schooneveld, writer

Amber Van Schooneveld, writer

 

 

Amber is the senior writer and editor for Compassion Canada. Before, she worked for Compassion International, as editorial manager of writers and photographers in the field. Amber has always had a sensitive heart to the suffering in the world. When she was a child, she would cry when other children would kill ants. Since then, she has moved on to be moved by greater suffering in the world. Amber is the author of Hope Lives and Passport to Prayer, both aimed at helping people know God’s heart for the suffering in this world and to take action. She has a degree in English from Colorado State University and lives in Colorado with her wonderful family.

 

 

 
Is it possible for peace and adversity, for poverty and wealth, for beauty and pain to fill this world at once?
Sometimes, sitting in my peaceful home in Colorado, enjoying the lovely scenery, having a hearty family meal together and watching my children play with each other, the images you watch in the news of war, disaster and extreme poverty can seem inconceivable. How is it that I, even with all of life’s pains, disappointments and inconveniences, can live in such security when so many others, Syrian war refugees, for example, live in such fear and deprivation? It boggles the mind.

Yet we all know that this is indeed the state of the world. But none of our experiences are all good or all bad. Even in my secure and peaceful life, I’m not sheltered from the pain of cancer or suicide. And those living in extreme poverty also can still have the joy of family and the beauty of God’s creation. All, or at least, most of us experience both great beauty and love and heartbreaking pain and loss.

 

In your several journeys throughout developed and developing countries, what has caught your attention in regards to this phenomenon?
Returning home to the US after traveling to a developing country, I’m almost always struck by how

Amber, author of "Hope lives"

Amber, author of “Hope lives”

people don’t realize how good we have it. Living in a relatively affluent place, it’s easy to look around at those wealthier than you and believe that you are just barely making it. Few of us have the context to understand the luxury we live in because we aren’t surrounded by the alternative of people who do not have running water, adequate food, safe homes or access to banking, medical care, insurance or social safety nets.

On the other hand, I’m always struck by how similar we all are, no matter what country we are from. People are people. There are significant cultural differences, but I believe at our core we are all far more alike than we are different. We have the same desires, to be loved, to be safe, and to see our children and families thrive.

 

Is it God’s responsibility (if there is a God) or man’s responsibility for all the tragedies this world is experiencing?

I would say it is both. If there is a loving God who created us, then he ought to be distraught at the state of the world. And the Bible tells us that He is. (For example, In Luke 19, it is recorded that Jesus wept over the suffering that was to come to Jerusalem. And throughout the Old Testament it says that God hears the cry of the oppressed.) So the most challenging question that has ever been asked is, why does a loving God allow so much suffering? It’s not a question I can presume to answer well, and I don’t think it’s one we will fully understand on this side of eternity.

Many Christians have answered the question of suffering by saying that God uses our suffering to strengthen our faith and draw us toward Him. While we know that God uses suffering, both from experience and from passages like Romans 5:3-5, I don’t think this answer is the whole story. It can lead to bad theology, for example, someone asserting that God caused a child to die in order to teach a mother a lesson about faith. For me, the truth that I cling to when staggered by the suffering in the world is that God created a world in which there is free will because He wanted to create a world of loving relationships. For love to exist, free will is necessary, meaning man is free to do both good or evil. God says He has a plan to redeem the evil that is perpetrated in this world, but just like a tapestry that is beautiful on one side and tangled on the other, it is hard to see the sense of so much suffering in our limited perspective.

But throughout the Bible, God says that we are also responsible to answer to the suffering in the world. He calls us to speak out for justice, to break the chains of the oppressed and to help those in poverty. Although we don’t understand why suffering is allowed, we do know that God calls us to be active in stamping it out of this world. In fact, in Ephesians 2:10, Paul says that God has prepared good works for us to do in advance! What a huge honor that God values us so much as to allow us to be His hands in actively bringing peace, justice and equality to the world.

 

As surely we cannot close our eyes and say that this world is a “paradise,” is there any hope?

Amber, in one of her trips, sharing with two little Indian girls

Amber, in one of her trips, sharing with two little Indian girls

Though we can’t fully understand why God allows so much suffering, I often think back to Genesis 16, in which God noticed the suffering of Hagar, a servant. When she was dying in the desert, God saw her need and helped her, which led her to call Him “the God who sees.” In the midst of our suffering, we are never alone. God says He is close to the broken hearted. He sees the pain of the world, He listens to the cries of the oppressed, and He calls all of us to be active in being His hands in offering comfort, succor, love and physical help to this world.

ISRAEL, LAND OF THE MESIAH!

“This is the land of Jesus, the Anointed One who preached the Gospel to the poor, gave sight to the blind, set free the oppressed.”

 

Israel, the land of the patriarchs and prophets, the land of the apostles, and the land of Jesus according to the Bible accounts, is located in the Middle East, bordering the Mediterranean Sea between Egypt and Lebanon. This small territory lies at the junction of three continents: Europe, Asia and Africa.

Here, at the junction of these continents, historically worthy Israel arises majestically and full of mystery.

In my recent journey to Israel, as I looked out over its capital, the old city of Jerusalem, the most

A view of the old city of Jerusalem

A view of the old city of Jerusalem and the Dome of the Rock

predominant landmark was indeed the Dome of the Rock, as many have pointed out. It rests on the very place where Abraham was about to sacrifice Isaac, on Mount Moriah. This piece of land was later bought by King David in order to build the Temple, actually built by his son Solomon. That was the first glorious temple!

This first temple was destroyed by the Babylonians but after 70 years of the captivity of the Jews, they returned and rebuilt it. King Herod refurbished the temple, so 1,000 Levites were trained as builders,

because no laity could enter certain parts of the building.

Today, the Temple Mount is undoubtedly the symbol of “religious freedom” in Israel because it has been used by Jews, Christians and Muslims.

Muslim praying at the Temple Mount

Muslim praying at the Temple Mount

In fact, 75% of the Israeli population is Jewish. Within this group, one may find secular Jews, modern

Ultra-orthodox Jewish

Ultra-orthodox Jewish

Orthodox, ultra-Orthodox, and Reform or Messianic Judaism.

On the other hand, 17.5% are Muslims, 2% are Christians, 1.6% Druze, and 3.9% are not specified (CIA, 2013). This is quite evident as one walks along the streets of Jerusalem, Haifa, Nazareth as well as many other towns and interacts with people whose cultural and religious background is so diverse.

Jewish women praying at Wailing Wall

Jewish women praying at the Wailing Wall

But Israel´s diversity is not only present in the religious and cultural aspects of its population but also in its geography. Although small in size, Israel is surrounded by different topographical features ranging from forested highlands to desert landscapes and from the coastal plain to the semitropical Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth.

Sea of Galilee

Sea of Galilee – It reminds us of a great event when Jesus calmed the storm!

Yes, this is the splendid Promised Land, the land of milk and honey that God promised to Abraham and his descendants! The land where Moses and Joshua led the Israelites on the exodus out of Egypt!

Moreover, this land embraces unique scenarios such as Masada, situated above the Dead Sea and one of the fortresses built by Herod the Great. This was a refuge for Jews who escaped from the Roman legions after the destruction of Jerusalem.

Qumran, on the western shore of the Dead Sea, is also

One of the Qumran caves in the Judaean Desert

One of the Qumran caves in the Judaean Desert

well-known for the most stunning biblical archaeological find in 1947, the discovery of the scrolls and manuscripts which are such a magnificent legacy for Christianity.

And of course, Israel is also well-known for the places where Jesus, the Messiah was born, grew up, taught and proclaimed the “Kingdom of God.” The beauty and peacefulness of the Sea of Galilee and its surroundings truly bring to mind the sweetness and loveliness of the powerful and everlasting teachings of Jesus such as the “Sermon of the Mount.” This is the land of Jesus, the Anointed One who preached the

The Gospel Trail or the JesusTrail begins on the southern outskirts of Nazareth at Mt. Precipice towards Chapharnaum

The Gospel Trail or the JesusTrail begins on the southern outskirts of Nazareth at Mt. Precipice towards Capharnaum, at the seashore of Galilee where Jesus´ministry started

Gospel to the poor, gave sight to the blind, set free the oppressed. Jesus is the Son of God who was sent to die on the cross in order to give us eternal life.

As one reads the prophecy of Isaiah 53, he / she cannot help but recognize that this word was fulfilled in the life of our Lord Jesus, as it is recorded in the Gospel account (Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 23, and John 19).

“Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.”
(Isaiah 53:4-6)

Isn’t this amazing? This land is indeed the Holy Land, but sadly, it is also a divided land that has been in permanent conflict and spiritual blindness, because its people have not acknowledged the Messiah, the Savior of the world.

Israel and very especially its capital Jerusalem have been synonymous with conflict, wars and battles throughout history, even from Biblical times.

The Wall between Jerusalem and Bethlehem!

The Wall between Jerusalem and Bethlehem!

A controversial land in the sight of the world, but surely the chosen land in the sight of God.

Indeed, God has had His eyes on Israel, and His prophets have predicted its restoration. Jeremiah declared that God will restore the Israelites by bringing them together from all the nations. Ezekiel said that Israel would come to know the Lord. And Isaiah declared that Israel would still be a light to the nations and that Jew and Gentile would dwell together in peace through the Messiah.

Yes, God has His eyes on Israel, and so must we. Let us commit ourselves to pray for the restoration and salvation of Israel. Let us make as our own promise what David said:

The Korean church praying for Israel and  Palestine (Peace March 2005)

The Korean church praying for Israel and Palestine (Peace March 2005)

“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. May all who love this city prosper!”
(Psalm 122:6 NLT)

 

To conclude, this year 2015, this country is celebrating its 67th anniversary of the establishment of the State of Israel. So, let me invite you to watch a very interesting film that I found about this land, produced by National Geographic.

This is how Israel is seen by the world. Enjoy the film and come to your own conclusions!

Shalom!  Peace be with you!