Where do you look for security?

“For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” Colossians 3:3

After encouraging his readers to pursue Christ instead of false teachers (2:1-23), the apostle Paul admonishes them to “seek” and “set” their minds “on things above” – namely “Christ” who is seated “at the right hand of God” in a position of power and authority (3:1-2). The reason for this is because they “died” with Christ spiritually when the Holy Spirit joined them to His death and resurrection at the moment of faith in Him for salvation (3:3a; cf. 2:12-13; Rom. 6:3-4; I Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:27; Ephes. 1:13). And now their “life is hidden with Christ in God” so that they are safe and secure forever (3:3b).

Rather than focus on the temporary things of this earth (i.e. philosophies, possessions, pleasures, popularity, and power, etc.) to give us a sense of safety and security, we are to seek and think about heaven where our lives are “hidden with Christ in God.” Just as we would hide something of value in a safe place, so God has hidden us with Christ so that no one can steal us away from Him. No one can snatch us out of Jesus’ hands (John 10:28-29)! We are hidden and  safe with the Lord. No one and nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39)! Therefore, I do not need to gain a sense of safety and security through the things of this earth because I am already safe and secure forever with Christ. Knowing this amazing truth causes me to prepare for that day when I will “appear with Him in glory” (3:4).

Prayer: Father God forgive me for expending so much energy trying to protect myself or gain a sense of security from the temporary things of this earth. Help me to focus my thoughts on things above where I am hidden with Christ in God. Thank You that I am safe and secure forever with the Lord Jesus. Knowing this motivates me to draw closer to Him and live for that day when I will appear with Him in glory. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Who are you?

“But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” I Peter 2:9

If you were asked, “Who are you?” how would you answer that question right now? You may say, “I am a teacher, a farmer, a doctor, a Hawkeye fan, a friend of…, a wife of…, a son of…, a guy who owns that fancy house or boat, a divorcee, an alcoholic, a drug addict, a victim of abuse….” We define ourselves by what we do or what was done to us, our feelings, what we possess, or by our associations with others. The problem with this is that all these people or things can change or be lost. But God wants us as Christians to see ourselves through His eyes which never changes. He has defined who we are in the Bible.

In the book of I Peter, the apostle Peter uses different figures to describe the church consisting of Jewish and Gentile believers (2:9). These descriptions provide a powerful description of how God views each of His children. Seeing ourselves through God’s eyes is essential for Christian growth and victory because we behave in the way we perceive ourselves to be (cf. Proverbs 23:7). Let’s look at how God views us in verse 9:

“You are a chosen generation.” God has “chosen” you , not overlooked or ignored you. To be chosen means that others want to be with us, to know us and spend time with us. May be you grew up not feeling wanted. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you have been chosen by God to have a special relationship with Him. Before this world was even made, God chose you to have a special relationship with Him through Jesus Christ (cf. Ephesian 1:4). So many children grow up in homes where their parents tell them directly or indirectly, “We never wanted you. You were an accident… a big surprise.” Child of God, your heavenly  Father has always wanted to be in a relationship with you. He chose you for a purpose. He wants you to “proclaim the praises of Him” (2:9). Look in a mirror and say to yourself, “I am chosen by God.” Are you seeing yourself as God sees you? The more you believe what God says about you, the more you will feel it and live it. No longer do you need to seek everyone’s approval to avoid rejection. You are chosen by God which reveals your infinite worth as a person.

– You are “a royal priesthood.” You are “royal,” not inferior. You are a person of high status and importance. Perhaps you have viewed yourself as being a nobody. No one seems to pay attention to you. God wants you to know that you are extremely significant because you are a member of the royal priesthood of God. In the Old Testament, there was a separate class of priests who represented the people of Israel before God, but in the New Testament, all believers are priests before God who worship, intercede, and minister (I Peter 2:5; cf. Revelation 1:6). Say to yourself, “I am a royal priest before God.” You no longer need to work hard to prove yourself to anyone because you are a member of God’s royal priesthood.

– You are part of “a holy nation.” Originally God wanted the nation of Israel to live distinctly “holy” lives before other nations to attract them to Himself (cf. Exodus 19:5-6; Leviticus 20:26; Deuteronomy 7:6; Isaiah 42:6). But Israel failed to be a Light to the nations because she preferred to be like those nations (cf. I Samuel 8:5), so now God wants His church to be His “holy nation” to go to all the world to preach His gospel to everyone (cf. Mark 16:15) as His ambassadors (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:20). We are to “proclaim” His praises because He called us “out of darkness into His marvelous light” (I Peter 2:9). Say to yourself, “I am a holy ambassador for Christ.” Therefore, you do not need to listen to the voice of this world that calls you to pursue your own sinful desires. God has set you apart to represent Jesus!

– You are “His own special people.” In Christ, we are “special” to the Lord. You are not a nobody. You are a somebody because God has declared you to be special to Him. You are greater than what is usual or common. You may not realize this, but God the Father loves you as much as He loves His own Son! Jesus prayed to His heavenly Father, “I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me” (John 17:23). God loves you just as much as He loves His only perfect Son! Say to yourself, “I am special to God.” Therefore, you no longer need to work hard to earn the love of others. You can rest in God’s outrageous love for you!

God wants us to know that we are chosen, royal, holy, and special to Him. Each of these descriptions convey our infinite value and significance to God as His children. The more we see ourselves as God sees us, the more we will fulfill His purpose for our lives which is to proclaim the praises of Him who called us out of the darkness of our sin and shame into His marvelous light filled with His love and hope!

Prayer: Lord God thank you for declaring who I am in Christ. I am chosen, not overlooked; royalty, not inferior; holy, not dirty; special, not ordinary. Please apply these magnificent truths to the depths of my being so I may proclaim Your praises for having called me out of the darkness of my sin and shame into the marvelous light of Your love and hope!!! In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Relying on the Holy Spirit for spiritual victory

“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” Romans 8:1

The key to living the Christian life is how a believer relates to the Holy Spirit who indwells him or her. The Bible tells us that “those who are in Christ Jesus” (all believers) who “walk… according to the Spirit” will not experience “condemnation.” Some translations of the Bible do not include the last part of verse 1 (“who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.”) This is unfortunate because the majority of Greek manuscripts along with some of the early manuscripts contain these words at the end of verse 1 which fit beautifully in the context (Rom. 8:1-4).

Paul is saying that believers who walk according to the flesh will experience “condemnation.” The word for condemnation (katakrima) means penal servitude in this context which talks about enslavement to sin (Rom. 7:25; 8:2, 4). Paul is not referring to eternal condemnation in this verse which is in the midst of his section on sanctification (Rom. 6:1-8:39). Prior to Romans 8, Paul describes the spiritual defeat of a believer who is trying to grow spiritually by placing himself under the Law (Rom. 7:13-25). Beginning in Romans 8, Paul answers the question, “Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (7:24).

How can we walk according to the Spirit and not experience slavery to sin? By setting our “minds on the things of the Spirit” (8:5). When we focus our minds on the things of the Spirit recorded in God’s Word, our minds are “renewed” (12:2) by the Holy Spirit Who applies these truths to our thinking so we do not remain enslaved to sin

It is important to understand that spiritual growth involves a battle of the mind (cf. 2 Cor. 10:3-5). Believers who are enslaved to sin have their minds set upon their sinful flesh, trying to gain victory by living under the Law which arouses their fleshly desires (Rom. 8:1, 5; cf. 7:1-25).  But believers who are walking in the Spirit are renewing their minds as they permit the Holy Spirit to apply God’s truth to them.

Our behavior is based upon our thinking (Proverbs 23:7). But some Christians turn that around and believe that their thinking is based upon their behavior. So they focus on changing their behavior to change their thinking. This is called reformation. But God wants to change our behavior by changing our thinking first. This is called transformation. The more God changes our thinking through the Holy Spirit’s ministry of God’s Word, the more our behavior will change and become more Christlike. If we try to change our behavior first like Paul did when he placed himself under the Law, we will experience spiritual defeat and continual enslavement to sin (Rom. 7:1-25; 8:1a). But when we let God change our thinking first by focusing on the Holy Spirit and His Word, we will experience freedom from slavery to sin (8:1), resulting in “life and peace” (8:6).

For example, when we focus exclusively on the command not to commit adultery, our sinful flesh is stirred up to commit adultery (cf. Rom. 7:5-11). Simply trying in our own strength to keep that command will result in spiritual defeat or “death.” Failure to keep the Law produces fear and shame which isolates us from God and others. But when we focus our minds on the things of the Spirit which includes not being given “the spirit of bondage again to fear,” but being given “the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father’” (8:15), we are inclined to trust the Holy Spirit to apply that command against adultery to our thinking, enabling us not to commit that sin (Rom. 8:1-6). Walking in the flesh involves fear. But walking in the Spirit involves faith. The more we perceive God to be our good and loving “Abba Father” (8:15), the more we will trust Him and not be afraid. As we walk in the Spirit we will be convicted of our sin which leads to trusting in the Spirit to make godly changes in our lives.  So the key to victory is in trusting (grace), not in trying (law).

When we wake up in the morning we have a choice to either walk according to our sinful flesh or walk according to the Spirit (Rom. 8:1, 5, 12-13). We have the choice to live (in fellowship with God) or die (experience broken fellowship with God).

Prayer: Lord God, please lead me to spiritual victory as I learn to trust Your Spirit to apply Your Word to my thinking instead of trying harder to keep Your Law. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

God’s grace toward Judah and Tamar

Christians can be uptight about sin and brokenness. We can be quick to judge others who mess up, but we do not like to talk about our own messes. When we read the Bible from cover to cover, we can see that God is not nearly as upset about sin and brokenness as people tend to be. The Lord has recorded many true stories about broken sinners whom He uses for His purposes. An example of this is found in Genesis 38.

The main characters in this true story include Judah, one of the sons of Jacob, and his daugther-in-law Tamar. Judah did not follow God’s design when he intermarried with one of the accursed Canaanite women named Shua and fathered three sons (38:1-5; cf. 23-4; 27:46-28:2). Judah gave a young Canaanite woman named Tamar to be the wife of his firstborn son, Er (38:6). But Er “was wicked in the sight of the Lord,” so “the Lord killed him” (38:7).

In accordance with the Levirate marriage customs (the marriage of a man to his deceased brother’s wife to provide his brother with an heir), Judah instructed his second born son, Onan, to marry Tamar to “raise up an heir” for Er (38:8). But Onan was a selfish man who wanted his deceased brother’s inheritance for himself, so he refused to father a child through Tamar (38:9). Because of his disobedience, Onan was “killed” by the Lord because descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were an important part of God’s plans (38:10; cf. 12:7; 13:15-16; 17:7-10; 26:3-4; 28:13-14).

Judah wrongfully forced Tamar to live as a “widow” as he blamed her for the deaths of his two sons (38:11). When Tamar was informed that Judah was going up to his sheepshearers at Timnah after his Canaanite wife died, she masqueraded as a prostitute there and tricked Judah into giving her his seal and staff in exchange for having sex with her (38:12-18). When Judah learned that Tamar was pregnant, he quickly judged her and said, “Bring her out and let her be burned” (38:24b)! Like many Christians, Judah was eager to focus on the sins of others, rather than deal with his own sin.

But to his credit, when Judah learned that he was the one responsible for Tamar’s pregnancy, he humbly repented and said, “She has been more righteous than I, because I did not give her to Shelah my son” (38:26a). An evidence of his genuine repentance was that “he never knew her (sexually) again” (38:26b).

When we hear a story like this, we may be repulsed that Judah and Tamar would do such wicked things! “Such abhorrent acts should never be found among God’s people!” we may say to ourselves. We may even tell ourselves, “I would never consider doing such things!” Christians can show very little mercy or compassion to broken sinners like Judah and Tamar. They may conclude that such people are not deserving of God’s mercy and grace or that God could never use such wicked people like that.

If that is what you are thinking, then you especially need to hear the rest of this story. Tamar gave birth to twins and the firstborn, Perez, became the ancestor of King David and Jesus the Messiah (38:28-30; cf. Ruth 4:18-22; Matthew 1:3, 16). Did Tamar deserve to be a part of the Messianic lineage? Not at all. But there is more.

Later in the book of Revelation Jesus Christ is referred to as “the Lion of the tribe of Judah” who alone is worthy to open the scroll and break the seven seals containing judgments (Revelation 5:5). Did Judah deserve to have his name in a title for the coming King of kings and Lord of lords? Of course not. None of us do. But God’s grace makes these aforementioned privileges possible for both Tamar and Judah.

God did not let Judah’s selfishness and promiscuity nor Tamar’s deception and incest keep Him from bringing the Messiah into the world through Jacob’s lineage. Nor does God’s grace let our sin and brokenness keep Him from using us for His eternal purposes. It is humbling to realize that God’s grace still uses imperfect sinners like you and me to bring His Son to others through the preaching of the gospel. God takes undeserving people and uses them greatly for His glory! That is grace!!!

Prayer: Father God, forgive me for being quick to judge the sins of others while I struggle with my own sin every day. Thank You for recording the story of Judah and Tamar to remind me that Your grace uses undeserving people like me to accomplish Your eternal purposes. Help me to show Your grace to someone today whose sin and shame has led them to think that You could never love them or use them. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Coming clean with God

“So He said to him, ‘What is your name?’ He said, ‘Jacob.’” Genesis 32:27

I learned something significant this morning during my devotions. When Jacob was wrestling with the Angel of the Lord (Hosea 12:4) before going to meet his brother Esau, the Angel of the Lord said to him, “Let Me go, for the day breaks” (Genesis 32:26a). But Jacob said to Him, “I will not let You go unless You bless me” (Genesis 32:26b). The Lord then said to him, “What is your name” (Genesis 32:27a)? Why did God ask Jacob this?

Earlier Jacob had sought his brother Esau’s blessing from his earthly father, Isaac. When he entered his father’s presence, Isaac asked him, “Who are you, my son” (Genesis 27:18b)? Jacob deceived his father and said, “I am Esau your firstborn” (Genesis 27:19a).

Now Jacob is wrestling with God and God dislocates his hip (Genesis 32:25). And when God asks him for his name, he comes clean with his heavenly Father and says his name is “Jacob” (Genesis 32:27b). Up to this time, Jacob had been a manipulator. At birth he grasped his twin brother Esau’s heel and was given the name “Jacob” which means “heel-holder” (Genesis 25:26). Later Jacob deceived his father, Isaac, into giving him Esau’s blessing, and Jacob’s name came to mean “supplanter”“one who takes the place of another by trickery.” His name took on the meaning of a “cheater, deceiver, schemer.” So when he told God his name, Jacob was being honest with God about his character flaws. He is saying to God, “I am a cheater and a schemer.” It’s like Jacob is saying, “Lord, I don’t want to pretend any more. I want to present my true self to You. Here I am. Take me.”

Aren’t all of us like Jacob? Because of the hurt and shame in our lives, we deceive ourselves and others to protect ourselves or to get our way. So God has to dismantle these layers of self- protection. Like He did with Jacob, He may have to dislocate our hip to bring us to the end of ourselves. Or He may bring about a different type of crisis. It may be the loss of a job, our spouse, our children, or even our own health. Whatever it takes to bring us to the end of ourselves. God does not do this because He is cruel. He does this because He loves us and He wants to liberate us from the layers and layers of shame and self-deception.

When Jacob came clean with God, the Lord changed his name to “Israel” which means “God’s fighter” (Genesis 32:28). After all, Jacob fought with God and men, and prevailed not by trickery, but by persistent faith. God knew Jacob’s potential; He saw beneath his self-sufficient, crafty exterior. God said, “That’s not the real you, Jacob. You are actually an Israel. You are My fighter.” God saw the fighter in Jacob, and the former cheater began to become the man whom the entire nation of Israel was named after.

The good news is when you believe in Jesus Christ for eternal life, God gives you a new identity. Beneath all those things you know about yourself that you don’t like, God sees an Israel. He sees “His fighter.” He sees what you can become. He sees potential because He gave you God the Holy Spirit to empower you to live a victorious Christian life. “The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, He will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.” Romans 8:11 [NLT] God the Holy Spirit in you gives you the desire and power to do what is right, “As the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like Him.” 2 Corinthians 3:18 [LB] You are now God’s fighter, “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” Romans 8:37 [NKJV]. You now have the potential through Him who loved you to live above your circumstances instead of underneath them.

Prayer: Father God, forgive me for pretending to be someone I am not, for hiding behind layers and layers of lies and manipulation. You know everything about me and still love and accept me. Because of Your amazing love for me, I come to You as I am. Help me to see myself through Your eyes now. I am Your fighter or conqueror through Jesus who loved me. Thank You for giving me the Holy Spirit to empower me to live for You above my circumstances instead of underneath them. In Jesus’ name. Amen

Will I serve my Savior or sin?

“Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.” Romans 6:6

The moment I believed in Jesus, my “old man” or unregenerate self was joined spiritually by the Holy Spirit to Jesus’ crucifixion on the cross that the summation (“body”) of my “sin might be done away with,” that I “no longer” must be a slave of sin (Romans 6:6; cf. Romans 6:3-11; I Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:2, 26-27). The former person I was without Christ died when Jesus died. And now I have a new Master in place of sin. His name is Jesus Christ.

Jesus has already defeated sin in my life by joining me both to His crucifixion which broke the power and control of sin in my life (cf. Hebrews 2:14-15) and to His resurrection which gives me the power to live as a slave to Jesus and His righteousness (cf. Romans 6:18, 22). Every day I have a choice to make – do I serve my Savior or sin? I cannot have two masters. I must choose one or the other. If I choose the Savior I will enjoy “life and peace,” but if I choose sin I will experience “death” (Romans 8:6).

Prayer: Lord Jesus help me reject the lie that says I cannot change or resist sin and its lusts in my life. Help me believe the truth that says the victory over sin has already been won by You, Lord. All I must do is place myself under Your authority and control to experience this victory You have already won. Since I am under Your authority now, please tell me what You want me to do and help me to do it. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Why is it important to meet with other Christians?

 “24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:24-25

The author of the book of Hebrews is writing to Christians who are being pressured to return to Judaism and give up on their Christian faith. After focusing on the sufficient sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross to perfect them and give them total acceptance before God (10:1-18), the writer admonishes his readers to boldly “draw near” to God in a “new and living way” without unbelief or consciousness of sin or guilt (10:19-22). They are to persevere in the faith (10:23) and Christian fellowship till Christ’s return (10:24-25), when the promise of the eternal inheritance will be awarded to those who persevere (cf. Heb. 9:15; 10:35-37).

As the nearness of Christ’s return approaches, Christians are to meet with one another “to stir up love and good works” among each other. The word “consider” means to carefully focus on another person in such a way as to “stir up” or stimulate one another to love God and each other so they can live a godly life (“good works”). Satan wants Christians to withdraw from other believers so he can attack them and destroy them much like a lion that preys upon animals that are isolated from the herd and more vulnerable to attack (cf. I Peter 5:8). But God wants us not to forsake “assembling ourselves together, as is the manner of some,” so we can focus on “exhorting one another” in such a way as to encourage and strengthen each other to persevere in the Christian faith.

The more we meet with other believers, the more prepared we will be to face Christ on “the Day” of His return for His church. Satan will whisper lies to us (“No one would love me if they knew all about me,” “I cannot depend on others to help me,” “Christians are such hypocrites,” “No one would miss me if did not go to church,” “I am not needed”) to keep us from meeting with other believers. But the more Christians focus on the truth (“Christ wants to love me through other believers,” “I can learn to depend on others through Christ who strengthens me,” “Christians are imperfect sinners like me,” “I am an important member of the body of Christ,” “I am needed to love and be loved in the church”), the more motivated they will be to connect with other Christians.   

Prayer: Lord Jesus, help me dismiss the lies that keep me from meeting with other believers who encourage and strengthen me and I them to be more prepared to face You at the Judgment Seat of Christ. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Renewing our sense of hope

22 Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. 23 They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23

The prophet Jeremiah is mourning God’s severe judgment of Jerusalem which had departed from Him, bringing much devastation and destruction (Lam. 1-2). In the midst of his anguish and heartbreak (3:1-20), Jeremiah expresses his hope in the Lord (3:21). 22 Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. 23 They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness” (3:22-23). Had it not been for “the Lord’s mercies,” the nation of Israel would have been “consumed” and no longer existed as a nation. Because God’s “compassions” never fail even when His people are unfaithful, they can have a renewed sense of hope “every morning.” Since God’s “faithfulness” to His promises is “great,” His people can have a renewed sense of faithfulness to their loyal God.

What about you? Do you feel that God is being unfair to you in the midst of your struggles? Have you lost hope as you watch our country move farther away from the Lord and His ways? Do you believe the Lord is judging His church in America by giving it a lack of influence and a lack of sensitivity to the Spirit’s leading? Is your heart filled with anguish and a lack of hope?

Listen to the voice of truth in Lamentations 3:22-23 and let the Holy Spirit apply it to the depths of your being. 22 Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. 23 They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” God’s “mercies” withhold the judgment and condemnation that would normally consume you. His “compassions” (empathy, kindness, gentleness) never fail. He understands your vulnerabilities and weaknesses and still loves you just as you are. The Lord’s mercies and compassions are “new every morning,” giving you a renewed sense of hope that today God is going to bless you. Why? Because His “faithfulness” is “great” toward you in Jesus Christ (I Cor. 1:9), and is not dependent upon your performance. Soak up God’s mercies, compassions, and faithfulness, and He will fill you with unending hope!

Prayer: Lord God Almighty, I pray You would wake me up each morning making me fully aware of Your mercies, compassions, and faithfulness so that I will turn to You when I am hurting and insecure. Make me sensitive to the fact that Your mercies withhold the judgment and condemnation that I deserve so that I will continue to be open and honest with You even when I fail. Renew my mind to the truth that says Your compassions undertand my vulnerabilities and weaknesses so that I will not hide anything from You. And help me believe that Your faithfulness is great toward me in Christ so that I will be more faithful to You. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Developing an appetite for God

“Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!” Psalm 34:8

Ever since the Fall of Adam and Eve, people have struggled with shame. Just as Adam’s and Eve’s shame distorted their view of God (Genesis 3:1-10), many people today have many shame-based concepts about God. According to Sandra D. Wilson, in her book Released from Shame (pp. 142-143), these misconceptions about God often originate from our family of origin. We think that God will resemble our parents or authority figures from our childhood (cf. Psalm 50:21).

For example, those whose parents were rigid and perfectionistic may perceive God to be very demanding and unforgiving. No matter how hard they try, they can never measure up to this distorted view of God who does not forgive nor forget their sins. When they fail, watch out! His cruel side is manifested. He seems to delight in sending financial disaster or physical disease to emphasize His intolerance of their spiritual failures. Understandably, it is difficult for them to approach this kind of deity and experience His forgiveness and love.

God wants to replace our distorted views of Him with the truth. For example, in Psalm 34:8, the Psalmist invites his readers to “taste and see that the Lord is good.” The word “taste” refers to examining something by tasting it. We are to examine who God is and perceive (“see”) that He is “good.” The word “good” in this context refers to something that is pleasant or agreeable to the senses like a freshly baked pie or the warmth of a fireplace on a cold winter day.

The more we know the God of the Bible and experience that He is good, the more “blessed” or fortunate we will be as we learn to “trust” or seek refuge in Him. The Lord wants us to experience that He is a God who pardons, not punishes (Psalm 103:8-10). He is merciful, not merciless (Psalm 103:11-14). He is a God of compassion, not condemnation (John 3:17). He is gentle, not harsh (Matthew 11:29). He loves us as we are (Romans 5:6, 8).

When we begin to perceive who God truly is, our appetite for Him will increase exponentially. Like the apostle Peter says, As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious” (I Peter 2:2-3). Our appetite for God and His Word will greatly increase “if” we have “tasted” or experienced “that the Lord is gracious.” If we have lost our appetite for God and His Word, it is probably because we have lost sight of the goodness and graciousness of Jesus Christ. God’s goodness and grace can be seen in His sacrifice on the cross. God gave Himself for you and me, so He could have a love relationship with us. God’s grace means giving your absolute best to someone who deserves your absolute worst. Christ forgives us of things that other people will hold against us until they go to their graves. That is goodness and grace!

Our appetite for God and His Word hinges on our taste of His goodness to us in Christ. If you perceive God to be a harsh, critical, and angry God, you are not going to want to hear what He has to say. You will not want to open His Word. It is easy for us to see God as an unkind Person when we experience suffering. But God is not to blame for the bad things that happen to us. God’s creation was completely “good” when He made it (Genesis 1), but it became contaminated by sin when people disobeyed Him (Genesis 3). Therefore, much of the world is not good because people are not good.

But the goodness and grace of God can be seen when He takes the bad things that happen to us and brings eternal good out of them. For example, I have been ministering at a provincial jail for the last five years in the Philippines. Many of the inmates there have testified how thankful they are for their incarceration because God used those tough times to expose them to the gospel and eventually opened their hearts to believe in Jesus.

Have you lost your appetite for God and His Word? Activate it by laying aside misconceptions of God and then focus on the unlimited goodness and grace of God through Jesus Christ! When we experience that “the Lord is good” and “gracious,” our appetite for Him and His Word will resemble that of a newborn baby who longs for its milk.

God’s remedy for worry

6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

When we are “anxious” or worried about something, God instructs us to talk to Him about it through “prayer.” He wants us to worry about “nothing” and pray about “everything.” The word “supplication” means to tell Him what you need. Few people ever identify what they need because they are so busy worrying. The word “request” refers to asking God for what you want or desire (Psalm 37:4).

For example, if I am worried about what people think of me, I can talk to the Lord about this and as I do, He may show me that my underlying need is for acceptance. I can then ask the Lord to meet this need for acceptance. He accepts me in Christ no matter what others think of me (Ephesians 1:6). As I meditate on this truth, I can express my desire (“request”) for God’s peace to rule over my heart and mind when I feel alone and insecure.

As I talk to God about my anxiety, needs, and desires, He promises to guard my heart and mind with His peace that surpasses human understanding. The “peace of God” is like a deep calmness in the midst of life’s storms. For example, the water underneath the surface of the ocean remains calm during a storm. The phrase “will guard” pictures an armed soldier walking back and forth in front of the city gate, protecting the occupants inside the city from intruders. God’s peace constantly protects those who choose to talk to Him about their worries, and ask Him for what they need and want.