Understanding the Mind of God

This past week I was inspired by a quote from Timothy Keller:

“If we knew what God knows, we would ask exactly for what he gives.”

Is that a little hard to believe? You might be thinking, “Um, no, God I would never ask for XYZ to happen in my life!”

I don’t pretend to know the depth of the struggles you are facing right now. I think deep down, nearly everyone is facing something tough or battling insecurities. Many face hardship on a daily basis that I will never know.

Nevertheless, I know two things that make it easy for me to believe what Tim Keller said: God is good and he is great.

God is a loving father. God is the “God of all comfort”. Every person, every life matters to him. YOU matter to him.

vast expanseUnfortunately in this world that has been overrun by sin and evil, we will face tragedy and heartbreak. We will experience pain. We will be hurt.

Yet God is so great that he can redeem anything! God himself came to redeem this dark world through Jesus. While we may not see it right away, he can bring good from even the worst of circumstances.

And even when it might feel like our world is spinning out of control, God is still IN CONTROL. And that very same God who is in control of the whole universe cares about you and me!

Have you ever heard of the man Job from the Bible? God allowed him to lose everything. He lost his family, his livestock (so, his source of income), his servants, and his health.

He doesn’t curse God, yet he questions him. “Why has this happened to me? What did I do to deserve this? Have I done something wrong that you are punishing me?”

Finally, at the end of the book of Job, God answers him:

earth“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it?”

“Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth? Tell me, if you know all of this.”

skies“Can you bind the beautiful Pleiades? Can you loose the cords of Orion? Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons or lead out the Bear with its cubs? Do you know the laws of the heavens? Can you set up God’s dominion over the earth?”

God asks Job many more questions, and finally concludes with, “Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer him!”

WOW. If I were Job, I’d be shaking in my shoes!

The moral of this story isn’t that we should be afraid to ask God why. What we learn from Job’s story is that no matter what hardship God allows us to go through, he is still God and he is still in control.

He is so much bigger and greater than us. And unfortunately that means that there are just some things in this world that we don’t understand and can’t understand…because we’re not God!

Yet that God who is so great cares about us. He has a good plan for the world, we just have to trust him, even in the midst of the storms in our own little worlds. He asks us to admit that we don’t “have it under control all on our own” and to place our faith and hope in Jesus Christ.

“What you’re saying requires a lot of faith,” you might be saying. If so, I challenge you today to ask God to increase your faith!

lakeBecause, as Tim Keller said, if we only knew what God knew, we’d understand that we can trust him, no matter what. And we’d ask for his plan. every. single. time.

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Sugary Drinks for the Soul

“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters, and you who have no money, come buy and eat! Come buy wine and milk, without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me, hear me, that your soul may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David.” Isaiah 55:1-3

Have you ever experienced a time when you were really thirsty and you drank something like kool-aid or soda to try to quench your thirst? I don’t know about you, but when I’m really thirsty, those sugary drinks just won’t cut it, I need straight up water! Studies have shown that sugary drinks can actually dehydrate us and leave us feeling even more thirsty than before.

Cold glass with cola and ice cubes

That idea is similar to what this week’s verse is saying. In life, there are many things we chase after or expect to quench our thirst, to fulfill us. Take, for example,

1. Money or position – We think that having a big salary or getting that next promotion will satisfy us. Once we get there, we still want more.

2. Relationships – We think that meeting Mr. or Mrs. Right will fulfill us. Yet, those people will make mistakes and let us down (because we are all imperfect people!). Or, marriage sometimes doesn’t seem as easy as we thought it was and we end up in divorce, feeling completely unfulfilled.

3. Stuff – We see our neighbors with their new car and think we need to top it. We need to have the biggest house, the prettiest decorations, the newest gadget to impress our friends. But once we buy it, we see the next big thing we need. It never ends!

4. Drugs or alcohol – We crave the fix that we get from these substances. Yet, afterward, many end up dependent and see their lives crashing around them. What they thought would fulfill them has actually controlled them.

5. Doing, doing, doing – We find fulfillment in being busy. The more things we can fit on the calendar, the greater we feel about ourselves. But when it’s all said and done, we end up feeling exhausted, burnt out, and bitter towards those very same appointments we made to boost us up.

6. Family – We pour our whole lives into our family. We give our kids everything. We find fulfillment in them. Which, it’s certainly not wrong to care for your family and kids!! But our kids grow up and will lead their own lives one day. When they have grown up and moved out, in what state will you find yourself? Did you spend all your time pouring into them at the cost of your own marriage, or at the sake of neglecting your own soul?

What else might we be chasing after? In what do you find your identity? We all thirst for meaning in our lives, how are you quenching that thirst?

And, how empty do you feel?

Empty

In this week’s verses, God is telling us that only He can fulfill that thirst we have for something greater. He asks us, “Why are you toiling after something that doesn’t satisfy you?” and he beckons us, “Come to me, I will fill your soul up like nothing else can.”

If we would only turn away from all the enticing things of this world, we would find a water that quenches our thirst like none other can. That is Jesus Christ, who called himself the Living Water. Jesus was talking to a Samaritan woman at a well when he said, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14)

God is beckoning us to drink a water that will truly satisfy. He loves us so much! He doesn’t want to see us laboring after things that will leave us feeling empty in the end. He is extending his Living Water to us…will you drink it?

water

Questions for Thought:

1. Do you believe that you can find satisfaction in things other than Jesus Christ? How is that working for you? Will you take a moment to be honest with yourself and with God…do you really feel fulfilled?

2. Even those who have already chosen to accept and believe in Jesus still sometimes start chasing after things that don’t satisfy our thirst. Is there something that you have been trying to find fulfillment in other than God lately? This week, seek God first and foremost. Spend some extra time with God, maybe through prayer, reading your Bible, or worshipping through song.

If you want to learn more about what it means to find fulfillment in Jesus, you can read here!

2 Ways to View People Like God Does

“So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view.” 2 Corinthians 5:16

Are you a glass-half-full or half-empty type of person? All you cynics out there (some of you would prefer to be called “realists”) probably get pretty irked by those type of people who only see through rose-colored glasses. And you optimists probably get annoyed by those “downers”! Some people just seem to see the world optimistically, while others see it pessimistically, and still others “realistically.”

All of us experience life through different filters, different points of view, shaped by all sorts of things…how you were raised, the events that have shaped you, your opinions, your beliefs, your mood, etc. Even two different witnesses of the exact same crime can tell different versions of what happened because they experience the event through their own lenses.

We all have different points of view on life. This week’s devo challenges us to have God’s point of view, specifically to view people through his lens.

Glasses

Basically, there are two different “lenses” through which we can see the world. First is the “worldly point of view.” What does it mean to view people in a “worldly” way?

Basically, it means we judge others based on the values of our sinful world. We place value on people based on what they can do for us or what we can get from them. We may judge based on outward appearance. We might judge based on past mistakes or previous slights against us. We judge by skin color, ethnicity, accent, country of origin, level of schooling, or career. We may place value on how much money they have or what kind of house they live in. We sum them up by their clothes. We hate those who hate us. We might dislike those who think or believe or live differently from us.

Kind of a dog-eat-dog world-view, isn’t it? It is painful to see how much backstabbing and insecurity can come when people view others through this lens.

But in our verse for this week, Paul says that while we may have judged others through this “worldy” lens in the past, Christians should regard no one from this point of view anymore! Instead, we should view others through God’s point of view. Looking at people this way affects how we view (1) other Christians and (2) the whole world.

With a godly point of view…

1. We believe that God can change anyone.

2 Corinthians 5:17 says “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”

To see people through a godly point of view means that we believe that Jesus changes people. No one is too far gone to turn to God, and when someone chooses to accept Jesus as the Lord and Savior of their life, God truly washes them clean and gives them a new life.

Unfortunately, sometimes Christians judge other Christians, expecting that once they choose to believe in Jesus, they should be expected to clean up their act right away. We sometimes think that other Christians should know an unspoken check-list of how to act properly in church, what movies to watch, what songs to listen to, etc.

We may observe a sin in the life of another Christian and hold it against them. We will forever know that person as the woman who cheated on her husband, or the man who neglects his family for the sake of his career, never again pausing to consider that the person they are now may be very different from the person who committed that sin way back when.

But the truth is, being a Christian doesn’t mean you automatically become perfectly holy in every way. It doesn’t always mean we can painlessly give up sins and addictions in the blink of an eye (though sometimes that does happen).

That’s why church is a messy place: it’s a gathering of all kinds of people who aren’t perfect but who have all chosen to follow Christ. God calls us to trust that all of these imperfect people are actually changed people: that if we could see each other the way he sees us, we wouldn’t judge each other based on our outward appearances, but on the inward transformation he is doing (and has done) inside each and every one of us.

If we could see each other this way, we’d know that God has already made each of us into new creations through the saving work of Christ. And we’d also have patience with each other as Jesus slowly molds us to look more like him on the outside, day by day.

All Things New

Secondly, with a godly view…

2. We believe that everyone needs Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 5:18-19 says “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.”

To view the world like God does means first and foremost, we view all people as treasured creations of God who are in need of Jesus’ saving love. How would your life be different if you viewed the world this way?

How would you react differently if someone cut in front of you in line at the grocery store? How would you treat other drivers on the road who annoy you? How would you talk to your co-workers?

To view the world in a godly way means we take serious the claims of Jesus: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Jesus didn’t say that you get to God through Buddha. Through Islam. Through being a good person. Jesus claimed that he was the sole way to God. That through belief in his death as the payment for your sins & by accepting him as your Lord and Savior, you are made right with God.

This is what 2 Corinthians means when it says God reconciled the world to himself through Christ. God knew that there was no way that we can be “good” enough to attain his holy standard. God made a way to bring us back to him: through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. According to the Bible, this is the only way to get to God. And we can either accept that or reject it. God desires to be reconciled to all the people on earth, if they will choose him.

So, Christians, if we truly believe that everyone is in need of Jesus, we have to get serious. We must realize that we aren’t just trudging through life: we are missionaries out in the world. God gave us a job to do: reconcile people to him. Every person matters to God.

That person who cut in front of you matters to God, whether you are happy with them or not. That driver who is annoying you matters to God, whether you think he or she deserves a ticket or not. Your co-workers matter to God whether they make your workplace a living hell or not. Lost people matter to God. As our pastor at CCV, Todd Clark said, “God loves people you don’t like!”

So it’s time we set aside our petty differences (and even our well-justified dislike) and remember that there is something much bigger than us going on: there is a story of truth and eternal choices, there is a battle raging on for the souls of this world, there is a grand plan for the universe and we have a part to play in it as we try to help as many people as we can to know the love of Christ.

This week let’s strive to view other Christians and the world the way God does. Let us give each other grace, as we remember God can change anyone. And let us take seriously the mission that God has given us: to be God’s ambassadors to the lost – in our home, our workplace, our city, our world.

City Overlook

Questions for thought:

1. Be honest with yourself: do you most often view others through a worldly view or a godly view? Maybe you don’t know. Take note on your initial thoughts or reactions to the people you encounter this week. Do you most often judge by the world’s standards or God’s standards?

2. Have you ever judged (or are you currently judging) another Christian you know based on outward appearances? Do you actually know the facts of their situation, or where their heart is with God? Perhaps they do need some gentle nudging to abstain from a sin in their life, but only through the confines of a trusting relationship is that appropriate. Either choose to build a relationship with them (get to know their testimony, ask how God has changed them and find out how he is working on their heart right now), or get over it. Trust that God has made them a new creation and that he is doing far more in their life than you can even imagine.

3. Do you take Jesus’ claims seriously? Do you believe he is the only way to God? Does that claim make you uncomfortable? Why? If you had to choose between the two, which one is more important to you, truth or tolerance? The Bible claims there is one way to God, but it is a free gift to all, open to anyone who will receive it. It makes no difference who you are or what you’ve done. Christianity is different from other religions in that it doesn’t claim that we get to God through good works, but simply by accepting the free gift God gave us.

4. Do you view yourself as a missionary? Every day you encounter people who have not chosen to make Jesus their Lord & Savior. How will you choose to put aside your own feelings and show God’s love to those that you may dislike?

Just The Way You Are

“Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’ it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.” 1 Corinthians 12:14-18

I don’t know about you, but I am so good at only seeing my flaws and failures. I am quick to compare myself with others and put myself down. I look at my personality and compare it to others and think, “I’ll never be successful until I’m more like them.”

Comparing

I was struggling with this a lot when Kevin and I were working at the East Valley campus of CCV (Christ’s Church of the Valley). I love all the staff at that campus dearly, but the majority of them are very different from me. The majority of them are rational, tell-it-like-it-is type people. They aren’t going to beat around the bush. They are confident.

All so opposite of me! I’m a people-pleaser, HARDCORE. Always afraid of hurting someone’s feelings or saying something they don’t want to hear. I don’t like conflict. I’m passive, sometimes to the extreme of letting people overstep boundaries. I beat around the bush. And definitely not confident…which is why I couldn’t help but compare myself to them!

I couldn’t help but think, “Look at these people who are so opposite of me, and so good and successful at what they do. How will I ever be successful by just being me? Where does a person like me fit-in in ministry?”

I felt so down on myself. Do you ever have these types of thoughts?

This week’s devotion is for people like you and me. This is God’s reminder that he made you to be you.

In this passage in Corinthians, Paul is comparing the church to a body…specifically the body of Jesus Christ. He actually uses a metaphor saying the church is the “body of Christ” (v.27). Just like a human body has many parts, so does the church.

Now imagine a human body (…with body parts that can think for themselves…). The foot, which is so far down, gets covered up all day long, and often smells bad, looks up and sees the hand. The foot thinks to itself, “Man, I am so useless. Look at that hand up there. It grabs for things, types up papers, texts friends and family, and brings food to the mouth. What do I ever do? I don’t belong here. I’m nothing.”

But of course, just because the foot feels useless compared to the hand doesn’t mean it doesn’t belong! How else would we stand?!

In the same way, you, though you may feel useless to God, are of great value to his plan for the world. Just as you are.

I love the way Jonny Diaz puts it in his song “More Beautiful You”: “You were made to fill a purpose that only you can do.” Or this quote, “You will never influence the world by trying to be just like it.”

Crowd

The truth is, God didn’t make you to be like Suzie Smith or that really successful coworker or that person you know who just seems perfect. God made you to be you. He has a plan for your life, when you live it as you, not as someone else.

And God loves you for you! You are special. You are wanted. You are important to him. We must remember these truths anytime the temptation to compare ourselves to others sneaks in. It’s easier to listen to the lies and insecurities about ourselves but it takes courage to dare to be who God created us to be.

So whether you are a hand, foot, eye, nose, arm, stomach, or liver in the body of Christ, there is a place for you. And if we are ever going to win others to Christ, the church needs you to fill the role you were made to fill. Instead of trying to be like others, God desires you to be the best you possible.

And what does that look like, exactly? That means that we look like Christ, no matter what part of the body we are.

So for me, instead of comparing myself to the staff at East Valley, I should focus on being the best version of me. This doesn’t mean I pretend I’m perfect. I do have to be honest with myself and note areas in my life I need to work on. For example, my tendency of extreme people-pleasing and my fear of saying no to others are things I’m going to have to cut out of my life if I want to be successful. But I should also view myself in a healthy way, the way that God sees me. I should note my strengths and abilities and work on honing those.

We waste so much of our lives when we strive to be someone we’re not. This week, quit the comparison game and spend more time focusing on improving your strengths rather than feeling overwhelmed with your weaknesses. And find peace in the beauty of this verse: “But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.”

Challenges for this week:

1. Write out a list of your strengths. One great resource to help you is the Strengths Test. You can take this test online for free!! It is a valuable tool to help you discover the things you are good at and ideas on how to use those skills.

2. We all know our flaws. This week instead of thinking about a flaw you want to improve, spend effort on using a strength you already have. Pick one tangible way you can use the gifts, skills, or personality God has given you in order to help others.

3. Pray that God will show you how he could use you in the church or ministering to others. Be open to the opportunities he provides. Perhaps you will feel him nudging you to follow through with challenges 1 or 2.

Further Reading: Psalm 139

Purpose From Pain

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compasion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Beyond the facade that we all put on, we are all struggling with something right now. We are all experiencing hardship or pain. Or, at least, we inevitably will be. Due to sin in the world, we all experience evil and injustice and pain in our lives. Underneath the veneer of a smile that says “I’ve got everything together,” what troubles are you facing right now?

window

The Bible has some encouragement for those of us who are struggling (which, is all of us!) — God can bring about a purpose from our pain. Our devo for this week teaches us this important truth: God uses our pain to help others.

We see this from a short passage in 2 Corinthians, verses 3-7. From this passage we learn the process by which God brings a purpose from our troubles.

1. There is hardship

That’s a given. As I said above and in my devo about Psalm 10, because of sin in the world, there is inevitably evil and suffering in the world. But this passage also reminds us that as Christians, we will face hardship for another reason: because the “sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives” (verse 5). Jesus warned that if anyone wants to follow him, he must “deny himself and take up his cross daily” (Luke 9:23). Deciding to follow Christ gives us the greatest gift we could ask for – salvation – but it also means that we will face suffering and persecution as we choose to live in a way that stands at odds with society.

2. God comforts us in our hardship

God is a God of compassion! He will comfort us and sustain us in our time of need. He may not take us out of the situation, but he provides us with just what we need for the day. Just as the psalmist says: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4)

3. God uses the situation to help others

We see that there are a variety of ways that God can use our suffering and comfort to aid others. First, when we are comforted we can encourage others with that same comfort we receive from God. When we experience God’s faithfulness to us in times of trouble, we can tell others about his faithfulness. We can share our own stories and encourage people who are going through anything; “God did this when I was facing this, so I know he will support you, too.”

Second, we can encourage those who experience the same troubles. Many times, those who faced abuse or addiction in their past develop a passion to help others overcome the same struggles. God can use our hardships to encourage people who share the exact same sufferings. “I know exactly the troubles you face; this is how God got me through this/is getting me through it.”

And third, as we press through struggles together, we help others to build up a “patient endurance.” As others see us in our raw moments – barely hanging on by a thread, yet still clinging to God and believing in his promises – we may be God’s instrument to provide that small piece of hope that they need to hang on for one more day. We help them to take one more step, and patiently rely on the faithfulness of God. “Hang on with me, I know that God will come through for us both.”

Trees

When we are far down in the pits of despair,  a “cheer up” card,  pat on the back, or pithy Bible verse isn’t enough to sustain us, it’s the true stories of God’s faithfulness to everyday people. That’s why God gives us the stories of the Bible and the testimonies of believers (present and past) to show us his steadfast love time and time again.

If you are in the middle of some kind of suffering, you might not be able to see how God could bring any good from it. Maybe you will never see “good” come from it. But no matter where you are in the midst of the pain, you can comfort others with the truth of your experience. Even if it sounds something like this, “You know, I know that God is good and that he is faithful, but I can’t see it right now. Even still, I’m holding on to his promises and I’m crying out to him. And I know that he will come through.”

As the Casting Crowns song says, this week let’s be “broken together,” as God brings a purpose from our pain.

 

Challenges for this week:

1. Come clean. Do you cover your life in a veneer of happiness, while you feel like you are broken and empty inside? Maybe this week you need to admit this to a close family member, friend, or a pastor and seek their support.  Or maybe you first need to admit to yourself that you are struggling and need help.

2. Seek God’s comfort. Stop trying to handle things on your own. Seek the guidance of the Father of all compassion. Read through the Psalms. Read the stories of Bible characters who experienced God’s faithfulness (the story of Joseph or Daniel are good ones!). Talk to a trusted Christian friend and ask them how God has sustained them through hard times. Seek the help of a Christian counselor. Pray.

3. Provide comfort. No matter where you are in the struggles you face – deep in the trenches or finally overcoming – you can encourage someone. Tell others how God has been faithful to you. Help someone who is facing the exact trial you faced. Show others how you are hanging on by a thread, sustained by God’s hand. Your honest testimony may just be the words of encouragement someone needs to make it through that day.

 

Daddy Issues

“Which of your fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Luke 11:11-13

There’s something special about giving someone THE gift. That one item they want more than anything else. It’s an incredible feeling when you see their face light up with joy at the sight of THE gift, and you know that you are responsible for their happiness.

This week’s passage probes us to think about how we view God: do we see him as the Almighty Stickler or as a Heavenly Father who relishes in giving gifts?

gift

Here in the book of Luke, Jesus is teaching about prayer. A few verses earlier, Jesus tells his disciples a parable: a man goes to his friend’s house in the middle of the night, knocks on his door and asks if he can have some bread for a person in need. The man inside the house grumbles, “Go away! The door is locked, it’s the middle of the night!” Yet, the man on the outside keeps knocking over and over and pleads with him, “Please! My friend is in great need of some bread, please help me!” Finally, not because he loves this guy outside, but just to shut him up, the man gives him some bread.

I think that for some of us, our view of God stops here. Sure, we could come to God even with the most heartfelt prayer ever, but God is just up in heaven, shaking his head and grumbling. Maybe he is grumbling because he just doesn’t care about us. Maybe he is shaking his head because he is looking down, seeing everything we’ve done wrong. He brings out his list of all the Sundays we have missed church and points to them. He says to us, “How do you have the audacity of asking me for anything, when you’ve disappointed me so many times?”

I know this because I have felt this way before. Is this how you view God?

Luckily, Jesus’ teaching doesn’t stop there. Jesus proceeds to provide an example of a father here on earth. He asks, “Who knows any loving father who would give his son a scorpion when he asks for an egg?” Of course, the answer is, no father would! We love to give our loved ones exactly what they need!

scorpion-03

After asking his question about earthly fathers, Jesus teaches us that God our heavenly Father. So with that in mind, if even a begrudging man is willing to give his friend some bread, and if even a loving (yet imperfect) father is willing to give his son what he asks for, then HOW MUCH MORE will God, our perfect Father in Heaven, who loves us enough to even sacrifice his own son, HOW MUCH MORE will God give us what we ask for?!

Jesus is teaching us to view God as a Father who cares for us deeply and who delights in giving gifts to his children, not as a stickler who grumbles at our requests.

When I am reminded of that, it changes my whole outlook on prayer! Knowing that we are coming to a Father who loves us, is happy to give us what we ask, and who wants to give us good things changes everything! It means that we are free to share our burdens, hopes, dreams, fears, and requests. It means we can come to God with confidence, not fearfully walking on eggshells. And that we can truly trust when Jesus says, “Ask and it will be given to you” (Luke 11:9). Praying doesn’t seem so much like a religious ritual to check off my spiritual to-do list, but a precious time of conversation with my Father who loves me. How awesome is that?

But there’s one more thing this passage teaches us about praying…did you notice that in all the examples, the characters were asking for things they needed? They weren’t asking for a new car, another pair of shoes, or the coolest toy, they were asking for bread, eggs, and a fish – essential items for living.

That being said, of course we can ask God for things that we want. But this passage doesn’t teach us, “Ask for all the things you want and God will give them to you.” Instead, it teaches, “Ask God for the things you need, and He will provide.” And in the last part of our Luke verses, we see that God, as our Father, knows that the number one thing we need is the Holy Spirit in our lives when we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.

This week, let’s live in the freedom that comes when we view God as a loving Father, not as an Almighty Stickler.

Questions for thought:

1. Be honest with yourself and God: do you view God as an Almighty Stickler or as a loving Father? Why do you view God that way? Many times, our view of God is based on our earthly father. Was your father loving and accepting, or always pointing out what you did wrong? Was your father invested in your life or somewhat aloof and distant? Unfortunately, our childhood experiences are often a hurdle to correctly seeing God as a loving Father. Read through verses this week that speak of God’s love and ask yourself, “Do I view God as he really is, or how my father was?” No matter what kind of fatherly experience we had, it is up to us to choose to believe the truth of the Bible instead of the bias of our experiences.

2. How does knowing that God is a loving Father who delights in giving gifts to his children change how you will pray this week? There is freedom in knowing that God loves us!

3. Here on earth, sometimes parents do not give their children everything they ask for, because they can see a bigger picture: perhaps it’s something they want instead of need, perhaps it would be harmful, or perhaps they know that if their child can wait a little longer, they can give them something even greater than what they had asked for. Reflect on how this applies to God as our Heavenly Father and any unanswered prayers in your life.

Verses about God’s love for further reflection:

John 3:16; Romans 8:27-39; Romans 5:6-8; 1 John 3:1; 1 John 3:16; Romans 8:15-17; Psalm 103:1-22; Psalm 91:1-16