1 Peter 2:2-3: “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.”

Babies crawl on the floor in exploratory wonder. To them everything is brand new. Wide-eyed and curious, they intensely study their surroundings. Humans have five basic senses: touch, sight, hearing, smell and taste. The sensing organs associated with each sense send information to the brain to help us understand and perceive the world around us. Unfortunately for us, our sensory systems are not equipped to perceive God, unless He reveals Himself to us. Metaphorically speaking, we all wear blindfolds until the day our eyes are opened and we begin to see the light.

The apostle Peter compares our spiritual awakening to early childhood experiences. Like babies curiously explore the world around them, so are we encouraged to go after the Lord and find out who He is, as referenced in the book of Psalms (Psalm 34:8):

“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.”

Understanding that the Lord is good is core knowledge. Everything else we learn about Him builds on that. In other words, we don’t know the Lord when we don’t know that He is good.

Jesus’ story about the narrow door has always intrigued me. He was on His way to Jerusalem when someone asked him: “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?” That question in itself is odd and shows that the person asking is not convinced that God is merciful and good. Interestingly, Jesus does not reply with a “Yes” or “No”. Instead, He tells the story of the narrow door that will close at a certain point, never to be opened again. Jesus looks at the person asking Him that question, and this is what He says (Luke 13:25):

“Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’

But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’”

The people knocking on the narrow door do not know that God’s door of welcome is wide. They knock on the wrong door, so-to-speak. Whoever does not know that God is good completely misses the boat.

On the other side of the spectrum, Jesus knows who we are at our deepest level. When we open up to Him, He becomes our internal compass pointing to our True North – to God who is our eternal home.

Children of God grow up and spread their wings. The wind of the Holy Spirit carries us through highs and lows. Our love matures as we grow up in our salvation – because we have indeed tasted and seen that the Lord is good.

“You took a sparrow and let it fly with the eagles
I can see a long ways – I feel love again”

Tony Joe White

Psalm 23:1-3: “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.”

The law is like a checkerboard; it is painted black and white. Applying the law to life is what law experts do when they meet in court. The challenge lies in the nature of the beast – people are not black and white. They are not one way or the other. Guess what: Neither is the Lord. Even though His 613 commandments summarized in the Law of Moses could make Him look like a law expert, I do not think we do Him justice to confine Him to the law alone. If we do, our view of God is black and white.

David’s sigh of relief as he breathed his prayer is like a splash of color:

“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.”

We need to get familiarized with the diverse color nuances of the Lord. David could tell you all about it. He is no model citizen. If we look into his life story we will find that he did many great and noble things, but he also committed murder in cold blood to protect his interests. And yet, even when David got caught red-handed, he relied on God’s judgment rather than on people’s judgment. People have a tendency to condemn. God doesn’t. God is a God of color and He understands the subtleties of a human being. God is our judge without being judgmental.

The best way to describe the effect God has on my life is like a fog lifting from the valley. Becoming aware of God, the fog slowly lifts. The first things I detected about God were His outlines, His do’s and don’ts. But as any friendship, my relationship with God has matured over the years. I study Him like a painting to see His nuances and subtleties and I see more than just His outlines when I look at Him now.

Sticking to a world of black and white just because it feels more defined, we are definitely missing out. Granted, life with God is no walk in the park, but it is rich; it is a rainbow of experiences. We don’t lack a thing in His presence.

2 Peter 1:5-8: “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Monsters and mountains – we have to conquer them. There is no way around it. Try as we may, our avoidance of the elephant in the room is only a detour that will bring us right back to the place where we don’t wish to be. We need to fight every step of the way to climb our mountains; we need to chase our monsters instead of our monsters chasing us.

The apostle Peter probably never forgot the horrible night when he was too weak to stand up for his best friend, the night when he cowered by the fire, denied who he was, and betrayed a friendship. The one person he admired most, the precious person near and dear to his heart, the One to whom he defiantly said just moments ago: I will die for you – he betrayed Him. And the worst thing about it: His friend already knew. He turned around and looked him in the eye right about the time the rooster crowed. And Peter remembered. His friend had actually predicted his failure. How ashamed he felt that night, how miserable and worthless, nobody can tell. But the same person who predicted his failure also predicted his success. “Peter” was his given nickname because when Jesus looked at Peter, He saw his potential. He saw that Peter would become rock-solid and help ignite a movement that to this day is still moving.

Peter’s nightmare became his greatest triumph when he addressed his monsters. His legacy speaks for itself inspiring us to do the same.

Yeah, let’s kick our monsters in the behind! What are yours by the way? Mine is being stuck, a claustrophobia nightmare of sorts. One of my bad dreams at night is sitting in my car approaching a stoplight. Instead of hitting the breaks I’m frozen. Last thing I remember before willing myself to wake up from this dream – I’m in a major car crash, and of course I’m unable to get out.

What do we do when monsters are in the room? Well, we need to identify and chase them. If we duck, fear will rule our life, and that does not bode well for us.

Here is Peter’s recommendation: Add to your faith. In other words: grow. Never stop growing. Nothing stays the same, everything changes; so must our faith. Our faith matures. Our inability to accept change stunts our growth and keeps our faith small. On the other hand, when we embrace change, face our fears, and move with the changing seasons our faith is bound to grow. God knows what we will find on the other side of that mountain. Based on His track record, it is going to be very good.

But I’m not your son, you’re not my father
We’re just two grown men saying goodbye
No need to forgive, no need to forget
I know your mistakes and you know mine
And while you’re sleeping, I’ll try to make you proud
So daddy, won’t you just close your eyes?
Don’t be afraid, it’s my turn
To chase the monsters away

James Blunt

Ecclesiastes 3:11: “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”

King Solomon is the author of the book of Ecclesiastes. Curiously, Solomon used language related to clockwork when he wrote down his thoughts on eternity. Like a watchmaker setting the clock as he is laboring over his handiwork – our Creator has “timed” our hearts, and guess what: our heart clocks are set on eternity. Somehow, eternity is in our DNA.

I was in first grade when our teacher told us that one of our classmates had passed away in a car accident just the other day.  It disturbed me to learn the bad news. Up to this point I had never known anybody in person who had passed away. All of a sudden, death hit close to home and it made me aware how fragile we are. Anybody could die in a car accident. Just like that, Ruth (that was the name of my late classmate) was killed. Yesterday I played with her, today she was gone. I wondered – where did Ruth go?

Death just didn’t sit well with me. It never really does, and rightly so, because – as Solomon puts it – our Creator has not set us up this way. We are made for eternity.

Our lives have a purpose, but unfortunately death is detrimental to this purpose. This is probably a major reason why the Son of God hates death. His mission is to save us so we have a chance to live out our purpose. He emerged from the grave, giving us physical evidence that He has conquered death.

Is it easy to believe? Yes and no. We cannot fabricate faith. We cannot make believe that the story of Easter is true. However, it is still easy to believe because faith ultimately is a gift from God. He lifts the veil so we can see.

We all have to face our physical departure one day when our bodies give out and our hearts stop beating. Nevertheless, our physical passing is not the end of us. If our life story had to be written down, death would be the mere beginning of our book – with countless pages still waiting to be filled.

Thanks to Jesus, the end of our lives will only be the beginning; following our passing, eternity has just begun.

“Deep in your soul is your identity 
The essence of you, the immortal part of you
Since I was few years old I’ve known. 
The truth was sown inside of me: my soul lives eternally.”
Songwriters Bill & Evelyn Snyder

2 Peter 1:4: “Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”

One day in 1749, while walking to the Bastille, Jean-Jacques Rousseau noticed an advertisement for an essay contest. Hosted by the Academy of Dijon, the essay posed a simple question: has science made us better or worse, more or less moral?  As Rousseau recalls, he fell asleep in the park, had a vision, awoke in tears, and started to write his “Discourse on the Sciences and Arts”. He ended up winning the contest and instantly rose to fame. His basic thesis: “Man is naturally good.”

While Romantic philosophy assumes the innate goodness of men, a believer is acutely aware of men’s leaning toward bad. The apostle Peter puts it quite bluntly:

“(…) having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires”

Evil desires are inside of us. Nobody put them there. There are ours to deal with. Technically, every person is like a ticking time bomb that can go off and self-destruct at any moment. Our psyches are frail. Given the circumstances, we all can be broken very easily. Besides our psyches, also our bodies are subjected to corruption – the aging process being a visible reminder.

Steven Austad, a bio-gerontologist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham delved into the question: Why do we age? Here is his explanation:

“Reproduction is the name of the game. Basically, we age because it’s not in nature’s best interest to perfectly repair our bodies. The main thing is to keep us reproductive as long as possible, and then let our bodies deteriorate.”

In other words, ultimately we are here to be replaced – a pretty sobering thought. Of course we all know that no human being can actually be reproduced. Our DNA is unique. Each person is as irreplaceable as they come.

The word “gospel” is an old English combination of the words “God” and “spel”, which in modern English translates into news, a story. The news that God exists is the heart of the gospel and that is very good news. The gospel ventures beyond biology: There is a God who created matter out of nothing and this same God is the reason why we exist. By acknowledging Him, faith infinitely increases the value of human life. As a creature of God, we are no accident. We all matter.

Recognizing who God is, we will move past corruption. As we grow closer to Him, we essentially find out that God is a team of three. It is a delight to get to know the Son of God. The Spirit of God is tirelessly introducing Jesus to every generation. And the Father of all is our soul’s destiny and home. By getting to know God we escape corruption and engage in eternal life. We become an integral part of His family. Faith is precious because we are no longer slaves to corruption, but we are set free to participate in God’s divine nature.

The incorruptible, inconceivable, beautiful and generous nature of God wants to include us because He dearly loves us.

“You dance over me
While I am unaware
You sing all around
But I never hear the sound
Lord, I’m amazed by You
Lord, I’m amazed by You
Lord, I’m amazed by You
How You love me”

Jared Anderson

1 Peter 3:15: “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”

The apostle Peter wrote his letter in a time when Christianity was still in its infancy. Sometimes eyed with suspicion and downright hostility, it was probably not easy to treat everybody with respect. Today the question still remains – how can we be gentle in a violent world?

Growing up, I had issues with a violent stepfather. He scared me. I would get up in the morning and the living room was trashed; or I would wake up at night to find my mother sitting next to me in the bedroom with doors locked while my stepfather hammered against the door demanding to get in. Domestic violence was not even a buzzword back then. Thankfully this marriage ended after five years. While the divorce eliminated the violence from our home, it did leave a lasting impression in my heart. I had become afraid of men and afraid of life, which is why most of my decisions in my young adulthood were fear-driven.

At age 19 I moved from my childhood home into the city where I enrolled in college to study foreign languages, but I did not graduate. Within a year’s time I dropped out of school and moved into an apartment with a group of people who, like me, had decided to join a young mission. For years following I stayed behind the walls of a religious community that dictated every aspect of my life and separated me from family and friends. Eventually, I became fed up with the situation and left.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to deal with violence, but there are certainly wrong approaches; seeking revenge is one, escapism is another. I chose the latter and I can say that we don’t escape from violence by going into hiding. When we hide from a problem, the problem follows us and grows bigger in the process.

Back to the initial question: how to be gentle in a violent world – To me the key is getting to know Jesus. The Son of God is gentle and fearless. He never defended himself from violent people, but He was not afraid of them either. I have grown from fearful to hopeful and know that Jesus is the reason for the hope that I have. Without Him I would still be stuck in a very small world. I do not have all the answers, but what I do have is hope.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion 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 receive from God.”

Throughout time and everywhere on this planet, people deal with problems. A life without trouble simply does not exist. Going through trouble I personally have found strength in the quiet presence of God’s Spirit. Still, I also strongly believe that God’s presence is fully expressed in human compassion.

Nobody’s heart likes to be broken. Moments of exasperation won’t be listed as our favorite memories. We like to think of the day we met the love of our life; the day we held our first child; the day we experienced a significant breakthrough. We like to revisit our mountaintop moments while we do not like to dwell on our losses and failures.

Whether we go through a moment of victory or a moment of loss – God is in both moments. – While victories have a tendency to set us apart, our failures may have a lot of hidden potential also. People admire a hero from afar, but they can probably better relate to a flawed anti-hero who does not always win. It is very human to fail. Loss reminds us of our humanness – and I believe it is good to be reminded, at least from time to time.

Loss puts us into a position where we need God the most. God is our merciful Father and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the source of all comfort; healing is under His wings; in Him we find enduring hope. Experiencing His peace in the face of adversity, we can in turn encourage others. Hope is contagious. Who knows – you may very well be somebody’s ray of hope today without even realizing it.

If loss has created any kind of empathy in us, then we have gained more than all of our prior victories combined. Success may feel exhilarating, and yet it is not our victories that connect us to our fellow human beings. Compassion however connects and soothes the pain.

The theme song of “The Last of the Mohicans” is a musical outcry expressing the pain of attempted genocide. Converting our pain into a song, triggers hope. As long as we cry out, there is a chance that we will be heard.

Who cares about our trouble? Maybe more people than we think. Certainly God cares – and I believe He is the One creating awareness and stirring empathy. Empathy ignites compassion; compassion ignites hope, and hope is the reason why we are still here.