Good Gifts

For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. “You fathers—if your children ask for a fish, do you give them a snake instead? Or if they ask for an egg, do you give them a scorpion? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.”
Good gifts. We ask, God provides. That’s how this thing works, right? TV preachers, for years, have been saying that God wants to give us blessing and wealth; riches and all the good stuff. And that seems to be what Jesus is saying here, isn’t he?
What happens when God doesn’t give us all that STUFF? Does He hate us? Did we do something wrong to make Him mad? Is He withholding the blessing because we crossed Him?
Sunday, I preached on suffering with Christ. This seems to be a real part of being a true follower of Jesus Christ, yet here in the United States of America, Christianity has found its own brand of discipleship. A place, where the American Dream is directly correlated to the blessing of God. Now, don’t get me wrong, nothing is given or taken away, except by the hand of God. He is involved in the blessing process and nothing happens in this little universe without His knowledge.
when we begin to associate our faith with material blessings, that faith is shaky at best and at its worst, is no faith at all. This “health and wealth” gospel as many call it only holds up as long as life is peachy and the sun is shining.
What happens when the rain comes and life is challenging? True discipleship happens in the tough times. Faith is strengthened by suffering. Paul and Peter both talk about how true faith is found in identifying with Christ’s suffering. Iron is sharpened in the fire, muscles are made strong by putting them through the wringer. Use whatever analogy you like, tough stuff makes us stronger if we are willing to walk through it with Jesus.
So what is Jesus talking about with these “good gifts”?
God’s idea of good gifts and our idea of good gifts, is a totally different discussion. Most times, in the USA, we aren’t even coming at this thing from the same solar system. We are world’s apart. God gives us, as Paul describes in his letter to the Galatians,
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
Yes, sometimes we get some of the things that this world values – but God is most concerned, like any good parent would be, with our character and not our material lifestyle.
I’m still learning to live like this. Trusting in God’s brand of spiritual development, and not our Americanized version, is tough. How has God shaped you into who He desires you to be by allowing you to walk through tough stuff?

One Word for 2014

I am a fan of AT&T’s current ad campaign. Who doesn’t love kids saying hilarious things on TV? The newest commercial began airing recently and I found it less funny yet more profound. 

Maybe unintentionally AT&T is onto something here with our New Year’s Revolutions.

Several years ago, I jumped on board with my friend Alece Ronzino’s One Word 365 movement. It truly has become a movement. I believe that so often we sit around and make list after list of things we want to change about our lives leading up to a new year and the complexity and vastness of the list actually hinders our ability to focus on what’s most important. We lack focus in the area that God truly wants to concentrate His efforts in us.

Isn’t that what’s most important anyway? Shouldn’t our priority be what God wants to do in us instead of the list of things we want to do in our own strength? It is the struggle of all struggles, after all, what we can do versus what He can do…what we want versus what He wants.

I heard a message from Austin Stone Downtown Campus Pastor, Jeff Mangum last week about how, just maybe, God wants to work in the small, dark places of our hearts that we haven’t even examined in awhile. That message helped me unpack what God had been speaking to me quietly for a few weeks, my One Word for 2014.

My word for this year is…NEW.

God isn’t in the business of cosmetics. He’s in the business of reconstruction…Complete tear downs and rebuilds. God does his best work from the ground up.

The Book of Genesis is a perfect example. God started Mankind’s existence from the dust. There wasn’t anything he had already made that he felt he could just improve on or modify, he just made something new. God is an expert on new.

In Isaiah 43:19 he says,

For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.

It is in this passage where I see the connection between Jeff’s point on small, dark places and new. There is a phrase we use about others, but seldom about ourselves, “He/she is rough around the edges.” We all have rough edges. Our lives are so full of hurt and pain that life is bound to scuff a few edges. Often times that comes in the form of poor choices we make and other times from no fault of our own. Regardless, how we smooth those edges is our choice. Many times we are disinterested in doing anything at all. Sometimes, we’ve become so accustomed to the roughness that we don’t even realize it is there anymore.

What we tend to want to do is to throw on a mask, or put new clothes on the rough spots. That’s not what God does. He takes the masterpiece that we already are and he begins to sand us down in the carpenter’s workshop. He planes us down to our foundation and resets our basis. From there He remakes us into a new creation.

The thing I’ve discovered in the last few months is that God doesn’t just smooth out the rough edges, the tough stuff. Starting from scratch also means the edges that were already smooth also get remade. Sometimes we hold onto good too long. We can let good get in the way of new.

Only God can do this stuff. Only God is creative enough to be able to make new the human soul. Only God can cause someone to be reborn. Only God can make me new.

My focus in 2014 is on allowing God to make me new. the crazy thing is that God just doesn’t do this new thing one time. Remember the Isaiah passage? He is in the present tense, always now, making new. It is a daily newness that comes from walking with Christ. I am so looking forward to what God is going to do in 2014 in every area of my life.

Just maybe AT&T is onto something with this New Year’s Revolution thing. God isn’t into a resolution in our souls, he’s into starting a revolution of newness in us.