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And He Himself gave some to be....evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ...
- Ephesians 4:11-12

THIS BLOG HAS MOVED TO www.timeintheword.org

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Location: The Hill Country of Texas

Pastor - Providence Reformed Baptist Church
Director - TIME in the Word Ministries

Monday, March 26, 2007

Good Gifts

TIME in the Word - Daily Devotional
Together for Inspiration, Motivation, and Encouragement

Verse of the Day - Matthew 7:9-11
Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!

Daily Scripture Reading - James 1

Puritan Catechism
Question #52 - Which is the fifth commandment?

Answer - The Fifth Commandment is, "Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you" (Exodus 20:12).

Devotional Thoughts
Jesus, the Master Teacher that He is, takes a hold of our imaginations here in order to instruct us about the very nature of God. This is an important and needed lesson for us today lest we forget Who God is and what He has done. Indeed, most that we can say is wrong with the church and our families today is rooted directly in a wrong view of God. How do we get a wrong view of God? We misread, misunderstand, or misapply the Word of God, for it is the written Word of God that reveals Him to us. That is why it is so crucial in the church that we have teachers who know the Word and even more importantly know the Author of the Word!

False teaching often introduces fleshly doctrines, not that they appear obviously carnal, but they are man-centered. What we see in the Scripture is a God centered world view and lifestyle. If we focus on self, on our needs and wants, then our eyes are fixed on the wrong subject. The hard truth is that this life is not about us! It is about God - about glorifying and worshipping and pleasing and obeying and loving Him.

Part of what is wrong in our view of God is evidenced in how we pray and in what we expect from our prayers. Jesus has been teaching us to ask, seek, and knock. He has shown us the need to persevere and the Scriptures teach us to ask in faith, to expect an answer. But then, when we focus on self, God becomes nothing more than an Almighty ATM, dispensing whatever we need as soon as we need it as long as we know the right PIN number. If not, if our needs seem to go unmet, that usually drives us in search of a new formula, a new phrase, a new method of praying - like all the books in the bookstore that promise us results NOW if we just do it the way they do it. What a scam! Teaching prayer for profit instead of learning from the prophets how to pray (sorry, couldn’t resist that one).

Listen - prayer is not about getting needs met. Prayer is about fellowship. It is about building that relationship of trust and dependence upon God. A benefit of that relationship is then that we are privileged to take our needs before God so that He can meet them and be glorified in doing so. But if the focus is only on the needs then we are missing the purpose behind prayer.

To make the point, Jesus points us to earthly parents. We know that we are fallen and sinful beings. We know that we struggle with sin. It does not take more than a few minutes of watching the evening news to understand depravity. But for the most part even sinners know how to answer a request from their child.

What father is there, everything being "normal", that will respond to a request from a child for food by giving him something that will not feed him but will instead hurt him? What moron would answer a child's request for bread by giving him a rock? "Here, son. I know you wanted some bread, but I have a better idea. Eat this rock! Yum – good with the peanut butter, isn’t it? Or even better, I know you asked for some fish, but I'd rather you eat this SNAKE!" Yikes! Of course that is not what a father does. Not even a dim-wit-poor-excuse-for-a-man father as portrayed on the latest sit-com. We know how to give our kids what they need, for the most part.

So why then do we have such a difficult time trusting God to give us what we need? There it is – Jesus’ point jumps off the page at us. If in our depravity we know how to meet the needs of those dependent upon us then how much more will an Omnipotent, All Holy God be able to give us good gifts? If we who are sinful know how to give good gifts then how much better at gift giving is God? He gives good things to those who ask.

We need not simply presume that God gives good gifts, for if we take the time to look at Scripture we see that the only kinds of gifts that God gives are good gifts! It is not just that He gives good gifts, all His gifts are good by virtue of the fact that it is HE who gives them.

We might need a moment to wrap our heads around this one, because the usual complaint about that which motivates us to become prayerless is often based in the idea that we asked God for what we needed and He did not come through for us. He did not give us that for which we asked, begged, and pleaded. Even when we offered to do whatever He asked if He would just answer this one little request!

But look, James 1:17 tells us, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning." Again, this does not only mean that God gives good gifts - it means every gift He gives is good. All that we have from His hand to provide for our needs, protect us, convict us, discipline us, stretch us, and grow us - it is all good.

Some ask why bad things happen to good people. This assumes that there is such a thing as a good person (Rom 3:12; Matt 19:17). It also assumes that trials, tribulations, and other various circumstances sent directly from the hand of God to us are bad! God does not give bad gifts. He alone is good and He knows what is best, and everything that happens to us is working for His glory and our good (Rom 8:28).

It is the selfish, fleshly attitude that cries out when our rights are violated and our needs go unmet. The truth is that we have no rights because we are blood bought slaves of Jesus Christ (1 Cor 6:19-20; 7:23). Further, if our needs are unmet then there are several possibilities. First, they are not needs - because God promises to meet every need (Phil 4:19). Second, perhaps we are asking amiss, asking selfishly (James 4:3). Third, it is not that God will not answer it is only that He has not answered yet (Ps 27:14; 37:7). Fourth, perhaps the answer was "No" and we are just being stubborn! And the list could go on.

Whatever the case may be we must regain a right view of God. He is able to answer, willing to answer, and He answers giving us every good gift. Are we asking correctly? Are we asking in faith, without doubting? Are we asking all the while knowing that the gifts God will give us are always good, even if they do not look so good to us at first?

We must ask, why is it that hindsight is 20/20? If we are asking in faith, truly knowing Who God is and what He can do, then why can't foresight be 20/20?? Look through the eyes of faith - then we will see how gracious, merciful, and giving our God really is. When we see all the answers He has given us, and when we recognize how good His gifts really are, we cannot help but praise and glorify Him. And that is the reason we pray in the first place - we pray so that God might be glorified!

Links for Further Study
(links to study each daily topic in more detail if you have the desire and the time)

How We Ought to Think about God's Providence by Thomas Boston
Delight in Prayer by Stephen Charnock

Bible Reading For Further Study

Recommended Songs for Worship

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