Tuesday, April 06, 2010

This Matter of Gifts

"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. 9"Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! 12So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets." Matthew 7:7-8

I read this passage in the Bible this morning, and it made me go back and read it again. And again, and again. Sometimes that's a great way to try and gain new insight or understanding. I read a passage over and over until I start to generate some new thoughts about it. Sometimes that means I need to look it up in a different translation, sometimes that means I need to focus on just one piece of it or a few particular words.

This morning as I read the first part of these verses, I was thinking about "ask and you shall receive" and I began thinking of all the times growing up or in my young adult years when I would read that verse and start asking God for a financial windfall. Who doesn't grow up thinking about how much fun it would be to win a million dollars somehow? Or when I was a teenage girl, always in love with one boy or another, my asking was more along the lines of having Mr. Dreamy become Mr. Boyfriend. Just thinking about that makes me giggle a little to myself, but then I look over at my growing daughter and the giggle is halted, because she is getting oh-so close to that age. Yikes!

Anyway. I was thinking about all the times over the years that I asked for something and didn't receive it. Even lately, I was asking God for a house, for a place to call our own where we didn't have to share walls with anyone. I really thought we were going to be given a house- and we were in a situation to have that very thing happen. But the closer that came to being a reality, the more I felt like that would be a bad thing. I can't really explain that thought process, but moving to another rental situation is just right for us at this time. God knew exactly what He was doing when He did not answer my prayers in the way that I thought they should be answered.

That is where thinking like a parent comes in. How many times do my children ask me for something completely ridiculous. At birthday time or Christmas time my kids compile these lists of anything and everything- and a lot of the stuff on their list is junk. Cheap toys that will break right away or not work properly after just a few days of use. As parents, when we look at these lists- these requests, we think about whether or not they will be of any benefit to the child. Will this particular gift bring them joy? Will it be joy for a moment, or something that will bring joy for some time to come?

God doesn't give us junk. And He also doesn't give us anything that won't bring us lasting joy. Just as sometimes, we parents go through the requests our kids have and discard the junk, God does the very same thing. He knows exactly what will make our hearts sing with joy. He knows my heart better than I know my heart- He knows which ideas in our heads are a passing fancy, and which ideas are there for the long haul.

While sometimes too, this verse could very well be applied to the physical stuff- as I've been speaking about, but how about the spiritual stuff? That's where these verses really come to life. Think about someone asking Jesus into their life for the very first time. He is never, ever going to say no- they ask, and they receive. Just like that, their life is changed for forever. Anyone who gathers up the courage to knock on the door of Christ will have the door opened up for them to a whole new world. No one will be turned away or denied- it is the greatest gift of all and it is truly for everyone who desires it! How many times do we hear of people who are looking for joy- people who are on a life journey to discover what truly makes them happy. For so many, they look to other answers, money, fancy cars, boats, houses, careers, and while all those things may be good for a time- they simply don't last. Jesus is everlasting.

Jesus is the gift that literally lasts a lifetime- and beyond. And once we've accepted the gift of salvation, there are many, many other gifts just waiting for us to enhance our walk with Christ. There is the gift of the baptism of the Holy Spirit- a mighty gift indeed. There are all the other spiritual gifts that come with that as well, the gifts of discernment, leadership, and evangelism to name a few. The fruit of the spirit is a gift to us as well- great gifts that will grow naturally the more we seek Him. Who doesn't want a little more patience, or a little more gentleness present in their life!

God gives us good gifts! He gives us great gifts! And not a single one of them will bring us harm or hurt us in any way. Every single one of them is designed to enhance our lives, and He, as our precious Holy Father, knows exactly when we should receive each gift. Just as I, as a parent, know the best time to present my children with particular gifts (like a bicycle, car or video game system, as an example) God knows exactly at what "age" we will best be ready to use what He gives us. All we need to do is ask for these gifts, and they are ours. That's it! We don't need to beg mercilessly, we don't need to keep asking over and over. We ask, and we receive- God will not deny us these precious gifts that will only serve to transform us more into the eternal beings we are meant to be.

God is love. And His gifts are love. We don't need to be ashamed of asking for them either- it's good to desire His gifts. As a parent, I LOVE it when I learn that the gift I am going to give my child is the thing they want most. God is the exact same way. So what do you want from Him today? Ask, and you shall receive. For God loves you, and wants to lavish His beloved with gift upon gift.

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