Good gifts

Matthew 7:11 NIV

Some people are really great gift givers. They know exactly what to buy to make the person feel understood and loved. God is the ultimate gift giver. He always knows what we need. He always knows what the desires of our heart are. He always knows the right time to give us the gift. And He always knows when the gift we are asking for isn’t going to be the right thing for us. The Bible tells us that ‘every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows’ (James 1:17 NIV). God’s love for us is unchanging and He wants to give us ‘good and perfect’ gifts. We have the ability to enter into God’s presence and ask Him for what we want. Jesus said, ‘How much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!’ And if we are walking in obedience and seeking to please Him, we can be confident when we come before Him. The Bible says: ‘If our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God’ (1 John 3:21 NIV). But if we are approaching with selfish motives or sin that we haven’t confessed, we will probably feel uncomfortable in God’s presence and struggle to confidently believe that God will provide for us. So let’s make sure we are dealing with sin and seeking His will at all times. We are told that ‘He does not hold back anything good from those whose lives are innocent’ (Psalm 84:11 NCV). And if God’s saying no, it’s because it wouldn’t be good for us. We just need to trust Him – He has something better in mind for us.

1 Chr 16-18; Luke 12:49-59; Ps 119:41-48; Prov 21:1-3

Believe God for “Good Things”

Matthew 7:11 KJV

The cross proves how much God loves you. “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not…freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32 KJV). And “all things” means all things! If it’s promised in God’s Word, it’s God’s will – so refuse to settle for less. But you must be single-minded in your approach or it won’t work (See James 1:6-8). The Psalmist said, “One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after” (Psalm 27:4 KJV). Tell God exactly what you want. And if you’re walking in obedience and seeking to please Him, be confident when you come before Him. “If our heart condemn us not …we [have] confidence towards God” (1 John 3:21 KJV). But be careful; guilt undermines faith! When you permit sin into your life you become uncomfortable in God’s presence, and it’s hard to believe for the results you want. So deal with it immediately. Miracles happen to the believing – so get back into a position where you can confidently believe God for the thing you need. He hasn’t changed His plans for your life. Circumstances and seasons change, but “God’s word of promise…is for ever settled in heaven and is always fulfilled” (See Isaiah 40:8). Jesus said, “How much more shall your Father…give good things to those that ask him.” Note the words “good things.” That sounds like another Bible promise. “No good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly” (Psalm 84:11 KJV). And if God says no, it’s because it wouldn’t be “good” for you. Trust Him – He has something better in mind for you.

Soul food: 1 Chr 16-18; Luke 12:49-59; Ps 119:41-48; Prov 21:1-3

Freedom (2)

Psalm 107:14 NCV

Throughout the Bible, we see people being set free. When the Israelites were in captivity, ‘they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress’ (v.13 NIV). When people were trapped in their sin, Jesus forgave them and set them free. Jesus can free us today, and ‘if the Son sets you free, you are free through and through’ (John 8:36 MSG). So how do we access that freedom? Firstly, we have to want freedom, and we have to realise we need God’s help to get it. We can’t do it in our own strength. Freedom starts by recognising our total dependence on Him. Instead of trying to handle it all on your own, the Bible says, ‘Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you’ (1 Peter 5:7 NIV). We can get so caught up in trying to find freedom on our own, trying to fix ourselves, we forget to turn to God. But it’s not about fixing ourselves, it’s about devoting ourselves. And devoting ourselves leads on to the second point. We need to be feeding our souls. Jesus said, ‘I am the living bread…If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever’ (John 6:51 NIV). As we feed on God’s Word and share our feelings in prayer, He’ll lighten our burdens and nourish our souls. He came to declare ‘freedom for the prisoners…to release the oppressed’ (Luke 4:18 NIV). So let’s take time to meditate on God’s Word. And to reflect on it until we understand how to apply it to our lives. Knowledge without application is useless. Freedom requires feeding daily on the Bible, and applying what we learn to our circumstances.

Judg 4-6; Mark 10:13-22; Ps 88:9b-18; Prov 13:4-6


Luke 23:18 NIV

The Bible says: ‘With one voice they cried out, ‘Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us!’ (Barabbas had been thrown into prison for an insurrection in the city, and for murder)’ (vv.18-19 NIV). Barabbas was a ‘notorious prisoner’ (Matthew 27:16 ESV) but still the people chose for Him to be released. Imagine how he must have felt, sat in that prison having been found guilty, and now about to face his punishment. We may not be notorious criminals, but we all make mistakes and we all fall short of God’s best. We’re all tempted and we can all sin. Just like Barabbas, we don’t deserve freedom. But we have it. And that’s all because of the grace of God. The devil wants to make us think that our sin means we’re imprisoned and trapped. But God’s already overcome. We’ve been released, just like Barabbas, because Jesus took our place. He died instead of us. Christ took away all our sins. All of them. He took them to the top of a hill called Calvary. He died on the cross, and our sins died with Him. The Bible says: ‘Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ. God sacrificed Jesus on the altar of the world to clear that world of sin. Having faith in him sets us in the clear’ (Romans 3:24-25 MSG). So let’s never forget the incredible gift of freedom from God. Because of Jesus, we too have been released.

Deut 30:1-32:28; Mark 8:27-38; Ps 57; Prov 12:15-17

Trust your advocate, not your accuser (2)

Romans 8:33 NCV

Paul writes: “Who can accuse the people God has chosen? No one, because God is the One who makes them right. Who can say God’s people are guilty? No one, because Christ Jesus died, but he was also raised from the dead, and now he is on God’s right side, appealing to God for us” (vv. 33-34 NCV). The accusations of Satan splutter and fall like a deflated balloon. Then why, pray tell, do we still hear them? Why do we, as Christians, still feel guilt? Not all guilt is bad. God uses appropriate doses of guilt to awaken us to sin. We know guilt is God-given when it causes “indignation…alarm…longing…concern…readiness to see justice done” (2 Corinthians 7:11 NIV). God’s guilt brings enough regret to change us. Satan’s guilt, on the other hand, brings enough regret to enslave us. Don’t let him lock his shackles on you! Remember: “Your life is hid with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). When God looks at you, He sees Jesus first. In the Chinese language the word for righteousness is a combination of two characters: the figure of a lamb and a person. The lamb is on top, covering the person. Whenever God looks down at you, this is what He sees: the perfect Lamb of God covering you. Only once in Scripture is it recorded that Jesus wrote something. And He wrote it on the ground, saying to an accused sinner He’d just forgiven, “You are free from condemnation. Go, and sin no more” (See John 8:10-11). So the word for you today is: Trust your advocate, and not your accuser!

Soul food: Deut 14-17; Mark 7:1-13; Ps 37:25-31; Prov 12:1-3