Bread nourishes; stones would break our teeth. God sends no snakes
to bite, frighten, or tempt us, nor scorpions to sting.


"If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him
a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead
of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?

"If you then being evil, 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! [{Matthew 7:11} If you know how to give good
gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven
give good things to those who ask Him!]"

                                                                               Luke 11:11-13 NKJV


                                   Bread or Stones?

Using very simple imagery, Jesus tried to correct a fundamental error
in our thinking about God. Evil, pain, danger, brokenness--these do not
come from our Father in heaven. Come on now, folks. God is for us, not
against us. Parents, when your child asks for jelly bread, do you spread
on a bucket of pebbles! When your son wants a tuna burger, do you put
a water snake in the bun and give it to him! When your little daughter
wants an omelet, do you fill it with red hot peppers! Of course not; never
would you behave like that. Such ridiculous thoughts make us shudder.

Neither does God do terrible deeds. Who better than Jesus would know
the nature of God and be able to reveal what God is like. In these few
brief and very descriptive sentences, Jesus alluded to the holiness and
goodness of God in contrast to the sinful nature of our humanity. The
perfection of heaven in contrast to the imperfections of earth. Then he
made his case. If imperfect humans know how to give good gifts to their
hungry children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good
things in response to the prayers of his hungering children.

"How much more" generous, kind, loving, understanding, resourceful,
wise. Like a candle to the sun. How much more lavish and extravagant,
above and beyond what we are able to imagine. Like a raindrop to the
sea. Our Father in heaven has so much more to give; it's ready and
available to those who ask.

We run into difficulty believing a verse such as this because we don't
know how God defines "good." For example, Jesus once said the one
who serves is greater than the one being served! We don't look at life
that way. In a culture that puts high value on acquisition, we are slow
to agree with his teaching that it is more blessed to give than to receive.
If we did what Jesus said, who knows what could happen! No, we are
not eager to jump in with both feet. Nor are we likely to show kindness
and gentleness to our enemy.

I know a man who lived with his enemy and he just couldn't stand her,
until the day he decided to believe that his unbearable wife was God's
good gift to him! He couldn't change her, he only altered the way he
thought about her. His behavior and attitude changed, too. So did his
prayers. If she were God's gift, he could no longer withhold himself from
her and wish her dead. He knew he must love the gift because he loved
the Giver. So he determined when he looked at her he would see the
beautiful young women he had married many years ago. Did I say he
couldn't change her? Because in a certain sense he did. Love is a
powerful force that has a way of transforming all it touches. The last
time I saw them, she was indeed lovely and he was beaming.

The apostle Paul knew about this. In Romans 12:2 he wrote, "Do not
be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your
mind, that you may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect
will of God." It takes a renewing of our mind to change the stinging
realities of life into a pleasant casserole that will go down nice and easy.
If you think God gave you a stone, look again from all angles and with a
mind open to the transforming power of God. Don't break your teeth on it;
savor it instead.

For those brave enough or reckless enough to ask God for the gift of
his Holy Spirit, God is more eager to oblige than any indulgent parent
on earth could ever be. The prize we seek is God's holy Presence living
and abiding within. That just may be what it takes to turn all our stones
into bread.

We have a choice, a decision to make. Are we going to believe these
words of Jesus, or dismiss them? Will we trust God to give, not evil,
but good? Not simply good, but the best! Not only what we need, but more
than we expect and are able to imagine. The secret to realizing the truth
of these words is to desire the Holy Spirit above all else. All spiritual
blessings are included and wrapped up in that, the greatest of gifts.

 

Use the following questions for small groups, journaling, further
study or reflection.

 

Icebreaker:   What is a favorite gift you like to give to others?

 

Do you tend to feel sick whenever you hear about a food recall?
When you visit a friend in the hospital, do you start to take on their symptoms?
Do you think of yourself as young or old, stupid or smart, kind or mean,
            valuable or trash, and behave accordingly?
Just how powerful are your thoughts?

 

Bob was angry at God for taking his mother when he was only 22. When
I met Bob he was 65 and still holding this grievance and refusing to believe
anything good about his heavenly Father.
            How common a reaction is this to a perceived "stone" from God?
            If you know someone with a reaction similar to Bob's, share something
                        about that?
            How likely is it that a person will find comfort if they refuse to be comforted?

 

In contrast to Bob, the Bible teaches us about renewal, change, transformation,
trust, and the faith to believe in the goodness of God.
            What are the steps involved in moving beyond Bob's negative position
                        and toward the positive precepts of the Bible?
            How do you take something which seems like a stone and turn it into
                        a positive factor which will enhance your life?

 

If bread, fish and eggs nourish our bodies, what will nourish our soul and spirit?

 

Matthew used the term "good things" to describe the gifts of God; Luke said
our Father wants to give us the Holy Spirit. What is the difference between
these two ways of understanding what Jesus said?

 

When I started writing this page, I preferred to work with "good things"; it
seemed easier to grasp and understand. But the further along I got, the more
I gravitated toward using Luke's text because it's the Holy Spirit who helps
us interpret and recognize a good gift when we see one.
            Think of the Holy Spirit as Jesus in the present tense living within you.
                        How powerful is that!?

 

As you go about your normal daily activities, try to increase your consciousness
of Jesus moving with you constantly.
            How does it affect your day when you remember His presence?
Joy is often associated with the Holy Spirit.  See if this will be true for you.

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