Posts Tagged blessing

Bless the Lord

Matthew 8: 2 – 4

A leper came to Him and bowed down before Him, and said, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And Jesus said to him, “See that you tell no one; but go, show yourself to the priest and present the offering that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”

Tell me, what jumps out to you from this passage? There are many messages easily gleaned from these verses. As I read it recently, I was captivated by the last sentence. The facts are seen in the first two verses: evidence of faith, a request for healing, healing, and compassion. Jesus’ verbal response to the former leper is intriguing, though. The first message is this distinguishing between telling and doing. Jesus says, go do something. That actually is important because a leper would have been considered unclean and prohibited from going into the temple. However, the even more interesting part of Jesus’ statement is the directive to present the prescribed offering.

I am reminded of the story of Abram (Abraham) and Melchizedek from Genesis 14. Abram had just returned from battle when Melchizedek went out to meet him. Melchizedek brought wine, bread and a blessing. This is the blessing Melchizedek spoke over Abram, “Blessed be Abram of God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand,” (Genesis 14: 19 – 20). The narrative reveals that subsequently, Abram gave Melchizedek a tenth of all. That’s the tithe and this occurrence happened many years before the law. Therefore, Abram did not give a tithe out of any obligation imposed by the law. This all happened before Moses lived so you have to think it happens before Jewish custom as well because the tribes of Israel did not yet exist. Why then did Abram give a tenth of all and does this inform our lives in any way?

People really get hung up on the tithe and I just thank the Lord that my teachers led me to tithe early in my Christian life. Folks get all twisted here about Old Testament, New Testament, the law, grace, etc. There is no need for this theological maelstrom. You can figure this out for yourself. Clearly there is something going on here. The similarity between the telling of Abram’s story and the recounting of the leper’s experience with Jesus is revealing. First God blessed. Then man blessed God. Abram didn’t tithe in order to get God to do anything. God had already done everything. He gave the enemy into Abram’s hand and then sent His high priest with bread, wine and a blessing. Abram’s offering was a response, not initiative.

The same is true in the case of the leper but in this instance, Jesus had to teach the man as to a proper response. He said, go show yourself and present the prescribed offering. Other translations use the word gift instead of offering which I believe casts a different light on the matter. It makes me think of a gift of thanksgiving. God has done something wonderful. Does it not seem reasonable to express our faith, gratitude and thanksgiving in a tangible way?

Here is what I trip over – Why in the world do we resist giving to God? Was Abram concerned with how Melchizedek would use the tithe? He was not even asked to give, he just did, willingly and with a good heart. What makes Abram different from us? How is it that he could so easily give Melchizedek a tenth of the spoils without grumbling or worry? What is hard about it for us? Did Abram look at Melchizedek and judge the man or did he make his offering to God?

Jesus directed the leper to go give to God as an appropriate response to the gift of healing. Have we come so far in our societies that this is a foreign concept? Have we become cultures of takers rather than givers such that the thought of doing something nice for those who bless us is unique? Tips have become mandatory in many establishments rather than a deliberate blessing for someone who has treated us well? And, if so, is that something that has tainted our giving impetus. Or is it more basic than any of these sociological questions? Are we just self-gratifying pleasure seekers for whom the next toy is more important than thanksgiving for all the blessings our Father daily bestows upon us?

This passage makes me want to bless my Father. He will never be impressed with the pittance I lay upon the altar, but I pray that the condition of my heart and the appreciation and love with which I give, will bless Him. How much joy do you think you may find in a love offering from you to the lover of your heart? “Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And all that is within me, bless His holy name,” (Psalm 103: 1).

Request Granted

Psalm 21: 2 – 3

You have given him his heart’s desire, and You have not withheld the request of his lips. Selah. For You meet him with the blessings of good things.

I hope you are enjoying this stroll through the Psalms. I very much am. The hardest part of this, for me, is choosing only one or two verses out of the psalm to send to you. There are so many verses screaming to be heard, like verse seven from today’s psalm. However, I have to choose so verses two and three are my pick because of yesterday’s selection. I can’t help but feel that Father is trying to make a point this week.

We should always consider the placement of Selah (for further reading on Selah see the Word of the Day for August 30, 2018). It should be like a flag going up when we see it. In today’s passage it is sandwiched between the two verses. The Selah connects them and puts emphasis on them.

There are two thoughts which occur to me about the authorship of this passage. First, we know that David penned it. It is interesting that he is so vehement about God giving him the desires of his heart. We have seen two psalms in a row where David proclaims this truth. And, of course, Psalm 37: 4 is hanging out there just waiting to be read. So, David is pretty insistent on this point. Also, he is not trying to convince anyone. David’s words are for the Lord. This isn’t even a statement of faith. It is a statement of fact. David experienced God going far beyond meeting his daily needs. He has Yahweh showing up with blessings for him.

The second thought about authorship is that though David penned this passage, God is the true author. It is the Lord who gave David his inspiration and his songs. Beyond that, we know that Jesus is the Word. These two ideas mean that this declaration that God fulfills the desires of our hearts and meets us with blessings of good things comes from Him. Yahweh is the one who wanted this text in the Bible. He is trying to tell us something. He is using David and his gifts to get His message out to us.

God knew when He inspired David to write this song that thousands of years later, you would be reading them. In fact, you might be the one person who more than any other inspired the Father to insert these words into His Bible. The Bible is His letter to you. It is here that He contained some of His most important ideas for you. You don’t have to depend on your ability to hear God’s voice. The words are lying on the page for you. And, as if that isn’t enough, He has now inspired and directed me to send them directly to you. They were sitting in your inbox this morning awaiting you.

So, what’s the point? The point is that God wants to fulfill all your heart’s desires. It is His idea, His desire. He wants to greet you in the morning with baskets full of blessings. Everyday is Christmas to Him so He has gifts for you. One of the key components for each of us is that we need to get this into our hearts. It is quite easy to accept these ideas in our minds, but your mind isn’t the key. Belief, real belief, happens in the heart. The mind can agree and can accept but belief is rooted in the heart.

David was fully convinced. You can hear it in His words. He believed it and he lived it. Guess which always comes first. He believed God even when he was hiding in a cave. He believed God even when facing a giant. His boast was always in the name of the Lord God and thus he lived the blessing of God. When we believe in the goodness of God the way David did, then maybe we will have something to sing about too.

Blessed Refuge

Psalm 5: 11 – 12

Let all who take refuge in you rejoice. Let them sing with joy forever. Protect them, and let those who love your name triumph in you. You bless righteous people, O Lord. Like a large shield, you surround them with your favor.

I hope you are enjoying this sojourn through the psalms. David reminds us, today, that there is blessing, success, victory, protection, joy and favor for those who take refuge in the Lord.

David found his respite in the Lord.  He had a way of intertwining his existence with that of God and that was an uncommon space for the Old Testament believer. I love reading David for this reason. He had an enviable relationship with the Lord. We get to peer into this relationship through the songs written by David. Can’t you almost hear his heart soar as he sings, “Let them sing with joy forever.” As he wrote these words, I believe he was basking in the presence of the Lord. You can hear the praise and reverence in David’s lyrics but you also sense the deep intimacy he had with Yahweh.

As you read this psalm, you hear about the favor of God surrounding you. You may even rejoice at the simple acceptance that God blesses us, His righteousness. Most of all, though, today I hope that you will not only hear the substance of David’s song but even more so the tone of his conversation with the Lord. I hope that through these words, you will glimpse the heart and passion of David seeing the inspiration of his affection for the Lord. I think if we will take our time with these words, we will find our own hearts stirred. Maybe we will raise our voices or pen a beautiful lyric of our own. Maybe you can write a love song to the Lord. If you do, I hope you will share it with the rest of us.

Have a blessed day in the Lord. Rejoice in Him.

Abundance

John 6: 13 – 14

So they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten. Therefore when the people saw the sign which He had performed, they said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.”

I am sure you recognize this as the telling of the feeding of the five thousand. We forget, sometimes, that not only were all the people fed, which actually numbered somewhere around 20,000 when women and children are included, but that afterwards the disciples gathered twelve baskets of leftovers. What does this say to us and why did John include that detail in his narration of this event?

The first thing I see in it is the very nature of God. Not only does God not do anything half way, He actually goes above and beyond the need (Ephesians 3: 20). Our God works in abundance. He thinks in terms of overflow. We need to understand that about Him because that is the way He wants us to think too. Not only did God meet their immediate need, He also gave them food for the next day. That is worth pondering.

In addition to the idea of abundance, I believe John wanted us to see that this miracle was easy. Clearly Jesus did not struggle to feed the 20,000 since there was so much left over. John tells of the overflow as a prelude to his next statement. We know that because the next word is “therefore”. The telling of this miracle has a conclusion, a purpose. John says that when the people saw the miracle they concluded that God was on the scene. They thought that Jesus must be the foretold prophet that God would send before the coming of the Messiah. They missed it a bit but they recognized God’s hand and that is the part I like.

When God shows up, people get blessed. Great things happen. It doesn’t matter if the showing of God’s power comes right out of heaven, through the ministry of a prophet or at the hands of you and me. Whenever people get blessed, or their needs get met, God gets that glory and the attention. We can be instruments of His great grace and kindness as much as Jesus’ disciples were because we have the same Lord and the same Father. We actually have more because we have the Holy Spirit too.

Let God’s kindness be shown through you. Believe me, when people see the manifestation of God, evangelism becomes very easy.

Blessed Counsel

Psalm 1: 1

How blessed is the . . ..

Psalm 1, a very good place to start. Most of you realize the psalms are songs. As such they have a different tone and complexion from the rest of scripture. The psalms contain many special messages and they often minister straight to the heart, completely bypassing the intellect.

I am struck by the first words of the first Psalm. I participate in a conference call where we are learning about the blessing. How interesting that the first words of the first psalm are about the blessing. The songwriter is going to tell us how people live in the blessing of God. What comes next? How can we each be amongst the blessed of God?

Here is the first verse in its entirety: “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers!” The first thing we learn about walking in the blessing is what not to do. So, what is this bit of wisdom. First, don’t take your advice from the wicked. I used to think this meant not to take advice from non-Christians. So, I endeavored to hire Christians for everything. However, I made a dazzling discovery. Some of the non-Christians were more ethical than the Christians I was working with. Jesus said we will know the wicked by their fruit. So now I have learned to be a fruit inspector. I would prefer to work with Christians but sometimes my light is better displayed by its exposure to those who need to see Christ alive. Also, the salvation prayer does not include a transformation button. We all have to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2: 12). That means that our transformation isn’t automatic. Romans 12: 2 reads, “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Transformation is a process. It would be wonderful if there was an automatic transformation but there isn’t. Everyone has to work on becoming the Christ like person God ordained. Checking people’s fruit is a check on their journey so far and their ethics is a part of that journey. So, we are instructed not to take our counsel from the wicked which means we must be certain that the people we look to are worthy to lead us on a right path.

That is true of the next statement as well. Do not conspire or plan with sinners. Who are the sinners? Does that mean limit us to Christians? I wish. Don’t hang out with people who practice sin regardless of their Christian affiliation. Choose to be with people who are endeavoring to live above sin. Jesus gave us his life and victory so that we can be free of the chains of sin but not all who have asked Jesus into their lives have broken the chains of sin. Be wise. Check their fruit.

Last, do not be a scoffer nor associate with people who are. This is a pretty big deal, actually. Scoffers are those who jeer, mock, are contemptuous, and speak derisively. These are people you need to stay away from. I think also of people who are generally negative, contrary and critical. We all have a tendency towards being scoffers at times, but you know there is a difference between occasional slipups and a pattern of behavior.

This first psalm points us towards the blessing. In so doing it alerts us to some easy missteps. If you want to live in the blessing you can’t take your advice from wicked people, scoffers or sinners. Of course, this makes sense. These people cannot point you to the blessing. They cannot teach you or counsel you in how to walk in blessing. They can only teach what they know which is scoffing, wickedness, and sin. None of those are in the blessing. Don’t hire these people, don’t take their advice, don’t let them lead you – even if they do have a fish on their business card or are related to you. Take your counsel from people whose fruit would please Jesus.

Salvation is for Today

Luke 4: 18 – 19

The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.”

Stop for a moment today and consider this passage. This is from the book of Isaiah and it is what Jesus read in the synagogue.  His speaking of this passage marked the beginning of his public ministry. If God sent Jesus only to die on a cross bearing the sin of the world, then why this scripture? If eternal life was the only thing on God’s mind, why did Yahweh anoint Jesus to do all these other things? My point is that we have narrowed our focus as to Jesus’ purpose and in so doing have missed the greater blessing.

John 3: 16 reads, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” I suppose there is no other scripture in the whole of the Bible that is more well known than this one. We make our children memorize it in Bible School, put it on bumper stickers and even billboards. It is a wonderful passage, but it is not the whole story. Jesus didn’t stand up in the synagogue and say, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me so that none shall perish but instead have eternal life.” Why? Because that was not his singular purpose nor his anointing. It explains God’s love but not Jesus’ purpose. If you want to know the reason God sent Jesus you must read 1 John 3: 8, “The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.” This scripture discloses Jesus’ purpose. Let us go further, though, to see what Jesus, himself, says about his purpose in the earth. John 10: 10 reads, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

Abundant life, free from the works of the devil, is the gift Jesus came to give us. Yes, eternal life is part of that package but that is the end game, not the whole thing. God made the earth for us to live in and enjoy. He gave us this planet to be our home, not heaven. He didn’t create earth as a testing ground but rather as a home. The point is, the time we spend here is not simply a waystation. Life here isn’t just passing time until we get to heaven. We are supposed to have abundant life here and now. Look again at today’s passage. Clearly that has nothing to do with heaven. Those conditions do not exist in heaven. Adam’s job was to make earth look like heaven so that we would have a heavenly home right here. Jesus prayed, “Let your kingdom come. Let your will be done on earth as it is done in heaven,” (Matthew 6: 10). Earth is to reflect heaven.

Jesus came to restore our original purpose to us and to return the earth to us as our heavenly home, a home made in the image of heaven. Then God will come here and live with us. We’ve got to stop waiting to get to heaven to start fulfilling our purpose. We’ve got to stop waiting until heaven to start living, especially living in the fullness of God’s intent for us.

Redemption? Yes, it’s a big deal, but it is not the end of the story. It is the means by which God put us back on track. We could not have the abundant life Jesus came to give us until we were cleansed of the sin which stained us and our existence. Furthermore, I do not think eternal life is the evangelical message; it is not the salvation message. The word salvation means, rescue or safety, deliver, health, victory, prosperity, help, and welfare, (Strong’s 3444 & 4991). It does not only mean deliverance from sin. The savior came to give deliverance, health, victory, prosperity, help and welfare. In other words, he came to give us an abundant life right here, right now. This is why I think evangelism is important, but it also points out why our evangelistic message is presently off target. We are trying to get people into heaven while Jesus is trying to save them from their current peril and give them a great life now and forever.

Eternity is now. It began a long time ago. God has plans to get us into heaven but the good news that Jesus shared is that our freedom and victory begins now. This is not the good news we have been carrying to the world, however. God wants people to know they can be free now. Jesus came to set the captives free. Amen? The good news of the gospel is that God wants to bless you now, in this life. He wants to free people from torment and hurt. He wants to mend their hurts and restore them to good life. People need God now, not just in heaven. The message of the gospel is that God loves you now. Salvation emphatically is not, buy your ticket to heaven and then suffer until you die. That is not God. If you know God at all, you know that is not His heart.

To be clear, the evangelical message, the message that all the world needs to hear is that God wants to be your savior today. He wants to move into our lives and improve them. He longs to give us perfect peace and joy in this world, right now. Yahweh is a now God. Jesus came to give us abundant life. Abundant life is that life which in intertwined with our beloved, our Father, Yahweh. He who loves us has sent His son to restore us back to health, welfare, liberty, prosperity and joy. This is the good news of the gospel. Tell that to someone. Heaven is here and now for all who live in Christ. Now is the salvation of the gospel. Now is life and love in the Son. Jesus is here now to give you a good life. “For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope,” (Jeremiah 29: 11). Tell someone the good news. Jesus has come, and he has life and healing in his hands. This is his salvation, and ours. Amen.

Being Blessed

2 Chronicles 20: 25

And they were three days taking the spoil because there was so much.

For those of you who have been reading the Word of the Day for a while, you know this story from 2 Chronicles is one of my favorites. It shows how God works in our lives as well as showing what our part of the dynamic is. (Go to our website, https://iveyministries.org and select the daily devotional tab. From there you can search 2 Chronicles 20 and read other messages taken from this moving passage.) This chapter is a classic teaching on spiritual warfare but today I want you to see something different. We can see God’s economy working here too.

I understand when I write about us living in God’s economy rather than the world’s it is challenging to put practical legs on it. It seems so nebulous, so farfetched. I agree. It’s hard to wrap your head around God being your source when all you see is a job or a paycheck. We have been trained to work for an income but God is telling us to believe for our income. Use your paycheck as seed and your faith for your income. That is just a little hard for most of us to understand. Here, in 2 Chronicles, we get to see a practical application of God’s economy.

Back in the day, the armies went out to fight and “to the winner went the spoils” of war. In this passage from 2 Chronicles, though, no one drew their sword. Three different nations gathered together against Judah and yet not one soldier fought. King Jehoshaphat had people standing upon the ridge singing and playing their instruments as if there were not three armies ready to annihilate them. Can you picture that. Instead of sharpening their swords or setting an ambush, these guys had a sing-a-long. Not one of them fought, not one of them died and yet they ended up with the spoils of war. There was so much booty that it took them three days to haul it off. What does this say to us about God’s economy? They certainly did not work for it. One can hardly say they were the victors of battle. None the less, they walked away with a bounty.

This is one example of how God can bless your pocketbook. I am not suggesting He is going to slay three armies for you but certainly you have your own situations. He has all kinds of ways figured out to get resources into your hands without you having to earn them. The key, in this case and in our lives, is following His direction. Judah listened to the voice of the Lord and then did what He told them to do. That is the entire secret. We only have to do whatever He says, no matter how ridiculous it sounds, and He will prosper us. So, if you wanted to know the secret, now you do.

Be blessed in all you do. Let God increase you. He is our source and the master of our increase. Set your heart and mind on following this example. Embrace the idea that God can make material goods come into your hands from any source. He is your provision, your job is not. He will make His enemies pour their gold into your hands. Believe it and it is yours.