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Archive for Blessing

Mar
29

Counting Your Blessings

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In his book, The Good and Beautiful God, James Bryan Smith tells the story of a business leader who used an illustration to teach his team a valuable lesson. The leader went to the white board and drew a big, black circle. He asked his team what they saw. To the person, they replied, “A black spot.” “Anything else?” he inquired. ” The black spot was all they saw, nothing else.

“What about all of the white space around the spot?”

The point of the illustration is this: we can become so consumed by the problems that enter our lives that we can miss all of the good that surrounds the problem. Like the business team, we can also fall prey to focusing on our adversity to the degree that it renders us blind to all of the good in life.

When is the last time you did a blessings inventory? How many blessings can you list off the top of your head? Eight or ten? Could you do eight or ten pages of blessings? What about eight or ten legal pads? If we took the time and expended the energy to conduct an exhaustive blessing inventory, I suspect that our list would consume an amount closer to eight or ten legal pads than eight or ten pages. It really puts into perspective that nasty old spot in the center of the white board.

If you’re going to maintain a “can do” spirit in a “no you can’t world,” begin with the blessings of God. Don’t begin with your adversity. Your adversity is one thing floating on top of a sea of the good things of God.

Mar
16

The Power of the Spoken Blessing 3

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What are the characteristics of a spoken blessing?

First, I believe a spoken blessing should instill faith. The person who blesses is able to see the work of God in another person’s life and point it out. He or she observes Christ-likeness and the marks of the image of God and blesses the faith within.

Second, I believe a spoken blessing should add value to a person, affirming their potential and encouraging them to strive to build upon their potential. The blessing should stir up the passions and the gifts of the recipient, helping them to see their purpose for life and affirming their role in the Kingdom of God.

Next, the spoken blessing should affirm character. We give compliments that affirm what we do. But blessings affirm what we are and encourage us to live our lives with godly character.

Finally, the spoken blessing empowers the future by pointing to the God possibilities in life. It assists others by empowering them to rise above what others say can’t be done and to focus on what God says can be done.

What would happen to our families, our friends, and even our co-workers if we spoke blessings instead of cursings? Our tongues are like keys that unlock the potential of God within others. My prayer for you today is that you will identify one person in your life to bless, and that you will give them a gift that is greater than anything money can buy.

Categories : Blessing, Genesis, Joseph, Speech
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Mar
15

The Power of the Spoken Blessing 2

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Spoken blessings have the power to enhance, enrich, and empower the life of another person.
In the Old Testament, blessings had three characteristics:
(1) They were conveyed from the greater to the lesser, such as a parent to a child or a king to a nation.
(2) The blessing spoke of divine favor that resulted in well being or productivity, such as fertility, good crops, peace, and length of life.
(3) The blessing acknowledged that all power and blessing stems from the creator. All blessings find their source in God’s love.

In the New Testament, the emphasis shifts from the material to the spiritual; from temporal to eternal.
The words we speak over another person’s life can serve as a building block or a stumbling stone that has to be overcome.

If our words have such power, then why don’t we bless others? I think there are at least three reasons. You can probably think of more. The first reason we are reluctant to bless other is simply pride. We live in a day of shameless self promotion. We are far more interested in blessing ourselves than blessing others, even if our self afflicted blessing comes at the expense of others.

The second reason is our spirit of competition. We have a need to be first and best. Everyone wants to be a “winner,” and in true competition there can only be one winner.

The third reason is our drive to duty and performance. We relate to and evaluate others based on a sense of duty rather than devotion. We are more task oriented than relationally oriented because that is how our culture operates. “Do your duty” is the mantra of the west.

To summarize, we don’t bless one another because it’s not natural. Pride, competition, and duty are all very natural behaviors and characteristics. Blessings appeal to a higher level than the natural order of things. It’s supernatural!

Tomorrow I’ll wrap up this week’s series and offer a post that describes the characteristics of the spoken blessing.

Categories : Blessing, Genesis, Joseph, Speech
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Mar
13

The Power of the Spoken Blessing

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Jacob knew the power of the spoken blessing. After all, think of all he did to obtain his father’s blessing! (cf. Genesis 25:27-34; Genesis 27:1-40) When Jacob became aware that his time on earth was coming to a close, he called his family together to bless them. In Genesis 48 he blessed Joseph’s sons, and then in Genesis 49 he blessed each of his 12 sons according to their birth order. The blessings he spoke to his sons are framed by two descriptive verses:

“Then Jacob called together all his sons and said, ‘Gather around me, and I will tell you what will happen to each of you in the days to come’” (Genesis 49:1, NLT)

“These are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father said as he told his sons good bye. He blessed each one with an appropriate message” (Genesis 49:28, NLT).

Blessings are an important part of the Bible. The word is used more than 160x in the first five books of the Bible alone. In the Old Testament, words of blessing were powerful and prophetic. The blessing contained elements that were able to foresee and shape the future; to change situations and alter circumstances.

How powerful are your words?
How responsible are you with your words?
Can you really shape the life of another person with the words that you use?

We have become a society that affixes labels to virtually everyone: conservative, liberal, moderate, fundamentalist, smart, empty suit, athletic, musical, redneck, generous, stingy, fat, or skinny to name a limited few. Once those labels get affixed, they stick remarkably well.

I have come to think of the act of blessing others as “affixing a positive label on a person’s life.” This week I’m posting excerpts from this weekend’s message titled, “The Power of the Spoken Blessing.” I want to invite you to follow along. You might just wind up changing a life in the process!

Categories : Blessing, Genesis, Joseph, Speech
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By way of quick review, Psalm 128 begins with a word of instruction on how to become a blessed and happy person. It all hinges on having the fear of the Lord at the center of your life and the Word of God at the circumference of your life.

When the center and the circumference is in place, God promises to care for four essentials: our needs, our attitudes, our futures, and our families. What do the blessed do with their blessings? What are they for? That’s the subject of the concluding verses of this Psalm.

“May the Lord bless you from Zion (the spiritual dwelling place of God), so that you will see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life, and will see your children’s children! Peace be with Israel” (Psalm 128:5-6, HCSB).

Notice the flow of David’s thought process. He began with “you,” and expanded the thought to “Jerusalem,” ending with “Israel.” Do you see it? God blesses your life so that you will have an impact on those around you. It begins in your life and your home, and spills over into the community and ultimately your nation and world. God blesses us so that we will in turn become a blessing to others.

Israel struggled immensely with what to do with their blessings. From time to time, the people of Israel would confuse the favor of God with being the favorite of God. When we comprehend the blessing of God as his favor, we understand that his favor is not just for us. His blessings are given to us and through us. But when we take the blessings of God and make them about us we become indulgent and deserving. God’s blessings are available to us, and he promises to give them to us. He gives “grace upon grace” as we take those blessings and bless those around us.

Categories : Blessing, Enough, Psalms
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May
11

Psalm 128 (Part 2)

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When the fear of the Lord is at the center of our lives and the Word of the Lord is at the circumference of our lives, the Psalmist announces four blessings that become readily available to God’s children:

1. God will take care of our needs. Psalm 128:2 says, “You shall surely eat what your hands have worked for.” God will take care of our needs in between the center and the circumference.

2. God will take care of our attitudes. Verse 2 continues to say, “You will be happy!” The most elusive commodity in life today is happiness. People spend their entire lives pursuing that one goal. Whatever you center your life upon is what you look to for your source of happiness and joy.

3. God will take care of our futures. Psalm 128:2 concludes by saying, “and it will go well for you.” We are not able to make that promise with any serious degree of certainty. However, the Bible reveals that we can live our lives with the security that God is in control and that he cares for us.

4. Finally, God will take care of our families. In the next verse, the Psalmist writes, “Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house, and you sons, like young olive trees around your table.” David could think of no greater compliment than to make these two comparisons. Viticulture was the lifeblood of the nation. Olive trees were significant to the stability of the nation’s economy as well. Olive trees are slow to grow and require patience. They don’t produce fruit until the seventh year, and they don’t produce edible fruit until at least the tenth year. But when the olive tree is cared for, it will produce steadily for up to 20 generations.

“In this very way the man who fears the Lord will be blessed.” (Psalm 128:4, HCSB)

Categories : Blessing, Enough, Psalms
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May
10

Psalm 128

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Since this weekend was Mother’s Day, I spoke on the family from Psalm 128. As far as I can recall, I’ve never used this text for a sermon, but was amazed at how it spoke to my life as I began poking around in it. The key to the Psalm is verse 1, which reads, “How happy is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in His ways” (Psalm 128:1, HCSB).

One of the things I discovered is that the word “happy” is in the plural. Biblical Hebrew doesn’t have a system of superlative language (e.g. good, better, best), so when a Old Testament writer wanted to emphasize or strengthen a word he would simply put it in the plural, as if to say “happy, happy, happy is everyone who fears the Lord…” Some translations use the word “blessed” in verse one, which reminded me of the parallel nature of true happiness and and the blessing of the Lord.

David, who wrote this Psalm, laid down two conditions for being happy and blessed. The first condition is that the fear of the Lord must be the center of one’s life. Scientists tell us that our solar system is composed of one star, nine planets (or eight if you buy into the new supposition regarding Pluto), 32 moons, about 100,000 asteroids and comets beyond calculation. The thing that holds our solar system together is the sun. Everything revolves and orbits around that epicenter. What is the center of your life? Who is the center of your life? When the fear of the Lord is absent from our lives we become enslaved to lesser fears. If the fear of the Lord is central to our lives, everything takes its appropriate place and we experience happiness and blessing.

The second condition is that our lives must have an established circumference. Verse 128:1 continues, “How happy is everyone…who walks in his ways.” At the center of life is the fear of the Lord. At the circumference of life is the Word of God. The Scripture sets forth the boundaries of our lives. We must draw the line where God draws the line. Anytime we go out of bounds, we experience fear, guilt, sorrow and pain.

At the center is the fear of the Lord. At the circumference is the Word of God. When we get the center and the circumference right, we can experience true happiness and the four fold blessing of God described in 128:2-4. More on that tomorrow.

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