God Bless You

“God bless you!” No, there’s nobody around who sneezed. It seems that one of rare occasions I hear someone say, “God bless you” is when someone sneezes. But are we actively wishing the blessings of heaven upon others? This is the expression of a Christian’s heart toward others, because this is God’s heart for others, too.

When I was growing up, I got the impression that we shouldn’t say, “God bless you” to someone unless we knew they were sound in doctrine and living right with God. People were afraid, I believe, of “bidding God speed” to people living in error (2 John 10).  I think we get two concepts confused. We confuse approving sinful behavior with wishing God’s goodness to come upon those in sin.

But we really need to think about this. Does God bless those living in error? Sure thing. Does the Lord bless your enemies? Yes. Does God bless those who are wicked? Absolutely. Does He bless the most wicked, heathen, nasty, disgusting sinner? He sure does (Matthew 5:44-45; Luke 6:27-28,35).

Why does God do that? Look at the following verse that shows what God’s goodness and blessings are designed to do for everyone.

Romans 2:4 – Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?

Whether you wish someone God’s blessings, God is blessing them. If you choose not to say “God bless you” to someone, God is still blessing them. As long as any person is breathing air and living in this world, he or she is partaking of God’s rich blessings. And we should want that! Those blessings are intended to drive people to God!

Acts 14:17 – “Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.”

God is kind to the ungrateful and evil (Luke 6:35), so what is to be said of us as God’s children? Can we wish God’s blessings upon everyone? We should, God does.

Our Prayers for the Graduate

Following up with yesterday’s post, we want to offer our prayers for the graduate.

Our prayers are for you:

  • To prosper and be in good health, even as your soul prospers (3 John 2).
  • To follow Jesus, be in the world, not of the world (John 17:14-17).
  • To be filled with knowledge and understanding, and with the fulness and depth of God’s love (Ephesians 1:16-21; 3:14-21).
  • To have God’s richest blessings poured out upon you, as you walk with Him (Psalm 20; Numbers 6:22-27).
  • To be strong, therefore, and prove yourself a man or woman of God (1 Kings 2:2; 1 Chronicles 28:9,20; 29:19).
  • To rejoice in your youth and go for it! But remember God and your purpose (Ecclesiastes 11:9-12:1).

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.
3 John 1:4

 

Called to Bless

We are called by God to bless others. Multiple passages in the Bible talk about how we are to bless others with our mouths. But what does that mean?

Psalm 20 – This is a Psalm of Blessing. Read this Psalm and consider David’s desire and prayer for those he is “blessing.” His desire is for the best things to happen to others. Notice verse 5, when David writes, “May we shout for joy over your salvation.” David’s blessing included the salvation of their souls.

This is the emphasis of God’s blessing that He brought through Abraham. He promised Abraham that through him all nations would be “blessed.” Peter’s commentary on this blessing tell us that God’s blessing was intended for us to “turn away from our sins” (Acts 3:25-26). We are only truly blessed when we are in a right relationship with God. And by by blessing others, including our enemies, our hope and prayer is for them to be turned away from their sins as well.

When the priesthood was set up by Moses, God through Moses gave the priests a blessing that they were to say to the people. Reading this blessing will help us to see what it means to bless people and what kinds of things we are hoping for those we are blessing.

Numbers 6:23-27
“Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them, the LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.”

This “blessing” of others especially includes our enemies. Do we only wish good for those who are kind to us? Do we only speak well of those who speak well of us? Do we only want the people we like to go to heaven? Let’s read a few passages about blessing our enemies.

Romans 12:14 – Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.

Luke 6:27-28
“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.

1 Peter 3:8-11
Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. For “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it (Peter is quoting Psalm 34:12-16 here).”

1 Corinthians 4:11-14
To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things. I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children.

In fact, God tells us that when blessings and curses come out of our mouths, we are living a contradiction.

James 3:7-12
For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.

Today, let us use our mouths to bless others. That means in our hearts we are wishing the absolute best for them. If we are praying and wishing for the very best for others, that will be reflected in how we talk to them and about them.

God’s Desire to Bless Us

“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.
(Luke 6:27-36)

This morning, I watched a Bible Project summary of the book of Genesis (part 1 and part 2). What struck me today is how God’s heart to bless all of mankind is so prevalent in the book. From the 1st chapter to the 50th chapter, God’s heart is to bless man, save their lives, and do good for them.

But when you read Genesis, you see selfishness, pride, brokenness, violence, hatred, revenge, deceit, drunkenness, sexual immorality, lust, envy, etc. All of the “works of the flesh” (Galatians 5) can be found there. Mankind…we are a messed up and evil group of people, aren’t we? And yet, even though God did punish mankind, God’s heart through it all was to bring His richest blessings to even the vilest sorts of people. He wanted them to repent and be saved.

Look at this pattern in Genesis. God gave Cain time to repent, and even after Cain murdered Abel, God blessed Cain with mercy (Genesis 4). He gave the whole world time to repent until there was only Noah left with his family (Genesis 6). The Lord told Abraham that he would give the people of the land of Canaan several centuries to repent before He drove them out of their land (Genesis 15). Sodom and Gomorrah was spared until there was only Lot left with his family (Genesis 19). And on and on and on it goes.

That’s the heart of God. His heart is to forgive. He wants us to repent. Our loving Lord wants us to be reconciled to Him in a family relationship. He, as our Father, wants to bless us in so many ways. And His desire to do so does not change when we become His enemies. We as humans have done everything in our power to hurt Him, yet He blesses us and wants to bless us even more. He blesses even the most vile and disgusting sorts of sinners today. Even the wicked get blessings from God. That is how God is.

The question really is, “Where is my heart on all of this?”

So, with that in mind, let’s think and pray today about what Jesus tells us in the above passage in Luke 6. Am I like the Father toward those who hurt me? If we cannot bless our enemies and love them, then we are really nothing like our Father in heaven. Is my desire like God’s, in that I seek to love, bless, pray for and do good for those who are against me?

Please, O Father, transform our hearts to be like You. In our homes, communities, churches and wherever we may be, that we may bless the peoples around us because we are your children.

Safety and Encouragement in God’s Word and Blessings

These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33; NKJV)

1God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.  2 Therefore we will not fear, Even though the earth be removed, And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the  sea; 3 Though its waters roar and be troubled, Though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah…7 The Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.  (Psalm 46: 1-3, 7; NKJV)

Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’  (Isaiah 41:10; NKJV)

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7; NKJV)

I have set the Lord always before me; Because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved.  (Psalm 16: 8; NKJV)

Cast your burden on the Lord, And He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved. (Psalm 55:22; NKJV)

He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be moved. (Psalm 62:6; NKJV)

…casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.  (1 Peter 5:7; NKJV)

The Lord is good, A stronghold in the day of trouble; And He knows those who trust in Him. (Nahum 1:7; NKJV)

You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You. (Isaiah 26:3; NKJV)

I hope you find these verses encouraging today and invite you to work them into your prayers and for the prayers of your brethren.

There have been times when I have sent a text, an email or left a voicemail just trying to encourage a brother or sister and they have either texted me back or called me a few days later apologizing that they didn’t acknowledge it or thank me or some other closure to the gesture.   The last time this happened I told my brother that it was not necessary at all…that I look at encouragement as a “heat seeking missile”…something that you target on what you want to hit and then “fire and forget” knowing that it will hit its mark and have the effect you were hoping for.

That is how I see encouragement…as the encourager we can take heart our effort will have a positive effect and if we are the one being encouraged we might just let it…and leave it at that.  Either way, I am “firing” these verses your way and am confident they will bring you comfort and encouragement…that is God’s blessing and work in your life.

Live blessed today and be a blessing to others!

The Gospel in our Relationships

I have made the point in recent discussions that the relationships we have and how we conduct ourselves in them provides a tremendous opportunity to live out and demonstrate the power of the Gospel. God has blessed us with grace, mercy, love, forgiveness, and hope. This produces a peace within…a serenity and tranquility based on a right relationship with God. From this position, we are free to truly love others and work to build them up spiritually and emotionally.

Loving others, however, isn’t always easy. Love is an action word. Love is a choice. Love requires us to humble ourselves and elevate others to a higher position of importance in our lives. That is what Jesus did. Jesus humbled Himself in becoming a man. Jesus humbled Himself in accepting the punishment due us and going to the cross to die for our sins. Jesus is the example and demonstration of all God’s blessings and personification of peace in the face of a tremendous adversity, pain and suffering. We look to Jesus’ teaching to see how it is we can and should love others in such a way that not only will we be a blessing to them but we will surely shine forth God’s glory and help others find their way to salvation, peace, and hope…now and in eternity.

Consider Jesus’ teachings in Luke 6:27-31.

27 “But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. 29 To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. 30 Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back. 31 And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.

Previously (vs. 20-23) Jesus teaches about the mindset we are to have in The Beatitudes. In a word…humility. This provides us with the foundation to then love those who are our enemies. An enemy is simply one who is opposing another. We often think of enemies as those who are outside our circle but many times they are those in our families, congregations, friends, etc. Anyone who is standing in opposition to you and your life in Jesus is an enemy and they will hurt you. So what do we do?

Jesus says our actions should be to love our enemy, do go good to those who hate us, bless those who curse us, and pray for those who mistreat us. Further, Jesus provides how we should react. If someone hits our cheek, we offer the other. If they take our coat, give them our shirt too. If they ask (even if they are hurting us)…give! If someone takes something of ours, don’t look to get it back. These take on different forms in our relationships but the principles are the same.

What this all adds up to is exactly how God loves us. We were/are His enemy when we sin and yet He took the initiative and He loved us even when we didn’t deserve it. And what a difference that has made. For those who hear and obey the call of the gospel, they are saved and redeemed and back in fellowship with the Living God. This model and example is how we are to live with those in our lives. Treat them like we have been treated by God. Do that and you will surely look different, people will notice, they will ask why and God is glorified.

And I will bless them

And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, ‘This is the way you shall bless the children of Israel. Say to them: “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.” ‘ “So they shall put My name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them.”
(Numbers 6:22-27)

Congratulations to the graduates of 2017! Great work, and well done!

Our daughter, Jessica, graduated this year. We are having her grad party tonight. It is just amazing how fast time goes by. Anna and I are super thankful for our Jess and the strong young woman she has become. Jessica is the way she is because Jesus lives within her.

Today, I want to share with the graduates the blessing that God had the priests say over the people of Israel. Meditate upon these words, young men and women. Consider that all good things and all spiritual blessings are in Christ. You will pursue many endeavors and go in many directions, but true happiness and fulfillment is only found under the shelter of God’s wings.

May He bless you and keep you. May your face shine because His face is shining upon you. May you have peace because your peace comes from God, the peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:6-7). May the name of God always be upon you and within your heart.

Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment. Remove vexation from your heart, and put away pain from your body, for youth and the dawn of life are vanity.
(Ecclesiastes 11:9-10)

Blessing

If you saw the picture above and read that Irish “blessing,” I hope you got a chuckle out of it. Of course, we shouldn’t hope for our enemies to turn their ankles…I only hope for the non Big-Ten teams in the NCAA tournament to turn their ankles. That’s not much to ask is it?

The word “blessing” in the New Testament is from a Greek word which really is “a eulogy,” meaning “to speak well of” someone. When we bless God, we speak well of Him and we seek His glorification. When we bless those around us, we are speaking well of them and wishing God’s favor upon them. Sometimes we wait until the official “eulogy” to speak well of someone, but God calls us to bless or “eulogize” people today while they still live.

A more traditional Irish blessing goes something like this:

May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face; the rains fall soft upon your fields. And until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Blessing is most definitely a Biblical concept, but more than a concept, it is a command from God. God wants us to speak well of others and to invoke through prayer His favor upon others. As men of God, we are called to bless God and bless others.

In the Old Testament, God instructed the priests to bless the people in this way:

Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Aaron and to his sons, saying, ‘Thus you shall bless the sons of Israel. You shall say to them: The LORD bless you, and keep you; the LORD make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up His countenance on you, and give you peace.’ So they shall invoke My name on the sons of Israel, and I then will bless them” (Numbers 6:22-27).

Psalm 20 is another wonderful example of a blessing as David calls for God’s favor upon others.

In the New Testament, we also are called to bless God and bless others. Specifically, Jesus calls us to “bless” our enemies and to pray for those who mistreat us (Luke 6:28; Romans 12:14). James adds that our mouths are a fountain that should not be sending forth both bitter and sweet water, meaning that we should not bless God in one breath and curse our fellow man in the next (James 3:8-12).

One more thing about blessing: Jesus was sent to bless us, but how? He was sent to bless us (call God’s favor upon us) by delivering us from our sins. Notice in the passage below that is how Jesus fulfilled God’s promise to Abraham.

“It is you who are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ For you first, God raised up His Servant and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways” (Acts 3:25-26).

Today, ask for God’s strength to use your mouth and your words as a blessing to Him and to others.