The Starting Line of Life

But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
(1 John 3:17-18)

I encourage you to watch this video. It really helps to sink in that many of us have had a better starting line than others in life. This isn’t to make us feel guilty! That’s not the point of this video in my view. It’s to help us to better appreciate how blessed we are, and how others have to work even harder to overcome obstacles many of us never had to face.

God wants us to take the privileges, opportunities and blessings we have been given and use them for His glory.

The Starting Line of Life

“Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.”
(Isaiah 58:6-10)

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.

Heritage from the Lord

1 Unless the Lord builds the house,
They labor in vain who build it;
Unless the Lord guards the city,
The watchman stays awake in vain.
It is vain for you to rise up early,
To sit up late,
To eat the bread of sorrows;
For so He gives His beloved sleep.

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
So are the children of one’s youth.
Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them;
They shall not be ashamed,
But shall speak with their enemies in the gate. (Psalm 127; NKJV)

The Psalms and Proverbs continue to reveal themselves in my life as I grow older and my kids grow up.  My oldest son turned 18 yesterday…wow!  At some point in the day, I found myself looking through pictures of him throughout the years and it was a weird feeling…a soup of longing, happy, sad…

This is new ground for me as he prepares to finish up high school and move onto college and fully stepping out on his own.  As I reflected on his life and the tremendous blessing he is to me and everyone he comes into contact with, the above Psalm came to mind and I wanted to share today.

What I also realized as I went through the pictures of the different years of his life, I thought about all the work and worry that went into raising him.  There were some really hard times and some times I didn’t like him very much.  What I realized as I looked at the pictures was the fact the fear or stress that might have been there during that phase of his life had melted away and I could see him for who he was and the tremendous joy he brings.  It made me a little sad and worried that I  missed something.  Maybe not, but it made me think that I need to be careful and ensure that I am putting my trust in God to help me be a good dad and my kids to grow and flourish so that I don’t miss the blessing He has put before me and that I enjoy my heritage at all phases of life.  I love my kids and thank God for them and take great comfort knowing the best Father is their Father and He loves them more than I ever could.  I am so thankful for my God and the power He brings into my life and the lives of my children.  I am especially thankful for my God and my children today.

A Loud Voice Early in the Morning

Whoever blesses his neighbor with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, will be counted as cursing.
(Proverbs 27:14)

How can a blessing be counted as a curse? In this particular proverb, there are a few ideas to consider.

For one, it may be that my timing is off. Having a loud voice can be annoying at anytime in the day, having a loud voice in the morning may lead to gunfire, no matter how good your intentions are. I don’t want to violate the context of Ecclesiastes 3, but Solomon did say there was a time to speak and a time to be silent. We do have to know what time it is! A man has joy in an apt answer, and how delightful is a timely word! (Proverbs 15:23).

Secondly, my approach may be completely turning a positive thing into a negative thing. “The words of the wise heard in quiet are better than the shouting of a ruler among fools” (Ecclesiastes 9:17). Why would you have to shout it early in the morning to get your point across?

Thirdly, I need to consider my motives in why I’m gushing and lavishing praise on someone. When someone is just heaping an unusual amount of praise and adoration on another, it naturally leads the recipient to suspect the motives behind it. Is this really a genuine blessing, or is something behind all this cavity-causing sweetness? Remember as it is often said that compliments are like perfume, you are to sniff it, not swallow it. I don’t mean that we are to constantly call into doubt our motives or the motives of others, but there are times when the amount of praise, the timing of it and the volume in which it is exclaimed can really turn into a curse in the end. Solomon sure had a lot of wisdom, didn’t he?

Yet You have brought us out

I want to share Psalm 66 with you today. Here the Psalmist talks about hardships and what God allows to happen, but what God does through those trials and after those trials.

The one phrase I really like here is, “Yet you brought us out into a place of abundance.” Regardless of the “abundance” part, He brought us out. We go through the trials, we pass through the fire and water, but God brings us out. That means He was with us all along in the trial walking with us and leading us through it.

Keep that in mind today, men.

Psalm 66:8-20

8  Bless our God, O peoples;
let the sound of his praise be heard,
9 who has kept our soul among the living
and has not let our feet slip.
10 For you, O God, have tested us;
you have tried us as silver is tried.
11 You brought us into the net;
you laid a crushing burden on our backs;
12 you let men ride over our heads;
we went through fire and through water;
yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance.

13 I will come into your house with burnt offerings;
I will perform my vows to you,
14 that which my lips uttered
and my mouth promised when I was in trouble.
15 I will offer to you burnt offerings of fattened animals,
with the smoke of the sacrifice of rams;
I will make an offering of bulls and goats. Selah

16 Come and hear, all you who fear God,
and I will tell what he has done for my soul.
17 I cried to him with my mouth,
and high praise was on my tongue.
18 If I had cherished iniquity in my heart,
the Lord would not have listened.
19 But truly God has listened;
he has attended to the voice of my prayer.

20 Blessed be God,
because he has not rejected my prayer
or removed his steadfast love from me!

The GOD of the Towel–Day 2

This week, we are considering Jesus’ act of humility and service in John 13:1-17 in the context of our lives as men. Humility is the key word I am inviting you to meditate upon this week.

What does the word mean? Humility is a freedom from arrogance that grows out of the recognition that all we have and are comes from God. The Greek philosophers despised humility because it implied inadequacy, lack of dignity, and worthlessness to them. This is not so with God. God calls us to be humble and the “meek’ are the ones to be victorious in Him. Jesus is the supreme example of humility, and He is completely adequate and of infinite dignity and worth. Biblical humility is not a belittling of oneself, but an exalting or praising of others, especially GOD (John 3:30; Philippians 2:3). A humble person, then, focuses more on God and others than on himself. Biblical humility is also a recognition that by ourselves we are inadequate, without dignity and worthless. Yet, because we are created in God’s image and because believers are in Christ, we have infinite worth and dignity (1 Peter 1:18-19). True humility does not produce pride but gratitude.

With all this in mind, are we humbling ourselves with our women? Whether it be our mom, or wife, or sister, or girlfriend, or fellow Christian or even those ladies we come into contact with our eyes…are we elevating God in our life and therefore humbling ourselves so that we can serve? There are a lot of snares Satan lays before us to keep us from this way of living. What might that look like?

Do we find the “needs” of the very person who has nurtured us through life inconvenient or bothersome? Do we keep lists or wrongs or do we keep lists of “all we have done” and think in our hearts “why can’t they do as good as I am?” Do we find those special quirks that are part of a special being God created annoying and avoid rather than celebrate? Are we “bossing” more than “leading” or “serving”? Do we allow our lust to color our view of women so that we miss the most important part…their souls? Are we more interested in being served, or entertained, or pleased than we are in filling ourselves with the humility of God demonstrated in Jesus so much so that we can’t help but let it pour out to those precious ladies God has blessed us with or has put in our way for one reason or another?

I don’t know about you, but I sure don’t have all this figured out? Even when I am doing my best, the snares Satan has laid before me are still there and if I lose focus, get tired, get annoyed, etc…that is when I step into one and it is a scary thing to be trapped by my own selfishness. In order to avoid this, my only hope is in Jesus. I need to abide in Him…fill my heart with His love and word, allow His Spirit to guide me while I continually commit myself to a heavenly perspective so that I can be a blessing today. God is both our Creator and Redeemer! Our existence…our righteousness…our ability to humbly serve the ladies in our lives is completely dependent on Him! (John 15:5; Acts 17:28; Ephesians 2:8-10).

Take some time and meditate on this today. Boldly go before your Father and ask Him to humble your heart and strengthen your service towards the women in your life. Be a blessing because you are blessed…and I am blessed in you. Lead on brothers!  Serve well!

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.