Tag Archives: blessing

Today’s Scripture – May 2, 2018

Luke 21:1-4 (NIV) As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “I tell you the truth,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”

The public donation chests were the perfect place for the rich to show off their generosity. By dropping in a large number of coins at a time, they could make a racket that would draw the attention of everyone nearby, who would then be impressed by their largesse toward God. (Paper money was not used in those days, and had it been, it would have been shunned by these people for contributions, since paper money would make no attention-getting noise.) Jesus condemned this way of giving (Matthew 6:2-4), proclaiming that the acclaim from other people that those givers so craved would be the only benefit that they reaped from their supposed generosity; God Himself would not contribute a blessing at all.

At the other end of the spectrum was this poor widow. Her contribution was two copper coins that were so small and light that they made no noise at all when they dropped into the box. Thus her giving was noticed by only Jesus and God the Father. That notwithstanding, her contribution reaped for her a greater blessing than the rich people could ever imagine. This was not just because she didn’t draw attention to herself, but because of the significant size of her gift.

The wealthy who attracted such attention to themselves may have given significant amounts to the treasury, but they gave what they could easily afford from their wealth. The widow’s comparatively miniscule offering was, quite literally, all that she had to live on. The wealthy might be giving 1% of their wealth; she gave 100% of hers.

The woman was praised not merely for the sacrificial size of her gift, but for the faith that allowed her to give it. She gave all she had, with the understanding that God was able to provide for her needs better than she could provide for herself. Her sacrificial gift represented her casting her whole lot on God, with a faith that He gladly honored.

Father, whether rich or poor, it is far more common to see people figure closely what they can afford to give, cautious lest they don’t have enough left to provide for themselves. How different from this widow! And even how different than Jesus’ instruction. By grasping and holding back from God, by relying on ourselves for support, we end up having to struggle to get by. We don’t believe Jesus’ promise: “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:38 NIV) and so we don’t actually experience Your promised abundant provision. Help me, Lord, to have the faith of this poor woman, so that I can give abundantly to You, and thus receive abundant provision from Your hand. Amen.

 

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Today’s Scripture – January 18, 2018

Luke 14:12-14 (NIV) Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

Jesus said these words at a banquet in the house of a Pharisee, and a wealthy one at that. It was common practice then, as it is in many circles today, to invite people of status to your banquets and parties, not because they were friends, but because social norms dictated that, if they deigned to come to your banquet, they were obligated to invite you to their next banquet. So people tended to load their guest lists with those that they wanted to be invited by in the future. So every party that a person threw tended to be loaded with the ulterior motive of climbing the social ladder, no matter how altruistic their stated reason for inviting their guests might be.

Jesus, on the other hand, saw through the surface reasoning, straight into the heart. Inviting people over is nice, sure. But if the people we invite, invite us back, our goodness and niceness will have been repaid, and God will not bless us for it.

If we want God to notice what a nice person we are to others, then we need to show that we have no ulterior, social-climbing motive hiding in the background by inviting those who have no potential to invite us back, no potential to improve our social standing. Such people, in those days and in ours, are the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. If we invite these, God knows that we are doing it from a pure motive, to simply bless those who are less fortunate, since there is no way that they could ever pay us back. And He promises to bless us in their place.

This is not to say that Christians can’t invite people to dinner who are well-to-do, or who could help our career. It simply means that if our motives are social gain or advancement, we can’t dress it up as a compassionate event and expect God to pour out His blessing on us.

Father, You always cut right to the heart of the matter, inspecting not just our actions, but our motives as well. Lord, help me to always act with motives that are firmly fixed on glorifying You and advancing Your kingdom, so that I can always receive Your great blessings. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – December 31, 2017

Luke 12:27-31 (NIV) “Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.”

Jesus gives another example of the worry-free kingdom life: wildflowers. Wildflowers are incredibly ephemeral things, here today and gone tomorrow, their dried remains used as fuel for fires. It would be perfectly understandable if God did not waste much time on making such temporary things beautiful. But they are!

Jesus’ point is that such beauty in the flowers doesn’t result from them fretting and stewing over what they will wear or where they will buy it. It comes from God’s gracious provision. In the same way, God promises to care for His people who simply obey His commands and trust in Him to provide what they need.

Jesus never fretted about what to eat or drink or wear, not even once. And, as a prime illustration of God’s kingdom provision and care, He was never without anything that He truly needed. And He never had to tow trailers full of weeks-worth of belongings and supplies, just in case God forgot about Him. God provided everything that He needed, as He had need of it, on time, and in exactly the right amount.

This is yet another way in which the people of God are to be different from those who are not God’s people. Our lives are to be characterized by trust, provision, and peace of mind. Those of the world have lives that are usually characterized by striving, grasping, and angst, even those with great worldly wealth worrying about how to hang onto it, or how to get still more.

God’s people are to have a single focus in their lives: His kingdom. And, as we live out that focus, God has promised to provide all that we truly need, always on time, and in exactly the right amount.

Father, I have lived on both sides of this issue, striving and worrying in my BC life, and trusting and being provided for in my AD life. And there really is no comparison between the two. Thank You for Your love, Your grace, and Your provision, and for always keeping Your promises. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – August 8, 2017

Luke 6:20-26 (NIV) Looking at his disciples, he said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.
“Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their fathers treated the prophets.
“But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort. Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep. Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets.”

Luke gives a brief encapsulation of the beatitudes that Jesus gave to His followers. Matthew captured only the positive aspects of this speech in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1-12), but those whom Luke interviewed also remembered the “flip side,” the woes that Jesus pronounced on those who were satisfied and self-righteous. These come in four contrasting pairs.

Those who are poor are called blessed. Though they have little of material value, they are receiving the kingdom of God because of their faith in Jesus. On the other hand, those who are rich and satisfied with their lives will not receive the kingdom. Their self-satisfaction and the lure of wealth will block their way. This angle was reemphasized by Jesus in His encounter with the rich young man who would not turn away from his worldly wealth, even to enter the kingdom of God (Luke 18:22-25).

Those who are hungry (Luke emphasizes physical hunger, while Matthew focused on hunger and thirst for righteousness) are blessed, because God Himself has promised to provide what is needed for those who serve and obey Him. He will open up channels of provision for them, even as he provided manna for His people in the wilderness. But woe is pronounced on those who are well fed, because fortunes change and shift constantly, and those who depend upon their own ability to provide for themselves and their families are very likely to end up in need at some point. And, because they have not relied on God in times of plenty, they will not receive His provision in times of need.

Those who weep and mourn over tragedies and unfairness of life are pronounced blessed, because they can turn to God and receive comfort for their souls. But those who are satisfied and have joy in their comfort have woe pronounced over them, because circumstances shift suddenly, and loss and grief are inevitable in our broken world. If a person does not cultivate a strong relationship with God in the good times (and very few even think about their relationship with God when they are riding high), they have a very hard time seeking God when grief suddenly comes into their lives, and they will end up facing those hard times alone.

Finally, those who are hated, excluded, rejected, and persecuted because of their relationship with Jesus are blessed, because they are sharing in the same persecution as God’s true followers have always experienced at the hands of unbelievers. On the other hand, those who work their words and their lives to gain the acclaim of others, avoiding the hard truths that must often be spoken to draw people close to God, may enjoy a good reputation among the people of the world, but they deserve a woe from Jesus. They are doing the same things that the false prophets of the past have always done, telling people what they want to hear, and they will ultimately end up with God’s judgment against them.

Father, many of us are familiar with the up-sides of these teachings, the blessings. But the down-sides, the woes are as jarring to us as they would have been to those who first heard Jesus speak them. After all, we consider those who are rich, well-fed, happy, and popular, to be blessed above all others. But Jesus pronounced solemn woes over them, because all of those positive things can easily lead to self-satisfaction and a feeling of autonomy that can become a wall between them and You. Help me, Lord, to never allow myself to become self-satisfied like that, and to end up outside of the circle of Your blessing. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – August 25, 2016

Matthew 5:10-12 (NIV)
“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.  Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

If there is anyone entitled to NOT feel blessed, it would be those who are undergoing active persecution.  I’m not talking about those who fall out of public favor, or have some rights curtailed.  Those may be precursors to the persecution that follows, but are in themselves merely symptoms of swimming against the current of popular opinion.

There are those right this minute who are experiencing pain, suffering, and loss of friends, family, jobs, and property; those who are languishing in prison, or who are healing from their latest beating, all because they refuse to turn away from their faith in God.  They are not even willing to compromise that faith in any way to save themselves or their loved ones, because they know that this life is temporary anyway, and that this struggle they are undergoing is just a small part of a cosmic-scale battle that is being fought.

As I said, these people have every right to NOT feel blessed in the midst of their sufferings for the sake of the gospel.  But the vast majority of them realize that they really are blessed.  They know that they are blessed because they experience God’s presence in their lives in the midst of their suffering in ways that those who live comfortably in their faith simply can’t.  They experience God’s power and wisdom, and they even experience miracles that help validate their testimony to their persecutors.

But they also realize that they are not alone in suffering for the sake of God’s kingdom.  They are standing in a long line of faithful witnesses and martyrs who stood their ground no matter what.  Even the great prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Daniel were persecuted because they stood firm, kept speaking God’s words, and never compromised.  And in return, they have received a great reward in heaven.

Jesus told His disicples that they would have trouble in this world (John 16:33), and that there would even be people who would persecute them believing that they were doing God a favor (John 16:2).  But He also told them to take heart, or to be courageous, because through His death and resurrection He had already overcome the world, and assured His followers of their own victory, as long as they remained true (John 16:33 again).

The exalted Jesus made many amazing promises to the seven Churches of Asia, all of them made specifically to those who persevered, overcame and stood firm to the end, regardless of the persecutions that they would undergo (Revelation 2 and 3).

God still delivers the great blessings of His presence, His power, His grace, and His wisdom to those who are being persecuted for their faith in Him.  And there are more and greater blessings waiting for them in heaven after they have stood firm to the end.

Father, it is so easy for us to lose sight of the big picture when things are going badly in our lives – and most of us have never actually experienced real persecution!  Help us to stand firm, and to fearlessly follow Your agenda, knowing that, even if the enemies of the gospel persecute us mercilessly, and even kill our bodies, they can do no more than that, and a great reward awaits us in Your presence after we have overcome.  Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – July 2, 2013

Matthew 5:10-12 (NIV):  “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.  Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

 

Many people think it strange that Jesus should call those undergoing persecution “blessed.”  But, as always, He had it right.  In this case, though, for the opposite reason that most people think.  It is not that persecution is a blessing; persecution actually comes to those who ARE ALREADY blessed.

As Paul wrote to Timothy, “Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”  (2 Timothy 3:12)  This was not idle speculation, but exactly what Paul himself had learned from Jesus (John 15:20, Mark 10:30), and what had been reinforced by his own experience. (2 Corinthians 4:12, 1 Thessalonians 3:4)  When the disciples were mistreated for obeying God’s words, they rejoiced “because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.” (Acts 5:41)  And, of course, the persecution just made them more willing than ever to keep on going, because it showed that they were on the right track.

Persecution is not God’s plan, His design for His people.  It is not what He intends to have happen, and He does not consider the persecution itself the blessing.  But in the sin-broken world in which God’s people do the work of the kingdom, and live kingdom lives, it will always be the result.  When light enters the realm of darkness, there will always be an immediate reaction, because the two are opposed to each other. Sometimes the darkness will immediately surrender, and allow itself to be changed into light by the light.  Frequently, though, the darkness feels threatened by the light and goes on the attack, trying to maintain its own character by extinguishing the light.  That is what we are witnessing today with atheists and humanists attempting to do away with religion in the public arena.  They feel threatened by the light shining forth from God’s people, and are trying to put it out or, failing that, to keep it far from them.  They will deny their fear, saying that they are only protesting something that is not real; but they don’t protest the Easter Bunny, or Santa Claus, or the Tooth Fairy with the same vigor, because those things don’t threaten the darkness within them.  And it is amusing, if you think about it, that when they raise a stink, protesting theism in general and Christianity specifically, and leveling attacks at Christians, they are actually fulfilling the very words of a book that they consider a myth with no prophetic value!

The fact is, if God’s people do live holy lives and lives of obedience to God’s word, they will be fruitful, but they will also be persecuted.  When that happens, they must not grow discouraged or stop obeying – that’s what shallow soil people do (cf. Matthew 13:21).  Instead, they need to push forward all the more, rejoicing that, despite the persecutions, they live lives that are blessed because of God’s presence, and rejoicing that they are a part of a rich legacy, right along with the prophets and saints of old.

 

Father, thank You for this fresh perspective on this vital topic.  Help us ALL to be more bold in living for You, even in times that seem increasingly dark.  We are lights you have lit, and have no right to hide ourselves under a bowl.  Help us to brightly shine, no matter what, and to count ourselves blessed, even when we are persecuted.  Amen.

 

An abundant life does not show itself in abundant dreaming, but in abundant living – in abundant living among real, tangible objects, and to actual and practical purposes.

Henry Drummond – The City without a Church

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Today’s Scripture – June 16, 2013

Matthew 5:5 (NIV):  Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

 

It is absolutely true that the meek are the ones who will inherit the earth/land.  The problem is not with the promise, but with the way the word “meek” has shifted meaning since Jesus spoke this truth.  Today a meek person is defined as one whom others walk all over; who cannot, or will not stand up for his rights; who is taken advantage of all the time because he has no backbone.  Meekness is not seen by the world these days as a desirable characteristic.

But the word translated as “meek” is, at its root, the word for “gentle,” as used by Jesus to describe His own approach to those who choose to follow Him (Matthew 11:28-30), and to describe His coming into Jerusalem to bring salvation (Matthew 21:5).  It is also listed, using the same Greek word, as “gentleness,” one of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:23).

To get a fuller look at all the GOD means by “meek,” look at all of the synonyms in Psalm 37:

  • ·         Those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.  (v9)
  • ·         Those the Lord blesses will inherit the land.  (v22)
  • ·         The righteous will inherit the land and dwell in it forever.  (v29)
  • ·         Wait for the Lord and keep His way.  He will exalt you to inherit the land.  (v34)

All of these define “meekness” very well.  The meek are those who trust in God for their salvation, realizing fully that there is nothing they can do to save themselves.  They lean fully on God, and put themselves in the perfect position for Him to bless them.  By dependence on God, they become truly righteous (not having ANY righteousness of their own, but only God’s righteousness working powerfully through them).  They wait on God, hanging on His every word, waiting, watching, intent on His every movement, so that they can do His bidding the moment He calls on them.  In every one of these characteristics, Jesus is the key example.  His total dependence on the Father, His complete surrender to His will, all led to His “gentleness” with repentant sinners, unlike the sternness with sinners that was evidenced by those who were cocksure of their own righteousness (and still are today!).

The meek will inherit, not just the land, but the whole world, because their focus is not on attaining the world, but on pleasing God.  Those who grasp after the world and its pleasures (the “un-meek”) will inherit only shame and disgrace.

 

Father, thank You that You have made a way for me to follow You in all righteousness and truth.  I was once a grasper, but You have shown me Your love, given me Your righteousness, and made a place for me in heaven.  Praise Your name!  Amen!

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