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I’m So Blessed… by Kris Rudin

How many times have you heard (or said), “I’m so blessed …”? Usually, the rest of the sentence is something along the lines of “…to have such a great family” or “…to have a great job” or “…to have such a nice house (or car or boat or cabin or…)” or “…to have my health”, or similar statements. It all falls into the mental category of “being blessed by God”, or at least that’s what we think. But are having those THINGS (for that’s what each is) really God’s blessings? If they are, then what does it mean when you don’t have those things? What if you lose your job? What if you lose your health? Your house? Does that imply that you are somehow outside of God’s blessings? What about people in third world countries who live in a hut with dirt floors and no electricity and have to walk a mile to get water? Are they not blessed by God? What exactly are God’s blessings?

First, let’s look at the definition of ‘blessed.’

  • Dictionary.com –
    • Divinely or supremely favored
    • fortunate
  • Merriam-Webster
    • Having a sacred nature
    • connected with God
    • very welcome, pleasant or appreciated
  • TheFreeDictionary.com –
    • made holy by religious ceremony; consecrated
    • worthy of deep reverence or respect
    • characterized by happiness or good fortune

Notice that there are basically two different ways to view being blessed: fortunate (lucky) or somehow connected with God (sacred/divine). I would argue that most of the time when Christians say “I’m so blessed…” they think they are referring to the divine/sacred type of blessing, but in reality, they’re just lucky.

So, let’s see what the Bible says about being blessed. First, let’s look at some Old Testament verses:

Psalm 1:1 – Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers [NIV]

Psalm 32:1 – Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. [NIV]

Psalm 40:4 – Blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods. [NIV]

Psalm 127:4-5 – Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them; [NIV]

Psalm 146:5 – Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD their God. [NIV]

Jeremiah 17:7 – But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. [NIV]

The New Living Translation uses “how joyous” or “how joyful” instead of the word “blessed”, and other translations use “happy” or even “lucky”. Clearly, the meaning here is one of being in a positive emotional state, which arises from the actions each verse describes. And all these verses, except Psalm 127, describe a relationship with God – not hanging out with ungodly people; trusting God; having hope in God; being forgiven by God. Clearly, God’s blessings come from relationship with Him, and not from what we think He’s given us (good job, nice home, loving spouse). So, to be blessed means you are happy or joyous because you are in relationship with God– not that you have some tangible thing or things. Only Psalm 127 connects this state of well-being with having some thing – in this case, children. And in the context of the era, it was critical for a man to have many children, since many died before reaching adulthood, in those days. All of the other verses are clearly about being joyous because of our relationship with God, and describe this as ‘being blessed.’ Is this what we generally think of when we say we’re “blessed by God”? I don’t think so.

So, what does the New Testament say about being blessed? Probably the most famous scripture about blessings is The Sermon on the Mount, where we find the Beatitudes, found in Matthew 5:3-10. Here it is, in The Message version:

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.

“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.

“You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.

“You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.

“You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.

“You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.

10 “You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.”

Wow! What a contrast to what we generally think of as being blessed! In fact, verse 10 is about being persecuted for God! How many of us pray for that, when we pray for God’s blessings? And verses 3 and 4 also don’t sound like ‘being blessed’ – being at the end of my rope or losing what’s most dear to me aren’t things I generally pray for!

Note that each verse actually describes the blessings that arise in each case. And all of these blessings are about our relationship with God. Not one of these verses is about THINGS. They are all about a state of mind or being. And this is a Kingdom principle – God is not concerned about our THINGS, he is concerned about who we ARE and how we relate to Him and to the people in the world He came to save. We are blessed when we are in relationship with God and with others. This is very different from our usual idea of being blessed!

Let’s look at some other verses from the New Testament:

James 1:12 – Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. [NIV]

1 Peter 3:14 – But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. [NIV]

Romans 4:7 – Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. [NIV]

The verses in James and Peter again talk about being blessed in the midst of hard times – during trials or suffering. When we ask God for His blessings, do we really want trials and suffering? But, if you think about it, if we do persevere through hard times, it’s only by the grace and strength of God, which are true blessings! And, of course, the verse in Romans is pretty straightforward – if your sins are forgiven, you are blessed. Well, since Christians have accepted Christ’s death as the payment for their sins, ALL Christians are forgiven. And because we are forgiven, we can have relationship with God and can rejoice in Him – and THAT is the blessing!

So, what the Bible says and what we normally think of as blessings are quite different. God’s blessings involve being in right relationship with Him and with others. And God’s blessings seem to show up when we are in times of trials or difficulties – at the end of our rope. We don’t see verses saying, “Blessed are the rich,” or “Blessed is the one with a good job,” or “Blessed are those who have no troubles.” But we do see verse after verse promising blessings when things are at their worst – because blessings are not about THINGS, but about our relationship with God.

Now, I’m not saying that God doesn’t provide for His people. There are many verses about how He is our loving father and has good gifts for us. (Of course, what really are God’s gifts? Are they things? What about the ‘gifts of the spirit’ – these sound more in line with what the abovementioned verses talk about: relationship with God and with people.) God surely is on our side, and God can certainly provide material things for us, but I’m afraid that Christians today are focusing too much on these material things, thinking those are the blessings of God. But the blessings that God really have for us are far beyond mere physical things. God has true blessings that do not rust and do not go away when times are hard. God’s blessings are more concerned with our spiritual growth, than the growth of our bank account.

So, I challenge us all to be more mindful of what it means to be blessed by God, and seek the true blessings of the spirit. Next time you say you are blessed, think about these verses. Yes, you ARE blessed, but not in the way you think! ;-)

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Ten Things I Didn’t Really Understand When I Was Younger… by Steve Allen

Dear Friends,

In a few days (Aug. 15th), I will be 65 years old! One thing I can tell you for sure is growing older is not for sissies! There are plenty of challenges as I’m sure my older friends can well attest! But, In spite of them all, I truly am a blessed man. I have an amazing wife, incredible loving and supportive children, beautiful grandchildren, faithful friends, and good health. What more could any man want? Only one thing comes to mind……UNDERSTANDING!

“….and with all your getting, get understanding.” – Proverbs 4:7

There’s an old Amish proverb, I believe, that says, “too soon old, too late smart.” It made me ask myself the question, what, if anything, do I understand now, that I didn’t understand when I was younger? I came up with 10 things…will you let me share them with you for my 65th birthday?

1. Inner wholeness is greater than outward success. It is probably impossible to arrive at 65 without wounds in the inner person – deep wounds that need God’s healing grace. The more I face up to my own inner wounds, the more I wish I had let Jesus touch my deepest hurts earlier in life. That childhood hurt, that hidden outrage, that long suppressed memory can lurk like a monster in the basement of your heart for years, even decades, to rise when you least expect it to wreck havoc! Hiding the monster, denying that it’s down there is a dangerous game. The temptation is to create an alternative reality where success and accomplishment and appearances seem so very real and the monster just a mirage. If I were young again, I would bore down into the inner world of me and find Christ’s healing touch in the darkness under the floorboards.

 2. Mercy is greater than justice. So many in the church want the wayward to “get what’s coming to them.” Too often, there is a shortage of mercy among the followers of Christ who blessed the merciful in His most famous message, the Sermon on the Mount. If I were young again, I would learn and practice mercy more often, knowing that later I would surely need it myself.

If we hanker for justice when a colleague stumbles, gloat over the sins of others, humiliate the fallen and demand our “pound of flesh”, we may be planting for a bitter harvest. I don’t want to see the death of mercy. Mercy makes love real, acceptance and understanding a practice, and tenderness a way of life.

3. Kindness is better than being right. As a young man, I advocated my positions too aggressively. I argued with an eye toward winning, unconcerned about the heart of my “adversary”. Even in preaching, I let the bad dog off the chain from time to time to the applause of the gallery.

Should time travel be possible, and I were back in the days of my youth, I would be kinder and less concerned with being right. It saddens me now that so many young adults give little thought to kindness. They facebook and twitter hurtful words like poisonous birds. Their humor is mocking, acidic and unkind. It seems they are more concerned with being thought clever than in being thought kind. It seems the value of gentleness has declined in the world market of today. If I were young again, I would want to better understand the worth and beauty of a kind word.

4. Serving is better than being served. Thank God for 10 years in South Africa! For countless days and endless hours of cheauffering, serving, and tending to those in need. I wish I had known when I was young how hollow “image” and “success” really are. I wish I had understood better how caring, not being cared for, is what Christ had in mind. I wish I had changed more diapers, served more meals, carried more bags, held more doors and lightened more burdens.

5. Brokenness is the doorway to wholeness. This mysterious paradox seems to be hidden from us when we are young. We fear brokenness, run from it, and when it gets too close, we fight it with all our might! If I had known that brokenness was the key to my healing, it would have lifted the fear from me. Instead, I thought it would maim me and maybe even kill me. Now I know that there is very little real wholeness that does not emerge from deep brokenness.

6. Truth is liberating and devestating. Jesus said, “you shall know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” But let me also add, first, it will make you miserable! I’m sorry, it’s true. I wish I had known not to fear the truth about myself. I wish I had known that the temporary misery of the truth was worth going through to find the freedom that it brings.

 7. Learning is greater than education. I am a college graduate and I believe that education is important. But I know that there are a lot of educated people who never understood the connection between education and learning. If I were young again I would still go to college. But this time I would go to learn not just to graduate. I would unleash my curiousity, embrace the process, worry less about my grades and enjoy learning.

I still love to learn. I read voraciously, I want to know, to understand, to go deeper. If I were young again, I would take that to college!

 8. Giving is sweeter than gaining. I wish that when I was younger, I knew the sheer joy of giving. Yes, I know that God will bless me when I give, but I wish I had realized the total joy of generousity. I would have given more and delighted more in the good that giving does and less in the return it provides.

9. Forgiveness doesn’t fix everything. Not the happiest truth I wish I had known, but it’s among the most sobering. Had I known this, I might have been less callous, less reckless and more mindful of the cost. There are things, relationships, and hearts that once broken cannot be fully “fixed” by forgiveness. The wound, the uncaring, the insensitive word – they may be forgiven, but the damage from them may never quite be right again.

10. Prayer is more powerful than persuasion. In all of life, at every age, conflict is an inescapable reality. I wish I had known younger that in conflict and crisis, talking to God works better than talking to people. When I was young, I thought I could talk my way through everything! Sadly, that kind of self-sufficiency breeds prayerlessness. The older I get, I find that crisis drives me faster to my knees and more slowly to the phone.

I have seen God turn hearts around, change and melt opposition by prayer alone – when no persuasive words could have made a difference. If I were young again, I would spend more time talking to God and less (far less) persuading others to do what I want.

Yes, friends, I wish I had known more than I did when I was younger. I hope I would have even considered one or two of these truths, but I doubt I would have fully appreciated their value like I do now.

I’m glad to be 65. I do not think I want to be young again. But if I had to, if some evil genie made me go back and live it all over again, then these are the things I would want to know and the things I would want to believe. Much love to all of you on my 65th birthday!

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Revolutionary – By Aaron Tilbury

To walk with Jesus.

Many of us have shared the same dream.  Perhaps it was momentary.  Say, in response to a life-altering event, or a prayer.  Maybe it was for clarification of scripture, or because you realized that you had fallen in love with Him?  For me, I know often it has been a result of deep longing or an answer to a question left unsatisfied by my study of scripture or the wisdom shared by a mentor.  In fact, I have to admit many times it is because deep down I wanted to ask Him to His face, if I was doing it right!  There were times when that even seems holy somehow!  It is kinda Peter-ish isn’t it?  So I have to laugh at myself.  I do!

Let me digress for a moment just to make this statement:  If you feel like that too, but are too afraid your friends may find you “spiritually immature” because you allow yourself to admit it; that you sometimes have trouble with the idea of His up-close-and-personal reassurances being wanted and welcome…then both you and your friends need to hug some stuff out and take it to Father together.  Ask Him to remind you WHO HE IS and therefore what that means that you are all HIS children!

That to say, I have dreamt of and thought of, and longed to know what it would have been like to be Peter at a campfire listening to The Teacher’s voice.  To have been Nathaniel when Jesus found me and looked upon His face as it crept into my being that I was standing face to face with The Son of God, who was and is my Savior!  And although many of the burning questions of my heart have been answered just by knowing Him, and being in Him and Him in me…I must admit there are still times, more than I would like, where I feel if only I could walk with Jesus the man, I could somehow know Jesus the God better.  It doesn’t sound harmful, but it can be dangerous ground.

It is understandable when you fall in love to naturally want to be with that person.  Up-close-and-personal.  I want my wife by my side, my kids on my lap, my friends in the room, and my dogs by my feet!  Wouldn’t it be cool if I could have Jesus right there in the room too?  In a rocking chair spinning yarns about His walks along the sea?  Sure it would.  Of course, based off my prayer life in some seasons it wouldn’t be long before I wanted to stash Him in a box and take Him out just when I had company.  Place Him on my mantle maybe?  Wear Him around my neck?  You know, to let everyone know I still believe in case they were wondering why they hadn’t seen me share The Gospel with anyone in awhile…

And there it is.  Control and convenience.  Ouch.  Could it be that I want to make my personal relationship with Jesus Christ one of control and convenience?  Where I can control what His sacrifice means to me and where/when/what he can and cannot resurrect my life…what parts He can have and what parts are mine?  Sunday mornings are God’s but Saturday nights are mine.  My talents are Gods, but the time to use them and the money I reap from them, belongs to me.  Am I one of those folks that enjoy the occasional corporate fest, or family Thanksgiving, but would burst a blood vessel if someone from church or work dropped by my house just to say “Hi” because it interrupts the flow of my day?

In other words, could it be that my relationship with Christ isn’t very different from my other relationships?

Only we humans, as messed up as we are, could take the gracious revelation of Christ in our lives and attempt to glorify ourselves in it.

If you believe in the prosperity gospel, which scripture (quoting Paul here) would say “is no gospel at all” then you probably want to stop reading now.  I’m not saying you should, I am just saying you want to.  I get that.

If you are still reading, thank you for hanging in there.  You get a surprise.  The surprise is that I am NOT going to say that as a follower of Jesus you won’t experience amazing things in your life, both spiritual and physical gifts…maybe even money!  And money sometimes brings convenience AND control, in particular if we handle it the same way we handle our poor view and understanding of The Cross.  That the sacrifice of The Son was somehow about us having an easier time of things if we align ourselves with the forces of good?

Understand this.  He lived a perfect life Jesus did, because you couldn’t and you wouldn’t if you could.  He died for your sin, as a sacrifice that you and I weren’t clean enough to make.  He was resurrected to show us He was EXACTLY who He said He was, that He had conquered death, forever in all its forms.

But The Spirit?  What was that about?  The Spirit, called by Jesus Himself “The Comforter” was not given simply to make us comfortable; it was given so we would be empowered to comfort others!  As Jesus does!  That we would be empowered to be like our Savior on this planet.  That the things we could not do before, like giving until it hurts or sharing all that we have or judging not or forgiving or healing OR LOVE – these would be and are impossible OUTSIDE OF HIM!  Without His Holy Spirit, do not even TRY to love someone like Jesus loves!  Understand I am saying, explicitly, that had Christ not meant for our example to be pouring ourselves out for others, HE MAY WELL HAVE JUST STAYED IN HEAVEN!

So let me clearly restate this – and I do so just as much for my clarity as I do for yours.  If I see Jesus.  If I see His birth, His death, His resurrection.  If I see the life He lived.  If I read or listen to His words.  If I ask Him to reveal Himself in me, in my life, to manifest His truth in me… and I can still claim that The Gospel tells me, anywhere, that His sacrifice was to empower me to be all about me, I need to look again.

Repent!

Literally.  Change. Your. Mind.  Refocus on Christ.  Look again!

You see, could I walk with Jesus Himself in the flesh, I would.  And yet I know that scripture tells me that when I am filled with His Spirit, along with my brothers and sisters in Christ, that we are better off as a whole.  And there is still something inside me at times that longs to know Him in the flesh in part because I fall prey to a lie that says I would know Him better if I could just reach out and touch Him.

Lord renew my mind!  I have forgotten that Jesus never said we wouldn’t be able to reach out and touch Him anymore.  He just said His hands would look different.  In fact what He said was further reaching that the rules we study in Exodus, and has as much implication in our lives as the story of David’s stand against Goliath.

He said, “What you did unto the least of these you did unto me.”