Category Archives: April 2018-Blessings

Henri Nouwen on the Blessing of Poverty

Standard

“How can we embrace poverty as a way to God when everyone around us wants to become rich? Poverty has many forms. We have to ask ourselves: ‘What is my poverty?’ Is it lack of money, lack of emotional stability, lack of a loving partner, lack of security, lack of safety, lack of self-confidence? Each human being has a place of poverty. That’s the place where God wants to dwell! ‘How blessed are the poor,’ Jesus says (Matthew 5:3). This means that our blessing is hidden in our poverty.

We are so inclined to cover up our poverty and ignore it that we often miss the opportunity to discover God, who dwells in it. Let’s dare to see our poverty as the land where our treasure is hidden.”
Henri J.M. Nouwen, Bread for the Journey: A Daybook of Wisdom and Faith

Advertisements

Problems or Blessings #2

Standard

I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. Romans 7:15

Well, I almost blew it again.  Just like Paul in the book of Romans, I know the right way to act, but more often than not, I keep choosing the same old sin.  A little while back, I blogged about how most of our “problems” are really just annoyances or inconveniences, and instead of whining and complaining, we should focus on the actual blessings we’ve received.  Today I had a test of just this sort of situation, and I came close to forgetting all my good intentions.

On Tuesday our church has a regularly scheduled Bible Study at 10:30AM.  I went over an hour early so that I could run off some copies needed for the Wednesday Prayer meeting and the next Fanning the Flame meeting.  I got there only to find a repairman working on the copier!  I got pretty cranky with my husband–after all, he could have called me to let me know what was going on, couldn’t he? I didn’t even bring a book to read (duh, what about my Bible?) and I didn’t have anything to do until class started. What a waste of my precious time.

Then it dawned on me — Joan, this gives you an hour to pray!  No interruptions, no phones, a beautiful sanctuary to sit in — what a blessing!  It calmed me down and I realized that not only did I have my Bible, I had my little Pilgrim’s Guide (a book of prayers of Bible verses from my Via de Cristo weekend) in my purse.  So I spent a peaceful hour thanking God, examining my conscience (something that I evidently sorely need to do), and reading over the chapter we’re studying (which I hadn’t found time for).  And you know what?  After class, I got the copying done, too.  Another first world problem solved!

 

 

Showers of Blessing

Standard

I think this song and especially the comments in the post about revival are significant for me and for my church at this time. I’m hoping other readers will find it meaningful as well. It is certainly a beautiful and uplifting hymn.

Wordwise Hymns

Words: Daniel Webster Whittle (b. Nov. 22, 1840; d. Mar. 4, 1901)
Music: James McGranahan (b. July 4, 1840; July 9, 1907)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Daniel Whittle born, died)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: This song is sometimes given the longer title There Shall Be Showers of Blessing. For some reason, many hymn books fail to include the fifth stanza of the song. It is significant, as it makes a practical and personal application. You might consider including it in the church bulletin, if you hymnal doesn’t have it. Or projecting it for all to see, when the time comes to sing the song.

The partnership of “Major” Whittle (his rank in the Civil War) and James McGranahan was a rich and productive one for eleven years. But it began at a scene of terrible tragedy. When hymn writer Philip Bliss and his wife were killed in a…

View original post 628 more words

Eschatological Discipleship–Book Review

Standard

Not a discussion of various end-times beliefs, author Trevin K. Wax focuses his book on eschatology in a much more general sense.  His definition of eschatology includes concepts of life beyond death and everything connected with it — heaven, hell, reincarnation, resurrection, immortality, rebirth, last judgement and more.  It is not limited to Christianity, as other religions and even atheists still have a vision for humanity’s future, and this vision influences the worldview of those who hold it.

The big question Dr. Wax poses is for Christians is, “What time is it?”  or more specifically, “What do I do in light of what time it is?” In other words, if we recognize that our discipleship is influenced by the place we are in (for example a church in China vs. a wealthy U.S. suburb) we should also realize that the way we function as disciples and our God-give task will be shaped by the time in which we live.

He begins by defining the terms eschatology, worldview and discipleship and proceeds to a study of eschatological discipleship in the Old and New Testament and Acts.  Next he discusses some of the worldviews which are “rivals” to Christian eschatology:  the Enlightenment, the sexual revolution and consumerism;  and finally he evaluates a variety of evangelical conceptions of discipleship in view of  Christian eschatology.

I found parts of this book fascinating because it address the “why” of how people think.  Unbelievers often do not “get” the Christian lifestyle because they have an entirely different worldview and understanding of where humanity is headed and what will happen to us as individuals when we die.  Their “faith” is as deeply entrenched as our own, and arguing will usually not change it.  He also explains how even Christians are subtly influenced by the cultural worldviews which surround us.

Verdict:  Very well written and interesting, this book will challenge the average layperson.  Dr. Wax writes in an academic style and uses many technical terms.  He also assumes a knowledge of world history and philosophy not everyone will have.  It’s probably of most interest to Pastors, seminarians and professors of religion.   If you are interested in purchasing this book, you may use the link below:

http://www.bhpublishinggroup.com/products/eschatological-discipleship

Mountaintop Blessings

Standard

Most Christians have had what they describe as a “mountaintop” experience… a time when they felt especially close to God and keenly aware of His presence and blessings.  Some people may associate that time with their conversion;  others with a special time away on a Via de Cristo or other sort of retreat.  At these times, we feel on fire for God.  We are energized and ready to do anything and everything required of us to lead an authentic Christian life.

My devotional reading this morning focused on how mountaintop times, wonderful and blessed as they are do not last.  We can’t recapture them, but we can continue to use them.

“We must learn to live in the ordinary ‘gray’ day according to what we saw on the mountain.”

My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chamber

How were you blessed on the mountaintop?  Were things clearer, brighter?  Did you feel loved and called for a special purpose?  Did you experience the joy of Christian fellowship or the peace that passes understanding? Even Jesus and the disciples experienced this:

And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them. (Mark 9:2-3 ESV)

Yet, they still had the valley of Calvary ahead of them.  I’ve found that continuing in the spiritual disciplines of worship, prayer, study and fellowship (even when the day is gray and I don’t really want to) help keep the mountaintop feelings alive and fresh in my life.  These are the daily blessings that keep us growing in the valley.

 

A Word of Blessing

Standard

According to John Trent in his book, The Blessing, encouraging and loving words are also an important component of blessing.  The Bible speaks over and over about the importance of our words:

“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.”  Proverbs 25:11

“if we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well.  Look at ships also;  though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs.  So also, the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.”  James 3:3-5

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue …” Proverbs 18:21a

The Blessing: Giving the Gift of Unconditional Love and Acceptance by [Trent, John, Smalley, Gary]

Words can help or hurt;  they can guide;  they can change the course of a life.  Yet often, we say the wrong words, or even no words to the people we love and others around us.  Why?  There are many excuses:  We’re busy, we’re tired, we don’t want them to become vain or puffed up, or they already know we appreciate and value them.

How much effort does it take to say, “Good job!”  or “I love you” or “Thank you for all that you do.”  Don’t make excuses;  speak a word of blessing to someone today.

A Touch of Blessing

Standard

I started reading a book by John Trent titled The Blessing.  In it, the author talks about the Biblical tradition of blessing, especially blessing one’s children, what it includes and what it means.  Touch is definitely part of the picture, as you will see below

“Joseph said to his father, ‘They are my sons, whom God has given me in this place.’ And he said, ‘Please bring them to me, and I will bless them.’  Now the eyes of Israel were dim with age, so that he could not see.  Then Joseph brought them near to him, and he kissed them and embraced them …”Genesis 48:9-10

In the New Testament, Jesus also blessed people with a meaningful touch:

“Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them;  but the disciples rebuked those who brought them.  But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them;  for of such is the kingdom of God …’  And He took them up in His arms, laid His hands on them, and blessed them.”  Mark 10:13-14, 16

In our church this tradition continues in our practice of Holy Communion:  children too young to receive come forward with their family during the distribution and receive a blessing from the Pastor, who places his hand on their head.

Not surprisingly, touching others — hugging, embracing, giving a pat on the back or the shoulder– is good for us.  From lowering blood pressure and heart rate to increasing immune function and relieving pain, getting touched or doing some touching makes you healthier — not to mention happier and less anxious.

There are many people out there who are not being blessed in this way, but you and I can change that.  It’s a simple way to bless someone.  Give a hug, shake a hand, pat a back.  It’s a blessing.

 

Fanning the Flame #5

Standard

Going on a little farther, He saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who were also in the boat mending the nets. Immediately He called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and went away to follow Him.  Mark 1:19-20

This week the Fanning the Flame team of St. Paul’s had our first meeting with Joe Weatherly, our coach.  After weeks of prayer and meditation, we are ready to start forming a vision.  What do we want our church to look like in several years?  Where do we want to go, and how do we start?

One thing we talked about is how, since our congregation is small, we get focused on the task at hand, and don’t take time to consider and plan for the future.  When I look at the passage above, I’m struck by the fact that James and John were busy when Jesus called them.  Mending the nets was important.  They couldn’t earn a living without the proper equipment. Yet when Jesus called, they left that work to follow Him. We too can get absorbed in maintaining our building, holding fundraisers, cooking for fellowship dinners, planning weekly worship, and more.  These things are important, but following Jesus is more than that.  Following Jesus means sometimes dropping everything else to listen to His plans for us.  That’s what we’re trying to do.

As we looked over our ideas, the fruit of our time listening to God, we saw that for us following Jesus means more community involvement.  Our focus must change from taking care of those within our walls, to going out and caring for others.  Like the disciples, we must become fishers of men.  We must trust God to keep our nets mended as we minister to His people;  all of His people.

Beth Ann will be writing a vision narrative, a cohesive whole, based on the thoughts, ideas and inspirations we listed.  Maybe she’ll post soon on what that process is like.  I’m looking forward to see what she and the Holy Spirit come up with.  Maybe our readers are, too.  In the meantime, pray, pray, pray, for St. Paul’s and our plans for the future.  I’m pretty sure whatever happens, we’ll be blessed by this process.

Blessings in Disguise

Standard

In one of her posts, Beth Ann said our blessings aren’t always the “good” things in life.  I found a quote that addresses this very topic.  The greatest blessing of all looked like a horrendous defeat–  something we should keep in mind when we undergo trials.  Gods’ ways are not our ways and we never know what He has planned in the long run.

God’s greatest blessings often come costumed as disasters. Any doubters need to do nothing more than ascend the hill of Calvary.

Max Lucado

 

Have you received any blessings in disguise?  We’d like to hear about them.

 

Blessed to be a Blessing

Standard

“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times you may abound in every good work. As it is written, ‘He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.’ He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.”

II Corinthians 9:8-12 (ESV

Beth Ann blogged about the Aaronic blessing which we often hear at the end of the worship service, and I posted the hymn, “Sent Forth By God’s Blessing” which is a common recessional.  It occurs to me that God blesses us during our weekly worship, not only because He loves us, but because He wants us to go out and extend that blessing to others.  One church I visited had a sign as you exited the parking lot that read, “You are now entering the mission field.”  How often do we think about this?  Most of the time, church is over, and we simply slip back into our usual routines, without giving a thought to what God wants us to do next.  We’re happy to have been inspired, uplifted and blessed, but we don’t make time to “pay it forward.”

There are probably a million ways to do this.  We can just practice the fruits of the spirit by loving, being patient, kind and gentle in our interactions with others.  We can be generous to those in need.  We can invite somebody to church or Bible study.  We can say “thanks” or “have a blessed day.”  We can go down to the local mission and serve a meal.  We can help an elderly neighbor or a young mother.  We can give someone a hug.

The point is, God’s blessing isn’t just for you and me.  We’re to receive it, and then give it away.  There are many people out there who desperately need God.  How can we pass the blessing on?  I’d like to hear suggestions from other authors and readers.