My thoughts on faith, books, and life in general
Category Archives: Blessings
“…This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law…“Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” – Nehemiah 8:9-10 (ESV)
Today I preached on the book of Nehemiah (our congregation is going through The Story–a 31-week journey through the Bible). Out of all the material to cover, I focused on Chapters 8 & 9.
This morning, I awoke to a dreary fog. My own mood was similar. I didn’t really want to get out of bed, go to church, or preach.
It’s true, it happens to preachers too.
However, after I got to the chapel, I was pointed to the scriptures. I read Psalm 47. It begins, “Clap your hands, all peoples! Shout to God all with loud songs of joy! For the LORD, the Most High, is to be feared, a great king over all the earth.”
It’s a command to praise God, and through this scripture God spoke to my heart.
In Nehemiah 8, the people are weeping and mourning, but their leaders command them to rejoice and be happy. How, I wondered, could they be expected to change from weeping to rejoicing?
This morning, I experienced it. You see, the rejoicing comes, not necessarily out of happy feelings, but rather, the recognition of who God is and what He has done. Scripture directs us to praise Him, even if we don’t feel like it.
The thing is–God can change our hearts through worship. Who He is is greater than how I feel. God is worthy of praise. The Bible is full of praise for His great attributes and shows a long track record of His blessings and kindness toward people. When I focus on God, instead of myself, my feelings can change. The joy of the Lord (joy of who He is and the joy that He gives) is my strength. It can change my attitude from malaise or sadness to one of praise and gladness.
When we life out this truth, it can change our attitudes and our lives.
It’s so easy during the Christmas season to get caught up in the spirit of “stuff”. We call this materialism, and like so many others, I too struggle with the desire for more/nicer/bigger/newer stuff.
I recently was reading a book by a Christian author who asserted that money and stuff were evil because they tempted us to worship them instead of God. While I agree that we must be aware of the temptation of materialism, I disagree that money or stuff (i.e., possessions) are necessarily bad. I believe that God allows us to have the resources we’ve been given, not simply because He loves us and wants us to be blessed, but rather so that we can share His blessings with others.
Yesterday Liberty University Chancellor Jerry Falwell, Jr. announced that LU would be cutting its tuition rates in order to ease the burdens on students and families during hard economic times. (read the article here)
“Liberty University has been blessed with generous contributions over the last two years and this is our way of sharing that generosity with our students in a time of financial crisis and layoffs across the entire country,” said Falwell
I’m proud of my Alma Mater. The university is growing by leaps and bounds. They’ve had to temporarily cap resident enrollment at 11,500 so that the infrastructure can catch up to the growth (they were at about a third that size when I attended just four years ago).
Jerry Jr knows what’s going on in America and he wants LU to stay accessible to students. I admire that. Here’s my big question: How many other schools are going to step up and do the same?
I read an intriguing post over at the Boundless blog (Read the post here).
The title of the post was: “Blessed at Another’s Expense?” Ted Slater, the author of the post poses the question of our proper response to God’s blessings. Here’s something he encourages readers to think about:
If I get a parking space near the door or the last piece of pie at the buffet, someone else doesn’t. If I find a $20 bill fluttering on the ground, someone has lost their $20 bill. If I find a good deal on a HUD house, someone has likely been evicted from their home. If I marry a wonderful woman, some other guy doesn’t get to.
Surely the Lord has His hands on the events of my life, even the seemingly meaningless ones. Why in His providence do I sometimes benefit at someone else’s loss?
I agree with the idea of his post that we ought to accept God’s gifts humbly and be mindful of the needs of those around us. Still, I am reminded that God gives us gifts because of His Grace, never out of some sense of favoritism.
The Apostle Peter reveals this principle in reference to salvation in Acts 10. In verses 34-35 Peter says:
I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right.
Here’s the context: Peter is, for perhaps the first time, in the home of a Gentile with whom he is sharing a meal and sharing the gospel. It was unusual (even taboo) for a Jew to enter the home of a Gentile — it would make them unclean. Yet, God spoke to Peter in a vision, commanding him not to call unclean what (or who) God has made clean. God chose Peter in this instance (Acts 10) to go to this Gentile home and proclaim the gospel.
The idea that God wanted to save Gentiles was at best confusing, and at worst heretical to the Jews of that day. During the days of the early church the Jews (and even Jewish believers) struggled to understand how God could show grace to other groups of people (who were not Jews or Jewish converts).
Here’s the tie-in: Many of the Jews believed that God had chosen them (the sons of Abraham) because of His partiality, and that they were inherently better or more special than any other nation. The fact is, however, that God chose the children of Israel in order for them to be a light to the nations, so that He could show His grace to all mankind. They were to be an example of grace, not favoritism.
Let’s bring it back to today.
God still blesses us. As Christians, we must understand that we are not inherently better than other people. God gives us His grace and salvation, and desires for all mankind to receive it. If we understand that God wants to bless people, we must also understand that He doesn’t bless us (with the $20, with the opportunities, with the jobs, with the spouse, kids, home, etc) because He loves us more or someone else less. He does it to show His grace.
I believe that God is sovereign. He can bless whomever He so chooses with whatever He chooses. He does have a unique plan for each and every person. The blessings that God offers to you and to me are not things that we ought to feel guilty about, but neither are they reason for us to feel proud or boastful. We must take them for what they are–gifts from a gracious God.
Perhaps we will respond humbly by thanking God, and maybe by passing along His blessings by being a blessing to others.