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Well done, my good servant, his master replied, because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of 10 cities.” Luke 19:17

“Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ, Jesus”  1 Thessalonians 4:16

I start with a disclaimer in a way about the title.  The “Perhaps as God Sees them?” is not to infer that I believe that I have the wisdom, insight or righteousness to speak to how God sees things.  It is meant more as an aspect of potential difference between earthly and heavenly vision.

Blessings!  We may often times proclaim that we are blessed, but what do we mean by that?  We ask for and indeed are encouraged to ask for blessings.  Yet what constitutes a blessing and upon receipt of one or many; what is an appropriate reaction?  Do blessings shift based upon the eye of the beholder?

The third entry on the site Dictionary.com defines blessing as “invoking of God’s favor upon a person”.  In the bible blessings could come in the form of speaking words over a person as well as actual actions like healings, etc. Thus as we look at our lives, do we see God’s favor being invoked on our behalf?  Is the overall action of Grace in our lives the constant blessing versus individual acts?

There are two aspects that I want to look at when we think about the topic of blessing; first is there concept of size and how much does that matter.  Second is the knowledge and anticipation of blessing and how that effects its receipt.

First let’s explore size and our measurement of size.  For example, a healing from cancer, the full recovery from a stroke, the successful transplant of a major organ, would definitely seem to fit into the category of blessings to me.  God’s favor is being invoked by these medical triumphs.  But is good health a blessing?  Is going through this day, getting a clean bill of health on the annual physical, not coming down with the sickness that’s going around; are all those mainly because of the way I diet, my exercise regimen, getting enough rest etc.?  Does it take more energy or more favor from God to cure me then it does to keep my healthy in the first place?  Let’s say you and I are praying to become debt free.  If Publisher’s Clearinghouse came to our door with an enormous check that would allow us in one fell swoop to pay off all our debt, we might declare that an amazing blessing.  Yet what if we get some small work done and the person decides not to charge us to either keep us from going further into debt or utilizing some of what we would have used on that job to pay off some debt.  Is that a blessing?  Is it as big a blessing as the Publisher’s Clearinghouse? A personal example of mine is that I’m a published author who prays that his writing might have a relatively measurable level of success (perhaps landing on a bestseller list).  Now if some famous person happened to see, read and recommend my book causing it to end up on the New York Times best seller list, I would call that a blessing.  I would feel the favor of the Lord in that.  But what about the two people who purchased books recently?  Is that a blessing?  Do I discount a purchase here or there because I can’t pay the bills with that level of purchases? Is there no blessing in those small purchases, really?

Jesus teaches a parable where, depending on the translation a master or powerful king gives a small token of his monetary wealth to some servants; telling them to put the money to work while he is away on a trip.  Two out of the three servants do what they can with the money, they invest it which does have some risk associated with it and they gain some money for the king.  Yet one servant is not willing to take any risk with what is given to him, to afraid to utilize it at all, he buries it so that he knows at least he can’t lose the money.  The king has an interesting reaction to the servant’s efforts.  The two servants who took what was given to them and put it to work, although there might be some risk, were rewarded.  The one servant who buried what was given to him and didn’t allow it to provide any benefit was stripped of his money and left out in the cold.  If the king had started out saying, if you do good I’m going to put you in charge of cities, then all three servants might have worked hard seeing a large reward.  However, the gain of the two servants was not great in comparison to the master’s overall wealth, but because they were faithful in the small amounts that they had, the master figured they would be faithful enough to entrust with a much more significant amount.  In the same way, are we only looking for the “big” blessings?  Can we see God’s favor in the short rain shower when its been dry for weeks or does it have to be an all day soaker?  Can we find appreciation when we’re asking for a new car but the old car passes inspection without costing us anything?  We desperately want the promotion to manager but we’re given a new assignment that, at this points, gives us some more money and responsibility; is their God’s favor in that?  If we’re not appreciative of or can not see the favor of God unless there is a monumental happening in our life skipping over the day to day blessings that are showered down upon us; can we really be trusted to be faithfully, appropriately, appreciative at those big times?

So now that we’ve talked a little about size of blessing, what about the timing of the blessing(s)?  I know for myself, there have been times when I’ve thought or said to myself:  “Man if I only knew!”  In this case what I mean is perhaps I was in a place of consternation or uncertain expectation about some future situation.  Once the situation unfolds or the outcome happens and I clearly see the blessing that God poured out, I think how easier my life would have been if I knew that particular blessing was coming.  Yet the reality is would it really have been easier if I knew?  One example we can use is the Israelites as they left Egypt.  God had promised they were heading for the promised land; a land dripping with milk and honey.  God was physically with them at times, in a pillar of smoke during the day, and pillar of fire at night.  However that did not keep them from being fearful and complaining about starving or dying of thirst.  So if God were to lay everything out in front of me, in His plan about the future blessings to come; would that make my today better?  Would I be so impatient for that future date that I would become frustrated and downtrodden at what was happening today?  Would I be so focused on the future blessings that I would totally miss the blessing and love that God poured out on me each day leading up to the blessings?  Would I grumble at God, at His length of time to fulfill His plan or would I be praising each day?  I’m humble enough to realize my failings and my potential ungratefulness.

Bottom line is that God does bless.  I don’t remember an aspect in scripture concerning the measurement of blessings or the importance of them based on size.  Not only is God’s plan perfect, His blessings are more than sufficient for us. Also how much He communicates about His plans and future blessings is perfect as well.  Let us strive to see and receive in full appreciation and praise the favor of God that is poured out on us by His Graceful Blessings we constantly receive.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father; we are so thankful Lord for Your constant and merciful grace that manifests itself in countless blessings that we receive.  Forgive us when we are quick to overlook Your blessings because they don’t seem impactful enough or have not come when we think that they should.  Help us to pray for Your Spirit that will allow us to be faithfully patient, confident in Your Plan, including its timing.  That in our acknowledgement and praise we would be living lives that bring glory to Your Most Holy Name.  We pray in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen

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“But the father said to his servants, “Bring out the best robe and put it on him and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet.  And bring out the fatted calf here and kill it…..”  Luke 15:22,23

There are a lot of questions out there concerning enough these days.  Will you have enough for retirement?  Will you have enough to send your child to college?  Do you have enough to go on that vacation?  Do we have enough __________ (fill in the blank with water, oil, food etc).  The overarching theme is that there is always a limit.  There is always a point to which something is used up.  There is only so much to go around and when that so much is reached; it is gone.  There can be an earthly wisdom to that type of thinking when it comes to wisely using resources.  Yet when that type of thinking spills over to our thoughts about Our Heavenly Father then we start to put foolish limits on Him.

Man, could Jesus tell a story or what?  In one story of the Prodigal Son, Jesus packs so much amazing wisdom about ourselves and Our Heavenly Father.  Much is rightly said and preached about, seeking after earthly things, forgiveness, loyalty, repentance and such.  There’s another dynamic truth out there that I think opens a window on the Loving, Giving, Merciful Nature of Our Heavenly Father that should fill us with great joy.

And it has to do with limits and how the world deals with limits versus how Our Heavenly Father deals with limits.  First limit, the inheritance.  The younger son, wanted what was going to be his.  Note something here; while he was with the father, that limit potentially would increase exponentially.  Yet because the younger son wanted it to leave the father, there had to be a totaling and as such the limit was finite and probably a lessor amount.  Was that enough?  No, we see that the son uses it all up in a rather short period of time in prodigal, that is wasteful, extravagant living.

The next set of limits are not just financial, they are also existential limits; or how much can I take, limits.  With his money used up the son has to be able to eat.  It just so happens that a famine comes so no one is being generous with charity for him.  He is hungry, maybe even starving.  We don’t know if it is a limit of pride in not returning home or a limit of money not being able to get passage home, but the son takes a job feeding swine, pigs.  In might be good to remember at this point how pigs were looked upon as unclean, horrible animals by the Israelites.  It would seem that it was more a limit of pride because the job still does not pay enough for the son to sustain himself because he wants to eat what he is giving to the pigs.  In the story, Jesus says the son came to his senses and decided to go home.

Here’s where the limits get real interesting to me.  The son has the thoughts of the world; both then and now.  For here is the son’s calculation:  I took my money, I spent my money, there is rightly no more money for me to have as a son, I must live within the meager limit of a servant, probably the lowliest of servants.  We, in an earthly sense would say: “that’s right, you got it, you made your bed so now you’ve got to sleep in it (which in this case is probably made of straw outside). His father (and what Jesus is trying to get across that Our Heavenly Father) sees something completely different.

For you see the son did not return prideful, arrogant, making excuses for what happened, blaming others for his misfortune, saying he was entitled to more.  No, he came to himself; that is the son took an objective, truthful look at where he was, what he had done to get there and knew it was no one else’s fault than his own.  He was not only sorrowful but he was repentant.  He came home broken.  And where the human approach, a human father, would feel justified in giving a stern lecture and treating him with disdain.  In fact the world would say if you didn’t do that, you would be coddling the son too much, spoiling them.  You would be a poor parent.

What does the Father say?  Blessed are the poor in spirit, for yours is the kingdom of God.  That is what the father in the story sees.  He sees a son who is broken, a son who has learned a lesson, a son who the world has tried to kill but has returned so that he may live again.  And so that father gives, gives without limit, best robes, gold rings, fine sandals, best meal.  The son whom I have always loved, no matter where he was, has returned to me.

Dear precious brothers and sisters, this story should fill us all with loving joy knowing how precious we are to Our Heavenly Father.  We don’t like to admit it but we are going to fail, we are going to run away at times, we will probably be prodigal at some point.  Satan would have us believe our Heavenly Father doesn’t want us back.  Satan would have us believe we’ve used up all our love, all our blessings.

Our Heavenly Father does not want us to leave in the first place.  But be assured of this, when we come to ourselves and see our brokenness.  When we truly repent to our Heavenly Father, He stands ready to forgive and shower upon us more than enough blessings.  There is no limit.  How can I be so sure?  Jesus Christ.   Our Heavenly Father willingly sacrificed His Only Begotten Son, that we might live in a loving eternal relationship with Him.

Dear brothers and sisters; please don’t put a limit on what you think Our Heavenly Father is capable of.  Don’t be resentful, as the other brother was, when God shows His extravagant mercy to a lost soul who returns.  If you are in a place of separation, return to Him knowing He desperately wants to show you that He will give you more than enough out of His Love.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, You are Creator God to which there can be no limits.  We confess that we stray from you in thought, word and/or deed at times to live after worldly ways.  We are truly sorrowful for those times.  Yet Heavenly Father in Your Mercy, we testify that You want us back and will come running with open arms when we return to You.  Thank You Heavenly Father for You Loving Mercy and Kindness to us that knows no bounds, even to the death of Your Son Jesus Christ for our sins.  We praise You Dear Father now and forever more.  In the name of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen

“Then Saul was very angry…They have ascribed to David, ten thousands and to me they have ascribed only thousands.”  “So Saul eyed David from that day forward.”    1 Samuel 18:8

“Then a dispute arose among them as to which of them would be the greatest.”  Luke 9;46

There is something so human about this.  In the bible it goes back to Cain and Able.  In human families, we see it when we look toward our siblings; which one is the favorite.  From the other perspective, as a parent, I can remember trying to be so purposeful with my two children to try and not show favoritism one over another (for indeed there is not a favorite).

Bottom line, Saul was blessed.  He was the king.  The Nation of Israel had a long time foe; the Philistines.  The enemy had come up against the Israelites  and challenged them; thus challenging Saul’s kingship.  And the Philistines were smote.  After David slew Goliath, the Israelite Army rose up and slaughtered the Philistines.  It is an amazing triumph; a true blessing from God.  King Saul is so impressed by David that he takes David into his home.  David and Saul’s son Jonathon become like loving brothers to each other.  Enter the world.  Enter the Devil.

The Israelite Nation is overjoyed by the achievements of their army.  They come out to dance and cheer at the accomplishments.  They hail loudly the triumphs of their heroes.  David has killed tens of thousands and Saul thousands.  Was not Saul the king?  Wasn’t it under his leadership that all these deaths had transpired?  That’s not what Saul heard.  Through a hardened heart, through listening to the lies of this world, Saul heard:  “David is better than you!  We like David more!  David wants to take your throne from you!”  None of what Saul heard was true, was from God.  Saul chose to believe his own interpretation and hates David from that day forward, trying to kill or have him killed.  Saul eventually is destroyed.

The disciples are in the presence of God Almighty here on earth; Emanuel.  What have they experienced?  They have seen Jesus miraculously heal without claiming glory for Himself.  They have seen Him feed thousands without any demand for payment whatsoever.  They have heard him say; that in His service to His Father, He must die.  Jesus has preached humility and the need to love all, even your enemies.  Enter the world.

For the disciples are a group.  And in the world all groups should have a hierarchy, a pecking order if you will.  There is a head person.  None of the disciples would dispute that Jesus is the head.  But it doesn’t stop there.  In human groups there is a second in command, a vice leader and then a next lower and next lower.  The disciples are arguing about that pecking order; who is the greatest.  In the company of The Creator; the Greatest who will ever walk this earth, they lose sight of the blessing of Him and can only look to each other and argue about which is the greater.  They are listening to the world.  Jesus knows what they are arguing about.  He also knows that He can not let it go without being addressed.  He takes a little child and tells them they must become humble, like the child.

So what for us today?  We pray.  We pray for ourselves and we pray for others.  Our prayers are answered.  We are blessed by God Almighty within His perfect plan for each of us.  Enter the world.  Enter the devil.  For we see a brother or sister of faith have something great happen for them; an unexpected increase, a miraculous healing, being exalted for work done and the world says, shouldn’t that be you?  How come your brother or sister gets this or that and you haven’t?  Well you got this but it’s not as good as he or she got.  That is what the world, that is what the devil whispers to you and I as we smile at them.

If we’re not careful, we listen.  We say: “Hey that’s right!  What about us?  What about me?  I deserve that too!”  The world, the devil doesn’t stop there.  He says “That’s right, but God doesn’t love you like He loves them.  He’s not fair.  You’re not good enough.”  And sadly, if we listen long enough, God’s blessings we will turn into a curse for us.

But dear brothers and sisters, all is not lost.  We are not lost or left alone to battle against the words and deeds of our enemy.  The bible in the book of James tells us that if we resist the devil that he will flee from us.  That in submitting and humbling ourselves (like a child) to God, we will receive His strength which will cause the devil to run away.  It is through the Spirit of God poured out on our heart that we can be truly, completely filled with joy over the blessings given to others understanding the God has particular blessings for us as well.  Jesus tells us that Our Father’s house has many rooms and that there are rooms prepared for us.  So it is not just one room for all to cram into.  We are different.  Our needs are different.  Our blessings will be different.  But here is the final truth; His Love is the same for us.  Our Father’s Love is equal for us.  Jesus Christ came to be our salvation, to die, for each of us.  May it be that we revel equally in our blessings and the blessings of others.  Let us resist any temptation to compare or attempt to measure God’s love for one versus another.  Let us find ourselves being His branches. Living off the vine of His love for us.

Our Most Gracious and Heavenly Father, the world would have us believe that all can not be equally loved.  The enemy tells us that You unfairly play favorites.  We humble ourselves before you and confess there are times that we are tempted to listen to the enemy.  We pray for Your Strength to be poured out upon us that we would resist the devil and his message of divisiveness.  In the example of Your Son Jesus death for all of us, let us understand that You have love and a plan perfect for each of us.  Give us true joy in the blessings that You pour out to all of us that we may come together in praise for Your Most Holy Name.  In the name of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen

 

“So the children of the Lord did evil in the sight of the Lord”  Judges 3:7

Therefore the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel…..”  Judges 3:8

When the children of Israel cried out to the Lord, the Lord raised up a deliverer…”   Judges 3:9

“So the land had rest for forty years”     Judges 3:11

“And again the children did evil in the sight of the Lord.”   Judges 3:12

Human nature.  It is a phrase oft used to describe a multitude of things.  For some, our human nature is such that we are basically loving, generous, giving people who are led astray in some way or another by our environment.  When we do evil, we are somehow acting against our basic nature.  For others, human nature describes certain aspects of how we behave but attach no judgement to that behaviour.  It is human nature to be competitive or it is human nature to have the best.  It is basically human nature that has us looking out for number one (ourselves) first.

So we come to the book of Judges and the people of Israel who, when following the Lord under the human leadership of Joshua, completely conquered the promised land.  The  people who in conquering the land, time after time, they destroyed armies many times their size and strength.  After conquering the promised land, the bible tells us that generation served the Lord and they were at peace and prospered.  Then Joshua dies along with the generation that was with him, who directly witnessed the power as well as the mercy of the Lord.  Then something changed.  Their environment didn’t change.  it wasn’t as if, as they were correctly serving the Lord, a drastic drought or great enemy came against them.  No, first they turned from the Lord and started doing evil in the sight of the Lord.  What was the evil that they were doing?  They turned from worshiping the Lord and started worshiping the local gods:  Baal and Asherahs.

And here’s where human nature kicks in.  For we might understand that those who had not had the opportunity to first hand witness the power and the mercy of the Lord might not grasp the all encompassing need to worship Him.  Yes their parents taught them of the Lord but they lacked the experience.  What they knew was peace and prosperity but not the way in which it was derived.  So they strayed.  Okay, I can understand that.  However, once they get to witness it themselves.  Once they experience first hand the anger of the Lord, then cry out to Him and are delivered and then are brought into His rest.  Surely they will not stray again.  Well, I’m starting the fifth chapter of Judges and already this pattern has repeated itself three times.  And, having read the book before, I know that it will continue.  And should we think that this is just an aberration of this particular time.  Centuries later, after David and Solomon have ruled, there comes a time that is captured in the books of Kings and Chronicles, where this same pattern is repeated over and over again.  There would seem to be some aspect of our nature as humans that brings about this repeated behavior.

Fast forward to today.  As we read this we might be tempted to judge these people harshly.  To call out to them:  “You Fools!”; believing that we would never behave in such a way.  Wise was Jesus to give us this warning:  “Judge not lest we be judged”.  For I, at least in those times when I am honest, can see this behavior in myself.  I am in need.  I declare that Jesus Christ is my savior and in faith I call out to him.  I am blessed greatly in the response.  And sometimes (sadly not all the time) I give thanks for what God Almighty had done for me.  I feel a sense of peace and prosperity.  Then it happens.  The gods of this world intrude.  With my new prosperity, I deserve to live the good material life.  Bring on the new!……gadgets, vehicles, homes, lavish dinners out.   I deserve and am wise to use only my judgement in wielding my new power!……do as I say (don’t look to closely at what I am doing), I have no need for your opinion, shut up.  Look at me!  Want to be me!  I should have all that my eye sees and my mind can conjure.  Gradually, insidiously, I turn away from the One True God and serve the many earthly gods:  money, power, prestige, selfishness.  Invariably, when I turn from God, I plummet.  My sense of peace and well being flee from me.  My decisions are wrong and bring about hurt and pain.  I find myself lost.  So I cry out to Jesus and He hears me and rescues me.  And I am once again blessed.  And the behavior, sometimes to a greater or lessor degree, will repeat itself over and over again.

And here is the amazing triumph over the tragedy; the God Nature versus Human Nature.  Human nature has a saying:  “Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me.”  Human nature says, once you have done something against me the first time, I should stop trusting, respecting or believing in you.  Human nature says you deserve what you get.  But not God Nature.  First our Heavenly Father isn’t fooled.  He knows our nature is to stray.  He knows that we are going to sin.  How many times should I forgive a person; Jesus disciples ask:  seven times?  No, Jesus responds; seven times seventy times.  Even then, I believe Jesus nor God is putting a true number of times on forgiveness.  Jesus Christ didn’t die just to deliver us from our first 10 or even 100 sins.

So what is to be our response?  Just keep sinning?  Can we not see that the turning away from God is not hurting God but is tragically and repeatedly destroying ourselves. But if that is our human nature then what can we do?  Jesus Christ tells us.  We must be born again.  We must be born again into the spiritual realm of God Nature.  Our human nature must die only to be resurrected into His Nature.  How can we accomplish this?  We as humans can’t.  But remember that all encompassing promise made by Jesus Christ.  With God, all things are possible.  May it be that we strive for a new trend.  The trend that comes from being with and in God’s Spirit through Jesus Christ.  And when our human nature tries to cause us to fall; know that we have a Savior who is there to catch us.

Our most Gracious and Heavenly Father, we confess that we at times believe we can live without You.  We confess that we bow down either in desire or fear to the gods of this world and our own making.  Forgive us Dear Father when we are forgetful of Your blessings and take credit for them ourselves.  Strengthen us Merciful Father, to be victorious in our battle against our own human nature.  Wonderful Father, pour out Your Spirit upon us, testifying to us and giving us the will to subvert our will to Your Devine Will.  That our lives might be a lasting testimony to the world of Your Glorious Nature and a Blessing to Your Most Holy Name.  In Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen

 

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