Giving the Gift of a Blessing

When I was a fairly young believer, my father-in-law (who was also my Pastor) led us in a study of Gary Smalley and John Trent’s The Gift Of The Blessing. We talked then about how frivolously we throw around the words “blessed” and “blessing.” We even follow up a sneeze with “Bless you.”

But in Scripture, the idea of a “blessing” was filled with meaning. God said that all who treated Abraham and his descendants well would be blessed. The patriarchs reserved the “blessing” in their culture for a formal event in which they would pass on a word of promise about the future. And God Himself gave orders to the priests in Numbers 6:22-27 to pronounce a blessing on the people on His behalf:

And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, This is the way you shall bless the children of Israel. Say to them, ‘The Lord bless you and keep you: The Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to You; The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.’ So they shall put my name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them.”

~ Numbers 6:22-27 NKJV

God obviously had more in mind in this message than a mere tradition of saying words after a sneeze. It is filled with meaning. We need to expand our understanding of what it means to bless someone, and here is how I would define it:

To bless someone means to be God’s hand or God’s voice in someone’s life, communicating to them the value that God places on having a relationship with them, and to do that which leads them into a greater understanding of and intimacy with God.

This may include believing and communicating positive promises about their future with our words. It may include the physical element of a pat on the back or a hug. It may also include sharing the gospel with someone who needs to hear it in order to lead them into a relationship with Jesus. To bless someone is more than a mere wave and a smile. It’s an intimate exchange in which we act as God’s priests to others, conveying His desire and will for their peace and joy to be found in a relationship with Himself.

So the assignment is simple. Go bless someone today – through your words, through an act of service, or by sharing your faith with them.

I’m Praying for God to Bless You

Alone In the Desert
Photo by daarkfire.

I’m currently reading Wayne Cordeiro’s Leading on Empty, and in it, Wayne passes along an ancient prayer written by some Franciscan monks…

May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, hard hearts, half-truths, and superficial relationships, so that you may live from deep within your heart where God’s Spirit dwells.

May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and turn their pain into joy.

And may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world and in your neighborhood, so that you will courageously try what you don’t think you can do, but in Jesus Christ you’ll have the strength necessary to do.

May God bless you so that you remember we are all called to continue God’s redemptive work of love and healing in God’s place, in and through God’s name, in God’s Spirit, continually creating and breathing new life and grace into everything and everyone we touch.

May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference.

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It’s a far cry from the modern, western idea of God’s “blessing,” which is thought to come in the form of a life of smiles and unfair favor, riches, and good health. The prosperity gospel is killing us, and I want more. I think God offers more, but until we learn that less truly can be more, we will keep missing the big picture of God’s divine dream for using us to change the world. Instead, we’ll settle for a closer parking spot at the mall and label that as God’s blessing instead.

I want to live from deep within my heart where God’s Spirit dwells.


If You’re a Pastor or Church Leader, You Must Read IT

It by Craig GroeschelIt is a really great book! It is all about “how churches and leaders can get it and keep it.” What is it? Though Craig Groeschel never really defines it, he does offer this clarifying list:

It is what God does through a rare combination of these qualities found in his people:
– Passion for his presence
– A deep craving to reach the lost
– Sincere integrity
– Spirit-filled faith
– Down-to-earth humility
– Brokenness

There are a few books I’ve read in the last decade that I would add to my list of “must reads” for leaders. Andy Stanley’s Next Generation Leader, J. Oswald Sanders’ Spiritual Leadership, and Paul Chappell’s Guided by Grace, plus almost anything that John Maxwell guy has written. And now, I’d have to add It to the stack.

Groeschel helps us develop a good understanding of it, and while he never makes an attempt to attach too much familiar verbiage to it (which is purposeful, to keep us from thinking we have it all figured out), he does make us hunger for it. He gets practical, helping us to understand how to have it, how to cultivate it in our church and on our team, and how to recover it when we seem to have lost it.

He showcases seven other ministries across America and describes how each has captured and enjoyed it, highlighting changed lives and communities as the result of churches that have it.

So, want it? Me too. A good step toward having it would be to read the book.

Get It!

Defining the Favor of God

Kindness of StrangersThe phrase “favor of God” seems to be growing in popularity, and I’m glad. It’s a biblical phrase – a good phrase. But it’s often misunderstood. I once heard a guy talk about finding a parking spot right up front on a busy shopping day because of the “favor of God.” I pictured in my mind the pregnant lady with triplets who had to park a football field away because of the favor of God upon this Pastor.

A recent story from LarkNews (satire, by the way – don’t start an email rumor mill – it’s fake) highlights our western view of God’s favor…

Christian family blessed through others’ misfortune

NEW CASTLE, Del. — Sam and Victoria Gutman have always been smart shoppers, but they have gone to another level during the recent recession, buying automobiles, computers and more from distressed owners.

“God continues to bless us,” says Sam. “All things really do work for good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose. We’re living proof.”

Last week they bought a Lexus coupe from a man who lost his job — and pension — when his employer collapsed.

“He was weeping when he gave me the keys,” Sam says. “I got that car for a third of what it’s worth. Beautiful leather seats, new tires. God is so good.”

Victoria fondly recalls buying a bedroom suite from a couple going through an acrimonious divorce.

“That was one of our best deals yet,” she says. “They drove the price down just to spite each other. That lovely set adorns our bedroom and is a lasting testimony to God’s provision.”

Even the home they live in was purchased as a foreclosure after weeks of aggressive counter-offering.

“God helped us negotiate that one down until we were practically stealing it from them,” Victoria says. “It belonged to a guy who was laid off and had to get a job at McDonald’s. The tilework is unbelievable.”

“…God continues to bless.”

via LarkNews

Scripture, however, presents a different understanding of the favor of God, and it comes out in the story of Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!… Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God!”

~ Luke 1:28-30 NLT

Mary and Joseph certainly didn’t enjoy rich circumstances. Situationally, they seemed anything but blessed. Joseph worked as a carpenter to earn the family’s daily bread. The trek to Bethlehem was challenging because of Mary’s pregnancy and we all know that there was found no room for them in the inn in such a small town. But she still enjoyed the favor of God like few in history had.

If the favor of God isn’t necessarily material or financial, then what is it? It’s simply the undeserved kindness of God. God, in His sovereignty and His good will toward His children, chooses at His own initiative to show undeserved kindness to people.

I don’t know why Mary was chosen for this role, but I do know that it wasn’t on the basis of how good she was. She, like the rest of us, was a sinner, saved by the grace of God. While I do believe we can live in such a way that we are more ready recipients of His favor, I still believe His favor is granted in His sovereignty, which makes it all the more beautiful when we see it.

We can identify God’s favor when we see three things happening…

  1. God has sovereignly chosen a recipient of His grace.
  2. God has blessed that recipient in one way or another.
  3. God has intentions that His blessing be shared with others.

I don’t see, in Scripture, God’s favor granted to people simply for their own enjoyment, but rather so that the lives of others can be changed and God can be glorified. Our enjoyment of His blessings brings Him pleasure and glory in the eyes of others.

God’s gracious kindness is His to give, and He gives it when, to whom, and how He chooses. But Scripture also invites all of us to be partakers – to come by faith and receive the gift of Jesus Christ, freely offered for all the world. In other words, while none of us can demand or expect God’s favor, we can claim it on the basis of grace – on the basis of the shed blood of Jesus Christ.

The favor of God isn’t about having more money or easier circumstances. It’s about enjoying the kindness of God, sovereignly, yet freely offered to all who will receive Jesus Christ and the life He has to offer.

Start Your Family Well (What To Pray Over Your New Home)

Last night I had a pretty neat experience. A couple who have recently married and begun their new life together asked me to come and bless their home, something I’ve never been asked to do in almost 14 years of ministry. The short version – we talked about Jesus and prayed over their family’s future. The long version…

They showed me around each room and then we talked for a while about some friends of theirs whom they are praying for over various needs. Then we talked about the importance of dedicating our homes to God as houses of worship. As I prayed, I asked God for certain things to happen in this particular home, and it occurred to me that not only is this a great way to begin a family life together, but that it also reveals certain great principles about being a “Christian home.” Here are some prayer considerations…

  • May God bless this family with joy.
  • May there be laughter, joy, and fun in this home.
  • May this home be a refuge from the world – a safe haven, and a heaven on earth.
  • May all who enter here feel the presence of God.
  • May this home be a place of safety and security – may God protect it.
  • May this home be used for ministry to others.
  • May this home be filled with peace as a respite from the world’s turmoil.
  • May this home be a house of worship, an altar of prayer, and a place of discipleship.
  • May Christ always be the most honored guest.
  • May this home reflect God’s ideal for family leadership.
  • May this home be a lighthouse in this neighborhood – a witness to the lost all around.
  • May this home reflect righteousness in this and the the next generation.
  • May all children born here find a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.
  • May the marriage built here be a reflection of Christ’s love for His bride – His church.

I’m sure there are others – feel free to share your own in the comments. The experience has been a reminder that I’m the prayer leader of my home, responsible for praying for my wife and daughter (and right now, for more children) continually.