God’s blessing


2 Corinthians 9-10 

Discover His heart:  He rewards and remembers our generous hearts

I’ve visited a few churches over the years where the congregations had a rather unique response at the announcement that it was offering time.  They would break out in applause and praises to the Lord.  No apologies were made for receiving the offering, and there was no hesitancy in giving.  All I can assume is that these congregations had learned the key to giving and looked forward to the opportunity to do so as found in Paul’s teaching in Chapter 9.  Blessed congregations! 

2 Corinthians 9
“Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop.  You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” (6-7)

If we’ve ever received a gift that was given to us with reluctance or displeasure, a great deal of the joy that the gift could have brought to us was never realized.  In fact, we can look at the gift in the future and still feel sadness about the reluctance that came with it. No wonder Paul reminds us to give cheerfully to others.  God loves us when we give with a joyful heart, and He makes sure that there will be more to give in the future.  We are cheerful, the receiver is cheerful and God loves us – it makes me cheerful just to think about it!  But that’s not all…

“Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God So two good things will result from this ministry of giving—the needs of the believers in Jerusalem will be met, and they will joyfully express their thanks to God… And they will pray for you with deep affection because of the overflowing grace God has given to you.” (11-12,14)

Our cheerful giving will not only be rewarded by God’s love for us, which in itself is more than enough, but we also will be enriched > enhanced > supplemented> deepened in every way!  And yet another bonus is that the recipients of our gifts will thank God and pray for us with deep affection.  I, for one, take all the prayers on my behalf I can get.

When we think about eternity in Heaven, we want our deeds to follow us there.  Paul offered a promise for those with generous hearts, one that will stand the test of time, “They share freely and give generously to the poor. Their good deeds will be remembered forever.” (9)  So, there are actually two things that we will take with us into eternity – those we have won to the Lord and the memory of good deeds.

So, when we are tempted to hoard or close our hand in financially challenging times, we would do well to remember those less fortunate than us because we are God’s instruments to touch their lives.  Give, not haphazardly or unwisely, but give with generosity and with smiles on our faces.  When we do this, according to Paul, we really have a lot to smile about. 

Moving Forward:  Over and over again I’m reminded that I can’t outgive God.  He always wins! But I will give to others with a cheerful, generous heart and prove that His Word is true. 

Tomorrow @ Exodus 25-28

Luke 1-2 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: Filled with unexplainable love for us, He sent His Son to us

Details, details, details! Women especially love details, and the Book of Luke is loaded with them.  Because most of the women in Luke’s day were uneducated, I’m fairly certain he wasn’t writing to accommodate the female reader.  His detailed accounts of the life of Christ more than likely resulted from his profession as a doctor.  Luke’s life had been filled with accuracy, details and careful observations, and we are blessed by what he has added to our understanding of scripture because of this. He talked with eye witnesses, many believe he interviewed Mary, and “carefully investigated everything from the beginning.” (1:3) As a Greek, Luke was the only known Gentile author of the New Testament, but his love and devotion to the Lord was evident in both of his books – Luke and Acts. 

@ Luke 1
“Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous in God’s eyes, careful to obey all of the Lord’s commandments and regulations. They had no children because Elizabeth was unable to conceive, and they were both very old.” (6-7)  Gabriel, an angel of the Lord, appeared saying, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John.”(13)

I’ve tried to imagine a visit from the angel Gabriel, and I would like to think that after I picked myself up off the floor, I would believe all that he had to say.  Zechariah, however, doubted the angel’s message because of the sheer impossibility of it all. This obviously offended Gabriel and he made Zechariah mute, temporarily.  Physical limitations clashed with the power of the living God.  I’ve often wondered if it offends the Lord when we pray for something to come to pass, and when it does, we are completely shocked.  Thankfully, He forgives our faltering belief and does the extraordinary any way.

On the other hand, Mary’s reaction to Gabriel and his news that she would bear God’s son was different.  News that she would be an unwed pregnant teenager was not met with resistance.  As a virgin, Mary must have been confused by Gabriel’s message, but she responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” (38) The miracle pregnancy of her relative, Elizabeth, did more than provide the forerunner to Jesus, but also added credibility to the miracle that Mary was experiencing and must have encouraged her in the weeks ahead.  “For nothing is impossible with God,” declared Gabriel. (37)  Nothing is impossible with God!

I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall in the meeting between Elizabeth and Mary.  Two miraculously pregnant women – emotional, joyful, wondering, and awestruck – bring out the tissues!  Two observations have always blessed me in this meeting.  “When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy.”  Now, how could a soul-less, unborn, useless fetus be filled with the Holy Spirit (15) and respond with such emotion?  David explained it so beautifully, “You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.  You saw me before I was born.  Every day of my life was recorded in your book.  Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.” (Psalm 139:15-16)  As a society, how can we be so bold to tamper with God’s plan?

Then came Mary’s beautiful Song of Praise.  Knowing she would face ridicule, disbelief and disdain for her explanation of this pregnancy, Mary submitted herself to God with a song of praise on her lips.  “Oh, how my soul praises the Lord.  How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!” (46-47) Jesus left heaven’s splendor and came to this world for us. I can’t help but rejoice with Mary at His goodness.

When Zechariah was finally able to speak, he eloquently expressed, “Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace.” (78-79)  And I sing with Mary, “Oh, how my soul praises the Lord.  How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!” 

Moving Forward: How can I do anything today without praises in my heart for His amazing love and grace?  He came, He conquered, He reigns in my heart. 

Tomorrow @ 2 Corinthians 9-10

Job 29-30 (NLT)

Discover His Heart: He is the source of all blessings and watches over our lives

I clearly remember the first time I was bumped up to First Class on an airline flight. As I sat down on the roomy comfortable seat, I thought I was one of the most blessed people on the planet. With the personal attention, upscale meals and china, I repeat china, coffee cups, I felt that it was definitely where I belonged. It was a long flight, and I felt especially blessed that day to sit so comfortably on my journey.

On my next flight I found myself back in Coach with the regular folk, and unfortunately, now I knew what I was missing. That Coach seat was smaller than ever, the peanuts were…just peanuts. Flying would never be quite the same. (Sigh) In our reading today, a great part of Job’s misery was remembering what he had enjoyed at one time and realizing that it was now gone.

No doubt Job’s enemy, Satan, was thrilled to hear Job’s account of his past glories in Chapter 29. I would imagine his test of Job included proving that all creation was full of pride just as he was. Job’s recount of his past sounds almost prideful. Better he had reviewed all the blessings God has given him, rather than detailing all he had accomplished himself. In his defense, I am reminded of something a friend said to me when I was struggling with something early in my ministry. She explained that when we live our lives for Him, as time goes on we tend to remember only the beautiful. On this occasion, Job was remembering only the beautiful moments in his life, and painful events had been forgotten.

Usually our memories of blessing bring hope for the future, but they did not bring hope to Job. To fall from how he lived and was regarded in Chapter 29 to the degradation and scorn of Chapter 30 explains the depths of his present anguish. Often throughout the book, Job rightfully stated that all goodness comes from God, but occasionally he implied that his former blessings came from his piety and this was why he felt he didn’t deserve his trial.

In Chapter 29:9-10, Job recounted how others viewed him, “The princes stood in silence and put their hands over their mouths. The highest officials of the city stood quietly, holding their tongues in respect.” “I assisted… I helped… I caused… righteousness covered me like a robe… I served.” (vs.12-15) Even in our humblest of circumstances, pride can rear its ugly head, threatening our future dependence on Him. Yes, God blesses our right living with His goodness, but we do well to remember that He is the source of all blessing, and through His mercy and grace He blesses us.

For me, Job’s greatest anguish came when he said, “I cry to you, O God, but you don’t answer. I stand before you, but you don’t even look.” (30:20) Of course, we know from Chapter 1 that God was looking at him intently, but to think that God was unconcerned about him was Job’s greatest anguish of all!

Sometimes we may be tempted to feel this same way, but from Job’s story, we know that God is looking at us intently regardless of our circumstances. It is out of our lack that He is able to bring great blessing, and it is out of our lack that we will appreciate and cherish His blessings, never taking credit for them and never taking them for granted. Flying First Class no matter where we’re seated!

Moving Forward: From an old hymn, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Praise Him all creatures here below…” (The Doxology) This truth is my heart’s song as I move forward today. I will praise Him! Regardless of my circumstances, I know He is looking at me intently and His blessings will flow.

Tomorrow@Jeremiah 12-16

Deuteronomy 33-34 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He knows us and blesses us with what is best

Some people seem to have a gift or talent for making money, everything they touch turns to gold.   Many have a natural ability for making friends, never meeting a stranger. Still others are great communicators, whether verbal or written.  We always seem to envy the gift we don’t possess and sometimes go to great lengths to achieve it.  After all, who doesn’t want to be wealthy, popular or wise?   But so often our striving to achieve what others possess backfires on us. Better to walk in the blessings and talents He has given us.

@ Deuteronomy 33
“This is the blessing that Moses, the man of God, gave to the people of Israel before his death:  ‘The Lord came from Mount Sinai and dawned upon us…Indeed, he loves his people; all his holy ones are in his hands.  They follow in his steps and accept his teaching.  Moses gave us the Lord’s instruction, the special possession of the people of Israel.’” (1-4)  As the Israelites stood at the threshold of their Promised Land, they listened as Moses gave his final address to them, one that was filled with blessings for each tribe.

Just before his death, Jacob, the patriarch of the sons who became the twelve tribes of Israel, delivered a similar message of blessing to his sons, but included what would be the history of their sins as well.  The address by Moses was about the blessing, character and function that each tribe possessed through their relationship with God.

The tribe of Simeon was not mentioned by Moses because it no longer existed and had been absorbed into the other tribes.  Levi was blessed with the ministry role for the tribes, Gad would be the great land owner and Asher was blessed with prosperity.  All together, the tribes would be a formidable nation in their new land…if they kept their relationship with God.

God has blessed each of us, His children, with giftings and talents that not only enrich each one of us on a personal level, but also advance His Kingdom here on earth.  We may envy the abilities of others, but we have no idea about the responsibilities that come with them.  According to Jesus, great wealth comes with a great struggle to surrender it to Him for His purposes (Luke 18:25).  Thankfully, without a struggle, He has promised that He “will supply all [our] needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)  Also, I’ve discovered that when I use the talents He has given me, His blessing overflows in many other areas of my life.

Early in his ministry, Moses did not want to accept the role that God had assigned him, yet this leader, gifted and blessed by the Lord for this task, delivered the Israelites to the door of their promise.  He may have worn the same pair of shoes for 40 years, but Moses was successful beyond measure because He walked in the gifts God had given him, “…the Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend.” (Exodus 33:11), “There has never been another prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face.” (34:10)  Life just doesn’t get better than that. 

Moving Forward:  I really don’t want the gifts and talents God has given others, but I do want to be faithful with what He has given to me. 

Tomorrow @ Esther 6-10

3 John (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He opens doors of opportunity to partner with His servants

Having spent three months on a short-term mission’s assignment in the past, I understand the message of 3 John, as well as its significance.  Traveling and living out of a suitcase becomes exhausting after a while, but the bright note in the experience is the kindness and fellowship of other believers.  Several families along the way opened their homes and hearts to us, providing comfortable lodging, delicious meals and precious fellowship.

In and of itself, it was humbling to be on the receiving end of such kindness, but the fact that these were missionary families made it all the sweeter.  I will never forget their generosity and kindness to us, and like John in our reading today, I often pray that “all is well with them and that they are as healthy in body as they are strong in spirit.” (2)

3 John is a perfect counter to the unseemly hospitality given to false prophets mentioned in 2 John.  Obviously this is a personal letter from John to his gracious friend Gaius, and it’s significant that of all the personal letters John must have written to believers, God’s guidance in the formation of the Bible included this letter.  Evidently, hospitality is important to the Lord. In fact, the Bible is filled from Genesis through the New Testament with examples of hospitality and the blessing that it brings to both the giver and the recipient.  Jesus and Paul both addressed it.  There’s something powerful in the act of opening one’s home or pocketbook to bless others, especially those who minister the gospel.

“Dear friend, you are being faithful to God when you care for the traveling teachers who pass through, even though they are strangers to you. They have told the church here of your loving friendship. Please continue providing for such teachers in a manner that pleases God. For they are traveling for the Lord, and they accept nothing from people who are not believers.  So we ourselves should support them so that we can be their partners as they teach the truth.” (5-8) There it is – the simple truth.

For me, the opportunity for fellowship with His servants seems blessing enough, but when we provide care, hospitality and support for those who minister, we become partners in all that they do.  We are partners – associates, cohorts, co-workers – with those we support, partners not only in the expenses of the mission but also in the profits.  These are eternal profits that moths and rust cannot destroy. (Matthew 6:19)  The benefits from these partnerships last forever.

Moving Forward:  May a heart of hospitality invade my busy day, partnering with servants in their mission.

Tomorrow @ Deuteronomy 29-31

I Chronicles 15-19 (NLT link)

Discover His heart: His response to our request is always what is best for us

No one likes being told “No, you can’t have that” or “No, you can’t do that,” etc.  I’ve been told that when I was really young, I wasn’t a child who whined or sobbed when told no.  I was a pouter.  Ugh.  That lower lip would fall to the floor, and, you know, it’s very difficult to smile when one’s lip is on the ground.  However, my mom had a way of putting a smile on my face even in my moments of disappointment.  She would look at me and say, “I’ll smile if you’ll smile,” and then she would give me a hopeful little smile.  Sometimes it took more than one smile on her part, but eventually I couldn’t help but smile and laugh.  In our reading today, David heard no from God but praised Him anyway. 

@ I Chronicles 17
David had a brilliant idea.  He wanted to build a beautiful temple for the Lord.  I’m sure his hopes of accomplishing this were high when the prophet Nathan said to go for it. (2)  However, Nathan returned to David after hearing from the Lord with a definite no to David’s idea.  We love it when God says yes to us or we submit to His wait, but when He says no, we are wise to accept His will as well.

Because God is so very gracious even when He answers with a negative response, He threw in His own version of I’ll smile if you smile to David. “I will raise up one of your descendants, one of your sons, and I will make his kingdom strong. He is the one who will build a house—a temple—for me. And I will secure his throne forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. I will never take my favor from him as I took it from the one who ruled before you. I will confirm him as king over my house and my kingdom for all time, and his throne will be secure forever.” (11-14)  Now a proclamation like that would put a smile on any father’s face.  Even though many of David’s descendants failed in their love for God, a descendant was coming to redeem the world, Christ Jesus, and His throne will be secure forever.

Even in the face of disappointment, David was immediately humbled by God’s smile in the midst of a no.  “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? And now, O God, in addition to everything else, you speak of giving your servant a lasting dynasty! You speak as though I were someone very great, O Lord God!…O Lord, there is no one like you. We have never even heard of another God like you!”(16-17,20)  David’s response to God is filled with praise and worship – a big smile for God!

Sometimes God’s answer to our prayer is no, and we may be tempted to whine, cry … or pout.  A much better response is to follow David’s example and believe that He knows what is best and has a better plan, whether He expresses that plan at the time or not.  The very thought that my God loves me and is concerned enough about my welfare to say no at times humbles me to my knees.  I cry, “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?”  And that makes me smile!

Moving Forward: Throughout my prayers today, I will smile with confidence because I know He has my best interests at heart. 

Tomorrow @ Psalms 102-104

Numbers 5-8 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He desires to grant His blessing at our request

God bless you! Blessings to you! May the Lord richly bless you!  These are phrases that we say or write for many different reasons, from a sneeze to a wedding wish.  For many of us, they have become a part of our every day vernacular, and that certainly is not a bad thing.  But I wonder if we really understand the solicitation we are requesting from God on the behalf of the dear one we are addressing.  In light of our scripture today, all I can say is “Bring it on!” 

@ Numbers 6:22-26

“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Tell Aaron and his sons to bless the people of Israel with this special blessing:’ 

“May the Lord bless you [impart His holiness to you] and protect you [keep you safe every moment of the day and night because He never sleeps, Psalm 121:4].  May the Lord smile on you [place on you His radiant shine so you may reflect His love to you everywhere you go] and be gracious to you [provide compassionate forgiveness for your sin and eternal life with Him even through you may not deserve it].  May the Lord show you His favor [His kindness, support and approval and preferential treatment] and give you peace [a calm, serene state of being regardless of your surroundings that surpasses all understanding].”  Amen!

When we ask the Lord to bless others, we are asking Him to flood their lives with His holiness, protection, smile, grace, favor and peace.  One simple word reflects such great goodness from God when said in His name.  “Whenever Aaron and his sons bless the people of Israel in my name, I myself will bless them.” (27)  Evidently, He’s listening and waiting on our call for Him to bless.  How could we disappoint Him!

Moving Forward: I ask the Lord’s special blessing on His dear ones who are reading these words today.  I understand what that blessing really means, and I know He will respond. 

Tomorrow @ I Chronicles 10-14

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