Haggai (NLT) 

Discover His heart:  His blessings follow our obedience to Him

Many books and movies tell the story of the farmer who plants the seed and then waits for the sun and the rain to bless his efforts and bring about a bountiful crop.  Because he has invested all he has on the seed, his investment is lost if the rain doesn’t come.  The drama of waiting for a dark cloud, even a small one, to form in the sky is heart-wrenching to watch, and sometimes the families are on edge as they struggle with what to do next.  Anytime a blessing from the Lord seems to be withheld from our lives, it gives cause to consider the reason.

“Look at what’s happening to you!  You have planted much but harvest little. You eat but are not satisfied. You drink but are still thirsty. You put on clothes but cannot keep warm. Your wages disappear as though you were putting them in pockets filled with holes! “This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says:  Look at what’s happening to you.” (Haggai 1:5-7)  The Israelites returned to Jerusalem with the specific instructions to rebuild the temple, but instead they built their homes and had not worked on the temple.

When life is not going well and our efforts seem in vain, it never hurts to examine what’s happening to us and make certain we are following His plan for us.  God’s love makes Him longsuffering, but He will do what is necessary to get our attention.  When the Israelites realized their disobedience, they turned to the Lord and His gracious response was, “I am with you, says the Lord!” (13)

A drought or dry season in our life may have nothing to do with our willfulness, but it may be a testing time to develop character and prepare us to be used by Him.  I’m sure the 40 years that Moses spent on the backside of the desert caused him to search his heart and question what was happening to him, but God was preparing him for great things.

When our efforts bring little reward and we feel that God’s blessing is not on them, it’s not time to blame Him or to resist Him.  It’s the perfect time to look at what’s happening to us and evaluate our situation.  Are we doing our best to follow His direction for us?  If so, we can be certain that He “causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)  His blessings will come in due time.

Our obedience to God will bring a promise to our lives like the one given to an obedient Israel after the foundation for the temple was laid, “Think carefully. I am giving you a promise now while the seed is still in the barn. You have not yet harvested your grain, and your grapevines, fig trees, pomegranates, and olive trees have not yet produced their crops. But from this day onward I will bless you.”  (2:18-19)  Regardless of how it comes or when it comes, obedience brings the blessing of the Lord to our lives. 

Moving Forward: I am certain of His blessings in due time as I walk in obedience to Him. 

Tomorrow @ Acts 13-14

2 Chronicles 11-15 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He rewards those who seek Him and obey His commandments

As parents we’ve always been told that praises and rewards given to our children should outnumber our scolding and disciplines, and of course, this is worthy advice.  However, sometimes these precious little ones go through stages where we wait with great anticipation throughout the day for just one behavior or attitude to praise.  We don’t want to discourage our children with our constant disciplines.  We want them to know that we love them and that we’re on their side, and we look for every opportunity to bless them and reward their good behavior.  And we need to understand that God feels the same way about His children.

In our reading today, the kings of Judah gave God reason to bless them on occasion, and no doubt God was looking for every opportunity to bless His children.  They were His special treasure and He loved them, but just as with our children, He often had to wait for an opportunity to reward.  When Rehoboam, Solomon’s son, and his leaders humbled themselves while under Egypt’s attack, God did not allow Egypt to kill them.  He had been waiting for an opportunity to bless.  Unfortunately, Rehoboam’s moments of surrender to God were few and far between and so were his blessings.

Abijah, his son, experienced a great moment of God’s protection and blessing while under the attack by the northern tribes of Israel when he proclaimed, “But as for us, the Lord is our God, and we have not abandoned Him,” (13:10) and God gave them victory.  But, we learned in I Kings 15 that Abijah was most often unfaithful to the Lord.

The next king was Asa who did what was pleasing to the Lord for the first ten years of his reign.  He responded to the prophet Azariah and removed idol worship from Judah and repaired the altar of the Lord.  God was waiting to bless, and He wasn’t disappointed.

King Asa and the people of Judah entered a covenant with God to “seek the Lord, the God of their ancestors, with all their heart and soul…They earnestly sought after God, and they found Him.  And the Lord gave them rest from their enemies on every side.” (15:12,15)  Hebrews offers this promise to us, “Anyone who wants to come to Him must believe that God exists and that He rewards those who sincerely seek him.”(11:6)

There’s something to be said about seeking to do what God is already blessing rather than only asking Him to bless what we are doing.  When our children act on our desire that their rooms are clean and orderly and go about cleaning them on their own volition, a reward and words of praise are pretty much a slam dunk.

Jesus gave us a heads up about what we can do that He is already blessing, “God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him…God blesses those who mourn…God blesses those who are humble…God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice…God blesses those who are merciful…God blesses those whose hearts are pure…God blesses those who work for peace…God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right.” (Matthew 5:3-10)   Blessings to you as you sincerely seek Him!

Moving Forward:  I pray I’ll give Him plenty of opportunities to bless today. 

Tomorrow @ Psalms 117-118

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

Genesis 48-50 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He speaks blessing and promise over our lives

“Get over here! You never do anything right! You’re just good for nothing! You’re never gonna amount to anything, boy.” I cringed as I heard a man scolding his young son in public. Tears welled up in my eyes as I looked at the boy who had just been humiliated by a man I assumed to be his dad. This young one had probably been disobedient and had somehow gotten on his dad’s last nerve, but I was embarrassed for him. Even more devastating to me was hearing the man speak curse after curse over his son. I wonder if he knew the weight a father’s words can carry in the life of a son.

It made me think of the words I often heard my dad speak to me, “Honey, you can do anything in life that you want to do.” Or, “You can be anything you want to be. The sky’s the limit.” He called me beautiful, pretty or cute almost every day. I don’t know if he really believed it, but because he said it, I did. Although dad didn’t know the Lord when I was young, he knew enough to speak blessings and promise over my life, for which I am eternally grateful. I wonder if he knew the weight a father’s words can carry in the life of a daughter.

@ Genesis 48
At the close of the book of Genesis, we find Jacob on his deathbed calling for Joseph and his two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, desiring to speak a blessing over them. “May the God before whom my grandfather Abraham and my father, Isaac, walked—the God who has been my shepherd all my life, to this very day, the Angel who has redeemed me from all harm—may he bless these boys. May they preserve my name and the names of Abraham and Isaac. And may their descendants multiply greatly throughout the earth.” (15-16)  After stealing his brother’s blessing at one time, Jacob must certainly have understood the weight a father’s words could carry in the life of a son or grandson.

Throughout the book of Genesis we read about the blessings from God to Abraham, from Abraham to Isaac, from Isaac to Jacob and now from Jacob to Joseph and his sons. Not all of Jacob’s pronouncement over his other sons were the blessings they had hoped to receive, nor was Noah’s curse on his son Canaan. But all of these curses, including any curse that may come from a dad today, pale in comparison to the curse of sin found in Genesis 3 through the fall of Adam and Eve that brought us separation from God. However, our loving Heavenly Father would never leave us cursed – by anyone!

God gave this little message to the serpent that fateful day in the Garden, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will strike your head, and you will strike His heel.” (3:15) This was God’s prophetic message of One who would come to die on the cross, His heel would be bruised, but He would crush the head of the serpent, who has spent his days on his belly ever since. “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to Him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.” (Romans 8:1)

No condemnation, no curses! We belong to Him! The power of the life-giving Spirit has freed us from the power of sin, the power of curses and of those things that anyone may speak over us. Although man’s words may be hurtful at times, we do not need to walk under the weight of man’s confession over us. We walk with the Father’s blessings of abundant life through His son, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10,NKJV)

Children need our disciplines at times, but they never deserve cursing and humiliation. When we speak words of blessing and promise to our children, we are partnering with the heart of God who has promised blessing and abundant life to His children as they follow Him. Partnering with God – isn’t that something we would want to do?

Moving Forward: I am forever challenged to speak blessing and promise to my children, and actually, all of God’s children. Oh, how He loves them.

Tomorrow @ I Samuel 11-15