Be Blessed

I often close the Weekly Witness with the quote “May the Lord bless you and yours, and may you be a blessing to others.”. I wonder how many of us really make a concerted effort to, in fact, “be a blessing” to someone.  When was the last time you went out of your way to do something or say something that might be referred to as a blessing?  Conversely, how many times has someone been a blessing to you and you took that blessing for granted?

God blesses each of us, hour by hour, every day, the saved and unsaved alike.  Jesus tells us, “He (God) causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matt. 5:45)  He also said we should “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:36)

We are exhorted to love our neighbors as ourselves and I’m sure most of us try to do just that – but from a distance.  When I do reach out to encourage or lift up someone, I confess I too often extend my hand only to people I know; people withing my circle of Christian friends.  I fail to be the salt and light we are all called to be in a world of hurting and lonely people.  When we look at the fuller context of the verse quoted above such practice is contrary to our Lord’s message. “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?  And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?  Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt. 5:46-48)

Do you remember the last time you received an unexpected call from someone who just wanted to wish you a blessed day?  They didn’t call for any reason except to ask how you were, to let you know they were thinking of you, praying for you, and wishing you a blessed day.  I do and I recall how uplifted I felt that someone would be so mindful of me.  It just makes my day, and I know it makes yours too.

An additional blessing comes with our knowledge that we have brightened someone’s day.  Just as we nearly always feel more blessed by charity or outreach opportunities than those we serve, so is that blessing given to us when we lift up an unsuspecting neighbor, friend, or co-worker.

How many bridges do you imagine could be repaired or built if you turned right now to someone not expecting your kindness and let them know you honor, respect, and care about them.  So what if you have had issues or conflicts with them – you must become bigger than the obstacle.  Did not our Father dismiss conflicts He had with our sinful ways?  You know, God may have put this person in your path to grow your faith.

I can promise you, that as you show kindness to someone with whom you may be at odds, your differences become less important.  As you lift them up your esteem for them increases.  They will automatically become more honorable and more loveable.  It is impossible to continue to dislike or even be aloof with someone you reach out to bless.  As we practice the art of loving our neighbor I am confident that our Father in Heaven, through the Holy Spirit, touches our very souls with His love and blessings.

This week let us all find ways to bless someone – someone who isn’t necessarily expecting your kindness.  Ask them if there is something in their life that you can pray for them about; share with them how important they are in your life; let them know that you thank God for putting them in your path.  Bring them a cup of coffee,. tell them how nice they look, or that you appreciate their contributions to the job or the neighborhood.  Call someone (emails just aren’t as personable) – “Just thinking of you my brother, my sister.”

I pray our Father God’s abundant blessings for you and yours, and that you may be a blessing to others.


Expectations

It is generally agreed by most therapists and mediators that the basis for a large majority of disagreements, whether they be between friends, co-workers, family, or even lovers, is ‘unfulfilled expectations’. At whatever level we may establish a relationship, be it one of necessary co-existence or one of a personal nature, we expect certain things from and of a person.

From our spouse, we expect fidelity, from family support, and from friends tolerance. Often our expectations don’t correspond with those of the other person and that’s where the wheel falls off. Unfulfilled expectations.

It has been said that as young lovers go to the marriage altar both the man and the woman have unrealistically high expectations of their betrothed. Expectations are in the eye of the beholder. One love partner knows their expectation; the other love partner does not, and nearly always the expectations are far too fanciful. Too often those expectations are of a shallow and superficial nature, self-serving and unsustainable.

Expectation management – there’s a term we don’t hear often, but it is an ongoing and difficult chore as we find that the things we have expected from others was ‘pie-in-the-sky’ visions on our part, or that person just cannot or will not live up to our expectations of them. So what then? Hopefully we have the grace to step back and re-evaluate our expectations and come up with plan ‘B’. Better yet communicate. “Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?” Amos 3:3  If we have certain aspirations for our children we’d do well to communicate that to them before it’s too late.

What about our expectations of God? And what about His expectations of us?? Did we fail God because He expected too much from us?

As a new Christian comes to deal with his or her new-found station in life, they are often unsure of what God expects of them – and it is hard to find out unless they are in fellowship with other Christians and studying scripture.

God’s Holy Word is His vehicle to teach us what He expects of us – and likewise this same Holy Word teaches us what we can expect from Him.

Clarifying expectations takes time. The more your trust grows in a relationship the fewer the expectations. Trust precludes the need for expectations. Trust causes many expectations to expire. When you place your total trust in God you default to character expectations. You expect His love to be unconditional. You expect His forgiveness to be infinite. You expect to avail yourself to His wisdom. Your expectations are character driven rather than cynical driven.

It becomes about God’s will, not our wants. Healthy expectations revolve around God and His desires. The focus is off me but on God and others. He orchestrates the concert of life, so the goal is to discover His role for me and then follow His lead. Then the motive for people becomes one of serving each other in order to carry out God’s plan for their life.

How can you facilitate understanding God’s will for your spouse, child or work associate?  This is not always easy to discern, but character driven expectations can get to the point of their true need and you can help meet that need. Focus on building trust in the relationship and communication will flow more clearly and compassionately.

Focus on fewer expectations and more on trust. Allow your expectations to begin and end with the character of God. Expect less and you will receive more—you can expect His faithfulness. Agree to expect what God expects and allow your expectant desires to birth God’s will.

Be blessed. . .


A Look In the Mirror

Now we see but a poor reflection, as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 1 Cor. 13:12

Now we see but a poor reflection.  How do we see ourselves?  When we stare into that mirror, what stares back?  Are we proud or boastful of the vision we behold?  Do we see what God sees?  Do we want God to see what we see?  When did you last look in a mirror and look yourself in the eye, looked deep into your soul?  Not to scrutinize that bump on your nose or to assure your teeth were sufficiently cleaned.  Not to see if you had rinsed away all the shaving cream or that your lipstick was evenly applied.  The vision I mean is that of your inner self. That vision that many of us have so often averted our eyes from, the true vision that we did not want to see much less confront.  I have less of a problem now than in years past, but still, if I stand and look deep enough I see ugly things that our Lord must grieve.  Thanks be that our God sees us through the blood of Jesus.

Many of you know of my love of Psalm 139 and by extension Acts 17:26 and Jeremiah 29:11.  We should all remind ourselves more often of the painstaking care in which God formed us, and that He did so with a purpose, and that our station in this life is by His grace.  That I would take this body that God has so lovingly designed; this body and mind that Jesus suffered and died to save, and to use it to hurt His other creatures, equally designed with His love and with His purpose, is just plain disgusting.  We hurt one another with our impatience, intolerance, judging, and self-aggrandizing.  We see someone less fortunate than we are and judge them as weak or lazy.  “Surely that person cannot be as great as I am.”

We must remember that the same God that made you made those you judge.  That you have a more aggressive character, that you are a better business man or woman, that you are “smarter than the average bear”, IS BY GOD’S GRACE, That you have achieved a better place in this world IS BY GOD’S GRACE, It is not only idolatrous, but blasphemous, to think that we are where we are by our own design.  Be we mighty men and women of economic and social standing among our peers, or be we among the homeless, living under a bridge, or in a refugee camp in Africa, the same God designed each and every one of us.  No person on earth is here by accident.  GOD DOES NOT MAKE MISTAKES!  Read again Acts 17:26. “From one man He made every nation of men that they should inhabit the whole earth; and He determined the times set for them and the exact places they should live.” (emphasis added)  In Psalm 139 we read “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (vs 16)

Now I don’t deny that some of those ‘living under a bridge’ may not have used the talents God gave them, and are thus rewarded in kind; but who are we to judge which of those people are just lazy and which are truly less blessed than we. Take another look into that mirror.  Are you able to cast that first stone?

I am reminded of Jesus’ comment to Judas when he complained that Mary had “wasted” the valuable jar of nard to wash our Lord’s feet.  He said, “You will always have the poor among you…” He also said “…whatever you did for the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me”, (Matthew 25:40), and the first of the beatitudes is, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 5:3)  I have to believe that Jesus purposely noted the poor in spirit first. The poor in spirit here is not poor in the Holy Spirit, but poor in their attitude or demeanor.  The poor in spirit are the downtrodden, those poor souls we too often think ourselves better than, the widows and orphans that we are constantly exhorted to care for and to lift up.  Paul wrote to the Philippians, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” (Phil. 2:3)

My prayer is that the reflection I see in my mirror, and the one you see, is one of a man on a mission for God.  “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.  Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.  But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:12-14)

I don’t know the author of the following so as to give them credit. I keep it posted on a sticky-note at my desk. “Companions are a whole lot easier to get along with when we realize we’re all works of art and everyone’s clay is still wet.” To companions I suppose you should add neighbors, co-workers, and the guy living under the bridge.

From His Sermon on the Mount Jesus warned, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” (Matt. 7:1)  We all need a deeper examination of our own souls before we censor our neighbor.

May our Lord God bless you and yours and may you be a blessing to others.

Consequences

“Be sure your sin will find you out!”

Joe sat at his dying wife’s bedside. Her voice was little more than a whisper. “Joe, darling,” she breathed, “I’ve got a confession to make before I go. I’m the one who took the ten thousand dollars from your safe and spent it on a fling with your best friend, Charles. And it was I who forced your mistress to leave the city. And I am the one who reported your income tax evasion to the government.”

“That’s all right, don’t give it a second thought,” answered Joe, “I’m the one who poisoned you.”

 

There aren’t very many free passes when it comes to wrongdoing.  The sinner often doesn’t ‘reap what he sows’ right away.  He may skate for a season, unaware, even uncaring of the wake his trespass has wreaked.  Sometimes it is years before he realizes the aftermath of his offense, how many have been affected, and how deep the hurt he caused.  But the fallout can be, and most often is both immediate and unending for the offended.  There are consequences to sin – both physical and spiritual.

Our best example of this is that of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Their sin was both immediate and unending.

The initial result of their sin was their awareness of their nakedness. They had lost their innocence. Close behind had to be the first impression of fear and guilt.  Never before had they felt the need to hide from God.  And once they were exposed God’s punishment was both immediate and unending for both they and all mankind that would follow.

They were exiled from the Garden; their sin had introduced physical death into the world.  In fact in order for God to have provided them with clothing made of skins, (Genesis 3:21) an animal had to have been slain.  Prior to that Adam and Eve, and all animals were vegetarians (Gen. 1:30).  Most Biblical scholars agree that man was intended to live eternally in the Garden.  But now God decrees that man shall return to the dust from whence he came.

Famine and pestilence were now introduced as God curses the earth, (vv 17-19).  Never before had there been disease, crime, storms, or evil of any kind.  No poisonous beast nor plant populated Eden. Man would now labor ‘by the sweat of his brow’ for his sustenance. Woman would now suffer greatly in child bearing, from morning sickness, through agonizing labor pains, to postpartum depression.  She would be subservient to her husband, though many women would rail against this natural law, it was God ordained.

But the most dreadful and wretched consequence of sin would be mankind’s separation from God.  God is holy, ans as such He cannot abide with sin, and now man is sinful.  There would be no more walks in the Garden with the Creator.

But God, in His mercy, would provide mankind with a ‘get out of jail free’ card, an escape clause from our contract with spiritual death.  In His omniscience and wisdom He had planned our opportunity for salvation before the beginning.

Though we are forgiven our trespasses, that does not erase the consequences. God does not, nor can those afflicted, erase the outcome of trespass. Families are torn apart, lives are lost, relations are shipwrecked. I can personally attest to this.  Mistakes, self-serving attitudes, and selfish pursuits years ago by your author caused permanent scars for my family and friends. Though I have been the recipient of undeserved forgiveness, the wounds are permanent.  We need always remember that forgiven sins retain the repercussion. . . the fruit of that which we sowed.

The physical consequence to sin will vary with the sin that is committed. However, the spiritual consequence remains the same; for the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). The solution to the spiritual consequence of sin is revealed in the completion of the verse. . . “BUT the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord“. Salvation from our sins does not remove the physical consequences of sin. If you drank too much and developed hardening or cirrhosis of the liver, it won’t go away. If you committed sexual sins and picked up a disease or became pregnant, those problems will remain. However, the long term problem, our separation from God and eternal life can be cured. In addition, learning to live life God’s way will give us the tools to handle the results of our past mistakes

I would encourage you to be quick to forgive those who have wronged you,.  You must know that you have wronged someone in your past and we all pray for grace regarding them, just as Christ Jesus provided forgiveness for our own sins.  We pray for their forgiveness and we trust the Holy Spirit has led us to repentance from those wrongdoings.

Forgive as you have been forgiven.  May the Lord God bless you abundantly, and may you be a blessing to those around you.

God bless,


Blessings

Each week I close the Weekly Witness with the quote “may the Lord bless you and yours, and may you be a blessing to others.”, and as I type those words I wonder how many of us really make a concerted effort to, in fact, “be a blessing” to someone.  When was the last time you purposefully went out of your way to do something or say something that might be referred to as a blessing?  Conversely, how many times has someone been a blessing to you and you took that blessing for granted?

God blesses each of us, hour by hour, every day, the saved and unsaved alike.  Jesus tells us, “He (God) causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” Matt. 5:45  He also said we should “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” Luke 6:36

We are exhorted to love our neighbors as ourselves and I’m sure most of us try to do just that – but from a distance.  When I do reach out to encourage or lift up someone, I confess I too often extend my hand only to people I know.  I fail to be the salt and light we are all called to be in a world of hurting and lonely people.  When we look at the fuller context of the verse quoted above such practice is contrary to our Lord’s message. “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?  And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?  Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matt. 5:46-48

Do you remember the last time you received an unexpected call from someone who just wanted to wish you a blessed day?  They didn’t call for any reason except to ask how you were, to let you know they were thinking of you, praying for you, and wishing you a blessed day.  I do remember, and I recall how uplifted I felt that someone would be so mindful of me.  It just makes my day, and I know it makes yours too.

An additional blessing comes with our knowledge that we have brightened someone’s day.  Just as we always feel more blessed than those we serve by our charitable and outreach opportunities, so is that blessing given to us when we lift up an unsuspecting neighbor, friend, or co-worker, or even a complete stranger.  The Bible doesn’t tell us how the person who was beaten and robbed responded to the Samaritan who came to his rescue, the stranger who bound his wounds, and put him up in an inn to heal.  The Bible doesn’t tell us how God may have rewarded this stranger, because reward was not the message Jesus delivered.  Jesus’ message was loving a stranger – even one to whom you may have deep seated differences and controversies.

How many bridges do you imagine could be built or repaired if you turned right now to someone not expecting your kindness and tell them that you honor, respect, and care about them.  So what if you have had issues or conflicts with them – we must become bigger than the obstacle.  Hasn’t our Father dismissed those conflicts He had with our sinful ways?  Perhaps God has put this person in your path to grow your faith

I can promise you, that as you show kindness to someone with whom you may be at odds, your differences become less important.  As you lift them up, your esteem for them increases.  They automatically become more honorable, more respectful, and more loveable.  It is impossible to continue to dislike or even be aloof with someone you reach out to bless.  As we practice the art of loving our neighbor I am confident that our Father in Heaven, through the Holy Spirit, touches our very souls with His love and blessings and we experience a peace unknown in a world of unforgiveness and payback.

A few years ago I was introduced to a practice that I have found so very simple and yet so uplifting.  That said, I confess I don’t always remember to follow through with this practice, but I am always blessed when I do.  It goes like this:  As your restaurant/diner server brings your food to the table, say something like, “we were about to say grace over our meal. . .is there something we can pray about for you?”  If the opportunity presents itself you might gently touch the person’s hand or arm.  I have found that very few people will turn you down, and so often I have had a server just pour out their very soul with stories of unimaginable grief, and sorrow, and pain.  Their spouse has been out of work for months, their mother has cancer, their child is out of control, someone has an addiction, and on, and on.  Every person we encounter, every day of the week is dealing with some burden that to them is bigger than their life and most of them don’t know our Lord God and therefore don’t know they can take their burdens to Him.

For whatever reason the Holy Spirit has made the passages of Matthew 25:31-46 stand out to me as if they were written in neon lights.  When Jesus said that “when I was hungry you gave me food, and when I was thirsty you gave me drink, and when I was sick you visited me, and when I was in prison you came to me”, I think we can take the ‘gave me’, ‘visit me’, and ‘came to me’ metaphorically to mean that any way we can minister to a hurting brother or sister, especially an unbelieving one.  Even more profound are the ‘you did nots’.  We can all recall times we gave, we visited, or we came.  But what about the times we did not give, we did not visit, and did not come to them (Him).  Those are the sins of omission that  I have to answer to God for.

This week let us all find ways to bless someone – someone who isn’t necessarily expecting your kindness.  Ask them if there is something in their life that you can pray for them about; share with them how important they are in your life; let them know that you thank God for putting them in your path.  Bring them a cup of coffee, tell them how nice they look, or that you appreciate their contributions to the job or the neighborhood.  Call someone, (emails just aren’t as personable) – “Just thinking of you________”.

Until next time, may God bless you and yours and may you be a blessing to someone else.