Tag Archives: Blessings

What Is a “Blessing”?

Earlier this week I posted a question on Facebook:

If I could offer you your choice – if you’d just come to church just once – of either $1,000 or a blessing from God, would you come?

I got a few responses, but one friend, Michael Wheeler, decided to probe a little, asking if I could define what a “blessing” actually is.

The answer seems obvious, but how do you define “blessing”? That word is thrown around with no real meaning. – Michael Wheeler

I gave a typical tongue-in-cheek response:

True. I know a thousand dollars would surely BE a blessing right now 

Michael followed that response with how that he had asked “countless pastors and laypersons who overuse that word to define it, but have never gotten a satisfactory answer.” He then went on to say that the use of the word “sounds good,” but carries with it “no real meaning.”  “Other than salvation,” he proposed, “we have no other ‘blessings’ or promised things over what unbelievers experience.

Well, in fun I replied to Michael Wheeler’s question with:

Do you even own a box of crayons?

As expected (because Michael is usually a very serious kind of guy), he answered with:

Nope… Is that the extent of your definition of “blessing”?

That is when – after a brief distraction – I wrote the following:

No, not hardly. I got distracted by other things. I only asked that because sometimes I feel like you see things only in black and white – not as in truth claims, but in what you see. For instance, I never read fiction, but then I read “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe”…it added color to the pallet of my spiritual imagination. Lewis didn’t teach me any new truth, but he added shades of color to what I could already see.

Much of what I would call “blessings” are those moments when the Spirit opens the eyes of my understanding and allows me to see the beauty of a Truth in a new shade. In some ways, it’s like God takes me into His art gallery and amazes me with a new painting of the same scene. I’m speaking in terms of spiritual imagination, of course… the box of crayons.

We are blessed every day by the goodness of God. That goes for everyone who enjoys the providential care of the Creator (it rains on the just and the unjust). But we are also blessed in that we have a Father who not only gave us salvation but continues to give us bread instead of stones. He is the one who will one day bring us close to Himself and share with us that little white stone with a name on it only the two of us will know – that’s true intimacy. So, many blessings are no less than those moments when we enter into worship – corporately or privately – and sense the real presence of the Holy Spirit reassuring us of the truth that He will never leave us or forsake us, that His grace is sufficient for every need. I could go on and on.

If I had the time to sit down do a more meticulous study of the definition of “blessing,” I’m sure you’d find the result more satisfying to your particular taste. However, what I’ve just described for you is the practical and real-world look at how I see it. Simply put, many times getting a “blessing” may be nothing more than being brought the realization of how good, merciful, and gracious our Father is. If He throws in a thousand dollars, well, that’s a bonus.

Excellent answer,” wrote Mr. Wheeler.

That’s why I thought it would be worth sharing with you!

What do you think? How would you define a “blessing”? 

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Filed under Church, Love of God, salvation

Why Should We Pray Before Meals?

I don’t know if there are any reliable statistics on the subject, but I would guess that there are still a good many who still pray before they eat. What about you?

Personally, I try to say a short prayer before every meal I eat, sometimes even before something like a sandwich in between regular meals. I call it “saying the blessing,” but you may call it something else, like “returning thanks,” “saying grace,” etc.

Whatever we call it, I’d bet most of us either do it regularly or at least occasionally.

But this past Sunday morning I delivered a sermon which addressed the reasons for praying before a meal, both good and bad – yes, there are bad reasons. Below is both an outline (which didn’t like being translated to WordPress for some reason) and the recording of the actual sermon (which may vary slightly from the outline).

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject, so leave a comment. It would be MUCH appreciated 🙂


Click on the picture to listen.

Do You Pray Before Meals? Why?

     Illustration: Boy asking why dad thanks God.

I.       Bad Reasons

a.       Simple Habit… Matthew 6:7 – But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.

b.      Superstition… Acts 17:22 – Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious.

                  i.      Definition of Superstition: “…a belief or practice resulting from ignorance, fear of the unknown, trust in magic or chance, or a false conception of causation.” (Merriam-Webster.com)

ii.      Earn favor (Ephesians 2:8-9)

iii.      To make it healthy/less harmful (Wrong idea of “blessing”). It’s not an incantation!

II.       Good Reasons (Should go without saying that we should imitate Christ)

a.       Thankful Heart… Ephesians 5:20 – Giving thanks always for all things…  1 Thessalonians 5:18 – In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

                   i.      “Dark Side of Abundance”

“Those of us who live in prosperous regions of the globe and have never known food scarcity perhaps don’t feel much awe in it… God is kind not to give us heaven, yet. We would not appreciate more than a fraction of it.” –  John Piper

“Complaining about the food we have is a luxury very few have experienced in world history. If we lack gratitude, repentance is the only appropriate response.” – John Piper (https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/why-we-pray-for-our-meals)

ii.      False Assumption of Righteousness… Psalm 37:25 – I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.

III.       Recognition of the Provider (1 Chronicles 29:10-13)

a.       Who He Is

b.      That He Provides

IV.       To Be a Witness… Acts 27:35 – And when he had thus spoken, he took bread, and gave thanks to God in presence of them all: and when he had broken it, he began to eat.

           Illustration: Chuck Colson praying at a diner while on a book tour.

1 Corinthians 10:31 – Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.

1 Timothy 4:4-5 – For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.

NOTE: Sometimes we should pray AFTER a meal.

Deuteronomy 8:10 – When thou hast eaten and art full, then thou shalt bless the LORD thy God for the good land which he hath given thee.

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Filed under Christianity, Food, legalism, Prayer, Preaching

How Am I Doing?

The Question

It came from Africa.

No, it wasn’t an animal trying to eat me, or a disease for which no one has a cure (which is more scary). It was a question, one asked by a Facebook friend in Uganda.

Pastor Ndahayo Shine asked: “How are you?”

imageHow am I? How does an American answer that question? I mean, seriously? What do I have to complain about?

Honestly, at the very moment Pastor Shine’s question popped up on Facebook Messenger I was eating a warmed-up piece of apple pie (as American as it gets).

Pie, I tell you!

I’m eating pie, and I get a question regarding how I’m doing from a man in Uganda. Africa! The place where famines kill more people than the NRA is blamed for!

So, I replied with the following answer:

“I am alive, not hungry, and not hurting. I have a roof over my head, a car in the driveway, and children who love me. My wife is faithful, the police are not after me, and the dog hasn’t chewed anything important in a long, long time. I guess you could say I’m doing better than I deserve.”

Am I Blessed?

So many times we answer questions like “How are you doing?” with things like, “I’m fine,” or “I’m blessed.” However, to be honest – which I try to be most of the time – I’d rather admit to being “fine” than “blessed.”

Why is that? 

Saying that I’m blessed has a sneaky way of implying that those in other places – like Africa – are NOT blessed, at least not as much as me. I mean, what does it say about Christianity and the character of God when those who are “abundantly blessed” are the ones who rarely feel the need to trust God for their next meal? What I own or what’s parked in my driveway is not a mark of spirituality, nor should it insinuate I’ve live a life more worthy of blessing than my brothers and sisters living in poverty.

If I am blessed at all, it’s not because of anything I’ve done or deserve; I am simply the recipient of God’s grace. I have been allowed according to God’s sovereignty to live in a country where leftover pie in a running refrigerator is commonplace.

Jesus made it pretty clear who the “blessed” really are. They are the poor in spirit, the meek, the merciful, the pure in heart, and the peacemakers (Matthew 5:3-9). And if that’s not enough, “…Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord…” (Revelation 14:13).

What I Don’t Deserve

While saying “fine,” I’d bet the temptation to answer the question “How are you doing?” with complaints is almost overwhelming for most. Oh, admit it – you say you’re “fine” because you don’t think the person asking is really that interested in hearing your list of ailments, worries, and irritations.

You probably answer with “fine” because you don’t want to sound like a cry baby or a hypochondriac, right? Because, admit it, you feel you deserve better than what you have; you don’t really feel “blessed,” do you?

Well, I don’t know about you, but I don’t deserve anything but hell. Yet, for some reason God has allowed me to be the recipient of many good things which I don’t deserve, even if I have worked for a lot of it.

I don’t deserve a faithful wife, loving children, and a devoted dog. I don’t deserve to be a pastor, have a regular job, or to be respected in my community.

I don’t deserve electric appliances that make life easier, or even the split-level brick home in which I live. I don’t deserve the freedom to come and go as I please, not having to rely on public transportation or worry about being stopped by thugs demanding to search my car.

How am I doing? What can I say? I just ate pie…because it was there…and I wasn’t even hungry! If I’m blessed, it’s above and beyond what I need.

God is good, but His grace is Amazing! 

 

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Filed under America, Christian Living, Life Lessons, Thanksgiving

Richly Blessed

Getting Rich

You can turn on the television any time of the day or night and hear things like…

  • “Call right now and I will send you a free brochure detailing how you can learn to give me money to learn how to become wealthy like me!”
  • “For a limited time only, you can receive my secret for success for only $199.95!”
  • “Sow a $1000 seed of faith into this ministry, and God promises to bless you ten-fold, show you favor, and magically replace the tires on your Buick.”

Then there are other commercials on television, along with ads of all kinds, that promote the “fun” of gambling…

  • “Somebody’s gonna win – it might as well be you!”
  • “If you love excitement and fun and joy and all that stuff, nothing beats the fun of thinking you may become a millionaire as soon as you scratch the silver stuff off a paper card!”

Everybody wants to “get rich quick.” Nobody wants to have to work for it. Everybody wants to get lucky in Vegas.

Going Broke

The sad truth is that so many people who become wealthy over night turn right around and lose it all. Many who become millionaires in an instant go bankrupt almost as fast. The result is depression, loss, rejection, desperation, and even suicide.

Jesus posed a question in Mark 8:36.  He asked, “What good is it to gain the whole world and still lose your own soul?” Even when you have it all, you can still be completely broke, even destitute.

Richly Blessed

Some of the happiest people in the world are the poorest. I have seen people in the poorest parts of eastern Europe who had more joy and peace than the richest millionaires in Hollywood or New York. The reason is that many of the poor were believers in Christ, and in Him they were blessed. They were rich in mercy and love. They had all they needed, and they were content with what God gave them.

On the other hand, I have known the rich who always wanted more and were never happy.  Their wealth added sorrow upon sorrow. They knew nothing of the “blessing of the LORD.”

It is the blessing of the LORD that makes rich, And He adds no sorrow to it. – Proverbs 10:22 NASB

Being richly blessed by God doesn’t always involve being wealthy, but it does include what money can’t buy – the ability to enjoy what one has without regret, or sorrow.

A Prayer

Jesus, thank your for your blessings. Help us to focus not on the passing wealth of this world, but the treasures laid up above. You know what is best for us, so help us to trust you. Remind us that seeking anything outside your plan will only result in added sorrow.

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Filed under wisdom

Blessings Will Stick

The following is from the book I co-wrote and edited, Proverbial Thought. Why not order a copy? Maybe some blessings will stick to your head! Ha!

“Blessings are upon the head of the just: but violence covereth the mouth of the wicked.” – Proverbs 10:6

Nothing Stays

Have you ever heard the old adage, “Like water off a duck’s back?” The reason for that saying comes from the fact that ducks never get “wet,” just in the water ( now that will preach!). You see, because of the oil in a duck’s feathers, the duck can be in the water, have water poured over it, etc., but never actually get wet. The water doesn’t soak in, but runs off.

My head is similar to a duck’s back. There is nothing on my head to make anything stay put. Everything just runs off, down my neck, and under my shirt, especially when it rains. The upside is that I never have to dry my hair when I get out of the shower.

Except Blessings

But the awesome thing is that no matter how slick my bald head is, God is able to heap blessing after blessing on top of it. My glasses won’t stay put; hats get blown off; I cant wear flowers; but the Lord can pile blessings as high as He wants. How is that? Must be a God thing.

I don’t deserve blessings. I don’t deserve anything from God. If you only knew me like I know me, you’d wonder how any blessing would stay on my head. Yet, my Lord is merciful. He is able to do what man and water can’t.

The Wicked

The mouth of the wicked, on the other hand, is covered up with violence. What that means exactly is debatable, but the idea implied is that one usually gets what he deserves. The wicked can be compared to a swimmer in wool clothing and a wool coat. When he gets in the water, he’s sunk.

In General

Generally speaking, this Proverbs 10:6 tells us that there are consequences for our actions. The way we live will come back either to bless or haunt us. Right living brings peace, while wicked living never ends well.

Do you want to be thought well of? Live justly. Do you want to reap the rewards of righteousness? Live right. Otherwise, even though there may be some temporary benefits to living like the Devil, the end result of wickedness will have you covering your mouth in shame.

A Prayer

Jesus, even though I am not worthy, thank you for your blessings. My righteousness is in you. I am only “just” because “the just shall live by faith.”  Thank you for your mercy, for when I was yet wicked, you saved me, cleansed me, and put a crown on my head. You are my glory, and I will praise you for your immeasurable goodness to me.

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Filed under Christian Living, Christian Maturity, Faith, God, Life Lessons, Thanksgiving

Bless You, Dadgum It!

“When it goeth well with the righteous, the city rejoiceth: and when the wicked perish, there is shouting.

By the blessing of the upright the city is exalted: but it is overthrown by the mouth of the wicked.” – Proverbs 11:10-11

It’s Not Political

It is so hard to comment on these verses without sounding political. And believe me, as a pastor, the last thing you want to do is sound political – that’s when they start sharpening the blade on the guillotine.

But let’s get real, folks. The world is coming apart at the seams and we’ve got everybody from the military (urged on by Mikey Weinstein) to elementary school teachers trying to remove every vestige of faith from the public square. And whether you want to admit it or not, it all started free-falling right after the election of Barak Obama.

Don’t they realize it is by the “blessing of the upright” that the city (or county, or state, or nation) is “exalted?” Yet, the righteous are being forced into silence, while the “mouths of the wicked” broadcast night and day.

“Don’t bless me!”

It wasn’t long ago that few people sued to force employees of different retail stores to quit saying, “Have a blessed day.” They said it made them feel “uncomfortable” to have religion “forced” on them. They said that “a business is no place for religion.”

Just recently a school teacher in Tennessee disciplined a student for saying “bless you” when another student sneezed! Talk about being hyper-sensitive!

These “wicked” people could not stand the thought of being “blessed” by God? Why wouldn’t anyone want to be blessed?!

Sadly, because of government administrations that encourage immorality, the “wicked” have developed a stronger voice with which they have been shouting down the righteous. However, if the peoples of the world would only listen to Solomon, they would spend far less money fighting gangs, crime, drug abuse, violence, abuse, and internal corruption, and more time rejoicing.

If the “cities” and their leaders would only let a few more “upright” bless them, they might not be overthrown.

Have a blessed day!

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Filed under America, current events, Faith