Recognizing God’s Blessing

iStock_000023441999SmallWe had just finished dinner when I asked my 5-year-old neighbor whom I was babysitting if he wanted to watch a video about Jesus. “I hate Jesus!” He declared with all the venom he could muster.

I was stunned. I didn’t know what to say and quickly asked the Lord for wisdom. Kneeling down and looking right into my neighbor’s eyes, I said, “Wow! You sure are mad at Him. What did he do?”

“He took my grandma.”

Sometimes on our journey of faith, we have a head-on collision when our circumstances do not fit our understanding of the goodness of God and we find ourselves living in the midst of disappointment, unanswered questions, and unmet desires.

We may not declare our hurt as my neighbor did. But we may ask:

  • God, can I trust you?
  • God, do You love me?
  • God, are You good?
  • God, are You just?
  • God, why did you allow this to happen?
  • God why won’t you bless me, like you’ve blessed them?

Why do we tend to question God’s goodness or doubt that He loves us when bad things happen? I think it stems from a misunderstanding of what it means to be blessed by God.

I had a paradigm shift when my young neighbor told me Jesus took his grandma. I understood his anger and confusion. Today, I want us to have a paradigm shift (a fundamental change in our underlying assumptions) about what it means to be blessed.

The apostle Paul, in his letter to the Romans instructs, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind….” (Romans 12:2a) We need our underlying assumptions to be based on God’s Word, not on our culture and not on our feelings. So rather than defining God’s blessing as the fulfillment of our dreams, we must look to Scripture to see how God defines His blessing.

“Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.” (Psalm 32:1-2)

“Blessed is the man whom you discipline (yacar: to correct by words), O LORD, and whom you teach out of your law.” (Psalm 94:12)

“Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” (Psalm 34:8)

Through the Word of God, we come to see what the blessed life really looks like. It has very little to do with our expectations and aspirations, and everything to do with God’s loving-kindness to:

  • Forgive our sins
  • Correct us by His Word.
  • Allow us to take refuge in Him

May we have eyes to see how blessed we truly are.

 

Receiving Jesus

iStock_000000893223SmallThe spotlight of the world was on Cleveland, Ohio when news broke that Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight had been found—alive. Each of the girls were allegedly kidnapped, over a decade ago, by Ariel Castro, and enslaved in his Seymour Avenue home as their childhoods passed.

When faced with the reality of such wickedness many ask, “Where was God?” “Why did He allow this?” “Doesn’t He care?” Yet we know from Scripture that God is not absent. He allows things we don’t un

derstand, and He cares very, very much about how children are treated.

God knows every detail of every minute Amanda, Gina, and Michelle were enslaved by this stranger, and He knows each child who is sinned against in the middle of night in the “comfort” of their own home.

In the face of his own oppression, the psalmist David cried, “Oh, let the evil of the wicked come to an end, and may you establish the righteous—you who test the minds and hearts, O righteous God! My shield is with God, who saves the upright in heart. God is a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation every day.” (Psalm 7:9-11)

According to Merriam-Webster.com, indignation is “anger aroused by something unjust, unworthy, or mean.” Our God feels anger every single day!

David warns, “If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword; he has bent and readied his bow; he has prepared for him his deadly weapons, making his arrows fiery shafts.” (Psalm 7:12-13)

If you are the one out of four women, or the one out of six men who was abused before your eighteenth birthday, God knows, and His indignation burns. Trust that in time He will judge the unrepentant—those who never place their faith in Jesus Christ. But until then, take comfort in the truth that what your abuser meant for evil, God intends to use for your good when you find your rest in Him. (Genesis 50:19, Romans 8:28)

As teachers or clergy we must recognize that most children will never tell us what is happening to them. But by knowing the potential indicators of abuse and neglect, we may hear their silent screams for help and rescue them from a childhood of abuse. We can receive a child in Christ’s name, knowing we are really receiving Him.hose who never place their faith in Jesus Christ. But until then, take comfort in the truth that what your abuser meant for evil, God intends to use for your good when you find your rest in Him. (Genesis 50:19, Romans 8:28)

The battle is spiritual: Satan hates children. He is the thief who wants to steal, kill, and destroy. But Jesus loves kids, and the light of His Word brings hope and healing to those oppressed by sin.

God forbid if you are abusing a child—Repent! The evil you are perpetrating is not hidden from His eyes. He knows, yet He is choosing to offer you forgiveness and new life in Jesus Christ. Will you receive Jesus today?

Growing Through Struggles

Although we know from Scripture that God uses trials to both test our faith and produce steadfastness in our lives, how we tend to adore the comfortable life! Yet James invites us, even commands us, to “count it all joy…when you meet trials of various kinds.”

To the unbelieving world trials are the antithesis of joy. To eyes enlighten by faith, they are the doorway to steadfastness.

If your eyes are on your light and momentary afflictions—your wounds,  your hurts, your disappointments—you might be tempted to believe the lie that God has forgotten you and demand that he prove Himself to you in ways He has never promised.

As I shared last month, making demands of God is nothing new. It began the moment the forbidden fruit was eaten in the garden. Since then, each of us have had expectations of what God should do, along with when and how He should accomplish it.

Flower in the DesertConstant and unyielding demands flow from people who do not recognize God and His ways. However, we are people who know God and if we don’t understand His ways, He invites us to ask. God will provide the wisdom we need to remain steadfast under trial.

I am reminded of a Christmas letter my husband and I sent to family and friends shortly after I was diagnosed with cancer in 2010. Allow me to share some of it with you.

Since I was diagnosed, I have felt a confidence in my heart that my cancer was for God’s glory and our faith, and it has proven to be so. God is using this trial to refine us. We have grown in ways we would not have grown had we not walked this road that required we trust God’s word more than our feelings.

We have clung to His promises that “He will never leave [us] or forsake [us]” (Hebrews 13:5) and that He “causes all things to work together for good to those that love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

Our feelings don’t always align with the truth. But throughout this year, we have been learning anew that God is faithful to us, even when our circumstances are not what we would have chosen or expected. We have discovered that trials are necessary because we do not walk easily into maturity.

What trial are you facing? Remember, God is using it for good to produce steadfastness in you. By faith, choose to count it all joy.