Beautiful Blessings

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We often hear people say, “I am blessed.” Often, this is expressed in reference to prosperity, health, children, or peace. Indeed, our “blessings” come in diverse and unexpected shapes.

In the book of Numbers, Aaron and the priests were instructed to bless the people in this way:

The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

~ Numbers 6.24-26, ESV

Paul echoes this blessing as he opens his letters to various churches and individuals:

  • Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 1:7, 1 Corinthians 1:3, 2 Corinthians 1:2, Galatians 1:3, Ephesians 1:2, Philippians 1:2, Titus 1:4, Philemon 3)
  • Grace and Peace to You” (1 Thessalonians 1:2, 2 Thessalonians 1:2
  • Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.” (1 Timothy 1:2 & 2 Timothy 1:2)

Peter uses this as well:

“May grace and peace be multiplied to you.” (1 Peter 1:2)

And, John the apostle does also:

Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Father’s Son, in truth and love.” (2 John 1:3)

What greater blessings can we have from the Lord than grace and peace?

The Blessing of Grace

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

~ Ephesians 2.8-10, ESV

Grace is one of the greatest blessings we receive from the Lord.

We work for the Lord because we loved Him, and yet our works do not save us because our sin stands to condemn us in spite of our work. Under the Law of Moses, constant sacrifices had to be offered for every sin or impurity. Under the Law of Christ, He died one time for all time. When we come into contact with His blood through baptism, it continues to wash away our sins as we continue in repentance and transformation.

Grace does not give us license to do as we please. The scripture in Ephesians clearly says, we are created in Christ Jesus for good works… to walk in them. As Paul points out:

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?

We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

~ Romans 6.1-4, ESV

Grace inevitably leads to an inner peace transcending our circumstance.

The Blessing of Peace

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

~ Philippians 4.6-7, ESV

Circumstances toss us around like waves in the ocean, but within the shelter of God’s hand rests unshakeable peace. If you are being pounded by distress or simply overwhelmed with the demands of the day, lay it out before the Lord. Place your calendar or to-do list on the table and request His help to see you through.

Request His help, do the next thing, and trust Him with the rest.

You are loved by the Lord. May you find joy in these beautiful blessings that are not dependent on the vicissitudes of life, but on the constancy of our unchanging God.

 

GenNext: Raising up Christians who know the Lord

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STOP! Don’t skip this post—it isn’t just about raising kids!

For the next several weeks, we will be focusing on the importance of equipping children, new Christians, and current Christians to be pivotal members of the body of Christ.

The church is in crisis. The number of people identifying as Christians is dwindling. Pew-warmers seek entertainment, and feel-good messages rather than biblical literacy. Young people are leaving the faith in droves despite targeted “programs.” Church leaders are baffled.  Continue reading

Finish strong (Day 26 of the #encourage marathon)

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Welcome to the finish line! We made it to the end of our marathon! Continue reading

Help! I need somebody, not just anybody… (Day 25 of the #encourage marathon)

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I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.

Psalm 121, ESV

Welcome to mile marker 25 of the #encourage marathon! (If you missed yesterday’s post, you can read it here.)

Someone out there is struggling alone. (At least, they feel alone…) It might even be you.

If you’ve ever heard the Beatles’ song “Help!” You’ll recognize their lyrics in the title. We do need help from “somebody,” and not just “anybody.” We need help from the Lord.

When life gets hard—it does, and it will, if it hasn’t already—we find ourselves in a state of loneliness. Our eyes and heart look down, our feeling of isolation grows, and we cast desperately about for support. The danger is in looking for help in all the wrong places—drugs, alcohol, friends, weapons, etcetera. Hills may offer high ground and hiding places, but they are incomparable to strongest helper of all—the Lord.

How is the Lord a strong helper?

He made heaven and earth.

There is a tendency to gloss over this point. Consider, for a moment, the vastness of the earth and the far more incomprehensible reaches of the universe. Yeah, the God that I serve made all that. Now, flip that around and consider the invisible atom or the microbes that can only be observed under high-powered microscopes. The God I serve is so observant, that he knows the number of all those trillions of microscopic entities. No problem of ours is so great he cannot tackle it, nor so minor that it escapes His notice.

He doesn’t sleep.

When the prophet Elijah stood on Mount Carmel and defied the prophets of Baal, he had a good laugh when they made futile supplications to a non-existent God. “Elijah mocked them, saying, “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.” (1 Kings 18.27)

Our God never has to be roused to hear our prayer. He knows what we need before we ask Him; He just waits for us to bring our troubles. While we are asleep, God is still working. He never sits idle.

He is our keeper.

A keeper is, by definition, a guardian or caretaker. God is our guardian. The remainder of the Psalm emphasizes some of the ways in which God guards and cares for us. He watches our goings and comings and is concerned with every moment of our life, and the lives of the billions of people around us. Warren Wiersbe writes,

“In writing about the sun and the moon, the psalmist was saying several things. To begin with, in that part of the world, the burning sun is menacing (2 Kings 4:18-19Jonah 4:8), but at night, the sudden drop in temperature is both uncomfortable and unhealthy, if you lack warm covering. Day and night, our Father is with us to shelter us from that which could harm us. The Jewish people followed a lunar calendar (81:3), so the writer was also referring to days (the sun) and months (the moon). From day to day, from month to month, from season to season (Gen. 1:16-18), from year to year, our Father is with us in the many challenges and changes of life.(To read more, click this link to visit Bible Gateway.)

Are you seeking help from God first or do you come to Him only at the end of your tether?

Go to the One who is all-powerful, all-seeing, and far wiser than any human who has ever, or will ever, live upon this earth.

It could be today you feel alone and helpless. No mountain is too isolated, no storm too strong, no prison so impenetrable that God cannot reach you.


It’s almost over! Tomorrow we reach the finish line of our 26-day #encourage marathon! I hope you will join me on FacebookTwitter and here at Elihu’s Corner as we reach the end.

Feel free to download and share the graphics of these verses/passages on your Twitter feed or Facebook page with the hash tag (#encourage), or email them to a friend who needs encouragement.

Make some time to copy down these posts. Some of them are a bit long, but it only takes a few minutes. Ask your kids to do it with you. Don’t just be encouraged, encourage others!

If you missed the original post listing all 26 passages, click here to download the PDF list. All these posts will be available here under the #encourage tag. You can also type #encourage in the search window at the top of the page.

Continue reading

Don’t look back! (Day 24 of the #encourage marathon)

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Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

~ Philippians 3.13-14, ESV

Welcome to mile-marker 24 of the #Encourage Marathon. (If you missed yesterday’s post, you can read it here.)

Someone out there is clinging to the past. It might even be you.

My children love to race each other. It’s not exactly a fair race, as their difference in size makes it hard for the littlest one to keep up. My middle child, however, can outrun the other two (and usually does) as long as she doesn’t look back. She keeps her eyes focused on the “finish line” and leans her whole body towards the end. I’ve watched them run several of these little “races” and I’ve noticed that whenever my champion middle racer looks back, she slows down (and sometimes loses!)

In a race, runners don’t often spare a glance for who’s behind them, because they know it’ll slow them down. They have their peripheral vision to keep them apprised of who is gaining on them. Looking back in a race and in life will slow you down and trip you up. It isn’t worth it.  Continue reading

Keep on fighting (day 23 of the #encourage marathon)

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Fight the good fight of the faith.

Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”

~ ‭‭1 Timothy‬ ‭6:12‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Welcome to mile marker 23 of the #encourage marathon. (If you missed yesterday’s post, you can read it here.)

Someone out there is tired of fighting. It might even be you.

We spent three days of the marathon talking about the armor of God:

Once you’ve equipped yourself for battle, it’s time to engage in the fight.

Ephesians 6.12  describes what we are up against:

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

As much as I would love to see peace on earth, the cynic/realist/pessimist in me knows that if 1 billion people laid down their arms, there’d be at least 100 people secretly hoarding the deadliest weapons in order to stage a takeover. Satan has no desire for mankind to dwell peacefully together, being the original manufacturer of strife. So, let’s get real, and face the fact that as long as we are alive on this earth, there will be all sorts of wars—wars of words, wars of ideas, wars of conquest, wars of greed, wars to overthrow injustice, wars to resist oppression, and wars to depose dictators.

What battle are we called to fight as Christians? Continue reading

Be diligent (day 22 of the #encourage marathon)

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Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.

~ 2 Timothy‬ ‭2:15‬ ‭NASB‬‬

Welcome to mile marker 22 of the #encourage marathon! I can’t believe we are almost to the end! I hope you have thus far been uplifted. (If you missed yesterday’s post, you can read it here.)

Someone out there is discouraged. It might even be you.

When I was twelve, I was seized by a strong desire to be a medical doctor. I wanted to help people, write legible prescriptions, and treat nurses with the professional respect they deserved. I made it my goal to graduate at the top of my class with a impeccable grades. I wanted to my transcripts to be so irresistible that top schools would snap me up in an instant. I worked myself raw, often staying up until 1 or 2 in the morning to produce the best work I possibly could.  Continue reading

Never go into a fight without these 5 things… (Day 21 of the #encourage marathon)

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In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints…

~ Ephesians‬ ‭6:16-18‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Welcome to mile-marker 21 of our #encourage marathon! If you missed yesterday’s post, you can read it here.

Someone out there is defenseless. It might even be you.

Do you ever yell at people in movies, even if it’s just in your head? “Don’t leave your weapon on the ground!” Or “What are you thinking going into that place alone? You need backup!” It’s almost like the person in the movie has lost common sense. Anybody with two eyes can spot the danger. These scenes are suspense winders, designed to heighten your sense of anticipation so that you will jump at the right moment.

(Honestly though, why would you drop your weapon when you know that the likelihood of attack is high?)

As Christians, we have 5 things we absolutely need to use everyday. Unfortunately, there are times we cast one aside or simply forget them—to our peril. Continue reading

Prepare yourself (Day 20 of the #encourage marathon)

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Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.

Stand therefore,

having fastened on the belt of truth,

and having put on the breastplate of righteousness,

and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.‭

~ Ephesians‬ ‭6:13-15‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Welcome to mile-marker 20 of the #encourage marathon! We are in the home stretch! (If you missed yesterday’s post, you can read it here.)

Someone out there is unprepared. It might even be you.

When a soldier prepares for battle, he or she “suits up.” They go through a process (usually the same process they’ve established each time) of putting each piece of gear in place—Undershirt, uniform shirt, pants, duty belt/gear belt, boots, bullet-proof vest, ammunition, helmet, and weapon(s). This process of preparation is vital, as each battle brings different challenges. A soldier must be in constant readiness.

Each morning, as we awake to face a new day, we are entering into a battle zone. We have no idea what that day’s battle will bring, though we usually have plans. We do not know what temptations, trials, or challenges our enemy will throw at us.

In the previous post, I noted that Paul encourages the Ephesians to take up the “whole” armor—not just selected pieces. He repeats this encouragement in today’s section in verse 13. “Take up the whole armor… that you may be able to withstand in the evil day.” We cannot withstand in the evil day if we haven’t readied ourselves. Continue reading

Be Strong (Day 19 of the #encourage marathon)

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Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.

Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

~ Ephesians 6.10-12, ESV

Welcome to mile-marker 19 of our #encourage marathon. (If you missed yesterday’s post, you can read it here.)

Someone out there is weak. It might even be you.

We can be strong in all the wrong ways, making us weak in the struggles that matter most. One may be strong in knowledge, but have no clue as to how to apply it. One can be a strong drinker, corroding their liver and slowly killing themselves. One can be strong in body, but unable to control their temper, making them a bully. Continue reading