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.

 

Tired of all the Negative in Your Newsfeed?

This morning I was doing some Facebook catch-up and one of my friends had posted this picture:

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The picture immediately reminded me of God’s Love and the awesome gift of prayer He as given us. It was a ray of sunshine into the dark of my early morning.

Intrigued by the beautiful rendering of the bible verse, I clicked over to the connected Facebook page and scanned through some of the content. Aside from a devotional or two most of what I spotted were simple designs of Bible verses. How cool is that?

My personal newsfeed gets cluttered with plenty of negative information. I don’t need to hide under a rock and pretend the world is all sunshine and daisies, but I do need to be intentional about balance. Continue reading

A Spark in the Darkness.

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Shootings in Dallas. Riots in Charlotte. Explosions in New York.

Deceit in the debate hall.

Worry abounds.

When darkness prevails and our grief overwhelms us, how do we get through it? What do we hold on to?  Continue reading

Edify: Building a Strong Generation

This article is part of the series “Raising GenNext.” You can read the previous post by clicking here.

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Edify comes from the Greek “oikodomḗ” meaning ‘the act of building.’ We often use this word as a reference to spiritual encouragement. Edification is more than perfunctory praise; it is the endeavor to construct something strong.

To date, we have covered the first 4 E’s of Raising GenNext—Engage, Exemplify, Equip, and Entrust. This next E—Edify—is a critical part of the process. There is nothing worse for a person than to put out the effort to do something challenging, only to be ripped to shreds with the knives of criticism.

The millennial generation stands accused of being coddled with superficial praise. However, I believe that many of them (and other generations) can distinguish between genuine encouragement and false flattery. If we truly want to edify our children, new converts, and current Christians, our encouragement must be authentic and constructiveContinue reading

Why “going through the motions” is necessary at times

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There is a popular song that plays occasionally on the Christian radio station called “The Motions.” I had to look up the lyrics because I could only remember the chorus (even after I looked them up, they made little sense to me). This is how the chorus goes:

I don’t wanna go through the motions
I don’t wanna go one more day
Without Your all consuming passion inside of me

I don’t wanna spend my whole life asking
What if I had given everything
Instead of going through the motions?

(Full lyrics can be read here.)

Not to slaughter anyone’s sacred cow (or song), but this song has got it backwards. 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

What would you do without your Bible? (day 17 of the #encourage marathon)

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For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

~ Romans 15.4, ESV

Welcome to mile-marker 17 of our #encourage marathon. (If you missed yesterday’s post, you can read it here.)

Someone out there has a starving soul. It might even be you.

What is your reaction when you misplace your cell phone? What do you do when you leave home without it? Do you feel a spike in your stress level?

Why?

Because we use our phones for everything. It’s a source for music, books, news, communication, information, weather, and navigation. We can get help instantly in an emergency (as long as we have a signal). We can even monitor our home security systems. It’s become a valuable tool and a lot of people would feel lost without it… unfortunately.

Now, what would happen if your only bible went missing? Continue reading

Lift those drooping hands! (Day 8 of the #encourage marathon)

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Therefore lift your drooping hands
and strengthen your weak knees,
and make straight paths for your feet,
so that what is lame may not be put out of joint
but rather be healed.

‭‭~Hebrews‬ ‭12:12-13‬ ‭ESV‬‬

It’s Day 8 of our 26-day #Encourage Marathon! (You can read yesterday’s post here.)

Someone out there needs a little motivation. It might even be you.

I signed up for the Army JROTC program in High School. My primary reason for joining up was so I could do actual physical activity. The past three years of public school P.E. had been pathetic and I did not anticipate the high school version to be an improvement. My other reason was to get a taste—however limited—of the military.

The PT (Physical Training) was not a disappointment. We usually worked out as a unit. We ran and stretched in formation, did calisthenics in formation, and sang cadence as we pounded (in straight formation rows) around the track. It may sound a bit odd, but I rather enjoyed being hollered at during PT. It was a push to work harder. If Major Bachmann wasn’t barking out, “pick your knees up!” the Platoon leader was shouting, “quit slouching and move it!” While it may sound like a great place to create bullies, it really didn’t. The loud shouts served multiple purposes—it allowed the leader to be heard, created alertness, and strengthened us against intimidation.

In the real military, the soldier must be prepared to face the enemy. Why do you think boot camp is so intense? If a soldier can’t handle a little in-your-face from a commander, they’ll either be slaughtered under the strain of battle or cause loss of life because of their fearful inaction.

If your running is getting slow, or you’re starting to slack off, it’s time for a little sergeant-major-style motivation.

“Lift your drooping hands!” (Start praying!)

“Strengthen your weak knees!” (Get to studying!)

“Make straight paths for your feet!” (Make good choices!)

There are times when we get worn out with struggle. We stop studying. We fail to pray. We aren’t on the alert. We walk in a stupor, shoulders hunched, rubbing every ache. Because we are looking down, we take wrong turns. The Hebrew writer here is practically shouting: “SNAP OUT OF IT!”

Let’s face it—sometimes we need gentle encouragement and sometimes we need a swift kick.

If you’re slouching through this race, it’s time to get your eyes off the ground and fix them on Jesus.

One more rep. One more step.Do the next right thing.


I hope you’ll continue to join me on FacebookTwitter and here at Elihu’s Corner for this marathon. Share this verse on your Twitter feed or Facebook page (#encourage). Take time today to copy down this verse for yourself. Send an email or text to someone you know who would benefit from this encouragement.

I cannot encourage you enough to write down these verses. Studies have shown that the physical act of writing increases retention far more than typing or reading.

[If you click on the link in the above passage, it will take you to BibleGateway.com. From here, you can click a link which allows you to share directly to Twitter, Facebook or send an email.]

If you missed the original post listing all 26 passages, click here to download the PDF list.

26 Passages for your Marathon (with free printable)

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Marathon:

“A long-distance running event with an official distance of 42.195 kilometres (26.219 miles, or 26 miles 385 yards),usually run as a road race.”

(source: wikipedia)

Living the life of a Christian is like a long-distance run. Endurance is necessary to overcome every obstacle, including our own fatigue. God provides abundant assistance in this marathon—fellow runners, water, sustenance, solid shoes and some nice things to look at from time to time, but it is incumbent on us to hold up our end. We have to keep running.

My last two posts—Overcome or overcomer? and What is your ‘Why’?—have discussed both purpose and endurance. I see people everywhere fighting to stay positive, struggling to find purposes, and drowning in physical battles. We need to encourage each other to stick close to Christ, pressing on towards the ultimate goal.

I have searched for passages that talk about endurance, refreshing, persevering, etcetera and I came up with 26 passages in honor of the official distance of a marathon. (Okay, I missed the 0.2, but I’m not big on partial verses.) Whenever we traverse through a challenge, be it physical or spiritual, it’s a good practice to seek aid through the scriptures, copy down verses that encourage, and meditate on God’s promises to us. Feeling alone? Seek verses about God’s presence. Feeling sad? Look for verses on God’s comfort. Commit those passages to memory and roll them over in your mind. In so doing, you will be centering your heart on those things that are true, noble, praiseworthy etcetera.

If you or someone you know is struggling right now, download the PDF and spend the next 26 days copying down and meditating on the above passages. Send the verse to someone you know in a card, text or email. Let’s encourage one another to keep on toward the goal. I will post one verse per day on the Elihu’s Corner Facebook Page and on the Twitter Feed beginning tomorrow.

Download the above picture or print out this free PDF  and join me for 26 days of encouragement.

Are you tired yet?

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I posted this on our Facebook page this morning, and I wanted to share it with those of you who are not on Facebook as well.

Word of the day: endurance!

Definition: the ability to withstand hardship or adversity; especially: the ability to sustain a prolonged stressful effort or activity. From Merriam-Webster.com.

In the effective prayer post yesterday, I talked about praying for and encouraging the “strong” Christians. These are the people who are like rocks—strong, undaunted and seemingly unbreakable—but they are not unbreakable.

Today, I read this passage in Hebrews:

Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. 

For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.”

But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.

Hebrews 10.35-39, ESV, emphasis mine

You might be under great duress. You may be discouraged and frustrated with all the apathy towards God and His truth. I know that I am.

If you are overseas and under persecution, my prayers are with you. Don’t give up. Have courage: the reward is far greater than the suffering.

Press on, my friends. Press on to know the Lord. Press on towards the goal which is an eternity of knowing God as He knows us. I look forward to that day.

This is a hard race. Pace yourself and run through the pain.

If you haven’t sent a card or email or text of encouragement to the person you are praying for, you might want to include this passage from Hebrews.