Conditional blessings

Deuteronomy 28:2 NIV

God loves to bless us because He loves us. The Bible says that we should praise God ‘who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ’ (Ephesians 1:3 NIV). But sometimes His blessing is conditional. That means we have to obey His commands before we receive the blessing. Moses gave the Israelites a list of the ways God was going to bless them (you can read that in Deuteronomy 28:3-13). But this list was preceded by these words: ‘All these blessings will come on you and accompany you if you obey the LORD your God.’ The word ‘if’ is really important here. It shows that the Israelites would only get the blessings if they obeyed God. It also shows that they had a choice. When we choose to obey God, we open ourselves up to receive more of His blessings. How much do we desire God’s blessings? How willing are we to obey His commands? Sometimes we can expect blessings without putting any effort in, but it’s clear that obedience is necessary. So how do we know what God wants us to do? We need to be spending time reading the Bible. We need to be listening to what He’s saying to us, and then acting on it. When Jonah heard God’s call, He ran the opposite way. Obedience means we follow God wherever He’s calling us, even when it seems challenging or we doubt ourselves. But we need to remember that obedience comes gradually. As humans we often desire to do our own thing and we can struggle to surrender our whole lives over to God. When we ask God to help us humble ourselves and obey Him, He’ll gradually transform us to live godly, obedient, and blessing-filled lives.

Acts 24-26; Luke 10:1-12; Ps 78:9-16; Prov 16:25

Young person, aspire to greatness!

1 Timothy 4:12 NLT

By the time he was eighteen, Timothy was an apostle. And it seems some folks in church thought his promotion to leadership at such an early age wasn’t a good thing. But Paul did. He told Timothy: “Teach these things and insist that everyone learn them. Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity…focus on reading the Scriptures to the church, encouraging the believers, and teaching them. Do not neglect the spiritual gift you received…Throw yourself into your tasks so that everyone will see your progress” (vv. 11-15 NLT). Who says you’re too young to make an impact? Not God. And not history. Victor Hugo wrote his first tragedy at age fifteen. Raphael painted his masterpieces before he died at age thirty-seven. Tennyson wrote his first volume of poetry at eighteen. Paschal wrote his great works between the ages of sixteen and thirty-seven. Joan of Arc did all her work and was burned at the stake at nineteen. Romulus founded Rome at twenty. Calvin joined the Reformation at age twenty-one and wrote his famous Institutes at age twenty-seven. Alexander The Great had conquered the known world by the time he was twenty-three. Isaac Newton was twenty-four when he introduced the law of gravity. Believe in yourself, for God does. Develop your gifts, and ask God to bless them. Maximize every opportunity to the fullest, and you will make the world a better place.

Soul food: Jer 22-24; Luke 4:31-44; Ps 102:12-17; Prov 15:3

God’s training

Hebrews 12:8 MSG

When we walk through a tough time, our automatic reaction can often be to ask God to take us out of it. And when He doesn’t, we assume He doesn’t care or that we’ve been abandoned. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. God cares about everything we go through, and always knows what’s happening in our lives. In fact, He walks alongside us through everything. The psalmist wrote: ‘Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me’ (Psalm 23:4 NIV). He is with us, even in the toughest of times. So why doesn’t God take us out of the situation? We don’t know all the reasons why, but one of them could be because He wants us to learn something. Hebrews 12:8 in The Message says: ‘This trouble you’re in isn’t punishment; it’s training.’ God’s training us to be stronger and more like Him. In every situation we go through, there are things we can learn. But we’ll only learn them if we open our hearts. If we’re too busy begging God to take the situation away, we won’t be open to the opportunity of growing. All tests and valleys we experience are temporary. They’ll end. But it’s up to us whether we’ll just about make it through or if we’ll come out looking more like Jesus. In the Bible we’re encouraged to go as far as rejoicing in the troubles that we face. ‘In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials’ (1 Peter 1:6 NIV). This might seem impossible, but when we think about the training God’s doing, we can be joyful while we’re walking through the valley.

Heb 11:23-28; Exo 3:1-22; Exo 33:7-23; Exo 34:29-35

Learning the hard way (3)

Judges 13:7 NKJV

You’re asking for trouble when you refuse to take God seriously. The angel who announced Samson’s birth said he was to “be a Nazirite,” indicating that he was to be dedicated to doing God’s will. But Samson was careless about his spiritual life. He prayed only when he was in trouble. He was impulsive; he did whatever he felt like doing. The truth is, we’d save ourselves so many problems and spare ourselves so much pain if we’d just stop and ask God for direction. Samson turned to God only when he got into a jam. It’s what we call “foxhole Christianity.” We pray, “Lord, if You get me out of this dilemma, I promise I’ll live for You from now on.” But here’s the question: Is God just an afterthought, a convenience to you? When things get tough and you’re in a tight spot you turn to Him in desperation, but when everything’s all right you ignore Him? Only when Samson was captured by the Philistines, his eyes gouged out, and he was grinding grain at a mill like an ox, do we read that he turned to God and prayed. What kind of history might Samson have had if he’d prayed right from the beginning? Why did he wait until everything fell apart before turning to God? It doesn’t have to be that way in your life! The psalmist said, “Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in obedience to him. You will eat the fruit of your labor; blessings and prosperity will be yours” (Psalm 128:1-2 NIV).

Soul food: 2 Kings 18:17-20:21; Luke 1:57-66; Ps 139:13-24; Prov 13:25

Everything you need for living

2 Peter 1:3 NIV

Peter writes, “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life” (v. 3 NIV). Living life to the fullest requires three things: (1) A little extra. This is the extra mile principle Jesus taught (See Matthew 5:41), and it calls for two things: (a) Extra effort. Life coach and author Art Williams said, “You beat 50 percent of the people by working hard…the other 40 percent by being a person of honesty and integrity and standing for something…the last 10 percent is a dogfight.” If you want to win, make up your mind to always do “a little extra.” (b) Extra time. “Though [your vision] linger, wait for it; it will certainly come [to pass]” (Habakkuk 2:3 NIV). Gutzon Borglum, the sculptor who created the Mount Rushmore memorial to America’s presidents, was asked if he considered his work to be perfect. He replied, “Not today. The nose of President Washington is an inch too long. It’s better that way, though. It will erode and be exactly right in ten thousand years.” (2) Your best effort. Andrew Carnegie said, “There’s no use trying to help people who won’t help themselves. You can’t push anyone up a ladder unless he or she is first willing to climb it.” (3) The right mentor. Paul writes, “Pattern your lives after mine” (Philippians 3:17 NLT). Good mentors lead by example; they know that to be followed, they must first be respected. They know whether you learn visually or verbally. They know whether you need a pat on the back or a kick in the seat of the pants. If you have such a mentor, you’re blessed. If not, ask God to send one into your life today.

Soul food: 2 Kings 4:18-6:33; Mark 16; Ps 80:12-19; Prov 13:13-16