February 2013

Say it with me, “I am blessed!”

There is a wonderful statement in the book of Proverbs about the blessing of God. It says “The blessing of the Lord makes a person rich, and He adds no sorrow with it.” (Proverbs 10:22 NLT) Prosperity and protection are very obvious aspects of God’s blessing, and we see that repeatedly illustrated in the Bible, particularly in the Old Testament accounts of the lives of the patriarchs and the kings, and the nation of Israel. Typically when God chose to bless a person or a tribe or a nation in response to their wholehearted seeking of Him and obedience of faith to do what He asked them to do, their lives were made rich in very tangible ways, and any residue of sorrow, threat or regret was swept away.

Another phrase that is frequently used in the Bible for God’s blessing is the “favor of the Lord.” When a person has God’s favor upon their lives it is like being given an inexpressibly beautiful and valuable jewel that one always wants in their possession and will never let out of their sight. It is like having Warren Buffet as your financial advisor, Lloyds of London as your insurance agent and the Secret Service as your security force.

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Second Thoughts on the Pursuit of Success

“And do you seek great things for yourself? Seek them not.” Jeremiah 45:5a ESV

This verse is not your typical name it, claim it promise, nor something you would find typed on a strip of paper in a fortune cookie. In fact at first blush, these are not the kind of words any inspired, faith-filled, goal-oriented believer ever wants to hear. This advice seems counter intuitive coming from the all-things-are-possible God whom we serve. And yet, despite the fact that there are other instances in the Scriptures where God encourages His followers to dream big and press forward to lay hold of those things which we desire, in this case He says the opposite, “seek them not.”

It helps to understand the context in which God would say such a thing and there is a life giving principle hidden therein. These words are spoken on God’s behalf through Jeremiah the prophet to his faithful scribe Baruch. Baruch had just been lamenting the frustrations of fruitless labor – how overwhelmed he feels, weary with groaning and finding no rest. (vs. 3) Their nation of Judah is poised for God’s judgment and in essence He is saying to Baruch, look “I am bringing disaster upon” the whole land. It is not a time for you to seek success, “but I will give you your life as a prize of war in all places to which you may go.” (Jeremiah 45:5b)

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Rooting out the Pharisee

Spiritual health is a lot like physical health. Quality is often the primary concern and measure. It is not enough simply to acknowledge we have it, but the overarching goal is that we nurture good health and avoid bad health. Good health is the underlying presumption for our continued mobility, accomplishment and long life. That is true for good spiritual health as well.

And so we have in this parable an illustration of both good versus bad spirituality. We are told about two men who make a point of coming to the temple to be close to God and communicate with Him. That, in and of itself, is noteworthy if not commendable. Most people who attend church on a Sunday morning would say that is the reason they are there. And most people when they leave want to feel as if what they have done has been acceptable and pleasing to God. To the unenlightened participant however, there is no way of knowing who was nurturing good spiritual health and who wasn’t. But God knows because He sees the heart.

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