April 16, 2013

Blessed*- I Am Blessed!

We are starting a new series today called Blessed with a little asterisk mark at the end. I  saw this artwork at another church, and liked it so I decided to adapt it a bit and use it.

The idea of the asterisk at the end of the word Blessed is that being “blessed” is not always what we think it is. We all ask God to bless us, and he does bless us, but not always the way we think...or even want.

When you and I start thinking about what it means to be blessed...

we think of financial security...bills paid for, living comfortably, not paycheck to paycheck, savings in the bank for emergencies, some other for retirement...

we think of a comfortable home...Lori and I driving around looking at homes dreaming of  a dream home that isn’t a cookie-cutter Huber Home.

we think of cars that run the way they should run...

we think of a nice house, nice neighborhood, and nice schools...

If someone has all of these things in their life we would say...they are blessed.

The reality is that we live in a fallen world, stained by sin, and not everyone gets to live this idyllic life...and yet, if the Bible is true, we can all live a truly blessed life. It will require us to redefine our understanding of being blessed...not in some ostrich-head-in-sand-denial sort of way, but by seeking to understand what the truly blessed life is about.

So over the next few weeks we are going to look at what it means to be blessed in biblical terms, hopefully realizing that we are truly a blessed people, and we are going to look at what some of the responsibilities are that come with being blessed. Because our blessings are not just for our benefit...they come with responsibility.

So let’s begin by looking at what can be the most confusing passage about blessing in the Bible...Matthew 5:1-12
Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them. 
He said:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
 for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
 for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
 for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
 for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
 for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
 for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
 for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
 for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
This is not the list I would put together if I were talking about blessed people!

Poor in Spirit, Mourning, meek, the hungry and thirsty, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, the persecuted!

This doesn’t even sound like a list most of us would want to even be on!

Every culture has its people, behaviors, and states of being that let signify who the in-crowd really is...who the blessed ones are. In our culture the people on this list are not it. Wealth and fame, or something that looks like wealth and fame is what gives you standing. Our culture values success. It values disposable income. It values big toys. It values beauty and youth.

If we are not careful, those of us who follow Jesus adopt our cultures approach to blessing and attempt to make it our own...we read our ideas into passages like Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” We start thinking this about me on an individual level and God wants to prosper me and give me a hope and future! And we forget He is talking about His plans to bring about salvation and to restore the entire world to its original purpose.

For years I heard the Beatitudes preached as a spiritual to-do list. If you want to be blessed then you should become meek...hungry and thirsty for righteousness...pure in heart...peacemakers. But there are some pretty big interpretive jumps when we start talking about becoming poor in spirit...or mourning...

Rather than another list of things you have to become, Jesus is actually giving us a list of people who are valued by the Kingdom He is establishing. This annoyed the Pharisees of Jesus day because they only invited the wealthy, the powerful, and the influential to their dinners...We too want a list with all the good and nice and beautiful people, but Jesus says the ones he really wants to bless are the ones outside the normal realm of earthly blessings...

Being blessed is rooted in our biggest need.

In Genesis 12 God calls Abraham to leave his family and country and travel to a land God would give him and his descendants...then in verses 2-3 God says,
“I will make you into a great nation,
 and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
 and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you,
 and whoever curses you I will curse; 
and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
The problem was God’s blessing was promise required Abraham’s barren wife Sarah to have a child. Barren...she couldn’t have children. She wanted children...desperately wanted them...but couldn’t have a child. She couldn’t force that to happen. Certainly Abraham and Sarah were responsible to do their part...the nice dinner...the roses...the bottle of wine...but there was limit...they were only in control of so much.

Our blessings are rooted in our biggest need because we must recognize our dependence upon God! We can’t do this on our own.

The poor in spirit are dependent upon someone else to give them a Kingdom...the poor are not going to accomplish and conquer on their own. They have no authority. No standing...they have nothing.

Those who mourn are unable to comfort themselves...they need someone else to give them comfort. When someone who is mourning attempts to comfort themselves they become withdrawn and caught in a spiral of depression and sadness.

The merciful are dependent upon someone else to show them mercy. They open themselves up to abuse by others by being merciful...it requires someone else.

The list goes on and on...Our blessings are rooted in our biggest need because we must recognize our dependance on God to meet those needs.

We too often fail to see our blessing because we are trying to doGod’s part. We arrogantly believe we can do it all. God helps those who help themselves! Right? So we tire ourselves out...we get frustrated...we worry...we get depressed...and there is nothing we can do about that part.

That is the problem with worry as a parent. I worry about Brianna. What kind of friends she will make. Her walk home from school by herself most days. What kind of woman she will grow up to be...but my worry accomplishes nothing. I am responsible for my part....and the rest is not up to me,

Being blessed means we know what we can do, we do that, and we leave God to do what only God can do!

Being blessed means receiving what we need most.

There is an older country song by Garth Brooks titled Unanswered Prayers. In the song he tells how he and his wife ran into his high school sweetheart at a football game and how he remembered praying for God to make the relationship last.

Then Garth sings:

And as she walked away and I looked at my wife
Then and there I thanked the good Lord
For the gifts in my life
Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers. 
You see...we are notoriously bad at knowing what we need. We think our problem is one thing, and our very knowledgeable heavenly Father say, “Nope. That’s not your problem...here is your problem.”

We have some financial struggles...so we start looking for a better job that pays more. In reality our financial struggles are not always a result of not making enough money...sometimes the blessing comes by learning to trust and depend on God rather than our ability to make more money. God has often supplied financially for His children from unexpected places and by helping available resources go further than they should.

It might be that our need is not more money, but to confess a greed or lusting after more that has crept into our lives and keeps us from appreciate what we have. We think we need more money because we have bought more than we need.

It might be that our deepest need is to spend what we do have more wisely. God isn’t going to give us more if we are not using what we have appropriately.

You want that relationship to work out...to find healing. The problem may not be with the other person. It may be a lack of forgiveness on your part. Maybe you are not seeing the wrong you are doing. Maybe God wants you to be gracious in the midst of the barrage they leverage at you. The problem may not be what you think it is...maybe the relationship needs to be severed.

So often our blessing comes as we recognize what our need really is...all the other stuff fades away and we gain perspective.

I found this clip a couple of years ago...it is hilarious, but challenging to our perspective...

Louis CK

Being blessed is about our attitude, not our situation. 

Being blessed means knowing what we and are not in control of...knowing who is ultimately in control...and trusting that He is working to heal our deepest needs, and that should change our attitude.

Philippians 4:12-13, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”

Paul was able to look beyond the situation to see that God’s blessings were not simply about security and safety...he wrote from inside of a prison and was ultimately beheaded for the faith...so security and safety were not the standards Paul would use.

Being blessed starts with recognizing that no matter what our situation...we are blessed. The old cliche “There is always someone worse off than you.” Is meant to be a reminder that knowing we are blessed starts with our attitude. There is probably some poor sap for whom there really is no one worse off for him...But our blessing does not rest in the idea that someone is worse off than us. Our blessing rests in the promises and character of who God is.

This morning you may be struggling with something...a fear, a worry, a need that keeps getting in the way of you experiencing the blessings God has for you. Maybe its time you stopped trying to do God’s part for him...you have been working to make things work and it is just more stress and hardship than you can really take...It is time to let go.

Maybe you have been treating symptoms rather than the actual problem. We hate when our doctors do that, but we do it all the time. We would rather make more money than adjust our lust for more. It is time to let that go.

Maybe it is our attitude...we need confidence that God wants to bless us and take care of us...and our attitude or mindset gets in the way.

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