Being Blessed

‘Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you.’ Psalm 84.4

This is an interesting question: who do we regard as being really blessed?  We talk about some people being blessed with good looks or with good fortune, but the writer of this verse sees it differently.  For him the truly blessed person is the one who dwells in the presence of God.  He seems to have grasped the simple truth that if we have the presence of God with us, then we are indeed blessed.  It is this that really sets us apart from others and is what we should be seeking.

Of course, we would probably all say that we know this but nevertheless it is interesting how quickly we can find ourselves being envious of other people who have things that we would like to have.  Perhaps the problem is that our hearts and minds don’t agree on what it means to be really blessed!

Take a moment to reflect on the reality that you are actually in God’s presence right now.  The Father has made his home with you, Jesus promised that he would always be with you and your very body is a temple of the Holy Spirit.  If all this is true, then whatever else may be happening in your life right now – you are truly blessed!

Shining Naturally

‘But may all who love you be like the sun when it rises in its strength.’ Judges 5.31

This is such a wonderful description: we can be like the rising sun to others, bringing light, warmth, comfort and joy.

Perhaps it is the naturalness of this that is most striking.  The sun does not have to summon up all its energy to rise and give off its strength – instead it happens as a natural part of being the sun.  Similarly, if we relied on our own effort and strength to shine for others we would soon become weary, but if it really does happen naturally then we can keep going because it comes easily to us.

It all begins with us loving the Lord, which in itself is about our desire to serve him and to want to be changed by him.  If this is our heart, then as we follow our instincts and are attentive to those around us, we will shine with him today.

Where did you shine yesterday?  This is not boasting, but actually about paying attention to how God has flowed through you.  Most of the time, we are unaware of how he uses us from day to day and this can lead to a sense of despondency and worthlessness, but to spend a moment reflecting on the ways we have been used can be such a great encouragement for the day ahead.

Being to others as God is to us

‘Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.’ Psalm 82.3

When the psalmist wrote these words he was giving us an insight into the heart of God.  These issues concern God and are a priority for him, so as we also care about them we can be certain that we are close to his heart and doing his will.

Perhaps it is the command to defend the weak that challenges most of us?  The ‘weak’ refers to those who are struggling to cope with their circumstances, and it is highly likely that we all know of people who fall into this category – maybe even you yourself.  To defend such folk means to regard them as important, to value them, their stories and their situations, and to do whatever we can to help them.  Doing this is not only about blessing them, but also about us being obedient to God’s command and reflecting him – after all, this is how God treats us.

When you are weak, God is concerned about you and about your situation.  He does not reprimand you for not being stronger, but instead seeks to draw close to you.  You may not be specifically aware of his presence with you, but perhaps you can recognise that he has brought someone else alongside you to help.

This is God’s heart and if you can apply it to yourself and to others in their weakness, then you will bring great pleasure to him.

How much has God done for us?

‘Jesus . . . said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”’ Mark 5.19

If Jesus told you to do this I wonder what you would say?  Although you know that God has been good to you, I wonder whether you would find it challenging to say exactly how!

There is a long tradition in Christian spirituality of ‘examining’ ourselves.  We often take this to be an invitation to dig around for hidden sins, but an excellent aspect of self-examination is to look for touches of God’s mercy and to spend time recalling both the general and specific things that he has done for us.

God is merciful.  He does things for us that we certainly do not deserve and that he doesn’t have to do – but he does them all the same.  Many of these things may well happen without us paying too much regard to them, and we may not even recognise them as touches of his mercy.

Take a few minutes to think about the past day and begin to call to mind touches of God’s mercy – things that have happened which you neither deserved nor ‘earned’ – and give thanks for them.

The shining face of God

‘Restore us, God Almighty; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved.’ Psalm 80.7

The request for the Lord to make his face shine upon us is fascinating.  God is not being asked to suddenly appear or come to us since he is already here, but rather that our awareness of him might increase.  It is OK to ask for more of an awareness of him than we currently have!

Actually the simple truth that God is with us is enough to change our perception of his presence; he is already here, regardless of whether or not we can sense him.  It’s knowing this that can make all the difference.  We don’t have to struggle with our uncertain feelings but can ask God to shine his face upon us.  This isn’t just about us experiencing him, but is also about the effect of his presence upon us.  It is his face and his presence, shining on our lives and our circumstances, that bring change.

“Lord God Almighty, make your face shine upon me,” is a beautiful prayer that you can use at any time.  You can even pray it over particular situations: “Make your face shine upon this situation.”  Alternatively it can be a prayer to gently lead you into a deeper sense of God’s presence; as you breathe in use the words, “Lord God Almighty”, and as you breathe out, “make your face shine upon me”.  What are you going to ask him right now?

What has God done for me?

‘…Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.’ 1 Corinthians 1.24

Many times you may find yourself asking for God’s help, either silently or audibly.  It may be that you do not know what to do in any given situation, or that something has happened and you desperately need help – so you turn to God and ask him to intervene.

There is a very real sense in which the answer is not something that God will give, but is something that God has already given.  In this verse, Paul reveals that the power of God and the wisdom of God have already been given in Jesus.  The implication of this is that when you are calling out to God to help you, perhaps the first question to ask is: “What has God already done for me?”  The answer is – plenty!  He gave Jesus who died to give you abundant life, took away your sins, was raised to life and is with you today.  He has given you the Holy Spirit so that Jesus is able to dwell in you and speak to you.

What has God already done for you?  Quite a lot really!  It is up to you to turn to him and draw upon what he has already given.

He is there – no matter what!

‘Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.’ Psalm 73.23

When Asaph (the author of this psalm) wrote these words, he was not writing them in a moment of great joy and ecstasy when everything in the garden was rosy, but rather he admitted to being in a pretty dreadful state.  The words he used to describe himself were: grieved, embittered, senseless and ignorant.  At times, most of us can probably relate to his feelings!

The trouble is that when we feel like this, we tend to think that we are somehow disqualified from enjoying the presence of God; as if we ought to be feeling a little more ‘holy’ or ‘upbeat’ to have a close awareness of him.  It’s very easy to feel as though God has departed from us.

So how wonderful that these words are written down for our encouragement!  No matter how you are feeling or what you have done, it is still true that you are with Jesus.  He does not leave you just because you are having a hard time or because you have done something wrong.  He is always there and whether you feel it or not he holds you by the hand and guides you through the day.

He knows about today

‘So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”’ Matthew 28.8-10

It is so reassuring that Jesus seemed to know the fears and feelings of those he encountered.  He also knew exactly where they were heading and so his words took on a new authority.  He was not giving them a casual message to pass on at some point in the future, but knowing where they were headed he gave them some words relevant for that occasion.

This is the Jesus who stands with us today.  He really does know the plans you have for the hours that lie ahead.  If you pray and feel he is speaking to you, either through the Bible or by some other means, it is because he knows what is going to happen and the situations in which you will find yourself.  He also knows how you are feeling, and he communicates as he does because he really does know everything about you.

This is the wonder of Jesus, the one who delights to stand with you and give you what you need for the day.  Spend a little time committing your day to him and recognise that he already knows all the details and wants to walk through it with you.

Finding hope

‘May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.’ Romans 15.13

One description of hope is the ability to see your situation from a different perspective.  If you can catch the wonderful truth that God is a God of hope, you are also likely to be able to catch a vision of him looking out at your life and the things you are going through, and seeing them in quite a different way from how you do.

It is, of course, very misleading to think of God as being above us and looking down, but this analogy serves to remind us that when God looks at our lives, he is not bound by the vision we have of them.  He sees them through the perspective of what has been changed by the death of Jesus on the cross and his rising to new life.  He also sees our lives shining with a clear presence of the Holy Spirit within us, and all the potential for change that such a living presence brings.

Our hope is to catch his hope, and to let the truths that are so evident to God touch us and deepen within us so that we can begin to see our lives through different eyes.

Thanksgiving grows faith

‘I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving.’ Psalm 69.30

To glorify God is for us to pay attention to our image of God; to acknowledge him for who he really is and to try to catch a glimpse of him that is far, far greater than our usual image of God.  It is about celebrating not just his intimacy, but also his majesty.

So why is this important?  It is not simply something we do for God’s benefit – perhaps a means of flattering him which he certainly doesn’t need!  We glorify God for our benefit; to step back from the situations that crowd against us and to see ourselves before the wonder of God.  The way we can begin to do this, the psalmist suggests, is by thanksgiving; to actively take a few moments to call to mind all that God has done for us.  You might like to start with recalling the blessings that came your way yesterday, or focus on something specific such as the fact that you have been adopted as his child.  You can give thanks for the gift of Jesus, as well as for the very breath that you breathe and the makeup of your body.

The more you can do this, the bigger your picture of God becomes and the more your faith in him increases – and at the same time he is glorified. It’s worth a try!