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“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Luke 12:32

Have you ever found yourself in the position of buying a ‘gift’ for someone under obligation? It’s not that you don’t like the person, or that you have no desire to be kind, it’s just that the gift you are looking for is out of ‘expectation’ rather than passion. Maybe it’s not a gift. Maybe it’s some other act of kindness. Rather than random acts of kindness we often perform random acts of obligation.

There is no joy in obligatory giving. It can leave us feeling violated, taken advantage of or used. We feel controlled and manipulated by the person we are buying the gift for and it’s easy to become bitter, angry and alienated.

Sometimes people see God as an obligatory giver.  We see him as a controlling, manipulative being who is really intent on making our lives miserable and that we live in constant fear of his wrath. We see him as a being that is constantly looking for our sacrifice to prove our allegiance to him. It’s sad to say, but sometimes, organized religion has either intentionally or unintentionally propagated that idea by placing rules and regulations on how we act or making demands on our time and money.

In the middle of Jesus’ teaching on worry he gives us a picture of his Father that we should never forget. Jesus likens the Father’s love and care of us to his watch care over nature. The birds don’t worry about their next meal; the flowers burst forth to show their beauty without worrying about how the wind blows.

Then He says “Don’t be afraid little flock”. Pay attention to that phrase because it is a term of affection, endearment and protection. As the good shepherd Jesus knew that sheep would wander aimlessly into danger without guidance and leadership. While some want to paint God as a being who is, at best, hesitant to bestow his blessings and is angry or begrudging in showing kindness, Jesus says the opposite is true. He tells us God’s actions towards us aren’t based on his power, which he certainly has a right to do, but on his love for us.

The next phrase in this verse is important because it tells us of the very character of God. Don’t be afraid little flock because “your father is pleased’ to give you the kingdom. Did you catch that? The Father, the Creator God of the universe is pleased to give you the kingdom. God doesn’t hold back; He doesn’t give grudgingly. He is pleased, honored and looking forward to bestowing on us his good pleasure.

The problem is, sometimes we seek only the physical blessings of life. We seek the three R’s of riches, relationships and religion. We tell ourselves we are ‘blessed if we have a healthy bank account and retirement plan. We are blessed if we have a strong family relationship. We are blessed if we attend the right church.

While all these things can point to God’s blessings, God’s true blessings come through a healed heart, a contented soul and a hope built on the forgiveness offered through Jesus Christ. We have a God who takes great pleasure in giving us all the blessings of his kingdom; blessings of forgiveness, hope and peace of heart.

PRAYER: Father God, as I think of that phrase “it is your pleasure to give me your blessings’, I’m in awe. I’m so undeserving of your grace. I fail you daily. I hurt others and ultimately myself by my actions. I forget what is truly important in life. Thank you for your grace. Thank you for taking great pleasure in blessing me with your kingdom through Jesus Christ. Amen.

You have done many good things for me, Lord, just as you promised. Psalm 119:65 (NLT)

When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,

When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

As I write this post our nation is watching as fires of epic proportions and disastrous flooding inundates our beautiful countryside. From a distance we watch the devastation unfold. To most of us, it’s a news story with little or no personal connection. To those connected in anyway it will be remembered as one of the darkest periods in their lives as memories and perhaps even lives are wiped away in an instant.

As I read Psalm 119:26 the words of the old hymn “Count your blessings” came to mind. Counting your blessings is easy when you are removed from hardship. When life is good, the bills are paid, the kids are behaving and your spouse is understanding and helpful, counting your blessings is fun. Oddly enough, counting your blessings is more important when life is hard than when it is good.

When the hard times of life come and you see no hope remember what the Lord has done for you. When sleep evades you and you lie awake at night, use that time to think back over the positive things that God has brought into your life. Sometimes it will be difficult. Other times it may be impossible. The last thing the enemy wants you to do is to count your blessings because counting your blessings destroys despair.

The Psalmist knew the secret power of praise. He knew that looking back was the best way to move forward because looking back showed us the reality of God’s presence in our lives.

I can’t imagine the devastation of standing hopelessly by and watching my home and all the things I’ve worked for go up in smoke. I’ve been blessed thus far in the fact that a flood has never washed away my dreams. But I’ve seen the devastation of divorce. I’ve struggled with job loss, with financial devastation and poor choices. In the midst of those times when the memories of the past threaten to paralyze my future, I can look back and see that even in those darkest times my Heavenly Father has never left my side.

“You have done many good things for me Lord, just as you promised.”

The promises of God are unchangeable. The promises of God are not influenced by natural disaster or political grandstanding. The promises of God are unlimited. He will never leave us or forsake us because of his great love.

PRAYER: Father, today my prayer is simply the prayer of the psalmist. You have done many good things for me, just as you promised, and for that I praise you. Amen.

May the Lord, who made heaven and earth, bless you from Jerusalem. Psalm 134:3

You may not freely admit it, of course, but the value of the gifts you give is dependent on the level of love and intimacy you have with the person you are giving the gift to. Gifts given to casual acquaintances are really more like gestures than gifts. Gifts of great value cost you something. The greater the cost, the more valued the person you are giving the gift too.

One year funds were very slim around Christmas. I wanted to give the love of my life something special but simply didn’t have the funds to purchase what I’d hoped to give her. With a somewhat heavy heart I ‘settled’ on using my ability to take pictures and made a collage of some the special times we’d had in the past year. When she opened the package you’d have thought I’d given her the Hope Diamond! She still talks about that simple gift today and it sits prominently on her nightstand.

Why was that simple gift so precious? It certainly had no dollar value. It wasn’t fantastic scenery or a hand made painting. The frame was simple and cheap. The pictures were printed on a home printer. But I was reminded that Christmas that the value of a gift isn’t in dollar amount but emotional attachment and sacrifice. My sweetheart sees in that simple frame of pictures all the memories of some great times together. Each photograph is a reminder of our love. My putting them together was the perfect way to remember our year together. She knew that this gift came from my heart.

Do you notice where your Heavenly Father gets the blessings (gifts) he bestows on us? He is creator of heavens and earth. He could have given you gifts from anywhere in the world, or the universe for that matter. But where did he go to get those blessings? He went home.Jerusalemwas where the temple was.Jerusalemwas where Jehovah God ‘dwelt on earth’.Jerusalemis where the blessings God bestows on us come from. He didn’t give us gifts he acquired. He gave us gifts that were his own personal possessions. You don’t give someone your prized possessions unless your love for that person is tremendously deep. The Apostle Paul reminds us that his love is deeper that the deepest ocean and higher than the highest heavens. His love goes as far as east is from west. His love for you is so deep that he gave his only son for you and has promised to bless you here on earth and for eternity.

The Jews sang this song, the song of Psalm 134, as they leftJerusalemafter worshiping God in his ‘home’ theTemple. I imagine the words of this song still on their lips as the walls disappeared behind them. Truly we were blessed to be in his presence.

May each of us as Christ-followers say the same. While the earthly temple still resides in Jerusalem, today Jehovah God has made a new home. A home within each of us as a result of Jesus death, resurrection and ascension to the right hand of the father. “May the Lord, who made heaven and earth, bless you from Jerusalem. Amen”

PRAYER: Father forgive me for taking for granted the many gifts you have given me. Help me to realize the great value you place on me. Empower me to live in such a way that your blessings in my life overflow to those near to me that need your touch. In Jesus name, Amen.

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January 2023
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