Blessings with a Purpose

I will make you into a great nation,
   and I will bless you.
Genesis 12:2

God not only blesses us, but he blesses us for a purpose.  He blesses us so we will be a blessing.  The word bless means, “to benefit.”  It implies abundantly or greatly. In the Bible we are reminded that God blessed Abraham abundantly by building a great nation through his seed.  He made Abraham’s name great.

God’s blessings are different toward each one of us. Sometimes our blessings may come through the most difficult of trials. The purest gold comes through the most intense heat, and the most beautiful gems are formed through immense pressure. Other blessings may be in the rich joy of family members or friends in our lives.

Everyone can look at unique ways God has blessed their lives. The question is, “Are we focusing on the blessings God has given us or on the frustrations?” Let’s thank God each day for the wonderful ways He blesses us, and then let’s be diligent to use our blessings to bless the world around us.

How does God want to use your gifts and talents to benefit others today?

When Disaster Strikes

Currently the word “crisis” is becoming an everyday term, as we see devastation both here and abroad. Our hearts go out to the people who were hit hard by Hurricane Ida, as well as the those who are attempting to flee the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. If you are like me, you wonder what you can do to help and bring hope to those facing such daunting challenges.

First and foremost we are called to pray. Paul wrote to the Colossian church, “Be devoted to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” Let us pray without ceasing, asking for God’s comfort, care and strength for those in need. We can thank the Lord He is present in the midst of the storms of life, and He can do far beyond what we can ask or imagine.

Second, we can look for opportunities to help. Being “watchful,” means we search out ways that we can make a positive impact. There are trustworthy organizations which have “boots on the ground” in places of disaster. Two organizations I recommend for hurricane relief are Samaritan’s Purse and Texas Baptist Men Disaster Relief.

As far as helping abroad with the crisis in Afghanistan, there is an organization that is committed  to helping persecuted Christians around the world. They are currently aiding those in Afghanistan. The Nazarene Fund’s mission is, “To liberate the captive, to free the enslaved, and to rescue, rebuild and restore the lives of Christians and other persecuted religious and ethnic minorities wherever and whenever they are in need.” They are currently working to help believers in Afghanistan find safety.

Thirdly, consider one step you can take to help those in crisis, whether it is donating to the needs of a national crisis or taking a meal to a family in personal crisis or joining a relief team to provide hands on help in a crisis. We can’t do everything, but each of us can do something. Take one step forward as you consider ways you can make a difference.

Let’s not sit on the sidelines, rather let’s step into action by praying, searching and taking one step to offer a cup of cold water to someone in need.

Photo by John Middelkoop on Unsplash

He Speaks

The LORD had said to Abram,

“Go from your county… to the land I will show you.

Genesis 12:1

              God is not a silent god; He is a God who speaks.  In the Old Testament God spoke to His people through prophets, through visions, and sometimes He spoke directly to His servants. He spoke to Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Daniel, Isaiah and Jeremiah to name a few.  Does God still speak to His people today?

            One of the ways He speaks to us is through His written word, the Bible.  We learn who God is and how He wants us to live as we read His word.  His Spirit speaks to us. Often He speaks through that still small voice within us, lovingly prompting us to follow His direction and gently convicting us to turn from sin.

Now we must be careful not to think that every thought we have is from Him.  We must test it against scripture. The more we get to know Him through scripture and prayer, the more we recognize His voice. Just as sheep recognize their shepherds voice, so we recognize our Good Shepherd’s voice as we grow to know Him and trust Him.

Father, open our ears to hear and our hearts to understand. Help us to follow your ways and honor you in everything we say and do.

Walking Together

Enoch walked faithfully with God. Genesis 5:23

            When we walk with someone, we enjoy fellowship with them as we travel together. We have a choice to walk with God in a close relationship, or we can choose to wander in our own direction doing as we please. Enoch chose to walk with God. Additionally, the Bible tells us that, “Noah was a righteous man, the only blameless person living on earth at the time, and he walked in close fellowship with God.” Even in the Garden of Eden God we see a hint of God’s walking as we read, “The man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day.”            

Paul wrote that just as we have received Christ Jesus as Lord, we are also to “walk in Him.”  We can walk with God as we pray to Him throughout our day. It’s one thing to know God as an acquaintance we simply see on Sundays. It’s another thing to walk with Him in close fellowship. God invites us to walk with Him. Will you accept the invitation?

This is an excerpt from my devotional Pursuing God in the Quiet Places

Advent Week One: Hope in the King

This Holiday season I have invited my daughter Grace Ladd McDonald to share her Advent curriculum with the Positive Life Principles readers. Each week we will post creative and meaningful ways to prepare your family for Christmas by focusing on the various attributes of Jesus.

Reading
The Teeny Weeny…True king”
Or Read 1st Samuel 8-10

Throughout the Old Testament, we see examples of kings, some were good, some were evil. All were human, which means they were sinners and because of their sin, they were not the leaders that the people truly needed. The Old Testament tells the story of one specific group of people called the Israelites. God chose the Israelites to be His people and to show the rest of the world his great love. There are many stories in the Bible which tell about the redemptive love God has for His people. They keep sinning and God keeps loving them. Early on in the Old Testament, the Israelites pled with God for a king. God sent many kings and prophets to help lead and guide the people, but no king could ever truly give the people what they needed. God promised His people early on that He would eventually send them a king that would loose the chains of oppression and set his people free. This week’s activities, readings and music will help you learn about why we need Jesus and the hope that he offers as a king.

Advent Activities
Nature Exploration
: Throughout history kings have worn crowns as a symbol of their authority and dignity. Jesus was unlike any king. He did not wear a crown adorned with jewels or gold. Rather, Jesus wore a crown of thorns. Jesus is the one true ruler over all the earth, as well as beyond what we can see. Did you know that there is a world beyond the one we can see? Spend some time out in nature, collecting sprigs and vine elements that you can weave together as a crown to wear on your head. Use tape or string as needed. Wear it on your head as you go throughout your day. How does wearing a crown make you feel?

Home Discovery: Walk around your house and find all the seating areas such as chairs and/or stools and couches. Choose one chair as your throne for the week. Sit in it, perhaps build a fort around it. Many verses in scripture talk about Jesus sitting on a throne. What do you think the significance of a throne is? Why do you think having a designated place to sit is special?

Baking Activity: Jesus did not consider equality with God as something to be grasped. Unlike other kings who are waited on hand and foot, Christ came to serve, to give of himself as a ransom for many. I am not sure what Jesus’ favorite food was but Martin Luther King Jr. was a leader who stood up for the rights of the oppressed in similar ways as Jesus. He liked to eat Pecan pie. Pick a simple pecan pie recipe or other sweet treat that you enjoy, bake it and share it with your neighbor. My personal favorite is chocolate covered buttered pecans.

Art Exploration: Purple is a color used throughout history to symbolize royalty. Purples, violets and blues were often used in old paintings to signify royalty. What about purple feels significant or special? Using water colors, fill a page with a mixture of blues, violets, and purples. What do you notice about the color? When you picture Jesus, what colors do you picture him wearing?

Adventure Walk: Rather than living in a castle, Jesus had no home while He was here on earth. He slept in the homes of friends or perhaps even outside in nature. Throughout the Bible Jesus spent time in God’s beautiful creation, floating, even walking on water, traveling up  mountains or talking with crowds of people. As my good friend Sarah Gregory once said, people are God’s best creation. Walk to a nearby body of water with an adult and stare at the way the water moves and think about how God is moving all around you just like the waves.

Music
Ride on King Jesus by Jireh Gospel Choir
King of Kings by Hillsong United
Cradle In Bethlehem by Mason Jar Music

Further Reading and Discussion
1 Chronicles 17: 7-10
7
Now then, tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord Almighty says: I took you from the pasture, from tending the flock, and appointed you ruler over my people Israel. 8 I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have cut off all your enemies from before you. Now I will make your name like the names of the greatest men on earth. 9 And I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed. Wicked people will not oppress them anymore, as they did at the beginning 10 and have done ever since the time I appointed leaders over my people Israel. I will also subdue all your enemies.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Why do you think God provided a king for his people?
  2. How do you see God caring for your pains and wounds?

Psalm 47: 1-9
1
Clap your hands, all you nations;
shout to God with cries of joy.
2 For the Lord Most High is awesome,
  the great King over all the earth.
3 He subdued nations under us,
peoples under our feet.
4 He chose our inheritance for us,
the pride of Jacob, whom he loved.
5 God has ascended amid shouts of joy,
the Lord amid the sounding of trumpets.
6 Sing praises to God, sing praises;
sing praises to our King, sing praises.
7 For God is the King of all the earth;
sing to him a psalm of praise.
8 God reigns over the nations;
God is seated on his holy throne.
9 The nobles of the nations assemble
as the people of the God of Abraham
for the kings[
c] of the earth belong to God;
he is greatly exalted.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Why do people need kings or leaders?
  2. What about the kingship of Jesus offers hope?

Ezekiel 37:24-28
24 My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd. They will follow my laws and be careful to keep my decrees. 25 They will live in the land I gave to my servant Jacob, the land where your ancestors lived. They and their children and their children’s children will live there forever, and David my servant will be their prince forever. 26 I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant. I will establish them and increase their numbers, and I will put my sanctuary among them forever. 27 My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people. 28 Then the nations will know that I the Lord make Israel holy, when my sanctuary is among them forever.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Throughout history and the Bible we have seen good and bad leaders. What attributes do you think are important in a leader?
  2. What is a king and what does a king do?