I came across this great little article from Vaneetha Rendall Risner at Desiring God. Veneetha offers us a healthier understanding of the word Blessed from the Bible.
Feeling blessed is in vogue.
A quick look at Facebook and Twitter shows how many people today feel #blessed. In our social-media world, saying you’re blessed can be a way of boasting while trying to sound humble.
College scholarship? #Blessed. Unexpected raise? #Blessed. Wonderful family? #Blessed.
As Christians we use that term too, of course. We pray God will bless our family. We attribute our undeserved gifts to “God’s blessings.” We talk about ministries being blessed. But what does it really mean? How should we understand the blessing of God?
The Good Life
For believers, is the blessed life synonymous with the successful life? Is it the Christian version of the good life? A loving marriage, obedient children, a vibrant ministry, a healthy body, a successful career, trusted friends, financial abundance — if these are the characteristics of a blessed life, then having all of them should translate into an extraordinarily blessed life.
But does it? If someone had all those things, would they be extraordinarily blessed?
Rather than turning to God, they might feel self-sufficient and proud. Perhaps a bit smug and self-righteous. After all, their hard work would be yielding good fruit.
Moreover, they wouldn’t need to cry out to God for deliverance; everything would already be perfect. They wouldn’t need to trust God; they could trust in themselves. They wouldn’t need God to fill them; they would already be satisfied.
God’s Richest Blessings
My desire for God is greatly fueled by my need. And it is in the areas of loss where I feel my need most intensely. Unmet desires keep me on my knees. Deepen my prayer life. Make me ransack the Bible for God’s promises.
Earthly blessings are temporary; they can all be taken away. Job’s blessings all disappeared in one fateful day. I, too, had a comfortable life that was stripped away within a span of weeks. My marriage dissolved. My children rebelled. My health spiraled downward. My family fell apart. My dreams were shattered.
And yet, in the midst of those painful events, I experienced God’s richest blessings. A stronger faith than I had experienced before. A deeper love than I had ever known. A more intimate walk than I could explain. My trials grounded my faith in ways that prosperity and abundance never could.
While my trials were not blessings in themselves, they were channels for them. As Laura Story asks in her song “Blessings,” “What if your blessings come through rain drops? What if trials of this life — the rain, the storms, the hardest nights — are your mercies in disguise?”
This revolutionary idea of blessing is also firmly established in Scripture.
The Common Thread
One translation of the New Testament (ESV) has 112 references with the words bless, blessing, or blessed, none of which connects blessing to material prosperity. Consider these passages:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit. . . . Blessed are those who mourn. . . . Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake . . . Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you.” (Matthew 5:3–4, 10–11)
“Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” (Luke 11:28)
Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial. (James 1:12)
There is no hint of material prosperity or perfect circumstances in any New Testament reference. On the contrary, blessing is typically connected with either poverty and trial or the spiritual benefits of being joined by faith to Jesus.
According to the Key-Word Study Bible, “The Greek word translated blessed in these passages is makarioi which means to be fully satisfied. It refers to those receiving God’s favor, regardless of the circumstances” (emphasis added).
What is blessing, then? Scripture shows that blessing is anything God gives that makes us fully satisfied in him. Anything that draws us closer to Jesus. Anything that helps us relinquish the temporal and hold on more tightly to the eternal. And often it is the struggles and trials, the aching disappointments and the unfulfilled longings that best enable us to do that.
Pain and loss transform us. While they sometimes unravel us, they can also push us to a deeper life with God than we ever thought possible. They make us rest in God alone. Not what we can do or achieve for him. And not what he can do or achieve for us.
In pain and loss, we long for Presence. We long to know that God is for us and with us and in us. Great families, financial wealth, and good health are all wonderful gifts we can thank God for, but they are not his greatest blessings. They may make us delight, not in God, but in his gifts.
God’s greatest blessing always rests in God himself. When we have that, we are truly #blessed.
This has been a question I have wanted to address for many years, so when I came across this blog post by R.C. Sproul and Ligonier Ministries, I had to share it. Please enjoy this read. I’m praying it changes your perspective and maybe even causes you to apologize for how you’ve responded to this in the past.
What does the X in Xmas mean?
The X in Christmas is used like the R in R.C. My given name at birth was Robert Charles, although before I was even taken home from the hospital, my parents called me by my initials, R.C., and nobody seems to be too scandalized by that.
X can mean so many things. For example, when we want to denote an unknown quantity, we use the symbol X. It can refer to an obscene level of films, something that is X-rated. People seem to express chagrin about seeing Christ’s name dropped and replaced by this symbol for an unknown quantity X. Every year you see the signs and the bumper stickers saying, “Put Christ back into Christmas” as a response to this substitution of the letter X for the name of Christ.
There’s no X in Christmas
First of all, you have to understand that it is not the letter X that is put into Christmas. We see the English letter X there, but actually what it involves is the first letter of the Greek name for Christ. Christos is the New Testament Greek for Christ. The first letter of the Greek word Christos is transliterated into our alphabet as an X. That X has come through church history to be a shorthand symbol for the name of Christ.
We don’t see people protesting the use of the Greek letter theta, which is an O with a line across the middle. We use that as a shorthand abbreviation for God because it is the first letter of the word Theos, the Greek word for God.
X has a long and sacred history
The idea of X as an abbreviation for the name of Christ came into use in our culture with no intent to show any disrespect for Jesus. The church has used the symbol of the fish historically because it is an acronym. Fish in Greek (ichthus) involved the use of the first letters for the Greek phrase “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior.” So the early Christians would take the first letter of those words and put those letters together to spell the Greek word for fish. That’s how the symbol of the fish became the universal symbol of Christendom. There’s a long and sacred history of the use of X to symbolize the name of Christ, and from its origin, it has meant no disrespect.
I was perusing the internet and was deeply encouraged by how the Village Church in Texas incorporate young children and families into their Community Group structures. It is similar to the vision that we share in the sense that we want to include the whole family, but they also take it an extra step in the healthy direction. Check out this video!
This video is from John Piper’s Desiring God website.
Soldiers take bullets for one another. Parents sacrifice daily for their kids. But who would die for their enemies? In this lab, John Piper reminds us that God did.
Some questions to ask as you read and study John 3:16:
- Do you believe God loves you? What makes you believe this on your best and worst days?
- According to John 3:16, in what way did God love the world? Do you feel loved by this day-to-day? Why or why not?
- What was the most refreshing reminder for you in this lab? Who can you share that with?
On Sunday we lit our first Advent candle which represented Hope. Here is a little video from the Bible Project that explains that word in more detail.
In the Bible people who have hope are very different from optimists! In this video, we’ll explore how biblical hope looks to God’s character alone as a basis for trusting that the future will be better than the present.
More information on The Bible Project here
In the wake of missionary John Chau’s death on November 17, 2018, at the hands of North Sentinel Islanders, my prayer is that God would do it again. Not the death of another man of course but the regeneration of another remote tribe in this world for the Glory of God. On November 20, 1839, missionary John Williams and James Harris arrived on the shore of the remote Erronmango Island with the conviction to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ to this group of people, only to be attacked with clubs, killed and then eaten by the Islanders as part of a sacred ritual. Little did Williams and Harris know that some weeks before their arrival an Austrailian sandalwood trader had brutally murdered two boys from the tribe, forcing the tribe to resort to violence against any Westerners. However 20 years later this same tribe was visited by other Christian missionaries who were able to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with them successfully, and today the Erronmango Tribe continues to identify itself as a Christian nation.
See the BBC’s report on this story: https://youtu.be/IIELqrb9-tE
So my prayer today is that God would do it again; that He would use the death of John Chau to convict the hearts of the Sentinel Islanders, to ultimately show them the error of their way and bring them to the life-transforming news of Jesus Christ. My prayer is that five, ten, twenty or even forty years from now the Sentinal Islanders would also declare themselves a Christian nation. But, too, I pray that he would use the passion John Chau had for the glory of God, to stir new desires in believers all over this world to continue to go to the ends of the earth with the life-transforming grace of Jesus Christ. Only the message of Jesus can definitively transform hearts. Hours before John Chau died he wrote these words, “I hope this isn’t one of my last notes but if it is ‘to God be the Glory.'”
Ultimately we don’t know what God is doing here, but may our prayers be that he would do it again. God will you use one man’s death to transform a tribe, a nation, a world for your glory.
Matt Chandler, the Lead Pastor from The Village Church in Texas, takes a couple of notable moments to communicate the reason why it’s essential for every believer to belong to a local church. We would hope that you would be encouraged by this video and that it would spur you on to a significant commitment within Jesus’ body here in Wilson, NY.
The book of Psalms is the largest collection of poetry in the Bible. In this video, we’ll explore the design shape and central themes of this marvelous book, which was crafted to be read from beginning to end. The Psalms are an invitation to a literary temple where you can meet with God and hear the entire biblical storyline retold in poetic form.
Good morning church. I get the privilege to preach from the English Standard Version every single Sunday I stand before you to herald the Word of God. This is a beautifully made video about its history. If you are interested in knowing where it came from, take the ten minutes to watch. I’m praying that it stirs a reverence in your heart regarding God’s Word.
I Love you church,
Most Valuable Thing That This World Affords
Over twenty years ago, the idea was born for a new translation of the Bible. After many conversations and much prayer, fourteen members of the ESV Translation Oversight Committee began work on the English Standard Version—an essentially literal translation standing in the classic mainstream of English Bible translations over the past half-millennium. In the preface to the ESV, the Translation Oversight Committee writes:
In that [classic] stream, faithfulness to the text and vigorous pursuit of precision were combined with simplicity, beauty, and dignity of expression. Our goal has been to carry forward this legacy for this generation and generations to come.
In this short documentary, members of the ESV Translation Oversight Committee and Crossway’s leadership team reflect on the history of the English Standard Version—with deep reverence, gratitude, and ongoing wonder at what God has done and continues to do through the ESV.
Soli Deo Gloria!—To God alone be the glory!
Stephen talks to us this week about:
- The Elder & Deacon installation coming up on Sunday
- The Church’s new phone number (716) 791-7576
- This week’s passage, Ephesians 5:15-20
Tomorrow Stephen will walk us through Ephesians 5:1-2 where Paul calls us to be imitators of God, as beloved children. This is a huge section of scripture as Paul continues to remind the church in Ephesus that it’s all about BEING before DOING.
In the video Stephen also covers the following:
- Family Reunion, joint service on Sunday (with fellowship time at afterward)
- New Elder and Head Deacon installation
- Church clean out
- Baptisms and church picnic
Ian will be preaching out of Ephesians 4:17-24 this week and he will be spending time on the difference between being and doing. and why we so often get it switch the wrong way. Get your hearts ready to receive and be taught.
Stephen also talks about the following:
- Zac’s Mission and Worship Night: July 23 at 7 pm
- Church cleanup: From now to the end of August we will have cleaned out and donated some of the old church accessories and stuff that we’ve had sitting in the church for several years. We will be making announcements on Sunday mornings letting everyone know what are in the boxes. If there is anything that you would like to grab out of them, please do. This week’s items are CHOIR/MUSIC BOOKS.
- Church Annual Meeting: August 6 after service
- A Family Reunion: August 13 Jame and Brandi’s church will be joining us for service at our location. They will lead in worship and we will be preaching.
- Church Picnic and Baptisms: August 20 we will meet at Tuscarora State Park for our outdoor baptism service and annual church family picnic. Please contact Dawn Monroe to help with the luncheon.
We have our annual meeting after church this Sunday. Members please make it a point of being there to vote on this coming years budget.
Our last baptism class is being held this Sunday at 8:30am. Everyone who would like to be baptized on 8/28 at Tuscarora please attend this class.
Remind that Kids Community starts back up on September 11. We will also be throwing a celebration luncheon after church for all the parents and kids to meet the teachers. The kids will be starting off Kids Community with a service project this Fall. They will be collecting empty bottles to raise money for the mission work. It’s so cool to see our kids actively involved in the advancement of the Gospel in WNY.
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- When they come knocking.
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- Get ready for MyCircle