Meditations

Have you considered lately how blessed you are? On a recent trip to visit with my in-laws, I had some time to reflect.

We are blessed to be able to travel. Visiting my in-laws takes some time. They live in north Louisiana. This trip we flew, but other trips we’ve driven (14 hours in a car). In any case, I got to thinking how blessed we are to be able to make five state trek to visit family. Whether driving or flying, we are blessed to be able to travel.

We are blessed to have family. One of my wife’s constant refrains is “Appreciate the time we have.” Her dad died suddenly of a heart attack almost twenty years ago. There’s not much she wouldn’t give for another conversation with her dad. We are blessed to be able to care for my dad, to visit my wife’s family, to have two boys of our own. Family is one of God’s greatest blessings.

We are blessed to have our daily bread. Jesus taught his followers to pray in Matthew 6:11 “Give us this day our daily bread.” Jesus’ socioeconomic culture was agricultural and built on daily provisions. This was a real prayer of trust and need. God has abundantly blessed so many in our nation to not have to worry about where their daily bread will come from. Having abundant food is one of God’s blessings.

We are blessed to have health. The COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating for some, and many others I know are going through health crises. But just about two weeks ago I was able to get my second vaccination. And there are so many who have been vaccinated who feel a freedom and peace that’s been lacking for a year. We are so blessed in the US to have the health care opportunities that we do have. Any way you look at our situation, we are blessed.

We are blessed to have real life. Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). Jesus gives us life, real and abundant. The life Jesus gives is not virtual or lived through Facebook or in a fantasy. Jesus gives us life to the full that begins at conversion and lasts forever. The life that we have through Jesus is both real and eternal.

I could list dozens if not hundreds or thousands more blessings. If you really think about it, you could list many as well. Consider your blessings, and thank God for them.

On the recent trip I referenced earlier, I got some time to read. I was able to finish a book entitled Centered: Trading Your Plans for a Life that Matters by Jason Brown. Jason played Center on the UNC Football team a number of years ago, was drafted, and played a few years in the NFL. At the height of his career, he sensed God calling him to leave football and become a farmer. He and his family now own First Fruits Farm in North Carolina where they give away nearly everything they grow to food banks and other agencies for those who are hungry. Their story is fascinating and convicting.

In one instance Jason sensed God saying to him, “I haven’t been blessing you this whole time so that my blessings could stop at you; I’ve been blessing you so that my blessings could flow through you” (p. 96, emphasis mine).

Jason and Tay’s story reminded me of this all-important truth:

God doesn’t bless us just for us; he blesses us so that we can bless others.

How has God blessed you? Has God blessed you with financial resources? Has God blessed you with gifts, talents, and abilities? Has God blessed you with health, energy, or free time? Has God blessed you with empathy, compassion, and a concern for the less fortunate?

If you’re reading this God at least blessed you with eyesight and some free time. I would like to commend four specific actions you can do to reflect on your blessings.

  1. List your blessings. Write down some of the ways God has blessed you. Journal them. Think on them. If you’d like, take the comments section below or the social media post you read this on and list some of your blessings there.
  2. Pause and thank God for your blessings. Nothing you have is totally yours. We are stewards of what God has given. Thank him for your blessings, your ability to work, your freedoms, your time, and anything else you are blessed with.
  3. Find a way today to bless someone else. Encourage someone, take someone to lunch, buy a neighbor a gift, serve at a food bank or homeless shelter. Just bless someone today.
  4. Ask God how he might want to use his blessings to you to flow through you to someone else. This is a challenge. God may ask you to sacrifice time, money, career, or something else. But when God uses you to bless someone else, you are sharing a little bit of eternity in a temporal world.

If you want to read a challenging and encouraging story about God’s call to bless others, order and read Jason Brown’s book. You will be encouraged and convicted. And I’m positive that you’ll be blessed.

Photo by Ann on Unsplash

Today is Monday, March 29, 2021. It is the day after Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday began Jesus’ passion week. On this week of all weeks, Christians should be contemplative and prayerful. 


We should contemplate the lesson of the crowds: populism and politics.


On the first day of passion week, hundreds if not thousands of Jews waved palm branches as Jesus rode on a donkey into Jerusalem. Jesus rode on a donkey to symbolize peace. But the crowds longed for a Messiah, a political Savior to rescue them from Roman rule. It is likely that some of the same people who made up the Palm Sunday crowd who celebrated Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem also made up the crowd that jeered for Jesus’ death and the freedom of Barrabas. The crowds teach us to examine our hearts. Do we really want Jesus, the real Jesus? Or do we want a populist, political savior who will give voice to our wishes and whims? 


We should contemplate the lesson of the religious leaders: motives. 


During Jesus’ final week, religious leaders questioned Jesus publicly on a number of occasions. These were not honest questions. First century Jerusalem was a shame/honor culture. And these leaders were attempting to trap/shame Jesus. Yet every question asked, Jesus answered wisely, and ultimately silenced his questioners. The religious leaders teach us to question our motives. Do we really want to honor Jesus in our worship? Or are our outward religious appearances designed to make people think we are better than we really are? 


We should contemplate the lesson of the disciples: fearful unbelief.


During Holy Week, the disciples received some of the greatest teachings of Jesus’ ministry. They watched him curse fig trees (Mark 14), silence religious leaders (Luke 20, especially verse 40), and wash their feet (John 13). They heard Jesus’ discourse on the Holy Spirit, love, the Vine and the branches, unity and his High Priestly prayer (John 13-17). Yet they scattered when Jesus was arrested. They observed as Jesus suffered and died. Having received all the teaching and preparation of Jesus, they still misunderstood his Messianic purpose. The disciples teach us to examine our fears and our faith. Do we want only the Jesus who did miracles and attracted crowds? Or do we want the Jesus who had to suffer and die? Are we afraid of following and trusting the Jesus who suffered and died? 


Passion Week reminds us just how much we can get wrong (the crowds), how much we can miss from insincere motives (the religious leaders), and how our fears can lead to unbelief (the disciples). 


We must be ever grateful that Passion Week culminated in the singular event that redeems us from our sinfulness.

It is precisely because we can discover ourselves in the populism of the crowds, the insincerity of the religious leaders, and the fear of the disciples that we need the Christ who died on the cross.


Take some time to read the passion narratives this week (Matthew 21-28; Mark 11-16; Luke 19-24; John 12-21). Contemplate the characters. Meditate on their motives. 


Then gaze at the crucified Christ. 


Remember that it was for our sins that he suffered and died (1 Peter 3:18). 


Reflect on the power of the cross to give you a new heart, redeem your motives, and build your faith. 


May our reflections this week help us see the real Jesus, the one who convicts, suffers, redeems, and restores. 

Photo by Daniil Silantev on Unsplash