Archive for March, 2022

I love finding gems in the midst of what might otherwise seem like fly-over territory in the Bible. I am reading the book of Numbers, and “buried” at the end of chapter about Nazarite vows and heads being shaved, I found this familiar gem:

22  The LORD said to Moses,
23  “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them:
24  ‘The LORD bless you and keep you;
25  the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you;
26  the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.’
27  “So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.”
Numbers 6:22-27 (NIV)

I noticed 2 things about this passage that I hadn’t noticed before: It is a blessing and it invokes God’s blessing upon the recipient.

It is a Blessing to be Given by Priests

It is sometimes translated as a “special blessing”, and it is the blessing that the priests were to say to bless the Israelites. As I thought about this, the Holy Spirit reminded me that as believers, we are part of the “royal priesthood”. The Apostle Peter wrote about in 1 Peter:

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
1 Peter 2:9 (ESV)             

While Peter’s letter is addressed specifically to the Israelites, it applies to all who have accepted Christ as their Savior – including those of us who are not Jewish but have been “grafted in” as the Apostle Paul described in Romans 11:17.

What does that mean? It means that we have the authority of priests to proclaim the blessing upon others. Did you get that? It’s a powerful statement – you have the authority to proclaim this “special blessing” upon others. Let me encourage you (and myself) not to shy from the authority God has given us.

Yes, I know, that this blog bounces back and forth between referring to “them” and “us”. I’m sorry. I can’t correct that – because what applies to “them” applies to “us.” So you will find that I write about the blessing that is given to them and then slip into how it is a blessing to you and to me. Remember, what God has done for them, He does and will do for you and me.

It is a Blessing with a Promise from God

The other exciting thing about this passage is God’s promise at the end – that when the priests proclaimed this blessing on the people, they “put God’s name on them” and God would bless them. Let’s look at each element.

When we pray this blessing, we “put God’s name upon them.” Oh my, there is so much in God’s name. It is His banner over them – His protection. It is His blessing over them. It recognizes a relationship with Him – that we are His and He is ours.

And then comes the promise – that God will bless them! That is so exciting to me – that when I proclaim this blessing upon others, God says He will bless them. My blessing on them – me praying these words over them – moves the hand of God to bless them. Is there anything magical about these words? While I would not use the word magical, of course, I would say that these are the specific words God instructed the priests to use when blessing the Israelites. I’ve checked many translations, and most say something like “this is how you are to bless the Israelites.” No, they are not magical words, but they are instructive words – words from God about how to bless others. Do I have to speak the words of the blessing exactly as they’re written? Of course not. But the concepts behind the words is how we are to bless God’s people. I’ll write more about those words – the actual blessing we’re to proclaim over others – tomorrow.

In the meantime, let me encourage you to spend some time today thinking about (that is, meditating on) the role of priesthood that God has given to you as a Child of the King. How does God want you to fulfill that role? And come back tomorrow to read more about the blessing God instructed the priests to use when blessing the Israelites.

May the Lord bless you and keep you, Friends. May He make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you. May He turn His face toward you and give you peace.

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Every Prayer Has Potential

What a powerful statement and great reminder to me. It’s can be so easy for me to fall into a rut in my prayer life. Yet the words “prayer” and “rut” shouldn’t even be in the same sentence. Not when we realize how truly powerful prayer is. God’s Word tells us that the fervent or earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results (James 5:15, NLT).

That means you can have powerful and effective impact on your world through your prayers.

So often people say “there’s nothing I can do but prayer.” I know I’ve said it. But I always feel a little squeamish when I do – because the Holy Spirit reminds me that prayer is everything. It is doing more than anything physical I could do. (Don’t hear what I’m not saying – I’m not discouraging you from physical actions, I’m just remind myself (and you) that the power of prayer is beyond those physical actions.)

I get caught up in the “doing” sometimes when I should be in the “praying” sometimes.

This quote from Jared Brock reminds me of the power of prayer.

Let me give you an example of the reality of this quote. In May 1934, a group of businessmen began to pray in Charlotte, North Carolina. They held their third prayer meeting in a pasture belonging to William and Morrow Graham. The pasture usually corralled the Graham family dairy cows, but this day a group of businessmen gathered to pray. “Lord,” one of them prayed, “raise up a man out of Charlotte, North Carolina, who will preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth.”

No one at the time imagined that the answer would come in the form of Billy Graham, the oldest son of William and Morrow. He was a teenager at the time, more interested in baseball and girls. He wasn’t even aware of the prayers happening in his family’s cow pasture. But someone prayed and God moved.

Within just a few months, an evangelist came through their town. Billy and his friends were bored and went to the crusade to ridicule the evangelist. The Holy Spirit had other ideas. Billy wrote in his autobiography “I was spellbound…The next night, all my father’s mules and horses could not have kept me from getting to that meeting.”* He attended each night and soon came to Christ. The rest, as they say, is history.

The power of prayer. Each one has the potential to change the world. Scripture is full of answered prayer. Which is your favorite? Which motivate you to pray more diligently?

* From Just as I am, The Autobiography of Billy Graham (New York: Harber Paperbacks, 1997), pages 27-28 by Billy Graham; as quoted in Top Ten Most Influential Christians Since the Apostles (Franklin, IL: Truth Books Publishers, 2012), page 98, edited by Ken Lambert & Abby Matzke, chapter written by Sandra Parks Hovatter

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2 And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days
he reasoned with them from the Scriptures,
3explaining and proving that it was necessary
for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying,
“This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.”
Acts 17:2-3 (ESV) (emphasis mine)

Such a profound statement – “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” We may not recognize the power of such a sentence, but the first century Jews would have. You see, they were looking for “the Christ” to come. The word (or title) “Christ” means “the anointed one, the Messiah” and Jews had been looking for the coming of the Messiah for generations – centuries and centuries of generations! Their prophets had told over and over again that their Messiah would come and deliver them. Christ was the fulfillment of all they had been waiting for, all their ancestors had been waiting for.

When I came to know Jesus, I wasn’t looking for a Savior. I didn’t know I needed to be saved. I didn’t know, so I wasn’t expecting. The Jews were expecting – waiting in anticipation – for their Messiah – the One anointed by their God to save them. “This Jesus is the Christ,” Paul told them.

This Jesus, is not only the Messiah, He is your Messiah…If you will let Him be that for you. If you will recognize that you need a Savior – someone to pay the price for your sins – He will be your Messiah. He’s already paid the price, all that you must do is recognize it, accept it as payment for your sins and thank Him by giving Him your life. He bought it, after all, when He paid for your sins. Notice the phrase “accept it as payment for your sins” – it’s not just enough to objectively understand or intellectually believe the truth that Christ died for your sins, you must accept that payment wholeheartedly. It’s not enough for me to objectively understand how an airplane flies through the air (something called the Bernoulli Principle I believe) if I want to go from New York to San Francisco in a few hours – I must wholeheartedly believe it and get on the plane, forsaking all other options. Accepting Christ’s payment for your sins is like that – you must get on the plane by inviting Him into your life. This is done by a simple prayer – something like “Lord, I believe you died for my sins. Forgive me – I’m sorry. Come into my life and help me to live for You.”

“This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” Get to know Him today.

For more on our sin, God’s grace and accepting Christ’s payment for your sin, check out this blog titled “The Gift of Life.”

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I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry.

Psalm 40:1 (ESV)

I love Psalm 40, but especially this first verse. The word “inclined” is most frequently translated “stretched out”. The NIV translates this part of the verse as “he turned to me and heard my cry.”

Every time I read or hear this verse, I see in my head the Lord pausing as if He’s heard something, stopping in His tracks, turning toward me and leaning in to be sure He hears me fully. He is attentive to me and he hears me! Out of everyone who is calling out to Him, He hears me. Now because this is Scripture and He is God, the verse applies to all of us and He turns and hears everyone. He hears you as much as He hears me. But that picture in my mind reminds me how very much He loves me and how He is always listening for my call and ready to respond.

And then there’s the first part of the verse – “I waited patiently”. In Hebrew that’s communicated by repeating the word “waited”. In other words, the word-by-word translation is “I waited waited.” I like that. It brings to mind the phrase that is spoken before a great surprise – “wait for it…wait for it…” And then all of a sudden something wonderfully fantastic happens! It’s something we used to say when training our dog to sit. We would have a treat in our hand and command him to sit. He would sit with his eyes locked on either our eyes or our hands, just waiting for the indication of a wonderful treat to come his way. Then “suddenly” we would release him and the treat was his. Oh happy day! (Don’t you love the “suddenlies” of God?)

Interestingly, the word translated “wait” (“waited”) comes from a root word that means “binds together (perhaps by twisting)” (Strong’s Talking Greek and Hebrew Dictionary). So as we wait, with anticipation and expectation in our hearts and showing on our faces, we bind ourselves to God. We immerse ourselves in Him, His Word, and in fellowship with His people. And then suddenly, He gives the nod and the treat is ours!

One last thing – I’ve used the word “suddenly”, but it’s only suddenly to us. Scripture is clear that God is working on our behalf even when we don’t see it. Not bound by the constraints of time like we are, He works in our past, our present and even our future, to bring about what we see as the “suddenly”.

So friends, know that He hears you today, and as you “wait wait” for His response, bind yourself closer to Him. Wait for it – His suddenly is coming!

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