Thursday, June 30, 2016

Responding to Blessing
Part 2:
Savoring the Blessing & Praising its Source

Another way we should respond to God’s blessings is by taking the time to appreciate their details, especially their source. That response is modeled in scripture and ratified by human experience.

Scripture provides at least good examples. Consider the Israelites’ response to the parting of the Red Sea.  Exodus 14 describes the very tight spot they were in, and how God delivered them. Exodus 15  describes their response: they recalled the details of what God had done, looked forward to the possibilities it opened up, and heartily gave God the glory. We see the same pattern in 1 Samuel 1 and 2 . Hannah was going through very tough and humiliating times, sought God’s help, and He delivered her. She too responded by appreciating the details of what God had done and praising his very nature. Those things are also illustrated in the description of how John the Baptist came to be born. John’s parent went through very real hardship before his miraculous birth. Luke 1:2-25, 57-67. His father responded to that birth by detailing what God had done, looking forward to what those events could mean, and praising God’s faithfulness. Luke 1:67-79. There is a common pattern in those responses, and the fact that scripture records it multiple times suggest that God really wants us to notice it.

Our human experience confirms the appropriateness of those responses. Think about times you helped your child out of a jam or gave her a gift. What (beyond the very act of doing/giving those things) pleased you the most? It was likely your child’s savoring the details of what she received and acknowledgement that you were its source. My guess is that the same things bring the most pleasure to God. After all, He is our heavenly father. 

Monday, June 27, 2016

Responding to Blessing
Part 1:
Consider How We Got Here
God has really been blessing us lately. Last week He provided about 20 middle and high school students who spent the better part of three days weeding, side dressing, Florida weaving, and tackling a number of big chores we had not been able to get to. That same week He, through a very diligent Eagle Scout candidate, his colleagues and family, provided us with a wonderful set of permanent compost bins. And if that was not enough, the summer crops are coming on wonderfully, looking healthier, more luxuriant, and more fecund than we have seen in several years. God’s graciousness is unmistakably on display.

So how do we respond to that, and to God’s blessings generally? Several things come to mind, and they will be the subjects of this and the next several posts.

The first thing we ought to do is think about how we got here, and what we can learn from that progression. That response is described in scripture. God not only teaches us to look for lessons as we go through adversity, He also tells us to look back and learn more once we have gotten through the tough times.

Think about the book of Deuteronomy. Israel had gone through a long period of hard travelling, but was poised to enter the promised land. What did God tell them to do? Look back and learn from the journey:

Remember how for these forty years the Lord, your God, has directed all your journeying in the wilderness, so as to test you by affliction, to know what was in your heart: to keep his commandments, or not. He therefore let you be afflicted with hunger, and then fed you with manna, a food unknown to you and your ancestors, so you might know that it is not by bread alone that people live, but by all that comes forth from the mouth of the Lord. The clothing did not fall from you in tatters, nor did your feet swell these forty years. So you must know in your heart that, even as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord, your God, disciplines you. Deuteronomy 8:2-5

Consider our situation here in the garden. The last two growing seasons were tough, and there were rough patches earlier this season, but God got us through them. And more than that, He used those difficulties to teach us things that have increased our fruitfulness. We have already drawn some practical and spiritual lessons from those difficulties, and I am sure that there are others. We (and others) will be blessed if we other make the effort to look for them.

We therefore need to prayerfully look back over the last two seasons, and what has happened already this season, to see what else God would have us learn.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Another Insight from Compost: Credit Where Credit is Due
I felt real satisfaction as I was moving that compost pile. As previously discussed, it turned out well. At first I was patting myself on the back, but that was a bit much. I hadn’t invented composting; it is the result of natural processes that God gave us and others figured out how to use. I simply followed their instructions. On the other hand, we put a lot of work, and maybe some skill, into the process: we gathered the materials, prepped, mixed, and turned them, protected the pile from the winter elements, etc.

So what is the proper response to the good results that followed? Scripture makes three things clear.

The first is that we must not lose sight of the ultimate source of good results.  Deuteronomy 8:17-18 is directly on point: “Beware of thinking to yourself, ‘my own strength and the might of my own hand have given me the power to act like this.’ Remember Yahweh your God; he was the one who gave you the strength to act effectively” (New Jerusalem Bible). See also Philippians 2:13.

The second is that we are not to congratulate ourselves about our good work. Rather than being cause for commendation, good work is the baseline. Luke 17:9-10. We are therefore warned to avoid getting puffed up about what we accomplish. Jeremiah 9:22-23, Romans 12:3, Sirach 10:28. Sirach 3:18 puts it well: “the greater you are, the more humbly you should behave” (New Jerusalem Bible).

The third is to thank God for the good that results. Deuteronomy 8:18 is worth repeating on this point: “Remember Yahweh your God; he was the one who gave you the strength to act effectively”(emphasis added).  Thank Him, and acknowledge Him if others acknowledge the results that you were blessed to be a part of.