A Passion For Souls (Soul On Fire #5)

HellPastor Barry Bruce/ The Gathering Church: A Passion For Souls (Soul On Fire #5)             To hear this message and others go to: THEGATHERINGHG.COM

Hell  Mark 9:42-48, Revelation 20:15, 21:8, 2 Thessalonians 1:6-9

I begin today’s message with three brilliant and timely quotes from William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army who said:

 “I consider that the chief dangers which confront the coming century will be religion without the Holy Ghost, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, politics without God, and heaven without hell”.  

Although his quote was from the late 1800’s, it hits many present day “Christians” and congregations square between the eyes with truth.  The message of the cross is often so diluted by modern day preachers that it fails to put out the flames of hell that are burning up the foundations of the church.  Where are the souls on fire for Jesus Christ? William Booth said:

 “Most Christians would like to send their recruits to Bible College for five years. I would like to send them to hell for five minutes. That would do more than anything else to prepare them for a lifetime of compassionate ministry”. 

 A recent study by Pew Research found that 74% of Americans believed in heaven, while only 59% believed in hell (pewresearch.org).  That number dips even deeper when we define hell in Biblical terms.  That is a place where the fire never goes out and worms eat out your eyes (Mark 9:42, 47-48). The eternal consignment of all unbelievers who will be thrown into a lake of  burning sulfur (Revelation 20:15, 21:8) along with the Devil (Revelation 20:10);  a place where these will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord (2 Thessalonians 1:6-9). 

 William Booth and his wife Catherine were Christians who literally believed in the Bible and the hell that it references some 167 times.  Do you believe in that place or do you need to go there for five minutes?  Do you have a passion to rescue those who are headed there?  General Booth said:

“Let the business of the world take care of itself … My business is to get the world saved.” “The Risks” in The War Cry (20 December 1884)

 What is your business today?  Are we bringing God’s kingdom to earth or too busy building our own while those around us are headed to hell? Are we so tied up in civilian activity that we have forgotten our call to be soldiers of God’s salvation army?  2 Timothy 2:3-4

 Call To Arms Mark 16:15-16, John 3:16-18, 2 Timothy 2:3-4, 2 Timothy 1:7-14, 1 Timothy 4:15-16 

Jesus commanded his disciples (and that includes you and me) to proclaim the gospel.  He was clear: Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned” (See also John 3:16-18). This verdict includes our Grandparents, our parents, our children, our grandchildren, our extended family and friends…our best friends!  Do we have a passion for their souls? Jesus has given every believer a Call to Arms.  We are to move as soldiers into the battle for souls.  We are not to fear the enemy but to be move forward in the power of the Holy Spirit— in love and self-discipline!  We are not to be ashamed of our testimony, but to join with all Christians in suffering for the gospel (lit. Greek “Good News”). 

God has saved us and called us to a holy life (2 Timothy 1:9) so that we can proclaim this life to others.  If we live in an unholy way then we pollute our witness.  That is why we are to guard the good deposit (Salvation by faith) entrusted to us (with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us).  If we will remember that the war for souls rages constantly around us then we will stay alert for their salvation —and in so doing will save ourselves and our hearers  (1 Timothy 4:15-16). 

Isn’t it amazing what heroic acts are committed in war, natural disasters, and human tragedies?  How are regular people turned into such heroes?  It is because they forget themselves in the act of saving another.  Christians we must carry the cross into the battle that the Devil wages against humanity for their souls.  We must forget about ourselves and respond to our Lord’s call to arms.  We must advance on the enemy, put on that full armor of God, take up our shield of faith, put on that helmet of salvation and pick up that Sword of the Spirit (which is the word of God: Ephesians 6:10-20) and rescue those who are perishing fearlessly.

Rescue The Perishing Proverbs 24:11-12, Hebrews 9:27-28

Our enemy, the Devil, is a liar (John 8:44b) and one of his greatest lies is his accusation that God is a narcissistic and wicked judge.  “Who else would cast men into hell’s tormenting eternal fire?”  The fact is that God wrapped himself in human flesh, came down to a troubled earth, showed man the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6) and then allowed the Devil to rip him to shreds on the cross and kill him (in our place) in order to rescue man from the just consequences of his willful sin (Romans 3:23, 6:23).  Hell is the direct consequence of turning away from God…no one has to go there. In fact God desires that no one perish but that all would come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). Just as we all live with the law of gravity we must also live with the spiritual law of God. To act in rebellion to either law is foolishness and will result in needless catastrophe.  

It is the Devil who leads unbelievers to hell and their ears are closed to Jesus because they are blind to his truth. They cannot hear him because they do not belong to him (John 8:42-47). We who hear and see cannot say that we know nothing about this fact.  God has revealed it to us and called us to rescue the perishing and to hold back those staggering toward slaughter.  

Pray for a passion for souls!  Pray to be a soul on fire!  Forget about yourself and let the Holy Spirit work in you to save the lost before it is too late! (Hebrews 9:27-28)

A Passion To Serve (Soul on Fire #4)

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Pastor Barry Bruce/ The Gathering Church:  A Passion To Serve (Soul on Fire series #4To Hear this message and others go to THEGATHERINGHG.COM

Strip, Kneel, and Serve John 13:1-17

At that last supper with his disciples, Jesus led them in eating the traditional Passover meal which reminds the Jewish families of the time where God delivered his people from Egyptian slavery (the Exodus: Exodus 12:13-51). The celebration is called a ‘Seder’. It means ‘order’ in Hebrew. There is a set order of service that has varied little for more than 3,500 years, but Jesus took the liberty to significantly change and fulfill certain elements of that symbolic and celebratory meal.  Traditionally that meal consists of sharing unleavened bread, roasted lamb and four cups of wine to various scripture readings and narrations by the head of the house.

The first cup of wine (the cup of Sanctification) begins the Seder and celebrates the promise of God to deliver his people and the promise “I will bring you out”.  The second cup (the cup of Plagues) was drunk after the story of the Passover was read and relates to the ten plagues that God poured out upon Egypt that forced Pharaoh to let God’s people go free. That cup celebrates the promise of God that says “I will free you from being slaves”.  It is after this cup that everyone at the table traditionally washes their hands, but this is one of the areas where Jesus changed things.  He got up from the table, stripped off his outer garment, knelt before each disciple at the table and served them as a slave would by washing their feet (John 13:4-5).  It was customary that a slave would remove the guests dirty sandals at the door and wash their feet before they entered, however there was no slave at the door of the Last Supper and certainly not one of the disciples would have taken such a position especially since even after the dinner they argued about which of them was considered to be greatest (Luke 22:24). They all sat at that table with dirty feet until Jesus stripped, knelt and served them as a slave.  All of them…even Judas the betrayer. 

How would you have responded to Jesus washing your filthy feet?  Peter said “No, you shall never wash my feet”, but Jesus responded by saying “unless I wash you, you have no part with me”.  In short Jesus was showing his disciples that they needed to be cleansed of sin by his redeeming work.  Peter then basically proclaimed “then give me a bath!”

Jesus’ reply to Peter’s bath idea was to say that we are bathed clean when we come to Christ but we still get dirty feet walking in this world.  We don’t need to go to the altar and get saved again and again… Jesus has cleansed those of us who have made him Savior and Lord, but God wants us to walk in holiness —Judas desired neither, but what about the others?  Did they understand?  Do we understand what Jesus was saying when he washed their feet?

Jesus was saying to his disciples then and to everyone who follows him now:  Strip off everything that hinders you, Kneel down to others (as God has knelt down to you) and serve people in Jesus name!  Our Lord and teacher has washed away our filth so who are we to refuse this service to others? Do we think that we are greater than the one who sends us?  We are blessed by him if we burn with a passion to serve others.

Will you be the foot washing bond slave of Jesus at the door of the heart of the one he is knocking at? Do you have a soul on fire to serve Jesus? 

Strip Philippians 2:1-8, James 4:7-10, Isaiah 61:10

We must always strip something off in order to follow Jesus. That stripping off comes first by acknowledging the fact that we are a hopeless sinner and need Jesus.  We must humble ourselves under his mighty hand to be lifted up (James 4:9-10). We must never forget how naked we are without Jesus.  It is he who has clothed us with righteousness (Isaiah 61:10) so how can we refuse to remove our pride and self-importance in order to stoop down to meet another’s need to see his love in action? 

Kneel Matthew 6:9-10, 33

When you kneel down at the feet of a king you are in no place to tell him what order he may give.  He is the king and you are the subject and you are blessed to be in that place where he has called you into his service.  What has he called you to do in order to advance his kingdom?  That’s right it is about advancing his kingdom not yours or mine!  We are to seek his kingdom and his righteousness first and then oddly enough he will meet our needs—yes “blessed if we do them” (those things that he tells us to do). 

Serve Matthew 25:31-46

What is Jesus asking you to do?  Give your talents, your time, your treasure?  What do you desire to give back to the one who gave all for you?  What will you withhold?  Jesus makes it abundantly clear that whatever we do for one of the least, we do unto him.  Would you strip, kneel and serve Jesus…would you stoop down and wash his filthy feet if he had such a need? 

Will you be the foot washing bond slave of Jesus at the door of the heart of the one he is knocking at? Do you have a soul on fire to serve Jesus? 

Help Us in the Harvest Matthew 9:37-38, 1 Peter 4:10-11

Last week we learned about having a passion to pray; a passion to communicate and interact with God.  When Jesus says “Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” he is saying “talk to me!  Let me show you my heart and my passion!”  The harvest field of humanity is the very passion and heart of Jesus.  He came to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10).  If you pray to the Lord about serving he will send you!  This is the very essence of our relationship with him.  He doesn’t have to send you to a foreign land for you to serve him.  The need for service to bring God’s kingdom to earth is everywhere!  The problem is not the need it is in the heart.  Does your heart beat with   appreciation and gratitude for what the King of kings has done for you?  Then ask him how and where he wants you to serve.  Now is the time!   

If we refuse to strip off what keeps us from serving then we will never kneel to serve the King and we will never know the blessing that belongs to those who help bring His kingdom to earth. His is the glory forever and when his people serve His glory abounds!  

 

A Passion For Prayer (Soul On Fire #3)

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Pastor Barry Bruce/ The Gathering Church  A Passion For Prayer/ Soul On Fire Series #3

To hear this message and others go to THEGATHERINGHG.COM

Self  Talk

Everyone does it although many won’t admit it.  Self talk begins in early childhood and follows us through life.  Self talk is that inner voice that is always speaking inside and that you sometimes speak out verbally in the car or in the shower— when you’re alone.  Sometimes it is positive and encouraging: “come on Barry you can do this!”  Other times it’s negative: “What are you thinking?  You’ll never be able to do this you moron!”  Psychologists agree that the kind of words that went into us in our formative years come out in self talk throughout our life and affect our feelings and actions.  I would agree, the messages we give to ourselves every day have enormous power, but in reality it is still “self talk”. The talk coming from self can only take us as far as we can naturally go.  Talk with God (prayer) takes us into the supernatural!  In other words positive self talk can help you to become more self confident, but prayer (conversation with God) helps you to become all that God made you to be. 

God Talk John 17:3, 1 John 5:11-12, Micah 6:8, Matthew 6:33, 7:7-8

We were made to talk to God.  In fact according to the Bible having a relationship with God is mankind’s very reason for being. “Eternal life” is to know God (1 John 5:11) and God requires his creation to walk with him (Micah  6:8). How can we walk with him without talking?  Can you imagine the disciples of Jesus walking with him and never speaking?  The gospels are filled with dialog.  Questions, answers, interaction: these are all parts of communication and without    communication there is no relationship.  How is your relationship with God?

The reason that prayer is the most neglected discipline of believers is because the Devil works hardest to thwart that which God desires most—for his children to talk to him.

Prayer should not be a last resort. It should not be what we do after we read the self-help books, after we go to the specialists, or after we surf the Internet. Prayer is talking to God. This is why Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you” (Matthew 6:33). It’s why he said, “Come to me, all you who labor and are      burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).  It is why he said ask, seek and knock!  God invites us to talk with him. Do you have a passion to talk with God?

He wants us to Ask.  God already knows what we need before we ask (Matthew 6:8) but he wants us to ask so that we will know him as the source of what we receive.

He wants us to Seek.  God knows when and where we will find our answers to prayer but he wants us seek out his word and his will so that we will come to know him better in the process.

He wants us to Knock or to persist in prayer because he wants us to return to him again and again in petition.  It is only through this process that we learn the value and worth of what we labor in prayer for.  To ask, seek and knock is to go to God in relationship again and again and to communicate your heart to him.

Hard To Pray? Isaiah 59:2, 1 John 1:9, James 1:6-9

If we say we believe in God and that we love God then why are we so reluctant to talk with God? Ironically, most Christians who claim to be in such need of a Savior do more self talk than God talk (Prayer).  How is it that we would continue in self dialog when we claim to have a friend in Jesus?  There are only two reasons for this: 

  1. The guilt of sinning and the love of sin will keep us from talking with God. In the truest definition of the word God will not “convict” or “condemn” the believer for sin. Jesus was already convicted for our sins, once and for all, when He became those sins on the cross and endured God’s wrath in our place (Isaiah 53:10, 2 Corinthians 5:21, 1 Peter 3:18).  He willfully became the “convict” who took our shameful death sentence so that we would never have to be “convicted” of anything (Hebrews 12:2). He will, however, correct us and discipline us like any good father when we come into his presence. This is evidence of His love, which ought to be the most reassuring thing in the world (2 Timothy 3:16, Hebrews 12:6). Isaiah 59:2 says that willful sin will separate us from God, but 1 John 1:9 reminds us that if we confess that sin then he will forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  Don’t let the guilt or love of sin separate you from your loving father.  Talk to him and get things right!  Pray for a passion to hate sin as he does and turn from it to pray!
  2. A lack of faith will keep us from talking to God. When we don’t believe that God will hear our prayer, answer our prayer, or be concerned with our prayer then we don’t believe in what God has said all throughout his word. When one says “I feel uncomfortable praying” or “I don’t have the time to pray” then one truly doesn’t believe in the power of prayer.  Think about it.  If someone were handing out one hundred dollar bills to anyone who took the time and effort to ask would these excuses keep you from getting that money? Of course not!  All of these excuses simply put is a lack of faith in God.

Faith comes by hearing the word of Christ (Romans 10:17) and practicing that word in our living (James 1:22-25).  God’s word tells his us to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).  The first basic step in growing in faith is to stop self talking and start talking to God!  Believe what God says and stop talking yourself out of talking to him!  Step out on faith and stop being double minded! (James 1:6-9)

What is your Passion? Psalm 84:11, Philippians 4:5-7

If we want something from God more than we want God himself, then we should be terrified that he might give us what we want and withhold himself.

It tells us in Psalm 84:11 that God withholds no good thing from those whose walk is blameless.  So this verse actually implies that God will withhold good things from us if we hold onto sin and a lack faith.  He will withhold good things when we do not pray, but he will do this in love to bring us to himself.  This fact is illustrated all throughout the Bible. 

God desires his children to talk to him…to be anxious for nothing and to know the peace of living in a loving relationship with him.  The devil would like nothing more than for us to keep self talking so loudly that we don’t even hear the call of God to draw near to him.  As Martin Luther said so eloquently, “To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.”  Breathe children breathe and be a soul on fire!

MIRACLES?

MiraclesBanner

“I don’t believe in miracles”, he said; as he went on to clarify how scientific reasoning eventually brings all things into logical explanation.  He could not fathom how the Bible with all of its fantastic miracles could be true let alone believed by any right thinking person. He was especially flabbergasted by the story of Sarah conceiving Isaac at age ninety, but so was her husband Abraham for that matter (Genesis 17:17)! Mary conceived Jesus as a virgin, but I wasn’t about to go into that story.

Guinness World Records shows the oldest woman to date to give birth is Maria del Carmen Bousada Lara, who gave birth by caesarean section to twin boys, Christian and Pau, at age 66 years 358 days at the Sant Pau hospital, Barcelona, Spain on 29 December 2006. More recently CBS reported that Daljinder Kaur, who’s believed to be at least 70 years old, gave birth to a son named Arman (meaning “wish” in Hindi) on April 19, 2016. The baby was the first for Kaur and her 79-year-old husband, Mohinder Singh Gill, after nearly five decades of marriage. Kaur gave birth following two years of IVF treatment at a fertility clinic in the northern state of Haryana

Oddly enough our conversation quickly went into the direction of creation.  He was a firm believer in the Big Bang Theory; a “theory” of collaborated scientific minds and mathematics which says that our intricate and ordered world and all life came to be through an ever-expanding explosion about 13.8 billion years ago.

THEORY a proposed explanation whose status is still conjectural and subject to experimentation, in contrast to well-established propositions that are regarded as reporting matters of actual fact.

Never mind that no explosion in the history of the world ever resulted in anything but disordered chaos and destruction. The “Big Bang Theory” is essentially the biggest miracle ever believed in by men!

Let’s face it folks. The cosmologist and the theologian both believe in miracles.

 MIRACLE a highly improbable or extraordinary event, development, or accomplishment that brings very welcome consequences.

My friend denies believing in miracles and in God yet claims to believe in the “Big Bang Theory” and the mathematical scientific collected thoughts of man.  I believe in miracles and that God’s spoken word is the “Big Bang” and that the collected thoughts of man (science) are in major mathematical and spiritual error.

In 1492 Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue.  At that time the greatest scientific thinkers of the day told him that he would sail off of the edge of the world because it was flat. Columbus went on to discover new lands. Science went onto discover that the earth was a sphere and suspended in space just as the Bible said.

He spreads out the northern skies over empty space; he suspends the earth over nothing. Job 26:27 

He sits enthroned above the circle (lit. Hebrew=Sphere) of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in. Isaiah 40:22

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth…Genesis 1:1-2

I will continue to believe in God, miracles and the Bible in conflict with the error of unbelieving men (“grasshoppers”).  I choose to believe in the miracles recorded in the Bible, the salvation in Jesus Christ and the eternal hope that is found in him rather than trust in the collective judgment of men.   Like Columbus, I will sail out like a “mad man” on faith and discover the Promised Land that the Bible speaks of for those who live on faith and believe in God and the miracles that only he can produce. The foremost being salvation to those who do believe and eternal life. What about you?

A Passion For Truth (Soul On Fire #2)

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Pastor Barry Bruce/ The Gathering  A Passion For Truth (Soul On Fire #2)  To hear this message and others go to THEGATHERINGHG.COM

A Nation in Turmoil

This past week all the news has been about the Kavanaugh Confirmation hearings before the Senate.  On the first day of the hearings 70 arrests were made of protestors who shouted out against confirming Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court (the second Supreme Court appointment by President Trump). That number climbed to 212 by day three. Most Pundits expect a 51(R)-49(D) vote in favor of the confirmation others see some bi-partisan support.

The News has been all about the differing opinions between Democrats and Republicans on who will interpret the “truth” in relation to the Constitution on our nations Supreme Court (the highest court in the nation). We currently have eight sitting justices on the Supreme Court, four were appointed by Democrat Presidents and four were appointed by Republican Presidents.

The purpose of a Supreme Court justice is to apply the written document of the Constitution to arguments that come before them; however, how one does that is directly related to ones   ideology and religious beliefs rather we want to admit it or not. The growing divide among the two opposing political groups is why the nation is in such turmoil over this crucial decision.  Tensions are all the more increased because the term for a Supreme Court justice isn’t just four years as with our President— it is for life!

truth noun \ ˈtrüth \ the quality or state of being true 2. that which is true or in accordance with fact or reality 3. a fact or belief that is accepted as true.

If you look up “truth” in the dictionary you will find several definitions.  There are also many    philosophical theories on what truth is, one of them being the Consensus theory which holds that truth is whatever is agreed upon by some specified group. Such a group might include all human beings, or a subset thereof consisting of more than one person.  Wait a minute!      Wouldn’t that mean that if you propagandize something long enough and get the general public to believe then it becomes truth? Isn’t that what the Nazi’s tried to do?  Some would say that is what political groups are doing.  Others would say that is what religions do…including ours! But is truth merely what is accepted or is it more than that? 

Generally speaking one would say that truth is what is factual and real, but those lines become blurred when we introduce feelings.  What if “real” feelings are the result of self induced intoxicants, mental illness or sin– should we call the by-products of such things “truth?” It seems to me that we are living in an age where “truth” is relative (note: Relativity is the word for how things only have importance in relation to other things), but this is not what the Bible teaches about truth.

The Word of Truth John 14:6, 15-17, 17:16-18, 2 Timothy 2:15-17a

The whole concept of “relative truth” sounds tolerant and open-minded. However, no one really believes that all truth is relative. No sane person says, “Gravity works for you, but not for me,” and proceeds to jump off a tall building believing no harm will follow. The Bible teaches an absolute truth defined in the scriptures.  Those who choose to follow Jesus will recall that he said that he was the truth personified (John 14:6). To “keep his commandments”(John 14:15) we must look to that holy document and develop a passion for that truth which he both lived and taught by. The world will call us brainwashed, but don’t be offended because their label is Biblically correct.  In Ephesians 5:26 the husband has the God-given responsibility to read the Word (washing of water by the word) to his wife and family. We are also instructed not to be conformed to the pattern of this world but to be transformed by the renewing of our mind (Romans 12:2).  This “renewing only comes through having a soul on fire for God’s holy truth found in his word. Jesus prayed that we would be sanctified (made holy/ set apart) by that truth (John 17:17).  One can not be sanctified by that which he never reads!  One will never read what he does not have a    passion for.  The “advocate”(Holy Spirit: John 14:15-17) that Jesus promised to those who desired to love him will put a passion in the believer’s heart for God’s absolute truth, but it is up to the believer to keep that fire burning by studying the Bible and avoiding godless teaching and philosophies which “spread like gangrene” in our world.

We Need a Sword! Hebrews 4: 12-13

The word is likened to a living and active double edged sword (slicing in every direction) in the Bible which cuts through our thoughts and intentions— uncovering everything.  It   provides more than a band-aid for mankind’s condition.  The word of God does soul surgery on the one who submits himself to its operation, and rather we get the surgery or not we will all give an account to the God who offered it to us.  We all need a sword to cut away the flesh that separates us from God. Don’t settle for a band-aid when you need surgery! 

This sword is also one that believers are to pick up (Ephesians 6:10-11,16-17) as we take our stand against the devil.  Without God’s holy word we have no offensive weapon against our enemy.  How can we hope to advance in battle without disciplining ourselves to use it?  We all need that sword to attack our ever encroaching enemy  (1 Peter 5:8).

Our Constitution 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Romans 10:17

Just as The US Constitution is our country’s document on which all liberty and justice rests, so the Bible is the holy document on which all faith and salvation rests.  Apart from the Constitution we cannot govern this nation.  Apart from the Bible we cannot discern truth.  Anti-Christian historical revisionists like to re-write history to make it seem like our nation was not founded on biblical principles but that is not what the historical records actually say nor is there any hint of this from the founding fathers of America.  These were not perfect men but they valued God and the Bible as the truth for our country’s government. A true patriot loves God and country.  Without God there is no country worth having.

As a signer of the Constitution George Washington said it best: “It is impossible to rightly govern a nation without God and the Bible.”  Is your soul on fire for the truth of God found only in his word?  Read it while you have the freedom to do so!

BLESSED (Soul On Fire #1)

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Pastor Barry Bruce/ The Gathering  Series: Soul On Fire #1  To hear this message go to THEGATHERINGHG.COM

Blessed? Hebrews 12:5b-10, Matthew 5:1-12, Ephesians 1:3-5                                                      Blessed is a spiritual word. It is a biblical word. And it has been hijacked by our culture. People may talk about “blessings” in their lives, but the nonbeliever has no idea what a real blessing is, because only the child of God truly knows what it is to be blessed.  

The word “bless” in the Old Testament Hebrew is barak meaning to knell. The extended meaning of this word is to do or give something of value to another. God knelt down to “bless” us when he wrapped himself in human flesh as Christ and offered himself up for our sin in        forgiveness (John 3:16).  He continues to knell down to us as a father would crouch down in order to get close to his child and embrace him in love or to even discipline him (Hebrews 12:5-6). Yes, God’s discipline is also a loving blessing to those of us who will learn by it.  We in turn “respect” (bless) God by giving him ourselves as his servants.

In the New Testament the Greek word used for “bless” is makarios  meaning to               extend (to be increased) to be made happy with a joy that is extended beyond ones circumstances. Jesus made this usage clear in his Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1-12).  God’s blessing is offered to “the poor   in spirit”, “those who mourn”, “the meek (humble)”, “those who hunger and thirst after righteousness”, the “merciful”, the “pure in heart”, the “peacemakers” and the “persecuted.”  

Blessed does not just mean to be happy, fortunate or prosperous.  Biblically speaking (and “blessed” is a biblical word)  to be blessed is to receive something of value from God that brings joy beyond any circumstance.  According to the Bible God’s blessing will only come to the one who believes and put’s their trust in Christ as savior and Lord.  To us he has given “every spiritual blessing” and “in love” he has predestined us to be adopted as his children (John 1:12).

Stepping, Standing and Sitting Psalms 1:1-6                                                                                 Surely, every right thinking person wants to be blessed by the God of this universe.  To have God stoop down from on high to embrace you with his love and grace is the ultimate joy of life; however, his blessings are conditional even for the believer.  I do   not say that a believer’s promise of salvation shall ever be taken away regardless of the wreckless way one may live (“For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” Romans 11:29); however, habitual, unrepentant sin separates us from God and leads us away from God’s perfect will for our lives. We must have a passion for God above all else.  We must seek him first to live a truly “blessed” life (Matthew 6:33). 

The psalmist said “Blessed is the one” (Psalm 1:1)  who does not walk in step with the wicked, stand in the way of sinners or sit in the company of mockers.  Notice the subtle progression of actions in the one who drifts away from the blessings of God.  First he walks in step with the wicked, then he stands with them, and then he sits in their company and participates in the mockery of the truth that he once believed!  Watch out Christian if this is you for your Father’s blessed curse will come your way and discipline you.  Try instead to look at the sin that would dissuade you from God’s blessed path in this way:  

Imagine, a beautiful warm summer’s day in the park.  You are barefoot at play with the ones you love and suddenly you step in it!  It is thick, deep, dark and stinky and warm, oozing up through your toes.  Truly you have stepped into the wickedness, but surely you wont stand there!  It was a grave mistake! Move away quickly and drag your foot in the lake!  Who would stand and thrust both feet into that foul mess?  Inconceivably some do just that, while    others even plop themselves down on their butts and sit in it while they mock those who run in the other direction! 

In contrast, the one whom God will bless delights in His word (the law) and considers it both day and night.  He runs through life’s “park” with  the “shoes of peace”  that God has     provided (Ephesians 6:15) and  stepping into wickedness will not be his downfall!  He will be blessed in all he does but the wicked will not stand in judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

Soul On Fire Romans 12:9-11, John 14:15-19        If we want a blessing from God then we must run towards his heart and be a soul on fire for him.  Yes, we must bless the Lord—knell to (respect) him and offer ourselves to him in service, thereby extending his joy.  Then will come his blessing far beyond what we could ever think or imagine.  We can never out give God! 

Our love for God must be sincere.  If we love him we will keep his commandments.  Loving God must be our soul’s passion and if it is then he promises to give us an advocate (lit. Greek:  parakletos [paravklhto”] , “one called alongside”)  to help keep our soul ablaze.  That advocate, The Holy Spirit (Spirit of truth) will teach us of all things and remind us of everything that Jesus has said.  He will fill us with the peace, presence and power of God ( John 14:25-27, Acts 1:8).  The world (the unbelievers) will not see Jesus nor understand our passion for him.  We will be considered poor in spirit by the world—”fools for Christ”(1 Corinthians 3:18),  weak in our meekness, silly in our purity, and “Full of it”  in our hunger and thirst for righteousness.  We will be persecuted for his name sake, but never mind all of that Christian because we will be “blessed!”  Jesus said so (Matthew 5:1-12). 

Do you want to be a soul on fire?  Do you long after God’s ways, are you waiting for his day? Are you running for his heart?  Are you longing for his blessing or are you stepping, standing or sitting in wickedness? Lord, let us burn for you again… may we be a soul on fire!