Blessing: Defined and unpacked

img_1075Google defines Blessing as, “God’s favor or protection”.  They more or less nailed it.

The Catholic New Advent Encyclopedia breaks it up into 4 particular understandings:

1. Blessing can be taken in a sense that’s synonymous with praise.

Psalm 34:1 – “I will bless the Lord at all times”. I’ve talked with probably thousands of people over the last decade or so who think this statement sounds incredibly selfish and egotistical, but God wants our “praise”. That is, our devotion, our adoration, our awe. It sounds arrogant because we think of it from a human perspective. No human should desire these things. God is different. God does deserve it. As John Piper says in Let the Nations be Glad, “Mission happens because worship does not.” In other words, the reason the church (that’s you, not an organization, if you are “in Christ”) is here is because of mission. It’s the only purpose you could possibly have left, if you are already forever His. So, your purpose to continue here in this life is so that others might also give Him praise. It’s that important.

We look forward in anticipation to Revelation 7:9-10, that says, “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’” Why? Because we love the idea, and the fact, that at some point, everyone will worship him. They will acknowledge Jesus to be the savior of the world, and He will have his due reward.  When we “bless” the Lord, we give him the credit and recognition he is due.

2. Blessing can be used to express a wish or desire of good fortune, especially of a spiritual kind.

Psalm 128:2 says, “You will eat the fruit of your labor, blessings and prosperity will be yours.” It is right for the church to meet real, physical needs out of a desire to see the world blessed. In fact, Jesus often uses physical blessings to demonstrate his care and concern for people to ultimately have a much more significant spiritual blessing, which is our invitation to abide in Him. Social justice, so to speak, is not a new thing. If done from a pure heart, these sorts of efforts happen because followers of Jesus want to see the people around them experience God’s love and attention; His blessing. Where they fail is when we separate the physical from the spiritual. As GK Chesterton has said, “The man who knocks on the door of a brothel, is actually looking for God” (my paraphrase). We know and understand that people are looking for something good and true and right. Far too many are looking in, not just the wrong places, but simply in places where they’ll only find a facsimile of what their heart is really longing for. That facsimile will lead many to destruction, and some to pacification that never results in glorification.

3. Blessing can signify the sanctification or dedication of a person or thing to some sacred purpose.

Matthew 26:26 says, “While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take and eat; this is my body’”. Jesus was dedicating himself to the service of his disciples. And not only to these disciples, but also to those who would believe because of their ministry (John 17:20). The crazy part? He was dedicating our very lives to something sacred as well. It’s the “glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).  By “taking and eating” we are taking on the ministry and message – and the power! – of Jesus himself, being dedicated and set apart for a new identity and a new message of reconciliation to the world around us (2 Corinthians 5:17-20). It’s not the pastor or the missionary that have this very sacred calling. It’s the accountant, the school teacher, the stay-at-home mom, the governmental official and the mechanic, who are more importantly “alive with Christ” (Ephesians 2:4-10), and who are dedicated to the sacred work of the church in their every day, normal lives (Deuteronomy 6:1-9). But we are not alone! We are dedicated to this life and this calling along with a community of faith, which is a gathering of believers in Jesus, to live out this life of mission and blessing (dedication) together.

4. Blessing can be used to designate a particular gift or good will.

Jeremiah 29:7 says, “Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper”.  The primary reason the church is here is to, along with Jesus, “seek  and save that which is lost”.  That’s what we do.  Who we are is similar to that, but expresses itself in equal virtue to the community around us, regardless of whether the lost want to be saved or not.  Because the reality is, some of them don’t.  But, we are to be a blessing to them all.  We are to add value to the entire community, not just the ones that agree with us, and certainly not only after they align with our worldview.  Followers of Jesus are to demonstrate good will, with no strings attached.  One of the best questions any local church can ask of itself is, “If we were to close our doors and move out of the neighborhood, would anyone miss us?”  I believe this to be the most essential question to gauge the success of any local church.  Got a big building?  So what.  It’s probably taking up valuable non-taxable real estate in your community.  Got a large budget?  Good for you, where do those dollars go to help the rich and the poor in your community, beyond catchy sermon series?  Got a lot of butts in the seats?  How are you inspiring those in attendance to spend their lives “seeking the prosperity of the city?”  What if you closed down?  Would anyone even care?  Regardless of the return-on-investment and the results on the organization, the church exists to do good in the city where they reside.

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