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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Blessed in Christ with Every Spiritual Blessing

                Bless her heart. 
Several years ago, my wife Candy volunteered in a church ministry to high school aged girls.  The leader of that ministry was a southern woman.  She used a phrase that was unfamiliar to Candy.  In speaking about someone, she might say, bless her heart.  By this she meant, that poor, poor woman.  She’d describe someone who was going through a tough time, or she’d talk about someone who just did not understand something, and she’d sigh and say, bless her heart.  That poor, poor woman.
Is that what blessedness is?  Is it a pitiable condition?

God bless you! 
Is this something we shout when someone sneezes? 
A kid was suspended from a public school in Tennessee recently; suspended for saying “bless you” after a sneeze.  “Bless” is on a list of forbidden terms.  For her part, the teacher said the student shouted the phrase from across the room and was particularly aggressive in asserting her constitutional right to say it.
Why would “bless” be forbidden?  Is there something inherently dangerous or destructive in this word? 
Is this was “bless” is?  A word that requires censorship?  Or a vehicle for a Christian student to challenge a secular teacher?

Gathered around the coffin, family members comfort one another.  The son – now the family patriarch – gazes at the corpse that was his father.  “It is a blessing,” the son says.  Is this blessing, then?  Someone lives a good life but then in the senior years contracts a disease that leads to suffering and a painful death.  Upon reflection, do we say his death, an end to suffering, is a good thing?  Is this blessing – a good thing?
Would you describe yourself as blessed?  Do you live a blessed life?  If you say that, what, exactly, are you saying?  Do we have any idea what this really means?

Poor, poor woman.
Sneeze response!
A good thing.
A description of my life.
What does it mean – blessed, bless, blessing???

Ephesians 1:3-4 relies on this word family:  “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ[b]before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love.
Whatever blessing means in current vernacular, in Ephesians the one who is blessed is a child of God.  Through Jesus, we are adopted as God’s children (v. 5).  Our sins are forgiven (v. 7).  And we get to know what God knows (v.9).  Finally, we have an inheritance (v.11, 18) which involves receiving power from God (v.19-20), while living in the presence of God (v. 10).  Blessing then is being God’s child.  We are children of a father who loves us.
The best way I can think to relate is my own experience.  I am an adoptive father.  My eldest was adopted from Russia when was 3½.  The younger two were each just under two when they were adopted from Ethiopia.  We come together by marriage and adoption and the five of us make a family.
I don’t know what it is to love a child I have sired.  I do not have any biological children.  I don’t have any context so I cannot definitively say how I would feel about a child who came from my wife and me, so to speak.  What I know is I cannot imagine loving anyone more than I love my kids.
My love for my kids is fun.  We play kickball, UNO, we play on the swing set, we climb trees, swim in pools, hike trails, and play hide ‘n seek.  It is loads of fun. 
This love is also sacrificial.  When they have nightmares or cannot sleep, my wife and I are up with them.  When they are sick, we take care of them.  We have made the choice to live without things (like cable TV) for the sake of paying for other things (adoption expenses, good health insurance, family vacations).  In the moment, we don’t always like giving things up.  In the big picture, we love it because we love the kids. 
The love we have for our kids is long term.  I mentioned their ages at adoption.  From the moment they were in our custody, they were ours.  They were already walking, but just about every developmental milestone in a human’s life that comes after walking we taught them (and continue to teach them).  We want to help them know how to discover their passions, how to grow intellectually, emotionally, physically, and spiritually, and how to live in the world as it is.  The way we raise the kids prepares them for life.  This is daily work and lifelong work.  And it is an expression of our love.
I don’t know exactly how fitting this is for a picture of God’s love for humans – all who come to Christ and are adopted as God’s children.  I don’t know, but I believe the metaphor serves to give an idea of God’s love and the blessing we have as God’s children.
I said our love with our kids is fun.  I think God’s love is fun, but even deeper because God’s love produces joy.  I described our parenting love as sacrificial.  The sacrifices parents make are important; the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross is even more so.  I imagined our parent-love as being long-term.  God’s love for us, His adopted children, is eternal.  More than just lasting, God makes a ways for us to live eternally with Him because He wants to be with us. 

Is definition for blessing needed?  How about this?  Blessing = being adopted as child of God.  This is blessing and this is what we have and what we are when we are in Christ.

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