Poor in Spirit, 12 July 2020

Blessed are the Poor in Spirit
Blessed: The Beatitudes
Matthew 5:3

Series Big Idea: The greatest sermon in history is radical, revolutionary, and relevant.

Big Idea: Although we avoid the poor—and being poor—God can fill whatever we lack.

The date was March 11, 1994. After working in my home office in the basement of our duplex in metro Detroit, I went upstairs to have lunch with my bride. With a toddler and a newborn in the background, Heather turned Focus on the Family on the radio and we listened to George Barna and Dieter Zander talk about this up-and-coming generation we know today as Generation X. It was a moment that forever changed my life.

God used the voice of Dieter Zander to create within me a vision to plant the church that years later would become Frontline Church, Ann Arbor. I could easily write a small book just about my relationship with Dieter, who became my mentor during the four years that followed when we both lived in Chicagoland. Each time we met, Dieter seemed to reach deep into my soul and expose my insecurities, my ambitions, and my passions.

Perhaps the most tangible influence of Dieter decades later can be found in my e-mails. That might sound odd, but I remember him ending his e-mail with “Blessings and peace, Dieter.” I thought that sounded cooler than “In Him” or “Sincerely” and began using it. To this day, most of my e-mail close, “Blessings, Kirk.” It is not a signature that is automatically generated by my e-mail app, but instead I manually type it each time, intentionally sending a blessing to my reader.

What does it mean to be blessed? How can we experience more of God’s blessings? How can we be a blessing to others? These are the questions we’ll address throughout our new series, “Blessed,” a study of the Beatitudes, the beginning of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.

Do you want to be blessed? Why?

When someone sneezes, what do we do? Nowadays, we jump as far away from the person as possible! COVID! We say, “God bless you” or “bless you.”

When I greet someone with a “how’s it going?” I sometimes hear, “I’m blessed.”

I usually end our Sunday gatherings with a benediction which begins, “May God bless you and keep you.”

What does it mean to be blessed?

The original Greek word used in Matthew 5, makarios, means “supremely blest; fortunate, well off, happy.” It doesn’t necessarily speak of material wealth, though we might say a millionaire is blessed with money, a supermodel is blessed with good looks, or an athlete is blessed with physical strength.”

The Hebrew word for blessed is
barak. It suggests thanks, a gift, praise, and rejoicing. We are told throughout scripture that God blesses…and also that we are to bless God. Perhaps the most famous example is Psalm 103 which begins

Bless the LORD, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name! (Psalm 103:1, NKJV)

What does that really mean? The New International Version translates it,

Praise the LORD, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. (Psalm 103:1, NIV)

Like our English word
love, bless has different meanings according to the context. When we ask God to bless someone, we don’t usually think of God praising them, but we want His favor, gift, goodness. A blessing indicates a state of joy or happiness.

I’m going to give you my definition:
blessed is having God’s presence and favor. There’s nothing greater than God’s presence. If there’s anything you want more in heaven than being with God, it’s an idol. I can’t wait to have a pain-free body, a sinless existence, and streets of gold. I’m looking forward to a reunion with my dad, mother-in-law, and grandparents, but what I want to do more than anything in heaven is run to Jesus! I can’t wait to be in the eternal presence of God.

Sadly, many Christians want money, pleasure, and power more than God. They are willing to settle for temporary things which may bring a moment of happiness, but no lasting joy. This will become so obvious as we look at The Beatitudes, a word meaning blessings. We all want to be blessed…or do we?

Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.

He said: (Matthew 5:1-2)

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3, NIV)

The New Living Translation reads,

“God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. (Matthew 5:3, NLT)

Blessed are the poor. Why the poor? They look the least blessed. We seemingly do just about anything to avoid being poor. If we’re honest, we may even avoid the poor. It’s such a negative word, poor. It’s at the bottom of most survey responses—from excellent to poor. Maybe you saw the word on your report card. It may conjure up the image of someone begging. The original Greek word, ptochos, means to crouch, a beggar, distressed, cringing. What could that possibly have to do with God and His blessing?

I’d like us to consider today Eugene Peterson’s translation from The Message.

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule. (Matthew 5:3, The Message)

When is the last time you were at the end of your rope? Maybe it was that time you were sick in the hospital. Perhaps it was when a relationship ended. It could’ve been losing the job, filing for bankruptcy, or your bank account getting hacked (as mine did two weeks ago!). It’s possible you’re at the end of your rope at this moment, perhaps due to COVID-19, directly or indirectly. This is a challenging season for all of us.

Jesus doesn’t say blessed are the financially poor. He uses the phrase “poor in spirit.” It’s a hole, something missing, a lack. You can be one of the 800 billionaires in the United States and be poor in spirit. You can be a world-class marathoner and be poor in spirit. You can be famous and powerful and yet poor in spirit. We’ve all found ourselves at the end of our rope. And then what?

It’s common for us to complain. Maybe we blame. It surely can’t be our fault! If you’re like me, after whining, you’ll remember to pray. It could be God’s goal for our poverty in the first place!

I’ve heard a lot of people over the years talking about the decline of Christianity in the West. Thousands of churches in the United States close every year (which is one reason why we need to plant new churches). Research consistently shows church attendance and biblical literacy on the decline. I think there are two reasons people in our culture aren’t passionately pursuing Jesus. The first is simply that we’re too busy, distracted by our screens and entertainment. The second is simple:
we don’t need God. Or more accurately, we don’t think we need God.

Who has time or energy for God when you’re in the middle of your rope, when things are going great, when the money’s flowing, the relationships are healthy, the body’s in shape, and all is well? Need I remind you money, people, and health can all be idols?

Eventually it hits the fan. Nobody lives a perfect life. We get the phone call from the doctor. The boss gives us a pink slip. The spouse files for divorce. The car breaks down. It might take a while, but eventually, many people turn to God. They are desperate. They are searching for answers. They need help…and are willing to acknowledge it. I’ve been praying that coronavirus might lead our nation and world from our idols to God.

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule. (Matthew 5:3, The Message)

It sounds so simple, yet it’s profoundly true. In the next chapter of Matthew, Jesus said,

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. (Matthew 6:24)

It can be all about you or all about God, but not both! You can allow God to be in control or pretend you’re in the driver’s seat, but you can’t have God as your co-pilot!

Jesus did not say blessed are the poor who have no money. He says blessed are the poor in spirit, those who need God. His kingdom belongs to them because they seek it, they find it, and they experience it.

Who wouldn’t want the kingdom of heaven? Simply, those who don’t need God. They love this world too much. They feel self-sufficient. Their arrogance keeps them from bowing their knee and pursuing God. Just as there must be emptiness before fullness, so becoming poor in spirit must precede the grace and riches of the kingdom of God.

Later in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapter 6, he will say,

31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:31-34)

Think about all of the times you’ve experienced fear or worry this past week. We don’t often think of fear or worry as sins, but they are repeatedly forbidden…except for the fear and reverence of God. I doubt I’m the only one who finds themselves afraid or anxious. What do you worry about? If you’re like me, you worry about

  • - Health
  • - Money
  • - Safety
  • - Relationships

If our focus is on Jesus, it leaves little room for worry. When we seek God’s kingdom, everything will be ok. We might get sick, but God is our healer. We might need money, but God is our provider. We might be in danger, but God is our protector. We might experience conflict, but God is our peace.

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule. (Matthew 5:3, The Message)

I want to suggest to you that the root of all of our distance from God is pride. It’s what got satan kicked out of heaven. It’s what creates walls between us and others. Pride says it’s all about me, I have no needs, I’m in control…and it’s ultimately a lonely place to be.

Do you want more of God or more of yourself? That’s the bottom line. When it’s all about God, temporary trials matter less than eternal treasures.

I have four prayers for First Alliance Church: direction, protection, unity, and passion. I want God to guide us, shelter us from evil, keep us together in harmony, and that last one: passionate, zealous for God and for others, loving well, looking beyond ourselves to bless God and others.

My Story

Although we avoid the poor—and being poor—God can fill whatever we lack. I’ve never prayed for sickness, a pink slip, my bank account to be hacked, theft, broken relationships, or the death of loved ones, but I’ve experienced them all. In each instance, I found myself desperate, broken…poor in spirit.

The most profound part of my story involves nine years of treating a sick child in five states for multiple conditions. It drove me to my knees. Some of the effects continue, but at a moment when the storms were calming, I remembering praying, “LORD, I don’t want to lose my intimacy with You. I want more of You and less of me. I want to turn my petitions into praises and remain close to You.”

Honestly, my prayer life hasn’t always been as vibrant and passionate as those days living in the Cleveland Ronald McDonald House or when my family was separated by thousands of miles. I truly experienced the blessing of God’s kingdom and presence during my most desperate days.

We need not wait for trials to be passionate for God. We can begin right now in blessing God, in praising God. We can offer up our thanksgiving, acknowledge our dependency, recognize without Him, we can do nothing. Sunday worship is a weekly rhythm to remind us that He is God and we are not. We don’t gather simply to sing songs and endure a lecture! This experience is but one of the ways we admit our weakness and declare His strength, confess our sins and receive His forgiveness, expose our poverty and receive His riches.

It’s not about you! It’s all about Jesus!

This morning, you are either in a storm, coming out of a storm, or about to enter a storm. God’s blessing is His presence—always, even in the storms, especially in storms. He says, “I’m on your side. I’m with you. I’m for you.” Sure, we want Him to instantly calm the storm. Sometimes He calms the storm, and sometimes He calms His child. The promise is His presence. You might feel like a spiritual zero, as Dallas Willard called it. Maybe you’re at the end of your rope due to an addiction or a failing marriage. You might be financially broke, overwhelmed with depression, or debilitated by anxiety. Your physical body may be failing you. God doesn’t promise to instantly fix everything broke in our lives, but He promises to never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). He’s with us in the storm. Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow. But it begins with surrender, with recognizing our poverty, and turning to God.

And if all is well in your life, praise God…and remember without Him, you can do nothing. We are all sinners saved by the wonderful grace of our LORD.

LORD, I Need You

I can’t think of a better way to end than to declare our need for God, our personal poverty, the fact that we don’t have it all together and we’re not in control.

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule. (Matthew 5:3, The Message)

We are all blessed. We simply need to open our eyes and see God’s work all around us. Religion, health, fame, and fortune will always let us down. There’s nothing greater than God’s love, peace, and presence.

Credits: Some ideas from The Beatitudes Project.

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

You can watch this video and others at the First Alliance Church Video Library

Blessed, 27 December 2015

Psalm 1

Big Idea: Blessed is the person who knows the LORD.


Good morning! Welcome to that odd, in-between Sunday. The gifts are opened, maybe you’ve spent time returning that ugly sweater or unwanted fruitcake (can you return a fruitcake?!). The decorations are ready for the attic. You might be thinking about using that gift card to buy a treadmill or join Planet Fitness. New Year’s Eve parties (including the biggest of all, right here at 7 PM!) and bowl games are right around the corner. Parents might be ready for school to resume, kids enjoy every moment of freedom.

We look back at Christmas and look forward to New Year’s.
We look back at 2015 and look forward to 2016.
We’re going Back to the Future!

It’s that odd, in-between Sunday!

Rather unexpectedly, the Psalms became a focal point during our Advent series. Advent itself is an odd, in-between time, looking back at baby Jesus and looking forward to the Return of the King.

As we near the end of 2015, we’re going to go to the beginning of the Psalms and look at Psalm 1 together.

Blessed…(Psalm 1:1a)

Do you want to be blessed? I often here people pray, “LORD, bless me” or “LORD, bless so-and-so.”

Have you been blessed in 2015?

God bless us all in 2016!

The word “blessed” or “asrey” in Hebrew means…blessed, happy, a heightened state of happiness and joy, implying very favorable circumstances, often resulting from the kind acts of God.

Like joy, blessings are not related to our circumstances. Blessings are not obtained by seeking them, but rather they are often a side benefit from choices we make…or don’t make. A wise man said that happiness is like a
cat. Seek it and it will run from you. But go about your business steadily day by day and soon it comes and curls up at your feet. How true, although I’m not a big cat fan!

In biblical terms to be blessed meant to be rightly related to God so that your life was fulfilled and you experienced deep personal satisfaction. Who wants that?!

Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, (Psalm 1:1)

Did you ever stop and think your actions are a factor in God’s blessing? It seems clear here. Note the contrast. Walk with the wicked or love the law, the Torah, God’s Word.

Notice this psalm begins with a negative. A person is blessed if they
don’t walk, or stand or sit. That’s in interesting progression. In each instance evildoers are involved. We are not to walk with the wicked. That could be a casual interaction. We are not to stand with sinners. That could be a more involved conversation. We are not to sit with mockers, perhaps to avoid becoming like them.

You are your friends. Jim Rohn says it this way: “You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.”

We need to invest our lives into those who don’t yet know Jesus, but we must guard ourselves from their influence. Like someone rescuing a drowning person, we must be careful to ensure we don’t get dragged down while we are attempting to serve others.

Often dangerous people look nice. Who’s going to come up to you and say, “I’m an unsafe person who will deceive and harm you?” Can you imagine a stranger approaching you wearing a “Let’s go to Hell together” t-shirt?! But this world is filled with wicked, proud-of-their-sin mockers. Notice I didn’t just say sinners since we’re all sinners. What’s your attitude toward your sin?

We are to be in the world but not of the world. This can be tricky.

The progression is walk, stand sit; think, behave, belong.

The psalm begins by telling us what not to do if we want to be blessed, but what should we do instead?

…but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night. (Psalm 1:2)

Your delight determines your direction. Do you delight in the law of the LORD? Do you delight in the Bible? Do you delight in God?

Which is more popular, partying with pagans or going to a Bible study? Which is more fun? Which is the pathway to blessing?

I know I’m not supposed to say this, but sometimes I struggle to read the Bible. There are times I’d rather read blogs than the Bible. But no blog can offer the wisdom, inspiration, and transformation found in the living Word of God. And it is an exciting book. If you think it’s boring, you’ve either never read it or you have an ancient translation you don’t understand. In either case, we have free Bibles in modern English available for you at the Information Center in the lobby. Please take one…and read it! Or read it online (more about that later).

The other day I was talking with David Sankovich in the office and I said, “Did you know there’s a story in the Bible about someone speaking with the dead?” He knew. Did you? There’s accounts of donkeys talking, the dead raised, the earth swallowing up households, a woman driving a peg through a man’s temple, God serving frosted flakes to thousands—if not millions—of people…and that’s all before Revelation!

Do you want to be blessed? Get into the Word! Is your faith weak? Get into the Word!

Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ. (Romans 10:17)

You can read and listen to and study God’s Word, the holy scriptures, the Bible. Throughout history many have been unable to read. Most of us are able to read, but we can also listen to it as you are now, or online or via recording.

Much of Psalm 119—the longest chapter in the Bible—is devoted to God’s Word. Of course, it’s not enough to read or listen to the Bible, or even know it intellectually. We must obey it. We must do what it says. Why? Because Daddy knows best. God’s ways are higher than ours. Blessed is the one who delights in God’s Word.

…but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night. (Psalm 1:2)

What is the object of your delight?

On Friday we saw children delighting in their Christmas gifts.
On Friday we saw adults delighting in their Christmas gifts!

Young lovers delight in…one another.

Sports fans delight in their teams, especially when they win.

The word for “meditate” means to digest thoroughly. I like that!
“Day and night’ means anytime, but it could also mean from the beginning of the day to its end.


LORD, help me to want to know You and Your Word! I want to want you!

That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers. (Psalm 1:3)

I love this image for many reasons. First, I love water. I often feel closest to God when I’m near water…and ocean, a lake, a river, a stream…sometimes a drinking fountain will do!

I’m…uh…blessed to be able to see Swan Creek in my backyard during this time of year when the leaves have fallen. I could spend all day watching and listening to the current. Water is life. Our bodies are about 60% water. We obviously need it to live.

So do trees! Trees with access to water will grow and become fruitful.

A tree planted by a stream is usually stable. Its root system is often greater than the tree seen above the ground.

How do you know when a tree has good roots? When the storms come!

Have you ever noticed apple trees produce apples? Orange trees produce oranges.

As we delight in God, our lives will produce godliness.

As we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we will bear the fruit of the Spirit:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)

Psalm 1 continues…

Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away. (Psalm 1:4)

“Not so” the wicked. They are not like the righteous…at all!

Chaff is like peanut shells, waste. The wisdom of the wicked is waste. Garbage.

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction. (Psalm 1:5-6)

I used to think “stand in the judgment” meant to appear and be present at the judgment, to show up. It means “stand” as in “stand up, stand firm.” Without roots, trees will fall. Without righteousness, the wicked will not pass the judgment. The winds of judgment will blow them over like chaff.

The righteous will stand. The righteous will not blow down or be blown away. They will be like a strong, healthy tree with deep roots, surviving the windy storms and surviving God’s judgment.

The LORD knows the ways of the righteous, like a dad knows his children.

The wicked will eventually perish. It might not be today. Things might not seem fair now, but on Judgment Day God will have the final word.

Life is a marathon, not a sprint. Are you ready? Are your roots deep? Are you grounded in God’s Word or being sucked downstream by the current of the culture?

I pray we would be rooted in the Bible in 2016 (and every year!).

So What?

My first resolution for next year is to listen more…to God’s Word. Will you join me?

For the last several years I’ve done a Bible reading plan. I have done many different ones, but my favorite I’m about to finish this year and I can’t wait to do it again. It’s called One Story and it takes you through the key stories of the Bible in one year. The plan shows how the many stories of the Bible make up one interconnected story – God’s story. The plan calls for reading between one to three chapters of Scripture a day from three separate chapters (i.e. the main storyline and key cross references), six days per week. It’s not only the greatest hits of the Bible, it is beautifully constructed to link the Old and New Testaments in ways I’ve never seen before.

If you have YouVersion, it’s simply to access. Go to

If you visit you can not only access the plan, there’s also study guides and videos you can use on your own, with your family, or in your Sunday School or small group.

I’m not merely asking you to read the Bible next year. I’m inviting you to read it with me and the rest of us…together. If you miss some days, it’s not a problem. There’s power in reading the same passages. You’ll always have something to discuss when you get together.

I have a second resolution for next year: to talk more…with God.

is a beautiful gift. We have 24/7 access to the Creator of the universe!!! But it’s hard. Just as I’d sometimes rather read blogs than the Bible, sometimes I’d rather talk to my friends than to my heavenly Father.

We have been invited to join churches across Toledo in three exciting prayer intiatives:

a. Church Together 21 Day Corporate Fast, praying for our city January 1 through 21 while fasting from one meal each day…or whatever God may be leading you to give up during those three weeks (Facebook, TV, desserts, etc.).

40 Day Prayer Journey with the same area churches beginning Sunday, January 3 and blanketing the seven key aspects of society.

Toledo Prays citywide prayer gathering on Thursday, January 7.

I believe Toledo’s best days are ahead and I believe First Alliance’s best days are ahead, but I believe they will only occur if we partner together with brothers and sisters of other churches at the foot of the cross, seeking the direction, protection, and power of Jesus Christ.

Begin the new year in God’s Word. You’ll be blessed. Read with us.

If you have not yet done so, I encourage you to sign up for one or more of the prayer initiatives. Begin the new year on your knees. Pray with us. You’ll never regret it!

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here. You can subscribe to the free FAC Focus e-newsletter here.

Nahum, 19 October 2014

Big Idea: Nineveh has gone too far, they’ve oppressed Judah and taken Israel into captivity and God isn’t going to let them get away with treating His people that way.

This series is designed to encourage reading the less-read books of the Bible (according to

Background Information

We know little about Nahum.

One theme: the judgment of Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian empire.

Nahum means comforter.

Elkosh was a city in Assyria a few miles north of Nineveh. There was also a village in Galilee named Elkosh. Capernaum is considered to be the village of Nahum. He was born there or lived there as a boy.

He was probably born in the northern kingdom, Israel. He moved to Elkosh in the south of Judah and raised there in the southern kingdom.

Nahum may have been a contemporary of Isaiah and Micah.

Date of writing: 720-636 BC, about 100-150 years after Jonah and about 100 years before the destruction of Nineveh.

Nineveh was the capital of Assyria. God was just in destroying Nineveh.

God told Jonah to bring a message to Nineveh. The city turned to God, seemingly the entire city, one hundred percent, an unprecedented spiritual awakening. Obviously the revival died over time and they returned to their paganism.

Nahum probably did not go to the city, unlike Jonah. They’ve had the light and rejected it. Our nation has the light and we have largely rejected it (yikes!). All revivals eventually die.

Scottish historian Alexander Tytler described the
life cycle of a democracy. Where are we today?

From bondage to spiritual faith to courage to liberty to abundance to selfishness to complacency to apathy to bondage.


This morning we return to our series “The Most Unread Books of the Bible,” an overview of those parts of the Bible that are less read according to

Before we look at today’s book of Nahum, I want to mention hermeneutics. That’s a fancy word for how to read the Bible. Because it’s a big, old collection of books, we can’t just pick it up and read it like we would
The Ann Arbor News or People magazine. Two books I recommend on the subject—which may seem odd, reading a book about how to read a book—are

How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth by Gordon Fee & Douglas Stuart
The Blue Parakeet by Scot McKnight

The hermeneutical process is rather simple but often ignored:

  1. What did the text originally mean?
  2. What does it mean for us today?
  3. So what? How do we apply it?

Each step, however, presents its own set of challenges. Let me illustrate why this is important.

As I usually do, I did a Google image search for Nahum, hoping to find a nice picture to put on the screen as I speak. I didn’t find much, but one verse repeatedly popped up with a colorful image: Nahum 1:7

The LORD is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him, (Nahum 1:7)

I love that verse. It makes me feel good. It makes me think happy thoughts about God. There is truth in these words. There’s more, though. The verse does not end with a period, but rather a comma. Look at what follows!

but with an overwhelming flood he will make an end of [Nineveh]; he will pursue his foes into darkness. (Nahum 1:8)

Not so pretty. Not so happy!

This simple example reveals the importance of context. I have often had people ask me a question about a particular verse. Much of the time the answer can be found in the context. We can’t just pick a verse, stick it on a pretty picture, and hang it on our wall. We can, but we’re likely to miss the point.

Understood? Great!

While we’re on the subject, I came across a great article this week from
Relevant Magazine online entitled

9 Things Everyone Should Do When Reading The Bible by Bronwyn Lea

I want to briefly list a few here:

1. Read ‘King’ When You See ‘Christ.’

Christ, or Messiah, means “anointed one,” and priests and kings were anointed. Substituting "King Jesus" for "Christ Jesus" when reading draws attention to the fact that Christ was not Jesus' last name, but in fact His title: one of great honor and esteem. Making that one switch alone breathes new life into reading the New Testament.

2. Read ‘You’ Differently.

Almost all the "you" words in the New Testament are plural you's rather than singular y
ou's. The Southern "y'all" expresses it beautifully.

3. If You See a ‘Therefore,’ Find Out What It’s There For.

8. Remember What You Learned in English Class.

The Bible is not an instruction manual. It's not a "how-to" book for life. It is a collection of 66 books of literature, and to interpret it correctly, you need to remember what you learned in English class about interpreting different genres of literature.

9. Read to Study. But Also, Read to Refresh Your Heart.



In many ways, we can get the big idea of Nahum in these two verses—but not just one! God is good…but just. He is merciful…but hates evil. He is God…and we are not!


God made a covenant with Abram to bless him and his offspring and make them into a great nation—Israel. Israel split and God’s people were in Israel and Judah. The Jewish people had many enemies (as they still have today!). Nineveh was one of those enemies and the prophet Nahum writes to them, warning of His displeasure. Don’t mess with God or His people!

Nahum 1

Nahum is an undated book written about Nineveh, yes, the place Jonah to which Jonah was sent. Nahum’s name means consoler or comforter, a description of his role toward Judah but not Nineveh!

Notice the various attributes of God expressed in these verses.

An oracle concerning Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum the Elkoshite. The LORD is a jealous and avenging God; the LORD takes vengeance and is filled with wrath. The LORD takes vengeance on his foes and maintains his wrath against his enemies. The LORD is slow to anger and great in power; the LORD will not leave the guilty unpunished. His way is in the whirlwind and the storm, and clouds are the dust of his feet. (Nahum 1:1-3)

He rebukes the sea and dries it up; he makes all the rivers run dry. Bashan and Carmel wither and the blossoms of Lebanon fade. The mountains quake before him and the hills melt away. The earth trembles at his presence, the world and all who live in it. Who can withstand his indignation? Who can endure his fierce anger? His wrath is poured out like fire; the rocks are shattered before him. (Nahum 1:4-6)

Now we come to that lovely verse 7. Notice the happy verses before
and after it!

The LORD is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him, but with an overwhelming flood he will make an end of [Nineveh]; he will pursue his foes into darkness. Whatever they plot against the LORD he will bring to an end; trouble will not come a second time. They will be entangled among thorns and drunk from their wine; they will be consumed like dry stubble. From you, [O Nineveh,] has one come forth who plots evil against the LORD and counsels wickedness. (Nahum 1:7-11)

It continues…

This is what the LORD says: “Although they have allies and are numerous, they will be cut off and pass away. Although I have afflicted you, [O Judah,] I will afflict you no more. Now I will break their yoke from your neck and tear your shackles away.” The LORD has given a command concerning you, [Nineveh]: “You will have no descendants to bear your name. I will destroy the carved images and cast idols that are in the temple of your gods. I will prepare your grave, for you are vile.” (Nahum 1:12-14)

Then this interesting verse emerges:

Look, there on the mountains, the feet of one who brings good news, who proclaims peace! Celebrate your festivals, O Judah, and fulfill your vows. No more will the wicked invade you; they will be completely destroyed. (Nahum 1:15)

We see similarities between Nahum and Isaiah, a text referenced in Romans 10:15).

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!” (Isaiah 52:7)

The big picture of the book of Nahum is Nineveh has gone too far. They’ve oppressed Judah and taken Israel into captivity and God isn’t going to let them get away with treating His people that way.
Nineveh fell. They were literally wiped off the map! God said…

“I am against you,” declares the LORD Almighty. “I will burn up your chariots in smoke, and the sword will devour your young lions. I will leave you no prey on the earth. The voices of your messengers will no longer be heard.” (Nahum 2:13)

You don’t want to be on the receiving end of that!

Woe to the city of blood, full of lies, full of plunder, never without victims! The crack of whips, the clatter of wheels, galloping horses and jolting chariots! Charging cavalry, flashing swords and glittering spears! Many casualties, piles of dead, bodies without number, people stumbling over the corpses — all because of the wanton lust of a harlot, alluring, the mistress of sorceries, who enslaved nations by her prostitution and peoples by her witchcraft. “I am against you,” declares the LORD Almighty. “I will lift your skirts over your face. I will show the nations your nakedness and the kingdoms your shame. (Nahum 3:1-5)

This explains why God is angry.

We’re not exactly sure when Nahum was written. Assyria fell in 612 BC so this book was either a prophetic warning in around 615 BC or a later narrative of what occurred. Regardless, the wicked were destroyed.

So What?

You’re on God’s team or your His enemy…and every day we choose. Every day we can pick up our cross and follow Jesus, making King Jesus Lord of our lives, or we can do it our way. He’ll let us…but He’ll be crushed when we experiences the consequences of selfish living.

Everything God said to Nineveh could be said to us. I don’t pretend to understand His timing, but He will bless those who love Him and curse those who hate Him.

We love having Jesus as Savior, but is He Lord? Is He King? Does your calendar reflect it? Do your actions show it? Does your bank account demonstrate it? Do your words communicate it?

Judgment Day is coming for all of us. None of us know when, but it is coming.
Are you ready?

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

Haggai, 10 August 2014

Big Idea: God blesses obedience and provides consequences for disobedience…because He loves His children.

Overview: The Jews had put off rebuilding God’s temple, but had made nice houses for themselves. The prophet Haggai rallies the people to finish the temple and enjoy God’s blessings again.

God made a covenant with Abraham who became the father of the Jews. God said if Abraham’s ancestors would obey, God would bless them. If they disobeyed, God would punish them—not because He is mean, but because He loves them and wants them to wake up and return to Him. God often used prophets to call people to repentance and alert them of their sinful ways. Jonah, Joel and Zephaniah are three prophets we have already examined and now we look at a fourth: Haggai.

We actually know little about Haggai the prophet. His name means “festal” or “feast.” He was the first of three post-exile prophets from the Neo-Babylonian Exile of Judah (along with Zechariah, a contemporary, and Malachi who lived about one hundred years later). He may have witnessed the destruction of Solomon’s temple (2:3) which would mean he was in his seventies when he ministered.

We have surprisingly great detail about the time of this writing. This book contains five separate messages. First, some background. In 538 BC, Cyrus king of Persia issued a decree allowing Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple. Zerubbabel led about 50,000 Jews back to Jerusalem where they completed the foundation of the temple in 536 (Ezra 3:87-11) causing great celebration. Unfortunately, the Samaritans and other neighbors felt threatened by this progress and opposed the continuation of the work. As we will see, the Jews abandoned the project leaving the temple unfinished.

  • First Message (1:1-11) Rebuild The Temple
September 1, 520 BC

In the second year of King Darius, on the first day of the sixth month, the word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest: (1:1)

He used a gentile king to date his writing. He is very specific. September 1, 520 BC Zerubbabel (“sown in Babylon”) is the political ruler.

This is what the LORD Almighty says: “These people say, ‘The time has not yet come for the LORD’s house to be built.’” (1:2)

When the people returned to the land, they were enthusiastic but they encountered great obstacles. They decided to maintain the status quo.

When things get hard, we often say, “The LORD is leading me elsewhere.”

Nehemiah encountered great opposition when rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem.

the word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai: “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?” (3-4)

People decide to follow the LORD’s will until it requires sacrifice. When we decide to follow our will, we overcome the obstacles.

They used time as their excuse. It’s not the LORD’s will. It’s not the right time.

Following Jesus is rarely easy, safe and comfortable.

How much do you spend on God and how much do you spend on yourself? Money? Time? Energy?

Many tip the waitress more than they tip God!

“Many Christians are like those ancient Hebrews, somehow convincing themselves that economy in constructing church buildings is all-important while at the same time sparing no expense in acquiring their personal luxuries. Contrast this with medieval Europe where peasants lived in squalid conditions while great cathedrals were being built.”
-Expositor’s Bible Commentary

We are so comfortable! Prophets were stoned, not stars. They woke up the people.

Now this is
what the LORD Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.” (1:5-6)

These are biting words!

This is
what the LORD Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. (7)

Twice God says, “Give careful thought to your ways.” “Put/set your heart upon your roads/ways” is more accurate. This is essential for us today. Why do you do what you do? What future are you planning? Most people spend more time planning for a vacation than they do eternity…or even the next season of their life.

Give careful thought to your ways.

God disciplines those He loves. (Hebrews 12:5-11; Revelation 3:19)

There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death. (Proverbs 14:12; 16:25)

“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:9)

What road are you on today? Where is it leading?

Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,” says the LORD.

People look for miracles but God says go to work! He does not bless lazyness.

Student: “Professor, the book you gave us to read is dry.”
Professor: “Dampen it with a little perspiration from your brow!”

We have spectator sports but are not to have spectator Christians.
Get in the game. Get to work!

Go to the mountain
Bring wood
Build the house

“You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the LORD Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house. Therefore, because of you the heavens have withheld their dew and the earth its crops. I called for a drought on the fields and the mountains, on the grain, the new wine, the oil and whatever the ground produces, on men and cattle, and on the labor of your hands.”

God withheld blessing.

Blame God. He says He’s responsible, but He will explain why.

- The Response of the People (1:12-15)
September 24, 520 BC

Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the whole remnant of the people obeyed the voice of the LORD their God and the message of the prophet Haggai, because the LORD their God had sent him. And the people feared the LORD.

Then Haggai, the LORD’s messenger, gave this message of the LORD to the people: “I am with you,” declares the LORD.

God is with them. He is with us.

So the LORD stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of the whole remnant of the people. They came and began to work on the house of the LORD Almighty, their God, on the twenty-fourth day of the sixth month in the second year of King Darius.

The people responded during the previous 23 days.They are ready to build the temple. Haggai inspired the people to action.

The civil leader: Zerubbabel the governor
Shealtiel means “asking of God in prayer”

- Second Message: The Temple will be Filled with Glory (2:1-9)
October 21, 520 BC

On the twenty-first day of the seventh month, the word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai: “Speak to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, to Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to the remnant of the people. Ask them, ‘Who of you is left who saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Does it not seem to you like nothing?

See Ezra 3:8-13

But many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid, while many others shouted for joy. No one could distinguish the sound of the shouts of joy from the sound of weeping, because the people made so much noise. And the sound was heard far away. (Ezra 3:12-13)

There were shouts of joy and the sounds of weeping. This temple is small compared to Solomon’s temple. “Back in the good old days…”

But now be strong, O Zerubbabel,’ declares the LORD. ‘Be strong, O Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land,’ declares the LORD, ‘and work. For I am with you,’ declares the LORD Almighty.

“Be strong, be strong, be strong…and work!”

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. (Ephesians 6:10)

God determines who is great.

‘This is what I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt. And my Spirit remains among you. Do not fear.’ (2:5)

“This is
what the LORD Almighty says: ‘In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all nations, and the desired of all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the LORD Almighty. ‘The silver is mine and the gold is mine,’ declares the LORD Almighty. ‘The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ says the LORD Almighty. ‘And in this place I will grant peace,’ declares the LORD Almighty.” (2:6-9)

All nations desire silver and gold. Solomon’s temple had millions of dollars worth of silver and gold. This new temple was nothing compared to the splendor of the first temple. A future temple is coming that may be in view here.

When Jesus returns to this earth, He will enter Jerusalem and bring peace.

God looks upon these series of temples as one house.

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:1-2)

- The Third Message: The Defiled People will be Blessed and Purified (2:10-19)
December 24, 520 BC

On the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius, the word of the LORD came to the prophet Haggai:

“This is
what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Ask the priests what the law says: If a person carries consecrated meat in the fold of his garment, and that fold touches some bread or stew, some wine, oil or other food, does it become consecrated?’”

The priests answered, “No.”

Then Haggai said, “If a person defiled by contact with a dead body touches one of these things, does it become defiled?”

“Yes,” the priests replied, “it becomes defiled.”

Then Haggai said, “‘So it is with this people and this nation in my sight,’ declares the LORD. ‘Whatever they do and whatever they offer there is defiled.

On this day, Haggai went to the priests and asked two things about the law:

  1. Will the holy that touches the unclean make it holy? No.
  2. Will the unclean that touches the holy make it unclean? Yes.

Holiness is non-communicable.
Unholiness is transferrable/communicable.

The Mosaic law did not cover every possible scenario. The priests decided such matters and it became the law.

We have a similar method today. There is a difference between statute or statutory law (passed by legislation/congress) and common law (a matter brought before a court).

“‘Now give careful thought to this from this day on — consider how things were before one stone was laid on another in the LORD’s temple. When anyone came to a heap of twenty measures, there were only ten. When anyone went to a wine vat to draw fifty measures, there were only twenty. I struck all the work of your hands with blight, mildew and hail, yet you did not turn to me,’ declares the LORD. ‘From this day on, from this twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, give careful thought to the day when the foundation of the LORD’s temple was laid. Give careful thought: Is there yet any seed left in the barn? Until now, the vine and the fig tree, the pomegranate and the olive tree have not borne fruit.

‘From this day on I will bless you.’”

God says the people returned to the land but not to God. You can swim in holy water and it won’t make you holy. Baptism of your body won’t automatically change your heart.

“‘If a descendant of Aaron has an infectious skin disease or a bodily discharge, he may not eat the sacred offerings until he is cleansed. He will also be unclean if he touches something defiled by a corpse or by anyone who has an emission of semen, or if he touches any crawling thing that makes him unclean, or any person who makes him unclean, whatever the uncleanness may be. The one who touches any such thing will be unclean till evening. He must not eat any of the sacred offerings unless he has bathed himself with water. (Leviticus 22:4-6)

Ceremonies and religious rituals will not purify your heart.

“Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean.’ For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what make a man ‘unclean’; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him ‘unclean.’” (Matthew 15:17-20)

By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. (Matthew 7:16-20)

You can’t make manure smell good by dumping perfume on it!

The heart must be changed. How?

Who can say, “I have kept my heart pure; I am clean and without sin”? (Proverbs 20:9)

“Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. (Isaiah 1:18)

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. (1 Peter 1:18-19)

What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

God is saying the reason the people are not blessed is they have unclean hearts. Now that their hearts are right, they will be blessed.

Is your heart blocking God’s blessing in your life?

- The Fourth Message: The Promise to Zerubbabel (2:20-23)
December 24, 520 BC

Why two messages on the same day? Good question!

word of the LORD came to Haggai a second time on the twenty-fourth day of the month: (2:20)

Tell Zerubbabel governor of Judah that I will shake the heavens and the earth. I will overturn royal thrones and shatter the power of the foreign kingdoms. I will overthrow chariots and their drivers; horses and their riders will fall, each by the sword of his brother.

God will overthrow all nations.

“‘On that day,’ declares the LORD Almighty, ‘I will take you, my servant Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel,’ declares the LORD, ‘and I will make you like my signet ring, for I have chosen you,’ declares the LORD Almighty.” (2:23)

The signet ring is an identification of royalty. Zerubbabel is in the line of David.

The Messiah will not only come through David but also Zerubbabel. He appears in both Matthew 1 and Luke 3 genealogies.

Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords. He will rule and reign someday.

The little temple built in Haggai’s day will one day welcome Jesus.

So What?

There are a few vital lessons we must understand from Haggai.

  1. God must truly be first in our lives. No other gods. No idols.
  2. God will bless us when we obey and discipline us when we disobey.
  3. God’s grace is amazing. He never gives up on us. His love is unconditional.

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

Bless Everyone, b.l.e.s.s., 6 January 2013

Bless Everyone
Series: b.l.e.s.s.

Big Idea: We have been blessed to be a blessing.

Scriptures: Genesis 12:1-3; John 6:1-13; Philippians 2:1-11

Happy New Year!

We have begun a new year, a year full of hopes and promise, possibility and potential. As we all know, one of the most common elements of the new year is the making of new year’s resolutions.

Have you made new year’s resolutions?
Have you have been able to maintain your resolutions for six days?!

Why do we make resolutions? We hope to change. We hope to grow.

This is really a great time of year to reflect, plan, and focus. There’s a myth that says as we get older, we’ll automatically get wiser. Nothing could be further from the truth!

Growth does not just occur...unless you’re talking about your waistline! Dr. John Maxwell says that we have to be intentional towards growth.

One of the keys to growth is perseverance. It’s easy to get impatient with our resolutions and goals. It is so important to stick to it!

This week I was reminded of the power of perseverance. If you swing an axe five times on a tree, most likely nothing much will happen—unless it’s a tiny tree! If tomorrow you do it again, you probably won’t see much change. If you take five swings every day, eventually it will fall, no matter how big the tree. Perseverance is the key.

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!

We have defined success for Scio Community Church:

We exist to fulfill the Great Commission and follow the Great Commandment by 

- serving our communities

- sharing our story
- sending disciples to bless the nations

so that God is glorified.

How? Let’s begin with why.

Genesis 12:1-3

The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

Do you want to be blessed? We have all been richly blessed. We have not been blessed for merely our own pleasure, however, but to be a blessing to others. We are to be conduits of God’s blessing to our weary world that rejoices when they encounter Jesus Christ.

God’s covenant with Abram in chapter twelve of the Bible begins a thread that is found not only throughout the pages that follow, but also today and until the very end of the age when followers of Jesus will ultimately experience God’s presence forever.

The Hebrew word for "blessing" (
JKårD;b, baœrak) means "to empower to strength." We seek God's blessing and pass that blessing on to others. We’ve been blessed to be a blessing. This applies to our finances, our freedoms, our resources, our relationships, and our salvation.

Today and for these first five weeks of 2013 we’re going to look at how we can be a blessing to others, and ultimately to God. To make it simple, throughout this series we will use the acronym b.l.e.s.s. Today’s “B” is simply “bless everyone.”

As I was studying this week, I was struck by one feature of a well-known story, Jesus multiplying the loaves and the fish. There were thousands of hungry people when Jesus tells His disciples that the people need food.

John 6:7-13

Philip answered him, “Eight months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”
(John 6:7)

Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” (John 6:8-9)

Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and the men sat down, about five thousand of them. Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish. (John 6:10-11)

When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten. (John 6:12-13)

The boy did not need a miracle from God. In fact, he didn’t even need lunch. He brought his own! The boy offered what he had to Jesus. In doing so, his sacrifice was multiplied and thousands were fed, including the boy. John Maxwell said,
“If you trust Him with your lunch, it is only a matter of time before you trust Him with your life. The more you put in His hands, the greater it becomes.”

How have you been blessed?

Philippians 2:1-8

If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:1-4)

That might sound far-fetched, but this is what it means to follow Jesus. Paul continues...

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:5-8)

Perhaps Jesus said it best. His entire ministry was filled with both words and deeds to express the love of God to those around Him. He said

“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16)

I’ve been reading a book by Mark Russell called
The Missional Entrepreneur. I highly recommend it to anyone looking to use their marketplace work as their mission field. The book highlights a study done by two teams of missionaries sent to Thailand.

You could call one team the “blessers” and the other team, the “converters.” The “converters” went with the sole intention of converting people and evangelizing everyone around them. The “blessers” went with the intention of “blessing” people. They would say, “I’m just here to bless whoever comes my way” or “I just want to be a blessing to the people in my community.”

The study followed both teams for a couple of years and here are two interesting observations. First, the “blessers” had a greater social impact than the “converters.” Blessing created social good. Secondly, the “blessers” had 48 times as many conversions as the “converters!” They were more successful at helping people encounter Jesus.

People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

From the very beginning, God’s way to change the world has been a “blessing strategy.” God blessed Abraham relationally, financially and spiritually; but the purpose of that blessing was not for him to simply receive that blessing. The intent of the blessing for Abraham and all who followed after him, including Jesus and us, is that we are being blessed to be a blessing. This is a subtle but important point – if you do not get this you will never discover your mission in life and nothing else you read in this book will make any sense! Every single blessing you’ve ever received was given to you so that you would in turn be a blessing to others. Yes, you were blessed to be a blessing!

Being a blessing to people is both how you accomplish the Jesus Mission and how you discover your own mission. How do you bless people? First, begin with prayer. Ask God to show you who and how you are to bless. One of my regular prayers living at the Ronald McDonald House in Cleveland is, “LORD, I have been blessed and I want to bless others. Show me who and how to bless.” Then obey!


The challenge this week is simple:
bless one person, preferably a person that does not know Jesus. Feel free to bless others, too, but ask God to show you who and how to bless. It may be a little thing like holding the door open for a stranger or something more significant like providing a meal for a sick neighbor or paying the bill of the people behind you in the drive-through (though that doesn’t provide much relational connection). One suggestion: ask your waiter, waitress or barista how you can pray for God to bless them. Other ideas can be found at


Don’t live a solitary life. Bless everyone.


Aaron Niequist has created a series of interactive worship tools called "A New Liturgy." The second project is "Blessed To Be A Blessing,” a worthwhile download that would be a great next step. The audio package is $5 at iTunes.

You can listen to the podcast here.