The power of blessing others

In my own life, my mother blesses me, whether if its when I am leaving or if she gets a hold of my voicemail she offers up these words in prayer and as a blessing over me; “May God bless you with children who bring you joy, as much joy as you bring me, and that’s a LOT, in Jesus’ name Amen.”

Blessings are mentioned in the Bible, the one most Christians are familiar with is the one found in Numbers 6:22-27;

The LORD said to Moses, “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them:

  “‘“The LORD bless you
and keep you;
the LORD make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
the LORD turn his face toward you
and give you peace.”’

  “So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.”

In the time frame of this blessing, God made the Israelites his one and only. God set the Israelites apart from everyone else at that time, he was with them as he guided them through the desert for 40 years and afterwards.

There’s also the account in the Bible of a blessing being stolen, Jacob swiped his brother Esau’s blessing out from under him, but still that blessing is recorded in the Bible, Genesis 27:27-29;

So he went to him and kissed him. When Isaac caught the smell of his clothes, he blessed him and said,

“Ah, the smell of my son
is like the smell of a field
that the LORD has blessed.
May God give you heaven’s dew
and earth’s richness—
an abundance of grain and new wine.
May nations serve you
and peoples bow down to you.
Be lord over your brothers,
and may the sons of your mother bow down to you.
May those who curse you be cursed
and those who bless you be blessed.”

***

So what’s the application that I get out of these passages in the Bible? The way I see it is that blessings aren’t a placebo or a form of self-fulfilling prophecy, but a way to encourage someone by way of words. Another verse comes to mind in this, Proverbs 18:21 says “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”
What we say has the power to speak volumes into someone’s life in both positive ways or negative ways, and honestly there have been times where my words have brought people down, and the process to getting a person out of a hole created by negative words is harder than what it took to get them there in the first place. Working at uplifting others by way of words take time, but it must be done, and social action (if required) combined with positive words is the best way to go.

I have a blessing I bestow upon others, I don’t toss it out flippantly, I mean what I say and I say what I mean. I recognize that what I have to say by way of my blessing is sometimes the much needed glass of water. I also recognize that everyone is deserving of blessing, this isn’t a for Christians only kinda thing, so I do what I can to pronounce blessing over my Atheist, Muslim, Buddhist, Agnostic, Jewish, etc friends. They are entitled to being blessed over as well, and so I will.

In parting, my blessing to you the reader is the one I pronounce over others.

Be blessed and continue to bless others,
~Nathanael~

Application trumps memorization; Be doers of the word and not just hearers

James 1:22 – But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.

I grew up attending AWANA; which if you’re not familiar with it, it’s a K-12 program that meets out of churches that helps provide a place for kids to have fun by way of playing games, singing songs and other things.
The main aspect of the AWANA program is that it focuses on memorization of Bible verses. I started when I was 5 and I stayed with it till I was 16 or 17, I won’t go into my falling out with the AWANA program, but in my earlier years I loved it; the games, the memorizing of Bible verses, the leaders were phenomenal in aiding to my spiritual development. On a side note, I’m glad to have helped foster the spiritual development in the context of youth ministry to one of my former leader’s sons, it’s definitely a God moment that in some degree a full circle has been completed. Thank you former Sparks leaders, you know who you are 😉

If I had the power to restructure the AWANA program, I would add to what they have to offer the application side of what was learned by memorization. Do I think it’s important to memorize Bible verses? Absolutely, but memorization needs to be paired with application. The verse I posted in James does point to taking what is learned (heard is mentioned, but that ties into their oral tradition culture) and practiced out, but you also have this repeated quite often in the chapter some Christians refer to as “The Love Chapter” (1 Corinthians 13).

The phrase within 1 Corinthians 13 that gets repeated is “If I have no love” which to me it sticks out. In that time and age I’m sure love was thought to be something that came from the heart and thoughts and learning came from the mind, so to reduce the Gospel message as something that is simply thought or learned about, to use the mind and not be in touch with the love that comes out of it via the heart…Well, the author says when he doesn’t love:
– he’s a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal
– he is nothing
– he gains nothing
Similarly for us who are followers of Christ, if we err on the side of memorization only we lack in love, and when love isn’t acted out in a tangible love…is it really love?

I implore you dare reader who is a follower of Christ to question yourself in what you’ve read in the Bible, in particularly what’s attributed to what Jesus said as well as did, do you take what you’ve read and learned and take it to those who need it? Are you in need of transitioning from being simply a hearer to a doer?

Something to chew on…

~Nathanael~

 

I’m not a churchaholic; figuring out the type of church I want to help cultivate

During the week my schedule contains going to church (that is, interacting with people who for the most part share a common belief system with me) quite a bit. My weekly “church” schedule looks something like this:

Sunday – I go to Flowing Grace for an early morning Bible study followed up by a regular service with everyone.

Monday – I go to a home church that primarily focuses on prayer and worship by way of music.

Tuesday – nada zip zilch.

Wednesday – I help out with a high school youth group at Orchard Community Church.

Thursday – I help out with a soup kitchen at Trinity Episcopalian Church. There’s a brief service preluding lunch, spiritual food before physical food as I like to think of it. 🙂

Friday – nada zip zilch (but occasionally I visit the local mosque on invitation of my friends).

Saturday -When I can I like going to Orchard Community Church with friends for the evening service.

***

Now some friends are concerned that I do too much in regards to my church related activities, and honestly I wish I could do more. More in the sense that I want to engage with my church peeps apart from the given day we gather together, because life and community does truly happen in a church setting, but there’s so much more apart from church.

With my many interactions now I’ve started to piece together a “Frankenstein” church that I would like to help cultivate. I know The Perfect Church doesn’t exist, but drawing from what I see and help out with and engage, if I were to help create and cultivate a church these are some things I would put emphasis on, not a comprehensive list but a good deal of what I like with the churches I’m involved with:

– Smaller and in the community, the megachurch model isn’t for me.
– Inclusive to all.
– Communion/Lord’s Supper also inclusive for all.
– Worship in the form of music isn’t over-the-top.
– Time dedicated to prayer, as well as time dedicated to praying for and over others.
– God the Father recognized and invoked.
– God the Son recognized and invoked.
– God the Holy Spirit recognized and invoked.
– Soup kitchen, immigration assistance, other communal/social issues addressed.
– A space for the local chapter of PFLAG to have their meetings.
– Community local and global assisted.
– Incense, cantoring, Icons or portraits of God and other saints.
– Art from the community decorating the halls.
Common Book of Prayer; not essential, but certainly helpful.
– Shorter/Homiletic messages.
– Deeper theological messages.
– Opportunities for Q&A based messages where people text in their question[s].
– Discipleship for all people on their spiritual journey.
– Teaching of older church practices; lectio divina, meditation, labyrinth, etc.
– Opportunities to start grassroots ministries.
– Room for doubting and for questioning.

Now I recognize while I may lean in this direction as to how I want to cultivate a church, it comes down to the people within the church to help carry it out. I recognize the silliness of the joke that says “I want to be a pastor because my day of work is only on Sunday.” The pastor is an element to the church (people) but he shouldn’t be the focal point, God should be this focal point, and taking the Gospel message to where the rubber hits the road (The Great Commission) is how we should live it out.

This is a dream, a desire, a part of me I cannot (nor will I) shake loose.

~Nathanael~

 

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 in the NVIV

One of my favorite individuals that I follow on Twitter is Unvirtuous Abbey, their satirical spiritual twist on things is knee slapping funny. I too like being spiritually funny, what Stephen Colbert would define as sacridorable, so here’s my take on Ecclesiastes 3…enjoy!

Ecclesiastes 3

A Text for Everything

1 There is a text for everything,
and a tweet for every activity under the heavens:

2 a text upon birth, a text upon death,
a text for when to grow and a text when to harvest,
3 a text prior to maiming, a text in time of healing,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a text for sad times, a text for glad times,
a text in times of mourning, and a text for when it’s time to party,
5 a text for throwing out what doesn’t matter, a text for gathering what truly matters,
a text for physical intimacy, a text for keeping physical boundaries,
6 a text for times of searching and a text for times of giving up,
a text to keep forever, a text to delete,
7 a text to discard and a text for healing,
a text when our phones our on vibrate, a text for when our phone’s default ringtone goes off,
8 a text that is lovely and a text that is hateful,
a text in good times, a text in bad times.

~Nathanael~

Have we learned nothing from history; Trayvon Martin and Emmett Till

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it – George Santayana

   It was only 56 years ago a 14 year old boy by the name of Emmett Till was brutally murdered, his “crime”? He flirted with a white woman while visiting relatives in Mississippi. Because he whistled at a woman, men acted evilly took it upon themselves to go after Emmett and brutally murder him. When his body was recovered the extent of his injuries was horrific, I don’t even want to type them here. Emmett’s mom who raised him did something purposeful at this funeral, she had an open casket; she made her son’s tragic death visible to the world at large, a symbol of visible brutality and tragedy in a life cut short.

In today’s recent headlines there’s talk about Trayvon Martin; a 17 year old who was walking to where his father’s girlfriend lived, who wore a hoodie and had on him Skittles and iced tea. He was gunned down because his shooter said he was “suspicious” and yet no weapon was found on Trayvon. A man acted in an evil manner took it upon himself to respond in the most horrific of ways, by killing another human being.

There are correlations between Emmett Till and Trayvon Martin, but what gets to me is that in both cases innocent blood spilled on the ground, and as I reread the account of the first murder recorded in the Bible I read Genesis 4:10 – “The LORD said [to Cain], “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.”

Blood cries out to God from the ground…Emmett’s blood as well as Trayvon’s. There are also the cries of those directly affected, there are cries from the nations who are rightly upset at such tragedy and pain. I too weep at such a horrific end of life ended barely after it started, life is a precious gift from God and to have that life taken away by another human being is heartbreaking.

***

Whatever the outcome is in this recent murder, God is in control and his justice will prevail, but I am let thinking and wondering and somewhat yelling at God HAVE WE NOT LEARNED FROM HISTORY? WHY DO WE KEEP MAKING SUCH HORRIBLE MISTAKES TIME AND TIME AGAIN? Because as the quote I mentioned above says we’re condemned to keep making such horrible choices and mistakes if we don’t progress and learn from what was done. I don’t want humanity to be caught in the past that’s destructive, and with Trayvon’s death it seems as we’re condemned to repeat what unfolded 50+ years ago in the case of Emmett.

May God’s justice prevail in these troubled times,
May God give peace and comfort to Trayvon’s family and friends in this time and in time to come.

~Nathanael~

How to read the Bible in context

    In my college years I took an Old Testament course followed up by a New Testament course. I learned from one of my professors this important quote; “a text without a context is a pretext.” To which that has been a perspective I work at solidifying how I read the Bible, in context, and with that being said, this is my opinion as how to read the Bible in context.

1) Read the selected verse.
2) Read the verses surrounding the selected verse.
3) Read the chapter to which the selected verse is a part of.
4) Read the book of the Bible that the selected verse is a part of.
5) Read the surrounding books of the Bible the selected verse is a part of.
6) Read the Bible in its entirety in relation to the selected verse.

***

Easy? By no means, but to keep the text in context the Bible needs to be read in its entirety.

~Nathanael~

Likeable Links – Friday 3/23/12

Just some links I have come across that I like:

Tea Party Jesus – “The words of Christians in the mouth of Christ.”

Unvirtuous Abbey – “Holier than thou, but not by much. Digital monks praying for people with first world problems. From our keyboard to God’s ears. Since Aug. 4, 2010.”

Sexy Religion – A great deal of photos of places of worship and art. I’m a fan of design and architecture so this is right up my alley. 🙂

Simply Orthodox – A good deal of quotes from the desert fathers and mothers, some more contemporaries within Orthodoxy as well.

NVPhotography – Shameless self promotion, I’m a freelance photographer.

Imagine – Minimalism, photography, andLegos all rolled into one.

Invisible Man in Beijing – I appreciate what this man does, and he certainly does a good job at it!

Oblivious photographer is oblivious – A bit of schadenfreude if you will, haven’t had this happen to me while photographing but nor do I want it to.

NASA creates a panorama of the sky from 18,000 photos – I enjoy making panoramas but this is utterly awe inspiring and jaw dropping.

How to optimize your Canon DSLR for filmmaking – A worth while link for those who have this feature in their Canon. I do, but I haven’t gone to in-depth with it yet.

Strip away the glamour and glitz from Jimmy Fallon as TeBowie…and you still have Jimmy Fallon as TeBowie:

~Nathanael~