Be Blessed So You Can Bless
Several years ago I had the opportunity to participate in a wedding for a young couple. I told them I would love to have a part, but we needed to do a little talking before their big day. At our first pre-marital counseling session the bride showed up with a large 3 ring binder filled with pictures, sketches, and ideas that they had put together. And it was helpful, because it was as close to a fairy tale wedding that I have ever seen. The groom was handsome and the bride was beautiful. Perfect weather, perfect venue, as a matter of fact everyone left talking about how perfect everything was. The happy couple ran thorough the bird seed and into the limo as they made their way to their perfect honeymoon destination to start their life together.
8 months later this same couple was once again in my office, but all of the joy and happiness that was in their relationship before their marriage had been replaced with an icy cold bitterness. My first thought was that they were going through the same struggles that all new couples go through, she doesn’t cook like my mom, he leaves his clothes all over the floor. Things we could talk and listen through. But there was more to it, because the new bride started the conversation by saying, I wanted the wedding so badly, I looked forward to it, poured my life into planing it and now that it is over I’m not sure that I want the marriage. The wedding was fun, but the marriage isn’t.
Have you ever had a similar experience? I’m not talking about having difficulty in your marriage; I mean have you ever anticipated something so much that when it finally happened it didn’t live up to your expectations? Maybe it was your first job, or first car. Maybe it was a trip that you always wanted to take, or a person that you always wanted to meet. And when you finally got what you thought you always wanted, you realize is that it wasn’t what you wanted at all.
Back in July we started a journey together, we began looking at the songs that the Jewish travelers would sing as they made their way to worship. The journey began in the 120th Psalm as the travelers sang about repentance, so we joined them and sang about our need to repent. This is an important song in our relationship with God, because it recognizes our need to turn away from the world and turn toward God. Worship carries this idea of being focused on God and not on ourselves. Psalm 120 was sung to the person at the crossroads, inviting each of us to make the decision to live a life of faith; inviting us to a better way.
Each of the following songs described what takes place along this journey to meet with God. Each week we have talked and sang our way through these songs because they describe the adventures and challenges we all face. This morning our pilgrims have finally reached Jerusalem, they are in the presence of God, now what? What happens at the end of faith? What takes place when we finally arrive? Are we going to be disappointed?
Psalm 134 is the song of men and women who have experienced the blessing of being in God’s presence and among God’s people who are getting ready to return home and live out the charge to bless others. They fully understand that the opportunity to be in the presence of God was great, but living out the blessing that comes from being in His presence is better.
These pilgrims have had the opportunity to experience the joy of that mountain top type of experience. But they know they cannot stay on the mountain top. We would love to have a Winterfest, or Summer Celebration, or Tulsa Workshop type of experience every day, to have the opportunity to worship, to sing, to spend time with thousands of other broken people who are in love with an awesome God.
But you and I were not created to live on that mountain top. We were created to be light and live out our love in a world that desperately needs a little compassion and mercy. The pilgrims in Jerusalem had been on a spiritual retreat, away from the pressures of everyday activities, focusing on their worship of God and being encouraged by others. And while it was sad to leave this wonderful place of God’s nearness and blessing, they knew they were returning home changed. Being with God and His children lads our hearts to sings about His love.
Sing How Great Thou Art (Verse 1)
Worship is a call to a Blessing
This is the perfect Psalm for us to consider on the Sunday before Thanksgiving. Our Psalm begins in verse 1 by calling us to Bless the Lord, or Praise the Lord. Praise and Worship are the greatest activities that we can be a part of. Worship is central to a life of discipleship because it acknowledges the magnitude of our God. These travelers have been longing for this moment, but now what happens? Will the time of worship live up the the expectation?
I have often wondered if we have lost our way a bit. I know in my own life how easy it is to get side tracked from what is really important in life. There are so many other things that call out for my attention, so many good and important things have taken our focus of God. The chaos and turmoil of living in a broken world is overwhelming at times. Can we be honest and admit that we all have times when we struggle coming to worship because it doesn’t seem to live up to our expectations.
We have forgotten that worship isn’t about us, it’s all about God. We forget that God doesn’t need our worship; we need to worship Him. God isn’t some insecure cosmic being, who waits for His worshippers to remind Him how awesome He is and how desperately they need Him. God has millions of angels constantly proclaiming His holiness.
We gather to worship God as a way to take our eyes off the busyness and brokenness of our lives and turn our eyes toward Jesus. We need to worship when we find ourselves in turmoil so that we can find the God of peace.
We need to worship when life doesn’t make sense so that we can find the God of wisdom.
We need to worship when we are struggling to love our neighbor, enemy, and one another so that we can find the God who is love and His love will become ours.
We have forgotten that worship calls us back to focus on who we are and what position God holds in our world. The opportunity to praise Him is a blessing. We were created to worship God. The same God who created the universe, also created us to know and love Him with all our heart and soul and mind and strength. Worship is how we acknowledge the beautiful invitation of God to get close to Him.
Eugene Peterson says that God is worthy of our worship because He was willing to come down to our level and share Himself with us. It’s like a dad who get’s on the ground to spend time with his toddler, crawling on the ground and joining the child in play so that the child can feel the closeness that the dad wants to share. God doesn’t live in some distant land and every now and then sends us some obscure message to let us know He’s still alive. God blesses us by coming and living among us, living in us.
God enters into our need, He gets into our skin, and understands us better than we understand ourselves. God knows what it is like to live in this world and He understands our frustrations that we deal with day in and day out. God knows the frustration of changing a diaper for the thirteenth time in the day, the irritation of seeing that report you worked so hard on gather dust on somebody's desk for weeks and weeks, or the aggravation of being in a rush when you have a flat tire or a car that wont start. Because God created us, and the world where we live, He understands the true desire of our heart and He comes along side of us so we never have to take this journey alone.
When we count our blessings this week during our Thanksgiving festivities, we need to include our God who blesses us over and over. When we understand how deeply we have been blessed by God or hearts will explode in worship and bless Him in return.
Sing 10,000 Reasons (Chorus)
Blessing Leads To Worship
Once we understand the richness of God’s blessings we are drawn to worship Him. This song is a reminder of that invitation, come and join in with the family and worship God. Did you have an argument with your spouse on the way? That's all right. You are here now. Bless God.
Did you fight with your neighbor while making the trip? Forget it. You are here now. Bless God.
Are you overwhelmed with preparations for Thanksgiving dinner this week, and finding a place for everyone to sit? Put that aside for the moment, you are here. Bless God.
Are you ashamed of the feelings you had while traveling maybe you grumbled on the way or felt a bit of resentment? Well, it wasn't bad enough to keep you from arriving, and now that you are here, bless God.
Are you embarrassed at the number of times you quit and had to have someone pick you up and carry you along? That doesn't matter. You are here. Bless God.
This song is an invitation and a command. We are invited to bless the Lord; we are commanded to bless the Lord. And there some of us who have come all this way and the trip has been so hard emotionally, or physically once we get here we just don't feel like we have anything left to bless God. It wouldn't be honest.
That’s where we get to verse two, and it’s an area that makes a few of you uncomfortable. The song calls us to Lift up holy hands in prayer, and praise the Lord. I understand that those of us who were raised in Churches of Christ are not really comfortable on raising hands to God in worship, but it is a principal that is commanded in the Old Testament as well as the New Testament. In 1 Timothy 2:8 the Apostle Paul writes, In every place of worship, I want men to pray with holy hands lifted up to God, free from anger and controversy.
Flavil Nichols helped me a lot in this area back when I was a young college student. He taught us that when the Jews and early Christians would lift hands they would hold their hands up to their hearts so that God could symbolically pour His blessings into their lives.
The call to lift up your hands can be done regardless of how you feel; it is a simple motor movement. You may not be able to command your heart, but you can command your hands. Lift your hands in blessing; just maybe your heart will get the message and be lifted up also in praise. God created us in such a way that our body and spirit are connected. And unfortunately I grew up in churches that tried to downplay the importance of what we do with our bodies in worship.
We have forgotten that what we do with our bodies affects us. The act of lifting up our hands in worship can help us lift our hearts to God. Kneeling in God’s presence, or falling on our faces before Him, can be an important step in humbling ourselves before Him. We are so consumed with being decent and in order that we only focus on what we can do in our minds. I was told that I needed to just think myself into the right frame of mind, but it never worked. The truth is I have to get out of my mind, because the things we do affect the way we think and feel.
It’s part of our theology, maybe we don’t talk about it from the pulpit, in a Bible class, or in our small groups but we sing about it.
Sing Kneel at The Cross
Sing I Stand in Awe Of You
Sing On Bended Knee
Sing Let Us Worship
Our song begins and ends with a blessing. God blesses us so that we can bless others and help them understand and know for themselves God’s ways and salvation and glory. God blesses us so that we can live our lives in such a way that the people around us can see God. This has been the plan from the very beginning.
Before you get to the table on Thanksgiving this Thursday, take a moment to stop and think about how much God has given you. He has given you everything you need for life like food, shelter, clothing. Whatever monetary gifts we have we received from God and whatever means we have to earn a living has also come from God. Yet, God gives more than material goods, He also pours out His grace, mercy and forgiveness. When we are honest about our brokenness and selfishness, we find hope in the fact that God is willing and desires to forgive us and give us another chance. His grace is new every morning and His mercy is everlasting.
Because God blesses us by giving, we have the opportunity to bless others. We are blessed, so we can bless others with our time, talents, and treasure. Every week we take up a tithe of money, but that’s not where the blessing ends. We are also called to tithe our time and talents to help one another, those in this community, and the Kingdom of God. We are called to follow God’s example of blessing and God never gives occasionally; He gives consistently, faithfully, generously and joyfully.
But we also need to bless others by giving grace, mercy and forgiveness. I understand it’s often easier to just put $100.00 in the collection plate than it is to pass along forgiveness, because we don’t want to give up our right to get even. Forgiveness means letting go of the pain that was inflicted in our lives in an effort to find peace and wholeness. We are called to Model Love in the Model City by offering the mercy and grace that our community is crying out for.
God blesses us with love, and His love gives our lives value, meaning, and worth. We are called to bless our community by loving our neighbor and treating them dignity and respect. God blesses us by giving, loving and filling us with life and so we can pass along those blessings to others. God’s love and blessing will be seen in this community, not by the blessings we receive, but by the way we pass those blessing on to others.
Invitation Song Blessed Be The Lord God Almighty