Written by Kathryn Kircher - Heartland Church of Fort Wayne
Illustrated by Rhonda Bailey
The Blessing: Part 1
Read: Numbers 6:22-27
Recently, my heart has been captivated once again by these powerful words of blessing God gave to speak over His people. A new musical setting was recently written for this passage—perhaps you’ve heard it:
In many places around the globe, Christians from different churches have joined together to sing this song as a way of blessing their nations and demonstrating unity in the face of the COVID19 epidemic. Believers from every corner of the earth are invoking this ancient blessing. Here’s a version from Malaysia:
And what a rich blessing it is! Each of its three couplets carries a unique expression of God’s desire to benefit His people. Let’s start with the first pair: “The Lord bless you and keep you.”
We throw this word around with good intentions, expressing our hope that others will experience good things. But what does it really mean?
The Hebrew word here is בָּרַךְ (baw-rak'), which literally means “to kneel.” At first that doesn’t seem too helpful, but if you ponder that image awhile, it paints a vivid picture. We can “kneel” as we give and receive benefits, to and from God and others. Our kneeling—whether it’s literal or simply in our hearts—acknowledges that whatever benefits are being bestowed all ultimately come from one source: God’s hand.
And those benefits come in myriad shapes and sizes. בָּרַךְ (baw-rak') is used 330 times in the Bible and it includes things like:
Why don’t you take a moment right now to pause and kneel in gratitude for some of the specific ways you’ve experienced God’s blessing?
Here’s another Hebrew word that paints a vivid picture: שָׁמַר (shaw-mar') carries the idea of guarding and protecting by creating a hedge of thorns.
But similar to the word for “blessing,” there are many facets to the meaning of this Hebrew word. It’s used 440 times in the Bible, but let’s look at just a handful of the ways that God’s hedge of protection might be expressed:
What are some of the specific ways the Lord has “kept” you? Take a moment right now to remember and savor these times of blessing.
Written by Beth Bankert - Heartland Church of Fort Wayne
“Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” (Matthew 5:9 KJV)
Jesus said, ”Blessed are the peacemakers..." He did not say," Blessed are the peacekeepers..." I once was a peacekeeper. I despised conflict and avoided rocking the boat. I attempted to keep the peace no matter what and even paid the high price of being dishonest with others and myself. Peacekeeping did not work. When my relationships started to crumble and deteriorate, I sought counseling. It was there I learned the difference between peacekeepers and peacemakers.
Peacekeepers avoid conflict, pretend everything is okay, and settle for fake peace where there is no resolve or restoration. Peacekeepers hide behind a mask trying to look humble and virtuous. They hide their heads in the sand while life falls apart around them. They are not about their relationships or the other person. They just want the conflict to go away at any cost. This creates a toxic environment and usually leads to breakdown in relationships or with oneself. Peacekeepers believe it is their responsibility to keep the peace, finding it difficult to trust God and His wonder-working power.
Peacemakers, on the other hand, are usually painfully honest with how they are feeling about themselves and others. They are willing to live in the tension until true and lasting reconciliation and restoration have occurred. Peacemakers are all about restoring relationship....they value their relationship over being right. Peacemakers are usually authentic people. They may not like tension or conflict, but they don't hide from it either. Peacemakers believe God wants to bring peace, will bring peace, and has brought peace. They trust Him with the hard stuff.
Jesus enters into conflict and tension. He speaks truth to power many times. When He speaks, light dispels darkness, bringing more than one "light bulb" moment for His disciples. Jesus is all about loving the other, and He places a very high value on His relationships with us. He is willing to get dirty while helping us with our messy lives. He definitely is not about relieving the tension — it’s often the tension in our lives that causes us to run to Him, where we find Him waiting and willing to help and restore. But sometimes, at the end of the day, the only result may be to respectfully agree to disagree with one another.
Social unrest persists in our nation and communities. It is a spiritual battle in a spiritual war. In our conversations with our spouses, friends, co-workers, and neighbors, speaking our opinion matters, but speaking the truth in love matters more, for it is there that peace can be found.
PRAYER: O Lord Jesus, who biddest thy Church to bring all men to thyself; make clear to each one of us his part in the task. Fire our minds with a vision of a more perfect society here on earth in which justice and right, peace and brotherhood, shall reign according to thy will; and helping each one to do our part, that thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Amen. (Methodist Prayer Book)
Written by Janet Mueller - Heartland Church of Fort Wayne
I didn’t expect to see him squatting there with his green and brown spotted coat blending in with the still damp soil and tiny weed sprouts. I had come to the gardens early in the day in search of red, juicy tomatoes for a salad lunch later.
“Well, hello there, little frog,” I murmured. “What brings you out this morning?”
Then I remembered how I had watered the garden last night, and the plants and soil were still moist. It’s been a long, hot, dry spell in northern Indiana. We haven’t seen a good rain in days, and the lawn is sun bleached and brittle. The vegetable and flower gardens with their bright greenery stand in stark contrast as they get watered nearly every day. Naturally, the frog set up shop where there was a source of water and refreshment.
I thought back to yesterday morning as I peeked out the kitchen window, the first rays of the sun promising another steaming, scorching day. The gardens were full of birds. They flitted in and out, disappearing momentarily among the green beans and bell pepper plants. Cardinals, sparrows, robins, and finches with little mincing steps danced choreographically in and out of the garden for this audience of one. Tiny droplets of water lingering on the plants washed over their feathers. This was their way of taking a morning shower, I surmised.
“If you water it, they will come,” the words sifted down upon my mind. “The water is intended for the plants, but others benefit from and depend upon it especially in the drought seasons.”
Ah, yes. I see where this is going…it’s our lives, our parched souls, our desperate need of living water. Intentional, daily watering (worship, meditating on Scripture, practicing the presence of God) is necessary for any hope of fruit. But something we might not consider is the secondary by-product of this watering. Others nearby, namely our spouses, children, friends, and strangers alike, all benefit, too. When we are well watered, others are drawn to us as we bring refreshment to them.
As I reached for a tomato, my little spotted visitor hopped away. I breathed a prayer, “Father, when the heat is on and souls are withering, help us live in such an intentional way that when anyone comes near us, they come under the influence of living water.”
“The LORD will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring. Some of you will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities. Then you will be known as a rebuilder of walls and a restorer of homes.” (Isaiah 58:11,12 NLT)