As I began to wake up one morning a few months ago, it was on my mind that the more I wished blessings on someone else, family or friends or even unknown others, the more I would be reaping blessings in my life. This is a basic principle of our lives by which our actions and thoughts and desires for others and for ourselves yield for us what we wish for others. If we are suspicious of other people, if we are worried about what they’ll do to us, if we don’t see any good in them, if we judge them in any way, then that very negativity is what is reflected in our lives. Jesus said this so clearly in Matthew 7: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” [v. 1-2] And then he adds that taking the speck out of his brother’s eye is hypocritical when there is a plank in your own eye! [v. 3-5]
The basic principle is about how obedient we are to God’s Ten Commandments :
to love God above all else in our lives(1-4),
to honor our parents(5)
to treat others as we’d like them to treat us:
no false testimony against your neighbor(9)
no coveting of anything that belongs to your neighbor(10). [Ex 20:1-17]
I am not writing about strict obedience to God’s laws. It is not about being letter-of-the- law people. It is really about how we experience God’s love and how we are to give nothing but love back to Him and to everyone else. And it is not just what we say and do; Jesus is calling us to let go of the attitudes and judgments that we have in our conscious and unconscious minds as well as to conform our actions to His teachings. For if we truly love God, if we are putting Him first above everything else in our lives, then we are living in gratitude for His love and care and guidance; we are aware of His presence; we welcome the blessings and grace He showers on us daily. We listen to the Indwelling Spirit of God for guidance. There is nothing of more importance in our lives than God—not family or friends or work or even anger at someone else or envy or fear of our own pain and suffering–nothing stands between us and God. God is enough for us, when He is first in our lives.
Let’s look at Deuteronomy Chapter 28 which focuses on how our obedience to and love of God brings us blessings or, if we don’t obey God, curses—everywhere we go, our children, our work, our comings and goings—“on everything you put your hand to.” [Deut 28:1-14] If we are obedient to and love God, He will protect us from our enemies, establish us as His holy people.
But, if we do not follow His commandments, we will be cursed in our work, in everything we do and everywhere we go. We will suffer diseases, droughts, defeat before our enemies and much more. [Deut 28:15-68]
It is our choice how our lives go. Blessings or curses. Love and obedience or self-centeredness. It is the result of how we choose to live. It is our thoughts and desires that determine the richness or poverty of our existence.[I am not talking about money here!] If God is at the center of our existence, then we are living purposeful and fulfilling lives. If He is not acknowledged, if He is not obeyed, then it is by our own choices how our lives go steadily downhill. We will erect walls around us to protect us from what is due us. We will be defensive, not open. We will be living in the past, not the present.
This in not to say that there will be no challenges if we are obedient to God, for our lives with God and without God are full of challenges. But when we live with God as the center of our lives, He will be with us in all those challenges. He will bring us support and healing and direction to every situation.
This is not a way to measure other people’s lives, only our own. I am not in any way saying that if someone is poor they don’t love God. For a whole lot of poor people are a lot happier than the rich. That’s what I experienced in Haiti, one of the poorest countries in the world. And in Mexico, where they surely know how to celebrate life with frequent and free public celebrations. And even in the United States, poor people are more apt to live in and celebrate community among themselves than any middle class or rich person would, supporting each other through any crisis, even money problems. For example, my son-in-law owned a trailer park in Florida in the early 2000’s. Inevitably, every month one or more of the residents would pay part of the rent of another, mentioning that the person was struggling now.
We choose whether we are blessed or cursed. God does not rain punishment on us for our mistakes and sin, we choose the consequences of our choices. He welcomes us when we turn back to Him. He is just waiting for us to choose Him above all. He celebrates our return and He restores us to our place in the family of man and of God. This is so clearly seen in the Parable of the Prodigal or Lost Son. [Luke 15:11-32]
I know, I know, there are lots of places in the Old Testament where God is angry at the Israelites and wants to punish them for forsaking Him, i.e. when they worshipped Baal. And He does—like the exile to Babylon or the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in 70 A.D. But the punishment was already established in their actions, their choices, not because God is an angry punishing God, just waiting for us to do wrong, so He can zap us.
Jesus reveals God to be Love, Forgiveness and Presence in our lives. The more we live in God’s ways, the more we experience His love and forgiveness and presence. He will meet all our needs. He will attend to our suffering. He will walk with us all our days. Really, what more could we want?
Questions to ponder over the week: Do I put God first in every area of my life? Where do I fall short of that goal? Do I say I trust God and then fail to act with trust in Him? Am I judging others? Do I judge myself?
Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who seek to put God first in every area of our lives. May we listen for God’s inspiration throughout our days. May we be obedient to God above all.
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