The Comings & Goings of Blessings
The Comings & Goings of Blessings
by Lonnie Lane
I’ve had some rewarding interactions with some homeless folks in our town as I’ve come across them. When I ask them if they know the Lord Jesus, hoping to perhaps lead them to the Lord if they didn’t, I was at first shocked to hear them say yes. What’s a believer doing homeless? But then I see His eyes shining through theirs. You really can see in someone’s eyes if they know the Lord, if He lives in there or not. The eyes of those who don’t know Him are, well, empty. But there’s an aliveness in the eyes of those who are His. Homeless yes, but His nonetheless. And always, I’ve found, they really love Him and have grateful hearts for whatever He sends their way. The stories are all different, but that He is with them is indisputable, at least to them.
Meeting these people gave new meaning to me for verses like, “I was hungry, and you gave Me something (or nothing) to eat: (Matthew 25:35, 42; See :31-48 for whole context). These folks are someone’s son or daughter, someone’s brother, sister, mother or father. Wouldn’t you want someone to feed your loved one if they were hungry? I tell you there’s a joy in helping them, a sense of both of you belonging to the same Lord. It’s amazing the “brotherly” and “sisterly” love that you feel. There are numerous things that cause you to feel God’s love and His pleasure and this is sure one of them.
It’s easy to look at the outside of someone who appears down and out and assess them as having failed somewhere in life to be where they are. But a friend of mine recently heard about a woman who had not too long ago had a six-figure job who was now living in her car with her dog because she was “down-sized” in this present economic crises. Circumstances and reasons vary. Though my friend didn’t have a job herself (perhaps that made her more sensitive to the women’s plight), she made the effort to find the woman and give her some money. The woman, it turns out, loves the Lord; it was just hard times for her, but she was trusting the Lord — and see, He brought her some help through my friend. She was homeless but her faith knew where Home was.
We can’t really tell what kind of interaction someone has had with the Lord from the outside or from circumstances, though I do maintain the eyes will tell. The clothes might not, or the finger nails, or the signs scribbled on cardboard like the one I saw recently held by the man standing just off the highway exit that said, “Hungry. Can you help? God bless.” While traffic went around us, I stopped to talk with him a little and give him what I had — a granola bar and a few dollars. He briefly shared his story with me and I came away encouraged and deeply touched by his tenderness toward the Lord. We don’t know what someone’s silent inner worship is toward the Lord, or what songs they sing in their hearts to Him. Some of these precious folks may just be carrying “an eternal weight of glory” (2 Cor 4:17). Their faith in the Lord may be greater than ours as we have less need for God in our self-sufficiency. To turn a familiar Scripture around, faith makes it possible to please Him and “He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” (See Heb 11:6).
I didn’t start out to write what you are reading. What I started to write had to be deleted when this emerged. It happens sometimes like this. I take it as it comes from the Lord especially when I can feel His heart in these words. Can you?
We know that God means for us to be loving as He is loving — all the time, not just when we meet someone in need. Besides, needs come in as many different packages as there are personalities. Paul was well-learned in the Scriptures before he knew the truth of who Yeshua was but for sure he had to learn what love meant upon becoming a Believer. Knowing what you do about Paul, can you imagine what conviction must have come to him for him to define love as He did in his letter to the Corinthians? This isn’t a casually put together list. This is autobiographical, I believe. As you read it, give some thought to what might have caused Paul to include each of these in this list:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. (1 Cor 13: 4-8a).
I wonder if Paul (in all his knowledge of Torah and the zeal for Israel’s purity which motivated him to persecute the Believers) after he was accosted by the Lord and spent time getting to know Him, heard himself through God’s ears, spouting off all he knew of Scripture and doctrine…yadda, yadda, yadda, without any love for others in it. At least until God could impart His love to him. Maybe God let Paul know how it sounded to Him: Clang, clang, clang! How annoying is that? The Amplified Bible gives us Paul’s words this way. (Don’t skip over this. It’s worth reading):
“If I [can] speak in the tongues of men and [even] of angels, but have not love (that reasoning, intentional, spiritual devotion such as is inspired by God’s love for and in us), I am only a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
“And if I have prophetic powers (the gift of interpreting the divine will and purpose), and understand all the secret truths and mysteries and possess all knowledge, and if I have [sufficient] faith so that I can remove mountains, but have not love (God’s love in me) I am nothing (a useless nobody). Even if I dole out all that I have [to the poor in providing] food, and if I surrender my body to be burned or in order that I may glory, but have not love (God’s love in me), I gain nothing.
“Love endures long and is patient and kind; love never is envious nor boils over with jealousy, is not boastful or vainglorious, does not display itself haughtily. It is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride); it is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly. Love (God’s love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong]. It does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness, but rejoices when right and truth prevail.
“Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening]. Love never fails [never fades out or becomes obsolete or comes to an end.” (1 Cor 13:1-8a).
Paul had a quest for righteousness and holiness to be restored to Israel and for Hellenism and any other unscriptural violation of Torah to be done away with. It was his motivation for going after the Believers whom he believed violated Torah by following a false god. But once having been confronted with the truth that Yeshua was indeed Israel’s Messiah, and realizing what he had done to His faithful followers, no doubt he was humbled and grateful beyond measure for God’s forgiveness as he often recalled, “my former manner of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it…. (and) persecuted this Way to the death, binding and putting both men and women into prisons,” (Gal 1:13; Acts 22:4). Did it hurt him deeply to know how much fear and pain he had caused the brothers and sisters he had persecuted? Yeshua introduced Himself to Paul by saying that Paul’s persecution of the Believes was equal to persecuting Yeshua Himself! (Acts 9:4). What a shock that must have been. All he had done had been not in God’s defense but against Him!
Grateful to be alive, to be able to have his sight restored, and to be forgiven, Paul’s life belonged entirely to Yeshua from that time forward. In time he would write about love as a man who came to learn of God’s love in contrast to what his own life had been like. Paul knew that Yeshua’s words and His life were about love, not just about keeping the rules of Torah scrupulously. He learned that:
- if you really love someone, you won’t hurt them: “Let those be ashamed and humiliated…who delight in my hurt“(Psalm 40:14),
- you won’t turn a deaf ear to their need: “You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor nor defer to the great, but you are to judge your neighbor fairly” (Lev 19:15). “If there is a poor man with you, one of your brothers… you shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand from your poor brother” (Deut 15:7)],
- you won’t speak out against them or gossip: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” (Ex 20:16; Deut. 5:20). (Paul’s accusations against the Believers turned out to be his error.)
- You’ll be concerned for their wellbeing with the same concern with which you care yourself: “A faithful man will abound with blessings” (Prov 28:20).
Yeshua summed up the Torah this way: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” (Deut. 6:5; Matt 22:37; Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27). That encompasses our entire being. I would go so far as to say that we should not even think unloving thoughts about another but always bear in mind that Yeshua loves everyone else just as He loves us. This would seem to mean that in our concern for our own welfare we should have an equal concern for the welfare of others.
God does exhort us that when someone is cold and hungry whom He has placed in front of us, don’t just say, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body. What use is that?” (James 2:16). Some have felt specifically called to go and provide for others as a ministry, but I believe the Lord would have us all be generous of heart as a way of life, just as the Disciples when, “they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need” (Acts 2:45). Now I’m not telling you to sell your belongings. That would have been easier to do when they expected the Lord’s return at any minute.
God’s highest will is that no one be in need. His original mandate to Israel when they entered the Promised Land was, “there will be no poor among you, since the Lord will surely bless you” (Deut 15:4). What a wonderful promise! How’s that for a prosperous nation? However, His blessings were linked to obedience: “…if only you listen obediently to the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all this commandment which I am commanding you today.(:5). That’s where it often fell apart.
Sometimes neediness results because of our own ignorance of or disobedience to God’s will, and sometimes it’s because of someone else’s. Other people’s decisions can affect us. We need to be forgiving at such times and build from there. At times, all of Israel suffered terribly because, while individuals may have walked in righteousness, their king didn’t. The history of Israel tells that story over and over. There’s an incentive to be people of prayer.
There are practical ways to express His love as we go through life to those in need. I have the sense that God may put such opportunities before us in increasing measure. The Kingdom is about giving for increase. In tough economic times, like for those mentioned above, we may find ourselves faced with those same kinds of circumstances. If we see someone in need will we allow it to frighten us so that we hold more tightly onto what we have? Or will we give to help others out, trusting that God will keep His word to “give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return” (Luke 6:38). Do we believe God’s Word that, “he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully” (2 Cor 9:6). Perhaps you have your own testimonies of God’s faithfulness when you give generously to others or to God through your tithes. Or perhaps someone has given to you when you were in need.
It doesn’t have to be about money either. A few weeks ago I was in the pharmacy at Winn-Dixie waiting for a prescription. A woman came in who also had to wait for her prescription and we got to chatting. She mentioned that she had walked a distance as she didn’t have a car and it was good to be able to sit down for a bit in the chairs that were provided. When my prescription was ready, we exchanged “Nice chatting with you”s and I left. As I was driving out of the parking lot four letters went through my mind: WWJD. A question mark at the end was implied. I was anxious to get home as I had lots going on, but I knew it was the Lord asking me, “What would Jesus do?” So I turned the car around and parked and went back in and offered her a ride home. She was really grateful as it was a long walk back home. The short story is she wound up coming to church with me and, as she was in a difficult time away from the Lord, she recommitted her life to Him. You just never know when a divine appointment will present itself right in front of you.
May I suggest you be on the look out for such opportunities to be a blessing. You’ll be enormously blessed in return. The wonderful thing about blessings is they bless in the coming and the going, the giving and the getting.
Reprint of this article is permitted as long as you use the following; Use by permission by Messianic Vision, www.sidroth.org, 2009.
Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible Copyright ©1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, La Habra, Calif. All rights reserved. Used by permission.