The Power of the Blessing

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

God has engineered every child with the seeds of success—and it’s a parent’s duty to see and prophetically speak that potential into the child’s spirit. Much of what a child needs to reach their potential is an adult who understands God’s thumbprint for them and helps the child understand what that means by picturing it for them. As Larry Crabb said, “A vision we give to others of who and what they could become has power when it echoes what the spirit has already spoken into their souls.”

Going Deep // Focus: Genesis 48:14-16

Jacob put his right hand on the head of Ephraim, though he was the younger boy, and his left hand on the head of Manasseh, though he was the firstborn. Then he blessed Joseph and said, “May the God before whom my grandfather Abraham and my father, Isaac, walked—the God who has been my shepherd all my life, to this very day, the Angel who has redeemed me from all harm—may he bless these boys. May they preserve my name and the names of Abraham and Isaac. And may their descendants multiply greatly throughout the earth.”

If you looked up the words “dysfunction” in the Bible, you would find a footnote that said, “See Jacob’s family.” They brought disharmony, envy, rivalry, promiscuity, violence, estrangement to new heights —and that was on a good day. But over time, through some tough lessons, by making some strategic changes, and with God’s help, they turned a corner toward becoming a family of destiny.

Ultimately, God shaped this family into a nation—Israel, his covenant people. From Israel came the law of Moses, Levitical priesthood, the Davidic kingdom, the Messiah—Jesus Christ, and the Judeo-Christian heritage upon which American society was built. And we see how they began to turn that corner here in Genesis 48.

Jacob, now an old man does something for his children and grandchildren that every child wants and needs: He gave them “the blessing.” What do I mean by “the blessing”? Throughout the Bible, patriarchs of families and fathers would pass on “the blessing” to their children. It was a formal cultural occasion and a significant spiritual marker in the life of that child that shaped the rest of their life, even if it was an adult child when they received it. The father’s blessing would affirm the child’s value and give prophetic direction to their future…an impact that would last for generations.

We don’t do that much in our culture, but in truth, every human longs for both approval and prophetic guidance from their parents. Missing out on it leads us on a lifetime search for it in other ways…most of which are non-productive at best, and are destructive at worst.

How? How do you give them the blessing? Here’s what Jacob did—3 things:

First, you bless them by giving them meaningful touch. That is not easy in a culture that’s uneasy with physical contact…even in caring homes where parents, especially dads, tend to quit touching their kids once they reach grade-school. But notice what Jacob did in Genesis 48:10: “So Joseph brought his sons close to Jacob, and his father kissed them and embraced them.” Then, between Genesis 48:10-14, eight times there’s a reference to Jacob physically touching these two boys.

Throughout the Bible, “the blessing” was always accompanied by a meaningful touch. Jesus did this when he took the children in his arms and blessed them. God created us with 5 million touch receptors, and over 1/3 are in our hands. Jesus understood that touch communicates something powerful—that we’re loved and valued. It provides comfort, security, and acceptance.

Second, speak words of encouragement to them. Genesis 48:15 says, “Jacob blessed them and said, ‘May God bless these boys. May they be called by my name and the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac, and may they increase greatly upon the earth.”

There’s tremendous power in our words! Mark Twain once said, “I can live for two months on a good compliment.” He may not have realized it, but he was echoing what the Bible teaches: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue…” (Proverbs 18:21) Words of affirmation are powerful communicators of love, acceptance and appreciation. Without them, kids often grow up looking for it in ways that are unhealthy. But not only does withholding encouraging words hurt, we do even more damage by the negative words we use. Rather than shaping positively, critical, angry, negative words shatter emotionally.

Someone has said that it takes 40 positive affirmations to overcome just one word spoken in a hurtful way. We need to be keenly aware of how powerful our words are, and how powerful the absence of words of blessing can be. The people in your life, especially your children, need to regularly hear words that bless them.

Paul said it this way in Ephesians 4:29, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up, according to their need, that it may benefit those who listen.” You can set the stage for a household of destiny by learning to bless with meaningful touch and encouraging words.

Third, envision a special future for them. You give “the blessing” by helping them to picture an amazing future. We see Jacob doing this in Genesis 48:16,19 “They will be called by the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac…may they greatly increase upon the earth…Manasseh also will develop into a people, and he also will be great. But Ephraim will be even greater and his descendants will enrich nations.” (MSG)

God has engineered every child with the seeds of success—and it’s a parent’s duty to see and prophetically speak that potential into the child’s spirit. Much of what a child needs to reach their potential is an adult who understands God’s thumbprint for them and helps the child understand what that means by picturing it for them. Larry Crabb said, “A vision we give to others of who and what they could become has power when it echoes what the spirit has already spoken into their souls.”

One of the ways you can envision a special future is through word pictures that express high value. Notice Genesis 48:20: “Israel,” he is referring to a time in the future when the nation of Israel, “will use your names to give blessings: May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh.” (MSG)

A word-picture expresses a child’s God-given worth in a creative & unforgettable way—and often becomes the prophetic momentum for them to become that vision. Do that for your child. Find a common object, one that they value, and use it to paint a word picture of their special value and their special future. Discern God’s thumbprint for their life and prophetically speak that into their spirit and you’ll provide them with a self-renewing blessing. Touch and encourage your kids, and paint for them a picture a special future—that’s the blessings

And what a gift that is!

Going Deeper With God: Touch, encourage and envision a future of promise for someone today—especially a child. You will be doing God’s work.

Killing The Not-So-Silent Killer In Your Home

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

If you’ve never received “the robe” of love and acceptance from the most important people in your life, learn how to receive that love and acceptance from God! Do you realize how completely and perfectly your Heavenly Father prizes you? 1 John 3:1 says, “See what love the Father has given us that we should be called children of God. And that is what we are.” Yes, that is what you are—thank God!

Going Deep // Focus: Genesis 37:3-4

Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made an ornate robe for him. When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.

Jealousy! That’s the not-so-silent killer in families of all types: the nuclear family, extended families, small groups, churches and the family of mankind. It always has been, it always will be—unless you call a stop to it in yours.

Genesis 37 contains the ongoing account of Jacob’s family, which through his twelve sons, has been singled out as the progenitor of the people of God. But this family is rife with all kinds of dysfunction—especially favoritism that has now passed through four generations—and sibling rivalry which ensues, that spawns animosity and hatred to levels that almost destroy this family.

What we find in Jacob’s unique love for Joseph is an imperfect love with which all parents—including your parents, and you as a parent—inadequately love their kids. I am sure there was more to the story than just one thing, but it was the special robe that Jacob gave Joseph that seems to unleash this torrent of jealousy in the eleven siblings against Joseph.

The robe is the expression of a father’s love and affection for his child. It represents what every child inherently wants, and desperately needs: the sense that they are special and valued. But when another child learns that they’ll never wear the robe, never have their parent’s favor, a hope in that child dies and typically, an unhealthy way of responding to the world is created. And favoritism—deliberate or not—unleashes currents of jealousy and envy that will erode the peace and harmony God intends for that little community.

What’s going on in Jacob’s family isn’t unusual. It happens in most every home to some degree. Joseph is favored because he’s the son of Jacob’s old age—and his favoritism takes a very concrete form when Jacob gave Joseph a robe—the NIV calls it, “a richly ornamented robe”, while other translations say “a robe with long sleeves”, but the King James famously translates it, “a coat of many colors.”

Every time Joseph wears the robe it reminds his brothers that their father will never love them like he loves Joseph. The text tells us three times of their growing “hatred” for Joseph. Interestingly they hate Joseph, but who’s at fault? Jacob! He’s the one that has played favorites, but they take it out on Joseph. Verse 11 says, “So his brothers were jealous of him.”

What’s interesting about this story is that Jacob knew the pain of not being dad’s favorite, of what it was like not to wear the robe, yet he recycles this dysfunction, favoring Joseph but leaving his other sons to know the pain he once knew. And out of jealousy they sell Joseph into slavery and deceive their dad into thinking that Joseph is dead. Yet their deception gets them no closer to what they desperately want: they haven’t won their father’s love; they’ve only lost their brother.

What about you, and your family? Perhaps sibling rivalry, envy and jealousy have broken the shalom of God in your little community. If you are a parent, I would challenge you to think about how you can give twelve robes instead of just one—to love each person uniquely as a special creation of God.

And if you are one who has never worn the robe in your family, and likely never will, I would suggest to you that in the place of envy, you learn to receive love and acceptance in new ways. Cultivate relationships in your faith community. Imperfect as they are, your Christian brothers and sisters will do their best to give the kind of affirmation and love you need.

But mostly, learn how to receive love from God! Do you realize how completely and perfectly your Heavenly Father loves and prizes you? One of my favorite verses, 1 John 3:1 says, “See what love the Father has given us that we should be called children of God. And that is what we are.”

Personalize and memorize this truth: “See what love the Father has given me, that I should be called a child of God, and that is what I am.”

Do that—because that is what you are!

Going Deeper With God: Memorize 1 John 3:1 today—and quote it as often as you need to get it into your head.

Memory: The Bittersweet Gift

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

It has been said that when you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. So live your life that when you die, the world cries and you rejoice. You have the opportunity to live today in such a way that how you want to be remembered at the time of your passing will be true then.

Going Deep // Focus: Genesis 23:1-2

When Sarah was 127 years old, she died at Kiriath-arba (now called Hebron) in the land of Canaan. There Abraham mourned and wept for her.

An insightful person has profoundly written of death, “When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. So live your life that when you die, the world cries and you rejoice.” Sarah was 127 years old when she passed from this life to the next, and even after decades of journeying through this life as her husband, Abraham was still stung by grief. He must have expected that day, he must have, in some way, prepared his mind for her passing, yet he was still heart broken with grief from the loss of his soul-mate. She had lived in such a way that her world mourned her passing.

The great preacher Ray Stedman said of Abraham’s weeping over Sarah,

The well of grief is fed by the springs of memory. All the dear, sweet days came crowding in upon [him] here. I think he saw in his mind’s eye that beautiful girl who captured his heart long, long ago. I think it was in the spring, for even back in those days in the spring a young man’s fancy turned to what the young women had been thinking about all winter! ‘Boy meets girl’ was the same wonderful story back in the days of Abraham some 4,000 years ago as it is today. As the old man wept over the body of Sarah, he must have remembered all those wonderful times. Memories passed through his fingers like pearls on a string. He remembered the sunlight glittering in her hair when he first saw her, the radiance of her face on her wedding day, the softness of her touch, and the grace of her caress. Each remembrance brought a heartache in the darkness of his grief at this hour. He recalled the high adventure of their life together, and especially that supreme, compelling call from God that sent them out as a couple together into an unknown land. He remembered how Sarah went along with him, sharing hardships, accepting the unsettled life without a murmur or complaint. How his heart must have been wrung with anguish as he remembered anew the perfidy he showed in Egypt when he exposed her to danger and dishonor with his lie before Pharaoh, and again years later before Abimelech! All the bittersweet memories came in upon him as he recalled their long, weary years without a child and how they wept together. He remembered how Sarah cried bitter tears over that barren womb and how in her desperation to give him a son, she offered her handmaid, even at the cost of her pride, and Ishmael was born. All of this must have filled Abraham’s heart and mind as he wept here before Sarah. He remembered, too, how at long last, glory shone in her face when her own son, Isaac, lay in her arms. His memory ran back through the years and retraced the love that drew them together, through the bad times and through the good, till they were one in body, mind, and heart. Now death has torn her from his arms though it could never tear her from his heart.

It would be easy to pass over these two verses and quickly move on in the story of God to the patriarchs to come—Isaac, Jacob and Joseph. But pause for a moment in this story and let this touch your soul. Abraham loved Sarah. In an age where marriage is treated as but one of many options, where divorce is no big deal, where committed, faithful, exclusive love is barely recognizable—perhaps even mocked or maybe viewed as an ideal from an era gone by—that this man had loved his wife this much touches the readers’ heartstrings.

And now that Sarah was gone, the bittersweet gift of memories held him at the place of death until it was time for him to square his shoulders and move forward into the story that God had written for Abraham’s seed. Yet thank God for those memories. And thank God for the pain of loss, for it meant that this couple had found and built with one another a love so great that death could not rip it from the heart of the surviving spouse. When someone you love becomes a memory, the memory becomes a treasure—and nothing could take Abraham’s treasure from him.

Yet Genesis 23:3 tells us that Abraham moved on from there: “Then Abraham rose from before his dead.” Life must go on. The living must live. And while in that moment it would be difficult for Abraham to take the next step, to look beyond the sorrow of today to see to possibility of tomorrow, the treasure of Sarah’s memory made the journey sweeter.

Why did the Scripture include this detail of Abraham’s grief? Why would the Lord have us pause at the graveside of this man to peer into his grief, albeit for a moment? The answer is simple: this is life. And one day, we, too, will stand in grief at the place of the dead. We, too, will feel as if the road has ended, that we have not strength to move on. But we, too, will rise up, for life will call us forward. But we must remember that while the dearly departed loved one is gone, they are not forgotten. Love is immortal, and death is only a horizon; and a horizon is nothing save the limit of our sight. (Rossiter Worthington Raymond)

Memories—God’s photo album for the human heart. The opportunity you have today is to make those memories with the ones you love. Today is the day you have to so live your life that when you die, the world will cry but you will rejoice. Make sure to take some good photographs today!

Going Deep With God: Before you do anything else today, pause to think about how you want others to remember you at your passing. Now so live today as to assure that will be true then.