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.

God’s Vision For Your Child

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

God has a unique design and a special purpose for every child’s life. It is the highest priority of the parent to discover, understand, cultivate and delight in that design—not to manipulate it into their vision for the child’s life.

Going Deep // Focus: Genesis 27:1-10

One day when Isaac was old and turning blind, he called for Esau, his older son, and said, “My son…I am an old man now, and I don’t know when I may die. Take your bow and a quiver full of arrows, and go out to hunt some wild game for me. Prepare my favorite dish, and bring it here for me to eat. Then I will pronounce the blessing that belongs to you, my firstborn son, before I die.” But Rebekah overheard what Isaac had said to Esau. So when Esau left to go hunting, she said to her son Jacob, “Listen to me. Do exactly as I tell you. Go out to the flocks, and bring me two fine young goats. I’ll use them to prepare your father’s favorite dish. Then take the food to your father so he can eat it and bless you instead before he dies.”

Like all parents, Isaac and Rebekah were far from perfect. The father was detached—aloof to the family dynamic played out in this narrative—but complicit in it, nonetheless. The mother was overly-involved, manipulatively so. She had a helicoptering style of parenting: hovering over her favorite son, swooping in to the rescue whenever she perceived that people were hostile to him and circumstances were non-conducive to her plan for his life.

Speaking of which, Rebekah had a vision for Jacob’s life, and in a sense, it wasn’t far off from God’s grand vision for his life. The problem was, she mismanaged the details and the process of the vision in a big way. She felt God needed help fulfilling the Divine plan for Jacob—and she was willing to compromise her moral authority to get the desired result.

By the way, God worked through the dumb things these parents did, as he does with the mistakes we make with our children–thank God.  As John Newton wrote, “We serve a gracious Master who knows how to overrule even our mistakes to His glory and our own.” But negative consequences were unleashed in the patriarchal family dynamic that lasted for decades, and you might even say, for generations.

It’s easy for parents to often confuse their desire for their child’s life with what is really best for that child. It’s the classic story of the high school quarterback who insists on turning his son into an NFL prospect by age 10, or the former home-coming queen who now dresses her little four-year-old up like Miss America, or the high achieving parents who insist that the school treat their second-grader like a Rhodes Scholar.

Christian parents sometimes get their plan mixed up with what God’s vision is for their child. Rebekah did that—and she felt God needed help fulfilling it. And she was willing to compromise. Predictably, Jacob, low in moral character, was more afraid of getting caught than doing wrong—so he went along with his mother’s deception. And that would be the beginning of many more poor choices to come.

God has a unique design and a special purpose for every child’s life. It is the highest priority of the parent to discover, understand, cultivate and delight in that design—not to manipulate it into their vision for the child’s life. A parent must not become a “Rebekah”—manipulative and controlling, helicopter in and rescue the child from every danger. Nor should a parent become an “Isaac” —disengage and see what happens! Rather, the parent must learn to partner with the One who gave the child life in order to bring out the God-colors in that child’s life.

If you are a parent, or involved in rearing the child in any way—as a caregiver, teacher, mentor, coach—the methods you use must never be inconsistent with God’s character, design and plan. You have a precious gem in your care, so take care how you cut and polish that diamond! And never forget, the greatest gift you can give that child is your example. It’s the thumbprint you leave behind for generations to come.

Many years ago a Christian magazine presented some interesting facts about two families. In 1677 an immoral man married a immoral woman. Of the 1900 descendants that came from their marriage, 771 were criminals, 250 were arrested for various crimes—60 for theft and 39 were convicted for murder. Forty of the women were known to have venereal disease. They spent a combined total of 1300 years behind bars, costing the state millions of dollars.

The other family was the Edwards family—the third generation included Jonathan Edwards, the great New England revivalist and president of Princeton. Of the 1,344 descendants, several were college presidents and professors, 186 became ministers, 86 were state senators, 3 were Congressmen, 30 were judges, and 1 became Vice President of the United States. No reference can be found to anyone spending time in jail or in the poorhouse.

Not all children of good parents become amazing adults, nor do children of bad parents always turn out bad. But no one can deny, a parent’s example is extremely powerful – either for good or for evil, sometimes for generations to come!

God has a vision for every child’s life. Carefully, worshipfully, discover the Divine design. And never forget, an act of faith and obedience in following God’s vision for that child’s life today can reverse the curse of family imperfections. A step of faith right now may just be that which will release the blessings of God upon your children’s children!

Going Deep With God: Consider the child that God has place under your influence. Take care how you cut and polish the diamond. It matters to God.