The Perfect Gift–The Blessing

“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.” Isaiah 9:6-7 (NKJV)

There is no argument that the greatest gift mankind ever received is that of Jesus Christ’s birth, atoning work on the cross, and  resurrection.  In this Christmas season, we are mindful of that Perfect Gift but we are easily distracted by commercial interests as merchants bombard us with the need for giving gifts.

This Christmas, as never before, I want to focus on something of eternal value in my gift giving.  So few of the gifts we exchange this year will even be used or remembered by next year at this time. The gifts we give to our children are often quickly broken or forgotten as they are turn their focus to the next hottest advertised item.

Our church has a lovely custom for its graduates, one which I had not been aware of. It is based on the Biblical principle of the father’s blessing.  Each graduate is given a Bible and then the father (or mother, if no father is present or available) is encouraged to pray for his child and speak a blessing over him as he enters into the next phase of his life. It was a great disappointment to us that only two of the fathers in the group of graduating seniors officially blessed them. My husband was one of that small group. He spent hours working on the blessing he would speak over our daughter during that ceremony.

It is so easy, as parents, to focus on many things where are children are concerned. We work diligently to pass down to them the knowledge and skills they will need to make their own way in the world.  We try to give them the foundations of a good character and a rich environment for learning. However, I believe most Christian parents omit one fundamental gift to their children: the father’s blessing.

There are many examples of the father’s blessing in the Old Testament. As a father would pass down to his sons a material inheritance, he also spoke over them a spiritual blessing.  Genesis 27 recounts Isaac’s blessing to Jacob:

“Then his father Isaac said to him, ‘Come near now and kiss me, my son.’ And he came near and kissed him; and he smelled the smell of his clothing, and blessed him and said: ‘Surely, the smell of my son is like the smell of a field which the LORD has blessed. Therefore may God give you the dew of heaven, of the fatness of the earth, and plenty of grain and wine. Let peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you. Be master over your brethren, and let your mother’s sons bow down to you. Cursed be everyone who curses you, and blessed be those who bless you!'” (Genesis 27: 26-29 NKJV).

This blessing speaks something of eternal significance.  How is it that those of us in the church have neglected something this important?  What has been lost because we have done so?

Prior to my daughter’s departure for college, many people expressed their sincere sympathy about the impending loss in my life. I was told about the difficulties of “empty nest” syndrome and how I would struggle emotionally with it.  I was informed that my marriage would suffer and I would grieve over her going away. Actually, neither one of those occurred. Did I miss her?  Yes greatly, however, moments of emotional distress were few and far between.  I believe this was mitigated by several factors. Besides the obvious grace and mercy of God, the fact our daughter is exactly where God ordained her to be has been an incredible blessing to us.  She has not distanced herself emotionally, even though she physically no longer resides in our home. Our marriage has not suffered either. We had twelve years of married life prior to her birth for the patterns of marriage to be well established. We returned to that which we had before she was born.

My husband and I have discussed many times as to why our experience was so radically different from most of the people we know. We concluded this ease of transition had much to do with the blessing my husband spoke and prayed over our daughter during that graduation ceremony. In that blessing we released her into the next phase of her life. As we let go of her in the physical and spiritual realm, God gave us peace. Here is the blessing my husband spoke over her that day:

“The Fathers Blessing”

“Hannah, joy and delight or our lives, I charge you today before God, our family, and our friends to serve the LORD wholeheartedly, to seek His kingdom first, and above all, to faithfully run the race He has set before you with joy and perseverance. As your father, it is my honor and privilege to bless you with wisdom and insight, to bless you with courage and grace in the face of the challenges you will face in this next stage of your life and service to the Lord.  I bless you with Divine Protection in every activity–in your daily life, in your travels, in your dance and dance training, that in every way God will cover you with His wings and keep you from all harm.  In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, I bless you and I release you into this next stage of your life and service to the LORD, with our love and our full assurance that God will direct and protect your every step.”

This year as we contemplate what gifts we will present to our daughter on Christmas morning, I have decided that the most important gift I want to give her is a mother’s blessing.  I want to speak into her life that spiritual inheritance which will have eternal value.  Just as my husband and I chose our daughter’s name to exemplify one of the spiritual qualities we wanted to be most evident in her life, I want to continue that spiritual inheritance with a mother’s blessing.

And now the follow-up to my husband’s blessing–a mother’s blessing:

  “A Mother’s Blessing”

“Hannah, you are such a treasure to us. We have been blessed to see so many elements of your father’s blessing already manifesting in your character and in your spirit.  I charge you today before God to continue serving God wholeheartedly, seeking His Will and purpose for every decision you make.  As you grow in Him and walk into His Divine plans for your life, I would bless you with those elements of a Godly character He most values in women.  And one day, if God should so bless you, I charge you to give to your husband and children that which God has so generously given to you.  I bless you with the Godly attributes of the “Proverbs 31 woman.” It is His Desire, and mine, that you will be an example to all of that which makes up a virtuous woman: that the heart of your husband and children will safely trust in you; that you will do your husband good and not evil all the days of your life; that you will willingly work with your hands to provide food and a loving home for your family; that you will gird yourself with all spiritual strength to meet whatever challenges come your way; that your lamp will never go out, even during the darkest nights; that you will not be afraid, trusting the LORD your God in every situation; that strength and honor will be your clothing; that you will open your mouth with wisdom and speak the law of kindness; and that you will watch over the ways of your household, not eating the bread of idleness.  As you walk in these godly attributes, your children will rise up and call you blessed and your husband will also praise you. It is in agreement with the Word of the Living God, that I speak His Truth over you today; that you may continue to walk in His Ways and be a living example of His Love to all those He brings into your life. As you do so, you will bring glory and honor to the King of Kings, both today, and for the rest of your life.”

As we think about those gifts we want to bless our children with this Christmas season, let us not forget God’s Perfect Gift. Let us consider what spiritual blessing we might speak into each of our children’s lives. This is not a gift which will be quickly broken or forgotten. This gift has eternal value and will bear eternal fruit.

“I thank God, whom I serve with a pure conscience, as my forefathers did, as without ceasing I remember you in my prayers night and day, greatly desiring to see you, being mindful of your tears, that I may be filled with joy, when I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also. Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of hands.”  2 Timothy 1:3-6 (NKJV)

Copyright © 2010 by Susan E. Johnson
All rights reserved

Jesus, Name Above All Names

First Advent and first candle is lit
Image by Per Ola Wiberg ~ Powi via Flickr

“Jesus, name above all names,

Beautiful Savior,

Glorious Lord,

Immanuel, God is with us,

Blessed Redeemer,

Living Word…”

Those last three names – “Immanuel, God with us,” “Blessed Redeemer,” and “Living Word” – captured our attention as we thought about Christmas in India. What does “Immanuel, God with us” mean? What is God’s presence? We get so caught up in temporal, soon-to-be broken or discarded presents that we forget the ultimate gift is the eternal, unending presence of Immanuel!

Just as cold is the absence of heat and darkness is the absence of light, so evil is the absence of the presence of Christ – but the Enemy is being pushed back in every corner of India. Jesus’ presence and His love will warm and shine light into the families and villages of the more than 5 million new Indian believers who heard the Good News in the last 5 years through a Mission India program. Jesus will be “home for Christmas” in their families as they celebrate “Immanuel, God with us” this Christmas.

And we remember that high-caste Brahmin lady in Bombay who told us of the horrible fear of the gods that drove her to keep on sacrificing to them. “And then,” she said, “I found the blessed Redeemer God who gave the ultimate sacrifice for me: His only Son.” Tears of joy streamed down her face as she looked up to heaven in pure gratitude for the gift of a Redeemer, for the gift of the Living Word who through His death showed her God’s infinite love.

It’s not presents but Presence that our souls truly long for. It is the Presence of the Beautiful Savior, Glorious Lord, Immanuel God with us, Blessed Redeemer, and Living Word who brings light in darkness, warmth in cold, and dispels sin and death with forgiveness, purity, and eternal life. The gift of His Presence is the ultimate Christmas Present!

Dr. John F. DeVries

Founder and former President of Mission India

Excerpts From:
The India Intercessor-December 2010

Copyright © 2010 by Susan E. Johnson
All rights reserved

The Refiner’s Fire

Malachi 3:3 says:  ‘He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.’
This verse puzzled some women in a Bible study and they wondered what this statement meant about the character and nature of God.

One of the women offered to find out the process of refining silver and get back to the group at their next Bible Study.

That week, the woman called a silversmith and made an appointment to watch him at work.  She didn’t mention anything about the reason for her interest beyond her curiosity about the process of refining Silver.

As she watched the silversmith, he held a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up. He explained that in refining silver, one needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire where the flames were hottest as to burn away all the impurities.

The woman thought about God holding us in such a hot spot; then she thought again about the verse that says:  “He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver.”

She asked the silversmith if it was true that he had to sit there in front of the fire the whole time.

The man answered that yes, he not only had to sit there holding the silver, but he had to keep his eyes on the silver the entire time it was in the fire. If the silver was left a moment too long in the flames, it would be destroyed.

The woman was silent for a moment. Then she asked the silversmith, ‘How do you know  when the silver is fully refined?’

He smiled at her and answered,  “Oh, that’s easy — when I see my image in it.”

If today you are feeling the heat of the fire , remember that God has His eye on you and will keep watching you until He sees His image in you.

Life is a coin. You can only spend it once.  Spend it the way He wants you to.

Author Unknown

Edited by Susan E. Johnson

Copyright © 2010 by Susan E. Johnson
All rights reserved

The Fair-Haired Child

Susan-5 Years Old

There Was a Little Girl
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

There was a little girl,
Who had a little curl,
Right in the middle of her forehead.
When she was good,
She was very good indeed,
But when she was bad she was horrid.

The Fair-Haired Child

There was once a fair-haired child who often heard this poem when she was young. By all accounts, she was said to be bright and lovely; possessing a tender and compassionate heart.  Yet, she lacked any real confidence, quiet and shy to the extreme.  In social situations frequently aware that she was different, seeming to be lacking in those traits which made her readily accepted by her peers, she withdrew into herself, listening to that voice which constantly whispered to her: “Never good enough.”  Easily bruised, she learned to shut others out at the first sign of pain—too afraid that if others knew who she really was, there would be more ridicule, rejection, or humiliation–loneliness and isolation easier to bear than the vulnerability and fear of letting others get too close.

As she grew older, others considered her to be competent and confident, with wisdom beyond her years, yet that voice continued to whisper:  “Never good enough.”  She did not understand that the drive for perfection was the complete opposite from the call to excellence. It was easier to focus on what was lacking than grateful for what was God-given—unable to understand that being perceived as different from those she saw around her didn’t mean “odd” or “unacceptable” or “worthless” or “flawed.”

Not until she had a child of her own did the realization began to dawn–this child was a special treasure—the way God saw her too. Not wanting her child to suffer the same shyness and self-doubt which had plagued her for decades, she began to fill the child’s heart and thoughts with the goodness of God’s many gifts to her and the special call on her life that required each specific skill and talent—something she hadn’t heard herself as a child, even though well-loved.  She had begun to understand that God makes no mistakes in who He creates, precisely giving to each those specific gifts, talents,  and personality traits which will enable them to walk confidently into His pre-ordained call for their lives.

There is no telling what the fair-haired child missed by listening to those decades of demonic lies and allowing the strangle hold of fear to dominate her life. The heart seared with numbness from pushing the pain ever deeper, was difficult to revive. Certainly fear does not come from God—faith is His path.  She is beginning to understand her value is in what God created and Jesus Christ died for on Calvary, not in Satan’s whispered lies or what she thought was true. She became overwhelmed with anger hearing those same lies whispered to others like her—anger at what is being stolen from them; wanting their hearts healed and restored before decades are wasted or lost.

She does not know what the end of this story will be—only God knows that.  However, she has come to understand that God creates each individual for His purposes and the advancement of His Kingdom.  No one is unnecessary, no one doesn’t fit, no one is without a God-given inheritance or without a purpose, and no one is without incredible value to Him–each one a unique and special treasure.  How could she have valued as worthless what God values so highly? How could she have valued what others thought of her more than what God had said was true?

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29: 11-13 (NKJV)

For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the earth.” Deuteronomy 7:6 (NKJV)

Copyright © 2010 by Susan E. Johnson
All rights reserved

Manoah’s Wife

Mid-17th century
Image via Wikipedia

When the Angel of the LORD appeared no more to Manoah and his wife, then Manoah knew that He was the Angel of the LORD. And Manoah said to his wife, “We shall surely die, because we have seen God!” But his wife said to him, “if the LORD had desired to kill us, He would not have accepted a burnt offering and a grain offering from our hands, nor would He have shown us all these things, nor would He have told us such things as these at this time.”  Judges 13:21-23 (NKJV)

So Samson went down to Timnah with his father and mother, and came to the vineyards of Timnah. Now to his surprise, a young lion came roaring against him. And the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon him, and he tore the lion apart as one would have torn apart a young goat, though he had nothing in his hand. But he did not tell his father or his mother what he had done.” Judges 14:5-6 (NKJV)

Then Samson called to the LORD, saying, “O Lord GOD, remember me, I pray! Strengthen me, I pray, just this once, O God that I may with one blow take vengeance on the Philistines for my two eyes!”  And Samson took hold of the two middle pillars which supported the temple, and he braced himself against them, one on his right and the other on his left. Then Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines!” And he pushed with all his might, and the temple fell on the lords and all the people who were in it. So the dead that he killed at his death were more than he had killed in his life. And his brothers and all his father’s household came down and took him and brought him up and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol in the tomb of his father Manoah. He had judged Israel twenty years. Judges 16: 28-31 (NKJV)

Manoah’s wife is an example of God’s willingness to use ordinary people to birth the extraordinary; completing His purposes for a generation.

Copyright © 2010 by Susan E. Johnson
All rights reserved

"The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever." Isaiah 40:8 (NKJV)

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