In order to encourage my kids to love reading and spend more time doing it, we recently started gathering on my bed at night and reading together for a time, followed by a time of individual reading. Many of you have been doing this for years and I say, “Bravo!” I just couldn’t do it in the younger years. I was exhausted by bedtime, and the process we went through to get the four of them happily in their beds took what was left of my mental and physical energy. So I do it now, and it works, and it’s great. No guilt.
Choosing the first book was tricky. I wanted to choose something that would appeal to boys and girls as well as 5 year olds and 10 year olds. I finally settled on The Secret Garden, one of my childhood favorites. But as I continued thinking about how this evening ritual would go (continued meaning about 10 seconds later…because this whole thought came together in about 45 seconds as I cleaned up dinner) I wondered why I wouldn’t read from THE book, the Bible. So in that intense 45 second planning session it was settled, we read one chapter of the Bible and one chapter of The Secret Garden each night together, and then they read one chapter of a book on their own before dozing off.
In my attempts to read the Bible in a year, I have read the book of Genesis more times than I can count. But the thing that got me so excited about studying the Bible several years ago is how I can read the same passage 10 times, and still find a fresh lesson or insight…For the word of God is living and active. Hebrews 4:12. This time through Genesis 12:2 hit me like a ton of bricks.
And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.
One of the chief lessons instilled in me as I learned the inductive method of Bible study was to look carefully at words like therefore, however, thus and so that. So in reading this passage with my children, I stopped and examined the words so that. God was talking to Abram and making a promise to bless him..SO THAT he could be a blessing.
God’s promise to bless was not just a reward, it was a challenge…a sending out.
My mind has literally been blown by this idea. My whole life, including the years that I have walked closely with the Lord, I have perceived blessing as a reward. A sort of pat-on-the-back from God Almighty. More recently, after reading Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts, I began to see blessings as a tangible sign of God’s overwhelming grace. But never in all of these years did I think of blessings as a call to action. But that’s exactly what they are.
Can I just stop here and say that I understand that as a Christian I am called to be generous? I understand that living a life that follows hard after Jesus involves giving generously of my money, talent, time, energy… I get that, and I try to live that way. But this is different. A new point of view.
Sometimes when I’m trying to live selflessly, I feel like I’m all tapped out. Kind of like when my kids were babies and nighttime rolled around. There just isn’t anything left to give. But now I think I’ve been going about it all wrong. I’ve been taking the blessings the Lord has given and soaking them up for my own comfort, my own joy, and then finding myself empty when attempting to serve others. I think now that God is saying, “First serve others, and then see how much more is left for you.” In Luke 6:38, Jesus says,
“Give and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will it be measured back to you.”
If I take the blessings God freely gives me…not as a reward because seriously, what have I done to deserve a reward from the Creator of the Universe???…and use them to bless others, God will measure it all back to me and then some. It’s like a game you play with a toddler. In this case, I’m the toddler. I go out and try to use up everything God gives, but He just keeps giving more. But I keep trying, like a toddler who won’t give up, and God, fully enjoying Himself in this interchange as any parent would, keeps pouring on more and more and more…
Jesus said later in Luke 12:48,
“Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required.”
This isn’t an ultimatum…this is part of the game! I am blessed to be a blessing. The more I am blessed the more I can bless others and so on and so on and so on.
The problem with this new point of view is that it takes faith. I have to believe that God means what He says in order to spend my blessings on others. The world tells me to use what I have on myself first, but that’s not the way the game works. God won’t fill a jar that hasn’t been emptied.
Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matthew 6:33
So now the questions become…Do I believe God? Do I believe His word? Will I step out in faith and empty my jar of blessings on others SO THAT He will fill it to overflowing? Or will I continue to take His blessing and selfishly use it for my own comfort and miss out on the greatest game of my life?
And you? What will you do?