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23 JULY 2016

COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS

Recently, caught up in the discussions related to American politics, I found myself becoming more irritable, short-tempered, even angry! All those negative emotions grew out of feeling attacked by just a few for holding onto my point of view. Regardless of how many different ways I tried to explain my perspective, I couldn’t seem to break through that wall of division that had been built between us. Instead, just as expressing my opinions strengthened my beliefs, so it did for them expressing theirs, and the end result was adding bricks to that wall, building it higher and higher! What was the solution? To continue the volleying of opinions over the ever-growing wall? At some point, it’s necessary to recognize the strength of the barrier! An old adage by Dale Carnegie states, “A man convinced against his will, is of the same opinion still!” In other words, circumstances may require someone to live within the rule of law even if they disagree with that law but, deep in their hearts, they continue to believe they are right. This is one of the quandaries of democracy – the majority makes the rules and the minority has to accept the changes regardless of their inner opposition – and this is why different political parties arise when approaching a major election. So what was I to do with my negative emotions? Firstly, it was important to recognize the source. Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus, “Put on all the armor that God gives you, so that you will be able to stand up against the Devil’s evil tricks.” (Ephesians 6:11. GNT). So evil tricks come from the enemy. In Revelation, John describes the war in heaven, incited by the devil, and he identified the enemy as a deceiver who tries to get the whole world to go against God’s rules. “The great Dragon—ancient Serpent, the one called Devil and Satan, the one who led the whole earth astray—thrown out, and all his Angels thrown out with him, thrown down to earth.” (Revelation 12:9. MSG). So my negative feelings were definitely not from the Lord, therefore they were not in line with Christian behavior! So what was I to do about them? Should I just ignore the ugliness around me? This is the second point, knowing how to counter evil without being sucked into the mess. Once again, the Bible gives an answer:  

“…Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.” (Romans 12:21b MSG). Another verse puts it this way, “Turn away from evil! Do good! Seek peace and go after it!” (Psalm 34:14 CEB). It isn’t easy to resist the temptation to argue when we recognize unjust behaviors or see the mistreatment or misunderstanding of a group of the disenfranchised. But that is how the enemy pulls us in; initially, we think we have righteous indignation on behalf of those being hurt, but ultimately we find ourselves angry and ready to fight! This is not the approach Jesus would have us take. So how do we avoid these traps of the enemy? If we cannot change the situation, we must change ourselves, our mindset! 

The enemy gets into our minds, using temptations that are tailor-made for us, exactly what is needed to pull us away from the Lord! He is more interested in distracting us from our relationship with the Lord than he is with murderers, criminals, and even ordinary folks of the world claiming atheism or agnosticism. He knows he has them already, but the devil wants to destroy that human-Heavenly connection that we have! He doesn’t want us to remember how blessed we are; he wants us to focus on the negative aspects of our lives! Don’t let him steal your joy! Count your blessings and see how much you’ve been blessed. If we take time to count those blessing, we won’t have time to argue, to debate issues over which we have no control. There are so many more blessings for which we can be grateful, which is the reason for counting them. It’s important that when we feel ourselves spiral into depression, or when sadness leaves us feeling empty, that we stop, take a deep breath, and recall a blessing from God. Each time we do this it’s like grasping tighter to the hand of the Lord and thwarting the efforts of the devil to pull us away from God. God promises to give more blessings than we can count, so why even try to count them? “…and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” (Malachi 3:10 KJV). And if God already knows the blessings He’s given us, why do we need to go through the trouble of listing them? It’s not for His benefit; it’s for ours, to remind ourselves of His goodness! If you don’t know where to start, begin with Matthew 5, where Jesus gave us the Beatitudes. The Beatitudes are a list of 8 blessings, given to people with particular character traits or experiences: “Great blessings belong to those who know they are spiritually in need. God’s kingdom belongs to them. Great blessings belong to those who are sad now. God will comfort them. Great blessings belong to those who are humble. They will be given the land God promised. Great blessings belong to those who want to do right more than anything else. God will fully satisfy them. Great blessings belong to those who show mercy to others. Mercy will be given to them. Great blessings belong to those whose thoughts are pure. They will be with God. Great blessings belong to those who work to bring peace. God will call them his sons and daughters. Great blessings belong to those who suffer persecution for doing what is right. God’s kingdom belongs to them.” (Matthew 5:3-10 ERV).

My heart song, this morning, is probably the best-known song about counting our blessings:

“When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,

When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,

Count your many blessings, name them one by one,

And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

REFRAIN:

Count your blessings, name them one by one,

Count your blessings, see what God hath done!

Count your blessings, name them one by one,

And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Are you ever burdened with a load of care?

Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?

Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,

And you will keep singing as the days go by.

When you look at others with their lands and gold,

Think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold;

Count your many blessings—money cannot buy 

Your reward in heaven, nor your home on high.

So, amid the conflict whether great or small,

Do not be discouraged, God is over all;

Count your many blessings, angels will attend,

Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.”

“But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:57 KJV). Have a blessed day!

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