Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Are You Blocking Your Blessings?

 Dear Friends,

Descanso Gardens in La Canada-Flintridge is a sensational, verdant oasis in our valley foothills. The Tulips are amazing in the Spring. The Camellia Garden is cool and green in the Summer and the evergreen Oak Tree Forest is still welcoming in the desolate winter months. For the first time in six months we visited Descanso last week and appreciated the lush green gardens, green trees, green Camellia bushes and a green lake... A green lake? Yuck! 

For years the lake has been choked with a thick, green layer of rotting algae. Once pristine blue, you could stand on the observation platform and see hundreds of brightly-colored fish and large colonies of turtles swimming and sunning themselves. The lake was known for its variety of birds and ducks. But for years now, my favorite place in the gardens has turned into a cesspool. The only fish present seemed to be the floating dead ones that had suffocated under the thick layer of stinking algae. The turtles had survived by being able to stick their head out of the slime, but the few left were coated with green sludge. What happened? New environmental laws no longer permitted the lake run off into the county storm drain system, and the inflow from the natural springs had been restricted to a trickle to just maintain the water level. With a blocked outflow, this once healthy body of water teeming with life, was now a stagnant pond of what could have easily been mistaken for industrial waste with its dead and dying plants and wildlife.

Have we restricted the inflow of God’s 

blessings into our life

 because we’ve blocked the outflow?

We desire and pray for God’s blessings to flow into our lives every day, but have we robbed ourselves of what He wants to give us? Have we restricted the inflow of God’s blessings into our life because we’ve blocked the outflow? The Lord calls us to live unselfishly and generously. But can we do that if we are unwilling to give to others what we receive from Him? Will God reward us if our only focus is on what we can get from Him? We may piously declare that “It’s more blessed to give than to receive,” Acts 20:35 but if we were honest, we might have to admit that’s not how we live our lives. Humans are hardwired to acquire and hoard stuff. The caveman stuck that antelope haunch behind the rocks; we ransacked and pillaged Costco for toilet paper. In the beginning of the pandemic, we selfishly filled our shopping carts overflowing with foods we didn’t really need and deprived others of food they did need.

And when we hoard the blessings given to us by God, like the lake at Descanso, our blocked outflow can cause our spiritual life to become stagnant and start to stink. When we become a “Christian,” meaning "a follower of Jesus," we also become His ambassador. We become His personal representative to a lost and hurting world. He has assigned us this temporary home we call “earth” in order for us to minister to His loved ones and we are to follow His example. Jesus said, “I am among you as the One who serves.” Luke 22:27 

The life of a Christian is far more than just an hour watching a Sunday church service. If the Son of God’s life was centered around encouraging, teaching, service and giving, that’s to be the life of His followers. I mentioned in last week’s AMEN Corner, that when I was in the Bible University, it was my senior pastor who taught me how to pastor a church. He told me to follow him and do everything he did. I learned how to be a pastor by following Jack Duitsman, but I learned how to be a Christian by following Jesus. He shows us a lifestyle of service, giving, compassion and mercy and then tells us to go and do likewise. Luke 10:37 In essence, living out our faith is simply blessing others with what God has already blessed us with.

You have a unique gift mix of talents, abilities and gifts. You can make things, bake things, read things and do things. You may know the computer or medical needs, how to fix an old car, help with financial planning or with programming a TiVo. You can make that phone call to lift the spirits of someone lonely and struggling. You have at least one spiritual gift that the Holy Spirit has given you for the use of others. 1 Corinthians 12:7 Our God-given abilities, gifts and talents have not been given to us solely for our own selfish enjoyment. Blessings that God has released into your life are to flow out of you and into the lives of others.

During this time of a pandemic, when people are more needful than perhaps ever before, we are surrounded with opportunities to do unto others as Jesus would do. And while we help others not for selfish reasons, God does reward us and the more you give to others, the more you will receive from Him. Luke 6:38; Luke 14:13-14; Colossians 3:23-24 Don’t choke off the outflow of His blessings and become like a spiritually stagnant lake. Open up the floodgates and let His Living Water flow through you!  Amen?

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