Friday, April 8, 2016

The Power of Blessing

“Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”  Luke 6:28

Our family had a wonderful opportunity to go to Tijuana, Mexico on a family mission trip. Some people might not think taking 15 and 11 year old boys to the Red Light District just along the Mexican border  would be an appropriate place for them but we felt called to go- so we went.  My husband’s cousin, Amanda and her husband have spent the last five years working with the kids and their parents who live in the area along the border. Drugs and prostitution are rampant.  The police are often paid off and Cartels control streets around the playground that our cousins use for their Zone Kids meetings.   Each Zone Kids meeting is run a little like Vacation Bible School with games, music and a lesson.  Over the years trust has grown so my kids were able to have fun while playing soccer and basketball with these kids who were growing up in such a harsh environment. 
While the kids played and had their lesson, Amanda asked me to share a message with a few of the kids’ moms.  I struggled with what to say; God’s word is not limited by language, economic status or past life choices but I didn’t want to come across as oblivious to their hardships and suffering.  I wanted to share hope and love with them in a real and tangible way.  I decided to share with the ladies what I had learned about the power of spoken blessing. 
A couple of weeks before our trip I had learned about the power of blessing from Sally Meredith, who wrote, Ruth: The Story is in the Names.    Sally highlighted the pattern of blessing throughout the Book of Ruth.  Blessings have power because they can communicate not only what God is currently doing in someone’s life but they can become a key to open future gifts from God.  After doing further research on blessing, I was struck by the power of blessing to undo harm caused by poor choices, hurtful words and family history. Blessings can unleash the work of the Holy Spirit in someone’s life to enable them to be what God wants them to be and to see God’s hand  at work in their life.  
When the time came for me to share with the Zone Kids’ moms in Tijuana, I knew I could share with them the power of blessing.  They could bless their kids and each other.  I felt lead to share with them the priestly blessing found in Numbers 6:22-27.  
The LORD said to Moses,
“Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them:
The LORD bless you and keep you;
the LORD make his face shine on you and be gracious to you;
the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.”

           One important thing to notice this is a command by the LORD to Moses to the priests.  Blessing is God's idea.  The power of this blessing is that the LORD, the Ruler, and Master of all has the ability bless you and wants to bless you.  
           "The Lord keep you." I often think “keep” simply means “hold.”  In this passage the word “Keep,” has more to do with a safe place.  In ancient times, the “keep” was the most secure part of a castle. The moms in Tijuana picked this up quickly because the Spanish translation of this blessing is “te guarde.” They understood that this is a prayer for God’s protection and security.  As I shared with those moms in Tijuana, we can pray for God to guard and protect us, our kids, our husbands and our belongings.  
         The word “face” is repeated twice in this prayer.  Often words in Hebrew had multiple meanings.  This word can also be used to also mean someone’s presence or their wholeness of being,   We can pray and ask God to bless us with his presence and the fullness of his power in our lives so we see the Lord’s face and feel His presence.  A synonym for the word “shine” would be illuminate.   When something shines and is illuminated we can see it.   God wants us to see him and understand his gracious blessings.  
         Often people describe grace as God’s unmerited favor.   It is through grace that we are saved, it is a gift from God.[2]   Here’s another way to think about the word “gracious” in this passage- grace provides protection from our past mistakes. God’s grace provides healing, help, refuge, safety, rescue and being lifted up- not because we deserve it- in fact our mistakes and those of the people around us resulted in us getting in a situation that we couldn’t get ourselves out of on our own.
         My favorite word in this blessing is “Peace.”  Shalom is the Hebrew word for “Peace.”  It has such a deeper and richer meaning than simply the absence of strife and conflict.  Peace is not a boring place where everyone sits around being nice and twiddling their thumbs.   Peace is perfection, it life as God designed it to be, the very best life. Abundant Life. 
After explaining the meaning of this passage in Numbers, I looked at the women at the playground in Tijuana.  Peace in a city torn by drugs and trafficking seemed impossible. One of the women was a widow trying to survive and raise two small kids.  Safety?  No conflict?  Abundant Life?  How?   I could see it on their faces, it sounded nice yet they knew reality.  So I paused and said, “This wasn’t just a prayer for the priest and the Israelites. We can ask God to bless each other.”   In halting Spanish, I put my hand on the shoulder of the woman who was next to me and read this blessing on her. 
         ‘El Señor te bendiga y te guarde;
 el Señor haga resplandecer su rostro sobre ti,
y tenga de ti misericordia;
 el Señor alce sobre ti su rostro, y te dé paz.’”
          She then put her hand on the woman next to her and blessed her.  The blessing traveled around our little circle and came back to me.  Whenever we bless someone else, we will be blessed.  I encouraged each of the women in the circle to go home and bless their family and friends.  Speaking words of blessing can change their lives.
          Amanda wrapped up our time together by sharing with the women a bit of the kids’ lesson about how important our thoughts are.  She shared that sometimes she gets frustrated with her husband and has to stop those negative thoughts from taking over her mind by taking them captive.  The other women in the circle agreed and shared stories of frustration with kids and other people in their lives.   In response, I felt like God prompted me to add one important point to our discussion about blessing:  Blessings aren’t just for our loved ones.  In fact in Luke 6:28, Jesus said, “Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” This was a shocking statement.  I am confident that the people who were listening to Jesus frequently blessed their loved ones.  They knew the power of blessing but Jesus’ admonition to bless our enemies was quite remarkable.  
          By praying for God to bless the people that have hurt us, upset us, cursed us and disrespected us whether they are a boss, co-worker, teacher, family member or friend, we are freeing God to work in their lives and in our lives.  Just as the blessing went around the circle and came back to me, God will bring an amazing blessing back to you. If God brought to mind loved ones and enemies you can bless, pause and pray and God’s blessing on them.  If you have an opportunity to write down and share it with them, they will have an important reminder of the blessing.  My Bible study leader had blessing ceremonies for her kids when they got married and on other special occasions.  She wrote out blessings for her kids and read them to them as she and her husband laid a hand on their shoulder.  These times of prayer and blessing are cherished and have brought their family closer together.   Sharing the blessings that God has given us through Christ is a powerful way to experience His blessing in our lives.  

Let me know in the comments, if you tried this and how it works.  May you be blessed, loved and filled with peace.

[1] Ruth 1:8&9
[2] Ephesians 2:8

1 comment:

  1. Here's a video about blessing by the Author of The Father's Blessing. I learned about this book in my Ruth study.