Bless those who curse you, Blessing, Christian

“I Am Blessed”

“I Am Blessed”

 

Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out. Dt 28:6

“I hate it when you say that!” my friend, Linda, snapped at me. “You can’t always be blessed!”

Linda objected to my stock answer. For years “I am blessed” has been my response to that ubiquitous question, “How are you?”.

“Fine,” is the expected answer.

But I wanted to answer the question in a more truthful manner. We are not always, “fine” but as those who have been redeemed by the Lord, we are “blessed.” We are eternally, fundamentally blessed. No power on earth can remove that blessing from us.

אֶשֶׁר This is the Hebrew word that is translated, “Blessed” in the first verse of the Psalm 1. The first letter, right to left in Hebrew, is the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, Aleph. Each of the Hebrew letters has a word meaning. The meaning of Aleph is called on. It means first and strong. It is also the symbol for God. The center letter of this word is Sheen, and its meaning is teeth, or devour, and the third letter is Reysh which means head, person, or highest. So, we could look at the word אֶשֶׁר and get this meaning out of it: God holds us in his teeth because he is the head and he has taken hold of us for his highest purposes. Being held in the teeth may not seem like a blessing, but if the teeth are the teeth of the Lord, we can be assured that whatever he is doing is for our good.

I have another friend who answers the “How are you” question the same way I do, but he sometimes adds, “I don’t always like it, but I am blessed.”

Amen. I don’t always like what the Lord is doing in my life, either, but I know that I am blessed, no matter what.

I had the opportunity recently to have my stock answer put to the test.

 

In the fall of 2015 there was a terrible crisis at Grace Harbor Farms. The conflict between me, Tim and David got so bad that Tim asked me to move off the farm.

We did reconcile a month later. Before that happened though, I went through a deep heart change. Held between the teeth and stretched is a good picture of the blessing process I went through.

A week after I moved off the farm I asked David to call a meeting of the management team of Grace Harbor International (GHI), the business I still own.  I had written a diatribe I intended to deliver to them. I had spelled out all the ways they had betrayed me.

After I wrote it I sent it to my daughter, Heather. She called me in a few minutes and said, “Well, Mom, how do you think they are going to receive it?”

Her question struck my heart.

“I hear you,” I said.

“I understand your need to vent,” she assured me, “sometimes it is very helpful to get things said.”

“Yes, I do hear you.” I said, “I will pray.”

That night, Sunday night, before I was going to meet with the team the next day, I woke up in the middle of the night and was led to a book by Andrew Murray, “Absolute Surrender”. The second chapter of that classic Christian work is called, “The Fruit of the Spirit is Love”. When I finished reading that chapter I was on my face, on the floor, repenting and weeping before the Lord.

There is so much in that chapter. My highlights look like street lamps on a busy road. Read it. Obey the Lord’s word to love and the world will change. Here is one highlight:

“Let a man be what he will, you are to love him. Love is to be the fruit of the Spirit all the day and every day. Yes, listen! If you don’t love that unlovable man whom you have seen, how can you love God whom you have not seen? You can deceive yourself with beautiful thoughts about loving God. You must prove your love to God by your love to your brother; that is the one standard by which God will judge your love to Him. If the love of God is in your heart, you will love your brother. The fruit of the Spirit is love.” Absolute Surrender by Andrew Murray.

My call was to love, no matter what.

I went to the meeting on Monday morning with a whole new heart.

As each of them came into the meeting room I asked “How are you?”

Each gave the standard, “Fine. How are you?”

I answered each one, “I am blessed.”

When they were seated I said, “You have all heard me say, “I am blessed,” when asked, ‘How are you?’ It is my standard answer to that question.I am blessed. As a born-again believer in the Lord Jesus, I am forever, eternally blessed, but that doesn’t mean that I have it made, that life is easy, or that I will not have significant trouble in this world. On the contrary, the word of God assures us that in this world we will have trouble. “Don’t be surprised,“  Jesus says, “when the world hates you, they hated me first.” You will be persecuted, you will be dragged into courts, you will beaten, or beheaded. But you are blessed. One of the definitions of “blessed” means to be held between the teeth and stretched. Amen. I am blessed. The last words I have put on the sign outside the driveway are, “Not Guns or Gold, Trust Jesus.

“I don’t trust in the things of this world. Not guns or gold, or even the people. I trust Jesus. He told me to give up the management of GHI. He didn’t say I would like it, he just said, do it. I am going to be obedient to that word. I am going to give up the management of GHI to you. You will compensate me fairly for what I have done to build this business because the Lord is going to inspire you how to do it. The business will grow and prosper, he told me so, but it is not me who will do it. It is you. I am entrusting GHI to the Lord and he has given this opportunity to you to be good stewards of it. May you all be richly blessed as you move forward.”

As they got up to leave I took each one by the shoulders and blessed them, individually, personally.

 

Romans 12:14

“Bless those you persecute you.”

 

 

 

 

Becoming a Believer, Blessing, Christian, Sibling squabbles, Testing Your Faith, Uncategorized, Walking by Faith, Witnessing

Conversion

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.

1 Corinthians 2:14

 

Conversion June-July 1976

 

My brother’s wedding invitation came to Petersburg Alaska sometime in the spring of 1976. My husband, our two daughters, aged 2 and 6, and I had been living on a boat in the harbor in Petersburg for the past year.  We had been fishing commercially in the summers for several years, but this had been our first winter in Alaska. Eric’s invitation was like a breath of fresh air. The card had a picture of Eric and his fiancé standing under a flowering tree in California. After 18 months in Alaska a flowering tree looked like a beacon of light in the darkness.

I somehow convinced my husband to let me go. I still have no explanation for why he allowed me go except that God had planned for me to be at Eric’s wedding.

I took the girls to California in June.

I was the oldest of the six children in my family. We were not raised in a Christian home even though my mother’s parents had been missionaries in China and my mother had been born and raised there. Several years before my brother’s wedding my sister Janie, two years younger than I, had become a Christian. One by one my other siblings had followed suit–all but Christy and me.  Christy  had become a Mormon. I mocked them all.

Eric’s wedding was lovely. The church even impressed me. I had been surprised to find that the people quite nice, thoughtful and intelligent. In my previous mocking of Christians I joined my husband in thinking that Christians had stopped thinking for themselves—blindly following some ancient ritual.

The week I was there, the Pastor’s son was giving a series of lectures comparing various religions. Every night my brothers and sister would take off for church to hear Ron Carlson. They always asked me if I would like to go along, but of course I was much too stubborn, and prideful, to join them. But the night before my return to Alaska, Ron Carlson would be talking about Mormonism. Again, my family asked me to go along. This time I thought, “What the heck. I might as well try to find out why everyone is so upset that Christy is a Mormon.

I don’t remember now much about Ron’s talk, but having done a lot of studying since then I can well imagine what he talked about. The thing that impressed me was the intelligence of the lecture. Ron Carlson had done his research. These were well educated people who taught and listened to this stuff.

At the end of the lecture I asked my sister, Janie, if I could meet Pastor Carlson, Ron’s dad, and tell him how much I had enjoyed his church.

I suppose my sister was more than delighted to introduce her pre-believing sister to her pastor!

I told Pastor Carlson that I had been impressed with his church and asked him if he could give me a book or something that I could take back to Alaska with me.

He invited me into his office for a private conversation.

“What do you think a Christian is, Jonni?” He asked me.

I really didn’t know the right answer. I wanted to say, “Someone who is born in America,” but I knew that wasn’t right, so I said, “Someone who can love unconditionally.”

“That’s a pretty good answer,” he said, but do you know what the Bible says a Christian is? Have you ever read the Bible?
I told him that I had tried a couple of times but it had never made sense to me.

He showed me the verses from 1 Corinthians 2 that tell us that the things of the Spirit of the Lord cannot be understood except if that same Spirit helps us.

Then he did a very wise thing. He asked me if I would be willing to pray this kind of prayer, “Spirit of God, if you have the truth, teach it to me. I want to know the truth.”

There was no danger in this prayer. If there was nothing there, nothing would happen and I would continue as before, but if the Holy Spirit was there and truth to be known, then I should know it. I agreed to pray.

We got on our knees. I prayed that prayer with him. There were no explosions of light; I didn’t feel anything different; the world went on as before; we got up from our knees.

Then he gave me a Living Bible and a bible study on the book of John. He also gave me the whole lecture series that his son had been teaching on cassette tapes.

The last thing I said to Pastor Carlson as I walked away from his office with all those materials was, “Now I have to go back to Alaska and defend myself to my husband.”  That was like a word of prophecy, but I didn’t know it.

When I got back to the boat I started going through the cassette tapes and reading the things I had brought back with me. But I had to read and listen at times when my husband was not on the boat. I had to hide the Bible and the cassettes from him because he went absolutely nuts!

So I listened in secret and I read in secret.

One by one the questions that I had, and questions that I didn’t even know I had, were answered.

The first one was “Is there a God?”

As I listened to Ron Carlson’s lectures I realized that we could not have gotten here by chance. There had to be a creator.

The second was, “Is Jesus God?”

I had never heard anyone say that before. I had heard “son of God” before but it didn’t mean anything to me.

Again, as I listened to Ron Carlson I realized that God, in order to communicate with us, could have become a man and come to earth to teach us who God is. OK. I could accept that, but the next question was a big one.

What about this “sinner” business. I wasn’t such a bad person.  How could God claim that I was a “sinner” and needed to be “saved”?

Up to this point I had been listening to the tapes in what I though was random order. I had gone through “How we know the Bible is the word of God,” and the lectures on the other major religions of the world. There was only one tape left. It was on the Occult. The date was July 4, 1976—the 200th birthday of the United States. We had been fishing in Taku inlet. We had tied up the boat in Juneau, Alaska for the holiday. My husband went up to town to celebrate. I put the girls to bed and pulled out that last tape.

I don’t remember what Ron Carlson said about the occult, but at the end of the tape he started talking about my sister, Janie. I was shocked!  This was a lecture series that he had been delivering all over the world and here he was talking about my sister!  I know it was my sister. He said, “When Janie walked into my intervarsity Bible study and Diablo Valley College . . . “ There was no question. That was my sister. Janie had been “saved” in that intervarsity Bible study. But the rest of Ron Carlson’s statement cut me to the heart.

He said, “When Janie walked into my intervarsity Bible study at Diablo Valley College she said she could feel nothing. She felt no pain, no joy, nothing.”

I knew that was true about Janie. I knew it was my fault.

I had been so wicked to Janie while we were growing up that I could almost pinpoint the day when she had shut off her feelings so I couldn’t hurt her anymore. I had beaten her, insulted her, excluded her, humiliated her and ignored her.

I fell on my face on the floor (deck) of the boat. I wept uncontrollably. “Oh, yes, Lord, I am a dirty rotten sinner. Please forgive me.” I cried and pleaded with Lord.

When I got up, I was a new person.

There is no way to explain the joy and relief that I felt. I had been radically born again!

As my tears turned to laughter I spent the next hour writing a letter to Janie.

Here is what I wrote:

 

July 4, 1976

Dearest Janie,

How can I express on plain paper with mere pen what is happening to me tonight. Janie—I prayed tonight, all my myself I spoke to God for the 1st time on my own. I thanked him for you. I thanked him for your prayers for me. I told him I loved you and I asked him to bless you.

A couple of weeks ago in Pastor Carlson’s office I opened the door for Jesus. He came to me then, but he didn’t fill me up until tonight. He’s been guiding me—teaching and gently showing the way to learn. Tonight, after several weeks of lessons, he felt I was ready to hear—learn (I’m not able to find the right word). He arranged for me to be alone on the boat and I listed to more of Ron’s tapes. I’ve been listening to them in a rather hap-hazard order. I kind of thumb through and listen to one that sounds/looks interesting. Never before have I listened to more than one in one evening. Tonight I listened to one—and then He had me hear another. He has been preparing me for it for several years, maybe all my life, I don’t know that for sure, but I do know that my learning has followed a definite pattern than cannot have been accidental.

The second tape I heard tonight was Ron’s occult one. The closing thoughts were about you. I wept as he was speaking and I realized that he was weeping, too, If you haven’t heard that tape you should. There can be no doubt in hearing it that Ron loves you—that Jesus, that God love you and me, too.

I had been holding back something—not letting myself all the way open—not telling all—and then you and Ron and Jesus showed me.

I don’t know what else to say, Janie. I hope you can read what I have said already. I’m scribbling, I know, but tonight is our last night in town before we go fishing.

Bob will be home in a few minutes—when he gets here I want to go mail this tonight before we leave.

Please speak to Pastor Carlson for me. I don’t have his address—maybe you can send it to me, and Ron’s too. Please tell both of them how grateful I am. And tell yourself that, too!

Janie, I wish I could hug you. I am so grateful for your prayers for me. I will be praying for you, now.

I’m not going to have time tonight to write this story again for Mom—so if you would, she might want to read this letter, too. She is one of the most important people in my life.  Most people’s mother’s are—but ours is special.

God bless you, Janie, and all of us,

 

 

Love,

Jonni

On the back of the envelop it said “The 1st thing I read after writing this letter was Romans 8, verses 1,2,3,4

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the Law could not do weak as it was through the flesh, God did, sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, he condemned sin the flesh so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

 

In reading the letter I wrote to Janie, now as a much more mature Christian, I wish I had been more clear in my confession to her, but I know that she wept with joy when she received this letter. I didn’t know that she had saved that letter until after her death 9 years later. But that is another story for a later chapter.

 

EPSON MFP image

Janie