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"Blessed be the God and Father of our lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ." Ephesians 1:3

Blessings are the gifts of God's amazing grace! We sing a wonderful hymn entitled "Count Your Blessings." The chorus of that hymn says, "Count your blessings, name them one by one, count your many blessings see what God hath done." Blessings are God's way of dispensing pure mercy on sinners like us. The only way He can do that is through His only begotten son and our Saviour, the one and only Lord Jesus Christ! Now, our God is powerful, almighty, sovereign, holy, wise and omniscient. But one thing for sure, God will bless you. When you mess with God, you be ready; you are about to be blessed whether in prayer, praise and worship, meditation or walking Pretoria Trail, He will fill your cup with blessings. Every spiritual blessing comes from God.

"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." James 1:17

God knows just how to bless us and when to do it. He never runs out of blessings. God's blessings reflect His mercy and His mercies, like the waves of the sea, are continuous and new every day. When the storm causes the waves at sea to get bigger, it illustrates the fact that when life gets hard and trouble comes, His blessings are magnified in our hearts. Actually, God will often cause or allow hurt in our lives just so our hearts will be stretched so that they will hold more blessings.

The blessings we receive from God are all undeserved and given to us for Christ's sake. God does not want us to pile our blessings up or hide them in a closet. He wants us to share them with others. That's why God instituted the church. The church is where born again believers gather on Sunday to thank God for His blessings and to encourage one another by the sharing of faith and strength of eternal life given to us in Christ Jesus.

"What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me? I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord, I will pay my vows unto the Lord now in the presence of all His people." Psalm 116:12-14

What joy it brings us to talk and reflect about our blessed Father and His gracious bestowment of such precious treasures and benefits. I would love to spend the remainder of this article citing blessings from God in my own life, or relaying what you and other Christians have told me over the years regarding God's blessings on them. A familiar coin of most Christian conversation is, "God has surely blessed me!" Hymn writer and preacher John Newton kept a verse of scripture on his study wall to remind him of how much and how deeply he had been blessed by God. Here's the verse:

"And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in the land of Egypt, and the Lord thy God redeemed thee: therefore I command thee this thing today." Deuteronomy 15:15

John Newton had the opportunity to bless someone else, so God reminded him how he had been blessed and that was motivation for Newton to do the right thing. In like manner, we all have been slaves to sin in the world and we probably don't realize what a powerful blessing grace really is. The next time you see someone bound in addictions and sin, don't condemn them, say "except for the grace of God so goes me," and be a blessing to them.

This article though, deals with the uncomfortable task of citing the awful truth that we can and do lose the blessings God gives us; or, that we, by our lifestyles and attitudes, get in such predicaments that God cannot bless us. Now be sure to know that there are some blessings which God gives that we cannot lose, like eternal life, His love and faithfulness. But even with these permanent and everlasting, enduring blessings, we can lose the joy and relational benefit of them. God gives us the blessing of repentance and we cry out with David:

"Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit." Psalm 51:12

Since blessings are from God and are intended to nurture and shape our Christlikeness so that we can practice our predestined, never fading eternal position as forgiven, righteous, blood bought citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem, we ought to survey the possibility that we can and often do miss blessings. Even though it's like having a root canal or wisdom teeth removed, hopefully it prevents a lot of pain in the future and allows us to chew on life more thoroughly and comfortably now and in the future. I know for sure that I have learned a whole lot more from my failures than I have from my successes. So, I believe the blessings we lose can teach us to appreciate those we have and cause us to be more diligent and vigilant when it comes blessing time. Also, the scriptures teach us that God blesses the elect and the nonelect, but He is often more severe in his dealings with the elect when it comes to how these blessings are handled. For example, the sword did not depart from Davidís house due to his neglect of God's blessing.

"And I gave thee thy master's house, and thy master's wives into thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things." II Samuel 12:8.

Moses was not allowed to set foot in the promised land, and Jonah spent three days in a fish's belly all because they neglected the greater blessing of God's instructions.

Let's prayerfully consider how we can curb our losses of spiritual blessings. God has a lot invested in us. He deserves all the praise for the fruit of the bountiful blessings of grace He Himself provides us with. Wasting blessings weakens our witness for Christ and often results in God's chastening discipline. May God help us to do our part to make the investment God made in us through the precious shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ most profitable and full of His glory. How many times can a person look up and not see the sky? We may look up a hundred times and never see the sky, yet that does not change the fact that the sky is there. The fact that we don't see the sky doesn't affect its existence. We all agree that we have all spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus. They exist because of grace. How many days on earth will God grant us yet to see His blessings. How many blessings will God give us? How many will we lose? I don't want to lose any and I don't think you do either. Maybe if we know of some ways to lose blessings, we'll be wary of falling in that trap; here's four:

God is eternal, so time in a sense means nothing to God, at least not in the way it means something to finite mortal beings like us. Procrastination will put a hole in your blessing bucket every time. Good intentions are better than bad intentions but neither get God's attention when it comes to blessings. Several years ago I intended on visiting a friend of mine in another county when I heard of his illness. Every time I thought about going to see him, something would come up. I would get sided tracked. Then I would forget about it for a while. Finally, one evening I noticed his obituary and realized I had not only lost a friend, but I also lost a blessing.

Basically, there are two types of sins. Sins of commission (things we do that we should not do) and sins of omission (things we should do that we don't do). Sins of omission usually are the reason believers lose blessings. It's really hard to understand though, because we know how God feels about faith and we reverence His Holy Word just because of the majesty of the one who says it. Yet, we will put off serving and obeying God and pout because we're not being blessed. In the Old Testament book of Numbers, God told His people to go into the promised land. Now they had a sample already of the blessings of that land of milk and honey from the spies. They hesitated because most of the spies saw more problems than blessings. No doubt about it, doubt will cause a leak in your heart and cause you to lose a blessing. What is so heart-breaking about this Bible story though is that the Israelites finally decided they would do what God said to do. It's heartbreaking because it was too late.

"And Moses said, Wherefore now do ye transgress the commandment of the Lord? but it shall not prosper. Go not up, for the Lord is not among you; that ye be not smitten before your enemies." Numbers 14:41-42

The result of the Israelites delayed obedience was the wasting of forty years and thousands of lives! The first eight verses of Ecclesiastes chapter three cites time as the "bookends" of our lives. To ignore time and opportunity takes us out of place and causes an awful waste of Grace.

Around here during the months of March and April you notice a lot of ag fields browning or plowed. The fields look pretty barren, but you know what's about to happen. It's planting time! The farmer prepares the soil by tillage or chemical treatment so that the fields can receive a blessing and produce a blessed yield. It's like that too with the Christian heart. In fact, our Lord Jesus used the seed and soil analogy in Matthew thirteen to help us understand that if the heart is not prepared, there won't be a blessing. If you don't prepare your heart when you come to worship in church, you will not receive a blessing, no matter who the preacher is, nor who sings a special. Our God is a heart God and while He changes our hearts from hardened by sin to softened by His word, He expects us to maintain the joy of His salvation by utilizing the very blessings He provides. And if our hearts are not ready for the blessings, we will dry up and not be fruitful.

No matter how much we know, or how well we speak, if the heart is not right, we won't be either.

"This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me." Matthew 15:8

We would greatly benefit from preparing our hearts because it would have a profound effect on our lips. For the most part, people don't care how much you know. What matters to them is that you care. For our lips to praise the Lord and encourage and comfort one another they must draw from a prepared heart. Otherwise, it would be about like a farmer trying to plant cotton in a field of weeds and rocks. I know for sure that preaching requires a prepared heart. The only way I can be a blessing is if God blesses me. Actually, if my heart is not prepared, I would rather not say a word. My grandson Noah, who is five years old, is holding an alligator in the picture. The gator was removed from my pond and released in another area and Noah was involved in the process. Noah could hold the gator and he even took a liking to the reptile, but only because the gator's lips were taped shut. Maybe we would lose fewer blessings if we said less and loved more, especially if our hearts are not right with God. Even an alligator can be a blessing when its lips are not loose.

During my pastorate at the Lake church near Metter, Brother Carlton Brown, who was a member there, invited me to his farm to pick blueberries. I still remember Brother Carlton's words when I arrived at his home and walked over to greet and thank him for the opportunity to pick berries. He said, "Did you bring anything to put them in?" I felt a little embarrassed really when I realized how presumptuous it was of me to be invited to partake of a brother's fruit and not even consider that I needed a container to carry it in. I think Brother Carlton loaned me a bucket, but I also learned a lesson. We will miss far less blessings if we begin each day by asking God to prepare our hearts so that as we have opportunity to graze in the fertile fields of the gospel, we'll have something to put the blessings in.

Worry will cause a leak every time. Then good things like blessings leak out and bad things like doubt and fear leak in. We must remember that this world is not our final home, though it is our assignment. Heaven is our home, and it should be our desire to get as much of there (Heaven) here (life on earth) as we can. Blessings help us do that. We are so blessed to live in the greatest country on earth, to have Christian family and friends, and the freedom to worship! It is evident that God wants us to be blessed. Actually, that's why He saved us, so He could bless us. He gets the glory and we get the blessings. How many blessings do you suppose you have lost because of worrying about earthly matters? Jesus said that we cannot serve two masters. Trying to serve the Lord and make a mark in this world will not be profitable for a child of God. While the more we seek God here, the blessings we need appear.

"But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." Matthew 6:33

Most of the reason we worry is because we get caught in the worldly trap of want. God is not going to furnish our table of life with a menu of wants, whims, and wishes. Our heavenly father knows what we need though, and it's tragic when we come unglued and frazzled when things don't go like we think they should. If blessings are gifts of grace (and they are), how will we know that His grace is sufficient if we run from our God-ordained trouble?

Living with an earthly perspective rather than an eternal one is like trying to fill a bucket full of holes with water. Pride and covetousness has sucked many a blessing from a believer. We neglect our calling as pilgrims and strangers on earth by worrying about what others will think if we obey God, or we drop a blessing by thinking how an ill-gotten gain will satisfy us. Several years ago while paying the cashier for a meal at a local restaurant, as I presented the check for the meal, I mistakenly gave a fifty dollar bill to cover a ten dollar tab. (I had already left the tip on the table and I rarely have a fifty dollar bill anyway). When the cashier gave me the change, I was shocked, and said to her "I thought I gave you a ten. You could have kept the change and I would not have known." To which the cashier replied; "I could have, but I would not have been blessed!"

Remember, blessings originate in heaven, so don't you think we should always be looking in the direction from which our help comes? Don't get caught up in worldliness. Take your cares to God and exchange them for blessings. Tribulations should actually intensify our hope for the glory of God.

"Casting all your care upon Him; for he careth for you." 1 Peter 5:7

Many Christians lose a lot of blessings by trying to escape the cost of love. Jesus Christ said, and showed us, that the way to keep a blessing is to lose our lives. The early Christians had to risk their lives every day for Christ. The longing, lonesome, even lazy look of society today is because our lives are flat out of blessings. When we attempt to pump up our spiritual wheels with feelings, it's like filling a tire with tacks and the end result is stranded by the roadside. The fact is, there is no sheltered way of life apart from the path of God-exalting obedience. God never blesses us without testing us!

It is better to lose your life than to lose a blessing. Dying in the service of Christ will not be a tragedy. Living for self and missing a blessing is a tragedy though. If something doesn't cost you much, it probably doesn't mean much to you. Salvation is free to us, but it's not cheap! It cost God His only begotten Son and it cost the Son His precious blood. The reason God loves us and blesses us so, is because we are so expensive. A life without sacrifice is an abomination! There is no telling how many blessings we lose every day because we are not willing to pay the price of obedience to God. Think about the three Hebrews who were thrown into the fiery furnace. They did not lose a blessing; rather, they were blessed with the very presence of the Lord Jesus Christ as well as blessed by many who witnessed their worship of God. And Queen Esther received the blessing of the presence of the king and she was a blessing to an entire nation because of her willingness to put her life on the line.

"...and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish." Esther 4:16

We all have a lot of dying to do. Jesus showed us how it should be done. That's why we are blessed with all spiritual blessing in Him. We have one life to live on earth. God gave us His spirit so He could bless us. We were made for God to bless. May we not waste it.

Brother Randy

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