January 1 Blessed to Sing God’s Praises, Like the Birds
Long before the sun is up, the birds awake to sing God’s praises for the new day. Creation rises to bless God their Creator and the Author of all blessings. The Bible overflows with blessings yet the first of all blessings that appear is reserved not for humankind but for birds and fish. After He formed the water creatures and every kind of bird, God saw that it was good. God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” This is the first blessing that occurs in God’s Story. God knows goodness when He sees it and from the very beginning He blessed creation to multiply so that the goodness that He created would fill the earth. From the depths of the sea to the heights of Heaven the first blessing continues to point our hearts to God.
But we will see that God is much more than a Creator who is content to sit back and enjoy His handiwork. We will experience the King through history and through His promises for the future. As we encounter blessings in places both familiar and surprising, it is my prayer that we’ll look back by faith and forward with hope and choose to serve in love, seeking His Presence daily.
January 2 Made in God’s Image and Blessed
During the sixth day of creative creations, the Master of Everything did something extraordinary: He created mankind in His own image! Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.” We are created in the very image of God, and blessed! It is important for us to remember that God blessed humanity before there was any opportunity to earn that blessing. Yet being blessed entails a call to action. We were not called to be passive but to take dominion over the earth that God made. Let us then live wisely because we know that we are blessed by the Creator, who created us in His image. As He blessed us, so we should bless the world around us. God is love; it only makes sense that being created in His image means that we were made for love and designed to be loving.
January 3 Blessed to Rest
What a spectacular universe the Lord has made! Day after day He adds more splendor to the mix. By the seventh day of creation, God had completed His masterpiece. Seeing that it was good, He stopped and He rested. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. God rested. Be blessed to rest. Trust that our heavenly Father knows best what we need, and we need time to set work aside and to rest. Reflecting on His goodness refreshes us.
It was while in Spain during my enlistment in the Marine Corps, that I was first introduced to the concept of “siestas”, a time in early afternoon when business stopped and the Spaniards enjoyed naps. Years later, when our family moved to China, we embraced an activity in the culture called “xiu xi”. For an hour or so, in the afternoon, doors would not be knocked upon and all of China could rejuvenate for the evening interactions yet to take place. These resting principles are similar to rest in God’s Story. Sadly, many societies value work but do not value rest. Often people try to get ahead by pushing through, seeking to fit more into a day already packed full, leaving little room for margin. From the beginning, however, God demonstrated that He valued rest a great deal. It is good to work, and it is good to rest. God did both. May we have wisdom to do the same.
January 4 Blessing upon Blessing
God the Father created the world out of nothing, but He was not alone. Jesus was there too, one with God from before time began. In the opening of John’s Gospel he makes it clear just who Jesus is: the Word that was with God from the very beginning, the Maker of all things, the Source of life and light, through whom a relationship with God the Father is established. Jesus became flesh and lived among humanity on earth. Referring to Jesus, John the apostle recorded the excitement of John the baptizer: “This is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘Someone is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.’” From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another. For the law was given through Moses, but God’s unfailing love and faithfulness came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us. May we be aware of one blessing after another today because of the grace that Jesus gives. We will read more of His life on earth later, but it is good to remember that Jesus was with the Father right from the start. He, like His Father, treasures giving good gifts. Our God is not stingy; He is not a miser. All goodness comes from Him. He is the source of blessing upon blessing.
January 5 Bless the Lord All My Days
Psalm 104 echoes God’s creation story. Written many years after the establishment of the world we can join the psalmist in singing praise to God for the wonders of His handiwork and for His provision. The song starts out with, “Bless the Lord, O my soul! O Lord my God, You are very great: You are clothed with honor and majesty…” And verse after verse tells of God’s wonderful work in creation and how the earth is filled with goodness because God is a good God worthy of all praise. In many places throughout the Psalms the use of the words “bless” and “praise” are intertwined. Isn’t it great how we, the creation, can bless the Lord, the Creator? The author of this astonishing praise song exclaims how he will sing praise to the Lord all his life. “I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have my being.”
These verses blessed me in January of 1998 as I read them while waiting for the results of an extensive procedure including tests for cancer. I resolved that no matter how many days were yet before me, my lips would sing praise to God. Russell and I sat across a worn wooden desk from a Chinese doctor in a Thai hospital to hear, “I so happy, you no cancer.” My reply: “I so happy too!” From that appointment, we resumed our family vacation on a beach in Thailand. My senses were newly alive. God’s love was deeper than the salty ocean that we splashed in with the kiddos. Heavy elephants ambled while horses galloped across the sand under a brilliant blue expanse and all was framed by vibrant green mountains. When I heard my children’s laughter I smiled with thankfulness. Time transformed day to night and warm air blew through a bejeweled sky. My gratitude was made complete as I held Russell’s hand, so glad for the husband God gave to me to enjoy His goodness with. The conclusion to Psalm 104 rings out loud and clear what we as those blessed by God are to do: “Bless the Lord, O my soul! Praise the Lord!”
January 6 Blessed to Start Again
From the beginning of time we find God’s bountiful goodness in everything. But the goodness He provided in the Garden of Eden was not enough for Adam and Eve. Falling for the temptation offered by the serpent, humanity’s rebellion against God began. Adam and Eve were forced to leave Eden because they chose to trust the creation rather than the Creator. In between the tragic story of Adam’s first two sons and the birth of his third son, Seth (when Adam was 130 years old), we can read again of the original creation of mankind. This is the family tree of the human race: When God created the human race, he made it godlike, with a nature akin to God. He created both male and female and blessed them, the whole human race.
Could it be that Seth was a kind of re-start? At the birth of Seth’s son Enoch, God’s Story states that people began to call on the name of the Lord. Do we not need to hear afresh, and often, that God blessed and continues to bless those who call on His name? Jesus will later describe this phenomenon to a teacher named Nicodemus as a “born again encounter” that comes from trusting in the One whom the Father has sent to rescue. Thank You, Lord, that You do not leave us like we are but You continue to provide for us a way to have new life, full life, blessed life in You. Amen.
January 7 Blessed to Be Fruitful
One generation followed another and things turned bad. Mankind’s wickedness grew to the point that there were only evil thoughts and utter corruption at the heart of man. God grieved that He had made the human race and with an aching heart He planned to wipe out everyone and everything that was alive. Now enter the story of Noah, his family, the ark, animals coming in pairs and how they were spared as a great flood washed away everything else. A rainbow was placed in the sky as a sign of the promise God made that a flood will never again destroy the earth. Then God blessed Noah and his sons and told them, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth.” This new beginning began with a blessing.
In 2010 I taught Noah’s story with joy to a dozen young ladies in a Thai juvenile detention center. Several in our group had been there long enough to contemplate the actions that led to their incarceration, which would interrupt life as they knew it for many years. The world cast them off, but God was able to use their confinement for His goodness to be experienced. On Tuesday and Thursday mornings they would meet with a team of ladies dedicated to sharing and showing God’s unconditional love. Sitting in a circle on a cement floor, adding colors to a paper rainbow, I could see the beginning of hope in some faces as they took in the truth that God cares about justice and yet He offers the possibility of redemption- a new start even for those who feel as though their lives are over. Please pray with me for one teenager in particular named Rain; may she trust in the God who made the rainbow and live in His blessings.
P.S. After over four and a half years in the detention center, Rain was released and I was blessed to reconnect with her in Thailand in the summer of 2015. As life is far from uncomplicated, please continue to pray for Rain to live out the full freedom she has in Jesus.
January 8 Blessed Be the Lord
After the great flood the ground dried and Noah and his family began to work the land. Noah drank some wine from a vineyard he had planted and he became drunk. In his drunkenness, his son Ham disrespected him. Noah then cursed Ham’s son, Canaan.“Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be to his brothers.” He also said, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem; and let Canaan be his servant. May God enlarge Japheth, and let him dwell in the tents of Shem, and let Canaan be his servant.” One grandson was cursed and two sons benefitted but the account does not give much more detail than that. Sometimes stories like these help us, centuries later, to get a feel for the grittiness of life and offer some hope in our messed up situations too. Although Shem and Japheth profited, Noah says it is the Lord who is to be blessed.