Numbers 6:23-27

23 Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them:

24 The Lord bless you
and keep you;

25 the Lord make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;

26 the Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace.’ 

The church I grew up in didn’t use this traditional benediction at the close of services. For the last 15 years or so the churches I have attended used this or some variation and I came to look forward to it as a personal blessing for my week and life.

That God should bless me, personally. That God should shine his blessing on me, personally. That God should watch over me, personally. And last of all that God should give me his peace, personally.

The repetition of the word personally is important to what this prayer means to me; that this is not a general blessing to the congregation but rather a personal blessing to me as an individual believer.

In working my way through the last year I prayed daily for God’s peace. Whenever I felt overwhelmed and completely lost I reached for that peace as it says in Philippians 4:6-7 

6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 

While I could not maintain anything like a perfect connection with God’s peace these simple prayers helped me remember that I was not alone and that God was with me guarding me and guiding and at times carrying me when I simply could not carry myself. 

And when I remember that I was not alone I could very personally feel God’s peace.

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Nice Guys Finish Last

by Allen Laudenslager & Bryan Neva

My writing partner (the blog Profit at Any Price) sent me some of his writing, I added a very minor amount and did some editing and he very generously gave me co-author credit.

 “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

                                  – Jesus (Matt 20:16) 

Why do nice guys/girls finish last?  The short answer is that nice guys/girls don’t really finish last, but appear to finish last because they play by a different set of rules than the world does.  The world’s standards of success are the polar opposite to God’s standards of success, and nice guys/girls play by God’s rules for living a decent and wholesome life. 

The world says you’re a winner if you’re financially wealthy; God says you’re a winner if you’re spiritually wealthy by laying up treasures in heaven through kindness and generosity.  The world says you’re a winner if you’re powerful; God says you’re a winner if you serve others.  The world says you’re a winner if you’re smart and articulate; God says you’re a winner if you use the gifts and talents he gave you to become the person He wants you to be (that is, by living up to your full potential as a human being).  The world says you’re a winner if you earn awards and accolades; God says you’re a winner if you earn the “crown of life” by spending eternity with Him in heaven.  The world says you’re a winner if you’re popular and well liked; God says you’re a winner if He’s pleased with your behavior.  The world says you’re a winner if you’re physically attractive; God says you’re a winner if you’re beautiful on the inside.  

In a worldly sense, playing by God’s rules is just not as exciting or immediately satisfying as playing by the world’s rules.  As human beings, we’re wired to enjoy that lift and sense of well being that a “hit” of adrenalin gives us.  Almost everyone can remember that high they got as a kid every time they rode their bicycle as fast as they could down hill right on the edge of control.  We get that same sense of pleasure when we push the boundaries of behavior, like that bicycle, right on the edge of control. 

Conversely, nice guys/girls seem to finish last because they add something beyond instant gratification to the mix.  They ask the question, “Is what I am doing and measuring success by right in God’s eyes?”  Even non-religious, humanist nice guys/girls live by a different set of standards than the world does. They ask a similar question, “Is what I’m doing right, honest, and ethical?  If the answer yes, they do it; if no, they don’t do it.  They ask, “Is what I’m doing going to hurt anyone or anything?”  If the answer is no, they do it; if yes, they don’t do it.

 If we want to become true winners in the game of life, then we must live by God’s standards of right conduct and not the world’s.