Seeking Blessings

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ…

– Ephesians 1:3 (VW)

Everyone who is truly born-again is blessed. It matters not what your earthly situation is, you already are blessed with every possible spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ. These heavenly blessings far exceed anything we could imagine now, and once we get to heaven, it will take all of eternity to comprehend them.

But what about now? Are there earthly blessings awaiting us that we have not yet received? Well, yes, there are. But they’re probably not the kind that first comes to mind. Here’s what Jesus said about those who are blessed. How do you fit in?

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

Blessed are they who have been persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.

Blessed are you when they shall revile and persecute you, and shall say every evil word against you falsely because of Me. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in Heaven, for in this manner they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

– Matthew 5:2-11

Too many Christians want to be blessed with earthly benefits like good health, a decent income, and general happiness. Even though it may not seem like it, these are limited and shallow things compared to the blessings of being poor in spirit, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, or being persecuted as a follower of Jesus Christ. The blessing comes from the fact that God is closer to these kinds of people, which is better by far than any temporal benefits.

Do you fall into any of these categories? If you do, have you seen yourself as blessed and sincerely thanked God for it? If you don’t, do you think you could ask God to be blessed in these ways, knowing that even though Jesus would call you blessed, you wouldn’t see the full benefit until eternity?

Jesus also spoke about other blessed kinds of people:

  • Blessed are those who help the needy, strangers, and prisoners (Matthew 25:34-40).
  • Blessed are those who show hospitality to the poor and those with physical problems (Luke 14:13-14).
  • Blessed are those who hear the word of God and do it (Luke 11:28).
  • Blessed are those to whom Christ is supernaturally revealed by the Father (Matthew 16:17).
  • Blessed are those who see Christ at work, and by it, prophecy fulfilled (Luke 10:23).
  • Blessed are those who do what Jesus said (John 13:17).
  • Blessed are those who do not stumble because of Christ (Matthew 11:6).
  • Blessed are those who look for Christ’s return (Luke 12:37-38).
  • Blessed are those who are found feeding the church of Christ when He comes (Matthew 24:45-46).
  • And blessed are those who believe in Jesus without having seen Him (John 20:29).

How do you stack up? Would Jesus call you blessed?

Profitable Servants

And the apostles said to the Lord, Give us more faith. So the Lord said, If you have faith as a mustard seed, you might say to this sycamine tree, Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea, and it would obey you. But which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, Come, sit down to eat? But will he not rather say to him, Prepare something for my supper, and gird yourself and serve me till I have eaten and drunk, and afterward you will eat and drink? Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not. So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.

– Luke 17:5-10 (VW)

Does this passage appear confusing to you? What do unprofitable servants have to do with the apostle’s request for more faith? The one seems totally unrelated to the other. But there is a connection, and the answer begins with finding the common theme in what Jesus said.

After the disciples asked for more faith, Jesus spoke about faith. But He didn’t tell them how to obtain what they wanted. He only described what true faith would allow them to do. If they had the tiniest amount of that kind of faith, they would be able to command a tree to pluck itself up by the roots and plant itself in the sea. I would think my faith very strong if I had a faith like that. But Jesus said that is the smallest kind of faith.

Then Jesus appeared to change the subject without answering their question. He spoke about the working relationship between a slave and his master, which relationship the disciples were familiar with. A slave puts his master’s interests before his own. Only after the master’s needs are satisfied are the slave’s needs satisfied. This is a slave’s duty, and he is never commended for doing his duty. Such a slave only does what is expected of him.

What is the common theme? It doesn’t take much thought to see that the theme is obedience. The tree obeys the apostle, and the slave obeys his master. Obedience is what ties the two illustrations together. But it is not just any kind of obedience: it is heartless obedience. If you have enough faith to command a tree to plant itself in the sea and it obeyed you, you wouldn’t thank the tree for doing so. It merely did what you commanded it. Likewise, the unprofitable slave who does only what he is commanded to do has no reason to expect thanks from his master because his heart is not in it. If he were given an employee evaluation, it would be mediocre at best. But what do these illustrations have to do with acquiring faith? Much.

For one thing, although it’s easy to read it that way, Jesus is not telling us to give up hope of ever being anything more than unprofitable slaves 1. He is not trying to discourage us. On the contrary, He wants us to be profitable slaves, but that doesn’t come about the way most of us think

We Christians tend to serve Jesus Christ out of a sense of duty. To be sure, there are some things He requires of us, such as continuing to forgive those who sin against us (Luke 17:3-4). But in serving our Lord, we shouldn’t seek to do the minimum required of us. If we love Him and trust Him, our love and trust will lead us to go beyond this.

After he was saved, Paul’s life revolved around sharing the gospel with everyone. Jesus had saved him for this very purpose; it was his duty. But Paul didn’t just do his duty…

…Do you not know that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of the altar? Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel. But I have used none of these things, nor have I written these things that it should be done so with me; for it would be better for me to die than that anyone should make my exulting void. For if I preach the gospel, there is no glory to me, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel. For if I do this willingly, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have been entrusted with a stewardship. What is my reward then? That when I preach the gospel, I may present the gospel of Christ without charge, that I may not abuse my authority in the gospel. For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might gain the more;

– 1 Corinthians 9:13-19

Paul’s mission was sharing the gospel with the gentiles. But his reward would not come merely from doing this, for that was his calling, his duty. He had no expectation of thanks for doing his duty (compare verse 16 with Luke 17:9). Instead, Paul expected a reward because he went beyond his duty by not taking advantage of his right to live off the gospel. Paul had this right, but he didn’t use it so that his mission would be more effective. To support himself, he also made tents 2. This is where faith came in, because even though Jesus commanded evangelists to live off the gospel, he expected Jesus to reward him for presenting the gospel freely.

Other believers have also gone above and beyond the call of duty. Some Christians in the early church sold themselves into slavery to reach lost slaves for Jesus. It happened again among the 18th century Moravians. On August 21, 1732, Johann Leonhard Dober and David Nitschmann sailed from Copenhagen to the Dutch West Indies to sell themselves into a lifetime of slavery to reach the lost African slaves for Jesus. Others followed, many of which died of tropical illnesses. These people served Christ in faith, and many came to salvation because they went beyond the call of duty.

If you want more faith, even as small as a grain of mustard seed, don’t just do your duty: give all of yourself.

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. …

– 1 Corinthians 9:24


  1. We are slaves of Christ. The leaders of the early church called themselves slaves of Christ (Philippians 1:1, James 1:1, 2 Peter 1:1, Jude 1:1, Revelation 1:1). Most of our Bibles translate the word as ‘servant’, but the word means a slave or bondservant, someone who is fully devoted to serving his master. But their obedience was not a slave’s heartless obedience. They didn’t just do their duty. They gave their all, even their lives.
  2. Acts 18:3

God Remembers

“And God remembered Noah…”

– Genesis 8:1

God does not forget like we forget, but He does remember.

Once a year my wife and I fly from our home in Nevada to visit my parents in New Jersey. When the visit is over, we fly back home. The trip takes about five hours. If the flight is during the day, I like to look out the window to see where we are. Below I see cities and towns and the Appalachian mountains. Later I see the Mississippi river, then the plains, followed by the Rocky Mountains. But when the canyonlands of the southwest come into view, I know soon the pilot will remember to adjust the controls to begin our descent. It was always the pilot’s intention to land the aircraft at our destination, but first he had to fly the plane at cruising altitude for a while before he put that plan into action. It would have been useless to ask the pilot to land the plane early, for then we would not have arrived at our intended destination. In the same way, some time must elapse before God “remembers” and acts to begin a new phase of His plan.

In Genesis 7, God sent the flood to destroy all life on the earth except for Noah and those with him on the ark. For forty days and nights, the floodwaters increased until they covered everything. But it was never God’s plan for the human race to live on a permanent cruise. When the 40 days were over, God remembered Noah by turning off the heavenly spigots so the waters could begin to recede. God said earlier the rain would last for 40 days and 40 nights (Genesis 7:4), and in the fullness of time, He acted to save Noah.

God remembered other people in the Bible, and every time He remembered, He acted in some way to change their circumstance…

  • In Genesis 19:29, He remembered Abraham by saving Lot. In the previous chapter, the patriarch reasoned with God to save his brother from the doomed city of Sodom. When God did so, He acted by sending His angels to bring Lot, his wife and daughters out of the city before it was destroyed. So God remembered Abraham.
  • In Genesis 30:22, God remembered Rachel. Like the other wives of the patriarchs, Rachel was barren. But in God’s perfect time, He acted to enable her to conceive. Earlier in Genesis 21:1, God “visited” Sarah to enable her to conceive, which is another way of saying He remembered her. God also remembered Hannah the same way in 1 Samuel 1:19, 2:21.
  • In Exodus 2:24, God remembered His people suffering in Egyptian slavery. God had told Abraham his descendants would be slaves in Egypt for four hundred years (Genesis 15:13), but only at the end of the four hundred years did He deliver them from their oppressors.
  • In Luke 1:72, Zechariah gave praise to God for remembering His people by sending Jesus to save them. Hundreds, even thousands, of years had passed since God promised to send a Savior, and in the fullness of time (Galatians 4:4), He acted to do so.

In each of these examples, God’s people were going through a difficult phase of life. Those who knew the character of God waited patiently for Him, trusting in His wisdom and timing. When we call on God to remember us in our suffering, it is not because we think He has forgotten us (…at least we shouldn’t think that way), but because we desire Him to act now on our behalf. Before He acts, we wait patiently for Him to remember us. But whether we trust Him or not, He will do so and bring us into a new and better phase of life. For a time, life is hard, then God makes it better. Knowing God remembers is the basis of our work and prayers of faith.

For God is not unrighteous, so as to forget your work and the labor of love which you showed toward his name, in that you served the saints, and still do serve them.

– Hebrews 6:10

God does not always act in ways that are beneficial to us. If we rebel against God, He allows it to go on for a time to give us ample opportunity to repent. Just as when God remembers for good, there can be a long period of time before He acts to repay our evil, but eventually He does so if we remain stubborn and refuse to repent.

  • In Jeremiah 14:10-12, after hundreds of years of repeated warnings, God remembered the sin and idolatry of His people and acted to punish them.
  • On a much larger scale, God will soon remember “Babylon”, the great anti-God world system (Revelation 16:19, 18:5). At that time, He will cause her to drink to the dregs the full cup of His wrath.

For good or for evil, you can count on the fact that God always remembers. One of the differences between the righteous and the wicked is that the righteous know God remembers, so when they sin (for everyone sins), they repent, seek forgiveness, and trust in His mercy and forgiveness. But the wicked don’t know God remembers. They continue in sin because they’re unaware of the consequences of their rebellion. They don’t believe God will pay them back for their actions.

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

– 2 Corinthians 5:10

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

– Revelation 20:11-15

This is why, in the book of Acts, the need for salvation in Jesus focused on the final judgment rather than where people would spend eternity. The roads to both heaven and hell go through the judgment seat of Christ.

The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

– Acts 17:30-31

Of course, everybody sins. Everybody does things that offend God. If God were to remember our sins, we would have no hope. (“If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?” – Psalm 130:3) But God has provided a way for sins to be forgotten for those who humble themselves and repent. This Way is based solely on God’s remembering Jesus’ propitiatory sacrifice. Jesus’ death on the cross is the sole means by which God forgets our sins.

You can use this fact to your advantage. You now have a choice as to how God will remember you. He can remember you for good, or He can remember you for evil. He can remember you for eternal life, or remember you for eternal torment. Billions of people have gone to hell when they didn’t have to. It takes virtually nothing on your part for Him to remember you for life. All you need to do is humble yourself before Him, repent and put your trust in Jesus, and God will remember you for life. I strongly recommend you choose life.

“…he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

– Acts 10:42-43

For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will by no means remember any longer.

– Hebrews 8:12

VoS Second Edition Giveaway is hosting a give-away for the second edition of my book, How To Gain Victory Over Sin. The give-away is August 19 to 27. You could be one of 10 winners. Click the link below for more information.

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How To Gain Victory Over Sin by Andrew Bernhardt

How To Gain Victory Over Sin

by Andrew Bernhardt

Giveaway ends August 27, 2017.

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VoS Second Edition Now Available

Cover image for book Victory Over SinThe second edition of my book, How To Gain Victory Over Sin is now available. As with the first edition, this one is free in e-book form from Google Play, Smashwords, or here. Kindle users’ have to pay 99 cents because Amazon won’t let me charge any less. Because the book has more pages, the price for the paperback is a little higher than the first edition, but it’s still pretty cheap ($7).

This new edition contains additional articles on sanctification, plus an appropriate and helpful chapter from Charles Haddon Spurgeon’s excellent book, All Of Grace. The original content has been updated slightly, and as before, there’s an over-abundance of endnotes if you need them.

I also completely redesigned the cover, using imagery related to the book’s dandelion illustration.

Information about this book, and my first book, Seeing Jesus, is available on my books pages.

Saddam and Nebuchadnezzar

King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold.

– Daniel 3:1

..and the king answered and said, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power … for the glory of my majesty?”

– Daniel 4:30

And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the splendor and pomp of the Chaldeans, will be like Sodom and Gomorrah when God overthrew them. It will never be inhabited or lived in for all generations; …

– Isaiah 13:19-20a

Here’s an extract from wikipedia that I grabbed several years ago…

“In 1983, Saddam Hussein started rebuilding the city on top of the old ruins (because of this, artifacts and other finds may well be under the city by now), investing in both restoration and new construction. He inscribed his name on many of the bricks in imitation of Nebuchadnezzar. One frequent inscription reads:

“This was built by Saddam Hussein, son of Nebuchadnezzar, to glorify Iraq”. This recalls the ziggurat at Ur, where each individual brick was stamped with “Ur-Nammu, king of Ur, who built the temple of Nanna”. These bricks became sought after as collectors’ items after the downfall of Hussein, and the ruins are no longer being restored to their original state. He also installed a huge portrait of himself and Nebuchadnezzar at the entrance to the ruins, and shored up Processional Way, a large boulevard of ancient stones, and the Lion of Babylon, a black rock sculpture about 2,600 years old.”

“When the Gulf War ended, Saddam wanted to build a modern palace, also over some old ruins; it was made in the pyramidal style of a Sumerian ziggurat. He named it Saddam Hill. In 2003, he was ready to begin the construction of a cable car line over Babylon when the invasion began and halted the project.”

I find it interesting how Saddam, identifying himself as Nebuchadnezzar, sought glory for his kingdom… and then his rule ended. This prophecy may be the main reason the United States ousted Saddam from Iraq.

The article goes on to say UN officials and Iraqi leader have plans to restore Babylon as a cultural center. In 2009 it was opened as a tourist site, but according to biblical prophecy, it will never be an inhabited city.

The Meaning Of Yahweh’s Name

Israel went through a time of slavery in Egypt. God had told Abram this would happen beforehand (Genesis 15:13), but He allowed it to happen anyway. Slavery is evil, but God always has a purpose and is able to bring good to His people out of anything.

Whatever manner God deals with His people, whether through something He does or something He allows, it is always to bring glory to Himself. Glory is simply the revealing of God’s character and nature such that we can understand and appreciate Him better. So to find out why the Israelites were enslaved, we need to ask how God revealed His character and nature through the situation. What do we learn about God from this time?

Remember when God told Abram what would happen to His descendants, He also promised to bring great good out of it? Abraham received many promises from God, but he never saw them fulfilled (Hebrews 11:13). Abraham continued to believe God in spite of this, but I wonder what everyone else thought? Imagine you’re one of Abram’s neighbors – say, an idol-worshiping Canaanite. You hear Abram say his God (of whom you know nothing) made a bunch of promises to him… but years go by and, even though Abram dies, you never see them fulfilled. Wouldn’t you think his God is no different than your god? After all, your god never fulfilled any promises either.

Four hundred years later, God appeared to Moses and said He was now going to act to fulfill the promises made to Abraham (Exodus 3:8). But the Israelites didn’t know God anymore. He was the stuff of legends to them. He hadn’t spoken in hundreds of years. Moses had to ask who God was so he could tell his people (Exodus 3:13-15). It was then that God gave His name: Yahweh (Jehovah).

Exodus 6:3 says God wasn’t known by that name to Abraham, and yet Genesis 12:8 says Abraham had called on the name of Yahweh. This is not a contradiction. I take this to mean Abraham knew the pronunciation of God’s name, but didn’t understand it has a meaning. It’s like knowing someone by the name of Cook, and not realizing he’s a great chef. Abram knew what God’s name sounded like, but he never experienced what it meant. Only later did God reveal the meaning of His name to Moses and the Israelites.

One phrase you see repeated in the Old Testament is “…and then they will know that I am Yahweh,” (i.e. Exodus 6:7-8; 14:4; 1 Samuel 17:47, 1 Kings 20:28, etc). Every time you see this phrase, God says He is going to act to fulfill a promise. So the meaning of the name Yahweh is tied with the God who acts to show Himself real and faithful to His promises. God is the great I AM, and He proves it by keeping His promises.

Abraham never saw the promises fulfilled, but the Israelites did. God revealed Himself to them in spectacular ways. As a result, they came to know God better. They knew Him as Savior, Redeemer, Provider, and One who loves them. They knew His holiness and righteousness through His Law. They experienced both His love and His justice, His blessing and His wrath. They knew He was faithful to His promises – even those made hundreds of years ago. They witnessed His power over nature and man. God was glorified in their eyes AND the Egyptians’ (Exodus 5:2, 7:5, 8:20-22, 14:4) AND the Canaanites (Joshua 2:9-11, Judges 9:24). And the glory was greater because God had brought His people out of what was an impossibly difficult situation. That is the same way He works today. He comes through for us even in impossible situations.

The Israelites’ slavery also had other benefits. It helped the Israelites to understand the relationship they had to their God. God did not set His people free from slavery. He redeemed them to be His own servants. He bought them: they were now His.

As Christians, we are also redeemed; we are now slaves of Christ. We have a harder time understanding the ramifications of this because we haven’t come from a slavery background. Israel knew what it meant, even though they rebelled over and over again. Thankfully, we have a Master is extremely good, and loves us. However, too many of us do not really know the name of Jesus. We hear it all the time, but we’ve never experienced its meaning: “Yahweh Saves.” Let’s use our difficult situations for what they are intended: to know and experience the name of Jesus. He is our Savior, Redeemer, Provider and Lover of our souls. He is holy and righteous. He is faithful to His promises… even those made thousands of years ago. This is the meaning of life.

Heat Maps

…I have not shrunk back from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.

– Acts 20:27


If you’ve watched the news lately, you have probably seen one or more heat maps. A heat map uses areas of different colors to give an overall picture of some kind of statistic. For example, weather reports will sometimes show ocean temperatures in the Pacific to indicate if we’re heading for an El Niño or La Niña. And while technically not a heat map, we’ve all seen recent maps of the United States election results colored red or blue by county. I like heat maps, and it got me thinking of a biblical application.

What if you could view the entire Bible as a map, divided into books and chapters (like states and counties), or divided into topics. How would that map look if it were colored based on what areas you tend to study over the years. Or if you’re a pastor, how would the map be colored based on the subjects of your sermons? Well-studied areas would be red, and little-studied areas would be blue. If you can picture such a map in your mind, would you have large areas of blue because you tend to focus on a few favorite books or topics? Or would the map be mostly red?

Belief Systems

There are basic five states which you can be in relating to the essentials of any belief system, whether it be Christianity, Islam, or even atheism:

Ignorant acceptance:

You can subscribe to a belief system without knowing the details of the belief system. This is not a good state to be in. There are many who identify themselves as Christian, Muslim, Atheist, or whatever without having personally investigated what they believe. Until recently (and maybe still so today), most Americans identified themselves as Christians, but the majority pick that belief system as the default (“I believe Jesus was a good man, and I’m not a Muslim, Buddhist, or pagan, so I guess I’m a Christian.”), not knowing what Christianity is all about.

Ignorant rejection:

You can reject a belief system without knowing the details of the belief system. This is also not a good state to be in. These are those who deny a belief system is true without having investigated what that system teaches. Reasons for denial are subjective: “It doesn’t seem right to me.”, “Almost nobody believes that.”, “Look at how those people behave!”, “I’ve always been told they’re wrong.”, etc.

Knowledgeable acceptance:

You can subscribe to a belief system knowing the essential details of the belief system. This is much better than ignorant acceptance or rejection. It shows you realize the dangers of believing something without any evidence. You may still come to a wrong conclusion on the matter due to incomplete and/or biased investigation, but you are closer to finding out the truth than blind acceptance or rejection.

Knowledgeable rejection:

You can reject a belief system knowing the essential details of the belief system. This is also much better than ignorant rejection or acceptance. Again, you may come to a wrong conclusion on the matter due to incomplete and/or biased investigation, but you are closer to finding out the truth than blind acceptance or rejection.


You can accept some essential parts of belief system and reject others, and you can combine parts of one belief system with another. This is also a form of ignorance and self-deception: calling yourself a believer in something, but not really believing it. You cannot say you are a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ, if you don’t believe the things Jesus said. That is like saying, “I hate hamburgers, but love cheeseburgers. But I prefer my cheeseburgers without cheese.” You can have your cheeseburger without ketchup, lettuce, or onions, but you can’t have it without cheese. Cheese is essential to the cheeseburger. And Christ is essential to Christianity.

The further away you are from ignorance, the less likely there will be compromise, and the closer you will be to the truth.