Friday, June 20, 2008

Benediction Manifesto: Everything through Jesus

Top 12 Scripture Texts: Number 6A
Philippians 4:13
Bob Rakestraw

The name of this blog is “The Benediction Project” because I want everything I write to have the effect of benediction (blessing, divine favor, grace) on you and on those you influence—directly or indirectly. I envision you as a mighty force of young and old, men and women, girls and boys, Asians and Africans, Latinos and Europeans, Americans and Islanders, throughout the earth, being divinely-endowed and divinely-functioning agents of God’s justice, mercy, holiness and peace.

I also think of the Benediction Project as a Manifesto, defined in Webster’s New World College Dictionary as “a public declaration of motives and intentions by a government or by a person or group regarded as having some public importance.” For many years I have governed my life’s work by the Great Commandment of Jesus: Love God and Love your Neighbor. During my service as a pastor and teacher I have been compelled by this twofold manifesto, and I long to declare it publicly for all to hear and follow. The greatest way we can be a benediction to God (yes!) and people is by loving God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength, and loving our neighbors as we love ourselves.

With these thoughts in mind I chose “Benediction Manifesto” as this month’s theme partly because the scripture text we will consider—Philippians 4:13—has a “manifesto” quality to it. The apostle Paul, after declaring his contentment in whatever circumstances he finds himself—especially in financial and material matters—proclaims for all the world to read: “I can do everything through him [Christ] who gives me strength.” He wants to emphasize publicly that whatever God leads him to do, he knows he can do by the grace of Jesus strengthening him. He presents this as a powerful motivating hope for his life and for others and therefore a benedictory, life-giving manifesto for all to hear and live by.

In my next posting a few days from now I want to consider Philippians 4:13 from a different angle than I have ever done before. I want to apply it to the most difficult challenge of my recent life, and I encourage you between now and then to think of the most difficult challenge in your current life, and to ask God to reveal how this text can help you meet it: “I can do everything through him [Christ] who gives me strength.”

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