God: Speaking Words that Bless
The writer of Genesis shows us a God that loves to bless. We all need an ‘on-going blessing’ in this world of negative words. The invitation is to get to know even better the God who speaks good words over us and figure out what it will take to be people who echo those words to others who need to hear them too.
It’s amazing the power that negative words can have over us. I can still remember when my grade 10 English teacher yelled at me and told me – in front of the whole class – all kinds of bad things that she said people were saying about me. I’m sure she said more positive things to me too during the year, but I can’t remember what they were…
Here’s what a poet called Steve Turner said about words:
Sticks and stones only break your bones
But words can tear your heart out
Can you remember a time when someone said something that really tore your heart out?
An author called Henri Nouwen wrote about how bad words spoken to us can reinforce a tendency we have to think negatively about ourselves:
‘Over the years, I have come to realize that the greatest trap in our life is not success, popularity, or power, but self-rejection. Success, popularity, and power can, indeed, present a great temptation, but their seductive quality often comes from the way they are part of the much larger temptation to self-rejection. When we have come to believe in the voices that call us worthless and unlovable, then success, popularity, and power are easily perceived as attractive solutions. The real trap, however, is self-rejection.
Nouwen then describes what he thinks is the antidote to the negative words we hear:
We all need an on-going blessing that allows us to hear in an ever-new way that we belong to a loving God who will never leave us alone, but will remind us always that we are guided by love on every step of our lives. Henri Nouwen—Life of the Beloved
I think the writer of Genesis knew that’s what we need too. One of the main things he shows God doing is speaking words of blessing. Read Genesis 1v1-2v3 listening out for the kinds of things God says.
In the first act of the creation story God gets a pretty big speaking role (actually, the only speaking role). The writer is not telling us that God had an actual mouth but still, God ‘speaks’ so to speak … and when God speaks God does two kinds of things: he creates (and he names what he creates) and he blesses (which includes giving animals and people things to do).
Did you notice there aren’t any other speaking parts? That’s important … God is the one and only source of creation and the first blessing.
We’ve already seen God in action as he speaks creation into being, so now we’re going to focus on the second way God uses words…
The writer of Genesis shows us a God that loves to bless. In Genesis 1, when God is not using words to create and name things, he’s using words to bless. Anything that lives and moves gets a blessing from God.
The Hebrew word for ‘bless’ is Barach, as in … yes, the first name of a certain Mr Obama. Barach is a good word. To bless someone is to say good things over them. Our English word eulogy comes from the Greek word for blessing which means literally – ‘good word’. When someone says a eulogy at a funeral they say good words about that person’s life. They bless the person.
When God blesses, God speaks good words over us. And that’s an especially good thing because of the creative power of God’s words. What God says happens – ‘and it was so…’.
God’s relationship with us begins with blessing because God is a God who speaks good words over us
One of the most famous blessings in the Biblical story is when God blesses Jesus at his baptism (Mark 1:9-11). The Spirit in the form of a dove flies to Jesus and then there’s this voice from all around booming out for everyone to hear:
‘You are my Son, chosen and marked by my love, pride of my life.’ (The Message)
When God blessed Jesus he affirmed Jesus about who he was (you are my Son) and how much he was loved. I love how this blessing comes before Jesus had actually done anything big for God. This is at the start of his ministry. God bursts with pride over his son not because of anything he’s done, but simply because of who he is – God’s child. Just like us.
How many of us could do with more words of blessing spoken over us?
Some people argue that Christians (and other religions too) have created gods that satisfy this universal longing. But what if it’s the other way round? What if the reason we long to know who we are and that we are loved is because that was what we heard as humans right at the beginning? What if, buried in our spiritual DNA there’s a place – some blessing receptors maybe – that were made to hear those words. ‘I love you, you are mine’?
God blesses us each day by speaking words of life right into the depths of our longing to know we are loved. I think that’s why the way we use words was such a big thing for Paul when he wrote Ephesians chapter 4 and 5. One of the ways to live out our new identity as God’s children is to be someone who blesses others in the way we speak.
We all need an ‘on-going blessing’ in this world of bad words. Let’s get to know even better the God who speaks good words over us and figure out what it will take to be people who echo those words to others who need to hear them too.
Enter the Story
It may be hard to believe but God really does want to speak words of life over us.
Imagine you are in the place of Jesus in that river from Mark 1. Try and sense what it feels like to have this overwhelming sense of God’s presence as the Holy Spirit comes on you. Then you hear two things:
The first begins with ‘I know …’ – hear God whisper to you that he knows what you are struggling with and having to deal with. Hear God name them.
Then hear God as he says to you ‘… but I want you to know that still you are my child that I love very much. I will never leave you or abandon you or forget you. I made you very well and I have marked you with my love. I want you to be free and enjoy the life I have for you …
In this tab you’ll find ideas and questions to help you lead your group through an interactive, story-based journey. Read our leaders guide to explore how to get the most out of these four parts.
Download a PDF version of this session here
Imagine you’re sitting with someone who is watching a few clips of your life as it is right now … In these clips you are hearing words that people have spoken to you or about you. Words about who you are, what you have done and what you are worth to them. Words that have encouraged you or been hurtful.
o What moments in your life are those clips showing? How do you feel hearing those words again?
o How often do you hear or say the words: ‘I love you’ or ‘you’re awesome’ or something like that?
o Check out this quote from Henri Nouwen. Is this something that’s true for you?
‘The feeling that we are blessed is not, it seems to me, the feeling we generally have about ourselves… The feeling of being accursed come easily. We easily hear an inner voice calling us evil, bad, rotten, worthless, useless, doomed to sickness and death. Isn’t it easier for us to believe that we are cursed than that we are blessed?’
Henri Nouwen—Life of the Beloved
Get the conversation started …
Get everyone to check out the WordSpace posts from this week on their phones or from a printout (you’ll find them on the website.)
o Is there a post that stands out for you? Why so?
o Is there something in a post that raises a question for you? What is that?
o If you had to choose one post to share with a friend, which one would it be?
Read the post in The Story tab.
In this session we’ve explored the idea that God speaks words that bless into creation and into our lives…
Now revisit those scenes from your life-movie. How do those words sound to you now? Are you hearing any words you didn’t hear the first time?
Some questions to help you replay your story …
o How do you feel about what you’ve heard today?
o What stood out for you? Has anything been hard to understand or accept?
o Did anything in this session make you feel encouraged or hopeful?
o Has there been anything in this session that has changed or challenged your idea of what God is like?
Re – draw your picture of Jesus
Jesus needed to hear words of blessing from his Father at his baptism in the Jordan river. The words he heard must have given him strength to face the many critical and harmful words he would hear over the next few years of his ministry. Again and again Jesus went back to talk to his Father while he carried out his mission.
Now, Paul says in Romans 8, Jesus is speaking words of blessing about us into the conversation that’s going on in the heart of the Trinity.
o How does that help you think about who Jesus is and what he is like?
What practical action, response, thought do you want to take into the week?
Have you believed any untrue words about you that someone has spoken to you? Have you ever said anything that hurt someone else. Do you believe that God is more critical and judging than a God who blesses?
Repentance is about changing your way of thinking and then changing the way you live. Is there anything you need to change, or say sorry for?
Jesus invites us to repent often and with freedom. It’s a real gift from God – go for it!
Some questions to help you remix your story …
God speaks words of blessing to us but we need to take the time to listen out for them. Here’s Henri Nouwen again
‘For me personally, prayer becomes more and more a way to listen to the blessing. . . I realize that, although I have a tendency to say many things to God, the real “work” of prayer is to become silent and listen to the voice that says good things about me. This might sound self-indulgent, but, in practice it is a hard discipline. I am so afraid of being cursed, of hearing that I am no good or not good enough, that I quickly give in to the temptation to start talking and to keep talking in order to control my fears.’
‘To gently push aside and silence the many voices that question my goodness and to trust that I will hear the voice of blessing– that demands real effort.’
o What could you begin to do to listen more closely to the voice of God that speaks words of blessing to you?
Our words also create reality in some ways. We can’t literally speak physical things into existence – imagine! – but our words of blessing can create new life in the people we bless. Have you ever had someone encourage you, or say that you did really well at something, or just told you they loved you? Doesn’t that create something in you?
o What could you do to speak blessing and life in the people around you more?
The writers of the Old Testament story wanted to show us new things about God so that we would be inspired to worship God and live right. Here’s a picture of God from Zephaniah:
The Lord your God is with you,
he is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
he will quiet you with his love,
he will rejoice over you with singing
How does this – and what you’ve seen about God – inspire and give you the words to worship God today?
From the WordSpace
Here are five posts from the WordSpace we’ve posted specially to tie in with this topic:
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ:, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his children through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will. Ephesians 1:3-5
Who am I? I am someone who stands under the incredible blessing that God pours out. I am someone that existed in God’s heart before anything began. I am someone who has been chosen by God for himself. I am someone who is fully in right-relationship with God – now. I am the adopted child of a cosmic Father… IF – I have even the smallest amount of faith in Jesus. If I have believed what Jesus has said about me is true.
It’s good news! And true.
Here’s some good news for anyone who’s heard the word ‘NO’ spoken to them a few too many times:
‘Whatever God has promised gets stamped with the ‘Yes’ of Jesus. God affirms us, making us a sure thing in Christ, putting his Yes within us’ 2 Corinthians 1v20-22 (The Message)
We hear so many negative words spoken to us: you’re not good enough, you’re too fat, or thin, or not clever enough. Sometimes those are words we say to ourselves. God’s first and last word to you is Yes! You are dearly loved and blessed and made whole in Jesus. Do you have the courage to believe and live in that today?
Read the rest of 2 Corinthians here – http://bit.ly/1gHW80J
My friend is making malva pudding and custard for the painters who are working on her building. Why? Because she can.
Jesus says it is more blessed to give than to receive, and God himself demonstrates this by giving us far more than we could ever pay back. If you’ve been blessed by God’s giving to you, don’t forget to “pay it forward”.
Who knows, maybe it will even make you smile as well? Show forgiveness. Show kindness. Show patience. Show grace.
Because you can.
Acts 20:35 here:http://bit.ly/1un8zTN
Today I saw someone post on Facebook that they needed a life-change and so they were going to follow a 100-day positivity challenge in order to become happier.
Trying like crazy to be happy what a sad way to live! 1 Peter 1v18 says: ‘For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the Empty Way Of Life handed down to you from your forefathers’ ‘… empty way of life…’
Thank Jesus we have been saved from the emptiness of a worldly life and been given the fullness of grace and life in Jesus!
John 1v16: ‘From the fullness of his grace we have received one blessing after another’
What a great truth to think about.
Read 1 Peter 1 here: http://bit.ly/1hGsPMR
James, 17, Cape Town
Sometimes I think I’m my own worst enemy – I keep comparing the worst I know about myself with the best I see in others. My other, spiritual, enemy also loves to remind me of my failures – rubbing them in.
It’s so tempting to listen to them and despair of myself. Jesus, remind me of the truth about me – yes, I am a broken and sinful person, but also someone who is supremely loved and blessed by you.
Help me live in the richness of that blessing. Help me catch the lies about me I keep believing. Help me show your grace to my friends who are fighting their own battles inside too.
Ephesians 1v3-23 here: http://bit.ly/15RTpsd