Dear Friends,

It is 3 years this month that Stuart Olyott preached on those wonderful words, “May God be gracious to us and bless us” (Ps 67:1) I am sure when we heard that message we were all eagerly anticipating the blessing that God would send, but how do we understand blessing? What is blessing? How do we respond to blessing? Alongside that people have told me that for a number of years the church has prayed that God would bring in young families.

One of the biggest problems with blessing is that we try to tell God how He is to bless us, but we worship a sovereign God, who works all things for the glory of His Name and the good of His people. I believe that God has chosen to bless us at this time by answering that prayer. He has given our Family at Emmanuel a number of young families. It is right that we stop and give thanks to God for answered prayer and for the children that we have.

I wonder what people were thinking when they prayed for young families. Were they thinking that the numbers would grow and everything else would carry on as it always was? May I suggest that each of us take time to ask each of our young mums and dads if their lifestyle has remained unchanged with the blessing of children. For at least 9 months, sometimes a lot longer, couples look forward to the gift of children, but then they arrive. Sleep is disturbed! Shirts and blouses bear the regular gifts passed by the satisfied baby! Carpets are splattered with food that should be entering the baby’s digestive system! Nappies –clean, wet and … seem to haunt every waking and sleeping moment and the honest new parent asks “Is this really what I was expecting?”

As the infant becomes a toddler and takes his/her place at the family table it suddenly seems more sensible to lay the minimum amount of a plastic table cloth and put the nice glasses and table linen in a cupboard for a later time. The ornaments that meant so much now have to be placed above grabbing height or again stored. It used to be so convenient to have DVD, Wii, remote controls etc stored under the TV, but …

We know exactly what the disciples on the Emmaus Road meant when they said, But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. (Luke 24:21) We might end the sentence differently, but we all know what it is to have our hopes dashed.

So how we are to see these blessings and answered prayer? We have to see these families and their children as Jacob described them, “The children whom God has graciously given your servant.” (Gen 33:5). Since it is God who has answered our prayer and blessed us with these children and families then we have to begin by rejoicing and giving Him praise. That will immediately change our perspectives. Our homes, meal times and way of life change as children are added and grow in families. The same has to happen in the church.

Let me give some examples that will hopefully show us the opportunities and challenges that God gives us in these blessings. Eph 5:25ff teaches us that marriage like the Christian life has one main aim – change and growth, men and husbands are to take their prime responsibility in this. With natural children it is fairly common practice for Granma to arrive regularly to give support. Not all our families have Granma at hand, so the church Grandmas come into play. Paul said, “Older women likewise are to be reverent in behaviour, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children … (Tit 2:3-4). Fathers are to teach and bring them (children) up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Eph 6:4). Again when Granddads are not readily available we as a church have committed ourselves to helping our young families care for and bring up their children.

As we complete 3 years together in ministry let us thank God for answered prayer and blessing. Let’s pray for strength and wisdom to make adjustments in our own lives, as well the life of the church and let’s have the courage and faith to keep praying “God be gracious to us and bless us.”

A very grateful pastor and granddad,
Bernard Lewis February 2013

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