Monday, October 29, 2012

Poor in spirit...

Week 44:

Matthew 5:3 Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Poor in spirit; what does that mean? Scholars seem to be all over the map as to how to interpret this passage. Some believe that Jesus refers back to the type of people left as a remnant in Israel and Judah when Babylon took the Israelites into captivity. Those left behind were the poorest of poor. They were in charge of the keeping of the land. Those people basically inherited the land. Other scholars believe that Jesus is speaking of those who are or feel fated to a simple life. Life is just not complex for this type of person. This person is filled with what God gives him. Finally, some scholars believe that this is the person so broken that he has nowhere to turn but to God.  

Regardless of where one lands when interpreting this passage, it seems clear that Jesus in some way is referring to someone who is humble, or at the least, someone who would be perceived in some way as being of lower status.  

When I read this passage, the first verse that comes to mind for me is Psalm 51:17: “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” I think about when I have no place left to turn, I am broken in spirit or poor in spirit; God is what I have left. It is in this place where I am in His kingdom. I have access to all God has to offer. I want to note that the interpretation from Greek to English shows “kingdom’ and “heaven” not capitalized. This observation tells me that this is a here and now situation.

Scholars and preachers alike believe that the kingdom Jesus speaks of is both later and now. God reigns over both. There are aspects of God’s kingdom that are established now. There are other aspects that are in the Heavenly realms. And yet, there are other aspects in the spiritual realm, unseen.  

Those who are poor in spirit have an access to God and His kingdom that is unique. Because of their situation, the only place they can turn is to God. In those times, the communion with God is pure, deep, meaningful, and in many ways unexplainable. I think God sustains those who are poor in spirit much like he sustained Moses and Jesus during their 40 day fasts. God sustains those who are poor in spirit with His Spirit.  

Furthermore, I believe that there are times in life where we are poor in spirit. Situations in life may dictate such a plight. However, I also believe that there are those who are just poor in spirit for life. As I make that statement, I think about how many times and in various ways Jesus talked about the first shall be last and the last shall be first. These who are poor in spirit perpetually will be filled with God’s Spirit and have a connection with him that is deep and fulfilling.  

I go back to what does poor in spirit mean? How do I become poor in spirit in order to find a special place in God’s kingdom? Do I humble myself? Do I empty myself? As I think about this, I wonder if at times I’ve been poor in spirit and God has granted me keys to his kingdom and I have not even seen it. For some reason, I make this passage more confusing than it really is. Bottom line, I need the Holy Spirit of God to lead and guide me. If I get in the way, I do not hear that Spirit speak to me. I must find a way to be poor in spirit so that I can hear the Holy Spirit’s guidance. At that point, I have access to the kingdom of heaven in a new and deeper way.


1. What interpretations have you heard for this passage?
2. What is your interpretation?
3. Describe someone who you see as poor in spirit.
4. In what ways can you become poor in spirit?
5. Ask God this week to reveal to you what it means to be poor in spirit and pay attention to what goes on around you.

Don't forget to visit my Amazon links. General purchases: Click on the Banner at the top of the blog. For a list of my favorites go to:

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Finishing the year.

Over the next nine weeks I will be writing the devotional thoughts based on the nine Beatitiudes from Matthew 5

I would like to grow my readership for this blog.  If this devotional blog has been helpful to you, please share it with others.  I have also been able to add an email opt-in on the blog.  If you or anyone else opts in they will receive this blog by email.  The email opt-in has a one day lag time, so when I post on Monday, one receives the email on Tuesday.

Thank you to all of you for supporting me in this blog venture.


Monday, October 22, 2012

Run together...

Week 43:

Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us through off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

I notice that when I exercise alone I tend to lose focus and eventually quit exercising all together. When I have a partner exercising with me, I tend to stick with it. It seems that when taking on a task in community, the task seems to get done quicker and with more efficiency.

This is a great passage full of imagery of our life in Christ as a race that is to be run. Not only is it a race to be run (which races take training), it is a race that requires perseverance. Just taking that from this passage alone is edifying. However, something that stands out in this passage are the words “we” and “us”.  

This takes me back to having an exercise partner. I do much better when I know someone is working with me. I know that some training is done better alone, but for the most part when tasks are worked on in community it seems to just go better. I like to look at this Christian life as a team sport.

It takes my community of believers to help me through this race. I need their comfort. I need the accountability that my group offers. I need wisdom of the ones who have experienced the part of life I have yet to go through. I love knowing that I am not in this alone. That what I am experiencing, others are also.

Satan loves to make us think we are alone in this race for Christ. If he can make us think we are alone, we can become discouraged and eventually give up. We are in a race as a team…not competing with each other, but against Satan and his lies and schemes.  

Next time you are discouraged and thinking that you are running this race alone, find a community of believers. Share where you are in life. Compare notes. Use the strength of the community to help you build the stamina needed to persevere to the end.


1. Describe a time when you have felt singled out and alone.
2. Describe a time where community helped you back into the race.
3. When you feel alone what is it for you that block’s you from being in community with other believers?
4. Spend time this week in prayer for those who are in community with you. Pray for their race and perseverance. If you do not have a community, pray for God to lead you to one.

Don't forget to visit my Amazon links. General purchases: Click on the Banner at the top of the blog. For a list of my favorites go to:

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Lord longs...

Week 42:

Isaiah 30:18 Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!

The book of Isaiah, like many of the books of the prophets, is a description of what will and does happen to the disobedient Israelites. In the midst of all of this is this passage giving us an insight to God’s character. So much of what I love about the Old Testament are the glimpses the writers give us about God’s character.

This passage makes me think about parenting. I long as a parent to be gracious and compassionate to my children; especially when they are not following my guidance. This is how I imagine God. He looks at our disobedience and/or our waywardness and longs to grant us grace and show compassion. However, parenting also requires the correction of our children. Justice also has its place.  

At this point in Israel’s history, God, longing to show grace and compassion has to administer justice. In the prior verses, Isaiah gives the people some reflection on where they should have been as a nation. Repentance and rest were their salvation; quietness and trust their strength. But as Isaiah told them, they would have none of that. Therefore, God has administered justice. Again, using the parent example, we have to administer justice to our children when they have missed the mark or are defiant. All the while, we would like to see our children follow our guidance and avoid the consequences that come with justice.

The final piece of the verse, “Blessed are all who wait on him!” gives us one more glimpse into the character of God. I imagine this to be all of those who eagerly await a fulfillment of a promise from God. I think about the story in Luke about Simeon. Simeon was one who waited on the Lord to see the Messiah with his own eyes. Simeon was blessed by waiting on the Lord. There are times that I have waited what seems a long time. Some of those requests and waits have been fulfilled. Some are yet to come to fruition. Some may not come to fruition for me, but God will fulfill it to someone down the line.

It is good to know that God longs to have compassion and grace for His followers. I in turn need to practice that character in my life for those around me.  

“Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!”


1. Describe where in your life God has shown his grace and compassion.
2. Describe a time in your life where God has shown His justice.
3. Who in your life do you long to show your grace and compassion? Explain.
4. Where in your life has waiting on the Lord been fulfilled?
5. Where are you still waiting on the Lord?
6. Pay attention this week to the areas of your life where you need to show grace and compassion. Ask the Lord to give you strength and boldness to follow through.

Don't forget to visit my Amazon links. General purchases: Click on the Banner at the top of the blog. For a list of my favorites go to:

Monday, October 8, 2012

Things above...

Week 41:

Colossians 3:2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.

This is something I need to be reminded of often. I live in a highly materialistic culture. It is easy to get caught up in the materialism that surrounds me. I am frequently caught up in status, salary, better things, clothes, etc. There are worldly mindsets to deal with like not granting forgiveness, competing, gossip, relativism, selfishness, vindictiveness, etc. All of these things become distractions to who I am and who I am to become as a new creation in Christ.

This verse and its context remind me of where my thoughts should be. “This world is not our home.” It is a phrase that is repeated among circles I am involved in on a regular basis. I want to be careful and not over-use that phrase and use it just because I do not want to face a difficult task. However, the phrase is true. This world is not home to those of us who follow Jesus. We await the time until He comes back to make everything new. Until then, we are to be light to those who do not yet know Him. As we live that life, we are to keep the mindset that we are to keep our minds and hearts on things above.

How do we set our minds on things above? Paul goes on to explain some things we should do to work toward looking above. First of all, he lists several things of the flesh and earthly nature that we are to put to death. These are (vs. 5): “…sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed…” There are two things of interest about this list. One, Paul tells us that these are the reason for the wrath of God to come. Second, we used to walk in these ways. That would mean that we have changed. Paul also gets more detailed about things we would rid ourselves of by listing anger, rage, malice, slander, fifthly language and lying. All of these are parts of our old nature that we should continually be working on and purging from our lifestyle.

The second part of what we should do to set our minds on things above is focusing on the positives we need to add to our lifestyle. Paul lists these things (vs. 12-15): Compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, love, peace and thankfulness. As we de-robe ourselves of the earthly nature, we are clothing ourselves with these positive attributes.  

I am to continually work on myself, getting rid of the old and putting on the new. This is the work that allows me to set my mind and heart on things above and recognize that this world is not my home.

I close with this summary statement Paul made at the end of this section of passage: (vs. 17) “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”


1. When you hear the statement, “Set your minds on things above” what comes to mind for you?
2. What are the negative attributes that you still struggle with?
3. What are the positive attributes that you are successful living out in your life now?
4. What are the attributes you want to work on?
5. If you have uttered the statement (or something similar, or have even felt this way), “This world is not my/our home”, what was/is the situation or context?
6. This week, ask God to reveal to you where you do have your mind on things above. Also have Him reveal to you where you have your mind on earthly things.
7. Spend time in prayer asking God to help you to become more “above” minded.

Don't forget to visit my Amazon links. General purchases: Click on the Banner at the top of the blog. For a list of my favorites go to:

Monday, October 1, 2012

Anxiety and peace...

Week 40:

Philippians 4:6-7 6Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

This is a favorite passage of mine. I notice it is quoted and used often among Christian circles. However, many stop short on teachings or thoughts at verse 6. Verse 7 has such power that it is hard to get the whole of this passage without it. This passage is loaded with so many nuggets. I could write multiple devotional thoughts just around these few words.  

The first and obvious part of this passage is about anxiety. “Do not be anxious about anything…” Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:25ff) tells his disciples to not worry. He goes on to explain that God will provide whatever is needed. Paul echoes this in this passage. The key and convicting word in this phrase is ‘anything’. Wow, I understand about worry and anxiety but to not be anxious about ‘anything’ is difficult. I come from a family of worriers. I carry worry in my heart often. This one strikes close to home for me.

We are told to not be anxious about anything. What is comforting about this passage is what we are told to do with ‘everything’. Present everything to God. Everything? Yes, everything. Through prayer, petition and thanksgiving, lay it all before God. This does not mean always we get what we request. It does mean that we have placed it all under the one who knows what to do with it and what is best for us. As a friend once told me, “God cares about what we care about.”

This is where I add verse 7 to the study. What is so powerful about verse 7 is what happens when we lay everything before God. We gain peace about whatever God will do with our requests. This peace is beyond understanding and guards us. The peace is the key to helping with the anxiety. For me, laying it before God gives me a peace that in the end I know it will be good. Many times in my worry, underneath the worry, I still find peace that something bigger is work in my life. That something bigger (or someone bigger) is God.  

This peace brings me back to the thankfulness from verse 6. I can lay my anxieties before him through prayer and petition, thankful that he is at work through the whole situation. I have heard it said, “God will not give you more than you can handle.” I do not find that to be true. I can write a whole other article on the basis of that belief but for now I want to go this route: God may allow us more than we can handle so that He may be glorified that He is the one who carries us through whatever the situation. This passage tells that no matter the situation (everything) be thankful and recognize the peace that comes with the thankfulness.  

I am convinced that at times anxiety and worry about a situation stems from the fact that I cannot control the situation. Turning over control causes worry and anxiety. This passage is helpful to me to remind me that I really do not want to be in control. The one who knows what is best is in control. That is the source of peace I need to get me past my anxiety. I hope that is true for you as well.


1. What feelings come up for you when you read this passage?
2. From this passage, what is true about you?
3. What are your thoughts about bringing “everything” to God, big or small?
4. What are the hardest anxieties or worries for you when it comes to turning it over to God?
5. This week, pay attention to what you turn over to God. Challenge yourself through prayers to present everything with thanksgiving to God.
Don't forget to visit my Amazon links. General purchases: Click on the Banner at the top of the blog. For a list of my favorites go to: