“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.”
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”….? This verse always confused me. Honestly, I would skip over it when I would read through Matthew because it would get me so confused.
Poor in spirit.
What does that even mean? I understood poor. I understood spirit. But putting those two words in the same sentence was like putting caramelized onions on top of my chocolate cake. The concept of both easily understood, separately. Both have their time, both have their chance to be the main flavor. But putting them together?
Reading that verse made me feel like I took a big bite of my caramelized onion chocolate cake dessert…unpleasant and did not like the taste it left in my mouth.
I had been letting these concepts toss around in my mind and in my heart since I heard them. Feeling that the “light bulb” was dimly turning on…
And then came my devotional today. In it is a quote from John Calvin. Typed in beautiful italics across the center of the page, first thing I read;
“He only who is reduced to nothing in himself, and relies on the mercy of God, is poor in spirit.”
I have to rely on the mercy of God. And then Rebecca Faires puts it like this:
“Strength and power insulate us, too—all these things give us the illusion that we are in control. But the “poor in spirit” are those who have no power; they are the demoralized, the dejected. They can be fiscally poor, or lonely, or rejected; but regardless, they have lost all hope of finding power in themselves.”
Oh…me controlling my life is just an illusion…
The poor in spirit lose hope in finding power in themselves.
The power comes from the Spirit who is above us! (Light bulb)
Poor in spirit — have nothing.
Nothingness = the illusion that we are in control.
Which being poor in spirit enables us to rely wholly on God.
(You know the point in the movies where someone goes up to the front of the class and writes a really long answer to a problem that takes them so much time where the music cues in…that’s me right now. Along with the Rocky soundtrack.)
God is so cool!
Confusing sometimes…but I’m learning more and more that it’s me doing the confuse-ing. Things may seem backwards and upside down when trying to look at this world in Heavenly terms. But how amazing is it that God gives us glimpses of the whole picture?
He gives us His spirit to comfort our souls as we live in our earthly bodies.
I pray that you find freedom in this too. That, together, we lift our hands and surrender our control to the only one who deserves it.
The secret of Paul’s greatness is that he was first a “servant” and second an “apostle.”
The Greek word for “servant” can also be translated as “bondslave.” Here’s the deal, Paul didn’t think about himself first as an authority figure or leader—he viewed himself as someone totally under the orders of his Master.
In the Church, we spend a lot of time on becoming better leaders. Leading well is definitely a good thing! But if we take a cue from Paul, we see his leadership flow not from personal achievements or discipline (though he had these LIKE CRAZY!). Instead, he walked in incredible spiritual authority because he submitted himself to the greatest authority—Jesus himself.
To understand and emulate Paul, we need to focus his relationship with Jesus before we look at his feats of faith.
Paul’s old life was spent mercilessly persecuting Christians as a devout Pharisee (Acts 8:1; Phillipians 3:5–6). And now, he’s writing a letter to a Gentile church in Rome…
So when we read today’s verse, we should be astounded that Paul submitted to the authority of a man killed as a Jewish blasphemer and heretic—Jesus of Nazareth.
That is the power of the gospel to change people--to change us. There is no power greater and no heart too far. What an encouragement--and challenge to my limited beliefs—the life of Paul is. The gospel can change any heart, any time, anywhere.
The heart of Paul’s ministry is his intimacy and obedience to Jesus. He was a man under orders, not in control of his own life and destiny.
He looked to Jesus. He listened to Jesus. He obeyed Jesus.
He was a servant before he was a Saint. A man who gave up control of his life; who modeled what it means to submit to Jesus as Lord.
Are you a servant of Jesus? And more importantly, do you live like it?
A Word From Our General Overseer
(I realize last month I said I would continue in a devotion I had started, but the Lord is doing somethings in my life and in our church right now that need our focus on). The Lord has placed on my heart the word, WAIT. And have called the church to 40 days of prayer for revival in Flint. Today, the General Overseer of the Church of God put out a video on this exact word. I want to share it with you. Click on the link below to watch a short 1 min video.
One day, when Moses had grown up, he went out to his people and looked on their burdens, and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his people. He looked this way and that, and seeing no one, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. Exodus 2:11-12
As a baby, Moses barely escaped death at the hand of Egypt’s Pharaoh (Exodus 2:3-10). And when we fast forward to today’s passage, we see him dealing death out in surprising fashion.
Though he was a Hebrew, Moses grew up as part of the royal family. Forty years have passed since he was plucked from the Nile by an Egyptian princess. He walks like an Egyptian, talks like an Egyptian--but today, he’s gripped by an undeniable conviction as a defender of his people.
He’s so enraged at the injustice of his people he kills the man who’s beating his countryman. In his mind, he’s done something good; and best of all, he thinks he’s gotten away with it.
But the next day, he sees two Hebrew men in a fist fight with each other (Exodus 2:13). He breaks up the scuffle, then asks them why on earth they’d be fighting when they’re supposed to be “companion[s].”
Right away, the guy who started the fight threw Moses’s royal title sarcastically in his face and questions his true intentions, saying, “Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” (Exodus 2:14).
We’ll pick up the story from here, next month. But this was a pivotal, defining moment that would set the tone for the next four decades of his life.
You see, Moses’s first act as a defender and deliverer of the Israelites was met with skepticism and rejection. So years later, when he would meet God in the burning bush (Exodus 3), Moses resisted God’s call to act as his peoples’ deliverer (Exodus 4:1).
Why? Because he was sure they would reject his calling and help, just like this man did.
So, the question for us today is this. Has God called you to step up and lead? But you’re afraid to do so because you think people will call you a phony, a fraud, and reject God’s work in your life? If so, who do you fear more? God or man?
“Martha Martha” the Lord answered, you are worried and upset about things, but few things are needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her. (Luke 10: 41-42 NIV)
There was this woman who cooked everything and served everything during Thanksgiving. She had to have everything just right: The perfect menu, perfect table settings, and the house cleaned to perfection. She had to have everything in such perfect order that she stressed herself out, and was totally exhausted. She had to have control over every situation, then she would complain how she didn’t get any help. She was a Martha.
Jesus and his disciples stopped at the house of Martha in Bethany. Her sister Mary lived with her. Mary sat at Jesus’ feet and listened to his words. Martha was distracted with preparing and serving the meal. Frustrated, Martha scolded Jesus, asking him if he cared that her sister had left her to fix the meal alone. She told Jesus to order Mary to help her.
If you are preparing Thanksgiving this year, keep focused on Jesus. You don’t have to stress, be Thankful and enjoy. Everything will be perfect with Jesus.
And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. (Luke 22:41-44 ESV)
Jesus had spent the evening with the twelve in what men would eventually label “The Last Supper”. He sat at the table of eleven faithful and one devil, serving them all. A discussion eventually broke out among them regarding who “was to be regarded as the greatest” (Luke 22:24).
Like all fallen men, the disciples brought talk of the kingdom, thrones, and judgement back to themselves as centerpiece. Undoubtedly they each imagined themselves seated high upon a throne, dressed in fine garments, judging the twelve tribes of Israel from a place of authority. But the scene that would play out late into that dark night would change the course of the Christian man’s thinking forever.
The authority in the kingdom is not man’s, nor was it ever intended to be. In fact, Jesus lived in a way that undeniably displayed this. While he walked the earth as a man without equal, he remained a servant (Mark 10:45).
God’s plan for the world has never been, nor will ever be about the authority of men. Jesus lived this truth out even to the end as he submitted his authority, praying “Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” It is obvious here the anguish and agony of this intimate moment, as Jesus is faced with this looming cup he must drink from; that cup was the wrath of God. “Nevertheless”, he said, and drank deeply from the cup of wrath, becoming for us “sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Is your life lived to exalt God’s authority, or promote your own? Answer this question by letting the Spirit lead.
At times when things are going well, life is smooth sailing. At other times we are faced with stormy seas and feel hopelessly adrift. The storm-tossed occasions make us wonder where our lives are going, or how to take the next step with restored confidence. But if we fix our eyes on the right reference point so that when life's waves toss us back and forth, we can find our course with confidence.
The only hope a sailor has of surviving a storm and navigating an ocean is to have a fixed reference point that enables him to discover where he is and where he is heading. The first navigators kept in sight of land, using familiar landmarks. When mariners dared to push beyond the sight of land, they still needed to find a fixed point of reference. So they looked to the heavens. As knowledge grew and celestial navigation developed, the primary reference point for navigators in the Northern Hemisphere became the North Star Polaris.
Modern Technology has changed the process. Now electronic navigation and GPS are used. But the principle remains the same. The reference points for the GPS are a network of satellites that send out signals, which a receiver then uses to compute latitude, longitude, and even altitude. Those satellites have precisely fixed and reliable orbits.
Our North Star is God revealed in the Lord Jesus Christ. We possess the words and works of Jesus in the Bible. In it we can hear his voice. We stand at the cross and wonder at the depth of his love. We stand before the open tomb and recognize his power. We have His Spirit living within us to personalize His presence. He is the fixed point, the North Star or, to use His description of Himself, "the bright and Morning Star".
Our North Star enables us to live well. This is true whether we are in relatively familiar waters with familiar landmarks comfortably in sight or we find ourselves in uncharted waters with nothing visible on the horizon. It is our focus on Christ that will keep us on course.
Have you ever been in rough seas or even a car accident, and you have been hit and tossed around. When you finally stop and try to get your barring, you feel dazed, unsure, scared, maybe even hurt. Spiritually that happens to us when we go through some rough seas. We feel dazed, unsure what to do next, scared of what might happen and/or hurt spiritually and feel we can't go on. I have been there. I allowed those feelings to overtake my mind and I got discouraged. But when I fixed my eyes on Him(God). And started pointing all my strength towards getting closer to Him, by worshiping Him, Reading my bible and talking with Him, there was a peace that calmed me. Notice I didn't say He calmed the storm. He calmed me in the midst of the storm.
When you fix your eyes on Him, God will bring peace to you in the midst of the storm. Eventually that storm will blow over and the sun will come out.
‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. (Revelation 2:2-3 ESV)
There are a lot of things that we can decide to follow. We can decide to follow popular trends or influential celebrities. We can follow literally millions of different ideologies, but as Christians, we need to be careful. We need to listen to what is actually being said and discern like the church in Ephesus did. They did not automatically accept everyone who said that they were apostles and run with their particular teachings. They listened to them and then evaluated whether or not it was consistent with what they knew as the truth.
This should raise a few points of action for all of us.
First, we need to make sure that we are in our Bibles and know what the truth really is. How can we possibly match up certain teachings with the truth of the Bible if we don’t know what the Bible really says?
Second, there is activity needed on our part as was mentioned above. We can’t just listen and follow blindly. It is important actually listen to what people are saying and understand what is actually going on. Spend time thinking through what you are being taught.
Finally, we need to put these two steps together. We need to match up with what we are reading from the Bible to what we are actually hearing in our lives from people around us. Once we are able to do that, we will know whether or not a certain ideology is worth following.
These three points were what the church of Ephesus was praised for in Revelation. They were doing well because they were making a decision to discern. Although they also had some problems (which will be looked at in the next devotion), I think we can certainly learn from their example and become seekers of truth rather than blind followers.
After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. (Luke 10:1-2 ESV)
Knowledge does not always mean action. We know that eating junk food isn’t good for us, but we still do it. We know that exercising regularly helps our bodies and we still don’t do it. We tell our kids to not touch the hot pan on the stove and they still do it. Just because we know something, that doesn’t mean we will live it out or experience it.
We tend to give people a lot of Bible based theology, thoughtful philosophy, even helpful strategies for life, but this great wealth of information does not necessarily translate to a long-haul-life-change. We all know plenty of Christians who know what the Bible says but who struggle to connect these truths to their daily lives and even more importantly, to what God wants to do in and through them in the context of the real world. We can see from this passage that Jesus wasn’t just about knowing the right things, he was about experiencing them as well.
After teaching the disciples he sends them out to apply the knowledge they have learned of Jesus and his mission. We even see Jesus applying his teachings to specific experiences his disciples went through (Luke 5:1-11, Luke 5:27-31). We must continually examine our motives for reading our Bibles, listening to sermons, reading bible devotions, or even discussing spiritual matters with friends. The things we learn from our Bible and the Holy Spirit should spur us to action and not just lay dormant in our minds.
You have been given the tools, so use them!
Therefore they called out to the LORD, “O LORD, let us not perish for this man’s life, and lay not on us innocent blood, for you, O LORD, have done as it pleased you.” So they picked up Jonah and hurled him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging. Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows. (Jonah 1:14-16 ESV)
Jonah was running away from God and affecting the life of these sailors. The storm was so great that these experienced sailors were afraid, and they knew there was something different about this storm. They did everything they could and it came down to one person causing the storm; Jonah, a man running from God. The only way to keep from capsizing and drowning was to throw him overboard.
Does this sound familiar to you? Have you ever had to figuratively throw someone overboard, remove them from your life, because they were running away from God? The decisions they were making were affecting your life and bringing you down in a sinking ship. This can be a hard decision, especially if they are a good friend or family member. The sailors who didn’t serve the one true God even had a hard time throwing Jonah overboard. They even threw over their cargo and lost money before they threw him over! There is hope though. A couple things we learn happen when we throw the man overboard.
1. Our lives become a lot calmer (Jonah 1:15).
2. Those around us glorify God for the work he does during this time (Jonah 1:16).
3. God provides a way for the man overboard (Jonah 1:17).
Take a look at your life and see if there is anybody who is running from God and bringing unnecessary storms your way. Your walk with God is very important and shouldn’t be hampered by someone running from God. Secondly, take a look at your life and see if you are the one who needs to “throw yourself overboard” and allow God to bring you back to him.
Who are the Jonahs in your life?
Lead Pastor @Genesee Road Church of God.