Cleaning Up

Free Theme – Beatitudes – Matthew 5:8

Matthew 5 8

I’m going to start this by stating very plainly that I’m normally a super hygienic person but there are some times in life when showering just is not an option. We all know that feeling like your skin has an extra layer of grime and you just feel nasty.

I remember one of those times when I felt particularly gross and grimy was after my first backpacking trip. I hiked 4 peaks and climbed something close to 12,000 vertical feet with a 45 lb backpack and the temperature was in the mid 80’s. Luckily the trip was only two days and I really only missed one shower. Needless to say by the time I reached the parking lot at the end of the trip I was feeling pretty dirty. The natural thing to do is to go take a shower and clean ourselves up. Right when we get dirty we wash it off. This way we won’t royally offend people’s nostrils with our B.O.

It’s easy to realize when we’re physically dirty. We can literally feel the grime and (hopefully like myself) try to maintain good hygiene. Sometimes the thing that we fail to recognize is the condition of the heart. We allow our hearts to want, wish, and hope for things that it shouldn’t be hoping for. In our day to day lives it is easy to let the world distract us. Some of the things that we desire aren’t bad things at all and may even have godly results. In essence we can let the world contaminate our hearts or desires to become skewed.

I believe that the life God wants us to live is really just an outpouring from our hearts. Our actions are an indication of the condition of our hearts whether this causes godly or worldly behavior.

How then are we supposed to cleanse a heart when it gets dirty and we allow things in that shouldn’t be there? The answer is pretty easy. We need to ask God to purify it but we also have to put in personal effort. We obviously have to want to have it clean – that means asking God for help in submitting our hearts and minds to focus on Him. Also, not allowing ourselves to focus on things we shouldn’t. The thoughts you allow yourself to dwell on will eventually be imprinted on your heart. Think of your mind as the arena where battle for your heart and life is won and lost.

James 4.8 tells us “Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands you sinners and purify your hearts you double-minded.” The truth here is that the double-minded do need to have their hearts cleansed. This is exactly what happens when our hearts become contaminated. We need to be singularly focused on God.

The best way I have found to do this is just praying two phrases as often as needed throughout the day. “Lord, I give you all my heart, all my mind, and all my strength. Help me stay focused on you.” Feel free to change the phrasing to suit you but I think praying a prayer like this will go a long way helping you stay focused on God.

So all this talk so far and we haven’t even gotten to our beatitude. Consider everything before this the pre-requisite for the beatitude. Today’s beatitude is Matthew 5.8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

Of all the beatitudes and really all the promises of God there isn’t another which I want to be realized in my life so badly. For a Christian I don’t think there is a reward higher than this. I think that the greatest of all human desires is “to know and be fully known.” Obviously one aspect of that is already completed by God. We are already fully known by God. He knows our minds and our hearts. We, though, don’t fully know God. I don’t know if we ever will but I want to know all that I can. On this earth we do all we can to know him. We pray, read scripture, look to see his glory in nature and we catch glimpses of him in all these things but it isn’t seeing him. It is not viewing him on his throne in real life. I feel like we only get to see God’s social media account and we never get to see him in person. Except God’s social media doesn’t come close to the majesty and beauty that he actually has. I don’t think our physical bodies could handle beholding a holy God in all his beauty and magnificence.

This is why we need to keep our hearts pure. So that one day we could see God for all that he is.

Daniel Wall

Worry

Matthew 6

matt 6 27

I worry about things.  Big things or little things, or sometimes nothing at all.  As I mentioned in a previous devotion this week, I have a plan for things.  When things don’t go according to plan, I stress out, and at times let my worry and anxiety take over.  In the last week or so, I have had a series of issues with my house that have really caused me to worry.  First our freezer broke.  Then something caused our propane tank to go from 30% full to empty very quickly.  Then the heat for our house started having problems.  I have been extremely anxious over all of these problems.  So, when reading over Matthew 6 and trying to decide what to write about, I thought that the section I needed to learn from was the section on worrying.

So, what I am writing today is aimed at myself, and I hope you can also gain something from it.

In Matthew 6:25, Jesus tells us:

“For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?

He then compares us to the birds, to lilies, and to grass. God takes care of all of these items, and we are so much more valuable to God than these things.  Yet, we worry about these things, and try to handle them all on our own.

What good does worrying do us?  Worrying makes it hard to sleep.  It makes it hard to concentrate.  It makes us irritable and upset.  It can give us ulcers.  I can’t think of one thing that worrying actually accomplishes, but I can come up with a whole list of things it hinders.  Verse 27 sums this up nicely.  “And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?”  In fact, worrying can only decrease hours in our life.

I think we all know that worrying is bad, and that we should trust in God more and release our problems to him.  I know it, and yet I still struggle with this frequently.  So, what do we do?

Jesus sums this section up with two verses, 33 and 34:

“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.  So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

I often hear each of these verses talked about individually.  I don’t remember ever looking at them together.  However, they are together.  If we seek the kingdom of God and God’s righteousness, all the things we worry about will be handled in God’s perfect method as well.  If we focus on God, we do not need to worry about all the other stuff.

So, I am not going to encourage you to stop worrying, because I don’t think that is the answer.  I encourage you to seek the Kingdom of God and God’s righteousness.  Seek it fervently so that you do not have time or room in your life for worry.   This ties back to Matthew 5:6, earlier in the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”  Hunger and thirst for righteousness….I believe this is the cure for worry.

-Andrew Hamilton

Right Hand

Psalm 72-75

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January 6, 2017

When I was a young child, my mom would hold my hand when we walked. She did this all the time, not just for safety reasons. And during storms, my dad would hold me and talk with me. Now, as a parent, I hold my son’s hands. I do this to keep them safe, to comfort them, and sometimes, to bring them back to me.

PS 73:23-24 “Yet I am always with you: you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory.”

Hands can be a comfort, even when they are rough from hard work. They can also cause damage, a fist in anger can put a hole in a wall. God with His hand, can save the world or destroy it. He can save His children and destroy His enemies.

Ps 74:10-11 “How long will the enemy mock you, O God? Will the foe revile your name forever? Why do you hold back your hand, your right hand? Take it from the folds of your garment and destroy them!”

With the difficult times we live in, it is easy to ask that God will take care of the problem. I prefer to focus on how God is holding my hand. Like a child being comforted by a loving father, steadfast and strong.

 – Susan Johnson

(Photo credit: http://goldenverses.org/i-am-with-thee)

Change of Perspective

Psalms 68-71

psalm-70_4

January 5, 2017

I was and still am, a stay at home mother. It is the best choice I have ever made and one of the most difficult! Spending all day with two young children often left me stressed and frustrated. This was made more trying by my strong willed second son. I prayed daily for patience until another mother of four, newborn twins with two toddlers explained I needed to pray for a change of perspective. This was a game changer for me! Now when I find myself stuck in my emotions, I step back and look from a different angle. This can often help me see what is really causing me trouble or help me get back on the right path.

Psalm 68 & 69 David is focused on all that is going wrong. His enemies fight against him. His friends talk behind his back. He is focused on the negative around him and has taken his eyes off God, and off the good around him. And then he remembers, God is always with him! He has again placed his focus in the proper place. David is a good reminder to keep our eyes on God, during the good and bad times.

Ps70:4 “But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation always say, “Let God be exalted!””

-Susan Johnson

(Photo credit: http://www.godswordimages.com/wallpaper/joy/psalm-70-4/)

Faithfulness in Spite of the Faithless (Judges 9-11)

Monday, October 3

cycle-of-sin

Shelby Upton

In Judges there is a reoccurring theme of Israel being faithless, turning to false gods, running into hardships and crying out to God.  Then the judge intercedes for them, they turn back to God and he takes them back once more.
We  see this scenario happening once again in Judges 10. Things are quiet and faithful with two judges for about 40 years until Israel turns away from God, again. God then gives them over to the Philistines and Ammonites. Then they cry out to God once again, recognizing their sin and begging God to deliver them.
I see this situation in my own life. When things are going really well and I forget to keep God as my focus and I let things like relationships, entertainment, my career, my possessions become idols in my life.  Inevitably something happens and I need God to deliver me.
The Israelites then turn from their idolatry and worship God. Even though God is angry with the Israelites He is burdened by their suffering and then does deliver them from their misery.
Repentance is key in this scenario.  We all struggle with sin and losing God as our focus.  We need to learn from Israel’s mistake of turning from our faith at all but when sin does creep in we know that God is a loving God and he will forgive us when we repent because even when we are faithless he remains faithful.
2 Chronicles 7:14
“Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.”
you-may-choose-your-sin                 sin-always-takes-you