Poor in Spirit

Free Theme – Beatitudes – Matthew 5:3

Matthew 5 3 niv

Having just finished Revelation I thought it would be beneficial to revisit Jesus’ teaching for the next six days. There really is no better place to do this than the Sermon on the Mount. In my opinion this is the most important teaching that Jesus gave us. We will be expanding on six of these beatitudes over the course of the next week. Hopefully, a beatitude a day will keep the doctor away and make us spiritually healthy. And yes, my corniness knows no bounds.

So today let’s explore the first beatitude found in Matthew 5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Let’s start with this first word “Blessed”. What does blessed actually mean? The debate over this topic is varied but I think we can generally assume it simply means happy. I don’t think it means momentary happiness. I believe what Jesus is aiming at here is long term, lasting happiness, the kind of happiness where you know all you are doing and being is worth it.

Now, for the command “poor in spirit”. For the longest time, like longer than a decade, this phrase left me confused. I have talked to all sorts of different pastors and people seeking an explanation but always walked away unsatisfied. I was left feeling like their definition was somehow incomplete. Finally, I heard it defined as spiritual brokenness and this finally made sense. But what does that really mean, right? This story may help.

When I was twenty years old my sister and I swapped vehicles because I was doing a lot of driving and had a truck with terrible gas mileage. My little sister wasn’t driving a lot and she wanted to drive my truck because well, it was really awesome. It was jacked up with a wicked exhaust system. Basically, it was every teenage boy/country girl’s dream truck. One super early Saturday morning my dad woke me up saying “There is something wrong with your truck” and hands me his cell phone with my sister on the line. He then left the room and probably went back to bed.

Much to my surprise on the other end was my now “frantic and scared for her life” sister. She explained to me how the truck had just stopped moving. Even though the engine was still running. Now this probably wouldn’t have been an issue if it was a normal situation but it wasn’t. The truck broke down during the middle of morning traffic on one of the few bridges that stretches for miles across the Hudson River with no shoulder or pull off at all. Even this would have been fine if it had been bumper to bumper traffic which is typical in New York City but it wasn’t. Traffic was moving well, really well actually and cars were flying past her at 60+ mph. She was stuck in the right hand lane of traffic literally praying to God that they would miss the truck.

In this moment she was experiencing the hopelessness of my truck’s brokenness with danger coming fast directly behind her. It is the same way with spiritual brokenness. Without God we are spiritually broken and helpless. The honest truth is that we are in danger and that without God and Christ our “trucks” are not moving on the middle of a highway, that if we were to stay there – it would end in our deaths.

We adopt this attitude of being “poor in spirit” when we realize how much we need God, his son’s sacrifice and how broken we are without him. We acknowledge God’s holiness and that we don’t deserve his grace or his love. We realize there was/is nothing we can do to earn any of what he has done for us. This isn’t condemnation for the sake of making ourselves feel ashamed or worthless rather it is acknowledgement of how much we need him and all that he has done for us. You can look at your sin and say “I suck” or you can look at your sin and say “I have a great, merciful God who loves me more than I understand.”

This is summarized well in the quote “Those who feel their spiritual need.” by Goodspeed.

So, let’s adopt this attitude of brokenness and helplessness before God because not only will we be happy but we will also have the kingdom of God as well.

 

Dan Wall

You’re Being Watched

Titus 2

Titus 2 7a

Yesterday we got a glimpse of some of Paul’s “good works”. Today we are going to focus more on our own good works.

 

Verse 7 says – ¨In everything set them an example by doing what is good.¨

This is a good reminder that people are always watching, and looking to you as their role model. By always doing good you will be encouraging others to do good as well.

 

Moving further into the chapter in verses 11 & 12 we learn that the grace from God helps teach us to live godly lives. My Bible’s footnotes for these verses says, ¨This same grace instructs us that our salvation should produce good works.¨ (Zondervan, NIV Study Bible) 

 

Verse 14 brings up another good point – we should be, ¨eager to do what is good” (Titus 2:14).  Because of the grace that God has given us we should want in our hearts to do good works as a way of thanking Him. God’s grace gives us a chance to start over and live a life that pleases Him. Which, as you might have guessed, includes good works. 

 

Take a minute and meditate on the chorus of the song Give Me Your Eyes by Brandon Heath.   Ask God to open your eyes and show you some good works that need to be done. 

 

Give me your eyes for just one second

Give me your eyes so I can see,

Everything that I keep missing,

Give your love for humanity.

Give me your arms for the broken-hearted

The ones that are far beyond my reach.

Give me Your heart for the ones forgotten.

Give me Your eyes so I can see

 

Ephesians 2:10 – ¨For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.¨

 

-Makayla Railton

 

We need to open our hearts to figure out what God wants us to do for him. 

 

1 Timothy 5

Fri Devo

“Likewise, good works are obvious, and those that are not obvious cannot remain hidden.” 1 Timothy 5:25

In 1 Timothy 5, Paul changes his focus to how those in the church should take care of those in need. In the early church, the church created a support system for widows who could not take care of themselves (because of cultural norms and their age). This support system was an important part of the church’s ministry and testimony. In fact, James says, “Pure and undefiled religion is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world” (James 1:27). Paul does give requirements about which widows to serve in this chapter, but a central truth here is that we should be serving those who are in need now.

As we look at the modern-day church, we need to ask ourselves what we are doing for those in need now. We’ve talked this week about how our faith will be shown through our actions. When we are following Jesus, we should show gentleness as one of the fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5). According to this passage, we should also be showing kindness and goodness through our generosity and hospitality. If you look at your life and find this is not the case, think of ways you can begin to serve those around you, whether in a church ministry or one you create yourself. This type of service should be an outpouring of your strong relationship with Jesus. 

Just like Jesus cautions in Matt. 6, when you serve, you need to ask yourself what you are doing this for. If you are serving to try to save yourself, you can stop and rest. God’s gift of grace is the only thing that saves us. If you are serving to gain glory from others, you should stop and ask for humility. As Jesus says over and over again, when you are applauded for your actions by man now, you’ve gotten the reward for your actions. We should serve, because we want to love our brothers and sisters in Christ just like Jesus loved us. And, “your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you” (Matt. 6:4).

~ Cayce Fletcher

Heart Test

2 Corinthians 13

2 Corinthians 13 5

I’m picking up here on the last chapter of 2 Corinthians.   Thanks to Marcia Railton & Kayla Tullis for the first 12 chapters in this book!

One thing I love about these devotion blogs is that you get something a little different each week with different people contributing.  My style is pulling out some verses that stand out to me, doing some summarizing, and adding some of my own thoughts.  I hope that there is something this week that you can learn and/or grow from.

Chapter 13 picks up right where chapter 12 left off.  Paul is writing to tell them of his coming third visit.  And he isn’t going to be quite as nice.  They have gotten a couple of warnings, and now he is cracking down.

Grace is an amazing concept.  But if you use grace as an excuse to continue sinning, it cheapens God’s gift, and Jesus’s sacrifice.  So do this:

Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test? And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test. Now we pray to God that you will not do anything wrong—not so that people will see that we have stood the test but so that you will do what is right even though we may seem to have failed.For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth.We are glad whenever we are weak but you are strong; and our prayer is that you may be fully restored.

We may be weak at times, but if Christ is in us, we can rely on his strength and be fully restored – thank you God for this gift!  Because if we had to do it on our own, we simply couldn’t.

Paul finishes his letter with good advice:

11 Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.

It can be hard to live at peace with our brothers and sisters if we aren’t at peace with God.

The past couple of weeks in our ladies class at church, we have been talking about our testimonies, and this reminds me of mine.  I grew up in the church and always knew I needed to accept Christ as my Savior to fully experience his and God’s love, but for some reason, I just hadn’t.  I believed everything, I had the knowledge, but it just hadn’t made a connection in my heart.  Then one Sunday, a lady in our church who was struggling with cancer shared how in her darkest time at the hospital, she had felt so far from God feeling almost abandoned.  Yet after feeling that, God blessed her with a deep sense of peace that passed any understanding of her circumstances.  And she knew that whatever happened, she would be ok whether in this lifetime, or in the coming Kingdom.  That got to me.  That gave me that heart connection I was missing.  I remember going to my pastor after church and telling him that I wanted to know that peace – I was ready to make my decision.

 

So if you have made your decision already, I am so happy for you!  I hope that you can live in peace and feel God with you.

And if you haven’t, I encourage you to consider it.  Maybe you are like me and know the truth, but just haven’t felt that connection in your heart.  If this is the case, I hope that you will spend time talking to God and ask Him to give you that connection so that you don’t have to miss out.

 

~Stephanie Fletcher

His Perfect Power

2 Corinthians 12

2 corinthians 12 9

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

 

For when I am weak, then I am strong. Let this verse pour over your heart today. How encouraging is it to know that no matter what circumstance we walk through, we can stand firm in the grace of God. His power is made PERFECT in our weakness. All of our fears, worries, troubles, sorrows, and pain may be put to rest. We can lay them all down and know that our God is greater. I’ve said it many times while writing this week, and i’ll continue to say it over and over again, our God is so very good. May we cling to Him, not only as we continue our Bible reading plan, but cling to him throughout the entirety of our lives. Wishing you all the best and I hope to see you this summer at FUEL!

-Kayla Tullis

Giving!

2 Corinthians 8

2 Corinthians 8 4

 

“But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also.”

2 Corinthians 8:7 ESV

 

 

“For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have.”

2 Corinthians 8:12 ESV

 

 

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.”

2 Corinthians 8:9 ESV

 

Wow. Pause and read this again. So very powerful. Let’s let this one sink in.

 

 

“And not only that, but he has been appointed by the churches to travel with us as we carry out this act of grace that is being ministered by us, for the glory of the Lord himself and to show our good will. We take this course so that no one should blame us about this generous gift that is being administered by us, for we aim at what is honorable not only in the Lord’s sight but also in the sight of man.”

2 Corinthians 8:19-21 ESV

 

Throughout 2 Corinthians 8, it is evident that this chapter is explaining the collection that Titus was sent to receive for the Lord’s people. In starting out today’s reading, I decided to highlight a few key verses (as listed above) to read before we move onto a deeper discussion.

 

So often in this life, I feel as if it is ingrained into our society to accumulate more and more so that we may be perceived as the richest, having the most glamor, and being considered high in status. Many popular songs today even send out the message to seek after selfish ambitions– more money, more things, seeking after unhealthy relationships, and the list goes on and on. However, it was so refreshing to dig into this chapter today as it speaks truth onto the matter of, not only having, but also giving. Moreover, this chapter highlights the importance of recognizing what you have, and with responsibility, using a portion of it to present it as an offering unto the Lord with willingness. I love that Paul writes about the importance of being diligent and being invested in your faith, speech, knowledge, earnestness, and love, but also writes that presenting an offering is indeed an act of grace.

  • You don’t think you have anything valuable to offer? Think again! One of the best parts about presenting the Lord with an offering is that you do not have to have a lot to be able to give/carry out an act of ministry, contributing to the furtherance of the kingdom. An offering for one person may look completely different than an offering for another person and that’s okay!

Question:

Ask yourselves, “What do I have to offer today?”

  • Maybe it’s: time, a financial donation, investing in others, offering words of encouragement, acts of service, praying for others, etc.
  • There are several ways that you can contribute!

 

My biggest take away from this chapter is that we have a God who sent His only son to sacrifice everything on our behalf to pave the way to eternal life. It is my hope that we can present our lives as an offering to God and let His work truly come to life within us! We have the chance to do something very special to honor God and further His kingdom unto others. Are you willing to be a part of it? With grace, I encourage you to present an offering to God– today, this week, this month, this year, or all the above. Whatever that may look like in your life, seek after it. Let’s set our selfish ambitions aside and really focus on the things that matter. My friends, you are so loved! We serve a good good father. Have a great day and be sure to join back again tomorrow for our next daily devotion!

-Kayla Tullis

More Grace?

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 6

In the past couple of chapters, we looked at how we are justified by faith, and being saved while we are sinners.  So, the natural question is whether it matters if we sin.  I love the way Paul answers this question after he asks it.

“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?”

In my head I hear this with a lot of passion in it.  Then Paul says basically the same thing in verse 15:

15 “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be!”

Again, I hear so much passion in this statement.  This is obviously an important point, and something that needed to be talked about when Paul wrote this letter.  It is something that needs talked about and understood now too.  I am confident that Paul spent this much time on this topic because it is so easy to think that “this” sin will be okay.  I’ll be forgiven, and then I won’t do it again.  Then, the next time it is again easy to think that doing it one more time won’t hurt.  I’ll be forgiven again.

That is an extremely dangerous place to be.  It is easy to cross the line into sin, and can be very difficult to cross back.  We need to stay as far away from that as possible.

16 “Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?”

We are either slaves to sin or to obedience resulting in righteousness.  We each must make that choice.  We are justified by faith, and then that faith should lead to obedience.  It is all really summed up in the last verse of chapter 6:

23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

– Andrew Hamilton

Grace for a Sinner

For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.

Romans 5

Have you ever felt like you need to get things straightened out in your life before you can ask for forgiveness?  Or before you can pray?  Or before you can draw near to God?  I know I have felt that way.  Is God waiting for us to get everything straightened out before we seek forgiveness or start a relationship for him?  Let’s look at a few verses that I think answer this question:

6 “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.”

 8 “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

10 “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”

All three of these seem to show that God is reaching out to us and desiring us to reach out to Him while we are still messed up.  These verses say, “While we were helpless”, “while we were yet sinners”, and “while we were enemies”.  This sure doesn’t sound like “after we got straightened out”.

I still feel at times that I need to fix something myself before turning to God and asking for forgiveness.  I also know that sin causes problems in a relationship with God.  However, if we are justified through our faith as we saw in Romans 4, and if we look at chapter 5 closely, we have our order wrong.  We need to turn to God immediately.  We need to accept his grace, and then focus on Him to straighten out whatever our problems are.

Paul closes the chapter with this:

20 “The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

No matter what sin we have, no matter what laws we have broken, no matter how far we have turned away, the grace of God is sufficient if we will turn back to Him.  God is seeking us out, and we need to seek Him also, whether things are going well, or everything is falling apart.

– Andrew Hamilton

Justified by Faith

If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. 3 What does Scripture say_ “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness

Romans 4

When I think of the old testament versus the new testament, one of the differences I tend to think of is law versus faith.  In the old testament, the people were under the law, and judged by the law.  Then in the new testament, Jesus changed things up so that we could be saved by our faith, with his sacrifice.  No longer were people required to perform sacrifices under the law.

Is that the right way to look at it though?  I’m not sure because I still find scripture that makes comparisons which lead me to the same conclusion.  However, in Romans 4, Paul talks about Abraham being credited by faith.  Verses 2 and 3 say:

For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.’ “

Paul goes on to say that David also talks about blessings that are separate from works, or in other words, by faith.  Verses 7 and 8 say:

“ ‘Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven,
And whose sins have been coveredBlessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account.’ ”

So, how do I get this to fit with the laws and required sacrifices and such that were required for forgiveness in the old testament.  While the laws were all required to be followed, there had to be faith included with it for it to please God.  I can’t help but think of Matthew 5:17 as I am talking about the law of the old testament versus faith and grace in the new testament.  It reads:

“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.”

So, with our forgiveness coming through faith, it does not mean the law has been thrown away.  Instead, it means this is the perfect fulfillment of the law.

Why is this important to us?  Verse 16 says:

For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all.”

We are all descendants through the faith of Abraham.  We can also have our faith credited as righteousness.  What a wonderful blessing this is.
– Andrew Hamilton

Guilty, but Justified

Romans 3 23 and 24

Romans 3

In the first 2 chapters of Romans, Paul talks a lot about our actions, and our failures.  Since we have all sinned and failed, these two chapters by themselves would paint a very bleak picture for each of us as individuals.  Thankfully, even though these contain very important teachings, they lead to much more.

Everyone of us is guilty under the law.  Romans 3:9-12 gives us a clear picture of this:

“What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin;  as it is written,

There is none righteous, not even one;
There is none who understands,
There is none who seeks for God;
All have turned aside, together they have become useless;
There is none who does good,
There is not even one.’ “

So, where does this leave us?  We are all guilty under the law.  We need something else.  We need grace.  This is exactly what we are offered. Verses 23 and 24 say:

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.”

This grace is offered freely to all of us if we accept it and follow Christ.  So, while we strive to follow God’s commands, and honor Him in all that we do, there are times we will all mess up, and therefore the law cannot justify us.  The law condemns us.  God has given us another way out through Jesus.  We have to accept the gift, and follow Jesus throughout our life.

-Andrew Hamilton