For they will be comforted

Matthew 5:4, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

Often we interpret this verse to mean “mourning” as in grieving the loss of a loved one. No doubt; when we lose someone we love, God comforts us; but mourning here also refers to the grief we feel for our sinful acts. It is a loss of fellowship with God – a separation of our relationship to Him. There are blessings in our conviction over the sin we committed. The blessing comes in the pardon of our wrong doing. Redemption comes because we seek God’s forgiveness; we mourn because we have wronged Him and by His blood we are made clean again.

Jesus was also referring to the sins of the world. Anytime we feel the depth and pain of sin, whether it be our own actions, someone else’s, or the malicious acts of a nation, the sorrow draws us closer to God. In our pain and grief, He extends His hand toward us.

2 Corinthians 7:10, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”

There have been times in my life when I asked God to forgive me for something that I did wrong. The attitude in my heart was almost nonchalant – I’d done something wrong, I’d asked for forgiveness, I’m done, right? What I was missing was the true meaning of this verse. God is very grieved when we lie, cheat, judge, steal, hurt others, have addictions, and any other mode of sin. He is hurt by it. When we casually make requests for forgiveness, it must grieve Him even more. The seriousness of sin is eternal damnation – it is no joking matter – and yet, at times we do not understand the seriousness of sin.

Jesus is saying to us, we are blessed when we understand our sin and we mourn over the separation that occurred between us and God when we sinned. This true repentance will bring to us the comfort of God’s forgiveness.

Today, search your heart; ask God to show you areas of wrongdoing to which you need to


And their lives were forever changed

1 Samuel 17: 17-19, “Now Jesse said to his son David, “Take this ephah[d] of roasted grain and these ten loaves of bread for your brothers and hurry to their camp. 18 Take along these ten cheeses to the commander of their unit. See how your brothers are and bring back some assurance[e]from them. 19 They are with Saul and all the men of Israel in the Valley of Elah, fighting against the Philistines.”

It was just an ordinary day for the shepherd boy named David; a day just like any other day. He hadn’t anticipated greatness. It wasn’t even on the radar. David woke up expecting to do exactly what he did every other day – watch after his father Jesse’s sheep. Little did he know, the day ahead would change lives forever.

On the side of a hill in Judah, a champion warrior for the Philistines named Goliath, woke up expecting to do exactly the same thing he had done for the last 40 days. He was looking for someone to fight him from the Israeli army. Little did he know, today would be the day that would change lives forever.

It would be nice if we could get a bleep on the radar that greatness is just ahead, wouldn’t it? It would be nice to know the decision we made to do or not to do something would turn out this way or that way. But greatness gives about a big a warning as tragedy does…it never fills us in on the plans.

God knew what was coming and orchestrated David to bring supplies to his brothers. God had heard the taunting of the giant day after day; and, He’d seen His servants running in fear. Did they not realize Who was on their side? And so He sent David; a shepherd boy who was listening to Him.

In our lives defining moments are on the horizon; moments that can change lives forever, we just need to be listening to God. Today, tune your ears to hear His voice. Make a practice to read His Word every day. Be ready for the day He calls you. Be ready for your defining moment.

The rest of the story is one everybody knows. David took five stones and with his sling shot, struck Goliath in the head, right between the eyes. David did what no one else was willing to do. Seeing their champion fall in less than a few minutes, the Philistine army ran. The Israeli army pursued them and won a huge victory. And their lives were changed for ever.

 


Do Not Doubt

1 Kings 18:1, “After a long time, in the third year, the word of the Lord came to Elijah: ‘Go and present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the land.’ 2 So Elijah went to present himself to Ahab.”

There is a severe famine in Samaria because the king, Ahab, has followed the god, Baal, instead of the commandments of the Lord. But today…will be different. Elijah instructs Ahab to assemble the prophets of Baal and Asherah and meet him on Mount Carmel. He tells the people of Israel it is time they choose a side or opinion. “If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal is god, follow him.” There is quite a humorous show down between Elijah and the prophets of Baal. Elijah challenges them to “Call on the name of your god” to light a sacrificial fire. After hours of dancing and chanting, the prophets cannot call down fire and it is Elijah’s turn. He actually prepares his sacrifice, pours water all over the wood, calls upon the Lord, and the Lord sets the sacrifice on fire. The people fall prostrate on the ground before the Lord; Elijah orders the prophets to be slaughtered. An exciting day for the prophet, Elijah, I would say, but there is still the issue of rain…

“‘Go and look toward the sea,’ he told his servant. And he went up and looked.’ 

The famine in Samaria has been horrific. People have died. Livestock is starving to death. There is no vegetation. But God has promised rain, today, and Elijah knows it.

When the servant returns, he tells Elijah, “‘There is nothing there,’ he said.” 

How many of you at this point would think, “Well, I guess I heard God wrong”? Some of you might pray again, “Lord, you said if I met up with Ahab you would send rain. Where’s the rain? Can you send it please? I don’t want to look like a fool.”

Seven times Elijah sent his servant back to the sea to look for rain and each time he would return, “Nothing.” Elijah continued to pray. Elijah continued to believe. Elijah continued to hope. On the seventh time, the servant returned and reported, “‘ A cloud as small as a man’s hand is riding from the sea.'” 

So Elijah said, ‘Go and tell Ahab, ‘Hitch up your chariot and go down before the rain stops you.'”

Some of us need a taste of what Elijah had.

Meanwhile, the sky grew black with clouds, the wind rose, a heavy rain came on and Ahab rode off to Jezreel. The power of the Lord came upon Elijah and, tucking his cloak into his belt, he ran ahead of Ahab all the way to Jezreel.”

Do not doubt what God has promised you. Delays will occur. Waiting is required. When we persistently pray and believe in our God, results will come. When you see the smallest of signs, such as a cloud the size of man’s hand, let that reassure you, your answer is on the way.


He goes on ahead of them

John 10:1-4, “Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.”

This morning as I type this devotion to you, I’m thinking of the words, “he goes on ahead of them…” I know God is an intricate part of my day. I ask Him to control who I meet with each day. I ask Him to help me as I speak to others and put the words He wants to come from my mouth. I pray for His guidance in decision-making and His ability to love others unconditionally; but today I’m focused on that particular group of words. “He goes on ahead of them…”

Isn’t it a comfortable feeling to know someone is blazing the trail for you? The feeling that there is someone up ahead taking in the issues; covering the difficult parts; preparing the way? The reality of it all is most of us really don’t believe that. After our prayer time, some of us shower, get the kids to school, walk the dog, maybe jump on the treadmill or go to the gym. We start our work days with coffee and fruit. We open emails and answer texts and somewhere about mid-morning we have totally forgotten Who is making our path. We’ve forgotten because we are making our own. Does that describe you?

I remember hiking with my children, and we came up to a cave. My daughter grabbed my hand and whispered, “Daddy, you go first.” She wanted to know everything was OK inside that cave. If I went first, she would follow because I would never lead her into harms way. If something bad happened, she knew I’d get her out of there. My daughter knows, I’d kill a tiger with my bare hands for her. That’s how God is for us – only so much more. And when we take control of our day; when we pass Him on the trail; we open ourselves up for trouble.

Today, put the machete away. The trail you’re cutting is going nowhere. Stop trying to make your own way and let God lead. Use God’s GPS for a change.


In all shapes and sizes

I remember very well the day I crashed my bike. Back then, we didn’t have laws governing helmets. I don’t think anyone wore a helmet while riding a bike. The hill looked too inviting; the thrill of the wind against my face and the potential speed forced a decision that wasn’t the best for me. And as I am sure you guessed, I wrecked – hit a group of trees, tumbled down the asphalt, left half my skin in a trail of blood and pain. Feeling a tad woozy, I glanced up to see my dad running down the hill, rolling up his sleeves. He’d heard the commotion as he was leaving for church. In one swoop, he took me in his arms and ran up the hill toward home as I rested my head against his chest.

Exodus 3:7-8, “And the LORD said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people…and I have come down to deliver them.”

When I read this verse, I see God, running toward me, pushing up His sleeves, scooping me in His arms, and caring for me. Do you know that even before we were born, God knew the trials and struggles we would face? He already has the answers. He has already worked out the details. And He is not sitting idly by, watching.

Acts 14:22, “…strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. ‘We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,’ they said.”

No one is exempt from hardship. Difficult times come in all shapes, colors, and sizes. Hardships are similar to a person jumping off a very tall building – Christian or non-Christian; good person or bad person; educated or non-educated; rich or poor; the results are all the same. He or she will splat on the concrete below.

God doesn’t pick and choose. He tells us we will all struggle so that He can refine us and mold us and make us into the people He needs us to be. But it comes with assurances. He will never forsake us. He will run to us with His sleeves rolled up, ready to fight for us, ready to care for us, ready to bring us the answer.

Cherish your relationship with our Heavenly Father who deeply and intimately loves you.


The poor in spirit

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

This scripture is the first of the beatitudes and comes from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. In this sermon, Jesus makes nine statements regarding “who is blessed.” The word Beatitudes comes from the Latin word “beatus” meaning, “blessed” or “happy.”

What does Jesus mean when He tells us “poor in spirit?” If you substitute the word “humble” for “poor,” you’ll understand. Simply put, Jesus is telling us to be humble in our spirits by realizing our dependence on Him. We must acknowledge our own sin; our emptiness; our poverty. We cannot be proud in our hearts, thinking we do not need God. Humbleness starts with the recognition that we cannot exist without God and He is the Commander of our lives.  When we are humble before God, it creates a bond that cannot be broken; a relationship that gives us the life God wants for us.

Arrogance does not exist in a person who is “poor in spirit.” Arrogance over-rides God and puts Him as a secondary source of strength and puts one’s self as a primary source.

How do you become “poor in spirit?”

1. God’s standards cannot be reached by you and me. We need Jesus.

2. Full and total repentance. Our sins lead to death; our dependence on Jesus Christ, the Son of God, leads us to life eternal. There is NO other way.

3. Acknowledgement of our spiritual worthlessness without God. We are nothing without Him. We can do nothing without Him.

4. You cannot save yourself. Only Christ can give you salvation.

Who in the Bible had this attitude?

1. Gideon: Judges 6:15,  “‘Pardon me, my lord,’ Gideon replied, ‘but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.'”

2. Peter: Luke 5:8, “When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, ‘Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!’”

3. Jesus: John 5:30, “By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.”

The best explanation is summed up in Ephesians 2:7-9, “in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”


Go tend to your sheep!

1 Samuel 17:28, “When Eliab, David’s oldest brother, heard him speaking with the men, he burned with anger at him and asked, “Why have you come down here? And with whom did you leave those few sheep in the desert? I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is; you came down only to watch the battle.”

I can imagine the scene in my head – older brother scolding the younger – “Go away! What are you but a shepherd boy! Go tend to your sheep, BRAT!”

But David was on a mission for God. The Philistines occupied one hill and the Israelites occupied the other. A champion warrior named Goliath from Gath taunted the Israelites. The Bible tells us he was 9 feet tall!  “He had a bronze helmet on his head and wore a coat of scale armor of bronze weighing five thousand shekels; 6 on his legs he wore bronze greaves, and a bronze javelin was slung on his back. 7 His spear shaft was like a weaver’s rod, and its iron point weighed six hundred shekels. His shield bearer went ahead of him.” (This guy is one bad CAT and nobody wants to deal with him!) Goliath shouted to the Israelites for someone brave enough to come and fight him. If the Israelite wins, the Philistines will be subject to them; but, if he wins, the Israelites will become subject to the Philistines. Saul and his army were terrified. Nobody wanted to take this guy on, and I can’t say I don’t blame them.

David is the youngest of eight boys belonging to Jesse from Bethlehem – three of the sons are in Saul’s army, Eliab, Abinadab, and Shammah. For 40 days the taunting had been constant, and daily Saul could not produce someone to fight Goliath. Jesse sent his son David to bring his boys food. When David arrives, it is early morning and he hears the words of Goliath.

Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?”  David asks the men.

Eliab, his older brother, overhears the questions and angered by David, attempts to get rid of him. But David hears a word from God. David knows Who he serves. His God can defeat this uncircumcised Philistine!

Some of us can be Eliab’s in other’s lives. The negative, “you can’t do it!” “get out-of-the-way!” “you are incapable!” voices which interfere in the plans God has for people. Some of us don’t want to defeat the giants in our lives because we don’t believe we can.

And then, some of us listen to the Eliab’s of our lives. We listen to those who are the nay-sayers and we buy into the doubt of our abilities to do all things through a mighty, powerful God.

Which are you?

God has a purpose for every one of us. He has a plan. He needs to use our abilities to benefit His Kingdom; but, first and foremost, we have to tune our hearing into Him. Selective hearing – directed toward the Word of God – removes the Eliab’s of our lives. Pray today about what God needs you to do. Ask Him to remove the voices of Eliab in your life.

           


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