A Prayer in Times of Sorrow

Psalm 86:1-17

 

When my wife and I lived just north of Fort Worth, Texas, our fear of tornadoes was on red alert. Our area wasn’t just at risk of the occasional twister. We lived where many of those tornadoes tended to start. With a one-year-old daughter and a new house, we were often glued to The Weather Channel, sure that our day of disaster was going to come.

I’d like to say that we always prayed and trusted the Lord in those moments. Truthfully, we didn’t. We treated tornadoes like embodied deities, almost bowing down to them and begging them not to hit our house. We might as well have prayed to Mother Nature like David did to the Lord: “Mother Nature, you are my God, save your servant who trusts in you!” We stopped just short of leaving an offering on our doorstep.

King David faced all sorts of trials, some self-inflicted and others due to evil from the outside. He was a man who needed to confess and repent for his own sin—including a Molotov cocktail of murder and adultery. And as King of Israel, he had other nations seeking his head on a platter.

David was honest with God. He was desperate for Him. But in this psalm, he doesn’t shake his fist at God in anger or unbelief; instead, he cries out to God in worship. He feels alone and scared, but he also knows God is faithful and loving and righteous. He is confident in the Lord, but he also asks for a sign of comfort, something to help his heart believe what his mind knows to be true. And as the book of Psalms progresses, we see God answer him, over and over again. When we pray to Him, though we don’t always feel it, God is listening to the cries of His servants. He is a good Father who never shuts out His children.

Whether it’s a real storm or some other situation in life that might as well be, God doesn’t ignore our cries for help. When we cry out to Him, He hears us and is faithful to answer us (Psalm 86:7). He rises up, over and over again, to offer comfort. He reminds us that though Satan and evil forces, and even our own sin, bring about destruction, He is actively making all things new (Revelation 21-22).

Written by Brandon D. Smith



Blessings.

*This devotional was taken from the He Reads Truth website

Battling Anxiety

Psalm 27:1-14

I felt like I was having a heart attack. As we left my in-laws to make the five-hour trip back home, I could feel the pressure mounting in my chest. Without knowing the exact details, I knew I was headed back into an incredibly difficult situation, one David might describe as a “day of adversity.” I was gripped by fear and a troubled heart. The panic attack of anxiety that I was experiencing throughout the drive home consumed my entire being. 

Perhaps you’ve had a similar attack of anxiety as well. The trite responses sometimes given in those times of fearful worry are hardly remedies to steady us and give us a quiet heart. The encouragement to “just trust God more” becomes a curse more than a help. For David, the answer to calming his anxious heart isn’t in his need for more or better belief. The answer is found in reminding himself of the true nature of the God he believes in. 

Knowing the nature and character of God is an essential remedy for our lives when we battle anxiety. The power of positive thinking won’t take away our anxiety, but will often bring us to deeper anxiety as we wonder if we have enough positivity. Yet being reminded of the solid qualities of God’s character brings a calm in the midst of our greatest tempests. David shows us how to practice this as he reminds himself: 

The LORD is his light—even when the fear closes in like darkness around him.

The LORD is his salvation—rescuer from enemies both real and felt.

The LORD is his stronghold—the only place of security that cannot be invaded.

David looked to God to be the one to battle his enemies, to push back the attacks against him, and to vindicate him against every slanderous word and deed. He knew only God could be his peace. 

This calm exists for us today as well. Jesus is the one who is the light of life, who was cast down into darkness through His crucifixion and sacrificial death on our behalf. Jesus is the one who was abandoned to His enemies in order to save us from the last enemy, death. Jesus is the one who is our stronghold—no one who comes to Him will ever be cast out. 

Knowing Christ and remembering all He’s done for us gives us a solid, practical step to take in the face of our anxieties. We can “cast all [our] cares on him, because he cares for [us]” (1 Peter 5:7). While we may be filled with anxiety and a troubled heart, we can pray Psalm 27 knowing that, because of Christ Jesus, the LORD cares for [us]” (v.10).

Written by Jeremy Writebol


Blessings.

*This devotional was taken from the He Reads Truth website

Celebrating God's Word

Psalm 119:1-32

How excited would you be if someone gave you vast riches beyond your wildest dreams? Could you imagine the sense of security that would come with such a gift? There would be no more worries about tomorrow because your supply would meet whatever demand tomorrow would hold. There is a certain peace that comes with having all you need for a secure future, isn’t there?

The possibility of riches has a strong power to settle our hearts from the potential distresses that await us. It is interesting that the psalmist likens the joy he receives in God’s revealed decrees to the joy one might feel with all the riches of the world.

Many Christians take the preciousness of God’s revealed Word for granted. With easy access to Scripture, we can often treat it as commonplace. However, we must remember that the gift of God’s Word is just that—a gift. God’s Word is a free gift from a self-revealing God. God was not obliged to reveal His law to us, but did so in love.

Humanity’s deepest need is to be in a right relationship with our creator God. The law shows us what God expects of all people. Therefore, the written Word of God stands as one of the greatest and most precious of all of God’s gifts to His people! We do not have to wonder what God desires.

Even still, when we read the law, we see that we have all fallen short. Who can live up to the standards of God? No human except one, Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ perfectly fulfilled the law in our place, becoming our obedience. Jesus Christ sacrificially died in our place, perfectly paying the price for our disobedience. The written Word is upheld by the Word made flesh.

Without the written Word or the power of the Spirit, disobedience to God’s decrees is inevitable. However, the good news of the gospel is that in Christ, we are declared righteous before God. In Christ, we have the power of the Spirit to enable us to live according to God’s decrees. The law shows us what living in response to God’s grace looks like.

How much more then are we, like the psalmist, stirred to admire God, who has so lovingly bestowed this great gift upon His people? There is no distress for the Christian! No Christian wonders where they stand with God. In Christ, there is only peace and security for all of eternity. This truth matters not only for eternity but also for every day of our lives. This matters more than all the riches in the world. Let us echo the psalmist and rejoice in God! “I rejoice in the way revealed by your decrees as much as in all riches.”

Written by Matt Capps


*This devotional was taken from the He Reads Truth website

Blessings.

When God Seems Silent

Psalm 77:1-20

Have you ever had to rely on your memory for something important? Like, really important. I’m not talking about remembering to pick up milk at the grocery store on the way home from work or the date of your wedding anniversary. I’m talking about having to remember something so important that if you didn’t remember it, you would be putting your life and the lives of others in danger. We always have to remember dates, to-do lists, and other little bits of life, but few of us can recall a time in which our lives depended upon our memory. What we often forget is that our dependence upon God in our daily lives relies heavily on our memory.

In Psalm 77, the psalmist writes about his confidence in the past works of God in a critical time in which God seems silent. He writes: “I will remember the Lord’s works; yes, I will remember your ancient wonders. I will reflect on all you have done and meditate on your actions” (vv. 11-12). In times of crisis, when it feels as if our prayers are hitting the ceiling instead of the ears of God, our memories are some of our strongest weapons against the haunts of discouragement and despair. 

The Israelites forgot. God led them out of bondage in Egypt with plagues and miracles, but when they didn’t like the food God rained down from the sky, they whined and wandered. David forgot. He sinfully pursued a woman who was not his wife, despite the wonders God had already accomplished through his life and works. Peter forgot. He denied knowing Jesus immediately following his arrest, even after knowing his Savior in the flesh and face to face.

When we are in our darkest valleys, it sometimes feels like God is silent. But when we struggle to hear the voice and feel the presence of God, we must remember what He has done for us, particularly what He has done for us in Christ. This is one reason reading Scripture is so important. If we rarely engage God’s Word, it is difficult to find comfort in His promises or His past work on our behalf.

Amidst the perceived silence of God, we are prone to forget. But in Psalm 77, we are reminded of the importance of remembering God’s works in both eternity’s past and in our own past. When it feels like God is silent, we resist the temptation to forge our own paths and forget the narrow way that has already been set before us (Matthew 7:13-14).

Written by Chris Martin


*This devotional was taken from the He Reads Truth website

Blessings.

How Countless Are Your Works

Psalm 104:1-35


The famous British preacher Charles Spurgeon dealt with crippling depression. Once, as the young preacher’s popularity was on the rise, he found himself preaching in the Surrey Garden Music Hall. During the sermon, someone in the balcony shouted “Fire!” and panic ensued. Seven people died in the chaos, and many blamed Spurgeon for the episode. From that point forward, depression was never far behind this great man.

Seeking to run from his own internal nemesis, Spurgeon went on a holiday in Menton, France. The warm sun and stiff breeze ministered to his soul and rejuvenated his spirit. In explaining this to the pastors he trained at his college, he told them, “A mouthful of sea air, or a stiff walk in the wind’s face, would not give grace to the soul, but it would yield oxygen to the body, which is next best.” He told them that someone who camped out in his study and did not venture into God’s creation “needs not wonder if his heart forgets to sing and his soul grows heavy.”

Spurgeon learned what we so often forget: it is easy to forget the goodness and glory of God when you spend little time enjoying the world He created. The longer we spend hunched over our phones, bathed in fluorescent light, the more we will lose our vision of God in His glory, splendor, and might, and the more we will find our souls withering away.

The psalmist’s words in Psalm 104 direct his soul to behold the beauty of God. He praises God for the splendor of His majesty, and in doing so, worships and sings over creation, which bears witness to God’s boundless glory. Then, he shows how creation itself trusts in the Lord’s provision and revels in the rest of creation.

This psalm emphasizes the initiative and care God took in every act of creation. He “set the earth on its foundations,” made “springs gush forth in the valleys,” caused “grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate,” and “made the moon to mark the seasons” (vv. 5,10,14,19). At every step, the psalmist shows the creative power of God and how creation benefits from what He has done.

Most of all, though, the men and women created in God’s own image enjoy this creation as a reflection of His goodness and loving care for us. He shows that the things we often take for granted are there to give us life and joy. He causes “the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine and bread to strengthen man’s heart” (vv. 14-15).

This psalm calls us to venture outside into the good world the Father made. When we do, we find joy in what our Father provided, see His majesty reflected in what His hands formed, and cannot help but give back to Him the praise and glory that is due to His great name.

Written by Scott Slayton


*This devotional was taken from the He Reads Truth website

Blessings.

Psalms for Prayer

Psalm 145:1-21

In my home office, I have a stack of prayer journals I’ve kept since high school. Every so often, I look through them, hoping to jog a memory or retrace a bit of my spiritual journey. One thing I notice in those earliest entries is that many of my prayers followed a similar, simple pattern. I had a decent vocabulary as a teenager, but my early prayers didn’t show it.

Why? Because I was just learning how to pray, and I didn’t yet have the words. I didn’t know much about the depth of God’s nature, and I didn’t have a great awareness of my own emotions. These are things we learn over time. Part of the art of learning to pray is learning what to say and how to say it. 

One of the great uses of Scripture is that it gives us vocabulary for talking to God. There is no better place in Scripture to learn the language of prayer than the Psalms. Today’s psalm is a great example. It says “My mouth will declare the LORD’s praise” (Psalm 145:21). God calls us to magnify His name and to sing of His glory, but the truth is, for many of us, we struggle to find the words. Psalm 145 is filled with language to help us praise God for His greatness.

The book of Psalms was the hymn and prayer book for the people of God from before the days of Jesus. God’s people have been using these writings as prayers ever since, and using them to shape and inspire their own prayers too.

In this reading plan, Psalms for Prayer, we have selected fifteen psalms for you to use when you pray. They cover a range of topics, from glorifying God, to praying for our personal concerns, to lifting up the needs of this world. Some of these psalms are worded as prayers offered directly to God; others act as thought prompts for the reader. Use these psalms to practice praying. Let them expand your vocabulary and sharpen your focus. Consider writing your own prayers down on paper.

It is good to pray with Scripture open before us because all Scripture can be used for prayer. The more we read and study the Word of God, the broader and richer our vocabulary will be when we pray to Him.

As you spend time with the psalms in this reading plan, I pray you will come to know the character and love of God in a deeper way. And as you practice the art of prayer, may you grow in the joy of expressing your love for Him in return.


Written by Russ Ramsey


*This devotional was taken from the He Reads Truth website

Blessings.

Blessed are the Merciful

Memorizing Scripture is a way to carry God’s Word with you wherever you go, keeping God-breathed instruction, reproof, and truth in your heart and mind each day. 

This week, let’s memorize the last four beatitudes. 

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 5:7-10

Write this passage down, keep it in your wallet, post it on your mirror or at your desk — anywhere you will see it often. Save the image below as a lock screen on your phone so you can read these verses throughout the day.


*This devotional was taken from the He Reads Truth website

Blessings.

 

 

You are the light

Matthew 5:13-16Colossians 4:5-6Isaiah 42:5-9

       

I have a friend who helps me. He knows me. He is sensitive to my emotional rhythm. When he senses I am struggling, he asks me about it, and I do the same with him. This way of caring for each other isn’t work. It is the natural result of our friendship. We are not friends in name only. We are friends, and therefore we make that friendship known by reaching out to one another. Our relationship makes us respond to each other.

The Beatitudes offer comfort amidst the difficulties we face. They speak into our struggles and promise hope. But when we read the verses that follow the Beatitudes, we see that we are not meant to simply know this information. We are meant to proclaim it. What the Beatitudes tell us should draw from us a response.

Jesus follows the Beatitudes by telling us we are the salt of the earth, lamps on stands, cities up on hills. We are to let our light shine so that people will see us and praise God because of what they see in us. In other words, the comfort and confidence the Beatitudes promise should draw from us a response of gratitude to God that serves as our witness to the world.

This is how gratitude works, right? Real gratitude, anyway. We don’t just think about the things we’re most thankful for. We talk about them. We tell people. We share stories of how blessings seemed to come out of nowhere, and just in time, too. It’s almost impossible not to talk about the things we love the most.

You’ll be hard-pressed to find any theological truth that is simply meant to be heard and filed away under “general information.” God calls us to live not only as recipients of His kindness, but to proclaim His mercy and grace to others.

In fact, Jesus says it just doesn’t make any sense not to. It would be like putting your lamp under a basket so that the light doesn’t get out. Or hiding the salt during a meal so that there is nothing to draw out flavor and complexity—to make known to the senses what is there.

In Christ’s kingdom, the meek inherit the earth. The mourners are comforted. Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will not be disappointed. The merciful are shown mercy. The peacemakers and the persecuted will see God and find peace. The Beatitudes are not mere bits of information. They present a message, and we, if we understand them, are meant to be messengers. Light in a dark world. Salt for bland imaginations. We are meant to respond. It would be strange not to.

May the world see the light of the gospel shine through us as we live according to the hope Jesus gives us in the Beatitudes.


Written By Russ Ramsey


*This devotional was taken from the He Reads Truth website

Blessings.

Blessed Are Those Who Are Persecuted

Matthew 5:10-12Philippians 1:27-302 Timothy 3:10-171 Peter 1:6-7

       

This past month, 322 Christians around the globe were martyred for their faith.

This past month, 214 churches and Christian properties across the earth were destroyed.

In the past 5 years, the Christian population of Iraq has been cut down from 1.5 million to 300,000. Christians there have either been martyred or they’ve fled the country under great duress, fearing for their families’ lives. That’s an 80% population decrease.

It’s hard to wrap our heads around global Christian suffering if we don’t necessarily experience it firsthand. But we need to carefully reflect upon Paul’s words to the Philippians. To be of “one mind” and “one spirit” means to share in one another’s victories and sufferings (Philippians 1:27). To know Christ is to be intimately connected to His body, the Church. When our Christian brothers and sisters rejoice, we rejoice. But where they suffer, we must lament, and lend every help that we possibly can. 

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake… Blessed are you when others revile and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account” (Matthew 5:10-11).

It seems clear that Jesus carefully and intentionally made this proclamation on the heels of verse 9: “Blessed are the peacemakers…” While we all are called to actively engage in the work of peacemaking, this does not guarantee earthly peace. In seeking peace, followers of Christ are blessed and so is the world around them. But not everyone will respond to our invitations and actions in kind.

Jesus offers assurance and comfort for His followers: the persecuted will be blessed. While the world offers indifference, or at times outright hostility, the promise of this beatitude is that those who suffer will be lifted up, in this life or the next. The suffering, the persecuted, the downtrodden may not always receive immediate, visible justice, but the heart of Jesus’ teaching is that God sees them all and promises that they will be blessed.

There is no suffering so great that He cannot heal it. There is no difficulty so trivial that His heart does not bear it with us.

The earliest Christians helped to faithfully establish the Church in the midst of great suffering. They were following in the footsteps of our Lord and Savior, who redeemed the world through His own persecution, suffering, and sacrificial death. To follow Jesus is to take up our crosses.

There is victory and eternal glory in following Jesus. But that doesn’t mean that there won’t be trials in this life. In fact, it usually means quite the opposite.

I find it very challenging to be thankful for suffering or trials. Yet I know that when we encounter difficulties for the name of Christ, we participate in Kingdom work with Him. We are not alone in those moments. Rather, we are united to Christ and His body in a mystery that stretches far beyond our understanding. For that mystery, and that intimacy, we can and should be thankful. It’s not an easy posture to adopt, but it is a mode of thinking and living that will bring a sense of internal peace as we face difficult moments. 


Written By Andrew Stoddard


*This devotional was taken from the He Reads Truth website

Blessings.

 

 

Blessed Are the Pure of Heart

Matthew 5:8Ezekiel 36:22-28Psalm 24:1-10Revelation 22:1-5

       

My three-year-old daughter is a sweet kid. She has always been playful yet reserved, sensitive yet affectionate. But since she’s now three, she’s getting smarter and she’s learning to manipulate. I’ve heard the same joke a million times, and now I understand it: “If you don’t believe we’re born sinful, just have a kid.” Indeed!

Though my daughter is a joy and I love to believe that she is totally innocent, she is also a daughter of Adam. She sometimes battles me when I discipline her. She often talks back when she’s cranky. She can be selfish with other kids. If anyone should be considered “pure in heart,” it’s her, but like I said, she’s Adam’s daughter. And you and I are his sons. As Paul tells us, “just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, in this way death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). 

Sin is inevitable. We aren’t pure in heart, even in our best moments.

Yet, Jesus tells us here in Matthew 5:8 that the pure in heart are blessed. Because we are born into sin and sin every day, does that mean we are destined to the non-blessing of condemnation? Are we hopeless?

It seems Jesus is giving us an impossible standard here, and in a sense, He is. When He says, “Blessed are the pure in heart,” it should immediately hit us that we aren’t pure. If we’re not pure, we have to look to someone who is.

Throughout the Beatitudes, Jesus lifts up various virtues. Like the Ten Commandments way back in Exodus, each beatitude stings a little because it reveals our absolute need for God. Though we may portray to others a sense of purity, our inner thoughts and private actions condemn us. No one can live up to the Ten Commandments; no one can live up to the Beatitudes. 

No one except Jesus.

Jesus was pure in heart: He never sinned, and He loved (and still loves) perfectly. As the “image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15), Jesus carried with Him perfection, and in that perfection, the purest heart to ever walk the face of the earth. The Son of God took on flesh, and He lived with a pure heart so that He could purify the hearts of His people.

This beatitude emphasizes consistency between who we are in private and who we are in public. The more single-hearted we are before God—privately and publicly—the deeper our delight and desire will be to see our Maker face to face. We love because He loved. We serve because He served. We are pure in God’s sight because He was pure.

May we look at the face of Jesus with gratitude, for through His pure heart we can pursue purity in our own hearts.


Written By Brandon D. Smith


*This devotional was taken from the He Reads Truth website

Blessings.

Blessed are the merciful

Matthew 5:7James 2:15-20Matthew 18:21-35

       

James Boyd was the best Mercy player I ever saw. You’ve played Mercy before, right? Where you stand facing your opponent, reach out and interlock fingers, then when the “go” is spoken you and your opponent twist your hands upside down, trying with all your might to break the other guy’s fingers off at the knuckles? Yeah, essentially a scene from Call of Duty before Xbox came along.

There’s not a lot of strategy in this game. It is pure strength and will. At some point either you or your opponent will swear tendons are ripping apart, and the weaker player will yell, “Mercy.” But the reality of schoolyard games is sometimes the stronger player will not immediately release. In these cases mercy does come, but it comes slow. You essentially have to beg for it. I remember seeing boys on the ground reduced to tears, pleading.

James could beat everyone else in our grade, except me. We’d always tie, if there is such a thing in Mercy. But it was a grade-school fact that when other boys would challenge James (and always lose), he would release as soon as the other boy cried out. I wondered about this, until the day I saw James playing this game with some much older boys, boys almost men. They would best James and when he asked for “Mercy” they’d make him grovel. In a sort of reverse parable, my friend knew the power of mercy because he’d not been shown mercy. My friend James did unto others as he wished others would’ve done to him. James was golden like that.    

In the story that Jesus tells Peter, the servant was shown mercy by the master but then turned around and acted unmercifully toward a peer. He put the screws to his “fellow servant” and finally threw him in jail. When word of this nonsense finally reached the master, well, let’s just say the story didn’t end so happily ever after.

We learn the power of mercy by having it given or withheld. That’s the reality of schoolyards, and life. Jesus promises a blessedness to our lives if we extend mercy swiftly, without question. Such behavior only truly comes from gratitude. It comes from a thankfulness resulting from our ongoing grappling with the depths of our sin and its collateral damage, as the beautiful word “Mercy” is cried out not by us, but by our Master, once and for all, and again and again. Jesus is golden like that.

Written By John Blase


*This devotional was taken from the He Reads Truth website

Blessings.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst

Matthew 5:6Matthew 7:7-11Romans 9:3-33Romans 10:1-4Psalm 17:15

       

In his Confessions, St. Augustine declared, “Our hearts are restless, Lord, until they find their rest in Thee.” Despite the profound truth of these words, we are quick to look for satisfaction in other places. We search for it in physical or emotional comforts, in popularity, influence and acclaim, in distraction, and in that old temptation of earthly wealth. We forget the words of the preacher who warns, “he who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income. This also is vanity” (Eccl. 5:10).

Christ’s pronouncement of blessing for those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, however, comes with a guarantee of satisfaction. 

The metaphor of hunger and thirst is vivid. It is the picture of ardent desire, of a deep hunger born of starvation, and deep thirst in a dry and weary land. We are bid to cry out, as David does, “earnestly I seek You; my soul thirsts for You; my flesh faints for You” (Psalm 63:1).

I struggle to seek after God with such fervency. As I wrestle with this beatitude, I come face to face with two challenges:

First, I often lack a genuine desire for righteousness. My desire for God’s righteousness often flags, especially in seasons of prosperity. But “our desire for spiritual blessings,” says Matthew Henry, “must be earnest.” This entails a deep sorrow for our own sin, a humble recognition of our own lack and need, and a genuine longing for holiness. So then, it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy (Romans 9:16).

Second, I often misconstrue the nature of true righteousness. I tend to think of righteousness in human terms: how should a righteous man act? In Scripture, however, righteousness really belongs only to God (Ezra 9:15Daniel 9:7-8). Righteousness is perfect justice, perfect uprightness, holiness. In none of these is righteousness derived of man, his actions, accomplishments, merits, or successes. Christ’s call to hunger and thirst for righteousness is not man-focused, because that is not where we find righteousness (Romans 3:10).

Without even trying, of course, we can so quickly revert to thinking chiefly of our own righteousness, and to relying on our own spiritual strength. Thomas Chalmers observed: “There are several vexations of the vain show in which I walk and which would cheat me of my eternity.” How much of our walk is but vain show? Is our vain show of the pursuit of righteousness cheating us of eternity? Or, do we genuinely hunger and thirst after God’s righteousness? Do we find in Him all our fulfillment?

May Christ in His mercy give us a hunger and thirst for His righteousness! Then we will proclaim, “my soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food” and “as for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness” (Psalms 63:517:15).

Written By Caleb Faires


*This devotional was taken from the He Reads Truth website

Blessings.

Blessed are the meek

Matthew 5:5Luke 12:13-21Psalm 37:1-11

       

I’ve been reading Springsteen’s new best-selling memoir for the last week. I’m trying to read it slow, but I kinda feel like I grew up with this guy. He was on my radio, on the covers of magazines, and front and center on MTV. He has spent a great deal of time in my tape deck and in my CD player. Still does. I have every album and about a dozen bootlegs. He’s taken up residence in my life as a fixture.

What’s interesting is to read about what he wanted to get out of his driven lifestyle. There is this one story he tells on his album, Live 1975-85, in the middle of “Growin’ Up.” He talks about how his parents wanted him to be anything but a rock and roll singer. His dad wanted him to be a lawyer and his mom wanted him to be an author. He says they wanted him to be one of these things so that he could “get a little something for himself.” Which made sense because he grew up fairly poor in Freehold, New Jersey. But he said, “the problem was that I wanted everything.”

What is strange about the promise of the meek inheriting the earth is that it is the exact opposite of the way our world works. It’s the aggressive and loud and assertive that get the goods in this swift, spinning, ever-changing world.

Blessed are the go-getters. The entrepreneurial. Blessed are the ones who have a little bit of an ego—just enough to want to be great. These are the ones who inherit the brass ring.

Jesus’ original listeners would have heard the promise that way. Remember, these were people who were living in a land occupied by the unclean Romans. Their great hope was for the Messiah to come and give them back the earth beneath their feet. I am sure many a Jewish man secretly chastised his own meekness, and the meekness he saw in others, toward the Roman interlopers.

I love the way Eugene Peterson sums up this verse: “You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought” (Matthew 5:5 MSG).

The problem is being content with who you are in a world of discontent. This earth is constantly beaming messages at us that are meant to take away any meekness we have and strip us of any contentment we have found. They promise that if you are anything but meek, you can get a lot for yourself. It’s a deadly trap to fall into. The things our world promise sound great because of our discontent, but to chase after them only breeds more discontent.

However, as those who find our identity in our Jesus, we can be content. We can rest in who we are in Christ. We see the power of meekness in the cross itself. 

We are children of God. The redeemed. Those with a hope in the face of all tribulation. And the promise? We shall inherit the new heavens and the new earth.

Written By Matthew B. Redmond


*This devotional was taken from the He Reads Truth website

Blessings.

Blessed are those who mourn

Matthew 5:4Isaiah 61:1-3Romans 7:21-252 Corinthians 7:8-10

       

Nothing is more frustrating than a problem we cannot fix. I can think of about seven billion of these problems: people. We can’t fix people. Yet we try with blood, sweat, and tears. We try to solve their hearts and their sin and their pain. Sometimes we help. Often we are fruitless. Instead of a tidy resolution, we are left with the residue and detritus sin leaves behind in all its acidity and stink.

And none of this touches on the misery of trying to solve ourselves. Just as we cannot fix the sin of others, we cannot fix our own hearts either. Each day we wake up and realize we must live another day as the same person who went to bed the night before. And each day that person is just barely bearable. By distraction and grit, we make it. And then the next day we start again.

Left to itself, this reality would exhibit the laws of spiritual inertia—a decline to death, decay, and rot. Without an outside force good enough and powerful enough to solve these problems, they are condemnation. We are left with no hope, nothing but sadness. But we have such a force, and He spoke a few simple words a few thousand years ago to a few thousand people on the side of a mountain: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). 

Jesus was not offering trite promises of happiness. He wasn’t merely giving out hugs and smiles to make people forget their unsolvable sin (though I am sure He did not lack those for the needy). Neither was He setting up mourning as an aspiration—“blessed are those of you who can maintain a certain level of moroseness and misery”—as some Christians seem to believe. Jesus was offering hope to resolve the unresolvable. He was the hope.

All the way back in Isaiah, God promised One who would come to “heal the brokenhearted” and “comfort all who mourn” (Isaiah 61:1-2). Like us, the people then would have heard that as someone to rescue them from circumstances and make life all better. Jesus fulfilled Isaiah’s promise by doing both much more and much less. He did make life all better by crucifying sin and death. He did rescue us from the worst of our circumstances: our own sinfulness.

But Jesus did not fix our daily circumstances. Not yet at least. We still live in the pain of sin’s effect, but we know with certainty that our mourning will be comforted in full when Jesus comes again. Because our lives and hope and happiness depend on this comfort, our thanks run deep. We are thankful for the rescue that has already happened and for the one yet to come—the present comfort and the future comfort too.


Written By Barnabas Piper


*This devotional was taken from the He Reads Truth website

Blessings.

Blessed are the Poor in Spirit

Matthew 5:3Ephesians 2:1-10Revelation 3:17-22

       

“Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Matthew 5:3). 

Have you ever been to a drive thru or a restaurant and come up a couple cents short? I have yet to meet a man who has escaped the dreaded experience of being short on change at one time or another. No one ever wants to endure the walk of shame away from the food you were so close to enjoying.

The part I hate the most about the times when this happens is how I instantly fall into the paranoia of thinking someone is judging me. I hear them in my head in a Jim Gaffigan whisper: “Oh, that’s so sad. He must be really poor. He can’t even cover a 99 cent burrito.” To silence the voices, I want to make up excuses about why I can’t get my food. I want people to know I do have money. If they knew that, I wouldn’t feel as bad about myself.

This situation reminds me of how all people come up short of righteousness. Romans 3:23 says that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” In a life apart from Christ, we are always many spiritual nickels short of the required price. Being dead in our sins and coming up short in our spiritual life, our temptation is to rummage through the moral change jar and other places that might prove we have enough to pay the price in full on our own. But we can’t. We need help.

It would be incredibly humbling to turn to the person next to you or the car behind you and ask for them to buy your food because you are short of what you need. But let’s say you do, and they cover you. You would be grateful, wouldn’t you? Acknowledging our spiritual poverty to God is vital to unleashing the immeasurable and unsearchable riches found in Christ.

Being needy may be frowned upon by our culture, but God not only welcomes it, He promises that our poverty of spirit will be met with the riches of His grace. Apart from Christ, the wrath of God remains on us as His enemies. But in Christ, God, being rich in mercy and great in love, offers Himself as our inheritance.

When grace meets our poverty of spirit, it ignites the flames of gratitude for what God has done in and through Christ on our behalf. When our faith is in Christ, He not only removes our sin, but He also gives us His righteousness, which is credited to our account.

“Oh, praise the One who paid my debt and raised this life up from the dead.” Those who are in Christ lack nothing. In Him, we never come up short. In Him we have everything we need.  

Written By Jevon Washington


*This devotional was taken from the He Reads Truth website

Blessings.

Salt of the Earth

Matthew 5:1-161 Chronicles 16:28-34John 16:22-24

       

Christ-followers live with our feet in two worlds: this present world that we taste, see, and touch, and the world to come—the new heavens and the new earth, the eternal Kingdom of God. That second world is the one where our true citizenship lies. But that first world, this world, is the one where we are currently living out our days.

In this world, Jesus said, we will have trouble. But then He told us to take heart because He has overcome the world (John 16:33). We live in tension here, don’t we? We hold on to the hope of, as Tolkien put it, every sad thing coming untrue. But we still daily brush up against things like conflict, inadequacy, grief, poverty, lustful appetites, and (for some, anyway) persecution. One day, all of our struggles will become distant memories, if any memory of them is permitted to remain. But for now, we live in the tension.

How do we respond to this tension? How do we not cave into the sorrows, conflicts, and stresses that so often seem to want a piece of us? One exercise we can always turn to for help is the prayerful practice of gratitude. When we take time to reflect upon and give thanks to God for the work of Christ, we set our minds on truths larger than the circumstances right in front of us. We ascribe the seat of power to its rightful King. We remember that the darkness can’t have us (Psalm 23).

Meditating on gratitude is more than an exercise we can use to combat stress. It is a way to deliberately set our minds and hearts on what is true. The empty tomb proves that Jesus has, in fact, overcome the world. Because of this, we can confidently live with our hearts and minds trained on the world to come. Jesus wants this for His people. We need look no further than the Beatitudes to see that this is true.

Early in his Gospel, Matthew gives us the Sermon on the Mount—the single largest collection of Jesus’ teaching on how to live in this world in light of the life to come. The Beatitudes, which open that sermon, frame some of our deepest present struggles against the solution that will be ours in the coming Kingdom. The first four beatitudes focus on our relationship with God, and the last four deal with how we relate to one another.

The Beatitudes don’t simply describe our future hope. They define what Christ Himself embodied during His earthly ministry. Each beatitude makes a promise about the coming and certain peace and healing that belong to all who follow Christ. And every promise they contain is backed by the fact that Jesus perfectly embodied them. He was the meek One who inherited the earth, the One who hungered and thirsted for our righteousness and, by His resurrection, was satisfied. He was the Peacemaker we know as the Son of God. And when our faith is in Him, we are fellow heirs to His kingdom.

The promises of God are anchored in the finished work of Christ. All of them are. Rest in that. Give thanks for that. And may your time in this study be marked by a gratitude-saturated worship of Jesus, Who has overcome the world.

Written By Russ Ramsey


*This devotional was taken from the He Reads Truth website

Blessings.

The Day After Easter

Yesterday we remembered and celebrated the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the most important event in history. On Easter Sunday we are encouraged by the sacrifice of Jesus that paid for our sins, and reminded of what His sacrifice means for us as believers. Do not let Easter be the only day we remind ourselves of the importance of Christ. Remind yourself daily of the good news of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and let it affect every part of your life. We have been renewed and redeemed by a loving father and brought back into His presence to experience His goodness. Let this fill you with joy every morning and fill you peace as you go to sleep each night. You have been bought by the blood of Jesus.