January 24 – January 30, 2017

WORD

1When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him.  2Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying: 3“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  4Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.  5Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.  6Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.  7Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.  8Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.  9Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.  10Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  11Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.  12Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Matthew 5:1-12

Reading Scripture to Know:

  • What is happening/being said? (Observation)
  • Why is this happening/being said? (Interpretation)
  • What does the rest of Scripture say about it? (Evaluation)
  • What does it mean? (Understanding)
  • What does it mean for us? (Application)

Reading Scripture to Grow:

  • What words or phrases stand out to you? Why?
  • Where do you hear the voice of God in this Scripture?
  • How do you see the character of God reflected in this Scripture?
  • How does this Scripture reveal God?
  • How does this Scripture expose humanity and its need for God?
  • How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in your life?
  • How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in our world?
  • What might God want to communicate to you (us) this week through this Scripture?

Thinking through Scripture:

  • This passage makes me feel…
  • This passage makes me think about…
  • This passage reminds me of…
  • This passage teaches me that God is…
  • This passage challenges me to…

Reflection: Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

What is purity?  In this passage, Jesus speaks of the purity of heart.  This is reflected in our desire to commune with God above all else.  Purity involves knowing the will of God and desiring to do it.  When we commune with God regularly, we will come to know God’s will and our desire to follow that will will grow.  Also, purity is being able to look at the world around us and discern how it does not reflect God’s character and purposes.  This empowers us to reject that which is not of God and accept that which is of God.

Purity doesn’t come naturally.  Take a look at the water in the picture above.  As it is filtered through the rocks, it leaves behind sediment, contaminants, and other impurities allowing the water to become purer and purer.  But flowing through rocks is not easy.  It requires flexibility, fluidity, and adaptability.  It requires moments of separation, as one stream branches out from another before they finally join back together again.  It requires the willingness to withstand slamming into the surrounding hard surfaces.  It requires a lot of hard, tedious work.

Purity for us does not come easily or naturally.  We must be willing to be flexible and adapt our wills to the will of God.  We must be willing to separate ourselves from those influences that do not promote God’s goodness in our lives.  It requires endurance, as we grow and learn from slamming into the hardships of life.  Purity is a gift from God, but receiving that gift requires a lot of patience and perseverance as God works faithfully within us.

The difference between water running through rocks and us enduring the struggles and refinements of life is that water does not have a will and we do.  Water has no choice but to run in the direction it is naturally flowing.  We can resist God’s gift of purity and reverse course toward our own poor choices.  But this also means that we can reverse course when we have previously chosen poorly and can turn toward the direction in which God is leading us.

How might you receive the purifying work of God’s Spirit today?  What rocks are you being asked to flow through for God’s holy purposes in your life?  What sediments weight your spirit down; what contaminants must you leave behind to flow freely into God’s grace?  Remember that the blessing of purity is that you will be able to see God whereas all of the impurities of sin and sorrow have hitherto obscured God from your sight.  The journey of purity ends in the presence of God.  See how God is working.  See where God is moving.  See how great the love and grace of God is.  Pray for purity and be made pure in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Daily Readings: 

  • Tuesday, January 24 – 1 Kings 3
  • Wednesday, January 25 – 1 Kings 4
  • Thursday, January 26 – 1 Kings 5
  • Friday, January 27 – 1 Kings 6
  • Saturday, January 28 – 1 Kings 7
  • Sunday, January 29 – 1 Kings 8
  • Monday, January 30 –  1 Kings 9

SPIRIT

Prayer Focus: Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.  Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

We are blessed in America with the freedom to worship and serve God in Jesus Christ openly and without the fear of persecution.  But this has not always been true for the Church throughout history.  Sadly, it is also not true for millions of Christians in the world today.  Pray for those this week who brave persecution, hatred, and potential harm to serve God in Christ.  Ask that the Holy Spirit will cover them with protection and mercy.  Pray that they will find kindness, understanding, and compassion from those who might seek to do them harm.  Pray specifically for the people of the ten nations mentioned below.  According to the “World Watch List” of Open Doors USA (a Church persecution watchdog group), these are the ten most dangerous countries to practice Christianity.  They classify these nations as areas of “extreme persecution.”  You can learn more at their website www.opendoorsusa.org.

Father God, we pray for your Church in North Korea, for your Church in Somalia, for your Church in Afghanistan, for your Church in Pakistan, for your Church in Sudan, for your Church in Syria, for your Church in Iraq, for your Church in Iran, for your Church in Yemen, and for your Church in Eritrea.  We lift up to you all of our brothers and sisters in these nations.  Though we do not know their names, they are our brothers and sisters.  Protect them and change the hearts of those who would harm them.  Give them endurance and boldness in their faith and witness.  Grant them your grace, mercy, and love as they faithfully give of themselves to serve you.  In the name of Jesus Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit, amen.

Meditation Focus: Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

There is so much division in our society, so much war in our world, so much terror and oppression perpetrated against men, women, and children by their fellow brothers and sisters.  We need more peacemakers in the world and fewer rabble-rousers, antagonists, and oppressors.  In fact, having none of the latter in our world would be wonderful!  How blessed we would be if we all committed to being peacemakers.

How might you promote shalom in your own life and in your sphere of influence?  Shalom is that perfect expression of peace in which everything comes together under the authority of God, works together for the will of God, and is bound together in the love of God.  Remember that shalom, true peace, is always grounded in YHWH and not in ourselves.  We cannot bring about such peace by our own initiative or in our own power.  We are not resourced for shalom naturally.  We must be made peacemakers by the anointing and empowerment of God.  How might God be making you a peacemaker so that you might promote shalom.

In your meditations this week, begin by speaking the word peace or shalom.  Let it roll around your mind and descend into your heart.  What does it make you think?  What does it make you feel?  Does God, in peace, call you to action as you meditate?  What steps might you take to make peace?  How can you make peace where it is unwanted?

In your mind, through your imagination, drop a seed of peace into the fertile soil of your soul.  Watch it take root as you cover it up with the Word of God.  Water it with prayer and praise.  Watch as it sprouts and forms into an idea, a call to action, a burden upon your heart.  Envision what it will look like when it is fully grown and harvested.  Let that plant of peace grow inside of you.  Let it remain in you as you go about your day, week, and month.  Trust God to bring it to flower in the right time.  Peace will bloom within you and in your actions.  Shalom.

Journaling Focus: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Poor in spirit is not an easily defined concept.  As you journal this week, make a list of attributes and characteristics of a person who is poor in spirit.  How does this match your life and character?  How do you live in opposition to this picture of the one who is poor in spirit?

After you do this, take a moment to list the characteristics of the kingdom of heaven, as you understand it.  Do you see a connection between these and your earlier list?  How so?  How is God calling you to live a kingdom of heaven life?  How is God granting you poverty of spirit?  Look back over your lists and for several of the items detail how that characteristic might specifically be lived out in the context of your life.

Breath Prayer: Father, grant us true blessedness.

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