For the Poor | HAPPY”NESS
Monday— “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:3
What does it mean to be poor in spirit? We know that poor means you’re homeless and eat Ramen every day. But being poor doesn’t qualify us for heaven, so it’s a different kind of poor. Poor in spirit is spiritual. To be poor in spirit means we recognize that without Jesus directing our lives, we are utterly destitute. Our attitude is: If God doesn’t sustain me, I can’t go on. I can’t live, I can’t breathe, I am hopelessly lost in my sins. It means to live with a sense of holy desperation. Jesus said that those who are poor in spirit are blessed. Even when life caves in, the poor in spirit have an inward abiding joy that nothing can steal.
Crowds followed Jesus everywhere He went, but on this occasion, He took only His inner circle up a mountain to teach them. He started with what we call The Beatitudes. Be-Attitudes tell us what attitudes to be. And they were shocking to people who had wrong ideas about God. Jesus taught counter-cultural truths that flipped organized religion on its head. He talked about the “kingdom of heaven,” but they kept hearing “religion.” Then, little by little, truth cracked the hardness of their hearts and understanding dawned like a late sunrise. The kingdom of heaven was not a list of impossible rules; it was a relationship with a Person. The Son of God. When they began to see life from His perspective, their hearts changed. Ours will too. In God’s math, becoming poor in spirit results in a changed heart and attitudes, and that creates changed actions = Kingdom of Heaven.
Final Thought: Becoming poor in spirit positions us to receive all God offers in the kingdom of heaven.
Prayer: Father, this world preaches the opposite of poor in spirit. It praises pride, wealth, and self-confidence. But Jesus who owns all things was poor in spirit and I’d rather be like Him. Change my attitudes to fit your kingdom. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Tuesday— I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either one or the other. Revelation 3:15
Historic Laodicea was a wealthy city located between Colossae and Hierapolis, in present-day Turkey. Renowned for its rich banking, cultural marvels, and medical schools, a Laodicean address spoke of opulence and comfort. But the city had one major problem—water. It had no natural water source, so it relied on a sophisticated system of aqueducts to pipe water from the closest source. However, that water source was loaded with sediment and minerals that gave it a bad taste and smell. By the time it had flowed several miles through clay pipes, it was also tepid. Nauseating to drink, it made you want to spit it out. Jesus used that water problem as an illustration to show the complacent Laodiceans how they tasted to him.
“So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked” (v. 16-17). What was the problem? Unlike the fresh melted snow of Colossae or the piping hot springs of Hierapolis, Laodicean water was lukewarm—a picture of their spiritual state. They had grown self-satisfied, confident that they had as much of God as they really needed. They were in grave danger because they were no longer poor in spirit. They’d grown lax in their worship and compromised by worldliness. Jesus warned them to repent, return to being poor in spirit, so He could restore them.
Final Thought: Is your spiritual temperature: a) cool and fresh, b) piping hot, or c) nauseatingly lukewarm?
Prayer: Jesus, reveal to me my spiritual temperature. If I’m lukewarm, help me change. I don’t want to be spit out. Amen.
Wednesday— God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. James 4:6
He was an All-Star, Emmy-winning, body-building, millionaire who could charm paint right off the walls. Women wanted to date him and men wanted to BE him. Everything he touched seemed to turn to gold and crowds adored him. He could have run for President and won by a landslide, but he didn’t want the responsibility. It would cut into his vacation time. He gave to charities because it brought more applause and his motto was, “Think like a winner.” He was a deacon at his church and even the pastor groveled at his feet, thrilled to have such a man choose their church. On his deathbed, he tried to clear things up with God, in case there was an afterlife. But he couldn’t. He tried to pray, to repent, but it wouldn’t come. God was opposing him.
What does it look like when God opposes the proud? It may go unnoticed because we equate worldly success with God’s favor. But God doesn’t. Satan can bless too. After all, what keeps a human away from God more than earthly pride? One sign that God is opposing us is when we just can’t “get into it.” Spiritual things are dull while earthly things fascinate us. Another indicator of God’s opposition is when we secretly believe we don’t need Him to be happy or successful. Happy atheists are an example. Self-satisfied church people may also be standing on shaky ground because they think they have all of God they want. But God searches for the poor in spirit to pour out on them grace, mercy, and eternal riches. The proud need not apply.
Final Thought: As God searches the earth for those poor in spirit, will His eyes land on you?
Prayer: Lord, I know I have more pride than I think I do. But everything I have is a gift from you. Any successes are because you’ve given me grace to achieve them. Alert me when pride starts to take over and help me root it out. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Thursday— Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. Matthew 23:12
The newly arrived waited with excitement. It was actually here! Judgement Day. Rock Strong stood confidently, chest out. He mentally ticked off his accomplishments: book tours, motivational conferences, TV appearances, Oprah interviews… The list went on. Maybe Jesus would let him speak a few words to the others. They’d be thrilled to hear him. He was that good. Behind him, Pat waited with bowed head. His years as a missionary hadn’t produced many converts and he hoped Jesus wasn’t ashamed of him. He’d had to leave Africa when his wife got cancer, and caring for her had taken the last of his strength.
Suddenly, an angel stood before them. “All those bought by Jesus’ blood, enter through this doorway,” he said and pointed to a narrow opening only three feet high. Rock Strong’s face grew indignant. “I can’t…how do you expect…” he sputtered. Pat lifted his head and hope filled his heart. He could easily glide through that, and he did. Rock Strong was next, but still objecting. “That’s not fair!” he cried as he tried and tried to get through without bowing low. The angel took his arm. “You can’t enter, sir, because that’s not your doorway. You’ll go this way.” The angel led him into a hall that grew darker and darker, but the doorways were tall. “This is your exit,” said the angel as they arrived before a wide door. “It’s called utter darkness and that’s where you’ll spend eternity. But as you see, you and your pride can easily fit.” A shove and Rock tumbled into the pit.
Final Thought: God is not impressed with our accomplishments, only the condition of our hearts.
Prayer: Lord God, which doorway will I enter on judgement day? Am I allowing my pride to keep me from all you offer? Please forgive me. I humble myself before you and repent of pride. I receive your grace and mercy through Jesus. In His name, amen.
Friday— From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” Matthew 4:17
What is all this “kingdom of heaven” talk? We hear “heaven,” and we picture clouds and baby angels with harps. But reading the New Testament shows us it means more than that. In fact, Jesus’ first sermon told people that the kingdom of heaven was near. Kingdom of heaven is a term Jesus used to describe the all-encompassing lifestyle that begins the moment a person trusts in Jesus as Savior and Lord. We don’t have to wait until we die; the kingdom of heaven comes to live within us when we transfer our allegiance. Just as a baby born into a country is granted instant citizenship, so it works spiritually.
We are born into Satan’s kingdom and only new birth grants us citizenship in God’s. In God’s kingdom, we are no longer subject to the old way of life. We were bought back from Satan at the price of the King’s Son. So we who enter this kingdom are given new clothes to wear that don’t reek of Satan’s sewer. We’re given a new identity that cancels the labels Satan plastered over our lives. And we learn a new code of conduct based on love and honor that replaces the self-worshiping rules of Satan’s kingdom. In God’s kingdom, we treat each other as beloved family members. We put the interests of others ahead of our own. And we worship our King Jesus who made it possible. Death in the kingdom of God is merely a change of address.
Final Thought: Are you living as a fully participating citizen of the kingdom of God?
Prayer: Jesus, thank you for bringing the kingdom of heaven to earth so I could know you. Thank you for buying me back from Satan’s rule. Help me continue to learn the principles of your kingdom so I can enjoy all it means to belong to you. Amen.