One-a-Day Thursday 7/16/15

number 1You are the salt of the earth.  But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?  It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot (Matthew 5:13).

Salt is a funny thing.  Too much of it will make you gag.  Too too much of it will kill you outright.  And yet it is essential to life.

Salt is easy to overlook, easy to forget about.  When you’re cooking, it’s fun to focus on the interesting spices—cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom.  Who notices salt?  But just leave that pinch of salt out of your recipe and see how bland your meal becomes.

Salt is preserving.

Salt is healing.

Salt gives flavor.

People are funny.

God can use us to bring flavor to people’s lives.

To heal

To preserve

We are sometimes overlooked, but we are an essential component of God’s plan for the lives around us.

And yet, when we put too much of ourselves into the mix—when we try too hard to be noticed—we mess up the recipe.

This is an awkward analogy, but I’m sticking with it.

You are the salt of the earth.  Your saltiness—that which makes you useful to God—is the Holy Spirit working in you.  When you try to work in your own power, you lose your saltiness.  There’s too much you.  And you mess things up.

And your work is pretty much worthless.

Don’t try to work for God today, Beloved.  Instead, let him work through you.  Let him sprinkle you where he will, and let the Holy Spirit do his job in the lives around you.

It’s a lot easier, and it won’t make people gag.

One-a-Day Wednesday 7/15/15

number 1Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:10).

Did you ever read Foxe’s Book of Christian Martyrs?  It tells the stories of men and women who suffered death—in various gruesome forms—rather than deny the name of Christ.

Intense.

And humbling.

I have never been threatened with death for following Jesus.  Chances are, neither have you.  Throughout history there has been persecution.  Even today, there are many in the world that risk imprisonment or worse for following Christ.  But not here. Not now.  For better or for worse, we live in a society that allows us to worship God openly, without fear of reprisals.

For the moment, anyway.

I’d like to think that, if real persecution came, I would stand firm, braving whatever might come with a song of praise on my lips.

I’d like to think that.

But I just don’t know, do I? Frankly, I sometimes crumble in the face of the micropersecution that does come my way.

The odd look.  The occasional raised eyebrow.  A little mocking because I don’t speak or act in the way that the world does.  It’s amazing how little it sometimes takes to send me packing.

Today, as we head out into our respective Wednesdays, let’s act in such a way that we stand out for Christ.  If that results in persecution, let us embrace it and rejoice.

Stand out.

Stand up.

Stand firm, Beloved.

One-a-Day Tuesday 7/14/15

number 1Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God (Matthew 5:9).

Jesus is a peacemaker.

Peace between God and Man.

Peace between Man and Man.

Peace that passes all understanding, yet guards our hearts and minds.

The Son of God is calling you to follow in his footsteps today.  So, take a good look at the day ahead of you.  What potential conflicts are waiting?  What person will likely push your buttons and make you twitch?  What raging interpersonal storms do you get to sail into?

These are all opportunities.

Oh, I know they don’t feel like opportunities, Beloved.  Except perhaps opportunities to practice your stress management and work on finding your Happy Place.  But they are, in fact, opportunities to walk as Jesus did—to be a peacemaker.

Will you take the opportunity today, Beloved?  Will you be a child of God?  Will you stuff your pride and walk in grace and humility?

Oh, I know it’s hard.

Will you do it anyway?

One-a-Day Monday 7/13/15

number 1Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God (Matthew 5:8).

Your heart is not pure.

You will not see God.

Happy Monday.

Well, aren’t we glad that there’s more to the story than that.  Of course your heart is not pure; you know good and well what goes on in there.  I’m in the same boat, and so is everyone you know.  And everyone you don’t.

Praise God that he doesn’t leave us in that boat.

God wants us to see him.  He wants us to have fellowship with him.  And he knows that’s not going to happen if we are left to ourselves.  So he cleanses us, he renews us, he gives us that pure heart that allows us to see him.

If we confess our sins he is faithful and just and will forgive 

our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

Before you go out into your Monday, do us both a favor—get your heart right before God.  Confess what needs confessing, address what needs addressing, let him purify your heart, so that you will see God.

Because, how are you supposed to walk with God if you can’t see him?

Happy Monday, Beloved.

One-a-Day Friday 7/10/15

number 1Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy (Matthew 5:7).

I need mercy like you wouldn’t believe.

Well, maybe you would.

I mean, I’m not an axe murderer or anything.  It’s just that I know what God requires, I know my heart, and I know that without the mercy of God I wouldn’t make it to my next breath.  So when I read this verse, I get really practical.  Actually, I get a little mercenary.  Or mercy-enary.  I figure, I give and I get.

As self-serving as that sounds, I think it makes me more merciful.  When I see a need, I think of all the times I have needed mercy. And all the times I will.  And I’m more likely to give.  I guess you could call it making a deposit in the mercy bank.

That is one account I never want to see overdrawn.

Think you might need mercy one of these days?

Then walk in mercy today, Beloved.

One-a-Day Thursday 7/9/15

number 1Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled (Matthew 5:6).

Father, grant me the hunger that only you can satisfy,

the thirst that only you can quench.

Create in me an emptiness that you alone can fill.

Sometimes I think I’m complete

but I’m not;

I’m just crowded.

Father of all desire

let me crave

You.

One-a-Day Wednesday 7/8/15

number 1Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5).

Let’s not read too much into this one, shall we?

I doubt that Jesus was literally promising you the world.  Really—what would you do with it if you had it?  A town, certainly, maybe even a small state—but the entire world?  Come now.  And what about that woman down the street, or the guy at work; do they also inherit the earth?  How do we do the sharesies on that one?  Jesus is teaching that those who walk with God will have all their needs completely met.  The earth and all that is in it are the Lord’s, and he gives joyfully to those who are his.

On another note, “Meek” is not the same as “Weak.”  When we read this verse, it’s easy to get the picture of these mousey, quiet, timid little people running the world someday.  It makes you wonder how anything would ever get done.  “Meek,” in the biblical sense, means to be humble and gentle before God and man.  A meek person trusts God to provide for him, and doesn’t feel the need to push and shove in order to get what is his.  One who trusts God, fully and completely, isn’t worried about the other guy.  He has nothing to prove and no one to beat.  He can afford to be gentle.

So, Beloved, will you walk in meekness today?  There may be a small county in it for you.

One-a-Day Tuesday 7/7/15

number 1Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted (Matthew 5:4).

It’s good to mourn.

Oh maybe not good in the sense of, “Woohooo, my heart is breaking, I’ve lost everything I love—let’s get ice cream and cheesy puffs!”

Not good in that sense.

Good in the sense that it’s a natural part of who we are.  It’s healthy; it shows that we love.  After all, we don’t mourn that which we did not love.

God mourns.  Jesus mourned Jerusalem (Matt. 23:37).  He wept at the grave of Lazarus.  I believe that the Father mourns those who choose to live and die apart from him. When we mourn, we show that we are made in his image.  We reveal the stamp of our Creator.

And when we mourn, we are comforted.

There’s the promise.  The God of all peace, all healing, all love, stands ready to comfort us in our loss.  And that comfort outweighs our pain.

Eventually.

So, once again God invites us to be vulnerable and rest in his protection, to be weak and draw on his strength, to be empty and let him fill us, to be broken and allow him to restore.

When we are weak, he is strong—in us and through us.

What have you lost, Beloved?  What do you mourn?

Walk in his comfort today.

One-a-Day Monday 7/6/15

number 1Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3).

You’re not impressing him.  You know that, don’t you?

OK, so you pray, and you read the Word, and you tithe; you even visit sick orphans in prison. That’s great.  I applaud you.  But don’t think that you’re going to parlay that into some kind of spiritual currency.  It just doesn’t work that way.

I sometimes wish it did, but it doesn’t.

Jesus says to be poor in spirit—to recognize that all you have to offer is really not so much at all.  I once survived for three weeks on generic ramen noodles, a dozen eggs, and tap water.  I couldn’t afford shampoo—I used dishwashing liquid. I don’t recommend it.  Needless to say, I did little entertaining during those weeks.  I knew that I had nothing to offer.

When we come to God, we need to realize that we have nothing to offer that he needs.  He owns everything.  He doesn’t need our spiritual ramen.  When we come to him, we need to be poor in spirit.

The tax collector in Luke 18 had it right.  He came with no demands, but with one simple plea: have mercy.  That’s the ticket to the kingdom.

It’s Monday.  The Lord of all stands ready to shower you with his love, his grace, his peace this morning.  You didn’t earn it; you can’t pay for it.  But you will need it before the day is out.  Receive it, Beloved.  Open your heart wide and receive it.

One-a-Day Friday, 7/3/15

number 1It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by the yoke of slavery (Galatians 5:1).

Tomorrow is Independence Day.  The day we celebrate our freedom.  Of course, as Americans we celebrate our national and political freedom. As men and women of God, we celebrate our spiritual freedom.  Christ has set us free from our bondage to sin.  He has set us free from our need to try and earn our salvation, to somehow save ourselves.  He has set us free from the stress and worry and angst and anxiety which so often attack us.

Hear me, Beloved.  I’m not saying that those things are gone.  On the contrary, sin and self-righteousness and anxiety are still very much evident in this world and, at times, in our lives.  What I am saying is that you are no longer in bondage to them.

When Paul wrote the above verse to the Galatians he was talking about freedom from the Mosaic Law.  Some Jews had chosen to follow Christ, but still felt compelled to meet the demands of the old covenant.  Paul was pointing out that a person who has Christ no longer needs the old law, and to try and follow it is to be like a slave who, once free, returns to his chains.

I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that, for some of us, worry and stress operate in the same way as the Mosaic Law.

It’s about power.

The Judaizers liked the Law because it gave them a sense of control over their destinies.  They had rules to follow, stuff to do, that they thought would get them to Heaven.

“But Michael, I don’t worry because I feel powerful.  I worry because I feel powerless.”

Yes, but it’s still about power.  About control.  You worry because you know you are not in control, and you desperately want to be.  Because if you’re not in control, someone else is, and there’s a part of you that just cannot handle that.

I’m in the same boat, by the way.  May I steer?  Of course not.

Sometimes trust seems beyond our grasp.  And without trust, there is no rest.

So let’s pray for trust today, shall we?  I’ll pray for you, and you for me.  Maybe we can both get some rest.

Today is the day to celebrate your independence.

And your dependence.

Happy Fourth, Beloved.