Matthew 5:3 "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." What does it mean to be 'poor?' To have no money? To have no ability to produce wealth? To have no earthly possessions? Most of the time, we think of defining 'wealth' or 'poverty' with numbers - dollar amounts in the 'income' column and 'expenditures' column.
If you've flipped on the TV to watch any form of entertainment television in the last several weeks, you've seen the flippant way our society tolerates and even justifies sin; whether it's language, bedroom scenes, dishonesty, violence or crude behavior, it all seems to be a selling point on even regular programs. The book of Lamentations describes in vivid detail the consequence of harboring sin and the displeasure and discipline of God toward His people.
Have you ever used the 'five-second rule?' You know, the unwritten rule that claims that you have five seconds after you've dropped a piece of your food on the floor to reclaim it before it becomes a faux pas (apparently germs have a gentleman's agreement that they won't violate your food for the first moments of contact). Maybe you have, and maybe you haven't , or maybe there are other factors to consider, such as what kind of floor you're on (shag carpet?) or what kind of food you've dropped!
Our family encountered this story while reading from the devotional 'Sticky Situations:' "Dominic is one of the meanest kids Bert has ever met. He's one of the biggest students in school, and he throws his weight around. He takes every opportunity he gets to make life miserable for someone else. Dominic picks on all the little kids walking home from school and teases the girls so cruelly they usually end up running away in tears. Nobody likes him - his only friends are the ones he can intimidate into hanging out with him.
Easter preparation is in full swing; family gatherings are planned, special church services are announced, stores are well-stocked in chocolate bunnies, plastic eggs are filled and children are admiring their dyed egg creations.
If you were to hear a message from heaven, what would you expect it to say? Would it say, "Love!" or "Go to church!" or "You're doing great!" or "Behave"? A lot of people have different opinions of the message our society needs, but the message God sent through John the Baptist to prepare the hearts of the people for the Heavenly Kingdom was, "Repent!" This message, recorded in Matthew 3:2, was the first public announcement God had made in 400 years.
If you were to take a road trip to Canada, which route would you take? I've heard people describe their plan on getting to heaven like a road trip to Canada: there's this large destination, and as long as you keep north, you can't go wrong. You can pick your route according to what you want out of the trip; do you want the fastest route, or the best scenery through the forests? The shortest mileage, or novelty shopping in Thief River Falls or Bemidji?
You remember playing the game 'Telephone' when you were a child, right?
"I lift up my eyes to the hills — where does my help come from?" Psalm 121:1 People expect different things from God. Some view him as a magic lamp to rub when they need a genie; some hang a cross from their keychain for good luck like a rabbit's foot, others never talk to him at all until they need out of a tight fix. These views of God lead to frustration over the 'silence from heaven' this kind of relationship often produces, but the writer of Psalm 121 gives testimony that for those who walk with God, he is never far during times of trouble.