Daily Devotion for April 25, 2016
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.
Prayer for the Morning
Dear Lord, please give me the patience to make it through this busy day with all the hustle, demands and distractions of modern life. Let me find the quiet time to hear your voice and feel your calming presence. I ask this in your son's name.
For My Enemies
O God, the Father of all, whose Son commanded us to love our enemies: Lead me from anger, prejudice, and selfish pride to acceptance, love, truth, and sympathy for all people, and especially those who would be my enemies in this life; and if it is your will, enlighten those who hate me, and bring them into your holy truth, that they may find you. Deliver all of us from hatred, cruelty and revenge; and in your good time enable us all to stand reconciled before you; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
[Where in my life do I honor wealth above God?]
The Lord bless us and keep us. The Lord make his face to shine upon us, and be gracious unto us. The Lord lift up his countenance upon us, and give us peace, this day and evermore.
(Additional prayers may be found at Prayers for All Occasions.)
God be with you 'til we meet again.
It’s no shame to be poor . . . but it’s no great honor, either!
~ Tevye, “Fiddler on the Roof”
Matthew 5:3 (ESV)
The Beatitudes 
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Notes on the Scripture
“Blessed are the poor in spirit” is the first teaching of Jesus in the Bible.* We might rightly conclude that it is the first lesson we should learn. And it was astonishing.
Nobody considered the poor “blessed”. Cursed, perhaps. Unfortunate, certainly. “Not me”, hopefully. But blessed? It was nonsense to the Hebrews, to whom “poor” and “blessed” were antonyms. The assertion is radically counterintuitive and contrary both to our experience and our inner urges.
Of course, Christ says “poor in spirit,” not simply “poor”. It is not poverty itself, but the side-effects that bless the poor, for with poverty comes humility. (One could be rich in reality, but poor in spirit, i.e., have the spirit of a poor person.) Nevertheless, as stated in later verses, humility is easier for those with few earthly riches. Many temptations are removed. Certain sins become almost impossible.
ome of the most utterly devoted Christians have become poor on purpose. Francis of Assisi, a young man from a wealthy family, famously abandoned all of his worldly possessions and lived much like John the Baptist, in the wild, barely subsisting. The order he founded still takes vows of poverty; not because they love to suffer, but to show that they will do anything to serve Christ.
The more we accept the transient nature of life and wealth, the more we look to our reward in heaven, and the more our lives will be freed to serve Christ. It is not money but love of money, concern over money, obsession over money, that drives us away from God. Our lives are limited. The more energy and time we devote to concerns about the material world, the less time and effort we have to develop our relationship with Christ.
There is a second, completely different way to interpret these words: that people are blessed whose spirit is poor, that is, people who have humility of knowledge. A spiritual “know-it-all” has a prefabricated wall between his spirit and Christ's words. He rejects anything he doesn't already know. And the Pharisees, as much as anyone who ever existed, thought they knew everything there was to know about God.
But it applies equally to any of us. We are filled with ideas that we feel are true, but in reality, they are determined by nothing more than our childhood and situation in life. We think our country or society or culture is superior simply because that is where we happened to be born! As the Talmud puts it, “We do not see things as they are; we see things as we are.”
To find God, we must empty our mind and our spirit of our thoughts, and refill it with the truth: the Word of God. We must be born again to find salvation, but it is not our body that is reborn. It is our knowledge and our spirit which undergo rebirth. We become infants who know nothing, so that we are able to accept Christ's truth entirely.
Once we find our faith, certainly, there are things we know as fact: That Jesus is Christ, Lord, King and God. That our sins are forgiven. That the Bible is the very Word of God.
Still, in most things, we must always be seekers of the truth. We must always be ready to change and grow. Those who find this easiest are blessed; those of us who find this more difficult have greater internal obstacles to overcome on our journey. The first beatitude is there to help us in our struggle with our preconceptions.
* Matthew 4:17 recounts Jesus' warning to “repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.” If you want to count that as a “teaching” — which it is, in the broader sense — then this would be the second.