Pure of Heart

Blessed Are the Pure in Heart

“Blessed are the pure in heart.” – Matthew 5:8

Wash your hands. Wash your hands! So often we are reminded of the need to wash our hands. After using the restroom, before eating, after eating, before cooking, after cooking. It’s so hard to keep them clean.

And that’s just our hands! Try keeping our hearts clean, and we have an impossible task! How hard it is to have perfectly pure motives! When I cut that little section of grass between my neighbors’ house and mine, the good deed is spoiled with the self-serving intent that maybe he’ll let me borrow his edger. I give some money for a worthy charitable cause, but only because I don’t want to disappoint the sincere person asking.

We may be able to hide our impure motives from others, but not from God. The Bible says, “The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). We can’t fool God. There is no covering false notions or hidden deception. God looks right through the outward act and inspects the inner motivation. He is looking for the pure in heart.

What is the measure for that kind of inner purity? God holds us up to his perfect will and measures us against it. The conclusion is that all of us have sinned and fall short of the sinless standard that God has set for us. Under God’s inspection, our hearts are not pure.

What’s the solution? Our hearts need to be washed. But how? We can’t wash them on our own, so Jesus did it for us. The Bible says, “The blood of Jesus, [God’s] Son, purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). By his death for us, Jesus washed our hearts clean; he has cleansed us of sin’s stain. Through him all our sins are forgiven and our hearts are now pure in God’s sight.

The forgiveness of sins and purity of heart that we have received freely from Jesus powerfully motivates us to stay away from anything dirty. We’ll not want to dirty our hearts again with sinful things. Rather, we’ll be happy to strive to live according to the pure way that God teaches and thereby indicate our great appreciation for the sacrifice that Jesus made to wash our hearts clean.

Blessed are the Merciful

Blessed are the Merciful

Mercy is certainly something we like to be on the receiving end of. A police officer pulls you over. You know you rolled through that stop sign. Will he show you mercy and not give you a ticket? You show up just a few minutes late for work. It doesn’t matter that you think you have a good reason – you are late. Will your boss show you mercy? You forgot your anniversary! There is no good excuse. Will your spouse show you mercy?

If I like to be on the receiving end so much, why is it that I often struggle to be merciful to others? Do I pass up opportunities to show mercy? Why do I have a hard time forgiving my spouse when I want her to be forgiving toward me? Why is that I have such a hard time showing kindness to my co-worker? Why do I resent my elderly neighbor when she asks me for a few minutes of help in her yard? Is it often because I feel like if I show kindness and mercy to others it will take away time and opportunities for me? Will the time I spend showing mercy to others rob me of time for myself and take away my happiness?

What is mercy really all about? For the answer we need look no further than God. He shows us what real mercy is all about. God looked at sinful people – a people that could offer him nothing, a people helpless to help themselves – and he showed mercy. In love and mercy that astounds us, he gave his son Jesus to take our place. Jesus was perfect where we could never be. Jesus paid for the sins we could never pay for. Jesus lived, died and rose again for us so we could live forever in heaven– a gift of mercy!

The opportunities that God places before us in our lives to show mercy and kindness to other people can serve as constant reminders of the mercy that God has shown to us, a mercy we certainly didn’t deserve. It is God’s mercy for us that empowers us to be merciful to others and to even find happiness in bringing kindness and love to other people.

And do you know what God promises? As we show mercy to others we will also be on the receiving end of mercy! As our verse for this month goes on to say: “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” (Matthew 5:7)

Peace through Jesus

Blessed are the Peacemakers

Who really wants to be a peacemaker anyway? A peacemaker in a marriage is usually the one who has to swallow his or her pride. Who wants to say, “You’re right, and I’m wrong,” to keep the peace in a marriage? A peacemaker amongst neighbors is the one who has to rake more, shovel more, and put up with more. A peacemaker among opposing political views? Who really wants to do that to keep the peace between neighbors? To be a peacemaker can be scary!  It means following the example of Christ. Who can take such a risk especially in today’s world?

And yet, Jesus attaches the blessing of happiness to those who are peacemakers. Jesus can say that from his own experience. He was happy to bring peace to this world. After all, he is the Prince of Peace. This title rightfully describes Jesus because he made peace between God and all the people of the world.

Talk about a struggle! It wasn’t easy. He had to resist temptation, he had to resist the urge to strike back, he had to put others first, he had to go the extra mile, he had to suffer, and ultimately he had to die. But all of his sacrifices were necessary to establish peace between his Father and the world. Jesus was a successful peacemaker, and he was happy to do it. And you can be happy that he did it too!

To be a peacemaker is not easy. It wasn’t for Jesus, and it won’t be for you either. It isn’t easy to be the peacemaker between quarreling siblings. It isn’t easy to be the peacemaker between angry neighbors. It isn’t easy to be the peacemaker in a contentious marriage. It isn’t easy to be the peacemaker when grudges are involved. It isn’t easy to be the peacemaker when that involves saying, “I’m sorry.” But Jesus never said it was going to be easy. He did say, though, that he will bless your peacemaking efforts. Just take one glance at all of the blessings attached to Jesus’ peacemaking—forgiveness, joy, and peace just to name a few.

How can I be happy if I don’t take sides? That’s the point. True happiness comes when you do take a side—God’s side. To be a peacemaker is to be a reflection of Jesus. Peace through Jesus! To be a peacemaker is to take to the world the peace that Jesus has brought to you. And there is no greater joy than that!

Blessed are those who die in the Lord

Blessed are the Dead Who Die in the Lord

Many things are scary. Choosing a path in life. Watching your infant wiggle out of his car carrier, which you had momentarily set on the table—that’s scary. Witnessing a car swerve into oncoming traffic—that’s scary. Walking or jogging in an area that is threatening. Watching your child go off to school without you. But of all the scary things, death for many is the scariest.

It’s scary because of what we know and don’t know. We know death is certain. Its cloud hangs over us at every traffic intersection, on every consult with our doctor, and during every violent storm. What we don’t know is what dying is like. We don’t know what — if anything — happens after death.

If there is no God, then death is the end and that’s it. If so, then death may be final and sad, but it’s hardly something to be afraid of. But if God exists and is waiting to judge you for all the things you have done, if there is a life after death, then death is more than sad. It’s scary.

There are no ifs about God’s existence. He does exist and people know it, though some deny it. And the Bible explains what everyone knows in his or her heart: It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10:31). Yes, that’s scary! So how happy can I be when I’m scared of dying?

If it were up to you find happiness in the face of death, you would be on an impossible journey. What we need to calm our fears and to find happiness is for someone to do something about death. Here’s the good news: someone has.

The God who awaits you after death, sent Jesus to destroy death. Jesus began that work by obeying God’s laws for you. Then he traded places with you. He gave you his perfect life in exchange for your sins. And so, with your sins laid on him, he suffered a most horrible death, which earned God’s forgiveness for you. With sin forgiven, death lost its power. So, three days after his burial, Jesus rose to life from the dead. He defeated death so that it can no longer hold the lives and bodies of those it has claimed. All people will rise from the dead.

Believe this good news and know for sure that the God, who is waiting for you, waits for you with open arms to welcome you into his Paradise. This is why the Holy Spirit told John to write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on (Revelation 14:13).

The unknown experience of death may still be scary for you, but because death has been conquered by resurrection and because there is a perfect life in a perfect place awaiting you, you can live happily, even now and ever after. Trust in the one who beat death for us.

Bread of life

Blessed are Those Who Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness

I have never really been hungry. Have you? What I mean is that I can’t remember a time when I had gone days without eating and didn’t know when I would eat again. Yet we have neighbors that do experience this daily. Children even. What a terrible, desperate feeling that must be. People who go on diets can’t say they know that kind of hunger, but they speak of feeling hungry all the same. And it’s not a pleasant feeling.

Jesus once said that, actually, it’s great to be hungry all the time. In fact, it makes you happy. But listen to the “hunger” he’s talking about: “Blessed (happy) are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matthew 5:6). The only hunger that makes someone happy is the hunger for righteousness.

Jesus used the word “righteousness” to talk about two related blessings for his followers. First of all, righteousness is being declared not guilty by God. It’s an acquittal. Righteousness means that God the Judge looks at you and declares you not guilty of all your sins because Jesus covers you in his holiness. Jesus’ holiness becomes your holiness in God’s sight. That’s righteousness and it’s a gift that is received by those who put their trust in Jesus as their Savior. Flowing from this gift is another one. When you know God has forgiven your sins, you want to do things God’s way. This, too, is righteousness. Jesus says when you long for God’s not guilty verdict you will also long for ways to say “thank you” with your life. You will hunger for righteousness.

And that’s a hunger that is always satisfied. There’s lots of spiritual junk food out there and it may seem like your soul’s hunger will be satisfied by it — like the idea that if you’re pretty good or just try a little harder or are better than the next guy, then God will have to accept you. But that’s not real righteousness. It’s self-righteousness and it’s spiritual Twinkies that can never truly satisfy your spiritual needs.

Be hungry for Jesus’ righteousness. Yearn for the forgiveness only he can supply and receive it by trusting in him. And then stay hungry. Stay hungry for making the words and deeds of your life a big “thank you” to the God who sent his Son Jesus for you. To be hungry for righteousness is to be happy … and satisfied.

poor in spirit

Blessed are the Poor In Spirit

The hand is out. The face is pleading. Living on the streets. In this case, the need is real. When one has run out of options and is desperate for help, begging seems the only choice.

It’s hard to imagine that one who is forced to beg would be happy about it. Being so poor in physical things can make life very hard.

Yet when it comes to a person’s spiritual condition, God says that it is very important to be a beggar. In fact, true happiness only comes when you see that you are a beggar.

Do you see yourself as a spiritual beggar? However wealthy we might be financially, it is very tempting to feel that we—just naturally—have what we need in our spiritual bank account. We think that striving to be a good person has to count for something before God. We may not be perfect, but we reason that surely God doesn’t expect us to be.

Have you ever tried to reassure yourself with thoughts like those? And yet have you had lingering fears, wondering whether you’ve really done enough good? Does guilt for things you have done wrong keep coming back, robbing you of happiness?

Rather than trying to shout louder than those frightening voices, hear God speak a hard truth: “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). When I disobey God’s perfect will in my life, I deserve to die eternally in hell. For God demands that everyone be perfect—that we never sin, even once.

This makes it quite clear that by nature we are all spiritually bankrupt. Yet Jesus says, “Blessed (happy) are the poor in spirit.” But isn’t being spiritually poor—even bankrupt—reason to be sad and afraid?

Yes. But this is also the moment to hear God tell us a most amazing truth from his Word: “You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).

When we see that we have nothing to give God, we are so grateful that God has lavished us with spiritual riches. Jesus freely came to earth to take all of our sin on himself. He became poor—he humbled himself to become the victim of the greatest suffering, paying on the cross the penalty of sin that we owed. He now assures you, “Your sins are forgiven.” With sins forgiven and the eternal kingdom of heaven yours because of Jesus, you are truly rich!

It is a blessing to be a poor beggar before God because in Jesus we are filled with the riches of salvation.

Blessed are your eyes and ears

Blessed are Your Eyes Because They See

“Blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.” – Matthew 13:16

Every generation talks about the “good ole days.” As we begin a new decade, many people would be more than happy to go back to the “good ole days” of years ago.

Today, stock market swoons, foreclosures, and unemployment are all too common. Grumbling and complaining occur as many people find it difficult to provide for their personal needs. These things, along with other personal struggles, may make us long for the “good ole days.”

Amidst all the turmoil, even when nest eggs crack and portfolios decline, we can still move forward with certainty that all of our needs will be met. Why? Because Jesus has met all of our true needs and promises to provide for our future!

Jesus came into the world so that we can be happy every day with the kind of joy that only he can provide. He blesses us—makes us happy—by the powerful things he accomplished in our place: he lived a perfect life as our substitute; he died on the cross to win forgiveness of sins for each of us; and he won the victory over sin, death, and the devil by his triumphant resurrection from the grave.

God tells us about all these blessings in the Bible. In his written Word, God’s plan for our future is laid out, and we are informed how Jesus fulfilled God’s saving will for us. Jesus said, “Blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.” Our Savior teaches us that we can be happy as we give attention to God’s love as it is described and explained for us on the pages of Scripture.

Jesus’ work is not limited to the spans of generations; it is a gift to all people for all time. God’s faithfulness to his world of people has remained the one constant since he created all things. Trusting in his love, we can overcome concerns we have due to personal circumstances. We can be truly happy because we see in the Bible how our Savior gave his life for us and how he is now preparing for us an eternal home in heaven, the place of unbridled joy.

God invites everyone to hear the good news of Jesus and celebrate the wonderful message of salvation. With that confidence, we do not have to look back to the “good ole days” for a sense of happiness but rather look forward to the eternal happiness that awaits us in heaven—all because of God’s great love for us in Jesus!

Blessed are those who morn

Blessed are Those Who Mourn

“Blessed are those who mourn.” – Matthew 5:4

Some tears come because of joy. Most tears come because of sorrow. People usually cry because something important to them has gone horribly wrong.

Be happy while you’re crying? I don’t think so. But God says just that. He says that Christians are happy even when they’re crying.

To understand what God is saying, one must first understand why Christians cry. Christians cry for many of the same reasons everyone else cries. They cry at funerals. They cry when a good friend has been cruel. They cry when they hear a very sad story.

There’s another time when people cry. People can cry when they realize how horribly they have hurt someone. All of a sudden there can be great guilt. People feel their lives are ruined. The tears can become ones of hopelessness and despair.

Guilt can bring a Christian to tears too. Christians can cry when they think of bad things they have done. Christians know that they deserve nothing from God but a punishment that never ends.

So where is the happiness?

The happiness is in knowing that while we deserve only the worst from God, he has given to us only the best. As we properly mourn because of guilt, our Savior brings a Kleenex and dries our moist eyes. As hearts are heavy with sadness, Jesus puts his hand under our chins and lifts our eyes to see his cross, where he made all of our guilt and all of the sorrow connected to that guilt his own. Jesus looks at you and says, “Be at peace. Your guilt is gone.”

Christians still cry, but Christians find comfort in the middle of their tears. This comfort is for you too.

It is a comfort that brings calm in the face of all kinds of tears. Christians know that death need not mean defeat. Christians know that being mistreated by others does not mean being abandoned by God. Christians know that the saddest story of all, the hurt that evil brought into this world, was not the end of the story.

Can there be happiness even when there have been tears? Yes, because there is comfort for those who are crying.