Advent Daily Devotional


Lenten Devotional 3-3-23

Sermon on the Mount

March 3, 2023

Matthew 5: 10

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Righteousness to Jesus was a right relationship with God. According to Jesus, we are blessed when we hunger and thirst for it and are also blessed when it is the focus of our whole selves. We seek righteousness, find it and then make it our way of life. But Jesus tells us here that “being righteous” has consequences. Being righteous can lead to persecution. And the persecution that Jesus is talking about isn’t about things like saying “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas!” Jesus understood persecution for righteousness’ sake as death on the cross. What this means is that we are not only to “be righteous”, that is a quiet personal purity of heart, but to “do righteousness” publicly, regardless of the cost.


This all begs the question – who defines “righteousness”? How do we know what puts us in a right relationship with God? That answer is simple – Jesus. Jesus teaches us how to live as people of God. Which is why Jesus also says those who are vilified because they on his account are blessed. They are living the Jesus way and so are “doing righteousness”. 


The Jesus way is a simple formula (but admittedly complex in its application) – Love God and Love each other. Care about and care for all who bear the image of God. Doing this can be on a global scale or it can be assisting refugees moving into the neighborhood or it can be comforting the person sitting next to you on the bus. That others will vilify you for being a disciple of Jesus is a blessing. Maybe it’s proof you are a disciple of Jesus.

Lenten Devotional 3-2-23

Sermon on the Mount

March 2, 2023

Matthew 5: 9

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

Let’s be clear here. Jesus is not saying that people who are “peaceful” or “at peace” are blessed. I am not blessed just because I am minding my own business and not causing trouble. Jesus says that peace makers are blessed. Peace makers are called children of God. People who don’t just mind their own business but step into the midst of conflict and say stop! But that is not easy. In fact, it can be dangerous. But Jesus calls us to do it. How? We need to be taught.

There is an organization called “Braver Angels” which has as its goal the reduction in the polarization of the political discussions in the United States. Braver Angels teaches people how to listen and talk to those with whom you disagree. Not necessarily to find some middle ground of agreement, but to eliminate, as much as is possible, the demonization that accompanies our political discourse. This does require some training and effort for those who want make our discourse more peaceful. If we learn now to do this, we are peacemakers. 

And successful or not, we are children of God and so are blessed.

Lenten Devotional 3-1-23

Sermon on the Mount

March 1, 2023

Matthew 5: 8

‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

What does it mean to be “pure in heart”? First, we need to break it down. In this context, what is the “heart”? Simply put, the heart is who we are. James C. Howell, in his book “The Beatitudes for Today” defines the heart this way. 

For Jesus … [t]he “heart” is your truest self. The heart is the part of you that feels, delights, grieves, desires. The heart is the “imagination”, the place inside where we conceive, where we make connections, where we dream. The heart is the place where you exercise your freedom, where you decide, the mechanism that chooses what to do this evening, whom you will marry, whether to lie or not, how to respond in a crisis. The heart is the sphere where we meet God, or avoid meeting God.

What does it mean to be pure? The pure heart, according to Howell, would be a heart purged of what is unclean and emptied of any contaminations. It is simple, single-minded, good and holy. 

So, only holy people are blessed? That’s likely a small number of people, right? Who can meet that standard?

Christian philosopher Soren Kierkegaard recognized human frailty and so offered this explanation of what Jesus meant. “Purity of heart is to will one thing.” That one thing is God. But we are easily distracted by the temptations of the world that seek to steal our “hearts”. We lose our focus on God and wander off in a different direction. But if we have the will for God, we can return to that focus. We can still seek to purge our hearts and allow ourselves to seek God. And can do that as often as necessary, if we will it.

In the end see God and so are blessed.