MONDAY, 8/15
Read Matthew 5:13.
Jesus said to His followers, “You are the salt of the earth.”  Jesus associated His Kingdom people to salt but what does that mean?  People have a number of ideas about what Jesus was saying here.  
There were many different uses for salt in the ancient world.  Salt was a preservative, helping products to last longer.  It was also a regular staple in people’s diet.  It added flavor to what might be bland food otherwise.  It was also used as fertilizer and an antiseptic.  It was a valuable commodity, even the Roman army would sometimes pay their soldiers in salt.  They must have been bitter about that.  Sorry, I couldn’t resist.  
So after looking at all the various uses for salt, what did Jesus mean when He called His people the “salt of the earth”?  Was He drawing on the idea of preservative, seeing them as a people who persevere in their faithfulness?  Did He mean to say that they add flavor to life?  As a staple, did they fill and add flavor to what might be an otherwise bland life?  Was He saying that they enriched the places in which they inhabit like a fertilizer or that they were pure and prevented harm like an antiseptic?  Which is it?  
The answer is yes!  People who have been touched and transformed by the life Jesus gives are all these things.  Jesus is drawing from each of these to the various ways in which God’s Kingdom people will bless the world.  
From the very beginning God had in mind for His people to bless His world.  God’s command to Adam and Eve in Genesis 1 is to be fruitful and have dominion over the life in the world.  God is calling them to act in such a way that all creation is able to flourish under their care.  In this way, life will abound in God’s Kingdom and care.  All creation will enjoy this fullness of life, but the greatest joys will be for humanity who has the privilege of serving creation alongside God.  
Jesus will point to this life later in John’s gospel.  In John 10:10, He said, “The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy, but I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”  Sin nature leads us to a life apart from God.  CS Lewis says that this kind of life shrinks in on itself.  Jesus invites us to experience the fullness of life through Him.  Lewis says this life is continually expanding.  It gets bigger and bigger.  
This is the life we were created for.  It is the life that Jesus’ people today also need to reclaim.  We need to show the world what Jesus can do with a life that is turned over to Him.  We need to wear the joy, peace, hope and love that comes from Him.  This is for His glory, not our own.  We want the world to see glimpses of Jesus through our lives.    
Praying Together:
“Lord, You have blessed me beyond measure.  You have filled my life with joy and hope.  Even when I walk in hardships You are with me and Your grace sustains me.  I thank You for the gift of a life that just keeps getting bigger.  I’m thankful that Your work in me isn’t just for me, but is a gift that blesses the world around me.  May You work through me so that my life points to you in all I do, say and show.  Amen.”
Read Leviticus 2:13.
The book of Leviticus opens with instructions regarding offerings.  God’s people were called to give back to God portions of what He had so graciously given them.  These offerings called them back to God over and over again.  Through this practice, the people were reminded that God was their provider, the One who cared for them.  The act of sacrificing was a tangible expression of their love and trust in Him.  
While we’re far removed from the sacrificial system, we tend to think of animals as the primary gifts given back to God.  Leviticus 2 introduces the grain offering.  Portions of the grains people raised were to be shared with God.  The instructions that follow in the chapter about how to prepare the grain offering include the act of sprinkling salt on the grain offering.  
Sprinkling salt on the offerings was highly symbolic.  Salt represents purity.  It is a stable compound meaning it can’t change.  It is pure in its content.  Therefore, the act of adding salt to the grain offerings was a reminder to make your offering with a pure heart.   
In this way, salt was to prompt a heart check.  Am I giving this with pure motives or have some impure motives crept into my heart?  Am I giving this so that God will give me more?  Am I being generous so that others in the community will think more of me?  Or, am I giving this so that I will feel good?  Yikes, talk about a gray area.  
Some of these are easy to spot as false motives, others are a little more complicated, but then again motives are tricky things.  The heart isn’t easy to diagnose.  It is a worthwhile practice for us to consider the motivation for what we give to God.  What drives us to give, and does it reflect God’s heart as a Giver?
An offering given with a pure heart is one whose primary motivation is gratitude.  The person gives back because they first received from God.  They were shown love and grace and are eager to return that back to God.  The giver isn’t concerned about what others will think or even if they’ll notice.  They have to give back because they know they have been given so much.  Love and gratitude flow out of their heart, and it prompts generosity.  
I’m writing this from my desk at home, which has become a home to several fairies, stuffed animals, and crafts.  Now I’m not a collector of such items, especially the fairies, but I am the dad of two amazing girls who love me more than I deserve.  Their love for mom and dad means that we receive cards, colored pages, crafts, toys and more from them on a regular basis.  When they want to tell us they love us, they bring something to show it.  They aren’t looking for something in return.  They were compelled to express the love they felt.  
That is a picture of what it looks like to give gifts that are sprinkled with salt.  
Sending Prayer:
“Father, You love me more than I can imagine.  I have been touched by Your love and Your grace.  What a blessing it is to be Yours.  I pray that You would help me examine my motives.  I want to live and give out of a pure heart.  I want to honor You and reflect Your goodness to others.  Amen.”  
Read Numbers 18:19.
Israel’s priests received provision from a portion of the offerings the people made to the Lord.  God gave them instructions on which offerings they were to share in.  These were meant to care for their needs as they served God and His people.   
Verse 19 ends with a particularly interesting statement about these offerings that were given to the priests.  “It is an everlasting covenant of salt before the Lord for both you and your offspring,” said the Lord.  Here God’s covenant with His people is likened to salt.  It is called the “covenant of salt.”  
God’s covenant, His promise to His people, is associated with salt throughout the Old Testament.  Upon first glance, it seems strange, so what does God mean by “covenant of salt”?    
One of the primary purposes of salt in the ancient world was as a preservative.  Meat and fish would not last long in the open air.  They were packed in salt to prevent the meat from spoiling or being corrupted.  For this reason, salt became an image for incorruptibility and permanence.  
What God is holding before Aaron is an everlasting covenant.  In the ancient world, some groups viewed sharing a meal as a bond of friendship.  Here God is sharing His meal (the offerings of the people) with His priests.  The seasoning of salt suggests that God was inviting them into an endless, enduring friendship.   
What a wonderful image for us to consider as we think of God’s commitment to us.  If we think back on our lives, we can remember when we experienced God’s love through seasons of our lives.  It wasn’t hit or miss but a continual gift that was being poured into our lives.  A little reflection whether in the bible or our own lives reminds us that God is far more committed to us than we are to Him.  Even when we have failed Him, God came through for us.  Even when we left the table of friendship, He sought us out.  How great is our God.  
Recalling God’s commitment to us should make us grateful for His graciousness.  It also calls us to enjoy the same kind of commitment to God.  God has made a place for you at His table.  He has a place where you belong.  A place for you to enjoy an endless friendship of love, joy, and grace.  May you relish in the riches of His kindness and friendship this day and every day.  
Sending Prayer:
“God, You are faithful.  Like those who have come before and those after me, I need Your mercy and grace.  There are times I walk away from the table of friendship You set for me.  Open my eyes and my heart to see You as You are.  I want to take the seat You prepared for me and never leave it.  I want to enjoy You and share life with You.  Thank You for Your everlasting kindness.  Amen.”  
Read Matthew 5:14.
When I was a kid, my dad used to tell me a story about a father and his three sons. The father had a decision to make: which one of his sons should inherit his estate?  He proposed a challenge that would help him make his final choice.   He told them, “Whoever can fill up the storage room with the money I give them will inherit everything.”  He gave each of his sons the same amount of money and sent them on their way.
Several days later, the first son brought straw.  He soon realized that he could fill only a third of the storage room. The second son purchased sticks.  Though he did better than his brother, the sticks covered only 2/3 of the room.  The third son came into the room, seemingly empty handed.  He then took a candle from his pocket, lit it, and immediately the flame filled the room with light.
Light is one of the most powerful forces in our lives today.  It governs our days and nights.  Light is needed for plants to grow and ultimately to provide food and oxygen for all of God’s creation.  Light separates us from darkness. Our faith and sense of God’s grace and love is what brightens our world. As disciples, we are called to be that light of hope, love, and peace for a world who has yet to discover these things on its own. 
As the third son gave the gift of light to his father, so should we seek to be the source of light for everyone to see God.  With a light this bright, everyone will see it.  This light of goodness is too bright to hide.  There are others who know the world is different because of us, Jesus’ faith-filled, gracious disciples. 
I wonder how often you have been inspired by the light you’ve seen in another person.  Do you consider yourself to be the light as described in this passage?
Praying together:
“Gracious God, You have left Your mark on me. The closer I am to You, the brighter the light of my faith can be seen by others. Thank You for giving me the time I need to explore who You are to me. What can I do to dedicate more of myself to serve You and Yours better?  Amen.”
FRIDAY, 8/26
Read Matthew 5:15.
Learning more about who God is through Christ is life-changing.  Many of us don’t remember when we first grew to know and love Jesus. At a very early age, many of us learned about Jesus by attending Sunday School. And, for many of us, there has been no close encounter with God to encourage our faith.  Similarly, being called to ministry comes in all shapes and sizes.  Some pastors heard a voice that invited them to ministry, a voice they would later learn was God’s voice.  Others experience a sense of knowing that ministry was the right choice for them to make.
Whether you are a disciple or called to preach/teach as a pastor, you both have the same goal: to take the Light of Christ out into the world. Disciples were taught by scripture, by sermon, and by experience how to treat others with respect and love them regardless of who they are. This is the message of Christ’s love for His people. It’s a message of forgiveness and mercy that leads the way to new life.  Why would anyone want to keep their story of this new life to themselves?
Why place your truth, your story, your experience in Your relationship with God–the very source of your light–under wraps?  This is why this passage says, “Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on a stand, and it gives life to everyone in the house.” People are most likely to move toward faith if someone they know walked through its path first.
I wonder what holds you back from sharing your story of faith with others. What do you need to do to allow your light to shine where all can see it?
Praying together:
“Merciful Lord, You fill me with light.  Open my mind and my heart so that I can share my story more easily with others.  As a disciple, I am compelled to do all I can to serve You by serving others. What is mine is Yours, Lord. Amen.”
Read Matthew 5:16.
The Beatitudes set an extremely high standard for Christian character. Jesus gave us three reasons to aspire to the highest standards in this verse.  First, following these standards is the way we ourselves will be blessed.  The Beatitudes show how God defines being blessed: finding ways to please God and who themselves find fulfillment.  Being good means to be blessed!
Another reason to live out the Beatitudes is to seek ways to best serve the world. Jesus offers His followers the immense privileges of being the world’s salt and light if only they will live by the Beatitudes. The last reason is that this is the way God will be glorified. At the beginning of His ministry, Jesus tells His disciples that if they let their light shine so that their good works are seen, their Father in Heaven will be glorified.  At the end of His earthly ministry while in the Upper Room, Jesus spoke the same truth by saying, “By this, My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.” (John 15:8)
Living the Christ-like life brings blessings to us, salvation for others, and ultimately, glory to God. I wonder how often you compare your words and actions to the standards laid out by Jesus in the Beatitudes. Which ones do you struggle with most? Why?
Praying together:
“Lord, shaping my life by the Beatitudes seems like a formidable task.  There are so many rules, requirements, and expectations. Open my eyes to the reading of scripture and build within me a stronger resolve to fight the temptation to ignore the standards most difficult for me to follow.  Give me the strength I need to check myself against these standards. Make all things said and done conform to Your standards and Yours alone.  Amen.”
SUNDAY, 8/28
Read John 8:12
In this passage, Jesus is making a promise to all who can hear Him.  He says to the people that had gathered, “I am the light of this darkened world.  Whoever has the courage to follow Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of new life.” Light is a frequent image in the Old Testament. It was God’s first creation (Gen. 1:3-4).  In Exodus, protection for the Israelites in the wilderness was a pillar of fire at night to give them light in the darkness (Exodus 13:21). Light and life are often used as signs of the Word of God’s relationship to the world. 
The presence of Jesus as the light of the world presents the world with two choices: to follow Jesus as His disciple and have the “light of life“ or to walk in the world’s darkness.   Jesus represented a way out of the world of corruption. The Pharisees could not wait to catch Jesus in a lie or an inconsistency in His logic. They would do everything they could to shoot holes in Jesus’ story because Jesus represented their biggest threat of losing power and influence over the crowds.
Praying together:
“God of mercy, watch over me.  My faith represents a change in this world. I ask for courage so that I may represent You well.  Amen.”