Daily Devotion for July 20, 2012
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.
The moving Sabbath Prayer from "Fiddler on the Roof", where Tevye prays for the future of his unmarried daughters.
Prayer for the Morning
Oh Lord, most heavenly Father, Almighty and everlasting God, who has safely brought me to the beginning of this day; I give you thanks for my creation, preservation, and all the blessings of my life. Grant that this day I fall into no sin, neither run into any kind of danger; but that all my doings, being governed by your will, may be righteous in your sight. Through Christ our Lord, I pray.
Prayer for Grace and Strength
Lord God, I pray that you will fill my heart with the blessing of your Holy Spirit. Grant me this day the strength to be temperate in all things, diligent in my duties, and patient under my afflictions. Direct me in all my ways. Give me grace to be just and upright in all my dealings; quiet and peaceable; full of compassion; and ready to do good to all people, according to my abilities and opportunities. For the sake of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,
Community of Prayer
Heavenly Lord, I know I am not alone saying these prayers or reading your Word this morning, but many people unknown to me, from all stations of life, have joined together in this brief moment of devotion. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be among the community of all who pray in the name of Christ this morning, and remain among us always.
Think of the day ahead in terms of God with you, and visualize health, strength, guidance, purity, calm confidence, and victory as the gifts of His presence.
The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
1 Corinthians 1:10-17 (ESV)
Divisions in the Church
I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe's people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers.
What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.)
For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
Notes on the Scripture
What a wonderful way Paul finds to skewer the pride of church leaders who cause divisions in Christ's church. He says, "Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?" We can admire church leaders, we can venerate Mother Theresa, or Billy Graham, or or our minister or priest, or whoever speaks to our heart, but religious leaders are just people, filled with sin and error.
We read and learn from Peter, Paul, John; we worship Christ. We worship at a specific church and we call ourselves Lutherans, Baptists, Catholics; but we are baptized in the name of Christ. No matter what denomination and secondary beliefs we may have, Paul redirects our attention to the important fact: nobody but Jesus was the son of God.
The Communists, who had a sort of "religion without God," were possibly the most adept at dealing with this phenomenon, because they did not want to see a repeat of Josef Stalin after he died. They coined the phrase "cult of personality". A cult of personality is a group of people who become so accustomed to seeing a leader as the embodiment of a philosophy or religion that, when he begins to say or do things at odds with their beliefs, they still follow him.
The phenomenon of the cult of personality is important to understand, as it operates within ourselves. If you have ever been asked about your religious beliefs and have said (as most of us have), "I am Methodist/Greek Orthodox/etc.," you can see in yourself what Paul talks about in today's Scripture. A church or denomination is a vehicle for worshipping Christ. To be asked about your religion, and say "I am an Episcopalian," is like being asked where you are traveling and answering "Delta Airlines".
We must be careful not to mistake an earthly institution or religious leader for the true subject of our faith, "lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power."
We seek somebody we can believe in, whom we can trust. But there is only one such person, Christ Jesus our Savior. All others will disappoint us. And so, we must always remember that we follow, first and foremost, Christ. We are not Luterans or Baptists or Catholics. We are Christians. Our only true authority is the Bible itself. The leader we follow is Christ. The living person we follow is the Holy Spirit.