Daily Devotion for January 1, 2013
Eighth Day of Christmas
New Years Day
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 New Year
Dear Master for this coming year
Just one request I bring:
I do not pray for happiness,
Or any earthly thing —
I do not ask to understand
The way Thou leadest me,
But this I ask: Teach me to do
The thing that pleaseth Thee.
To walk with Thee each day.
Dear Master make me swift to hear
And ready to obey.
And thus the year I now begin
A happy year will be —
If I am seeking just to do
The thing that pleaseth Thee.
Prayer for Those Who Have Turned Away
Grant, O Lord, peace, love and speedy reconciliation to your people whom You have redeemed with your precious blood. Make your presence known to those who have turned away from You and do not seek You, so that none of them may be lost, but all may be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth, so that everyone, in true love and harmony, O long-suffering Lord, may praise your all holy Name.
Oh Lord Jesus Christ, who said to your apostles, "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you"; I pray that I and your whole church, the body of all faithful people, will know your peace, and live in harmony and unity, one with another, in accordance with your wishes. This I pray to you, who lives and reigns forever.
(Additional prayers may be found at Prayers for All Occasions.)
God be with you 'til we meet again.
Proverbs 6:6-9 (KJV)
Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise:
Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler,
Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.
How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep?
John 3:1-8 (New Living Translation)
There was a man named Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader who was a Pharisee. After dark one evening, he came to speak with Jesus. "Rabbi," he said, "we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you."
Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God."
"What do you mean?" exclaimed Nicodemus. "How can an old man go back into his mother's womb and be born again?"
Jesus replied, "I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. So don't be surprised when I say, "You must be born again."
"The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can't tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can't explain how people are born of the Spirit."
Notes on the Scripture
The phrase "born again Christians" has a negative connotation to many people, both among believers and among nonbelievers. When they hear the term, many people picture Jerry Falwell, great judgmentalism, or raucous pentecostal services where people may speak in tongues. Atheists and more mainstream or Catholic/Orthodox worshippers even use the rather silly term "snake handlers" as a disparaging reference to the public, uninhibited type of worship they associate with the term "born again".
Getting to the truth of the matter — meaning, as always, reading what the Bible actually says — we discover that the author of the term is Christ himself. He tells us not that we should be born again, but that we must be born again to enter the Kingdom of God. What does he mean by this?
He tells us in the next verse: being born again means being born "of the water and the Spirit". Some denominations consider baptism to be a sacrament; that is, the actual act of baptism confers Christ's grace upon the recipient. Many others do not believe the act of baptism is sacramental, but rather an act that outwardly demonstrates a rebirth in the Spirit that has already occurred in the believers' heart. Wars have been fought and people have died over this issue!
Christ himself, however, said that we do not understand rebirth in the Spirit. He said, "Just as you can hear the wind but can't tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can't explain how people are born of the Spirit." Since Christ personally told us that we cannot explain it, I listen to explanations and arguments with a little smile inside. If Christ could not explain it, how can we?
Even more pointedly, since we are incapable of fully understanding and explaining rebirth in the Spirit, we should not be critical of others' beliefs in how to accomplish it. Paul commanded all those who believe in Christ to set aside their differences and love one another like brothers. So often, we stumble in pride, by judging and rejecting others who do not conform to our own very imperfect understanding.
If you are a Christian, you are a born-again Christian. Christ's grace extends to all who believe in him, who confess him, and are born again of water and the spirit. That's the Gospel truth. E.g, John 3:16, where Christ says "all" who believe in him. So clearly, if we believe in Christ, we will be born again, as new people. This is a very liberating notion: We are to become new people. It is within our grasp to become better, to cast off old attitudes that slow our spiritual growth.
This is the start of a new calendar year, a time when rebirth is especially appropriate to consider. A very happy and successful New Year to you and yours; I hope your New Years' resolutions will include some aspect of your spiritual life. (And yes, the selection from Proverbs was chosen to help you get motivated with any resolutions you want to make!)