Daily Devotion for September 5, 2013
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.
A really beautiful song from Hillsong.
For the Day's Work
O God, who orders all things in heaven and earth: Help me to go about the tasks and duties of this day with the remembrance that I am your servant therein. Make me honest, painstaking, and cheerful, and grant that all I do and say may bring good to others and glory to your Holy Name; through Jesus Christ, our Lord,
Prayer for Renewal
O Heavenly Father, who for our redemption gave your only-begotten Son to the death of the cross, and by his glorious resurrection delivered us from the power of our enemy: Grant me so to die daily to sin, that I may evermore live with him in the joy of his resurrection. Stir up in your Church that Spirit of adoption which is given to us in Baptism, that we, being renewed both in body and mind, may worship you in sincerity and truth; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.
God of mercy, swift to help: as my lips pour forth your praise, fill my heart with the peace you give to those who wait for your salvation in Jesus Christ our Lord.
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.
All of us, poor & rich alike, have been conditioned by our upbringings. Impoverished men & women may become lulled into a state of "learned helplessness" without hope to change their lives. Likewise, the wealthy can walk in a state of "learned blindness" ignoring the desperation of the local & global poor.
~ John Green
Matthew 6:16-18 (ESV)
Sermon on the Mount - Fasting
And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.
But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
Notes on the Scripture
True fasting is not common in most Christians' practice. We might give up alcohol or sweets for Lent. (Of course, we might need to drink a little less or lose a few pounds anyway, but that's okay — nothing says fasting can't improve our health.) So, we skim this passage, because it does not sound like it applies to us. But it does, because it provides a perfect opportunity to examine how we practice our faith.
The Jews of the 1st century A.D. and, by extension, early Christians, held fasting to be a critical part of their worship. There are many good reasons to fast: when done in connection with forgiveness of sin, it demonstrates true penitence; when done in recognition of sorrow, it demonstrates the depth of our sorrow and brings the event more into our heart; it drives home how many things we consider necessities of life are simply impedimentaImpedimenta: Objects or circumstances that impede progress. Originally, heavy baggage that slowed down a journey., and that we consider them necessary only because we have become so accustomed to them by habitual use. It makes our faith alive to us.
But, it is simply not done very much, today; and its absence is almost surely a sign of a weakening faith. When we wonder why Christianity seems to be deteriorating in the West, we have no further to look than our own habits. “The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our stars, but in ourselves.” (Cassius, in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar)
Consider the fasting requirements of Islam. For thirty days, during Ramadan, Muslims fast from first dawn — when it is light enough to distinguish a white thread from a black one — until sunset. They eat and drink nothing. They do not bathe, smoke, smell perfume, or otherwise indulge themselves in physical pleasure. If there is a good reason why they must eat or drink (such as illness), they are expected to make it up later.
Westerners in Islamic countries are often upset to discover that the water has been turned off and all food stores are closed. This isn't to advocate forced religious observance; there is much to be said for the idea that religious observance without will is useless, and, in fact, that has been one of Christ's main points in Matthew. (Christ doesn't say that the observance should not be made, but rather, that empty observance or observance done to impress others is useless; He Himself fasted for 40 days, remember.)
But whether or not societal pressure to follow a religious observance is a bad idea, the fact remains: for such pressure to exist, a majority of the population must want to follow it. Even if we don't approve of their methods, the degree of discipline in worship by Muslims is rather alarming, when we think of Sunday church attendance in the West.
So many ostensible Christians seem to take their faith for granted. Do we really believe in God? Consider this disturbing quote from Neal Stephenson's opus, Anathem: “If you sincerely believed in God, how could you form one thought, speak one sentence, without mentioning Him?”
And just so, let us each ask ourself: “If I sincerely believe in Christ, why do I not even seriously consider fasting?” Jesus did it; and in today's Scripture, He says when you fast, not if you fast.