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Saturday, October 22, 2016

Daily Devotion for October 28, 2013

i>Triumph of Faith</i> by Eugene Thirion, ca. 1876.
Triumph of Faith by Eugene Thirion, ca. 1876. A depiction of Nero’s slaughter of Christians in the Coliseum in 65 A.D. (Full-size)



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lessons and scripture

Lord's Prayer

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.


For the Day and Week Ahead

Oh Lord God, I come to you in the morning, full of hope that the day to come might be filled with joy and energy. Grant that I may do my work with a light and happy heart; and if there are tasks that I do not look forward to, or even dread, let me undertake them with courage and resolve. For this day could be perfect, if I can only live it in You and with You and for You.

Where I face frustration today, and throughout the coming week, let me handle it with acceptance and faith that the outcome is in Your hands. Lead me away from anger or judgment of other people. Let me tend to my own garden instead of looking over the fence. If my neighbor's yard is filled with weeds, help me not to criticize, and keep me from envy of those whose tree bears more fruit.

And let everything I attempt be filled with the knowledge and guidance of Your Holy Spirit. I pray that the Spirit will be with me at every moment, and that I will always be aware of Him, and live every moment of this day in Your presence. In Christ's name, I pray,


Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.


All through this day, O Lord, by the power of your quickening Spirit, let me touch the lives of others for good, whether through the word I speak, the prayer I speak, or the life I live.


(Additional prayers may be found at Prayers for All Occasions.)
God be with you 'til we meet again.

endless knot

Malachi 3:1-2 (ESV)

Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts.

But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire.

Blue Latin Cross

Matthew 11:7-11 (ESV)

Jesus Admires John the Baptist [1]

As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John:

“What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings' houses. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written,

‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
who will prepare your way before you.’

Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”

Notes on the Scripture

Two things are going on here. First, Christ is voicing admiration or approval for John. We spoke of Matthew 11 demonstrating six primary modes or tones in which Christ spoke, and this would be the second; anyone teaching moral lessons will express approval of good conduct, and Christ's teaching is very much aimed at normal humans. When he healed someone, he would often mention the strength of their faith with approval.

Consistent with his purpose of bringing salvation and perfection into an evil world, Christ rarely voiced admiration for the things of the earth, but he did so for John. John was a great prophet in his own right, as much a servant of God as Elijah or Isaiah; and Jesus pays him homage as such. One might call him the first prophet of Israel since the death of Malachi, although his active nature reminds us more of Elijah.

But his role was special among all the prophets, for he did not preach, “a Messiah will come some day”; he preached, “The Messiah has come.” Nevertheless, John would remain an unsaved human until Christ's death and resurrection would redeem him; and Christ points this out at the end of the passage.

In fact, John himself was part of the earlier prophecy. The most famous passage from Malachi, the last prophet in the Bible, foretold John the Baptist as the herald of Christ.

In spite of all his virtues, John remains a man who, like all others except Christ himself, fell short of the glory of God. He would need Christ's salvation as we all do, and Christ points this out at the end of the passage.

The second thing happening here is, apparently, a retort to something not narrated in Matthew: possibly a criticism of John, or a complaint about how hard and dirty he was. Jesus asks a series of rhetorical questions and, really, one detects some sarcasm in his voice. He is like a football coach asking a lazy player, “Did you come out here to take a nap?” He emphasizes John's strength, his denial of the flesh, and his prophetic teaching.

Christianity has oddly contradictory characteristics. Many see it as a religion of weakness; Nietzsche (in The Antichrist) called Christianity “the religion of pity”, believing it to represent weakness in every form that he could conceive. It is easy to see why; such goals as humility, service to others, and refusal to resist evil people are the antithesis of the prideful, self-centered ambition with which we are born.

Yet, it is a religion with hard edges. Could there be a harder man than John, or for that matter, Christ himself? It is a religion of the utmost courage, and the call given by Christ in this passage should always be in the back of our minds: “Did you come to see a man in soft clothing?” Because “soft clothing” is Christ's metaphor for the apathetic acceptance of luxury.

<i>Elijah in the Wilderness</i> by Frederick Leighton, ca. 1878.
Elijah in the Wilderness by Frederick Leighton, ca. 1878.

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Memory Verse

Matthew 6:19-21: Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

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“The mind of God is greater than all the minds of men, so let all men leave the gospel just as God has delivered it unto us.” ~ Charles Haddon Spurgeon