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Daily Devotion for November 11, 2013

Eve and the Serpent by John Dickson Batten, ca. 1895. This woodcut by Art Nouveau illustrator Batten has elements of medieval ornamentation, and the figure of Eve herself is influenced by the Pre-Raphaelite movement. Eve is still innocent, as indicated by the lilies; this depicts her first encounter with the serpent.



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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.


To Help Others This Day

Heavenly Lord, I pray that this day, you will continue to bless me, that I may be a blessing to others. Keep me strong that I may help the weak. Keep me uplifted that I may have words of encouragement for others. I pray for those that are lost and can’t find their way. I pray for those that are misjudged and misunderstood. I pray for those who don’t know you intimately. I pray that others will find your strength, so that they can love and help one another. I pray for those who don’t believe, that they may find you.

And when this world closes in on me, let me remember the example of my Lord and Savior: to slip away and find a quiet place to pray. Remind me, nudge me, let me remember to find you when I’m feel like I'm pushed beyond my limits. In Christ's name, I come to you,


To Spread the Gospel

Father God, through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior you have found my heart worthy enough to save, and have entrusted me to spread the Gospel. You have handed to me the very keys to the kingdom of heaven. Let me not grow weary of His cause. And by His grace and mercies given to me, let me be proven worthy of my call. As your Son taught us, the harvest is plentiful, but the gatherers are few. Let me stand for my call in Jesus Christ and take my place among those who gather, not by argument and rancor, but by living as a shining light before the world, always ready to witness to your gifts, your Word, and your glory.



Let me not forget my prayers as I go out into the world. Holy Spirit, be with me, and let me praise you and remember you in my every action and thought, for the entire day long. In Christ's name I ask this,


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

<i>Luke the Evangelist</i> by Frans Hals, ca. 1660
Luke the Evangelist by Frans Hals, ca. 1660. Notice the ox (associated with Luke) in the background. See full-size.

Our Rewards

“God doesn’t do good things for us because we are good and we deserve them. He does good things for us because He is good and loves us.”

~ Joyce Meyer

Blue Latin Cross

Matthew 12:28-32 (ESV)

The Unforgivable Sin

But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. . . . Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.

Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.

Notes on the Scripture

This passage contains two of the most difficult statements in the Bible. First, Jesus says that if we are not “with” him, we are again him. Yet in Mark 9:40 (and Luke 9:49-50) he says, “one who is not against us is for us.” The contexts are slightly different, but really, rather than being a contradictory, the statements are a comfort.

If the Matthew quote stood alone, we might fear greatly that our faith is inadequate, for few of us are steadfast in our faith and practice; we all fall short of compliance with Christ's teachings, if we are honest with ourselves. But the passages in Mark and Luke, where a man is casting out demons in Christ's name even though he is not one of his followers, indicate that those who profess faith in Christ may differ greatly in the details of their doctrine, and yet be “with” him.

Moreover, Jesus himself indicates that some degree of backsliding might be overcome. We must always remember that Peter, himself, will deny Christ three times. (E.g. Matthew 26:69-75) So if we use the name of the Lord in vain — if we are angry and say “God damn you!” or even curse Jesus directly — can we later repent and find forgiveness?

Without doubt. It is not an advisable course of action: We should learn better; we do not cut our arms open with a sharp knife, simply because we believe the wound will heal. Real devotion and growth in the Spirit should, eventually, protect us from committing blasphemy (although it can take practice in people accustomed to it).

But what of the terrifying words, “whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven”? Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to what Christ means to say; for one can never discount the possibility of the plain meaning of the words. There may be an unforgivable sin.

Most scholars, however, agree that the phrase describes an unrepentant atheist. It draws a distinction between Jews who will not follow Jesus and those who deny God's very existence. Jews (and others) who deny that Christ is the Son of God may later come around; a denial of Christ is thus not final until one dies. But one who lives a life in active opposition to God, the Holy Spirit, might foreclose the possibility of a deathbed conversion.

Good ammunition for this argument comes from John, who tells us, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

Most likely, the troubling nature of the teaching here is entirely theoretical and does not exist as a practical matter. Once we are reborn in Christ, we are changed, fundamentally. Having received Christ and undergone this transformation, it may well be impossible to “speak against the Holy Spirit” in the sense that Christ intends to convey. The sin is unforgivable, because only a truly lost soul can commit it.

endless knot

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Today in Daily Prayer

Memory Verse

Matthew 11:28-30: Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

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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