Daily Devotion for November 17, 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.
Prayer to Worship
O God, you make me glad with the weekly remembrance of the glorious resurrection of your Son my Lord: Give me the peace to worship you with my whole heart and mind, forgetting the cares of the world, and dwelling with you for a short moment with my entire being. And give me this day such blessing through my worship of you, that the week to come may be spent in living knowledge of your peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Most Gracious Lord God, from whom proceeds every good and perfect gift, I offer to your divine majesty my unfeigned praise and thanksgiving for all your mercies towards me. You made me at first and have ever since sustained the work of your own hand; you gave your Son to die for me; and have given me assurance of salvation, upon my repentance and sincerely endeavoring to conform my life to his holy precepts and example.
You are pleased to lengthen out to me the time of repentance and to move me to it by your spirit and by the word, by your mercies, and by your judgments; out of a deepness of your mercies, and by my own unworthiness, I do appear before you at this time; I have sinned and done very wickedly, be merciful to me, O God, and pardon me for Jesus Christ's sake; instruct me in the particulars of my duty, and suffer me not to be tempted above what you give me strength to bear.
Take care, I pray you, of my affairs and more and more direct me in your truth, defend me from my enemies, especially my spiritual ones. Do not allow me to be drawn away from you, by the blandishments of the world, carnal desires, the cunning of the devil, or deceitfulness of sin. Work in me your good will and pleasure, and discharge my mind from all things that are displeasing to you, of all ill will and discontent, wrath and bitterness, pride and vain conceit of myself, and make me charitable, pure, holy, patient and heavenly minded.
Be with me at the hour of death; dispose me for it, and deliver me from the slavish fear of it, and make me willing and fit to die whenever you may decide to call me. Bless our rulers in church and state. Bless O Lord the whole race of mankind, and let the world be filled with the knowledge of You and your son Jesus Christ.
Pity the sick, the poor, the weak, the needy, the widows and fatherless, and all that mourn or are broken in heart, and be merciful to them according to their particular needs. Bless my friends, and grant me grace to forgive my enemies as heartily as I desire forgiveness from You, my heavenly Father.
I beseech you to defend me this week from all evil, and do more for me than I can think or ask, for Jesus Christ's sake, in whose most holy name & words, I continue to pray, Our Father.
Eternal God, heavenly Father, you have graciously accepted me as a living member of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ, and you have blessed me with the grace of forgiveness through the sacrifice He made for me and for all people. Send me now into the world in peace, and grant me strength and courage to love and serve you with gladness and singleness of heart; through 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.
Psalm 103:8-10 (NIV)
The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;
he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
Galatians 1:11-19 (NIV)
The Hope for a Lost Soul
I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel that was proclaimed by me is not of human origin; for I did not receive it from a human source, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.
You have heard, no doubt, of my earlier life in Judaism. I was violently persecuting the church of God and was trying to destroy it. I advanced in Judaism beyond many among my people of the same age, for I was far more zealous for the traditions of my ancestors.
But when God, who had set me apart before I was born and called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, so that I might proclaim him among the Gentiles, I did not confer with any human being, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were already apostles before me, but I went away at once into Arabia, and afterwards I returned to Damascus.
Notes on the Scripture
There are people who have done terrible things in this world. Human beings are capable of unspeakable atrocities. Can the soul of such a person be saved?
The quote from Galatians reminds us that the Christian religion was founded, in large part, by a person who had committed such atrocities. Before he received Christ's grace and changed his name, Paul was known as Saul. He was a Roman citizen and a thug in the employ of the Sanhedrin, the Hebrew council in Jerusalem. His job was to travel around Israel, seek out people who taught the miracle of Christ's life and word, and arrest them. He would then herd them back to Jerusalem, to be tried and perhaps imprisoned or executed. He was, in short, a mass murderer, little different from the Nazi SS who rounded up Jews for transport to Auschwitz.
This is worth remembering when we ponder the troubling question of Christ's capacity to forgive a terrible criminal, and even more important for the person who has himself committed a terrible crime. God's capacity to love and forgive is infinite; it is so great that it is unknowable to the human mind. To our eyes, every human being, no matter how depraved, is one of God's beautiful and beloved children and is capable of salvation.
If we encountered Saul today, would we judge him and curse him? Probably. And yet, this was to become arguably the greatest teacher of Christianity, the greatest missionary of Christ, in history. When we are tempted to judge a very wicked person, we need to remember Saul.
God has a purpose in everything He does, although it is frequently impossible for us to know it. We can see at least some of His purpose, however, in choosing Paul to write so much of the Bible. It is a demonstration to us that even someone who is the most evil of people might be saved; and not simply saved, but become a person of tremendous positive influence in leading others to salvation.
Theologically, Christ will come to judge humanity and God, with perfect foresight, knows and has always known who will repent and be saved, and who will not; there are places in the Bible where this is presented as God intentionally hardening the heart of a person He does not intend should be saved. But this is a matter for God, not us.