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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Daily Devotion for November 21, 2013

<i>Jesus and Nicodemus</i> by Henry Ossawa Tanner, ca. 1927
Jesus and Nicodemus by Henry Ossawa Tanner, ca. 1927. Tanner was the first internationally-recognized African-American painter, and perhaps it was racial sensitivity that led him to give Jesus such realistically Semitic features.



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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.


If you dislike bagpipes — they only last a minute. This is worth waiting them out.

Prayer for the Morning

I  call upon you, O Lord. In the morning you hear me; in the morning I offer you my prayer, watching and waiting.

I lift my heart to you, O Lord, to be strengthened for this day. Be with me in all I do, my God; guide me in all my ways.

I will carry some burdens today; some trials will be mine. So I wait for your help, Lord, lest I stumble and fall.

I will do my work, Father, the work begun by your Son. He lives in me and I in him; may his work today be done.


Prayer of Thanksgiving

Father in heaven, creator of all and source of all goodness and love, please look kindly upon me and receive my heartfelt gratitude for all that you have done for me and for those I love. Thank you for all the grace and blessings, both spiritual and temporal, you have bestowed upon me, my loved ones, and this community of prayer: Our faith and religious heritage; our food and shelter; our health; the love we have for one another; and the lives of our Lord and friends.

Dear Father, in your infinite generosity, please grant us continued grace and blessings during the coming day. This I ask in the name of Jesus Christ, your only son, who has saved me from death.



God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, and Spirit of God amidst us, direct our way unto you. Make us to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you; to the end we may establish our hearts unblameable in holiness before you, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.


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

Mark the Evangelist by Franz Hals, ca. 1660.

Tortoises and Hares

"Christianity is called a spiritual walk. It’s not a run and it’s not a jog. It’s a walk you do from day to day and that makes you stable."

~ Orel Hershiser

Blue Latin Cross

Matthew 13:10-13 (ESV)

The Purpose of the Parables [1]

Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.

For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.

Notes on the Scripture

Why, the disciples ask, is Jesus indulging in such childish-sounding story telling? Because, he answers, the listeners are not as advanced in their knowledge — the secrets Translating this as “secrets” is a poor choice of words. The Greek word (musteria) not only means “mysteries”, but is even the root of the English word. Christ's teachings are by no means a secret!

Even “mysteries” is a bit misleading, since that word has some connotations not intended by Christ. Here, it mean people might not understand because they do not have the necessary background knowledge. Or, perhaps, they are just “deaf” to it.
of the kingdom — as the disciples. His meaning becomes clearer when we understand the next sentence: “to the one who has, more will be given, . . . but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”

As cruel as this sounds, we all know how true it is. Think of two students in a high school French class. One studies diligently and learns what is taught; the other goofs off, too busy texting his friends to be bothered, or simply not interested. Ten years later, our apathetic student will find that even the little French he managed to learn in high school has fled his mind; he is the one who “has not”, and what little he has is indeed taken away. Meanwhile, our star pupil will not only remember what he was taught, but is also more likely to be offered (and be interested in taking) more advanced courses.

Bible | Matthew 13 | Parable of the sower

So Christ speaks in parables to help those in the beginners class. People who have “ears to hear” will be able to grasp what he is saying, even if the subject is new to them. He was speaking to farmers or, at least, people intimately acquainted with agriculture; in ancient times, the percent of the population involved in food production was enormously higher than it is today. Stories about growing food and baking bread thus made his message available to the poor and uneducated.

The Biblical term Language buffs might recognize this as a “metonymy”, referring to one thing — the ability to learn by listening — by a physical object associated with it. Even more technically, one might call it a synecdoche, where something is identified by one of its component parts: “I have mouths to feed” by “putting bread on the table” are two examples. “those who have ears to hear” may sound dated, but we still say a person “has an ear for French”, and it means nearly the exact same thing.

Note that “an ear for French” does not necessarily refer to a native gift of higher intelligence. The stupidest person in France can speak French. Christ did not come to earth to save smart people. He came to save those who were open to his message and willing to learn. Any gift of knowledge can be developed, and any gift ignored and lost.

So, Jesus speaks in parables because there are people who have ears to hear, but who are unlettered, poor, and not given to dealing with philosophical principles. He speaks so that those open to his message will understand, no matter what their education. Once they are able to understand what He is saying, they will continue to learn. They will seek, they will pray, they will listen.

We are the ones who “have”, and the more we have, the more we will be given; in our minds, in our lives, in our souls. Every Bible verse we grasp makes us hunger for another. Every temptation we conquer gives more strength to withstand the next; every temptation to which we succumb weakens us.

“Life is always a process of gaining more or losing more. Jesus laid down the truth that, the nearer men and women live to him, the nearer to the Christian ideal they will grow. And the more they drift away from Christ, the less they are able to aspire to goodness; for weakness, like strength, is an increasing thing.” (William Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew)

endless knot

Daily Prayer Community —>


Feeling happy and successful is mostly a matter of being grateful for what you have, and being able to do something that you enjoy, something you feel makes a difference to someone. Whenever you see polls on how happy, it always seems to be the people in hard-hitting, ambitious jobs that are miserable. It might be partly a matter of stress or just reflect the nature of people who go into various occupations, but I don't think so, because I've been both places. I just walked away from a successful law practice, so depressed that I no longer cared about the money I was giving up, because I just knew that there was something better out there; and I didn't find it — instead, Christ found me.

I have been lucky to have enough set aside to be comfortable, so that I didn't need any earned income to get along and have been able to devote so much time to Daily Prayer. But I have found peace and satisfaction in middle age, way beyond my young dreams of self-glory and riches.

Current Memory Verse     Remember the Bible

Today in Daily Prayer

Memory Verse

Proverbs 31:10-12 (KJV): Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.

The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.

She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.

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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