Daily Devotion for January 1, 2014
New Year’s Day
Eighth Day of Christmas
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.
Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.
Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.
Be Thou my battle Shield, Sword for the fight;
Be Thou my Dignity, Thou my Delight;
Thou my soul’s Shelter, Thou my high Tower:
Raise Thou me heavenward, O Power of my power.
Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.
High King of Heaven, my victory won,
May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heaven’s Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.
Irish folk melody
(Gaelic) lyrics attributed to Dallan Forgaill, 8th Century
Prayer for the New Year
Dear Master for this coming year
Just one request I bring:
I do not pray for happiness,
Or any earthly thing —
I do not ask to understand
The way Thou leadest me,
But this I ask: Teach me to do
The thing that pleaseth Thee.
To walk with Thee each day.
Dear Master make me swift to hear
And ready to obey.
And thus the year I now begin
A happy year will be —
If I am seeking just to do
The thing that pleaseth Thee.
[Let us close our eyes for a minute and reflect on the joy it gives us when we please God.]
For Each of Us in Our Work
Almighty God, heavenly Father, who makes it possible for me to work and who gives every creature its food, declaring your glory and showing your handiwork in the heavens and in the earth; Deliver me, I pray, in my work, from coveting material goods, from falling into the temptation of serving mammon and putting money in the forefront of my life. Help me to perform the work which you have put at my hand, in truth, in beauty, and in righteousness, with singleness of heart as your servant, and to the benefit of my fellow men as well as myself; for the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lived and died only to serve us.
Lord, pour your love into my heart, that I may love you above all things, and my neighbors as myself. Through Christ our Lord.
(Additional prayers may be found at Prayers for All Occasions.)
God be with you 'til we meet again.
Proverbs 6:6-9 (KJV)
Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise:
Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler,
Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.
How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep?
John 3:1-8 (New Living Translation)
There was a man named Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader who was a Pharisee. After dark one evening, he came to speak with Jesus. “Rabbi,” he said, “we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you.”
Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”
“What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother's womb and be born again?”
Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. So don't be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’”
“The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can't tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can't explain how people are born of the Spirit.”
Notes on the Scripture
The phrase “born again Christians” has a negative connotation to many people, both among believers and among nonbelievers. When they hear the term, many people picture Jerry Falwell, great judgmentalism, or raucous pentecostal services where people may speak in tongues. Atheists and more mainstream or Catholic/Orthodox worshippers even use the rather silly term “snake handlers” as a disparaging reference to the public, uninhibited type of worship they associate with the term “born again”.
Getting to the truth of the matter — meaning, as always, reading what the Bible actually says — we discover that the author of the term is Christ himself. He tells us not that we should be born again, but that we must be born again to enter the Kingdom of God. What does he mean by this?
He tells us in the next verse: being born again means being born “of the water and the Spirit”. Some denominations consider baptism to be a sacrament; that is, the actual act of baptism confers Christ's grace upon the recipient. Many others do not believe the act of baptism is sacramental, but rather an act that outwardly demonstrates a rebirth in the Spirit that has already occurred in the believers' heart.
Christ himself, however, said that we do not understand rebirth in the Spirit. He said, “Just as you can hear the wind but can't tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can't explain how people are born of the Spirit.” Since Christ personally told us that we cannot explain it, I listen to explanations and arguments with a little smile inside. If Christ told us that we cannot explain it, how can we?
Even more pointedly, since we are incapable of fully understanding and explaining rebirth in the Spirit, we should not be critical of others' beliefs in how to accomplish it. Paul commanded all those who believe in Christ to set aside their differences and love one another like brothers. So often, we stumble in pride, by judging and rejecting others who do not conform to our own very imperfect understanding.
If you are a Christian, you are a born-again Christian. Christ's grace extends to all who believe in him, who confess him, and are born again of water and the spirit. That's the Gospel truth. E.g, John 3:16, where Christ says “all” who believe in him. So clearly, if we believe in Christ, we will be born again, as new people. This is a very liberating notion: We are to become new people. It is within our grasp to become better, to cast off old attitudes that impede our spiritual growth.
This is the start of a new calendar year, a time when rebirth is especially appropriate to consider. A very happy and successful New Year to you and yours; I hope your New Years' resolutions will include some aspect of your spiritual life. (And yes, the selection from Proverbs was chosen to help you get motivated with any resolutions you want to make!)