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Thursday, October 20, 2016

Daily Devotion for January 2, 2014

Ninth Day of Christmas

<i>Angel</i> by Rockwell Kent, ca. 1922.
Angel by Rockwell Kent, ca. 1922. Notice the simple, even severe Art Deco lines in the angel's face, compared to the softness and more traditional depiction of the snowbound earth.



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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.


Prayer for the Guidance During the Day

Oh my God, you know my weakness and failings, and that without your help I can accomplish nothing for the good of souls, my own and others'. Grant me, therefore, the help of your grace, according to my particular needs this day. Enable me to see the tasks you will set before me in the daily routine of my life, and let me set my hand to these tasks with the vigor and joy of one with whom you abide. And if I should face trials, suffering or failure, I pray that your hand will lift me up, and I may be refreshed. In the name of Christ, I pray,


Prayer for Those with Harmful Obsessions

Heavenly Father, I remember today all the many people who damage or destroy their lives with one of the thousand obsessions that can plague the human mind: The alcoholic and addict; those with eating disorders; those with sexual compulsions; those who are driven to obsessive gambling; the superstitious; those who hoard obsessively and live in squalor; those whose only concern is their appearance, or wealth; or any of the myriad, baffling, and often bizarre behavioral disorders that may affect and burden the lives of your people.

Help me first to remember, when I am shocked by their behavior or critical of them, that they are your beautiful children whom you love. Give them the strength to seek help, guide them to people who can help them, and flood them with the power of your Holy Spirit, that they may control their disorders and find peace and contentment on this earth, and the eternal joy that awaits the faithful. I pray this in the name of Christ, who loved beyond all love and was always pleased to heal those who came to Him in faith.



And now let me go forth praising you, O Lord, with all my heart, telling of all your wonders, with my words and in my actions. I will be glad and rejoice in you this day. I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.


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

Art Deco Christmas Angel by Rockwell Kent, ca. 1928
Another Christmas Angel by Rockwell Kent, ca. 1928. His Art Deco stylization has become more mature here.

New Year's Resolutions

Resolution One: I will live for God.

Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.

~ Jonathan Edwards, 1737

Blue Latin Cross

James 1:13-15, 19-23, 26

“Walking the Walk”

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. . . .

This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. . . .

If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless.

Notes on the Scripture

It is that time of year, the time when people make New Years' Resolutions. Proverbial wisdom is that these are not worth very much, as they are kept for a few weeks or perhaps several months, and then the maker slowly slides back into old habits. Well, phooey! How are we supposed to improve ourselves if we don't even try?

There is a difficulty with the doctrine of justification by faith — the doctrine that we cannot be made righteous before God by our works, but must rely on God's grace, given solely by our faith in Christ. The problem is not that it isn't true, for one can reach no other conclusion after reading the Bible carefully. The problem is that we, being human, are apt to let an unwelcome visitor creep into our mind: That since our justification comes from faith, our actions are not critically important to our salvation.

Faith in Christ does not consist of kneeling or sitting and praying that you have faith, and perhaps recounting your sins and asking for forgiveness (or going to confession, if your denomination stresses sacramental absolution). The little short Epistle of James, tucked away behind the mass of Pauline epistles, gets so blunt on this point that it cannot be misunderstood, no matter how hard you try to ignore it:

“Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” (James 2:17)(NIV) “Faith that does not result in good deeds is not real faith.” (James 2:20)(Living Bible) “[F]aith without works is dead.” (James 2:26)(almost every Bible)

There is an unmistakable air of doubletalk here, for James (and others) appears to bring the Old Testament notion of justification by works into Christian theology, through a logical back door. Almost. There is a wide body of theological works on the subject, but that isn't our purpose here. Daily Prayer has an utterly simple hermeneuticalHermeneutics is the five-dollar word for the principles we use to interpret what the Bible says. approach, especially to the New Testament: Read what the Bible actually says. Believe it. Do it.

One thing that pops out at us, when we read James 1, is that he effectively calls anger “moral filth”. And for most people this would make a basis for a very very good New Year's resolution.

Are you angry about an obnoxious neighbor? Obamacare? Some irritating habit of your spouse? The Tea Party?

Whatever we find ourselves angry about, we need to take a step back and consider it against an honest reading of the gospels, asking: is this something (or the kind of thing) Jesus got angry about and spoke against? Because 99.9% of the time, the answer is “no”. The only time He actually became angry to the point of violence was with people seeking to make a profit from worship, i.e. the moneychangers in the temple. He did not even condemn sinners; in fact, he actually taught against those who did condemn them. E.g. John 9:1-11; Matthew 7:1-5.

The implications of James' and Christ's comments on anger go far beyond the space we have to discuss them here. But the teachings are so commonly ignored by professed Christians that learning and implementing what the New Testament teaches about anger would make an excellent New Year's resolution.

endless knot

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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