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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Daily Devotion for February 17, 2014

<i>St. Francis Receiving the Stigmata</i> by Jan van Eyck, ca. 1432.
St. Francis Receiving the Stigmata by Jan van Eyck, ca. 1432. Francis of Assisi is synonymous with the abandonment of wealth to follow Christ. This very early masterpiece by van Eyck shows him at the extreme, when he would not even wear sandals.



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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.


Another great song from JJ Heller.

Prayer of Submission

Dear Lord, I give you my hands to do your work; I give you my feet to go your way; I give you my eyes to see as you see; I give you my tongue to speak your words; I give you my mind that you may think in me; I give you my spirit that you may pray in me. Above all, I give you my heart that you may love in me. I give you my whole self, Lord, that you may grow in me, so that it is you who lives, works and prays in me.


Prayer for Unity Among Christians

O  God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, our only Savior, the Prince of Peace, I have tried to read your Bible and find your Word and your will for me, and to study it. But I think so many thoughts about it, and then I start to think I know something, and then I see another church or hear a pastor or read something, and I think, “that person is wrong”. Or the pastor of my church or a Bible teacher will tell me one thing, and then somebody else will tell me something completely different.

Please, dear God, help me and every person who confesses Christ as his Lord and Savior, not think that they know everything and get into arguments with each other. Let us always remember that it is not other Christians who are our enemies, just because they think something different, or baptize people differently, or have different ideas about sacraments or church leadership or whatever foolish doctrine we might fight about. Let us always remember that there was one Christ, one baptism for the forgiveness of sins, and one church. Heal any and all divisions between Christians, Holy God.

And let me be part of the solution and not part of the problem, I pray. Let me put first your command, that we bear with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Let me not be made angry or self-righteous by doctrine, but remember always who our true enemy is and direct my efforts to the defeat of atheism and the death that comes from living in the flesh. In the name of Christ, hear my prayer,



And now, as a little child, let me abide in you all this day, oh Christ, so that when you appear I may have confidence and not shrink from you in shame at your coming. For I know that you are righteous, and I am sure that I will be made righteous only by my life in you.


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

<i>The Dead Christ with Angels</i> by Edouard Manet, ca. 1864.
The Dead Christ with Angels by Edouard Manet, ca. 1864.

Prayer is the Little Implement

Prayer is the little implement
Through which Men reach
Where Presence — is denied them.
They fling their Speech

By means of it — in God's Ear —
If then He hear --
This sums the Apparatus
Comprised in Prayer —

~ Emily Dickinson

Blue Latin Cross

Matthew 19:23-26 (ESV)

All Things are Possible Through God

And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”

When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?”

But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Notes on the Scripture

There has sprung up a Biblical “urban legend” that the “eye of the needle” was a narrow gate in Jerusalem, used after hours; in some versions a camel can get through it, only when all packs have been removed and it crawls on its knees; in others, such a large animal cannot fit.

More likely, Christ's words are not a reference to anything else. In Hebrew stories of the time, the eye of a needle and a large animal (usually an elephant) are used as an outlandish metaphor for impossibility. And we have seen Jesus use outlandish metaphor previously. Who hasn't wondered at the image of a person with a “beam” or even a “tree” in his own eye, criticizing the speck in someone else's?

But then He qualifies what He has said, for God could allow a camel or anything else to fit through the eye of a needle. So is it impossible to be rich and go to heaven? No. Does great wealth make it more difficult? Without doubt.

Paul tells us in 1 Timothy 6:10 that love of money, not money per se, is the root of all evil. But the message is pounded into our unwilling minds time and time again, that we must choose between this world and the next. E.g., “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” 1 John 2:15.

The very early church shared everything. People with land sold it and distributed among others in the church who needed basic support. Acts 4:32-37. But this does not appear to have been mandatory. Acts 5:4. We might interpret Jesus' comments to the young man to apply only because Christ was on earth, since he repeatedly told people to abandon their families and all they knew to follow him literally. We could conclude that after Christ left the earth, as the age of Christ's personal ministry ended and the age of the Holy Spirit began, we can no longer follow the exhortations to “follow me” literally.

But we can hear what we want to hear, and we would like to be able to have the kingdom of heaven and a certain amount of material comfort, both. So we run the risk of fudging in favor of keeping our money, or most of it, if we begin to “interpret” the Bible.

The apostles who wrote epistles do not give us the kind of absolute “sell everything and give it to the poor” rules that Christ did. But at a minimum, if a person has wealth and wants to follow Christ, his money must become subordinate to his love of God and his fellow man, especially those in the church. If we look at James 2, for example, we see it is more allowing church members to live in poverty that defines a sinful life, than the possession of wealth:

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?

In practical terms, there are few of us that do not have and spend more than we need. As with sexual morality, the secular god of consumerism is likely to warp our vision. So in practical terms, if we wonder whether we are loving our comforts and possessions too much, and God too little, the answer is almost certainly affirmative.

endless knot

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Memory Verse

1 Corinthians 13:9-10: For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.

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