Daily Devotion for February 23, 2014
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.
Our “Virtual Sunday Church” this week takes us to the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.
with heart and hands and voices,
who wondrous things has done,
in whom this world rejoices;
who from our mothers' arms
has blessed us on our way
with countless gifts of love,
and still is ours today.
2. O may this bounteous God
through all our life be near us,
with ever joyful hearts
and blessed peace to cheer us;
and keep us still in grace,
and guide us when perplexed;
and free us from all ills,
in this world and the next.
3. All praise and thanks to God
the Father now be given;
the Son, and him who reigns
with them in highest heaven;
the one eternal God,
whom earth and heaven adore;
for thus it was, is now,
and shall be evermore.
Music by Johann Crüger (1647)
Lyrics by Martin Rinkart (1663), tr. Catherine Winkworth (1858)
Sunday Prayer of Praise to God's Glory
Heavenly God, you are the King eternal, immortal and invisible. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God; the same yesterday, today, and forever.
In times long past did you lay the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands: Yet they will perish, but you will endure; yes, all of them will grow old like a garment, as a coat you will change them, and they will be changed; but you are the same, and your years will have no end.
You alone are God, and do not change; and because of this, we may hope to be preserved. Are you not from eternity, O Lord our God, our Holy One? The everlasting God, even the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, who does not faint nor grow weary? There is no searching out your understanding, mighty Lord, but by our praise we may glorify your Holy Name, now and all our lives.
Have mercy on me, Oh Lord, for I am a humble and miserable sinner. [At this point, pause to remember specific sins you have committed during the week and speak or think them.] I renounce all of these sins, heavenly Father, and repent of them, and I promise to make every effort not to repeat them.
Have mercy on me, pardon me for these offences and any I might have omitted from forgetfulness or ignorance; in the name of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior, I pray for forgiveness. And I pray that your Holy Spirit may dwell with me today and throughout the coming week, to comfort me, to give me strength against temptation, and to guide me into the path of righteousness.
Prayer for Peace
Grant, O God, that your holy and life-giving Spirit may so move every human heart, that barriers which divide us may crumble, suspicions disappear and hatreds cease; that our divisions being healed, we may live together in justice and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
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 44:1-3 (ESV)
O God, we have heard with our ears,
our fathers have told us,
what deeds you performed in their days,
in the days of old:
you with your own hand drove out the nations,
but them you planted;
you afflicted the peoples,
but them you set free;
for not by their own sword did they win the land,
nor did their own arm save them,
but your right hand and your arm,
and the light of your face,
for you delighted in them.
Romans 12:1 (ESV)
A Living Sacrifice
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
Notes on the Scripture
Paul spends the first eleven chapters of Romans examining, in minute detail, the way in which God has operated to bring us righteousness. Here, at the beginning of Chapter 12, there is a major shift in tone. Chapters 1-11 explain the differences between the Old Testament and the New, and why they are one Bible even though there seem to be many contradictions between them.
But this verse sounds very different. It is not an explanation; it is a call to action. Paul has told us “why”. Now, he is going to tell us “what”. And the very first “what” is to present our bodies as a sacrifice.
When we hear about the Jews making sacrifices, it sounds strange to our modern ear. How could anyone worship God — our God — by killing and burning animals or wheat? But that is what the law called upon the Jews to do in the Old Testament. We don't make animal sacrifices any longer because we live under a new covenant with God, reflected in the New Testament. Our relationship with God changed.
Does this mean we no longer make sacrifices to God? No. We now follow the law in the Spirit. We keep the same law in a new way. We follow the spirit of the law rather than the letter of the law.
This may seem easier than what Orthodox Jews go through; we can get away with doing a lot less. And in ways, it is. But in one critical detail, it is more, because Christ did not give just his sheep or his wheat or his time or his money as a sacrifice for us. He gave his body. He sacrificed his own flesh and blood.
And now, like Christ, we present more than our possessions to God as our sacrifice. We give the one thing that is really ours: ourselves, our souls and bodies. Like Christ, we present our bodies as a sacrifice; we give ourselves back to the God who created us.
I hope that none of us are called to die for Christ. We must always remember that countless Christians have done exactly that. Yet, although few are called to die for Christ, we are all called to live for Christ. Each and every one of us are called to give our bodies as a living sacrifice.
We are not expected to die for God. We are expected to live for God, and it is a living God who will enable us, strengthen us, comfort us and instruct us in our journey: The Holy Spirit. How do we do this? The rest of Romans will tell us. Most of epistles are full of information on the subject and actually, it starts in the Sermon on the Mount. (Matthew 5-7) It sounds scary, but it isn't; because once we have faith, once we are confident in God's Holy Spirit within us and the salvation that awaits us, we do not need to fear anything. And in fact, leading a life of Christian sacrifice is a life filled with joy and happiness.
God will not leave all of our rewards until after our death. The joy one can derive from following God's commandments is beyond anything the secular world realizes. People spend their lives grabbing for money, power, sex, status — and they wonder why they are not happy. They wonder what is the meaning of it all, and yet, it is right before them, in the Bible they have rejected.