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Daily Devotion for June 12, 2016
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 takes us to the Cathedral of St. Paul this week. The anthem is Psalm 121, reproduced (in a slightly different translation) to the right.
For Sunday Morning
Oh heavenly Lord, who decreed that we should take one day of rest, one special day in remembrance of you, today I celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the moment of His glorious victory over death. I add my voice to countless millions of others in thanks, in praise, and in awe of Your sacrifice for us.
Help me, dear Lord, to dedicate these few moments to You completely. You have taught us that we may dwell with you, even while we are caught in this difficult world, and I pray to dwell with you fully now. Guard me against wandering of mind and the intrusion of mundane thought, so that I may be fully present with you, through the power of Your Holy Spirit.
And in the coming week, I pray that my mind may constantly turn to you, so that I may always remember you when I am tempted to anger, to selfishness, to lust for power and the vanities of this world, or any of the myriad temptations that might assail me in the course of life. In the name of Christ and through faith in Him, I pray,
Confession of Sins, with a Prayer for Contrition and Pardon.
Most merciful God, whose eyes are too pure to behold iniquity, and who has promised forgiveness to all those who confess and forsake their sins; I come before you in a humble sense of my own unworthiness, confessing my many transgressions of your righteous laws. [* Here make a short pause, to remember and confess the sins and failings of the past week.] But, O gracious Father, who desires not the death of a sinner, look upon me, I beseech you, in mercy, and forgive me for all my transgressions. Make me deeply sensible of the great evil of them; and work in me a hearty repentance; that I may obtain forgiveness at your hands, who is ever ready to receive humble and penitent sinners; for the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, my only Saviour and Redeemer.
For Peace of Mind
Blessed Lord Jesus, I need you now because I am filled with stress and anxiety. But you have promised that if I read and remember your Word, and come to you in prayer, your Holy Spirit will come to me. I lay my burdens on you, precious Christ, as you have promised to take them. Please carry them for me so that I don't have to, for they overwhelm me. Replace my fears with your humble and gentle yoke, so that I will find rest for my soul today. Let me feel your love.
I accept the peace of mind and quietness of heart, which you offer to all men as a gift. My praise and thanks that it is possible for me to lie down this evening in peace, and find the rest of sleep, by your gift. For with you, I have faith that I dwell in perfect safety. What should I fear, when you have promised to be with me for all time? I pray that I can find your perfect peace, by your Word and your promise, this day and every day, until I see you face to face.
Into your hands, O Lord, Jesus Christ, my God, I commend my spirit. Bless me and all those who pray in faith of You this day; save us and grant unto us everlasting life.
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 121 (KJV)
I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills,
from whence cometh my help.
My help cometh from the Lord,
which made heaven and earth.
He will not suffer thy foot to be moved:
he that keepeth thee will not slumber.
Behold, he that keepeth Israel
shall neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is thy keeper:
the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand.
The sun shall not smite thee by day,
nor the moon by night.
The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil:
he shall preserve thy soul.
The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in
from this time forth, and even for evermore.
Genesis 4:1-12 (ESV)
Cain and Abel
Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.” And again, she bore his brother Abel.
Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground. In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell.
The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”
Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother's keeper?”
And the Lord said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood is crying to me from the ground. And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.”
Notes on the Scripture
Life is not “fair.” God is not “fair.” “Fairness” is a rather nebulous (and often infantile) human concept, born of pride and self-entitlement. At its core, the idea of unfairness is that some action has failed to meet a standard of conduct that our brain has invented. Often enough, what we call “fairness” is sinful in itself, or leads to sin. This is the basic lesson of the story of Cain and Abel, and its importance is emphasized by its very early appearance in the Bible.
This isn't to say that fairness is evil. Sometimes the concept is simply a means of considering human emotion and expectation in a decision, or even taking into account the interests of another person — very close to the Christian concept of love. But while love and service of others is a Biblical value, “fairness” is not. It is too broad and, more often than not, it is prideful and self-serving.
If there is one place that the words “it's not fair” are likely to crop up, it's between children in the same family. So it's not surprising that the Biblical story concerns two brothers. God did not look with favor Cain's offering; we don't know why. Some theologians have inferred that Abel brought the best of his flock, while Cain simply brought a middling quality from his harvest, but that is human speculation. The Bible does not give God's reason.
ut the reason for God's favoritism is not the point of the story. The point is, although God looked with favor on Abel's offering, He did not condemn Cain initially, simply because his offering was not favored. But Cain was jealous of Abel. He committed the sin of pride and the sin of covetousness, because his only harm was to be humbled. In short, he thought that it wasn't fair. This led him to the terrible sin of murder, for which he was cast out of society and cursed in the sight of God.
Christ reiterated the unholiness of human concepts of “fairness” in the parable of the laborers of the vineyard in Matthew 10. “When those hired about the eleventh hour came, each one received a denarius. When those hired first came, they thought that they would receive more; but each of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they grumbled at the landowner, saying, 'These last men have worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the scorching heat of the day.'”
Both life and the Bible teach us that comparing ourselves to others — a strong natural urge — is counterproductive. No good comes from it. It provokes covetousness, vanity, pride, shame, anger, feelings of entitlement, and all manner of negative emotion. To learn from others is vital; to compare ourselves to them, fruitless.