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Daily Devotion for July 28, 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.
Wintley Phipps educates an audience about Negro Spirituals and the origin of “Amazing Grace.”
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now, I see.
T'was Grace that taught
my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
the hour I first believed.
Through many dangers, toils and snares
we have already come.
T'was Grace that brought us safe thus far
and Grace will lead us home.
The Lord has promised good to me
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be
as long as life endures.
Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within in the veil,
A life of joy and peace.
When we've been here ten thousand years
bright shining as the sun.
We've no less days to sing God's praise
then when we've first begun.
Lyrics by John Newton (1773)
Music origin unk.
Prayer to Hear God’s Word
Dear God, There is only one voice that is perfect truth, and that is yours: the voice of your Spirit and the voice of your Word. Help me, I pray, to hear your voice clearly. For I tend to lose it in the cacophony. I am filled with the sound of my own voice, with the sense of my importance and the correctness of my thought; and on top of that, I am besieged by dozens and hundreds and thousands of words and voices telling me all kinds of things.
Lead me to read your Word without listening to any voice but yours. Let me hear your truth and read your Word without adding to it or subtracting from it, without twisting it to meet the demands of my own preconceptions. Let me not deny your Word because it is inconvenient for me; even if I cannot follow it today, let me know the truth. Where your teaching and my thoughts conflict, help me to change. Help me to set aside my prejudice, my illusions of knowledge, my rationalizations, so that I can learn; and even if I do not follow your Word perfectly, let me know where to ask forgiveness. This I ask in the name of my only Savior, Jesus Christ,
Prayer the Gospel May Be Spread
Almighty God, you called your church to be united in faith. By your grace you have given us new life in Jesus Christ, and by your Spirit you have called us to proclaim his name throughout the nations. Awaken in me such a love for you and your world that I may so boldly proclaim Jesus Christ by word and deed that all people may come to know him as Savior and follow him as Lord. And bless and strengthen all those who dedicate their lives to the increase of your church, both at home and abroad. Send your spirit to fill their tongues with your message, and protect them from all harm, to the glory of your Name.
God of mercy, swift to help: as my lips pour forth your praise, fill my heart with the peace you give to those who wait for your salvation in Jesus 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.
“When believers and unbelievers live in the same manner – I distrust the religion.”
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Matthew 11:11-15 (ESV)
Jesus Admires John the Baptist 
Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come.
He who has ears to hear, let him hear.
Notes on the Scripture
The first verses emphasize that no person, including John, is sinless. Remember the greatest of prophets, Moses, could not look upon the face of God. God cannot abide evil; and to look upon His face, if one has any evil in him, means immediate death. (See Exodus 33:17-23)
Like Moses, John is the most righteous of men, and Christ extols him; yet, he falls short of the glory of God; and like all men, John will require Christ's sacrifice to be forgiven and enter heaven.
The sentence about the kingdom of heaven suffering violence is difficult to read and understand. A similar passage occurs at Luke 16:16 —
he concept of violence, and forcing one's way into the kingdom of heaven, encompasses a range of meanings with a common root: people who believe that they can gain salvation by their own will, by their own belief, or by their own actions. This is not possible; we gain admission to the kingdom of God only by God's grace.
Under the Old Covenant, people believed that they could gain righteousness by their will and their actions: they could follow the law. But Christ brings a new covenant, and when Christ is resurrected, John will be the new prophet, the “Elijah who is to come”.
In the meantime, the world was undergoing a period of upheaval, and people were doing (and would do) all kinds of crazy things. Actual physical violence would be done to John, to Christ, and to many of their disciples by those clinging to the Old Covenant.
The Luke citation emphasizes that others would have faith in Christ, but deny the law. There is a famous heresy called “Antinomianism” (which Paul refutes repeatedly, e.g. in 1 Cor. 6:9-20 and Galatians 5:16-25), a doctrine that, since all sins are forgiven by Christ, a believer can sin with impunity. To a lesser degree, many people crowded around Christ, looking for a miraculous entry to heaven, without really wanting to change their hearts.
As another example, the zealots sought to expel Rome by force of arms; they anticipated a Messiah similar to David, a mighty political and military leader, who would establish the kingdom of God in Israel.
These factions were all mistaken. The kingdom of God is ours only by the grace of God. We cannot, by our will or actions, force our way into heaven. We must have faith, but in the end, it is God who comes to us.