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Daily Devotion for April 30, 2017
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” is a contemporary service from Hillsong, in Australia. The anthem is Sing with the Angels.
For a Heart Open to God's Word
God, as you gave us the sun to lighten our days, so you have given us your Word to lighten our minds and our souls. I pray that you will pour out on me your Spirit as I pray today, that my heart and mind may be opened to your Word, and that I may learn and accept your will for my life.
Shine within my heart, loving God, the pure light of your divine knowledge; open the eyes of my mind and the ears of my heart to receive your Word, this day and always,
O Changeless God,
Under the conviction of the Spirit I learn that
The more I do, the worse I am,
The more I know, the less I know,
The more holiness I have, the mores sinful I am,
The more I love, the more there is to love.
O wretched man that I am!
I have a wild heart
And cannot stand before thee;
I am like a bird before a man.
How little I love thy truth and ways!
I neglect prayer,
By thinking I have prayed enough and earnestly,
By knowing thou hast saved my soul.
Of all hypocrites, grant that I may not be an evangelical hypocrite,
Who sins more safely because grace abounds,
Who tells his lusts that Christ’s blood cleanseth them,
Who reasons that God cannot cast him into hell, for his is saved,
Who loves evangelical preaching, churches, Christians, but lives
My mind is a bucket without a bottom,
With no spiritual understanding,
No desire for the Lord’s Day,
Ever learning but never reaching the truth,
Always at the gospel-well but never holding water.
My conscience is without conviction or contrition,
With nothing to repent of.
My will is without power of decision or resolution.
My heart is without affection, and full of leaks.
My memory has no retention,
So I forget so easily the lessons learned,
And thy truths seep away.
Give me a broken heart that yet carries home the water of grace.
[Ever learning but never reaching the truth.]
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!
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.
Hold on to what is good,
even if it’s a handful of earth.
Hold on to what you believe,
Even if it’s a tree that stands by itself.
Hold on to what you must do,
Even if it’s a long way from here.
Hold on to your life,
Even if it’s easier to let go.
Hold on to my hand,
Even if I’ve gone away from you.
~ Pueblo Indian Prayer
Colossians 1:15-23 (ESV)
The Preeminence of Christ
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.
Notes on the Scripture
There is a television series on the History Channel (actually “H2,” a subsidiary) called Roman Vice, which documents the degeneracy of Rome during the time of the early emperors, from Tiberius through Nero.
ome's moral code was hardly vigorous to begin with. Every form of vice was accepted and commonplace. Torture, slavery, slaughter, adultery, monumental vanity in clothing and jewelry, and gambling were considered normal. Tiberius kept a stable of little boys, called his “Minnows.” The one great sport was to gather in huge arenas (the Circus Maximus held 250,000 people) to watch men do violence to one another.
I'll stop my description there because, although it is tempting to talk about how Western morals have moved continually in a direction towards ancient Rome over the past century, the really interesting part of the show came after Rome burned and Nero needed a scapegoat to blame for it. The show described Christians as they were perceived by Nero.
To the Romans, Christians were outright weirdos. They gathered in secret and kept to themselves. They eschewed what Romans considered the normal pleasures of life. They worshipped, as their only god, a petty working-class criminal who had been executed in a distant province some years earlier, and claimed he had come back to life. They had dinners where they ate this criminal's flesh and drank his blood. They had even been known to interrupt gladiatorial games, bizarrely claiming that a defeated gladiator should not be killed, for some unknown reason.
And so, Nero picked them to persecute, for they were even nice enough not to even fight back. He rounded them up and slaughtered them in various gruesome ways. And yes, he sometimes fed them to lions in the arena.
How, then, could Christianity have spread? It was because Nero offered to spare the lives of anyone who would recant his belief in Christ, but many chose death. This really impressed a lot of Romans. How could this Jesus be so powerful that people would die rather than forswear their allegiance to him?
If you see a faded version of Roman morals in modern society, there is also a faded version of Roman persecution. Sin is powerful, and those trapped in its clutches lash out in hostility towards Christian morals, which declare that the conduct is evil.
But the answer to such hostility is now as it was then: faith, hope, and love. By continuing steadfast in the faith, we are the means by which Christ will call people to His joy and salvation.