Daily Devotion for June 23, 2010
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.
A gorgeous song, sung by Bill Gaither and Tanya Sykes
"For Each New Morning"For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food,
For love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.
I thank thee.
(From a poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson)
Prayer for Freedom from Fear
O Lord, I beseech you to deliver me, and all of your children, from the fear of the unknown future; from fear of failure; from fear of poverty; from fear of bereavement; from fear of loneliness; from fear of sickness and pain; from fear of age; from fear of death. Help us, O Father, by your grace to love and fear only you, and fill our hearts with cheerful courage and loving trust in you; through our Lord and Master Jesus Christ.
Community of Prayer
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be among the community of all who pray in the name of Christ this morning, and remain among us always.
(Additional prayers may be found at Prayers for All Occasions.)
God be with you 'til we meet again.
who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, "Your God reigns."
Listen! Your sentinels lift up their voices, together they sing for joy;
Proclaiming the Good News
Jesus said to the apostles, "Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: by using my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover."
So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and proclaimed the good news everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that accompanied it.
Notes on the Scripture
This reading from Mark presents one of the most difficult sentences in the Bible. It literally says that people who believe in Christ and have been baptized will be able to cast out demons, speak in new tonges, pick up snakes, and drink poison without ill effect.
I doubt one in a hundred thousand present-day Christians completely believes and acts upon the passage. Most controversial are the practices of handling venemous snakes and drinking poison, which is practiced in only about 50 very small rural churches, who often meet in homes or abandoned buildings due to state laws forbidding their actions. Those who do handle snakes are regularly bitten and sometimes die.
So what are we to think? Does this hurt or even shatter our faith in the Bible's truth? Or is our unwillingness to drink poison and handle snakes a sign that our faith is deficient?
I cannot even pretend to answer questions like this with any authority at all. But this is how I deal with this issue in my own life:
In Luke 10:19-20, Christ said, "I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven."
I take two things from the Luke passage. First, "do not rejoice at this" means, to me, that I shouldn't go around intentionally picking up snakes or drinking poison. This is purely personal; I don't go around telling other people how they should worship. I do not doubt the passage, however; if it is God's will and I step on a venemous animal and get bitten, it might well be that I would not be affected. I have certainly been stung by insects and it hurt like the devil (if you will excuse the pun).
Where I really take comfort, though, is in the meaning of whether such a sting would "hurt" me. Did it hurt Christ to be crucified? Well, yes and no. He was human and felt enormous physical pain from the crucifixion. But ultimately, it did not hurt him. Much to the contrary, it was part of His entire purpose. He defeated the ultimate pain of death.
This conflict or dichotomy between the pain our bodies inevitably suffer -- including the human body of God Himself -- and the perfect happiness we will achieve after our bodies die, runs throughout our experience as human beings who have received Christ's grace. Ultimately, our suffering and death do not have an ill effect upon us; life is, in some respects, a burden we bear in order to reach God. (In other respects, it is a precious gift that we love and cling to.)
So in this respect, drinking poison or being bitten by a venemous animal can no longer hurt us. We cannot escape our human fear of pain and death, and in this sense, perhaps we suffer ill effects and hurt from the dangers of the world. But in the ultimate sense, no snake, no scorpion, nor anything else that harms our bodies can truly hurt us; the worst they can do is bring about our destiny of perfect joy.