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May the peace of God reign in this place
and the love of God forever hold you tight,
May the Spirit of God flow through your life
and the joy of God uphold you day and night.

Daily Devotion for July 20, 2013

Matthew 3:10, Bible



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lessons and scripture

Lord's Prayer

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.


Saturday is Oldie Goldies Day, and today we have four great country-pop icons of the 1960s — Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, and Jerry Lee Lewis — in a tribute to Elvis.

Prayer for the Morning

Oh God, who has created all things, seen and unseen, this day is your creation and I give thanks to live in it. I pray that I will not shut you out of the day you have made, blinded by the petty concerns of life, but that I may be always open to your presence.

I open my body to you and give thanks for your life that fills and warms every cell of it.

I open my eyes and ears to you and give thanks for the light of your Word, without which I would live in the shadow of ignorance.

I open my heart to you and give thanks for your love that fills me with compassion, understanding, and peace.

I open my soul to you and give thanks for your Spirit, who fills me with wisdom when I take a moment to listen.

All that I am, I open to you and I return to you, giving thanks every moment of my life for the blessings that fill this day. Through Christ I pray.


Prayers for Those Torn by Alcohol and Drugs

I  pray, O God of hope, for all persons and families whose lives are torn and disrupted by drugs and alcohol. Enable them to identify the illness. Strengthen them to seek help. Bless them with the power of your love, which imparts transformation and wholeness to those who trust in your name. Grant that as they walk this tortured road, they may journey together, bound close together in the bond of love. Shine your light upon them, Lord Christ, that they may see the path out of their misery, and give them the strength to follow it.



Into your hands, O Lord, Jesus Christ, my God, I commend my spirit. Bless me, save me and grant unto me 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.

<i>Eve Tempted by the Serpent</i>, John Roddam Spencer-Stanhope ca. 1890.
Eve Tempted by the Serpent, John Roddam Spencer-Stanhope ca. 1890. The mille-fleurs background, and the faces and expressions, show the influence of the English pre-Raphaelites. Eve picks an orange here, perhaps a comment on the very wealthy who would keep orange trees in hothouses.

Proverbs 28:2 (The Voice)

Where there is rebellion in a land,
there are many petty and contending rulers;

But where there is a wise and intelligent leader,
peace and order endure.

Blue Latin Cross

Matthew 3:7-12 (ESV)

The Brood of Vipers

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.

And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

“I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

Notes on the Scripture

Six analogies in six verses!

Israel was a theocracy. Its religious sects thus combined aspects of political parties with theology. The theologies of the Pharisees and Sadducees, the two leading sects, were radically different, but both had substituted form for meaning; as inevitably occurs when politics becomes involved, the appearance of uprightness had become more important in their lives than true faith in God.

To the Jews, the viper was the symbol of cunning and manipulative rhetoric, combined with venomous death; it was a viper who convinced Eve to eat the apple. One pictures a wildfire sweeping across the grassy plain, a common occurrence in Palestine, for such fire drives before it a horde of snakes (and other animals).

When John sees these hypocrites coming to be baptized, he has mixed emotions. His diatribe is not a rejection of their repentance, for Christ's salvation will be available to all. It is, rather, a warning that their hypocrisy will not serve them any longer. He sounds angry, because he worries that they are up to their old tricks: repentance on their lips without any change in their hearts.

The metaphors of the tree and the stones constitutes an attack on their self-righteousness. As the blood descendants of Abraham and heirs of the first covenant, or as branches of the tree of Jesse, they have become proud and self-righteous. They have turned the special relationship between God and the Hebrews into a closed, hidebound institution based on empty legalism; and they believe they have been permanently anointed to holiness by right of birth. John pointedly references the Tree of Jesse, then, when he says that a tree that does not bear good fruit will be put to the axe.

The baptism by the Holy Spirit and fire sounds frightening. Written in Hebrew, the two are more connected than in English, for the Hebrew word for “spirit” is also the word for “breath” and “wind”. Thus John draws an image of God's breath blowing on a prairie fire, fanning it into a holocaust.

But we must also remember that fire is a great blessing; it provides light in the darkness, and warmth in the cold. Most importantly, fire can purify. John is warning the listeners, then, that the baptism of the Holy Spirit will purify the world, by destroying the hypocrites as chaff is burned, but preserving those who come in sincerity.

People sometimes associate the idea of fiery hell with the Old Testament. In general terms, we think of the Old Testament, with all of its capital crimes, as the covenant of a stern God, and the New Testament as a celebration of love and gentleness.

But the truth is the opposite. The image of hell as a pit of unquenchable fire is primarily a New Testament analogy, made several times by Christ himself. After the introductory matters of Chapters 1 and 2, Matthew's first theological statement is pure fire and brimstone, worthy of the most radical Puritan. This, then, is the starting point of Matthew's theology: repent in sincerity, for Christ's judgment will condemn the unrepentant sinner to a fiery hell.

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Matthew 3:16: As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

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