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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 23, 2013

<i>A Bird from Heaven</i> by Yelena Cherkasova, contemporary
A Bird from Heaven by Yelena Cherkasova, contemporary.



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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.


There is a story to this recording. A few months before his death, Elvis was giving a concert in Montgomery when he suddenly announced that he would sing this gospel number. He had (obviously) not rehearsed it; he had never performed it in public before and never would again. (He could only find sheet music for the piano and backup singers, so his band sat silent).

He was deeply moved to sing this song, straight from his heart, for we know about his difficulties in the days before he died. It is a spontaneous cry to the God of his youth.

prayer for morning (e. e. cummings)

i thank God for most this
day; for the leaping greenly
spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;
and for everything
which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes


Prayer of Thanksgiving

Father in heaven, creator of all and source of all goodness and love, please look kindly upon me and receive my heartfelt gratitude for all that you have done for me and for those I love. Thank you for all the grace and blessings, both spiritual and temporal, you have bestowed upon me, my loved ones, and this community of prayer: Our faith and religious heritage; our food and shelter; our health; the love we have for one another; and the lives of our Lord and friends.

Dear Father, in your infinite generosity, please grant us continued grace and blessings during the coming day. This I ask in the name of Jesus Christ, your only son, who has saved me from death.


Benediction (from Jude 1)

Now all glory to God, who is able to keep us from falling away and will bring us with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault. All glory to him who alone is God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord. All glory, majesty, power, and authority are his before all time, and in the present, and beyond all time!


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>Angel</i> by Abbot Thayer, ca. 1890.
Angel by Abbot Thayer, ca. 1890.

Psalm 91:1-2, 11-12

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”

For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways.
On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.

Blue Latin Cross

Matthew 4:5-7 (ESV)

The Temptation of Jesus [2]

Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written,

‘He will command his angels concerning you,’


‘On their hands they will bear you up,
 lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Notes on the Scripture

We cannot know if Satan actually flew Jesus around physically, or if he “took” Jesus to a place in his mind, his imagination. The entire temptation sequence is veiled in mystery, for Christ was alone in the desert; the account of the ordeal had to come from Christ himself, and he was adept at speaking metaphorically. But this very mysteriousness emphasizes an aspect that is more important than whether Jesus actually flew around: his internal struggle.

I like to think of Satan as an actual being, but feel free to differ. Many theologians argue that Satan is himself metaphorical, the personification of a force contrary to God's will. And in his book The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, Julian James makes a brilliant argument that ancient men would actually see things within themselves as external beings.

Either way — whether Christ is tempted by an external being or by his human nature — the critical events take place in Christ's mind. Satan appeals to Christ's human drives; if he did not feel any pull towards sin, he would not be fully human and the temptation story would be meaningless. Jesus felt what we feel when we are tempted to sin; but being the Son of God, he resisted the temptation 100%.

But why tempt Christ to jump off a cliff? Christ had been born to bring the word to humanity, so bringing people to hear him was something desirable. And flying off the Temple would get him attention in a hurry. (A fake “Messiah” of the period known as Simon Magus did exactly what Satan tried to convince Jesus to do: He jumped off a cliff to show that he could fly — and fell to his death.)

So why did Jesus, who actually could have fallen from the cliff without harm, not perform this miracle? He certainly had no problem with turning water into wine, or walking on water.

First, the miracles Christ performed were signs of divinity, not magic tricks to wow the fickle and faithless. They were carefully placed signals for those who were truly seeking righteousness. Consider Luke 4. When Jesus returned to Nazareth, the people complained that he didn't perform enough miracles. But they were not seeking salvation; they wanted to see a show. Christ's miracles were (and are) for those who have faith or, at least, genuinely seek righteousness before God.

Secondly, Christ's miracles were done only when necessary and only to benefit others, as a demonstration of God's mercy.

And thirdly, Satan's temptation implies that Christ performs miracles in order to fulfill prophecy, which is backwards. Christ did not conduct himself to fulfill prophecy; rather, the prophecies had been made because the miracles would be performed. Jesus was not, for example, born in Bethlehem because Micah predicted it; Micah predicted it because God had already ordained it. Miracles determine prophecy, not vice versa.

God will not, in summary, be tested. (See Deut. 6:16.) God's timing of events is the product of perfect knowledge; to allow another being (much less a purely evil one) to determine the timing of his miracles would be absurd.

endless knot

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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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