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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 August 9, 2013

<i>Bird of God</i> by Joanna Mary Boyce, ca. 1861.
Bird of God by Joanna Mary Boyce, ca. 1861.



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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.


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 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 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.



Now the God of patience and consolation grant to me, and to all who pray in the name of Christ, to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus: That we may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.


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>Saint Matthew and the Angel</i> by Guido Reni, ca. 1625.
Saint Matthew and the Angel by Guido Reni, ca. 1625.

Finding God

We never grow closer to God when we just live life. It takes deliberate pursuit and attentiveness.

~ Francis Chan

Blue Latin Cross

Matthew 5:20-26 (ESV)

Sermon on the Mount - Obtaining Righteousness

“For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.

So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.”

Notes on the Scripture

We have included the last sentence from yesterday's Scripture, because Jesus' speech about fulfillment of the law introduces a long section of topical lessons on specific types of sin. He has promised that the righteousness of the listeners would have to exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees — in short, that the extensive Mosaic law does not go far enough.

The Greeks invented a term, dramatic irony, which means, basically, that a person watching a drama knows something that the characters on the stage do not. It is the staple of horror movies; someone walks carefully down a hall to open a door. The audience knows that there is a zombie on the other side and screams “Don't open it!” But the character does not know.

Or, if you have ever read Romeo and Juliet, Juliet takes a potion that makes her appear dead; but she isn't really dead and will awaken in an hour. The audience knows this, but Romeo does not: dramatic irony. And as the audience watches in horror, Romeo takes his own life, believing Juliet to be dead and not wanting to live without her.

Dramatic irony in Matthew 5:20 impedes our appreciation of it. We know that Christ will die in satisfaction for our sin, i.e., our inability to comply with the laws of God. So when we read “your righteousness must exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees”, or “whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments . . . will be called least in the kingdom of heaven”, it does not affect us strongly.

We realize something that the Hebrews listening to Jesus did not: their inability to comply with this impossible standard will be forgiven.

But we profit more from reading the passage without dramatic irony. Forget, for a minute, everything you know about Christ. Pretend you are a Jew, seeking God in good faith, keeping the law. And with this state of mind, read Matthew 5:17-20; once you have that down solid, read some of the rest of Matthew 5.

The capper is the last sentence in the chapter: “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Christ's words are profoundly frightening. Who can live without becoming angry, or feeling lust? Am I going to have to put out my eye and cut off my hand? He is, essentially, telling the audience that they are going to burn in hell for eternity.

Jesus meant for us to know this fear; He meant for us to feel this fear; He meant for us to appreciate that, no matter how bad our lives are on earth, they are going to get even worse when we die. Fear of God, says Proverbs 1, is the beginning of wisdom. We cannot fully appreciate Christ, and what He did for us, unless we know our terrible destiny without Him.

endless knot

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Psalm 55:22: Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.

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