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Daily Devotion for November 16, 2013

<i>Joseph’s Dream in the Stable</i>, Rembrandt ca. 1645.
Joseph’s Dream in the Stable, Rembrandt ca. 1645.



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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.


The wonderful old Golden Gate Quartet vows they "ain't gonna' study war no mo'."

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 Life

O  God, who for our redemption gave your only-begotten Son to the death of the cross, and by his glorious resurrection delivered us from the power of our enemy: Grant me so to die daily to sin, that I may evermore live with him in the joy of his resurrection; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.


Prayer for Peace

Grant, O God, that your holy and life-giving Spirit may so move every human heart, that barriers which divide us may crumble, suspicions disappear and hatreds cease; that our divisions being healed, we may live together in justice and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord.



Almighty God, by your Holy Spirit you have made me one with your saints in heaven and on earth. Grant that in my earthly pilgrimage I may always be supported by this fellowship of love and prayer, and know myself to be surrounded by their witness to your power and mercy. I ask this for the sake of Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns 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.

Angel by Luc Tuymens, a contemporary Belgian artist, ca. 1992.

1 Peter 3:3-4 (ESV)

Do not let your adorning be external — the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear — but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.

Blue Latin Cross

Matthew 12:43-45 (ESV)

The Unclean Spirit

When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’

And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first.

So also will it be with this evil generation.

Notes on the Scripture

There is a world of truth in this compact and eerie little ghost story. The context does not define whether it was intended as literal truth — that unclean spirits actually go out of people and then return with seven others — or whether it is metaphorical. A person could not be faulted for believing either way. It sounds more like metaphor, however, since at least part of it cannot be meant literally. We do not have actual brooms that sweep our minds, and our mind is not a literal house.

As metaphor, it has many levels of meaning. At the most mundane, it serves as a lesson in practical psychology. Consider the most prosaic self-help efforts.

How many people who are overweight go on a diet, lose weight, but then regain the weight they lost and more? If we personify overeating or physical indolence as a demon, we can drive it out by force of will, and “set our house in order”; but unless we put some new benign spirit in its place, the malignant one will return. Alcoholics Anonymous was a startling success, at a time when alcoholism was considered incurable, not because it instructed alcoholics to stop drinking; but because it concentrated on bringing in a new spirit, a “higher power”, to take up residency where the “alcohol demon” wanted to live.

Christ means this to connect to the previous passages about Jonah and the people of Nineveh and Sheba, although it is hard to see at first. The Jews had been blessed with a covenant with God; the scribes and priests were the people charged with the keeping of it. They swore off sin, in a sense, as an alcoholic might swear off booze or a lecher might swear off pornography or prostitutes.

But where they failed was by not understanding that outward, mechanical compliance with God's law, as if it were merely a set of rules for behavior, was doomed. In fact, the very purpose of the old covenant, as Paul so often reminds us, was to demonstrate the futility of attempting to rid oneself of sin by simply not sinning. It works no better than trying to break an alcohol addiction by simply not drinking.

Christ, when He became incarnate, brought with Him the solution; the acceptance of God's Word, which was grace personified in the person of Christ. He is not really saying that the people of Nineveh, or the Queen of Sheba, are righteous before God. They, like the Jews, had only evicted the unclean spirit, Satan, leaving his room clean and empty. Christ's point is that evil will, inevitably, return — and his return will be even worse than before.

This return had already occurred in Israel, for a great number of the scribes and priests, particularly the powerful sects such as the Pharisees, had become as corrupt and hypocritical as any Renaissance pope. These are they who will kill Jesus: Jews who had already suffered the return of Satan to their hearts and souls, and were thus unable to accept Christ in their hearts.

“The last state of that person is worse than the first.” A good person who has not taken Christ into his heart is doomed to greater evil. But the flip side of this is a wonderful promise: “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” (John 14:23-24)

endless knot

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Matthew 11:28-30: Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

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