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Daily Devotion for May 17, 2014

Eric Liddell
In 1924, Eric Liddell, “the Flying Scotsman”, gave up a near-certain Olympic Gold Medal in the 100-meter dash, because the race was held on Sunday. He became a missionary in China and died in a Japanese camp in 1945, after giving his ticket to leave to a pregnant woman. If you have never seen Chariots of Fire, you really must.



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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.


For Faithfulness in the Use of this World's Goods

Almighty God, whose loving hand has given me all that I possess; Grant me grace that I may honor you with my substance, and remembering the account which I must one day give, may be a faithful steward of your bounty; through Jesus Christ our Lord.



[Gratitude for the peace we enjoy.]

To Be Free of Mental Distress

Lord Jesus, I find myself sometimes filled with depression and negativity over what I see as my failures in life; shame, guilt and anxiety beset me, and I grow sorrowful that I am not more, that I have wasted opportunities in my life. I sometimes feel worthless and helpless, with unwelcome humility forced upon me.

Help me, sweet Jesus, to turn my eyes upon you. Give me the hope I need, and help me face life with the courage of faith in you. You told your disciples to be anxious for nothing. I give to you my anxiety, Lord Christ, and lay my troubles upon your mighty back; and I pick up your burden, for you have promised that it is light, and that you are gentle and kind. Let me work for your glory and not my own, putting an end to the pain of my vanity, that I may serve you in joy and peace all my days.



And now let me go forth praising you, O Lord, with all my heart, telling of all your wonders, with my words and in my actions. I will be glad and rejoice in you this day. I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.


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.

Devotional painting of Jacob Ladder, St. Catherine Monastery, Sinai
The Ladder of Divine Ascent (Jacob's Ladder), 12th century, St. Catherine's Monastery, Mount Sinai, Egypt.

Cheap Grace

“Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession...Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”

~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Blue Latin Cross

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (ESV)

Running to Win

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things.

Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.

Notes on the Scripture

Sporting events were as important in Paul's day as in our own — not among the Jews of Palestine, but as part of the exploding Greek culture that dominated the Mediterranean region in the 1st century A.D. (Greek, not Latin, was actually the lingua francaThe “common language”, that is, the second language spoken by people in every country so that they could communicate with each other, much as pilots today must speak English. English is the lingua franca of Air Traffic Control throughout the world. of the Roman Empire. It was also the primary language of scholars, which is why the New Testament, and even the first Old Testament, were written in Greek.)

Greek discus thrower

Paul often uses figures from arena competition (at least twelve different references in his letters), including examples of runners, boxers, gladiators, chariot racers, and trophies. Sports analogies would have been especially meaningful to the Corinthians, because their city was the center for the Isthmian Games, second in prestige only to the ancient Olympic Games. Corinth was a major city and very Greek in its culture. So Paul's comparison of living for God and running in a race was as easily understood by the Corinthians as by us.

In sports, Paul finds a ready-made metaphor to support his plea for a temperate lifestyle. Any athlete training to win an event knows the necessity of foregoing excessive indulgence in food, drink, or other pleasures of the flesh. Paul considers his body to be subject to himself, not vice versa. He disciplines his body and its urges. His mind and spirit, not his bodily urges, determine what he will eat and drink, whether he might lie with a woman, etc.

Athletes, however, run with great uncertainty. Even the most dominating figure in a sport can lose. In fact, every athlete will eventually lose unless he dies or retires first. But Paul runs his race with the certainty of victory. He knows that salvation is his; and we know that salvation is ours, if we run the race to win it.

Paul is preaching the opposite of what has come to be called “cheap grace”: Get baptized, go to church on Sunday, maybe send a check to a charity every December, and don't worry about it. Wrong! If we want to find God's salvation, we have to try to win it. Endless remorse over the sins of life, without a real effort to repent and reform, is not going to cut it. We are fighting for the most important thing in the universe and we must give it our best effort! We all know that we will not overcome sin without God's grace, but we must fight, and fight as hard as an athlete trying to win a race — with our whole heart and our whole mind.

This is not to say we can earn grace. Grace is a gift of God, given to us by the sacrifice of his Son, that will make us righteous before Him despite our sin. We do not and cannot earn it. But, Paul tells us here, God expects us to try.

endless knot

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Proverbs 30:5-6 (ESV): Every word of God is flawless. Do not add to his words or He will rebuke you and prove you a liar.

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