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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 September 12, 2014

<i>Procession Under the Trees</i> by Maurice Denis, ca. 1892.
Procession Under the Trees by Maurice Denis, ca. 1892.



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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 for the Day

Holy God, you have given me another day. Bring your Holy Spirit into my mind and my life, so that I may walk this day in your presence. Let me feel your presence throughout the day, remembering always that you sent your Spirit that you might be a living force in all I see and all I do. When I feel temptation or begin to stray, show me your path. Correct me, comfort me, let me live your will; that I may be happy in this life and blessed in the life to come. This I pray in the name of Christ, my Lord.


Prayer for Goodness

Lord, save me alike from foolish Pride
or impious Discontent,
At anything thy wisdom has denied,
or anything that goodness lent.

Teach me to feel another's woe,
to right the fault I see:
That mercy I to others show,
that mercy show to me.

Mean tho' I am, not wholly so,
since quicken'd by thy breath;
O lead me whereso'er I go,
thro' this day's life or death!


From Universal Prayer by Alexander Pope


[How does discontent affect my faith?]


Oh Heavenly Father, in whom I live and move and have my being, I humbly pray you so to guide and govern me by your Holy Spirit, that in all the joys, occupations, and cares of this day I may never forget you, but remember that I am ever walking in your sight. In Christ's name, I pray,


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 Paul</i> by Lippo Memmi, ca. 1350.
Saint Paul by Lippo Memmi, ca. 1350.

Proverbs 10:19 (ESV)

When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable,
But he who restrains his lips is wise.

Blue Latin Cross

John 21:15-17 (ESV)

Peter, Do You Love Me?

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.”

He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.”

He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.”

Notes on the Scripture

This touching scene occurs after Jesus has been resurrected. Christ asks Peter if he loves Him more than “these”; the referent of “these” is ambiguous, but it refers to how much the other disciples love Jesus. In other words, Jesus is asking, “Do you love me more than the other disciples love me,” not, “Do you love me more than you love the other disciples.”

Jesus repeats the question three times, which distresses Peter, as he feels Jesus doubts his love; but as so often he does, Peter gets it wrong. It tracks Peter's three denials of Christ immediately after the crucifixion (before the “cock crows twice”) and in effect allows Peter the chance to confess and repent of his denials, and to be forgiven directly by Christ.

There is another aspect to the three questions, and that is, Christ wants to make three different statement. While it is difficult to tell much difference between “feed my lambs”, “tend my lambs”, and “feed my sheep”, it would appear that Christ is talking about three stages of development or history. “Feed my lambs” would seem to refer to a person, or Christianity as a whole, in its infancy. One might decide Christ is talking about taking care of new converts, or preaching the Gospel to those who have not heard it.

“Tend my sheep” is the easiest of the three statements to understand; more literally, the Greek might be translated “Shepherd my sheep” as the verb specifically refers to tending a flock. This refers to the care of Christians mature in their faith (or established churches) who will feed themselves, but must still be looked after: a shepherd must pick his flock's pasture, make sure no sheep wander off, defend them against predators, etc.

“Feed my sheep” is open to the widest interpretation. An adult human needs to be fed only when he grows very old; sheep need to be fed only in extreme conditions, such as an unusually harsh winter. Or, perhaps, Jesus is saying that despite all appearances, even people or churches mature in their faith will need food that only Peter can provide. Some scholars have thought that this might refer to Peter's own willingness to die, to feed the congregations with his own body, as Christ feeds us symbolically with His.

A Note on the Greek Words for “Love” (for anyone interested)

There is a persistent bit of dogma that turns up in even educated pulpits, classrooms and commentary, that the Bible had two words for love, “agape” and “philia” (or “phileo”), and that each describes a specific kind of love. “Agape”, they say, refers to a spiritual love or divine type of love; “philia” refers to a brotherly, human love, a sort of more commonplace affection. The distinction, at least as far as Greek word usage is concerned, is nonsense. It was propagated by a man named Richard Trench in 1880 and has resisted all informed attempts to dislodge it.

First, we need to get something straight. “Agape” and “philia” are nouns that mean “love”. “Agapao” and “phileo” are verbs, that mean “to love”. So if you hear someone talking about how “agape” means something different from some other Greek word, you will know right away that they are not qualified even to be talking about the issue. Why? Because “agape” is the only noun meaning “love” used in the New Testament. (And it is used in the Old Testament, e.g., Song of Solomon 2:7, referring to erotic love: “I adjure you, daughters of Jerusalem, By the roes, or by the hinds of the field, That you not stir up, nor awaken love, Until it so desires.”)

There is one exception, one occurrence of the noun “philia” in the Bible, in James 4:4. (And even there “philia” is incorrectly translated as “friendship” rather than “love” in every major Bible, specifically due to translators' ignorance. Compare James 4:4 to Matthew 6:24 if you want to see what I mean, but I don't want to get sidetracked).

The verbs “agapao” and “phileo” are both used frequently in the New Testament; and all one has to do is read the passages in which they occur to realize that they are synonyms and do not represent two different kinds of love, per se. If you want an example, both verbs are used in today's Scripture. Try and decide which of the seven occurrences of love in the passage are “agapao” and which are “phileo”.

“Agapao” is, in fact, used only twice, in the first two questions from Jesus. Yet the meaning is identical in all seven instances. And in fact, the passage itself states they are identical. It says Peter was sad that Jesus asked him, for the third time, if he loved (phileo) Him, when Jesus used the word “agapao” in two of the questions.

Scholars, having predetermined that there is a fixed lexical distinction between the two verbs, engage in absurd contortions to show that the meaning of “love” in Jesus' first two questions is different from the meaning of “love” in the other five instances.

If any person has any doubt that “phileo” is used to express divine love, and is a synonym for agapao, all you have to do is read John 16:27, “ for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.” The verb in both instances here is “phileo”. John (as he does in today's passage) uses different verbs in the exact same expression, probably for simple variety, when he speaks of “the disciple Jesus loves” (which most people take to be John himself); agapao in John 13:23, and phileo in John 20:2.

But other than translators who makes mistakes because of it, there really isn't much harm to these linguistic errors. There are indeed different kinds of love described in the Bible. The sort of love that God has for us, and that we have for God, and that we are to have for each other when we love one another in Christ, is surely distinct from other kinds of love; and if English speakers want to call it agape, well, no harm done. It just isn't true in Greek.

endless knot

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“Love Hopes All Things”

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1 Peter 3:10: Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking guile.

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