Daily Devotion for October 23, 2011
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.
Our Virtual Church this Sunday is a Southern gospel service, but it is sort of a "show" church, since the entire congregation is — well, let's just say that the person sitting next to you isn't singing off-key.
Prayer for the Morning
May all I do today begin with you, O Lord. Plant dreams and hopes within my soul and revive my tired spirit: be with me today. Be at my side and walk with me; be my support, that your hand may be seen in every action I take, that your goodness may be in every word I speak, and that your spirit may inhabit my every thought. Make my thoughts, my work, and my very life blessings for your kingdom. In Christ's name I pray,
Prayer for Peace
I thank you, Master and Lover of mankind, King of the ages and giver of all good things, for destroying the dividing wall of enmity and granting peace to those who seek your mercy. I appeal to you to awaken the longing for a peaceful life in all those who are filled with hatred for their neighbors, thinking especially of those at war or preparing for war.
Grant peace to your servants. Implant in them the fear of you and confirm in them love one for another. Extinguish every dispute and banish all temptations to disagreement. For you are our peace and to you we ascribe glory: to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and forever and unto ages of ages.
I pray, Lord our God, for all those who suffer from acts of war. I pray for your peace and your mercy in the midst of the great suffering that people are now inflicting on each other. Accept the prayers of your Church, so that by your goodness peace may return to all peoples. Hear us and have mercy on us.
Lord my God, remember and have mercy on my brothers and sisters who are involved in every civil conflict. Remove from their midst all hostility, confusion and hatred. Lead everyone along the path of reconciliation and peace, I pray You, hear us and have mercy on us.
Let all believers turn aside from violence and do what makes for peace. By the strength of your mighty arm save your people and your Holy Church from all evil oppression; hear the supplications of all who call to you in sorrow and affliction, day and night. Merciful God, let their lives not be lost, I pray you, hear us and have mercy.
If you are with me, O God, who can be against me? For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus my Lord.
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.(Additional prayers may be found at Prayers for All Occasions.)
And He inclined to me,
And heard my cry.
He also brought me up out of a horrible pit,
Out of the miry clay,
And set my feet upon a rock,
And established my steps.
He has put a new song in my mouth—
Praise to our God;
Many will see it and fear,
And will trust in the Lord.
Slaves to Righteousness
What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? Absolutely not!
Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.
I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.
Notes on the Scripture
If this passage sounds familiar, it is because it is very similar to a previous argument in Romans. But Paul grinds exceeding small. He previously countered the argument that we should sin more often, so that God might forgive us more often, and therefore there would be more of God's grace in the world. Here, he counters a slightly different, more sensible argument.
We are to be forgiven for all of our sins through our belief in Christ, so why be concerned if we sin? It has no practical effect on us; God's grace is boundless, his forgiveness a bottomless well. In his infinite power and mercy, he can forgive Hitler or Stalin as easily as Mother Theresa.
The last paragraph, where Paul essentially apologizes for speaking in "human terms", refers to the analogy to slavery. Having written about a difficult abstract concept, "death to sin", Paul attempts to make his point more concrete and understandable. Slavery was widespread in the Roman Empire and particularly in Rome itself, where as many as half the population may have been some sort of slave. It was accepted and a major part of their daily life. Moreover, some slaves were voluntary — akin to what we might call indentured servants.
The analogy is unfortunately dated; to modern people, slavery is terribly negative, an anathema. We might be better served to think of ourselves as people who have left the nation of evil, and immigrated to a new country, the nation of Christ.
We have moved to the this new country because we are in search of righteousness before God, and we know that its laws are righteous. However, in the new country, there are no police, no courts and no jail. So what do we do? Do we flout the law, knowing that we will not be punished? Or do we seek to obey the law?
The very fact that we have taken the trouble to emigrate from the nation of evil speaks what is in our heart. We have come to a new land because of our belief in it. We follow the laws of our new nation because they represent the deepest desire of our heart. It simply makes no sense to say that we would move to the nation of Christ in order to disobey the law.
Belief in Christ is belief in goodness. It is our belief in goodness, not our fear of punishment, that makes us want to obey God's commandments in the depths of our heart. To commit sin, and not feel remorse, is impossible if we truly believe in Christ.