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Daily Devotional • January 29

James Cornwell
Turn, Turn, Turn
A Reading from Hebrews 11:8-16

8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance, and he set out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he stayed for a time in the land he had been promised, as in a foreign land, living in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. 11 By faith, with Sarah’s involvement, he received power of procreation, even though he was too old, because he considered him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore from one person, and this one as good as dead, descendants were born, “as many as the stars of heaven and as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.”

13 All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth, 14 for people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of the land that they had left behind, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better homeland, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them.

Our daily life involves a series of turnings. We turn our attention from the music in our cars to pedestrians on the sidewalk or other vehicles on the road. We turn our attention away from washing the dishes to the question posed to us by one of our children. We turn from our path to face a voice behind us that has just called our name.

In each of these turnings we find implied priorities. We turn away from the things we value less and toward the things we value more. This is not to say that the things that end up behind us are bad, only that, in relative terms, we have made a judgment that the things before us are at least more important.

The writer of the letter to the Hebrews tells of the turnings of Abraham and Sarah. They turn away from their lives of security and prosperity in their homeland toward a place they’ve never seen for the sake of children they physically should not be able to bear. Their faith is in the turning — they value God’s promise above all the good things in their lives. 

We live in our own Urs, surrounded by things that give us pleasure, security, and fulfillment. Each person, thing, or experience, at its best, can give us glimpses of that transcendent place for which our spirit longs, the place where we will have gone beyond mortality, sin, and death. But only God through Christ can actually offer such a thing, and thus, by faith, God demands our turning. We must look beyond these familiar things to the one who is the goal of our journey and the source of all good gifts, so that even as we live attentively in this world, our eyes and hearts are always fixed upon the next. 

James Cornwell lives and works in Wheaton, Illinois, with his wife Sarah and their seven children.

Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer

Today we pray for:

The Church of Pakistan (United)
St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, Richmond, Virginia
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