Monthly Archives: November 2014

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Monday, November 24, 2014 – Thinking of You

“I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, – John 17:20-22

Sometimes we can get the idea that God is all powerful and that we are too insignificant for such a mighty God to care about us.  I mean as we consider the wonder of creation, the vastness of space, it is easy to believe that “our God is an awesome God,” but it is far more difficult for us to imagine that this same God could know anything about us.  All of which makes Jesus’ prayer just before he was arrested incredibly significant.  John records that as he was facing certain death by crucifixion, Jesus prayed not for protection or release from his fate, but for his disciples.  He prayed that his followers would continue the work which he had begun, that they would be united, that they would be comforted and empowered as they grieved his death.

Then, John records that Jesus prayed these words, “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word.”   Do you see what this means?  Just minutes before Jesus’ arrest and just hours before his crucifixion and death, Jesus prayed for you and for me.

I don’t know how the Gospel could get any more personal than that.  As Jesus went into battle against the forces of evil, as he freely offered himself to atone for the sins of the whole world, as he accepted his place as the “lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world,” he was thinking of you.  He was praying for you. He was preparing to die for you.

Our God really is “an awesome God,” not just because God is mighty but because God is unbelievably personal.  The gospel tells us that Jesus was thinking of you as he perpared to die  I can’t imagine anything more important or life-changing than knowing that.  Can you?

Good Father, I know that you are great and mighty.  What I can hardly believe is that you are thinking of me.  Amen.

 

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Thursday, November 5, 2014 – Glorifying God in Life and in Death…

After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, ”Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed. – John 17:1-5

John records that after talking with his disciples on the evening before his death, Jesus enters into a sustained time of prayer.  He begins his prayer with a focus on the dawning of a new time.  ”Father, the hour has come,” he prays.  While Jesus’ passion and death are part of the historical record, his prayer is not focused on a particular hour of a single night long ago.  His thoughts as he is praying are more sweeping; his perspective is eternal. Jesus’ prayer is announcing that the time, toward which all creation has been moving, has finally fully come – the dawning of the age of grace, a sustained season of love.  As his prayer unfolds, its timeless nature even sweeps up you and me, and, as we will see later in the prayer, he holds us in his thoughts just before he was arrested, condemned, and killed.

“Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you,” Jesus prays.  By this,  Jesus is announcing that the time had come for him to be brutally executed by the Roman government.  How in the world could dying a torturous death on a Roman cross be considered an act of glory?  Well, what makes the event glorious has nothing to do with the act of killing or the miscarriage of justice, for no doubt the events are tragic, the crucifixion is cruel, the death is gut-wrenching.  What redeems this horrendous death and converts it into an act of glory centers not on what the religious leaders do or what Pontius Pilate does or what the centurion executioners do, but rather on what Jesus does.  Jesus, you see, is no victim.  His life is not taken from him; he freely lays it down for his friends. Jesus is simply “finishing the work” which God laid before him.  Just as he was faithful in his life, he is now faithful in his death.  And God is glorified.

Jesus teaches us in his life and death the simple lesson that God is glorified as we trust him, seek out his will, and follow in his way.  You and I honor God by living as Christ lived, by loving  as Christ loved, by forgiving as Christ forgave, by sacrificing as Christ sacrificed, and even by dying as Christ died – not in fear and doubt, but in the full confidence that “nothing in life or in death can separate us from the love of God.”

What we learn in the first line of Jesus’ prayer is that each day, each hour, each moment of our lives, presents us with an opportunity to glorify God by surrendering to his authority, embracing his will, and trusting his promises.  What a grand way to live!  What a hope-filled way to die!

In my life, Lord, be glorified…today.  Amen.

A Bible-study devotional blog by Gorman Houston

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Monday, November 3, 2014 – Be of Good Cheer…

“I have said this to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33

John records that Jesus ended his final conversation with his disciples with an encouraging word, “Be of good cheer.”  The setting is the last supper Jesus had with his followers in Jerusalem, just moments before he left the room to journey across the Kidron Valley to a garden in which he would pray and from which he would be led away in fetters by those who sought to destroy him.

Jesus’ encouraging instruction to his followers offers a stark contrast to the certain suffering which awaited.  It is important to note that the words were not spoken in ignorance, but in full awareness, of the arrest, trial, and crucifixion which would unfold before the next sunset.  Jesus did not offer a false promise of comfort and assurance based on the hope that the fickle and often tragic circumstances of life would unfold in pleasant and agreeable ways.  Quite to the contrary.  Jesus’ offer of peace and cheer was made in the context of his assertion that life often offers disappointment.  ”In the world you have tribulation,” he told them.  Jesus spoke these words to empower and uplift his followers, as  they were about to begin a journey into deep darkness in which their hopes would be shattered, their lives would be in danger, and their thoughts would be consumed with grief, heart-break, fear, and failure.

It is important to note that Jesus did not promise those who followed him that everything would work out.  While life offers joy and beauty, celebration and triumph, things often do not work out well.  In fact there are times when we will simply be devastated by disappointment, failure, disease, violence, sorrow, pain, heart-break, and suffering.  Jesus’ word assures us that he is not only Lord of our joys and victories, but also Lord of our defeats.  His instruction to “be of good cheer” is not a call to retreat from the trial and tribulation of life but rather to embrace life in all its joys and sorrows and to live faithfully whatever the circumstances might be.  The only way we can live out Jesus’ words and “be of good cheer” is to recognize that our health and wholeness, our healing and blessedness come not from the fickle circumstances of life but from the eternal gracious, empowering, victorious word of our Lord.  ”In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

Lord Jesus, help me to trust you in times of joy and sorrow, in days of peace and turmoil, in nights of ease and despair.  Amen.

A Bible study devotional blog by Gorman Houston.