A Prayer Prompted by John 11

Our Father in heaven,

You have your own perfect plans for us.  You know exactly how best to form us and shape us, how to mold our character and bend our will. Help us to trust you as you do your perfect work.

Cause us to always keep looking toward Jesus as the perfect example of humanity. He perfectly understands us in all of our trials and our weaknesses because he live through such things himself.

We receive him also as the perfect Savior, who died for us, rose again, and is the source of eternal life for all of us who believe.

With Martha we can respond to Jesus by saying, “Yes, Lord; we believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who has come into the world.”

Amen.

Love and waiting – John 11:1-6

Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. 

Lazaraus was sick and near death. Jesus loved Martha Mary and their brother Lazarus. So why did he wait. It would seem to make more sense to say that Jesus loved them, “so her hurried to get to Bethany.” But this is Jesus, and he is right, and he waited two days longer.

I am something of a failed bonsai hobbyist. I’ve tried to grow the little tress and have at times succeeded, even for years at a time with a single tree. The trick is to keep them growing almost indefinitely, like trees in the wild. The longer they live the more your work pays off, and the work tends to be mostly toward the beginning.

In order to properly train a bonsai tree you have to be patient. You bend a branch or guide the trunk to a certain angle and then you wire it in place. Then you have to wait weeks or months to bend it more. To try to bend too much at once can break the branch. Eventually, you get the desired shape and then you leave it. The tree will mature, but adapting to the careful training you gave it right from the start.

God knows how to train us. He knows how to bend us into shape. And that does not always come all at once. Martha and Mary had to wait for Jesus while watching their brother die. Jesus loved them and somehow knew that it would be better for all concerned if Lazarus was in the grave for four days before Jesus arrived. I’m not sure what was going on in the hearts of the two sisters during that time, but we may speculate that the waiting did them good.

The same goes for us. As we wait for the answers to unanswered prayers, sitting patiently when there is little else that we can do, that may be evidence of the love of God. He is forming our character, testing our faith, and building our strength to persevere under trials. This is all for our good. Love and waiting are often intimately tied.

A Prayer Prompted by John 10

Dear heavenly Father,

We receive your Son Jesus as our Shepherd.  We put our faith and total trust in him. 

We believe that you sent him to lay down his life for us.  We receive that eternal life offered by your grace. Let us never waver from that commitment.  Let no one ever remove us from your hand.

In Christ, Amen.

“Your father the devil” – John 8:42-45

42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. 43 Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me.

Wouldn’t it be nice to skim right past this section as if it weren’t there? Wouldn’t it be nicer still if it if fact really weren’t there at all to skim over?

Alas, it is there, confronting us in the Gospel of John like a neighbor we would like to ignore and who refuses to go back inside his house. The implications of this passage are profound. It is so filled with content, all of it coming from the mouth of Jesus, that it practically bursts out of the page. Let’s list just a few things.

  1. There is a real personal devil.as well as a real personal God.
  2. The devil is a murderer.
  3. He pretty much always lies, because his character is such that lying comes naturally to him.
  4. Jesus, on the other hand is truthful.
  5. Jesus was sent by God in accordance with God the Father’s perfect will.
  6. If we love Jesus, then that reveals that God is our Father.
  7. There are people who do not love Jesus.
  8. They cannot seem to tolerate what he actually has to say.
  9. These people are children of the devil,
  10. They desire to do their father’s, that is, the devil’s will.

That is a lot of information to take in, all pouring forth from a few short verses, and it is all life-changing if we truly let it sink in.

Dear God, help us to clearly see the difference between the truth that we receive from Jesus and the devil’s lies. Help us not to distort your word, as the devil has from the beginning, only using it in such a way as to serve his deceptive purposes. Make us genuine lovers of God, lovers of our Lord Jesus and lovers of the truth. In this way let us reveal that we are your children. And help us to do all that we can to call the devil’s children out of the realm of his deception and into the truth of Jesus Christ. Amen.