With Thanksgiving

Philippians 46 [widescreen]

Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional with the purpose of encouraging regular reading of the Word of God. I do not publish supplemental material on Sundays, but I do post a suggested reading from Scripture. Please be sure to subscribe to this page so you can follow along each day. Thanks for reading!

Reading the Word

Philippians 4:4–6 (ESV)

4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Thanksgivings for All People

1 Timothy 21–2 [widescreen]

Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. I will be traveling over the next few days with my family for the Thanksgiving holiday. As a result, I will not be posting extra commentary, but I will continue to post suggested Scripture readings for each day. Regular posts will resume on December 2. Thanks for reading!

Reading the Word

1 Timothy 2:1–7 (ESV)

1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. 7 For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.

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The Devotion of the Early Church

small church

Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. On Sundays, I do not include supplemental material, but I do post a suggested Scripture reading. Please be sure to subscribe to this page so you can follow along each day. Thanks for reading!

Reading the Word

Acts 2:42–47 (ESV)

42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

Prayers from Gethsemane

Prayer

Reading the Word

Luke 22:39–46 (ESV)

39 And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. 40 And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” 41 And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, 42 saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” 43 And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. 44 And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. 45 And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, 46 and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.”

Parallel Texts: Matthew 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42; John 18:1

Understanding and Applying the Word

It was the eve of the crucifixion and only a short amount of time before Jesus was arrested. Jesus knew that his time was short and that he would soon suffer and die. So, what did he do? He went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. We are told that he was “greatly distressed and troubled” (Mark 14:33) and that he asked for the cup to be taken from him if there was any other way. The Father did not remove the cup from Jesus. There was no other way to deal with sin. Jesus had to go to the cross as a sacrifice. However, an angel did appear to strengthen Jesus.

There are two things for us to think about in this passage. First: our Savior’s death was no small thing. We may be tempted to think it was not a big deal since the resurrection was only a few days away. However, Jesus was troubled by the prospect of going to the cross. It was a no small thing, but it was the only way to secure our salvation, so our Savior went willingly.

Second: when we think about Jesus’ prayer request and the Father’s response, we must understand that our prayers are sometimes answered in different ways than we expect. The cup was not taken from Jesus, but an angel was sent to give him strength for the circumstances. God does not always remove us from the difficulty, but instead gives us the strength and perseverance to make it through. We must always say, as Jesus did, “Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”

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Jesus Prayed for His Disciples

John 1717 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

John 17:6–19 (ESV)

6 “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. 8 For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9 I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. 11 And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. 13 But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. 14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Jesus prayed for his disciples. Imagine what it would be like if he prayed for you and me. What would he pray for? I believe we have the answer when we look at this passage. He prayed that the disciples would be one (v. 11), that they be protected from the evil one (v. 15), and that they would be sanctified in the truth of God’s word (v. 17).

The content of Christ’s prayer reflects the greatest need of the Church in every age. We need unity among brothers and sisters in Christ. Unfortunately, we see how easily divided we often are over trivial things. We need protection from Satan and his attacks because he is always at work to undermine the gospel’s work in our lives and in the world. And we need to grow in our knowledge and understanding of God’s word because it is the means that God has given us for knowing who our Savior is and what he desires from us.

Jesus was not only praying for the disciples of that time, but his disciples across the ages, including you and me. What a wonderful thing to know that Jesus prayed for us!

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Asking in Jesus’ Name

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Reading the Word

John 16:23–28 (ESV)

23 In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. 24 Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

25 “I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech but will tell you plainly about the Father. 26 In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; 27 for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. 28 I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

This is a passage that is often misunderstood. Many take Jesus’ words in verse 23 to mean that God will give us anything we ask for as long as we do it correctly. This is where the custom of closing our prayers with the phrase “in Jesus’ name” originates. Many will also add that the one praying must have sufficient faith or the prayer will not be effective. Again, this comes from a misunderstanding of this passage.

It is important to notice a couple of things. Jesus already said something very similar in John 15:7, where he said:

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” (John 15:7, ESV)

Notice that the answer to our prayers is tied to our abiding in Jesus. Also, in our passage today, we are told that we must ask “in Jesus’ name.” This does not mean simply throwing a certain phrase onto the end of our prayers. This means that our prayers should be consistent with the will and desires of Jesus. When we take these two passages together, we see that our prayers are answered when we are asking for the things that Jesus desires. When our lives are lived in such a way that our desires and Christ’s desires are the same, we can pray with confidence that God hears and answers our prayers. We can start by asking God to help us to be more like Jesus.

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Abiding in the Love of Christ

John 1512–13 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

John 15:9–17 (ESV)

9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Jesus called on his disciples to “abide in my love.” They were to love as Christ had loved. This meant obedience to Jesus and loving one another. The love of the disciples was to be like that of Jesus, who laid down his life for others. Their love was to be sacrificial. When the disciples lived in this way, they could be sure that whatever they asked the Father in Jesus’ name would be given. This does not mean they would receive anything they wanted, but that prayers “in Jesus’ name” would be given. This type of prayer is one that is consistent with the will and purposes of Christ.

Love for others, especially fellow Christians, is a constant theme throughout the New Testament. We are told that those who love Jesus are also those who love others. Those who love Jesus are those who desire to obey him and the summation of his teaching is to love others just as he has loved us. Too many of us fail to love as we should, instead constantly working to tear down fellow believers so we look better. We are quick to point out faults and slow to offer grace and encouragement. We do this because we fail to love. Let us abide in the love of Jesus and work to love one another.

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The Power of Prayer

man standing on rocks near beach during golden hour

Photo by Samuel Silitonga on Pexels.com

 

Reading the Word

Matthew 21:20–22 (ESV)

20 When the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither at once?” 21 And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. 22 And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”

Parallel Text: Mark 11:20-26; John 14:12-14

Understanding and Applying the Word

When the disciples saw the fig tree wither, they were amazed. They were not focused on the meaning of Jesus’ sign, but on its power. How could Jesus do this? Jesus answered by telling the disciples if they “have faith and do not doubt” they could tell the mountains to be thrown into the sea and it would be done. In fact, they could ask for anything in prayer and receive it, as long as they had faith.

This is a passage that has been abused and misused by many. Jesus is not telling the disciples that they can hold God hostage to give them whatever they desire as long as they use the correct magic formula (i.e. faith). In the Bible, true faith is not one’s ability to believe in a particular outcome. True faith is the exercise of trust in God, whether the circumstances or outcomes are what is desired or not. So, to exercise faith is to trust in the plans and purposes of God, even in the midst of difficulty. Jesus is not teaching “name it, claim it” theology. John 14:12-14 says that whatever you ask “in my name” will be done. The phrase “in my name” tells us that what we ask for has to be consistent with the plans and purposes of Christ.

Jesus’ words to his disciples are to encourage them. They will have great power and authority of their own and it will be exercised through prayer. The Lord stands behind them and what may seem impossible to them, like throwing a mountain into the sea, will be possible through the power of God working in and through them. This is a truth that the disciples would need to remember in the days ahead as Jesus departs from the world and they are left to bear witness to the world. It is also a message that Jesus’ followers today need to remember as we proclaim the gospel in a world that stands in opposition to Christ. Incredible things can happen through prayer and the power of God working in and through us. Let us pray and let us have faith!

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God Is Just

Luke 181 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Luke 18:1–8 (ESV)

1 And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. 2 He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. 3 And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ 4 For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’ ” 6 And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. 7 And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? 8 I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

Understanding and Applying the Word

Some read this parable and understand it to mean that if we bother God enough by continuing to ask him for something, that he will eventually give us what we want. Is that really what this is saying? Can we wear God down by asking him over and over again? I do not think that is Jesus’ point.

A better way to understand Jesus’ teaching here is to know that Jesus is not saying the judge is like God, but that he is unlike him. This is a parable of contrast. The judge is unrighteous. God is perfectly righteous. So, if an unrighteous judge will eventually do what is right when asked, how much more will the righteous Judge (i.e. God) do what is right – and it will not be necessary to wear him down to get him to do it either! Jesus was teaching us that we can trust in God to be righteous and judge wickedness in the end. We can turn to him in prayer and trust in him each and every day even in the difficult times. The righteous Judge will do what is right.

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Ask, Seek, and Knock

child_praying

Thank you for reading Shaped by the Word. If you did not already know it, this is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. I do not include supplemental material on Sundays, but I do include a Scripture reading for the day. Please be sure to subscribe to this page so you can continue to follow along each day. We are reading through the life of Jesus Christ in 2019.

Reading the Word

Luke 11:9–13 (ESV)

9 And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 11 What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

Parallel Text: Matthew 7:7-11