From Praying the Names of Jesus Week Seventeen, Day Four
In the last book of the Bible, Jesus reveals himself as "the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End." Present at the world's beginning, Jesus will also be present at its end, when he and his work are finally and fully revealed. When you pray to Christ as the Alpha and the Omega, you are praying to the One who is, who was, and who is to come. He is our all-sufficient Lord, who will not fail to complete the good work he has begun in us.
"I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End." Revelation 22:13
Praying the Name
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Hebrews 13:8
I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone "like a son of man," dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. . . .
When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: "Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades." Revelation 1:12 - 13, 17 - 18
Praise God: Because he has no beginning and no end.
Offer Thanks: Because Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
Confess: Any fear that drives your life.
Ask God: To reveal the fault lines in your life.
September 11, the Asian tsunami, and Hurricane Katrina — natural and unnatural disasters that have dramatically exposed the fault lines within governments, societies, and nature itself. Day after day we have watched the unfolding drama of disasters that most of us could never have imagined — the latest in New Orleans, a city described as one of the most romantic, historic, and musical cities in the world. Overnight Hurricane Katrina turned this city, known as the Big Easy, into the hardest place on earth to live. With unintended irony, one New Orleans website still advises would-be visitors: "One thing you should remember to do before coming to New Orleans: forget everything you know."
Today that advice seems apt. Forget the graceful antebellum mansions, the rich cuisine, the annual Mardi Gras festival, and the sweet sound of New Orleans jazz floating across the French Quarter. Remember, instead, the hunger, the bedlam, and the human misery that New Orleans' poorest and weakest residents suffered as they waited for someone, anyone, to save them after the levees broke. Remember the shame and horror we all felt as we watched their despair.
The same website goes on to describe the city's legendary appeal: This is New Orleans. Queen City of the South. An exotic temptress. Steamy, sultry and sensual. For three centuries sunken lazily in the bend of a mighty river near the edge of a continent. Suitors come from near and far — drawn by her beauty, intrigued by her sounds and smells, beguiled by her grace, enchanted by her spirit.
This is New Orleans. Feel free to fall in love. Sin at will. There's always time for guilt tomorrow, or the next day.
No doubt the vast majority of the city's residents have lived more virtuous lives than this copywriter's version of New Orleans might indicate. But how telling that the city's seductive charm, famous for more than two hundred years, vanished in an instant.
I live in a solid Midwestern city, a city that, though pleasant, could hardly be described as seductive. But recent events have caused me to wonder what fault lines lie hidden within it. Couldn't everything I love and cherish in Grand Rapids, Michigan, be swept away in an instant, just as it was in New Orleans? What would happen if my city's infrastructure suddenly collapsed? If there weren't enough food, water, and shelter to go around? What kind of people would we prove to be? How would we treat our poor? Our sick and elderly? Would middle-class values and middle-class dreams survive such a catastrophe? This is a question I'm asking these days, not just about my city but about myself. Where are my fault lines? How would I act under the kind of pressure that was brought to bear on the citizens of New Orleans?
What am I basing my life on? I wish I could tell you my confidence has grown as I try to imagine myself confronting similar conditions. But truly it is hard to be anything but frightened by such thoughts. When worse comes to worst, I know it will only be God's mercy that will sustain me and those I love.
Today I pray that you and I will learn before it is too late how to fix our eyes on Christ, who is God forever. He is the One who is, who was, and who will be — the One who banishes our fear because he holds the past, present, and future in his all-powerful hands. Neither New Orleans nor Grand Rapids nor any other city in the world will last forever. But Jesus will.
May he be the beginning and the end of everything we believe, everything we strive for, everything we trust in. May he be first in our families, first in our relationships, first in our businesses, and first in all the days that lie ahead for us. Then, no matter what happens, we will be given the grace to stand, knowing that our lives are hidden in the hands of the only One able to save us both now and forever. Amen.
Two of Ann Spangler's most-loved books have been released in paperback: Praying the Names of God and Praying the Names of Jesus.
These books help us understand the biblical context in which these names and titles were revealed, and help us gain a more intimate knowledge of the Father and of the Son.