The View That Will Change Your Life Forever

Some views will change your life forever.  The scenic wonder as you look out over the mountaintops. The sun that sets below the horizon daily.  The waves that crash on the ocean shores where land and sea collide.  Seeing and feeling the peace of a forest walk as nature saturates your senses.  When our eyes meet with places like these, there seems to be an extraordinary pull within us that longs for us to want to relive that experience day after day.  What your eyes see and what you experience has a way of affecting you on the inside.

But what about what your heart sees?  How do you respond to the vision of Jesus before you today?  When you look at Him, who do you see?

One day Jesus had a private moment with His disciples. In that moment, He wanted to know what they saw, not with their eyes, but with their hearts.  After asking about the opinions of others (Mt. 16:13), He wanted to know what those around Him thought for themselves: “But whom say ye that I am?” He asked (Mt. 16:15). 

With that questioning digging into their personal understanding of Him, only one spoke in revealed truth that centered itself in his very being and wouldn’t let go.  Only one man, by the name of Peter, saw Jesus for so much more.  “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,” (Mt. 16:16) he said without hesitation or flinching, being fully confident in his answer.

In Jesus, I believe he saw not just the miracles, and wonders, and powerful teaching.  He saw Him for who He was: “The Son of the living God.”

When you see Jesus for who He really is, your life will be filled with wonder in a way you have never experienced before, and you will be changed forever.  When the veil of truth is pulled back and revelation dawns upon your knowing heart, and heaven shows you the Son, things will never be the same. 

As your eyes of faith look upon Him and your soul is drawn to Him, you find in Christ what you have been searching for all your life.  Forward you walk.  Closer to thee, O Lord, I must be, becomes the craving of your inner man, and it cannot be satisfied with another.

I know how the world views Him.  They call Jesus many things and have many opinions.  But as I rise this day and every day, I see your glory.  I see Your hand in the very details of my life.  I feel you in my heart, and as with Peter, I see the Son before me.  That is a view that has changed my life forever. 

Blessings ~

Father God, we are praying today for many souls to see You for who You are.  We are praying for eyes and hearts to be opened to the eternal truth: salvation can be found in no other, but only in Jesus Christ can lives be truly changed forever (Jn. 14:6).  May many grab hold of this truth today and believe and receive Him for themselves.  In the name of Jesus Christ, we pray, AMEN!

Above image by David Mark from Pixabay

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Sunday School Lesson – “Raising Lazarus: Jesus’ Authority Over Death” John 11:38-44

VERSE DISCOVERY: John 11:38-44 (KJV, Public Domain)

Have you ever watched a dramatic movie just to get that knot in your throat when the scene turns too intense? You know what’s on the screen is not real, yet unbidden tears begin to form in the corner of your eyes.  You wipe and wipe, hoping nobody else sees you crying over a movie, but they just won’t stop flowing.

Quite possibly, you have seen this movie before and you know the story will turn out for good, but your heart was just so touched by what was before you that you cannot help but let the emotions of the scene get to you.

In today’s lesson, we come upon a scene that takes a dramatic turn and puts a knot in the throat of our Savior. This does not only become a scene where He shows His undying compassion for those He loves by the shedding of His own tears, but He also shows His complete authority and victory over death and the grave before He ever went to the cross.

Jesus Comes to the Grave

John 11:38 “Jesus therefore again groaning in himself cometh to the grave. It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it.”

Jesus was out of the area when He received the summons that something terrible had happened to a very good friend of His. Lazarus was sick and the situation did not look good.  His sisters Mary and Martha sent a messenger to the Lord, saying, “He whom thou lovest is sick,” (John 11:3).

The first response when one hears news of a dire emergency occurring with a family member or a friend is to hurry and get to where that individual is, to offer any support and aid that one can to help remedy the situation. This may be the reason his sisters sent for Jesus in the first place.  As we learn, things did not work out as they had planned, but the situation was not out of the control of God.  His plan would be made manifest, and glory would be rendered to Him at the outcome of it all.

When He received the news about Lazarus, Jesus spoke without wavering, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby,” (John 11:4). Therefore, the Bible tells us He waited and did not immediately run to his side.

Some may think this is heartless. Not so, and if you read carefully, you will see that Jesus loved these people greatly (see John 11:5).  God was on the verge of transitioning the faith of those who would witness this great miracle to a brand-new level of belief in Jesus Christ, His Son.  Lazarus’ death would be the tool that would do just that.  So powerful was the event that is about to take place that later “the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death; Because that by reason of him many of the Jews went away, and believed on Jesus,” (John 12:10-11).

So, Jesus waits two more days before He made His way to where Lazarus was (see John 11:6). When He arrives, no surprise to Him, but just for narrative purposes we are told in the Bible that Lazarus has been in the grave “four days already,” (John 11:17).

Martha, upon finding out of the Lord’s arrival ran to Him and said, “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died,” (John 11:21). She knew that while Lazarus was still alive if Jesus had intervened death, all of this could have been avoided, and they would not be having this conversation today.

With no great, flowery words we often hear as sentiments of condolences at the passing of a loved one, Jesus simply stated, “Thy brother shall rise again,” (John 11:23). Martha knew of the resurrection, and she had that kind of faith in Jesus for the “last day” (see John 11:24), but today she still stands in grief wondering why Jesus hadn’t come on time.

When Mary was called to join them, she expressed the same sorrowful sentiment, “Lord, if thou hadst been here my brother had not died,” (John 11:32). Seeing His friends weeping and this whole sad scene playing out before Him, it caused Him to “groan in the spirit,” and He was “troubled” (John 11:33).  His own tears began to flow.

Looking at Him, and seeing His love for the one who was dead, people began to question, “Could not this man, which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died,” (John 11:37)? At this point, many of them still saw Jesus as just a “man.”  And as a man, they were looking at what Jesus could’ve done while Lazarus was alive as opposed to what He can do now even in his death.  In their humanity, they focused on what could have been prevented, instead of Jesus as the Savior who has the power to overcome it.

Arriving at the text of our lesson, verse 38 tells us, “Jesus therefore again groaning in himself cometh to the grave.” Here, Jesus is at the graveside of Lazarus and despite His all-knowing nature, He still groans again.

The fact of the matter is Lazarus was a friend of His and this tragic event touched Him on a personal level. Could it be that although He is fully God, that even in His humanity here on earth grief hit hard?  He was surrounded by weeping friends, and one is laying lifeless in the grave.  He was going to gain victory over it all, but for now, He groaned.

The Bible says that Jesus was “touched with the feeling of our infirmities,” (Hebrews 4:15). What that means is He knows what this human life is all about, the good times and the sad.  He feels what we feel.  He understands the hardships we face in the flesh; therefore, He groans.

Once I wrote, “Isn’t it nice to know that not only do we NOT carry our burdens alone, but we have a Savior that knows what those burdens feel like? Out of the depths of sorrow and pain – He knows.  Through the roads of striving and the paths of hatred – He knows.  During the darkness of nights, He already knows.  Our weaknesses have become His; He knows them, has lived through them, and has borne them.  Jesus knows!” (Jesus Knows/Wordforlifesays.com).

Jesus Says Take the Stone from the Grave

John 11:39 “Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days.”

“Take ye away the stone.” The scene was heart-wrenching and troubling; now Jesus asked what may seem to be an unthinkable and irrational request to some.

Unthinkable?  Maybe for another, but not for Jesus.

Irrational? Not at all.  Jesus was asking permission to gain access to the problem.

There are steps of faith and participation Jesus asks His followers to take. If you will remember back in 2 Chronicles 20:17 the people were told to get battle ready and go out against their enemy even though they would not need to fight in that battle.  We have the responsibility to activate our faith in Him by following through on His requests even if it seems irrational.

By removing the stone, they would not only be giving Jesus access to Lazarus, but they were giving Him access to their faith. When one opens their faith, they give Jesus a chance to speak life into it and do the impossible.

“Lord, by this time he stinketh.” Martha spoke up at the thought of it all. One did not just go around opening the graves of dead people except to add more dead people to it.  Little did she know Jesus wanted to free him that was dead and deliver him from that situation.

It should not be surprising that Martha is the one that spoke up. She was the worrier of the family.  When Mary spent time at the feet of Jesus, taking in the words He spoke and strengthening her faith, Martha was busy worrying about the things of this life (see Luke 10:38-42).

“For he hath been dead four days.” Four days gives us the impression that decay could have possibly started to set in in Lazarus’ body. For the human eye, this may look like a point of no return.  But for Jesus, it’s not too late.

Jesus’ power and authority over death are not restricted because Lazarus is in the grave and in a possibly decomposing state (think of the valley of dry bones in Ezekiel 37).  Lazarus’s sister wanted to confine the possibility of Jesus being able to do something about his condition within a certain time frame.  Once that time expired, to her, all hope expired with it.

Earlier she and her sister both expressed to Jesus, “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died,” (John 11:21, 32). But now, she sees the situation as past the point of remedy.  She believes it is too late.

There is nothing that God cannot do: “For thou art great, and doest wondrous things: thou art God alone,” (Psalm 86:10).  Jesus can “do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think,” (Ephesians 3:20).  Jesus didn’t need her to rehearse how many days have passed.  For Him, it’s never too late!

John 11:40 “Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?”

Before this moment of questioning, there was given a promise. Jesus assured her then, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.  Believest thou this?” (John 11:25-26).

Her response then was, “Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world,” (John 11:27). She was most likely concerned with the hereafter when she made her declaration of faith.  But Jesus was ready right now to do the impossible.  He was ready now to manifest “the glory of God.”

How do we see the glory of God manifested in our own life? By believing.

In an article titled, “Do More Than Pray – Believe!” I wrote:

“Sometimes in life, I think we tend to downplay the importance of our faith and what we believe. We hear about it so much that I think as Christians we have become desensitized to its power in both our spiritual and our natural lives.  This is not what it should be since we are told in four verses of the Bible, “The just shall live by his faith,” (Hab. 2:4; Rom. 1:17; Gal. 3:11; Heb. 10:38, KJV).

Our faith, our belief should be the marker for everything in our lives. Not just for salvation, but for every action and prayer.  We know all the right words to say and all the proper “Christian” motions to make, but is our faith alive and put into full force action?” (Wordforlifesays.com)

What Jesus was asking her was to believe beyond what she can see now, and she will have access to witnessing something truly miraculous taking place.  She was to put her faith “into full force action.” As Christians, we too are called to put our faith on display and let Jesus have access to the dead things so that He can raise them to life again.

Previously in John 11:4, when first called to come to Lazarus’ aid, Jesus spoke, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.” Knowing the power He would soon exhibit, He stated confidently again in verse 11, “Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep.”

God’s glory was about to shine for the whole world to see.

The Grave is Opened and Jesus Prays

John 11:41-42 “Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me.  And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me.”

With the stone rolled away from the grave, “Jesus lifted up his eyes.” What a beautiful picture this depicts, the King of all creation standing humbly with the naysayers while His whole focus is on heaven. He intercedes and approaches heaven where His Father sits attentively upon His holy throne.  A privilege, mind you, that He has now given to all His children (Hebrews 4:16).

“And said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me.” To me, this is one of the most special phrases in the Bible. Aloud, Jesus let us know that our prayers do not fall on deaf ears.  Repeatedly we are taught that God hears when we pray, and here in this moment, Jesus gives us an exact illustration of the faith we too can have when approaching the throne of grace.

“God has so many wonderful characteristics and attributes, but one of the things that always strike me as impressive is the fact that He hears my prayers, Psalm 54:2. In all lowliness of mind and heart, we come before Him freely. The Sovereign of the universe becomes attentive to us, and to our needs, and bows down His ear to take on our concerns and needs. He doesn’t have to, but He is mindful of us, Psalm 8:4. He centers Himself to focus wholly and completely on us.” (Know that God Hears/Wordforlifesays.com).

That’s amazing!

When Jesus approached God in prayer, He went in expectation, totally sure “that thou hearest me always.”

When one prays, expect to receive an answer, expect to see some sort of fulfillment come from your prayers. Look for something to happen because of your praying.  Even if the answer doesn’t look the way you imagine it should, your prayers do not fall on deaf ears.  Be confident that God hears you.  God is attentive to you.  God does not leave you in a state of wanting.  David said, “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want,” (Psalm 23:1).  There will be results.

Believe in the goodness of God. Believe in your relationship with Him as a child of the heavenly Father.  Believe that He always seeks to give you His best (ex. John 3:16).  I often refer to God in my personal prayer as the Good Father who gives good gifts to His children (Matthew 7:11).  It’s something we must hold on to and depend upon.  Believe that God knows how to answer our prayers.

“That they may believe that thou hast sent me.”  Jesus wanted to show the people through His prayer, and through what was to follow, that He and His Father were hooked up together in this.  He wasn’t some rogue man seeking to attract crowds for self-sake.  He was the Son of God, working with God and His approval, seeking to convince as many as possible to believe in Him, to believe in the mission He came to accomplish on this earth, with the end result of saving their souls, not just raising Lazarus from the dead. He spoke, “That they may believe.”

Jesus Calls Lazarus Out of the Grave

John 11:43-44 “And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth.  And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go.”

Jesus, before He ever went to the cross, proved His authority over death once again. On previous occasions, others who tasted death were brought back to life (see Matthew 9:25 and Luke 7:15).  Lazarus’s death, and the miracle of life being restored to him would be far more convincing of the power of Christ because he had been dead for a longer period.

Jesus once spoke, and said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation,” (John 5:25, 28-29).

What Jesus was doing with Lazarus now was just a small example of His power and what He will do in that day to come. Therefore, He called Lazarus by name and commanded him, “Come forth.” The Bible then tells us, “And he that was dead came forth.”

Even in death, those who were and are in Christ Jesus, are secured. “Loose him, and let him go,” Jesus commanded.  The one who has been raised need not be bound any longer.  Graveclothes are for the dead, of which Lazarus was not anymore.  Therefore, they were commanded to be taken off him.  Lazarus was made totally free.

In conclusion, we can have faith, because we see:

Jesus showed His authority over death before the cross: as seen here in this lesson and through other death-raising miracles.

He showed His authority over death during His process of going to the cross: When Pilate spoke of his power to crucify Him, the Bible says, “Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above,” (John 19:11, emphasis mine).  Previously, when He spoke of His life to others He said, “No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again,” (John 10:18, emphasis mine).

He showed His authority over death on the cross: “When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost,” (John 19:30, emphasis mine; see also Matthew 27:50 and Luke 23:46).

He showed His authority over death when He rose on the third day: “And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures,” (1 Corinthians 15:4, emphasis mine).

And He has authority over death forevermore: “I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death,” – Revelation 1:18, emphasis mine).

PDF Full Printable Sunday School Lesson Pack (With easy to read instructions following the P.E.A.R.L. format on how to conduct each lesson with areas for adding personal notes): Sunday School Lesson – Raising Lazarus: Jesus’ Authority Over Death

Suggested Activities:

Lesson Opener: “Resurrection Power” (see the attached lesson pdf link above for details on an activity to open this lesson)

Adult Journal Page: From the lesson of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11:38-44), we are reminded of many wonderful truths, such as Jesus’ love and compassion for people (Jesus wept), activating our faith through believing His promises and acting upon them (rolling away the stone), squashing doubts about what Jesus can do (“Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?” (v. 40)), to believing for the impossible, and God hears our prayers.  These, and many more truths come alive in this story.  Which part or parts are the most encouraging to you, and why?  Write your response on the Adult Journal Page – Raising Lazarus

Kid’s Journal Page: Kid’s Journal Page – Raising Lazarus

Blank Journal Pages: These pages, one designed for adults and one for children, can be used to bring out, remember, or write a particular part of the lesson you wish for you and/or your class to focus on.  Click>>Blank Adult and Kid’s Journal Pages to access the journal pages.

Draw the Scene:  Raising Lazarus Draw the Scene

How Many Words:  Resurrection Power How Many Words

Memory Verse: Raising Lazarus Memory Verse

Word Search: Raising Lazarus Word Search  Answers: Raising Lazarus Word Search Answers

Crossword: Raising Lazarus Crossword  Answers: Raising Lazarus Crossword Answers

Word Scramble: Raising Lazarus Word Scramble  Answers: Raising Lazarus Word Scramble Answers

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Standing on the Edge

Sometimes you may come to a place that seems impossible to pass.  This is a place that edges the border of what we have been delivered from to where we are being brought to.  It is in situations like these, when God shows up, there is no doubt that His hands have been working something extraordinary through it all.  The waters may crash on the shores before and the enemy’s army may be rolling behind, but God sees you, standing there on the fringe, in a world where these two impossibilities meet, yet in Him, there is nothing impossible.  In Him, there is always a way.  In Him, you are not in a helpless position.  In Him, the victory is already won.  Before you ever came to this place, He already knew what He would do.  So rest, weary one, in His sovereignty.  Rest in His plan.  You may not understand it, but He does.  You may not know how it will work out, but He does.  This will be performed by His strength, His wisdom, and His Spirit (Zechariah 4:6), not by anything we say or do.  In getting past this place, all glory, honor, praise, and credit go to God.  He is the one who will get you to the other side in peace and wholeness, with singing and rejoicing (Exodus 15:1-21).  To you who are standing on the edge, in Him, you are not standing alone.

 “And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will shew to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever.

The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.

And the Lord said unto Moses, Wherefore criest thou unto me? speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward:

But lift thou up thy rod, and stretch out thine hand over the sea, and divide it: and the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea.

And I, behold, I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they shall follow them: and I will get me honour upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen.

And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I have gotten me honour upon Pharaoh, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen.” Exodus 14:13-18

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The Sound of the Trump

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

They have seen the plagues inflicted upon their enemies.  They have tasted freedom they thought they never would have after their people had been in bondage for over four hundred years.  Two months of traveling the road led them to the base of this mount: Sinai.  The place where they would meet God and enter into a covenant relationship with Him.

Moses had his instructions to sanctify the people, the children of Isreal, and prepare them for this great meeting.  Rules have been put in place and boundaries marked out.  God’s commands for this meeting must be followed through correctly and He said, “When the trumpet soundeth long, they shall come up to the mount,” (Exodus 19:13).

The time has come.  With thundering and lightning enveloping the mountain (Exodus 19:16a), saturating it with the symbol of God’s awesomeness, then they heard “the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud” (Exodus 19:16b).  God is calling for His people to come for this holy encounter.  It was time for them to move forward to be where He is.

This event and these verses reminded me of Paul’s encouragement in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 and the hope that promise brings.

First, we remember when Jesus ascended into heaven and the disciples were told by two angels, “This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).

Through Paul’s teaching, 1 Thessalonians gives a glimpse of what that time would be like when Jesus returns: “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord,” (16-17). 

With His dissension, every eye shall see Him (Revelation 1:7).  And like on that ancient Mount, “the trump of God” will blow.  Rather than calling His people to come closer to the mount, He will be calling His saints to come home, and again, we read, “the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord,” (16-17). 

When the true King returns, it will be our turn to come closer to Him than ever before; to be where He is forever, never to be removed.  No more hopelessness.  No more sorrow.  No more pain.  No more heart-breaking acts, sicknesses, and troubles.  All the worries, questions, concerns, and hardships of this life will be gone forever.

Are you ready for the sound of the trump?

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Appreciating Calvary!

“And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left.” Luke 23:33

When approaching this subject and talking about “Appreciating Calvary,” I am speaking of the finished work of the cross that Christ Himself accomplished in that place.

One of my favorite hymns to sing, written by William Reed Newell, says, “Mercy there was great and grace was free, Pardon there was multiplied to me, There my burdened soul found liberty – At Calvary!”

Calvary is that place we sing of.  Calvary is the place of the skull.  That same Calvary in our beloved hymn is the place which was also known as Golgotha Hill.

It was the place where the condemned were taken.  A place where life was taken.  It was a place of pain, and where life would come to an end.  No one who mounted a cross in that place expected to leave that cross, except by way of death.

And Calvary, a place just outside of the walls of Jerusalem became a place synonymous with that suffering.  It became a place known for its executions.  In that, it also became the place for the most wellknown execution of all time, that our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Why is this so important?  Because He was, and is, so important.

History doesn’t record the name of others who died on that hill, for many have lost their lives in that place.  Calvary was not new to having blood flow down its hills.  Calvary was not new to having bodies bolstered high on its hill, exposing the shame of the condemned to everyone who walked by.

Calvary was not new to what the torture felt like that was carried out on its hills, but it wasn’t until Jesus became the one who walked up Calvary, His body already dealing with the pain of the scourging and whips; it wasn’t until Jesus, being fully submitted to the Father’s will, laid down His own life on that old rugged beam, that Calvary started to mean more than what it was used for.

I don’t know who died on that hill before Jesus.  And although some try to put names to the two thieves hanging next to Him, the Bible doesn’t mention them by their names (they are only noted by their actions).

But there is only one Man’s actions that made Calvary a significant place in history, and that’s Jesus.  It is only one name that climbed that hill that was worth remembering, and that’s Jesus.  It’s what Jesus did at Calvary that makes us appreciate it.  It is what Jesus performed on the cross on that hill that makes us want to pay attention to it and study it.  We want to know about Calvary because that’s where Jesus died for my sins and yours.

Before Jesus laid on that cross, He said, “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit” (John 12:24).

Before Jesus carried that beam up that hill, He said, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.  This he said, signifying what death he should die” (John 12:32-33).

Before one nail ever entered His flesh, He once told His disciples, “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again.  No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father” (John 10:17-18).

Before He was sentenced to death, Jesus confidently told Pilate, “Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above. . .” (John 19:11).  You are not taking My life from Me!  I know what I came to Calvary to do!  I came to Calvary, at this appointed time, in this appointed place, to do the will of My Father!   Before the foundation of the world, I was appointed here to offer mankind so much more, and Calvary was the place to make it all happen.

Calvary is the place of fulfillment.  Calvary is the place where the Passover Lamb was sacrificed.  Calvary was the place where things would be different now.  Calvary was the place where all things would be made new.  All because of what Jesus did on Calvary!

There, He hung and bled.  There, He cried out and died.  Because of what happened there, the veil was torn, the dead were raised, and souls would be released from eternal bondage, and so much more!

How much more, you may ask?  Let me show you what Jesus, Himself said from that place on Calvary.

On Calvary, Jesus showed us what true forgiveness looks like, saying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”  Instead of ranting and raving; instead of cursing and trying to get even; instead of hating those who put Him on the cross, Jesus prays to the Father for their forgiveness.

The pain He was feeling would not stop until He did.  Even when His body is finally put in the grave, the unbelievers would still be mocking Him, but He didn’t let that deter Him, His heart was set on forgiveness!

On Calvary, Jesus also gave the offer of something better.  The offer of heaven was given to the repentant thief.  Jesus said from the cross, “Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).  While He was losing His life, Jesus showed just how important souls are to Him.  Heaven is waiting for those who believe!  Heaven is yours if you are repentant!  What this world throws at you does not have the final say!  The promise is there!  The promise is for us.  There is a place referred to as Paradise and Jesus offered it to this previous sinner.

Your sins do not have to keep you where you are!  Jesus showed us on Calvary, that there is something better waiting for us ahead!  “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).  Calvary showed us, that something better is waiting on the horizon!

On Calvary, Jesus showed us that relationships matter.  On Calvary, Jesus shows how much He cares for and takes care of those He loves.  Looking down from the cross we are told, “When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold your son!’  Then He said to the disciple, ‘Behold your mother!’   And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home,” (John 19:26-27, NKJV).

He had to go.  He had to die.  But that didn’t make it any easier for His mother to comprehend.  It was already prophesied to her, “(Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:35).  It didn’t soothe the heartbreak at all.  A mother’s love does not work like that.  It is a special connection of the heart that starts at the time of conception and never leaves her.  Jesus knew she needed special care.  This woman who had raised Him and loved Him through it all needed to be looked after in a special way.

In His time of desperation, it is a blessing that He shifted the focus and thought about Momma!

And in His time of desperation on that cross at Calvary, He shifted His focus from Himself, and thought about you, and took care of you, because He loves you: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).  His relationship with you matters to Jesus, also.

On Calvary, Jesus fully felt the infirmity of mankind.  “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46, KJV).  Whatever the agony He felt in the garden that caused Jesus to sweat like great drops of blood during prayer (Luke 22:44), it wasn’t nothing compared to this moment.  Whatever agony His body felt as He hung with those nails impaled in His hands and feet, it was nothing compared to what He was feeling right now.

Placing all our sin upon Him, it is said, God turned His back on His Son.  He turned His back on Jesus, and Jesus felt the worst thing He had ever felt before separation from God.  He had a moment of not feeling the Father’s presence with Him.  When the Bible says, “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15), that is exactly what it means.

Jesus not only knew what it was to live in the flesh, but Jesus knew what it was to die in the flesh.  Jesus knew what it was like to live in the presence of God.  And through this moment, through this agony He currently felt, He felt the fullness of what man would feel if there was no reconciliation through His blood.  He felt man’s lost state.  He felt what man would feel like if God were to turn His back on them.  Jesus felt it all and refused to come down from that cross.  He refused to sin against the Father’s will, even in this!

On Calvary, Jesus fulfilled every prophecy.  From the cross, He said, “I thirst” (After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst. – John 19:28).

Not even the smallest of details were overlooked on the cross.  What may seem like an insignificant thing, Jesus fulfilled it all because your salvation is important and my salvation is important, and that we are able to trust in His salvation is important.  One can only trust a God who keeps EVERY WORD, even down to the simplest, “I thirst”.

If it is prophesied, “My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death” (Psalm 22:15), Jesus said, I’ll fulfill it.

If it is prophesied, “They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink” (Psalm 69:21), Jesus said, I’ll not leave this cross until I fulfill it.  The details of the prophecies are too important.  The details of the promises this cross would heal and give are too important.  Even the little details, I will do.  People have to know that even the little promises from the Father matter the most because they matter the most!

So, in the brokenness of His body, Jesus said, “I Thirst!”

On Calvary, Jesus spoke, “It is finished!”  The time of victory is almost here.  In Matthew 5:17-18 Jesus said, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.  For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.”

Jesus didn’t tap out.  Jesus didn’t give up in the middle of the process.  Jesus didn’t let people, discouragement, or pain stop Him from fulfilling everything that that moment on Calvary was asking for, or for everything the Father asked of Him, because for Jesus, it wasn’t over until it was all over.

He didn’t stop!  He had every right to.  When they mocked Him, when they spit on Him, when they blindfolded Him, and slapped Him, and said, “Prophesy, who is it that smote thee?” (Luke 22:64), Jesus still didn’t stop.  He kept going.  He kept enduring everything the crucifixion was throwing at Him.

Jesus didn’t let none of it frustrate His purpose for coming to this earth.  He let none of it get in the way of the salvation it would bring.  Jesus let none of it stop Him from being able to utter those words “It is finished!”

Genesis 49:10-11 says, “The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.  Binding his foal unto the vine, and his ass’s colt unto the choice vine; he washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes:” “It is Finished!”

And finally, on Calvary Jesus spoke these words: “Father, into Your hands, I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46).  Speaking these words, Jesus fulfills Psalms 31:5 which says, “Into thy hand I commit my spirit: thou hast redeemed me, O LORD GOD of truth.”

1 Peter 2:23 tells us of Jesus, “When He was reviled, reviled not again, when he suffered, he threatened not; but committeth himself to him that judgeth righteously.”

He put it in the hands of God.  He trusted God for the outcome.  He did everything He was supposed to do and to God, He was leaving the rest.  What a lesson for us to follow!

In John 16:28, Jesus said, “I came forth from the Father, and I am come into the world; again, I leave the world, and go to the Father.”

In Psalms 23:4, it promises, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”

Isaiah 12:2 confidendently tells us, “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation.”

Jesus knew His body would see pain and death, but Jesus also knew that He body was promised not to see corruption.  This body that hung on the cross today, was going to be resurrected on the third day.  Therefore, “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit!”  Release!  It was time to get out of here!

On Calvary, Jesus fulfilled every law.  On Calvary, Jesus fulfilled every requirement against us.  Everything we needed for a new life, started on that cross at Calvary.

In Christ, we are restored!

In Christ, we are blessed!

In Christ, we are made free!

In Christ, we are made new!

It had to happen!  It had to happen on Calvary!

My friend, today we are living on the other side of Calvary.  What our Lord Jesus did on that historical day that we call Good Friday wasn’t for Himself.  It was for you.  It was for me.  That indescribable gift of the life of Christ was laid down there in that place that we might one day rise in freedom.

Appreciate Calvary!

Blessings~

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The Water We Need

It is dreadfuly hot in our area right now.  The need to stay hydrated and well-watered is not just a good idea, but it is essential to staying healthy and safe during these extreme fluctuations of temperatures.

“Come to the waters,” is something I once wrote, with the invite to “Step into the abundant life He so offers (John 10:10).  Come and let your soul be spiritually satisfied.  Come and take the offer of His salvation for yourself.” (Come to the Waters)

The truth is, the heat of this life affects us all and we all need that saving water.

One day Jesus was walking with His disciples and He felt compelled to go through Samaria (John 4:4). Whilst there, He spoke with a woman He happened upon at a well.  He asked her, “Give me to drink,” (John 4:7).  Her response was, “How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans,” (John 4:9).

John 4:10, 14 says, “Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.  But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life,” (emphasis mine).

Furthermore, it is expressed in John 7:37-39, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me [Jesus], and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.  (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)

Water is life-sustaining. Water is necessary.  No matter what climate or environment one dwells in, water is a mandatory need that has to be met in order for one to thrive.  For Jesus to identify what He had to offer as “water springing up into everlasting life” is a triumphant statement.  It means He meets the needs and satisfies all that is required for one to enter into life everlasting.

Take of Him today, my friend, drink of what He has to offer and you have this promise: “And the LORD shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not” (Isaiah 58:11).

“Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation” (Isaiah 12:3).  

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In Christ, We Are Free!

Grace is God’s move to save souls.  Grace is something that has been afforded to us by God.  To revert back to the old covenant would be a moment of rejection, saying what Christ did on the cross was not enough.

The Bible emphatically lets the believer know over and over again, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God,” (Ephesians 2:8).  Our salvation is us receiving what we did not deserve, that unmerited favor.  Thus, we are no longer “under the law, but under grace,” (Romans 6:14).  To return to the old covenant is a return to the law.  Galatians gives this warning, “You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace,” (5:4, ESV).

That move would undo the work that God accomplished by sending His Son to the cross.  If the law and adherence to those rituals could have saved mankind once and for all, then Jesus Christ would have never needed to come to this earth, be born a babe in a manger just to die on that old rugged cross, bearing the sins of the world.  Paul wrote in the book of Galatians, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain,” (Galatians 2:20-21, emphasis mine; see also Gal. 3:21).

Jesus very plainly spoke, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me,” (John 14:6).  John the Baptist also declared, “And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ,” (John 1:16-17).

Before Paul’s life was changed on that day on the road to Damascus he was known as Saul.  Before Jesus met him there and shined on his life a new mission, he was a persecutor.  Before grace met him in the midst of his sin, he was bound by the law.  At one point Paul told of his background enveloped in legalism and trusting in works of the flesh, saying, “Though I might have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless,” (Philippians 3:4-6).  According to the law, Paul had all the right marks checked off his list.

Yet, when Christ changed his life all that previous stuff was counted as “loss for Christ,” (Philippians 3:7).  His life now was marked by faith and grace.  He wrote to the Corinthian church, “But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me,” (1 Corinthians 15:10).  Now, he encourages those in Galatia to let their walk of faith be molded by the grace of God and not by the bondage of the law wherewith they have been made free, as his life now demonstrates.  He wants their life to be marked by the power of Christ living on the inside and not by outward symbols and empty rituals reminding them, and us who are born of the Spirit:

“Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise.

But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now.

Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.

So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.” Galatians 4:28-31

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It’s up to you…

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“Jotham. . . did that which was right in the sight of the Lord. . . and the people did yet corruptly.” 2 Chronicles 27:1-2

It’s up to you to live a life that is pleasing in the sight of God.

It’s up to you to walk the path of righteousness for yourself.

It’s up to you to choose how to live your days upon the earth, days spent honoring or dishonoring the grace of these moments that God has blessed you with.

There is one thing our current culture has forgotten in their attempts to pass the blame for the how’s, what’s, and why’s of life, and that is individual responsibility. While the attitudes and actions of others can negatively affect people, many don’t have this as their reasoning. Rather, they indulge in unrighteous acts and wrong living, celebrating sinfulness, all the while expressing that it is not their fault. They shift the blame to others as a defense for their reasoning to do wrong.

The above verses show that even when you have a leader or a person of influence in your life who chooses to do right and set a good example, the people still had a choice to make for themselves. The old expression “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t force him to drink,” comes to mind here.

There can be one who shows you the way and the hows of choosing the right path to walk, but it is the individual’s responsibility to choose to walk in it.

We are given choices in this life. And ultimately, we are the ones who will determine our eternal futures based on how we invested in this life given to us; based on which path we have chosen to walk: “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).

It’s up to you. Choose the blessed life (Deuteronomy 28:1-14).

“I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:” Deuteronomy 30:19

“Then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, Who is on the Lord’s side? let him come unto me. And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him.” Exodus 32:26

“Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse; A blessing, if ye obey the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you this day:” Deuteronomy 11:26-27

“See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil; In that I command thee this day to love the Lord thy God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments, that thou mayest live and multiply: and the Lord thy God shall bless thee in the land whither thou goest to possess it.” Deuteronomy 30:15-16

“And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15

“And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word.” 1 Kings 18:21

“For to him that is joined to all the living there is hope: for a living dog is better than a dead lion.” Ecclesiastes 9:4

“The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” John 10:10

“For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.” Romans 8:5

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Your Amazing IF

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IF has been around since the beginning of humanity.  IF usually comes with choice, consequence, and question.  But, what if the word IF can be a statement of faith?  What if the word IF can be a declaration of what you believe God can do in your life.

One of my favorite IF questions in the Bible led to a miracle occurring and the constraints of what is normally not possible being removed.  IF unlocks something amazing in one man’s life, never to be repeated by another human being except for Jesus Christ.  Tossed about in the waves of contrary winds, Jesus’ disciples are struggling in a boat in the middle of the sea when Jesus came to them walking on the water (see Matthew 14:22-33).  After Jesus greeted the men in the boat and calmed them, Peter asked, “Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water,” (Matthew 14:28; italics added mine).

I believe Peter knew wholeheartedly it was Jesus since some Bible studies use the word IF as SINCE.  Thus, I believe Peter’s IF is a statement of faith, even if it appeared to be an immature faith at the onset.  He believed in Jesus.  He believed if Jesus allowed him to, he would be able to do what is naturally impossible.  He, under the direction of the Lord, could do the amazing, and walk on water.

Now, many of us are very familiar with how Peter’s story here ends.  Seeing the waves his faith falters and Jesus is there to pull him up from his sinking condition and bring him back to the boat.  Yet, that isn’t the part I want to focus on here.  I want to focus on the power of the IF that drew him out of the boat in the first place.  Where other men stayed hidden, he literally threw it all to the wind, and with the chance of a lifetime, stepped out to experience the amazing.

We can laugh at Peter and put him down, but how many of us can honestly answer that we would have gotten out of the boat also?  You see, IF can be a hindrance that causes over questioning and actually act as a stumbling block for not moving forward into something wonderful.  But, IF can also be the catalyst to open a door of opportunity if it is approached with the idea that something amazing can come out of taking a chance with Jesus; to move on to the waters of the unknown with my eyes on Him.

The phrase “What if?” has birthed a lot of good quotes and with good reason.  In that two-worded question, we are daring to ask ourselves the question: “Do I stay in the boat or do I choose to walk on water?”  We are daring to see potential in ourselves to do more than the ordinary, to do something amazing with my IF.

Where is your “IF” calling you today or even this week?  What extraordinary thing may unlock for you if you take a chance with your amazing IF?  I believe God gives us dreams to pursue, but it’s our faith in active pursuit of that IF that will allow the amazing to happen for us, just like it did for Peter.  Jesus most certainly could have gotten to the boat without walking on water, but then Peter or any one of the other disciples would have never had the opportunity to ask and pursue something more.

Is Jesus calling you to walk on water?  Is He calling you to take steps of faith in pursuit of a particular IF?  If He is, keep your eyes on Him and allow Him to lead you to your amazing IF.

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“Be Fulfilled”

“Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled,” Matthew 5:6

 As a mom, I look back and I can remember distinctly the graduations of my children.  They were very proud moments for parents and students alike.  As each graduate would come out during the processional, moving closer to the stage, soon to walk across it to receive their diplomas, you could see the look of accomplishment etched proudly on their faces.  A sort of contentment had washed over each of them declaring, “I made it!”  And with that, the feeling of fulfillment begins to set it.

Those joyous times that we get to celebrate achievements are wonderful.  No one can take away the feelings of awe and satisfaction that come with that sense of accomplishment.  Unfortunately, as Christians, I think we place too much value on the accomplishments to satisfy us and not enough value in the Christ that is already filling us.

Don’t get me wrong.  In no way am I stating that celebrating reaching goals such as these is wrong.  As a matter of fact, I believe it’s a very healthy thing to set goals and be proud of the achievement that follows.

But, what of the times in-between?  Most of our every day is what one would define as, “Humdrum.”  There are times when we are not in the process of celebrating those wonderful graduating victories.  We are not riding high on accomplishments and the like.  What of that time?

This is where most will begin to feel a sense of loss, a sense of not quite being worthy enough, carrying a feeling of not measuring up to one’s self or another’s standard.  These in-between times are when people start to lose their spiritual footing.  Some may even begin to venture backward with the feeling of, “Why should I even bother?”

That is not what God wants for us.  He does not want you to base your self-worth off of the things that you have done, but rather on who you are in Him. You are His child.  You are the one that He allowed His Son to be sacrificed for.  You are the one He chose to redeem.  And, if God saw that much value in you to do all of that, how dare we look to accomplishments for satisfaction.

The Bible declares in Acts 17:28, “For in Him we live, and move, and have our being…”   We don’t find who we are or content ourselves with anything outside of Him!  When I wake up in the morning it’s not because of anything that I have done.  The reason is that “in Him” I live, move, and have my very being.  I was not designed, as a child of God, to feel the need to be fulfilled anywhere other than in Him!

We don’t need to hunger after the things of this world.  We don’t need to feel like we can only be complete during those graduation victories.  Jesus said, “They which do hunger and thirst after righteousness shall be filled.”  In other words, all we have to do is to have that sincere yearning within us to do that which is right for Him and live it.  He will fill us!  We shall be satisfied because we have found out where our real value lies.  In Him!

Graduation victories and celebrations of all kinds are wonderful, but we can’t live there all the time.  Day by day, I have to know that because I am His child, and because I am hungering and thirsting after righteousness, I can be filled.  Whether it is a rainy Monday, a get-over-the-hump Wednesday, or a celebrating Sunday; because I am in Him and He is in me, I can always feel fulfillment in my life.

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