Weeping and Washing

“And one of the Pharisees desired him that he could eat with him.  And he went into the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to meat.  And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment.” Luke 7:36-38

Regardless of how they looked at her or what they thought of her, she came.

They scowled, they scorned, they didn’t like her – but she still came.

They counted her unworthy, undeserving, and disqualified.  Even then, she came.

Her sin met her Savior.  And though they said she shouldn’t be there, Jesus did not deny her access.  So, she came.

The atmosphere hung heavy with her guilt and shame, but His forgiveness erased all that blame.  She couldn’t help it.  She had to come to Him without delay.

With weeping and washing, her gratitude and love, He did not turn away.  She came with a gift so precious, more than what she poured that day.

A heart surrendered.  A heart that had been freed.  A heart delivered and determined to show how much He meant indeed.

A year’s wages was the cost, nothing compared to the weight of sin she gladly lost.  She lovingly poured upon His feet, weeping and washing with her hair.  Of their opinions, she did not care.

This repentant heart that was humbled and healed.  She would not let the judgment of others, her joy to steal.

She came to Jesus, and poured out her best.  With weeping and washing, she blessed, and was blessed.

Weeping and washing, humbled hearts so true.  If you come, Jesus will welcome you too.

“I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.” Luke 15:7

  Copyright © Word For Life Says.com articles/lessons/worksheets may not be copied or redistributed without the express written permission of WordforLifeSays.com.  Please see the COPYRIGHT PAGE for more details.  Blessings to you.

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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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Don’t Wait, Pray Now!

“When my soul fainted within me I remembered the LORD: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thy holy temple.”  Jonah 2:7

There is a glorious truth that is woven through the pages of Scripture.  That truth is that God wants to hear from you now.  Alas, many put off the intimacy of regular time in prayer with the Father until they are in desperate situations and they use Him as a last resort to the problems and conditions they are facing.

God is always present.  God is always listening.  All He needs is that heart surrendered to Him in faith, one who will seek His face, bow the knee before Him, and humbly pray.

Jonah, that famous prophet swallowed whole by a great fish, found himself in desperate need of prayer.  With Jonah, as with many, the situation didn’t have to get this bad.  He didn’t have to end up in this nasty position.  He didn’t have to wait to seek God’s heart on the matter of prophesying to Ninevah.  At any given time before this episode, he could have gone to the Lord in prayer.  Perhaps then, his own heart for the people would have changed.

Yet, we will never know, because the story before us tells us the choice he made.  He chose to run from God and as a result, he found himself in a place nobody would want to be.

It was in this place, where he finally prayed, and said, “I remembered the LORD.”  The very God he tried so desperately to run away from, now in his darkest of times, he is seeking and he remembers.  When he felt overwhelmed by his choices, overwhelmed by the sin those choices led to, and overwhelmed by the experience of his sinking plight, it was as if a spiritual light clicked on deep within him and he remembered the LORD.  He remembered His Word.  He remembered His promises.  He remembered His love for His people.  He remembered His faithfulness.  He remembered His covenant.  He remembered just how great a God he served!  When he ran from God he forgot about all the wonders of God in his selfish pursuit, but now he remembers.

That remembering led to a heart that was ready to seek God in prayer.  He wrote, “My prayer came in unto thee, into thy holy temple.”  When he cried out to God, his very cry reached the presence of God.  God was listening.  Sincere prayer reaches the ears of God.  Although he had many opportunities to pray prior to being in the fish, the sincerity of his heart is now more real than ever as he reaches out to God in prayer.

The truth of the Bible is, God hears, but don’t wait until your situation is so desperate that you are at the point where you have no other choice than to pray.  God is available with a listening ear at all times.

Martin Luther is quoted as saying, “To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.” Why is that? Because as breath is with the body, with each inhale and exhale, one’s life is sustained, so is the prayer line that fosters that interpersonal relationship between God and man. It is not only life-sustaining, but it is soul-sustaining, keeping that glorious love connection between the two open and flowing.  And, as Jonah felt the time of his last breath drawing nearer, he then sought to reconnect with God once more through prayer, and he believed his prayer was heard.  When we call out to God we too can believe that our prayers are heard, if we also have a sincere heart.

Prayer should never be our last go-to, get-out-of-whatever situation-free card.  Prayer keeps us in holy connection with our holy Father.  Open the lines of prayer in your life today.  Do not wait for a more opportune time, or for an event that makes you fall to your knees.

Make no mistake, the Bible repeatedly tells us that God hears those desperate, urgent cries (Psalm 34:6; 39:7-8; 50:15), and I for one am so thankful He does.  But our heavenly Father wants to hear from you now, in a consistent, daily walk of fellowship through prayer.

Keep God before your face and your heart in prayer.  Foster that love line in your life and it may keep you out of some nasty situations.

“Seek the Lord and his strength, seek his face continually.” 1 Chronicles 16:11

“When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, LORD, will I seek.” Psalm 27:8

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“Resetting Holiness!”

Image by Tep Ro from Pixabay

“Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).

“And they shall teach my people the difference between the holy and profane, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean” (Ezekiel 44:23).

“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children” (Hosea 4:6).

“Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16).

Resetting holiness.  Has the church lost this all-important standard?  Has the desire to become a seeker-friendly church (which I have nothing against) and the like caused us to shift our focus from how God calls us to worship, live, and operate?

Have we become like the temple that Ezekiel witnessed, whose people caused the glory of God to leave that place?

Studying Ezekiel 8, we see while there was “worship” going on in the temple, it was not God’s worship.  The people who were to live in a covenant relationship with God were bowing down to false gods and giving themselves over completely to idolatry.  The people who were to live pure and holy, a sanctified (set apart) people, their lives and practices now celebrated the things God called abominations.  Things that were wrong and out of order of the true reverence of God were now being declared to be right and acceptable.

In that, I wonder how far the modern church has drifted from God’s holy standards and how close we are to being like those people of old.  Those who “worshiped” wrongly behind the walls believing it did not matter and that nobody, including God, saw them (ref. Ezekiel 8:12).

While we may not be involved in those exact things, and while I have nothing against the modern uses whereby we usher in worship, I must wonder if in our coming together, we are coming in the right spirit.  When David penned the words, “Give unto the LORD, O ye mighty, give unto the LORD glory and strength.  Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness” (Psalm 29:1-2), I see in those beautiful verses what God deserves, and I must ask myself are we giving Him what He deserves?

Are we magnifying His glory in our building and in our lives, or are we chasing His glory away from the center of what we call worship, as seen in Ezekiel 10?

For God’s glory to be strong with us, we must be strong in God!  God doesn’t want us to honor Him with our mouths only, but He wants us to live and worship Him from the heart (Matthew 15:8; Isaiah 29:13).

And, my friends, it is from the heart where the resetting needs to begin, a heart that longs for more of God.  It is worship that invites His presence to come closer rather than repelling.  We want God’s glory permeating the atmosphere as in the days of old when they were overwhelmed in worship by His presence in a good way (1 Kings 8:10-11).

But for that to happen, things must change.  Wherever God’s presence is, things cannot go on as before.  He is a holy God, and the environment where He resides must be holy.  There is a transformation that must take place where the people worship.

God’s desire has always been to be near His people.  And in Ezekiel 43, he sees a light of hope.  Instead of seeing God’s glory moving away from His people, God’s glory is moving toward His people, toward His temple (43:3-5).

With that also came a message of warning: “And I heard him speaking unto me out of the house; and the man stood by me.  And he said unto me, Son of man, the place of my throne, and the place of the soles of my feet, where I will dwell in the midst of the children of Israel for ever, and my holy name, shall the house of Israel no more defile . . .” (43:6-7).

God cannot reside in an unsanctified place.  The people’s responsibility was to get in line with what God wanted.  For Him, there has always been a line between holy and unholy (Leviticus 10:10).  There must be a resetting of holiness as the standard then, as well as now: “This is the law of the house; Upon the top of the mountain the whole limit thereof round about shall be most holy . . .” (Ezekiel 43:12).

In all of this, you may be wondering how exactly do we go about the business of resetting holiness?

First, I must say that resetting holiness should always begin with repentance.  God’s glory left the temple because of the people’s sin.  Sin corrupts.  Sin interrupts fellowship with God.  Sin will prohibit Him from coming to where you are.  They were to “put away” from them those things that defiled the place of worship (Ezekiel 43:7-9).

James 4:8 says, “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded” (see also Isaiah 1:16 and 2 Timothy 2:21).

Then, there must be the restoration of proper worship.  They had to do more than take the wrong things out.  They had to bring in or adopt the right things, the right ways.

For them, the focus was on the altar and how it was to be consecrated, respected, and used (Ezekiel 43:13-25).  They had to fully honor God in His service.  They do this by honoring the way He prescribed things to be done.

How this restoration of true worship may look for us today is for us to refocus on why we are here, what we are doing here, and who are we honoring here.  Answering those questions will help us to realign our purpose for being here, which all boils down to one complete, overall answer: God.

Why are we here? – God.

What are we doing here? – God.

Who are we honoring here? – God.

When we keep those three things in proper perspective, we reset holiness as the standard in our lives and in our worship, and the glory of God can take over the atmosphere.

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Rebuilding Ruins

Image by Robert Alvarado from Pixabay 

“And they shall say, This land that was desolate is become like the garden of Eden; and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are become fenced, and are inhabited.

Then the heathen that are left round about you shall know that I the Lord build the ruined places, and plant that that was desolate: I the Lord have spoken it, and I will do it.” Ezekiel 36:35-36

Archaic and ancient, yet there is beauty within.  Rubbled and ruined, but potential peeks through with the willingness to start again, to be reborn with purpose once more.

I must say, I am drawn to history and design in this manner.  I love to learn about places of old.  I am drawn to those shows and documentaries that feature taking these older places and structures, revitalizing them, restoring their ancient beauty, and making them livable and valuable once more.

If you are inclined to watch such programming, you will see that meticulous care is taken in the restoration process.  And the older a place is, with more original features, the chances are the work that needs to be done cannot be done by just any rebuilder. Instead, those who are trained to deal with period pieces and materials are called in to work with their expertise on the structure to remake it to be as close to the original as possible.

God has always been in the rebuilding business.  From the time of the Fall, and the Flood, and many points in between and beyond, though His people went through adversity, it was done with the intent of a new and fresh start from their sins and mistakes.

In ancient captivity, the children of Israel lived in bondage to the Babylonians due to their own sins and wayward ways.  But God, in this chapter, looked forward to a time of restoration; a time of renewal for His people.  A time and a moving that will bring glory to His name and not the dishonor that had been promoted by His people’s unholy living (36:21).

God was going to gather His people from where they had been dispersed and bring them back home (36:24), and the great rebuilding process would begin.  Beginning with Cyrus (Ezra 1), followed by the help of other kings, God’s people would return home physically and spiritually, and the ruins would be rebuilt and lives would be restored in their relationship with God.

To accomplish this, God was going to give them a new heart and a new spirit (36:26-27).  God was not just satisfied with cities becoming occupied again, but He wanted inner transformation.  He wanted hearts that would make Him feel welcomed once more.  A heart that would be in love with the Father and His ways once more.  Those were the ruins God was most interested in rebuilding.  The outward buildings were nice, but the new inner man who was being transformed, this is the real beauty God wants to see.  To Him, this matters the most.

When David sought to be restored, he prayed, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10).  He wanted to be restored to the Father because his own sins caused a separation.  He wanted to be rebuilt from the inside out.

Today, our heavenly Father is still rebuilding ruins.  Much like David, when a heart turns to Him in true humility and repentance, they can be restored.  Jesus Christ became the way for this to happen: “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.  For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:16-17); “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).  

When we come to Him and accept Him as Savior (Acts 2:38-39; John 3:5; Romans 6:4), He takes the old us and makes us something new: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17), and we are ruins no more.

“Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3) – this is where the rebuilding begins.

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“What Would Jesus Say?” – part 1

“The Lord GOD hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary: he wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned.” Isaiah 50:4

Words, despite the children’s poems we recite, we know and have more than likely experienced the stinging effect of the wrong words spoken at the wrong time.  We know that just as easily as words can build, they can also tear down and hurt the receiver of them.

One thing is certain, our world is full of words and full of people who like to use words.  The human language and the ability to communicate with one another is a beautiful thing.  It is when we mar that beauty with unrighteous speech rolling off our tongues and flowing from our mouths that we get into trouble.

People have practiced communication skills for centuries, and yet, when it comes to the daily application of speech, sometimes we falter and do not use the words that God has given us in a healthy and productive manner.

If we are going to learn how to use the tongue healthily, the best example is that of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Jesus had all the right words at the right time.  He knew how to speak compassion when it was needed most.  He knew how to speak conviction in truth without berating another.  And Jesus knew how to speak life.

In Isaiah 50:4, we see the prophesied Servant, whom we know to be the Messiah, our Lord Jesus Christ talking about the words He uses and the way He uses them to speak.  There He says, “The Lord GOD hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak. . .” 

Never do we see Jesus in the Bible using words in a frivolous or lackadaisical manner.  Words and how they are used are powerful, and Jesus, just as His Father, knew the value of words and used them as such.  To Him, everything that came out of His mouth was to be treated carefully.

Jesus’ heart was always, and I do mean always, to do the will of the Father (John 6:38).  In everything, right down to going to the cross, God’s will was His number one priority (Luke 22:42).  With the will of God governing His whole life and ministry, even the words He spoke had to be what “The Lord GOD hath given me.” 

In Isaiah, that which was given is described as “the tongue of the learned;” as one who had been taught by God what to say and how to say it.  One can speak something that is true, but how the message is delivered can affect how another receives it.

In John 12:49-50, Jesus said, “For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak.  And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak.”  Jesus, even in His speech, sought to bring glory and honor to the Father.

Through this, we see that Jesus was very strategic with the words He uses.  In this part, we have learned that Jesus is our best example in valuing words and in understanding the importance of using speech that is not only healthy but also God-honoring.  Jesus treated the words He spoke very carefully, and we should too.

In the days coming, we are going to explore this verse further in two more parts of this three-part mini-series.  May we learn what God wants us to say and how to say it, so that we, too,  may have “the tongue of the learned” relating to one another in speech even as Jesus did, so that we will know how to speak. 

This three-part mini-series is adapted from a Sunday School Lesson I previously published titled 4 Ways to Use Words Better.  You can click on that link if you are looking for a deeper study on this topic.

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Shamgar, Who?

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“And after him was Shamgar the son of Anath, which slew of the Philistines six hundred men with an ox goad: and he also delivered Israel.” Judges 3:31

Reading through the pages of the Bible, some stories leap off the pages while others hardly get a second glance.  There are some stories and lives we know a lot about.  Action and suspense surround their name.  Then, we have those little-known characters.  People who, without a diligent search, may not have been seen at all with a quick read.

But one of the greatest blessings we find in the Bible is the stories of the “unknowns,” or those we read of by name but really have not much more to go on.  These people and the offering of their lives and stories to the pages of Scripture remind us that everyone’s story matters.

Many today have a comparison problem where only the flashiest, biggest, most sensational stories and people grab the attention of the headlines.  And, yet, throughout the world over, daily there are those who go unrecognized by the masses, but they make a huge difference in their circle, in their sphere of friends and family; they make a difference in their world.

Shamgar, noted early in the book of Judges, had this one verse that spoke of his contributions to Israel’s deliverance.  Other than an honorable mention later by Deborah (Judges 5:6), that’s all we really know of him.

But to God, we don’t need a whole chapter or book dedicated to an individual to see that to Him, they matter.  God pays attention to the littlest details of our lives and to Him, every contribution we make for God, His kingdom, and His people – none escapes His notice, and they all matter.

The widow who put in two mites, nobody knows her name, but Jesus honored her actions (Luke 21:1-4).  And with that, there are countless stories of the named and unnamed in the Bible, throughout history, and even in our world today who are only recognized by our heavenly Father.

If you feel like you aren’t celebrated here, no worries.  If you don’t even have one verse dedicated to your earthly achievements (none of us do), it’s okay.  God knows you and you have a reward of faithfulness coming your way (Colossians 3:23-24; Revelation 22:12).

Take heart, and keep pressing forward.  Your worth to God is so much more, and your story, no matter if it is big or small, is important and worthy of note to our heavenly Father.

Other Good Reads:

“What Will Our Story Tell?”

“Your Content Reads More Than Your Cover!”

“Overlooked? Not By God!”

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“What will you do in the end?”

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You are watching the movie.  The scene is intense.  You are waiting for something climactic to happen.  Then, so as not to disappoint the viewers, the characters stumble upon a ticking agent.  On it, there is a clock whose time is counting down indicating when it reaches zero, something big is going to happen.  The time will be up.

We love those moments when the story keeps us on the edge of our seats.  When it makes us stay glued in anticipation of what the characters are going to do now, or what’s going to happen in the end when the signal comes and there is no more opportunity to avert the crisis.  Danger is imminent.  The time of warning is over and the cataclysmic event starts now!

While it might be fun to watch on the screen as the suspense builds and the action unfolds, there is a very real countdown coming and once it reaches its end we must ask, “What will you do?”

The problem is so many are unprepared for what the end will bring.

Jeremiah had to confront the people with this line of questioning in his prophesying.  The Lord used Jeremiah to let the people know about the wickedness He sees in the land.  But, He also uses Jeremiah to confront false prophets who prophesy lies and love tickling the ears of the people and the people who give ear to it.  In Jeremiah 5:30-31, he writes, “A wonderful and horrible thing is committed in the land; The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so: and what will you do in the end thereof?”

With wickedness pervading the land the people needed a good, healthy dose of Holy Ghost truth spoken into their lives and not messages that sugarcoat their wrongs and make them believe that they are still okay and that God is still going to bless them. Because there is an end coming and what is it going to profit them if they have not learned to live holy, if they have not learned to repent, if they have not learned that there is a right way before God to live, but they are not there yet.

Yes, we have the promise of heaven before us if we are living lives of righteous faith before God but on the other end of the spectrum, there is a very real, horrible place called hell.  It is a place for judgment and punishment that will never see an end.

Too many are unprepared for an eternal future in one place or the other because they are not taught to be ready anymore.  They are not taught that tomorrow is not promised and that they could step into eternity at any moment.  They are not taught that holiness matters and that God requires holiness for He said, “Be ye holy; for I am holy,” (1 Peter 1:16).

Instead, there is a lot of tickling of the ears.  Messages that continually show us how to prosper here and tell us that we are next in line here even though this earth is not our final home.  While I enjoy a good message of blessing myself, I and everyone else also need to know how to prosper and push for the eternal goal of heaven.  Without it, what will you do in the end?

In that time to come, how will you be prepared for the reality of what lies ahead?

“Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein . . .” (Jeremiah 6:16a).  When you do that, when you seek the proven path of God’s word and choose to live by it then we have this promise for our end, “ye shall find rest for your souls,” (Jeremiah 6:16b).

Sadly, many choose not to listen for the rest of that verse tells us, “But they said, We will not walk therein,” (Jeremiah 6:16c).  They made the decision for their eternity.

The way forward into eternity with God is through the old proven path of His sound Word.  God relayed through Jeremiah that when He delivered His people He instructed them to “Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people: and walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you,” (Jeremiah 7:24).  But, the truth became clear: “But they hearkened not, nor inclined their ear, but walked in the counsels and the imagination of their evil heart, and went backward, and not forward,” (Jeremiah 7:25).

They chose a backward mentality after the things that would not profit them in the end.

Daily we find ourselves running against the clock to get this done and that.  May we all take heed that there is a spiritual clock we are racing against, and one day it will read “Time’s up!”  What will you do in the end?  A very real question that will one day require a very real answer.

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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!


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. . . Because of God

Many of us are familiar with the story of Joseph.  We have the main points in his life down pat: his coat of many colors, his dreams, and his interpretation of others’ dreams.  We know of him being sold into slavery by his own brothers, his life in Egypt, the accusations of Potiphar’s wife, and his imprisonment.  But how closely do we pay attention to his actual relationship with God?  Do we focus more on the “From the Pit to the Palace,” side of things than on his integrity before God?

In his story, Joseph appears to start out as a young man who is a bit boastful and can’t wait to tell every listening ear his dream.  (I’m not saying he was boastful, just that it appears so).  His dreams became so that they incurred the hatred of his brothers.  This hatred would boil up within them until it filled them with violent intentions.  At one point, they thought murder was one option to rid them of this dreamer.  Instead of killing him, they opted to get rid of him while making a little money on the side.  They sold him into slavery.

In what appeared as the hardest time of his young life, Joseph’s relationship with God deepened.  This showed in the way God cause him to be prosperous and favored no matter where life put him (Genesis 39:3, 21).  Joseph also displayed the importance of his devotion to God in not sinning against God (Genesis 39:9) and in his refusal to take credit for all that God was doing through him (Genesis 40:8; 41:16, 28, 32).

God blessed Joseph with this incredible gift yet in his humility and dependence upon God, he denounced any accolades of his own.  He considered himself to be a vessel, realizing that “It is not in me: God shall give Pharaoh an answer of peace,” (Genesis 41:16).

The humility of Joseph took him far in life.  Eventually, he became second in command over Egypt.  Had he gotten big-headed I’m sure the story would’ve turned out quite differently.  If he had reverted to the “Me, Myself and I” attitude that a lot of people seem to display, Joseph’s story would not have been noted as the legacy we now know.

“It’s not in me,” Joseph readily proclaims.  The Bible tells us, “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God,” (2 Corinthians 3:5).  The Apostle Paul out-and-out tells us what Joseph already proclaimed.  We don’t have it in us!  Any gifts, any abilities, any special insights, and any favor – we have it because of God!  There’s no room for a self-sufficient attitude when God is trying to work in you.

When Daniel went before king Nebuchadnezzar to interpret his dream, Daniel, like Joseph, admitted his frailty as a human.  He said, “This secret is not revealed to me for any wisdom that I have more than any living,” (Daniel 2:30).  He did not consider himself anything special just because he could interpret dreams rather, he gave glory to God, “Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: for wisdom and might are his,” (Daniel 2:20).

Standing before Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel was asked, “Art thou able to make known unto me the dream which I have seen, and the interpretation thereof?” (Daniel 2:26).  Daniel answered much like Joseph did.  He said, “There is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, and maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days,” (Daniel 2:28).

It is amazing the miracles that God can perform through the one who will not compete with Him to gain the credit.  When God instructed Gideon to go against the Midianites with only three hundred men, He did so, “lest Israel vaunt themselves against me, saying, Mine own hand hath saved me,” (Judges 7:2).  When there is competition for glory, God will retain His!  If one is in competition with Him they are “against” Him and God can’t work mightily through them!

It’s not just an Old Testament thing.  Peter said, “Why marvel ye at this? or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we made this man walk?” (Acts 3:12).  Let’s face it, we are human, and unless God puts it in us – unless God gives it to us, we don’t have anything to offer this world.  “A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven,” (John 3:27).

Let’s do a credit check today.  Not to decipher our financial status but rather our relationship status with God.  It’s not “Me, Myself and I,” but it’s God working in us.  Let’s stand with Joseph and declare, “It’s not in me: God shall give . . . an answer . . .” (Genesis 41:16).  Everything that we have or are able to do in life is because of God.

Blessings to you . . .

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