His Stripes | Healing for Every Area of Life

“But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5

Those words from the prophet Isaiah are words we are reminded of when facing sicknesses or other health crises.  It’s the first go-to verse others will use when attempting to encourage those dealing with such maladies.  Yet, the Bible doesn’t narrow the power and authority of this verse or its meaning to only travel down the avenue of physical pain and/or illness.  No, my friend.  Its scope and range are mighty for so much more.

Healing is not limited to only what the body is dealing with.  As a whole person, we may have other areas that may seem out of whack that need the touch of the Savior’s sacrificing blood to flow toward its troubles and restore, fix, and yes, heal, whatever ails a person.

What’s to stop the power of His sacrifice from flowing into the crevices of relationships or to help in any number of places and with the many decisions we face, along with the hope of health for the body?

The stripes that tore His flesh cannot be confined to just the healing of the flesh.  Today, when you think of the word healing, what area of your life instantly comes to mind at this moment?  It may be a physical illness that you are dealing with, and I stand in prayer with you over it.  But, does something else come to mind?  A hurt that is not physical?  Resoration sought in another area?  His stripes come to heal all areas of our lives, and I pray for the places where you need His healing touch, be it heart, mind, body, life, relationships, or wherever.  Don’t limit the power of His sacrifice.  Do not limit the impact this great word and promise can have in your life.

Whatever came to mind when I asked you, “when you think of the word healing, what comes to mind?”, even this, even that thing that instantly came to mind, He is able to heal and cure the worst of it.

O Lord, we pray, that You would touch us and keep us under Your healing flow, no matter what issues we may encounter today.  In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, I pray, AMEN!

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This Was God’s Doing! | God is the Creator of All

Image by Barbara Jackson from Pixabay

“For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water.” 2 Peter 3:5

We all have a choice in what we choose to believe or not.  God is not going to arm-wrestle someone into faith.  God has blessed every human being with free will.  With that, they choose to follow Him or not.

“Willingly,” as stated above, implies that truth or no truth, those being referenced will not comply.  Their minds are made up to purposely follow their own ideas, their own beliefs, the dictates of their own heart, and a life of sin.  Their ignorance will not allow them to believe in the order of Creation as it was written in the Bible.  For too long man has opposed God’s grand truth and has tried to whittle it down to his own finite theories and ideas on how the world came to be.

But we read in Scripture, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).  All of creation begins with God:  “The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.  And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:2).

Before God stepped in there was just chaos.  He is the one “who stretchest out the heavens like a curtain” (Psalm 104:2).  Can a man even fathom catching one star that falls from the sky, let alone stretching out the “heavens” with galaxy upon galaxy and universe upon universe?

God can.

In the beginning, all He had to do was speak a word and creation obeyed and came into existence.  All that is in the sky, that looks like a cosmic “curtain” twinkling above our heads is because God is the one who made it to be so.

Peter addressed this truth in a rebuttal against the voice of scoffers and those who refuse to believe that by the very “word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water.”  

This was God’s doing, he insisted!   Nothing that we see in this world today existed, nor did it evolve from some microscopic species.  But on the third day of creation, referencing Peter’s point above, God said, “Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together in one place, and let dry land appear: and it was so.  And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering of together of the waters called he seas: and God saw that it was good” (Genesis 1:9-10).

Although the order of creation is apparent and evident some still choose to disbelieve and remain ignorant.  But, the apostle Paul comes in and says this doesn’t excuse them.  “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse,” (Romans 1:20).

In the book of Genesis, we read the day-by-day detailed account of the story of Creation. All life begins and ends with God.  Acts 17:24, 28 says, “God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands . . . For in him we live, and move, and have our being.”  He has the power to give breath (Genesis 2:7) and He has the power to take away breath (Psalm 104:29).

All of creation, man and beast, land, and those things that are in the sea and sky, are here because God made it so.  Many may try to refute this truth and remain ignorant of the fact, but this was God’s doing and His creative credit cannot be attributed to any other, nor can it be ignored.

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The God-Placements | Carriers of the Ministry

What does effective ministry look like to you?

Photo by Yusuf sinan on Pexels.com

“This shall be the service of the sons of Kohath in the tabernacle of the congregation, about the most holy things:” Numbers 4:4

Every believer has a place in the calling or ministry of God. There is no such thing as someone who has been saved by grace that is not equipped in one or more ways to operate in a particular gift (s) by His grace (Rom. 12:6). And while the area you are called to work in may not look like the ministry of another (1 Cor. 12:4), it is no less critical in its impact for God’s kingdom.

Like a well-functioning body, every member is needed to step up to the plate with their gifts (comp. 1 Cor. 12:12, 14). While the spotlight tends to fall naturally on those in the front, there are many behind-the-scene positions, if they were not managed by capable persons working in their gifts, then whatever is going on upfront would not be going on at all.

After watching a good movie, especially one with multiple twists and turns, I love to scroll through the credits to see those who participated in the making of the movie. My goal is to see who the writer is. Many eyes may be drawn to the main characters, but the real star of the show is the one who wrote the story. The one who allowed him or herself to spend much time in relative obscurity, working their gift to pull the story off according to their specific design.

There are no wasted behind-the-scene moments when working to help the service of God go forward, when helping to get His story out there. There is no work that we do for our heavenly Father that is to be considered unimportant if we are working where He has called us to work. There is great value in every calling (1 Cor. 1:26, 27).

And it was God who called the Kohathites for a special job. In the days of their wilderness wanderings, when the people were ready to journey, and the tabernacle had to be disassembled into its specific pieces by the priests, it was the sons of Kohath who were commissioned by God to be there to help in the process by being carriers of the holy vessels that were inside (Num. 4:15).

Because they were not priests; because they were not the upfront guys, the items would first be covered (for their protection) so they could not see or touch them (4:17-20), but they were still called upon to help carry the things of God, to help carry the ministry.

Where they were needed to work for the kingdom of God may not seem glamourous (after all, they didn’t get the special garments, with the special office of preparing the special offerings), but the work was helpful in successfully moving the articles of the tabernacle from one location to another.

Friends, your position of performance may not include being front and center. There may be certain parts your calling cannot participate in. But wherever God has placed you, it is important, and your service to Him is valuable.

1 Corinthians 12:18 states, “But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.” This is what I call the God-placements. According to His divine purpose and design, God has a special place for each of us, and every place we serve is essential and profitable for the Kingdom’s work.

While we may put much emphasis on those who are holding the microphone, speaking at large gatherings, singing to multitudes, and writing bestsellers – we forget the joy of being called where God knows we fit. Where God knows we can make the most difference.

We forget the importance of just doing. Doing what we do best for Him, for God. No matter how small or insignificant it may seem to others, it makes a difference for His kingdom.

One psalmist said, “For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness” (Ps. 84:10). Whichever way you want to interpret that verse, I would rather participate in the humblest of positions in the will of God than out, for in it I will find the richest of all experiences.

Everyone has a place. Everyone in their place can do something amazing that would help this work continue to grow and spread. If it is to hold a microphone, so be it. But if I only get to be a carrier for Him, let me carry the ministry God has instilled in me with all my might and strength, knowing there is no work, big or small, that is done in vain (1 Cor. 15:58).

Your reward may not come now with the applause of men (which is a heavy responsibility that produces low returns), but when performed for God, for His glory (1 Cor. 10:31), it will come with a “well done” (Mt. 25:23) from Him, the highest reward and applause we should seek.

Lord, though our flesh may desire to see more, do more, and touch more, let our spirit rest in the truth that if we are called to only be carriers of the ministry, we are called according to Your beautiful pleasure and placement for our lives. Help us to serve in that calling, with all grace, working to please our God and heavenly Father. AMEN!

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It’s a Matter of Choice

 When I was a child, one of the simplest toys we used to play with was dominoes.  I never played it as the game intended.  My only use for dominoes was to stand them aright like little soldiers in a line just to watch them fall.

After the pattern of my desire had been set, I tipped the first one, and that’s all it took.  As the first fell, it tipped the second, and the second tipped the third, and so on until they all lay still in the place where they had fallen. 

My designs were simple, but there are those who master intricate patterns and make designs on a grander scale.  And when their first domino tips, a beautiful display of artistry and showmanship unfolds, mesmerizing the onlookers.

The time and talent it takes to perform such works are amazing.  Investment of oneself is key for without that dedication the performance that brought the end reward would have never been accomplished.

And that’s how our lives pretty much go.  Daily we are faced with a myriad of decisions and each of these decisions matters.  Like dominoes, one will affect another, and then another, and so on, with not only the present moment of the decision being impacted but also the future that is to come.

With people being caught up in the here and now, the future, with its possibilities and consequences, is not the first thought on their minds. 

On the other hand, there are those who are concerned about their future and want to know what they can do to improve its outcome, be it physical, financial, or relationally.  The better investment of oneself in these areas is for a better turnout. 

But what about spiritually?

There was a young man who came to Jesus and wanted to know about his spiritual future.  He wanted to know what to do to gain eternal life (Mt. 19:16).  Jesus’ response to him was to follow the commands of God (v. 17).

“All these things have I kept from my youth” (v. 20), the young man replied, and yet, was there something still missing?  Did he feel a certain void?

I don’t have a definite answer, but I do know he pursued Jesus with more questioning, asking Him, “What lack I yet?”

“Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me” (Mt. 19:21).

Jesus’ response to his question of lack was not something the young man was expecting.  The answer he had been looking for to secure his future was found in giving up everything and following Jesus.

He had a decision to make, and like those tipping dominoes, one would lead to another.

After processing what Jesus required of him, he went away (v. 22) and Jesus explained how hard it was for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven, the eternal life he was looking for.  It would be akin to threading a camel through the eye of a needle (Vv. 23-24).

With their thinking that the rich man had the better vantage point, the disciples were astonished at what Jesus had spoken and asked Him, “Who then can be saved?” (v. 25).  Jesus plainly let them know, “With man this is impossible; but with God all things are possible” (v. 26).

Thinking about their lives and the decisions each of them had made in walking away from everything and following Jesus, Peter asked Him, “Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore?” (Mt. 19:27).

That’s an important question, Peter.  When you decided to wholeheartedly follow Jesus, the first domino fell.  Everything that followed came from the ripple effect of your first choice.  And while there may be many occurrences that happen in the middle thereof, the end result will be the very thing the young man was searching for but missed out on: everlasting life (v. 29).

When asked to follow Him, the young man turned away, but Peter, along with the other disciples, invested themselves and followed on.

The path to follow may not always be easy, but after all the dominoes have fallen, and all the choices have been made, one day we will look back over the story of our lives from the vantage point of salvation, and be mesmerized by the beauty of heaven before us, for that’s what will we have, and it is a glorious future to behold! 

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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

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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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