You Are Not the Only One

You are seen. You are heard. You are not alone.

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“. . . knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.” 1 Peter 5:9

Sadness.  Sorrow.  Pain.  Sickness.  Disappointment with others.  Disappointment with yourself.  Hurt.  Betrayal, and more, can make anyone feel like they are living on an isolated island of despair.  While others may be physically near, the trials and troubles we encounter in this world can often make people feel alone, as if they are the only ones going through anything adverse or hard at the moment.

But the truth is, no matter the smile that splits across a face, and no matter how a social media post may read, people, every day, are suffering behind the façade.  Some are excellent at grinning and bearing it, while others will show you only what they want you to see.  Different people handle their different circumstances in different ways, but it does not mean they are not going through hardship or dealing with adversity.

It is easy to feel alone in the midst of trials.  The enemy would like nothing more than for you to think this way because when we feel alone, we tend to pull back into hiding, and we pull back our trust.  We don’t share with others what we are going through, carrying the burden and the weight of the moment on our own shoulders.

The beauty of the Bible is it does not hold back.  It shows us the good and the bad and lets us know the reality that comes with this life, that whether they show it or not, there are perhaps others around you who are experiencing afflictions of their own.

Jesus gave us no illusion that every day would be an awesome experience.  He said, “In the world ye shall have tribulation . . .” (John 16:33; emphasis mine).  We may not like to say or think about it, but there may be some things that come your way that will not put a smile on your face.  It may even leave you wondering, crying, “Why is this happening to me?”

While the words “you are not the only one” may not make you personally feel better, know that any affliction you face for your Lord will come with a promise that you are not alone (Hebrews 13:5).  It comes with grace and strength to say, “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,” (2 Corinthians 4:17).

In times of personal pain, all of this may be hard to digest.  And I, for one, never want to brush off the realness of what others are going through.  But I do hope to encourage you, dear blessed one, that you are seen, you are heard, you are not alone regardless of what it feels like, and you matter so much to our heavenly Father.

What you are going through is not a trivial thing and we are not brushing it under the rug of Scripture or a well-placed verse.  But I personally pray that your heart will be full, knowing God’s love for you, and knowing the body of Christ is rooting for you.  We love you, dear one, and God loves you more.

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The God-Placements | Carriers of the Ministry

What does effective ministry look like to you?

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“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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“Throw away those filthy rags.”

If there is one thing I really cannot stand, it’s a messy house.  I am not saying my house doesn’t get messy, because it does.  But I can’t stand it that way.  When I see a mess, I see chaos and clutter.  Some days I can let it go, but then there are those days that I just cannot.  I cannot go to bed knowing in the morning as I fumble my way to the coffee pot, I will encounter a housekeeping tragedy.

I am one of those weird people who enjoy watching other people clean their houses on videos.  And let me clarify, I do not like to just watch anybody.  The few who I do watch, who I am drawn to, are professionals or are reputable.  Some older than me.  Some are younger than me, but because of their experience, I can learn things from them about cleaning that I may not have known about.  I may have been cleaning a certain way, and now I possibly may have learned a new, better, or more efficient way to get things clean and keep them clean.

Whether watching videos or in my own experiences of cleaning, one thing I do know is that what materials you use to clean matters in the results you will get.  Inefficient tools produce inefficient results.  And if one is trying to make something clean by using a dirty rag – it is not going to work.  All you are doing is spreading the previous filth from which the rag was used, what appears to the naked eye to be clean, but now it’s riddled with invisible germs and all kinds of gross stuff you can’t see.

So, we see with those filthy rags we didn’t actually clean anything.  We didn’t make anything right or better than it was before.  All we did was re-contaminate what we thought we were cleansing. 

Isn’t that like our human nature to step back and look at something and think that we made something right on our own, with our abilities, thoughts, and actions?  To take credit for things we ought not to?  Especially when it comes to spiritual matters and our Christian walk?  It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking we have obtained any of His goodness on our own.  As if by our will, we can check off invisible boxes that said we were good enough in this area and that, therefore the graces, mercies, and salvation bestowed on us is our just reward.

No, my friend.  That thinking is so far from the truth and reality of our stance before a holy God.

Isaiah let us know that no matter what we think the best of us is, in and of ourselves, it still amounts to nothing but dirty rags before a holy God.  “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags…” (64:6).

On our own, what we bring to the table of our lives and try to clean up, just amounts to mess on top of a mess.  Our nature has been sinful from the beginning.  This is why Jesus stressed to Nicodemus our need to be born again (John 3:3).

Outside of Christ, there is nothing within us that is powerful enough and good enough to wash away our sins and make us clean.  Any attempts within us to answer the charge against us are just that – attempts.  They are futile self-efforts of futile self-righteousness.  And self-righteous efforts never go far in God’s account book of records.  Because for one to claim self-righteousness means they can get right with God on their own and in their own way.  Who they are, their works, and their efforts speak for what they think they deserve.

By all accounts, Saul, before he became the apostle Paul, ticked off all the right religious boxes to be able to boast of his own acquired righteousness in the flesh.  In his own testimony of himself found in Philippians, he states:

“Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more:

Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee;

Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.” (3:4-6).

Have you ever been there with the mentality that the good you are or have is because of you and your efforts?  Have you ever looked down on another, even in just your heart, and felt they should be holy like you until God had to come in and knock you off your beast of pride like he did Paul to let you know you didn’t have it as together as you thought you did?  You are still harboring some mess inside of you.

At another time, in giving a defense for himself, the apostle Paul said, “I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day,” (Acts 22:3).  And still, to add to his accolades, Paul said at another time, “…I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee…” (Acts 23:6).

Paul supposedly had all the right stuff, and yet, he had nothing, and without Christ, he was nothing.

Back in Philippians 3, Paul continues to write:

“But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.

Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,

And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith,” (7-9).

Going off his own righteousness obtained by checking off the boxes of the law, Paul became a persecutor of the church.  After his transformation, he went from persecuting Jesus (Acts 22:4-8) to calling Him in Philippians 3:8, “My Lord.”

My friend, I don’t care what we think we have or bring to the table.  When we meet Jesus, we realize as Paul did, we have nothing on our own.  And that is a good place to be!

No matter who we are or what we perceive we have or do not have, we all start out with Jesus in the same way.  As Paul testified, “…not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith,” (Philippians 3:9).

So, whatever those “good enough’s” are that any are holding on to, without the righteousness found only in Christ, all those “good enough” efforts and ideas of self-realized righteousness are as “filthy rags.”

Throw away those dirty rags.  We all need Jesus Christ in order to be made right before God; in order to be saved.

Jesus, Himself, said, “…without me ye can do nothing,” (John 15:5).  He also said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me,” (John 14:6).  To make a long story short, we all need Jesus!

I have heard some say something along the lines of, “Well, I’m not as bad as some.  I don’t do this or that.  What do I need to repent for?”  In other words, they may not be super-saints (are any of us?), but they are not that bad either, so why do they need Jesus?  Aren’t they good enough the way they are?

To them, I give Jesus’ answer: “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me,” (John 14:6).

At another time, Jesus put to rest the idea of those who thought they were righteous on their own.  In the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector, the Bible says:

“And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:

Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.

The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.

I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.

And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.

I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14; bold emphasis added).

Friend, throw away any filthy rags of self-righteousness for they will never make one right before the Lord.

Come to Him humbly like that tax collector, realizing without Jesus cleaning us up on the inside, we will never be clean enough: “God be merciful to me a sinner.” 

When one trusts in themselves and their own works of righteousness, they put themselves in the dangerous place of tossing God’s grace aside and adopting a prideful position in life that opposes God and His plan of salvation. 

The Bible strictly warns, “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God,” (2 Corinthians 3:5).

That is the best part of the gospel message.  It is never about what we can do, bring, or add to the equation.  It always has been, and always will be about Jesus Christ and what He has already done.

“For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.

For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.

But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.

For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.

And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.” (Romans 5:6-11)

Some Pharisees and those in religious circles could not accept Jesus’ message because they, in their self-righteousness, thought they were okay the way they were.  They were religious but didn’t have Christ.  They looked to be okay in all the right places and to be doing all the right things but took credit for their own perceived holiness.  Therefore, they looked down on others when it is only through the sacrifice of Christ that one can receive “atonement” and be made right.    

Then, there are those who don’t know or won’t acknowledge Christ, because as previously stated, they are not as bad as some, and think they are “good enough” the way they are.  But it is when none of us were “good enough”; when all of us were “sinners” that “Christ died for us.”

Self-righteousness is a set of filthy rags that many try to clean their life with.  We may not see the surface dirt, but the invisible attitudes of the heart, God sees it all.

Friend, we must throw away any filthy rags of self-righteousness and realize none of us got here on our own.  Everything we have and are is because of the work that Jesus Christ has already performed on the cross.  No self-works.  No self-efforts.  No self-righteousnesses can save any of us.  “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast,” (Ephesians 2:8-9). 

And, that salvation, my friends, comes through Jesus Christ alone! 

If you want your life to be truly clean, then one must come through Him who is perfectly clean, “without blemish and without spot,” (1 Peter 1:19).  No filthy rags will do. 

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“Walk In Peace!”

“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee,” Isaiah 26:3

Peace is something that may seem far out of reach for most.  It is greatly desired and sought after; yet, many will never lay hold of it.  Why is that?  The answer is because of where it is found.  It is found in a made-up mind centered on who He is and a devoted heart that believes in the promises He has made.  “Perfect peace” speaks of the character of God at work.  Wherever He operates and whatever He delves into is marked by perfection.  That means when He established something that He wants to offer to all mankind He does so without there being anything wrong with it.  No fault in it whatsoever.  And He does here also.  As a matter of fact, the only thing that can mar this “perfect peace” that He is so willing to give is how man (the human race) accepts it.

When one’s mind is focused wholeheartedly on an idea, then that becomes the single vision of that person.  Once the picture of the mind’s eye is narrowed in one direction, that’s where one will be led to follow.  Now imagine a time of being in the midst of arduous and severe trials and tribulations.  Where there are sorrows and disappointments that seem to do nothing to encourage one’s focus on God, only working to tear away at one’s faith.  Yet, through it all, that person takes a stand within them and says, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31).

The person who is able to stir up his faith in this manner as a defense and a shield to his mind, using the focus of God at work in his life and verifying it through His Word, will be kept in “perfect peace.”  He has made an on-purpose decision that no matter how bleak and dismal it may seem right now, God is greater than all, and “His tender mercies are over all His works,” (Ps. 145:9).  “How is one able to do that?” you may be crying out in frustration.  I answer you with Abraham’s example as referred to by Paul in Romans 4:20-21, where it says, “He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.”  Simply put, as our verse in Isaiah 26:3 says, “Because he trusteth thee.”

2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us that “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” That is including, “perfect peace.”  All His promises are in His Word and the one who bases the foundation of all that he believes on that one rock-solid truth will be upheld and kept through the worst of storms.

“Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

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Devotional Reading – “When the Precious is Poured”

“There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat at meat,” Matthew 26:7

Each of us possesses the precious.  Each of us has within our being an ointment of appreciation to our Lord.  Each of us carries the sense that without Him we are nothing, therefore, what I do have I pour out for Him.

Much of our culture is self-seeking.  But God is asking for flags of surrender to be waved for service.  That we give up and pour out all for Him.  That we show the world a thing or two about true love; true appreciation to a Savior who poured out all for us.

Do I mean empty your bank accounts?  That’s not what I am speaking of here.  I’m talking about service.  Good examples of selfless service are hard to find in our age.  The way for many to see something beautiful in Christian service is blocked by the hoarding of blessings to oneself.  The gain for self has dimmed a light that once so richly shone.  Self has taken place on a pedestal that it was not meant to mount.

Jesus calls us to the service of this woman who gave up her best to bless.  When was the last time we gave up our best to bless others?  When was the last time we put our wants and desires on the back burner and put the thoughts and cares of others in the forefront?

Despite scathing ridicule, the woman unashamedly approached Jesus with her expensive, yet still, inadequate gift.  You see, for all He did for us, no gift can repay.  The costliest of earthly possessions and service can’t scratch the surface of reward for what He accomplished on the cross.  Yet, we are compelled to press forth and give our best.

“In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works…” (Titus 2:7, KJV).  It’s time for a new pattern to be laid.  The foundation of self must dissipate, and new groundwork needs to be founded on who He is in our lives and all that He has already done.  It’s time to show the world a different lifestyle.  A life built on pouring out.

When we pour out for Jesus, the preciousness within us becomes evident.  Man can then see the good that was once hidden.  He can see the difference that was once disguised.  When we release the precious that is in us we become vessels that honor the Lord; for it was on the cross when He poured out the precious for us.

The world needs a visual aid.  When they see us break the box and release the preciousness of good works inside, they will “glorify your Father which is in heaven,” (Matthew 5:16, KJV).

“That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life,” (1 Timothy 6:18-19, KJV)

Look for a way to bless others today and to pour out into their lives.  God bless 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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Like a Tree!

“He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.” Psalm 1:3
 
Father God, We are praying today for the fruitfulness of Your people. May Your hand of prosperity be upon them. May You cause the works of their hands to increase and bring forth abundance. May the increase of their ministries, work, and lives be forever blessed, in Jesus’ name, AMEN!

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Standing on the Edge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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