Monthly Archives: September 2018

Today’s Scripture – September 14, 2018

John 11:38-44 (NIV)
Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. “Take away the stone,” he said.
“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”
Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”
When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.
Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

The moment had come for Jesus to demonstrate His complete mastery over death. He knew exactly what the Father had in mind for Him to do, so there was no hesitation, no second-guessing, and no fear that “it might not work.” He came to the tomb, and immediately commanded that the stone be rolled away from the entrance.

Jesus had not directly told anyone what He intended to do, so his command initially sparked controversy. If His intent was to go into the tomb to see Lazarus’ body, that was a really bad idea. Lazarus had been dead for four days, so decay would definitely have set in by then; the smell would be terrible.

But rather than back off, Jesus simply looked Martha in the eyes and confronted her lack of faith in Him to do what He claimed the authority to do. In Martha’s defense, Jesus was taking them all into uncharted waters. The greatest miracle workers in history had never raised someone from the dead after four days. And up to that point, even the people Jesus Himself had raised had died earlier on the same day.

But Martha wavered only a moment. She really did trust Jesus. She even trusted Him enough to follow Him into a place no one had ever gone before. She nodded her head to a few young men, and they pushed and pulled until the stone was clear of the mouth of the tomb.

Jesu’s prayer is a perfect model for those who follow God’s will on a day-to-day basis. Raising Lazarus was not Jesus’ idea, one that He had to persuade the Father to do for Him. So, there was no begging or pleading for the miracle to take place; the Father had already told Jesus that that was what He intended to do. The prayer simply glorifies God for what He was at that moment in the process of accomplishing. And it glorifies Jesus. The only reason that Jesus prayed, and prayed aloud, was to show the crowd that He was working in God’s name to do this amazing sign.

Then Jesus called out words that shocked everyone who was standing there: “Lazarus, come out!” The people looked at each other in stunned disbelief. What was going on here? What was Jesus trying to do? But then, a flash of white at the mouth of the tomb attracted their attention, and they gasped in amazement as they realized that it was Lazarus, wrapped in a linen shroud, shuffling to the door of the tomb.

For a moment, everything seemed frozen in time. Nobody moved. After the initial collective gasp, nobody was even breathing. Then Jesus broke the silence with His command to unwrap the formerly dead man, which was immediately obeyed. In that moment, all the grief was completely forgotten, entirely swallowed up in rejoicing.

Father, this clearly illustrates the point that, when Jesus shows up, everything changes. Nothing is impossible, nothing out of bounds. And those who, in faith, work with Him will never be the same as they see Your full glory revealed through life-changing, life-restoring miracles. Thank You for the miracles You have done in my life, and that You have let me be a part of. I praise You, Lord! Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – September 12, 2018

John 11:33-37 (NIV)
When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked.
“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.
Jesus wept.
Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”
But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

All of this grieving that was still going on even though He had come, disturbed Jesus greatly. Mary and Martha’s sight was so focused on the hopelessness of Lazarus’ death that Martha had completely missed Jesus’ promise that Lazarus would rise again, using her world-based logic to interpret the promise as applying to the resurrection at the end of time. And Jesus’ appearance had inspired no hope in Mary either, or in any of the guest who were there, even in those who knew who Jesus was and what He was capable of. To their minds death was final, and after four days, there was no hope at all, even for a miracle.

The word translated “deeply moved” actually means angered, but many translators are reluctant to attribute anger to Jesus, especially in a situation like this one. But the fact is, Jesus was actually angry. He was angry that death continued to hold sway over humanity, tearing families apart and robbing His people of hope. And He was angry that all of those people had gotten so sucked into the emotion of death that they were not even willing to be open to the fact that God has something amazing that he wanted to do there.

The frustration, yes, even anger that flooded through Jesus right then brought tears to His eyes. Even as Mary and Martha led Him to the tomb, the family and friends saw the tears on Jesus’ face, and interpreted them as tears of sadness and grief. Even the great Jesus seemed to them to be powerless and immersed in grief at that moment. If only He had come sooner, He could have healed Lazarus and kept him from dying. But now…

But Jesus was far from grieving. He knew precisely what He was going to do in the next few minutes; that this final great “sign” was going to stun everyone who was there and dispel the darkness of four-day-old death that had sucked all joy from those hearts. He would prove that He was in fact the resurrection, master even over death itself, before He raised Himself from the dead in just a few weeks.

Father, thank You that, in Jesus, even what we see as the end isn’t necessarily the end. It can, in fact, be a new beginning instead. Help us in every situation, the casual as well as the grave, to seek Your face, Your intentions for every situation, and then move forward under Your direction, so that we can see Your power, Your miracles, at work. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – September 11, 2018

John 11:28-32 (NIV)
And after she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.
When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

Martha wasn’t sure what Jesus was intending to do, but her history with Him (He never sat idly by when there was a genuine need), and His cryptic words gave her the intense sensation that something amazing was about to happen. So, she ran back into town, back into the house, and breathlessly whispered to her sister, “The teacher is here and is asking for you.”

No more needed to be said. Though there was no hope left in Mary’s heart for Lazarus, still the presence of the teacher was a very good thing. So, she quickly and wordlessly got up and went outside. Those present to mourn with the sisters had no idea what Martha had whispered to Mary, but her rapid reaction and departure made them think that she had been overcome by grief and was headed to the tomb to cry there. So, they followed her out the door.

But they were immediately confused. Mary and Martha weren’t headed for the tomb but had gone in a different direction entirely. It was only when they saw Jesus and His disicples standing at the edge of town that they understood. Someone else had come to visit the family, and they were dutifully going out to greet them.

But imagine their surprise when, instead of trading the traditional middle-eastern kiss with the newcomers, they saw Mary fall at the man’s feet! Those who recognized Jesus most likely saw it as a further sign of grief. But some there did not know who this man was, or why Mary was acting this way.

Mary’s opening words to Jesus were identical to those of Martha.: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” And they were spoken with the same tone of disappointment. “If only.”

Father, often when we are in the midst of circumstances, and when our eyes are fully focused on the darkness, we don’t notice when the light first appears. Mary, Martha, and the others were so focused on their hopelessness, disappointment, and grief, that they were slow to see that hope, restoration, and joy had just walked onto the scene, and that everything was going to be good again. Help me, Lord, any time I find myself in the dark, to look up right away so that I can see Your light coming into the situation. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – September 10, 2018

John 11:23-27 (NIV)
Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
“Yes, Lord,” she told him, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.”

Initially, Martha’s belief in what was possible for Jesus to do was limited by the teaching she had received, and by her mere humanness. Jesus’ word that her brother would rise again shifted the discussion in her mind to the end of time when all would rise. On that day, somewhere in the misty future, she would see Lazarus again.

But Jesus was not talking about the last day. He was talking about that day. Even though He was into His fourth year of public ministry among the people of Israel, they still had no idea who He really was, just glimpses and brief insights around the edges of what He could accomplish.

So far Jesus had done amazing miracles, incredible things that far surpassed Elisha, the previous record holder for doing amazing miracles. He had healed thousands, cast out multiplied thousands of demons, cleansed lepers, raised two dead people, and even healed a man who had been born blind. But to believe that anyone, even Jesus Himself, could raise someone who had been in the tomb for four days was beyond anyone’s faith. No one had done anything even close to that, ever.

But Jesus had not come that day to commiserate with the sisters. He had come to breathe life into a situation where death lay heavy. He had come, in advance of His own death and resurrection, to show that He was, in fact, the Lord of life.

Note that Jesus did NOT say that He had come to enable resurrection and life. His claim was that He Himself was the resurrection and the life. Just as Jesus embodied the kingdom of God in His very being, Jesus also embodied real life, genuine rebirth and life from the dead. Where He walked, life existed in all its fullness, and death’s power was completely stripped away.

The life that is in Jesus is actuated in our lives through faith in Him, the heart-deep understanding that, since Jesus is life itself, to be in intimate relationship with Him by faith is to be in a living relationship with that life. Thus, for those who live in relationship with Jesus, death has no power or authority. Even though one’s physical body might die, and even decay, the life lived in Jesus will continue without a break, all the way to eternity.

As noted above, it was understood that Jesus could raise the dead, as He already had done with Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5:22-43) and the widow of Nain’s only son (Luke 7:11-17). But every time He raised the dead, it was a demonstration of something even more incredibly profound: the fact that Jesus was, in fact, life itself.

Father, thank You for this reality. In relationship with You, death has no power over me, because, with You I live in the very midst of life, just as darkness has no power over someone who lives in a room filled perpetually with light. Help me, every moment, to live in the true life that is found only in You, life to the full that goes on forever in every dimension, starting right now. Amen.

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Today’s Scriptures – September 9, 2018

John 11:17-22 (NIV)
On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.
“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”

Jesus entered a very sad scene. Lazarus had been dead and buried for four days, and his family, surrounded by sympathizers from Jerusalem and the surrounding area, were still in the depths of their seven-day intense grieving period. The four days that had passed since Lazarus had died were very significant. Some rabbis taught that after three days in the cool grave, visible decay would begin to occur, and after that point the soul would depart the area, and resurrection was no longer possible.

So, when Jesus send a messenger ahead of Him to announce His arrival to Lazarus’ sisters, their first thought was simply that He had come too late. Mary was so consumed by grief that she wouldn’t even go to meet Jesus. But Martha, ever the practical one, got up at once and went to the edge of the village where Jesus had paused with His disciples.

Martha’s first words to Jesus were tinged with accusation: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” She knew beyond any doubt that Jesus could heal any disease; she had heard the testimony of many witnesses to that fact.

Her next words, however, were loaded with hope: “But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” Martha knew the teachings of the rabbis that, on this fourth day, Lazarus was beyond all hope of a cure, or even of resurrection. But she held onto the hope that there was still something that Jesus could do in this situation, something that might restore what had been lost in this great tragedy.

Martha’s faith was far from complete. When Jesus later commanded that the stone be rolled away from the mouth of the tomb, she was the one who warned that there would be a bad odor due to the decay (verses 38-39). But her faith in Jesus reached far enough at this moment to spark a dim light in the inky blackness of the current events. And Jesus honored that faint light of faith and pulled off one of the greatest miracles in history.

Father, it is easy, when things are at their darkest, to simply give ourselves over to the grief, to turn away from seeking Your will in a situation, and just start to move through the process of dealing with the realities. And this goes far beyond just death. It includes things like loss of a job, receiving divorce papers, or a diagnosis of a terminal illness. But, Lord, we need to remember that You have no limitations; it’s not over until YOU say that it’s over. It is clearly not Your will to fix every problem we face, or to stop every tragedy in its tracks. But we need to not decide ourselves when, where, and how You will choose to move, or even IF you will choose to act. Help us, Lord, to keep our eyes and our hearts focused on You, no matter what we’re facing, until we hear positively from You what Your will is. And then, once we know, help us to move forward in faith. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – September 7, 2018

John 11:11-16 (NIV)
After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”
His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.”
Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep. So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”
Then Thomas (called Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

It had been two days since the message came from Mary and Martha that Lazarus was very ill. But Jesus knew two things: Lazarus had already died, and God had a plan to fix the problem and a timetable on which He was working.

After the two days were over, God’s call came to Jesus to go to Bethany. But His disciples resisted the idea, since the religious leaders had nearly stoned Jesus twice in the last few months, the second time just a few weeks earlier. That was when Jesus told them that Lazarus had died.

In His first attempt to communicate that compelling fact, Jesus used a euphemism, saying that Lazarus had fallen asleep, and that he needed to go and wake him up. But the problem with euphemisms is that they can be taken literally, as the disicples did here. They figured that Jesus had somehow heard that Lazarus had finally fallen into a deep and restorative sleep. So, they misread Jesus’ news as good news, and in doing so completely missed the implication of Jesus “waking him up” as raising him from the dead.

Since Jesus’ first attempt had failed, He was much more direct the second time, clearly stating that Lazarus had died, and that they needed to go to him. That statement sobered the mood of the group considerably. This time Jesus wasn’t as clear about His intentions to raise Lazarus from the dead. He merely alluded to the fact that this turn of events would provide one more opportunity for His followers to believe in Him.

In view of Lazarus’ death and their friendship with the family, the disciples conceded that they really should go, even though they knew it had potential to be extremely dangerous. It was Thomas who put words to the feelings of the group: “We might as well go with Him, so we can all die together.”\

Father, how often do we receive Your instructions, and then second-guess them because the circumstances seem wrong, or even dangerous? It is so easy for us to forget that You are always working Your plan, and that anytime You command us to do something, it is something that will move Your plan forward, even if it is unlikely, dangerous, or whatever, and that YOU will see it to its success. Jesus walked in that assurance every moment of every day. Help me to walk in it every day as well. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – September 5, 2018

John 11:7-10 (NIV)
Then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”
“But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews tried to stone you, and yet you are going back there?”
Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? A man who walks by day will not stumble, for he sees by this world’s light. It is when he walks by night that he stumbles, for he has no light.”

Jesus already knew what God’s plan was with Lazarus, that He would raise him from the dead long after the situation had been written off as hopeless. So, the two-day wait was all part of the plan. As soon as those waiting days were over, Jesus received the call of the Father to make the two-day journey back to Bethany.

When Jesus first called His followers to get ready to go, they pushed back. Jesus’ conflicts with the religious leaders had grown increasingly dangerous. The last two had resulted in Jesus having to leave the temple area to escape being stoned to death! It had only been a few weeks since the last run-in, not nearly enough time for tempers to have cooled. So, they reminded Jesus that it wouldn’t be safe for Him to return.

The main point in Jesus’ reply was that He was not blindly deciding to go back into the danger zone, but instead had been intentionally directed to go by the Father. He was not walking back in the dark, but was walking in the light, intentionally working, doing what God had called Him to do every day. Jesus could rest in the assurance that His Father would not let Him be harmed or fall into the hands of His enemies until it was time. And it wasn’t time yet.

Jesus’ answer was not just for Him at that moment, but was a valuable insight for His disciples for the future. After Pentecost, when the work of the kingdom would be placed in their hands, all of them would have to move forward every day trusting that God was guiding them right where He wanted them to be, and that He would not let them be harmed or killed until He decided that it was time. And even then He would be with them through that experience, all the way to the end.

Father, I have experienced Your guidance and protection, even in the most unlikely of places, and through some of the darkest moments of my life. But even though the circumstances were dark, I was still able to walk in the light as You came near to guide my steps, and to empower me to move forward until I could reach the other side. Thank You for this great promise to all of Your people, and for its fulfillment right when we need it the most. Amen.

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