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Posts tagged ‘Lazarus’

{ Day 330 }.


Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was. —John 11:5-6, NKJV

Because of our preconceived notions, we sometimes draw wrong conclusions from God‘s silence or His presumable lack of intervention on our behalf. We often conclude that God’s love for us has waned or that we are unworthy of His attention or perhaps that we are being punished for something. But that was certainly not the case with Lazarus. The Scriptures say several times that Jesus loved Lazarus along with his two sisters, Mary and Martha, but His delay in coming to help Lazarus in his greatest need was precisely calculated. We know that Jesus’s seeming lack of response had nothing to do with lack of love, but had everything to do with fulfilling the redemptive purpose of God. The ensuing miracle was a prophetic sign to many of His own resurrection. But for Lazarus, Martha, and Mary it was something more—a lesson to trust God always, even when they must walk in darkness beyond the edge of their understanding.

{ PRAYER STARTER }

Father, like Martha I often cry out, “Why didn’t You come when I called?” Teach me the lesson of placing my ultimate trust in You even when I cannot understand Your plan and purpose.

We often conclude that God’s love for us has waned
or that we are unworthy of His attention or
perhaps that we are being
punished for something.

By MIKE BICKLE.

{ Day 330 }.


Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was. —John 11:5-6, NKJV

Because of our preconceived notions, we sometimes draw wrong conclusions from God‘s silence or His presumable lack of intervention on our behalf. We often conclude that God’s love for us has waned or that we are unworthy of His attention or perhaps that we are being punished for something. But that was certainly not the case with Lazarus. The Scriptures say several times that Jesus loved Lazarus along with his two sisters, Mary and Martha, but His delay in coming to help Lazarus in his greatest need was precisely calculated. We know that Jesus’s seeming lack of response had nothing to do with lack of love, but had everything to do with fulfilling the redemptive purpose of God. The ensuing miracle was a prophetic sign to many of His own resurrection. But for Lazarus, Martha, and Mary it was something more—a lesson to trust God always, even when they must walk in darkness beyond the edge of their understanding.

{ PRAYER STARTER }

Father, like Martha I often cry out, “Why didn’t You come when I called?” Teach me the lesson of placing my ultimate trust in You even when I cannot understand Your plan and purpose.

We often conclude that God’s love for us has waned
or that we are unworthy of His attention or
perhaps that we are being
punished for something.

By MIKE BICKLE.

How to Slow Down So You Don’t Miss What Jesus Has to Teach You about Himself.


Whitney Hopler

Editor’s Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Mika Nappa’s upcoming book,God in Slow Motion: Reflections on Jesus and the 10 Unexpected Lessons You Can See in His Life(Thomas Nelson, 2013).

We often rush through Bible passages, trying to gain spiritual growth from reviewing them quickly before moving on to the rest of our lives. But Jesus Christ was never in a hurry during His time on Earth. The life Jesus modeled was one of patience, and patience is necessary for us to learn the lessons that He wants to teach us.

Slowing down will enable you to pay attention well to what Jesus has to tell you, so you don’t miss lessons about His character that can change your own life for the better.

Here’s how you can slow down so you don’t miss what Jesus has to teach you about Himself:

Learn about mischievous glory. Making the time to fully reflect on the humble way that Jesus chose to enter our world – as a baby in a manger (a feeding trough for animals) can show you how mischievous God is about His glory. Just as Jesus’ touch transformed the lowly manger into a symbol of God’s glory, God’s touch transforms our lives. We’re forgotten beings used for base purposes until we begin relationships with Jesus, but from then on, we become treasures who are free to pursue glorious purposes. Jesus welcomes us as we are (sinful, lost, helpless, and debased) and transforms us into people who enjoy His glorious presence and radiate it to others as His love flows through us.

Learn about mysterious grace. The Bible story of how Jesus met with a Samaritan woman at a well and offered her “living water” shows how He draws people to Himself by pointing out something we need but don’t currently have or something we want to know that only He can reveal to us. Jesus’ interaction with the woman shows both the curiosity of human nature and the mystery of God’s grace at work. Studying this story, you realize that God won’t be defined or limited by human expectations, so He can’t be easily explained or understood – but in every one of God’s mysteries that you encounter, you see glimpses of God at work that can help you get to know Him better.

Learn about criminal kindness. Reading about how Jesus transformed Levi the tax collector (who was considered a criminal due to his corrupt practices) into Matthew the apostle (who joined Jesus in His earthly ministry and wrote the Gospel of Matthew) shows you that when Jesus comes along, even people with the worst behavior can change into people who work for the best. Reflecting on this story teaches you that Jesus sees you as a beloved person that He wants to use in His kingdom – regardless of the mistakes you may have made in the past – and inspires you to say “yes” whenever Jesus calls you to follow Him into an adventure.

Learn about frightening wonder. When you reflect on how Jesus calmed the storm that was raging on the Sea of Galilee around his frightened disciples, you can discover the wonder of how Jesus can help you, too, in even the scariest circumstances you encounter. Jesus hasn’t promised to help you avoid trouble, but to overcome it. Jesus is always in control of the circumstances in your life, and you can tap into His awesome power to deal with them. Choose to trust Him to help and guide you when storms hit your life.

Learn about stolen miracles. The Bible story of how Jesus miraculously healed a woman who had been suffering from a bleeding condition for years can teach you about the proper perspective on miracles. Jesus won’t simply hand out miracles just because people ask for them, and when He does choose to perform miracles, He does so in unexpected ways. Jesus’ compassion is bigger than your vision; it encompasses everything you need, including factors you didn’t even realize that you needed. Choose to trust Jesus even when His vision for you is different from your expectations of Him.

Learn about tattered faith. Reflecting on how Jesus responded when the imprisoned John the Baptist expressed damaged faith can teach you how to deal well with doubts and discouragement of your own. John sent some men to ask Jesus whether or not He really was the Messiah. Jesus answered by telling the men to report to John the evidence that supported his role as the Messiah (from the blind receiving sight to good news being proclaimed to the poor). From this story, you can learn that faith in Jesus is more than just hope; it’s the substance of hope, because there’s real, solid evidence that Jesus is exactly who He claims to be. You can always be honest with Jesus about your thoughts and feelings when your faith is tattered, and ask Him hard questions, too. He will respond by giving you stronger faith.

Learn about beautiful sorrow. As you consider the Bible story of Lazarus and his sisters Mary and Martha, you can learn about the beauty of Jesus’ willingness to enter fully into human sorrow, as well as His power to redeem it. Jesus’ intentionally let Lazarus die (and Mary and Martha grieve) before He resurrected Lazarus so He could show how beauty can come out of suffering for those who place their trust in God. Jesus is a Man of Sorrows who cares deeply about your own sorrow and stands ready to redeem it.

Learn about insulting greatness. Reading the Bible story of Jesus washing His disciples’ feet, you can discover what true service looks like: a willingness to do whatever God requires (even when it seems insulting to other people) with humility that ironically marks true greatness at work. Instead of serving others to impress God, serve simply as a way of expressing your love for a God who already loves you completely and unconditionally. Serving with great love – even in the humblest of ways – will lead to great results.

Learn about brutal love. Jesus’ brutal death on the cross to pay for humanity’s sins was motivated by His great love. Reflecting on Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross helps you grasp the contrast between the brutality of sin and the love of God, who is willing to do whatever it takes to save you from sin. Thanks to what Jesus did for you on the cross, you don’t have to be destroyed by sin by can be reconciled to the source of all love: God.

Learn about bloodied hope. Studying the Bible story of “Doubting Thomas” (the apostle Thomas who doubted that Jesus had risen from the dead until he met the resurrected Jesus in the flesh) can teach you that true confidence and peace come from Jesus meeting you wherever you are. Jesus stands ready to respond to your doubts and answer your challenging questions, so bring them to Him with an open mind. You can find real hope in Jesus’ bloodied body because it’s evidence of what He did to connect you with God forever.

Adapted from God in Slow Motion: Reflections on Jesus and the 10 Unexpected Lessons You Can See in His Life, copyright 2013 by Mike Nappa. Published by Thomas Nelson, Nashville, Tn.,www.thomasnelson.com.

Mike Nappa is a best-selling and award-winning author and editor of many books and ministry resources. He holds a master’s degree in English and a Bachelor’s degree in Christian Education, with an emphasis in Bible theology. Most of all, Mike Nappa loves Jesus. Visit his website at:www.napaland.com. 

Whitney Hopler, who has served as a Crosswalk.com contributing writer for many years, is author of the new Christian novel Dream Factory, which is set during Hollywood’s golden age. Visit her website at: whitneyhopler.naiwe.com.

Publication date: August 7, 2013

Finding Faith When God Doesn’t Make Sense.


sad woman
(http://www.stockfreeimages.com)

Even when there is no explanation for what you’re going through, God‘s love is more than enough for your need.

Mary and Martha, whose story is told in the Gospel of John, must have asked the same question as they struggled to understand why Jesus hadn’t intervened to heal their brother, Lazarus. They had sent for Jesus to come, and when He didn’t come quickly, they probably assumed He didn’t care.

And now, even though Jesus had finally come, it was too late. Lazarus had died.

Mary crumbled, sobbing, at the feet of Jesus. As she lay with her shoulders shaking and her chest heaving, wracked with pain that was too great to bear, the friends who had followed her voiced their own despair over her grief, and they wept too.

At the sight and sound of the poignant scene, Jesus “was deeply moved in spirit and troubled” (John 11:33, NIV). The text indicates He felt more than just grief; He felt anger.

Several years ago, I received an urgent call from a person who was at the local hospital, telling me that one of my dearest friends was dying. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

I had spoken with the friend only the day before, and she had been healthy and happy. What could have gone so terribly wrong? As I rushed to the hospital, I kept praying, “Lord, help! The one whom we love is sick—dying!”

When I made my way into the hospital waiting room, I found her extended family huddled in tears and shock. I was told my precious friend had somehow breathed in a virus that had acted like a hand grenade in her body, exploding and destroying her internal organs.

In grief and shock myself, I was urged to go into the chapel, where her husband and children had gathered to pray. As I slipped into the darkened sanctuary and virtually collapsed onto a pew, I heard the whispered prayers and sobs of her loved ones. Then the stifled grief erupted in a chilling, heart-wrenching cry as her son yelled out: “God, it’s not right. It’s not right! It’s just not right!”

Later, when her family made the decision to disconnect her from life support and my beloved friend went to her heavenly home, her son’s agonized, angry grief echoed in my ears, and I thought: He was right. This is wrong. Terribly wrong! This was never meant to be.

Death was not a part of God’s original plan. He created you and me for Himself. He intended for us to live with Him and enjoy Him forever in an uninterrupted, permanent, personal, love relationship.

But sin came into our lives and broke the very relationship with God for which we were created. All of us are affected by this broken relationship because all of us are infected with sin.

When your loved one dies and your grief is tinged with anger, don’t direct it toward God. He’s angry too. Direct it toward sin and its devastating consequences.

That day in Bethany, as Mary wept and her friends wept with her, a tumult of grief and anger and compassion and empathy welled up in the heart of Jesus. In a voice that must have been choking with emotion, He inquired, “Where have you laid him?”

Those around Him replied gently, “‘Come and see, Lord'” (John 11:34). And when Jesus was invited by the mourners in Bethany to “come and see,” He wept! (See vv. 34­-35.)

Jesus, the Creator of the universe, the eternal I Am, the Lord of life, knew He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead. Yet One so strong, so powerful, so wise, so human, stood there with tears running down His cheeks! Why? Because He loved those gathered at the tomb so much their grief was His.

When my youngest daughter, Rachel-Ruth, was small, she wore long braids as a means of controlling her naturally curly hair, which she hated. I will never forget an incident that followed the visit to our home of a beautiful young woman who had long, sleek, glossy brown hair. As soon as the door closed behind the young woman, Rachel-Ruth ran into the living room, jerking at her braids, tearing at her bangs, covering her face with her hands, and hysterically sobbing, “I hate my hair! My face is so ugly! I’m not pretty at all!”

Not knowing what had triggered this outburst, I just held her and wept with her. I looked up to see my other daughter, Morrow, standing in the doorway, weeping too. We wept because Rachel-Ruth was so distraught, and we loved her. Her torment was our own.

When was the last time you wept into your pillow at night, thinking no one cared? Is the pain so deep and your hurt so great that you cry night after night?.

In your misery and loneliness, do you think Jesus is emotionally detached? That He just doesn’t care? Or that He’s simply too busy to notice? Or that He is callous because He sees a lot of pain that’s worse than yours? Or that He couldn’t possibly understand how you feel?

Do you know that Jesus weeps with you? Do you know He puts all your tears in a bottle because they are precious to Him? He has said in all of your afflictions, He Himself is afflicted. Why? Because Jesus does understand! And He loves you!

Those who had gathered to support and comfort and help the family of Lazarus observed the famous young Rabbi weeping and concluded, “‘See how he loved him!'” (v. 36). Even though Jesus knew the glory to come and the demonstration of God’s power that was about to be displayed, He wept!

He wept because He loved this precious family and they were weeping. Jesus was entering into their suffering, just as many of us entered into His when we repented of our sin, died to ourselves and received Him by faith.

The story of Lazarus is the account of perhaps the most magnificent miracle Jesus performed while on Earth. But it is really the story of Martha‘s faith–and the necessity of placing our faith in Jesus alone if we are to live life triumphantly and experience the greatest miracle of all, that of passing from spiritual death to eternal life as we are born again into the family of God.

Surrounded by a crowd of friends, family and just curious onlookers, Jesus gazed at the scene before Him. I expect Mary and Martha followed His focus, which was fixed on the cave carved out of the hillside that served as Lazarus’ burial place. A large stone sealed off the entrance to the tomb.

Martha was jolted out of any grief-filled reverie that preoccupied her thoughts when she heard His familiar voice command quietly but with absolute authority, “Take away the stone” (v. 39). Nothing could have been more appalling to her!

It seemed as if reopening Lazarus’ tomb would serve no purpose except to reopen the fresh wound of her heart. How could Jesus say such a thing? How could He even think such a thing?

Martha, with what surely was a look of horrified indignation on her face, blurted out, “But Lord … by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days” (v. 39).

Jesus turned His full gaze onto Martha with a look that melted her resistance and silenced her argument. With patient firmness, He challenged her not only to obedience but also to expectant faith: “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” (v. 40).

Something in Martha must have quickened as she saw the intensity in the Lord’s eyes. She knew this was no longer the time to talk about it or pray about it or think about it.

The spark of faith was suddenly fanned into flame, and without further question or word, she just did it! She ordered the stone to be rolled away. Simply because He said so. Her obedience, her dependence and her expectance were in Him alone. He was all she had.

With every eye fastened on Him, Jesus boldly, loudly lifted His voice as He prayed: “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” (vv. 41-­42). Jesus was letting everyone know that if Lazarus was raised, the power to make it happen came from God.

Then…the same voice that had brought the world into being, the same voice that had called Abraham from Ur, the same voice that had reverberated from Mount Sinai, that same voice thundered, “Lazarus, come out!” (v. 43). The voice of the Creator was commanding into existence that which had no existence!

Every eye must have strained toward the cave, peering into the black hole where the stone had been. And then, out of the deep, shadowy recesses within, there appeared a mummy-like figure “wrapped with strips of linen, and [with] a cloth around his face” (v. 44).

Was there a collective gasp? Or was everyone frozen into place, temporarily paralyzed by the shock of seeing something that just couldn’t be?

Dead men don’t come back to life! But Lazarus did! At the command of the One who is the Resurrection and the Life, he appeared at the entrance of the tomb.

After all the pain and suffering and anguish and doubt and resentment and misunderstanding and tears, God had answered the sisters’ unspoken prayer. Although Jesus had not come when they thought He would, He had restored Lazarus to health.

In His own time and in His own way, God answered abundantly beyond what they could have thought to ask for—beyond their wildest dreams. Their brother was raised from the dead!

Source: CHARISMA NEWS.

ANN GRAHAM LOTZ

Is the Raising of Lazarus Fictional?.


Last Sunday in church, our pastor preached from John chapter 11, the Raising of Lazarus. It brought back memories of my old atheistic resistance to this story and reminded me of John Shelby Spong’s recent comment challenging the historicity of this event. Spong believes the Gospel writer (someone other than the apostle John, by the way) exaggerated the fictional narrative “to counter any attempt to read it literally.” Spong argues the author intentionally exaggerated the story so the reader would recognize it’s fictional status (“Jesus does not just raise a person from the dead, he raises one who has been dead and even buried for four days, one who is still bound in grave clothes and one who, according to the King James translation ‘already stinketh’ with the odor of decaying flesh!”) Like Spong, I also resisted the idea that Jesus performed this miracle, although for a different reason. The biggest problem for me was its absence from the other gospel accounts. Why is John the only person to mention something this dramatic and allegedly well-known? Doesn’t the absence of Lazarus’ story from all the other accounts cast doubt on its authenticity?

Why Is It Missing from The Other Accounts?
While the absence of this miracle in the synoptic gospels initially seemed to pose a problem, the more I investigated it, the smaller the problem became. Part of my suspicion rested in the extravagant nature of the miracle itself. Jesus raised someone from the dead, for crying out loud! How could the other gospel writers forget about that? This objection rests, however, on the presumption that a miracle of this nature was extravagant or exceedingly unusual in the ministry of Jesus, and I think this presumption is false. Lazarus wasn’t the only person Jesus raised from the dead. Jesus also brought Jairus’ daughter back to life (Matthew 9:23-26, Mark 5:35-43, and Luke 8:40-56), as well as the son of the widow of Nain (Luke 7:12-15). John doesn’t mention either of these miracles and Mathew and Mark fail to mention the widow’s son. There is good reason to believe Jesus raised even more people from the dead, given John’s clear statement, “There are many other things that Jesus did; if all were written down, the world itself, I suppose, would not hold all the books that would have to be written” (John 21: 25).

There may be a good reason Mark, Matthew and Luke failed to mention Lazarus’ resurrection, even though they described similar miracles. When Jesus arrived at the tomb of Lazarus, “many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary, to console them concerning their brother” (John 11:18). Martha even went out to meet Jesus prior to his arrival, seemingly aware of the disciple’s concern that “these Jews were just now seeking to stone [Jesus]” (John 11:8). Jesus performed the miracle in the presence of these Jewish witnesses and “many of the Jews who came to Mary, and saw what He had done, believed in Him” (John 11:45). As a result, the chief priests and Pharisees convened a council and “from that day on they planned together to kill [Jesus]” (John 11:53). The raising of Lazarus had an impact on the Jewish opposition that was unique amongst those who had been raised by Jesus. Early chroniclers may simply have wanted to minimize Lazarus’ presence in the gospel accounts to protect him and his sisters earlier in the first century. By the time John penned his version of the ministry of Jesus (much later than Mark, Matthew or Luke), this concern may have rightfully waned.

Does It Include An Intentional Exaggeration?
But let’s return to the issue of hyperbolic exaggeration. John Shelby Spong interprets the inclusion of the four day delay as an intentional tactic used by John “to counter any attempt to read it literally.” But is that necessarily the case? Are there really no other good reasons why Jesus may have waited this long to perform the miracle? How about the reasons Jesus offered? Jesus told the disciples that he waited “so that [they] may believe” (John 11:15), and He told Martha that he waited so she could learn trust Him as “the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die” (John 11:25-26). Jesus had a goal in mind and this goal required Him to delay His arrival. But why four days? Is this simply an effort on the author’s part to make it clear he was speaking allegorically (as Spong proposes)? No. It was more likely the presence of the Jews that caused Jesus to delay. Ancient Jewish texts reveal an important belief held by the Jews who were waiting at the tomb of Lazarus. The Jews of this time period believed, “until three days [after death] the soul keeps on returning to the grave, thinking that it will go back [into the body]; but when it sees that the facial features have become disfigured, it departs and abandons it [the body]” (refer to Genesis Rabbah 100:7, Leviticus Rabbah 18:1, and Ecclesiastes Rabbah 12:6). Jesus waited until all hope was lost for those waiting for death’s confirmation. Only then did Jesus raise Lazarus, and the result was stunning amongst those Jews who held these primary beliefs about death and the soul. They became believers.

One of the reasons we typically struggle with passages like the raising of Lazarus is our desire toread it through the lens of our modern understanding or our base desires. But when we take the time to examine the account from the perspective of the original events and the authors who recorded them, reasonable explanations emerge. It just takes some effort to think like a detective and investigate the past.

J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, a Christian Case Maker at Stand to Reason, and the author of Cold-Case Christianity

Don’t Trust Your Feelings.


And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. —John 11:43

Fear hinders, but faith marches into enemy territory. Fear appears logical and authentic, but is only a product of our senses—what we see, hear, touch, taste, and feel. Operating in the realm of the natural only leaves us vulnerable to the devil’s tactics (John 12:31).

When Jesus approached the grave of Lazarus, He saw the stone firmly in place. His sense of smell told him the man was dead. He heard with His own ears the weeping mourners. He could taste the bitterness of His own tears. But Jesus did not let His senses lead Him away from the tomb. He was not looking at the situation with the eyes of man, but with the eyes of faith. He cried out, “Lazarus, come forth!” Death fled when He looked past the natural and operated in the spiritual.

You senses may tell you to fear. Your thoughts may give you many reasons why defeat and death are your only options. But God is the God of the impossible. With God, defeating death is not impossible because He is the resurrection and the life. Trust Him to do the impossible in spite of your natural feelings and reason.

Never trust your feelings because we walk by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). Put your trust in God alone.

Lord, with You all things are possible.
Help me to trust You even when
my thoughts and senses tell me
that things are impossible.
Amen.

By ROD PARSLEY.

Dealing with it…


By Bobby Schuller, Crystal Cathedral Pastor

“Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”
-Psalm 27:14

Jesus was unhurried, wasn’t He? He never seemed to be in a hurry except when He went to the cross. That was it.

When Jesus was called to heal Jairus’ daughter, and He encounters all these distractions on the way, He sees God in the distractions. Then He gets to Jairus’ daughter and she’s dead because He took too long. So He just raises her from the dead. The same thing with Lazarus. Jesus actually finds out about Lazarus and decides to do nothing (John chapter 11). He wants to wait for Lazarus to die so that He can raise him from the dead.

And of course, Jesus, throughout His life, is unhurried because God is unhurried. They’re eternal beings who live in a different reality. They’re not afraid of things like death or not accomplishing their goals. They live in a completely different reality. Jesus lived, and so should His disciples live, from a place of humility, listening, and an unhurried posture.

The sense of hurry that I normally live out of, and many of us live out of, often comes from either a place of pride or a place of fear. Sometimes when we create space for the Lord of silence or solitude, we have to face our inner demons, we have to face our struggles, our loneliness, our feelings of lack of meaning or fulfillment, and then we have to deal with them. So typically, instead of dealing with them, we just go back and hurry again, and get productive.

However, I don’t believe that’s what the Lord wants from us. Maybe He actually wants to teach us in those moments that he would rather we slow down so we can live the life he has planned for us.

Prayer: Dear Lord, I want to live the life you have planned for me. Show me the way to live the unhurried life. Amen.

Reflection: What do you think the Lord has planned for you once you slow down and take more time to listen to him?

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