Thursday, April 25, 2013

Fourth Day Faith - Raising Lazarus

After John chapter ten, Jesus had taken refuge in the same wilderness that John the Baptist had in earlier texts. We find that Jesus had left Judea; the region about Jerusalem, apparently because of the danger that was present there from the Pharisees…
Through the timeline of John 10, the treatment of Jesus has escalated into a near witch hunt for Jesus.
o    Pharisees have tried to drive a wedge between Jesus & John (John 4:1)
o    The Jews sought to kill him (John 5:18) – JEWS refers to the Pharisees in the Gospel of John... most people in Israel were Jews, so John's repeated use of the term, "the Jews" is referring to the Jewish religious establishment... namely, the Pharisees.
o    Their murmuring against him have driven many disciples from Jesus (6:66) – Disciples stopped following him in this verse – Six is the number of man
o    Sent officers of the Temple to arrest him (7:32) Never man spake like this man… (46)
o    Accused him of being a product of fornication (8:41)
o    Called him a Samaritan (8:48)
o    Accused him of being possessed with a devil (8:48)
o    Picked up stones to stone him (8:59)
o    Picked up stones again to stone him (10:31)
o    Tried to bodily take hands on him (10:39)

Note the clear escalation of the Pharisees anger... their plot begins in secret and as they get more fearful of Jesus they get very messy... All of their dignity has been lost.

Needless to say, Jerusalem was a dangerous place for Jesus.

Lazarus was a friend of Jesus. Verse 5 says that he loved Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. Jesus did not have just a casual acquaintance with them, as the interaction with Mary and Martha would later bear out.

Lazarus and his family lived in Bethany. Bethany was 15 furlongs from Jerusalem; more than a day’s walk from where Jesus was. Nevertheless, Jesus did not respond by immediately by leaving for Bethany. Consider this timeline…
Day 1: A messenger arrives with news of Lazarus illness; Jesus decides to remain where he is for 2 days (vs. 6)
Day 2: Jesus deliberately remains where he is.
Day 3: Jesus departs for Judea. Jesus announces that Lazarus is dead.
Day 4: He continues the journey, taking his customary direct route through Samaria , arriving in Bethany late in the day. He is informed that Lazarus has been in the grave 4 days…
If this timeline is accurate, then Lazarus was dead by the time the messenger arrived… Regardless, Jesus did not need to rush to Bethany. Death does not cut short the extent of his power.
An important detail… Jesus did not promise that Lazarus wouldn’t die; He promised that his sickness would not end in death. His point? Death may claim Lazarus, but death will not have the final say in the matter…

John makes it clear in verse 8 that there is danger where Jesus is headed… The last time Jesus was there they tried to stone him multiple times… at the least arrest him. 

In keeping with Near Eastern custom, Lazarus had been wrapped in spice-soaked linens and placed inside a burial cave the day that he died. The climate did not afford any delay.
Jesus arrived on the evening of the fourth day; which would be significant and answer the question of why he delayed.

In verse 22 he advised Martha that her brother is going to rise again… She believes he is speaking of the resurrection… eternity… He says I am the resurrection and the life! Only God has resurrection power in him… for him the resurrection is not a time, it is an action! This is a great oneness scripture here… I am the resurrection… I am God…

Jewish literature from the third century AD teaches that the soul of a dead individual remains near the body for three days, hoping to re-enter; then, seeing decay set in, it gives up hope and departs. If this literature reflects established teaching, then resurrection after the 3rd day was unthinkable. Apparently death and decay was more hopeless than death alone… Some could believe the dead could be raised; but after decomposition hopelessness was complete.
- Apparently there were many who believed (due to the teaching that the soul of a dead person remains near the body for three days, hoping to re-enter) that the dead could rise within three days… Jesus waited until the 4th to arrive… going beyond the limitations of everyone’s belief… Sometimes God has to take you beyond the current limitation of your faith in order to get you to a place where miracles happen
o    This wrong teaching could have stood as an explanation as to Lazarus being raised
o    What we now understand from medical science as a coma could have stood as an explanation
o    But in the Near East climate after 4 days, the decomposition of a body would have already begun, thereby removing all doubt of either of the above possibilities being the reason of Lazarus raising

Verse 39 – Jesus instructs them to move the stone – In retrospect, The God that could do anything, would not do certain things… God will not do for you what you can do for yourself. 75 to 100 pounds of perfumed resins were placed upon Lazarus body… (again- previous point)

When people come to altars; undoubtedly it is God who is doing to work of reviving… however God expects “people” to assist in the work of unwrapping them from their entanglements… Lazarus was truly risen from the dead, but he needed help getting loose from what bound him…

John includes these details for a purpose… there is a differentiation here between Lazarus’ raising up and that of Jesus… With Lazarus they had to take off his grave clothes – his bondage resulting from his death… Jesus grave clothes were left behind… Lazarus was resuscitated… Jesus was resurrected…he was not bound… (1 Corinthians 15:55) “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?”

Lazarus was not resurrected in the sense of “the resurrection;” he would not have seen death. Lazarus died one day… Jesus is still alive…

Be it known that Lazarus was in fact a sick man prior to his death… but when God raised him up, he was whole. When God brings restoration it is not intended to be to your former condition… God wants to make you better than you were before.

Sin brings forth several things. The emotion of sin is shame (Genesis 2:25, 3:10). Sin results in bondage. Sin results in death (Romans 6:23) a spiritual and eventually literal death. Let us rather die with Christ through repentance. That kind of death – death to the flesh that is – frees one from sin. (Romans 6:7) Let us rather be buried with Christ through baptism (Romans 6:4) Let us rather be risen with Christ from the death of our sin through the Holy Ghost. (Romans 6:23- Acts 2:38) Then remove the entanglements of death through a lifestyle of holiness.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

"Heaven Hears a Who"

I was only a boy of 8 or 9 years old when I first read Dr. Seuss’ story, “Horton hears a Who.” Even at that age I could grasp its poignant message. Consider the first few pages…

On the fifteenth of May, in the Jungle of Nool,
In the heat of the day, in the cool of the pool,
He was splashing… enjoying the jungles great joys…
When Horton the elephant heard a small noise.

So, Horton stopped splashing. He looked toward the sound.
“That’s funny,” thought Horton. “There’s no on around.”
Then he heard it again! Just a very faint yelp
As if some tiny person were calling for help.
“I’ll help you,” said Horton. “But, who are you? Where?”
He looked and he looked. He could see nothing there
But a small speck of dust blowing past through the air.

“I say!” murmured Horton. “I’ve never heard tell
Of a small speck of dust that is able to yell
So you know what I think?... Why, I think that there must
Be someone on top of that small speck of dust!
Some sort of creature of very small size,
Too small to be seen by an elephant’s eyes…

“… some poor little person who’s shaking with fear
That he’ll blow in the pool! He has no way to steer!
I’ll just have to save him. Because after, all,
A person’s a person, no matter how small.”

In Mark chapter 8 Jesus cast a very large and welcoming net for followers by asking for anyone to connect by articulating the phrase “whosoever will.

34 And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
35 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it.

Seuss’ poetic children’s story tells the of an elephant named Horton who discovered a microscopic community of people living on a small speck of dust. It turns out that this small speck is a tiny planet with a town called “Who-ville”, inhabited by a race of people called… you guessed it, “Who’s”

The Mayor of Whoville asks Horton to protect them, which he happily agrees to, proclaiming throughout the story that “even though you can’t see, or hear them at all. A person’s a person, no matter how small.”

In doing so he is ridiculed and persecuted for believing in something that they are unable to see or hear.

The implied sense of the story is that there are unseen people all around us. We see ourselves at times as being so small and insignificant that no one hears us or sees us…

It’s not a great leap for us to feel this way for in a very real sense we are made of the simplest of things… we are dust… God formed us by gathering the dust of the ground and breathing into it the breath of life.…. Abraham said I am but dust and ashes… (Gen 18:27.) At funerals, you often hear the familiar phrase, “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.”

So, I would say that it’s very natural to feel insignificant sometimes in this life. It’s very realistic that we at times feel small in relation to the big things going on around us.

One of those BIG things is God himself! The book of Revelations tells us that (Rev 17:14)
• he is Lord of lords, and King of kings:
In Isaiah (6:1)
• sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple.

We can easily feel that God is too far away and above our concerns…

But he sees…

• He remembered us in our lowly state(Psalm 136:23) Who remembered us in our low estate: for his mercy endureth for ever:

He sits high and looks low…

Mary the mother of Jesus said in Luke 1:48-49
48 For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
49 For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.

If you could allow me a little liberty with my imagination, but I wonder how many people that the shouting “Whoville” Mayor on the speck passed before he found someone who could or would hear him?

Jesus said (Matt 10:29-31)
29 Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.
30 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. (Not only does he know how many hairs are on your head; he knows the number of each one)
31 Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know he watches me!

He’s not so much concerned with the “Rich’s,” the “Poors,” the “wealthy’s”, the “without’s”, the “have’s” and the “haven'ts,” – the categories in life -- he’s just concerned with the WHO’s because the “whosoever will’s” are in every walk of life

The writer of Psalms 139 had an understanding of Gods intimate connection with us…

Psalms 139:1-4

1 O LORD, thou hast searched me, and known me.
2 Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off.
3 Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways.
4 For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether.

The story of Jesus is much more involved than any children’s book could ever be; because Jesus doesn’t just listen, he does something… He saw us on our little “speck,” and rather than just speaking to our problem, he (1 Timothy 3:16) was manifest in the flesh and stepped down into our insignificance; seeing life on our level; that’s how much he cares for you…

Isaiah 53:3-4
3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.

Revelation 22:17And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.

He is the one who heareth, and HE IS the one who says come… Heaven hears You… Don’t stop crying out… He hears you…

Monday, January 17, 2011

This & That

Rom 13:9-11
9 For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
10 Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
11 And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.
12 The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.
13 Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying.
14 But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.

We find in this scripture the sum of the Laws that regulate us in Christian living towards our neighbors… This text is one scriptural attempt at summarizing what our thought, actions, and behavior should be towards those around us…

There are people whose lives we come in contact with everyday and we must never forget that God has a plan for those lives… He has not put you in contact with them reasonless. We sometimes operate in a sort of bubble insulated against any "outside" personnel, attempting to associate the least with the very people that we are around the most… Have you ever considered that many times you are spending more time with the people you work with then your own family!

Paul admonishes us in these practices concerning our neighbors… Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet… I think most people in our lives would appreciate these practices. Wouldn’t you agree?

I like how he puts the next phrase… If there be any other commandment, any other rules I’ve left out, any mandates I’ve overlooked … as if some of you probably need me to spell it out… just in case I forgot some wrong that you could do to your neighbor… it is briefly and summarily addressed in this statement: You should love your neighbor like you love yourself!

What a concept? If you love your neighbor like you love yourself there is no wrong that you could do that you won’t resist… Every bad thought, every wrong deed, every evil consideration or intention would be preceded with this thought - “I can’t do that because it would hurt me…” If this one commandment in scripture could be fulfilled it would prevent all fraud, injustice, oppression, and hate…

This same phrase is found in Moses' humanitarian laws in Leviticus 19:18 and in the very words of Jesus Christ himself in Matthew 19:19… reminiscent of the Golden Rule – Do unto others as you would have them do unto you…

Verse 10 - Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. Love has no agenda of hate. Love doesn’t conspire against, love does not plot… love does not imagine treachery… so love fulfills the law… Love is how you cover all those things the law can’t cover… love fills the gaps and the holes when the law is stretched thin. Our modern society has proven in the court of law that sometimes the law leaves room for injustice... Murderers have spent less time in prison that individuals who've broken the current "PC" environmental rules... You could sell crack on a street corner and face less punishment than capturing or killing an "endangered" spotted owl... In life, LOVE for one another is how we cover the holes left in the law...

Why do we love our neighbor? Why are we admonished in scripture to have a behavior towards them that would honor God? The answer is in verse 11… knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.

We need to be mindful of the time! The signs of the end time are all around us! Every prophecy written in scripture concerning the return of Jesus Christ has already been fulfilled!

Jesus is coming back! We need to be ready!

The Lord is sending us a very strong message in this scripture… don’t forget your neighbors! Love them! Respect them! Treat them with care and dignity! Because I want them to be saved! If you love your neighbors like you love yourself then you won’t be able to let them be lost! You won’t go to bed at night without praying for them! The church has been sleeping on its responsibility too long… (That might be too general… you’ve been asleep too long- I’ve been asleep too long!) Wake up out of your sleep and realize that the day is at hand! The night is almost over… the day is at hand… cast off those works of the night and get serious!

A very curious point here in the scripture… In verse 9 the scripture says “FOR THIS” and in verse 11 it begins “AND THAT” The meaning may be thus expressed: All the requirements of the Law toward our neighbor may be met by two things: one is by love; the other is by remembering that we are near to eternity; keeping a deep sense of the "this" truth before the mind, tempered by the “That” truth.

THIS – Love and respect you neighbors
THAT- Jesus is coming back- Know the time…

Friday, June 4, 2010


How could it be Gods will for an army of Egyptians to die drowning at the bottom of the Red Sea, but not his will for one Egyptian to die buried in the sand? I don’t know if this question ever occurred to Moses, but it has occurred to me. I’ve often felt, as Moses did, that something had to be done now and reacted in anger or frustration. I’ve also learned as he did, that my hasty decision was ill-advised and did not help my cause.

I would offer an answer to the question. The difference is God’s timing. Just because something needs to happen, or will inevitably happen, does not mean that it is supposed to happen right now. God’s ways and thoughts are higher than ours… he also sees from a different view in that he can see us for what we will be as opposed to what exactly we are. Moses did what God would eventually do, but it cost him. The timing wasn’t right. God will not establish things in our lives that we are not ready for. As demonstrated by the Hebrews crossing of the Red Sea… What he brings you to, he’ll take you through!” Moses was not ready to confront the Egyptians yet and would not be for a long time… However, when that time came, he was formidable. He was wiser, more rational… heh – and he had help… The time was right…

Consider this one last thought. When we try to do things in our time we choose the hard way. Like Moses, we fight our battles one at a time. Moses ,out of step with God's timing, began with one Egyptian taskmaster and failed; in step with God's time faced the entire Egyptian empire and succeeded! Wait on God; prepare yourself, and when his time is right he’ll fight our battles all at once

Psalm 27:14 Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Strength Training

What makes you stronger? Resistance. Consistently exerting yourself with force or pressure against resistance develops your strength. Weightlifters and bodybuilders maintain a daily regimen of alternating forms of resistance, targeting specific muscle groups daily.
What an incredible message to everyone who is stressed or going through a trial. You will find strength in your struggle!

Okay, okay, okay… I know. Sounds so “cliché” doesn’t it? You’ve heard ’em all… “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, etcetera; etcetera; etcetera. There is a lot of truth there, but not something you haven’t heard before; not something that can really help you dig out of the seemingly bottomless pit of despair, distress, and depression. So, let me share something that is new to me that may help us with our strength problem.

An often quoted passage of scripture found in Nehemiah 8:10 ends in these familiar words “… for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” I have always interpreted this to mean joy that comes from the Lordthe joy that you have in serving the Lord… or the joy that you receive via a “God” atmosphere… I think all of these are true statements… Consider this point however… What is the joy of the Lord? What makes God happy?

Luke 15:7 describes a state of joy in heaven whenever one lost sinner repents! Verse 10 re-emphasizes this statement, saying there is joy in the presence of the angels of God. Incredibly this joy is over just one lost soul. The God of all creation; the source of all life, is thrilled at the thought of just one soul turning away from sin. This is the Joy of the Lord! The ramifications of this truth being, when you do what makes God happy, you become stronger!

Pleasing God is a powerful concept. Consider that Enoch was taken from this world; literally removed! The word Hebrews Chapter 11 uses was translated. And this would happen so that he would not see death. Why? Before his translation he pleased God. He pleased God and God took him!

Ponder for a moment the last words Jesus said before leaving this earth. You’ll find them in Matthew 28:19 and Acts 1:18 Go… Teach. Baptize. Be Witnesses unto me. His last words express his first purpose for us in the church.

When we as individuals involve ourselves in helping others to find God we please him. (We are ambassadors... II Corinthians 5:20) When we take time to contribute to the restoration of a soul we are participating in an act that ultimately brings God Joy. That in turn gives us strength. When was the last time you saw someone who was an active soul-winner walk away from God? Rarely, if ever.

Need Strength? Get involved in HIS work. Be a witness. Love souls. Their salvation is HIS joy. HIS joy is our strength.

BE the link...

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Prisoner of the Past

I visited a man in Prison today who showed me another perspective of the meaning of words like Faith, Hope, Dream, and Humility… I was pleasantly refreshed to hear someone place emphasis more on their walk with God than their present circumstances. After over 3 years behind bars, my friend has every opportunity the lash out, blame God, withdraw and fall in with the “regular” crowd he’s surrounded by every day. During the hour and a half that we talked I found myself wishing to know more people with such an optimistic and “faith” filled attitude.

I was reminded of Joseph and David, as well as other biblical heroes that overcame the overwhelming temptation to fall into the deep chasm of BLAME, JUSTIFICATION, PITY, and other similar attitudes. Whether we are innocent or guilty, sometimes “fault” is not the question…

Joseph was a dreamer naive to the concept of discretion… his only fault was that he expressed his dreams in what he thought was a “safe” environment. David was a psalm singer and sheep sorter… his only fault was recognizing when things were not in order - “Who is this Philistine… defying the armies of the Living God?” To which he was accused of pride, and in the hilarious words of his brother, a “naughty” heart!(Typical older brother stuff huh?) Pride and naughtiness aside, David recognized that things were not in order and persisted until he was given the chance to set it right… to which he was rewarded by years of life lived on the lam… If ever a person had the right to cast blame and point fingers, Joseph and David probably hold first dibs on the index and the thumb…

Seriously though, most people don’t recognize David as a cave dwelling criminal, scrounging around the countryside for a safe place to sleep and a bite to eat… David is King, Giant Killer, Psalm Writer, and Worshiper! Joseph is not memorialized as a victim convict, two-time loser who was spared by the meager mercies of only one brother… No, he’s a savior, an Egyptian Aristocrat, and a shrewd bargainer whose keen intellect saved many nations from starvation.

We all have reasons to complain at times. We all have failures and burdens and storms and hurts… I would not venture to be the judge of who’s got a right to rant or a reason for rage; but I will say this… Nothing negative nurtures is a necessity! Lose that negative spirit and attitude. There is nothing to be gained from it… For Joseph, David, and my imprisoned friend, it is attitude that defines our destiny… and by the way; attitude is not a "prison issue" accessory; it’s our choice to have a good one!
James M. Barrie (best remembered for creating Peter Pan) once said: “We are all failures; at least all the best of us are.” There you have it. Romans 3:23 “All have sinned; and come short of the glory of God.” Read the scripture following this famous verse…
God has made provision for that prison called past… he has plans for your present. Walk in it… Escape into his purpose.

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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Bring me a Minstrel...

Have you ever thought seriously on the power of music? Surely you have seen the affects that it has on our modern culture. Each generation is marked as much by its songs as by its historical events. Ever heard "I love that 70's sound..." or other such comments? Have you ever been walking through a department store and the "elevator" music they played just sent you back? Heh Heh Heh! We've all been there... and that's the power of music!
Now, just think of how that concept could work for you in a positive way... In the setting of II Kings Chapter 3, although the three Kings were desperate, the Prophet Elisha was indisposed towards helping them! He just wasn't interested in it. In fact, he stated, If Jehosophat wasn't with you, I wouldn't even look in your direction! That's just cold! However, having the foresight to know the repercussions of inaction (he was a prophet remember...) he made this statement; "bring me a minstrel..." which is what we would call a musician in our day... As the musician played, the hand of the Lord came upon him and he spoke an incredible prophetic word of deliverance! Never underestimate the power of good Christian music to encourage, enthuse, and edify your spirit!
Tip for tunes: Only listen to music that influences you to worship or pray and you can't go wrong!

Be the Link...