Testifying or Bragging?

John 12:17-19 WEB

The multitude therefore that was with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb, and raised him from the dead, was testifying about it. [18] For this cause also the multitude went and met him, because they heard that he had done this sign. [19] The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, “See how you accomplish nothing. Behold, the world has gone after him.”


Jesus did a wonderful miracle, he raised Lazarus from the dead. Not only did he raise him, but Jesus did it after Lazarus was buried and dead for four days. The people that were there to grieve for Lazarus saw what Jesus did. And now, they were repeating the story and causing many to look for Jesus. The Lord, through his ministry commonly told people to keep their miracles a secret (Mat 9:29-30). But this sign was too big to keep silent. So, they testified, and many came to Christ.

How do we know when we are testifying and when we are bragging? That is a huge issue in modern society. We live in a time when self-promotion is rampant and often leads to success. Yet the word teaches us not to boast about our accomplishments (1 Sam 2:3). It can even be a boast to tell what God is doing in our lives. When we are right with God, we do not have to prove we are right with God. That comes from ego and self-promotion. We do not have to brag about our blessings. We should brag on God alone. He is our boast.

We can often tell when God has intervened in someone’s life. God will begin to fix what is broken and line up a believer with their destiny. But having healing or destiny is not something to brag about. Having a destiny in Christ should lead to our silence. We may at appropriate times share our calling with others. After all, we still need people even when we are solidly in Christ. But in general, it is not something we should be bragging about. Rather, we should treasure the miracles and share them when led by the Holy Spirit, so they lead others to Christ.


Lord, give me the wisdom to see when I am testifying and leading others to you, and when I am bragging and harming others. Take pride and ego away, Lord, and leave a tender heart prepared to receive from you.  Help me receive the wisdom to keep silent. Lead me by your Holy Spirit and let my only boast be you, Lord. In Jesus’ name, amen.   

The Spectacle of Miracles

John 12:9-11 WEB

A large crowd therefore of the Jews learned that he was there, and they came, not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might see Lazarus also, whom he had raised from the dead. [10] But the chief priests conspired to put Lazarus to death also, [11] because on account of him many of the Jews went away and believed in Jesus.


People love a spectacle. When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, he created a spectacle. People were astonished. In modern language, we would say Jesus “blew their minds.” And once Jesus astonished people with the wonder of the miracles he performed, people started following to watch the spectacle. Many did not want to become more intimately acquainted with God. They wanted to be entertained.

Of course, not all people were there for entertainment. Lazarus being raised from the dead excited many of the followers. A large number began to believe Jesus was the Messiah. Because of this, the chief priests plotted to kill Lazarus. They were jealous of the attention Jesus and Lazarus were getting. It was a threat to their positions (John 11:48). Therefore, out of jealousy, they wanted to kill both Jesus and Lazarus.

For Jesus and Lazarus, being anointed carried a heavy price. Not everyone was there to serve the Lord. Some were there to see what Jesus would do next. They loved what Jesus could do for them, but they did not love Jesus. We know when Jesus died, he died alone. Only a few apostles came to the crucifixion. The crowd that loved the miracles was nowhere to be found when Jesus needed them the most. Jesus understood these things. The Word says that Jesus trusted no one (John 2:23-24). So, for the many who would believe, Jesus endured the many that wanted to be entertained.


Lord, please prepare my heart to be faithful to you. I don’t want to be a person who is in Christ for entertainment. Please give me the grace to do what you ask me to do in a godly manner. Help me love you and love the people you died to save. Help me recognize the self-seekers so I can focus on those who may be saved. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Take Away the Stone

John 11:39-43 WEB

Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of him who was dead, said to him, “Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.” [40] Jesus said to her, “Didn’t I tell you that if you believed, you would see God’s glory?” [41] So they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, “Father, I thank you that you listened to me. [42] I know that you always listen to me, but because of the multitude that stands around I said this, that they may believe that you sent me.” [43] When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”


Jesus had high expectations. Martha’s brother had been in the tomb for four days. There was nothing left to hope for in this life, Lazarus was gone. Still, Jesus reproves Martha for her lack of belief. He expected her to believe in a hopeless situation. Not only that, but she was also in pain. With Lazarus dead, Martha had many things to worry about. Regardless, the Lord does not shield Martha from the truth but instead reproves her.

It’s stunning. Martha was arguing with the Lord. She had just confessed that Jesus was the Messiah (John 11:27). Martha exulted in the revelation that Jesus was divine. But at the first small test, she fell. Instead of focusing on Jesus, she had her eyes on the situation. This resulted in Martha openly contradicting the Lord. If her mind had been set on belief and trust, Martha would have kept her first awareness of Jesus. But she clearly doubted. And because she doubted, she questioned. Because of doubt she openly demonstrated disbelief.

But Jesus believed. And all those that rolled the stone away believed. In the face of Martha’s instability in her walk with Jesus, he remained stable. He was faithful to Martha, Mary, and all those who trusted him for leadership. Martha slipped in and out of faith but Jesus remained faithful (Rom 3:3-4). Jesus believed to the point of confidence, so he called out boldly, “Lazarus, come out!”


Lord, please help me trust you and believe your Word. When difficulties arise lend me your grace that I may stand stable in my faith. Help me keep my eyes on you, Lord. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Jesus Groans

John 11:33-40 WEB

When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews weeping who came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled, [34] and said, “Where have you laid him?” They told him, “Lord, come and see.” [35] Jesus wept. [36] The Jews therefore said, “See how much affection he had for him!” [37] Some of them said, “Couldn’t this man, who opened the eyes of him who was blind, have also kept this man from dying?” [38] Jesus therefore, again groaning in himself, came to the tomb. Now it was a cave, and a stone lay against it. [39] Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of him who was dead, said to him, “Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.” [40] Jesus said to her, “Didn’t I tell you that if you believed, you would see God’s glory?”


God hates disbelief. In this story, Jesus groans twice. The first time he groans he is with Mary crying in despair. The second time he groans the Jews were murmuring doubtful comments. In the first instance, Mary is at his feet and has just lamented Jesus could have saved Lazarus (John 11:32). In the second instance, the Jews were questioning why Lazarus died. Thus, Jesus had much to groan about. However, it is the disbelief that makes this situation so troubling. In other places in the scripture, it says that Jesus was limited in the miracles he could perform because of disbelief (Mat 13:58). When Jesus followed the Father’s direction and waited to come to Bethany to heal Lazarus, he took a risk.

It was a risk for Jesus to tell his disciples that he was going to raise Lazarus from the dead. It was a risk to the lives of the disciples to be in Bethany of Judea. There were many seeking to arrest the Lord and his companions (John 11:8, 16). So, to see the disbelief, and to have so much pressure on him, Jesus groans. We know from the scripture Jesus had times when the miracles would not flow. This created pressure on Jesus. This forced Jesus to walk in faith. He had to take a risk with every miracle. Now, he is going to do something he has never done.

Jesus is about to raise Lazarus from the dead. But he has a problem, there is a real lack of faith from everyone. The sisters are in despair, the Jews are murmuring, and the disciples are unhappy. Jesus needed to raise their faith. So, he gives them a task. Remove the stone. It took faith to move the stone. Lazarus had been in the grave for four days and his body should have been in a state of decay. To move the stone was an unclean act. Being unclean disqualifies one from going into the temple. Therefore, this was truly an act of faith. And that mustard seed of faith was enough. Lazarus was about to be called out of the grave.  


Lord give me a discerning ear to hear from the Holy Spirit. Lead me into obedience that can move mountains. Give me wisdom and cause me to mature in my faith. I trust you, Lord, with this process. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Hope or Doubt?

John 11:20-27 WEB

Then when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary stayed in the house. [21] Therefore Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you would have been here, my brother wouldn’t have died. [22] Even now I know that, whatever you ask of God, God will give you.” [23] Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” [24] Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” [25] Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will still live, even if he dies. [26] Whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” [27] She said to him, “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Christ, God’s Son, he who comes into the world.”


Jesus told Martha a secret. He told her he was, “the resurrection and the life.” Jesus had enough confidence in Martha to tell her something new, a revelation. Why didn’t he give this revelation to his disciples first? It’s probably because Jesus knows the heart of all people. He knew he could entrust the truth to Martha. She would not throw it away in doubt.

Martha did not doubt the Lord even after Lazarus died. She acknowledged anything was possible with the Lord. Even in her brother’s death, Martha had hope. So, she ran to the Lord. When she saw him Martha lamented that Jesus could have saved Lazarus. However, she quickly moves past sadness and goes straight to the victory. She said, “Even now I know that, whatever you ask of God, God will give you.” Martha had hope.

But Mary stayed behind because she did not have hope. She had given the Lord everything she had and still, he did not answer her call for help. She was immobilized by her grief. Lazarus was the provider of the home. Moreover, Mary had given up a sinful lifestyle that she probably profited from. That left her only one option, trust Lazarus. Then Lazarus died. And Jesus didn’t show up. Mary had just recently given him her most precious possession. And now, she was spiritually bankrupt. She came to a crisis of belief because things did not go how she expected. Her life was not going as she expected.


Lord, help me seek you so I may serve you. Help me remember I do not serve myself but I serve you. When things look different than I expect, help me stand steady in my faith, nothing wavering. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Metaphor?

John 11:11-15 WEB

He said these things, and after that, he said to them, “Our friend, Lazarus, has fallen asleep, but I am going so that I may awake him out of sleep.” [12] The disciples therefore said, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” [13] Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he spoke of taking rest in sleep. [14] So Jesus said to them plainly then, “Lazarus is dead. [15] I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, so that you may believe. Nevertheless, let’s go to him.”


Some Christians believe the Word of God is black and white with rigid borders and boundaries. Other Christians turn everything into a metaphor with a plethora of meanings. So, which is it? Is the Bible to be obeyed to the letter? Or, should the Bible be analyzed as a metaphor so that people can take a range of meanings from the Word? In the above passage, Jesus mixes metaphor with concrete action.

Jesus tells the disciples Lazarus has fallen asleep. Actually, Lazarus is not sleeping, he is dead. What do we do with a passage like this? Do we call Jesus a fool or a liar? No, of course not. Jesus is hinting at the coming resurrection. When he says “Lazarus, has fallen asleep,” it is a metaphor that expands the meaning to something greater than the words therein. Lazarus had died but was going to awake from death.

But the metaphor is only part of the passage. There is also a concrete, black and white, command. Jesus tells the disciples, “Neveretheless, let’s go to him.” It was time for Jesus’ entourage to make their way to Bethany. They were in danger of being arrested and killed. So, it was not an easy command to obey. Without the hope found in the metaphor, the command seemed pointless.


Lord, help me listen to your Holy Spirit so that I can understand your Word. Fill me with obedience and understanding. Let your Word be a lamp to my feet. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Obedient Jesus and Frustrated Believers

John 11:5-7 WEB

Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. [6] When therefore he heard that he was sick, he stayed two days in the place where he was. [7] Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let’s go into Judea again.”


Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus so much that he decided to let Lazarus die. It was tough love. He knew the outcome was good, for the Father had shown him. So, for the sake of the blessing that was coming, he waited two days before going to Bethany. For two sisters saved from prostitution and dependent on their male relative to care for them, this was a scary situation. They were on the verge of losing their beloved brother and the life they knew. They lived in a time when women were treated as less valuable than men. There were approximately 100 rules in Judaism that constrained woman’s behavior. Losing Lazarus was going to destroy their lives.

But Jesus knew what he was going to do. Jesus always listened to his Father and did what he saw the Father doing. Thus, when he either heard or had a vision of Lazarus rising from the dead, he knew he needed to wait. The waiting was probably uncomfortable for Jesus. His love for this family is highlighted in Scripture. However, Jesus was so convinced of the Father’s good intentions that despite his great love for Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, Jesus waited. And in the waiting, the problem became more difficult to remedy.

Mary was upset with the Lord’s choice. When he finally arrives in Bethany, she does not go to meet him. Martha must coax Mary to come to see the Lord. It is then that Mary goes to Jesus. She wails her frustration in her small voice, “Lord, if you would have been here, my brother wouldn’t have died (John 11:32).” That was Jesus’ limit. He asked where Lazarus had been laid to rest because Jesus was about to call Lazarus out of the grave.


Lord, increase my trust in you. I do not want to become afraid when trouble arises. Help me, Lord, to have real faith that inspires Godly patience and complete trust. Lead me into a full conviction of your goodness. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Seek Ye First

John 10:16-18 WEB

I have other sheep, which are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will hear my voice. They will become one flock with one shepherd. [17] Therefore the Father loves me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again. [18] No one takes it away from me, but I lay it down by myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. I received this commandment from my Father.”


Did you know, like Jesus, we have the power to lay our lives down and the power to pick our lives back up? On the cross, Jesus paid the full penalty for humanity’s sin. When the payment was complete, he gave up life and died. Ironically, Jesus had control over his journey to the cross. Jesus went to the cross fully capable of avoiding the horrific experience.

But he did not avoid the shame and suffering. He embraced it as God’s will. He gave his life up willingly (Heb 12:2). After his death, he took his life back up by the power of resurrection that dwelt in Him (John 11:25). The word says the spirit of resurrection that was in Christ raised him from the dead. Jesus laid his life down and he took his life back up. It was good for us that Jesus was able to take his life back, it meant victory for the whole world (John 19:30).

When we choose to lay our lives down, we are emulating Christ. We do not lay our lives down in vain, we lay our lives down for the good of those being saved (1 John 3:16). Likewise, after we have been humbled by the Lord, we can take our lives back up. The word says that if we seek after righteousness, we will have abundant blessings (Mat 6:33). We lay our lives down for and allow the Father to purify us. After this process has done its work, the Father lets us pick our lives back up. We are meant to love others more than ourselves and we are also meant to walk in victory (1 Cor 15:54-57).


Lord, I want to walk in holiness and righteousness so that I can be used by you. And after a season of being humbled, I know I will have the desires of my heart. Please do your work and take away my worldly appetites. Then, when the time is right, lead me into victory. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Lose No One

John 6:37-40 WEB

All those whom the Father gives me will come to me. He who comes to me I will in no way throw out. [38] For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me. [39] This is the will of my Father who sent me, that of all he has given to me I should lose nothing, but should raise him up at the last day. [40] This is the will of the one who sent me, that everyone who sees the Son, and believes in him, should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”


It’s touching that Jesus is purposed not to lose anyone who believes in him. Can you imagine if we viewed all believers, from the greatest to the least, as too valuable to lose? That type of love would bring the lowly to the church. The pews would be filled.

The coffers would be empty. Because in churches where the poor are truly welcomed, the wealthy tend to leave. Without the tithes of the middle class most churches cannot survive. In fact, most churches have multiple people on the payroll, grounds to maintain, buildings to maintain, not to mention utilities, and other costs associated with property ownership.

In short, churches have bills. Additionally, is the benevolence cost associated with serving the poor. So, when churches are purposed not to lose anyone the Father brings them, they must overcome these difficult challenges. Sadly, many churches continue to cater to the wealthy.


Lord Jesus, please help me recognize the worth of all people. Help me love all those I encounter. In Jesus’ name, I pray, amen.

Righteous and Unrighteous Judgments

John 5:28-30 WEB

Don’t marvel at this, for the hour comes, in which all that are in the tombs will hear his voice, [29] and will come out; those who have done good, to the resurrection of life; and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment. [30] I can of myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is righteous; because I don’t seek my own will, but the will of my Father who sent me.


The most famous verse about judgment in the Bible is probably “Don’t judge, so that you won’t be judged.” (Matthew 7:1 WEB) Jesus had the authority to judge but judgment was not his priority. In John 3:17 Jesus reveals his purpose is to save the world. And in John 3:16 Jesus reveals that the Father’s purpose is to save the world. Also, Jesus’ priority was to do the Father’s will. That is what made his judgment righteous.

The main piece of advice Jesus has for us regarding judgment is not to judge. He helps us understand the consequences are serious for the one who makes unrighteous judgments. More, we can recognize unrighteous judgments because they are not infused with the Lord’s purposes and priorities.  We can recognize unrighteous judgments by asking a couple of questions. First, is this judgment being made to help the person get saved? Second, what does this judgment do for the one making it?

It is easy to recognize unrighteous judgments such as gossip, but other situations may be more difficult. For example, some judgments are made for personal convenience. Telling someone to hurry up or slow down are judgments. They seem innocent until we recognize they do not help the one being judged.  

Judging other people can become a habit. When a person has a habit of judging they tend to lose their patience frequently. A couple of examples could be a person who often becomes angry at other drivers or at the person in front of them at checkout. Most people trace these two examples to a lack of patience. However, before the person’s patience was affected their attitude was affected and that is where the judgments are made.


Lord Jesus, please help me recognize when I am hearing or making an unrighteous judgment. Fill me with a desire to prioritize your will as my highest priority.  In Jesus’ name, I pray, amen.