The Gratitude of A Sister Whose Brother Jesus Returned to Her- John 12

A few weeks ago we pondered Jesus bringing Lazarus back from the dead Jesus Showed His Power Over Death. Lazarus’s sister, Mary, was overwhelmed with grief when she told Jesus:

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.”

She was standing there when Jesus called Lazarus back from the dead after Lazarus had been dead for four days. That caused quite the commotion resulting in the religious leaders wanting to kill Jesus, so Jesus left the area because it was not time yet.

Six days before the Passover weekend, the weekend Jesus was crucified, Jesus came to visit Lazarus and his sisters Mary and Martha. That moment causes wonderment in my mind to think about Lazarus who had been dead for four days was now eating dinner with Jesus and others.

Can you imagine the gratitude Martha and Mary must have felt? For four days their brother was dead and then Jesus called him back from the dead. They had their brother back with them.

Mary expressed her tremendous gratitude with an act of worship which is recorded in John 12 and will be remembered for all eternity.

Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

When I think about Mary’s act of worship, two things stand out to me, she spared no cost and it was deeply personal.

She spared nothing. The jar of perfumed ointment cost a year’s wages.

It was deeply personal. She wiped the feet of Jesus with her hair.

Sadly there are those who will criticize acts of worship and devotion to Jesus. Judas did so by saying:

“Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages”

But we learn his true motives for saying that:

 He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.

Jesus put Judas in his place by saying:

“Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you,  but you will not always have me.”

Jesus was not saying we should not care about the poor. He was not saying we should ignore the poor. There are plenty of bible verses imploring us to care for the poor, the widows, the orphans. Jesus was keeping the moment in the perspective of his impending sacrifice for us and honoring Mary’s gratitude and devotion both of which Judas had none of.

When we worship, do we give of ourselves like Mary did?

Is our worship deeply personal like Mary’s was?

Do we concern ourselves with those who criticize our devotion to Jesus?

Thank you for reading. God Bless

My New Short Story-Terminal Patient Meets A Man Who Died Twice — Encounters with the Ancients

“I am sorry to inform you that all of the treatments we have tried have failed. Your cancer is spreading. It is time to talk about end of life care for you.” Words that no patient ever wants to hear had just been spoken in warm sympathetic tones. “End of life? How long do I […]

Terminal Patient Meets A Man Who Died Twice — Encounters with the Ancients

Jesus Showed He Has Power Over Death-John 11

It can be captivating to listen to the story of someone who died but was resuscitated minutes later. There is a book by a pastor- 90 Minutes in Heaven-about his experience of dying and being in heaven only to be sent back. He also shares his experience of the long recovery after his accident. But the stories we hear or read about deal with some being dead for minutes.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The past two Tuesdays focused on the account of Lazarus in John 11 with the first one about Jesus delaying to go to Lazarus- Why Jesus Sometimes Delays- and the compassion Jesus has for us when we suffer- Jesus Cares about Us in Our Difficulties.

Today we focus on Jesus having power over death, but this account does not deal with someone who had been dead for minutes, or even hours. In this account the person was dead for FOUR Days.

Lazarus’ body had been laid in a tomb which was a cave that had a huge stone in front of it. Jesus walked to the tomb and gave the instructions:

“Take away the stone,” 

Martha, sister of Lazarus, who only moments before expressed:

 “But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”

Being human and in the heightened emotion of the situation she wavered in her faith and expressed concern. No one had come back from the dead after four days before that moment.

“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.”

FOUR Days

BUT Jesus knew what he was about to do.

Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

They took the huge stone away and Jesus 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.”

His prayer was not for himself. He prayed in front of all of the people for one purpose- that they may believe God the Father sent Jesus.

The purpose of everything in our lives when we trust Jesus in our difficulties is so people may believe God the Father sent Jesus.

Then with no hoopla, no theatrics like we might see with certain television ‘ministries’, Jesus simply gave a three word command.

“Lazarus, come out!” 

The man who had been dead for FOUR Days came walking out of the tomb.

The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.

Jesus gave instructions

“Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

The result was that many did believe in Jesus.

Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.

Some, however, had a different reaction that we will explore next week.

Jesus showed he has power over death. Can he help us with any problem?

Jesus showed he has power over death. Can he help you?

Side note- When I think about Jesus bringing Lazarus back from the dead after four days, I also think how the poor guy had to die again.

Thank you for reading. God Bless,

When Christians Die

This morning a celebration of life will be observed for a woman who was part of my Life Group from church. She passed away and entered the presence of Jesus on Good Friday shortly before midnight. My first thought was what an Easter celebration she had. 🙂

Her final days in hospice care provided some poignant moments. One that I will never forget was bringing some grape juice and gluten free crackers to observe communion with her, her family, and a few Life Group members. I sat near her and read scripture to her, played some worships songs, and prayed as we shared communion.

When a Christian friend passes away, I am always mindful of what Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 4:13 about grieving:

brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope

Even in death we have hope because of Jesus. He defeated death for us through his resurrection. The plan is already set for our resurrection which Paul wrote about in 1 Thessalonians 4:

 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.  For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.

When a Christian dies, our spirit/soul enters into heaven enjoying eternal glory but we also wait for that day our bodies will be resurrected. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:8:

We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.

and home it is.

So as we celebrate my friend’s earthly life, I will be mindful of the truth that she lives on in heaven and is much better off than I am at the moment. I will also remember that for Christians death is not goodbye. It is see you again.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

Jesus Wants Us with Him for Eternity

Yesterday I visited a dear sister in Jesus who has terminal cancer. I visited her in the hospice facility where she is being cared for in her final days. It was my third visit since Saturday. She has been part of my Life Group from my church.

I shared a short devotional with her about how Jesus will return for his church and perhaps that will be soon. That all who believe in Jesus have a wonderful eternal destiny where there is no cancer.

How can I say that Jesus wants us with him for eternity? Because he said it himself. In john 17:24

“Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world”

That is why he came and died for us 2,000 years ago. That is why he defeated death for us. One day he will come for us. I shared this song with my friend. One day we will dance on streets that are golden

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

A Funny Thing Happened on My Way to Becoming A Pastor- Part 3- The Valley of Death

This is a multi part shorts series of posts. Part 1 was about the decision to become a pastor and a key book in my life. Part 2 was about discovering an ability and my health beginning to decline while at school.

Part 3 today is about The Valley of Death.

I love Psalm 23:4- “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil, for You are with me”

The New International Versions states valley of the shadow of death as dark valley.

Either way it expresses so well what I experienced from April 1994 to July 1995. It was indeed a dark valley.

Photo by Luca Paul on Pexels.com

I had returned to my home city from the school where I was studying for the ministry with the thought that I was coming home to die. I also believed that Jesus led me to my new church First Free Church to pray for the church while I was dying. I would later find out the real reason for being led there.

My health progressively worsened. I could only work delivering pizzas part-time because of my health. I lived in a small apartment in the basement of a house.

In the fall of 1994, my feet swelled up and it hurt to walk. In the winter of 94/95 my hands swelled up. It was edema from being sick. I had little to no contact with the friends I had made at the church I went to before leaving for school due to changing denominations. There we no sympathetic ears to be found. It was a valley I walked through mostly alone except for Jesus and a married couple that were my friends when I first rededicated my like to Jesus.

When I would drive the delivery car for the restaurant, it only had a radio. Two songs on the radio seemed to tell my story, Streets of Philadelphia by Springsteen and I Will Remember You by Sarah McLachlan.

Even though Streets of Philadelphia was about dying from a different disease than my problem, the lyrics stuck with me:

I heard the voices of friends vanished and gone
At night I could hear the blood in my veins
It was just as black and whispering as the rain

One of the symptoms of what I had was memory loss. I would see people in public that I had known and they would greet me. I would say hi and move on wondering who the person was. That was why the lyrics of I Will Remember You by Sarah McLachlan spoke to me:

I will remember you, will you remember me?
Don’t let your life pass you by
Weep not for the memories

Even with the pain getting progressively worse, losing memory, doctors not being able to diagnose me, and being for the most part alone, there were moments in that dark valley that Jesus met me.

The song that meant the most to me was Immanuel by Michael Card. There were times I would listen to the song while praying and it would feel like I was in eternity. It was the song I listened to when I returned home one night feeling discouraged that I could not remember what kind of car I had when I finished shopping at the market and had to walk around in the rain for 20 minutes until I could remember.

It was also the song that I was listening to as I was praying one night in July 1995. My prayer was:

“Jesus if tonight you want to take me home to heaven, that is ok, but there are more people who need help and more people who need to hear about you.”

When I finished praying, I felt the presence of Jesus come into my small apartment and felt a hand on my shoulder. The pain stopped. The next day I went to the doctor……….

Thank you for reading. God Bless. I am sharing the song that meant so much to me- Immanuel by Michael Card.

Beautiful Poem- He Spoke To Me In My Grief — The Inspirational Room by Fay Ann Swearing

Weakened from the sorrow and the pain,I sat down and asked, Lord, why must I go through this again?My smile disappears,And sadness oversteers. This is what I ask,because I don’t want to wear a mask,Don’t you know the pain of losing a love one is driving me insane,Why did you allow this to happen? Or […]

He Spoke To Me In My Grief — The Inspirational Room by Fay Ann Swearing

Jesus Wept

The shortest verse in the bible is John 11:35 that says- Jesus Wept.

Picture that Jesus the Son of God, the person who walked on water, calmed a storm with a few words, healed numerous people, and who created the world, WEPT.

His friend Lazarus had died. But Jesus knew he was about to bring Lazarus back from the dead. So why did he weep?

He saw the sorrow of his friends the sisters of Lazarus. He felt their pain. Jesus can empathize with our pain. So he wept.

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Yesterday I had a tiny bit of an understanding about why Jesus wept. I was at the funeral of a young woman, who was my student and friend, and I saw the overwhelming grief of her little sister who wept and cried out for her sister. I saw her mother overwhelmed with grief.

But I knew something. My friend had prayed with me to trust Jesus. Even though she had turmoil and depression, she had faith. I am certain my friend is with Jesus in heaven now.

But I also know something else. It is the reason that when I attend funerals for people who know Jesus, I am not overwhelmed by grief. In fact the day my father died as I sat with him, I taught my class that evening. Why? Because my father had prayed with me to be at peace with God and ask Jesus to forgive him.

What is the something else? When I was sick and close to dying in July 1995, one night I prayed. I told Jesus that if he wanted to take me to heaven it was okay but that more people needed to heard about him. Then I felt a hand on my shoulder and was filled with peace. I lived alone at the time. I felt his presence so deeply it was as if I had one foot in this life and one in the next. I will never forget being in his presence like that.

So when my fellow believers die, I know how wonderful they have it in his presence.

But yesterday as I saw my friend’s mother and little sister overcome with grief, I teared up for them. I plan to visit them and follow up with them to share about my friend trusting Jesus and where she is now. But I felt their grief.

It was a tiny glimpse into why Jesus wept.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

Saying Goodbyes- Jesus with His Followers

I have had the privilege of joining many special meals for special occasions. Some of them have been goodbye dinners for people leaving my city to return to their countries after completing their education. Those have been especially poignant moments as friends realizing they will probably never see each other again say goodbyes.

In such moments, we share what is on our hearts. We long to be with the people who have been important to us.

I will also never forget my friend from Korea who died of stomach cancer in June 2006. I was one of his spiritual advisers from the day he was diagnosed until the day he died. Many times he would confide in me that he was not concerned for himself because he knew Jesus. His concern was for his wife and three children. I was with him and his family the night he died. I leaned down and whispered in his ear that I would help them. It was the last time he smiled in this life.

Jesus knew he was going to die. He knew he was going to be arrested, tortured, and crucified. He also knew he would defeat death through his resurrection and return to his throne in heaven. Jesus wanted to prepare his disciples, the men he had been mentoring, for his death, resurrection and return to heaven. In John 14 he told them:

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

He was reassuring them that he would come back for them to bring them to heaven to be with him. But Thomas said what would have been on our minds by saying- we don’t know the way so how can he get there.

Jesus answered:

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

He told them that he is the way to heaven. We only need to know him because he is the way.

Jesus proved that when on the third day he rose from the dead in a glorified body. He defeated death for us.

As we go through this time of uncertainty, we can say- My Redeemer Lives. Because he lives I can face tomorrow.

Nicole Mullen sang it so beautifully in her song Redeemer. I would like to share it with you. Thank you for reading. God Bless.