“Then Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, Come out!” And the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound in grave clothes, his face wrapped in a head cloth. Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him go!””
Wouldn’t you have loved to be there when Jesus shouted these words to the brother of Mary and Martha, Lazarus. The man Jesus dearly loved had been dead for 4 days. Yet when he heard the words of Jesus, he arose from ‘death’ and walked out of the tomb as if he had merely awoken from sleep. Can you imagine the sight of that? In front of your eyes, a man, being raised from the dead, simply by the words and authority of Jesus Christ?! No life support machine, no medicine, no long prayers or rituals. Just the 3 words, ‘Lazarus, come out!’, spoken by the Creator of life. Surely seeing that would lead you to put your trust in Jesus.
Today, that very same power lives in all of us. We have access and authority to speak life to death, because Jesus lives in us. When we pray in the Name of Jesus, the very same power that rose Lazarus from the dead, will flow through us, because it lives in us. That power is Jesus Christ. Yet we do not only have this power so that we can pray for others, but also so that we too might be changed and healed. Jesus’ power does not just flow out of us, but in us and through us; so we might change to be the change. Let the Jesus of the Bible, be as real for you as it was for those who witnessed this marvellous miracle.
“They said to all the people of Israel, “The land we traveled through and explored is a wonderful land! And if the Lord is pleased with us, He will bring us safely into that land and give it to us. It is a rich land flowing with milk and honey!”
Joshua and Caleb were such brave men. They had just been part of the company of twelve that had just traveled to spy out the land of Canaan and bring back a report to Moses and the Israelites. As the above verse states, it truly was a land full of blessing, milk and honey, prosperity and God’s favour. Yet, in the previous chapter, the report also included reports of giants and fortified cities.
For the rest of the twelve, coupled with a striking fear, conquering a land full of giants was the last thing on their mind. They were so full of fear that they managed to persuade the rest of the Israelites that their conquest was impossible, even stating that they were better off in captivity to the Egyptians. Yet Joshua and Caleb saw the beauty in the storm and tried to silence the crowds, focusing on the beauty of the land that God had promised them. Moreover, not to see the size of their enemies, but rather, focus on the size of their God; the God who had rescued them from so much danger and slavery.
When we are faced with mountains to climb and situations that look un-penetrable with our human eyes, stop and remind yourself how big our God is. He is bigger than the storms, bigger than our problems, stronger, and more powerful than any foe we may face. When our eyes look to Him, we can even see beauty in the storm.
“He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. ”
Our God carries our loads and heavy burdens when we can’t. He does not abandon us to fall by the way side, but instead, He lifts us from the pits we are in, and restores us with His strength. These wonderful prophetic words from the book of Isaiah, are so comforting. They speak of a God who never gives up on us, even when we give up on us. They speak of a God who resources never run dry. His mercies and grace and new each morning. He is the God in whom we can fully trust. When we literally have no strength to carry on, we can fall back into His arms, knowing He will catch us, hold us and restore us. Even ‘youths’ perhaps refers to those we wouldn’t expect to get tired and fall. Yet God is saying, He is there for all, if we just put our trust and hope in Him. It is ok to be vulnerable before Him. In His hands is the safest place we can be.
“Is anyone thirsty? Come and drink – even if you have no money! Come, take your choice of wine or milk – It’s all free. Why spend your money on food that does not give you strength? Why do you pay for food that does you no good? Listen to Me, and you will eat what is good. You will enjoy the finest food.”
As you read this devotion today, you may still be suffering with a hangover of problems that have carried over from last year. Perhaps this year has just been a continuation of troubles from the last. You may be feeling weak, troubled and spent. No more energy to keep fighting. No more drive. No more passion. Yet God is saying, not just thousands of years ago, but to us too today, come and eat and drink from Me and I will give you everlasting life.
Isn’t it interesting that Jesus too, echoed these analogies about eating and drinking in His teachings, ‘anyone who is thirsty come to Me’. The Spirit gives us rivers of life that dwell up inside us, wash away the dry and barren parts of our lives and refresh us once more. There is no cost or price to pay, other than opening our hearts to receive. It is not some special water you drink to get re-hydrated, rather it is an attitude that admits that on our own we are empty. We need the Spirit’s refreshing and revitalising power to flow through us; and it can, if we just ask. We don’t need to turn to a life of seclusion or separation from reality in order to find refreshment. All we need to do is breathe in the Spirit’s peace and refreshment with open hearts and let Him carry our loads.
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends You, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.”
Isn’t this such a wonderful verse. It really shows the intimacy and almost desperation of the Psalmist to have a pure and right standing relationship with God. He speaks with honesty and integrity. He wants his ways, lifestyles, thoughts and actions to be pleasing before a holy God, knowing full well that God sees into the very deepest parts of his heart.
Sometimes in our lives too, we can become so busy that we forget to just sit down with our loving Father and work through things in our hearts; things that perhaps are stumbling blocks in our lives or things that cause us to forget how loved we are. We too can and should speak this prayer over our lives too.. ‘Lord what is causing distance in our relationship’, ‘Lord what I am doing that I shouldn’t be or what I am not doing that I should be’. This is not to put a heavy burden on our shoulders but rather to keep a pure and holy relationship with a pure and holy God.
In the busyness of life, don’t allow yourself to walk off track, but re-align yourself with Christ’s leading ‘along the path of everlasting life’!
“Make sure that the light you think you have is not actually darkness. If you are filled with light, with no dark corners, then your whole life will be radiant, as though a floodlight were filling you with light.”
Sometimes as Christians, it is so easy to full into the trap of ‘I am a Christian’ label, that we can forget that being a Christian or follower of Jesus is about relationship, not religion. In getting caught up with preserving our Christian front on the outside, we can neglect the relationship with Jesus in our hearts. This is exactly the issue Jesus addressed with the Pharisees. They were so good at being ‘religious’, down to even tithing the first fruits from their tiniest herb gardens. Yet in their hearts they ignored the ‘justice and love of God’ and rather were filled with ‘greed and wickedness’. Jesus goes on to paint such a strong picture of the Pharisees, describing them as ‘hidden graves in a field’ waiting to be stepped on unknowingly by passers by.
We too must be careful that we don’t consume ourselves with being a ‘Good Christian’ or a ‘Good Person’ and neglect our relationship with Jesus. It is not wrong to tithe well, or to be obedient to God’s commands. Rather it is encouraged. Yet when ‘doing’ supersedes ‘being’ then our relationship with Jesus becomes unbalanced and distant.
Today as we search our hearts, let us ask God to reveal any dark places that might be lurking in our hearts and replace them with His glorious light. He wants to have a close relationship with us. That’s why He gave His life for ours. Let our prayers be that we may become a floodlight for Christ, both inside and out, and when people see us, they will see Christ.
“….For thine is the Kingdom, and the power and the glory forever. Amen ”
Matthew 6:13 KJV
It is interesting that not all translations of the Bible include this final section of the Lord’s prayer. Yet, whether it was supposed to be there or not, or whether or not it was Jesus’ words, the message behind the text fully sits in line with the truth and spirit of the rest of the prayer and with the rest of God’s word. God’s Kingdom is an everlasting Kingdom that is full of glory, both here on this earth and in Heaven, from now and until the end of all time. When we pray, we should remember these truths, knowing that when we pray in Jesus’ name, the heavens are opened, mountains move and the King of Kings listens… Because His is the Kingdom, power and glory.
“But I tell you this – though he won’t do it for friendship’s sake, if you keep knocking long enough, he will get up and give you whatever you need because of your shameless persistence. And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.”
So often we tend to give up when we don’t get something. Humans are impatient. We don’t like queueing for things. We don’t like waiting for deliveries to arrive. We don’t like waiting for a new film or the next episode of our favourite TV series. If we are not careful, then that impatience can enter our prayer life too. When we don’t receive the answers to our prayers, we might feel like giving up. But don’t!! There is reward for persistent prayers. Just look at Jesus’ story of the man begging for bread from his friend. Jesus tells us that eventually, due to sheer persistence, the friend eventually wakes up and gives the man what he wants.
Persistent prayer, is not trying to twist God’s arm to give us what we want. Rather, it is more for our sake. Persistent prayer builds our faith and as our faith grows, our prayers become more strategic, on point and specific, trusting God for more than we ask, bigger things and more than the impossible. So friends, don’t give up praying for whatever it is you need. Keep knocking, keep seeking, keep asking and keep trusting. God is listening!!
“The Spirit alone gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes nothing….”
Not all of Jesus’ teaching were easy to understand. Many of the disciples struggled with what Jesus meant from some of His parables and teaching. In fact, many disciples (followers) of Jesus deserted Him because of some of His harder teaching. Yet it wasn’t that Jesus was trying to keep truth from people, rather He was highlighting through human understanding alone, we may never grasp the truths of God. It is the Spirit that opens our heart and gives us understanding.
This is significant when we want to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with those who don’t yet believe. If we try and reason with them on a human level, they may never know the truth about who God really is. Yet if we ask that the Holy Spirit open their hearts to His truth, we can trust that their salvation is safely in His hands. It is Christ’s love and Christ’s power and the Spirit alone that gives eternal life. It’s quite a refreshing thought that salvation has nothing to do with us right?! Not that it negates our responsibilities to live life as ambassadors of Christ, but rather knowing that we don’t have to convince people to believe in Him, relieves the pressure, stress and worry for our beloved ones. Trust their salvation into His hands. Pray without ceasing. Live a life full of Christ as an example. And breathe…
“But God has surely listened and has heard my prayer. Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld His love from me!”
Psalm 66:19-20 (NIV)
Isn’t it incredible that when we pray, God hears. Yes, that’s right. God, the supreme and powerful, creator and ruler of this world, hears our words, groans and thoughts. Even when we feel like we can’t even pray with intellectual words, He hears our hearts cry! We are never left alone. We might always not get the answer to our prayers straight away or perhaps even with the answer we are looking for, but we can rest assured knowing that when God does answer, it will be exactly the answer we need, in exactly the right way. His ways and thoughts are higher than ours. YET, even so, He does not ignore our prayers, and as the NLT version of this verse puts it, listens and ‘pays attention’ to our prayers. It is astounding, that He loves us so much to hear our prayers. Well, we are His beloved children after all.