November 27: Raising Lazarus from the Dead

Read John 11:1-57

In some regards, Lazarus was different from the widow’s son (Lk. 7:11-16) and the daughter of Jairus (Lk. 8:40-56), whom Jesus had also raised.  He was no more valuable…after all, every person possesses infinite value.  But Lazarus was an adult, while the others had been children.  Though the others were certainly not outside of Christ’s omniscient knowledge or infinite love, with Lazarus, Jesus had enjoyed a friendship.  And perhaps one of the most significant differences was the length of time since their passing.  The children had been raised shortly after their passing, but Lazarus?  It had been days…four of them to be exact.  His body was in the grave.  Surely, it had begun to decompose.  No matter…nothing is impossible for the Master.

But, perhaps, most unique to this miracle were the repercussions of this milestone event.  Just think of its impact:

  • Lazarus was able to resume life and be restored to his family! It is only fitting that they Lazarus raisedwould throw a party in Christ’s honor in the next chapter (12:1-8).
  • Many eyewitnesses to his raising came to faith in Christ (11:45)! They could no longer dispute the fact that Jesus had powers that came from God and that He was the long-awaited Messiah.
  • Some Jewish leaders began forming concrete plans to execute Jesus when the time was right (11:46-53)! They were concerned that they would not only lose their following, but also their national identity.  Eliminating Jesus would remove that risk.
  • Jesus went “under cover” (11:54). We know that He did not run from the cross, but He certainly wanted to make sure that the cross came at the right time…when His ministry was complete.
  • Many people turned to Christ as a result of Lazarus’ life and testimony (12:11). Even for those who had not seen the actual miracle, this man’s life and story were powerful and convincing.
  • Chief priests began to plan for Lazarus’ death as well (12:9, 10). Just as the Jewish leaders wanted to eliminate the miracle worker, so too they wanted to eliminate the miracle that had been worked.

The raising of this man was a polarizing event that drove people to be endeared to the Savior or to be antagonistic to Him.  Which will it do for you?


Posted in John, Journey through the Bible

November 26: Healing a Demon Possessed Man

Read Mark 5:1-43

Unlimited power…That’s what Jesus possesses.  Some people call that His “omnipotence.”  In other words, He is “all powerful.”  That means there is nothing within His moral will that is beyond His divine ability.  Do you believe that?  That His power is limitless?  That nothing is impossible for Him?

Of course, the man in today’s reading was also powerful.  His power emanated from demonic forces.  But to call him “demon-possessed” is an understatement.  You read it moments ago.  As Jesus pressed the demon for its name, the response that came was “Legion” and “many.”  “Legion?” That’s a Latin term that referred to a military unity of 6,000 infantrymen.   Within this man, then, were countless influential, militant, evil spirits!  Sounds powerful!

Now we understand why this man was unlike any normal guy you might encounter on the street.  He was strong…and scary!  He lived at the cemetery.  He was often naked. He would frequently cry out.  He was even involved in self-destructive “cutting.”  And then there was his strength…strength that enabled him to break chains that people used to bind him…and strength that made people fearful of him.

It eventually boiled down to a showdown of powers.  Who was stronger?  Of course, having read the story, you know who “won” this epic encounter.  It was Jesus.  Remember, He has power over wind and wave, sickness and even Satan.  He spoke the words and planets, pine trees, and people came into existence.  And, just in case His own power had not been enough (an impossibility in itself), Jesus assures us that, at a simple request to the Father, “He will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels” (Matt. 26:53).  That would have been 72,000 angels against 6,000 demons; a twelve to one advantage.  No contest!

Do you have any questions about the power of God?  Any concerns about His ability to conquer the strongholds of the world or those in an individual life?  After reading this story, there is no need for such doubt.  No matter the challenge, regardless the obstacle, He is able.  All that remains are the questions:

  1. Will I invite it and tap into it?
  2. Will He choose to unleash it in the way that I am looking for it?


Posted in Journey through the Bible, Mark

November 25: Walking on Water

Read Matthew 14:22-36

This wasn’t the first time.  The disciples had been in a boat before…the fishermen among them countless times.  In fact, they had been on the same sea before…the Sea of Galilee.  And, to top it all off, they had been caught on the sea during a storm before.  Six chapters earlier, a storm arose with the twelve of them and Jesus in the boat.  During that storm, while they were asking questions like, “Are we going to survive this?” Jesus slept peacefully.  When they awakened Him, He spoke, and the sea became calm.  Yep, this was like a repeat performance.

But Jesus wasn’t in the boat this time.  He had sent them on their way, promising to follow later.  While they strained at the oars through the night, with water spraying in their faces and splashing in the boat, He was miles away on a mountainside praying.  Have you ever felt like God has been distant during some of the biggest storms of your life?  You can rest assured that even though He may have seemed far off that Christ was praying for you.  After all, “He always lives to intercede for” us (Heb. 7:25).  You can trust Him.

And then, Jesus approached the boat, walking on the water.  They mistook Him for a ghost!  Interesting!  Just as the perceived absence of Christ must have been scary, so too was His actual presence.  Apparently the eyes of the disciples were clouded.  Perhaps the mist from the sea made things unclear.  Not to mention the fact that though they had witnessed Christ’s power over wind and wave before, they apparently didn’t realize that He could actually defy the natural laws and walk on the water.  As a result, they came to view the very One who had come to their rescue as a source of greater fear.  Sometimes Christ chooses unusual…even scary methods to rescue His children.  You can trust Him.

And finally, as Jesus bade Peter to step out of the boat, there was once again the need to trust.  With eyes fixed on the Savior, water walking was simple.  When eyes wandered to the surrounding circumstances, faith waned and he felt overwhelmed.  But, ultimately, Peter could trust Him.

Chances are, trust will be part of the lesson for you today.  Will you sink or walk?


Posted in Journey through the Bible, Matthew

November 24: Feeding the Five Thousand

Read Luke 9:1-36

By this time in the ministry of Christ, the twelve disciples had spent months with the Savior.  They had watched His methods and listened to His message.  Now it was time for them to engage in His ministry…without Him.  They were to proclaim the kingdom, preach the gospel, and heal people.  They went out as His ambassadors.

Even though they represented Christ, how well did they really know Him?

  • Well enough to be used by Him in tremendous ways. (vv. 6, 10)
  • Well enough to identify Him as the Christ. (vv. 18-27)
  • Apparently not yet well enough to understand the necessity of the crucifixion. (Matthew 16:13-23).
  • Not well enough to trust Him for feeding the thousands. (vv. 10-17)
  • Not yet well enough to grasp the full gravity of His glorious transfiguration. (vv. 28-36)

You see, even though they had shared some experiences with Christ…and even though they had been used by Him…and even though they had grasped some fundamental truths about His identity, they still had a desperate need to continue to “listen to Him” (v. 35).  There were still new realities to grasp, implications to understand, and a Savior to get to know at deeper levels.

It is true for all of us.  Regardless of how many years we have followed, how often we have read, how we may have been used, the need still remains for us to listen, to learn, to obey, to worship in new ways and more completely in areas of which we are already aware.  It is a lifelong journey of wonder…so much so that Paul, near the end of His ministry, conveyed his passionate desire to grasp still more about the Savior—even about the familiar Easter story (Phil. 3:10).  Similarly, he wrote to the Ephesians saying, “I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:17-19).

Keep listening and learning!


Posted in Journey through the Bible, Luke

November 23: Lost and Found

Read Luke 15:1-32

It is a longer story than these few lines allow…but let me just summarize by saying that several years ago our family unintentionally threw away $500 of our own money.  It’s true.  A bank envelope containing cash made its way into a trash bag…and the trash bag to the curb…and from the curb to the garbage truck…and from the truck to the “transfer station” where garbage from all of the trucks was initially deposited.  We discovered our mistake after the truck had completed its entire route and was on its way to the transfer station.  As we called, an employee assured us that the entire route contents of that truck would be dumped separately.  And, if we chose to, we could come the following morning to search for the money.

Guess what?!  After nearly 2 hours of searching through garbage bags, the bank envelope was found with the money still inside!  Let me ask you…was $500 worth the search?  It certainly was to us!  Getting a bit dirty and smelly far outweighed the value of that money.  And, trust me, we expressed some “happy hallelujahs” after finding it!

That personal experience has given me a new appreciation for the parables of Luke 15.  Whether it was a sheep, a coin, or a person, it should have been a given that a wide search would be made.  And upon finding any one of those, it was a no brainer that a people would celebrate.

But words like “given” and “no brainer” are overstated.  You see, the Pharisees and scribes did not understand the value of the search or the need to celebrate when it came to Jesus spending time with people of reputation.  Like the older son in the parable of the prodigal, they were grumbling, wondering why Jesus would spend time with and even eat with people known to be tax collectors and sinners.  So, Jesus taught these lessons on the importance of the search and the greatness of the celebration.

Is the search important enough for you to get your hands dirty?  Is it of high enough value that you are intentionally seeking time with others in order to share the gospel of Christ with them?  And when someone turns to Christ are you among those celebrating?  The answers to these questions should be “no brainers.”


Posted in Journey through the Bible, Luke

November 22: The Good Samaritan

Read Luke 10:25-37

Who is my neighbor?  That was the follow-up question posed by the lawyer in today’s reading.  To his credit, this man seemed to have great Bible knowledge.  He was able to identify the same broad stroke themes of love for God and neighbor that Jesus elsewhere prioritized as the very core of the Old Testament Law and the Prophets (Matt. 22:34-37).  But he needed some help in defining “neighbor.”

How would you define it?  In our definition in the American Midwest, “neighbor” has everything to do with the proximity of your house to mine.  “Neighbors” are generally people we know.  We exchange tools with them and even get that needed egg from them in a pinch while baking.  Even though they have their idiosyncrasies, I guess you could say we “love” them.

Good Samaritan PaintingApparently the two highly respected Jewish men who passed by on that day had their own definition of “neighbor.”  Surely they were aware of the Old Testament admonition to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev. 19:18).  But this beaten and bloodied man at the side of the road didn’t qualify as a neighbor…at least not in that moment.  Why?  The Bible doesn’t tell us specifically.  Was it the fact that he was a stranger?  Were they scared of him?  Did he represent an interruption to a day already jam-packed with plans and responsibilities?  Was it his open wounds and the risk of AID’s?  We don’t know why, but they made a wide berth and passed him by as a “non-neighbor.”

Then came the Samaritan.  Culture would have indicated that this man should not see the needy man as a “neighbor.”  After all, the long standing history between Jews and Samaritans dictated that they should have nothing to do with one another.  But this man ignored cultural norms.  Rather than seeing a hated Jew, the Samaritan saw a fellow human in need.  He saw a “neighbor.”

Who is my neighbor?  That was the question the man posed to Jesus.  His response gives us eyes to see the “neighbors” that we may encounter today.  But Jesus closed the conversation with a question that we must also heed:  “Who was a neighbor to him?”  Will you be a neighbor to someone today?  Don’t be surprised if it isn’t the person next door.


Posted in Journey through the Bible, Luke

November 21: The Kingdom of Heaven

Read Matthew 13:1-58

Everybody loves a story and there is something about analogies that helps listeners to grasp the comparison.

That statement is not completely true in the teaching ministry of Jesus.  While His listeners may have loved the stories and even become more attentive when He used the parables, their use did not improve understanding for everyone.  In fact, He warned the disciples that these stories would unveil the secrets of the kingdom of heaven to some, while preserving them as mysteries for others.  Not everyone would “get it.”

But what about His followers?  Well, clearly Jesus wanted them to understand.  And particularly in this chapter, with the use of these stories, it was His intention that those of us who follow Him might especially grasp some truths about the kingdom of heaven.  This “kingdom” is really God’s reign as King over all things and all people.  It is a reign that for now is real but less visible because He is in heaven.  But one day that dominion will be visibly expressed as He visibly reigns in a new heaven and new earth.  Unfortunately, not everyone surrenders to His rule…and not everyone understands.

What, then, did Jesus want to say to us in Matthew 13 about this kingdom?  Here’s a quick summary.  Don’t miss out on the personal challenges included there.

Text Parable Main Point
13:1-23 Soils We must hear, understand, and cling to the teaching of Christ.
13:24-30, 36-43 Weeds The day is coming when followers of Christ will be gathered into eternal glory while those who reject Him will be cast into eternal punishment.
13:31, 32 Mustard Seed The kingdom of heaven was initially small but is growing…even including Gentiles.
13:33 Leaven The influence of the kingdom of heaven permeates the world.
13:44 Hidden Treasure The kingdom…though hidden to some…is worth sacrificing all for.
13:45, 46 Pearl of Great Value The kingdom…though hidden to some…is worth sacrificing all for.
13:47-50 Dragnet There are people who would claim to be part of the kingdom who will be separated out at the end of the age.


Posted in Journey through the Bible, Matthew