The Story of the Grave Walker

Have you ever walked through a graveyard and thought, “Is something about to reach up from under the ground and grab me . . . ?” And then did you stare at the ground for an awkward amount of time, studying it to see whether that dirt moved, just a little or not?  Yeah . . . me neither . . . .

A Man is Laid to Rest.

Did you know that there is an actual biblical account of Jesus Christ from the Bible raising someone from the dead? And I don’t mean a “near death experience,” in which his heart may have stopped for a second.  This man had actually been dead for F O U R days! So dead that he had been bound up in mummy-type apparel and sealed in a tomb for those four, oxygen-depleted days! Rigor was set; stench was profound by the time Jesus got there.

The dead man’s name was Lazarus, and we can find this account in the Bible, in John 11. Lazarus was a dear friend of Jesus. In fact, verse 3 tells us that Jesus loved him: “Lord, the one you love is sick.” Lazarus’ sisters had sent this message to Jesus who was a few days’ journey away from Lazarus. It seems as though they were implying, “Lord, we know You are busy healing and teaching  a lot of people, but one of Your favorites is sick, and so we’re anticipating that You’re coming right away to heal him, correct?” They were not the only ones who assumed Jesus would drop everything and run to Lazarus’s side. In addition to Lazarus’ sisters and Jesus’s disciples, even the concerned citizens of Bethany, the town where Lazarus lived, expected that Jesus would quickly be on His way.

The Plot Thickens.

In a surprising turn of events, Jesus did not drop everything and run to Lazarus. In fact, He waited until Lazarus was confirmed dead before He even started the long journey to Bethany. Many people were baffled by this decision, despite Jesus constantly filling everyone in on the plan along the way. Jesus explained many times that Lazarus would rise again, and He even explained why He was handling the situation in this particular way. In John 11:41-42 Jesus says while praying to God the Father out loud:

 . . . Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. I knew that You always hear Me; but because of the people standing around I said it, so that they may believe that You sent Me. 

Whom Does Jesus Love Most?

The beneficiaries of Jesus miraculously bringing Lazarus back to life again were not only Lazarus and his sisters, but the crowd as well. Lazarus was well loved by many in his hometown, so a large number of people came to mourn his death and comfort his sisters. By waiting until the crowds had gathered to mourn Lazarus, Jesus was able to perform this awesome miracle in front them all. Many people were able to see that He was the Son of God and they believed in him! In contrast, if Lazarus had been only sick, many of those people might not have seen Jesus perform a miracle at all. Think of it like this: which situation typically has the larger crowd, someone’s return home after a few days in the hospital or someone’s funeral?

Yes, Jesus loved Lazarus and his family, and His miracle obviously made a life changing impact on them. But Jesus doesn’t have favorites. Jesus died for ALL. Anyone who wants to be saved can be by calling on Jesus.

Jesus Doesn’t Love Just a Few, He In Fact Loves You.

And Jesus loves you so much that He wants to live with you forever in Heaven. When Jesus was on that cross, He had your face pictured in his mind as He was thinking, “I want to do this so that ­­­ [insert YOUR name] can live with Me forever in paradise.” If He is tugging at your heart right now, don’t wait, pray to Him today! It’s so easy a young child can do it. Satan (THE LIAR) tries to make us think it’s hard, or that we’re too far gone because what we’ve done could never be undone. But friend, it already has been undone. You just have to believe it.

If you’re ready for the joy, peace, and hope that comes with being covered and protected by Jesus, then in your heart or out loud say this little prayer, wherever you are: “Dear Jesus, I know that I am a sinner. I’m sorry for the things I have done, and I ask for Your forgiveness. I know that You died for me in order to take the blame for my sins but You rose again, beating even my sins and death. Thank You for doing that. I turn from sins and invite You to come into my heart and life. I want to trust and follow You as my Lord and Savior. Amen”

If you have just prayed this prayer that is fantastic news! Please contact us so that we can celebrate with you and help with any questions you may have! And by letting us know, this will help solidify your decision so that if you’re ever uncertain if it really happened, you can remember this day and know that you will spend eternity with Jesus in Heaven.

About the Writer:
Natalie is a stay at home mom to two young boys. Additionally, she occasionally works as an emergency room nurse and is studying to become a Nurse Practitioner. She and her husband have been called into the medical mission field and are excited to see what the Lord has in store for their lives.

You can contact us here:  https://www.firstdallas.org/who-is-jesus

 

thanksgiving with a lowercase t

Have you noticed how people change their temperament as Thanksgiving Day draws near? Even though the lines get longer at the store, to-do lists grow a mile long, and schedules seem busier than ever, people seem more patient with one another, more thoughtful, and more openly thankful. The spirit that culminates in this single day of the year seeps into our souls as the first scent of pumpkin spice is released.

Thanksgiving Day earns the spot as many people’s favorite holiday of the year with sentiments of heart-warming family gatherings, mouth-watering smells of turkey, pie, and cool brisk air that finally warrants a sweater after the long hot summer—that alone worth celebrating here in Texas. Even still, I continue to be amazed at how successfully our nation has stripped away any spiritual inspiration for this special holiday that we celebrate.

Thanksgiving Day was originally established as a national holiday on October 3, 1863, by Abraham Lincoln. And in his proclamation about the meaning behind this day, it is undeniable that God was intended to be the central focus.

I’ve included a complete transcript of Lincoln’s letter at the end of this post but have broken up a few of the key thoughts for us to digest slowly, as my mother always said to take small bites. In comparing Lincoln’s words with scripture, we will see that the core of his message, inspired by God’s word, is reflective of many of Paul’s letters to the early church.

TRUE thanksgiving ACKNOWLEDGES THE SOURCE

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. (Lincoln, 1863)

The acknowledgement of God’s provision and blessings found in these words is so bold and powerful that I myself am convicted as someone who is so accustomed to enjoying gifts that I’m prone to forget the source from which they come. It seems that we can very often fall into a habit of being thankful FOR SOMETHING instead of thankful TO SOMEONE. 

Lincoln’s opening statement reflects Paul’s teaching that “since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” Romans 1:20

TRUE thanksgiving REQUIRES HUMILITY

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. (Lincoln, 1863)

Sin nature defaults our hearts into a place of ingratitude, which is rooted in pride. Paul counters our temptation to find pride by reminding us that it was “by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9

TRUE thanksgiving FOSTERS UNITY

It has seemed to me fit and proper that [the gracious gifts of God] should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. (Lincoln, 1863)

Lincoln was serving a divided nation that desperately needed unity, and his words resonate still today. Paul encouraged a similar sentiment as he reminded the church to

let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Colossians 3:15

And as this singular body, Paul taught them

Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17

Through the parallel messages of Lincoln and Paul, we find that true thanksgiving (with a lowercase “t”) calls for a bit of a different perspective than we might naturally apply on this holiday: a humble, God-centered position of thanks that inspires unity. As we gather to celebrate with friends and family, may we all remember to acknowledge the ultimate source of every good gift that we have received through God’s lovingkindness, provision and mercy, as James reminds us in James 1:17.

 Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.

– Washington, D.C.
October 3, 1863

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward,
Secretary of State

About the Writer:
Audra is mother to two young children and has a passion for encouraging women in their roles at home in both marriage and motherhood. She finds joy in sharing her journey of refinement and learning through these important roles.

God Sees the Entire Picture

A recent insert from my prayer journal reminded me once again of God’s great faithfulness to His word and to His children.  At one point in my life, an unexpected opportunity was presented to me that seemed both interesting and sensible to pursue. However, as I went before the Lord to seek His will on the matter, He immediately led me to a passage in the book of Joshua, one where the Israelites were called to wait until God moved.

Then Joshua rose early in the morning; and he and all the sons of Israel set out from Shittim and came to the Jordan, and they lodged there before they crossed. At the end of three days the officers went through the midst of the camp; and they commanded the people, saying, “When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God with the Levitical priests carrying it, then you shall set out from your place and go after it. (Joshua 3:1-3)

The children of Israel were standing at the Jordan River, awaiting their time to cross in order to enter the Promised Land. Joshua’s command was clear. When they saw the ark of the covenant, they were to move forward. Yet until that moment arrived, they were to remain in the camp. In other words, they were not to proceed until God moved first.

On the day I read this passage of Scripture, I knew God was telling me to wait. I was not to pursue what seemed logical. God knew that on the other side of His call to wait was a greater blessing than what I had originally anticipated. While I only saw the opportunity, God saw the entire picture.

I love the game of football. One particular scene has always captured my attention because of the spiritual lesson it communicates: the locale of the coaches.

During both college and NFL games, the head coaches—as well as various assistants—will be located on the sidelines. However, for the most part, both the defensive coaches as well as the offensive coordinators will position themselves in the booth far above the field of play. Why? The answer is simple. While the coaches on the sidelines merely perceive a limited view, the coaches in the booth see the entirety of the game. Many deem the booth as “eyes in the sky.”

As Christians, we too have “eyes in the sky.” We have a Savior who sees the totality of our lives, from beginning to end. Therefore, when He says wait, we can rest in knowing that He sees beyond what is in front of us to what He has in store for us.

Has God called you to a time of waiting? Then wait. For just around the corner, your miracle awaits. God will usher in your blessing at just the right time. However, until that moment arrives—and it will—remember to wait. And in the waiting, trust Him.

I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord. (Psalm 27:13-14)

About the Writer:

O’Shea is the mother of two and nana of five and enjoys both roles tremendously. She is the Executive Director of Entrusted Hope Ministries where she loves serving through speaking and blogging. A member of First Baptist Church, Dallas, O’Shea serves with the church’s First Impressions ministry and teaches the Strong & Courageous Sunday School class for single moms. Shea received her bachelor’s degree in Christian Ministry from Blue Mountain College in Blue Mountain, Mississippi; her master’s degree in Biblical Counseling from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas; and is currently working on her D.Ed.Min at Southwestern in Family Ministries. 

 

Living Out the Sacrifice of Thanksgiving

Let’s just admit it. Sometimes it is hard to be thankful. Sometimes it’s through clenched teeth, almost begrudgingly, that I offer up a very brief acknowledgement of thanks. I may not even get that far.

When it comes to thanking God, it is difficult for me to thank Him for the things I’m mad about, sad about, disturbed over, overwhelmed in, or discouraged about.

Reading about the sacrificial system described in Leviticus has shed much light on what it actually looks like to offer thanks to God.

Now this is the law of the sacrifice of peace offerings which shall be presented to the Lord. If he offers it by way of thanksgiving, then along with the sacrifice of thanksgiving he shall offer unleavened cakes mixed with oil, and unleavened wafers spread with oil, and cakes of well stirred fine flour mixed with oil. With the sacrifice of his peace offerings for thanksgiving, he shall present his offering with cakes of leavened bread. Of this he shall present one of every offering as a contribution to the Lord; it shall belong to the priest who sprinkles the blood of the peace offerings. Leviticus 7:11-14

The sacrifice of thanksgiving — one of the three expressions of the sacrifice of peace — required a variety of offerings including the animal sacrifice, grain offerings of unleavened and leavend bread and all kinds of cakes and wafers. The leavened bread was included in this particular sacrifice (and to be shared with the priest for food), even though for most of the other grain offerings, it was strictly forbidden and not to be burned on the altar to God.

In the New Testament, much of the Old Testament regulations are decoded as I understand them in different terms. As I learn about my position in Christ secured by His ultimate sacrifice, I also see how I’m now called upon to be a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1) and how I’m to offer the sacrifices of praise continually:

Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. Hebrews 13:15

Just as in the Old Testament the sacrifice of thanksgiving was offered in sad times and happy times, in good times and bad times; I am told in the New Testament to be thankful in ALL things:

Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

The sacrifice of thanksgiving was a voluntary sacrifice; it was not one required for the forgiveness of sin. Even now, Christ sacrificed Himself to secure our forgiven status with a holy, just God; however, my voluntary thanks in ALL things (blessings like tasty cakes soaked in oil and honey or things disdainful to even God like the yeast) are like a pleasing aroma to Him.

Paul, who knew the religious laws of the time better than I could ever hope to know, lived his life as a living sacrifice. He describes his life here:

…in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes.Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches. Who is weak without my being weak? Who is led into sin without my intense concern?             2 Corinthians 11:23-29

Giving thanks need not have anything to do with how much you “like” what’s going on around you, or how heavy the burdens of life are. Just like Paul so beautifully demonstrated and Leviticus outlined, you and I can always choose to say a word of thanks and even unite with others, give to others, share with others and celebrate our peace with God no matter what circumstances we find ourselves in.

Follow the apostle Paul’s example and give thanks as an offering; not as a listing of everything you like about your life or situation.

About the Writer:

Lyndsay has been many things in her past, but no career, experience, or calling define hermore than the desire to follow after Christ in response to His gracious work in her life. At present, she teaches movement classes and works as a wellness consultant in addition to loving her amazing husband and raising her daughter to know and love the Lord.