True Thankfulness

What does true thankfulness look like? Let’s delve into the Scriptures for a picture of this deep emotion, that it may inspire us as we thank God for our blessings this year.

“’I am the resurrection and the life; the one who believes in Me will live, even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.'”

John 11:25-26 NASB

Have you ever been disappointed if your prayer wasn’t answered in your timing?

We can surmise that Mary and Martha felt intense disappointment when Jesus came too late to heal their sick brother, Lazarus. Each sister had a unique emotional reaction to Jesus’s arrival, although each greeted Him with the same words: “‘Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died’” (John 11: 20-21 NASB). I imagine that in the four days since Lazarus’s death, they had often repeated this wish as they grieved.

The sister of reason and responsibility

As soon as Martha heard that the Lord was approaching, she didn’t wait for Him to call her. She ran to Him first. No tears, no scolding for tarrying. Instead, she professed her deep faith in the Messiah.  “Martha then said to Jesus, ‘Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You’” (John 11:22 NASB).

 They conversed about the concept of resurrection in relation to her deceased brother, and Jesus announced that Lazarus would live again. Martha acknowledged that Lazarus would be raised at the resurrection, but Jesus took the opportunity to clarify His true identity.

“’I am the resurrection and the life; the one who believes in Me will live, even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.’ She replied, ‘Yes, Lord; I have come to believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, and He who comes into the world.’”

John 11:25-27 NASB

The sister of deep love and emotion

Mary, on the other hand, had chosen not to accompany Martha to the outskirts of town to meet Jesus. Perhaps her heart was too torn with grief.  But when her sister raced back and whispered secretly that Jesus was calling for her, Mary ran to Him.

“So when Mary came to the place where Jesus was, she saw Him and fell at His feet, saying to Him, ‘Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.’ Therefore when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled.”

John 11:32-33 NASB

Next, we see Jesus weeping, and we observe the reaction of the crowd to His display of emotion. Not only did they marvel at the Lord’s deep love for Lazarus, but they also wondered. Why hadn’t He come sooner to save this man’s life?

Can’t we imagine the crowd’s shock when Jesus commanded the stone be rolled away? Even Martha cautioned Him about a four-day stench. Jesus, however, commanded: “’Lazarus, come out!’” (John 11:43 NASB).

Although the story ends with the miracle of Lazarus in his graveclothes hobbling to the entrance of the tomb, we aren’t privy to the rest of the story. But we can imagine everyone on their knees, believing in and worshiping the Messiah who had just proved His identity as the resurrection and the life.

The last visit

The next time we find Jesus in Bethany was shortly before His crucifixion. Martha again served the meal as Mary sat at the feet of the Lord.

 “Mary then took a pound of very expensive perfume of pure nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair, and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.”

John 12:3 NASB

Her sacrifice of lavishing a year’s wage upon Jesus was an act of deepest gratitude for resurrecting her brother.

How does this story relate to us?

What a valuable lesson! No, Jesus isn’t ignoring our prayers, even when all appears lost. He arrives at the right time and performs a miracle of resurrection in a way we couldn’t have imagined.

Some of us may be rational like Martha and question God. The Lord will reason with us about our disappointments and help us to understand. He is the resurrection and the life every day, not just on Resurrection Day. Like Martha, may we serve Him with a gift of deep gratitude.

Others may be emotional like Mary and weep at Jesus’s feet. The Lord is kind and compassionate, and He weeps with us. He shares our deepest grief out of His perfect love. Like Mary, may we fall at Jesus’s feet and lavish Him with a sacrificial gift of worship.

Since we are all born in original sin, our spirits are like that dead body stinking in the grave. But Jesus doesn’t turn away from us in our spiritual rottenness. Instead, He calls us to come forth into His marvelous light of salvation, making our spirits alive.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

Ephesians 2:8-9 NASB

Are you truly thankful this year? As we gather around our Thanksgiving tables, let’s express deep gratefulness to Jesus, especially for His free gift of salvation and grace.

Dear Father, we thank you out of a grateful heart for all Your blessings in 2020. We bring you our unanswered prayers and lay them at the foot of the cross. We believe in a God of resurrection power who can bring life to what appears to be dead. Most of all, we praise You for Your free gift of salvation and pray that many would believe in You today. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.

Wishing you a blessed Thanksgiving!

Copyright 2020: True Thankfulness: Author Karen Jurgens: All Rights Reserved

The Fruit of the Spirit Study Week 12

Welcome to Week 12 of the “Front Porch” Bible Study Series. In this last post of our study on JOY, we’ll look at one of the most amazing miracles of all: resurrection. When Jesus rose from the grave on the third day, His resurrection sealed our privilege of spending eternity with Him in God’s kingdom. Is there any greater JOY? Today we’ll read about the story of Lazarus’s resurrection.

Click HERE to read today’s Scripture about Jesus’s raising Lazarus from the dead.

Memory Verse: “‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die'” (John 11:25b-26a NKJV).

Front Porch Bible Study Series by Karen Jurgens

While Jesus ministered in another town, Mary and Martha sent word for the Lord to come to heal their sick brother, Lazarus. Although His disciples discouraged Him from going, Jesus explained, “‘This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it.’” (v.4)

Two days later, Jesus and His disciples arrived in Bethany where Lazarus had already been buried for four days. Jesus spoke privately with Martha and then Mary before grieving at Lazarus’s tomb. The sisters and other mourners expressed their disappointment: Lazarus would still be alive if Jesus had come sooner. Jesus declared to Martha, “‘I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?’” (v.25-26). Martha declared, “‘Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world’” (v.27).

Mary and the crowd of mourners joined together to mourn at the tomb.
Everyone noticed how strongly Jesus wept along with the others. They quietly discussed how much Jesus loved Lazarus, asking “‘Could not this man, who opened the eyes of the blind man, have kept this man also from dying?’” (v.37).

Jesus told them to remove the stone in front of the cave. He prayed aloud to the Father, asking God to answer His prayer that people would believe in Him. Jesus then cried out with a loud voice, “‘Lazarus, come forth!’” (v.43).

Can you imagine the shock when the dead man appeared alive at the mouth of the cave, still wrapped in his grave clothes? Overjoyed, many people believed in Jesus as the Son of God, but others went to report it to the Pharisees.

Front Porch Bible Study Series by Karen Jurgens

As you may recall from our earlier study, Lazarus wasn’t the first person Jesus raised the dead. Remember Jairus’s daughter in Mark 5? (You can read about it HERE.)

Why do you think Jesus purposely delayed the call to go to Bethany to heal his dear friend Lazarus? Not because He didn’t care. Although He knew Lazarus would die, He also prophesied to His disciples that this sickness wouldn’t end in death (v.4). “‘And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe'” (v.15).

However, there was one good reason why Jesus planned to raise Lazarus’s body on the fourth day after burial. Since the Jews believed the spirit didn’t depart from the body for the first three days after death, this was a sign and irrefutable proof that glorified both the Father and Jesus, His Son.

What a paradox. He purposely chose his dearest friends, whom He knew He could trust to endure deep yet temporary sorrow, to prove His identity as the Son of God. We know He loved Lazarus very much, as evidenced by His emotional weeping at his tomb. But human reasoning expressed by Martha and Mary came forth loud and clear: “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died” (v.21, v.32). Such a burden of disappointment and sorrow to bear.

But what joy filled their hearts after Lazarus was resurrected! All sorrow and disappointment vanished in that miraculous moment as they received their brother back into their loving arms. As He had said He would, Jesus used this opportunity to bring glory to the Father and prove His identity as God’s Son.

Let’s apply this lesson to our lives.

Don’t we do the same thing as Mary and Martha? When something that we treasure dies, we weep inconsolably at its tomb. We cry out that if Jesus had shown up sooner, it would still be alive.

Perhaps it’s a dream that you believe will never come to pass, and your hope is flickering out. Or maybe it’s a physical illness you’ve prayed about for a long time, but you’re still waiting on healing. Perhaps a relationship appears dead and impossible to bring back to life. Or maybe something to do with money or income has left you mourning and troubled about the future.

Just as Jesus came to Mary and Martha, let’s also take comfort that our Lord will come to minister to each of us. He is a compassionate and understanding Savior who weeps with us in our darkest hour.

Let’s listen as He speaks to our situation and commands whatever is dead to be resurrected back to life. Oh, the JOY that will fill our hearts!

Has the Lord brought you JOY by miraculously resurrecting something dead in your life?

I hope your JOY in the Lord has blossomed and grown this month. When the Holy Spirit lavishes us with the love of Jesus, gardens of JOY grow in our hearts. JOY isn’t conditional on our circumstances, thank goodness, but the Lord gives us JOY in spite of them. When we worship and praise Him through our tears, we are lifted up and out of this world. Isn’t God so good!

For more study on the topic of resurrection, click HERE for a sermon by Charles Spurgeon or HERE for a sermon by Ravi Zacharias.

Front Porch Bible Study Series by Karen Jurgens

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for Your compassion and understanding of our human sufferings. We ask You to speak resurrection to our dying circumstances, for You are the Resurrection and the Life. We glorify You and pray these things in Jesus’s Name. Amen.

Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much ~ James 5:16.

Front Porch Bible Study Series by Karen Jurgens