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The people who were standing nearby said, “See how much he loved him!” John 11:36

We’ve all seen the pictures:

A young woman in a bridal gown laying across the grave of a fallen soldier, her husband.

A little boy in salute to the grave of his father.

The flowers, crosses and candles that materialize overnight after some horrific accident.

The heart wrenching cry of a mother, father, sister, brother, friend after a mass shooting.

We feel the agony. Some of us may even tear up ourselves. We know life will go on. We know death happens. We know…but that doesn’t stop the pain.

Jesus stood at the tomb of one of his closest friends and wept. Even though he was the Son of God…God himself in the flesh, God among us, Emmanuel … he wept at the thought of life without Lazarus.

As we approach Resurrection Sunday, as we mourn the death and celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus, let us never forget his love for mankind. Even as he mourned his friends death there were those who questioned his lateness. Today many malign him and question the scientific and historical facts of his existence. Few have ever questioned his love.

Fast forward a few days. Another crowd is gathered where Jesus is. This time, it is them that are crying as they watch their friend, brother, teacher suffering the most painful and cruel kinds of death – death on the cross.

It was the same love the brought tears to Jesus’ eyes that brought him to the cross. It was the same love that drove him to endure the pain of death so you could have victory over death. At the tomb of Lazarus Jesus hung his head and cried. On the cross, he hung his head and died. At the tomb Jesus held up his hands and ordered the dead to live again. On the cross he spread out his hands and gave eternal life to the living.

Never look at the cross of Christ without seeing the empty tomb. Regardless of where you are in life, or where you have been. No matter how you have been hurt, or how you have hurt others. Jesus cried for you and died for you.

The scene at Lazarus’ tomb reminds us of how much Jesus loved. Let the cross remind you of how much he loves you.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, some things go beyond words. Help me today to see your love for me in a whole new way. Empower me to share that love with someone who needs your touch. I love you Jesus. Amen.

We are not like those people who turn back and get destroyed. We will keep on having faith until we are saved. Hebrews 10:39 (CEV)

God’s judgment was imminent. Because of the prayers of one faithful servant of God,Lot’s family was miraculously led from ground zero just before destruction fell. In spite of the udder destruction behind them,Lot’s wife looks back. This wasn’t a casual observation like a freeway ‘rubber-necker’. This was a longing for the life she left behind, a longing for a lifestyle that was completely removed from God but all that she knew. Her longing to live in the past is what turned her into a pillar of salt.

The Israelites lived for over 400 years in a foreign land waiting for God’s promises to be fulfilled. Not long into their journey of deliverance, they began to long for the familiarity ofEgypt. The pain of abuse, and the promise of better things ahead wasn’t enough to keep them from longing for their past.

Jesus walked the paths ofGalileehealing the sick, raising the dead, giving hope to the hopeless. The crowds followed him because of the hope he offered of physical life, political freedom and financial security. When his message turned to the pain and death he would suffer; when his message began to shed light on the pain that following him would bring into their lives, they began to fall off, not one by one, but by droves.

We still search for a God of convenience. A God that will grant our every need, make us comfortable in life, and provide for us in the ways WE seek. Our Heavenly Father isn’t a God of convenience. He isn’t a vending machine God that we can come to and choose our blessing. He has never, ever promised that in the midst of our deliverance there would not also be pain.

We are all on a journey. That journey takes us through many life-situations. Some pleasant, some not. But our God never intends for us to stay in one place. His desire is for us to move forward regardless of what lies ahead. Trust comes from a refusal to let life circumstances dictate our belief in a God who is passionately in love with us.

Don’t let your past confine your present. Those things in the past that are positive can be used to build a bright future. Those things in your past that are dark can be used to grow wiser. Whatever the case, never let your past be anything more than a stepping stone to a closer relationship with Jesus.

PRAYER: Lord God, I find myself longing for the good things you’ve done in my past and forgetting the things pain that brought me here. Help me learn from my past as I constantly look forward to a future you have planned for me. Let me never turn back from total faith in you. Amen.

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, because they don’t know what they are doing.”  Luke 23:34 NCV

When life doesn’t turn out the way we’d like it too our first inclination is to put the blame on someone else. We get stopped for speeding and blame our boss for being so unbending about getting to work on time, or blame the kids for taking so long getting ready. We fight all the way to church and blame the pastor for not having a good sermon rather than considering the fact that our anger kept us from hearing the Spirit’s soft, gentle voice. We put on extra pounds and rather than exercise and make wiser choices we blame the fast-food place for not serving ‘healthy fried foods’ (whatever that means). We spill our hot coffee as we leave the drive through and blame the coffee shop for having hot coffee!

I still find it humorous to see some of the warning labels on the products we buy. “Warning: Items taken out of the oven may be hot and cause burns.” Really? Perhaps the best one lately is the commercial with a computer generated pickup snowboarding down a mountain side with the disclaimer warning us that “We shouldn’t try this at home because pickups can’t snowboard.” Again. Seriously?

We spend millions of dollars a year trying to protect ourselves from ourselves because we’ve never really learned to accept responsibility for our actions. It started in the garden of Eden. Adam blamed Eve who blamed the snake (Satan) and we’ve been blaming ever since.

But the ultimate ‘blame-game’ we play started in the streets ofJerusalemabout 2000 years ago when we sent an innocent man to the cross. Jesus of Nazareth was condemned to die, not because of the Romans, not because of the Jews. He was condemned to die by a group of angry people who needed someone to blame for their struggles. Someone to blame for the oppression of the political system they were under. Someone to blame for the burden religion had placed on them. Someone to blame for the physical pain and the relational wounds they suffered.

So who did they blame? A man who’d spent his entire life serving others for no profit of his own. A King who chose to leave the splendor of his throne to live in the ghettos and wilderness of Palestine. A ruler who gave up his authority to be governed by the selfish, greedy subjects of his own kingdom. A Savior who came to show life to the very people who would put him to death.

It’s no wonder that this man prayed “Father forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing.” They didn’t! To this day there are people who continue to blame the one who promised us tribulation and that he’d be with us throughout the pain. We continue to blame the victim.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus. I humbly bow before you today in praise and thanksgiving for giving your life so I could live. Forgive us for the times we blame you when we need to take responsibility for our own rebellion. Thank you for the grace you give us to move on. Help me extend that same forgiveness to others who still ‘don’t know what they are doing’. Amen.

The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:14

For many people the idea of loving yourself sounds a bit suspicious. This is especially true for Christ-followers who have heard sermons on the dangers of pride and the benefits of being humble. But loving yourself is really the key to having a close relationship with God as well as with others.

Paul summarizes the entire law in one phrase: “Love your neighbor as yourself”. But we can’t love our neighbor until we love ourselves. Loving ourselves means that we are so comfortable with who we are that what others think of us has no bearing on how we feel about ourselves.  

Jesus is the ultimate example of love. As the Son of God He knew who He was. That’s why He was able to respond so well to the attacks leveled against Him. Rather than reacting to the attacks in anger or becoming defensive, He responded in love and wisdom.

One of the most well used scriptures about love is I Corinthians 13. We call it ‘The Love Chapter’. The description of love in this chapter should be applied to ourselves before we can apply it to others.

“Love is patient…” We need to be patient with ourselves as we journey through life. Too often we get frustrated when we can’t accomplish a task or we fail once again or we fall into sin. Being patient with ourselves means we work as hard as we can to reach our goals (whatever they may be) while we acknowledge that we are only human. Thank your Heavenly Father every day for the fact that He is patient with you. Your actions and failures never surprise God. He never tires of brushing the dust from our clothes, picking us up and helping us back on the way.

“Love is not arrogant or proud…” Loving yourself means you have a grasp of who you are. You enjoy the gifts God has given you and use them freely and openly for His glory, but, at the same time you realize that your accomplishments are not because of you but because God is using you.

“Love keeps no record of wrongs…” Okay. So you failed again last week. Confess it, repent and ask God to help you do better this time. Loving yourself means that the mistakes of last week are gone! Move on now. Stop beating yourself up. Our Father is ready and willing to forgive you and you should forgive yourself as well.

“Love always protects…” If you love yourself you need to protect yourself. Don’t allow yourself to be put in positions where others can hurt you.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, sometimes it seems like I fail You on a daily basis. I look in the mirror and don’t like what I see. I thank You for loving me as I am, for being patient when I fail, and for forgiving me when I rebel. Help me to live as a child of the King because through Jesus that is who I am! Amen.

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