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Frank Viola has helped thousands of people around the world to deepen their relationship with Jesus Christ and enter into a more vibrant and authentic experience of church. [Read more…]
Several years ago, Michael Hyatt (former CEO of Thomas Nelson) responded to a rumor on his blog. In the post, Michael wrote,
“According to the most recent rumor—which I’ve now heard twice—we [Thomas Nelson] are planning a layoff for June 19th … We are scheduled to close the transaction on June 12th, so, supposedly, this will happen the week following. I want to assure you that this is indeed a baseless rumor. There is absolutely no truth to it … If you hear this rumor, I would be grateful if you would help me short-circuit it. You can tell ’em it’s not true, and you heard it directly from me.”
I recall when this rumor was circulating and was saddened (and surprised) at how many Christians believed it without going straight to Michael to see if it was true or false.
Another example that’s much more national. [Read more…]
During His ministry on earth, Jesus of Nazareth spent most of His time healing the sick, casting out demons, training disciples, teaching the people, and preaching the kingdom of God. But what is Jesus Christ doing today? What is His present-day ministry?
In Jesus Now, bestselling author Frank Viola gives us the first comprehensive treatment of what Jesus has been doing since His ascension until His second coming. In an easy-to-read format, Viola explores the seven aspects of Christ’s ministry today and shows how each one benefits the saved and the unsaved.
Open these pages and discover what the Lord Jesus Christ is doing now and how it will impact your life.
Go to the JesusNow.tv for details and discounts.
Frank Viola Author has spent many years speaking in living rooms, ministering the Lord to missional churches in the United States and overseas.
In this season of ministry, however, Frank is not taking invitations from groups that gather in homes. Instead, he is speaking in conferences and churches that exceed 200 in attendance.
He is also speaking in Bible schools, seminaries, and para-church organizations of any size.
Knowing this criteria, if you would like to invite Frank to speak at your event – be it a conference, church, Bible school, seminary, parachurch organization or chapel – or you wish to know where he is speaking next, click here to access his official speaking page.
Frank Viola Author’s book catalog and review.
Written by Donald Stevenson.
One of the main themes of John’s gospel is Christ as Life. For John, Jesus is the God of life who has come to turn a death-infested world upside down.
You can see this throughout Jesus’ entire ministry. Wherever He went, He destroyed death in all of its forms.
The rulers of this world know death to be their greatest instrument. This is why they plotted to kill both Jesus and Lazarus (a living witness to Jesus’ miraculous power). Thus the reign of God is about the Author of life breaking into and overcoming this death-filled world.
In Lazarus’ resurrection, Jesus demonstrated that death no longer has the last word. Resurrection brings the gospel to its highest pitch. The beauty of the Christian message is that we have been given the risen life of Jesus to live by here and now.
Like Lazarus, the human race is sick and dying. On its own, it is helpless and hopeless. It’s lying inside a tomb, lifeless and decaying.
But God desires to raise humanity from the iron grip of death, raising it from the tomb to new life and new creation. His will is to bring us out of the condemnation of death into resurrection peace and the power of an endless life.
This is what the gospel affords all who believe.
Jesus’ words to Martha in this story are loaded. He was essentially saying, “Hope is nearer than you think. The last day has already arrived. I am the Resurrection and the Life.”
That is the glorious edge of the gospel. In Jesus Christ, the life of tomorrow is available today.
And the challenge of Jesus to Martha is what He says to all of us today: “Do you believe this?”
According to John 10:24, the Jews gathered around Jesus and asked Him,
How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.
The Lord’s monumental demonstration of divine power and glory, which raised Lazarus from the dead, was His answer to their query.
The raising of Lazarus from the dead was the precursor to His ultimate bout with death on a hill outside of Jerusalem. It was the opening act before the final act, which was the resurrection of Christ Himself.
It was a heart-stopping moment. The One who created the universe wept at the grave of His friend. And He, the Resurrection and the Life, raised him to life again. The words of Jesus in John 11:44 throb with majestic grandeur:
“Loose him, and let him go.”
“Free him, and let him go.”
“Unbind him, and let him go.”
What is this? It’s freedom from bondage.
I want to blow this story up so you can see it. Let’s go back to the stirring drama and watch the scene unfold.
Look at the lifeless body of Lazarus. He’s not just dead; he is rotting.
Jesus is looking straight at a sealed tomb. Perhaps the Father said to Him, “My Son, You too will be placed in a sealed tomb just like this one. And I will raise You up with the sound of My voice.”
Surrounded by death, sorrow, wailing, mourning, and grief, Jesus doesn’t get flustered. He is the unshakeable Rock, immovable and confident in His God. He faces His greatest enemy without fear.
The Lord stands before the great maw of death. He approaches Lazarus’s tomb prepared for battle, squaring off with death, the child of sin.
Jesus shouts. By His word, He dispenses His resurrection life and disarms the grip of death that held His friend for four long days.
Wielding only three words—“Lazarus, come forth”—Jesus turns the evening of mourning into the sunshine of joy. Lazarus is made alive—a new creature—free from the bondage of graveclothes.
The facets of death are many: spiritual blindness, spiritual deafness, darkness, inactivity, limitation, condemnation, etc. And death always brings bondage.
Lazarus is tied hand and foot with burial clothes, and his face is wrapped in a cloth. He cannot see, hear, speak, or walk. He is in bondage.
But the Christ of God meets and overcomes death in all of its forms with life. He is death’s Destroyer. And after bringing His friend back to the living, He thunders to the crowd, “Unbind him, and let him go!”
I see two things here.
First, Bethany is the place where God’s people are set free from bondage. Bondage to dead religion, bondage to legalism, bondage to sin, bondage to the world, bondage to guilt and shame, bondage to the flesh, bondage to the curse of the Law, and every other kind of bondage.
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.
The creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.
So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
When Mary spoke with Jesus outside the village, He was deeply troubled and disturbed. The Greek word translated “troubled” or “agitated” in John 11:33 indicates indignation.
But what was Jesus angry about?
Some have suggested that He was angry at the unbelief of Mary, Martha, and the Jews who mourned Lazarus’ death.
Maybe. But I find this difficult to believe.
Rather, I tend to think that Jesus was angry at death and what it does to His beloved. How it robs them of those whom they cherish. How it inflicts them with the unspeakable agonies of grief. How it thwarts love by taking those who are beloved.
The tears of Jesus show us a God who is sensitive to our sorrows. Even though He knew He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead, He experienced the moment. Knowing that His soon-coming miracle would dry every eye, He wept nonetheless. He was deeply touched by the sorrow that afflicted Mary, Martha, and the whole village.
For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.
Jesus, as it were, mingled His holy tears with theirs. Indeed, the Lord is able to “wipe away every tear” from our eyes because He Himself knows how to weep.
We read about the tears of Jesus three times in the New Testament:
His tears of sorrow over Jerusalem.
His tears of suffering in the garden.
His tears of sympathy in Bethany.
Behold the tears of Christ. They teach us that our Lord is touched with the feeling of our infirmities. They teach us that He is not unmoved by our sorrow and suffering.
The Son of God wept aloud over the holy city, but He sobbed silently before the tomb of His friend.
These were the perfect tears of a perfect Man.
Know this: Jesus didn’t relinquish His perfect humanity when He ascended far above the heavens. He still weeps with us today, for He is “the same yesterday, today, and forever.”
Consequently, He feels it when every heart burns, bleeds, or bends. He is a friend who “loves at all times.” Christ saves as the Son of God, but He feels as the Son of man. So in your hour of grief, remember: your Lord is with you and feels for you.
As Thomas Moore once put it, “Earth has no sorrow that Heaven cannot heal.”
Jesus is heaven personified.
Adapted from God’s Favorite Place on Earth
In his best-selling book, God’s Favorite Place on Earth, Frank Viola author retells the story of Lazarus’ death and rising from Lazarus’ own perspective. Here’s an adapted article from the book. The sequel to this book is called The Day I Met Jesus.
Mary and Martha were crestfallen.
The messenger arrived that evening. My sisters wept heavily in my room. My father ordered that my body be taken to the grave.
The messenger told Mary and Martha that Jesus’ only response to their message was: “The ultimate end of this sickness is not death. It is for God’s glory so that the Son of God may be glorified.”
Feeling that this was callous disregard on the Teacher’s part, Martha’s weeping grew louder, and she said to Mary, “I feel lied to. Jesus said that Lazarus would not die. Why … why did this happen!? How could He let it happen!?”
Mary, weeping in bewilderment, hugged Martha and said, “I’m perplexed too, but don’t let bitterness grip your heart. There must be an explanation. The Teacher will come and tell us why. I know He will.”
Martha’s disappointment moved to bossiness: “If He doesn’t show up for the burial tonight, I am not sure if I can forgive Him. That will be too much for me to bear.”
Martha oversaw the funeral arrangements that evening. She covered my body in myrrh and aloes to fight off the stench of death. Strips of fine linen wrapped my body. They placed me in a sealed tomb, closed off from the world of the living.
Our friends and family from Jerusalem gave their loving support. Mourners were hired. Mary and Martha were grieved beyond measure.
Three days passed. Our home was filled with friends and family, all weeping, grieving, and mourning their loss.
Martha was in the courtyard when one of our friends ran to her with a message. Out of breath, our friend said, “Jesus is on His way to Bethany! His disciples are with Him, and they are just outside the village!”
Martha’s pan clattered to the floor. She ran out of the courtyard to greet Jesus at the outskirts of Bethany.
Martha slid to a stop. With tears running down her cheeks, she cried violently, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died! Yet even now that he is dead, I know that God will grant You whatever You ask.”
Jesus responded, “Your brother will rise again from the dead.”
Martha shook her head and recoiled. “I know he will rise on the last day when the dead are resurrected.”
Not breaking His gaze from hers, Jesus replied, “You believe the dead will rise again. That is right. But I am the Resurrection and the Life. The person who believes in Me, though he or she dies, shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never taste death. Do you believe this?”
Martha stood silent. She raised her head and said, “I believe You are the Messiah, the Son of God, the promised One to come.”
Martha’s shoulders slumped. Her sorrow-stricken spirit was not able to digest the fact that Jesus claimed to hold the keys of death in His hands. Not just for the future, but for the present.
Jesus asked, “Where is Mary? I would like to speak with her.” Martha replied, “I will get her for You.”
Martha quickly ran back to the house, where Mary sat on the floor, weeping under the weight of her grief.
Hoping not to be heard by the others, Martha whispered into Mary’s ear, “The Teacher is outside the village, and He is asking for you.”
Surprised, Mary straightened and ran out to meet Him. Friends and neighbors trailed after her. They assumed she was running to visit my tomb.
When Mary saw Jesus, she wilted to her knees and dissolved into tears. Broken with hopeless grief, she echoed Martha’s words: “If You had been here, my brother would not have died.”
Jesus took her hand and lifted her to her feet. Deeply stirred by the sight of Mary’s sorrow, He sighed. With deep shuddering emotion, Jesus asked her, “Where have you laid his body?”
The Teacher visibly shook. Then He burst into tears.
The sight of Mary’s tears brought tears to the face of God’s Son.
No words could give comfort to Mary. Only the gesture of a weeping Messiah would suffice.
Groaning inwardly and weeping outwardly, Jesus made His way to the tomb. Mary and the Teacher’s disciples accompanied Him. Those who followed Mary to where Jesus was walked behind.
Upon seeing His tears, one of the Jews who followed murmured, “See how He loved Lazarus. He opened the eyes of the blind. So couldn’t He have kept Lazarus from dying?”
They entered the village, and Mary fetched both Martha and my father. They all approached the tomb together.
With majestic composure, Jesus commanded that the stone be removed from the tomb.
Martha, who had prepared me for burial, gasped in surprise. “Lord, he has been dead four days. By this time his body will stink,” she anxiously protested.
Trusting the Teacher, Mary was silent.
Jesus mildly yet firmly reproved Martha, reminding her of something He had said previously. “Did I not tell you that you would see God’s glory if you only believed?”
Martha, not understanding, hung her head and fell silent.
Nathan, Samuel, and several other men put their hands on the large stone that covered the mouth of the tomb. They pushed upon it until it was unseated from the groove in the ground that held it in place. The mouth of the tomb stood open and exposed.
Everyone watched with anticipation. Some pinched their noses, thinking that Jesus would ask that my body be brought out into the open.
Jesus tilted His head back, raised His eyes to the heavens, and prayed.
Speaking to His Father in heaven, He said that He did not need to pray out loud. But for the sake of those around Him, He wanted everyone to know that the Father had sent Him.
With those words, He lowered His head and fixed His gaze on the tomb where I lay. Jesus was now ready to bare His arm of insuperable power and unsurpassed grandeur to a crowd hushed with breathless expectation.
I heard the voice of the Teacher shouting to me … that voice that I knew so well. His piercing cry jolted me back to consciousness. I felt as though I were in a deep sleep, but the sound of His voice … a voice that I instantly recognized … woke me out of it.
“Lazarus, come forth!”
I suddenly gasped for breath.
When I realized I was conscious, I tried to open my eyes. But it was too difficult because the headcloth was wound so tightly around my face.
I had feeling in my entire body, but I was still bandaged from head to toe. The bandages around my legs were loose enough for me to manipulate them slightly. So I managed to wiggle and worm until I could get on my feet. Lurching toward the light, the noise of the crowd helped me find my way toward the entrance.
As soon as I was in view of the crowd, I could hear the shrieks and screams of those who saw me.
“It’s a ghost!” some gasped.
“That’s not … that’s not Lazarus … it’s impossible!” another yelled.
Gripped by awe, they were mortified.
A dead man had been raised to life right before their eyes.
It was a scene of peerless wonder and unrivaled glory.
I heard the voice of Jesus again. This time He commanded that I be unwrapped and set free.
Nathan and Samuel rushed over to me and began unwrapping my bandages. Nathan shouted, “There’s no stench! Jesus caused the corruption to move into reverse.”
The insufferable heat warmed my cold body. Beads of sweat began to form on my arms and forehead.
Once they removed the headcloth, I tried to open my eyes. But I could only squint as the blinding sun seared my eyes. My body ached, but the illness was gone. The pain had vanished.
Mary, Martha, and my father embraced one another, weeping. Joyful amazement was written upon their faces. I turned my hands over, unable to comprehend the gift I had just been given.
Martha ran over to me, grasped my arms, and stared wide-eyed at me. “Lazarus!” she said. I replied, “Yes, sister, it is me. I am alive!”
Martha looked a little different. The sorrow had transfigured her face.
Jesus remained unruffled and composed. I walked over to Him, and we embraced one another. “Lord,” I said, “thank You. I believe You are the Son of God, the Promised Messiah.”
Still arrested by the spectacle, many of the people surged forward, reaching out their hands to touch me. Some of them ran to Jerusalem to report what they had witnessed.
We retreated back to our home in Bethany. Jesus and His disciples remained with us for a few days. A steady stream of people came to visit us. They wanted to see me with their own eyes, proving to themselves that I was in fact alive.
“Lazarus, we have to leave today.”
The early sun peaked through the olive tree, caressing the Teacher’s face as he announced the news. “There is a plot afoot to kill Me. The Jews want me dead. So I can no longer move freely. We will travel to the countryside near Ephraim. But I will return.”
I nodded my head. Disappointed that He was leaving, I said, “I will look forward to Your return. We all will.”
The following weeks were unforgettable. People visited Bethany just to gaze at me. Some would ask me for favors so they could observe me carefully, perhaps to make sure that I was real and not a spirit.
As I reflected on the events of that day, I not only witnessed the power of Jesus’ resurrection life. But also His brilliance. He asked for others to remove the stone in order to prove that what He was about to do was neither a fraud nor a fake.
I am thankful that He brought me back to life. Not only so that I could witness His own resurrected body. But so that I could also witness something that happened just before He died. The immortal act that my sister Mary would perform …
The Sacred Text
Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”
When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”
“But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?”
Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light. It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.”
After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”
His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.
So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”
Then Thomas (also known as Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”
On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.
“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”
Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
“Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”
After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.
When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked.
“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.
Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”
But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”
Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. “Take away the stone,” he said.
“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”
Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”
So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”
When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.
Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”
Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin … So from that day on they plotted to take his life.
Therefore Jesus no longer moved about publicly among the people of Judea. Instead he withdrew to a region near the wilderness, to a village called Ephraim, where he stayed with his disciples. John 11:1–47, 53–54 NIV 2011
by Frank Viola, author
There’s a great deal of ego bound up with Christian ministry today. And all who labor for the Lord can fall prey to it. But impressing people isn’t the name of the game. Today’s heroes are tomorrow’s zeroes. The story of Paul and Barnabas in Lystra teaches us this lesson in spades.
The story is found in Acts 14:11–19. In the space of nine verses, the same people who set out to worship Paul and Barnabas were ready to send them to their deaths.
What changed their minds about the two apostles so rapidly? The “evil report” (rumors) leveled by Paul’s detractors in Pisidian, Antioch, and Iconium.
Such is the nature of fallen mortals.
With that in view, here are some things that will help us keep perspective about who we’re actually serving:
Make a decision to live unto God rather than unto humans. Seek to please Him alone. As difficult as it is, lay down the desire to be a “human pleaser.” If you live to please humans, you’ll have your reward here and now.25 Learn the lesson of Lystra. Some who will sing your praises today will end up condemning you tomorrow. There is only five minutes between the compliment and the insult. As Kipling once put it in his poem If, triumph and disaster are two impostors that should be treated the same.
Ambition to become something great in the eyes of your fellow Christians and ambition to please the Lord are two very different things. True servanthood demands neither help nor attention. Deny the carnal temptation to impress mortals. Don’t worry about doing great feats for God. Instead, focus on taking steps to respond to Him in obedience. Those steps will add up eventually.
If you see someone doing or saying something that inspires and encourages you in the Lord, let them know about it. You don’t know what difference it could make in their lives. It may be a needed word given at the right moment. One of my spiritual disciplines (practices) is to express gratitude and appreciation to those who have touched or enriched my life in some way. I try to never let that slip.
An exhortation from one beggar to another: keep sacrificing. Keep losing. Keep laying your life down. Keep loving your enemies. Keep blessing those who despise you. Keep refusing to return fire upon those who bad-mouth you. Keep pouring your life into others, even if those people never acknowledge it and even if others never notice. Keep faithfully serving your Lord without looking back. Why? Because there is One who is watching. And only His opinion matters.
B. J. Hoff put it beautifully: “It matters not if the world has heard or approves or understands … the only applause we’re meant to seek is that of nail-scarred hands.”26
Notice how Jesus connects having faith with seeking God’s approval alone:
How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?27
To lose sight of this is to live on the human level where numbers, praises, and applause determine your happiness.
Learn to live before an Audience of One. May this be the hallmark of your life.
Mary knew this lesson well. And Martha eventually discovered it.
So from this brief narrative, we discover several features about Bethany.
In Bethany Jesus Christ is completely received.
In Bethany, our chief priority is to sit at the Lord’s feet, hear His word, and respond.
In Bethany, our service flows from our communion with Christ. This is the source from which we receive His direction and draw upon His strength.
In Bethany, women are given the same privileges and the same status to be disciples as men.
In Bethany, our temperaments, dispositions, and motives are exposed, and transformation occurs.
In Bethany, we live for an Audience of One.
The Lord’s call for all of us in this hour is simply … be a Bethany.
Yet there are more lessons bound up in this little village . . .
Taken from God’s Favorite Place on Earth by Frank Viola, author