FULLY ALIVE!

Your life will be as bright as the noonday sun. Job 11:17


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Rushing for Lazarus

Have you ever been disappointed?

“Are you kidding” you’re thinking, “Who hasn’t?!”

We’ve all had the experience of thinking that we had found that special one of our dreams to later realize that (s)he was actually the one of our nightmares.  We’ve also experienced our children saying and doing the unthinkable and being nothing like what we thought we had “raised” them to be.  And we have been excited to begin a job and then dread going to the very place that used to bring us such joy.  And, let’s be honest, we have had times that we couldn’t place the blame anywhere else other than at our own feet, and we have been disappointed in ourselves – can’t believe we said that, thought that, acted like that.

Now, let’s be real honest – especially since you have only to tell yourself the truth.  Have you ever been disappointed in God?

Yikes!  Surely that must be blasphemous!

Sheila Walsh says, “God is big enough, and His love is fierce enough to deal with anything we feel or must face.”  In other words, He can take it.  In better words, He can help you through it.

Look at John 11:1-3 (ESV).

“Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill.  So the sisters sent to him, saying, ‘Lord, he whom you love is ill.'”

Hmm. Mary had anointed the Lord and wiped His feet with her hair. It was her brother that was ill. Surely Jesus is going to drop everything and make a beeline to their home. And if that wasn’t enough, verse 3 emphasizes that Jesus loved Lazarus, too. That’s like the cherry on top; He is coming now for certain. If we look ahead, even verse 5 of this text says, “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.”

Can’t you picture Mary and Martha – and even Lazarus? They’re not sad. They’re not worried. “Jesus loves us, and He is coming!” I picture them sitting around reminiscing about the miracles they’d seen Jesus perform. THIS will be NOTHING for Him.

But He didn’t come.  At least not right away.  And Lazarus died.  Then Jesus came.

Let’s skip way ahead in this text to verse 20. “So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house.”   This being a Christian blog, let’s just suffice it to say Mary was probably a bit disappointed. Her hopes and expectations were dashed on several rocks – first Jesus not coming when they had sent for Him even AFTER she had wiped His feet with her hair AND Lazarus has now died!!!!! Then Jesus just strolls in rather nonchalantly. Are you serious?

Yes.

Jesus had intentionally delayed. Look back at verse 6 which reads, “So, when He heard that Lazarus was ill, He stayed two days longer in the place where He was.”

Jesus was not running late. He wasn’t caught up or caught off guard. He hadn’t bitten off more than He could chew. He heard about Lazarus, and He intentionally stayed two days longer in the place where He was.

And Mary was disappointed. In verse 32b she says, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

You know how women say one thing and mean something else? (I can write that since I am a woman.) I read that Mary said, “If you’d been here, Lazarus would still be alive.” I imagine that Mary meant, “Where were you? Why didn’t you come? Don’t you care? Didn’t you know? How could you not have come? I thought you loved us! Is this how you show love?”

It didn’t help either that there were a bunch of naysayers hanging around in verse 37 – “But some of them said, “Could not He who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?”

There are SO many lessons in this text.

But let’s go back to Mary’s disappointment. Did you notice that it didn’t faze the Lord? He heard her – her spoken words and the words of her heart. He loved her no less. He let her pour out her heart, and then He did what He came to do. In verse 40 He reminded them, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” And the glory of God is what He showed them as He called Lazarus from the grave. Wow! Healing the sick is one thing. Raising the dead, that’s another!

God loved Mary. He loved Martha. He loved Lazarus. But He didn’t rush to their aid.

He loves you. He may not rush to your aid.

He will, as the old Negro spiritual says, “come right on time.”

You may be disappointed, and you can tell Him, but never doubt Him. Keep believing, and He will show you the glory of God!

Read Romans 5:3-5 (NLT) each day this week then reflect on the given questions.

“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us — they help us learn to endure. And endurance develops strength of character in us, and character strengthens our confident expectation of salvation. And this expectation will not disappoint us. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.”

Monday Questions for Reflection: What are the disappointments of your life? List them (preferably in a journal). At the top and bottom of the page write, “Hope does not disappoint.” Revisit your journal periodically and the list of disappointments. Make note of how God reveals Himself and His glory in relation to each one.

Tuesday Questions for Reflection: Could it be that God delays to build endurance in us? How do you think Mary, Martha and even Lazarus changed after Lazarus was raised from the dead? When was a time that God’s delay brought you a greater blessing?

Wednesday Questions for Reflection: Identify a current disappointment in God. Can you choose to worship Him through it? How does that make you feel?

Thursday Questions for Reflection: Look at those who have surrounded you. Are they feeding and encouraging your disappointment (like the Jews who asked “Could not He who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?”) or are they encouraging your hope in the Lord? Might you need to separate yourself from someone – at least for a season?

Friday Questions for Reflection: Examine your own actions. Are you feeding someone else’s disappointment or are you encouraging their hope in the Lord? What do you need to start doing, stop doing or do more of?


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Inextricably Linked

This semester I asked my college seniors to unplug for one weekend.  No cell phone.  No laptop, iPad, desktop, etc.  No Twitter.  No Facebook.  No Instagram.  No Internet.

“No way!” they said.

But they did.

And they shared their stories which were hilarious – the reaching for the phone that was not there, the lost “don’t know what to do with myself” feelings, the disconnect, the struggle to get anything done without the Internet.

People are more connected to one another than ever before because ours is an Internet and Social Networking world.  When we are not talking, we are texting or instant-messaging or Skyping or tweeting or something. We are connected, and yet we are not.

Michael Price writes in his work, Alone in the Crowd, that we are “more lonely and distant from one another” in our “unplugged lives.”  It’s true.  Most any teenager will tell you that they’d rather text than talk.  And while a lot of adults won’t readily admit it, they, too, would rather email than talk.

We live in neighborhoods but don’t know our neighbors.  We work in offices but don’t know our cubicle mates.  We go to churches but don’t know our fellow parishioners.  Sometimes we live in houses and don’t know our family members!  Not really.

We were made to be social creatures.  In Genesis 2, God saw that it was not good for Adam to be alone and created for him a mate.  So why do we retreat behind locked doors, shut blinds and closed minds?  Well, probably for one – it’s just easier.  Less drama and less headache.  Admittedly, I’ve had my days when I have longed for an island.  But, again, we weren’t designed for long-term island living.  At least not in the sense that I mean – ALONE!

Like it or not, our lives are inextricably linked.  The choices we make affect others. Deuteronomy 30:19 (NASB) says, “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants…” Every day you are choosing for yourself but also for your descendants. You must make decisions today with tomorrow’s impact in mind, and you must consider current choices in light of future generations.

Are you choosing wisely?  Someone’s life is inextricably linked with yours and the choices you make!  Ponder that this week along with the following Scriptures and questions.

Monday: Joshua 24:15 (NASB)

“If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

Questions for Reflection:  Whom or what have you chosen to serve? What is the impact of your choice on your descendants – immediate (now) and later?  You may say, “I haven’t chosen.” Did you know that by not choosing you are choosing?

Tuesday: 1 Peter 2:9 (NASB)

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;”

Questions for Reflection: Make note of the choices you make today – what to wear, how to drive, whether to speak to someone you pass on the street or in the hallway at work, what to eat for dinner, etc. How many choices did you make? They may seem insignificant, but what is the impact of each decision – for you, for those around you – immediate (now) and later? Do your choices reflect well on you? On your Lord?

Wednesday: Romans 2:6-8 (NASB)

“who will render to each person according to his deeds:  to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life;  but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation.”

Questions for Reflection: Consider two choices you have made in the past – one selfless, one selfish. What has been the return on those choices – for you? For those you love? What, if anything, do you need to change as you go forward?

Thursday: Proverbs 14:12 (ESV)

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.”

Questions for Reflection: How do you make choices? Do you do what you think seems right, or do you pray for wisdom and direction?

Friday: Biblical Principles for Making Wise Decisions

www.watermark.org/blog/decision-making-principles/

Questions for Reflection: After reading the given Scriptures, reflect on each of the 10 questions found at this site.


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The Lifter of My Head

Over the past few days I have been reflecting on the many names of God. Someone once asked, “Why? Why so many names for the One true and living God?” Well, consider the many names we have for our family members and friends. Formal names and more intimate names that attest to our relationships. Mom, mommy, Mommy Dearest (smile, couldn’t resist). Dad, Pops, Daddy, Father. My Sweetie. My Honey. My Boo Boo Kitty.

Every Name of God attests to His character – who He is as well as to a relationship we can have with Him.

I think of God and pray to God using a variety of names with one of my favorite and most used being “Abba Father.”  It has long been supposed and broadly accepted that the ancient Aramaic word “Abba” is a term of familiarity that a young child might use to address his/her Daddy or Papa. That’s big for me; I was a bona fide Daddy’s Girl, so that my God would allow me to approach Him and to address Him as Daddy is big. But that He would embrace me, open His arms to receive me and His ear to hear my cries as His child? Wow! That’s even bigger.

But another Name has been on my heart. I woke one morning last week with it on my mind. It comes from Psalm 3:3 (ESV). “You, O Lord are…the lifter of my head.” The Lifter of My Head. Double Wow.

So many things, so many experiences make us hang our heads. Sometimes from shame, possibly from confusion, perhaps from exhaustion, maybe a sense of defeat or overwhelming grief. We hang our heads. We hang our heads. I’m convinced that sometimes we don’t even realize our heads are hanging; we have become accustomed to and accepted the defeat of that posture, so let me repeat. He is the lifter of our heads.

This Scripture paints for us a word picture, so make sure you get the complete picture. Naturally, in times of trouble, we hang our heads. So, it would follow to reason that as the lifter of our heads, God brings us out of whatever it is that caused our heads to hang. But go a little deeper. It also means that He will bring us into a situation and time that will cause our heads to be held high. There are several examples in Scripture where heads were lifted up. 2 Kings 25:27 tells us that the King of Babylon lifted up the head of Jehoiachin out of prison, and Genesis 40 says that Joseph foresaw that Pharaoh would lift up the head of the cupbearer and restore him to his position.

If men – Kings, Pharaohs – can lift heads and restore positions and wealth, just think what God can do for us!

It is David who is telling us in Psalm that God will be the lifter of his head. Understand the context of this passage. David’s son, Absalom, had rebelled against him and turned the people of Israel against him causing David to flee Jerusalem with little more than the clothes he was wearing. 2 Samuel 15 says that David climbed up the Mount of Olives, covered his head and wept. He hung his head.

David was King. He had resources at his hand. Though Absalom had turned the people of Israel against him, there were surely others that he could have turned to. He chose to turn to God. Why? You have to look closely at Psalm 3. Earlier in the passage David declared, “You, O Lord, are a shield about me, My glory” before adding “and the lifter of my head.” David’s choice of expressions – me and my – indicate a personal relationship and intimacy with God.

The past is irrevocable, irreversible and unchangeable. But Joel 2:25-27 (AMP) reads, “I will restore or replace for you the years that the locust has eaten…you shall eat in plenty and be satisfied and praise the Name of the Lord…I the Lord am your God and there is none else. My people shall never be put to shame.” Translation? He will lift your head!

Reflect on that this week!

Monday: Psalm 3:1 (NIV)

“Lord, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me?”

Questions for Reflection:  What or Who is causing or has caused you to hang your head? Have you, like David, cried out to the Lord? If not, why not? If yes, what answer have you heard?

Tuesday: Psalm 3:2 (NIV)

“Many are saying of me, “’God will not deliver him.’”

Questions for Reflection:  Do you believe that God will deliver you? Why or why not?  What is the evidence of your belief?

Wednesday: Acts 4:12 (NIV)

“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

Questions for Reflection:  To whom or what have you been looking for strength, hope, restoration, salvation? How has that worked for you? What changes do you need to make?

Thursday: Psalm 3:6 (NIV)

“I will not fear though tens of thousands assail me on every side.”

Question for Reflection:  FEAR is false evidence appearing real. What “false evidence” have you accepted as truth? Jot down your fears and name specifically those things, people, emotions and situations that assail you. Pray very specifically about each one and make note of God’s responses to your prayers.

Friday: Psalm 3:8a (NIV)

“From the Lord comes deliverance.”

Questions for Reflection: Are you positioned and postured expecting deliverance? What are you doing in the meantime?


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Cleaning Closets

Deciding is half the battle “they” say.  You know, the infamous, elusive, unidentified “they.”  I’m hoping “they” are right with this one because I have decided to clean my main closet.  It’s huge, and it is a mess – partly because for a few days I haven’t followed my own rule of putting things back where they came from and partly because I really need to get rid of some stuff!  Maybe I should start with the shoes I bought for student teaching…  Hmm, that was more than 35 years ago.  Perhaps I will get rid of the dress I wore when I first met my in-laws.  That might be a good choice since (1) I am divorced, (2) I weighed a LOT less then and (3) it’s almost 20 years old!  This could be a good time to toss the ugly Christmas sweaters – the ones that were so popular in the 70s and 80s.

Are you getting a picture?  We often hold onto things much longer than we should – and not just dresses and shoes.  How about attitudes, thoughts, grudges, wounds?

Ephesians 4:22-23 (AMP) says, “Strip yourselves of your former nature.… And be constantly renewed in the spirit of your mind [having a fresh mental and spiritual attitude].”  In other words, let the past go.  Clean the junk out of the closets of your mind and heart.  Let go those thoughts of what you think you lost, how things might have been, what you’ve given up, ways that you were mistreated, times you felt overlooked or undervalued.

It helps to have someone help me clean the closet.  I tell stories about my stuff, we laugh, and we bag it or box it and take it out. Then we forget it!  Kinda like Isaiah 43:18-19 (NIV) which tells us to “Forget the former things” and to not “dwell on the past” because the Lord is doing a new thing.   You must clean out the old to make room for the new.

Ponder the following Scriptures and the contents of your heart’s closet this week:

Monday:   Proverbs 4:25-27 (ESV)

Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil.

Question for reflection: What is calling you to look back and keeps you from looking forward?

Tuesday: Philippians 4:8-9 (ESV)

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Question for Reflection:  What thoughts do you need to swap – untrue for true, dishonorable for honorable, unjust for just, unclean for pure, etc.?

Wednesday: Hebrews 12:1 (ESV)

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…

Question for Reflection: What are you holding on to (thoughts, habits, relationships, etc.) that not only “weighs you down,” but impacts your testimony and witness before those you encounter?

Thursday: Matthew 6:19-21 (ESV)

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also…”

Question for Reflection: How many treasures can you find in your closet that might better serve someone else? Can you take them to a neighbor? To Goodwill? To a clothes closet? Other?

Friday: Isaiah 12:2 (ESV)

“Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.”

Question for Reflection:  Of what (or whom) are you afraid? What (or whom) are you holding on to rather than trusting God?

PRAY: Heavenly Father, I love You. I know that You love me. I trust You, and I trust the plan that You have for me and my life. Search my heart and my mind. Show me those things, those people, those feelings, those memories and those attitudes that I need to let go of. Sweep clean the corners of my mind and the recesses of my heart and fill each with what will honor and glorify You. I claim the peace and joy of an uncluttered mind and a clean heart. In Jesus’ Name I pray. Amen.

SHARE: Post comments to share your reflections and reactions from this week’s post. (One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. One woman’s sharing is another woman’s blessing!)