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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Life, Interrupted

In the late 90s two famous actresses, Angelina Jolie and Winona Ryder, starred in Girl, Interrupted, a film about a young girl who ends of in a mental institution and befriends a band of other troubled residents.  The question central to the movie’s plot was whether this girl, Susanna, would “drop anchor” at the institution or pull it together and move forward with her life.

Isn’t that how it happens for us?  Life, as we have imagined it and planned it, gets interrupted.  We may not end up in a mental institution, but sometimes we end up way off track from where we would like to be.  Out of school.  Working a minimum wage job.  Unemployed.  Back at home with our parents.  In an apartment that rivals a college dormitory.  Divorced.  Friendless.  Our lives, interrupted.

Interruptions.  At the very least they annoy and frustrate.  Sometimes they completely derail us to the point that we don’t even recognize ourselves.  We are angry or fearful or argumentative.  Our minds are forever foggy and we struggle to think coherent thoughts or make decisions.  We are depressed and lethargic just wanting to sleep.  We are always teary-eyed, on the verge of a full-blown, unraveling breakdown.

But interruptions can be a good thing.  Most often it is in hindsight that we think this – like when we didn’t marry that love of our lives or didn’t take that job or didn’t move into that house.  After the fact we realize that it was a good thing that we were interrupted, that our interruption actually proved to be an opportunity, a blessing even. Why must it always be “after the fact” that we come to this realization?  Why can we not welcome an interruption?

Consider the Wise Men, Mary and Joseph in the second chapter of Matthew.  The Wise Men had crafted a plan based on their observation of a star.  King Herod summoned them and gave them clear directions to return to him with news of the Christ child.  Their plan was interrupted because the Scriptures tell us in Matthew 2:12b that they departed another way.  In this same chapter we learn that Mary and Joseph’s lives were likewise interrupted.  Shortly after Mary had given birth Joseph was warned in a dream to take mother and child and go to Egypt.

Interruptions. Surely.  But how did the Wise Men, Mary and Joseph respond?  Scripture says of the Wise Men that they “departed to their own country by another way.” (ESV)  In response to the angel’s directive for Joseph to “rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt,” Joseph did just that.  Verse 14 says, “And he rose and took the child and mother by night and departed to Egypt.” (ESV)

These weren’t really interruptions you argue; these were divine interventions that saved their lives.  I won’t argue with you on that, but I will argue that your “interruptions” might well be divine interventions, too.  But if we are not readily obedient like the Wise Men and Joseph and Mary, what might we be missing?  Life?  Fully?