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Lazarus Story

‭‭John‬ ‭12:9-11‬ ‭KJV‬‬ – “Much people of the Jews therefore knew that he was there: and they came not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might see Lazarus also, whom he had raised from the dead. But the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death; Because that by reason of him many of the Jews went away, and believed on Jesus.”

It is always good to be in the house of the Lord. Yesterday was no exception. 

Lazarus. He was the dead man that Jesus brought back to life. He was the brother of Mary and Martha, the infamous sisters with two different viewpoints. Yet, he was one that loved Jesus and Jesus loved him. In fact, when he was dead, “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35). 

Lazarus had a story. He had a story of friendship. He had a story of love. He had a story of learning from Jesus. He had a story that made other people perk up and take notice. They wanted to come and see this man that had once been dead and in the grave, yet now here he was, sitting at a table eating with Jesus. How could this be?

As followers of Christ, we all have a Lazarus story. We all have a story of walking in darkness and then walking in the Light. The people we are around might know that we are followers of Christ, but do they know how we got there? Do they know why we stay there?

This was the question posed to me during the message last night at church. It really struck a chord with me. People know that I go to church and read my Bible and try to live like the Lord wants me to live. I don’t curse. I don’t drink. I try to treat people with respect even when I disagree with them. But do I make an effort to tell them my Lazarus story?

Just so it is out there, here it is –

I was just a girl, maybe 9 or 10, when I heard Jesus whispering to my heart. I had been to church my whole life. I knew the stories. I had heard the sermons. I knew Jesus. But I had never invited Him to be the Lord of my life and Savior of my soul. My uncle was a pastor. One night, my mom, brother, grandma and I were visiting him and the family. It was a Wednesday night. I don’t remember the message at all. I just remember that I couldn’t sit still and something wasn’t right. I remember going back to my aunt and uncle’s house and going into the bathroom with my mom and telling her, “Momma, I think Jesus is speaking to my heart.” She said, “Let’s go find your uncle.” And we did. And he took me down the road to salvation. I prayed and asked Jesus into my heart that night. I remember that feeling in my heart so very well. I felt as if the weight of the world had been lifted from my shoulders. I remember how excited I was and how excited everyone around me was. It was a good night. And every since that day, I try my hardest to treasure that feeling of being completely and totally loved no matter what circumstance I find myself in that day. Looking back on my life, I can truly and honestly say that making that decision that night was the best thing I have ever done. I have never been alone since. I have had struggles and challenges and trials, joy and laughter and friendships, tears and questions and ponderings – but never have I doubted God’s love for me and His acceptance of my repentance. 

I didn’t live a life of deep, dark sin before I was saved. My Lazarus story happened pretty early in life. But my Lazarus story is one of life long love and faithfulness. Mine is a story of walking. Jesus and I have been walking together for well over 30 years. He has been working on me for that long. He has a lot to do. Have you ever heard that song “He’s still working on me”? Well, that pretty much sums up my life. 

You see, each Lazarus story is different. Each one has a different starting point and a unique set of circumstances that led that person to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. And every person who has made that decision has a different path that has brought him/her this far. Yet, despite the differences, we are all headed to the same place – a eternity with Jesus. 

The purpose and goal of telling our Lazarus story should be to bring along as many people as we can. Ours is a story of redemption and love and relationship that provides others with the opportunity to experience the same thing, no matter their backstory. 

So I want to encourage you this week to share your Lazarus story. People may know that you are a follower of Christ and that you are not like everyone else around them. But do they know how you got there and why you stay there? Tell them! Listen, this is just as much for me as it is for you. 

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Lessons from Sunday morning

Psalms‬ ‭46:1-11‬ ‭KJV‬‬ – “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah. There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early. The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: he uttered his voice, the earth melted. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah. Come, behold the works of the Lord, what desolations he hath made in the earth. He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire. Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.”‭‭

This was our passage for the Sunday morning message. The preacher titled the message “Think About It”. Let me give you what I took away from the message.

The first thing I saw was the three “Selah”. Now then, what does that word mean? It means “to rest, ponder”. However, you can make an acronym out of it: S – Stop, E – Everyone, L – Listen, A – And, H – Hear. “Stop Everyone. Listen And Hear.” 

How often do we hear but not listen? I know I do it from time to time. I will hear someone speaking to me, but I am doing something else at the time and I don’t listen to them. How often do we read the Word of God and not listen to it? Ohhhh….that one hurt. I am the first in line to admit to reading dutifully but not listening dutifully. It is sad, really. I miss so much in the Word of God by simply not paying attention. I need to stop, listen and hear. 

Another thing I found in these verses is the reoccurant theme of “refuge”. 

Have you ever needed refuge? There was one time that we were at a theme park and it began to rain. No, the heavens opened up and we were caught in the midst of a deluge. We were seeking refuge from the storm. We found it under a bridge. It was kinda fun but also very humbling. We got to the point that we knew that we couldn’t handle the situation and we needed some protection.

We are bombarded out in the world with all kinds of yuck. We see it in the news, hear it on the radio, see it on the streets – yuck is everywhere. We need some place to get away, to escape. We need somewhere where the problems and issues of the world are taken away and dealt with. 

We need Jesus. He is our refuge. He is our strength. He is our strong tower. And when we decide to go to Him, He tells us to “be still”. Not my strong point. I’m always busy. Always doing something. Rarely do I give myself the opportunity to be still. But this is exactly where God wants us to be. We need to allow ourself to be still sometimes. 

Being still means that we make the choice to let Someone else handle things. We give over our perceived control to the One who is truly in control. And when we do this, we can find peace – that elusive peace we all desire. But it really isn’t elusive. It just requires us to return whatever control we thought we had to it’s original owner. It is attainable. 

Stop. Listen and hear. Seek refuge in Christ. 

Psalm 46 is one of encouragement. It is one that reminds us that stopping the chaos around us to listen to the Word of God provides more than just information. It provides peace. And if there is anything this world needs more of, it is the peace of God. 

Inside the Box

Numbers 7:89 – “And when Moses was gone into the tabernacle of the congregation to speak with him, then he heard the voice of one speaking unto him from off the mercy seat that was upon the ark of testimony, from between the two cherubims: and he spake unto him.”

Last night, we were in Bible study at church. Our teen group is not yet meeting. We are on break in between semesters. Our preacher has been giving a study into the Tabernacle and the items found inside. Last night, he was looking at the Ark of the Covenant. 

I’ve been thinking about it last night and this morning. 

Let me give you what I have been thinking about so far. There were items inside the Ark – the staff of Aaron that budded, the Golden Bowl of Manna and the Ten Commandment Tablets. Each of these items had a specific reason why they were preserved inside the Ark. They were for rememberance and as symbols to represent the Savior to come. These reasons are very important. Yet, as the saying goes, they were out of sight and easily out of mind. You see, in my mind, there were times that the children of Israel forgot where God really is – everywhere. 

It is easy to put God in a box. We keep Him tucked away in case of an emergency or crisis or something like that. We don’t appreciate the fact that He will sit right beside you, if you ask Him to. We neglect to remember that He isn’t just in the church house. Rather, He is in our every moment. Just like the children of Israel had all these reminders hidden away in an Ark, we have all these reminders in our very line of sight and especially in our Bible. God has preserved and kept His Word all these thousands of years for a reason – to remind us. Just like He preserved and kept those reminders in the Ark, He keeps His Word, the Bible. 

Now, the children of Israel couldn’t just open up the Ark and look inside to get those reminders. We can. We can open our Bible any time we want and expose ourself to God any time we choose. But do we choose to?

Moses met God at the Mercy Seat. You see, He was there all along. He was out there and among them. They just neglected that memory. Moses had real experiences with God. He spoke with Him. He listened to Him. All of this via the Mercy Seat. 

And you know what? He is still on the Mercy Seat. It has just been relocated to Heaven. When Jesus fulfilled the Law, He went to the right hand of the Father. Just like Moses talked with God at the Mercy Seat, we can talk with Jesus Christ who is on the Mercy Seat in Heaven. 

You know, the great thing about the Bible is that it all works together. The Old Testament helps explain the New Testament. We can look at promises and prophecies made in the Old Testament and see them fulfilled in the New Testament. Yet no matter where you start, all of it points to Jesus Christ. He is the reason for it all. He is the main event. He is the Savior of the world. Without Him, it’s all just a bunch of stories. But I don’t know how you can even begin looking into the Word of God and not see Jesus Christ. I see Him in the Garden, in the Flood, in the Exodus, in the Law, in the Judges, in the Psalms, in the prophecies and so on and so on. He is everywhere you care to look. And all the promises, all the prophecies, they all point to one thing – the salvation and return of Jesus Christ.  

It really is beautiful. I would encourage you today to step into the Word and go on the adventure of a lifetime – no, of an eternity. 

Remembering the Reason

Isaiah 9:6- “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”

Today is what is known as Cyber Monday. We have already had Black Friday and Shop Local Saturday. The holiday season is in full swing. 

My Christmas tree is up. The lights have been strung on pretty much anything that will stand still long enough to receive them. The presents that I have purchased have been wrapped. The snow village is up. The calendar is quickly filling with party dates. Christmas cookies are on my mind. 

And then there is the other stuff like school soccer season is in full swing. Competition cheer is getting ready to gear up. My birthday is coming up and so is my son’s. Midterms will be here in 3 weeks for the kids – that means the studying will viciously commence. 

But in all this hustle and bustle and crazy, busy schedules…oh Lord help me not to forget why we celebrate. Help me not to forget why. 

Under my television, the focal point of just about any house (besides the kitchen), is the nativity scene. I put it there on purpose. I want a constant reminder of what this season is really all about – the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. 

It is way too easy to get caught up in the lights and the gifts and the decorations and the parties and the food. I need that constant reminder that this is the time of year that we celebrate and remember all that Jesus has done for us. He is the Wonderful. He is the Counselor. He is the Mighty God. He is the Everlasting Father. He is the Prince of Peace. He was our sacrifice. He bore our sin. And He did it all out of love. That is what Christmas is all about.

So as you go through your day today, listening to Christmas music, thinking about gifts and admiring all the lights and decorations, don’t forget why it is all out there – Jesus. Jesus is the Reason for the Season.

Revisit :Make some noise, cheerleader

Tonight is the first football game of the year. A new school year has started. For those of us with children, it is an opportunity to begin again – a fresh slate toward the end of the calendar year. This is an opportunity to do things different and to live life louder. I hope you enjoy this revisit. Happy Friday.

Acts 18:9-10 – “Then spake the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace: For I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city.”

I find comfort in knowing that Bible “greats”, such as Paul, got a little scared sometimes about spreading the Gospel. I don’t think that we truly appreciate the danger these guys would sometimes find themselves in. There are missionaries around the world that put their life on the line each and every day to tell someone about Jesus Christ. And I get nervous talking to someone at the gas pump. Not my best moment.

Yet, here we find Jesus speaking to Paul in a vision saying, “Be not afraid”. Paul was afraid. He was afraid of rejection. But this rejection from the ones he was telling could very well lead to the end of his life. My fear of rejection is just that – rejection. Chances are that no one is going to kill me because I tell them about Jesus at the grocery store. I don’t like to think that people are mad at me, even if I don’t know them. I like to be liked. But I don’t like to be afraid.

Moses wanted us to learn to number our days (Psalm 90:12). In that learning, we understand that we really don’t have that much time. And for someone like me who is a stickler for time management, I do a pretty crummy job when it comes to managing my spiritual time for the Lord and telling others about Him. I am the BIGGEST procrastinator EVER in regards to that! And I hate that. And it’s due mostly to fear. I need to “Be not afraid”.

I’m not a shy person. I can talk to pretty much anyone about anything when it comes to my work. For lands sake, I go in on a first meeting and ask that person about their ability to go to the bathroom by themself. And yet I can’t talk to someone about Jesus.

I have this Light inside of me that needs to be let out. I need to plug in and let it go!

My daughter is a cheerleader. It is her job at football games to encourage the crowd to encourage the team. She is the one down by the field shouting and waving and jumping around trying to get the crowd’s attention and the football players motivated to score a touchdown. She can’t do it for them, but she can encourage everyone else, and them, to make some noise and get the job done.

That’s what we need to do. That’s what God was telling Paul to do here. We need to make some noise. We can’t save the people. But we can encourage them to seek out the One who can. And we need to encourage the crowd. We need to reach out to those around us and encourage them to share with others. We need to make some noise. We have to get over being afraid.

Being a cheerleader requires a lack of fear. You can’t be afraid of what others think about your cheering. You can’t be afraid to complete some of the stunts they do to get everyone’s attention. You can’t be afraid to do the cheer wrong. You can’t be afraid to make some noise.

Now, I’m not saying we should all grab some pompoms and go down the nearest corner and cheer for Jesus. No, that might  be a bit weird, but we can apply the same principles to our life.

Don’t be afraid of what others may think. Chances are your life isn’t in danger. Don’t be afraid to do what God asks you to do. He will give you what you need. Don’t be afraid about doing it wrong. God’s word never returns void. Don’t be afraid to make some noise. God is ready to stir things up – He just needs us to be the spoon.

Bearing burdens

Lamentations 3:27-33 – “It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth. He sitteth alone and keepeth silence, because he hath borne it upon him. He putteth his mouth in the dust; if so be there may be hope. He giveth his cheek to him that smiteth him: he is filled full with reproach. For the Lord will not cast off for ever: But though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies. For he doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men.”

This was my son’s Scripture choice for the devotion he did for us last night. Deep content for a 15 year old boy, but he nailed it. 

When it comes to bearing burdens, we all are challenged by it. Sometimes we want to take the burden from our friend or loved one and carry it for them. Sometimes we want to give our burden away because we just don’t want to deal with it anymore. 

But neither one of those options is the way God wants us to handle things. He wants us to carry our own burden while allowing Him to lighten the load. Sometimes He does this by sending someone into our life to walk alongside us and help ease the load. Sometimes He wants us to give the burden completely to Him and let Him deal with it. 

Nowhere does it say to let another human take care of our burden. The Bible does tell us to “bear one another’s burdens” but that means by prayer and assistance. Not taking it on completely as our own. We have a tendency to want to take over when it comes to something like that. We want to own it and make it better. I think that’s the pride in our life wanting to do that. 

Yet, when we bear our own burden, it can sometimes get tough. We may feel overwhelmed and overtaken. We may feel buried under the weight of responsibility. Yet, God knows exactly where we are at in the situation. He knows what we need and when we need it. And waiting for Him can be hard. When it gets hard, I think that is when we go running and whining to someone else to take the difficulty away. What we need to do is buckle down and carry on. 

During my son’s devotion, he said that it was good for kids to learn to bear their own burdens while they are young and have parents there to help. He said that they needed to learn to take responsibility even when it is hard. And part of that responsibility is knowing when to turn it over and knowing when to ask for help. 

He’s a pretty wise young man. I can’t wait to see what God is going to do with him because I know it will be incredible.

Shelter

Jeremiah 16:17 – “For mine eyes are upon all their ways: they are not hid from my face, neither is their iniquity hid from mine eyes.”

Well, we made it! We made it to our vacation spot among the hills and mountains out west. And it is BEAUTIFUL!! I’m sitting outside wrapped in a blanket that I know will repulse me in a few hours because it will be so incredibly hot. But for now, the warmth feels good. 

As we were driving here yesterday, we crossed a lot of desert type land. Flat. Dry. Scrub bushy. A Joshua tree here and there. But really, no place to hide. No place to take shelter from the blazing sun. No place to pause for a respite. 

When I saw this verse this morning, the terrain I witnessed yesterday was brought to mind. When we walk with God through this life, He is our shelter. He is our place of refuge. He is our place to hide. He our fountain of Living Water. 

He sees all our actions. He hears all our thoughts. He knows the intent of our heart. We can’t hide from Him whether we choose to follow Him or not. 

We think we can pull one over on God. We think that little scrub bush is going to give us all we need. We think that straggly little tree will provide all the shelter we need from the oppression of this world. The pride in our heart keeps us from accepting what is good and perfect. Our pride keeps us from seeing His blessings and protection. 

So this week, as I look out across God’s amazing landscape while walking through the desert, trust me when I say I will truly appreciate God’s shelter and protection – because without Him, this old world is really, really hot.