I Expected More

25 06 2013

Have you ever felt like God is holding out on you? You’ll have to stand in line to file your complaint. There are many people ahead of you. Two such ladies are Mary and Martha…

Mary and Martha loved their brother, Lazarus. So did Jesus. It seemed a no-brainer that when Laz got sick, He should be called for. The expectation was that Jesus would drop everything He was doing and rush to the aid of this beloved friend.

Instead:

“Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was.” (John 11)

Huh?

Jesus loved them…so He stayed where He was for a couple more days?

He knew Lazarus was in critical condition. The “right” thing for Him to do would be to go fix the problem, I would think. After all, He’d been busy healing people all over the place! He’d even healed one or two from a distance with just a word.

Not this time.

After two days, Jesus said, “Let us go to Judea again….our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up.”

The disciples thought, “Duh! He’s sick. Leave him to sleep it off!”

“Then Jesus said to them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe.”

Can you see the quizzical looks the disciples must have exchanged? Lazarus is dead  – and You are glad?? (It’s interesting that we only pick out bits of what others’ say when we’re distressed.)

Upon their arrival, Martha hot-footed it out and chided the Lord, “If You had been here, my brother would not have died.”

Jesus told her that Lazarus would rise again. Martha’s response dripped with sarcasm, “I know, I know. We’ll all be reunited in heaven one day. I don’t want that. I want my brother right here. Right now. You could have prevented this. You let us down. I thought You loved us.”

Ever been there? Life’s events seem senseless. The Lord could have stepped in and prevented our trauma, abuse, pain, but He didn’t. We feel like He held out on us.

The heart-breaker for the Lord was, I believe, when Mary came out and He had to go through the conversation a second time. This was Mary, who sat at His feet and hung on His every word – soaking it up like a sponge.

What did these two know about Jesus thus far?

He changed water into wine.

Demons were cast out.

Peter’s mother-in-law was healed.

The blind received their sight.

He fed 5,000 with a little boy’s sack lunch of fish sandwiches.

He walked on water.

Lepers, paralytics, and diseased were made whole.

They had “head knowledge” about Jesus. It wasn’t enough to hold them during this, the greatest trial of their life, though. They had “seen” the goodness of the Lord, but had not yet experienced it for themselves.

After talking to Martha and telling her, I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die,” He asked, “Do you believe this?”

Martha rattled off the “proper” religious response: “Yes, Lord. I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is come into the world.”

Immediately after, she went to find Mary. Along the way I wonder if she was saying under her breath, “Big whoop! What difference does that make? Lazarus is still dead – and You didn’t come in time to save him.”

That would have been my response.

(Do not miss the fact that Jesus wept. He takes no delight in our sorrow, pain, or misery. He hurts when we do. We live in a broken world where there is sin, disease, and death. There is no way to get through this world without experiencing pain in some shape or form. He longs for the day when this will no longer be a part of our existence. For now, though, it is…and He weeps.)

There were many times in my life when I thought Jesus should drop everything and come to my aid: abuse, illness, death, despair. At those times, He seemed to turn away in indifference and go on doing whatever it was He was doing. I believed He really didn’t care.

Hindsight, as they say, is 20/20, though. From the other side of nearly every one of these events I see the wisdom of His delay.

Something in me had to die:

Self-sufficiency

Pride

False gods

Only then could Jesus resurrect me to new life once again.

He was willing to let me feel disappointed in Him. God is not a people-pleaser. Like any good parent, He is willing to let me fuss, fume, and wallow in my limited understanding.

He firmly believes that “Parenthood is not a popularity contest.” He’s big enough to stand firm when I hate His guts. He is committed to my best, willing to take the heat and be misunderstood. His plans for me are for good and not for evil, and He knows that I will eventually “get” this.

He’s patient and will wait out my storm, especially when…

…I expected more.

Don’t miss the rest of the story. Spoiler: Lazarus lives! Read about it in Waking the Dead  and Don’t Make Me Naked





Dead People Stink…

25 04 2013

…and they walk among us. Their words fill the air with a thick  blue fog of foul odor; through their actions it’s not uncommon for them to leave behind bits of “rotted flesh.” Their grave clothes leave them bound and helpless to do anything about their condition.

It’s not uncommon to be flipped off, told off, or put down by complete strangers anymore – or even by people you know. I see this happen frequently. On occasion I’m the recipient. It used to really bug me when people were ill-mannered and self-centered.

One day I realized: This person does not know Jesus. According to the Bible they are *dead* in their trespasses and sin.

Duh! Dead people stink. They can’t help it.

Should this understanding give me a sense of superiority to them? Hardly. If it wasn’t for Jesus, I would still be just like them.

Once we are made “alive in Christ,” though, there is still a lot of work to be done.

Consider Lazarus.

He was dead as they come – four days in the tomb. I love how the King James records Martha’s response when they were told to take away the stone that covered his grave, “Lord, by this time he stinketh!”

There is no stench like a rotting carcass. Stick your nose in a bag with a pork roast that’s been left too long in the refrigerator, if you doubt this. I gagged all the way to the dumpster!

Fortunately for Lazarus, the grave was opened. Then Jesus called him by name; good thing He did. Had Jesus just said, “Come forth” there would have been a lot more excitement that day.

Once Lazarus made his way out of the tomb, Jesus instructed those who were there to loose him. It is interesting that Jesus didn’t do it Himself. He was the epitome of servanthood. I doubt Jesus thought this was “beneath” Him; but rather, handled it this way as an example for us to follow.

A newly “resurrected” person, made alive in Christ, is still bound in his grave clothes…addictions, beliefs, behaviors, attitudes. They’re still very smelly. Unless this person gets help from the “living” (other believers),  around him or her, they will be unable to remove the things that bind in their own strength. We are called to come alongside their stinky, newly alive frames and assist in the unwrapping. His arms are bound to begin with – rendering the fellow helpless in getting loose on his own.

Once this person has been thoroughly bathed by the washing of the water with the Word, he begins to be less “aromatic.” In time, he will learn to wear his new robe of righteousness – and be ready to assist someone else in the process.

And it is a process!

When I grasped this, I began to navigate life with more grace. I can (but don’t always – sorry, Lord) have compassion for those who are still dead, and pray for their release from death. I will mourn over their condition.

And once they’re truly alive, I have the joy of being invited to participate in their process of being made free. It will be stinky for a while, but before long they will become the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. They must be unwrapped gently, though. There’s brand new baby skin under those grave clothes!

In the meantime, they stink and they can’t help it. Let’s not content ourselves with criticism for their rotten behavior, or judge them.

So when you find your co-worker or the person in line at the store stinking up the joint, just remember:

They’re dead; they can’t help it!