I love the story about Lazarus in the Bible. You know it, don’t you?
Lazarus died. Word came to Jesus. Lazarus and his sisters, Mary and Martha, were good friends of Jesus. They had seen him heal the sick. Lepers had been cured. The dead had been raised. So they knew that if Jesus could get there, Lazarus could be healed. Instead, Jesus held off. He waited.
And Lazarus died.
Jesus waited a bit longer. Then he looked at the disciples and said, “Let’s go.” He arrived on the scene after Lazarus had been buried. He had been in the tomb for four days. He was troubled by the condition everyone was in. So, he said to show him the tomb.
What did Jesus do? He said to roll the tomb away. Imagine what they were thinking. The smell coming from the tomb would be horrible. But they did it. They did as Jesus said. They rolled the stone away.
What did Jesus do? He said, “Lazarus, come forth.”
And Lazarus came forth. And God was glorified.
Let me tell you what Lazarus didn’t do.
Lazarus did not say to himself, “I’m pretty comfortable with my situation right now. I think I’ll stay here a while until Jesus comes back some other time.”
Lazarus did not say, “I’m ok being dead. I’ll just stay where I’m at. I don’t need to come forth.”
Lazarus came alive and came out of the tomb.
Because Jesus commanded him to come alive and come forth.
Before Christ, you and I were dead in our trespasses and sins. We were stone cold dead. It was as if we were drowned on the bottom of a lake. Jesus dove into the water, swam to the bottom where we were and pulled us out. He breathed new life into us.
He didn’t ask us if we wanted to be rescued.
He didn’t ask us if wanted to be saved.
He didn’t ask us if we wanted to live.
He made us alive.
We don’t have the ability to save ourselves. Dead people can’t make choices on whether to live. Only God can make that choice. He rescues who He rescues. He makes alive who He makes alive. Christ didn’t tell the entire cemetery to come forth. Only Lazarus.
Are you and I more powerful than Lazarus?
This is a post from a couple of years ago.
I just finished a book called Born To Run. It’s a true story about a guy who developed a pain in his foot. His search for a cure led him to the Tarahamura Indians in Mexico. These Indians will run incredible distances in breechcloth and sandals fueled by a concoction they call iskiate. I’m sure that if analyzed it would show up on all endurance sports’ banned substance lists.
One of the things that stood out to me was what a college running coach discovered. This gentleman, upon watching the Tarahmurans run, discovered their true secret. He found out how and why they are able to run incredible distances day after day. It isn’t just their lifestyle. It isn’t just their diet of iskiate. What he realized was that they ran with a childlike joy.
Think about that for a minute. Think back to when you were a child. Did anyone ever tell to get to running? Probably not. More than likely you were told to slow down or quit running in the house. When you were a kid you ran. Why? Because you loved to run. You were free. When I went to my grandma’s house, I would have her time me as I ran around the house. Why? Because I loved to run fast around her house. I ran for no other reason than that.
This made me think of what Jesus said when he said that to enter the kingdom of heaven one needed to become like children. How would you approach Jesus? Most of us would slink to Him. How would a child? A child would run and jump into his arms, just like your children probably have done to you or you did to your parents.
At the end of 1 John 2, John says that we should approach Him confidently. Why? Because we are His children. What does that mean? I think it means running to him as hard as possible, chasing Him around the house, jumping, squealing with exuberant joy. Just like you used to run as child, running like children to the Savior and to the Father.
If you are a follower of Jesus, how do you think you should approach Jesus? Do you run to Him with childlike joy?
This is an older post from a couple of years ago.
I bought a truck two Saturdays ago. Before you start congratulating me, understand that I now have a new monthly payment that I didn’t have. I’m not sure that is worth congratulating someone over. If you haven’t bought a vehicle lately, I can’t begin to tell you what a stressful situation I find the process. I spent that day driving to one dealership only to find myself driving to another, then another and another and another again and finally to the final one. However, it was one encounter that I really want to talk about here on.
I found myself at one dealership in my reasonably local area. I was looking at some trucks when a salesman finally came out to see me. I asked him how much the truck cost. He asked me to come into the dealership to discuss it, which I found a bit odd. We went in and he began asking me a lot of questions. How much did I want my payment to be? Would I trade a vehicle? How much would I put down? Finally, he asked for my social security numbers so he could pull my credit. At this point I asked him why he needed this to give me a price for the truck. He acted like he wanted to dictate to me which truck I would buy. He got the cart before the horse.
Instead, I went down the road, test drove a truck, got a price, made an offer and bought a truck.
So, what does that have to do with anything and why would I talk about it on this very important blog that you are reading?
We do the same thing in the church.
We profile people when they come in. We identify them by what they are wearing or the car they drive. We profile them by the way they act or how their children behave. We decide how spiritual they are and if they’re “right” with Jesus by how many times they come through the doors each week. We decide there must be something wrong with their relationship with Christ by looking at their “countenance”. Just by looking at them and sizing them up, we decide what they can do in the church. You name it and that’s how we profile them. And do you know what we want?
We want them to come in clean. Perfect. Mature. We don’t want to deal with that messy stuff. Bring them in. Set them down all nice and pretty with a bow tied on them, ready to be productive, tithing, three times a week church members.
Don’t tell me that doesn’t go on.
You either do it, have done it or you’ve had it done to you. How do I know? I’ve had it done to me and I’ve done it.
I’ve gotten the cart before the horse.
What about you? Has someone gotten the cart before the horse regarding you? Have you gotten the cart before the horse?
Do you have your prayers answered?
I know, I know. All prayers are answered. We either get a yes, no, or not now/maybe later response anytime we pray. What I mean by my question is if you are really hearing or seeing prayers answered?
I think if I asked a lot of you that question, you would say, “Of course, I’m hearing and seeing my prayers answered.” But I wonder if that isn’t just to save face when our prayers seem stuck on the ceiling and we don’t seem to have any clear direction from the Lord in where to go or what to do.
I think it is easy for us to pray for big things. We pray for major illnesses. We pray for big decisions. We ask for our nation to return (if it was ever there) to being a Godly country.
But have you done this?
Did you pray for your trip to work today?
Have you prayed for those car keys that you can’t find?
Did you pray before you took a Tylenol when you had a headache?
I’m not guaranteeing that anything spectacular will happen if you do this. But I’m not saying that it won’t either.
The problem I find that I have is that I do not default to prayer. I take every other option first.
For the “little” things, I just don’t bother Him. It’s like I don’t want to waste His time with something insignificant. The problem is that there isn’t really anything insignificant for Him when it comes to us. He sent His Son to die on the cross for us. Do you really believe that He isn’t concerned with our dirve to work, our lost keys or our headache?
Jesus told the disciples to pray for their daily bread. He wants to be involved in the minute and basic things of our lives. Not just our cancer, who we should marry or our choice of colleges.
I find that I don’t want to nag Him too much. Yet, one of Christ’s parables is about a man who gives in because a guy won’t quit banging on his door. God is infinitely better than this man. He wants us to beat his door down with our prayers.
So, I have this problem with prayer. I don’t pray without ceasing. I pray with tons of ceasing. I pray for the big things in life, not those things that aren’t God-worthy.
It’s time to fix my problem.
Did you pray on your way to work today?
I remember it well. It was sometime in the fall of 1991. I was at the church I grew up in. I was really upping my game in church life. It’s too bad that I wouldn’t realize for a couple of more years that I needed more than just church in my life.
I was sitting there minding my own business listening to the prayer requests and the people who prayed for each item. That’s when I heard something I had never heard before.
“Larry Carter, will you pray for ______?”
I sat there stunned for a moment. Had the pastor really called my name? Was there time for me to slip out the door while every head was bowed and every eye closed? Would I spontaneously combust during my prayer?
I managed to croak out a prayer and obviously I am still alive. But this and other circumstances like it have always made me wonder something.
Why aren’t we taught to pray?
Jesus’ disciples found him praying in a certain place. I think this means that Jesus had a regular, planned spot where he prayed. After he finished, someone asked Him, “Lord teach us to pray just as John also taught his disciples.”`
Think about what just happened. The disciples seemed to be watching Jesus pray. When he was done, they asked to be taught to do it like John’s disciples had been. Evidently, John the Baptist taught his followers how to pray. This was known publicly. Perhaps this particular disciple of Jesus had been one of John’s disciples and had firsthand knowledge of what John had done. So, they wanted to learn how to pray like Jesus. If John’s praying had been like Jesus’, then this would have been unnecessary. But Jesus’ praying was different. It was on another level compared to John’s.
What did Jesus do? He told them how to go about praying. He said when you pray do it like this.
It seems, though, that we are expected to just know how to pray or figure out how to do it on our own.
I remember as a kid watching my dad change the brakes on a car. He told me to watch while he did it. When it came time later to change the brakes on my own car, I didn’t know what to do. I had never done it. I had watched it be done, but I stared at the brakes not really understanding how to handle it.
Jesus basically said, “Here is how I pray. Now do it.” He threw his followers in right away. He taught them how to pray and then said when you pray, do it my way.
That’s the way a good teacher does it. They show you how to do it while you watch. Then they watch you do it while they watch. Finally, they let you do it on your own. Essentially, that’s what Jesus is doing. He is giving the disciples on the job training on the subject of prayer.
Do you know how to pray? I don’t mean do you know how to say words in front of a crowd and call it prayer. Have you learned how to pray? If not, I would suggest a few things.
1. Begin praying.
2. Seek someone who you think is a prayer warrior and ask them to pray with you.
3. Pray some more.
4. Pray about your praying.
5. Pray some more.
In other words, you won’t ever know how to pray unless you actually get down to the business of praying.
Do you know how to pray?
Jesus said some things that on the surface seem outlandish. Crazy. Insane.
For example, when he is told his mother and brothers have shown up to see Him, He responded by saying that those around Him who do the will of the Father were his brother and sister and mother.
Later he says that whoever comes to Him and does not hate his own mother and father, wife and children, and brothers and sisters, and even their own life could not be His disciple.
Crazy again, right?
Imagine that for a minute. Jesus is saying something very significant here. There are a couple of ways that we can take it.
First, we could say that our love for Christ must be so strong that our feelings for our loved ones looks like hate. I can see that and I can accept that this is what Jesus is meaning. But could there be more to it?
Is Jesus calling for a shift in family relations?
What He seems to be saying is that when you become His disciple, your overriding concern is to do the will of the Father. Isn’t that what being a disciple is? You pattern your life after Jesus. You live like Jesus.
Jesus said that his food was to do the will of the Father. His fuel was the Father’s will. What drove Him was what His Father wanted Him to do.
If we are a disciple, a follower, of Christ, shouldn’t that be our food? Our fuel? Our drive? Our desire?
When we live that way, then we become Jesus’ brother and mother and sister.
Imagine what some of the people in our natural relationships might say. “You don’t love me.” “You don’t care about me.” “You hate me.”
Because we have chosen to follow God’s way rather than our own.
Jesus knew that following Him would be hard. So hard that it might harm the relationships that we have were born into and developed here on earth.
Do you “hate” anyone by following Christ?
Some of you might recall that about a week and a half ago I gave up Diet Mountain Dew. Several people liked my Facebook status and tweets about it. The post I wrote about it was the busiest one I’ve had in a long time.
Here’s the problem.
It shouldn’t be a big deal. Giving up a drink that isn’t good for me shouldn’t be a big deal. But there is also another problem.
I’m afraid that someone may think that I consider giving up Diet Mountain Dew a holy venture.
It may. Or it may not. But I cannot say for sure that my giving it up is.
I can tell you why I did it and you can read about it. However, it also might have gone the opposite way.
I could have given it up for any number of reasons. I could have given it up simply for myself. I could have given it up to be more holy. I could have quit Diet Mountain Dew so others and the Lord would look at me differently. None of that is the case. Here is a tweet I wrote this week that was inspired by quitting Diet Mountain Dew.
You aren’t measured by what you give up. You are measured by Who you gain. You can tweet that if you want.
Giving up Diet Mountain Dew does me no eternal good if it doesn’t help me grow closer to Christ.
God doesn’t think I’m any big deal because I was able to lay down a soda instead of drinking ten gallons a day.
God doesn’t think I’m anything because of what I eat or drink.
He thinks I’m a big deal because I belong to His Son.
That’s it. Simple.
I’m measured by the Son.
How are you being measured?
So, a friend of mine was surprised the other day to find out that I am a Bluegrass fan. Yes, it’s true. I love the music that originated with Bill Monroe and his Bluegrass Boys. It’s a wonderful style of music that leaves me smiling any time I listen to it. Plus, how often do you get to listen to a style of music that you can trace back to the creator? Not often, I say.
The thing is, though, that I like all kinds of music. Yes, that includes Rock. Yes, I admit it, I like the music that I was not allowed to listen to when I was a kid. In fact, I thought all rock music was the devil’s music until sometime in my high school years. And yes I do look back at those times with some nostalgia.
Being late to the game, I had some catching up to do. I dove in and learned the history of Rock just as I learned the history of Bluegrass. Sure, I knew about those groups in the 60’s that my dad listened to before he abandoned Rock n’ Roll.. I knew who the Beatles were. I knew all about the groups and singers before the Beatles and other British invaders came to America. But I had to learn about those late 60’s, early 70’s bands. Led Zeppelin entered my frame of reference. I listened to Pink Floyd.
And then there was Deep Purple.
Making the Guinness Book of World Records for being the loudest band is pretty cool. Having a song that has the line, “Swiss time was running out” and mentions Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention is even cooler. Deep Purple was some band. There’s only one problem.
Their time is over. They are reduced to being a nostalgia band. Their Swiss time has run out.
Our time is running out too.
We have a Savior who came into this world. Prophecies had been made to alert Israel to the fact that He was coming. As Paul tells us in Galatians 4:4, that happened “when the fullness of the time came.” Christ came when He was supposed to.
The same could be said for His life, His death and His resurrection. Those things happened when they were supposed to, when the fullness of the time came.
It’s the same for you and me. Our time here on Earth is short. The time our watches show between now and when we leave grows less everyday. Our Swiss time is running out.
What are we to do? What should our reaction be?
We should not wasted a moment of it. Since our time here is limited, let’s make the most of it. We have people to love. We have the Gospel to proclaim. We have a mission to fulfill. Let’s get to it. Let’s quit drifting through life hoping God will do something sometime. Let’s be vehicles for Him to do something NOW!!!
Swiss time is running out.
I saw Rich Mullins in concert a couple of times before he died. In fact, I was trying to buy tickets to another concert the day he died, but that’s a story for another day.
I loved Rich’s songs. Perhaps even more I loved to hear him talk between songs. He would describe how he was trying to live this life of following Christ. He didn’t preach. He just shared. It was pretty cool.
One of the things I discovered about his life was that he gave control of his finances over to the elders of his church. His source of income was from the songs he wrote and touring. He asked the elders of his church to pay him the average salary of an average American. No more. No less. The rest he wanted donated to the causes he loved, such as the Navajo children of the reservation he moved to so that he could teach music. He was one different cat.
The thing about it is that Rich voluntarily placed himself in submission to the elders of his church. Perhaps you and I would not go to that extreme, but we could all use a good dose of being submissive.
Before we get too far, though, let’s pause to define what I mean by submission. First, I don’t mean others have total control of your life. That is not what I believe Biblical submission is. The submission I am talking about is voluntarily giving up your rights for the betterment of others. We might defer to someone else when we could take the lead. We set aside our own agendas and goals to further the agendas and goals of a larger group. Maybe we let someone else be the leader even though we believe that we could lead as well or better. There are countless ways we could make this happen.
Paul tells us that we should be submissive to each other. Within that framework, wives submit to husbands and husbands love their wives. Children obey parents and parents do not provoke children to anger. Slaves obey their masters and masters treat the slaves well. All of these are ways submission happens. Everyone is in submission to each other. Within that framework, submission should not be a problem since each one is looking out for what is best for the other.
The best model of submission has to be found in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He was equal with the Father, yet lived in submission to Him here on earth. He displayed what submission was like. He made the Father’s agenda His own.
Submission is generally considered an ugly word in the world and sometimes even uglier within the church. Submission has definitely been abused both inside and outside the Church. It’s our job to practice and model true Biblical submission. After all the Son was submissive to the Father.
Have you ever had trouble accepting the idea of submission found in the Bible?