Thursday, March 23, 2017

god does not care about the stink...

last week,
during one of my daily devotions,
i read a story i have read many times.
this time,
it really jumped off the page
and spoke to me in a way it hasn't before.

don't you love when god does that?
like just when you think it's the same old story
you have read a million times,
and god says, not this time,
pay attention and i will speak.

well i paid attention
and it blew me away.
i haven't been able to stop thinking
about it for the past few days
and i had to share in case
someone needed this message as much as i did.

i could probably preach a sermon on this
so the post will be kinda long,
but i will try to sum it all up as much as i can.

let me set the scene for what jesus
has already done, at this point.
he has already turned water into wine,
healed the sick and crippled and blind,
fed five thousand with five loaves and two fish,
and walked on water.

that's a pretty impressive list if you ask me.

so, now we get to john chapter 11.
where i ended up last week.
the story of the death of lazarus.

lazarus was a man who became very sick.
he had two sisters, martha and mary.
once lazarus becomes sick,
mary sends word to jesus.

the bible says:
"when he heard this, jesus said,
"this sickness will not end in death. 
no, it is for god's glory so that god's son may be glorified through it." 
jesus loved martha and her sister and lazarus. 
yet when he heard that lazarus was sick, 
he stayed where he was two more days."

so, first thought,
jesus why would you not hurry to lazarus?
why would you not get there as fast as you can
and heal this man that you claim to love?

the thing is,
he knew what was going to happen.
he spoke a word,
he gave a promise,
and he knew it would stand.
he knew the end.
he was in no hurry and was allowing
the process to play out 
exactly like it was supposed to, 
for his glory.

doesn't that happen so often in life?
we are going through something,
big or little.
and we are begging god to come to our aide.
asking for direction.
asking for a word.
asking for something, anything,
just to know he's there.
and it feels like he is totally absent.

he's not.
he's never absent 
when it comes to his children.
he's there.
but he knows how things are going to play out.
he's in no hurry.
he will speak things over us.
sometimes we hear them,
sometimes we don't.
and he stands on that.
but he will work things out for his glory
and for our good.
he has a plan.
we don't know the end from the beginning
like he does.

so eventually jesus and his disciples
head to where lazarus is and while on their way,
jesus tells them, "lazarus is dead, and for your sake
i am glad i was not there, so that you may believe.
but let us go to him."

you never know who god is trying to speak to
from your situation.
you never know who your testimony will reach
while it is being formed.
the waiting isn't just for you.
it's to allow things to happen 
to make the healing
more believable,
more extreme,
more real
to other people.

it's just hard for us.
i said recently that there are times when i want to tell god
to stop with the testimony.
there are times when i feel like okay god, enough.
i don't want any more of a story.
but there are so many times
when god wants to use our situation
to reach others.
to cause them to believe.
and, sometimes, there has to be a waiting,
a season of withholding,
just to make the end more amazing.
just so he gets a little more glory.
don't you want your story to cause others to glorify god?
even if you aren't doing any kind of glorifying
 in the midst of it.

so jesus makes his way back and finds out that
lazarus has already been in the tomb for four days.
once he gets close,
the bible says,
"when martha heard that jesus was coming, 
she went out to meet him,
but mary stayed at home."

i have to stop right here,
the bible isn't clear about why mary
didn't come to meet jesus.
maybe she had things to do.
maybe she had a prior engagement.
maybe she wasn't feeling well.

if jesus is on his way,
why wouldn't you go to meet him.
but don't we do this.
i know i do.
when things aren't going as i think they should,
when the storm is lasting longer than i think it should,
maybe when i expected god to do a certain thing,
and he doesn't come through the way i think he should,
i am not eager to meet him.
i am not thrilled to run to him in prayer.
i don't always wanna lift my hands in worship.
i may pout or act like a child just a tad.

maybe mary was pouting.
maybe she expected jesus to return and heal lazarus
and he didn't.
he allowed him to die.
and maybe she just wasn't too eager to run out and meet him.
maybe the pain of losing her brother
was just too much for her.

anyway martha goes to meet jesus and
the bible says that martha says,
"Lord, if you had been here 
my brother would not have died. 
but i know that even now 
god will give you whatever you ask."

god bless the marthas in this world.
she goes to jesus, let's him know how she's feeling
and maybe how she feels about him not being there
but then speaks her faith.
she still has faith.
this is so how god wants us to handle things.
let him know how we feel, open up,
but then keep the faith.
speak the faith.

i'm trying so hard to work on this.

eventually mary comes to meet jesus
and there are a lot of emotions from
mary, martha, and the people that had come 
to mourn the loss of lazarus.
jesus asks where lazarus has been laid to rest
and they take him there and the bible says,
"jesus wept. then the jews said, "see how he loved him!"
but some of them said, "could not he who opened the eyes
of the blind man have kept this man from dying?"

jesus wept. 
he cares. 
he is grieved by the fact that his children are sad.
even though he knows what's about to go down
and even though he knows there is soon to be joy,
he weeps.
that's just the kind of savior he is.

and then the others are speaking doubt.
doesn't this happen so often?
we may be looking at things with hope.
we may be speaking faith.
we may be saying god can heal 
or god can fix or god can restore
and then there are others that 
speak doubt.
others that question you,
can god really do that?

these people.
this is what the big giant testimony is for.
these people.

okay so here is the best part,
the part that spoke to me.

the bible says: "jesus, once more deeply moved,
came to the tomb. it was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance.
"take away the stone," he said.
"but, lord," said martha, the sister of the dead man,
"by this time there is a bad odor,
for he has been there four days."

like okay jesus christ himself,
the man that has performed numerous miracles,
that you know about, 
with power that you are very much aware of,
that only a moment ago you were speaking,
comes to your brother's grave 
and tells you to move the stone.
what should you do?


no she doesn't.
she stops jesus and tells him there will be a smell.
well hello.
of course there is a smell.
there's a four day old dead man in a tomb.
don't you think your heavenly father knows this.
any old person would know about the smell,
much less the savior of the world.
the all mighty, all knowing god in human form.


this man is trying to perform a miracle
and you are worried about the smell.

this hit me like a ton of bricks.

you see god wants to do so many things in our lives.
he wants to work.
he wants to move.
he wants to heal.
he wants to show off.
that's just who he is.
but sometimes we get in way.
sometimes we say,
but lord.
we have to allow god to work.
we have to trust.
we have to remove the doubt.
we have to remove the fear.
we have to remove ourselves,
our flesh,
and let god work.


god does not care about what we see in the natural.
god does not care about circumstances.
god does not care about how things my seem.
god knows all things and sees all things
and when he shows up on the scene
we must be ready and willing to allow him to work.
we must move the stone.

knowing god's power,
martha should have listened to his command
in anticipation of what he might do,
but instead, she's worried about the stink.

maybe if we kept our focus on the possibilities
of god's power instead of the possibilities
of life's circumstances,
our faith would rise and
god could show up and show off.

the bible says:
"then jesus said, "did i not tell you that if you believed,
you would see the glory of god?"
so they took away the stone. then jesus looked up and said,
"father, i thank you that you have heard me.
i knew that you always hear me,
but i said this for the benefit of the people
standing here, that they may believe that you sent me."
when he had said this, jesus called in a loud voice,
"lazarus, come out!" 
the dead man came out,
his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen,
and a cloth around his face.
jesus said to them, "take off the grave clothes and let him go."

and just like that,
lazarus is raised from the dead.
with three words.
three. words.
despite the time that has passed,
despite the doubt,
despite the smell,
the miracle occurs.

you see guys,
god is a gentleman.
he won't force anything on us.
we have to allow him to move.
he's still there.
no matter the circumstances, 
he is able.

but he does have a plan.
he does have perfect timing.
it's not always,
heck, it's usually never,
when we think it should be.
it's always for our good
and always for his glory.

we have to move the stones.
in our lives,
the stones may be doubt,
it may be fear,
it may be circumstances,
it may be people,
it may just be ourselves.
whatever it may be,
we need to move it to allow
god to do his thing.
and if he gives a command,
even if it's just a whisper,
and it doesn't make sense,
we have to listen.

isn't god's word so good?
i love it and god is always
speaking through it.
i heard him loud and clear
last week.


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