Archive for the ‘Jesus’ Category

Grave Clothes   3 comments

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One of the passages in the Bible that I find great meaning in is found in the story of Lazarus’ death.  Lazarus was a friend of Jesus.  Jesus had become close to him and his two sisters.  When Jesus received word that Lazarus was very sick, he waited a few days before going to Bethany where Lazarus and his sisters lived.  Lazarus died before Jesus arrived.  Jesus speaks to the two women and cries at Lazarus’ tomb.  Then in a stunning move Jesus tells them to remove the stone covering the entrance and calls to Lazarus to come out of the tomb.  Lazarus does come out of the tomb but remains wrapped in the cloth that his body was covered with according the burial customs of that day.  Jesus then says, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”  This statement is what intrigues me the most in this passage.

I think that the reason that I am so fascinated by what the Lord says here is that it appears to be very applicable to the lives of many people, including myself.  Last month I wrote a post about removing the layers which life places on us (See “Removing Layers“).  The thoughts which I shared in that post is similar to the thoughts which the line from John 11 evokes in me.  However, I think that this line takes it a step farther than what I was referring to in the earlier post.  This line reminds me that we often get wrapped up in the garments of death even while we are living.  Beyond the concept of the resurrection after death, I believe that Jesus communicates to me in this statement the importance of removing the grave clothes while I am still living so that I may be free to live the life which God has so graciously given to me.

Over time, I have found that there are situations, settings, and individuals who seem to suck the life and the joy of life from me.  There have been many books written on the subject of toxic situations and toxic people.  Many times even after we have removed ourselves from those situations and relationships, we still wear the grave clothes that were placed on us during those times in our lives.  We need to hear the words Jesus speaks at Lazarus’ grave.  We need to remove those grave clothes so that we are free to live life.  This removal may take time or it may occur with a dramatic cutting away of sorts.  Whichever method, it appears to me that Jesus is indicating that we must do the removal.

I am confident that God has given us life to enjoy and to bring joy into the lives of others.  We all must labor but I believe that God desires us to be joy-filled.  Life is an awesome gift given to us.  I encourage all of you to remove any grave clothes you may be wearing and live in the freedom of the life which you have been so graciously given.  Live the resurrected life today; it is not just a future event for which you must wait.


Transfigured   Leave a comment

Today on the calendar it states that it is the Feast of the Transfiguration.  This is a day for Christians when we are to recall the events which occurred on Mount Tabor as recorded in Mark 9:2-13, Matthew 17:1-13, or Luke 9:28-36.  They tell about an event in Jesus’ life when a few of the apostles witnessed Jesus being transformed by the glory of God.  I will let you read the story yourself.  However, this has led me today to think about how I am allowing the Lord to transfigure, or transform, me.

It is true that as our lives progress, we change.  Sometimes those changes are significant and evident.  At other times those changes are unnoticed.  The event recorded in the Bible passages which I listed above is one that was very significant and evident to a small group of individuals.  I think most transformations occur in a cumulative manner.  Over time a person is changed.  There are occasions where dramatic events cause major changes, such as accidents and/or tragedies.  Yet, this is not how a person usually transforms.

As I reflect upon my own experience, I have come to see that I have experienced a cumulative transformation.  Since I am a believer, I credit this transformation to the Lord.  The Lord has provided me experiences and challenges which have caused me to adjust my perceptions, opinions, and truths.  These adjustments have led me to changes in my life.

I am grateful to the Lord for continually transforming me.  I am pleased that I am not the person who I used to be but instead am becoming the person who the Lord wishes me to be.  I view this as a lifetime process.

I encourage you to take time today to consider how you have transformed in your life.  What has caused this transformation?  Are you allowing the Lord to be the transformer?  Where might transformation be occurring in your life right now?

The Master’s Hand   Leave a comment

Sometimes we all can feel that we have little value to this world.  Sometimes people can make us feel as if we are too damaged to be of worth.  The song which I share with you today is one that has reminded me that those feelings are not true.  I was introduced to this song by two wonderful female musicians at church camp many years ago.  I return to it often.  As a believer, I know that the Master does amazing things.  In the Master’s hand, we have great value.  So I share this with all of you.  Hopefully, it will be able to strengthen you on difficult days and also remind you as you look at others, the Master can make the change for all people so be careful of what worth you place on someone.

Back to the Original   2 comments

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One of the realities that leaders have to accept is that not always is a group willing to be led.  This can be a very difficult reality for a leader to get their arms around.  However, if a leader tries to deny this, the leader will become frustrated and may even doubt her/his leadership abilities.  A leader is not a leader without people who are ready to follow the lead.  Sometimes you must guide a group with a gentle lead and other groups require much stronger leads but ultimately either approach is only successful to the point that the group is open to being led.

This is not a new concept in any way.  I think this is exactly the point that Jesus was trying to make over and over again.  He even told his disciples as he prepared to send them out:  “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.”  (Matthew 10:14, NIV)  Jesus was a great leader but also realized that sometimes people do not desire to be led and there is nothing a leader can do at that point except to move to another group of people.

The other reality that a leader must accept that if a group does not wish to change, they may present an image of change but the minute the leader moves on, everything returns to the state in which they were prior to the leader’s arrival.  This also can be very disheartening because it can cause a leader to think their work was all in vain.  The image that comes to mind is that of a 1970’s toy called Stretch Armstrong.  This toy was made of a material which could stretch but as soon as you let go of it, everything would return back to its original form.  So a person could pull the toy’s arms or legs in all kinds of directions and create what appeared to be changes to the toy but as soon as you let go of those extremities, the toy returned to its original shape.

I think the lesson in these situations is to realize each of them can and probably will happen during your tenure as a leader.  However, do not let them discourage you.  Learn from each situation and determine if there was something you could have done differently to have a more lasting and clear impact on the group.  Sometimes the answer is that nothing different could have been done.  Also, remember that while the group as a whole may not have truly changed, there are individuals within the group who may have changed.

Perfected   1 comment

We live in an imperfect world and we are imperfect people.  I really do not think that I have shared anything which is an earth-shattering truth in the very first sentence of this post.  Nor am I sharing any new revelation with any of you which you did not already know.  However, I wonder how often we forget this reality.  I wonder how often we expect perfection and become upset when either ourselves or someone else show imperfection.

This morning when I came to my office I encountered a laundry list of issues with the state of the building.  I was out of the office yesterday and there was activity here last night.  Now, this is not the first time that I have encountered situations such as this one.  My reaction was from the gut and I would have to admit that it was less than a positive reaction.  I spent the first fifteen minutes of the time in my office correcting the issues which I discovered.  Again, this was not part of my early arrival plans so my frustration was building with each correction I made.  When I actually was able to sit down at my desk, I wanted to impulsively send an email to the individual responsible for the building last night and share my displeasure.  However, something (or should I say someone) held me back and led me to wait until I had returned from my morning coffee time.  I am grateful that I made that decision.  While I still intend to follow-up on the issues with the appropriate person, I have determined a different way to do that follow-up.

For me what made the change was something which arose during my morning devotions.  I was looking at a passage from the Bible which included a statement from Jesus about the promise of the resurrection.  When most people think about a bodily resurrection, they are not convinced that they want to have their current physical body resurrected.  They often list all the imperfections which they have identified with their current body.  These people are fine with the concept of spiritual resurrection but shy away from the idea of the bodily resurrection which we who believe in Christ include in our understandings.  I think the issue here is the hope of everything being perfect in the presence of God and that the way they understand their physical bodies as imperfect does not fit with their desire to be perfect in the presence of God.

The key here for me is to realize that the Spirit has the power and does perfect the imperfect us.  Even at the point of our spiritual resurrection, our spirit is not perfect.  Our spirit is marred and marked by the sin of our life.  However, the Spirit perfects our spirit when Jesus places the cloak of righteousness on us as we are spiritually resurrected.  If the Lord can do this with our spirit, how do we think the Lord is any less capable of perfecting our bodies at the point of our bodily resurrection.

Yes, we are imperfect.  We are imperfect inside and out.  However, the Spirit of the Lord is capable of perfecting us.  This is important truth that we must keep in mind as we deal with one another and as we consider the promise of the resurrection.

So I want to leave you with these reminders:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (2 Corinthians 5:17, NIV)

Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. (1 Corinthians 15:51-52, NIV)

Breaking of the Bread   Leave a comment

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Today is the day in the Christian calendar when believers remember Jesus creating a way for all believers to share and reflect upon what he offered on the cross.  After his death and resurrection, it is recorded that he was once again sitting down for a meal with a couple of his disciples and when he broke the bread and offered it to them, they recognized who was with them.  As I reflected on these faith events, I came to ponder what occurs when we sit together for a meal.

In this overly hectic life, many of us have limited opportunities to sit down with others for a meal.  Families are always so busy running to events and completing commitments that meals are usually caught on the run.  For single people, the are limited opportunities to sit down with others for a meal.  It seems that no matter what your status, meals at a table are rare events.

However, there are many times which I can remember where it is around a table, sharing a meal, when memorable events occur.  When I reflect back on life, many very positive memories center around a special meal, for a holiday, or a birthday, or because of a life change.  There is something about breaking bread together (another way to say share a meal) where opportunities open up.  People tend to share a lot of information about themselves and their lives when they are sitting together at a table.  Breakthroughs in discussions and negotiations seem to occur a bit easier when you have shared a meal together.

I do not think that it is by chance that Jesus established what we know as the Lord’s Supper, Communion, or the Eucharist.  In his actions, he took what was ordinary and natural for people and turned those items into something extraordinary.  He elevated the importance of sharing meals together.  He reminded us that we recognize one another as individuals better when we have broken bread together.

So today, if you are a believer and will be celebrating the Lord’s Supper, I encourage you to take time to reflect upon what really took place around that table so long ago.  If you are not a believer, I encourage you to reflect upon what has and can take place when you sit down with others for a meal.  May you discover the enrichment which occurs when you break bread with others.  Find opportunities to do this as often as possible.

Seeing Beyond Self   1 comment

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During my morning devotions today, I explored the question of how I can be blind to Christ?  The discovery that occurred was that the most frequent way to be blind to Christ is by being inward focus.  I know that this is a problem which I have from time to time (probably more frequently than I care to admit).  I would venture a guess that others struggle with this problem.  I would say without any uncertainty that this problem prevails in the Church.

There are many reasons which lead to an inward focus.  Besides the obvious view that “if I don’t look out for myself, no one else will,” there is the reality of greed and self-centeredness.  I find it very easy to isolate myself as a mode of survival.  My view of the world and others becomes very narrow.  I exist in a small area of awareness with me in the middle.  Anyone or anything that attempts to invade that space or to pull me out of that space meets violent resistance. I might lob an attempt of a kind gesture out of my box of existence but that is more to make me feel good about myself than it is about making someone else a little better.

Whenever I behave in a manner of inward focus, I cannot be looking at Christ.  I am blind to Christ because it becomes all about me.  Christ set an example of an outward focus.  He often sacrificed his own physical health to meet the demands of the people around him.  He called upon his disciples to follow this example and to see beyond themselves.  Christ continues to call us to do the same in many different circumstances and many different ways.

How are you looking beyond yourself?  You will be surprised when you do so, you will see Christ.