gospel-changes-everything

Read John 11:1-45

Life changing encounters!

  • literally for Lazarus in this passage, as Jesus raised him from the dead. 
  • for Martha as Jesus reveals to her that He is the Messiah, when He says, “I am the Resurrection and the Life.” 
  • for the mourners who witnessed Lazarus walk from the tomb; unwrapped his grave clothes; seeing, touching him and affirming that he was indeed alive!

We all have them: moments that alter the way we understand or approach how we live.

  • marriage, birth, first days of school, graduation, being mother of the bride, cancer,  divorce, death, job loss, retirement, grandchildren …are such life points.

I remember the day our daughter Emily told us she was going on the World Race: an 11 countries in months mission trip.  At the time, I had no idea how her trip would change and impact me.

In the months of preparation, her excitement was contagious; anticipation sparkled in her eyes as adventure beckoned.  Her faith and ability to be out of control yet joyful continue to challenge and inspire me.

As I have “traveled with her” via skype, face time, blogs, videos, pouring over maps and pictures, praying as she shared stories of people, relationships, God’s presence and struggles she has encountered a world away, I am changed in so many ways, but a few specifically:

  • I have a greater global perspective, a growing desire to embrace minimalism (or at least try a bit of it), an appreciation for those who have sacrificed to serve and love the least of these and a desire to be part Kingdom work in the area of support and biblical justice.
  • After hearing about her ministry in the red light district in Thailand, I was motivated to participate in Jeanuary, and become more educated in the reality of human trafficking across the globe.   
  • my prayer life has grown and deepened in ways I never imagined.

This weekend at the IJM Global Prayer Gathering, I was privileged to meet men and women who are doing the work of rescue and restoration of women and young girls in the same area of Kolkata, I learned about in Jeanuary!  I spoke with a field worker, who had also shared in the restoration ministry at the same site Emily had worked at in Thailand.  “small world- Big God!”

I learned specifically and more deeply how the hope of Christ can sustain those working in the presence of such evil.  I listened as passionate men and women shared the burden to leave everything behind and care for the oppressed.  And I prayed with and for, as never before.

Jesus wept at the death of his friend Lazarus.  Knowing that he would raise Lazarus from the dead, he still wept?  why? 

My guess… a profound sense of sadness at the reality of living in a world where darkness, illness and death hold sway… so far removed from Gods intent in the Garden.

It isn’t supposed to be this way.

     We are made for Eden… We long for Heaven…

            And in between we live in a fallen world.

                  Sorrow and hope, waiting for redemption.

In the end… God wins!

       Death is overcome.  Evil is defeated.

In the meantime…

      Jesus is with us.

 And Because Jesus is with us, we can choose to:

  • engage as Martha did-  question, challenge, entreat, affirm our beliefs in the Power of God to change the world.
  • weep as Mary did- ask and kneel at the feet of Jesus, believing and proclaiming His power to bring life and light into dark places.
  • move from being onlookers, wringing our hands in sorrow or futility at events we don’t understand, or we  can see, touch and participate in the work of God. as we unwrap  “grave clothes” the shroud of death, and participate in the work of restoration.

Emily often shares stories of her work on the mission field: 

  • having conversations with those who want to speak better English, meeting university students and inviting them to the local church
  • playing soccer with children, teaching them, hugging them-communicating they are precious, priceless and loved.
  • picking bugs from rice they will prepare for lunch at a children’s center in Malaysia, singing head shoulders knees and toes with preschoolers in china
  • walking the streets praying for the darkness in the villages and asking God’s presence to be powerfully present in life changing ways,
  • playing pool with the girls in bars in the red light district, laughing with them, enjoying them and thus communicating their worth as daughters of God.
  • cleaning, washing, sweeping, digging… doing any work necessary to create more comfort and sustainable living situations for those who “home” is cardboard walls.
  • encouraging “unsung heroes”   people in ministry, whose lives have been given to bring the gospel to a small village, towns or provinces not often on the map
  • being hungry, sick, cold, wet, dirty, tired
  • and at the same time… THRILLLED at the beauty of the world and the vastness of the Kingdom work already in motion!  

Her experiences, the uncertainty of her days, concerns for her physical safety as well as her heart can be overwhelming for me as her mom; unable to protect and shelter her body and soul, as I could when she was a little girl.

Often I am speechless as she turns the camera phone to show me where she is living, see photos of her in the midst of ministry, and/or listen to the stories she and her squad mates tell. 

Even more often, I have to fight becoming overwhelmed…

 This weekend, rather than be overwhelmed and paralyzed by the reality of darkness, I could take action:

  • engage, weep, pray, believe, call on God to do what only God can do!
  • worship with others our Great God who is greater than all the suffering and evil, who we trust to take our offering, efforts… our “somethings” and grow them in His work for justice.

And… I felt closer to Emily, though she is half a world away. 

A light dawned as I began to understand a bit more deeply her heart and her desire to serve God in missions.

Her life has changed mine.

The GPG 2014 changed me.

 Jesus brings life changing moments when He comes into the middle of a situation.

Undeniably.

 Can you imagine yourself in Martha or Mary’s shoes?  What would you say to Jesus?  Would you be bold and question Him, wondering why he took so long to show up, all the while not doubting that He is indeed our Savior?

Would you weep as Mary did, entreating Jesus, if only you were here… this wouldn’t have happened? 

Jesus knew Lazarus was sick and he didn’t come right away. Do you ever question God’s timing in showing up and taking the action we long and pray for?  How do you handle that God’s answers don’t come right away, or when we think we need them?

What are some life changing moments and encounters that have changed you? deepened your walk with God? or altered the trajectory of your life? (please share these if you are willing)

When have you chosen to engage, take action, be part of restoration/unwrapping the grave clothes?  How did this impact and alter you and/or your faith?

 

Digging Deeper:

Read commentary on John 11:

 

Read and reflect on these other Life changing encounters with Jesus:

  • Woman at the well: John 4:1-42
  • Lame man at the Pool of Bethesda:  John 5:1-18         
  • Woman caught in adultery: John 8:1-11
  • Zacchaeus: Luke 19:1-10

How do each of these encounters impact the central characters? the crowd of onlookers?  You?

 

Daily Lectionary Readings: 

Ezekiel 37:12-12; Psalm 130; Romans 8:8-11; John 11:1-45

 If you want to read through the New Testament during Lent (about 1/2 hour a day)

Read on Day 33: Another catch up day!  or a break to read your favorite passages, or the lectionary readings.

 

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