Friday, May 15, 2015

Day 1 - 7 The Lazarus Experiment Devotions

Day 1

Day One Devotional ‪#‎tledevo‬
John 11:40
Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”
It's all a matter of perspective.
I know you may not believe this, my being a pastor and all, but sometimes my wife and I have disagreements. When that happens, it is always - ALWAYS - an issue of perspective. We see things differently, from different angles. In order to resolve the situation, we have to see through one another's eyes. We have to merge our perspectives.
Perspective is the direction, condition, health, and quality of your vision.
How do you think Lazarus' vision changed once the bandages were unwrapped and his eyes adjusted to the light? How did he see differently? What did he change about his approach to life, his approach to people, his approach to Jesus? How did being brought back from death alter his perspective?
This is the question we will spend the next forty days answering. We will dig through all of our lives to discover how new life in Christ Jesus changes the way we look at things and people and God.
It's just this simple: Putting trust in Jesus means you have a brand new life - all things have become new. Death is finished. Life is offered abundantly. Don't you think that should leak into every part of us to bring light and vitality? Of course.
Pray today that God would open the eyes of your heart, starting right now, today - Resurrection Day - to see life with Lazarus-eyes.
And do something today - just one little thing - that dramatically, intentionally, reflects your new vision.
Suggested Scripture For Today: John 11 - the story of Lazarus' new life.
Suggested Ideas:
1. Go outside and sing an Easter hymn loud enough for the neighbors to hear.
2. Tell three people why you're smiling so much.
3. Read John 11 out loud to your spouse and/or kids.
4. Invite ten friends to join our group with you.

Day Two Devotional ‪#‎tledevo‬
You don't have to wait.
In the story about Lazarus' death-changing experience, waiting is a central theme. The air is thick with it.
Jesus is contacted to come to the aid of his friend, since he is on his deathbed. The family knows that Jesus can stop that morbid process. But
Jesus hangs back. Tension builds.
Jesus finally makes his way to Bethany, but it's too late. Lazarus is dead. And the implication is that Jesus is at fault. Martha meets Jesus on the road to tell him the news, and to inquire - gently - about his tardiness. Jesus tells Martha that her brother, Laz, will rise again.
"I know he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day." Martha affirmed truth. It's nice to hope. Good to have something to get us through the dark times, the dead zones. It doesn't stop the mourning, but it may dull the sting.
But . . .
Jesus does not intend for Martha to wait. He does not intend for Lazarus, his dear friend, to languish in death. Jesus intends to shout into the nether-regions and bring Laz out. Not then, not in the sweet-by-and-by. Not "on the last day." Now. NOW. RIGHT NOW!
II Corinthians 5:17 - Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
You don't have to wait.
Suggested Scripture For Today: Psalm 30
Suggested Ideas:
1. Take a walk in the rain.
2. Hold someone's hand for an almost inappropriately long time.
3. Print out and hand out the Lazarus Cards to people in the next four weeks. (Attached as a file - you can use these when you do something nice for people, or to invite someone along).
4. Message five people who you don't contact very often and tell them something great about them.
Hope your day is alive.

Day Three Devotional ‪#‎tledevo‬
Oh, how we love to divide up our lives into different categories, activities, attitudes, relationships. We love to organize them, arrange them, store them, like that drawer in your kitchen that holds all the gadgets and spatulas and whisks and knives. But, just like the drawer, things can get a little messy and sometimes dangerous. So we separate it all out again, in the attempt to control and manage. Sometimes we get ambitious and bring in some help - like one of those plastic organizers - to apply some sense to it.
And in one of those partitions we place the holy things. This is the Christian part of our lives. This is the church stuff, faith stuff, religious stuff. All tidy and organized in one part of the broad range of things which make up our lives.
Except there's a problem.
Everything's spiritual.
Nothing wakes you up to that reality, I suppose, like being dead and then coming back to life. The new vision Lazarus would have enjoyed post-death saw everything - EVERYTHING - as part of the whole, the complete banana, the entire realm of God's activity. After all, if Jesus can reach down into Sheol and pull you out, ain't nowhere he can't reach. And if he can reach it, it's his.
When Paul described our new lives in Christ, he didn't say "Your spiritual life will become like new!" He didn't say, "Your church involvement will have new vitality!" He said, "Look! ALL THINGS NEW!"
Everything's spiritual.
That doesn't mean that sin doesn't exist. In fact, it's spiritual. It's not good, not holy, not advisable, not healthy. But it's still under the umbrella of life. Truth: we like to take sin out of the spiritual slot in our organizational system because that makes it seem less sinful. "This is just a habit. Just something that I have to live with." No. It's spiritual. It's wrong - but it's spiritual.
Take the partitions down. Stop trying in vain to control your life by saying, "This is what is Christian about my life, and this is what is not." Don't say that one activity is more spiritual or Christianly than another. Driving your car? Spiritual. Eating your toast? Spiritual. Making love to your wife? Spiritual. Washing the dishes? Spiritual. Doing something outrageously fun and spontaneously crazy? Spiritual.
Go be spiritual. God is in this.
Suggested Scripture For Today: Colossians 3
Suggested Ideas: Remember! Be intentional. Don't just "plan" on doing something, and don't just come to the end of your day and "find" something you did. Don't settle for just describing you life. LIVE IT.
1. Offer ten compliments to random people.
2. Give a tip in the restaurant that takes the server's breath away. (Don't forget to leave a Laz Card!)
3. Smile at someone until they smile back.
4. Go to a clean joke site and memorize three jokes. Then make sure you tell them to three people you've never met before.
It's going to be a great day!

Day Four Devotional ‪#‎tledevo‬
Here at TLE, we strive to do things Laz would have done as a direct response to Jesus and his shouting us out of the tomb. Five words characterize our actions for forty days, Easter to Ascension Day. The actions we take are because of Jesus, for Jesus, with Jesus, and in Jesus. The five words that help frame our actions are:
Let's take these up in order the next five days.
Intentionality is not just making plans. Not just dreaming about doing something. Not just intending. Intentionality is doing, acting, making plans happen.
Planning is definitely a part of it. Dreaming and scheming and plotting and conspiring, too. But if that's all you ever do, it's not being intentional. It's just being lazy.
If I was Lazarus - (this is, after all, the game we're playing) - I know one of the things I would stop doing is planning on doing something without doing something to do something. See what I'm doing there?
I have way too many roads slathered with good intentions. If I died and then four days later got called out, I know beyond any doubt that after kissing Jesus and kissing my wife, I would take action on all the dreams and ideas and goals and determinations and really good thoughts I'd had before I kicked the bucket.
I'll come clean here: I go to bed every night with a list of things I'd intended to do. While some of them may be morally "iffy" (eat some donuts), others are really noble and good (call my cancer-fighting friend, read my Bible, write my novel, take a walk, paint the house, tell my neighbor about Jesus, yada, yada, yada).
And - get this - I pat myself on my back and commend myself for my Godly list of good intentions. It's really quite stupid. Is it really the thought that counts? No, it is not.
Getting my head into Lazarus', I'm convinced he would have no more of those feeble, empty, "well-intentioned" but poorly executed lists.
Intentional new-life living involves plans made and carried out.
Try this: one plan, one goal, no list.
For The Lazarus Experiment, it might help to try this: every night before going to bed, pray for one clear idea or plan for the next day. If God gives it to you right then, write it down and don't keep thinking about it. If he doesn't spring one into your heart at that time, sleep on it, with a pen and a pad near your bed. You'll find that you wake up with an idea. Write it down, and then determine to do it. Then do it. Don't shrink from the idea - chances are it will be outrageous and crazy and way beyond your comfort zone. Do it anyway.
If you don't do it that day? Don't ask for another idea. Don't keep asking if you're not going to do it anyway. When you accomplish the plan, go to him for another one.
Some of us have already made a list of things we might do on The Experiment. That's OK. But there are no holy brownie points for the list. Pick one thing on that list and do it.
New life, intentionally. That's what we're after.
Suggested Scripture For Today: Matthew 25
Suggested Ideas:
1. Ask your spouse to give you an idea.
2. Write a note and send it to someone without a real reason.
3. Dance. (Pictures!)
4. Break a cultural rule in Jesus' name.
You are all in my prayers. This is getting exciting.

Day Five Devotional ‪#‎tledevo‬
(It's Thursday, April 9, Day Five)
When you have extra anything to play with, it's worth having some fun.
If you have a little extra money at the end of the month, it makes sense to enjoy yourself.
If you have a little extra snow in the yard (and almost any snow is extra snow) it makes sense to throw it at somebody.
If you have a little extra water - a river or a lake or a pond or a pool - it makes sense to dive in.
Spontaneity is seizing extra time and having some fun.
I know what you just thought: Extra time?! Yeah, sure! Show me some of that! I don't have "extra time" - can you find some for me?
Here's something to ponder: all the time Lazarus had once he came out of the hole he was in was extra time.
Extra time gives us time to play with, time to do something silly, outrageous, fun. Extra time provides the space for something unexpected to happen. Extra time gives a big fat green light to spontaneity.
But you're still back there, looking at your watch, wondering when I'm going to finish up this little rant so you can get on with all the stuff on your precious to-do list today. Right? Right.
If you claim to have new life because of Jesus, the terminus (end) of your life has been removed. "Where, O death, is your sting?" Death no longer has power. The end of our lives is not the end. Jesus brings this to you, in his wonderful package of salvation bennies: eternal life.
Do you understand what that means? You have extra time.
Something tells me Lazarus would not have fished his Daytimer out of the trash can and begun filling it with appointments and lists. I think he would have left it alone. Or burned it in effigy. Lazarus would have considered every moment a gift, and he would have jumped at the chance to do something wild - for and with Jesus.
Spontaneity means jumping on the bed without asking. Rolling down the windows without worrying about your hair. Grabbing your husband and skipping across the yard. Or grabbing a shopping cart and riding it across the Walmart parking lot. (Yes - it's been done! We want pictures, Cyn!)
What keeps us from spontaneity? The feeling that we just don't have the time. But Lazarus-types have all the time in the universe. It's a gift.
And yet - you're still reading this instead of playing with the time you have.
Go do something!
Suggested Scripture For Today: Matthew 6:25-36
Suggested Ideas:
1. Ask Cyn about how to ride a shopping cart!
2. Combine yesterday's note and today's and plan some intentional spontaneity.
3. Do something you haven't done since you were ten years old.
4. Call a friend out of the blue, pick them up in ten minutes, and head out without a plan. Tell us about it!
Live on, fellow adventurers!

Day Six Devotional ‪#‎tledevo‬
So much of what we do is just a lot of flim-flam.
You drive like a maniac until your mother is in the car, then it's speed-limit city.
You talk like a sailor at work (sorry, sailors), using swear words with the skill and agility of a master artist, but tidy up your mouth before you step into your living room.
You have wonderful things to say about that pastor when you're at church, but you rehearse a whole repertoire of slams and criticisms in the car as you pull out of the church parking lot.
You go to a party, pick at the food like you were a bird, then hit McD's on the way home for a Double Quarter Pounder Meal - Going Large, of course.
You flirt with that guy at the office and entertain a little fantasy-world in your head, but you never, ever tell anyone else how close you are to falling off the marital edge.
A flim-flam life. It's hard to know who you really are.
Along with all the grave-clothes that Lazarus lost that day, I imagine he also lost any reason whatsoever to play games. And we're not talking tennis or Uno or Monopoly or Super Mario Bros.
Just think hard on this: You're sick. You're dead. You're naked, and they wrap you up. You're somewhere (???!) for four days. And then Jesus calls your name and tells you to reverse course and come back.
You're alive again, and come stumbling out. And Jesus tells them to unwrap you. "Take the grave clothes off and let him go." Right there, in front of the crowd that has gathered. Unwrapped and naked. Vulnerable. I picture Jesus holding Lazarus' hand.
Do you think it mattered to Lazarus? Do you think he cared a whit that he was naked? I don't think so. He was alive. He had nothing to lose. He had no reason to play hide-and-seek anymore. Exposure, freedom, life, Jesus. I imagine it all came rushing in and stuck in his heart and his throat.
And later - maybe that night, or the next day - as he sat quietly (Martha - "Just take a seat right here on the porch, Lazzie; I'll get you anything you need; you just rest. Do you need anything? Here's some lemonade and cookies. I can get more. Are you sure you don't need anything?") As he sat quietly, sipping lemonade and munching oatmeal raisin cookies, Lazarus determined that he would never hide behind grave-clothes again.
I wonder if he thought about how many hours he had wasted pretending to be someone he wasn't? I wonder if he felt released from all the various parts he had played in his life-performance? I wonder if he decided that there would be no more drama, no more pretense, no more fake living, no more hiding and bargaining and self-protection. Why take up the time? Why go through all the hassle? Why spend all the energy to be someone you're not?
Jesus had given him a second chance. There was no reason to play games anymore.
Want to live like Laz? Drop the games. No more flim-flam. Strip off the grave-clothes. You can be vulnerable. Jesus will be holding your hand.
Suggested Scripture For Today: Psalm 103
Suggested Ideas:
1. Tell your closest friend or your spouse a secret you've never told anyone else.
2. Try something you know you're not good at, but something you've always wanted to do.
3. Clean out a closet that's been gathering junk. Pretend it's your life.
4. Confess a sin to God that you've never been honest about before.
Today, by your terrific, Lazzy self. Don't be anybody else.

Day Seven Devotional ‪#‎tledevo‬
The Lazarus Experiment attempts to define what a person would do, think, feel, say, accomplish, and plan if they had been brought back from death to life. Instead of a bucket list, we have determined to create the opposite. A compilation of abundant living bullet points.
The phrase, "kick the bucket" has several possible origins. Here's the Roman Catholic version:
"After death, when a body had been laid out ... the holy-water bucket was brought from the church and put at the feet of the corpse. When friends came to pray... they would sprinkle the body with holy water ... it is easy to see how such a saying as 'kicking the bucket' came about. Many other explanations of this saying have been given by persons who are unacquainted with Catholic custom."—The Right Reverend Abbot Horne, Relics of Popery
The assumption may have been that the bucket was placed prematurely (always be prepared!). This especially makes sense when added with the notion that a person stretches out their legs in the moment of death. BAM! Bucket kicked.
So what is the opposite of kicking the bucket?
Filling the bucket.
Once Lazarus was unbound and able to speak, I can't imagine anything he'd probably want to do more that say "Thank You!"
To Jesus, his Lord and close friend, of course. He probably found it hard to stop thanking Jesus.
But after Jesus somehow pulled away from Lazarus' outrageous expressions of gratitude, I think Laz would have started on his "fill the bucket" list - people he should have thanked before he stretched out his legs and died.
The way we have the story in John 11, it seems Lazarus' death was fairly sudden. It does not seem that anyone was really prepared for it. So to, Laz himself probably found it a bit of a shock. (Fact is, even if you know way ahead in advance, I think death is still shocking.)
In my mind, I see Lazarus - after taking a long shower, combing his hair, getting dressed - rushing out to the crowd gathered on his lawn for mourning, now waiting in excitement to greet the new man. I think Lazarus would have bounced from one person to another, chatting it up and smiling and saying one thing over and over and over again: THANKS!
I've got shocking news for you. Are you sitting down? Maybe you should.
I can say that with nearly 100% accuracy. It's just truth. I'm sorry I had to be the one to tell you.
But you are alive now, and if you've given your formerly sorry, dying self to Jesus, you are now living abundantly. And while it is true that Jesus provides a way to conquer death and give us new life, we will still come to a time when we will be "absent from the body." And when that happens, we will no longer be able to tell people how much they mean to us.
Shame on me for not telling you how much I appreciate you. Shame on you for not grabbing everyone you know and telling them how thankful you are and what they mean to you. Shame on us for living without gratitude. We have so much to be thankful for - it could fill a bucket.
I don't want to shame you, really. But I'd like to give you - and me - a kick in the butt and say "Go on! Get out there! Tell someone you're thankful for them."
Mostly, tell God how very thankful you are that he has given you new life through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
Go on, you bucket-fillers. Say thanks. Use words if you must.
Suggested Scripture For Today: Psalm 107
Suggested Ideas:
1. Express your gratitude to God, but do not use words.
2. Make a list and a plan to say thank you to ten people who have never heard or read those words from you.
3. Send a thank-you note that is not digital.
4. Designate one day this week and say thank you to everyone you possible can, with a smile, looking directly in their eyes, slowly and deliberately so they can't write it off. Tell us on The Experiment how many people you thanked in one day.
And hey - thanks for being here!

No comments: