Friday, May 15, 2015

Day 15 - 21 The Lazarus Experiment 2015

Day Fifteen Devotional ‪#‎tledevo‬
Space. The final frontier.
I'm not talking about a trek to the stars. I'm talking about the space in your clock; in your calendar; in your day.
It's the final frontier because everybody seems unfamiliar with the territory and afraid to go there. Those who do go there are labeled as lazy or crazy.
Space is all the holes we think we must fill or die trying. The twenty minutes in our day that is not scheduled. The one evening this month where you're Daytimer is blank. The rare minute that may slip by without a detailed agenda for its budget.
You are overbooked. Overstressed. Over-planned. Over-scheduled. Overdone.
And overwhelmed.
Lazarus would have tossed his watch and his calendar in the Dead Sea.
"But," you say, "what about redeeming the time, making most of every opportunity? Doesn't Jesus demand that we stay busy for the Kingdom?"
It never ceases to floor me that Jesus needed space. Sometimes he just dropped everything and took off. He even dropped his closest friends and went alone, because friends take up too much space.
We have been taught that idle time is the devil's playground. What if he claimed it because he knew that we needed the space to connect with God?
In our busy-every-moment-or-we-will-fail-like-a-toothless-bum-in-the-gutter-of-life world, space makes us feel guilty, like we're not doing anything.
We even go to great measures to plan our free time, so that it's not free anymore -- it's planned! Booked! Spent! Expensive! Not Free!
When is the last time you just sat and looked out a window. No book. No computer. No friend. No pet. No music. No TV. No Bible.
Lazarus, to his administrative assistant: "Cancel my appointments. For the rest of the day I'm doing nothing. Not one thing."
Do the same. Boldly go where no man (or woman) has gone before.
Suggested Scripture For Today: Psalm 131
Suggested Ideas:
1. Carve out 15 minutes a day for a week and do nothing during them.
2. Take off your wrist watch for a week.
3. Go camping alone, or take a long walk without your iPod.
4. Sit in a coffee shop where you can see the door and pray specifically for every person who walks in.
Don't be discouraged, friend. We're getting into the hard part of The Experiment. It would be easy to give up. Don't. The best rewards are yet to come. Hang in there and fight it out to the end. You can make it.

Day Sixteen Devotional ‪#‎tledevo‬
Joyous and happy, Lazarus floated through the first week of his post-death existence with a smile on his face and a dance in his heart. He woke up smiling, and he didn't stop with that silly grin all day long. He would catch himself shaking his head in full-out wonder, and then offer praise to God audibly and in front of anyone who happened to be close. He did not blush to praise Jesus; to tell the story. He must have told that story a thousand times if he told it once. He could not come down off his new-found abundance. Life was full, faith was energized, joy was abounding, and then he sinned.
Then he sinned.
Not a another single person knew. It was Tabitha again, with her cloak pulled back just so and her shoulder bared for just a fraction of a minute. And that look. THAT LOOK! Martha had to poke Laz in the ribs to get his eyes back to his work, but later that day he nursed the glimmering memory, and it became sin.
Do you remember the first time you sinned after you came to Jesus? How did that make you feel? What did it do to your new life?
I think Lazarus may have been blown away.
"All things new" and all that--sounds peachy keen--but this is not new. This is old. This feels as familiar as a stick in the eye. I've been here before. I thought all this was over, that I was a "new man," that Jesus was enough. And now I've spoiled it all. My new life isn't so new after all. It's back to the same-ol', same-ol'. So much for a new and improved Lazarus. Crap.
He may have become physically ill at the thought that he had betrayed everything Jesus had just accomplished. The awareness that sin was still possible and probable and that guilt still smelled just as foul as before crushed him.
"Hey, Jesus and the boys will be coming back from their camping trip today, and I've invited them over for a little get-together tonight," Mary announced. "Hope that's OK."
No. Not OK, Lazarus thought. What will I say? Where will I go? How can I hide?
Visit the scene. Lazarus is lounging, visiting with neighbors as the party gets going. Jesus walks in, surrounded by his disciples. Lazarus moves away a little. He avoids eye-contact. He finds a corner and munches on some grapes, head down.
But Jesus manages to get back there without being noticed. Before Laz can dodge him, Jesus grabs his elbow and pulls him around. The eyes of these two close friends lock, and Lazarus searches there. It is clear that Jesus knows. There is sorrow and pain. But there's more. Jesus' eyes brighten, a smile forms, his face lights. Jesus wraps his arms around Lazarus and pulls him tight and whispers into his ear.
"I've already taken care of that, Lazarus."
Sin lurks around, waiting for a chance to bring death back, to resurrect guilt and shame and fear, to repaint the blackness of our hearts. Jesus' gift of new life powers the battle to fend off sin's advances and deliver them empty. Lazarus had a choice: Believe that Jesus had accomplished what he could not do for himself, or go back to the losing battle and cycle down the familiar path of guilt.
You have that choice. What will you do when you sin?
Suggested Scripture For Today: Psalm 51
Suggested Ideas:
1. Creatively express the truth about sin and your new life using words, music, art, or photography. Be sure and share the results with us.
2. Take time out of your day to sit with Jesus and confess what he already knows. Confession is saying "yes" to his appraisal and "yes" to his remedy.
3. Tell a close trusted friend that you need them to sit in for Jesus today. Tell them that you just need to have Jesus present while you tell about some things that are tempting you, tripping you up. Explain that sometimes you long for Jesus to be physically present, but you know that's not really possible yet, so your friend will have to do. Then spend an hour unloading your junk.
4. Cheer and clap all day long for anyone who does anything remotely good and right -- the checker in the grocery store, the McDonald's drive-through worker, your kids, your spouse, the bank teller, the customer. Holler and clap and draw genuine attention. (People will be suspicious - try to do it in a way that is authentic or someone may thing you're being facetious.)
Here's a special note to you - you know who you are:
I know you're still wondering what this crazy thing is all about. You may just feel like you don't have time for this thing. You may feel like you have nothing to offer and nothing to say. You may feel like you're already 15 days behind and you can't catch up. You may be wondering - when will all these posts stop showing up in my Facebook?
I get it. But can I encourage you to just jump in? Maybe just for a day, or the next several days. Just try it, give it a little time, interact a little bit, and see how it goes. I'd love to know your impressions--positive or not.
If you don't try it out, that's OK. There have been participants in TLE who never post at all, but read all of it everyday and tell me later that God used this little band of former zombies to change things in their hearts. So please, lurk on and keep reading. It's OK.

Have a great day Lazzie Peeps!

Day Seventeen Devotional ‪#‎tledevo‬
Ever watched an episode of Hoarders?
Then you'll know where we're going here. You may even decide you can skip this because, a) You already get it that clutter is of the Devil, or b) You don't want to get it at all, and you're just fine with all your devil-worship and stuff.
I know. Sounds extreme. But really, you haven't seen my garage. The devil may live in there. But if he does, he'd be hard to find.
Lazarus would have spent a significant amount of his new-found life the first month or so getting rid of clutter. The stuff in his closets. The junk in his garage. The mountain in his yard. The amazing gathering of seemingly inconsequential crap in that one drawer by the phone that holds keys that don't work, batteries that don't fit, coins that jumped from my pockets, bent paperclips, rubber bands, pens that don't have ink, a grocery list from 1987, the business card of a guy who wanted to interest me in some investments and I thought, Hey, maybe someday! and I stowed the card but I no longer have any money to invest because of all the junk I've bought since then.
Wait, we were talking about Lazarus! When did this get so personal?!
Here is what I surmise: Once you're on the other side of that tombstone, all the junk doesn't add up to much. It may have before -- in fact, it may have been your whole life. But now that your whole life has been spent, and a new one has taken its place, all that clutter just tends to muck things up and make life go slower. And if there's one thing you don't want in your new life, it's for it to be weighed down by a bunch of junk.
The Lazzie thing to do is to start right away and clear it out. Here are some places to start. Pick one. You may need some help. And a counselor who specializes in hoarding:
* Kitchen
* Garage
* Bedroom closet
* Hall closet
* Pantry
* Basement
* Crawl space
* Car trunk
* Attic
* Friends
* Work
* Hobbies
* Habits
* Thoughts
* Heartaches
* Fears
* Miscellany of every sort
OK. Pick one. Show us before and after pictures (unless it's time to get rid of all the pictures!). Time to de-clutter your life. Call the refuse trucks and let's get started.
Suggested Scripture For Today: Hebrews 12:1-2
Suggested Ideas:
1. Pick a drawer and clean it out. You'll be surprised how good it feels.
2. Do a de-clutter of your email inbox.
3. Take a look at your Facebook friend list and make some decisions.
4. Walk through your house on a thanksgiving journey, thanking God for each thing by name. This will help in two ways: it will stimulate your gratitude, and it will clarify your real need for any more stuff.
Grace and peace,

Day Eighteen Devotional ‪#‎tledevo‬
There may be no surer evidence for grace than friendship.
I love the descriptions, scant as they are, of Jesus' relationship with the Lazarus family. It sounds so easy, so warm. I like the eating and the relaxing and the hanging out. I think it would be great to have dinner with Jesus and just occupy with each other for a couple hours.
But that's probably not going to happen soon unless Jesus decides to return this week or call me home. Until then, it could get lonely - very lonely - and I need the flesh-and-blood evidence of his grace and acceptance. So do you.
That's what friends are for.
It would be a Lazzie thing to do to connect with your friends. To say a random "Hello!" without warning. To send a card or a token of love. To hide a surprise or to plan a trip. To share coffee or tea or a beer. Those connections are grace-fuel, and we dare not go too long without tanking up. We're not made to run on fumes.
If you know me, you realize that I am a devout proponent of Facebook. I think it is amazing, and one of the most innovative and radical technologies in the last decades. It promotes connection and it's been so very good to make friends across all kinds of barriers - spacial, temporal, relational. It's easy.
And that's why I would say that if your relationships - especially those that are grace-rich - are on Facebook only, and if that's the only way you're making the connection work, you need to step it up. Sure, you can pull grace from that. But you need more. You need face-to-face. Somehow, Jesus lives in those moments.
We've already seen that one of the first things Lazarus did when he was up on his feet was to throw a party and be with his friends. He knew they needed to see him, to touch him, to talk. He needed it, too. And I think that, once Jesus was removed from earth and caught up into heaven, Lazarus probably hosted many more gatherings.
Need grace? Jesus is the source, but he often uses other people as his delivery system.
Suggested Scripture For Today: I Corinthians 12:12-26
Suggested Ideas:
1. Connect in a surprising way to a friend. Go out of your way to show grace.
2. Take a loaf of homemade bread to your neighbors.
3. Take a lonely person to a ball game or shopping for groceries.
4. Carry a pack of post-it notes everywhere you go today and write encouraging notes - could be for specific people you know will find them, but could be for anyone who might wander by and see them! Leave them everywhere!
Have a great day, friend.

Day Nineteen Devotional ‪#‎tledevo‬
Do you think Lazarus ever got tired of telling his story?
The first week was probably exciting, and I would assume that Laz told anyone willing to listen all about his real-death experience. Scripture makes it sound like word about Lazarus spread quickly, and there were probably loads of people who were gathering to touch "The Man Brought Back From Death." I'm sure Lazarus was asked hundreds of times, "So, how did it feel when you were dead?" and "Did you know right away that it was Jesus calling your name?" and "What was the first thing you wanted to do when you came back to life?" "What did you see in heaven?" "Do you have an agent?"
(How do I know that people wanted answers to these questions? WE'RE STILL ASKING!)
I wonder if the thrill wore off. After countless questions about the same thing, and press conferences covering the "Amazing Events at Bethany," and the conspiracy theorists hatching plots about zombies and cannibalism and "The Dead Amongst Us" - I think Laz must have tired of the whole thing. At some point, maybe he just answered every question with "Jesus - it was Jesus."
And then, of course, Jesus himself died. What would that have meant to Lazarus and telling his story? Would he hole up at Bethany and pull into the countryside to hide for fear of the Jewish leadership and the Roman cross? They wanted to kill him, too.
We have fair evidence that Lazarus eventually told his story again. He became a prominent advocate of the gospel - the good news - and was responsible for getting that news out to the world. And who better to do that than Lazarus? He knew first-hand - literally first hand - what it meant that Jesus came to save sinners from the devastating consequences of sin. Eventually, Lazarus stopped worrying about the political correctness of new life in Jesus, stopped being afraid of the consequences, and started opening his big mouth.
To live like Laz - we've got to open our big mouths.
If you know Jesus enough to have tasted the same death-to-life experience, you know the gospel first-hand, too. Your story may be tired and old to you. Or you may not think it's especially exciting or germane. Lazarus may have come to the place where he considered his story old and worn. "You don't want me to tell you that whole thing again, do you? Really?" But I think people genuinely wanted to hear it. I want to hear it!
So to, your story needs to be told.
There's a great old gospel song that starts with this phrase: "Sing them over again to me - wonderful words of life."
This story - the one where Jesus makes you all new - this story never gets old. Tell someone. Tell everyone. God did something great with you, and he deserves the credit.
Suggested Scripture For Today: John 9:1-25
Suggested Ideas:
1. In two or three paragraphs, write your story, then mail it to five people who've never heard it before.
2. Ask someone you know as a Christ-follower to tell you their story. We may know several believers, but we may not have ever heard their story.
3. Arrange to take a meal to your neighbor, or mail a treat to a distant friend.
4. Take one hour to spend with Jesus alone, with the express purpose of thanking him specifically for all the things he did to hunt you down and love you into his family.

Day Twenty Devotional ‪#‎tledevo‬
You're half way through this experiment! How are you doing?
I don't know some of you. I may know your name, but I don't know your life. But I can be certain that right about now some or all of these things are true:
1. You're wondering about what you got into with this whole Lazarus thing.
2. You're feeling guilty because you're not keeping up.
3. You've had some kind of major upheaval or life problem.
4. You've run out of ideas for The Experiment, and you're just looking back on your day and trying to come up with something that seems like something that maybe Lazarus would have done.
5. You're tired and weary and worn out and you don't have any energy left.
6. You wish Lazarus was around so he could try The (insert your name here) Experiment and see how he liked it.
7. If Lazarus was really alive, and you met him in the street, and he started in about how wonderful life is and how everything was just going great and that if your life is with Jesus then you have the joy, joy, joy, joy, down in your heart -- well, you might just have to punch him in the nose.
This will not help, but you may want to know that this happens to me every year. That's why I want you to do one thing.
Don't give up.
Here's what I've noticed: if I keep at this thing and get through to the end of the forty days, something amazing happens. Lazarus gets into my head. The whole idea of looking around me and seeing things through the eyes of a resurrected person takes hold and begins to be a more permanent thing. Each time I do this Experiment, my life gets reoriented a little more, and I get a better hold on what abundant life is engineered by Jesus to be.
So keep at it. Determine that you will hold on to the end. Cut loose of all the guilt and pressure. Sit with Jesus a few minutes. Read John 11 again.
And then tomorrow, set about to do one thing that gives dramatic evidence to your life in Jesus.
You can do this. I'm with you. You'll be happy you stuck with it.
Besides, punching Lazarus in the nose would only hurt your hand.
Suggested Scripture For Today: John 11
Suggested Ideas:
1. Take the day off TLE.
2. Grab a song book or hymnal and sing for 30 minutes to yourself.
3. Write a love letter you didn't intend to write.
4. Call a friend and take them for an ice cream sundae.
May God back up his dump truck of grace and unload it in your front yard,

Day Twenty-one Devotional ‪#‎tledevo‬
Your worst day with Jesus is better than your best day without him, and your worst day alive is better than your best day dead.
Lazarus gained a working heart, a functioning brain, and five or more senses that worked when Jesus re-issued his permission to live. But he also gained one amazing view - the panoramic vista of abundant life.
Do you have a picture in your mind of a scene that changed your life completely?
I have several burned into my memory. The first time I saw the Grand Canyon as an adult. Looking out from the Capital Building in Washington D.C. at the space between there and the Washington Monument filled with hundreds of thousands of men. Holding my daughter, April, in my hands on the day she was born. The breathtaking sight of my wife, Linda, coming around the corner of the doorway on the arm of her father on our wedding day. Holding my grandson and looking into his big eyes for the first time. To say these moments were life-changing reduces them to a cliche. They leveled me, and I have never recuperated.
They also have framed my life and my perspective. Every moment of my life is cast with the color of these scenes, like lights on a stage play.
Now, translate all that to Lazarus and the bandages removed, the eyes open. He would never forget. And everything else is sawdust.
We here at TLE have seen this perspective alive and active in the hearts of our participants. Over the years we have shared breathtaking vistas. And we have come alongside as some traveled the darkest roads imaginable. And there are others, some whose stuff we know, and many whose stuff we will never know, and some along for the journey this year, all hanging on to this central truth - I have today, and I have Jesus, and that is enough.
Debora, whose husband passed away during The Lazarus Experiment, used these words: "living in the now." Shocking words from someone who faced off with death as close as a breath. Now can be brutal. But you have Grand Canyon eyes. You have new baby eyes. You have wedding bliss eyes.
The rest?
Suggested Scripture For Today: Psalm 116
Suggested Ideas:
1. When the ebb and flow of your day brings you to the lowest point, stop and be Lazarus in that moment. Don't try to squirm out of it, or convince yourself you feel better than you do. Just face it honestly. Tell us about it.
2. Share some of your life-changing moments with someone who's never heard them before.
3. Write a thank-you note to Jesus for the life-altering Lazarus perspective.
4. Dance with someone you love. Or a stranger.
Do something outrageously loving tomorrow!

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