Friday, May 15, 2015

Day 22 - 28 The Lazarus Experiment 2015

Day Twenty-Two Devotional ‪#‎tledevo‬
Will you risk losing what he gave to you?
If you lose your cell phone, and you go four days without it, and then your husband finds it in the planter by the front door, you will probably learn your lesson and keep better track of that phone. You won't let it get far from your purse.
If you lose your credit card, and you don't know where it is for four days, and you have to make all the calls, and then the barrista at Starbucks calls you and says you left it on the table, you will make sure you never do that again. You won't take it out of your wallet.
If you lose your kid, and he's missing for four hours, and you're frantic and panicked and about to lose you mind, and then a neighbor finds him walking with a stranger, and brings him home, you will tie a leash around his waist and make sure he's never out of your sight again.
If you lose your life, and you're dead for four days, and then Jesus brings you back to life, you may determine that you will do whatever it takes to protect yourself from disease, from ill health, from danger, and from anything that might threaten to take life away from you again. And you would lock yourself away in your house, in a big antiseptic bubble, and wear gloves.
And you'd be wrong.
I wonder if Lazarus ever thought about these words from Jesus: "Whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it." I wonder if he thought, What if it's my second life? Does that count?
If you have been handed your life back after it was taken away, would you hoard it and protect it and keep it in a little bottle so that no one could ever take it from you again? Or would you give it up?
We're going to get real serious now. We've been at this thing for over twenty days. We've been celebrating new life. And it's fun, and it should be.
But it's not yours. You've been handed a life, one you didn't deserve, and it belongs to the one who gave it to you. And in order to keep it, to hang onto it, to make sure it's not ripped away from your hands by the Ultimate Enemy, you're going to have to give it up. You're going to have to give it back to the one who gave it to you. It's the only way to make sure you will keep it.
Yeah - it doesn't make sense.
When Lazarus finally got around to asking the question -- What now? -- I think he must have considered the options. Keep it safe, don't take any risks, use a lot - A LOT - of hand sanitizer, and never, ever hang out with those Jesus fanatics who are just looking to get themselves killed. Or . . .
Or lay my life down; surrender it, sacrifice it, call it done, and give it over completely to Jesus.
One way you'll save it. One way you'll lose it. Again.
Suggested Scripture For Today: Matthew 16:21-28
Suggested Ideas:
1. Give something precious away.
2. Make a plan to give time to a stranger or a needy person. Don't make it easy. Pick something to do or someone to help that you don't really like.
3. Do something embarrassingly silly and childish.
4. Express your love for someone in a way that is uncomfortable for you, but is easy to see for them.

Day Twenty-Three Devotional ‪#‎tledevo‬
Lazarus is the poster-boy for do-overs.
Just imagine sitting in a spot on a mountain between two valleys. From this place you can see what has transpired in your life up until this point - the trail, the historical markers along the way, the life and times of you. But now, looking down the other direction, you have an opportunity to reverse course. Because you've been given a second chance, you can take more responsibility for blazing a trail that is new, and because you've hiked the one trail, you know what to avoid this time around. You also have new ideas about what makes the hike really great.
"All things have become new," and a new path is possible. When you started your new life in Christ (and I hope you have*), you were given a clean slate. A do-over.
And there's no reason to think that today is any different. You have a clean slate now, in this moment, on this day. It's never too late to live like Laz.
So what will you do differently? If yesterday is prologue, what will today be like? If yesterday was old-living, what will today's new life bring? How can you determine to intentionally cut a trail that will not revisit the same potholes, the same traffic jams, the same besetting bogs? How can you decide to traipse into new wonders, new vistas?
Jesus Christ, the Bible says, is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. I am not. Lazarus was not. You are not.
You are new. Blaze a provocative, thrilling, Jesus-following trail today. It's a do-over, but you don't have to travel the same road.
Suggested Scripture For Today: John 8
Suggested Ideas:
1. Ask God to help you make a list of the roadblocks that keep coming up in your life. If it's sin, you'll need to repent and confess. Pick out one, and pray that he would give you the route today that cuts a detour. What is that detour? What will you do to follow it? Share it with us.
2. It's always better to blaze new territory with a friend. Ask someone to be a trail-blazer with you.
3. Give flowers to someone who has done nothing to earn them.
4. Do something hard, so hard that you've been unwilling to even consider it. But do it with God's strength.
You may have noticed we're ramping up the equation. Hold on, and pray. It's going to get interesting.

Day Twenty-Four Devotional ‪#‎tledevo‬
"And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors."
You, living-over-one, are on a mission. A mission from God. You are the Reconciled, and your mission is to reconcile.
The big, "now what?" for Lazarus must have been a no-brainer. Really. Once you've tasted death on your cold hard rigor-mortised tongue, and returned to the light of day, is there really a question about your plan for the future? You are not going to hit the recliner and spend your days watching Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy. (Well, maybe Jeopardy. For the learning).
No. There is a buzz in your heart that will not be satisfied unless you can do one thing: share what you've got with somebody else.
I don't think this realization hit Lazarus in the early days. I believe he was reeling--first with excitement, then with great grief due to Jesus' own death. But once Lazarus recognized that Jesus himself had beaten death, and the full weight of the glory and awe of all that hit him over the head and situated itself forever in his heart, I think Lazarus knew. This is the message. This is the truth. Jesus puts death away, forever. And I am the proof. (Go ahead - sing that!)
As participants in that new life ourselves, our mission is clear. We are the Reconciled. And we represent the Possibilities. We are ambassadors of the Life-Giver. And so, like Paul, we can say, "HEY YOU! YES, YOU! BE RECONCILED TO GOD!"
As bearers of the Ministry of Reconciliation, we have our joyous work cut out for us. Reconciliation means bringing persons together. Business partners who are threatening to sue one another are reconciled when they work out their differences and pack up the lawyers. A husband and wife who are pulling farther apart every day are reconciled when they take the courage to get close again. God and Person A who can't possibly carve out a relationship because one is Holy and the other is NOT! are reconciled when Jesus applies permanent stain removal to sin. And we--the living, breathing, examples of that spiritual reality--get to help MAKE IT HAPPEN.
So, what will you do, oh Reconciled One? Where will you apply the special spiritual glue of reconciliation?
Suggested Scripture For Today: 2 Corinthians 5 (You really need to read this. Read it as if you were Lazarus reading it. It makes so much sense!)
Suggested Ideas:
1. "Irreconcilable" is nonsense if God is in the picture. Look for "irreconcilable" situations and begin to pray about them.
2. The most powerful reconciliation is the one where you've been part of the problem. With whom could you reconcile today?
3. Make a list of ten people who need to be reconciled to God. Now pick one of them and do something to push that agenda one step more.
4. Form a "Reconciled Posse" of people who will help pray for each other and the Ministry of Reconciliation God has for you.
The last ten days of The Lazarus Experiment are coming up, and I want to encourage you to invite some friends for the Big Finish. I know it's hard to do forty days (Good on you for doing that, by the way!). But anyone can pull of ten days. Think about who you'll invite.

 Day Twenty-Five Devotional ‪#‎tledevo‬
Why is it we only connect with some people at funerals?
It would be interesting to surprise the guests at your Bereavement Dinner by showing up between the carrot Jello and the sliced ham and scalloped potatoes.
Which is just what Lazarus did. The period of mourning was still in full swing when Jesus called Lazarus back to life. Lazarus crashed his own death party: "Surprise! Thanks for coming! Who brought the brownies?"
Imagine working the room. There's Aunt Betty, who would not miss the opportunity to get in on all the latest family gossip. You shake hands with your cousin, twice-removed, Bob, who you remember married someone who divorced him, so he technically is not part of the family anymore, but he still enjoys the funereal atmosphere. Your wife is there, of course, and she's happy to see you, but there are people in the room you've never met; at least you don't remember meeting them.
"So, do I know you?" you ask.
"Not really," they say, "I'm just here for the rolls." And you have to admit, the rolls are pretty good.
Would this second-life change the way you look at this room full of people? Close your eyes and do a panoramic shot in your head of the people sitting and noshing at the tables AT YOUR FUNERAL DINNER. Who are they and why are they here? What did life look like the first time on the train? Now that you've been dead and have realized new life because of Jesus, does anything shake down with this group?
It would seem to me that being given a second go-round would motivate a dramatic change. It would prompt me to reconsider shallow connections, too-casual friendships; it would make me ditch the relationship-lite nature of my dealings with other people. No more skimming, no more thin love, no more red-punch-and-cookies fellowship. Cotton-candy relationships are the old way of handling these people. I understand now that life is too short for all that fluff.
Your new life calls you to take on the hurt, the pain, the struggle, the wrestling of deep relationship. Jesus has breathed resurrected life into your once-dead lungs, and part of the package is to engage in the raucous party of people all around you. Finding a tiny house in the middle of the Northern Territories hundreds of miles from another human being is not what Lazarus longed for. (Well, maybe for a week!)
So, look around. It's time to stop breezing through with the people you love. It's time to start going deep. Not snorkel-deep but scuba deep. Submarine deep. What have you got to lose?
Suggested Scripture For Today: Romans 12 (Read it first in your usual translation, then The Message)
Suggested Ideas:
1. List the relationships in your life that demand a deeper, more vital connection because of new life in Jesus.
2. List ten ways to take those relationships deeper. Pick one relationship and do the first thing on your list.
3. Write a note to someone today expressing in clear, solid words why they are precious to you. Don't make it a Hallmark card, make it real and make it yours.
4. Going deeper will be messy. But messy does not need to be permanently damaging. Tell someone you're willing to get messy with them.
Fifteen days left. Time to jump-start your good intentions and finish well.

Day Twenty-Six Devotional ‪#‎tledevo‬
There are life-altering moments that forever change the way you communicate with another person.
I once learned that an older man I did not like at all, who was arrogant and rude and obstinate and enjoyed it, had lost a child at a very young age. I still didn't particularly like the man, but I talked to him much differently after that revelation.
I remember another older man, who seemed very quiet and stand-offish, came to me with an extraordinary gift that I'd done nothing to earn but needed very much. We had never talked about the situation before, but after that moment, he and I could talk about almost anything.
Think of the month before your honeymoon and the month after. Something changed, and communication would never be the same.
Imagine Lazarus talking to Jesus before the whole resurrection thingy. Would things have changed afterward? I think it was altogether different. Why?
I see it this way: Jesus and Laz knew one another and were even friends. That's a certain basis of relationship, and a certain kind of communication flows from it. But when Jesus got into Lazarus' head from the other side of the tombstone and called his name and urged him out, the relationship was altered; the level of communication was never the same again. There must have been an intimacy there, formed from the life-giving gift of a savior, and the nature--the very core of that relationship--would have been forever altered. That means that the form, style, level, and content of communication would also be profoundly magnified.
How did you talk to Jesus when you first began your relationship with him? Has it changed?
Listening to a new Christian pray is one of the most refreshing things to a dull spirit. The honesty and lack of pretension is daring. The naiveté of non-religious words is thrilling. The intimacy of those prayers is heart-rending and beautiful. That's Lazarus prayer.
But over time, our prayers become saturated with spiritual jargon. We lose the intimacy for the sake of expediency. We stop our dependence on that communication and start considering prayer a chore, an appointment that must be kept because someone told us that this was a "discipline" and that we had to do this to make sure we didn't lose out on all God's blessings. We began to see prayer as good karma: if I do this, he'll give me that.
In reality, it is those blessings--all that is enjoyed as part of the abundant life--that is the engine to joyous, intimate prayer. But we change things around, alter the air waves of communication.
We're learning to live like Lazarus. The way Lazarus communicated with Jesus, (i.e. prayed) would have been dramatically changed on the other side of the grave. How does your prayer-experience reflect new life? What would today look like if resurrected Jesus walked through it with you?
Suggested Scripture For Today: Psalm 145
Suggested Ideas:
1. In our country we celebrate "Take your child to work day." Pick one day this week, and invite Jesus along. And then act like he really is there with you, and let your communication with him all through the day be just as real and as pertinent as if he was physically present.
2. If we talked to our friends the way we talk to God, what would our conversations be like? Spend an hour talking to God as if he were a close friend.
3. Ask someone to stand-in for Jesus. Tell them they don't need to say anything, but just to listen to you as if they were Jesus. Then talk to him.
4. Use sticky notes on the mail boxes on your block, and write some words of hope and encouragement. (Make sure it's not too windy!)

Day Twenty-Seven Devotional ‪#‎tledevo‬
The crowds were gone. All the hoopla and partying was over. Lazarus, having slept soundly for the first time in three days, woke up to Martha's usual breakfast aromas. He stretched and yawned, and every muscle reminded him that he was alive. Again.
He remembered his agenda for the day and bounced out of bed. Now that the crowds had dispersed -- mostly to prepare for Passover -- he had a little better chance of pulling off his plan. Jesus and his disciples had gone out to the wilderness for a few days to cool off the wave of publicity that was beginning to crest in Judea. Mary and Martha had a major clean-up to accomplish after the wake/re-birth celebrations had ended. And Lazarus needed to get back to Bethany business. But first, he just wanted to sneak away and be alone and - well - he knew what needed to be done. It wasn't going to be easy, but he had been formulating his decision for days.
After breakfast Laz kissed his sisters goodbye.
"Are you sure you should be going back to work? Maybe you should take a few more days to rest up."
"Mary, really, I'll be OK. I've been fine ever since I crawled out of the hole." He hugged her with assurance, firm and strong.
"Don't forget your lunch," Martha said, handing him a basket of bread and dates and dried fish. Lazarus lifted the cloth covering the food and smiled. There was enough for ten men.
"You know how hungry you've been!" Martha defended the volume of her preparations. Laz gripped the lunch and walked out of the door into real life.
"Why are you skipping? You look like a child!" Martha called out. "You're going to trip and fall you silly man! You don't want to end up going back to the vault so soon!"
He skipped anyway. He headed down the road the direction of his business, but once he was out of view, he took the detour, around the olive grove, down the hill, and to the graveyard.
At the tomb, he sat down on a stone outcropping near the entrance. It wasn't his plan to go in. It was his plan to visit. Once. Only once more, and then never again.
It was all such a blur, and the memories that were more clear he hadn't confided to anyone. But as he stared down into the darkness of the cave, he choked, the tears coming down his cheeks, his eyes pouring out what his heart had held in since . . .
That hole in the ground--that was the enemy. He knew that now, more than ever. His visit here today was to make a declaration--of war, of victory. He wasn't arrogant, and he didn't raise his voice. But he spoke into the grave. He talked to the nemesis.
"That's it, you know. You can't have me again. See here? I'm living. I'm alive and breathing and running and skipping. My heart beats and my sweat stains my shirt and everything else is working fine. You had me once. And yes, I know I will probably die again. But listen carefully to me now: YOU DO NOT OWN ME.
Laz thought of all the times in his life when death, subtly and imperceptibly, had crept in and soured his life. He envisioned the cloud that used to hang over him; maybe he only really saw it for what it was after he'd heard Jesus call him out. But that cloud was gone, and he was here to vow that it would never return.
"I know this now. Jesus is life. He is everything. He knows no enemy that he cannot vanquish. Because he is life, I have been raised from the dead; Jesus has purchased my freedom from you. Jesus has shown you for what you are, a manipulative, weak, shell of a reality.
"I'm here to tell you this: You lost. Jesus won. You no longer have power over me. This is over."
He stood and faced down the hole. "You do not own me. You do not own me. YOU. DO. NOT. OWN. ME."
He grabbed his lunch, turned his back, and skipped away. He never visited that place again, for the rest of his life.
Suggested Scripture For Today: I Corinthians 15
Suggested Ideas:
1. Skip where people can see you do it.
2. Have a praise gathering of one in a cemetery. Sing loud, but don't disturb the mournful.
3. Offer to babysit for a young mom and dad to give them an evening alone.
4. Bake three loaves of bread. Give one to your neighbor, give one to a family member, give one to a stranger.
Hope in him,

Day Twenty-Eight Devotional ‪#‎tledevo‬
After being dead, and then being alive, everything else is extra.
Sucking in that first breath, Lazarus may have jolted with the awareness that the simple draft of air was a gift. A freebie. Extra. He didn't deserve it. It came out of nowhere, unexpected. Dropped into the middle of a tomb, that one gasp, filling Laz' lungs with oxygen, was grace in gaseous form. He breathed it as wonderful. And he took another.
We grow used to the idea of living, until losing life comes very close. If you've ever been close to death, you may know a little how Lazarus felt about his new life breathing. I lost my older brother when I was about twenty. I remember such anger for losing him to death. But I also remember a determination not take life for granted; to seize the moment and all that. From the grave's edge vantage point, every moment looks like a gift. Each day is extra.
Why is it that it takes a funeral, or a dramatic illness, or a birth, to bring us back around? Why can't we live in the extra every day?
To be a Christ-follower means squaring off with the realities of our situation--we willfully break the relational bond with God, and we become aware that we're doomed. Death is the only option. But Jesus has performed the impossible: he's purchased a means to restore the shattered pieces of our intimacy with God. When we recognize the gift and give ourselves to the truth, all of life becomes extra.
Abundant life is living out of the extra. Your next breath is grace. What will you do with it?
Live in the extra today.
Suggested Scripture For Today: John 10:1-18
Suggested Ideas:
1. Go outside and take purposefully deep breaths with your eyes closed.
2. Set a timer on your phone to go off every 30 minutes. When the timer goes off, ask: Am I using this moment as if it's the most precious moment in my life?
3. Set a time on your phone to go off every hour. When it goes off, do something completely crazy, generous, and spontaneous.
4. Buy a gallon of ice cream and deliver it to a friend without announcement.
Walk through the waters, but with a snorkel.

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