Monday, August 17, 2015

Discovering What's Next

There were three days left in my Bible study, and I had no idea what my 22-year-old daughter in Christ and I would study now.  I had scrolled down a screen full of possibilities but hadn't really settled on anything.  Frustrated, I simply clicked the X and wandered down our gravel drive to pick up the evening mail.

I don't know about you, but I'm the type of woman who needs accountability when it comes to studying God's Word.  Plop 66 books in my lap, and I can read them, but those randomly-read words rarely lead me to life-altering action on my knees before the Lord.  And honestly?  I'm more apt to read less than more...or some days, not at all.  Give me, instead, a book designed to guide my study of those same words along with a good Bible Dictionary and commentary or two, and my spirit consistently grows like a well-watered sunflower in a hot Louisiana summer.

I find I can commit more easily to devoutly studying part of God's Word for six, eight, ten weeks at a time.  Then, after that period of time, I recommit to doing the same thing over again with another study of another part of Scripture.  Breaking up my study into pockets of time like this keeps me in the Word year-round because I'm constantly having to recommit myself to starting anew when the assigned "weeks" of my present study are up.

At the end of June, though, I had no idea what to study next.  Imagine my jaw-dropping surprise when I slit open a padded envelope and an entire Bible study complete with book, workbook and DVDs dropped on my kitchen's gathering table.

More importantly?  The study was about Lazarus, the Bible character I had been compelled to study on my own just the week before as I pondered how Jesus' love doesn't always look like love in my own life.  I've never had a Bible study thrown at me in such a literal way or at such a needed juncture, but by God's divine providence, I began a 10-week study of Joanna Weaver's newest book Lazarus Awakening: Finding Your Place in the Heart of God

Weaver is best known to me for her book Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World.  Here, though, she looks at the story of Lazarus' death and resurrection as recorded in John 11 & 12.  While the first two chapters were difficult for me to sink my teeth into, by Chapter 3, the study came alive for me, and the accompanying DVD showed me a woman who was not a ravishing beauty with great speaking ability, but a woman who is ordinary--like me--and whose love for Jesus radiates off her face as she speaks.

In the study, Weaver shows how like Lazarus, we are all sick with the deadly illness of sin and in need of a resurrection, but to achieve that, God desires a relationship with us.  To accomplish that relationship, often, God will withdraw everything from our lives that detracts from Him so that we will pursue the one best thing--Him--versus the many good things.

Weaver continues with this theme by discussing how humanity perceives love as the quick meeting of our needs, but trouble can be a blessing.  She uses one of my new-favorite quotes from Charles Haddon Spurgeon to illustrate the point:

If you want to ruin your son, never let him know hardship.  When he is a child carry him in your arms, when he becomes a youth still dandle him, and when he becomes a man still dry-nurse him, and you will succeed in producing an arrant fool.  If you want to prevent his being made useful in the world, guard him from every kind of toil.  Do not suffer him to all his wishes, avert all disappointments, prevent all troubles, and you will surely tutor him to be a reprobate and to break your heart.  But put him where he must work, expose him to difficulties, purposely throw him into peril, and in this way you shall make him a man, and when he comes to do a man's work and to bear man's trial, he shall be fit for either.  My Master does not daintily cradle His children when they ought to run alone;...but He lets them tumble down to the cutting of their knees, because then they will walk more carefully by-and-by, and learn to stand upright by the strength which faith confers upon them. (p. 58-59).

God restrains Himself from meeting all our wants in order to produce what Weaver refers to as "enduring love" for the Lord in our hearts.  And yet, to grow in our love and relationship with God, we must stop dwelling in our own tombs, caught between the world of the flesh and the world of the spirit.

The best chapters in Weaver's study delve into "tomb living" or how once Jesus resurrects us to new live and the stone is rolled away, we still choose to live in defeat, fear, and wrapped in our graveclothes that trip us up and drag down our ministry and the ministry of others.

In one passage, Weaver calls us well-seasoned Christians to help set free those around us by helping them on their road of sanctification, of becoming like Christ. She argues we Christians often keep new Christians firmly bound in their grave clothes by how we treat them: "We bind people through our attitudes toward them.  We bind them when we hold onto their faults instead of lifting up and encouraging their attempts to change.  We bind people when we don't forgive them.  We bind them when we gossip to others about their faults.  Whenever we treat people out of our smallness instead of the Lord's abundance; we keep them bound" (p. 126).


Maybe it's time for some of us to lay down our expectations of where someone should be on his journey as a Christian and should, instead, walk alongside them, helping them become all they can be in Christ.

Whether you are a new Christian or a more well-seasoned one, Lazarus Awakening will speak hope and wisdom into your heart.  It's not often a book receives my wholehearted recommendation, but this is a "keeper" on my bookshelf, one that has both convicted me and comforted me through a rough season of change in my household and difficulty in my church life.

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