“Called by Name/Unwinding Graveclothes” – The Awakening Week 7

Welcome to Week 7 of our study – The Awakening!
273992695_21a2a7b3f4_zIn order to fit the book study into an 8 week format, we’ve combined chapters 7 & 8 of the book and I found that the chapters were a perfect combination!
First let’s look at chapter 7.

“When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!” – John 11:43

Chapter 7: When Love Calls Your Name: “It’s Personal!”
When the Lord Jesus called out at that tomb, He issued a very personal call.
He called specifically for Lazarus to come out of that tomb!

Have you ever wondered what would have happened if Jesus had simply said “Come Forth”?  I have.  And I imagine that every single corpse within the sound of His voice would’ve have been resurrected that day! But God had a specific purpose and specific appointment on that day. And it was to call forth “Lazarus”. That call was for no one else that day. It was for Lazarus alone. It was a call designed for one man and one man alone! That day was appointed in heaven to be the day that Love called Lazarus’ name. You and I have that same appointment. For most of us, we can recall the day, the moment, the hour that Jesus came to save us. The day that Jesus came to set us free. Aren’t you so glad that LOVE called you by name?

God not only calls our name, but He desires to speak to us daily.  In chapter seven, Joanna shared so many key points on ‘hearing from ‘ God.

  1. Tuning our hearts through prayer
  2. Tuning our hearts through God’s word
  3. Tuning our hearts by recognizing His ways
  4. Tuning our hearts by obeying His voice

For Discussion:
1. Aside from reading the bible, Joanna talks about the different ways that God may use to ‘speak’ to us (recognizing His ways: repeated themes, impressions, confirmations, checks in our spirit). How does God speak to you?

For Reflection:
1. How about those times when it seems God is silent? Is there something that God is ‘silent’ about in your life right now? Even when we feel that God is not ‘speaking’ to us, we need to remember that doesn’t mean He’s not working all things for us.
Those times when God is quiet, trust Him and wait. For when the right time comes, you’ll hear from Him again. (pg 118).

Now let’s take a look at our next chapter.

Chapter 8: “Unwinding Grave Clothes”

graveclothes1

“The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.  Jesus said to them, “Loose him and let him go.” – John 11:44

Lazarus came forth but was still bound in burial rags.
He was alive…but bound.

Because how many know that you can be born again and ‘risen from the dead’ but still be tangled up in burial clothes! Areas in your life and heart that still have the sheets and coverings of death all over them.  Still bound up in something, bound up in old bondages, old arguments, old sin. Living a new life, but you still in bondage to the old thought patterns, behaviors and actions/reactions.

This verse is so powerful and it never ceases to amaze me how God wants us (you and me) to partake of the Divine! In this portion of scripture, we read about Jesus’ command to Lazarus (the dead man) and then we read about Jesus’ command to us (the bystanders, the believers, the body).

You see, there’s a part that Jesus does and then there’s a part that He expects the body of Christ to do. It is for us (believers) to participate of the ‘unbinding’ of one another.

Here is where we need community. We need each other. Often, it is the task of Christian community to complete the action of Resurrection. Jesus has called forth new life: Lazarus come out!” But he still has burial clothes on.

“Unbind him, and let him go.” Those should be the words which are our orders every day, every new day. Unbind somebody. Where you find someone in bondage: your friend, your wife, your husband, your companion, even the stranger. Where you find someone struggling to be free, unbind them and let them go. Do not keep them tangled up in the old affairs of sin and death. Those clothes constrict and make us ill.

Jesus, therefore, proclaims to us, to all of us, to the body: “Unbind him, and let him go.” Those are really the powerful words of today’s gospel. Don’t hold on to the past. Do not hold on to sin. Do not hold on to death!

It’s for this reason that I truly love our bible studies and small groups.
I believe that even more than a large corporate setting, it’s in these private forums that we are able to take each other’s grave clothes off and help one another come unbound, loosed and set free to move forward in our walk.

Jesus does not choose to act alone in his work of raising the dead. He needs followers who will share with him in his grief for the world, and also in his anger at the damage death has done to the world. He needs followers who will roll away the stone when he commands them to do so. He needs followers to watch him cry and watch him pray. He needs his church revitalized and equipped for mission: a community of praying, reading, studying, worshipping, serving, and reaching followers in search of others whom Jesus loves.

He needs followers who will unbind those whom he has given new life to and set them free. Jesus needs you and me.

And yet, even in this…it must be done within the parameters that God Himself sets for us. You see, most times, the crux of adversity is the very crucible God uses to forge us, purge us and strengthen us in Him. If we go beyond what God is asking us to do in helping someone, we not only ‘enable’ them but we can hinder the process of growth that God has fashioned for them.

caterpillars-metamorphosis-to-butterfly-chaellas-wordpress-com-quote

The story of the chrysalis
As a pastor/minister, there is so much in this chapter that resonated with me. So many key lessons for us when working with ‘graveclothes’. You see if there’s one thing I’ve learned is that we cannot be more compassionate than God. There are limits to what we can and should do for others. Because if we do more than God is asking, we could actually end up doing more harm than good. (pg/139). Just as in her story of the naturalist who tore off the remaining chrysalis off the butterfly and in the process tore its wing. The struggle was God’s process of strength-building. By interrupting the process, we actually leave the person weak, vulnerable and delay their purposes.

Resurrection in our dead places, resurrection from our ‘tombs’ is oftentimes a struggle, b1eca1df427b62463a794d130ac7828foftentimes uncomfortable and scary. Choosing to leave our tombs and choosing to live can be frightening and hard but it is a choice and a ‘work’ that we must do ourselves.
Jesus asked the man at the pool of bethesda but one question: “Do you want to get well?” There are things that you and I MUST do for ourselves if we are ever going to “get well”.

In our ‘unbinding’ of graveclothes, whether our own or others, we must be clear on one thing: We are NOT God and We are NEVER meant to be anyone else’s ‘Messiah’.  
We are called to be ‘friends of the Bridegroom’, loyal to Christ and His work in our lives and the lives of others more than being able to help and/or fix everyone.

Because God has always been more interested in shaping the character of His children than simply providing them comfort. He is the potter and we are the clay and He shapes and forms howsoever HE deems best.

There are times when what He deems best is simply to step back and loose those binds through prayer and intercession. As a pastor I find that, more often than not, this is the case.  We must understand that when God calls us to simply ‘intercede’ it is so that we do not ‘interfere’ with the process  of ‘strength-building’ in the individual.

No matter what graveclothes you are unbinding, whether your own or others remember, Keep pressing on toward Jesus. Graveclothes are shed best as we pursue our friendship with Him. For as we fix our eyes on Jesus, we become less like us and more like Him (Psalm 34:5)

lazarusawakeningFree-From-Grave-Clothes

Memory Verse:
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” – Galatians 5:1

Roll Away the Stone! – The Awakening: Chapter 6

lazarusawakeningrollawaythestoneLast week’s discussion focused on chapter 5.
So, this Monday we’re going to focus our discussion on chapter six….Rolling Away the Stone!

“Then Jesus, again groaning in Himself, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of him who was dead, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.”  Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. – John 11:38-

A big stone blocked the entrance to the tomb of Lazarus. And before Jesus raised him from the dead, He said, “…Take away the stone…”.
God can restore what you’ve lost – if you’re willing to do what you need to do to remove the hindrances that stand in the way! Far too often we want God to act like a super-hero and enter our lives and presto make everything come up roses! But the truth is, many of the things that can make our lives better can be done by our very own hands, or as in Lazarus case, the hands of those around us!

There’s a really important lesson here:
Jesus instructs those present to ‘take away the stone’.  Jesus didn’t touch the stone. He didn’t disintegrate the stone or command it away. Instead, He gave instructions to those present to ‘roll it out of the way’.  So, when talking about ‘awakening’ and resurrecting the dead area of our lives,  we’re going to have to take the stone away. But FIRST, we need to know what the ‘stone’ is!

1). Identify the strongholds
Recognize where you are. You’re in a tomb. You’re in a dead place. That’s not faithless, that’s real-ness. That’s admitting where you are so you can work on where you’re going.

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” I Peter 5:8

Satan is always seeking to hit us in our wounded-ness. Like a lion on the prowl, he smells the scent of blood leaking from those open wounds and uses them to his advantage. Through them, he seeks to hem us in, shut us down and close us off. Many times he will use these obstacles/strongholds as daunting, intimidating blockages that lock us in and cut us off. He desires to keep us from being effective in God’s Kingdom.

He does this by:
1. Marginalizing us by telling us who we are and who we’re not. Minimizing us and convincing us that we’ve been disqualified
2. Intimidating us:
Using our insecurities to keep us timid and afraid. Unwilling to do anything that is outside our comfort zone. “What will people think??? You know you’re going to fail
3. Isolating us: freezing us emotionally at a past point of pain.  He is constantly setting up new betrayals, new rejections to emphasize the lies he’s been telling us all along. While we may go through the ‘motions’ of life, we go through life feeling alone.

However, we can identify our problem area yet refuse to allow God to touch that area for fear of how much ‘stank’ is going to come out. We refuse to give Him ‘access’.

So, the next step in rolling the stones away is to:
2). Give God access to your ‘deadness’
“Where have you laid him?”, Jesus asked. “Come and see Lord”, Martha replied. Come and see….THIS is the simple response that Jesus requires of us. Come and see. Come and see where I’ve laid my hurt, pain, my broken dream, my deep grief, my failure, my shame…Come and see and make me whole.

So often we ‘wall’ up our hearts and refuse anyone (Including God) access because we believe the lie that its better to be lonely than rejected/betrayed. It’s better to be ‘closed up’ than to being hurt again. But those walls quickly become ‘boulders’ that entomb us and keep us from experiencing the fullness of life that Christ died to give us.

In her book, Joanna identifies three major ‘boulders’ that block our blessings:
1. Unworthiness
2. Unforgiveness
3. Unbelief

The Word of God tells us in  that “obedience is better than sacrifice” (I Samuel 15:22).
And the hardest time to obey is when God just doesn’t make sense, especially when it hurts. Why is it that God is insistent upon us doing something when He knows full well that HE is able to do all things without our participation?

click here to watch the video on this week’s “Israel moment: “Drinking from the cup” as we’re reminded of Jesus’ obedience to the Father when it really ‘didn’t make sense’.

We find that most often, the ‘miracle of our ‘healing’ depends on our willingness to  do the ‘hard thing’, to be obedient and give Jesus access to our pain (pg 86), even when it feels as if we’re like olives in the olive press…so that God’s healing oil can flow in our lives.

For Discussion:
1. Rolling away stones can be hard. Have you ever had to do something that was really physically difficult? How were you able to press through it?

2. Have these stones served to entomb you in any area of your life?
Share a time when bringing a secret to light destroyed the power it had over you.

For reflection:
1. Can you think of other ‘stones’ that might be hindering your healing?
If we give God permission to invade every dark corner of our hearts, He will bring the freedom each one of us needs. Read the corresponding scriptures below and use them as a prayer back to God asking for His help and strength to roll them away that you would be set free to be healed.

  • Unworthiness (Romans 4:7-8; 8:1)
  • Unforgiveness (Ephesians 4:31-5:2)
  • Unbelief (Romans 4:20-22)

As we close this reading, let your heart lift up a prayer of praise unto the Lord and rejoice as you Trust Him for healing.

Psalm 40:1-3
I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
    out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
    and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
    a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
    and put their trust in him.

Reading/Discussion for Monday November 9th:
Chapters 7 “When Love Calls Your Name”
Chapter 8: “Unwinding Graveclothes”

See you back here next week!

Grace & Peace
~ pastor m, ❤

“Tomb Dwelling ” – The Awakening Week 5

This week’s chapter brought us to the story of the demoniac at the in Luke 8:22.
If you’ll recall Jesus had just finished ministering to thousands and tells the disciples to get in the boat, cross the lake and “go to the other side”.  For it turns out, He had an appointment with a demon possessed man.

Lazarus-Awakening-Set-Freefwf

Jesus left all that was on his plate to meet one solitary, tormented soul. Living in tombs. Aren’t you glad that Jesus will cross lakes and storms and get away from the crowd just to get to you in the middle of your dead place?

And yet, if truth be told, there are things and dead places in us that have become so ‘familiar’ that it is easier and less scary to stay there than to ‘come out’ to where Jesus calls us.  And just like the demoniac, we run to Jesus but then are too scared to give Him access to those wounded areas.  Preferring instead to live in the dysfunction. After all, “Who knows what God might make you do if you allowed Him to set you free?” (pg. 69). How many of us can say that we’ve lived in ‘tombs’ far more than we care to admit?

For this week’s “Israel Moment – Archaeology and the Bible”, click here.

In chapter 5, Joanna talks about ‘mid-chamber living’. The place suspended between the outside world and the dead. We’re saved but in bondage. Held tight in painful memories, behaviors and attitudes that keep us bound. Coping mechanisms that get us through life but don’t allow us to truly “Live”. Surviving but not thriving. Scripture calls these ‘strongholds’.

stronghold ˈstrôNGˌhōld/
noun

  1. a place that has been fortified so as to protect it against attack.
    synonyms: fortressfortcastlecitadelgarrison

    “the enemy stronghold”
    1. a place where a particular cause or belief is strongly defended or upheld.
Look at that second definition for a minute. This is what the lie of the enemy does. A place where a particular cause or ‘belief is ‘strongly’ defended or upheld. That is what the enemy has built in our thought patterns which cause us to continually repeat destructive behaviors and never fully experience the freedom of God.

Yet God is also called our ‘stronghold’. The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” (Psalm 18:2) And He’s given us a Mighty Weapon to combat the lies of the enemy.

So then, it seems that what and WHO you ‘believe’ will determine who is in charge of the stronghold.

“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the carnal, but are Mighty through God for the pulling down of strongholds. We are destroying vain imaginations and every high and lofty thing that raises itself up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,…” – 2Corinthians 10:3-5

Identifying Strongholds. (Appendix E pg 223-225)
We all have lies that we’ve internalized as truth, unhealthy patterns that undermine the life God wants us to live. To help you discover what might be holding you back from freedom, ask the Holy Spirit to lead you as you review the list and behavior patterns.

Once identified, we need to enlist the four power principles and ‘dethrone’ the lies:
1. Reveal: Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal areas of bondage.
2. Repent: Ask God to forgive you for the times you sought refuge in your stronghold instead of in Him.
3. Renounce any authority you may have given to the stronghold by coming in agreement with it instead of agreeing with the Word of God.
4. Replace the lies with the Truth of God’s Word. (2Cor. 10:3-5 & Philippians 4:8)

Week Five Memory Verse:

Then Jesus said,
“Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” – John 11:40

John 11:34 tells us that Jesus asked Martha and Mary to show him where they had laid their dead brother. Come and see Lord and together they went to Lazarus’ tomb.
Today, Jesus asks that same question of you and me.

Show Jesus where you’ve laid your pain. Where you keep all your shattered hopes and dreams. Show him where you’ve laid the part of you that died when you failed or were abandoned, forgotten and betrayed. Give him access to those areas where you feel entombed and enslaved, hemmed in, shut down and closed off. Tell Him today… as Martha and Mary did: “Come and see, Lord”.

For Discussion:

1. Read the section in chapter 5 titled “Caught between life and death” (pgs. 69-71). What are some indications that you may be stuck in ‘mid-chamber living’.

2. Review the “Hurts, Hang-ups and Habits” sidebar on pg. 70. What does Psalm 107:20 mean to you?

For Reflection:
Isaiah 61 tells us that Jesus came to heal the brokenhearted and set the captives free. That means you and me my friend. Furthermore, it tells us that He gives us a garment of praise for the spirit of despair and double recompense for all that we’ve lost. Meditate on this beautiful chapter in the book of Isaiah and let God’s grace shine upon your dead places and allow them to come alive in His love!

“When Love Tarries” – The Awakening Week 4

How many of you remember playing ‘freeze tag’?

You know everyone’s running around and then you’re tagged and you gotta stay ‘frozen’ and remain still until someone else comes along and tags you. Or how about musical chairs. Round and round you ‘walk-run’ and nervously wait for the music to finally stop so you can “jump” into that seat before the next person because you didn’t want to be the one to end up without a ‘seat’. Now, doesn’t that speak a mouthful right there about our need to ‘hurry’!

Because whether it’s staying put or moving around, ‘waiting’ stretches us and is hardly ever easy.

lazarusholdon

Our memory scripture for the week is: Jeremiah 29:11

Lazarusawakeningjeremiah2911

For this week’s Israel Moment video “Jesus, The Ministry”, click here.

This week’s lesson is entitled, “When Love Tarries.”

As we read chapter 4 , I’m sure we can all relate to a time or times when we’ve waited on the Lord’s reply to a prayer, a petition or a promise. Too often, its the waiting that tires us more than anything else.  And sometimes waiting ends in a shattered hope or dream. Sometimes, the waiting results in death.  And its in these moments when we cry as Mary and Martha did: “Why didn’t Jesus come?” “Why did Lazarus have to die?” Moments that just make no ‘common’ or earthly sense.

What do we do when God doesn’t make sense? When His answer seems to be…wait. Or no.  These ‘dark nights of the soul’ have the capacity to shake the very core of our faith. Joanna shares in her book about an author Brian  whose wise seminary professor’s response to his agonizing trial of faith was: “When the last grain of sand is finally gone, you’re going to discover that you’re standing on a rock.” 

The scariest thing in the world is to feel that you are losing everything you hold dear.
Jesus heard Lazarus was sick and waited two days more! And on top of that, He called the delay good! The book calls it “The Blessing of Trouble”

“I am glad I was not there…so that you may believe”
John 11:15

The Lord’s denial of what we desperately want can be His very mercy so that we can finally find what our hearts need most. Its purpose is divinely working a faith in you that comes through as gold. The delay is deliberate so that the work of God might be displayed in your life (John 9:3).

For discussion:
1. How do you respond to waiting times in your life? What, if anything would you have done differently? What did you learn from a particularly difficult waiting period?

For Reflection:

lazarusawakeningquill This week’s lesson talked about giving God the ‘quill of our will’. Review the “Art of Waiting” sidebar on page 49 in the study guide and reflect on what area(s) of your life you may need to give God control and learn to stand still (Exodus 14:13), sit still (Ruth 3:18) and be still and know that He is God. (Psam 46:10)

Reading Assignment for week of October 19th:
Read chapters 5&6 and join us for our next online discussion Monday October 26th.

And don’t forget to share your comments and insights below!

~ pastor m.

Friendship with God – The Awakening Week 3

Welcome to Week 3 of The Awakening.

When we opened our study we shared about our need to be awakened, even after giving our hearts to Christ. As we all know, just because we accepted Him as savior doesn’t necessarily mean we allow Him to be Lord.  This week’s devotional study talks about another such topic…How to be a Friend of God.

Then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea,”… After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep.”
– John 11:7, 11

We often hear of Abraham and Moses and David being friends of God, but how often have you considered Lazarus a friend of Jesus? Or how about when Jesus called Judas ‘friend’? What kind of ‘friend’ could Judas possibly have been??

In Christ’s Image Training, Francis Frangipane wrote:
“During the most somber night of His life, Jesus warned His apostles that a betrayer was among them. Deeply grieved, each asked, “Surely not I, Lord?” Finally, Judas also answered, saying, “Surely it is not I, Rabbi?” (Matt. 26:20–25).

Do we see this?
The other disciples, though flawed, knew Jesus as their Lord. To them, Christ’s words were commands, not just teachings. Judas, however, never accepted Jesus as Lord. The lordship of Christ never replaced the self-will of Judas. So let us ask ourselves:
Are the words of Christ just casual thoughts or are they commands uttered by the Lord of Heaven?”

Whoa. What a thought to consider.
If you’ve walked long enough in the Lord (and in ministry) you will find yourself facing an unexpected Judas. And the most hurtful part of it is usually because it comes not from whom we expect but, many times, from those closest to us. But, at the heart of this lesson, there’s a deeper question to be asked: “how many times did I ‘betray’ Jesus? 

Stop and consider the meaning of the two terms Joanna shares in this week’s reading:
1. Philos: a friend; someone dearly loved (prized) in a personal, intimate way; a trusted confidant, held dear in a close bond of personal affection. The root (phil-) conveys experientialpersonal affection – indicating (phílos) expresses experience-based love.

2. Hetairos: properly, a companion (normally an imposter), posing to be a comrade but in reality only has his own interests in mind. Hetaíros (“supposed friend”) suggests someone viewed(associated) as a friend, but is actually an imposter acting for self-gain.

Eye-opening isn’t it??

Have you ever sought Him simply for the blessing? Have you ever been guilty of only wanting God’s benefits but not His commands?

Oh, if we were totally honest, each one of us would have to admittedly say yes…
You and I my friend, at one time or another (maybe even still) have acted like Judas, have acted like a ‘hetairos’.

But the very fact that we are here, searching and seeking Him is evidence that we desire more. And that is a good thing.

And the Good news is, God has not chosen us to be his slaves. He’s chosen us to be His “friends”. What a sweet invitation to friendship and sweet intimacy with God.  But, Intimacy doesn’t just happen. It has to be cultivated and maintained.

Lazarus-Awakening-True-Friendship-2

“The secret of the Lord is with those who fear Him,
And He will show them His covenant.” – Psalm 25:14

What then, does it take to have friendship with God? Friendship with God is:
1. Developed in solitude
“God’s acquaintance is not made hurriedly. He does not bestow His gifts on the casual or hasty comer & goer. To be much alone with God is the secret to knowing Him and of influence with Him.” – E.M. Bounds

2. Forged through Difficulty
Something happens in the midst of our fiery trials that simply cannot happen anywhere else. In the crucible of testing, our soul is purged and purified. What if God allows the uneven places in our lives for one sole purpose: to help keep our hearts and minds ‘stayed’ on Him.

“But He knows the way that I take;
When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.” – Job 23:10

For discussion:
1. Read John 15:13-17, what do you discover about being a friend of Jesus?
2. Take the friendship test on page 44. What did you discover about your relationship with God? Share one aspect of friendship in which you’d like to grow

For reflection:
True friendship comes from the heart. The heart then is where we start. For we don’t love God on our own, HE gives us the heart to love. This week, dwell on this scripture and let it be a part of your daily prayer.


“Then I will give them a heart to know Me, that I am the Lord; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God, for they shall return to Me with their whole heart.” – Jeremiah 24:7New King James Version (NKJV)

Will we trust the timing, the methods and the purposes of our God?
If we’re willing to be purified and shaped in the fire, we will become people God can use. People God can trust…People God can call “Friend”.

Tale of the Third Follower…The Awakening – Week 2

Welcome to Week 2 of our online bible study.

If you haven’t received your books or are joining us for the first time, be sure to click here to read the introductory post from last week.  After you read the post, please be sure to share with us in the comments section just how the story of Mary, Martha and Lazarus spoke to you as you read it.  And now on to this week’s readings!

Readings for Week 2 (October 5th):
Chapter 1: Tale of the Third Follower
Chapter 2: Lord, The One You Love is Sick

We so often hear about busy Martha and worshipping Mary but do ever recall hearing about Lazarus? I mean, yes…we hear that he died and we hear about the miraculous resurrection. But. basically. That’s it. We don’t hear much more. Except this…when Martha exclaims to Jesus, “…the one You love is dead…”

And we all know the rest of the story and how Jesus goes to Lazarus’ tomb and calls him forth!

Lazarus-Awakening-Set-Freefwf

To think that the one that was barely spoken about. The one that blended into the background of the story. The one that had performed no special feat or feature or had great gift to be spoken of….was the one that Jesus resurrected. Why?? As far as I can see…simply because He loved him and so that the Father be glorified.

Oh, beloved THAT right there is cause for celebration!!

Maybe that’s where you’re at right now in your life. Maybe you feel left out or unnoticed or even ‘forgotten’ by others and deeper still, by your Heavenly Father.
Maybe the loss of a loved one, or the loss of a marriage or child, or even a deep hope or dream has caused you to no longer believe or has stolen your desire to believe. Maybe you have lost hope in the Truth that God sees you right where you are and that Jesus is able to reach you in the middle of your tomb. But God is not a man that He should lie. Jesus came down from Heaven itself to die on a cross just for you. Would not that same Savior travel to even the deepest darkest tomb to resurrect you??

Let’s  watch this week’s “Israel Moment” and be reminded of the travels and ministry and life of Jesus here on earth…

https://player.vimeo.com/video/132103249“>

As we see how Jesus lived His life, we are reminded not only how to live ‘our’ lives but also that He is touched by our infirmities, that His compassion reaches into the deepest darkest recesses of lives.

As we begin this study, give God permission to do whatever He needs to do in order to give us the life we need. Let the Spirit of the Lord awaken your spirit as He speaks Life to you and says: “Talitha Koum…Daughter, Arise!”

“TALITHA KOUM
Daughter…ARISE!!

For Discussion:

1. On pages 4 and 5 of the book Lazarus Awakening, Joanna includes a sidebar titled “What Kind of Father Do You Have?”  Which (if any) misrepresentation of God as Father have you struggled with? Have you experienced another kind not named? How do you think your connection with your earthly father has affected your relationship with God?

2. If you were to send a message to Jesus concerning your current situation and need, how would you finish the following sentence: “Lord, the one you love is…

3. In chapter two, Joanna talks about ‘when life doesn’t make sense’. Has there ever been a time in your life when you felt that Jesus arrived too late? Are you feeling like that now?

Beloved, please know that God’s timetable is not like ours because His sight and wisdom and ways are so much higher and greater. God doesn’t always come when we expect Him to or want Him to, but He surely comes in His perfect plan.

Lazarus-Awakening-Rush-a-Resurrection-2“You can’t rush a resurrection, but you can be sure of this:
God is at work!”  
– Joanna Weaver

Right there in the midst of your trial…stop. breathe. listen….

“…Love is calling your name.”

For Reflection:

Ever since Adam and Eve bit into the forbidden fruit, humanity has struggled with an identity crisis. We’ve forgotten who we really are–chosen and beloved children of God. On pages 20-21 in the study guide we find a chart titled: Who I Am In Christ. While sharing responses with the group isn’t required, replacing lies with God’s truth is!

Beginning with this week and each week hereafter, choose one of the declarations to meditate on and respond to in the journaling space provided after the “Make a Plan” homework.

“I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish;
no one can snatch them out of my hand” – John 10:28

Note: *If you’re part of our private facebook small group, we’ll be sharing these points as well as your take-aways at our Monday evening online gatherings.

Not part of the study? Not on facebook? That’s okay. Would still love to hear from you!
Be sure to share your insights/comments below.

The Awakening: Introduction – Week 1

So excited to start this new study with you all!

Lazarus-Awakening-Wakepic
Going forward, you’ll receive these weekly posts on Tuesday morning for that week’s study.

This week however is going out later in the week because  I wanted to give everyone a chance to get their books. By now everyone should have their books and study guides. Both the book and the guide are chock full of readings, reflection questions and journaling ‘assignments’. Hopefully, that hasnt scared you off! lol. You’ll notice that the study guide has the Video session pages. Because this is an ‘online’ study, we won’t be going over that portion of the study.

If you weren’t with us last Monday, here’s a trailer on The Lazarus Awakening Bible Study:

The author’s synopsis for the study reads as follows:
“For many of us, moving the truth of God’s love from our heads to our hearts is a lifelong process. As we consider our inadequacies or grieve our shattered dreams, we find it difficult to believe that God cares for us personally.

This study is about a journey on how to embrace the truth that Jesus loves us apart from anything we can bring or offer and more importantly, apart from anything we can accomplish. Just as He called Lazarus forth to new life, Jesus wants to free you and me to live fully in the light of His love, unbound from the grave-clothes of fear, doubt, regret, self-condemnation.”

Joanna calls these ‘grave clothes”. And if you’re reading this or a part of this study, then I dare to believe that God is saying to you:

“It’sTime To Come Forth…”

Joanna has generously added amazing onsite footage of the town of Bethany where we find our ‘family’ of the hour: Mary, Martha and Lazarus. More importantly, she shares with us the beauty of Israel, known as “The Fifth Gospel” and the biblical places and locations mentioned throughout scripture. I will be including an “Israel Moment” video clip on each of our weekly blog posts.

Wasn’t that amazing? Have you ever visited the Holy Land? Oh, how I would love to. Most definitely needs to be on the ‘bucket list’, don’t you agree?

In addition to the video clips, I’ll share the weekly memory scripture.

Memory Scripture:
“The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy, but I come that they may have life and life in abundance.” – John 10:10

The goal is to have every opportunity to get the ‘Word’ in our hearts and minds so that we can not only hear the word and know the word but experience the Word and LIVE the Word.

And so that brings us to this week’s reading and the cornerstone story of our study:
Read: Luke chapter 10 and John chapter 11:1-12:11

In the readings above, we find the very familiar story of Lazarus, Mary and Martha. Many of us know it and have read it dozens of times. Have probably heard just as many sermons and preachings on it as well. But the wonderful thing about the Word is that it is a “living” word. You can read the same text/scripture a dozen times and depending on where you are in your walk with the Lord and what is going on in your life, that same Word has the ability to pierce you, minister to you or even jump off the page to you as if it were the fist time you were reading it.

For discussion:
1. So, as you read the story this week, what did the Holy Spirit emphasize to you that really spoke to you this time around? Why do you think that portion of scripture resonates with you?

2. Who do you relate to in the story? Are you a Martha? Seeing to all the preparations, rushing to and fro…busy, busy, busy? Are you more like Mary? More concerned with listening and gleaning than with preparing? In honesty, sometimes procrastinating and not getting things done? Or do you feel more like Lazarus? Forgotten. Dead. Stuck in what the author calls “mid-chamber” living…walking around in grave clothes.
How have these characteristics affected your spiritual life?
What, if anything would you want to see change?

For Reflection:
1. Is there any area of fear or resistance to God’s work that might hold you back?
2. What areas (if any) need the resurrecting touch of Jesus?
Bring those areas to the Lord and invite Him to have His way in your life.
3. What one thing could you do this week to break through that resistance and/or fear.

If you’re part of our private facebook small group, we’ll be sharing these points as well as your take-aways at our Monday evening online gatherings.

Not part of the study? Not on facebook? That’s okay. Would still love to hear from you!
Be sure to share your insights/comments below.

Love Links….What happens when you dare to live #undaunted

lovelinkslogoSo this past Thursday, we finally had the divine opportunity to go to Northern Jersey and meet with the Love Links Outreach team and the ministry’s beautiful team leader for our joint outreach.  Excitedly, the car was filled with the love bags for the ladies and my niece Danielle and I were on our way!

fwflovelinksoutreachbags05
We drove the hour long ride into Jersey not really knowing what to expect. All I knew fwflovelinksbags03was that there were a group of women at “LoveLinks” whose hearts were touched and moved with compassion for the hurting and the broken women just like ours at Fierce Woman Found and we both knew that it pleased the King for us to come together in unity to bring Love and Light to the forgotten and lost.
fwflovelinksoutreachteam002(Pictured: LoveLinks Ministry Team)

fwflovelinksoutreachteam001
Why a ministry to women in strip clubs you ask?
70% of females who are trafficked are trafficked into the commercial sex industry (this industry includes Porn, Strip Clubs, and massage parlors in the US). 89% of women in the sex industry said they wanted to escape, but had no other means for survival.

As a woman, you may even be asking yourself: “But, why would you do that to yourself anyway?”  Well, there’s a scripture in the bible that I believe may say it best:

“… to the hungry, even what is bitter tastes sweet.” – Proverbs 27:7

When brokenness is all you know, brokenness is all you believe you can have.
That is…until someone shows you otherwise.

As LoveLinks Director Marisol MacCheyne so aptly put it:
“We are ‘daughters of the King’ seeking out ‘ other daughters of the King’.

And so, with “Purpose” before us, we sat at the table sharing a meal together and listened as Marisol shared her heart and how the vision of the ministry came about. She too had been ‘ruined’ when she heard Christine Caine preach about the modern day slavery of sex trafficking in the world today.  I listened as she shared with me the ‘heart’ of LoveLinks to pour out the love of Christ to the women in the strip clubs who were so vulnerable and at-risk, not just for being trafficked but for being abused and addicted and completely broken and lost.

Research related to women working in various aspects of the sex industry indicates that women working in the sex industry are faced with higher rates: drug addictions[ix], sexually transmitted diseases[x], violent assaults[xi], and mental health problems[xii] such as Depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder than the general population.

“Women in the sex industry experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder at rates equivalent to veterans of combat war.”[xv]

According to a study by Silbert and Pines, 70% of interviewees noted that childhood sexual abuse had an influence on their entry into prostitution[xiv].

Moreover, between 66% to 90% of women in the sex industry were sexually abused as children[xiii].

*For the source of all these statistics and much more, visit the “Treasures” website.

…66 to 90% were sexually abused as a child.
Working with victims and survivors of domestic violence and abuse since 2008, I knew full well the truth behind that statistic. After all, 80% of the women who came to me about their abusive relationships and/or traumas had been molested/abused as a child and years later, they were still trying to work through the damage.

Women in the sex industry face a myriad of issues that impact their physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Many feel desperately isolated and alone. In this instance, there is not much difference between those in the sex industry and those who have been abused or violated…the healing that is needed is deep. It is multi-layered, spirit, mind and body. And because their hurts and needs are multi-faceted, the approach to assisting them in the recovery process needs to be holistic as well.

So…after a delicious homemade meal made by the blessed hands of Mr. MacCheyne, we got to work preparing the final additions to the LoveBags for the evening…the homemade deliciousness of Lanie’s baked goods!

fwflovelinksteam010

When it comes to ministering to broken and hurting women, most especially those who have been victimized and abused, one thing is crystal clear….it is GOD who is in the details.

fwflovelinksteam012And just as in our own Fierce Woman Found Ministry, I found that Marisol and her team shared the same heart of excellence in everything that was prepared for the women.

fwflovelinksteam006
fwflovelinksteam003

…Every single tray was put together with loving care and excellence.

fwflovelinksteam009

fwflovelinksteam008

Every tray, every bag, every gift is made with tender loving care and made beautiful because its of utmost importance that the ladies know:
They ARE worth it. They ARE precious. They ARE valued. They ARE loved.

“For too long the church has ‘passed by’ the broken women sitting at the well dying for a drink of living water because of their sordid past/lifestyle…
It’s time for a change. It’s time to go to Samaria and bring the LIVING WATER of Life — that is Christ.”

– pastor m, fiercewomanfoundministries

As someone who has lived at broken cisterns, I remember what its like to seek water and come up dry and deserted. I also know what its like to find THE WELL of Living Waters. And my encounter with Him didn’t happen inside the church. Not my initial encounter of salvation anyway. Nope. That happened in Samaria, the most ungodly of places, while I was alone, away from the crowd. The outcast. The unbecoming. The sinful woman.  You see some people are hurting so bad, you have to do more than preach a message to them…you have to BE a message to them.

Due to confidentiality, we cannot share details such as names, places, etc.
But suffice to say, that night we joined this courageous team as they visited the clubs.

Each time we went in, we witnessed the deep joy on the girls faces as we entered with their ‘love bags’. And though they loved the cookies and the treats, it wasn’t hunger for food that caused their spirits to leap. It was hunger and thirst for that which we (the church) take so lightly nowadays. It was hunger for the presence of hope. Hunger for the presence of God. It was the ‘presence’ of the Love Links team and the GOD-Hope and Light within them that brought the smile to their faces and the desperation in their hugs.  As one woman said over and over, “I thought you weren’t coming. I figured we were ‘unsave-able’….that we were too contaminated for you…”

But, what pit is it that our God won’t reach into to save us? What black hole didn’t He deliver YOU from? Is there anywhere that we can go that GOD won’t seek us out and draw us to Him with cords of Love???

And the Word of God says:
“Neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God.” Romans 8:39

Christine Caine shares the story of the time her little girl wanted the flashlight in the supermarket, and when she wasn’t able to see the ‘light’ amidst the brightness of Walmart’s fluorescent lighting, she excitedly tells her, “Come on, Mum! Let’s go find some darkness! (To read more on this story, click here).

Listen to me…if you want to be ruined for church as usual…GO.

Go to the dark and broken places and bring the Light. You will never settle for lukewarm christianity again. As Christians, we MUST stop hiding from the darkness and we MUST Go and FIND some darkness and DISPEL it with the Light of the Gospel!

You see, while others are busy preaching about it, reading about it, writing about it and blogging about it…the LoveLinks team and others like them are just plain DOING IT! While we (the average church) are busy criticizing and arguing about whether we should be going into these kind of ‘establishments’, these women are going in and touching lives for the KINGDOM of Light and defeating the darkness on its own territory.

And I know I speak for all of us at Fierce Woman Found Ministries when I say, we were proud to be a part of her posse that night!

fwflovelinksteam013

One final word…work like this simply cannot be done without a group of people who provide the love, prayers and support behind the scene.
And so, to our beautiful team of #FreedomFighters:
Pastor Maria Garcia, Mary DeFina, Gabrielle Oliveira, Bernice (Nicee) Moran, Jennifer Torres and Iryna Makaruk….Thank you for believing, for praying and for supporting the ‘heart work’ of God and the vision to advance HIS Kingdom!

Want to know more about how to support these amazing ministries?
If you’d like more information on “Love Links” Ministry and the Justice Network of Northern Jersey, click here or visit their website at http://justice-network.org/love-links or email Marisol@Justice-Network.org.

For more information on Fierce Woman Found Ministries, visit our facebook page or email pastor Michelle Soto at fwfministries@aol.com.

The “LoveLinks” Challenge…preparing for outreach

Hey all!

fwflovelinksoutreach007

FWF’s “LoveLinks” Outreach – Living Life #Undaunted

If you’ll remember, the last time we spoke, we shared about our upcoming  #Undaunted Challenge where we would be joining “LoveLinks” Outreach Ministry in Northern Jersey as they ministered to women in the strip club/sex trade industry. To read about our #Undaunted challenge, click here.

In preparation for the outreach our very own Fierce Woman Found Outreach team gathered together to prepare and pray for each individual bag.

But, first some shopping and gathering of the “goodies”…

fwflovelinksoutreach001

fwflovelinksoutreach003

fwflovelinksoutreach002

fwflovelinksoutreach005

Then, with love and faith and scripture, each bag was filled…

fwflovelinksbags03

fwflovelinksmary2

fwflovelinksoutreachmary4

 

Then, we prayed over each “love bag”  to be a mighty blessing to the women who have felt forgotten, abandoned, alone and abused, that they would know that they were beautiful, they were loved and they were purposed!

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

And finally, with a blessing and a bow, we completed each bag…lovelinksoutreachlovebags01

fwflovelinksoutreachbags02

From our hearts to yours, we thank you to every single one of you who prayed, gave, supported and joined us for this amazing summer series.

fwflovelinksoutreachmary1

Stay tuned for our next post as we follow up and share with all of you about our evening with LoveLinks and the ‘treasures in darkness!

~pastor m and the fierce woman found ministries outreach team

 

Undaunted…Going where ‘feet may fail’

If you have been doing the Undaunted on-line study each week, you know that we are at the end of our study. Let me suggest to anyone that did not purchase the Undaunted book at the beginning of the study…….purchase it. Purchase it and read it as a follow up to the study (Click HERE to purchase your copy). It would be a great end of summer read at the beach! There is much inspiration and I believe her book will encourage you even more to follow God’s call to love others.

As we come to the close of this study, it’s important to cement our “takeaways.”
These are the important points that made an impact, the lessons learned, the action steps we feel called to take.  If we don’t purposely ponder what they were and write them down, chances are, we won’t remember them.  We may remember that we liked the study or class, but it won’t be specific enough for us to remember the actual inspirational point and challenge.

I came across an acronym  and recreated it for this particular study.
undauntedprintable

Christine Caine is amazing, empowering, inspiring and undaunted.
But you know what? She is also just like us.
She is someone with “messy-ness” and challenges at every turn in life.  Yet, along the way she allowed God to piece together the threads of life’s circumstances and followed where He was leading. She didn’t miss God’s work in her life, and she decided to use His leading to live her life undaunted. And because of that she is unstoppable!…fueled by faith and filled with love and courage.

In the last sentence of her book Christine says “He means for us to walk in the gap where He’s thrown down the cross, to walk like Him, to walk with Him.”  I pray that all that Jesus did on the cross will have new meaning and purpose for us. He loves us so much He went to the cross to make us free and whole so we could join Him in reaching a lost world. He rescued us so we can rescue others.

He became our hope so we could share hope with others.

wherefeetmayfail

In a few weeks, a small handful of us will be stepping out and going to reach women who don’t know the love of Jesus. Women who, because of the kind of work they do are in very real danger of being trafficked, if they’re not already. Even more so, they are in danger of never knowing they are perfectly and wonderfully made in the Beloved.
You may not be able to come with us but you can surely partner with us by giving a donation for the love bags we are putting together.
Would you consider partnering with us in this effort?  Click here to give.

1. How about you? What are your takeaways? Please share one or two (or more) with the on-line community in this study as we conclude – it will encourage us all.

2. We would also value any feedback you have on the on-line study format.

…So now, for you and for me – can we also live undaunted and be unstoppable?

I think we have learned that the answer is a loud YES!
It’s having our eyes opened from slumber, unwilling to stay asleep.
It’s deciding enough is enough.
It’s knowing at each new day that we can make a difference.

Not because of us…but because of Jesus in us.