“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.

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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.

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

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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!

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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.