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One of the most powerful Biblical lessons is the raising of Lazarus from the dead by Jesus.
It is found in John 11:17-44. Jesus had been told about Lazarus’ death. He loved Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. They were some of His best friends. He was very fond of them and was very troubled when He received this news.
“When Jesus arrived, He found that Lazarus had already been dead in the tomb for four days. ‘Now, Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother.
“When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met Him, while Mary stayed home. Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give You whatever You ask of him.’
“Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’
“Martha said to Him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.’
“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in Me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?’
“She said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.’
“When she had said this, she went back and called to her sister, Mary, and told her, privately, ‘The Teacher is here and is calling for you.’ And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to Him.
“Now, Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met Him. The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up, quickly, and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to tomb to weep there.
“When Mary came where Jesus was and saw Him, she knelt at His feet and said to Him, ‘Lord if You had been here, my brother would not have died.’ “When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, ‘Where have you laid him?’
“They said to Him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ “Jesus began to weep.
“So, the Jews said, ‘See how He loved him!’
“But some of them said, ‘Could not He who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?’
“Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus said, ‘Take away the stone.’
“Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to Him, ‘Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.’
“Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?’
“So, they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, ‘Father, I thank You for having heard Me. I knew that You always hear Me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that You sent Me.’
“When He had said this, He cried with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth.
“Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go.’”
Jesus had raised others from the dead, but certainly, no one who had been “dead” for four days. How do we look at this story? Oftentimes, we are in situations where we feel (from our human perspective) that there is NO hope: things will not get better; the prognosis is bad; we don’t know if we can make it.
Oftentimes, we think that about ourselves. Have you ever noticed that when we are faced with a tremendous crisis. In our story today, Mary and Martha and the others saw Lazarus as dead, hopeless, never to recover.
Do you know someone in your life you feel cannot change? That it is hopeless, that they can be a better person? There are people out there who say things like, “I don’t know if he/she will ever change. It seems like the end of the road for him/her. It’s all over. We might as well give up. He / She is showing evidence of not changing.”
In our story today, after four days, there was an odor. We all know people who have a track record of indicating they are not going to change. Don’t you agree? When we hold to the appearances, it seems as if that situation is hopeless. Jesus though, said do not look to appearances. There is an odor; there is an activity; there is a state of mind or activity that takes place when we’re around them and we say things like, “I don’t care how much I pray and meditate; this is not going to change.” We don’t actually say this, but we think it sometimes.
Even Lazarus thought he could not change. Did you notice that? We can only entomb ourselves. No one can entomb us. They can help us to be healed, but no one can entomb us. Even Lazarus thought things could not get worse for him. He felt he had reached the end of the road, and nothing could make him improve. The prognosis seemed hopeless.
But through the salvation of God, through the living Christ presence, there are no hopeless situations.
Jesus said when He approached the tomb important words for us today. The first thing He said was “Take away the stone.”
What does that mean? Change that crystallized point of view you have about that situation. Yes, we may know what the prognosis indicates. You might say, “But, he came from this family and I’ve found that nobody has ever improved. I know his brother and sister, and I knew his parents. I know he is not going to change. Let’s face the facts; let’s face the reality. The reality is that is the way they are. They cannot change or improve.”
When Jesus said, “Take away the stone,” He was saying to take away that crystallized point of view, that perception you have of some individual some situations in your life today. There are stones to take away in ourselves and in others.
A man said, “I have a brother. My brother likes to drink alcohol a little more than is necessary. I went to see my brother and talked to him as a minister would a congregant. I talked about all the beautiful things that are available to him and all of us, and how much I loved him. While I was saying this, my brother was looking at me with one eye, trying to figure out what I was talking about because he was having a good time. He didn’t have a problem; in his eyes I was the one who had a problem.
“Why doesn’t he stop drinking? Doesn’t he know he is destroying his body?” I would pray, “Oh God, I pray my brother stops drinking.”
I noticed that every time I went to visit my brother there would be a strain in our relationship. I was not comfortable around my brother and he was not comfortable around me. I can remember all the years that my brother drank. I can remember some of the things he did and some things he did not do, simply because he was drinking.
The man said that “I grieved over the loss of a good relationship with my brother. I realized one day that to have a good relationship with my brother I had to behold God working in him.”
We have to behold God’s presence in the lives of difficult people. When Jesus told them to take away the stone, He was saying to change your way of thinking about the situation.
The man said, “It wasn’t easy for me to accept my brother wanting to lead the life he wanted to live. I noticed that once I started beholding God with him and prayed for his highest good (irrespective of what that is; even though it is not what I want), I changed. And when I changed, our relationship became easier. When I would visit my brother, he would smile at me and I would smile at him and say, “It’s okay.
We opened up lines of communication and support that were blocked before and real progress is being made.” I rolled away the stone.
We never know what is around the corner. We don’t know everything seeing from just the limited view of this moment. This former alcoholic had many people who gave up on him. He changed his life; he became one of the most outstanding citizens in the community.
Not only do we want to behold the presence of God in the people around us, but we also want to behold the presence of God in ourselves. Sometimes, we beat up on ourselves and think, “I guess I never will do what I want. . .I never will lose the weight I want to lose . . . I never will find the right job. . .I never will find the right relationship.”
Take away that stone! New life is waiting, by walking forth from our self-imposed tombs of limitation and lack.
We realize we have to change if things are going to change. If nothing changes, nothing changes. If we don’t change our point of view or our consciousness, our experiences stay the same.
It is senseless to go through life knowing God’s truth as we know it, YET living and acting in ways we have always lived and acted. Let’s change. So, when Jesus said to remove the stone, not only was He telling Mary, Martha, and the other leaders, but He was also telling Lazarus. His soul connected with Lazarus. Jesus Christ does not recognize death. In Christianity, we do not recognize death as the end of the end to everything. In our God’s house, there are many rooms, many mansions, many experiences, many changes that take place in our lives. If we could remain more optimistic and see beyond the seemingly limiting situations and see the light in every situation, light appears. You can only see light when you look for light.
So, Jesus called out, “Lazarus, come out!” He was speaking to the very essence of Lazarus; that part of him that was asleep to his potential and to the truth of his being as a child of God. As Jesus called out to Lazarus, Mary, Martha, and the others heard Him, and they changed their perception. In their own way, they called out, “Lazarus, come out!”
Do you have someone in your life (like the man’s brother) to whom you could say, “Come out! I will not limit myself to what I see because what I see is not the truth. It may be part of it, but it is not the full truth. I free myself to see the God potential, when God works in you. I free myself to have a good relationship with you.” I cannot do that unless I send love and hope and joy.
“Lazarus, come forth!” Tell yourself to come out of your tomb of limitation. Wake up to your God-given potential. You have not even come close to the potential God has for you. There is SO much more. You may have accomplished in life, but it’s a drop in the bucket to what’s ahead. The only limitation that exists, the only Lazarus that exists in your life, is your own limiting perceptions and attitudes toward yourself. The hope of glory is that we can change.
We can be faced with a situation where, through human perception, we see no way to succeed. But when we say, “COME FORTH!” we speak the word and something happens. Doors open up that never opened before. We have brand new God ordained experiences.
Jesus said something else very significant when Lazarus was walking forth wrapped in burial clothes. He commanded to loose him and let him go. He had to be unwrapped from the wardrobe of death. We must in the same way unwrap ourselves from any vestment that holds us to limitation in the past. We must walk forth being let go and freed.
I say, “Let’s dare to believe!” The word “dare” means to be fearless, to have courage, to have the boldness enough to do something.” IF you believe in God – you believe God’s creation – yourself?
Do you believe in the spirit of Jesus Christ which is alive and active in your life this very moment?
Dare to believe! Dare to believe and put your belief into action. This is a challenge. Belief must become action if you are to realize miracles. Put the most into life and get the most out of life.
When we have the correct concept of God, we can (as Jesus did) dare to believe that ALL things are possible. Dare to believe that ALL things are possible with God.
Matthew 8:13 says, “Be it done for you as you have believed.” [RSV] I have some positive prayer affirmations I want us to affirm in prayer. I’m going to lead you through these.
“I believe in God, and I believe in myself.
I believe that the mighty Spirit of God is healing and strengthening me now.
I dare to believe that I can do all things through Christ who strengths me.
I believe in the resurrecting power of Jesus Christ.
I believe I am God’s child in whom God is well pleased.”
How do we do this? One day at a time; one thought at a time; one prayer at a time.
In closing, I want to share a little information with you.
Just for today, try to live through this day only, and not try to tackle your whole life’s problems.
Just for today, try to be happy. (This assumes what Abraham Lincoln says is true: that most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.) Happiness is within.
Just for today, try to adjust yourself to what is and do not try to adjust everything to your own desires.
Just for today, take good care of your body. Exercise it; care for it; nourish it so it will be the perfect machine to last a long time and will be responsive to your will.
Just for today, try to strengthen your mind. Study and learn something useful. Do not be a mental loafer all day. Read just a few lines that require effort to understand, which necessitate thought.
Just for today, be agreeable, look as good as you can, and talk softly, but plainly, in a firm voice. Act courageously. Criticize no one unjustly, and do not find unnecessary fault with things.
Just for today, have a program or a plan to do something. Write down what you expect to accomplish by the end of each hour. You may not be able to follow it exactly, but it will save you from two pests: hurry and indecision.
Just for today, have a quiet half-hour all to yourself. Relax. Sometime, think of God and the universe and get a little more perspective in your life.
Just for today, be unafraid. Be especially unafraid to be happy. Sometimes we are all afraid to be happy; to enjoy what is beautiful; to love and be loved by those who believe in you. Be unafraid of tomorrow, for then you may repeat “Just for today.”
Take away the stone, come forth, and unbind yourself.
Dear God, we give thanks for this wonderful opportunity. We believe in Your presence. We believe there are no impossible situations. We believe there is a spark of creating potential in all Your creations. We want You to influence our minds, our hearts, our very attitudes, and everything about us—our total consciousness. We are optimistic and excited about this life we live.
Truly, dear God, there are no hopeless situations. There is no Lazarus lying dead in our consciousness. We ask You now, God, to let Your Holy Spirit completely envelop this sanctuary, touching the mind and heart of every person here. We believe in You. We believe in Jesus Christ. And so we believe in ourselves.
And so, it is . . . Amen.
PRAYER / MEDITATION____________________________
In this time of prayer and meditation we focus our faith in God. We believe ALL things are working together for our highest good, especially now. As I begin this day, I think of the challenges and responsibilities that lie before me. I take stock of my strengths and skills, and I ask myself, “Do I believe I am able. Do I believe I can be healed? Do I believe that all things are working together for my good?”
I believe that God is able and therefore God will equip and empower me to be able.
In the stillness of prayer, I affirm the presence of God with us right now, and the answer comes: “Yes! I believe God’s indwelling presence. I believe in my abilities. I believe I can do all things that are mine to do with God’s help.”
Rest in the silence of prayer. . .
Through my belief that God is my loving help in every need, I can make my world one of harmony, accomplishment, and love. I believe I can overcome troublesome situations that have bound me in the past. I believe in the strength and might of God in my life; the power that calms every storm. I believe I will continue to progress to the realization of that which is for my highest good.
Dear God, I believe in Your power to heal every situation, every condition, of mind, body, and affairs. Heavenly God, I believe in Your presence in every situation that brings about harmony and order. I believe there is no situation beyond Your help, and appearances that seem so real can be changed by You.
Rest in the silence of prayer. . .
Lord, I believe in Your power to protect me and my loved ones under all circumstances. You are everywhere present. You are with me. You are with my loved ones. Lord, I truly believe that all Your children carry within them the spark of help from the Divine. I see the good in all persons everywhere. I know that Your presence surrounds us and dwells within us all, guiding us into right avenues of good.
I am not defeated by apparent loss or failure. I am now downed by circumstances. When I hold to the realization that I am a spiritual being and that I was created in Your image and after Your likeness and through Your spirit which is alive in me, I am able to stand strong and steady.
Rest in the silence of prayer. . .
I do not give way to fear. I do not give up. I know that there is yet more in me, and there are new paths, new ways, new ideas opening to me. This new life that is opening before me is Divinely ordered by You, dear God, and I am excited and joyous as I watch my life change and blossom. I believe in You, dear God. I believe in Jesus Christ. I believe in myself. Thank You, God, for the ability to see past appearances and have an optimistic attitude. I thank You that we have the courage to do the things that are there for us to do, to rise above any apparent failing situation.
Rest in the silence of prayer. . .
Thank You, God, that we can make a 180-degree turn in our thinking, and that we can rise from what appears to be a dead-end and go forward in new directions to our good. Thank You, dear God.
Dear wonderful God, we believe in the purpose of Christianity and its worldwide mission, and we thank You that it is active in each of our lives right now. As we go forward in this worship service, we remain open, receptive, excited, and tuned into this real experience that we each are having. We are so grateful.
I believe in You, God, and so I believe in myself.
In Jesus Christ name, And so it is . . . Amen.
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