Lazarus Was Dead

John 11: 1-44

My best friend has been blessed with a beautiful talent. She ministers in song. I have listened to her sing countless times throughout the years. I tell her often that I’m her biggest fan, and I believe that I am. Last night I listened to her sing 4 Days Late. It wasn’t the first time I had heard her sing this song. I have even sang it before. But God snapped His fingers at me during the first few lines.. “The deathwatch was over, buried 4 days.”

“4 Days Late” tells the story of Lazarus, a friend of Jesus. He and his sisters, Mary and Martha, had opened their home to Jesus before. They were friends, they loved each other. So, naturally, when Lazarus became ill and they sent word to Jesus about his condition, certainly things would be ok. Mary and Martha believed in Jesus, they knew He was able to heal him. They had probably even seen Him heal countless individuals before. But when they called for their brother, Jesus didn’t come.

When their need was at its greatest, He didn’t answer. Lazarus was certainly dead. In his time there was more than one circumstance where individuals had been pronounced dead to only find out that later life actually remained. So it was custom that for 24hrs after the body was pronounced dead there would be a deathwatch to watch for signs of life. I wonder if Mary and Martha had held out hope that maybe, just maybe, Lazarus could still be alive. Somehow they had been mistaken and Jesus would come and everything would be fine. But now, the deathwatch was over. Hope was gone. Lazarus was dead.

Have you ever felt you’re in a hopeless situation? Have you ever held onto something believing that God was going to step in at any moment, and He didn’t? Have you watched things go from bad to worse, to only keep getting worse? 4 days after Lazarus died Jesus showed up. The deathwatch was over, his body had been dressed, the family had gone through tradition, Lazarus’ tomb had been sealed. And now Jesus shows up. I would have been like Mary.. ‘Jesus, he’s dead, been dead 4 days. If you would have been here it would have been different. But you weren’t, and he’s dead.’

Of course we all know the ending. Jesus cries Lazarus come forth and He raises him from the dead. My concentration is on how utterly hopeless this situation was. Lazarus’ family and friends had literally sat and watched Lazarus after his death, and had searched for life. They had watched for any hope. They watched his chest to see if there was even the slightest possibility that breath was entering his body. They listened for any noise, any hope at all that life remained in his body. But there was no hope, no life. Lazarus’ body was prepared for burial. He was bound in rags with ointment. He was placed in a tomb, and a huge stone was placed at its entrance. Hope was gone. Nothing was left.

Maybe this is where some of you are at in your own life. You’ve believed for so long that things would be ok. You’ve held onto hope where there was no cause to believe that God was working in your favor. Maybe you’ve looked for life in your marriage, your job, or your finances..but all proof of reality points to death. That there’s no hope. That life doesn’t remain. “Oh, but my God is great and when He’s 4 days late, He’s still on time.”

Jesus could still speak to that hopeless situation cause death to let go so that life can appear again. Jesus can cause the rags that bind you to be loosed by the hands that bound you in the first place. Jesus may be on His way, right now, to speak life into your situation. You hold on. Even when we see no possible solution to our problems…even when we see no change in the distance future…Jesus can still step in and speak life to the circumstances that have caused you to believe that all hope is gone. Lazarus was dead…but then Jesus showed up.

Author: Britney Wilkes

Copyright © 2010-2012 Devotions Of Grace Blog – All Rights Reserved

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Published in: on August 28, 2012 at 6:19 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Jesus I Need

“For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground. He hath no form nor comeliness, and when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him.

 He is despised and rejected of men, a Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. And we hid as it were our faces from Him; He was despised, and we esteemed Him not.” Isaiah 53: 2-3

 

If we were to have lived in the day and time that Jesus walked this earth, I’m not certain that we would have recognized him as King. He didn’t look like a king. He wasn’t handsome. His appearance wasn’t desirable. He didn’t dress like a king. Jesus was poor my man’s definition. He traveled by foot. He slept where He was welcomed. He kept company with fishermen, tax collectors, adulterers, and murderers. He ate with sinners and He challenged the religious elders of His time. He touched the broken and the hurting. He touched lepers. When others would have kept their peace at the temple, He yelled. And when others would have proclaimed their innocence when on trial for their life, He remained quiet. Jesus of Nazareth wasn’t what the world was looking for as a Savior of Nations, but he was everything that this world needed. Jesus made people feel uncomfortable, He challenged their beliefs. He insisted on love and forgiveness when the world knew judgment and punishment. The world had figuratively drew lines around their religious expectations of a king, and Jesus walked through every single one. This is Jesus, radical and not logical for His time then, and still not logical for His time now.

 

My best friend and I went to Orlando for a few days a couple of weeks ago. One afternoon we decided to go to the Holy Land, which is owned by the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN). TBN is home to a huge dominance of Christian programming on television. From the moment she and I drove on the parking lot we felt out of sorts. Something didn’t feel right. I tried to explain it away by saying the culture just wasn’t one we were used to. The Holy Land is advertised as being a replica of the life and times of Jesus, but as we continued passed the front entrance and on into the park it was apparent that the Jesus depicted there wasn’t the one that we knew. At all. TBN depicted Jesus at times as a handsome Caucasian man with strikingly blue eyes. In their wax museum, which says its scenes are depicted from scenes of His life, Jesus was dressed in beautiful arraignments. Even Mary and Joseph looked as if they were wealthy by the clothes that they wore. In other places Jesus was depicted as having long dark hair, fake angel wings, a white t-shirt, and torn jeans while riding a motorcycle. The park was full of garland and showy art. Gold was everywhere, but the presence and peace of God’s spirit… that wasn’t to be found. We didn’t feel it. Our spirit didn’t bare witness at all with that mockery.

 

They made Jesus pleasing to the eye. I read one review that said they made Jesus appear as a ‘white superhero’, and I agree. They changed Jesus to be something that America could be comfortable with. It’s easier for most people to accept Jesus as white and handsome and wealthy, but that isn’t His actual reality. He was a Hebrew, dark skin, dark eyes, dark hair. Isaiah tells us that He wasn’t desirable, and Jesus Himself taught us that He wasn’t rich.

 

It makes me wonder how much we’ve changed the reality of who Jesus is so that we can feel more comfortable. Have we picked out pieces of the Bible that allows us to live as we would choose without the conviction it brings? As a society we are focused on what feels good, the things that make us happy, but Jesus sometimes requires us to go outside of our comfort zone. Like the best friend, who betrayed you, and destroyed your trust…Jesus calls us to pray and forgive them. Like the money we work hard for, and would like to use the way we want…Jesus calls us to pay our tithes and give. The times we want to be lazy for days on end and let things just slide, the Word teaches us that if we don’t work we shouldn’t eat.

 

Jesus challenges us to be better than who we are. Love more, pray more, serve more, forgive more. He teaches us to point our fingers at our own self, search our own heart, and correct our own self and sins before we begin to condemn another. Judge not lest you be judged. That’s the Jesus we serve. It’s not necessarily easy, sometimes it isn’t comfortable. Our flesh doesn’t like being brought into submission, but it’s needed. There is a Jesus I need and there is a Jesus I want. The Jesus I need causes me to be less of who I am and more of who He is. My prayer is to seek the Jesus I need, to be consumed with Him, so that my needs and my wants become the same. Less of me, more of Him.

 

If I have to become more uncomfortable in my daily walk with Him then I’ll do it, because if being uncomfortable allows me to see the true Jesus, I’ll do that. I would rather know Jesus, in His realness, and make it to Heaven than to choose a religious figure that would lead me to Hell. I need the real Jesus in my life, not a made up version of someone who makes me comfortable. I’m hard headed, I’m stubborn. I need a Savior that can make me look at myself and say..‘I’m not right, I need to change.’ That’s the Jesus I need. That’s the Jesus you need.

 

Less of me, more of Him.

 

 

Author: Britney Wilkes

Copyright © 2010-2012 Devotions Of Grace Blog – All Rights Reserved

Published in: on August 21, 2012 at 5:30 pm  Leave a Comment  

How Bad Can It Be?

It’s Saturday night and all my of my children are gathered in the living room. By ‘all’ I mean my best friend’s two boys, who are my nephews, and my two little girls. My best friend is on the couch entranced in a book and I have begun to settle down from frying chicken and french fries. All is right in my little world. ‘The Lorax’ is on and I had just gotten good and still enough to listen to the movie. The Once-ler had given his word to the Lorax, the keeper of the trees, that he wouldn’t cut down any trees to make these scarf things. Eventually, he became greedy, and after listening to his family he went against his word to the Lorax and began cutting the trees down. This is where I began listening..the Once-ler sang these words in his song.. ‘How bad can I be? I’m just doing what comes naturally!’

 

“There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” Proverbs 14:12

 

It’s a reasonable question..how bad can it be when what we are doing feels natural. Sin at times feels natural. There are certain sins that different individuals battle that feel very natural, even pleasurable, to their flesh. Some battle a lying tongue. It feels natural for those who do to exaggerate the truth, make things slightly more dramatic, whether for the worse or for the better. Some battle addictions, and during stressful or depressing times its easy to turn to those addictions for temporary relief. These addictions can range from alcohol, drugs, or prescription drugs, etc. Should someone you love be hurt by someone else, it’s easy to lash out in anger. It’s natural to protect and come to the defense of the ones we love. But in these moments of anger, it is wrong to intentionally hurt someone. Our words can deeply scar a heart, they can pierce a soul for years, and acting out this way is sin. It’s easy to get ‘caught up in the moment’, and when we are ‘caught up’ it’s easy to feel that what we’re doing is natural. It’s here that Satan has so blinded our society and masked the difference between truth and feeling.

 

How often have you heard the phrase.. ‘If it feels right, do it.’..? That isn’t necessarily true. As Christians we have to learn to not act out of feelings. Feelings are subject to their surroundings. Feelings are birthed in us from our beginning, and usually they begin with ‘I want’. Like the little child who wants the cookie before dinner and Mom says no. All that child feels in the moment is ‘I want’. So they sneak to the kitchen to steal the snack, and Mom catches them with their hand in the cookie jar. She then teaches the truth, listen to Mom. To do wrong just may be birthed in us which is why it’s so important we know the truth, God’s Word, so we can measure our feelings against what His Word teaches. Jeremiah teaches in chapter 17:9 that ‘The heart is deceitful among all things and desperately wicked.’ Out of our heart lies our feelings, and if we only react to what our heart causes us to feel then we can be led to a destructive end, if we aren’t seeking the truth of God’s Word.

 

I once knew a person who went to church every Sunday and Wednesday. They had even held positions of ministry within the church. They had been raised right, and had been taught God’s word as a child. But thatvperson didn’t guard their heart and Satan was able to build a

 

stronghold in their life. They began to be deceived by their feelings and desires. When I spoke to them about this they said, “Sometime God can tell you something that is different from what the Bible says, and it’s more important than what the Bible teaches.” My heart broke. Satan had so deceived that person by their wants, desires, and feelings that they could no longer see the truth of God. The truth is that God will never tell you something that contradicts His Word. Anything apart from the Word of God is from Satan, a lie, meant to deceive and ultimately destroy you.

 

“Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” Proverbs 4:23

 

So how bad can it be when we are only doing what comes naturally? There is a way that seems right to a man. If it feel right do it, it offers pleasure. But the end are the ways of death. That’s how bad it can be. Total separation from God. I pray you guard your heart and keep it centered on His Word. God’s Word is truth, and that truth can keep you in a world that would deceive you.

 

Author: Britney Wilkes

Copyright © 2010-2012 Devotions Of Grace Blog – All Rights Reserved

Published in: on August 15, 2012 at 9:26 pm  Leave a Comment  

Noah Found Grace

“But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” Genesis 6:8

After Sunday school my 4 year-old ran up to me with a huge smile on her face. She pulled me down and said, ‘Mama guess what.. Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.’ Her face was so proud. I’m not sure what I was expecting her to say, but it wasn’t that. ‘What?’ I asked her..she repeated herself, took me by the hand and led me to her new Sunday school teacher. ‘See Mama, Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.’ I understood then. My daughter had been listening in Sunday school and had memorized her memory verse. She told me her memory verse a few times that day, and after she woke up the next day, shetold me her verse again. When I dropped her off at daycare, she told her teacher. Her excitement over the verse made me re-read the passage in Genesis.

“And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagining of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord repented that He had made man on the earth, and it grieved Him in His heart.” Genesis 6:5, 6

In a world that was so full of evil that God Himself repented of His creation was found Noah. God had already decided that He would destroy the creation, both man and beast..“But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” Genesis 6:8 The Word says that even in the midst of such ugliness that he was a just man, and perfect in his generation. He held true to his Savior and Noah walked with God. So God tells Noah to build an ark to save himself, his family, and two of each of the animals from the flood He would send to destroy the world. And Noah, having found grace, listened and obeyed. At this point all we know of Noah is that God gave him grace because he had walked with Him and when God spoke Noah listened.

I’ve tried placing myself in Noah’s position. I’m not sure if I would have been obedient. How odd would it be to have God tell you that He would send a great flood to destroy the earth, and by the way, build a huge boat so civilization can be rebuilt through you? I might have questioned whether God was speaking to me, but not Noah. He listened and he obeyed. He did what God asked. Others brushed Noah off and didn’t believe him when he tried to tell of God’s plan. They thought him crazy, but even in the face of such adversary, Noah obeyed God. The Word says that obedience is better than sacrifice..a point that is well made by Noah.

Has God called you to do something that seems a little different in comparison to others? Have you questioned whether you were hearing the voice of God? I encourage you, walk close to God, seek Him daily. I’m certain that because Noah was a just man he had spent time talking to God. As the Word says he walked with Him. Because of this he knew His voice when He spoke to him.

Noah’s obedience caused creation to be rebuilt. My little girl’s Sunday school teacher’s obedience caused an excitement for God’s words to be burst in my daughter’s heart. In my world both are amazing and beautiful. However God speaks to you, whatever God chooses to say, be obedient. You never know what God will choose to do with that simple act of servant hood.

 

Author: Britney Wilkes

Copyright © 2010-2012 Devotions Of Grace Blog – All Rights Reserved

Published in: on August 13, 2012 at 8:50 pm  Leave a Comment  

Shine

We were sitting next to each other in church. She’s 9 and she’s beautiful. She has blue eyes and blonde hair and an even more beautiful heart than her face…if possible. I watched as she drew stars on a sheet of paper. Underneath it she had written ‘Make it Shine’. While I watched her she accidentally messed up on one of the stars she was drawing, she pointed it out frowning at the mistake. I smiled at her and said, ‘But it can still shine.’ That seemed to satisfy her and she went back to drawing. God snapped his fingers at me however.

As Christians we are called to be light in darkness; “For you were once in darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of Light.” Ephesians 5:8, “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” 2 Corinthians 4:6 And though we are called to do just that, it doesn’t make it an easy task.

We live in a dark time. Our world so desperately needs to hear the truth of who Jesus is. Often times, the truth is shadowed by mans perceptions and interpretations. But the truth of God’s word remains, and if that truth can be revealed it is powerful. So much so that it can set the captive heart free. This is why Satan, who is the father of deceit, will attempt anything to stop God’s children from hearing the truth of Jesus Christ.

The Word says in John 1:4, “In Him was life, and that life was the Light of men.” Satan loves to convince a child of God that they aren’t worthy to work for Him, that they aren’t good enough in some way. If Satan can plant those seeds of doubt then fear will be produced. But God says that He hasn’t given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and love, and of a sound mind.

We often times feel inadequate when we compare ourselves to others…”Well I can’t sing like they can.”…”I can’t play the piano like they can.”…”They don’t respond to me like they do with them.”..But we aren’t called to be better than our brothers and sisters in Christ. We are called to be the best we can be. What God chooses to do with the talent or the ability that He has given us is His doing, but we are promised in His Word that it will not return into us void. Our only comparison should be with our self, and then we should only measure our self against the Word of God.

How many of us have been hurt? Whose heart has ever been broken? Has anyone’s words every pierced the deep places in your soul? If we don’t allow God to heal those wounds Satan will use those hurts as an opportunity to snuff out the light within us. Once we’ve been hurt it’s natural to back off from that situation that caused pain and nurse our wounds. It is then when we find ourselves wondering away from the fold, that’s when Satan attacks. Our perceptions become jaded by pain. If we allow Him, God can take our pain and restore us in such a way that our ending will be so much better than what we began with. But it’s that hurt and broken-ness that says..’I can’t get up there and do that. They know what I’ve done. They know what I’ve been through.’..and so we do nothing. In our pain we convince our self that as long as we aren’t backsliding we’re ok.

Smith Wigglesworth, a pastor in the early 1900s, once said. “If we aren’t moving forward with God, then we are backsliding. There is no standing still.” In my personal life I’ve found this to be true. The beauty of God’s love for His creation is His desire to be a part of His children. He longs to use His people. Even with all our faults and failures He desires to make us vessels for His use. There almost wasn’t one individual in the Bible who was perfect. Even David, who is remembered as being a man after God’s own heart made huge mistakes. From adultery to murder David made horrible decisions, but David wholeheartedly confessed his faults to God in prayer and continued after Him. He could have given up, he could have said he wasn’t worthy to be used by God, but he didn’t. He allowed God to shine through his life.

We can still be used by God, even with our faults. In my opinion it’s  then that God can truly receive the glory. In our own abilities we  will often fail, but with God He makes things right. I certainly shouldn’t be in my right mind, but there has been an unseen hand in my life that has kept me. So I work for Him. I tell the story of how Jesus is restoring me. My star may not be drawn right, but I can still shine for Jesus.

 

 

Author: Britney Wilkes

Copyright © 2010-2012 Devotions Of Grace Blog – All Rights Reserved

 

Published in: on August 8, 2012 at 6:08 pm  Leave a Comment