Take Off Your Grave Clothes

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I’m deep in a study of John right now, and revisiting the lovely story of Lazarus.  Jesus loved Lazarus and his sisters as dear friends, and His reaction to Lazarus’s death is one of the most touching stories in the Bible.  At first, His disciples are confused because He doesn’t head right over to heal Lazarus when He hears his friend is sick.  But Jesus’s delay is an example of His perfect timing.  He knew Lazarus would die of this sickness, and He knew He’d raise Lazarus from the grave. He also knew this miracle would inspire belief for many witnesses, and thanked God for it.

There’s so much to say about this story, but I want to focus today on what Jesus says to the assembled people at this moment.  Jesus has already commanded the people to roll away the stone at the entrance to the tomb.  They are reluctant, knowing the body would have begun decomposing, but ultimately they do roll the stone away.  Then Jesus tells Lazarus to come out, and he does.  Even though Lazarus has been entombed for four days, his body is not decomposed.  Instead, the man is miraculously intact and alive, still wrapped in the strips of cloth that were wound around dead bodies in those days.

Imagine the shock, maybe even the fear, of the people assembled there!

What does Jesus do next?  He simply says, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”  John 11:44. Before Lazarus can step into his new life, he must be released from the confines of these cloths marking him as a dead person, these grave clothes.

Let me ask you: are you still wearing yours?

If you believe God sent Jesus to save us, then you are gifted with new life in Him.  But as we believers stumble into the light of this new life from the darkness of our own tombs, we often find ourselves constrained by the grave clothes we wore before we believed.  We find ourselves bound to old habits and behaviors, old temptations and patterns.  I have experienced this bondage in my own life, sometimes finding myself speaking or behaving as if I never met Jesus!

Maybe it’s human nature to continue as we have always done, ignoring the amazing miracle we have experienced through new life in Christ.  If we haven’t shed those grave clothes, we will continue to be confined by them, even as believers.  What grave clothes are restricting you from experiencing freedom in Christ today?  What old sin belies your new life?  Ask God right now to show you those grave clothes and give you freedom from them.  Welcome the chance to confront what may be holding you back, even if doing so is painful.  I promise, the freedom of being born anew is so worth it.  Today, experience the freedom of stepping forward into the light of new life, unrestricted by death, unencumbered by sin, truly free in Jesus Christ.

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Where We Find Peace

Didn’t mean to drop off the planet for the last two weeks!  Between traveling and school starting, it’s been a busy time.  Despite the blazing heat I feel the seasons changing–new routines and schedules as we settle into school and the coming fall (bless it can’t it get here already!?!)

In the midst of this season of transition I’ve also been reminded that this fickle, random, broken world will disappoint us, will knock us around and sometimes bludgeon us nearly to death.  Last week I found myself at the hospital, hugging and praying with an old friend while her little boy suffered in agonizing pain.

Once again, Lord, we cry out: why?

Why is he suffering?  Why is anyone?  We want to understand…but these things can’t be understood. The other day I stumbled across a re-broadcast of a Charles Stanley sermon.  I love him.  He was preaching about suffering, and about why God sometimes puts us through some things.  (Can’t you just hear him saying “Watch this?”)

I love Charles and that man’s got wisdom, but watch this: not all of this hardship is from the Lord. Does God sometimes allow or cause trouble in our lives?  Sure, I believe that.  But I also know that most of the time, he doesn’t need to.  The world does enough of that on its own.

The good news–sometimes the only good news–is that we are never alone in our suffering.  As we cry out, Jesus is right there crying alongside us.  Remember, He’s already suffered under every sin of this fallen world, including those that make no sense.  And remember, in Him alone we find our victory.  In Him alone we find peace.

In painful moments sometimes all I can do is bring my broken heart and hand it over to the one who knows it best.

Today, if you are asking why, look to Jesus.  He may not answer the why but He has already overcome it…and through Him, so can you.
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P.S. These pictures were taken at Graylyn and in the nearby Reynolda Gardens in Winston-Salem, NC.