Lazarus and Jesus were good friends. The Bible says Jesus loved Lazarus, and Jesus spent a lot of time with Lazarus and his sisters. But in John 11 we see Jesus arrive late, four days after His friend’s death, like a delayed ambulance responding to 911. He waited several days to respond to Lazarus’ sisters’ cry for help. Lazarus’ sisters Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus as their brother lay sick, yet Jesus doesn’t respond right away. Finally he comes, and he weeps. Often the verse, “Jesus wept,” is the first people focus on here, but here’s what struck me. After saying, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” Jesus has the stone rolled away from the entrance to the cave where Lazarus lay. He gave thanks to the Father, and says the words the sisters had been waiting for, “Lazarus, come out!” The scripture says in verse 44, “The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face…” When I reread this last Sunday, I thought, ‘How did he know which direction to go if his face was covered?’ It was the sound of Jesus’ voice, His shepherd’s voice, that led him, not just from the grave, but out of death itself. You see sometimes we are blinded by the world. Someone I know recently said she gave up Facebook because she felt like she was looking at it every five minutes, and it was taking over her time and, well, her life. There are so many distractions that can get in the way of what is truly important, but it is comforting to know that even when our spiritual face is covered God still cries out to us, “Come out!” Come out of your distraction to the joy of life! Come out of your dark cave to a life of praise and celebration! Come out of addiction. Come out of your lies. Come out! Come out! And see the One who loves you, who weeps for you, who gives you new life.
It is easy to judge a book by its cover. If we are honest, we all do it. When is the last time you passed a beggar on the street and completely fabricated their life story in your head before handing them a few coins? Or how about passing a screaming kid in the grocery store and glaring at the parent as if they aren’t already doing everything they can? Sometimes this judgement even happens when we are praying; maybe not in this exact way, but it does. For instance, say I am preparing to pray for a woman who is in a wheelchair and would like to someday walk again. From appearances I may only pray for her legs to be restored, but what if there is something else going on in the emotional or even spiritual realm, and I failed to pray for it because I didn’t wait on the Lord to reveal it or for some other reason.
Recently I have been frustrated with my lack of control over my Sunday School classroom. I almost always pray for the kids the week before, but inevitably I at least partially lose control. I feel very supported by my fellow teachers and Children’s Ministry leader, however I’m at my wits end. After teaching today I attended another class my church is doing on healing. Today’s topic and discussion spoke right to my heart,, but it wasn’t instantaneous. It took some time for me to realize that these two things were God speaking to me personally in this very specific moment. The first thing He said was, “You are a great teacher.” Well, that made me feel better. The second thing was, “Here is the way I want you to pray for these students and their families.” See, I was only praying for the surface problems, not the root of the issues. I was convicted that I hadn’t prayed for the parents who are the covering over the children in my class. I hadn’t waited on the Lord to reveal the deeper issues and their root causes. Lord, forgive me.
God is so gracious to give us the authority to pray over others. He is so gracious to pour out the Holy Spirit and to describe our prayers as sweet smelling incense. He is so gracious to know our heart’s desire and respond with generous blessings. Today, although the morning had its challenges, I am honored that God gave me the opportunity to pray for the families of my students and to be a part of his refining process in young people. Great is our God.
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Last night I watched Saving Mr. Banks. It is a touching film about Walt Disney’s persistence to purchase the rights to P.L. Travers’ book so he could produce the movie Mary Poppins. It’s been so long since I’ve seen Mary Poppins that I don’t recall the whole plot, but from what I remember Ms. Poppins was quite the relief from what the children were used to. In the movie Saving Mr. Banks you get a new perspective of what the story of Mary Poppins is really about. The true story really isn’t close to what Disney brought to the big screen. Disney brought the ending that every child dreams to have, an ending of love and reconciliation.
The reality is that many of us don’t reconcile with our parents the hurts of our childhood. We don’t have a magical nanny to come rescue us and bring unity back into our broken, dysfunctional families. As I watched Saving Mr. Banks I thought to myself, ‘Why don’t I have a tremendously dysfunctional family? We’ve all done and said things to hurt one another and yet we still spend time together, call each other often, etc. Why didn’t I need a Mary Poppins when my childhood had its rough times as well?’ We all need a Mary Poppins sometime in our lives. The answer is that my Mary Poppins was more magical and mysterious, more fun and exciting, more supercalifragilisticexpialidocious than Ms. Poppins could ever be because my rescuer, my protector, my encourager was Jesus Christ.
Fortunately my mom talked to me about God when I was a kid, even before we started going to church or calling ourselves Christians. Later on we went to church where I learned a lot about Jesus and all his power and might. I learned from a very young age that God was the place to run when I was scared, whether I was scared of the dark or scared of how things were going. He was always faithful.
So while it’s cute and fun to believe in this magical singing nanny, Ms. Poppins is a far cry from our true Savior. I don’t want to ignore, however, that God uses people like nannies or friends or strangers or pastors to speak truth and life into us, but I just want to point out that without Jesus our human strength falls short of the redemption and deliverance we all yearn for. I know you yearn for it too because you were born to yearn for Him. So while Mary Poppins saves Mr. Banks, Jesus saves all who believe.