When Death Becomes Birth
When Death Becomes Birth
by Max Lucado
You, as all God’s children, live one final breath from your own funeral. Which, from God’s perspective, is nothing to grieve. He responds to these grave facts with this great news: “The day you die is better than the day you are born” (Eccles. 7:1). Now there is a twist. Heaven enjoys a maternity-ward reaction to funerals. Angels watch body burials the same way grandparents monitor delivery-room doors. “He’ll be coming through any minute!” They can’t wait to see the new arrival. While we’re driving hearses and wearing black, they’re hanging pink and blue streamers and passing out cigars. We don’t grieve when babies enter the world. The hosts of heaven don’t weep when we leave it.
Oh, but many of us weep at the thought of death. Do you? Do you dread your death?
Is your fear of dying robbing your joy of living? Jesus came to “deliver those who have lived all their lives as slaves to the fear of dying” (Heb. 2:15).
If Scripture boasted a list of the famous dead, Lazarus would be near the top. He lived in Bethany, a sleepy hamlet that sat a short walk from Jerusalem. Jesus spent a lot of time there. Maybe he liked the kitchen of Martha or the devotion of Mary. One thing is for sure: he considered Lazarus a friend. News of Lazarus’s death prompts Jesus to say, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but now I will go and wake him up” (John 11:11).
And now, four days after the funeral, Jesus has come calling. Literally calling, “Lazarus, come out!” Can we try to picture Lazarus as he hears those words? Heaven-sent Lazarus. Heaven-happy Lazarus. Four days into his measureless days. By now he’s forming fast friendships with other saints. King David shows him the harps. Moses invites him over for tea and manna. Elijah and Elisha take him for a spin in the fiery chariot. Daniel has promised him a lion of a Bible story. He’s on his way to hear it when a voice booms through the celestial city.
“Lazarus, come out!”
Everybody knows that voice. No one wonders, Who was that? Angels stop. Hosts of holy-city dwellers turn toward the boy from Bethany, and someone says, “Looks like you’re going back for another tour of duty.”
Lazarus doesn’t question the call. Perfect understanding comes with a heavenly passport. He doesn’t object. But had he done so, who could have faulted him? His heavenly body knows no fever. His future no fear. He indwells a city that is void of padlocks, prisons, and Prozac. With sin and death nonexistent, preachers, doctors, and lawyers are free to worship. Would anyone blame Lazarus for saying, “Do I have to go back?”
But he doesn’t second-guess the command. Nor does anyone else. Return trips have been frequent of late. The daughter of the synagogue ruler. The boy from Nain. Now Lazarus from Bethany. Lazarus turns toward the rarely used exit door. The very one, I suppose, Jesus used some thirty earth years earlier. With a wave and within a wink, he’s reunited with his body and waking up on a cold slab in a wall-hewn grave. The rock to the entrance has been moved, and Lazarus attempts to do the same. Mummy-wrapped, he stiffly sits up and walks out of the tomb with the grace of Frankenstein’s monster.
People stare and wonder.
We read and may ask, “Why did Jesus let him die only to call him back?”
To show who runs the show. To trump the cemetery card. To display the unsquashable strength of the One who danced the Watusi on the neck of the devil, who stood face to clammy face with death and declared, “You call that a dead end? I call it an escalator.”
“Lazarus, come out!”
Those words, incidentally, were only a warmup for the big day. He’s preparing a worldwide grave evacuation. “Joe, come out!” “Maria, come out!” “Giuseppe, come out!” “Jacob, come out!” Grave after grave will empty. What happened to Lazarus will happen to us. Only our spirit-body reunion will occur in heaven, not Bethany Memorial Cemetery.
When this happens—when our perishable earthly bodies have been transformed into heavenly bodies that will never die—then at last the Scriptures will come true:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.
O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
(1 Cor. 15:54–55)
With Christ as your friend and heaven as your home, the day of death becomes sweeter than the day of birth.
From Come Thirsty
Copyright (Thomas Nelson, 2004) Max Lucado
Coming Out of the Dark
"I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry" (Psalm 40:1,NIV).
Friend To Friend
Patience is not my greatest virtue. I do not like to wait - for anyone or anything - which is precisely why you should never get in line behind me at the grocery store. It doesn't matter if there are two people or ten people in front of me, my line will invariably be the slowest line. I do not like to wait on God either ... but was forced to do so when I found myself sitting at the bottom of a pit called clinical depression. I was empty and more tired than I had ever been in my life. I kept asking, "How did I get here?"
Depression is not an overnight phenomenon. I can honestly say that I don't know a single person who has climbed out of bed in the morning and said, "Hmmm ... I think I will jump into the pit of depression today." Deliverance from that pit is usually not an overnight process either. It takes time and patience.
1. Wait. The psalmist simply says, "I waited." Waiting is not passive. Waiting is meant to be a time of preparation, a time of rest and healing,
To wait means to accept the pit. Isaiah 45:3 (NIV) "I will give you hidden treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, who summons you by name."
Any time "LORD" is capitalized in Scripture, it means "Abba Father." This verse indicates that our Father has gone before us and in every dark moment or painful circumstance has buried a treasure or stored a secret. The only way we can find the treasure or learn the secret is to pass through that darkness. Some things cannot be learned in the light. To wait means to accept the pit, knowing it is for our good.
To wait means to admit there is a problem. Isaiah 40:29 (NLT) "He gives power to those who are tired and worn out; he offers strength to the weak."
Emotional health begins at the point of emotional integrity with a willingness to say "I need help!" When clinical depression overwhelmed my life, my husband was the pastor of a large church in South Florida. We could choose to be transparent and real or we could sweep my struggle under the rug. We concluded that in order to be right, we had to be real. Dan and I shared my battle with the staff, the deacons and then with the entire church. Yes, we took a risk but learned an important lesson in doing so. A shared load is a lighter load. We were created to need each other.
To wait means to be still. Psalm 40:1 "I waited ..." To wait means to hope in and look for someone or something who will rescue us.
So much about God can never be known on the run. I was so wrapped up in serving God that I had failed to be wrapped up in Him. During those two years in the pit, I not only gave up every role of leadership, there were many times when I could not even attend church because of panic attacks. God taught me an important truth. He is more concerned with who I am than what I do. No one can take my place in His heart.
2. Be patient. It took twenty-two years for the McDonald's hamburger chain to make its first billion dollars. It took IBM forty-six years and Xerox sixty-three years to make their first billion. Harvey Mackay, in his book Swim with the Sharks, tells of an interview with the 88-year-old President of Japan's largest and most successful electrical enterprise. The interview went as follows:
Question: Mr. President, does your company have long-range goals?
Question: "How long are your long-range goals?"
Answer: "Two hundred and fifty years."
Question: "What do you need to carry them out?"
David said, "I waited patiently for the Lord." The word "patiently" means "without tiring and with perseverance." It took me many years to hit rock bottom. It took me two years to climb out of that pit and I am still climbing. Yes, I still battle depression from time to time. Depression keeps me broken and on my face before God - and that is a good thing.
Depression may not be the problem you are facing, but at some point in life, we will all face some kind of pit. It may be a pit that we have dug with our own hands of wrong choices or it could be a pit that has been uniquely designed for us by the enemy. But a pit is a pit - a place of paralyzing fear and numbing doubt that is constantly fed by our human frailty and desperate attempts to escape the darkness.
The good news is that God is drawn to broken people. Psalm 40:1 says "He turned to me." Notice it does not say that David turned to God. Honestly, I doubt David had the strength to turn to God ... so God turned to him. God heard the cry of David and he will hear yours. I don't know if you are in a pit and need help or if someone you love is in that pit and needs your help, but one thing I do know is that the purpose of the pit is to purify and then restore. Right now, surrender the broken pieces of your life to God. He can and will bring you out of the dark.
Father, I am so tired. I can't hear Your voice or sense Your presence in my life. My faith is weak and I need Your strength to go on. Right now, I am laying the broken pieces of my life at Your feet and counting on You to come through for me.
In Jesus' name,
Now It's Your Turn
Read Psalm 40:1-3. "I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God."
Circle all of the "action" words in these verses. What does God ask you to do? What does God say that He will do? Do you believe Him? Are you willing to let Him be God in your life?
More From The Girlfriends
If you or someone you love is dealing with depression, I encourage you to check out these FREE resources on my website. My book, Hope in the Midst of Depression, is a practical guide for anyone dealing with depression and will help you learn how to
· Change a negative thought life into positive, healthy thought patterns.
· Control and use the power of emotions
Girlfriends in God
P.O. Box 725
Matthews, NC 28106
By SIMPLY DIVINE LOVE on Friday, February 04, 2011