Grace for Life

Hello ladies! Thanks for coming by The Press today, and I hope you have had a wonderful, grace-filled, week. I'm just gonna be honest with you, this week has been a "can't start the day without TWO cups of coffee" kind of week for me. I mean, don't get me wrong, I pretty much always have at least two cups of coffee a day, but usually cup #1 keeps me going until I get to cup #2!

Okay, so today is our final day in our conversation on "TIDES: grace exchanged," and this week we have specifically focused on telling stories of grace. Sunday Melissa shared how grace played a part in the life of Peter. Tuesday Summer shared with us (Through Facebook LIVE! It was so much fun!) a story from her life of grace. Today I want to share with you a story of grace that you can pick up, read, and be blessed by... and I am speaking of a book OTHER than the Bible (However that is always a good choice!).

First of all I would like to say that no book, whether inspirational or devotional, replaces our time spent reading the Bible, but I am a firm believer that there are some great supplements to the Word of God. They have a way of bringing the Bible into our lives in a very practical way. So, I would like to recommend a supplement for you today.

In college a wonderful woman of God pointed me to a book that will forever be responsible for changes in my life, and that book is Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World. Ladies, SUCH A GREAT BOOK. I think every woman must read this book, because it really does speak to the heart of ladies and the tendencies we all have. The author, Joanna Weaver, has become a kind of expert in my mind on the life stories of Mary, Martha, and their brother Lazarus. She has written a total of 4 books all around the stories of these three family members. However I want to look into the book in this collection that I have most recently been impacted by to share a story of grace. This is from the book Lazarus Awakening.

Now I am not going to be giving you summaries and such on this book, you can grab a copy and dig in on your own, however I would like to share with you some portions that have resonated in my spirit and speak to the great exchange of grace we have been discussing this month.

If you are unfamiliar with the story of the death of Lazarus I encourage you to read over that story in John chapter 11 to really grasp hold of what I am referring to, but I will continue with the assumption you are familiar with the story. In chapter 5 of her book, Joanna brings in the concept of being "Caught Between Death and Life," with another story found in Mark 5 about another man, besides Lazarus, found among a graveyard. This man, however, was very much alive. The man in Mark 5 was the demon-possessed man the nearby town hid in fear from. He wandered and lived among the tombs, naked, and unable to be bound even by chains. Here is an exert from chapter 5 of Lazarus Awakening:
"According to scholars it wasn't unusual for tombs around Israel to be inhabited by the poor or the insane. Graveyards were sometimes the only place where outcasts could find shelter. 
Dug into hillsides or straight into the ground, many tombs in Jesus' day were made up of two chambers. The first room, sometimes called a vestibule, held a simple stone seat, while the inner chamber featured a carved-out niche where the body was laid... 
I'm assuming the outcasts must have made their home in the vestibule. It served as a kind of middle ground -- protected from the outside elements yet not quite in the place of death.
Unfortunately, this "midchamber" describes the place where many of us live, metaphorically speaking. Suspended halfway between death and life, we've accepted the Lord as our Savior, but we have yet to step out into the fullness of life Christ came to give. Instead, we're holed up in the dark, held captive by our hurts, our hang-ups, and our habits. The painful memories we just can't shake. The attitudes that keep us bound. The coping mechanisms we continually return to, though they lead us everywhere but to the heart of God."
Have you felt this way? Not still in sin, but not living in the fullness of Christ? There could be many things that keep you "between death and life." As Celebrate Recovery coined the phrase, we all have hurts, hang-ups, and habits, that can keep us in that in between place. It could be a security thing. We have found a security in the things we know, no matter how much they are actually holding us back.

It is like a child who falls down and scrapes their knee. They hold their knee tight, convinced their mother simply looking at it will cause excruciating pain. They want their mother's comfort, but when it comes to actually treating the wound they are not willing to comply. Can't the same be true for us with our heavenly Father? We long for His comfort, for Him to see our wounds and to know how much they hurt, but when He calls us out to the light where the wounds can be seen, be touched, be healed, we aren't always willing. We stay hid in the vestibule of that tomb we have already been raised from.

The grace of God brings us back to life, He gives us new life from the dead way of living. But then we must walk out of that tomb into the fullness of His grace, that is life with Christ.
"I am convinced that Satan isn't nearly as concerned about losing you from his kingdom as he is committed to keep you from being effective in God's kingdom. He has as many different methods as there are individuals, but his one goal is to contain and restrain you. To entomb you so he can consume you."
Joanna Weaver
No matter the hurt, no matter the hang-up, no matter the habit standing in the way of you exiting that tomb and making your grand entrance into God's life of freedom designed for you, God's grace is enough.
"Where have you laid him?" Jesus asked Martha and Mary through His tears (John 11:34) 
"Come and see, Lord," they replied. Then together they went to Lazarus's tomb. 
Oh how I wish we could grasp the immensity and emotion of this tender exchange and what it means for us today. 
Where have you laid your pain? Jesus asks us tenderly. Where do you keep all your shattered hopes and dreams? Where have you laid the part of you that died when you failed or were abandoned, forgotten, betrayed? Where are you entombed and enslaved, hemmed in, shut down, and closed off?  
Come and see, Lord. 
That's the only response we need to give. Come and see. 
With the invitation, Jesus steps down into our pain and gathers us in His arms. He doesn't chastise us for what we've gone through or insist we explain the death we now mourn. He holds us close and weeps over what sin and death have done to us, His beloved.
Are you beginning to see the picture this analogy is painting? God's grace is enough to save you. It is enough to raise you from death spiritually and bring you out of the tomb you have made your home. I want to leave you will these words from Joanna as a challenge to you and to me, to step out of that tomb and live in the freedom of God's grace.
But we still have to decide where we will live. Will it be the familiarity of the graveyard or a new life in Christ, as scary as that may seem? Will we choose bondage or will we choose freedom? 
Even now He stands outside the doors of our strongholds, our dark, lonely midchambers. Calling with a voice like tender thunder as He challenges you and me. 
"Lazarus, come forth... and live!"

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