You believe that God loves the world...
but sometimes you wonder if He truly loves you.
For many of us, moving the truth of God’s love from our heads to our hearts is a lifelong process. As we consider our inadequacies or grieve our shattered dreams, we find it difficult to believe that God cares for us personally.
In this life-giving book, Joanna Weaver shows you how to embrace the truth that Jesus loves you apart from anything you accomplish, apart from anything you bring. Just as He called Lazarus forth to new life, Jesus wants to free you to live fully in the light of His love, unbound from the graveclothes of fear, regret, and self-condemnation.
Love is calling your name.
Combining unforgettable real-life illustrations with unexpected biblical insights, Joanna Weaver invites you to experience a spiritual resurrection that will forever change your understanding of what it means to be the one Jesus loves.
Includes 10-week Bible study (adaptable for 8 weeks) for both individual reflection and group discussion.
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Joanna Weaver is the best-selling author of Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World, Having a Mary Spirit, and the award-winning gift book With This Ring. Her articles have appeared in such publications as Focus on the Family, Guideposts, and HomeLife. Joanna and her pastor-husband, John, have three children and live in Montana. Visit her website at www.JoannaWeaverBooks.com.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Chapter 1: Tale of the Third Follower
It’s amazing that such a little space could make so much difference.
Just eighteen inches, give or take a few—that’s all it needs to move. And yet, for many of us, getting God’s love from our heads to our hearts may be the most difficult—yet the most important—thing we ever accomplish.
“I need to talk,” Lisa whispered in my ear one day after women’s Bible study. A committed Christian with a deep passion for the Lord, my friend had tears pooling in her dark eyes as we found a quiet corner where we could talk.
“I don’t know what’s wrong with me,” she said, shaking her head as she looked down at her feet. “I could go to the worst criminal or a drug addict living on the street, and I could look him in the eye and tell him, ‘Jesus loves you!’ and mean it from the bottom of my heart.
“But, Joanna,” she said, gripping my hand, “I can’t seem to look in the mirror and convince myself.”
Her words were familiar to me. I’d felt that same terrible disconnect early in my walk with the Lord. Hoping He loved me but never really knowing for sure. Sadly, I’ve heard the same lonely detachment echoed by hundreds of women I’ve talked to around the country. Beautiful women. Plain women. Talented and not-so-talented women. Strong Christian women, deep in the Word and active in their church, as well as women brand new to their faith. Personal attributes or IQs seem to matter little. Whether they were raised in a loving home or an abusive situation, it doesn’t seem to change what one friend calls an epidemic among Christian women (and many men as well): a barren heart condition I call love-doubt.
“Jesus loves me—this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”(1) Many of us have sung the song since we were children. But do we really believe it? Or has Christ’s love remained more of a fairy tale than a reality we’ve experienced for ourselves in the only place we can really know for sure?
He Loves Me...He Loves Me Not
You would think after accepting Christ at a young age and being raised in a loving Christian home with a loving, gracious father, I would have been convinced from the beginning that my heavenly Father loved me.
Me. With all my faults and failures. My silly stubbornness and pride.
But those very things kept me from really knowing Christ’s love for the majority of my early adult life. There was just so much to dislike, so much to disapprove of. How could God possibly love me? Even I wasn’t that crazy about me.
For some reason, I’d come to see God as distant and somewhat removed. Rather than transposing upon God the model of my earthly father’s balanced love—both unconditional yet corrective—I saw my heavenly Father as a stern teacher with a yardstick in His hand, pacing up and down the classroom of my life as He looked for any and all infractions. Measuring me against what sometimes felt like impossible standards and occasionally slapping me when I failed to make the grade.
Yes, He loved me, I supposed. At least that’s what I’d been taught. But I didn’t always feel God’s love. Most of the time I lived in fear of the yardstick. Who knew when His judgment would snap down its disapproval, leaving a nasty mark on my heart as well as my soul?
As a result, I lived the first three decades of my life like an insecure adolescent, forever picking daisies and tearing them apart, never stopping to enjoy their beauty. He loves me, He loves me not, I would say subconsciously, plucking a petal as I weighed my behavior and attitudes against what the Bible said I should be.
Powerful church services and sweet altar times. Ah, I felt secure in His love. Real life and less-than-sweet responses? I felt lost and all alone. Unfortunately, all I got from constantly questioning God’s love was a fearful heart and a pile of torn, wilted petals. My overzealous self-analysis never brought the peace I longed for.
Because the peace you and I were created for doesn’t come from picking daisies. It only comes from a living relationship with a loving God.
The Tale of the Third Follower
I never planned on writing a trilogy about Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, the siblings from Bethany that we meet in Luke’s and John’s gospels. In fact, when I wrote Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World, I was fairly certain it was the one and only book to be found in those verses. But God surprised me six years later, and Having a Mary Spirit was born.
The thought that there might be a third book never crossed my mind until I shared an interesting premise with a few friends who are writers. It was a teaching point I’d hoped to fit into Having a Mary Spirit but never quite found room.
“We all know Jesus loved Mary,” I told my friends. “After all, look how she worshiped. And we can even understand how Jesus loved Martha. Look how she served. But what about those of us who don’t know where we fit in the heart of God?”
The question hung in the air before I continued.
“The only thing of significance that Lazarus did was die. And yet when Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus that Lazarus was ill, they said, ‘Lord, the one you love is sick.’ ”
Somehow my words seemed to have extra weight as they floated between us. Extra importance. Even I felt their impact.
After a few moments my friend Wendy broke the silence. “That part of the story didn’t make it into the book because it is a book.”
I can’t adequately explain what happened when she said those words, except to say it was as though a giant bell began to sound in my soul. Its reverberations sent shock waves through my body as I tried to change the subject.
The thing is, I didn’t want to write about Lazarus. I wanted to write a different book. I was ready to move on, to explore other subjects.
But God wouldn’t let me. And so you hold this book in your hands.
A Place to Call Home
We first meet the family from Bethany in Luke 10:38–42. Or rather we meet part of the family—two followers of Jesus named Martha and Mary.
You’re probably familiar with the story Luke tells. Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem for one of the great Jewish feasts when Martha came out to meet Him with an invitation to dinner. But while Martha opened her home, it was her sister, Mary, who opened her heart. To put the story in a nutshell: Mary worshiped. Martha complained. Jesus rebuked. And lives were changed.(2)
Strangely, Luke’s account never even mentions Mary and Martha’s brother, Lazarus. Perhaps he wasn’t home when Martha held her dinner party. Perhaps he was away on business. Or perhaps he was there all the time but no one really noticed.
Some people are like that. They have perfected the art of invisibility. Experts at fading into the background, they go out of their way not to attract attention, and when they get noticed, they feel great discomfort.
Of course, I have no way of knowing if this was true of Lazarus. Scripture doesn’t give any information as to who he was or what he was like—only that he lived in Bethany and had two sisters. When we finally meet him, in John 11, it is an odd introduction—for it starts with a 911 call that leads to a funeral:
Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair. So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”
When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days.
Then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”....
On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days....
...“Where have you laid him?” he asked.
“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.
Jesus wept. (John 11:1–7, 17, 34–35)
What a tender story. A story filled with emotion and dramatic tension. The story of two sisters torn by grief and a Savior who loved them yet chose to tarry.
Of course, there is more to it—more truths we’ll discover as we walk through the forty-four verses John devotes to this tale. For the story of Lazarus is also the story of Jesus’s greatest miracle: that of awakening His friend from the dead. (To read the whole story all at once, see Appendix A: “The Story.”)
Have you noticed that when Jesus comes on the scene, what seems to be the end is rarely the end? In fact, it’s nearly always a new beginning.
But Mary and Martha didn’t know that at the time. And I’m prone to forget it as well.
Questions and disappointments, sorrow and fear tend to block out the bigger picture in situations like the one we see in B...
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