I am always on the look-out for a book recommendation, especially from folks whose tastes and preferences run parallel to my own. I received a suggestion from my friend Brian at waystationone to check out the book The Lazarus Life by pastor Stephen Smith. The book is subtitled, "Spiritual Transformation for Ordinary People". The framework of the book is based on the story of Lazarus from the New Testament gospel of John the apostle. This story is used to help us to first envision transformation and then to show how we can take ownership of this transformation in a personal way.
Of course, the story of Lazarus is a miraculous example of transformation. Mary, Martha, and Lazarus were three good friends of Jesus. While Jesus was away, Lazarus became deathly ill. Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus that He was needed quickly, yet Jesus purposefully stayed where he was. When He finally returned to Mary and Martha, Lazarus had been dead and in his tomb for several days. Lazarus was transformed in the ultimate manner when Jesus raised him up from the dead. This event served to bring many new believers to follow Jesus. However, it was also the final straw that ultimately lead the Jewish leaders to put into place a final plan to kill Jesus, which was exactly what happened just a few days later.
However, this book focuses on personal transformation. From living in the muck and mire of spiritual death, our stinking, rotting bodies wrapped in graveclothes, to emerging from the tomb with our focus on Jesus, ready and a bit more able to start shedding our graveclothes. Of course, we need to experience God's love if we are to be transformed by it. True transformation in our lives is not something quick, but takes a lifetime. It does not happen smoothly and monotonically. It proceeds in fits and starts, steps, stages, and seasons. Rarely graceful or easy. More likely awkward and uncomfortable. It is a journey in which the Christ in us gains more and more space. A journey in which He is increasing and we are decreasing. A good, comforting book that was most enjoyable.