The First Stone

There are so many debates flying around and accusations laid against Christianity and our response has been so misguided.

I, of course, will now add my wisdom and insight to clarify everything for everyone.

Yeah…

I’ve heard many times, over the years, the phrase, “let him who is without sin cast the first stone.”  These are the words of Jesus and we love pulling them out when we’re confronted by someone for doing something wrong.

The story is about a woman who was caught in adultery that some religious jerks wanted to trick Jesus with.  They knew that Jesus was kind to prostitutes, to tax collectors (worse than prostitutes if you’re setting up a scale) and sinners.  He claimed he was there to heal that type of person but the Hebraic law stated she should be stoned, well her and the guy she committed adultery with, ummm…

Anyway, they thought that because of Jesus’ kindness, he would contradict the Law and let her go.  And I think that’s how we want to use his words even now.  Couple of problems though.

He could have thrown the first stone.  He was “without sin” and was God in the flesh and holy and all that.  He could have killed her and been “right” to do so.  No denying it, she had sinned.

He, because of love, chose not to.

Second problem, we want to compare our actions with hers.  She sinned, I sin and no one is allowed to judge me for it.  That’s what we would say.  But we’re different.  She didn’t deny what she had done, didn’t want anyone to say it was ok.  She knew what she deserved.  She held on to no hope because she knew she was condemned.

Our actions more closely resemble the thief on the cross.  No, not the one that Jesus said would be with him in paradise.  The one who said, “if you’re the son of God, save yourself and us too.”  Mocking Jesus, hurling accusations against his power and identity.

Weird that Jesus didn’t talk to him at all.

He didn’t want to repent, didn’t want to honor God and submit to His authority.  He just wanted to be allowed to continue living, doing whatever he wanted.

Jesus still stands there, holding out his hand of forgiveness and love, acceptance and restoration to those who ask for it.  Who want Him more than their own lives.

But He is holy, He is God and will not accept less than His best for us.

I have no hope but Him.

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Underwear

In Christian circles, we talk a lot about the “Armor of God.”

You know, “helmet of salvation, sword of the Spirit, feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel.”  Those things.

But, I was thinking lately that some of the “armor” hasn’t been sitting so well in my fight. Belt of Truth getting a bit tight, Breast Plate of Righteousness beginning to chafe.

Sorry, my metaphors are silly and intentionally trying to be humorous.

The reality is that if we solely concentrate on the armor, we miss something.  There are other aspects that we have to choose, things we must look for and put on.

“Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

Now, most people will tell you as you live for Jesus, the Holy Spirit naturally brings out these “fruits of the Spirit” in our lives.  I would suggest that they are attributes that you have to choose, to clothe yourself with along with the armor.

In the military, you learn pretty quickly that, to protect your feet, you need good boots.  But first, you need clean, dry socks.  If you wear a sweaty, nasty t-shirt for too long, you’re going to get chafed (and you smell really bad).  And, if you don’t change your boxers from time to time, well….

And, the idea of not having these items is not something you should choose!

Is it sacrilege to compare the Fruits of the Spirit to underwear?

I think it’s biblical.

When you lift up your sword, make sure you put on love.  When you hold up the shield, make sure it is also wrapped in faithfulness.  When you put on the belt, make sure it is over the garment of patience.

And if all this leaves you cold, 1 Peter 5:5 says, “Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another…”

Now, I’m ready for battle.

And I think I look pretty killer, too!

Rising Evil

Christmas time is upon us and I find myself sad so much of the time.  Don’t even know why.

I think part of the reason is my disappointment with how things are.  We come to the end of a year thinking things should have improved.

But they haven’t.

Do I have more money?  A better job?  Are my kids closer to God?  Is my marriage better?  Is the world safer?  Has hatred, greed, selfishness, sin been removed from the earth?

Am I a better person?

I pulled into the gas station this morning and a guy pulled in at the same time and cut me off.  In that moment, I think I hated him.  I cussed at his rudeness and fumed until he approached me and apologized.

A nice man in a bit of a rush.

Why does something so insignificant turn me into something so angry.

Despite my prayers and times of singing praises, I am still a broken man.

I saw a movie recently that was apocalyptic.  End of the world.  Man-reaping-what-he-sowed kind of stuff.  Evil took over and everyone was dying.

Now I’ve seen the zombie movies, the plague movies.  I’ve read the books about economic meltdowns and world war whatever.  Death Star, alien life forms, all that just seem silly for the most part.

This felt more possible, more real in a sense.  Aside from plot holes and overdramatization, I could see this happening.

Except for one thing, you and me and Jesus.  Well, ok, that’s three things.  But, not if we do it right.

In the face of all that is wrong, we have a choice.  Will I let Jesus live through me?  How much will I let Him live through me?

That’s the promise of Christmas.  If we let Him in, let Him move and breathe and speak, there is no darkness so strong, no evil so powerful, that we can’t overcome.  I can stand though the weight of the world tries to crush me.

I can’t make myself, my family, my world better.  But Jesus can through me.

You Can Dance

One of the things I’m learning as I walk out this journey is that I am really not alone.  Oh, I feel alone a lot of the time, but I’m really not.

When I am struggling, in the thousands that make up my church, others are struggling too.  When I am fearful, in the people that make up the staff of my church, there are those who are fearful too.  When I am sad, defeated, broken by pride and shame, my family is sad, defeated, broken too.

And when I don’t know what God is saying, where He is leading me, others are questioning too.

Yesterday, I heard one of our great leaders express this.  We know something is coming.  We know God has great plans for us, individually and corporately.  We just aren’t seeing it.  God isn’t answering our questions right now.

So what do we do?

Admittedly, I tend to start answering my own questions.  “I should do this or that.”  I get angry at the vacuum, depressed because I am unseen.  I build walls and protect.

God suggested a new tactic as I talked this over with Him.

“You can dance.”

It would be easy for me to tell you what that means.  But I think it really means different things for different people.  So rather than explain myself.

I’m just going to dance.

Love you guys!

Never too Far

First off, thank you to those who expressed to me how they miss it when I don’t write.  It can be easy to listen to the lies that say my writing doesn’t matter, I don’t matter.  I have appreciated the encouragement.

I was praying the other day and realized that I had once again turned to complaining.  This is all too common.  Strangely common also was that this was during a worship service.

I know!  I shouldn’t be complaining during worship.  It just seems that so often when I am declaring His greatness it step right into wondering why my problems feel so difficult and why can’t He do something about them.

And really, maybe it is a bad thing, complaining in worship but in one sense, I’m “ok” with it.  For me, the whole idea of falling on my knees, raising my hands is a coupling of two ideas.  One is God’s greatness.  The other is my complete dependence on Him as His broken, flawed, desperate child.

Anyway, in the midst of worship, in the midst of complaining, a theme arose around Psalm 23.  Different parts of it came out but I got stuck on “your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (verse 4).

I haven’t read a commentary on this so maybe I’m seeing it wrong, but I think a rod is for whacking and a staff is for yanking.  I mean, the rod is what was used to smack the sheep if they weren’t moving along or going in the right direction.  The staff is like the shepherd’s crook that has a hook on one end, which I think is used to pull a sheep back.

I’m not finding a lot of “comfort” in these ideas.  I said something to that effect to my King and He said, “find comfort in knowing I will never let you go too far.”

So, in the immaturity I show, the messed up marriage that I am half of, the ineptitude of my parenting (and now grandparenting), in my complaining and anger and fear and distrust of my Lord, He will prod, He will yank, He will guide me always back to Him.

I would run.  Life seems so hard sometimes.  But, He promised He would complete me.  And, as much as I am “me” (more so), He is God.  I’m not so bad He can’t handle me.

 

This Is Your Cue

Waiting in the wings of life for our chance to step out on to the stage can sometimes feel confusing.  We keep hearing the lines that lead up to our part but when we start to step out the Director grabs us by the collar and seems to hiss, “not yet.”  We see others step out.  We hear the laughter, the applause and yes sometimes the boos and heckling but we just want to have our shot.  We want the chance to see what we’re made of, whether we can hold the audience or crash and burn for all to see.

So often I look at my life and feel that my talents are wasted, that I am unseen.  And yet, I feel this pressure, this calling to do more, to be more for God’s Kingdom.  The two appear to be mutually exclusive.

No one sees me.

You must be seen.

I have wondered and been fairly ticked off at my King and this universe that seem so unfair in their expectations and the opportunities provided.

But, then I see the curtain pull back.  It doesn’t pull back from the stage I’ve been staring at.  It opens up to the heavens.  I realize that the director I was listening to was not THE DIRECTOR but just me stealing that throne, running a play with no understanding of the script, no power to manipulate the characters, the props.

What shocks me is that as the spotlights pan over this stage as it is revealed, I realize that we’re all on stage.  We’re all “on”, right here, right now.

Shakespeare said that all of life is a stage.  And as a worship leader, I have heard for years that we play to an audience of one.  It is only now, in this moment of my life, that I feel like I’m beginning to understand the depths of those truths.

I have one audience and He is sitting on the edge of His seat with full expectancy of how great I will be as the part He has written for me.  But I have to see it.  I have to see every mundane, stupid, silly, useless, amazing moment as a gift that I give back to Him.  I have to see every breath as a chance to sing, to dance, to live for Him.

Nothing else matters.  Not position, not fame, not money, not power or sex or “love.”

Jesus Christ!

The Scepter

In the book of Esther there is a scene where the chosen bride goes before the king at the risk of her life.  In that kingdom, to go before him uninvited could bring an immediate execution.  She enters and he extends his scepter and she is welcomed into his presence.

I can’t get this picture out of my mind.

I was praying this week and saw it so clearly in my mind.  Only I was Esther.

And I think there are others out there that need to hear this.

I approach God with the idea that I could die, that he could judge me, hate me, reject me.  And in one sense, it’s all true, if I ignore the character, the nature of Jesus, the person of my Father King.

But in the story, you never get the sense of even a moment of hesitation.  It wasn’t like this human king even had to think a bit.  She enters and is accepted.

So am I.  So are you.

It’s not that we don’t deserve the shame we feel, the condemnation, the rejection.  But because of the cross, because of the blood of Jesus that makes us clean, we are accepted without question, without hesitation.

And do we get accepted so that we can go sit in the back and be quiet?  Ha!  Do we get accepted so that we can wait our turn as other “more important” things are dealt with?  Not at all!

In a very real sense, God pauses his usual activity to hear us, to spend time with us.

I don’t know how that works since I’m pretty sure if God took his hands off the universe for a second it would crumble.  But with all that he has to do in this world, his attention shifts dramatically to us, to me.

I know myself to be a fairly silly person, angry and emotional about some pretty trivial things sometimes.  I make requests of God that probably I should be embarrassed to even be thinking about.

But guess what?  Not only does He accept me!  Not only does He listen to me!  He also wants to hear what I’m asking.  He wants to know what I think I need.  And before I can even ask, He is promising me the Kingdom!

So why do I, how can I ignore Him?  Ever?

“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”  Hebrews 4:16 (ESV)