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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The Weight of the World

I deal with depression from time to time.  Things don’t always seem to go the way I want them to.  It can feel so heavy as to be unbearable.  I remember the times that taking my life was a better alternative than facing one more day.

I have looked at Jesus.  I have scoffed at the verse that says he was tempted in the same way I am tempted.  He never knew failure.  He never knew guilt and shame.  And because of this, I minimized his sacrifice on the cross.

He died.  Many people during the Roman occupation died, suffering for longer than Jesus did.  They were beaten too, mocked, humiliated.  It becomes a common theme when a ruling force ceases to value life, to respect something other.

I have looked at it differently this year.  God has been teaching me.

I know what it feels like to be rejected for a job, a ministry position, a loved one.  He knew the rejection of every person he had come to save.  They didn’t want him.

I know shame and failure from my own sin.  He knew the shame and failure of being the King of Creation and being nailed to that cross.  At some moment, though he knows all things, must have hoped that his love, his miraculous power, his wisdom and grace should have been enough to reach the world.  But it wasn’t.  His closest friends denied him.

And then I think about the weight of what I carry, the burdens I carry.  Then I multiply by the number of people living right now and add that to those that lived before, knowing that I am not alone in what crushes me.  And in that moment on the cross, I see him lifting that weight.  Not just the weight of the crossbeam of the cross but the weight of guilt and shame, the weight of failure and sin, the weight of hatred and lust and fear and every sin under the sun.

I see my Hero standing up under what would crush the rest of us.  And not only did he lift it once, he carried it and HE DEFEATED IT!!!

Amazing, truly awesome!

He did it all to set us free from it.  No one could do what He did.  I can not loose the chains that have bound me.  But He can, He did.

I don’t even know what the proper, appropriate response to this should be.  My singing, my dancing, my bended knees, my clapping and every note I could ever play, my life is not enough.

I will give it anyway.  It is all that I have.

It’s the wrong question

A friend of mine asked me the other day, “So all the religions, anybody who believes differently than you Christians, we’re all just screwed?”

And the short answer is, “yep.”

But as I thought about it, I realized what I should have said.

The idea is that there have to be multiple paths to a loving, compassionate Father.  If He wants us to make it, why not provide a thousand ways to get to Him.  COEXIST, you know (with all the different symbols).

But, of course, this first denies that all religions are exclusive.  A good heaven-bound Muslim cannot follow other faiths also.  A nirvana-bound Hindu can believe all sorts of things but they have to believe in multiple gods, not one God.

It also denies our depravity.  We are so lost, so already screwed, that we don’t deserve a way to God.  We can’t work hard enough, think holy enough, live righteously enough to make it.  It shouldn’t surprise us or offend us that there is only one way.  The miracle, the grace is that there is anyway to make fallen humanity right with a Holy God.

And finally, it denies the gift.  The death of humanity began when we said, “I don’t trust you, God.  I don’t think you know what is best for me.  And, if you do, you are hiding it from me.”  And then we sewed fig leaves together.  We made a way to cover our nakedness and religions were born.

And, just so you know, God doesn’t like any religion better than another.  I wonder whether He has a particular loathing for religious “Christianity”.  How many have been turned away from knowing and loving Him by the cruel, proud words of the people who think they’re so holy?

So, yep, we’re screwed.  But equally, we’re blessed.  God made a way.  Jesus did come as God in the form of man.  He did die on a Roman cross as a Holy sacrifice for our sin.  And He rose, victoriously conquering sin and death, paying, fully, the price for all I’ve done, all we’ve done wrong.

I don’t need another way to His presence, His peace.  I’ll take the one He gave.

Then, He can answer all my other questions.

The Open Wound

She was my favorite mare. A tall, beautiful, good-natured bay that did nothing but throw beautiful foals. And there she stood, trembling in agony, staring, blindly at the wall in front of her. Everyone could see the problem but no one knew the cause. Her left shoulder had a grapefruit sized swelling but there was no visible wound.

At last, we decided to lance the wound. We weren’t sure how she would respond since this would only increase her pain, but we had to try. Carefully, we cleansed the area, her head sinking lower despite our gentle efforts. The scalpel was poised and the drawn over the center of the swelling. Her head came up sharply and then relief spread over her whole body as a fountain of foul smelling infection poured from the wound.

From what we could determine, she had received a small puncture wound that remained undetected. The bacteria had invaded and a little wound turned into a life-threatening problem.

We deal with this so much in the westernized church. Sin, addiction, a spiritual wound remain hidden. Good Christians don’t act that way or have problems like that. Don’t talk about it. Don’t ask for help.

Do you want healing? Do you want freedom? Do you want peace? Find someone you trust. Find some group or a friend who will stand by you and bring your problems out where they can be seen.

As my good friend says, Satan works in the dark, not Jesus. Let his light shine on you, in you. As the infection leaves, there will be pain. But, the relief, the peace, the joy that replaces it is beyond imagining.

I Don’t Like Solomon!

I know!  Everybody likes Solomon!  As a christian, you’re supposed to like this greatest, richest of Israel’s kings.  He was the wisest, the wealthiest, the most blessed, the builder of the temple, the writer of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs (or of Solomon).  Here I will lay out my case against him and let the reader decide for themselves.

It doesn’t start out well from what I can see.  David sins with Bathsheba and then promises that her son will be king in his place.  Maybe David felt guilty for killing her husband and taking her for himself but was she so unwilling in this?  It is at least questionable.  And, of all David’s wives and sons, his way to make amends is to give the kingdom to this person.  It just seems wrong.

God blesses his choice, seemingly, and Solomon does make a good showing in some respects.  He asks for wisdom to lead the people, that was good.  But he also becomes David’s hit man.  Joab, someone David should have dealt with years ago, falls to Solomon’s executioner.  Shimei, again, if David had issues, he should have dealt with them.  Adonijah, some felt the rightful heir to the throne, asks for Abishag, the Shunamite.  Hardly a worthy play for the kingdom, since she wasn’t even a true wife of David, and he had gone through Bathsheba and Solomon to request her.  But Solomon sees the opportunity and has him killed too.  Abiathar is removed from the priesthood, though he did nothing wrong.  These are all political tactics used to establish Solomon as king, but I don’t think that God would have established him this way.

In Solomon’s kingdom, silver becomes as common as stones, gold covers everything.  He amasses horses, treasure, and wives, lots of wives.  This is where he turns into the wisest idiot that I’ve ever seen.  Seven hundred wives, SEVEN HUNDRED!  Oh, and three hundred concubines.  I’ve heard many say that these were political liaisons, and not the same as what we think of as marriage.  But for them to be considered wives, it was necessary for a consummation to take place.  His arrogance, his sexual addiction, and the subsequent fall into idolatry is horribly sad, and plunges Israel into hundreds of years of misery and terror.

And yet, everyone loves him.

He angers me because he was rich.  I get so bothered because he threw away so much that could have been a blessing to generations.  He was sad at his own life, in the end, and taught us so much along the way, but at such a high price.  I feel so much frustration with his life because I am so disappointed with my own.  If he could not do any better, how am I supposed to?  To know so much, to have such wisdom, and make such a mess of his life, is very discouraging.

Maybe that’s the point.

Without Jesus, none of us, absolutely none of us, is worth much of anything.  None of us is capable of BEING great.  The reality of the greatest humanity has to offer is so clouded with sin and hurt and fear, that none of it can be redeemed apart from what Jesus did on the cross.

And in Him, we all become equals.  Bought with His blood, filled with His Holy Spirit, empowered by His life in us, we become what humanity never could.  Heavenly kings, princes, priests, warriors!

Where do we go from here?

He walked alone from the shop in that part of town that no “good” people talk about.  He watched the movie, looked at the magazines, stared at the pictures on the walls.  And now, he walked alone.  He walked in shame.

Where would you go if you were him?  What would you do now?

I talk to so many people, so many well meaning people, that have a thousand answers for what he should do.  He should give up, it’s just what guys do.  He should find a new relationship that “satisfies” him more.  He should go to church, join a group, pray a prayer, listen to music, think about what he’s doing.  And that’s just a short list.

There are good and helpful things on this list.  There are things that need to be done.  And this doesn’t just apply to guys addicted to porn.

In Exodus, the people of Israel were told to go into the promised land.  But then they heard the spies report.  “There are giants.  We’ll all be killed.”  And the people rebelled and refused to go in.  Then God rebukes them and says they will all, all that rebelled, die in the desert.  Then they’re sorry.  Please forgive us, they say.  We’ll obey you now, they say.  But God told them no.  They went anyway and many died in the battle that occurred.

The long and the short of this problem is that they, and we, are trying to fix ourselves.  Jesus died on the cross to set us free from the power of sin and death.  He came to give us life, “and life more abundant.”  We go our own way and the only solution to the problem is to stop going your own way.

Couples divorce because they fight and there seems no way out.  Teens run away because they hate their parents control and there seems no way out.  And people remain bound to sin because they can not fix themselves.

“if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14

Stop making your own decisions.  Stop finding your own way.  Stop listening to every voice that shouts in your ear.  Seek His face.  Seek His will.  Find Him again and let Him choose your paths.  He can heal.  He can restore.  He will help you.

And you’ll know where to go.

Give Glory to God!

The battle for Jericho has begun but it is hardly a battle.  The walls have fallen and the people of the city are panicking.  You run with your spear, stabbing and slashing at any who are in your way.  Though you are not a trained warrior, you have seen battle before and this does not compare.  All that you see is blood and death and blood lust in everyone’s eyes.  And you kill, and kill again.  Women, children, old men, babies, it doesn’t matter.  They all must die.  You are a rational, down-to-earth kind of guy and this all seems so crazy.

You have been going from house to house with others but for the moment find yourself alone.  Your friends have been grabbing things and taking them to a pile outside the city to give to the priests.  After taking several things yourself you find that it just seems a bit unfair.  You enter one last house and there find a robe, some silver and a little bar of gold.  The battle is ending and  instead of taking the things to the priests, you take them home.  You feel guilty but justify it because of your family’s needs and it really wasn’t much so no one will mind.

A couple of days go by and you’re on to the next town.  The guilt and shame of what you’ve done gnaw at you but now you feel the fear of knowing that if you say something, you’ll just get in trouble.  Joshua sends three thousand men to attack a small town and when they return, thirty six of them have been killed.  A warning bell is going off inside of you.  Maybe they died because of what you have done.  A rumor is flying around the camp that the battle was lost because there was sin that someone was hiding.  You almost mention it to your wife.  Your best friend sees you and asks what’s wrong.  Something tells you it would be better to confess and clear your conscience but now you feel trapped.

The next morning, the tribe of Judah is called out.  As the whispers pass between neighbors, you find your heart beating heavily and your palms are sweating.  Your clan, your division, your family and finally you are called out and it is too late.

“My son, give glory to God.”

You confess everything and though you are afraid, you feel free from that guilt, that bondage.  You are lead to the edge of the camp and look to see your wife crying as she stares at you.  Your children are crying too and looking at you to help them.  The people, your neighbors and friends gather around you and you watch as a stone strikes the forehead of your son and he falls to the ground.  Stones are hitting you too but you no longer feel anything.

The story of Achan, told in Joshua 7, is one of the saddest stories I see in the bible.  And it is the story that best fits what happens with pornography and men today.  And I am wise enough to know that church leaders, worship pastors, deal with it everyday.

I call you to not wait till God brings out this hidden failing.  Don’t wait till your family, your life, the life of your children are destroyed by this sin.  Bring it out.  Confront this.  Confess it.  Find a brother to walk through your healing.  Believe that you can still be that hero for your wife, your children.

Give glory to God.