God Gets in the Dirt

I really would like to know what Jesus wrote in the dirt when He was defending the woman caught in the act of adultery. What could He have possibly written that would cause all those indignant religious leaders to drop their stones and walk away? Did He call out each one and name their individual sins? And where was the other party complicit in the adultery? Was He one of the accusers?

I know for certain that Jesus told the woman two things: 1) Neither do I condemn you and 2) go and sin no more. Jesus forgave the woman but didn’t give her a free pass to keep sinning. But I believe in that moment, He restored her dignity and gave her the power to choose a different way. She was no longer a prisoner of her past and her previous choices.

God is with us to free us from our shame. He is with us from birth through death (and not ending with death) to eternity. He knows what we are made of and He knows how frail and weak we are. He can handle our dirt, but He won’t let us stay dirty. He can handle our brokenness, but He is making us whole. Yes, He knows our sin but He calls us by our name and makes us new.

Psalm 46

God, you’re such a safe and powerful place to find refuge!
    You’re a proven help in time of trouble—
    more than enough and always available whenever I need you.
So we will never fear
    even if every structure of support were to crumble away.
    We will not fear even when the earth quakes and shakes,
    moving mountains and casting them into the sea.
For the raging roar of stormy winds and crashing waves
    cannot erode our faith in you.
Pause in his presence
God has a constantly flowing river whose sparkling streams
    bring joy and delight to his people.
    His river flows right through the city of God Most High,
    into his holy dwelling places.
God is in the midst of his city, secure and never shaken.
    At daybreak his help will be seen with the appearing of the dawn.
When the nations are in uproar with their tottering kingdoms,
    God simply raises his voice,
    and the earth begins to disintegrate before him.
Here he comes!
    The Commander!
    The mighty Lord of Angel Armies is on our side!
    The God of Jacob fights for us!
Pause in his presence
Everyone look!
    Come and see the breathtaking wonders of our God.
    For he brings both ruin and revival.
    He’s the one who makes conflicts end
    throughout the earth,
    breaking and burning every weapon of war.
Surrender your anxiety.
    Be still and realize that I am God.
    I am God above all the nations,
    and I am exalted throughout the whole earth.
Here he stands!
    The Commander!
    The mighty Lord of Angel Armies is on our side!
    The God of Jacob fights for us!
Pause in his presence (from The Passion Translation).

There’s an App for That?

Recently, I discovered as I was en route to work in the wee hours of the morning that my speedometer had quit working. It was a bit disconcerting to not be able to gauge what speed you’re going, especially when you’re on the interstate. My modus operandi was to try and keep up with the cars around me and hope and pray that they were driving reasonably close to the speed limit.

Then a friend of mine told me about an app that works as a speedometer. That’s when I came to the realization that they really do have an app for everything.

I have an app that turns my phone into a leveler tool. Not that I ever use it, but it’s there just in case. I also have an app that can identify types of plants and flowers. I love the apps that allow you to skip the long lines at places like Chick-fil-A and Chipotle and order from your phone.

This is where I play my age card. I can really say that back in my day, all cell phones did was make phone calls. True story. Oh, and you could play this weird kind of snake game, but otherwise, the mobile phone was for making phone calls. Period. And we liked it.

Honestly, I do like all the technology on my phone. But I miss when life didn’t revolve around iPhones and social media and the interwebs. I miss walking into a coffee shop or a restaurant and seeing people having actual face-to-face conversations instead of texting and Facebooking and Instagramming each other. And yes, there’s probably an app for that, too.

Transformed

To me, there’s nothing more powerful than the testimony of a soul set free. I heard once that you can argue semantics and theology and doctrines all day long, but you can never dispute a life that’s been transformed. You can’t argue with a miracle.

Tonight at my church’s Room in the Inn Monday night outreach, I got the privilege to hear from a man named Bobby Hayden, Jr., a successful music entertainer who went from the heights of success to the depths of drug addiction and homelessness to eventual recovery and salvation found in Jesus. His was a powerful testimony of God working the miraculous impossible in the life of someone who was destined for an overdose.

One thing Bobby said that stuck out was this: “You don’t do good to be good. You do good because you are good, and you are good because Jesus makes you good.”

Another way of saying that is change doesn’t start with behavior modification that works its way inward, but in spiritual transformation that begins within and works its way out. Romans 12:2 says this: “Stop imitating the ideals and opinions of the culture around you, but be inwardly transformed by the Holy Spirit through a total reformation of how you think. This will empower you to discern God’s will as you live a beautiful life, satisfying and perfect in his eyes.”

Only the power of God can explain a 180 degree turnaround from death to life, from addiction to freedom, from sin to holiness. And when a life is transformed, it’s just as much of a miracle whether the person was a lifelong drug addict or a outwardly moral upstanding citizen. The Bible says that we are all equally sinners in the eyes of God and equally in need of a Savior. The good news of the gospel isn’t that you can get to God, but that God in Jesus comes to you and meets you where you are.

No Fear

“There is no fear in love, so we draw near;
Thy perfect love, O Lord, has cast out fear.

As wheat before the wind bends all one way,
So would we bow before Thy wind today….

Our several choices, Lord, we would forgo;
Breath of the living God, O great Wind, blow” (Amy Carmichael, “All One Way”, Toward Jerusalem).

That’s the key. God’s perfect love casts out all fear. It’s not that we will never be afraid again or that we will never be anxious, but that every time we are afraid, we take that anxious thought captive and bring it to the One whose perfect love continues to cast out fear. Then we trust not in or fearful feelings, but in the Prince of Peace.

66 Years Ago

“He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose” (Jim Elliott).

I’m sure that many of you are aware that today marks the anniversary of Elvis Presley’s birth. He would have been 87 years old today, if I did my math right. But I wonder how many know about another anniversary that falls on this day.

Today in 1956, Jim Elliott and four other missionaries were killed while attempting to reach the Huaorani people of Ecuador for Christ. I doubt you will hear about that in any of tonight’s news broadcasts or see it on any news website. In the eyes of the world, they didn’t amount to much. But the legacy they left is still ongoing.

His wife, Elisabeth Elliott, went on to become a famous Christian author and speaker. Because of her outreach, the lives of many are different. They’ve been changed for the better by the power of God.

She later went back to that same people that had killed her husband and those other missionaries two years earlier. This time, they listened. This time, these people gave their lives to Christ and trusted Him as Lord and Savior. It all happened because not because of infallible superheroes of the faith, but because of flawed human beings who put their finite trust in an infinite God who specializes in the impossible.

Bird Watching in the Snow

You can’t tell from this picture, but Peanut was bird watching. All the birds are off screen frolicking in the snow. This is Peanut’s idea of must-see TV. None of that major network stuff. She just wants to chill and watch birds.

Who knows why? Maybe she thinks they’d taste like chicken. Maybe she just likes watching all those little birds get all puffy in the cold, snowy weather. Whatever the reason, this little feline was captivated by the avian activity. That is until a bug flew by and she got distracted.

What Is the Way of Jesus?

What is the way of Jesus? What are those who follow Him called to be and to do?

The answer is simple. Repent and forgive.

Self-righteous finger pointing has no place in the Kingdom of God. Neither does condemning those who sin differently than I do. While we are called to speak in love against people when their actions don’t match their faith, neither you nor I get the right to judge their motives or intentions. Neither you nor I get to decide.

Jesus never said, “You make sure everyone else is living right.”

What He said was, “You live right,” or better yet, “You repent. You seek to serve the least of these. You be holy.”

The Kingdom of God isn’t about a political party or platform. It’s not an ideology, either left or right, conservative or liberal.

It’s about the God’s love breaking into the world, one heart at a time.

You might say to Jesus, “But what about these people over there not doing right? What about those people flaunting their freedoms over and above any responsibility?”

Jesus says to you, “But what about you? You repent. You make peace and live in peace with others as much as it’s in your power to do so.

At the end of the day, the question to you and me will be how well we loved. How well we served and ministered to the least of them. How well we made visible the invisible grace of God.

Jesus also said to forgive.

That becomes possible when you and I understand that the kind of inhumanity and evil we’re capable of apart from the grace of God. Also, we need to embrace the fact that those we deem our enemies are still created in the image of God and loved by God.

When we grasp how much we’re forgiven by God, we can in turn forgive others.

“One of their religion scholars spoke for them, posing a question they hoped would show him up: ‘Teacher, which command in God’s Law is the most important?’ Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them (Matthew 22:34-40, The Message).'”

Emotional Resilience: Takeaways from Kairos

Last night at Kairos, Pastor Mike talked about emotional resilience in the context of the story in Genesis 37 of Joseph. This is the Joseph who had God-given dreams about his destiny. Throughout his story, it seems that poor old Joseph keeps getting punched in the face by life. He was thrown into a pit and later sold into slavery by jealous brothers, he was falsely accused of sexual misconduct by his master’s wife, and he spent two years in prison for the crime he didn’t commit.

Yet the key phrase that defines Joseph in the midst of his troubles was that “God was with him.” Whatever anyone else meant for evil and for harm, God turned to good. Spoiler alert: In fact, God used Joseph’s story to bring about the redemption of a whole race of people who later became Israel.

Two things from Mike’s sermon stood out to me. One was that Joseph trusted in the Dream-giver more than he trusted in his dreams. Even when his circumstances didn’t match his calling, Joseph clung to faith in the God of his great-grandfather Abraham, his grandfather Isaac, and his father Jacob.

Also, he was able to frame his story within the context of God’s greater story. He grew up hearing all about how God had led Abraham to leave a comfortable existence and follow Him without knowing the destination. Joseph heard all the stories time and time again of how God was faithful to fulfill all His covenant promises.

As a wise pastor once said, what you think and what you feel will sometimes lie to you, so you trust in what you know to be true. You trust in the same God who was with Joseph and who is still able to deliver you today.