Wednesday, April 30, 2008

I Don't Like This Jesus Very Much

Lazarus is sick; really, really sick. His sisters send someone to Jesus to let him know that His friend is not doing well at all. And John 11 covers this amazing story. In the first 16 verses here, Jesus handles this whole situation in a way that is so completely and utterly different than us, it seems bizarre.

Consider what happens. Jesus hears that Lazarus is sick, and declares that it won't end in death. Lazarus is sick for one reason: so that God can be glorified through it. Not that Lazarus would grow stronger in his faith, not that he might be a light. In Jesus' view, it wasn't about Lazarus. It was about God. We don't like to hear that. We are willing to suffer if we get to play a starring role, or if we gain from it. None of that is found here. Lazarus is sick, and God will get the reward from it.

Jesus responds by blowing off his friends. He doesn't go. He loves them. Very much. Him not coming is going to cause them doubt and pain. They will be hurt and disappointed. He stays. Their feelings are not the ultimate decision in this. God's glory and plan is what drives it all. So Jesus takes actions that put the ones He loves into pain and uncertainty.

Then He calls His disciples to go back to the place of danger. They don't want to. He intentionally invites them to follow Him back into a place where they will likely be arrested, beaten, or killed. For no good reason. Jesus simply tells them that now is the time. There is only a window of time, and they need to go then. After two days of sitting by, suddenly they need to go right then.

Next, Jesus tells them that Lazarus is sleeping, and is speaking of his death. They think he is actually sleeping, because death for them was a terrifying thing. Christ here begins to change the way they understand death. He pushes them to reconsider the very basics of the world they know.

We hit verses 14 and 15 and Jesus says the most insensitive thing possible. "Lazarus is dead, and I'm glad I wasn't there." Why? So that they would comprehend God's power. They would believe, and God would get the glory. Jesus was glad He wasn't there to stop Lazarus' death?

Thomas pitches in at the end, "Let's go and die with him and get it over with". The scene ends with this melodramatic statement by Thomas, leaving us hanging.

Do you see it? Jesus doesn't act like we think He should, like we sometimes tell people He will, like we want Him to. He doesn't run to the rescue, He doesn't save us from pain, Mary and Martha are hurting, and He allows them to sit in it. Not because they lack faith, not because they are praying, but because Lazarus dying and them hurting will bring God glory. That is enough of a reason.

This seems crazy to us. But only because we fear pain and death. What if we didn't? What if we knew what God knows, just how temporary and short the whole thing is? What if we knew what awaited us, how amazing it is, and how forever the beauty will be? The pain is inconsequential then. God isn't mean, or selfish, or careless. He knows what the reality of life is beyond death, and how it completely destroys any of the shadows that we call joy or peace here in this life. So, yeah, He's not afraid of us suffering or dying if it will point people to Him.

Tough, but true.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

It's "A" or "B", there is no "C".

John 10:22-42 has a passage that many people have used to prove many different things. In the story, Jesus is at the Temple during Hanukkah. The people pull Him aside to speak to Him. They tell Him to be clear, is He the one sent by God to save them? Jesus says, Yes I am. I've told you before, I've done miracles for you, and I'm telling you again. Yes, I'm the Messiah." But He also tells them that He is God. They try again to kill Him for this. Again He has to escape to the wilderness.

If you speak with a devout Muslim, they will point to this passage and use it to show that Jesus isn't claiming to be God Himself, but merely a son of God (vs 34-36). They believe that this is proof that the Apostle Paul took Jesus' teachings too far, and made Him more than He claimed to be. He is a prophet, but Jesus never claims to be God Himself.

Most Christians see this passage as Jesus claiming to be God in the person. He is God, He is in God, and God is in Him in a special way unlike anyone else. This isn't an option for other people, its something that is true of Him alone.

So, a large percentage of the world's population divides who God is and isn't over this passage and a few others. The Muslim's would humbly side with the Jews in this passage. It's one thing for Jesus to be sent by God as a prophet, it's another thing altogether for Him to claim to be divine.

With so many people split over this verse, what about you? What do you believe? Why? Can you explain your answer well? The Bible says Christians should be ready in season and out of season to give an answer for their faith. Take some time and prayerfully read over this passage. Your answer will dictate how you live today.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Thief, Threat, Forgetful Grandpa, or God?

John 10:1-21 brings us to the parable of the good shepherd. Jesus lays down this story in the first six verses about how a thief sneaks in, but a shepherd is given free access, and the sheep freely follow him. There is a sense of forced thievery as opposed to freedom in the story. But it's lost on the audience, and rightly so. They are hearing it for the first time, and it is a strange parable.

So, in verses 7 and following, Jesus explains it a bit. First off, he compares Himself to the gate. Everyone who came before Him were robbers, He claims. People have been trying to get to God on their terms, climbing over the wall. They couldn't get through the door to God, so they had to go over the wall and try to break in. The implication is that it didn't work. But Jesus says He is the gate, and it is now wide open. You no longer need to break into the Kingdom, it has swung open to anyone who wants to come in. Then He claims that the thieves only are there to take life away, He is there to give it freely and to the full.

Then He switches tacks. He is also like the good shepherd. Other shepherds who are merely hired hands will run at the first sign of hardship or trouble. But He has a vested interest in us, the sheep. He is the owner, the creator. He will not run when things get hard. Instead, He will stand and fight for us. In fact, He claims in verses 14-18 that He will even die for us. In addition to this, He has sheep from other areas that He is going to bring all together in one large family. (This is a hint at the fact that people other than Jews were going to be brought in. People like me and you.)

Verse 17 is interesting, in Jesus saying the reason God loves Him is because He lays down His life and takes it up again. There is an idea that in the Trinity (God the Father, God the Son, God the Spirit), that each has a role of service they perform in love for the others. God the Father is creator, God the Son is the sacrificial one, and God the Spirit is the one who sustains everything. They do these things for each other in love and service. In that, they have a complete and deeply passionate relationship among themselves. This is one of the verses that tends to point in that direction.

So, Jesus says that there are people who try to break into heaven, climb the walls into God's Kingdom, and they are thieves. Their methods and ideas lead to pain and death. He also says He is here to offer a free passage in. He will stay with us, even to the point of dying for us. And people are split on Him. Some claim He is absolutely nuts and demonic. Others claim He is exactly who He says He is.

Unfortunately, with time, we have created a third option. He's God, but He is a weak god. He doesn't really mean what He says, other than the stuff about getting us into some kind of paradise after we die. We ignore Him here, because after all, He is not enough to take us on. When we die, we'll use Him as a big, generous land lord. And if He protests about it, wanting to know why we should be allowed to live in His mammoth gated community, then we will pull out the contract where we said a prayer, He signed off on it, and then we will march right on in.

I don't think the people who knew Jesus in a face to face way would see this third option as viable. I think you have them divided because He was divisive. He was blunt. He demanded a lot, and offered a lot. And people were split on it. If He had been the wimpy version we have created as Americans, they would never have killed Him. He wouldn't have been a threat to anyone. He would have been more like a feeble old grandfather with a lot of money and a short memory.

But they killed Him. Never forget, He was, and is, such a threat, that they were forced to kill Him. Some loved Him. Some hated Him. Many feared Him. But no one ignored Him.

What of you? What role does He really play in our lives?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

When He Comes For Us

As we finish out the story of the once blind beggar in John 9:35-41, Jesus hears that the Pharisee's have thrown him out of the temple, and Jesus goes to find him. Be sure to catch what this means. It's not one of the scenes from the Fresh Prince of Bel Air where Mr. Banks picks Jazz up and throws him out of the front door into the yard. When it says "they threw him out", it means that the beggar has been barred from the temple. He may not enter and offer sacrifices anymore. The Pharisee's have cut him off from God. He has no way of finding forgiveness now. He is destined for hell.

So, Jesus goes and finds the one who has been thrown away. He begins speaking to the beggar, who doesn't recognize Jesus. Remember, Jesus sent him to was in the Pool of Siloam to be healed. He has never seen the one who healed him. Jesus gave him sight, but he has never seen the sight giver. As soon as Jesus tells him that He was the one who healed him, the beggar believes and worships him right there. (vs 38) Notice in verse 40 that there are Pharisee's following either the beggar or Jesus around, it doesn't say which. Can you imagine their anger when this guy worships Jesus. He was just spanked by them, and can't worship God anymore. Then Jesus finds the guy, and he worships Jesus. Oh, the irony of it all.

The Pharisee's get all bent out of shape at Jesus' remark about the blind seeing and the seeing being blind. Clearly he is implying the once blind beggar gets it, and worships God by worshiping Him. And, they don't. He tells the Pharisee's that by continuing to claim to be healthy spiritually, they are still guilty.

Jesus has done this with me recently. I have been struggling with some things, and under a lot of stress. I felt like I couldn't find the answers I needed, and in my blindness and weakness, I wasn't getting any help. I felt like no matter how hard I tried to see, I couldn't and God just wasn't helping. I finally got so mad and tired that I had it out with God. I admitted that I didn't think He was going to help me. I confessed that I was mad at Him, even though the mess was mine to begin with. I basically threw myself at His feet in anger and uncertainty.

And He came to me.

He sent two friends who don't know each other. He had them both check in with me, telling me that God had prompted them to come and ask. Both brought wisdom and healing. He came and found me, and offered me my sight back. Again.

He is trustworthy. He really is. But we have to admit our blindness and frustration. We have to be willing to fall in front of Him. But He always comes for us. Every time.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Kick is Up...and it's Good!

So our newly seeing friend from yesterday continues his story today (John 9:13-34). His neighbors bring him to the Pharisees because they want to know what to believe about Jesus. Now the leaders have a crowd on their hands, and the issue is being pushed on them. Who is Jesus?

They discuss it and come down to a split decision. On one hand, Jesus healed a guy blind his whole life. In verse 32, the guy claims it had never been done before. There were magicians and others who did things at that time, but nothing like this. So, you have a man standing there healed. Their belief system said that only a man who was sent by God, a pure and blameless man, could do something like this.

Their religion also said you couldn't work on the Sabbath, the day of rest. They decided that making mud was work. Back in the Old Testament, the Jews were told to not make bricks on the Sabbath. It went back to their days of slavery where they had to make bricks all the time. So the leaders would have stretched that to cover making mud. Now follow this; Jesus knew this, and "made mud" in order to push their rules. I believe He intentionally did it to put their rules at odds with each other. Why? Is He out to embarrass them, to show them up? I'm not sure. I think it has more to do with pushing them to decide which they will follow, the rules or the sure sign of God in front of them.

You see, Jesus' healing follows all of the guidelines for what is required of them to deem it an Act of God. There were two witnesses, the parents. The blind man presented himself to the religious leaders, which was required. Multiple people testified of the change, and the priests inspected him for themselves. It met all of the requirements. It was an Act of God. Which meant that the one who performed it must be sent by God. The healer must be one of purity and holiness. But the Pharisees didn't want to hear that. If Jesus was sent by God, pure and holy, He had called them out and called for them to change their lives. He wanted them to give up their religion. And the making of the mud on the Sabbath was one more challenge. They were in a bind. Admit that the miracle was legit, and they would need to become disciples of Jesus, leaving their rules and religion. Deny that it was legit, and they would deny their own rules on these things, breaking their religion. It's no wonder they hated him.

Notice too how the once blind beggar becomes more bold as the conversation continues. At first, he skirts around the questions with his answers. He doesn't want to be kicked out of the temple, and if he admits to following Jesus, that is what would happen. But the more the Pharisee's bounce around, the more he is willing to let go. Finally, in verses 30 -33, he lets it fly. I love that.

Christ calls us to let go, to be bold, to be willing to be kicked out. Each of us will face different things to be kicked out of. It may be some group of people unwilling to have us around. But just as often it's being kicked out of our comfortable lives, being kicked out of the habits we lean on to maintain control, kicked out of our religious systems where we keep God in a box. But be sure, to follow Jesus will mean getting the boot from time to time, and it can be hard.

But also don't miss the point. The blind guy was considered a sinner. He never had access to the temple anyway. He was an outcast already. He had nothing to lose. When we come right down to it, we are the same. When Jesus heals us, we have only gain with nothing at all to lose. So, be brave. Stand up. Speak out for the one who has healed you. He is well worth it. Leave the bickering to those who still can't see. We have more important things to do.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Here's Mud In Your Eye!

To be blind from birth would be so tough to handle. To never know what it is like to see, to not know colors, bright and dark, shapes, or any other visual gift would be such a darkness to live in. In John 9:1-12, we meet a man just like this. He has never seen. Ever. Blind from birth.

Jesus and his guys meet this guy along the way. We aren't told where or when, just that they meet him on the way. The disciples want to know who sinned, the man or his parents? The question is one based on common understanding of sickness in their day. They believed it was caused by sin. This wasn't a Jewish understanding, this was a global idea. The Romans believed it, the Egyptians had a similar understanding. This was a fairly "scientific" understanding of what occurred in nature. Someone displeases a god, they are punished. The disciples simply wanted to know who it was. Was it his parents before he was born, and they had brought this on him? Or did God know what his life would be like, and had him born blind in punishment ahead of time? They aren't being cruel according to the world's understanding. There is a good chance the blind man standing there had wondered the very same questions without being able to answer it.

Catch Jesus' response. "Neither." This completely challenges the basis of their understanding. Everything gets shaken with this answer. This is not in the equation. It's supposed to be choose answer A or B. Jesus chooses answer 3. It's not even listed on the test as an option. This isn't about sin, He says. Science and the world are wrong. This is about something completely different. Jesus tells them that the blindness is there so that God can be seen in this man's life. Yeah, Jesus says it was planned by God.

"Now wait a minute" you might be thinking, "we can't blame stuff like that on God. He's a loving God, and that isn't very loving." And you would be right, we can't blame that on God. But what if it isn't blame? What if it is something totally different? What if blindness, pain, and suffering isn't something to be blamed at all?

Jesus tells us over and over not to worry about the body nearly as much as we worry about the soul. We read that, we hear it, and then we ignore our spiritual growth and start our next diet. We watch with rapt interest shows like "10 Years Younger", "Nip and Tuck", "Extreme Makeover", and all of the others. We spend great resources to make sure we avoid all pain and aging. But Jesus says that maybe we are chasing smoke. Maybe it's our soul God really cares about. Maybe God isn't afraid of pain like we are. Maybe in God's economy, pain isn't something that needs to be "blamed" on anyone. Maybe His focus on our soul means the body is expendable if it furthers our spiritual growth.

Before anyone gets too upset at that last remark, let's not forget that we daily practice lifestyles that treat our souls as expendable if it furthers our physical pursuits. We engage in addictive behaviors, destructive patterns, ignore the achings of our soul, put off times of rest and reflection all in the pursuit of pleasure. So we do the equal opposite of God.

Also note that Jesus doesn't say "Neither, the man is blind because his retina is detached and it isn't sending electronic impulses to his brain." Too often, we break it down to what our current version of science says, and let it ride at that. It's a weak answer. Jesus' answer is still true today. Why do we have pain? Sometimes it's a result of our own decisions (I grabbed the curling iron, I drank too much beer, I picked a fight and got a broken rib), sometimes it someone else's decision (I was shot in a robbery, I have suffered from secondhand smoke), but sometimes it is so that God can be seen in our lives.

Are we willing to accept answer #3? Are we willing to be so emptied out for God that our bodies and pain are His to use as He wishes? We had better. If we claim to follow the one called Jesus, His path leads through a garden of tears to a cross of torture. He laid down His body in a sea of pain so God would be seen. He calls us to follow closely behind.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Ladies and Gentlemen, Jesus Has Left the Building

I've got to admit, I get a bit uncomfortable following a king like Jesus. Phew. Finishing out John 8, He just lets it fly. Man. It's painful.

As someone who has to play the role of a religious leader, I look at what is going on here and shudder. As we've looked at the last few days, Jesus takes them to task for missing the point. Here, both sides are accusing the other of being demonic, of following Satan. Only one side can be right. Unfortunately for these guys, Jesus comes back to life to prove His side, and they don't.

But you know, none of us are off the hook. We have been gifted more than any other time of the Church's history. We have more ability to study, more leisure to pray and listen, more resources to give and change the world, than any other group of Christians ever. If there was ever a mass group of people God would look to with expectations to be leaders, it is each of us. Our vocations have little to do with it. I mean, God is not impressed with where I receive a paycheck for, and doesn't excuse you for yours. He has blessed us, we are all pastors, and we all have a responsibility globally.

Jesus lays it on the line in verse 58. The phrase He utters when He says "before Abraham was born, I am!" is not a weird grammatical deal. It is the very name of God. It's the name that the Jews for the most part wouldn't even say in a sentence, out of respect for the holiness of God. Jesus doesn't just say it, He claims it as His name. He is God. Pure and simple. Deal with it. Face it.

They decide to kill Him. Right there. He walks away.

I do it too. God steps into my life, calls me out on my hard-heartedness. I give every excuse possible. I'm busy. It's too hard. I would be seen as weird. These are no better than claiming I don't have to because I'm a 53rd generation descendant of Abraham. They are all equally weak excuses. The reality is Jesus gets in my face, in your face, and says it plain. I am God. No wiggle room. I am. Get on board, or kill me.

We decide to kill Him. Right there. He walks away.

We can't really kill Him. We don't have that power. But He does walk away.

What of you? What are you telling God "no" on? You do realize you are telling Him, "You are not God" when you do that, right? He can't be your God, your King, and you tell Him "no". It's not possible. When you refuse to obey at any point, you pick up your rock to try weakly to kill Him.

He's a tough king to follow.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

"ding" You are now free to ....

There's not much worse than adults running around like a bunch of babies. And that is what Jesus hits as He continues His conversation with the Jewish leaders in John 8:31-41. Jesus is offering them freedom, He is offering them love, hope, and passion. They only want to argue that they are already just fine, thank you. Why are they fine? Because of who their great, great, great, great, great, great, great, (etc.) grandfather was. Abraham is back there in the family line, God made Him a promise, so we are automatically okay. We don't need your "freedom" Jesus, thank you very much. We are better than you (even though He was from one of the most crucial of Jewish family lines), and you can keep your offer.


Even their words have this defiant five year old tone to them. It sounds like me when my wife or kids say something I don't like. This little brat comes out of me, and I dig in my heels.

Why do we do it? Why do we shrink to 3' tall when we are challenged? Fear. The Jewish leaders are afraid. They are trapped in it. They live in it, promote it to others, sell it on the street in their religion, and bully people into being afraid with them. So do I. I am afraid of being ignored, hurt, rejected, left, being stupid, and a whole host of other things. What are we most afraid of? The very thing Jesus offers; freedom. We are so far away from freedom that it terrifies us. We prefer the comfortable chains of here to the amazing, breath taking freedom of there. Jesus knows this full well. Yet, He offers it. Knowing we are afraid of it, He offers it calling us to let go and jump with no net, no safety in sight. He promises freedom, but never, ever safety.

Yeah, for all my false bravado, for all my "extreme sports" background, for all my big talk, Jesus' version of freedom scares the tar out of me. It simply isn't safe. There is absolutely no predicting where you will go when you are set free. It's all too grand, too wide, too beautiful to be able to take it all in.

So, do you want freedom? Jesus offers it with a sly grin and both hands full. How will you receive it? Or will you choose the chains of here?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

You are .... I am not....

I think it's so funny that the people thought Jesus might be suicidal. That is the level of disconnect they have with Him. He sees the world so differently, understands values so inherently opposite of theirs, they assume He is depressed, mentally ill, and suicidal. That is a serious disconnect.

If you look in John 8:21-30, you see that Jesus explaining His relationship with God, and warning the people that if they don't shift their focus and hearts from what is going on here to what is going on with God, they will miss it all. He tells them where He is going, they can't go, because they are from below, and He is from above. He's not talking about the fact that they are humans, or born here, because so is He. He is speaking to the fact that their focus, their main concern is whether or not things on earth are going in their favor. What do other people think about them? How much power and prestige can they leverage? Are they influential and important?

Jesus doesn't care. He says so over and over. It's because He is living for another realm, another kingdom, another set of values. He knows where He is headed. He's going to return home to be with His dad. He knows that what goes on with His Dad is what is real, everything else is a shadow, a whisper, a wish. So, He lives life here to match what is important there. And He calls them to come along. But they miss it.

They think He must be off-kilter. What else can explain His disconnect, His blatant lack of care about what is "important". Only a crazy person, or someone who has given up, would live like that. He must be suicidal. He's given up.

They are so close, and yet so far. He has given up. But He's given up to Hope, Love, Life, and a Future. It is actually them, the one's chasing puffs of smoke disguised as power, who are living for death. But they can't see it.

Aren't you glad we aren't like them? Aren't you glad that we never live for someone else's approval? That we never live to try and leverage our "power" over our friends, co-worker's, or our family? Isn't it great that we never look at God's way, and think that He is crazy?

Why do I have to find myself aligned with the Pharisee's so often? Why do I read the Bible, only to see the way Jesus doing things is completely opposite of what I'm doing? Please Lord, change me. Change us. Help us to look more like You than anyone else. Help us to see Your stories in the Bible, and instantly see ourselves, aligned with You. Make us Your people today.

I simply don't want to miss out.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Our spaghetti dinner last night was way, way too much fun! It was a great time, and SOOO many people pitched in to help! Thanks to everyone who bought food, cooked great spaghetti, brought desert, bought a ticket, served dinner, or helped in any other of a thousand ways! I love our church so much!

Come With Me, or Go Away?

The pharisee's challenge Jesus in John 8:12-20. Jesus claims to be the light of the world, who has come to help people in the darkest parts of life. The religious guys want to argue whether or not Jesus can say these things according to the rules. For someone to make a claim about something, the rules they had said that there needed to be two witnesses. They don't argue Jesus' mission, they argue the rules about what He can and can't say.

Why don't they argue that they are there to help people in their darkest times? Why don't they stand up and prove that they are carrying out the work of God on the earth? Because they have gotten themselves down a path where they believe that God's work is about keeping the rules. Everyone needs to look and act a certain way, so that God can look better and be happy with them. Everyone who doesn't is "out" and they don't need to worry about them.

Jesus replies that He does have a witness, His Dad, God. He and God the Father are witness enough. He's right. But that doesn't help anything.

Here's what I see in this. I really like to keep the rules. I've invested a lot of my life in defining who is "in" (who is like me) and who is "out" (who bugs me, who disagrees with me, who has little to offer me). God is really riding me about this, and I hope it doesn't stop. Oh Lord, I beg you, please change me in this! Help me to be a light in my world, not a wall. Please help me!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Alex, I'll Take Door Number Three Please

John 8:1-11 has one of my favorite stories of Jesus. It's the story about the woman brought to Him, and how He handles the men who bring her. The story is so well known, I'm not sure I even have to summarize it. The men bring a woman caught in adultery to Jesus. The implication is she was caught in the very act, they pulled her out of the bed while having sex and drug her to Jesus. Where is the guy who was committing adultery? Theories say he may have been let go, it was a setup to get the woman so they could make things tough on Jesus, or even it was a Pharisee using the woman in order to set Jesus up. We simply don't know. But he's not mentioned in the story. I mean, it's kind of hard to "catch" someone in the act of adultery if it's not your spouse. It seems like a set up. So, anyway, it's early morning and they drag this woman into the temple in front of a large crowd. Let's not forget, she does commit adultery. The story is never questioning her guilt. She's guilty. She either blew it as a married woman, or is a prostitute, or somehow has made a serious of decisions that has put her in a mess. She's guilty, she's made massive mistakes, and now they are all blowing up on her in the most nightmarish, public way possible. If you haven't ever been in a situation that feels like this, you are blessed. It's a horrendously painful thing to have your sins exposed. God says they all come out one way or the other. It's her day.

Here's the trap for Jesus. The law said a woman caught in adultery should be stoned. It laid out that she had to be caught in the actual act of sex, and there had to be witnesses. Some scholars say this rule, rather than being barbaric, was actually to protect women. A husband couldn't just accuse her and kill her, like most of the societies in the time of Moses. There had to be proof, and a witness. The situation had to be severe. But this woman was guilty under that law.

Now, there aren't a lot of historical documents that point to the Jews ever actually killing someone from this law. They didn't keep a lot of the laws from the Old Testament, and tended to pick and choose, much like I do. So, they have Jesus trapped. If He says "Let her go", like He always tends to do, they can accuse Him of breaking the law, destroy His credibility as a teacher, and be done with Him. If He says "Let's kill her", He will lose every one's favor who follows Him, because suddenly He will be seen as even more uptight than the Pharisee's. It's a beautiful trap. It's dishonest, sinful, and manipulative. But no one can escape it. "Only God Himself could find a way out of this one", they probably think.

So, Jesus starts writing on the ground. What? We don't know. Theories are that He writes the thoughts of everyone of the Pharisees right then. Or He writes out the plot of how they trapped the woman. Or He writes out the sins that each of them hide and struggle with. Or He writes passages of Scripture on forgiveness. We don't know. Whatever it is, it's not enough to rattle them completely. They stay on Him.

Then He tells them, "You stone her. If you are sinless, you stone her." Only men who were righteous were supposed to have that kind of power. At this, one by one, they leave. Imagine being the last one there with a stone in your hand. Remember, this is in front of a huge crowd, listening to every word.

Then Jesus forgives the woman, and tells her to go, but to change her life. He calls for her to repent, literally to turn around and go a different way.

Here's a challenge for us. As we find older and older copies of the Bible, this story isn't in the ones we currently have as our oldest ones. That means that this story may have been added later, and John might not have actually written this story in. I consulted a man much wiser and smarter than I about it, and I think His advice was solid. First off, there is nothing to say that we won't find an even older copy that has it in, justifying that John did write it. Until we have John's original, we can't be sure. Secondly, does this passage fit with what we know about Jesus? Of course, it does. This is vintage Jesus. So, leave it in for now until we know for sure.

I thought is was solid advice.

So, here is the story. The parallels are not hard to see. Sometimes we are the woman. Busted. Out in the open. Exposed. If we will admit, and follow Him, we will be healed and forgiven.

Sometimes we are the Pharisees, full of judgment and justification towards others. We use people for our own agendas, and can't see God right in front of our face. We have to confess our own guilt, and walk away from the rocks we want to throw.

Sometimes, just sometimes, we find ourselves in the role of Christ. Wise. Peacemaker. Living life on God's terms, by His rules. Then, and only then, does life get interesting.

My prayer is that today we will find ourselves letting the first two roles die, and embracing the third.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Let Your Guard Down

I finished chapter 7 (7:45-52) of John today. In it, the temple guards come back from being sent to arrest Jesus. But He isn't with them. They come back empty handed. The religious leaders (the Pharisees) are dumbfounded. "Why didn't you bring him back?!", they want to know.

Catch the guards answer. "No one ever spoke the way this man does."

Okay, the guards are good Jews who work at the temple. They aren't priests or religious leaders, but they work with and around them all day. They have seen and heard it all. They've seen what goes on in front of the people, and what goes on when there isn't a crowd. They're probably going to be a little jaded, a bit skeptical, because they have seen the humanness of the religious leaders that few people would have seen.

So, they go to arrest this guy Jesus. No big deal. They've done it before with others, they'll have to do it again. But something happens this time. The way Jesus carries Himself, the way He speaks, His tone of voice, His choice of words, His love and strength combined together, it all affects the guards. The whole group. Its not that one guard decided to leave Jesus alone. The whole group decides not to arrest Him. They are possibly going to get fired. They are definitely going to hear about it, which they do. But yet, they decide it's worth it.

In reading this, I feel like a lot of the people in our lives are like the guards at the temple. They have been around religion for a long time. A lot of stuff has been done in the name of God during their lives, not all of it being good. Thanks to scandals, pastors blowing it, television evangelists, and a bunch of other stuff by people in the church (us), our friends and neighbors have seen the good and the bad of our religion. And they are hard to it, they are jaded. (I often am too, for that matter.)

But notice that Christ, when they meet Him face to face, can cut through that. The guards hear him, and are changed. Very changed. Their allegiance changes, their actions change, they are different. And it's just in the way that He speaks. It wasn't the miracles that convinced them, it was how He spoke.

So, here we are, 2000 years after Jesus physically leaves the earth, and He has left us to be His voice, His hands, His heart on this planet. Are we speaking in such a way that people around us see and hear God? What about your boss or your teacher? What about your neighbor, the person in class next to you, the person next to you on the line at work or in the next cubicle? What about the people in your family? Do you speak and act in such a way that they see Jesus in you? If so, it will change them. If we're wondering why God isn't changing the people around us, maybe we need to start by looking at ourselves. Maybe He is trying, and we aren't. It's just a thought. I'd love to hear what you think.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Sometimes I Just Don't Get It

Okay, so the passage I read today (John 7:14-44) really confuses me. There are several points I have trouble understanding.

First off, in several places elsewhere in the Bible, people repeatedly call Jesus "Rabbi", which was the term for a Jewish religious teacher. He is seen at 12 years old in the Temple teaching the Rabbi's. You would assume He would have been chosen to study as a teenager. In another part of the Bible, He quotes an older Rabbi, showing that He had been well educated. It's assumed that Jesus completes all of His religious education, and is a traveling teacher, like many others in His day. If all of that is true, why do the people in Jerusalem question how He knows so much "without having studied"? And Jesus doesn't even answer the question.

Then, when Jesus claims they are trying to kill Him in verse 19, the people act surprised and accuse Him of being crazy. They answer like "oh come on Jesus, who's trying to kill you?" But then in verse 25 they act like they know all about it. So which is it? Is he paranoid in their eyes, or do they know that His life is in danger?

Neither of these are big points, they just remind me I have so much to learn, so much yet to understand about the Bible. I've discovered over the years when I hit places that don't make sense like this, it's just because I'm missing pieces to the puzzle. God is always trustworthy.

It's like the Jews in the story. Jesus comes speaking truth, performing amazing miracles, and many people want to believe in Him as the Savior. But, their understanding is that the Messiah has to come from Bethlehem. They knew Jesus grew up in the little hick town of Galilee. They don't realize Jesus WAS born in Bethlehem. So, even though Jesus is the Messiah, He is staring them in the eye, offering them hope, they still won't believe. They allow their limited understanding to stop their faith in what is clearly seen.

I often do the same thing. God wants me to do something, to let go of something, to follow Him in some direction. It's clear what I'm supposed to do. But it doesn't make sense to me. It contradicts some thought or understanding I have. I'm not saying it contradicts the Bible, or His commands. It just goes beyond what I can see or understand. So I refuse to do it. I dig in my heels. I won't obey. And I miss out, just like the people in the story.

What is Jesus calling you to, that maybe you can't fully comprehend? Is He stretching you beyond where you want to comfortably be? Is He pushing you to follow, even though it doesn't make "sense"? What will you do? In the story in John, some followed (vs. 41), some didn't. (vs.43). What about you?

Monday, April 7, 2008

Not Invited to Your Own Party

I don't know what tough is. I really don't. I think I do sometimes. I believe that my life has gotten incredibly difficult, hard to navigate, too much to think about clearly. I convince myself that I'm at the end of my rope. Then I go and read something like John 7:1-13. Jesus is home, hanging out around His hometown. It's time to head for Jerusalem, so that all of the good Jews can take part in a religious celebration. But Jesus is unable to go, because there are leaders in the city who want to kill Him. I mean, step out of our "read that a hundred times" mindset, and really consider that. He can not go to Jerusalem, because people want to kill Him. I can not say that I have ticked anyone off to that level. At least not yet.

So what do His brothers do? They act like jerks, because they don't believe Him. It says in another story that they think He's insane. I'm not sure, but it sounds like they're making fun of Him in verses 3-5. Now, these are His younger brothers, His little brothers, giving Him grief. That is never cool, whether you're Jesus or anyone else.

Then, once everyone has gone, having a party, celebrating God, celebrating Jesus without knowing it, Jesus hangs out alone. When He finally goes to a celebration that is actually for Him, He has to go undercover. He has to sneak in to His own party. Once He gets there, He hears people arguing about who He is, and blasting His character.

And this is just one snapshot, of one short time frame in His life. How can I ever complain about what I'm facing? I've gotta get tougher if I'm gonna be like Jesus, that's for sure.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

400 Years of Fun

Jason and the girls at the Governor's Mansion. We're considering picking it up for a summer home.

Never were there two cuter patriots.

Jill and the girls with the chair that Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington all sat in at the Capitol.

How to Lose Friends and Not Influence People

In John 6:25-70, Jesus has crossed the Sea and is in Capernaum, and goes to the synagogue to speak. While there, many of the people who He had fed on the other shore follow Him there. But He gets into a discussion about a bread greater than the manna that Moses supplied thousands of years earlier in the desert. When He claims to be the one sent by God, the people want a sign. Now, there are people in the crowd who were fed by the miracle of the loaves and fishes, yet they don't speak up, or they don't believe.

Then, Jesus really goes after it. He begins His discussion on how His flesh and blood are the food that sustains people eternally. This rattles everyone, and it says that many in the area leave and don't follow Him anymore. Then He pushes the twelve about whether or not they are going to leave as well, already knowing that Judas would turn on Him.

What to make of this passage. Obviously, Jesus is the one who saves and gives life. But why take such a radical tack in His language? Why drive people off intentionally?

This is where Jesus and I split ways. Jesus isn't worried about numbers or prestige. He wants people who are committed, when it gets tough. I want numbers, I want success.

Jesus is after me on this. How much does our desire to appear likable, to seem influential or cool drive us? Jesus wants it. He wants to own it, to hold it, and to kill it. I am to speak up for Him and what He has done in my life, regardless of the crowd. I am to speak the truth, no matter what. What will it cost? I can't be concerned for that.

What of you? What cost is Christ asking you to pay to stand for Him, to speak truth for Him? Will you pay it? Of will you turn away? It's tough, that's for sure.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

My family and I are in Williamsburg, VA this week. Today, we went to Jamestown, the original permanent settlement in the U.S. It was founded way back in 1607. Anyway, the men who came over had to travel on these three small-ish boats. For six months. Below deck. Laying on boxes of cargo. With about 2 1/2 feet of space to lay in. It is simply insane when you stand there in the boat and contemplate what they did to get here.

Why? It wasn't for any regal reasons. It was for a possible payoff. It was a job. They came for money. That, and the adventure of it all. They wanted out of where they were, so they traveled thousands of miles in a tiny, tiny space to try to start again.

Then why do we balk when we are offered a new life? Christ comes in and offers us a free chance at a whole new life. We don't even have to ride on a cramped boat for six months. We just have to give in to freedom, joy, and love. And we get a new life. But we walk away, we go back to our old life. Why? I'm not sure.

But it makes me consider long and hard about the sacrifice of these early men, and my commitment. Take some time to re-evaluate yours today. It's worth it.