We don’t know her name, background or what caused her to step into an affair. At the moment it really didn’t matter, she had been caught in adultery. She was now a pawn to men who would use her for their benefit. Men with long robes, hard hearts, personal agendas and a frenzy for murder over mercy now stood over her. Self-righteous men with no concern for her soul or eternity, only their agenda and protecting their religious convictions, now stand screaming, “stone her, the law condemns her.” Half dressed, overwhelmed and dazed by what has just happened, she lays weeping in front of Jesus. But her accusers had made one fatal mistake, they had asked Jesus, “What do you say?” Stooping between the weeping woman and angry mob Jesus begins to write. What he writes only eternity will tell, but whatever it was, one by one, accusers and self-righteous men begin to drop their stones and walk away. The silence is only broken by the whimper of a broken woman. Jesus lifts her head and ask one question. Not why did you do it? Not what were you thinking? Simply, where are your accusers? Consumed by her sin and pending punishment, she doesn’t realize they are gone. Glancing around and seeing no one she says, “there are none.” What self-righteous people will never say, Jesus says, “neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.” The words still ring true today. No matter what you have done or where you have gone, know that no matter what anyone else says or thinks, Jesus says, “neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.” He doesn’t throw stones. He gives second chances.
Lost. It’s not an intentional destination. No one makes plans to get lost; it just happens. One wrong turn produces another and before we know it, we have no idea where we are. Often, especially if you are a male, the words, “I’m lost” are hard to say. We prefer a phrase like, “were just a little off course.” Whatever the choice of words, whether lost or a little off course, it is an admission that we have made a series of mistakes. The reality is that until we admit, “we’re lost” we will continue to meander aimlessly. The simple confession, “I am lost changes everything.” It’s only once we’ve admitted were lost, the journey to “found” begins. It’s then we’re willing to ask for help. It’s then we begin to retrace our steps to find our error. Its then we are willing to rely on others. It’s then that we carefully, step by step, try to get back to a safe and familiar place. No one intentionally gets “lost” in life. It just happens. How did the prodigal get to the pig pen? One bad moment, compounded by a poor decision, throw in a moral lapse, some bad company, and suddenly he finds himself in a place that is so unfamiliar, and a place he never intended to be. Fortunately, it takes just one good decision to change everything. Sitting in a pig pen was the moment the prodigal came to the realization, “I am lost.” It was the moment that changed everything. One moment stench, the next moment hope. A few more steps and his imagination began to see possibility. A few steps more and he sees home. Can I encourage you if you’re lost today? You’re not that far from home. Just one admission.
A raindrop, pebble, rock or stone; no matter the object or size, it creates a ripple that the diameter, effect and end, no one knows. The impact of our lives, are much like a ripple. We serve God, share the Gospel, give money and tell our story, yet often leave this life not knowing the impact of our existence. Stephen is an example of such a life. The Bible simply says that Stephen was a man full of faith, full of grace and power and full of the Spirit. His life ends tragically with a stoning by wicked men. Those who witnessed his life likely talked about his potential and all that he could have done if God had spared his life. Yet, that day was just the splashing of a stone. The impact of his life had not ended, but just began. That day a young Saul watched his stoning and a ripple started in his heart. A ripple that would takes years to see its effect, but on a road to Damascus, everything changed. Saul becomes Paul, is converted, and the rest is history. Countless messages preached, missionary journeys, many churches established and twelve epistles written. All a ripple effect from a life that seemed to end so senselessly. When we get to Heaven I imagine Stephen will be shocked by the impact of his life. I have a feeling it will be the same for many today who read this story. Live a life that leaves a ripple.
You can feel it in the air. A change is on the way. The nights are cooler. Trees are hinting of a change with peaks of color beginning to show on their leaves. Fall with all its splendor and glory is on its way. Soon we’ll be enjoying its colors, having bon-fires, taking hay rides, carving pumpkins and eating smores. If only it was that obvious when there was a change of season in our lives. Unfortunately, we frequently miss the signs of change when it comes to the seasonal changes in our lives. We often get caught off guard, sometimes overwhelmed or frustrated when there is a change of season. Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 3:1 that “for everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven,” and then he goes on to describe fourteen different seasons he had experienced. His point? Life is not static, its fluid. Seasons are good, they bring wisdom, strength, faith and growth. It’s the cold of Winter that causes roots to grow deep. It’s the rains of Spring that brings growth. It’s the warmth of Summer that causes the branches to reach for the sky and it’s the splendor of Fall that shows us the value of seasons. Sensing change in your life? Embrace it. Its God love and grace that takes us from season to season or as Paul puts it in 2 Corinthians 3:18, from glory to glory.
In the prophet Haggai’s day, God had brought His people back from failure and difficult situations. Instead of focusing on what God had done and the possibility, many of the people could only focus on “what was” and on their failures. Haggai’s message was, “the end was going to be greater than the beginning.” To someone today you need to know your best days are in front of you! But it’s a choice. How you view your situation is so important. We have a choice. Do we talk about the past, the problems and the pain? Do we give more power to the failure or the Father? Do we keep grace from covering us, mercy from mending us and forgiveness from freeing us? Do we live in the old house or move to the new? If we move to a new house mindset we see the possibilities in Jesus. In the new house there’s a God view instead of a guilt view. In the new house faith starts speaking, the gifts start working and we start living in the Spirit. In the new house there’s a different countenance on our face, different attitude in our spirit and conversations that springs from our heart. Your end is supposed to be better than your beginning. It’s time for someone to move into a new house.
Your heart matters. In fact, God is more concerned about your heart than anything else. While I’m not here to diminish the importance of living Godly and Holy, it is the inside that God looks at and it is the inside that will produce a true Christ like lifestyle. In 2 Chronicles 30, Hezekiah’s heart is to bring His people’s lives and families back to God. The problem is no one is qualified to bring them to repentance and they had missed the Passover. Hezekiah’s hunger is a month late and would have to be performed by an unclean person. God has a dilemma. He has people who have hungry hearts but don’t have it all together. Hezekiah confesses the errors of his people and asks God, “will you hear our prayers, will you heal us?” In one of the more amazing moments in the Bible the scripture said that “the LORD hearkened to Hezekiah, and healed the people (2 Chron. 30:20).” What a moment of grace! Grace that is still available today. Five husbands and living with a sixth man, not a problem. Caught in the very act of adultery, not a problem. Thief and murderer breathing your last breath, not a problem. Grace showed up at a lonely well, at the screams of judgmental accusers and at the cross of a guilty man. Need grace today? Give Him an honest heart and His grace will show up.
The calendar says it’s still spring. The activities and heat say it’s summer. Heat and humidity are here and plants and grass are already gasping for water. What we need is a storm. A gully washer. A downpour. Though we enjoy the fun of the sun, we need the storms. Without storms we don’t get the necessary rain. Storms slow us down. Storms bring clouds to shade us from the sun, breezes that purge the dead limbs, and water to the areas that are in drought. What is true in nature is true in the spiritual. We enjoy the good times, when troubles are few and life is light. But then God sends a storm. Something that rocks our world, slows us down and brings us to our knees. Not always what we want, but often what we need. Without storms we can burn ourselves out. Without storms, areas in our lives that need a purge, would never be cleaned out. Without storms, the refreshing of God’s Spirit that brings our hearts back to life, wouldn’t come. Going through a storm? Be thankful. He see’s something in our lives that is dying. Something in our heart or soul that needs watered. He allows a spiritual rain, disguised as a storm, to come into our lives. He sees we need a pause. A rest. A time of refreshing. He’s the God in the storm and when it’s time He’ll say, “peace be still.”
To Abraham He is the lamb provided. To Moses He is the I AM that I AM. To David He is a very present help in a time of need. To the three Hebrew children He is the fourth man in the fire. To Isaiah He is the Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. To Mary He is Emmanuel, God with us, He is her baby, her son. To the blind, lame mute and diseased ridden He is a healer. To those overwhelmed by their sin and failure He is grace and mercy. To Simon Peter He is the Messiah, the anointed one, God with us. To John He is the Word. To the Pharisees He is a stumbling stone. To the disciples He is Rabbi, the teacher. To Mary, Martha and Lazarus He is a resurrecter. To Thomas, after seeing His nails prints, He is my Lord and my God. To Paul He is the God of all grace. To everyone who believes and comes to Him He is the Savior. To each and every individual, He is what you have needed Him to be and what you need Him to be. He is help, strength, courage, healer, deliverer, redeemer and most importantly Savior. But three days after His death He became something that had never been done before and hasn’t been done since. He conquered death, hell and the grave. To the world, He is Risen!
It was an amazing day. The weather was perfect. People had risen early to get the best place along the streets of Jerusalem. They had brought palm branches to wave and blankets to lay on the ground as the celebrities would walk past them. The disciples had borrowed a colt from a local farmer and there was a nervous excitement in the room while waiting on Jesus. Jesus appeared and said, its time, lets go. The Triumphal entry began. The disciples waved and smiled, crowds cheered and shouted “Hosanna,” as Jesus ambled down the streets of Jerusalem. It was as though Jesus was personally acknowledging every person as he smiled and looked into their eyes as they shouted His name. In this moment who could imagine the events that would take place in the coming days. That this crowd would turn on Jesus. That these smiling disciples would deny they ever knew Him. That His body would be beaten to a nearly unrecognizable state. That He would be hanging on a cross in five short days. That in seven days, He would conqueror death, hell and the grave and life would never be the same again. The Passion Week, a reminder that no matter the circumstances in your life, they can change in a moment, seven short days.
Have you ever mopped or painted yourself in a corner, got trapped in a car or been locked in a freezer? Odd questions, I know, but our family has experienced all of these scenarios. Painting a floor, I painted myself in, ended up taking my shoes and socks off to get out of the corner. Our son Gentry had a car where the front passenger door would lock and you couldn’t get out, talk about an uncomfortable feeling. Mary called one day from work and her and a co-worker had got locked in a freezer. Fortunately, someone freed them. Why do I bring up these moments? Because there are those who have painted their life in a corner, locked themselves in a life of bitterness. How? By holding on to unforgiveness. When we choose to hold onto unforgiveness, we build our own jail cell with bars made of bitterness, anger and hurt. When we choose to let bitterness and hatred live in our life, it doesn’t impact those who have hurt us, it hurts us. We become bound to emotions and feelings that steel joy, peace and happiness. There is only one who can free you from this jail cell, you! The moment you let it go, forgive, the door to freedom opens. You get a new lease on life, fresh joy, peace and happiness. Free yourself today, forgive. Let it go!
The eternal questions are the most important questions of life. Four questions that will determine everything about our destiny. Do I believe in God, not in a god, but the God, the one found in Genesis 1:1, the “in the beginning God?” Answering that question leads to the next. Do I believe in the Word of God; the Bible, that it is the infallible Word of God, that it is true and that it is the final authority? If I believe that there is God, that His Word is true then the next question is, do I believe there is a heaven and a hell and that each of us will arrive at one of those destinations? If I believe there is a heaven and a hell then the next question to ask is, what must I do to secure my eternity? If I truly believe there is an eternity then who do I want to answer the question about getting there? Do I want a religion, a religious institution, a church, a pastor, a friend or an internet source? I suggest you want only God to answer that question. The question answered by Jesus, God in flesh, in John 3 when He said to Nicodemus, “unless one is born of the water and Spirit he cannot enter in.” The real questions of life. Four eternal questions. Answer wisely.
The Last Supper. It was Holy but at the same time it was human. Artist render it as Holy, we view it as Holy and it was, but there was so much humanity in the moment. As the disciples entered the room they had failed to follow the custom, to make sure guest feet had been washed. Setting in the room, the conversation was not about scripture or sinners, but about who would be on the right and left of Jesus, who would be important. Jesus enters, and without condemnaiton or judgement, takes a basin of water and towel and begins washing the feet of those that in less than 24 hours would turn on Him. One would betray Him, another would curse Him and nearly all would abandon Him. Though He knew their future, He washed their feet, broke bread and had communion with them. Twelve very imperfect men; men looking for power and position and men that had faith but would fail, and yet, Jesus by His actions was saying, take this communion, because you believe in me and undestand you need me. Communion is not about your perfection, but His. It’s about understanding, acknowleging and saying, I believe in and need the work of Jesus in my life.
Just in case you forgot; God provided a lamb for Abraham and Isaac, a way of escape from Egypt for the Children of Israel, a road through the middle of a sea and river for an entire nation, caused walls to fall for Joshua, took 300 men and defeated a massive army, took a shepherd boy and made him king, protected three Hebrew men of faith in a fiery furnace, kept a man safe in a den of lions, turned water into wine, opened deaf ears and blinded eyes, cast out demons, raised dead people and took the keys to death, hell and the grave.
Now, what do you have going on in your life that your God cannot handle? We have a God that is on top of everything! Luke 1:37 says, “For with God nothing [is or ever] shall be impossible.” He never sleeps or slumbers and He is never surprised. He knows the end from the beginning and is the author of all things, including your life! And the great news is, He’s on your side!