Casting that First Stone

The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” John 8:3-5

We know the story because the line that Jesus says “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to cast the stone is perhaps one of the most overused and misquoted lines in the world, Christian or secular. Before we get all self-righteous about the teachers of the law who brought the woman to Jesus (after all, we know how it ends; they didn’t), we need to ask ourselves if we do the same thing today.

How so, you ask? Perhaps not to the extreme as these individuals, but we tend to skew things our way. What about the half truths we tell? They told Jesus a half truth about this woman. What about our quickness to judge a person’s intelligence or skill based on a person’s skin color or how they dress? You say it doesn’t happen. Wrong, it does. And probably more than we like to admit.

Twenty years ago in Bible school I so judged an individual. He didn’t dress up to our dress code at school (business casual) because he wore tennis shoes. He looked Hispanic and I looked down on him every time I saw him. Months later I found out that my brother in Christ happened to be from South Africa, part-time pastored a church in a rough area of town while going to school full time, and since the U.S. laws prohibited him from working full time, he and his family did what they could to scrape by. And yes, that meant foregoing new dress shoes. (would it have been so terrible if he was Hispanic and a poor  man just trying to get a Bible education? Not at all!)

You see, I cast that first few stones and they all came back to hit me right smack in the head.

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Your Story

Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead. Paul went down, threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him…the people took the young man home alive and were greatly comforted. Acts 20:9-12

After Paul healed Eutychus, he had quite the story to tell! The details of the account are humorous to even the most interesting of preachers. Eutychus is happy. The town is happy.  And Paul went on to preach until daylight.

But the interesting part of this story for me is that one young man named Eutychus has a grand story that will stay with him for the rest of his life. It’s his experience with the man Jesus. Certainly Paul was God’s instrument to heal but it’s Eutychus’ story. (Presumably Paul had many similar stories to tell throughout his ministry).

At the end of the day, we each have a story to tell. Some of the stories are vibrant and fascinating; others are not so grandiose but still valid. When you are discussing religion with others and seem like you’re against the wall, remember this: you have a story to tell. Tell it. It’s yours and no one else’s.

Like the man that Jesus healed, “Good man or bad, I don’t know. But one thing I know: Once I was blind, now I see.” John 9:25

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No Other Options

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. Matthew 7:13-14

‘Word on the street’ says that Christianity is exclusive. Well, according to the two verses above, the ‘word on the street’ is absolutely correct. Being exclusive is not always a bad thing. Those of us who follow Christ want others to “join” that exclusive club and do what they can to help facilitate that. But make no mistake, the Kingdom of Heaven is exclusively reserved for those who have entered through the narrow gate.

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6. That’s intentionally exclusive. And it’s very clear how to get to the Father: through the Son.

There’s one thing in this life that I will not keep an ‘open mind’ about: how to get to the Father. There are just no other options.

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Wisdom is Supreme

Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Proverbs 4:7

Have you ever been around a person who was really wise? Sure, you’ve seen intellectual giants and geniuses, but I’m not talking about intelligence. I’m talking about wisdom. What’s the difference, you ask?

When I was a boy, there was a cartoon named Klondike Kat. He was always after a pesky mouse named Savoir-Faire. Savoir-Faire’s tagline was always, “Savoir-Faire is everywhere.” (It was always said with a French accent). Savoir-faire is knowing what to do in any situation. That’s a pretty good definition of wisdom. You can have all the brain power in the world but if you don’t have wisdom in how to use it, it’s meaningless.

So, how do we get wisdom?

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” James 1:5

Guess what I’m adding to my daily prayers!

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Attitude Adjustment

Your attitude should be the same as Christ Jesus… Philippians 2:5

It’s a humbling thought, isn’t it? The King of the Universe came down to be with us. God the Son ate and worked and played with people like us. Why? Why? Why do you suppose He left the glories of Heaven to “stoop to our level”? Why was it so important that the Son of God would take on flesh and blood to be like us? In today’s vernacular, it would be “what was He thinking?”

Scripture goes on to state that he “made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant.” He came as a servant, served humanity like no one has ever done before or since, then died a servant’s death – on a wicked cross.

Servanthood comes in all forms these days, much as it did in Jesus’ day. Putting others first, that’s Biblical servanthood. The verses prior to Philippians 2:5 gives us this admonition: Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests but also to the interests of others.

I still am baffled about why Jesus left the Splendor of Heaven to be with us. Of course, I know the theological reasons: to save humanity from itself and from the punishment of eternal damnation, but why?

What had we done that was worth saving?

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We Win

One day the angels came to present themselves before he Lord, and Satan also came with them. The Lord said to Satan, Where have you come from?…Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger. Job 1:6-7, 12

I’m not sure whether it’s troubling or delightful to know that there are wars being waged on our behalf in heaven. We obviously don’t know the extent of these wars, the number of participants, or the stakes being “wagered.” God’s betting on us.

I know, it’s a radical idea, but look at Job. The text doesn’t say that anything was wagered, but God just wanted to show off His children. He let Satan do what he needed in order to prove a point. The battle you’re going through right now may be a direct result of Satan. God is pulling for you. He wants you to remain faithful. He want you to stick to your beliefs, even if it means you lose everything.

Every now and again we get a glimpse into heaven. We may not like what we see because it doesn’t fit our idea of what heaven’s really like. But war is being waged, and Satan will ultimately be defeated.

We win.

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…and so somehow to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” Philippians 3:11

The whole point of knowing Christ, knowing the power of his resurrection, and sharing in his sufferings is victory. It seems simple, I know. But it means victory in the temporary life we live here on earth, and victory in that which is unseen, the eternal.

Have you ever watched a game where the winning team squeaked by with a win? Maybe they went ahead in the last minute after they were behind the entire match? You probably had a sick feeling in your stomach over the win. The announcers might say, “it wasn’t a pretty win, but it still goes in the win column.”

Now have you ever seen a team that outmatched, outplayed and utterly whipped their opponents? Their opponents were annihilated, demolished, crushed. You would have probably felt sorry for the opposing team if you hadn’t been rooting for the victors.

That’s the kind of victory that the death and resurrection of Jesus brings, both in the temporary and in the eternal. Utter triumph over sin. Total victory over death and hell.

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Becoming Like Him

…becoming like him in his death,” Philippians 3:10

I realize it’s neither a pleasant nor an upbeat subject, but have you ever thought of what it would be like to be martyred for what you believe in? Have you ever heard the stories or seen the footage of Believers around the world who have had to suffer unbelievable injustices at the hands of their enemies and in the end say, “the Lord is Good. Blessed be the Lord.”

I’ve seen and heard it too and have wondered what it would be like. Would I be able to handle it? What would I say under pressure? And yes, would I deny Him with a gun to my head?

Think for a moment about our Lord’s last moments on the cross. He could have called legions of angels to rescue him in an instant. He could have denounced His heavenly Father. He could have dashed it all and went back to heaven with the bruises and scars he already endured.

But he didn’t.

That act of obedience is a reminder to us that we may be asked to lay down our lives for Him. He will give us the strength on that  day.

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Interesting Challenge

…and the fellowship of sharing in his suffering,” Philippians 3:10

I’ve heard stories recently of Chinese believers who go to prison in order to share their faith with the inmates there. I don’t know for certain, but I’m pretty sure there is a lot of suffering and misery in many of the world’s prisons. And yet, there are those who would deny themselves to the point of pain and suffering in order to witness for Jesus.

That is completely foreign to my Western mindset. And obviously it’s totally foreign to our Western feel-good, no pain society.

My point is not to deride the West for its comfortable way of life. I want to do better. We “pride” ourselves at being the best in the world in most everything. Suffering, though, is a tough one. Is it possible that we could be the best at that too?

What would it take to be the best at suffering? Perhaps we just need someone to tell us we can’t do it. In books I’ve read, many of our Chinese brethren have already said that.

The ball is in our court

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