Writing on the Ground

Now early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught them. Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?” This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear.

So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?

She said, “No one, Lord.”

And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” John 7:53-8:11

This is a familiar and famous story from the Bible, and the meaning seems obvious, except for one thing.

What was Jesus writing on the ground?

I’ve heard a lot of people say, “Well, I think He wrote all the sins of the woman’s accusers,” but I don’t think so. I really don’t. My theory is that He was writing the Ten Commandments. That could easily be what happened. He was trying to make a point about sin, and the Ten Commandments would have perfectly supported His point. We’re all bound by them, but we can’t do everything right all the time. No one can. We all sin.

Try looking at this story again, this time with this perspective in mind. Can you see it? Jesus started writing the Ten Commandments on the ground, and He was looking down at them while He spoke. He said, “He who is without sin cast the first stone.” His point was so clear. Every single one of that woman’s accusers had broken these rules. Jesus knew it, they knew it, and we know it. Jesus said, “You’re coming at her with her adultery? Well, I’m coming at you because you didn’t honor your parents. Say, how many of you have served things other than God?”

Picture this, and then you’ll know what the scribes and Pharisees were facing. They had no choice but to say, “You’re right! Here I am, judging this woman, but I fall short in keeping the commandments. I may not be bad about honoring my parents, but just the other day I coveted something that isn’t mine.”

You can’t judge others. You really can’t. That’s why Jesus said, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” He could say that with complete confidence that no harm would come to her. He knew no one there had a leg to stand on!

We all sin. In this, we’re all the same. That’s why you rarely saw Jesus get upset with people. He looked at the adulteress, and He said, “Where are your accusers?” And she said, “They’re gone.” Alone with her, He didn’t yell at her. He didn’t condemn her. He simply said, “Well, I don’t accuse you either.”

When He looked at her, He understood. Jesus knows that in our weakness, in our flesh, we are going to sin. So He just released her. But not before telling her, “Go, and sin no more.” And I think she understood what He meant. This was God looking at her and saying, “In me, you have the ability to sin no more.”

And I think that’s where Jesus was just so good! He understood that people are not good. Not always. We aren’t! In our flesh, we sin.

We all have to understand that. We have to come to grips with it. And when we do, I think we will judge a whole lot less.

See you Tuesday.

A Well-Known Miracle

Last time, I wrote about the abundance that Jesus brings. Jesus is famous for feeding the five thousand with five loaves of bread and two fish. But the Bible also tells us that He fed far more than five thousand people. He fed five thousand men, the Bible says, and the women and children who were with them.

This might be Jesus’s most well-known miracle, but there was so much more to it, right? Jesus didn’t simply feed those hungry people that day. We keep reading, and we see that they ate until they were full. Then they gathered up twelve baskets of leftovers! This is awesome! Jesus fed five thousand men and their families with just five loaves of bread and two fish. Everyone ate until they were full, and when they were done, they had more left over than when they started.

And then, Jesus told us, “Those who believe in me will do greater works than I have done.”

What? Greater works than feeding thousands of people with nothing more than a bit of bread and fish?

Yes!

We can bring the kingdom the same way that Jesus fed the five thousand: with leftovers to spare! We can bring the kingdom with abundance!

Our mission in life is to do as Jesus did. He was moved with compassion for people, and he healed the sick and fed the hungry. Then He gave that mission to a handful of apostles. He commissioned them. If you don’t believe that we can do greater works than Jesus did, just look at what the apostles accomplished. It is estimated that by the end of the apostolic age, there were one million Christians. From eleven to one million! By the year 100!

Have faith that we can do great works, and do them with abundance. We’re not like Jesus. We’re not God. So we have to work together. But the greater our numbers, the more we can do. We can feed the hungry. We can bring abundance to those who are starving. We can help make their communities healthy and sustainable. That’s the same as leftovers! We’re not feeding them once. We’re feeding them while helping them build sustainable ways of feeding themselves and others.

If we help communities grow healthy and sustainable, then they will always have enough food. Enough, and then some. This is how we save lives. Our mission is to reach out to communities that are hungry, or struggling with sickness and disease because they don’t have clean water. We reach out with a Spirit-led passion for freedom from slavery, for plentiful food, clean water, housing, and industry. The communities we reach out to will have more than enough, so they’ll be able to live and thrive. They’ll enjoy the abundance of Jesus.

That’s what we bring. That’s bringing the Good News.

We’ll always have work to do. If we could solve the world’s hunger problems once and for all, then we wouldn’t need Jesus. We’ll always need Him, and He will come back. When He does, hunger will end. When He comes, He’ll say, “I have come to redeem the world. This is it. I died on the cross and now I have come back. Now it’s over. Now no pain. Now no hunger. Now no thirst.”

He will give us His fullness when He comes back. I truly believe that. But until He does, we’re called to be His ambassadors, and do our best to bring the Good News. We’re called to restore love and redemption to people as much as we can. This is the journey that He’s called us to undertake.

That’s why I’m going to do the most that I can do to make sure everyone can eat, and drink, and live, and understand who Jesus is. This is my life. I’m hoping you’ll make it yours, too, because the greater our numbers, the more we can do!

See you Friday.

Greater Works Than These

Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it. John 14:12-14

Jesus said, “Greater works will you do when I leave than I have done.” Think about that. He’s talking about you and me, and He is saying that we’ll do greater things than He did. It’s almost mind-boggling!

Jesus expects us to take the Gospel into the world. He expects us to live out the Gospel in the world. We can do this. He isn’t asking the impossible. Not only is there no law against love, but He said that if we ask anything in His name, He will do it. And He keeps His promises.

To take the Gospel into the world and live it, we have to know what it is. The Gospel is the good news, right? The good news. It’s not hellfire and brimstone. The Gospel does not say, “I’m going to scare you to death.” It’s not the judgmental news. It is the good news. We can bring it to the world. We only have to do what Jesus did.

What did Jesus do? He loved on people! When they were hungry, he gave them something to eat. The Bible tells us that once, He fed five thousand people. In fact, it was way more than 5,000. The Bible says He fed 5,000 men, and all the women and children that were with them. And when you look at that passage, you’ll realize that He not only fed them, but He fed them until they were full. And then there were leftovers! He fed them so well, that there was more food left over than when He started.

This is abundance! Jesus says, “Where I am, there is abundance.” Where He is, there is enough and more left over. That’s good news! This is what Jesus expects us to bring to the world.

For two thousand years, Christians have been doing that. We have! Do we do it well? Not always! We can be selfish.

Our selfishness is a sin. When sin came into the world, the potential for suffering came with it. Selfishness causes hunger issues, and it perpetuates them.

Remember when Joseph was interpreting dreams? He told Pharaoh, “There’s going to be a famine, because food production is going to come to a halt. There’s going be dry areas. There’s going be times of no fruit. So you better store up.” Pharaoh listened to Joseph. He stored up against the famine, and the people survived.

We see famine in the Old Testament all the time, and we see it happening right now. But today’s corrupt governments don’t plan for famine. They don’t store up.

It’s the poor that pay the price. They pay with their lives.

There has to be a redemptive love for them. That is our job as ambassadors of Christ. Jesus expects us to bring the good news. He wants us to bring His kingdom to earth. And we get to do it the way He did it. We get to bring it with abundance.

We can do it! We have His example, His Spirit, and His promise.

More on this next time. See you Tuesday.

New Creatures

It’s really difficult to understand God’s purpose when we look at what’s happening in the horn of Africa. A combination of drought, escalating food prices, and war has put an estimated 6 million people at risk of famine. It’s one thing to ask about God’s purpose for my life. I have a home and clean water. My children are not at risk of starving to death. But for many Somali families, that is exactly what they are facing. What is God’s purpose for their lives?

That’s a very tough question. I don’t know if I have the answer, but one thing that helps me get through it is the Lord’s Prayer. One day Jesus was praying, and when He finished one of the disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray.” And Jesus said, “When you pray, say, Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven…” (Luke 11:1-4)

Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. We pray for God’s kingdom to come to earth, just as Jesus taught us to do.

God didn’t have to create us to need food. He could have created us so that we’d never need to eat. I think maybe our hunger is the physical sign of our craving for God. It’s the material symbol of our hunger and thirst for righteousness. Without food and water, we physically die. Without righteousness, our souls suffer.

In the kingdom of heaven there is no hunger. Obviously there’s no hunger, because in the kingdom, we have Jesus. We have the fulfillment of everything. But here on earth there’s hunger. Now we hunger. Hundreds of thousands of Somali children could die in the coming famine. You and I hunger and thirst for righteousness.

God has promised that we will all be fulfilled. (Matthew 5:6, Luke 6:21) Still, sometimes we look at the suffering around us and we ask, “When?” We ask, “How long, Lord? How long?

In the Bible it says we are new creatures in Christ Jesus. And before Jesus left, He said, “You are my best friends.”

That’s awesome. A master never reveals too much to his servants. A supervisor never reveals too much to her employees. But we are Jesus’s friends. He reveals everything to us! He says, “I’m your friend, so everything that my Father has taught me, I have taught you. I’m going to let you in on God’s ways.”

That’s why we are new creatures. We have a new life now. We’re not of this world. We have a Spirit that lives inside of us that says, “You are different. You are going to understand the ways of God.”

It’s His friendship that has made us into His ambassadors. We are ambassadors of Christ. As His representatives, we get to help bring His redemptive love to the ends of the earth. That’s bringing the kingdom. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done. In heaven there is no hunger, because part of God’s way is helping to fill those that hunger.  So feeding the hungry? That’s bringing the kingdom to earth. That’s what His ambassadors do!

Now, I know that helping families in the Horn of Africa is probably tugging at you, but remember, it is only a start. Becoming new creatures in Christ is about something so much greater. It’s about that Spirit that dwells within.

More on that next time. See you Friday.

Hearing the Spirit

We’re called to all kinds of different ministries. We’re the Body of Christ! Some of us are His hands, some of us are His feet, some of us are His eyes, some of us are His ears, and some of us are His voice.

Some of us conduct studies on the problems of poverty and slavery, and others come up with programs or ministries to alleviate those problems. If no one conducted those studies or created those ministries, I wouldn’t have heard of the problems of the poor. This is the influence of the Body of Christ!

There are a lot of people called to help and they don’t even know it yet. We don’t always know it right away. I didn’t begin to fully understand my calling until I was pitching for Colorado. I’m not sure I fully understand it yet, because I’m continually growing in it.

I know that part of my calling is to make sure that people know just how much we can do. There is so much that we can do to free the slaves, feed the hungry, bring water to the thirsty, and build homes for orphans. I’m passionate about bringing awareness of these problems to as many arenas as I can. I’m passionate because when I heard about the suffering of others, I felt it. I felt their suffering. In other words, I was called.

A lot of people want to help but they don’t know where to start. And they don’t know where to give their trust! Think about all the different well-digging organizations. Which ones can you trust? We hear about the ones that put in a well but never go back and check on it. They did their “good deed” so they stop paying attention. Then the well breaks, no one comes to fix it, and the people have to go back to drinking dirty water.

Even worse, they might not even be digging any wells! There are people that promote good in order to steal. They make a lot of promises, you give them money, and they walk. There was a guy in Oakland proclaiming Christ’s return on some particular day. He told people, “Give me tons of money so I can help promote this.” People gave up their life savings and nothing happened. Meanwhile, he ran away with their money.

That’s why I get the word out about groups that I know personally. I believe that I carry a Spirit upon me that is true and good. When I partner with a company it’s because I truly trust the people involved. I see what they’re doing and I know it’s sustainable.

I want to do my part too, and I want to do it well. I don’t want to just build a well somewhere and then forget about it. I don’t want to just build one orphanage and then say, “I built an orphanage. I’m good for my life now.” There are too many opportunities out there! How could I say I’m done? As long as I can help people, I’m going to try.

What I’ve done seems good to me. It seems like I’m on the right path. I don’t boast about what I do, because that wouldn’t make any sense. I know where my strength comes from.

It seems like I’m hearing the Spirit well. I also believe that God’s going to tell me when He wants me to change. He will tell me when He wants me to continue. I’ve got to be open to Him, and willing to let Him speak into my life and tell me what to do. So far, it’s been awesome. He’s allowed me to take part in bringing the kingdom.

More about this next time. See you Tuesday.

A Perfect Plan

I’ve been writing a lot lately about doubt, be it doubt in God’s existence, or doubt in His purpose for us. But that’s the doubt that comes from our own lives, when we struggle with failure or frustrated expectations and desires.

When we look into the lives of others, we face a completely different kind of challenge. What happens to our faith when we see suffering and evil? What are we supposed to make of God’s purpose when a newborn baby starves to death? What plan could God have possibly had for that baby?

That’s a tough question, and I don’t claim to know the answer. If we wanted to end poverty, we could. There’s enough money in this world to end it immediately. But we don’t do it. I don’t think it’s going to happen because sin is in the world. Selfishness will always keep us from eliminating poverty altogether.

When I get challenged like this, I think about the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus taught us to pray, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done.” As ambassadors of Christ, we are called to help bring the redemptive love of Jesus to Earth. We are called to help bring God’s kingdom. We pray for it, we look for it, and we long to be a part of it. So we look for opportunities to be involved in bringing it.

I think God has a plan. I think it is a perfect plan. This is going to work out. And there’s a role for everyone. Look around you! There are so many incredibly talented people. They are everywhere. We have an abundance of incredible ideas for ending poverty. We have an abundance of energy and passion for the kingdom. With all that talent, all those skills, all those callings, and all those passions, we are overflowing with opportunities to bring the kingdom. No matter where we work, we can do so much. We can love so much!

I don’t really know how much I can or cannot do, but I intend to find out! I’m going to do as much as I can. My biggest fear is that I’ll sit before the throne of God one day and He will say to me, “You gave me 90% when I needed one hundred.” I don’t want Him to say that. I want Him to say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

I’m not working for my own salvation. I don’t have to. By the blood of Jesus, I am saved. No, what I’m trying to do is be a light. I’m trying to be a city set on a hill. (Matthew 5:14) I don’t want to be one of those cities that didn’t do enough to light up the world. God is calling! I want to make sure that I’m hearing Him correctly. I want to make sure that I’m doing what He wants me to do.

More on this next time. See you Friday.

When Things Don’t Go Your Way

Recently, I’ve been writing about doubt. I reflected on our all-too-human ability to create doubt. I showed how doubt is a normal companion of the faithful, especially when we’re facing failure. I marveled that our Biblical ancestors doubted, even though they were eye witnesses to God’s miracles, signs, and wonders. And I pointed out that the wonder of creation can alleviate doubt, since God’s sovereignty is so obvious within it.

But I’m not finished! There’s something else. Sometimes we doubt God’s purpose. Maybe we don’t doubt His existence. Maybe we don’t doubt His sovereignty. But we can still doubt that He knows what He’s doing!

Doubting God’s purpose is usually a result of trying to control our own lives. We might say, “Well, if I were God, then this is what I would do. So why isn’t He doing it? I don’t understand!”

I look back on my life, and I remember so many times when I wanted God to do what I wanted Him to do. I look at that now and say, “Well, now I know why He didn’t do that. How awesome has it been that I didn’t have my way back then! Look at how well everything turned out!”

God sees it too, and He says, “Yes, I know. I’m God, remember? You can trust me. My thoughts are not your thoughts. My ways are not your ways. My way is better than your way. I created everything. So I know best.”

Sometimes you just have lean back, fall into the arms of God and say, “Okay.”

Be like Mary, who sat at the feet of Jesus. She just sat there and listened to Him. Sometimes it comes to a point where you just have to sit and listen. Sometimes you just have to trust and obey. Sometimes, as hard as it is, you have to simply believe that it’s all going to work out.

So just sit at His feet. Tell Him, “Okay. I’ll go with you on this. I’ll believe in this.” Then see what happens. All you need is the faith of a mustard seed.

Faith isn’t a matter of things going your way. God’s ways are not our ways. Sometimes things go His way, not yours. When things don’t go your way, that’s not evidence that God is not sovereign. God is everywhere, not just in your circumstances.

For evidence of His sovereignty, you have to look elsewhere. Sometimes that presents the greatest challenge of all. More on this next time.

See you Tuesday.