Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Caught in the Act

"But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:6-7)

One of the most well known stories about Jesus is his interaction with the woman caught in adultery. (John 8:1-11)

The religious types were trying to trap Jesus, so they brought a woman caught having sex with someone that wasn’t her husband. In our day and age - that’s a pretty common type thing - but in that culture - marriage was really sacred (within the religious community - it was extremely sacred). The Hebrew Scriptures said that such a woman was punishable by death from stoning (the men would pick up stones and throw them at her until she died). Quite a brutal way to die actually - and I’m sure the woman was terrified when she was placed in front of this country rabbi. She thought she was a dead woman.

So, here ya have Jesus caught in the middle. He was known to be compassionate and loving - and yet - He was also a Rabbi who followed the Law (instruction) found within the Hebrew Scriptures.

The religious crowd thought they had caught Jesus.

If he let the woman go - then He would show that He didn’t take the Hebrew Law (instruction) seriously. If he allowed them to kill her - he would not be perceived as loving and compassionate - and many of his followers would be disillusioned.

There’s so much in this story - and actually reading the account in John does a much better job than what I can describe.

But there’s part of the story that is coming to light for me in a new way - that I’d never seen before - until recently. And what’s crazy is that within this very common Christian story - there lies within in it such a controversial piece. I’ve never heard anyone (from the pulpit or otherwise) point it out.

Here’s what could cause controversy within the story:

The woman caught in adultery never came to Jesus on her own will. She didn’t ask for forgiveness. She didn’t confess her belief. She didn’t join a group. She didn’t become a Christian. haha.

She was just caught. And she wasn’t caught by Jesus - she was caught by others. And there was no repentance - at least from what we can tell from this account. In fact - she was literally in the middle of her “sin” right before she was placed in front of Jesus. She wasn’t seeking Him. She didn’t do anything to get “right” with Jesus - God. She didn’t do anything be be good - or be a better person. She did nothing. Nothing.

Why is that so controversial?

It’s at her “worst” that Jesus says “then neither do I condemn you.”

She hadn’t repented. She wasn't seeking Him. She was fearing a death sentence - and believed she going to die - but there was no plea for mercy or second chances. She hadn’t figured it all out. There’s no mention of her doctrine. There’s no mention of her “role” as a woman. In fact - she was there unwillingly. This was the last place she wanted to be.

Jesus does such a good job at loving her in that spot. Humanity picks up stones to throw at the down-and-out (the “sinners”) while Jesus distracts the self righteous with finger painting in the sand - and makes everyone take a gut check at their own soul before revealing that He doesn’t condemn. John 3:17 supports idea this as well. “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

Why are we so quick to condemn? I wonder.

Why are we so quick to believe that Jesus condemns when the scriptures so often reveal the opposite?

Why do we think we have to say the right things - do the right things - know the right things - in order to be "right" with God - when so often the bible tells stories that contradict this type thinking?

And why don’t people ask more of these kinds of questions? I don't get it.

It's should be pointed out that Jesus does say "Go now and leave your life of sin." Sin meaning - rebellion to God - or - not esteeming God (putting Him in His rightful place).

But - our sin was condemned by humanity on the cross where Jesus died. "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." 2 Cor 5:21

Humanity condemned sin to the cross by killing the only righteous person who has walked the earth - God Himself. Soon after, God conquered death by rising from the grave to a new life - a new day. The problem with "sin" (broken relationship with God) is over - finished. God is greater than sin!

So, why don't we live that way? Maybe a better question is: do we really believe this? Do we really believe that the problem of sin is finished?

One pastor I heard said it best, "You're more sinful than you think you are. Get over it!" I love that. Sin is done - taken care of - whether we participate in that or not. We have peace with God the Father through Jesus - period. We just - so often - don't live that way.

What if we did live that way? What if we saw other people the way Jesus sees other people - with the loving eyes of grace and mercy? He doesn't seem as concerned about the things many church folks are concerned with. Don't you find that strange?

Well - don't take my word for it - go read the gospels again. See how He deals with sinners. Look for the controversies. Ask questions!! It's worth the time and effort - you might even be set free from bad doctrine.

You have permission to ask questions about God and the bible. If God really is God - He can handle it. Seriously. Part of loving God is loving Him with your mind - He gave it for us to use!

But - that's a whole other subject. ha!

I wonder what it would look like - if - when people reveal their worst - we responded like Jesus - and said to them, "...neither do I condemn you."

Have a great day!


Sunday, August 12, 2012

F'ing Earthquake!

"Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose." Acts 16:26

When I was in high school, every other word I spoke was a swear word. I think this habit formed when I was in Jr high - all in order to feel cool - or maybe to make me feel older, I don’t know.

I also remember saying swear words before I knew what they meant. This is funny to me now - but - when we’re kids - we’re so clueless... I had my mouth washed out with soap on more than one occasion. I got caught swearing outside my parent’s house multiple times (I have an obnoxiously loud voice - grrr). I was one smart cookie!

My senior year in high school, I started hanging out with some new friends. All of these friends were Christians and they never swore - or hardly ever swore. It’s awkward when you’re the only person in your group swearing - so I learned to not swear as much when I hung out with them. One of these friends never swore at all - ever. I had never heard anything vulgar come out of his mouth - not even once. It was weird.

One day - while playing tennis - we made a pact to stop swearing. I think we chose to do this because swear words were never really honoring to other people - and we were learning how to love - taking those first innocent steps. We made a pact that if a person swore - every other person got to hit the arm of the offender as hard as they wanted. There were 5 of us in the group - that’s four hard hits for every offense.

Looking back, this wasn’t really fair. I was the perpetual swearer. I think my friends wanted an excuse to hit me. Needless to say, my arm had many bruises over the next couple months. But - I have to admit - it worked. I actually did stop swearing. I’d replace F#%& with Fudge or Frick - or some other less offensive word. It didn’t have the force of a good swear word, but it still worked.

Flash forward three years.

I really had stopped swearing (except in cases of extreme fear or “stubbing my toe in the dark” moments). At the time, one of our friends was an exchange student in Germany - another was at Pepperdine - and the other three of us were back home in the foothills - near Sacramento. We decided on a whim, one weekend, to take a road trip to Malibu to see our friend at Pepperdine.

That weekend, we visited all over the Los Angeles area - and there were many side stories along the way (example - window shopping on Rodeo Drive - I mindlessly gave a bum some of my change and my Pepperdine friend said, “Jeremy - that bum was dressed better than you!” - and he was right. ha!) - but there’s one story that has stuck with me as if it had happened yesterday. On one of the last nights of our trip we visited Disneyland, and one of our good female friends from San Diego joined us at the park.

We did the usual fun stuff - had an amazing time - and stayed until the park closed. The four of us got in our car to drive back to Pepperdine. I don’t know the roads down south, but we found ourselves driving parallel on a freeway with our friend from San Diego - Kristen. I think this might have been after a quick Denny’s run, but I can’t quite remember. All I remember is driving parallel with Kristen at around 1:30am.

To give a visual - I was sitting in the backseat of my car behind the driver. My buddy Bil was in the front seat driving (he was older than all of us and we trusted and looked up to him). Gregg (our Pepperdine friend who I’d never heard swear) was in the passenger seat giving directions. My other buddy Chuck was sitting right next to me.

I don’t recall who said it first - if it was Gregg or Bil - but one of them said something to the effect of, “Sometimes - don’t you just wanna swear?” And we all talked about it and kept flirting with the idea of swearing - without actually swearing. I think it was Gregg that might have said the first bomb. “I F’ing (using the real F word) wanna swear right F’ing now.” - something like that.

Now - mind you - I had never heard a swear word come out of Gregg’s mouth - ever. This was about the funniest thing I had ever heard! Suddenly we were all saying every swear word we had ever known. I’ll never forget this moment until the day I die - Chuck is sitting next to me and Kristen is driving parallel to us - and she‘s got the biggest smile ever - and is waving at us - and we’re saying things like “See ya later B^$#%!” And all sorts of derogatory language. She can’t hear us, of course - but we were laughing soooooo incredibly hard as we cuss her out. Chuck is flipping her off under the window - and she can’t see it. I was laughing so hard I was crying. Serious tears streaming down my face. My stomach muscles were hurting. I’m laughing now - thinking about it.

Kristen drove on towards San Diego, and we drove towards Malibu. We went on a swearing rant for a while longer, then Bil suggested that we each get one last burst of swearing before we stopped. So, each of us, in turn went on one final rant. What was interesting to me is how many time fudge and frick kept creeping into my swear infested rant. We laughed and finally finished.

Then Bil said - “Hey - let’s pray.” haha. Again - so funny - thinking back. Praying after swearing - not something I’d ever imagined. I remember Bil’s prayer - as Chuck and I snickered in the back of the car. He said something like “God - thank you for the fun and laughter - and we didn’t mean anything from these words. Just give us a sign or something if you don’t want us to do anything like this again - and forgive us if we went to far.”

I remember the "thank you God" part - the forgive part - and the “sign” part of the prayer. We drove the rest of the way to Pepperdine and went into Gregg’s dorm room to sleep. I was exhausted from a long day and my stomach actually hurt from laughing so hard earlier - I was dead tired. I slept on the floor - Bil was on an upper bunk - Gregg in his bed - and I think Chuck was also on the floor. We were out by around 2:30 or so.

At around 4:30 am - the room we were sleeping in began to shake violently. Bil immediately woke up and started yelling “Earthquake - I think it’s an earthquake!” My first immediate thought was that it felt like Star Tours in Disneyland. Gregg and I were up - but I think Chuck was still sleeping - but then finally work up from the commotion. I do think something hit Chuck in the head, but I don’t recall exactly. The earthquake subsided and we were all wide awake. I’ll never forget looking outside the dorm window and the usual glow of light from LA was gone. It was pitch black - from the power being out.

We honestly didn’t know if this was the “big one” - in terms of the big earthquake that is possibly going to happen someday. It was actually a terrifying moment - in some ways - even though we were ok.

Turns out this quake was later named the Northridge Earthquake. There were fatalities and injuries - and it was all pretty crazy. That sequence of events is still hard to believe.

Did this happen because we swore? haha. I seriously doubt it. But, it has given me pause when I do want to swear - and that’s the truth. It's possible that God knew we'd be in that moment (that was already destined to happen anyway) to give us a sly wink wink. God - after all - did create humor - in the midst of this very tragic world. Laughter during a very tragic moment - for sure...

And - let's be honest - life is hard. We can either laugh at it - or cry. Sometimes we need to do both - with some swearing on the side. This is my story anyway...

The most eye opening moment in that journey was something that Bil had picked up on that I hadn't yet - which has taken me forever to learn. In the midst of our junk - our crud - our "sin" - God is right there with us - even when we're blind to Him. And in the midst of our junk - He is love - loving us - laughing and crying with us - He is always there.

And a simple prayer can remind us that we're not alone in this seemingly dark world - where Earthquakes can seem to ruin the party. The good news is that His love is so great that sometimes Earthquakes can even break the chains that bind us - and lead us to freedom.

I can think of one such earthquake the led to the freedom for all people. The one that happened on that wonderful - and horrific - day that Jesus died on the cross. "It is finished." - we are free...

But - wow - that earthquake day in 1994 - to this day, that is one of my favorite memories!

I don't swear often - rarely actually - but...sometimes it just feels appropriate. Y the L not, right?

Have a great fucking day! haha.


Saturday, August 11, 2012

Fan Mail!

“My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Psalm 22:1

This was an interesting piece of fan mail I got a few months back. Kinda caught me by surprise. Anyway - makes me laugh thinking about it now. Turns out - the guy who sent it (thru FB) was wasted when he wrote it. But - sometimes the truth comes out in those situations (from his perspective - of course). haha. Anyway - can’t keep this one to myself. It’s too good. ;-)



Hey whats goin on you fat piece of shit. You probably don't remember me but I sure as hell remember you. You used to be my middle school/ high school youth group leader about 7 or so years ago at ????? Church in ????? (which has now sold out to ?????? to become ??????). You fuckin waltz out on us like the 3 or so other people after you. You had your own personal interest in mind and not God. Speaking of god, thanks to you and others like who put thier own interests and ambitions above your "god", I've walked away from the organized religion cuz douche bags like you fuck it up and corrupt it. If there is a god I'm sure as hell that he doesn't appreciate people spreading his word and then bailing out when something better comes along. I only found you cuz ur "friends" with some (not all of them) people I know. Do them a favor and tell them that ur a fuckin liar and cheat and get out of their lives before you negatively affect them. All you do is brainwash our heads and move on to the next group of suckers. You, your wife, and her loser brother who seemed cool. I still remember the faces in our youth group, do you? By the way, I didn't see you at our graduation from ????. You really are a Jer"K". (And yea, I remember that faggot ass story you told us). Eat shit and die.


(My Reply)


Well - first of all, it'd be nice if you got your facts straight. I didn't waltz out of (name of Church) - they let me go. And it surely wasn't over "personal interests in mind" cuz I continued to do ministry for basically no pay for the next 7 years - still doing it today. I've always been around - and I've always been doing youth work - but the Church didn't like the way I was doing it, because I was trying to reach the lost - kids that weren't going to church. They wanted to take care of their own.

Faulty fact number two - I don't give a rats ass about "organized religion" - it's Jesus I point to. I don't tell people to follow me - but to follow Jesus. If people get that wrong - if they look at my faults and cry about how their life went to hell - well - that's not my fault. I'm just a faulty dude pointing away from myself and towards the goodness of Jesus. I surely didn't bail out because something else better came along - I'm still doing the exact same thing as I was 7 years ago. If you have a bone to pick - go pick it with the Church leadership 7 years ago.

And brainwashing? Wow. If brainwashing means - use your own head - your own brain - to seek the truth in Jesus - on your own - apart from what I say about Him - then - yeah - I guess I brainwash. Cuz I always leave it in the other people's court. I don't give a crap what you believe about me. And it's truly a shame that you missed the message of love that is totally independent of me - that God has for you.

All I hear is a hurt little kid who is full of hate. Someone who took something really personal that wasn't even about him. Did ya ever think to ask that maybe I was the one that got hurt in that whole situation? You have no clue... But, it's all about you, isn't it? Wow. Just wow.

And - let's see - 2010 - you graduated at “name of HS”? I sang at that graduation with two High School students. Or was it “different HS”? I was there too. I've gone to every graduation for the last 5 years at “1st HS” and “2nd HS”. Without getting paid. Without it being my job. Without the support of "organized religion". And “Jr. High School” graduations as well. Yeah - that's my own interest. Yeah - that's me waiting for something better to come along. Going to High School and Jr. High graduations - the MOST FUN THING EVER!!! You got me pegged.

And you throw in the "eat shit and die" crap in the end. Are you still in Jr. High? That rant sounded like a temper tantrum from a little kid. Amazing.

One of the things you should do before going and spouting your mouth off is to get the facts. The easiest thing you could have done was email me this question: Why did you leave seven years ago? It wasn't cool and I would like some answers.

Maybe there could actually be a dialogue instead of mindless blah blah blah. This is what happens when people rush to judgment. Every thing you told me was judgmental. Just from what I read - you're judgmental. You sound like the "religious" one to me...

And it's fine if you don't ever like me. I'm ok with that. I really do have a ton of faults and junk in my life - and I'm sure I've pissed more people off than just you. But - just because the messenger is faulty doesn't mean the message itself should't be taken seriously. Sorry if my crud took away from the message.

Hope God opens your eyes - and hope His love penetrates your heart.


Haha! Have a good day!