Tuesday, May 30, 2006

"Neither do I condemn you..."

The woman caught in adultery, as recorded in John8:1-11, was literally, caught in the act. Mosaic law required that the two witnesses who brought charges would have been simultaneous eye-witnesses to the incident and it is clear she is guilty as she is brought before Jesus.

There is some discussion about the canonicity of this story, and some biblical translations omit it because it is absent from the earliest manuscripts; however, it finds its way into scripture and its truth are certainly commensurate with all Jesus taught. Whether it is original to the gospel of John or was written by another writer inspired by God--perhaps Luke--seems inconsequential in view of its clear message.

The adulteress should have been stoned to death--she and her lover, who is strangely missing from the story--a corroboration of the Pharisees preoccupation with entrapping Jesus, as opposed to arbitrating the law.

But Jesus shows compassion for her, and turns to accusers with the indicting invitation, "he is who is without sin, let him cast the first sone". Soon enough, the woman is left alone with Jesus, while her accusers slip away, impacted by Jesus' writing in the dirt (probably something about their's...)

It is this moment--Jesus and the adulteress alone--that is a moment common to every believer, a moment when we stand alone with Jesus exposed in our sin. It is a moment of recognized guilt, anticipated condemnation, and undeserved and unexpected exoneration.

"I don't condemn you", Jesus says.

Freed of such condemnation (Romans 8:1), I am enabled today to walk in a new life of freedom, made possible through Jesus' words, the expression of His sacrifical work on the cross where He paid the price and took the punishment for my sins.

I am a sinner. I am guilty. He took my guiilt and condemnation on Himself so I might be free.
And He says to me again today, "Go and sin no more".

Friday, May 26, 2006

a messianic complex

I can remember when I graduated from college and headed for the inner city area of Los Angeles County, armed with my Bible, four years of college and an over-abundant amount of confidence that I could change the world.

I spent seven years there and what I struggled to learn was that I could not save the world. I hardly could take good care of myself. I had a misplaced "messianic complex" that resulted in borderline "burnout" after trying to be too many things to too many people.

I am completing my thirty-ninth year in the ministry and I find lingering remnants of that messianic complex--fooling myself into believing that I can fix everything.

The bottom line is that I can fix nothing. I can maneuver things into a better position sometimes, and I can even manage to say some helpful things, but if change for the better occurs, I have learned it is not about me but what God chooses to do in spite of me.

I am in the middle of my seventh building program, the ultimate construction challenge I have faced in my life. I find myself foolishly thinking I can maneuver and manage the changes that I remember in moments of spiritual sobriety are only things God can bring about.

It's about time I figured out that messianic complex, don't you think...?!?

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Americal Idol

I watch American Idol every Tuesday night if I am home. I have been trying to figure out what it is that makes me want to.

I am not crazy about most of the music and am not particularly drawn to most of the participants. I am uncertain that there is any redeeming value in the program itself.

Still...I watch.

I have decided that I watch because I am curious. Curious about what it is we like, what it is we want, what it is we idolize.

When the winner was announced last night--Taylor Hicks--his selection was greeted with a coronation-like applause. He was apparently overwhelmed by the moment of adulation and was transparent about his emotions--at times screaming, dancing and pumping his fist into the air.

He is the new American Idol.

He seems passionate about his music, though his voice is sometimes raspy and sharply-pitched in his singing. He loves to dance, and punctuates most of his musical numbers with unchoreographed movements and occasional gyrations.

He is affable enough, and even humble. He appears to just love to sing.

I guess that is why we love him (I didn't vote) and that is why he is now our choice as an Amereican Idol.

I am not sure how I feel about that...but I will probably be watching again next year.

I guess I am just another one of the American Idle

Wednesday, May 24, 2006


four days at avila beach and I feel like a new man.

but I have to come back to the real world.

what is there about the foaming angry ocean that is so cleansing? what is it about ocean waves crashing against the ragged rock shorelines that is so peaceful? why is it that I find myself transported to calm and rest in the midst of its fury and restless power?

i know. it feels to me like God is there, in the midst of it all.

in my real world I need to make the same discovery...in the midst of anger, screaming emotions, and power surges.

God is there.

Friday, May 12, 2006


Setbacks are exactly what the compound word indicates, a moving back from a previous position. Circumstances that "achieve" that end, are called "setbacks".

Our building project has had its share of "setbacks", the most recent being the burgeoning costs at project's end and the shortened cash flow we have to address them.

I wrote the members of our board today and shared the information, ending with these words, "God will provide!"

I know He will...He always has.

We are moving ahead.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006


Bob and Sharon Hallissy are friends of mine from earlier days in the ministry. When I pastored in Duncanville, Texas, they were connected with Wycliffe Summer Institute of Linguistics, located nearby, and began attending our church. They and their five month old son, David (now 19), became a regular part of our church fellowship.

I have several distinctive memories of Bob, Sharon and David.

1. David, at his father's request, jumped blind-folded into his arms as a part of my sermon illustration on faith. Fortunately, his father caught him!

2. Bob and Sharon invited our family to their home for a meal and upon questoning, revealed Bob had left a large job at Hewlett Packard in computers (and all the related benefits) for the "struggling" and challenging life of a missionary (my choice of words).

3. Bob was brilliant (from my point of view) and could have written his own ticket in a burgeoning world of software fortunes but had chosen to opt to assist in the work of Bible translation.

4. Bob and Sharon ministered to me in a time when I was literally devastated by a family crisis and encouraged me to remain in ministry. I will never forget their love and reassurance when I needed it most. They were the loving arms of Jesus to me.

Well, after twenty years of friendship, separated by nine years of mutual relocation in new areas of service, I visited the Hallissys in England a few years ago and caught up on our friendship. The culmination was just this weekend when they came to share at Grace and stayed in our home for two days.

They continue to use their gifts and skills to develop tools for utilizing non-Roman script alphabets in translation and Bob helps to develop the software while Sharon faithfully serves as a secretary. Twenty years later their faces continue to reflect the same excitement in serving the Lord and their desire to return to England to resume their work is compelling.

People like Bob and Sharon are the real heroes in Christian service, spending their lives behind the scenes in places far from home so that others might come to know Jesus, and become part of the family of God.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Day of Prayer

I just returned from our county's second annual prayer breakfast, held on the National Day of Prayer and supported by the local churches of the community.

Those in attendance represented about ten churches in our community. About 75 were there for breakfast including about 15 pastors and staff members. There was a challenging speaker and a significant time of prayer addressed towards specific needs of our country. I was glad I was there, surrounded by "two tables" of our church family.

The disappointment for me was that this was all we could muster from our county for the one day a year we meet together to pray--the most important thing we can do together and the most powerful thing we can do for our nation.

II Chronicles 7:14 is probably the most recited verse calling believers to prayer, beginning with these words, "IF MY PEOPLE..."

The promises of that verse--that God would heal our land--must not be inviting or powerful enough for God's people. If we believed they were true, prayer would be our first priority and prayer breakfasts and days of prayer would be more frequent and better attended.

What do you think?