Always half a world away from home. Wife to the most amazing man on any continent. Mommy to five amazing mini's and older girls. Total INFJ personality. Sold out follower of Christ. Beloved daughter of the King of kings. Embracingly socially inept. Often stepping out of my comfort zone and sticking my foot in my mouth.
Saturday, January 12, 2013
My God stoops
So, I have been reading this book by one of my favorite authors Max Lucado. The name of the book is Grace. And the second chapter, seems to be one I keep going back to again and again. It is one that has resounded in my mind. It is one that has kept me awake at night, laying in bed, contemplating its words. It is about a God who stoops. It is too good, and too changing not to give some experts from that chapter.
"The voices yanked her out of bed. 'get up, you harlet.' 'What kind of woman do you think youa re?' Preists slammed open the bedroom door, threw back the window curtains, and pulled off the covers. Before she felt the warmth of the morning sun, she felt the hear of their scorn. "Shame on you." "Pathetic." "Disgusting." She scarecly had time to cover her body before they marched her through the narrow streets. Dogs yelped. Roosters ran. Women leaned out their windows. Mothers snatched children off the path. Merchants peered out the doors of their shops. Jerusalem became a jury and rendered its verdict with glares and crossed arms.
And as if the bedroom raid and parade of shame were inadequete, the men thrust her into the middle of a morning bible class.
"Early the next morning Jesus was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and Pharisees brought a women they had caught in the act of adultry. They put her in the front of the crowd. "Teacher," they said to Jesus "this women was caught in the very act of adultry. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?" John 8:2-5 NLT
Stunned student stood on one side of her. Pious plantiffs on the other. They had their questions and convictions; she had her dangling negligee and smeared lipstick. "This women was caught in the very act of adultry," her accusers crowed. Caught in the very act. In the moment. In the arms. In the passion. Caught in the very act by the Jerusalem council on Decency and Conduct. "The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?"
The women had no exit. Deny the accusations? She had been caught. Pleade for mercy? From whom? From God? His spokesmen were squeezing stones and snarling their lips. No one would speak for her. But someone would stoop for her.
Jesus "stooped down and wrote in the dust." (v6 NLT) We would expect him to stand up, step forward, or even ascent a stair and speak. But instead he leaned over. He descended lower than anyone else- beneith the preists, the people, even beneith the woman. The accusars looked down on her. To see Jesus, they had to look down even farther.
He's prone to stoop. He stooped to wash feet, to embrace children. Stooped to pull Peter out of the sea, to pray in the garden. He stooped before the Roman whipping post. Stooped to carry the cross. Grace is a God who stoops. Here he stooped to write in the dust.
Remember the first occasion his fingers touched dirt? He scooped soil and formed Adam. As he touched the sun-baked soil beside the women, Jesus may have been reliving the creation moment, reminding himself from whence we came. Earthly humans are prone to do earthly things. Maybe esus wrote in the soil for his own benefit.
Or for hers? To divert gaping eyes from the scantily clad, just-caught women who stood in the center of the circle?
The posse grew impatient with the silent stooping Jesus, "They kept demanding an answer so he stood up." (v7 NLT)
He lifted himself erect until his shoulders were straight and his head was high. He stood, not to preach, for his words would be frew. Not for long, for he would soon stoop again. Not to instruct his followers; he would address them. He stood on behalf of the woman. He placed himself between her and the lynch mob and said "All right, stone her. But let those who have never sinned throw the first stones!" then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust." (V 7-8 NLT)
Name callers shut their mouths. Rocks fell to the ground. Jesus resumed his scribbling. "When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman." (v 9 NLT)
Jesus wasn't finished. He stood one final time and asked the woman. "Where are your accusers?" (v10 NLT)
My, my, my. What a question- not just for her but for us. Voicses of condemnation awaken us as well.
"You aren't good enough."
"You'll never improve."
"You failed - again."
The voices in our world.
God stooped. Low enough to sleep in a manager, work in a carpentry shop, sleep in a fishing boat. Low enough to run shoulders with crooks and lepers. Low enough to be spat upon, slapped, nailed, and speared. Low. Low enough to be buried.
And then he stood. Up from the slab of death. Upright in Josephs tomb and right in Satans face. Tall. High. He stood up for the women and silenced her accusers, and he does the same for you.
He "is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us." (Rom. 8:34 MSG) Let this sink in for a moment. In the presence of God, in defiance of Satan, Jesus Christ rises to your defense. He takes on the role of a preist. "Since we have a great preist over God's house, let us come near to God with a sincere heart and a sure faith, because we have been made free from a guilty concscience." (Heb. 10:21-22 NCV)
A clean concscience. A clean record. A clean heart. Free from accusation. Free from condemnation. Not just for our past mistakes but also for our future ones. "Since he will live forever, he will always be there to remind God that he has paid for our sings with his blood." (Hebrews 7:25 TLB) Christ offers unending interession on our behalf.
Behold the fruit of grace: saved by God, raised by God, seated with God. Gifted, equopped, and commissioned. Farewell, earthly condemnations: stupid. Unproductive. Slow learner. Fast talker. Quitter. Cheapskate. No longer. You are who he says you are: Spiritually alive. Heavenly positioned. Connected to God. A billboard of mercy. An honored child. This is the "aggressive forgiveness we call grace." (Rom. 5:20 MSG)
The accusation of Satan sputter and fal like a deflated balloon. Then why, pray tell, do we still hear them? Why so we, as Christians, still feel guilty? Not all guilt is bad. God uses appropriate doeses of guilt to awake us to sin. We know guilt is God-given when it causes "Indignation...alarm...longing...concern... readiness to see justice done." (2 Cor 7:11 NIV) God guilt brings enought regret to change us. Satans guilt on the other hand, brings enough regret to enslave us. Dont let him lock his shackles on you.
Wasn't this the message of Jesus to the woman?
"Where are your accusers? Didn't even one of them condemn you?" "No,Lord," she said. And Jesus said "Neither do I. Go and sin no more." (John 8:10-11 NLT)
Within a few moments the courtyard was empty. Jesus, the woman, her critics- they all left. But lets linger. Look at the rocks on the ground abandoned and unused. And look at the scribbling in the dust. Its the only sermon Jesus ever wrote. Even though we don't know the words, I'm wondering if they read like this:
"Grace happened here."
-Grace, By: Max Lucado
I sure hope Max Lucado does not mind that I took pretty much his entire chapter. And this book is a treasure chest, and I so recommend everyone read it. But that image has stayed burned in my memory. A God who stoops.
Maybe I have lingered on this, because I have stood before, rock held tightly in my fist. I have accused. Which we all have. And I have been the women, and so preoccupied with my accusers, to stop and look down, to see Jesus stooping down for me. Stooping down and writing grace in the dust of the ground.
I have ALWAYS hated when people call me religious. I grew up Catholic and I am not going to mock that faith. But I have learned that religion is mans attempt to get to God by good works and rituals. And salvation is Gods attempt to restore a relationship with man. It is God stooping. None of us can be good enough. None of us are sin-free, everyday.
But as I contemplate this chapter, and this story. I fall more and more in love with Jesus. I have long believed no one EVER came to God because they lost an arguement or they felt judged and condemned. But when people see God, who he really is. His impassioned love for us. His willingness to stoop down to us, below us. When they see a God who writes in the dirt, washes feet, and loves with a love that is unstopable. Things change. Lives change. From the inside out.
And I have had my life changed and flipped upside down by a God, who stooped down, and I realized his love for me. That is what is going to change people, LOVE.
Thats the kind of God I serve. A God who stoops. Who loves relentlessly. One who died to have a relationship with me. A God who offers the free gift of salvation. (Because lets be honest, who of us can work our way into heaven?) That is my God.