Saturday, November 1, 2008

A Severe Lesson In History

George Santayana:
 - Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it. 

This oft quoted statement earns it's keep every day, and today is not the slightest exception. CNN reported today that "a 13 year-old girl who said she had been raped was stoned to death in Somalia after being accused of adultery by Islamic militants..." (the rest of the article can be found here

Rewind two-thousand years.

Early in the morning Jesus came to the temple and all the people came to him, and ready to be taught they sat down at his feet. The scribes and Pharisees, not interested in his teachings but only trying to trap him, came also. They brought with them a woman who was guilty of adultery and placed her in the midst of the people. 

The crafty keepers of the law asked, "Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery. Moses commanded us to stone one such as her, but what do you say?" They hoped Jesus would dig himself a hole he couldn't climb out of so that they could bring charges against him and legitimately have him killed. 

But instead of answering them directly Jesus stooped, bent over, and with his finger began to write in the dirt of the ground. Frustrated, they continued to pester him, so he stood up and looking them in the eye said, "Let him who is without sin among you be the first to cast a stone at her." Having said his peace he stooped again and continued writing in the dirt. 

But when they heard what he had said they left the scene, one by one, from oldest to youngest, until Jesus and the woman were left alone in the makeshift court with the woman standing before him. Again Jesus stood up, but this time speaking to her, said, "Where did everyone go? Has no one condemned you?" In tears, the words, "No one, Lord," fell from her trembling mouth. 

He replied, "Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on sin no more."

Fast-forward again to present day. The facts are not a perfect reflection of the analogy forced through this blog, but some aspects beg and pull at my thoughts. The Pharisees, scribes, and Islamic militants objectified the people around them as tools for a 'higher' cause. The Pharisees wanted Jesus dead more than they cared about the destiny of the adulterers' life - much less her eternal destiny and relationship with God the Father. A means to an end. Nothing more.

The Islamic militants made an example of an innocent, victimized, 13-year old girl because they needed a sacrifice to glorify their control over the Somali people. In a moment, one girls life blood turned to liquid fear, a venom that will deaden the nerves of the Somali citizens, remove their hearts, and force them to their knees - another country successfully subjugated by Islam. 

Today's murder exposed the character of the Islamic militants in the same way that Jesus' question exposed the character of the Pharisees, the scribes, and you and I - dreadfully sinful. Steeped in sin. Stained by sin. We, and they, are broken and defiled creatures separated from God by our sin. 

In the past I have taken refuge by identifying with the woman - I am worthy of judgement, but I have been forgiven and now live in Christ. But today I am brought face to face with my darker self, the accuser, the Pharisee and religious zealot. Could I not also be counted in their ranks? Have I not also pointed the finger, cast stones of judgement upon my brothers, glorified my righteousness at the expense of their life, instead of extending grace, hope, forgiveness, and reconciliation? 

Perhaps the greatest tragedy of John chapter 8 is that when Christ utters his divine words of forgiveness there is no one there to stand witness. The very souls that walked away in conviction are the souls who most need to hear his message of hope. 

Jesus changed the course of history by revealing that none of us has any right to judge another's sin. Neither do any of us have the authority to absolve another's sin. The authority to judge and to forgive rests only in God's hands. The Islamic militants did not learn history by way of Christ and thus took the reigns of judgement into their own hands. The price was the life of child. Instead of judgement our role is to draw one anther towards Christ. In full knowledge of our own sin, in full knowledge of God's forgiveness, we share that same message with the broken around us. 

The opportunities before me have never been so grossly influential. Instead my day to day is filled with the mostly mundane. But as opportunities arise I face the same choice: will I humbly direct my brother and sister towards the cross, or instead hurl death, heaping the crushing weight of guilt upon a person made in the image of God? I pray the former. 

Let's learn from history as Christ wrote it.

The paraphrase of John 8:1-11 is my own and was not the result of scholarly translation.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Goodnight Moon, Hello Sun - Part 1

"And there was evening and there was morning, the first day... Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And God created the two lights great lights - the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night. And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day...

As I've been contemplating the theme of light and dark in the book of John, several thoughts have assaulted my knowledge of Christ. Most notably is this - that Jesus, the Messiah, is the light. Let it sink in. Read it slow. Bathe in this truth as you would bathe in the rays of the sun of summer. 

Andrew Murray writes in The True Vine that, 
"All earthly things are the shadows of heavenly realities - the expression, in created, visible forms, of the invisible glory of God. The life and the truth are in heaven; on earth we have figures and shadows of the heavenly truths.
When Jesus says: "I am the true vine," He tells us that all the vines on earth are pictures of Himself. He is the divine reality, of which they are the created expression. They all point to Him, and preach Him, and reveal Him. If you would know Jesus, study the vine."

Murray's Vine succinctly provides the form for my sentiments concerning the Sun. To borrow from Murray, when Jesus says: "I am the light of the world," He tells us that light, and it's physical source the sun, is a picture of Himself. He is the divine reality, of which the sun is the created expression. The sun points to Him, preaches Him, and reveals Him. If you would know Jesus, study the light and the sun. These physical expressions will not give a complete understanding of Christ, but they will, in their own specific ways, testify uniquely to his nature and character.

This week I am amazed at the Messiah, the light and life of men. He has come onto the scene of humanity with a light that pierces the deepest darkness and a life that raises the dead from the grave. 

There is more I want to share, but I am not eloquent enough to tie each of the threads together. For now, pick a day this week when you can arrange your schedule and go someplace to see the sunrise. Get there an hour before that ball of fire rises so that you experience the darkness before the dawn. Immerse yourself in the glory of God's creation as you ponder Christ as the true light. 

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Somewhere inside the light bulb

1. the bundle was illuminated by the torch
LIGHT (up), lighten, throw light on, brighten, shine on, irradiate; literary: illumine, illume, enlighten. ANTONYM darken.

2. the manuscripts were illuminated
DECORATE, illustrate, embellish, adorn, ornament.

3. documents often illuminate people's thought processes
CLARIFY, elucidate, explain, reveal, shed light on, give insight into, demystify; exemplify, illustrate; informal: spell out. ANTONYM confuse, conceal.

[definition provided by my dictionary widget]

I have blogged other places, I've thought thoughts on other pages, and here I am beginning a new blog in a new place. What has changed are my thoughts. 

Most of my life till now could be characterized by a number of word-pictures. For many years my email name has been (and will continue to be) transphormed@whereverI', and I applied that name to my old blog as well. But here's the hang up - the more I look inside myself, I see less and less that has been transformed and more and more that needs to be transformed by God into the likeness of Christ. Those days are bummers. The name I chose for myself has turned into a shackle of shame chained to my soul because I know that though I've been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, my mind has not yet been renewed perfectly - though it is being renewed daily. As a result, the most of me has yet to be transformed. 

I am forced, therefore, to choose a name that strikes an honest accord with this new account of my body, mind, and soul. This last week I began reading the Gospel of Jesus, as recorded by the Apostle John, and as I read the first chapter I was struck by a phrase I thought I knew.

"In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." John 1:4-5

I count myself amongst those have been illuminated by the Life and the Light of men, Jesus the Christ, my Creator and Redeemer. The Messiah shines into the darkness of my body, mind, and soul. He reigns and is not subdued, He reigns and is not overcome. In this there is no shame, in this there can be no false guilt. Before, I wrestled to be transformed by my own strength. Now, I rest, knowing that by God's grace He shines upon me, in and through me, not by my will but His alone.

Hopefully, this blog will be reflection of God's continual illumination of my being. I pray that it will, and that through His word, with Christ as the center, this blog will serve to illumine you as well, transforming each of us through the renewal of our minds by the power of the Holy Spirit.