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The writing in the dirt

John 8:3-11 – “And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not. So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.”

It is so easy to judge. We see other people; we think we know them and what do we do? We pass judgment. 

I think it is partly human nature to judge others. We see the negative and automatically make an assumption that they obviously don’t deserve our best because of this or that. We hear things and assume the worst. We have a hard time giving people the benefit of the doubt. 

Notice I’m using “we” because I have a problem with this too. I have to consciously make an effort not to judge. And that’s hard. 

We don’t know what Jesus was writing in the dirt this day but we can guess that whatever it was did not make people want to stick around. They tucked their tunics and took off, one by one, when Jesus started writing. They were ready to stone this woman for her sin. They thought they had it all figured out and were going to involve Jesus in this woman’s death. Little did they understand and appreciate that whatever Jesus was writing in the dirt would expose their judgmental attitude. 

What if Jesus started writing in the dirt every time you began judging and accusing people? Would you want all your dirty laundry aired out for everyone to see? I’m guessing no. We want to keep our dirty little sins tucked away and not discussed. 

What I want to encourage you about is this – be careful. Be careful who you accuse. Be careful who you judge. Be careful how you handle dealing with the past of another. We are none perfect. We all have things we would rather forget. Be kind. Be gentle. Be forgiving. Be cautious. Jesus may be writing in the dirt about you. 

Feeling colors

Romans 12:18 – “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.”

It is bound to happen – The time when you feel like you have butted in where you don’t belong and fear that you have upset the balance of things. The time when you see and or hear of a situation and your tender heart can’t help but feel like you have to do something about it. And after it is done, someone close to you shows you what you have done. It wasn’t done with malice or discontent in your heart. It was done out of love. But someone could construe it as you butting in. 

When I was a teenager at church, our children’s church leaders had a story about Rudy Red and Butt-in Brown and Yelling Yellow. There were other colors but for some reason those stick out in my head. I wonder why…..probably because I relate to them the most. Some days I find myself feeling “red” – not happy, rude, ornery and irritable. Some days I find myself “yellow” – a loud, obnoxious response to every little thing. Last night, I felt “brown” – I had butted in. I don’t like feeling brown. It presses heavy upon my heart. 

But when I feel any of these colors, I need to repent. I need to try and make it right. So I did. I did what I could at the time. I prayed and talked to God about it. I sought out wise counsel from my husband. I did what I could. But I don’t know if the offense has been forgiven and/or dealt with. Suspense. I just have to let God handle it now. I have to choose not to walk this way again. And I have to keep praying that God will continue to work it out. It is in His hands now. 

Feeling colors is no good. Any of those colors I listed brings no peace. It only causes strife and dischord – none of which any of us need in our life. But it is our choice to let Rudy Red or Yelling Yellow or Butt-in Brown have a day in our life. Sometimes they slip in unannounced. But some days we open wide the door for them to walk right on through. That’s why we must let God guard the door to our heart. He is the only One that can keep the peace we all so desperately need. 

Something we all need

Matthew 6:14,15 – “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

So let me give you the brief rundown of my day yesterday. I went back to work after being gone 4 days for a long weekend at a really tough soccer tournament- tough emotionally, not necessarily physically. I had a Christmas party at my house last night for the youth group (which, by the way, was so much fun!!). Needless to say, I was a bit frazzled. 

I went to the wrong client’s house – I was an hour early. Oh. My. Goodness. And to top it all off, it was the same client who had called me the day before and wanted to know why I wasn’t there – she had me scheduled for a day I had taken off, yet, it was my fault. I didn’t argue. No need. But to make another mistake on top of one hurt already there? I felt like a “cotton headed ninny-muggen” (Elf, one of my favorite Christmas movies). 

I apologized. And then apologized again. I owned my mistake. I admitted she was right. And apologized again. I felt terrible. It still bugs me. I know I’m forgiven by her and my Heavenly Father because I asked. 

But I hate making mistakes like that. Your plugging along through your day thinking that you have this thing all together and BOOM! Reality check. You are just playing like you have it together. It stinks 

However, I am so grateful for forgiveness. But the thing about forgiveness is when it is asked for, you should give it. And when you ask for it, you have to accept it. You can’t keep beating yourself over the head with your mistake. Neither can you keep beating someone else with their mistake when they have asked you for forgiveness. You gotta walk away and don’t go there again. 

Forgiveness can be a beautiful healer for both parties involved. It is tough to ask for and tough to give. Yet, we need to follow the example of Jesus who forgave…always and sometimes without them asking. 

People are going to wound us. We are going to wound others. Forgiveness needs to be a part of who we are because sometimes we all need forgiveness. 

Eternal

1 John 5:11-12 – “And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.”

My husband and I were at the mall this weekend. We saw a shirt hanging in a window that said, “We are eternal.” I had to stop and get another look. My husband said, “Sure we are eternal. But what eternal are they talking about?” He was thinking heaven or hell. 

It seems that our society thinks it is above reproach. Somehow or another, they think they will never die and never be held accountable for anything they do. I have heard songs about that “we will are never getting older” and songs about doing something “anyway”. 

No thought for consequences. No thought to anyone else other than themself. 

Eternal. Do people realize that is a really, really, really long and never ending time? Do they realize that their eternity will be spent in a smoking or non-smoking place? They have the choice of everlasting love or everlasting fire. They have the choice to accept Jesus or reject Him. 

So yes, we are eternal. But which eternal will you choose – eternal love or eternal damnation? It seems like such an easy choice. Choosing love means allowing Jesus to lead and guide you. Choosing damnation means leading yourself and trusting that you can make all things good. For me, I choose to let Christ lead my life. I choose eternal love. 

Forgiveness 

Matthew 6:14,15 – “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

Forgiveness. 

How many times as a kid did your mom say to you, “Now, say your sorry”? You begrudgingly say the words but mean none of them. Or maybe you just blow over the whole idea of asking forgiveness whenever you KNOW you are wrong. I think we have all been in one or both of these boats more often than we care to admit. 

But in these verses in Matthew we are commanded to forgive. Forgiveness means letting go and not picking it up again. It means giving up your right to retaliate. It means not reminding someone again and again of the wrong that they have committed against you. 

It’s a tough business, this forgiveness. But God never promised us an easy life once we accept Him as our Savior. In fact, in Matthew 18:21,22, Jesus told Peter this lovely gem- “Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.” Ok, so that means….490 times. Four hundred ninety! I don’t want to count anything up that high. The point is this- there should be no limit to the amount of forgiveness we should offer those around us. 

God is not sparing on His forgiveness of our trespasses. We need to follow in His steps and do the same. Forgive. 

This week, you will be wrongly accused. You will be offended. You will do something that causes grief in someone else’s life. You will need to give out forgiveness and you will need some yourself. Whatever the case, whatever the cause – don’t be stingy with it. Forgive and be forgiven. 

Effects and affects

2 Samuel 24:10-14 – “And David’s heart smote him after that he had numbered the people. And David said unto the LORD, I have sinned greatly in that I have done: and now, I beseech thee, O LORD, take away the iniquity of thy servant; for I have done very foolishly. For when David was up in the morning, the word of the LORD came unto the prophet Gad, David’s seer, saying, Go and say unto David, Thus saith the LORD, I offer thee three things; choose thee one of them, that I may do it unto thee. So Gad came to David, and told him, and said unto him, Shall seven years of famine come unto thee in thy land? or wilt thou flee three months before thine enemies, while they pursue thee? or that there be three days pestilence in thy land? now advise, and see what answer I shall return to him that sent me. And David said unto Gad, I am in a great strait: let us fall now into the hand of the LORD; for his mercies are great: and let me not fall into the hand of man.”

These were our verses for Sunday morning worship service. Our pastor spoke on choices. But I got something else out of it too – consequences. 

I’m sure when David decided to number the Israelites he probably didn’t think about consequences and their effect on others. I know when I sin, I rarely stop to think, “Hmm, will this affect anyone else but me?” 

Sin is like an spider web that reaches out and grabs everything. When a spider builds a web, it reaches out to many different plants and objects to create this deceptive device that sometimes even traps people. Spiders are just spinning their web trying to get something to eat – trying to survive. They don’t think that their little web will affect anyone but themselves. Boy, are they wrong. 

When David was confronted with his sin, he confessed it as wrong. Good call David. But then came the inevitable consequences – those nasty things that happen when we sin. 

God gave him a choice of his consequences and not a single one effected him alone. They all required people around him to shoulder the burden. 

You see, our sin reaches out and snags people around us. However, we are usually so self-centered that we don’t see how our choices, our decisions affect others. We are too worried about ourself to see the pain we cause in others. And on those rare occasions when we do recognize our outreach of consequences, it saddens us. It makes us realize the real effects of sin. 

Not very bright and cheery for a Monday morning. Sorry about that. But here’s the bright side – God is merciful. If you keep on reading to the end of the chapter, you will see God’s mercy abounding in David’s life. God decides to lessen the consequence because David finally got it. 

We are going to mess up this week. Guaranteed. But God’s grace is sufficient and His mercy is everlasting. When you realize your sin, confess it and shoulder the consequences. And when others feel the effects of your sin, sincerely apologize and get that potential rift out of the way. And remember, God is always good. 

Judging

Romans 14:10-13 – “But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way.”

I’m having a tough time with this lately. I’m finding it harder and harder not to judge others I see. 

I see people driving around with bumper stickers on their cars for political candidates and I think, “Are they crazy? How could they possibly vote for that person?” I see people driving around smoking in their car and think, “Don’t they know what they are doing to their health?” I see overweight people at the grocery store buying a cart full of soda and junk food and high fat frozen food and think, “How sad that they don’t make better choices.” I see people posting on Sunday afternoon about their recreational adventure Sunday morning and just shake my head. 

And through all of this, I shouldn’t judge. I have enough problems and shortcomings on my plate. How is that supposed to happen? How am I supposed to go through the day seeing all of this and not judge? I don’t get it. 

I’m a very opinionated person. Every one who knows me knows this. I can be very passionate about some things. And it is hard not to judge. 

Yet, Jesus has called me to walk like Him. One day we will all be standing before Him giving an account of our life. Why do I continually add judging others to that list? There are times when I will see something and think, “Don’t judge. Don’t judge.” And before the fourth word fully forms in my brain, I’m judging. Deep sigh. 

It. Is. Tough. 

But when I judge, I’m putting a stumbling block between me and that person. That stumbling block can keep me reaching out to them the way He wants me to. It can bias my objective and make me choose a different path. Judging others can sometimes be very cruel. And that’s not something Jesus would have wanted said about any of us who choose Him as our Savior. 

What to do, what to do. 

This is something I cannot handle on my own. This is something that requires way more strength than I have. I have to let Jesus lead me in this. I just have to. I have to give Him the reign of my heart and mind and allow Him full creative authority to do whatever is necessary to keep me from judging others. Hand it over. Give it up. (Wait for it…) Let it go. (Sorry. I had to do that.)

So let me encourage you this weekend to take a look at your heart. Where do you stand when you see something you want to judge? Do you let Jesus filter it first or does your brain take over and let it fly in your head? It’s tough. I know. But remember, one day we will all have to stand before the Judgement seat and give an account – all of us.