No Matter What

Today’s reading is John 8:1-19.

We will focus mostly on the first portion about the woman who the Pharisees brought to Jesus for committing adultery. They were attempting to trap Jesus by saying she must be stoned based on the Law of Moses for committing this sin. But, Jesus did the unexpected. He told them whoever was without sin should throw the first stone and not only did they not stone her, but they walked away from oldest to youngest. Jesus then told her He would not condemn her either and to go and sin no more. He gave her both grace and truth. If we are willing to walk away from our sins, He’ll wash away our sins.

John 3:17 reads…

“For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.”

About this time last year, I remember interacting with a gentleman in park in New York City on the Spread Truth mission trip. This man was brought up going to church and was very knowledgeable about many world religions. He specifically stated that He was not a Christian because he thought the idea that God would humble Himself to become man and suffer the way Jesus did was ludicrous. He said if there truly was a God, he would show his power and might and condemn humans because essentially if he was God that’s what he would do. He’s right…we can’t fathom the idea of what God did because we, as sinful humans, would show our power and judge others as the Pharisees did and expected Jesus to do. I sin a lot and in many different ways, but if I were to count each one and label by type, judging others would be near the top of the list. We expect God is like us and would do the same, but He’s not. He tells us in Isaiah 55:8-9 that His ways and thoughts are higher than ours, therefore it’s hard to fathom what He did through Jesus.

As a child, I remember sort of wondering what the big deal was with Jesus dying on the cross at some level because other people die in the act of helping someone like police officers and fire fighters. What was the big deal about Jesus doing it? It wasn’t until I was an adult and realized that Jesus was the only person to walk the Earth without sin, and even just one sin permanently separates us from God without his perfect death on the cross (Romans 3:23). Only when I was able to wrap my arms around this and that He didn’t have to suffer for us, but willingly did and brings us together again with Him and gives us the free gift of eternal life through His death on the cross could I fully appreciate what God has done (Romans 6:23). Actually, as hard as I try, I’m probably still much like the Pharisees and the man in the park, it’s just hard to fathom.

As I’ve mentioned before, I feel one of the main ways God reaches me and connects to my life is through music. This time is no different. Recently, friends and family have been directly or indirectly impacted by depression. Depression can come for many reasons, but I have to believe many circumstances are due to the weight of past sins or feeling like the person is insufficient and doesn’t measure up. If you or someone you know suffers from depression, I hope this amazing song, “No Matter What,” can bring you or them peace and comfort. Every single one of us, even those perceived to be very successful and appearing to have everything going for them, are insufficient without Him. He is enough though. He makes us whole and perfect to God despite all our failures and imperfections. No matter what.

Desert Places

Crack soil on dry season Global warming / cracked dried mud / Dry cracked earth background / The cracked ground Ground in drought Soil texture and dry mud Dry land.

1 Samuel 1; Romans 1; Jeremiah 39; Psalms 13–14

When was the last time you felt like you just couldn’t win?  Did you face reality head on or did you run from it? For me, the answer to that question can often be found in my activity level. If you catch me running, scattered from task to task, without a minute to spare, it’s likely that I am avoiding some reality of my life. A second indicator that exposes my avoidance of reality shows up when I am reading. I love to read. Reading helps me think and process the events of my life. I can do it in almost any environment. That is, unless, I have something weighing heavy on my heart. In these times, I cannot focus on reading. Sure, I might go through the motions, but I cannot hear the words. Nothing gets through. My general reaction is to go, busying myself with things that do not need thought or thinking. This avoidance leads me right back to the first scenario. I am not unique. I am sure that you have a coping mechanism as well. According to today’s reading, Hannah had one too.

Elkanah’s wife, Hannah, did not have any children. As a result, she was given one portion of meat to worship with as a sacrifice to God at the Temple. Elkanah’s second wife Peninnah, however, had two children and, therefore, received three portions with which to worship and sacrifice.   For Hannah, this time of annual worship and sacrifice served as a cruel reminder that God had not given her any children. To make matters worse, Peninnah made fun of her for it, continuously deepening Hannah’s wound. Her reaction, year after year was to cry.  In fact, she would make herself so upset, that she couldn’t even stand to eat.

We all get to choose how we respond to life’s circumstances. Whether your reaction is more like Hannah’s or mine is irrelevant. In the end, they both lead to the same place. Nowhere good. Hannah finally figured this out. Eventually, she looked to God.   As she offered her sacrifice, she looked to the Lord, and through her deep anguish and bitter weeping, she prayed and with all of her heart and laid her cares upon God. Similarly, David’s heavy heart pours out through prayer in Psalm 14. In these moments, Hannah and David both relinquish their futile attempts to change their own reality and instead, depend on God.

Have you ever prayed like that? Seriously, consider for a moment, right now, what it would feel like to spend a few minutes, a few hours, or a whole day, detaching yourself from the activity and crying so that you can give it to God. Why not? Are you afraid of what you might hear? I am here to tell you that the best time to do this is right now, in the midst of the current gridlock in your calendar and in the middle of your deep anguish. If you are praying to the same God that I am, He promises to give us an answer.

My rumination on Hannah and David pouring out their hearts to the Lord has encouraged me to pray similarly. I’m also praying that God urges you to do so as well. As you do, I will be praying for you, as Eli did, “go in peace! May the God of Israel grant the request you have asked of him.”