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In the summer of 2009, our church went on a mission trip to a church in Kansas. I was scheduled to preach on Thursday nite. This is the sermon that I preached that night. It tells the story of how I got where I am now and the story of a woman in the Bible that is not to far removed from where we all are or at least were.


The Blood and the Witness

 

Revelation 12:11 (MSG)

 

 They defeated him through the blood of the Lamb
      and the bold word of their witness.
   They weren't in love with themselves;
      they were willing to die for Christ.

 

 

John saw war in heaven and the enemy was defeated and thrown out of Heaven by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their witness. Tonite I'll be speaking about both the blood and my witness and how it all relates to the cross. We'll take a very familiar story out of the bible and look at how it relates to my life and hopefully how it relates to yours. First, I'll tell you the story of how I got here. Some of you might be a little shocked. Even Elmdale people.

 

I was born in Springdale, AR where I still live with my beautiful wife Cheryl. We have 2 children, Payton 22 and Katelyn 18. Both are here tonite which makes what God has called me to do here tonite even more difficult. I really do not like to give my testimony and I certainly don't like to do it with my children present. You'll know why as I go on.

 

My parents were church going Baptists. My dad was sold out to God. He was truly what I like to call all in. He had arterial scrossis. He had his first major operation when I was 6 months old. He died when I was 14. He had 19 major operations in-between, losing both his legs in the process. We spent most of my childhood years in one hospital waiting room or another. He was very sick for my entire childhood. It was a very hard thing for my Mother to endure. She still shows the scars from it today. I realized many years later what God had done for him. I never heard him complain through any of the things that he went through. I never heard him blame anyone or ask why me. I never saw that as being God in him until just recently.

 

After Dad died, we didn't go to church any more. I felt lost and in a lot of ways was lost. I had made a profession of faith and was baptized when I was 9 but I really could not tell you for sure that did anything for me other than make me a wet, fat kid.

 

Most of my teenage years were not to crazy. I graduated from Springdale High attending both high school and the U of A during my senior year. After graduation I enrolled full time at the U of A. That is when I really began to discover the "other" side of life. I began to drink and run around with people I had no business being with. I really majored more in partying and playing pool in the game room in the student union than I ever did in my real major. That did not go very well for me and they threw me out because of bad grades after 3 semesters.

 

I was working with a kid named Shane Andrews at that time. There just seemed to be something different about Shane. He knew what was going on in my life and invited me to go to church with him which I did. I got very involved with the church and that is the time that I feel that I got saved. I was baptized again and started studying the Bible and seeking God. I soon felt the call of God on my life. I had played piano and sang growing up and the church needed a music leader so at age 20 I was leading the music at this small Wesleyan church that we were attending.

 

I made plans to attend Bartlesville Wesleyan College. God had very clearly called me to preach. I had no money and God did not provide any way financially for me to go to BWC. I felt very confused that God would so clearly tell me what to do and then not provide the means to do it. I put what I thought God wanted me to do before what God really wanted me to do. It wasn't long before trouble started in the church. One thing led to another and problems arose between people at the church and before I knew what was happening, I was out of church and back doing the same things that I had done before...even worse. The crowd around me got worse and worse. Before long I was deep in the drug culture. Eventually I was not only doing the drugs but buying and selling so I could afford to do the amount I wanted to do. I lied. I stole just for the sheer thrill of stealing. I did anything and everything.

 

Then in 1984 I met Cheryl. We went out for the first time on the day after Labor Day and got married on Dec. 1st of that same year which I do not recommend unless God is all over it which He was. Neither of us could have ever seen that at that time but I can certainly see it now. Cheryl was on her own trip running from God. She is a preacher's kid and sometimes even preacher's kids go down the wrong path. Payton came along in 1986. Nothing much changed for me. I was still deep in the drugs with no hope of getting out. I went into business for myself in 1989. I was always interested in cars and had been working at a body shop and had adapted to the trade well. The shop became my life. In 1990 Kate came along. I still was centered on my business and myself. My career was my wife, my family and my god. My children were the same as fatherless. In 1991 I decided there was no reason to stay married and I went to a lawyer and had divorce papers drawn and moved out. We were separated.

 

I know now that it was God that would not let me go through with the divorce back then but of course I couldn't see that then. I moved back in and things continued to get worse and worse. Cheryl and the kids started going to Elmdale in the winter of 1991. Cheryl recommitted her life and began teaching Sunday School a couple of years later. I wanted nothing to do with any of that. I almost completely missed my children growing up. I continued to be immersed in my business and the drug scene and was a complete tyrant to my wife and my children. My love was my work and I justified it all by telling myself that I had to work this hard to provide for my family. I was lying to them and to myself. I didn't care about anyone or anything but myself. What they wanted most was me not what I could provide. What they needed more than anything I would not give them. They wanted a father and a husband. I was neither of those.

 

I spent years trying to fill the empty hole in me with anything I could find. Literally years of my life do not exist in my mind. I simply can not remember them. Probably a good thing. The drugs obviously could not fill the empty hole. Business success could not do it. I turned to cars. I built some show cars that gained me a measure of fame being featured in several magazines an winning enough trophies to fill a room in our house but I was never satisfied. I bought boats and started tournament fishing. That gained me a measure of fame again but still nothing would satisfy me. All during this time I was the most angry and vengeful person you could imagine.

 

A man from the church came to visit me one Saturday. He looked really scared. I'm sure he was. He came to talk to me about Jesus. I told him that I was fine where I was and tossed him out. I found out later that it was really a big deal where other men had laid hands on him and prayed for his safety because of him feeling led to come and see me alone. That tells you who I was then. My family did not know if I was going to come home screaming and furious over nothing or if I was even going to come home at all. I'm not proud of those times. My family lived through hell on earth especially Payton and Cheryl. I missed my children growing up. I can never regain what was lost while I was to stoned and angry to care about anyone but myself.

 

Everything came to a screeching halt for me in 2005. God began taking things away from me that spring. My best friend suddenly would have nothing to do with me. It got so bad that he threatened to kill me if I ever came on his property again. A short time later I became very sick. I was over 300 lbs at that time and was obviously not taking very good care of myself. Years of doing drugs and smoking 3 packs of cigarettes a day had taken a big toll on my body. I ended up with me having to have bowel resection surgery in Dec. 2005. We had a little money saved but it was soon gone as I had missed almost 6 months of work during 2005. I'm an independent insurance damage appraiser now and if I don't work I don't get paid. I went in the hospital on Dec 15th not knowing if I was coming out or not. I was facing a surgery where they basically take everything out of you, cut out the bad parts and put the rest back and hope for the best. God was not quite done with me yet and I obviously survived.

 

After the surgery, I spent a few weeks at home trying to recuperate. That's when Jesus showed up and changed my life forever. I was so much of a wreck that I could not sleep. I could not do anything. I was a total dysfunctional mess. I was on the verge of a complete mental breakdown. I was living on pain killers and trying to fight the voices in my head on my own. One morning I came to the end. I simply could not go one step father the way that I was living. I found myself lying in the floor of our master bathroom crying out to God for help. He answered me with a question. He asked, "son, are you done now?" Suddenly the weight of what I had been doing and not doing for 25 years came flooding in on me. Suddenly I realized why nothing I had been doing to fill the emptiness had ever satisfied me. I was very scared.

 

Cheryl was more than a little surprised when I told her I was going to church with her that following Sunday. I didn't tell her what had happened that morning until much later. I started going to church. I didn't go to Sunday School for a while but I eventually did start to go. I now teach that same class. God has blessed me in so many ways since then. I have had opportunity to teach and to speak into the lives of those around me. I'm now attending seminary on line and hope to keep on preaching and proclaiming His name when ever and where ever He allows me and that's why I'm standing here tonite.

 

 For those of you that are still around...The text we'll be in tonite is John's Gospel chapter 8. Tonite This is a story that most of you have heard preached many times but hopefully tonite we can shed a little different light on it. 

 

John 8:1-12 (NKJV)

 

1 But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.
2Now early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught them. 3Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, 4they said to Him, "Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. 5Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?" 6This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear.
7So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them,
"He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first." 8And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. 10When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her,
"Woman, where are those accusers of yours?Has no one condemned you?"
11
She said, "No one, Lord."
And Jesus said to her
, "Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more."
12Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, "I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life."

 

The Scribes and Pharisees were the teachers of the religious law. They had a chance to come and encounter Jesus and see what and who He really was but they did not come to do that. They are even mocking Him by calling Him teacher. They did not believe that He had anything to teach them because they felt like they knew all there was to know all already. Everything in the OT points toward Jesus. These leaders had been trained their entire life to recognize Messiah when He came but they could not see Jesus for who He really was.

 

They are desperate to get rid of Him. In their eyes He is ruining everything that they have been taught and have worked for their entire lives. They have a deeply rooted hate for Him by now. The reason they hate Him is not because of what He is teaching. If they had only realized that His message was what they had been praying for all along. Interesting that when He came those trained to recognize Him could not believe that He was who He said He was but the thieves and liars, tax collectors and fishermen, the common people saw Him for who He really was.

 

The religious leaders of the day hate Him because He is doing what they are supposed to do. People flock to Him every day to be healed and to hear His message. The people flock to Him and not to the leaders because He is authentic and they are fake. The people see Him healing and raising the dead. The Pharisees can only talk about such things. People got well when they got around Jesus. People had gone to the Pharisees for years and nothing had happened. The things that Jesus is doing are hard evidence that Jesus is for real and that they are not. The Pharisees are losing control of the people. Jesus is showing the people that they can get to God without going through them.

 

It was not just that Jesus was taking the people away from the Pharisees but He was taking away their power. The Pharisees looked at the people as property. They saw the people as pawns in a game that they played to maintain control. Look at this woman. The Pharisees don't see someone that needs help, someone that needs a second chance, someone that needs to be rescued. They only see her as a way to trap Jesus. Her life means nothing to them. She is just a worthless harlot. They would stop at nothing to get something on Jesus. To them, she was disposable. She was trash under their feet.

 

They set this all up where they were able to catch her in the act. They didn't come to her and say, "We heard you were committing adultery." They caught her in the very act. Now exactly how would you suppose that someone would just stumble across this act taking place without prior knowledge of where and when it was taking place? Why didn't the man get dragged in with her? The Law of Moses doesn't say stone the woman and left the man go scott free. They were playing with people's lives to get what they wanted.

 

They drag this woman through the streets probably half naked and screaming. This meeting is not going on in some darkened back alley it is right in the Temple in front of what the Bible calls, "all the people." Tonite we'll talk about Jesus and we'll talk about the Pharisees but we are going to center on this lady.

 

Think for just a minute how she must have felt. What she must have thought when they kicked in the door. She knew the penalty for what she had just been caught doing was death. A slow, bloody, painful death. Can you imagine what must have been going through her mind? It was not bad enough to endure the shame of the act itself but now there she was probably barely clothed if clothed at all in the temple in front of these so called religious leaders. Standing there right in front of Jesus and no telling how many others.

 

She was guilty of what they were accusing her of doing. She was caught in the act. There is no gray area in the law. The penalty is death.

 

4they said to Him, "Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. 5Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?" 6This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear.

 

They should have recognized that he was choosing to identify with her instead of them. They should have seen that this was not going to go their way but they could not see Him for who He was. He was not about to get into some sort of debate over the law. When He stooped down and put his finger in the dirt He was putting Himself in a position to be more on her level than He was on theirs. They thought Messiah would come and look like them but when He came He looked more like her. They had convinced themselves that Jesus could simply not be God. He didn't look like they thought He should look and He certainly didn't act like they thought He should act. They thought that when Messiah came He would retake the throne of David and free them from the bondage of Rome. They thought when Messiah came He would look like one of them. Jesus had none of that in mind.

 

The Gospel is not when I tell you that you should be like me. Christianity is not that you should be like me. It's that I was exactly like you an if He can bring a lying, thieving, miserable druggie to this pulpit then He can bring you out of whatever you are in.

 

I came to Kansas tonite to preach the real Gospel.  The real Gospel is not when we stand before you and say, "Don't you wish you were like us. Don't you wish that you knew the verses we know, that you could sing the songs we sing and preach the sermons we preach." The real Gospel is when we go into the streets of Lawrence and knock on doors and tell the people not don't you want to be like me but that I used to be just like you and then Jesus showed up and turned my life around and He can do the same thing for you.

 

I hate my past. I hate to talk about it. I was serious when I said that most of the people from Elmdale didn't really know where I came from until tonite. I used to really beat myself up over the 25 years that I ran from God and all the things I did and didn't do during that time but the Lord told he that those years were not wasted. He told me that my mess would become my message. I don't live in the past now or even dwell on it but I also don't ever want to forget where I came from. The real truth is that I don't have to go back to the times that I was messed up on drugs or the times that I stole something just for the thrill of doing it or back to the times that I was a terrible tyrant to my wife and children. I just have to go back to yesterday morning to remember what it was like to be standing in front of Jesus half naked with my accusers all around me.

 

I didn't steal anything or smoke any pot or commit adultery. I didn't have to because Jesus said that if I did it in my heart, that was the same as doing it. In Matthew 5 Jesus says...27 “You have heard that it was said to those of old,‘You shall not commit adultery.' 28 But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Paul said that he had to die daily and that is what we all have to do. As long as we are in this body sin will be an issue but Jesus's mercy and forgiveness is not just a one time deal. It's an every time deal.

 

We look at this woman and we feel sorry for her or perhaps some of you would say she should get what she deserves. I look at her and I say, "There I am." I am that woman. I was guilty of what my accusers said. I was caught in the very act. But He got down on my level and brought me out of all that into His marvelous light and He will for you too. He who knew no sin became sin for her and for me and for you. I've heard preachers give all kinds of reasons why He wrote in the dirt that day and I still don't really know why He did it but I remember when He stooped down and wrote in the dirt and ignored my accusers that day in my master bathroom floor.

 

When he said come back to me son. I have plans for you. When He said your past doesn't matter to me. You are my child and I love you. I have always loved you and even when you ran away from me and broke my heart I never left you. I have been right here with you all along waiting. Waiting with open arms. Waiting to tell you that my Father doesn't judge you by your behavior but by Mine. I'll get in the dirt for you because I love you. Jesus came here to earth and lived in a body just like ours. He knows it is our nature to be dirty. He knows. He knows.

 

But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear.

 

I would not be here today if God did not have an unbelievable capacity to ignore my accusers. The list of my transgressions is long and gets longer day by day. Paul said in Romans 7:19 

 

19 For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice

 

None of us are any different so don't try to fool yourself. On our own we are helplessly lost in sin with no way out. But with Christ we can overcome. God will not just deliver you one time. He'll deliver you every time. I may not do anything of the terrible things I used to do on the outside but sometimes they still goes on on the inside. It is the nature of who we are. We are all guilty but thank God the verse says...

 

It was though He did not hear.

 

Day and nite the accuser of the brethren says you can't use him. You know what he did. I'm not here tonite because I've ever done anything right. I'm here tonite because He did everything right. How many of you know that when the accuser comes to accuse us we have the best defense lawyer ever? When the devil shows up and says this is why they must be stoned, Jesus shows us and says He is the reason why we go free. Those nail scared hands are the proof that we are not guilty. The proof that He loved us in a way that no one else ever could.

 

I came to preach the real gospel tonite. I didn't come to say don't you wish you were like me. I came to tell you that I was just like you and you are just like me and if He is truly your Savior and your Lord we have something in common that should make us what to go knock on every door in Kansas. He didn't come here looking for religious leaders or for preachers or deacons or board members. He came here looking for fishermen and tax collectors and harlots and adulterers. He came here looking for me and for you.

 

7So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, "He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first."

 

One person in that place that day had the right to throw a rock but His choice was mercy.

 

 9Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.

 

So what did they hear? It was when He looked up at them and said they were just like her. Only one person had the right to throw the first stone but He chose mercy.

 

9Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.

 

We don't preach this story like this because we think to get people to stop sinning we have to tell all about how bad it is or how mad God is with their sin. We think that to get people to even come to God we have to scare them. This woman didn't leave there with the attitude that she just got away with something. She left there with the awareness that she had been in the presence of someone and something that was so good and so perfect and so holy that she would not even want to do it again. It was not that He pointed put her sin that made her want to stop it was His mercy. As she was standing there right in front of Him waiting on the first rock to hit her that He asks...

 

"Woman, where are those accusers of yours?Has no one condemned you?"
11
She said, "No one, Lord."
And Jesus said to her
, "Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more."

 

Remember back at the beginning of the story? They mock Him by calling Him teacher because they do not know Him for who He truly is. She shows that she recognizes who He really is by calling Him Lord. She found someone that had every right to stone her but instead He showed her mercy that she had never known before.

 

The Gospel is not if you don't stop doing what you are doing, God will send you to hell. The Gospel is as bad as you have been. As awful as the things you have done may be, He has mercy to cover them all. The real gospel is that He loves you more than any human ever could because He is holy and pure, His love is holy and pure. He will never leave you. He will never turn His back on you.

 

Jesus didn't lecture the woman about what she was to do or not to do. He didn't need to make her feel ashamed of what she had done. He just showed her who He was. It was not that she became aware of her sin all of a sudden that changed her life. It was the realization of what or rather Who had set her free. It was the fact that God was more aware of her sin than she was and He chose mercy instead of judgment.

 

As a people tonite we stand here half naked and guilty. He is saying my mercy will cover all you have ever said or done if you will only let me be Lord. We have all sinned. ALL. If you will just come and let His mercy flood over you, you can walk out of here clean tonite. You can see in an instant how much He cares about you. How much He loves you. How much He wants you but the decision is yours. You don't have to live in the dirt any more if you will let Him be Lord of your life. But I warn you. He will not take anything less than all. If you offer Him 99%, He won't even take it. This is an all or nothing deal He is offering.

 

This is the only way you will ever stop sinning. This is not a license to sin and then ask forgiveness. This is not permission to live your life however you want and then come running back to Him when it gets to tough. This is the power to realize who He is and what He has done for you. This is the powerful knowledge that will lead you into a life lived with Him as Lord. This will set you free of the burden of sin, this will make you say how could I do that to Him after all He had done for me. In Romans 6 Paul said...

 

1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? 2 God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?

 

 I told you at the beginning that I don't like to talk about my past. It's not because of me that I say that. I don't like to talk about my past because of Him. It's not because of the people around me that I hurt so much even though that is difficult still for me to think about or talk about. It's because I hurt Him when I ran. It's because of His broken heart over what I did and said that breaks my heart. It's because of His mercy and goodness that the woman in the story was changed. It's because of His mercy and goodness that I was changed. It's because of His mercy and goodness that He waits here tonite for you.

 

 

 

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