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Where Was God at the Cross?

Posted on by Ken Posted in Newsletters | Leave a comment

I’m listening to NewSong’s ‘Arise My Love’ on the radio as I write this newsletter. It reinforces something that I’ve been thinking about since the Easter season. It’s the Cross thing that I have rolled around in my mind. Obviously, what happened at the Cross is one of two or three foundational parts of our Faith. I mean, golly, what if what we believe about that Cross is true! Well, you would have to write a book on that, not a letter. But one of the things that has always intrigued me about that crucifixion is the words of Jesus, ‘My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ (The most common Greek definition for the word forsaken is ‘to leave behind’.)

Imagine that. Is that what really happened? How does the Son of God suggest such a thing? How does he do the unthinkable and question God! Surely Jesus knew differently, or, maybe the Father did forsake him! Did God abandon him? I don’t think so; actually I think we can find out exactly what He did. If He did not, then what was happening when Jesus said that?

It was not what Jesus was saying at that moment, as much as what he was asking. That’s the only place in the New Testament where Jesus is calling out to God, not calling out to Father. Here, Jesus uses the ‘Creator’ reference to God. Here, Jesus did not call out in the personal, loving relationship reference to a Father, but to God who can do all things. We know from Scripture that Jesus became sin for us. We know that the humanity of Jesus paid that great price for us, not his deity. At that moment it was not the Son of God that cried out, it was the man Jesus, his humanity that cried out. At that moment, he was not Righteousness for us, but Sin for us. At the Cross, everything that we are Jesus took upon himself; everything that we experience he experienced for us. He was Sin for us. Every thought of abandonment, loneliness, hopelessness and isolation he was carrying just as we would. Every human emotion and every pain was his. Just as we feel abandoned some of the time, isolated and lonely in our journey, on the Cross Jesus experienced those same fears. Where was His anointing at this moment? Where was the presence of God in his life there? Did God turn His face from Jesus? Well, that’s part of the end of this letter.

The reason I was thinking about this subject is that there seems to be an increasing sense of isolation and helplessness present in our daily lives. Christians, who have the most witness to the Word of His Power, well, we forget our Faith hats and sometimes put on fear. You can’t go to an internet news site without an overload of bad news, can’t pick up a paper, listen to most talk-radio stations, without finding bullying, swearing, corruption–and that’s just what’s being said and done by our so-called political leaders, people we have chosen to protect us, chosen to protect this unique country. I’m embarrassed at how our politicians display so much lying and name calling and then they stand, seemingly, self-righteously amazed that the country in such shape.

I’m concerned with what appears to be an ever increasing effort to demean people of Faith in this country. Well, some of it I understand; we have not represented the Gospel very well in some ways. We have lost some of the skill of being an ambassador of Christ in some of our language, some of our actions. But still, with those mistakes made and admitted, there is a bigger effort here than just complaints against our Christian manners. There is a daily sense of the persecution of believers in some very big sense. Not just attacks on a couple of issues like abortion or same sex marriages, but attacks on a whole gambit of our beliefs, attacks from the courts, attacks through executive orders, and a legislative branch of government that does not seem to represent or take up the causes of the majority of the people in this country. I don’t know if it bothers you, but it concerns me when the Senate and House leaders and our own President choose to leave out ‘under God’ in their quotes of the Constitution of this country….It bothers me because it’s no accident, that it’s policy, that it’s a world view!

That kind of world-view, if I’m not careful, brings me to feelings of being more alone, more isolated, less hopeful. When I say ‘if I’m not careful,’ what I mean is if I leave those feelings unchecked. They come naturally, just as when enormous pressure was put on Jesus, even he defaulted to thoughts of abandonment. I’m not to that point just yet! I have a couple of things that I can trust in. One, I think all the pressure put on the Church might teach us that we must either pull together or fall apart. The effort to overcome a real world-wide assault on the Christian Faith must be based on what for the most part will be an invisible organization. Not a group built on structure but on relationships between the common interests of all believers. Laying aside our differences and finding those things we have in common. Just as the opposition to the Gospel does not come from one source, one package, our ability to challenge the challenge to our Faith will need to come from many pulling together to resist losing our expression of Faith. We will need a new flexible wineskin to take on the challenge. Our old ways have not been working and new, inspired ways must come. We are in need of new ways to challenge the media attacks and legal push, old politics is just not going to do it. I still think there is a ‘Moses’ in some tent somewhere in America that can lead us; he just has not been revealed yet!

Secondly, well, it’s the answer to the question I posed in the first paragraph. At the Cross, had God abandoned Jesus? Could Jesus have been wrong in his ‘forsaken’ statement? In my opinion, not really wrong, but certainly, Jesus could have been ‘thinking’ human! He could have felt the weight of the world on his humanity, could have ‘felt’ like God had forsaken him (just like we ‘feel’ like God has forsaken us sometimes). Actually, we know exactly what was taking place on that Cross. Jesus was quoting Psalm 22 and in it is found the answer. This Psalm is a prophetic cry of David about the crucifixion of the Messiah of God. It is an insightful picture of what actually went through the mind if Jesus at his death. (There is no traditional Jewish stoning here; it’s a picture of a Roman crucifixion, hundreds of years before crucifixion was even thought of.) Our answer is in verse 24, ‘… (for God) hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, neither hath He hid His face from him, but when he cried out He heard…’

Where was God at the Cross? He was with Jesus, even in him, reconciling the world unto Himself! Did Jesus feel that at the time? The scripture and the Psalm indicate that Jesus did not. If you read the whole Psalm you will find the Messiah felt like a worthless worm, the reproach of all men, despised by all of the people. The powerful political leaders (bulls, maybe even bullies), the assembly of the wicked had surrounded him. In Jesus’ mind, he was completely and hopelessly cut off, abandoned, isolated, surely God had ‘left him behind’. We can feel like that as well, even as believers. Jesus was the biggest believer of all and he felt like that. The thing we must bring to mind is where was God at the Cross and where is God at times of pressure in our lives? He was right there, and He is right here! He hears us! He does not turn His face from us. It may seem like that, but ‘My God, My God, why have you forsaken me’ was a question, not a statement of fact. It was what Jesus said, it was a picture of the moment, but it was not the whole story. Just remember the next Psalm David wrote: the Twenty-Third.

Unnecessary

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“… the fruit of the Spirit is Love, Joy, Peace, Longsuffering, Gentleness, Goodness, Faith, Meekness, Temperance….” (Galatians 5:22) This is the fruit of the Spirit. It is not human but Divine. It is what Life of the Spirit bears. The degree to which we experience these gifts is, in some proportion, how much we experience Him.

Right now, there is very much to be concerned about in our lives. I know personally, and have heard from many, that this is one of the toughest times to be ‘getting through’ all the things that confront us. I was sitting around trying to make sense of much of that this past weekend, and I was a bit disappointed in the crushing thoughts coming to my mind. Why is all this stuff, this suffering and disappointment, in the middle of the creation of a loving God? Why do we not see just the snap of His fingers to make it all go away? A simple spoken Word from God could change everything. In the middle of that conversation with myself, I began to realize that in spite of so many pressures, our lives can be filled with these gifts. They are delivered to us as part of the contact between His heart and ours. Something about this is in the great plan of God, something we may never completely understand.

Joy, Peace, Loving-kindness, Goodness, Faith all are made for us. In some way, they all are unnecessary. By that I mean that had the heart of God not wished that they be a part of our experience, they would never have been here to experience. They are not naturally occurring in the universe. They could just as easily not exist at all. We would not have discovered them on our own. They do not exist separated from Him, but exist only because of Him. They have been given to us for our pleasure, for our comfort. While thinking about how they are unnecessary except as a part of God’s plan, it occurred to me how even we are unnecessary. You know God could have just skipped over the human part. He could have created a universe without human contact, without the creature at all. He could have made a world that had no problems, no grief, but He chose not to do so. Not only that, but He, Himself, chose to enter into the same sufferings, disappointments and pain through the entry of Jesus Christ into the earth. Something about ‘human’ was a desire of God. He chose to bring us into the picture, His picture, and while the absence of His Love leaves a darkness in its middle, still the presence of His Love brings all the blessedness that we receive as gifts to us. We are not necessary, but we are preferred. It’s God’s pleasure for us to have been placed here. He did not do that as a second thought, a whim. Something in the heart of God believed very strongly that all the frustration, pain and damage in this life were worth it for Him and for us. Something more valuable than we can understand is going on here, something held simply in the Wisdom of God. Importantly, He did not leave us alone or without his presence. At the very least, He gave us the Fruit of His Spirit to sustain us.

Without Him, none of those things exist. As they occur in our lives, they represent His presence with us. His finger prints are on each one. They are gifts to us, imagined in the Heart of God before the world was! Our choice is to choose whether to live in that Spirit or live apart. Paul encouraged us not only to live by the Spirit but also to walk in the Spirit. Get dirty in them. Get down and roll around in them, get them on our lives. To tap into the Heart of God will take prayer, not the kind you get at the Hallmark store, but one that is personal, heartfelt, and honest and with the expectation that God is on the other end of that prayer. This kind of prayer can jerk our lives around, cause our minds to come into agreement with the Heart of God. Trouble can find Peace, mourning can be turned to Joy, anger to Gentleness, fear into Faith. It’s becoming necessary for us that ‘whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things’ must become, not just a memorized scripture, but become a purposed daily attempt to overcome the world going off in the earth and in our heads. (Phil 4:8)

As mentioned earlier, Love, Joy, Peace, Longsuffering, Gentleness, Goodness, Faith, Meekness, Temperance were not invented by us, they are not here because we did anything to create them. We see them in our lives because they were there from the very beginning. They existed before we existed. They are real but invisible. Christ Life reveals them to us; in seeing them we see Him. In the music we sing, in being a mother or a father, in our friends, in cooking, laughter, sunsets and vacations we run into them everywhere. They have been set before us as part of the Life that Jesus Christ purchased for us. We recognize them in our pleasure because God reveals them to us in the things He has prepared for us. I often tell people that for me, Life is like art. We can add the colors that we wish to add to the picture of who we are. We can add dark colors or bright. It can be full of midnight or full of yellow, white, and sky blue. What we place in our picture is determined by our desire of what to paint in our lives. The textures and the colors are very much the work of our hands, and God placed a palette of the fruit of the Spirit for us to use or not use in our painting. But what we add from that palette to our picture is a picture of who we are.

God lives through us. He has chosen to enter our humanity and walk around in our lives. A part of what we do is a part of what He does. He is not on some distant planet, a deity separated from us, but lives as a mediator for us and a companion with us. He has presence in our hearts and in our ordinary day. Everything that is dear to us as human has its origins in His heart. Those are all gifts to us. Why we love life is because the Fruit of the Spirit has found a place in Life. The things we cherish are found in Him and His Spirit and the world cannot destroy them, but we can choose to ignore them, to reject them.

Why can’t we constantly live in the fruit the Spirit bears? There is evil in this life, a spirit against the Love of God, and it tries to destroy the union between God’s stuff and us. Simply, we can be deceived. We get sold a bill of goods by the great liar. We get out of sync with the heart of God and become worldly rather than tapping into the Spiritual. It’s not that we are separated from the Love of God and what He has prepared for us, it’s the perception that we are separated that causes us so much trouble, gives us a sense of aloneness. Separating us from what God has done for us is the end game for the anti-Christ spirit in the earth. However, if we continue to believe that Life is about Him, celebrating and praising what He has done for us, we will discover more of the life that was prepared for us. We are so easily moved away from who He is and what He has done for us. Knowing that God has prepared a Life both in this one and the next, while it does not isolate us, it does insulate us from the challenge of having our Life stolen from us. Remembering Paul’s prayer of Ephesians 1: that the ‘Father of glory may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him; the eyes of your understanding being enlightened that you may know what is the Hope of His calling, and what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward who believe…’

In Season or Out of Season

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I garden. I know there’s nothing profound in me giving you that information. Last month’s newsletter was a conversation about the fruit of the Spirit, that’s kind of a garden thing, and this letter is about seasons, actually two seasons: in season and out of season. I’ve prepared a garden each spring since 1975. There have been good years and poor. Sometimes dry weather got me, a couple of times those varmint ‘wabbits’ or their neighbor groundhog got me, wind and hail have done me in the most. Gardening requires patience and for sure teaches it. Also, you must have a vision to put up with the months of work before you ‘prosper’ from gardening. You can’t just plant a garden and leave it to the weeds. You will not get much of a garden being a lazy gardener. Believe me, I tried that early on and learned it didn’t work. Most importantly, if the soil is not prepared correctly for the seed, obviously your plantings will fail. If you don’t give the plant nutrients and an energy source it will eventually die without coming to maturity. We’re the same way; without preparation and good soil the Word of God falls in hard ground and does not take root in our lives. If we ignore the Word of God and do not feed our hearts and distribute those nutrients into our souls, we will perish, easily being overcome by the calamity of the culture.

The apostle Paul teaches us to be in season as Christians. Unlike my garden, he never let any environmental condition, anything he was going through, affect how he approached his Faith. That’s a necessary lesson for us today. We have so many things that trouble now, some locally, some nationally and many internationally. I’m going to suggest that believers are in season, even when it’s not the very best times of their lives. I see so many troubling issues we all face daily. So much, whether it’s with our family, friends, or it could be relatives or acquaintances, all feeling great stress from this earth’s system. If you’re like Jane and me, you don’t have enough fingers and toes to count all the people you know that are facing very real and hard circumstances. Checked that news channel lately? Asked anyone how’s it going? And much of what is going on with friends and family is simply unspoken, they just don’t talk about it!

I made the mistake a few years ago of telling a friend of mine how everything seemed so out of season in my life-things were just not going well at the time. He immediately had the pleasure of setting me straight, telling me that the tough times are sometimes the very times we become the most aware of God’s presence. The world is in the process of increasingly rejecting the Love of God and His outstretched hand of Grace. At this very same time, as believers, we have the opportunity to rally in our Faith. If we live it rather than just talk Faith, we will find that we are ‘in season’; we are in a place that will bear much fruit. It’s a time where God partners in our lives. In our brains, that many times happens at the most inopportune moment. I make it easy on myself at that point. I simplify! Jesus said that his yoke is easy and his burden is light. I take Him at his word! The characteristics of what God asks us to handle, His things, are not heavy on us, they are not unable to be carried. In fact, many times that’s exactly how I recognize what things I need to take ownership of in my life, what I should take on the responsibility for carrying. If those things are too harsh, too much, too anything, if they are burdensome, I’m suspicious whether they are of God. We have to be careful not to take on everything that we can think of and, especially, take on the things others guilt us into ownership. The things that we are to carry as part of the Christian experience God asks us to do are not too heavy to bear, not too much for us to stand. I think we all try to carry so much of what the world offers to us.

Today, we all are in a very difficult season for many: joblessness, health problems, health costs, divorce rates skyrocketing among even Christian marriages, abortion, depression, political schoolyard bullying is rampant, inflation (believe me it’s coming, but don’t worry too much-if you don’t eat, drive or get sick, I think you’re ok), terrorism, our debt will be troublesome for our children, even if we or they have not come to the reality that your 5 year-old grandchild already owes over 46 thousand dollars in national debt. It’s at this point we must remember that being in season is not what we’ve always thought. Being in season in the Gospel is not defined as when it’s all going good. It’s not about being problem free. Being in season is just the opposite of that. It’s about finding God’s presence in times of trouble. Just when it’s the most difficult is when He’s the most powerful. I know it doesn’t feel like that most of the time, but that’s because our feeler is broken. We feel with our minds. When we learn to feel with our hearts, having our minds changed by the Wisdom of God, then we can begin to experience and expect an increased presence of God in our lives. I know it sounds foolish in the middle of all the things going on around us, but we can know that we are not alone, we are not without help.

You, I, ours, others, all have way too much to bear without the Spirit of God. No one’s isolated from trouble, but in many ways, we can be insulated. I truly believe we can find Peace in times like these. We can expect to see the influence and the interruption of God at times like these. After all, it’s not like what we are going through is a big surprise; we’ve been fore-warned of an acceleration of trouble in the world. We’ve been made aware of an ever increasing separation of Kingdom versus kingdom; that the evidence of a great war between those two rivals would be easily seen. And, we’ve been encouraged that we should not let our hearts be troubled (now our minds might fight with us, but our hearts can abide in the shadow of the Most High and be blessed) even as we face a world seemingly ‘gone wild’.

I fully expect this world system to reject the Love of God in the New Testament age, what many call the time of the Gentiles. I think the world will refuse His offer of Grace again, just as it rejected Him when he walked the streets two thousand years ago. There’s an implication in Scripture that Christ does not return because everything is just super, but rather, comes at a time when, had He not returned, men’s hearts would fail them. A time that’s described a whole lot like, well, the world we see today! I am certain that we’re in a season when the Love of God, the Peace of God and the Power of God can be seen and exposed. This is in season for our Faith. God is most present in the middle of our need, more than in our ease. As much as the world puts the hurt on us, I believe we can expect the presence of God to be revealed just that much more. It is a time of disappointment and a time of great expectation, both going on at one time. I am not discouraged, although there are discouraging things around me. I will not be angry even in the middle of what seems to be a world-wide anger. I have a friend that often says that no matter how tough things get, there will be opportunities.

Remember Paul’s words in Romans? ‘Who shall separate us from the Love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine or nakedness, or peril, or sword?…I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the Love of God, which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord.’ I believe that’s true, no matter in season or out.