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November Newsletter- Debbie’s picture

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I was looking at a photograph the other day of Debbie’s grandchildren that acts as the desktop background on her office computer.  It’s a photograph of a very young brother and sister; he embracing her, the ‘her’ is pre-occupied or at least focused on a tree leaf she is holding in her hand.  One is holding the other and the second is well, many things: not responding, not aware, not paying attention, could care less, and probably a lot more.  Staring at it, it struck me that that picture is a pretty good representation of the Gospel and man’s response to it.  God reaches for his creation, embraces, protects, cares, hopes, displays great Love, but His creation seems focused on something else, perhaps a thousand other things, and is pretty much entirely indifferent to the much bigger picture that’s going on between them and Him.

I think it doesn’t help that we’ve drawn our own image of god, created in our imagination for the most part, rather than actually knowing the intimacy of His presence in and around us.  Too much of the time, we’ve painted a picture of God using religious brushes and colors, building from traditions rather than revelations.  We compare and contrast the Gospel to all the other world’s religions and argue about who’s right, who’s wrong. We think the argument itself can win over others of different faiths or people of no faith at all.  And that atheist thing– it’s not real.  There’s no such thing.  What there is are people of different beliefs, but everyone still believes something.  Atheists simply have faith in not believing.  To not believe in the God of Israel, the Christ of the New Testament or any god is based on possessing just as much faith in not believing as Christians have in believing.  There’re no proofs for atheists any more than Christians can force a proof in their belief.  They and we trust in the unseen, interpreting and trusting in things that are convincing to each other but not to one another.  The very statement of ‘I don’t believe’ is in effect saying I have faith in something else.

To me, I boil believing down to a simple conclusion about Jesus Christ.  Jesus did not come to establish an alternative religion, a new morality or some streamlined ethical system.  He came, very simply, to deliver us from our old, stale and distorted current definition of God.  Our definition over time had become narrowed, too complex and had more than not turned the Love of God that was first declared in the Garden of Eden, into a God who had become pre-occupied with a judge’s bench rather than a redeemer-rescuer of people.  Simply, our vision of God had become smaller and smaller.  In fact by the time Jesus came, the concept of the God of Israel had come down to this:  the whole of the Jewish Messiah’s purpose was to simply overthrow Rome, set up an earthly kingdom of Jewish believers and get on with it.  That’s what was so devastating to Jesus’ followers – their hope became a lost cause right before their very eyes.  Not only had their so called leader been tried and killed but the rebellion against Roman rule had died as well.  At that point their image of the God of Israel had bottomed out. They were left leaderless and without hope of ever establishing the long hoped for political rule over Jerusalem.  They didn’t know that their essence of Jesus’ death was fake news.

From the very beginning, Jesus, rather than seeking a political victory or establishing a new ruling religious leadership, in Matthew 11:25-30 reveals exactly why He came: to reveal Him who takes on our heavy burdens and sets an easy yoke and gives rest to the weary.  The old ways had resulted (these are Jesus’ words, John 5:37-39) in the leaders not seeing God’s shape or hearing His voice; did not see who He was or what He was saying.  And, even though they searched and quoted the scripture, they failed to find the essence of the Words of Jesus.  Even then, with Jesus standing right there in the midst of them, they would not yield to his instruction and never learned or accepted the Life of God shared in Jesus’ Word of Life.  Amazingly we know from Scripture that before the foundation of the world Jesus Christ ‘was’.  And, that Jesus’ incarnation was tucked away in Scripture and indeed present from Genesis to Revelation.  Jesus came to give the final word about God.   He alone was the one given authority to show us the complete revealing of God the Father, Son and Spirit.

In that revealing, we find that God’s (Father, Son and Spirit) nature is centered on being a blessing God.  The first thing that Adam knew of God, the first thing he learned of God, is that ‘God blessed’, giving Adam dominion over all the things of His hand.  Something very similar happened in the parable attributable to the prodigal son.  If you remember, the prodigal son remembered his father!  That’s a very big and important part of the story.  He remembered what was true about his father.  He remembered his life would be so much better off at home with a father that loved him.  The son knew his dad intimately the whole time, but when he remembered who he was, only that remembering changed everything.  Jesus stepped into our world to remind us of who Dad is.  In some way, moving us away from what we were saying about Him before.  For sure, he stepped in to provide a way for the broken relationship between God and man to be restored.  He was a sacrifice for us, but additionally stepped in to reveal a God that Loved so much that He provided the mechanism of rescue through Christ Jesus.  Knowing that Dad, knowing Who is True, was designed to also reveal what is true.  We start out in the pig pen, wrongheaded, hardhearted and self-centered.  Jesus came to help us remember Who our Father is and place a robe of Grace on our lives.

Debbie’s picture of those two grandchildren is a picture of how it is much of the time, but it’s not a picture of how it has to be.  It’s a very aggressive move for God to step into our world.  That alone is a huge, incredibly profound thought.  Imagine God being concerned enough about all people to come and do some pro-active pursuing of, well, you.  And, I might even go so far as to suggest that if that history is true, you would think it would be almost impossible to ignore or dispute.  But guess what, for the most part that’s exactly what the world does.  Oh, we’ll take the time to argue about right and wrong, we’ll evaluate spiritual versus secular, and scream politics and religion.  We’ll have those conversations.  But, did the Son actually take on flesh and live among us?  That discussion, for the most part is off limits.  We’re rapidly moving to where it might even, if not already, be illegal to have a debate about such a thing.  Imagine if there was just a mustard seed of, a hint of, this story being true.  Wouldn’t you think there would just a grain of hope in men’s response?  Logically, surely you would hope men would be looking for that to be true.  Logically, you would think they’d be overjoyed at the thought.  Can you imagine if only a glimmer of this got into the heart of people.   You’d think that they’d rush to it, even pray for it to be real.  But, they do not.   Actually, because of the Lie of the anti-Christ and the darkness of men’s hearts, many, and seemingly the majority, are rooting for this to be false.  Can we imagine that being man’s most common response to this story?

Jesus suffered the most unjust moment ever imposed on an innocent person. He did that for the world (people) amazingly, and especially the kind of imperfect, violent world you and I so very well know.  Some are uncomfortable even thinking that people, human life or simply any scoundrel’s life, could mean that much to God.  An amazing story isn’t it?  One to grab our attention for sure.  Yet, here we sit, for the most part contemplating that leaf from a sweet-gum tree, oblivious to the hold, the tug, the embrace of God’s Great Grace.

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