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April Newsletter-Hope

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Ok, my suggestion is let’s calm down a bit.  If you’re a believer in Christ Jesus, you’re in good hands.  Not to panic.  Oh, I know it looks bad, it sounds bad and actually it’s pretty tough.  And perhaps you’d think that it’s over.  But don’t be discouraged.  Maybe the world’s given up on Him, but God has not given up on the world.  He’s determined.  He’s proclaimed a loving heart for His creation.  He’s never leaving or forsaking.  He’s in this for the long haul.  If you believe that He is and that He’s a rewarder of those that seek Him, Father, Son and Spirit are calm, confident and excited about you.

I’m going to write about something in this month’s letter that I’m not completely finished thinking about for myself.  I’ll kind of be thinking out loud as I write this note.  It’s a thought that’s been rattling around my head for a few years now.  As I write, I’m just going to see ‘how it goes’.  When I say I haven’t finished thinking about it, it’s something that’s a bit bigger than my brain can squeeze out into one simple picture. It’s an image that I would like to see in its entirety because of its perspective about Jesus’ mission to come to earth.

Let me start by saying a few things about him coming to live within Israel.  Now think about this, Jesus physically stepped inside Israel and he lived there.  He did!  God of the Universe somehow squeezed the Holy Potter into an earth suit to live slap dab right in the middle of Israel.  How ’bout this, similarly Jesus by His Spirit stepped inside you.  He did– slap dab within you.  And, seems to me that that first appearing in them was related to, and much of it applies to, his second appearing in us.  What I’ve been thinking about for a few years is that what Israel did in the flesh to Jesus then is very much the same story as what the world is doing to him spiritually today.  Seems the world as a whole is determined to crucify him again.  His presence in Israel and his devotion to his Father only seemed to intensify the rebellion against him.  His grace/forgiveness and patience was met with their fear and legalism.  His relationship with Father and Spirit only seemed to remind them of their embarrassment at having been a chosen people but also a rebellious people.  That was personified in Peter’s call for Jesus to ‘depart from me Lord for I am a sinful man.’  Of course he would not depart; actually, in essence he moved closer than ever before, and in doing so, their rebellion was revealed and exposed even more.  So much more, to the point that the Creator of the very breath they breathed was crucified in a horrible death at the hands of the humanity that he created.

When Jesus showed up in his earthly ministry, Israel, just like Adam in the Garden of Eden, preferred to hide in the bushes of their religion.  Distant and bone-headed, hard-hearted and stubborn all fit the bill.  Rather than accepting the closeness of his presence, they, like the children of Israel ages previous, preferred to stand back at a distance. Preferred to send someone else to meet God much like they’d sent Moses up the mountain to be in His presence.  The revelation of Christ came slowly if at all, with only a few followers in the end.  Israel had hung a ‘do not disturb’ sign on their door, no Saviors needed sign, at least a Savior of this kind.  The fear and ignorance of an up close and personal God only increased their desire to separate themselves from Him, even to the point that the religious leaders, the very people He had come to offer relationship, killed him.  The Creator of hands was killed by the same hands He had created.  This Jesus, offering Peace and Grace, was met with the same stone-heartedness that Moses encountered with Pharaoh.

At a time when Israel was hoping, believing, trusting, praying for Messiah, their Messiah came.  What did they do?   They accused him of being delusional, demon possessed, a child of an unwed mother, criticized his grace toward sinners, deserted him, lied about him, called him names, exchanged his wisdom sayings for legal arguments supported by the letter of the scripture, ignoring the spirit of the Word.  They dismissed all evidence, signs and miracles Jesus said and did.  They conspired in his death, the condemnation of the most innocent at the hands of criminals and atheists.  We’re repeating that story today.  ‘Get out of our schools, our market place, our politics’.   ‘Get out, and shut the door on your way out’, ‘be gone’ is the world’s statement to a God that has come not only offering but doing reconciliation.

Here’s that good news I was mentioning at the beginning of this letter: this did not and will not divert God from His standing offer of Grace.  This isn’t a new story, it’s not the first time, it’s generational in some sense.  God had determined from the very first rebellion in Adam’s Garden to look His creation in the eye and say, ‘No’.  He will not let us go so easily. Instead of scrapping the whole thing, God stepped right smack dab in the middle of the violence, muck, heart-ache, filth, evil, rebellion, all the slime and rolled up His sleeves and went to work on our behalf. This story began with God searching for and finding the first rebeller (Adam) and giving a firm ‘I will not give up on you!’  I will not give up on establishing a relationship with my beloved.  He did not give up then, He’s not giving up now.  Just because it’s tough doesn’t mean it’s over.

Here’s an important thing to remember about His first coming.  True Reconciliation came at the world’s most rebellious, most ill-conceived time.  It came at the same time that evil men killed the Son.  The Cross of Jesus represented a moment where the Grace and Love of God was rejected the most.  The very evil that had grown into a roaring furnace of hate and rejection was used by God to be the moment of His Reconciliation.  Hate and fear had reached the boiling point as Jesus stepped into our world, sought us out, came to our little corner of the Universe.  Astonishingly, that fervor to run God out of town, out of the world, was used to accomplish reconciliation between their fallen mind and His Embrace.  A first apostasy savagely crucified Jesus.  On that Cross, Jesus overwhelmed the spirit of anti-Christ in His ‘No, I will not let my people perish.’

Our generation is backing away again.  And, while that reconciliation gave people a way to enter into a personal relationship with God, not everyone will do that.  Some will do as men have always done, turn away.  For the umpteenth time a generation pushes against the closeness that God provided, having drawn near to us in the incarnation of Christ Jesus. Look, I don’t know how, don’t know when, but I have a confidence that the Gospel of Grace, like a cactus in a dry desert, will bloom again. The Word has been through Adam’s fall, Pharaohs, 400 years of Babylon, slavery in Egypt, Roman rule, the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 a. d., the Dark Ages, the Holocaust, wars, persecution, secularism, and much more.  In Jesus, the Father, Son and Spirit submitted themselves to our violence, anger and smear.  They permitted us to crucify the Son of Glory in a most unjust way.  Innocent, real blood was shed by hateful humanity. But, the tread of the Gospel has survived it all.  This Word is not going away.  The world with its attitude and systems is not going to put out this Light.  It’s been tried many times before and has failed each time.  It will fail again.  It cannot be captured by Satan and his angels, no world power will possess it.  Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega.  The Father, Son and Spirit, this Gospel, will be standing after all else has fallen.  He is and will always be the same yesterday and forever.  We live in terrible times but there have been other terrible times. The Gospel that was set in motion by God ages ago continues to be offered to whosoever will.  Not all will but enough will.  This Gospel is not subject to the world’s judgment or its political powers.  It may look like it’s over, may feel like it’s over…but whether we are seeing it or not, whether feeling it or not with our emotions, it ain’t over!

 

Mark Schultz

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March Newsletter-Beginning

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According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated (Greek word: not a question of who are the objects of the predestination, but what they are predestined to.) us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will… (Eph 1:4-5)

Over the past few months I’ve written on prayer, miracles, revelation, repentance and Jesus the Christ. This month I’d like to take up something that’s implied in all those letters but perhaps not detailed as I hope this letter to be. This month, let’s talk ‘beginning’. I have two motivations for that. One is encouraging and the other might, as they used to say, set a few people’s teeth on edge. Both points of view are meant to be encouraging but sometimes people get a bit beside themselves with words you choose to describe something that might not have been discussed much before. One has to do with the Father, Son, Spirit and the other is about Adam. Let me begin with the ‘beginning’, Father, Son and Spirit.

…for He hath said, I will never leave you, nor forsake you. (Heb. 13:5)

Let me see if my assumption above is true first. At mention of the beginning, most Christians (and I did this for most of my adult life) think of the Garden of Eden and the Creation of the Cosmos. It’s so logical to begin there because of Adam and Eve, the bliss of the Garden and God mingling with His creatures and the first humans, humans created in His image. Then that really nasty thing happened– Adam and Eve believed a lie! That lie was the poison of the Tree of Good and Evil. It wasn’t robbing banks, war, drugs, etc. that changed that garden, the change was a separation that came between Adam/Eve and the Father of Creation. It wasn’t even a separation that was initiated in the mind of God, it was a separation that originated in the heart of Adam/Eve. The Father didn’t leave the garden; it was His creatures that hid in the bushes. When God asked, ‘Adam, where are you?’ He wasn’t asking because He couldn’t find Adam/Eve, not because they had the perfect hiding place (we know that’s not possible, right?). It was rhetorical in the sense that The Father was asking Adam where his head was, what was Adam thinking that would cause him to play hide and seek, why were they separating themselves from The Father. Adam was being prompted to think about the lie that he and Eve had just bought that God could not stand the sight of them. Instead of God retreating away from His creature, He moved in closer to Adam and Eve; instead of being angry, the Heart of our Father moved to embrace rather than to harm.

Now, I said all that to contrast it with another beginning, an illustration of the heart of God even before creation. It was a time when nothing existed except God (Three in One). There was a time when all three were face to face in relationship to one another and that was the extent of their Love. In Genesis 1 we’re to notice that these three gathered together with a purpose to create another object of Love, Humankind. It’s hard to imagine but the Universe, for all its size and all its wonder, exists inside what we know to be God. God does not exist in the Universe, He’s bigger than that. The Universe has a beginning, God does not. That’s a pretty big God for sure and One that upholds that Universe and in fact all humanity together. Without Him nothing exists, apart from Him nothing exists. (Col. 1-16-17) That’s my point in this letter, I want to encourage you that He really, really, really means it when He says He will not leave us, will never separate Himself from us. He has come to live within our hearts, to be alive in our hearts, as weird as that might sound. Whether we feel like that or not doesn’t make it real or not; it’s real period! On the good days and on the not so good days, yes even on the terrible days, God is the God Emmanuel (God with Us). It’s the old, ‘He said it I believe it’.

(Here’s the part that rattles cages a bit.) As I mentioned earlier, nothing exists apart from Him. He is present and the Trinity of God has sent a Son and a Holy Spirit to reveal His desire to be Father to us. That was the revelation of Jesus to the world, that the God that had been identified thousands of years before was a God that was Father all along. The sole purpose and the only reason for Creation was to introduce a creature that could respond to the great desire of the Father, Son and Spirit to have fellowship. All of creation signals that desire. Nothing stands by itself, and despite attempts to convince ourselves of the opposite, no man will ever be an island. Nothing exists without relationship to something else. In the Imagination of God, in His Wisdom, in His Method, God told this creation Truth in something called an atom. Atoms make up all matter. Each atom is made up of protons, electrons and neutrons with positive and negative relationships to one another. Protons and neutrons are made up of quarks and each proton and neutron is made up of three quarks, in the proton’s case, a negative and two positives. Quarks are held together by gluons! That’s as small as science can take us at this point. The atom is 1 million times smaller than a human hair and a proton is 100,000 times smaller than the atom. That’s primal creation. (Science doesn’t prove there’s no God, science confirms a glorious God. Man is the interpreter of science and the spirit of Anti-Christ uses it to rebel against God.) The very bottom of creation is built and related on a common theme of relationship to one another. If you want to study a tiger you wouldn’t take him out of his eco-system to understand the essence of the creature. To know everything about him you’d have to study him in the jungle in which he lives, the creatures around him, the atmosphere in which he exists. One of the problems in our secular culture is that we think you can understand human beings by studying them apart from the complexity of their environment. If you take a child or an adult out of its ‘jungle’ you don’t see the relationships that make up human experience. You’re influenced by your parents, the culture, brothers and sisters, cousins, neighbors, community, politics, economic status, educational influences and many more. No man is an island! Relationships are natural and unavoidable, and were always meant to be. We are designed for relationship from the smallest particle to the complexity of human life. Being made to experience relationship is exactly as the Designer designed. The Gospel is about Father, Son and Spirit calling out to every human being: Come step into the ultimate relationship. Be one with Us. Let me Love you as I have Loved the Son. That’s the Will of God, that’s what’s in the heart of God. His will is that none would perish but all would choose Life, Life as the Father would have it for us.

For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 8:38-39)

The Lamb of God was slain before the foundation of the world. That must mean before Adam, Father, Son and Spirit were all in agreement, all in One accord, to do what was necessary to make a way to create a Way for Them and you to be together. The word atonement used in Old and New Testament teaching is associated with ‘at-one-ment’. Their desire was to be united with Adam and on down the human creation chain. That’s why Jesus is the Way, the only Way…a perfect invitation to fellowship with Father, Son and Spirit. In Romans 3:35 His propitiation is described as having taken place for us. The essence of that word is to have raised us up, chosen us, been merciful to us. Again, only the Son knows the Father, only the Father knows the Son and the Spirit. Jesus post-resurrection came to convince us of God’s desire to be with us. The original Lie that was peddled in Eden was that God’s most passionate desire was to separate Himself from us, when in reality God has sent Son and Spirit to woo us to join Them in the Life of God. The knocking on the door of Revelation 3 is addressed to the churches and courts us to open the door to His Life that we might acknowledge Him as the leader of our lives. Let this scripture be true and believe: At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. (John 14:20) The Gospel is God’s Message to teach us we were made for that kind of relationship with Him.

March17