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November Newsletter: Stress

Nice world we find ourselves a part of, right? Feeling great about the political, the financial, and the health? Got it all together, right? Saying all the right things, showing people all the right expressions, livin’ the good life. I was having lunch with a friend the other day and much of our conversation was about the amount of stress that seems each family, community, the country and the world has to deal with. And, whether we want to admit it or not, we’re little suited to handle all that by ourselves. We were always intended to share those burdens by partnering with the Savior, our God, to manage through our life experiences. I think we’re all capable of telling each other ‘you don’t know what I go through each day.’ We need to remember those people we meet each day, on the inside, are probably saying the same thing. I told someone the other day we could do better at learning to respect other people’s lives whether we agree with them on issues or not. In fact, Jesus implied that the true measure of respect is to give respect to those we don’t agree with. Respect is, in some sense, to be given to or purposely bestowed on those who oppose us. (Mathew 5:44, Luke 6:28/33)

There was a day of max-stress, a stress like no other person had faced before- Jesus’ crucifixion. In the context of that moment, we come to what would be the last temptation of Jesus as Satan whispers (mixing that whisper with iron nails, lashings, thorns, blood and pain) ‘Finally, I win; you’re alone.’ It’s a whisper suggesting The Father had come only so far with Jesus, and now had abandoned the moment leaving the Son of God alone and beaten. Stressed! Whispers of ‘give up, despair, die, death is your reward for three years of ministry’! Whispers that God might have been the God of Abraham, but surely not the God of Jesus. Imagine, suggesting that the person that had worshiped God more appropriately than any man was now left by himself and defeated. This whisper suggests that Jesus had come to the place of carrying more than he could bear. (Psalm 22) The truth was, God was never more near. Never did Jesus, though apparently not being able to see or hear from God, draw on Him more. Jesus could and did trust. “My God, My God” was not a cry of desperation but of confidence referencing the Psalm that Jesus adopted for that moment declaring glory, not defeat. Everyone standing there didn’t misunderstand when they heard those words. They had heard the 22nd Psalm from childhood. Jesus quickened those present to the truth in his heart and soul by leading their minds into the next Psalm (23rd). (Actually, there’s no separation of those psalms in the original text.) The last words of Jesus were from knowing the victory of Faith found in that Psalm.

From his first and last words, Jesus’ confidence was not based on information but from having a relationship. He was not living from what he had heard about the Father, he was living by what he knew about the Father. That’s the same kind of ‘bright light’ conversion that revealed Christ to Saul, in Paul’s words, Christ revealing himself inside Paul. Saul was blind on the inside and God revealed himself to Paul in that dark place.

If we’re not careful, we can have a lot of information about God but very little if any relationship. We can have conversations about God and do that without ever knowing Him. We can have opinions without a personal relationship. Isaiah 50 declares, (to paraphrase) “Who’s granted you a divorce from Me, who has sold you off, who can diminish this work of the Redeemer?” Religious doctrine can be an attempt at relationship without the submission to the real thing. Information about God won’t hold us up while under great pressure. Jesus came to reveal that relationship to us; to confirm that the Spirit had come to impart that same relationship to us. By His Spirit we can know what Jesus knows, not in our brains but in our souls. The Holy Spirit of God is specifically poured out on flesh in order to make Him known. That’s the Gospel. The Gospel is not a lawyerly presentation of information we’re supposed to accumulate about God. Rather, it’s the witness that what God has said and done about us is true. We have a tendency in our efforts and fleshly natures to try and gain the whole world ‘in Jesus name’. Jesus said what good would it do to have everything but miss the most important thing: Him. We have a relationship with the Father because we’re in Christ. We don’t build our own relationship with God based on our good works; we can participate in Jesus and his works by His Grace, sharing in Their relationship.

Jesus establishes relationship with us on His own terms. The Holy Spirit doesn’t come to create a relationship but to reveal one. The Father is satisfied and impressed with Jesus’ works. By being in Their circle, we can enter into His Rest. We can come to know we’re gathered with Him, in Him, Him in us, by His workings. We discover that Jesus moves mountains, turns water into wine and heals bodies and hearts. He does that and He does that even if we have the faith of a mustard seed. The Gospel is ours to unfold and unpack, to discover what He’s established through Christ Jesus. In some sense, the Gospel is not a simple invitation, although we have to volunteer to participate, but it is more a declaration of Peace on earth, goodwill toward men. There’s an old saying- God can draw a straight line using a crooked stick. Believers are not perfect, but God using us, even while broken, makes things new, makes things perfect regardless.

When it’s the darkest, when God seems the farthest away from us, will we cry out My God with a confidence that He will catch us, embrace us? Will we be convinced He will touch our hearts and calm our fears, bring comfort to our souls? Jesus’ life could not have looked, felt or been any worse than at that crucifixion. At that moment there were two things, both present at the same time: the pressure sufficient enough for Jesus to ask, “Can this cup be passed from me?” and at the same time the Faith of “nevertheless Thy will be done.” In these times with their intensity of emotions, we don’t have to be overwhelmed in this present darkness. It’s easy to praise Him on the milk and honey days. Will we praise Him in the dungeons of Peter and Paul’s prisons?

Much of our Faith is simply discovering that the word God means (as Jesus expressed it) – Father! When our worldly cultures asked God to leave the room will we panic? The Gospel is: He is the same always; there’s no shadow or turning, no matter what it looks, sounds or feels like. We must come to know He is ever present with us. As pressure grows, some days crying out emotionally, ‘My God, My God, why has thou forsaken me,” in our hearts, we will know that our only true hope is to do exactly as Jesus did on the Cross– commend our spirits to a Loving God. In little and in much we are a blessed people. The Truth is this: the Lord is our Shepherd, we will not want. He will provide a place of Peace in a place where Peace may be hard to find, even in the tough times, the hard times, He will restore our confidence in Him. He will guide us away from stuff and lead us in the direction of His Wisdom. He will lead us to the best places. Though we always walk in the nearness of death, we do not have to fear because He has overcome fear and death. He comforts us even now, even in this. He prepares Rest for us even in the presence of our enemies, anoints us with Himself. Surely, surely! Goodness and Mercy companions us each day and we will dwell with God in this very place, even today! That’s the continuation of ‘My God, My God.’ Jesus wanted those present at His crucifixion. He wants us to be reminded of Psalm 23 today.

Posted on by Laura Posted in Newsletters

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