This is the Day

exploring the soul's quest for joy

Tag: relationship

In the Beginning

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Genesis 1-2

 

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

 

Ten simple words that introduce the most widely read book of all time. Ten simple words that tell me much about God’s nature. Ten simple words that whisper to me how deeply God loves me.

 

Like the Prologue in a great Shakespearean drama, these ten words set the stage for us to be eyewitnesses to a most exquisite unfolding of the account of Creation.

 

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

 

Whether you interpret these two chapters as a strict 7-day history, or lean more toward a God-initiated big bang that resulted in a slower appearance of landmass from water, species from species, may I encourage you to reread these two chapters with fresh eyes?

 

With no preconceptions. Just a desire to listen.

 

I am struck at once by the orderly, almost methodical nature of the verses as they gently unfold one after the next. Perhaps this is because I too am a person who seeks order.

 

I like order in my home. I seek out patterns and rhythms to help me understand life. Perhaps my father, the CPA, is to blame; or maybe I just like to know what’s coming next.

 

And there in the Great Prologue of God’s narrative to mankind, I see that God likes order too.

 

A vast Emptiness precedes The Beginning. Separation of sea and sky precede the formation of land out of that vast, deep sea. Vegetation sprouts and grows mature before the creation of birds and animals whose lives depend on its abundance.

 

My father, the CPA, has always been able to relate to this God of order.

 

If truth be told, more often lately, while I look for patterns and structures to order my world, I also yearn for the messy unpredictability of the creative life. Less left-brain and more right. Can I still relate to a God of order when I fear too much structure will dry up my soul?

 

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

 

And as I listen to the story afresh, I realize that these same verses that are so full of order and structure are also incredibly lyrical and melodic. The verse “Let there be” is followed by the chorus “and it was so”. Let there be…and it was so. Let there be…and it was so. Over and over again these majestic words are sung in the round, proclaiming the splendor of the creation and the pleasure of the Creator. Six times the melody is sung and repeated, until the Master Artist rests from the creative work of his hand.

 

And I discover that my God is at once orderly and creative. Equally at ease with the accountant as with the artist. And my soul rejoices.

 

The Beginning shows me not just that God can relate to the artist as well as the accountant (and everyone in between!), it shows me that God wants to be in relationship with us. With all of us.

 

The Beginning declares that every living creature sprang to life by the mere spoken word of the Master Creator. Every living creature, except for man. To create man, The Beginning declares that God breathed into Man the breath of life, the sacred breath of God Himself so that God and the Man and the Woman could be in relationship with one another. And then, in an outright rejection of all we think we know of what a “god” should be, we read that God would walk with the Man and the Woman in the garden in the cool of the evening.

 

Such audacious love.

 

God’s written revelation to us ends in the Book of Revelation where it begins in the Book of Genesis: in Paradise, with a river, the tree of life, the Creator God, and those who love Him. The entire narrative in between those two books is quite simply the story of God’s relentless pursuit to be in loving relationship with His people.

 

The Suffering Savior

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Mark 14:43-15:47, The Betrayal and Crucifixion

 

If you ask many people what was the overarching life purpose of Jesus of Nazareth, they would say, “to be a great teacher.” Others might say that He came to bring miraculous healing. Jesus did teach; but His primary purpose was not to be an effective teacher. Jesus did heal; but His primary purpose was not to be a compassionate healer.

 

The overarching life purpose of Jesus of Nazareth was to bring people into restored relationship with God the Father. Mankind can never attain to all that is required by the Ten Commandments or even The Beatitudes; Jesus makes it possible for us to enter into relationship with a holy God by what He did for us.

 

When I think about Jesus’ great work of salvation, I usually think about what He did from His death on Good Friday to His resurrection on Easter Sunday. That’s when, according to tradition, He battled Satan. That’s when, according to scripture, He conquered the power of sin and death through His death and resurrection. This is the mighty work of atonement that makes new life with God possible.

 

But if the only work in the atonement was what happened between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, then why did Jesus have to suffer such humiliation and degradation between the betrayal and His death? If the atoning work of Jesus to defeat sin and death took place only between His betrayal and His death, why couldn’t His death have been more like John the Baptist’s? Ugly. Brutal. And swift. But without all the taunting, beating, and shame? What was the purpose behind this added layer of suffering? Doesn’t it seem like unnecessary additional suffering from which His Father could have—should have—spared Him?

 

What did Jesus suffer in those last 12 hours before the sky went dark?

  • accusations
  • lies
  • condemnation
  • beatings
  • humiliation
  • ridicule
  • reviling
  • put-downs
  • mocking
  • shame

 

So much of what the Christ suffered between His betrayal and His death really fall into two broad categories: efforts to make Him afraid, and attempts to shame Him.

 

Fear and shame. Shame and fear. What Jesus suffered in these final hours are the very things that have always been two of mankind’s greatest spiritual struggles. But why did Jesus have to enter into this additional battle just before engaging in the greatest spiritual battle of all?

 

Could it be that Jesus was breaking the power of these tactics of the enemy by suffering them specifically in his final hours on earth, and in so doing, that He was demonstrating that He understood the power of fear and shame in our lives?

 

Scripture tells us that Satan is our great accuser. That he stands day or night and accuses us before God the Father. That he is the father of lies. That he condemns us before God. We know that where there is shame and where there is fear, that the enemy of our soul is accomplishing his great work.

 

Attempts to shame Jesus are everywhere in the crucifixion account: the spitting, the bowing down, the robe of purple, the crown of thorns, the taunting, the belittling, the incessant mocking. The efforts to arouse fear in Him come as potent jabs: “Save Yourself and come down from the cross!” “He saved others; He cannot save Himself!” “Come down from the cross, so that we may see and believe!” The desired effect is to arouse a fear in Jesus that God won’t save Him.

 

And we hear the same mocking, taunting voices today. Shame cries out, “You are unworthy! You are unlovable! You do not measure up!” Fear declares, “You will not be rescued! You will be abandoned! You will fail!”

 

For the full power of the atonement to produce the freedom that Jesus came to bring us, we have to allow Him to put to death the fear and shame that grip us. If we would truly grasp the all-encompassing grace offered to us through Jesus’ death and resurrection, we would no longer be overcome by shame. If we would truly grasp how wide and how high and how deep is the Father’s love for us, we would no longer be overwhelmed by fear.

 

Jesus came to show us the way to the Father. His full work of atonement gives us not only access to the Father but freedom from fear and shame as well. What a compassionate savior we have, that His last gift to us before breaking the power of sin and death was to break the stranglehold fear and shame long to have over us.

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