Does Jesus really get me?

IMG_0225I’ve been reading through Matthew, observing the movement of Jesus through a social context; placing myself, as much as possible within the cultural mindset of his time. I may be  lacking in a comprehensive cultural perspective but trust in the instructional leading of the Holy Spirit, crossing the bridge of interpretation to life application.

Matthew 4 begins with what we know about the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. My favorite words are in the beginning verses where Jesus comes out of a 40 day/40 night fast and scripture records these words ‘he was hungry’. Seriously, I have always thought these were a  wasted of words; a redundant statement. Who would not be hungry after fasting for that long, right? But believing that all scripture is inspired and profitable for reproof, correction and instruction in righteousness, I began to look more closely at these words.

This event in the life of Jesus is often connected to the words in Hebrew 4:14 that say ‘he, speaking of Jesus,  was tempted in all manner as we are, yet without sin.’ Certainly Jesus faced other temptations in his ministry/life but these three were head-on full frontal conflict with the devil and have significance for not only our behaviors but perceptions and thoughts as well.

Jesus was hungry. This was a felt, real need. Few of us know real hunger especially if we live in the United States. But this was 40 days without food. I can barely go a meal before I whine about being hungry let alone 40 day and nights.  The devil’s solution for his hunger was turn objects into substance to meet a need. When I sat with that for a bit, I realized the devil tempts me with the same thing. Turn things into something that meets a felt need. For example, my felt need for security I feed with food or spending or controlling behaviors. A ‘no-thing’to satisfy a felt need. Note too, the devil suggested he make more than he needed. ‘Stones to loaves of bread’, where one loaf would have met his felt need of hunger. How many times do we over-indulge and stockpile rather than simply meet the need? In a world of over-stimulation, we hardly know where need ends and indulgence begins. Everything in this world primes us to over-indulge, to satisfy ourselves after all we are entitled.

Next, look what happens after Jesus counters the devil with the word of God in Matthew 4:11.  After the devil left him, God met his need through his angels, his messengers; a method out of Jesus’s control. Jesus has to wait. I think this speak to delayed gratification which is an element of spiritual discipline.

Finally, Jesus’ antidote for the devil in this temptation back in Matthew 4:4 is ‘man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God’. My take on this defense is first, when the choice is trust your feelings, real, as in Jesus hunger or imagined, as in my insecurity, trust what God says in his word. If you don’t know what that is, go search for it, find a mentor, coach or spiritual director but seek out God’s truth. Feelings are based in situations and environments and are not very trustworthy.  What we know about feelings is that often they drive behaviors and for many of us those may be self-destructive or at a minimum self-defeating. Your perception may not be reality but like Jesus, the devil wants you to believe it is reality and wants you to fix it for yourself.  Second, wait on God. Trust his word. While you wait and pray for wisdom and examine your feelings. Is the devil tempting you to substitute objects or activities or relationships to meet a need only God can fill completely? A need God longs to fill if you’ll just wait on him?

Does Jesus really get me? I think he understand what it means to be tempted to meet my own needs with anything other than God. He had the chance to do the same but  he chose to wait and trust; to press through the tension of his felt need and believe his Father had a plan and purpose. He was tempted with the same things we’re tempted with, yet without sin. Like the ultimate coach who has been there and succeeded, we can follow his example and trust him.

Be blessed.

 

Movements . . .

Yesterday was an interesting day. What began with great enthusiasm and focus, ended with a full range of emotions. Yes I did watch the National championship football game and watch my beloved Oregon Duck, get their tail feathers handed to them, but in the midst of that event, I received a text message from my cousin informing me my Dad’s younger brother had died peacefully in his sleep. Instant perspective shift! From investing time in a child’s game (at my age, 21 something is a child,  no offense), to remembering my precious Uncle. From being frustrated, to being grateful for his contribution to my life. I was overwhelmed by loneliness and empathy for my cousin, an only child like myself. Remembering the day both my parents were gone and my feelings that day. Feeling sad for the last Morrison brother as well, who might feel abandoned and alone as I did.
As I sit and write this, I am grateful that our loss is heaven’s gain. I remember the day Uncle Bob turned his life over to Christ. I remember the conversations at the house on Ellsworth, where he lived in a small apartment in my maternal grandmother’s house. We lived there as well so I had daily interactions with Uncle Bob. I remember him sharing in family events, meals, trips and business. I remember when He married his wife, Marilyn, when Robert was born, just weeks before my oldest daughter. I remember their joy at his arrival. For so much of my life, Uncle Bob was a significant part. Then I moved away.
Movement …
It seems life stands still much of the time, but moments of great emotion, either loss or gain punctuate movement.
Yesterday in Matthew 5:1, I was struck by the transitions, the movements in that first verse.
He saw the crowd –He went up into the mountain – When he sat down – The disciple came to him – He opened his mouth – He taught them.
Not only was Jesus’ movement intentional it was observable, even his stillness, and his wait for his disciples to respond. There is no verbal instruction or signaling mentioned here but I suppose it could have happened. However, I think not. I think he waited for them to realign themselves with him. They had observed his movements because Matthew records each of them. Now it was their turn to move towards him. And when they did, when they re-positioned themselves, when they aligned themselves with him, he taught them. The teaching that follows is and was counter intuitive. It would require them to do the exact opposite of what they would do naturally. So they needed to be taught, in order to understand, how he wanted them to live their lives. What their choice to follow was going to require and how it would transform everything, particularly how they thought, behaved and measured.
Two parts, His and theirs.
What do you find yourself watching? Whose movements take up your thought processes? Who will you follow?
My precious Uncle, Robert Lee Morrison, choose to follow Christ. He followed his movement and responded accordingly. Today He’s celebrating in heaven with the object of his focus, Jesus Christ.
You will be missed. Still deeply loved.

Encouraged . . .

Since Christmas Eve, where we shared a wonderful evening with friends focused on the ‘stars’ God has used in our lives, I have been encouraged in my spiritual journey. I am in the process of completely my degree in psychology at Grand Canyon University (GCU) and these last two classes (taken together) have been a challenge and a drain on my ability to function well. I understand why this process is discouraged at GCU, never the less, I can say, I have almost done it, but at great cost. What this has taught me is the idea of balance and how being out of balance is harmful both to myself and my relationships. I am an ‘isolater’ and when I’m overwhelmed, I reach hermit status very quickly. My house falls apart, my work is challenged and in general, I’m unhappy, angry and self-destructive. You would think I would know this about myself by now but apparently any wisdom I have in this area is over run by my need for achievement. (Perhaps that’s a topic for another time.) I often think of this place as a desert experience because my relationship with the Lord is affected in this process as well. Though I think I have been in a desert place in 2014, this ‘desert’ was my own creation. The constant in this created space was God’s faithfulness to expose areas that need his tender care (or in some cases his bulldozer) and to finish the work He has begun in me. That does not mean I have any more answers than before but the result was a paradigm shift for me on Christmas Eve.

December 26th I began reading the book of Matthew, slowly, chunk by chunk. Impressed by the lengths God took to bring his gift of redemption, his son into this world, I was in awe of the movement of God in the processes of time and the stage of characters surrounding Christ’s birth. I began to see how time was and is in God’s control and He is not rushed but strategic in it’s application. James McDonald said this at a conference I attended years ago, “God rules the world with his feet up and does not break a sweat.” I could see God’s hand both globally and personally in the circumstances and relationships involved. This gave me a sense of peace, a spiritual deep breath, as it were, for the circumstance of my own life. It helped me sit back and see that though God is deeply concerned about me personally, I am not the center of his universe. There is much more going on in God’s purview than my life circumstance. That gave me perspective and patience. For neither Mary, Joseph, the shepherds or wise men were ignored in the events surrounding Christ’s birth. All were effected personally and eternally. Finally, because of this wider perspective, I was able to reflect on the guiding ‘stars’ God has used to bring me to this point in my spiritual journey and be grateful. It gave me hope and encouragement as I anticipate more guiding stars in 2015.

So I ask you, as my friend asked me on Christmas eve, What ‘stars’ has God given you to bring you to this point in your walk with Him? Have you thanked Him for his provision? Have you thanked him for his faithfulness to keep His promises to you personally?
Maybe you are just beginning to get a glimpse of a star in your life. What might God be saying to you or where might He be leading? Wait in awe for the star to stand over the place God has for you as it did over the place of Christ’s birth.

Psalm 54 . . . David’s not so secret secret.

Question . . .

Have you ever been devoured by your enemies when you looked to God for help?

When I look back over my life at the places of my greatest failures, there are places  where I was run over, knocked down and in some areas destroyed. Was I really? Did I really cry out to God?  For what was I crying?  Being truly honest I cryed out when all I had tried on my own had failed. This cry was a last resort, the last possible option that seemed available under the circumstances.

When I did cry out, I was expecting genie-in-a magic-bottle God to deliver me from the consequences of my self created circumstances. Often I felt God had abandoned me, forgotten about me, did not love me. God, however, simply allowed me to expereince the full weight of my choices, made without Him. My cry for deliverance were for relief not repentance. There was pain I was trying to avoid, but there was no surrender, turning towards him in repentance, willingness to accept the responsiblity for my choices. These were all missing from my cries.

In Psalm 54:7 David says (and he would know), “For He has delivered me from every trouble and my eye has looked in triumph on my enemy.” This is his final statement. Look at the process that proceeds this pronouncement.

Verse 1 – He cries out to God recognizing he is powerless over his circumstances and his life.

Verse 2 – He prays  – conversation with God beyond and above his cry.

Verse 3 – He recognizes his enemy – fully seeing an identifying who or what is the enemy and what they seek.

Verse 4 – BUT GOD, my two favorite words in scripture – transitional in every instance. There is a shift in David’s reality. His vision moves beyond his circumstances to his helper.

Verse 6- He praises God – He offers a sacrifice of praise, thankgiving in the midst of the situation. NOTHING HAS CHANGED!

Verse 7- He looks back and remembers that God has always been faithful to deliver him. He can be trusting in these circumstances as well  because of his/God’s proven character.

To look at this passage and not evaluated your or my current circumstance would be tragic. Help is available and is just a surrendered, thankful heart cry away. It is bathed in praise for that is the transition from living under circumstance and living inspite of them.

Where are you crying out?