This week I have listened three times to a sermon from our son John’s church in Austin. You can find the link here – https://www.antiochatx.com/sermons
They have a guest pastor while the lead is on sabbatical. It was such a good teaching so I have taken notes and am sharing them here.
He started out with a question asked by one of his mentors, who had been asked this question once by Dallas Willard.
“If you could just describe Jesus in only one word, what would that one word be?’
Before answering or sharing what Dallas Willard’s answer was, he talked about how our bodies are traveling faster than our souls and we are exhausted in a way that a nap simply won’t cure.
We are always “on” and we fail to be refreshed at the soul level.
The last few years have been full of hard hits and we are weary and although we love God, we are needing to meet Him deep in our soul level.
He used Gideon and the passages about him when he and his nation were beat down. An angel comes to Gideon, calling him a mighty warrior, but Gideon needs a sign. The angel makes himself known to Gideon and Gideon is convinced he will die because he has seen God.
But the angel assures him that he comes in peace and Gideon builds an altar to God and gives the Lord one name…Jehovah Shalom.
Shalom is not just a feeling of being calm, it means that your entire soul, mind and body have come in complete alignment and you are at true peace, no matter what circumstances you are in.
Gideon was saying: The LORD is peace.
Gideon didn’t get peace from God, but because He met the LORD, and He is peace, Gideon knew shalom.
Back to that question about choosing one word to describe Jesus, he said he chose “love” because that’s the simple answer.
But his mentor told him that actually Dallas Willard said the word he would choose is “Relaxed”.
The teaching pastor expressed his own struggles at the time of this conversation as one where he was anything but relaxed.
He remembered going through the Scriptures and found evidences of times when Jesus was unhurried:
<3 When called to ministry, He spent 40 days in the desert
<3 When His family rebuked Him, He didn’t react to their emotions but calmly set a boundary
<3 When He slept in the boat in the midst of a storm
<3 The large number of times He was interrupted in His ministry and He patiently fed them
<3 When He was going to cleanse the Temple, He sat and calmly wove a rope together
He diffused and brought God into the equation.
He experienced pain, frustration, betrayal, but He turned His focus to His Father in heaven and responded from that place.
Next this speaker acknowledged that he, like most of us, gets super stressed when we are told to relax, because we would love to be but we don’t know how.
He explained in such funny and clear ways that our “will power” is not the path that will lead us to growth in being like Jesus to respond instead of react to stressors that will come.
Frustrations, interruptions, other people’s out of control emotions…all force us back into our old habits of anxiety and stress as we flounder for a way to respond but not react.
He went back to the Gideon passage and worked backwards. Before Gideon was visited it was recorded that the Israelites had turned to idols and attuning themselves to their surroundings and the ways of the people around them. They were doing what everyone else was doing and they were reaping the fruit of that: lack of peace and provision.
The pastor then used some insights from a psychologist named Edwin Friedman.
We think that if we put everything in order we will experience peace. If we can be efficient, we can avoid anxiety. But then tension arises within a family or work setting or life and we react. Next we start blaming. It’s everyone else’s fault. If everyone would do the right thing, I wouldn’t be reacting this way.
So we are filled with angst and we look for a way to calm down. We may turn to shopping, a show or series on Netflix, or any other diversion our culture offers readily, but this desire to find something to fix our souls is causing us less patience, less resiliency and less endurance.
We have lost our ability to differentiate. This means knowing “This is me, and that is you. That is your emotion, not my emotion. And your emotion doesn’t have to infect my emotion.”
He said that we have constant outside influences from the media, texts, emails, politics. We look for a way to alleive the anxiety. But nothing helps.
Friedman suggested that the way to break the crazy cycle is to invite into the situation a non-anxious presence.If someone is in the midst of the reactive noise who is not anxious, this one will bring a level of calm and peace.
Jesus is that presence we need.
The pastor gave a great example of how we tend to pray and then are like the bowler who releases the ball but continues to twist and move his body, trying to direct the way the ball completes its course down the alley.
Wow – this hit home with me and is a great visual.
He also used an exercise that he has found helpful and one he implements throughout the day as situations and worries arise.
I am giving a brief description, but would encourage you to pursue listening to this sermon several times if what I have shared so far hits home with you.
Using the Scripture, “Be still and know that I am God, I will be exalted among the nations,” he had the congregation first grip the things that came to mind in the bowling analogy in a tight fist.
As you hold that thing in your hand, breathe in deeply and hold the breath while saying:
“I will be still and know that You are God.
Then as you breathe out, turn the hand over and open it to let that worry fall out and say:
“I surrender the outcome of this situation to You.”
He said to just do it over and over a few times and as often as needed throughout the day and into the night when necessary. In this way, you are inviting a non-anxious presence – “the Lord is peace” – into your anxious thoughts.
I have, of course, been implementing this and I can say I have experienced a shalom, as I can then move along and do any thing that I am responsible for while leaving in God’s hands what only He can do.
Hope this blesses you and made enough sense. It was a great teaching. I just typed notes as I listened through for a third time so I hope I was able to give you a good summary.
I will leave it in God’s hands that I did <3
Blessings, you are loved <3